By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Nick Daniloff on WikiLeaks

Nick Daniloff

My Northeastern colleague Nicholas Daniloff, a former foreign correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and UPI, was interviewed by the university press office earlier this week about the WikiLeaks story.

Daniloff offers some sharp insights, arguing that the document dump was more good than bad, and that the New York Times acted responsibly by giving the White House an opportunity to request redactions — some of which the Times went along with, some of which it didn’t. Daniloff adds:

[O]ver the long run, a great deal of this will be forgotten or swept under the rug, although older diplomats may well tell young diplomats, “Be careful with the Americans. They are so leaky that what you say may eventually come out. Be discreet; after all, you wouldn’t make copies of your love letters would you?”

Also worth reading: retired Times executive editor Max Frankel (via Jack Shafer), who, writing in the Guardian, offers this no-kidding observation:

Governments must finally acknowledge that secrets shared with millions of “cleared” officials, including lowly army clerks, are not secret. They must decide that the random rubber-stamping of millions of papers and computer files each year does not a security system make.

Meanwhile, Interpol has heightened its efforts to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on sexual-assault charges. This Times story makes it sound like the agency isn’t trying very hard. It makes you wonder whether Western governments truly want to bring Assange to justice — or are just trying to discredit him.

Northeastern University photo by Lauren McFalls.

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Stopping the presses in Nashua


  1. Dan Storms

    I think it quite clear that governments and the media types that identify with and rely on them for scoops, background, et al. have a vested interest in discrediting Assange. Even if the rape allegation is credible, it in no way detracts from the information that he has released, but it is a good distraction. One thing, though: it was my understanding that Interpol is merely an information clearing house for police forces and did not, in and of itself, have any police powers? If true, how can it be said that Interpol is trying to arrest Assange?

  2. Christian Avard

    Here’s what I don’t get. Assange acts like he’s all about openness and transparency in government, yet he’s not open and transparent about himself. If Assange truly believes he is innocent of the sexual assault charges, then why isn’t he back in Sweden meeting with investigators? I mean if he knew he did nothing wrong and has nothing to lose, then why is he dodging them as well as the journalists who want to know more about these charges? Maybe I’m missing something. But I’m still curious why can’t Assange defend or talk about these charges.

    I’m also kind of skeptical of whether this is a way to take Assange down from the “powers that be” because enforcement officials don’t take sexual crimes lightly. I don’t see why they would make them up. If so, they’re foolish or they better have a damn good reason to make them up.

    I will say that a lot of the cables that were released were helpful to journalism and democracy. Some weren’t. But what bugs me is that I don’t necessarily think Assange is about that. He is not a journalist and I’m less inclined to think that he’s a serious whistleblower now. He’s a professional computer hacker and a damn good one at it. It seems like, based on interviews Assange has given, that he’s got a major chip on his shoulder and wants to get back at people. He said the following in a Der Speigel interview.

    “I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable. And I enjoy crushing the bastards.”

    Um … OK. But does that really sound like someone looking out for the public good or does that sound like that someone who wants the world to know that he’s a computer hacker who thinks he’s the greatest and can get away with everything?

    Just a thought.

  3. Bob Gardner

    Journalists lose credibility whenever they hide information from the public on behalf of the government. As the bible says, you can’t serve two masters.

  4. Mike Benedict

    Just a point on Interpol to follow on what Dan Storms asks: It doesn’t function to pick up routine criminals, and the rape charges against Assange, while vile, are routine. That said, it does maintain an unspecified number of in-house police.

  5. Dan Storms

    @Christian Avard:

    “I don’t see why they would make them up.” That would seem self-evident. Whether the charges are true or not, they are non-germane to the information Assange has released, but suddenly all the stories are about the alleged rape rather than the revelations in the leak. Moral condemnation of Assange replaces examination of the data, which somehow becomes (unreasonably) tainted. See the case of Scott Ritter, weapons inspector who called foul on the Bush excuse for invading Iraq and whose arrest (but not conviction) on charges of pervy behavior with a webcam were leaked from sealed records after his denunciations. Or Eliot Spitzer, whose crusade against the Wall Streeters was curtailed because of a prostitution bust, allowing the bankers and brokers freedom to make millions by breaking the economy. Paranoia? Maybe, but it seems an awfully convenient way to turn attention from factual evidence of malfeasance to irrelevant salacious allegations.

  6. Christian Avard

    @ Dan Storms I agree it’s a distraction from the message and the messenger. But at the same time, if he has nothing to hide and he insists he did nothing wrong, then he should be able to stand up to these charges and answer to them or at least give an explanation to journalists who interview them. Why isn’t he? That’s what I’d like to know.

  7. Aaron Read

    If Assange truly believes he is innocent of the sexual assault charges, then why isn’t he back in Sweden meeting with investigators?

    Christian, are you really THAT naive? How many “political prisoners” are rotting away in prisons on trumped-up charges in every country on the planet?!?!?

  8. C.E. Stead

    @Storms and Avard – unless Interpol is willing to track down every accused rapist in Europe, they should just break down and charge him with espionage.

  9. Christian Avard

    @Aaron Read and C.E. Stead – Regardless of whether I or you support Assange or not I do), I believe we should take all sexual molestation and rape allegations seriously because there may be really be some survivors of sexual assault on the other side of all this. If you were Assange’s alleged victim, I think you’d want to be taken seriously as well. Wouldn’t you? Just because Assange is someone we admire for what he’s doing doesn’t mean we should dismiss these allegations as some sort of conspiracy against him.

  10. Marc Larocque

    Dan, is Assange a journalist?

    What do you think about leading Republicans calling him a terrorist and Mike Huckabee, who has his own show on Fox News, calling for his death?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Marc: No, Assange isn’t a journalist. He himself has made it clear that that’s the last thing he considers himself.

      From what I saw, Huckabee called for a capital treason case to be brought against Bradley Manning, but has not called for the killing of Assange. (Yes, bad enough.) But for something truly rancid, check out this from the Washington Times.

  11. Marc Larocque

    Yes, I meant Manning. “”Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.”

  12. Marc Larocque

    Yea, here is Michael Reagan saying the same thing in his syndicated column that appears in local newspapers:

  13. Marc Larocque

    One last thing from the Atlantic that I did not know before:

    “The importance of Assange’s efforts to human rights workers in the field were recognized last year by Amnesty International, which gave him its Media Award for the Wikileaks investigation The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, which documented the killing and disappearance of 500 young men in Kenya by the police, with the apparent connivance of the country’s political leadership.”

  14. LFNeilson

    Governments generally operate as if the “other side” already knows their secrets, because they probably do. Therefore, the damage in the Wikileaks information is not so much what it would leak to potential enemies, but rather what it would tell the public — and the damage it would cause politically.

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