Inside DOD

By Amber Corrin

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Afghanistan documents leak stirs debate, apathy in public opinion on war

The sheer size and the act itself seems to be more shocking than the actual content of Wikileak.org’s release of 92,000 classified reports from U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Although the leak unveils some disturbing accusations – the most damning of which suggest Pakistan’s intelligence agency may be aiding the Taliban insurgency – judging by the thousands of comments that accompany the articles online, it doesn’t seem to be much of a surprise to readers.

The documents that news outlets are characterizing as a snapshot from ground operations in Afghanistan so far appear to have stirred the pot of public conversation more than anything else. Stories covering the release show thousands of comments from readers responding to the news, most of which express little surprise, a dose of sorrow and a lot of bitterness toward the almost nine-year war.

The New York Times, one of three and the only American news outlet to receive access to the documents before the public release, is keeping a running tab of the blogosphere’s reaction to the leak, gauging responses from a vast array of sources including military blogs, Afghan and Pakistani media, and its own readers.

The Defense Department and White House have responded predictably, condemning the release of the documents as a threat to national security. However, the official response, while critical, has not denied any of the accusations culled from the documents. Washington isn’t rushing to defend against any implied wrongdoing, instead suggesting that much of the released information is old news and working to minimize the significance of the leak.

"I don’t know that what is being said or what is being reported isn’t something that hasn’t been discussed fairly publicly, again, by named U.S. officials and in many news stories,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on July 26. “I mean, the New York Times had a story on this topic in March of 2009 written by the same authors.”

In other words, the White House and DOD are seeking to control the spin.

Emerging from the discussion of war policy are mounting comparisons between the Wikileaks release and that of the then top-secret 1971 Pentagon Papers detailing the Vietnam War. As that debate gains momentum in news articles and their discussion threads, the Washington Post takes a critical look at the two leaks.

No doubt the leak has ignited public discourse about a war that has dragged on so long it has perhaps desensitized citizens to a point of nationwide apathy. But another certainty is that only time will tell what the fallout will be in the wake of an information leak that has effectively ripped the band-aid from the wound of two prolonged wars.

Posted by Amber Corrin on Jul 26, 2010 at 9:03 AM


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