After a rather long lull in activity, WikiLeaks is back in the headlines again. This time, the target was the United States’ base at Guantanamo Bay, with WikiLeaks releasing almost 800 classified military documents relating to the detainees who have been held at Gitmo. If WikiLeaks isn’t – as it claims – consciously trying to aid terrorist organizations, this latest release demonstrates, once again, that Julian Assange and his partners aren’t the benign, disinterested whistle-blowers they would like the world to believe they are. This is an organization that is blatantly anti-American and anti-West in its outlook – and its prejudice shines through every time it releases new information.
WikiLeaks wrestles with the same problem that the mainstream media has: they want the public to believe that they are unbiased sources of factual information, but – being leftists – they don’t trust the public to reach the “correct” conclusions on their own. So, rather than simply disseminating information and allowing people to form their own judgments, WikiLeaks feels obliged to steer readers’ opinions.
By the third sentence on their “Gitmo Files” introductory webpage, WikiLeaks abandons any pretense of impartiality, telling readers that they are about to learn more about “a notorious icon of the Bush administration’s ‘War on Terror’ – the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which opened on January 11, 2002, and remains open under President Obama, despite his promise to close the much-criticized facility within a year of taking office.”
Adjectives like “notorious” and “much-criticized” don’t leave much wiggle room for the reader. But, just in case there is any doubt, WikiLeaks moves on to lead readers further toward forming what is – in its opinion – the right conclusion, declaring that: “Most of these documents reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantánamo closely, with innocent men detained by mistake (or because the US was offering substantial bounties to its allies for al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects), and numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Intelligence professionals will tell you that analyzing data, especially human intelligence data, is more of an art than a science. The pros in the military, the NSA, the CIA and all of the other alphabet agencies pore over reams of documents, photographs, interviews and other sources of information to try and separate those rare grains of wheat from the avalanche of chaff that characterizes intelligence work.
It’s a very difficult and demanding profession. And yet, a collection of computer hackers have essentially told the world that they know more about intelligence gathering than people who have been trained and who have spent their professional careers determining and evaluating enemy intentions.
It is a given that, when it comes to Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations, America faces an enemy that avoids a rigid, centralized command structure and that uses disinformation and distortion to hide its intentions. Will Al-Qaeda operatives attempt to deceive us? Of course they will. Can enhanced interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation and water-boarding break through the deceptions and yield useful information that saves innocent lives? Absolutely.
The flip side of that discussion is that no one can guarantee that any enhanced interrogation technique will be 100% successful, or that the information gleaned during those sessions will always be useful. Sometimes you strike out. Yet, if we were to apply the WikiLeaks test to intelligence gathering in this war against fundamentalist Islamic intolerance, the West might just as well wave a white flag.
Will America’s intelligence-gathering efforts ever be 100% accurate? No. We’ll always get something wrong, no matter how hard we try. “Press on” should be our motto of choice. Given that we have an enemy that doesn’t care in the lest about using supposed innocence to disguise an idealistic agenda, we need to drill down – as often as possible – to define exactly what those particular miscreants were trying to do. If it’s a matter of simple mischief, no problem. We’ve been there and done that. But, if the decision involves actual principle, it’s time to move on.