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Airstrike video puts whistleblower Web site in spotlight

David Kushner with Mother Jones takes a fascinating look behind the whistleblower Web site Wikileaks.org, the site everyone is talking about this week after it published the 2007 U.S. military video of a helicopter strike in Baghdad that killed 12 people, including two staffers for Reuters news service. Though Wikileaks has its critics — people who think the site’s approach of publishing leaked materials lacks the integrity of journalism’s filtering process — it undoubtedly has had an impact in shining a light on government and corporate abuses around the world. From Mother Jones:

Since its launch in December, 2006, WikiLeaks has posted more than 1.2 million documents totaling more than 10 million pages. It has published the operating manuals from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, NATO’s secret plan for the Afghan war, and inventories of US military materiel in Iraq and Afghanistan. In September 2007, a few weeks before Assange’s alleged close call in Nairobi, it posted a document exposing corruption in the highest levels of the Kenyan government. Assange claims that the site receives as many as 10,000 new documents daily.

The New York Times also had a piece on Wikileaks’ new found fame (remember the days when we would have expected newspapers like the NYT to be the ones uncovering these types of videos?):

Reuters had tried for two and a half years through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the Iraq video, to no avail. WikiLeaks, as always, refuses to say how it obtained the video, and credits only “our courageous source.”

Both the NYT and MoJo pieces cite a 2008 case where a California judge tried to shut Wikileaks down after it published documents from a Swiss bank that may or may not have shown the bank was involved in money laundering. Public Citizen and other First Amendment organizations successfully intervened in that case, arguing that it was an example of improper prior restraint.