The 92,000-odd Afghanistan war documents published Sunday by Wikileaks are only part of a somewhat larger set of reports the whistleblowing website has obtained. In a post announcing its “War Diary” collection of primary materials from the U.S. military, Wikileaks says:
We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.
This disclosure by Wikileaks indicates more than just the existence of additional war reports that will soon be ready for consumption. It also shows that the publisher of sensitive information on some level honors agreements with its sources, despite its radical commitment to transparency.
In an online chat discussing his paper’s role in reporting the Wikileaks documents, Bill Keller, The New York Times‘ executive editor, said explicitly that Wikileaks is operating on its own terms:
The Times has no control over WikiLeaks — where it gets its material, what it releases and in what form. To say that it is an independent organization is a monumental understatement. The decision to post this secret military archive on a Web site accessible to the public was WikiLeaks’, not ours. WikiLeaks was going to post the material even if The Times decided to ignore it. We, along with the Guardian newspaper in London and the German magazine Der Spiegel, were offered access to the material for about a month before its release; that was the extent of our connection.
He also detailed the kind of information the Times has withheld, such as reports that indicate the response times of certain U.S. aircraft and the identities of Afghans who cooperated with the American war effort. He also touched on the White House’s attitude toward Wikileaks and the Times‘ handling of the story, saying the government “thanked” the paper for its handling of the documents.
The administration, while strongly condemning WikiLeaks for making these documents public, did not suggest that The Times should not write about them. On the contrary, in our discussions prior to the publication of our articles, White House officials, while challenging some of the conclusions we drew from the material, thanked us for handling the documents with care, and asked us to urge WikiLeaks to withhold information that could cost lives. We did pass along that message.
(h/t Media Matters)