Despite attempts by the federal government to delegitimize WikiLeaks, a new review from The Atlantic indicates that the whistleblowing organization has a great deal of impact on the media conversation over international relations, particularly in coverage from the news organization WikiLeaks has quarreled with the most, The New York Times.
The Atlantic’s Caitlin Dickson reports:
By our count, on 63 days so far this year the paper’s reporters have relied on WikiLeaks documents as sources for their stories. Since April 25th is the 115th day of the year, that’s over half of all their issues this year. And just to be clear, we didn’t count stories that merely mentioned WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or Bradley Manning, only the ones that used documents from the site as a reporting source.
It now seems routine for WikiLeaks to serve as a source when it comes to American diplomacy, especially regarding the Middle East. Sometimes these stories are billed as revelations from WikiLeaks’ cache, such as the March 2 story by James Risen on the Qaddafi sons’ bitter business battles which was headlined, ”2 Qaddafis Fought Over Business, Cables Show.” But often the WikiLeak-ed documents are used as a stand-in for an American diplomatic spokesperson, source or expert.
The Atlantic’s review of the prominence of WikiLeaks as a source for The New York Times comes the same day as the Times reported on just who’s been detained at Guantánamo Bay since 9/11, part of another round of leaked secret files — though, interestingly, the Times had to get access from a different source given its relationship with WikiLeaks. The newly-leaked documents reveal that nearly 20 percent of the detainees were completely innocent civilians. Another 49 percent were low-ranking guerrillas of little utility to American intelligence.