How The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel Got Their Hands On the Wikileaks Data

WL_Hour_Glass_small07282010.pngClint Hendler at the Columbia Journalism Review has a play-by-play account of the logistics behind Wikileaks’ decision to publish his trove of secret U.S. war reports with The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel.

CJR reports that the Guardian‘s Nick Davies approached Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Belgium, and the pair discussed possible ways to handle the stories that would emerge from the piles of Wikileaks data. What eventually would transpire was Assange’s idea:

On June 22, during a six hour coffee-soaked meeting in a Brussels cafe, Davies says Assange suggested another idea — that The Guardian and The New York Times be given an advance look at some information the site had on the Afghanistan war, with each paper publishing their own takes on the documents. Within the next twenty-four hours, Davies says Assange told him Der Spiegel should be included as well.

In addition to the mechanics of distribution, there’s a fair amount of backroom intrigue, concerns about being caught by the authorities and one instance of Assange couch-surfing at Davies’ home. There’s some juice on an emerging conflict in the portrayal of how and to what extent the three publications worked with Wikileaks:

“I’ve seen Julian Assange in the last couple of days kind of flouncing around talking about this collaboration like the four of us were working all this together,” says Schmitt. “But we were not in any kind of partnership or collaboration with him. This was a source relationship. He’s making it sound like this was some sort of journalistic enterprise between WikiLeaks, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, and that’s not what it was.”

It’s well worth the read. So check it out.