Five human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have written a letter "pressing WikiLeaks to do a better job of redacting names from thousands of war documents it is publishing," the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. -- "The exchange shows how WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange risk being isolated from some of their most natural allies in the wake of the documents' publication," Jeanne Whalen said. -- After receiving the letter, Assange asked Amnesty for help in redacting documents, and threatened to denounce the organization in a statement for being interested only in "covering their asses" when Amnesty hesitated to agree to assist, according to the Wall Street Journal account. -- "In an email Monday, WikiLeaks declined to comment on the exchange with the human rights groups." -- The London Guardian reported that "The spat between Assange and the human rights groups appears to mark a major falling out. Last year he won Amnesty's award for new media work for exposing extrajudicial killings in Kenya." -- Meanwhile, at the Daily Beast, Philip Shenon reported that "The Obama administration is pressing Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allied Western governments to consider opening criminal investigations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and to severely limit his nomadic travels across international borders." -- Shenon cited "a growing suspicion in Washington that Assange has damaged his own standing with foreign governments and organizations that might otherwise be sympathetic to his anti-censorship cause." ...
RIGHTS GROUPS JOIN CRITICISM OF WIKILEAKS
By Jeanne Whalen
Wall Street Journal
August 9, 2010
A group of human-rights organizations is pressing WikiLeaks to do a better job of redacting names from thousands of war documents it is publishing, joining the list of critics that claim the Web site's actions could jeopardize the safety of Afghans who aided the U.S. military.
The letter from five human-rights groups sparked a tense exchange in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange issued a tart challenge for the organizations to help with the massive task of removing names from thousands of documents, according to several of the organizations that signed the letter. The exchange shows how WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange risk being isolated from some of their most natural allies in the wake of the documents' publication.
The human-rights groups involved are Amnesty International; Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, or CIVIC; Open Society Institute, or OSI, the charitable organization funded by George Soros; Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; and the Kabul office of International Crisis Group, or ICG.
The groups emailed WikiLeaks to say they were concerned for the safety of Afghans identified as helping the U.S. military in documents obtained by WikiLeaks, according to several of the groups. WikiLeaks has already published 76,000 of the documents and plans to publish up to 15,000 more.
Some of the already published documents included names that critics including the Pentagon claim could lead to harm for Afghans seen as helping the U.S. war effort. The Pentagon last week demanded that WikiLeaks hand over all the classified Afghan war documents it has.
"We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces," the human-rights groups wrote in their letter, according to a person familiar with it. "We strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyze all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted."
In his response to the letter signed by the human-rights organizations, Mr. Assange asked what the groups were doing to analyze the documents already published, and asked whether Amnesty in particular would provide staff to help redact the names of Afghan civilians, according to people familiar with the letter.
An Amnesty official replied to say that while the group has limited resources, it wouldn't rule out the idea of helping, according to people familiar with the reply. The official suggested that Mr. Assange and the human-rights groups hold a conference call to discuss the matter.
Mr. Assange then replied: "I'm very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses. If Amnesty does nothing I shall issue a press release highlighting its refusal," according to people familiar with the exchange.
Later, WikiLeaks posted on its Twitter account: "Pentagon wants to bankrupt us by refusing to assist review. Media won't take responsibility. Amnesty won't. What to do?"
In an email Monday, WikiLeaks declined to comment on the exchange with the human rights groups.
Taliban representatives have said publicly that they are searching the documents and plan to punish people who have helped U.S. forces.
Human-rights groups say they are increasingly worried about the execution of Afghan civilians by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, or AIHRC, published figures this week showing that such executions have soared in the first seven months of this year, to 197, from a total of 225 in all of 2009.
In a phone interview, Nader Nadery, senior commissioner of the AIHRC, said the civilians executed are often people who support the Afghan government, or their family members. Some of these people "may have come into contact with the U.S. or other international forces," he said.
He said the AIHRC signed the letter to WikiLeaks. He said he and his colleagues "appreciate the efforts by WikiLeaks" to highlight some previously unreported aspects of the war, but worry that "having the names of the individuals with the location of their village and specific info about them . . . will enable the Taliban to develop another hit list."
CIVIC, OSI, and ICG also confirmed that they signed the letter. Erica Gaston, program officer for OSI's Afghanistan-Pakistan regional policy initiative, said: "Our concern was that the Taliban had announced it was going through the data looking for names and that it would begin targeting that. It's a very real threat that they're making. They have demonstrated over and over that if they have the name of someone that has in any way been affiliated with the international community, they will find them, they will kill them in most cases."
Afghanistan: the war logs
WIKILEAKS URGED TO REMOVE THOUSANDS OF NAMES
By Matthew Weaver
** Human rights groups including Amnesty raise fears of 'deadly ramifications' for people named in secret U.S. files **
August 10, 2010
Human rights groups have urged the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks to remove thousands of names from the leaked Afghanistan war logs over fears of "deadly ramifications" for the people identified.
Five human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the Open Society Institute, have written to WikiLeaks to express their concerns about the biggest leak in U.S. military history, according to the *Wall Street Journal*.
The email says: "We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathising with international forces. We strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyse all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted."
Erica Gaston, Afghanistan specialist at the Open Society Initiative, confirmed the group were alarmed by the failure of WikiLeaks to redact the names.
"We are worried about the ramifications. Unama has released its report today on the protection of civilians and one of the startling trends is that assassinations have skyrocketed in the last year," she told the *Guardian*.
"The Taliban have announced they are going through these documents for names, and in the past when they have identified those in contact with the international military they have targeted them and killed them. That is our number one concern.
All of us who have reached out to WikiLeaks applaud greater transparency and accountability. But all of us who have worked on the ground in Afghanistan know that you need to make sure sources and civilians are not put in harm's way by your work. In cases of releasing documents sometimes it is still possible to have the transparency but redacting to the names involved."
The signatories to the letter also include the International Crisis Group and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
"We fear the names could create new targets", Nader Nadery, the president of the AIHRC, told the French news agency AFP.
The WikiLeaks editor, Julian Assange, replied to the letter by asking the groups concerned to help WikiLeaks redact the names. He also threatened to expose Amnesty if it refused to provide staff to help with the task, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Last week the Pentagon stepped up its pressure on WikiLeaks to delete the files.
Assange said WikiLeaks had tried to comply with a private White House request to redact the names of informants before publication, but the U.S. authorities had refused to assist.
Assange expressed his frustration on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed yesterday. "Pentagon wants to bankrupt us by refusing to assist review. Media won't take responsibility. Amnesty won't. What to do?" he tweeted.
WikiLeaks posted more than 76,900 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the Afghan war on its website last month, providing a devastating portrait of the failing war. Some of the documents contain details of Afghans who have dealt with the coalition.
WikiLeaks withheld around 15,000 reports to protect informants.
The Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel were shown the documents before they were leaked and published edited extracts with details of the individuals removed. Yesterday the readers' editor of the Guardian, Chris Elliott, explained the steps the paper had taken before publishing extracts of the documents.
The spat between Assange and the human rights groups appears to mark a major falling out. Last year he won Amnesty's award for new media work for exposing extrajudicial killings in Kenya.
U.S. URGES ALLIES TO CRACK DOWN ON WIKILEAKS
By Philip Shenon
** The Obama administration has asked Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allies to consider criminal charges against Julian Assange for his Afghan war leaks. **
The Daily Beast
August 10, 2010
The Obama administration is pressing Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allied Western governments to consider opening criminal investigations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and to severely limit his nomadic travels across international borders, American officials say.
Officials tell The Daily Beast that the U.S. effort reflects a growing belief that WikiLeaks and organizations like it threaten grave damage to American national security, as well as a growing suspicion in Washington that Assange has damaged his own standing with foreign governments and organizations that might otherwise be sympathetic to his anti-censorship cause.
American officials confirmed last month that the Justice Department was weighing a range of criminal charges against Assange and others as a result of the massive leaking of classified U.S. military reports from the war in Afghanistan, including potential violations of the Espionage Act by Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst in Iraq accused of providing the documents to WikiLeaks.
Now, the officials say, they want other foreign governments to consider the same sorts of criminal charges.
“It’s not just our troops that are put in jeopardy by this leaking,” said an American diplomatic official who is involved in responding to the aftermath of the release of more than 70,000 Afghanistan war logs -- and WikiLeaks’ threat to reveal 15,000 more of the classified reports.
“It’s U.K. troops, it’s German troops, it’s Australian troops -- all of the NATO troops and foreign forces working together in Afghanistan,” he said. Their governments, he said, should follow the lead of the Justice Department and “review whether the actions of WikiLeaks could constitute crimes under their own national-security laws.”
Last month, a prominent pro-military group in Australia suggested that Assange may have violated Australian law through the release of the Afghan war logs, given the threat the leak may have posed to the lives of Australian troops serving in the NATO-led force.
The Obama administration was heartened by the call this week by Amnesty International and four other human-rights groups for WikiLeaks to be far more careful in editing classified material from the war in Afghanistan to be sure that its public release does not endanger innocent Afghans who may be identified in the documents.
The initial document dump by WikiLeaks last month is reported to have disclosed the names of hundreds of Afghan civilians who have cooperated with NATO forces; the Taliban has threatened to hunt down the civilians named in the documents, a threat that human-rights organizations say WikiLeaks should take seriously.
“It’s amazing how Assange has overplayed his hand,” a Defense Department official marveled. “Now, he’s alienating the sort of people who you’d normally think would be his biggest supporters.”
The joint letter by the five groups, first revealed by the Wall Street Journal, was met by a tart response from Assange, who communicates with the outside world largely through the social-networking Internet tool Twitter.
He appeared to suggest that news organizations and human-rights groups, notably Amnesty International, should help him underwrite his cost of the editing and release of more of the Afghan war documents -- but that they were instead refusing to provide assistance.
“Pentagon wants to bankrupt us by refusing to assist review,” he tweeted on Monday, referring to the effort by WikiLeaks to convince the Defense Department to join in reviewing the additional 15,000 documents to remove the names of Afghan civilians and others who might be placed in danger by its release. “Media won’t take responsibility. Amnesty won’t. What to do?”
In a separate posting on Twitter, Assange estimated the cost of the “harm minimization review” -- a reference, apparently, to the effort to edit the 15,000 documents to remove informants’ names -- at $700,000. It was not clear how he arrived at that figure.
The Australian-born Assange travels constantly and is said to have no real home, living instead in the homes of friends and supporters around the world.
He was reported as recently as last week to be in the U.K., although he has spent significant time this year in Australia, Iceland, and the U.S. He has said he is postponing future travel to the U.S. because of fear that he faces legal sanctions here.
Through diplomatic and military channels, the Obama administration is hoping to convince Britain, Germany, and Australia, among other allied governments that Assange should not be welcome on their shores, either, given the danger that his group poses to their troops stationed in Afghanistan, American officials say.
They say severe limitations on Assange’s travels might serve as a useful warning to his followers that their own freedom is now at risk. A prominent American volunteer for WikiLeaks reported last month that he was subjected to hours of questioning and had his laptop and cellphones seized by American border agents on returning to the U.S. from Europe late last month.
An American military official tells The Daily Beast that Washington may also want to closely review its relations with Iceland in the wake of the release of the Afghan war logs.
Assange and his followers have been successful in pressing the government of Iceland, in the wake of the collapse of the country’s banking system, to reinvent itself as a haven for free speech, creating a potential home for WikiLeaks and other organizations that may violate the laws of the U.S. and other nations through the release of classified documents.
--Philip Shenon, a former investigative reporter at the New York Times, is the author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation.