Immune to Critics, Secret-Spilling Wikileaks Plans to Save Journalism ... and the World

"They are close to becoming the oppressors that they claim to oppose," Aftergood says. "People ought to be free to practice their religious beliefs no matter how peculiar they are, in privacy and without harassment, and the Wikileaks folks seem not to understand that."

"They think all secrecy is an evil to be opposed and that is just a juvenile point of view," he adds.

Other Wikileaks documents sometimes seem to lack any news value at all. For instance, Wikileaks critics questioned why a site intended to bring sunshine to non-democratic countries published an earlier version of the movie script for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Others questioned Wikileaks' decision to publish a tax bill for Wesley Snipes that included his Social Security number.

Wikileaks also published a classified operating manual for the U.S. military's guided bombs known as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions or JDAM that included information on its known weaknesses. No news organizations picked up on the manual, but Wikileaks' watchers certainly took notice of its publication. Aftergood, for one, found it irresponsible.

"Are there military technologies that warrant protection against disclosure? My view is, and the Federation of American Scientists' view is, obviously yes, and there are things we withhold even though they are technically unclassified," Aftergood says. "I think they display atrocious editorial judgment."

Assange, one of the site's original creators, is an Australian-born hacker and writer with a social conscience, who now lives in East Africa. Among other achievements, he co-invented Rubberhose deniable encryption, which would let a dissident being tortured reveal one key to unlock a hard drive, while not giving away that there was a second or third password-locked folder of information.

The coder bristles at the criticism of Wikileaks standards. The JDAM document, he says, is a perfect example of a leak that's entirely consistent with Wikileaks' ethic, which owes no allegiance to any government or group.

"Many countries face the risk of being attacked by JDAM guide bombs should they not toe U.S. foreign policy lines, so its specific capabilities are of intense interest to a knowledgeable audience," Assange says. "If governments do not like morally outraged soldiers leaking the specifications to their weapons systems, perhaps they should be more selective about who they kill with them."

"Similarly if rebel groups like the FARC would like sources to stop providing us with their internal documents, they would be well advised to release their hostages," he says.

In February a military spokesman lambasted Wikileaks' release of the Iraq rules of engagement in a statement to The New York Times, saying "the deliberate release of what Wikileaks believes to be a classified document is irresponsible and, if valid, could put U.S. military personnel at risk."

The Pentagon isn't the only group with no love of Wikileaks. In January, Wikileaks published secret banking documents from the Cayman Islands branch of the Swiss private bank Julius Baer, despite not being certain of their veracity. The documents allegedly show the bank knew about, and even aided, money laundering. The bank sued Wikileaks in a federal court in California, briefly convincing a judge to order Wikileaks' domain registrar to de-list the site from web.

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