Washington, DC, July 29, 2010 - National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton made a guest appearance on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central on Tuesday, July 27, to discuss Wikileaks’ release of over 90,000 Secret documents on the war in Afghanistan. Blanton told Stephen that the alleged leaker of the documents may just be applying the “Facebook mentality” to classified documents.
The day before, Blanton visited Washington radio talk show host Kojo Nnamdi (WAMU 88.5 FM) for a – somewhat more serious – conversation about the implications of the leak.
Wikileaks’ revelation of tens of thousands of documents generated headlines around the world as the largest single leak of classified material to the news media since the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The disclosure has been highly controversial and its impact on the Obama administration’s war strategy is far from clear, but one positive outcome may be to touch off a fresh debate on the issue of secrecy classification.
Although most of the documents are Secret (none is classified higher than that), and provide a riveting look at the war directly through the eyes of the men and women doing the fighting, much of the public response lately has been “So what?” – reflecting how few genuinely new revelations the materials in fact contain.
The absence of actual news may come as a surprise to many readers, but probably not to most of those with regular access to government “secrets.” Over the years, a growing number of senior U.S. military and civilian officials (from Edward Teller to Donald Rumsfeld) have acknowledged – and lamented – the gross overclassification of information within the government.
Wikileaks’ decision to release these new documents therefore raises important questions not only about the responsibility of journalists, bloggers and activists who make their own judgments about what information they receive can reasonably be made public, but also about the job that government classifiers do in deciding what truly needs be protected and what can safely be released for the benefit of public awareness.
For video/audo of Tom Blanton’s two interviews, go to:
1. ColbertNation.com, “That’s the Way I Leak It – Tom Blanton” (episode #06093)
2. The Kojo Nnamdi Show at WAMU 88.5 FM (American University Radio)