Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says "hello world". Currently awaiting trial on sex crimes charges, Mr. Assange's organization's has completed another major controversial leak of U.S. government documents.  (Source: National Post)

The latest info dump from Wikileaks contains confidential DoD reports on 779 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.
Leaked documents either vindicate the U.S. or offer proof of horrible wrong-doing depending on who you ask

Wikileaks appears to be alive and kicking despite its founder's legal issues.  On Sunday the site authorized the publication of scores of new details about America's antiterrorism campaign, including some that cast America's actions in a questionable light.

The leaks are the latest development in Wikileaks' pro-transparency information attacks on the U.S. government.

I. What Leak?

The latest leaks appear to come from even more confidential documents downloaded off of Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), the network that supports the information needs of the military and intelligence community.

Imprisoned U.S. Army private, Specialist Bradley Manning, is accused of downloading the documents and disguising them on CDs.  Mr. Manning is accused of slowly passing the information off to Wikileaks.  

It is unclear how long ago Wikileaks passed the documents off to the news organizations.  Typically documents like these require a fair amount of lead-time in order to make even the most basic of comprehensive analyses.  

Wikileaks has struggled financially of late, so has turned largely to volunteer efforts to support its operations and hosting.  Thus it is of interest whether or not it is still actively participating in leaks or simply pulling the trigger on already released documents -- unfortunately the media outlets give little indication what the situation might be.

This time around Wikileaks passed the documents off to America's National Public Radio (NPR) and The Washington Post.  The organization is selective in only handing the desirable leak information to news outlets it considers sympathetic to its cause.

The New York Times and Britain's Guardian, both of whom formerly received leaks, did not receive this round of leaks.  Reportedly, Wikileaks is upset at these publications for covering the pending ostensibly unrelated sex crimes allegations against Wikileaks founder and chief Julian Assange.

These newspapers still managed to obtain the documents from "another source".

II. What's in the Documents?

If anything this is one of Wikileaks meatier releases.  Unfortunately for the site, in the U.S. public interest in the story has waned amidst rounds of unremarkable leaked war memos from soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new documents reveal details about America's anti-terrorism efforts in the U.S. and abroad.  Unlike some past releases, certain details revealed here seem to clearly indicate the U.S. in wrongdoing.  

Many of the released details cover America's prison in Cuba, Guantánamo Bay.  

The New York Times reports that Mohammed Qahtani, a Saudi dubbed the "20th hijacker" by government officials, was subjected to inhumane torture.  Allegedly a member of Al Qaeda who hoped to participate in the 9-11 Bombing, Mr. Qahtani was leashed like a dog, sexually humiliated, and forced to urinate on himself.

The documents also reveal that some of the 759 detainees appear to be unjustly imprisoned.  Examples of detainees that proved completely harmless were a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped, and an 89-year-old Afghan village elder who was suffering from senile dementia.  Reportedly both individuals were held captive against their will for long periods.

On the other hand the documents also reveal that many of the prisoners were obviously violently opposed to the U.S. and appear to be true "terrorists".  Inmates regularly received citations for "inappropriate use of bodily fluids", which translated, in most cases to urinating on, or throwing feces at guards.

The detainees in their interrogations were "mostly compliant and rarely hostile to guard force and staff", but some became violent towards them.  One individual said "he would like to tell his friends in Iraq to find the interrogator, slice him up, and make a shwarma (a type of sandwich) out of him, with the interrogator’s head sticking out of the end of the shwarma."

Another "threatened to kill a U.S. service member by chopping off his head and hands when he gets out," and informed a guard "he will murder him and drink his blood for lunch. Detainee also stated he would fly planes into houses and prayed that President Bush would die."

Clearly the U.S. officials were dealing with a tough situation.

Further complicating the picture is the fact that some of the government's more extreme interrogations -- much criticized -- did yield a wealth of useful information.

NPR reports, "Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Guantanamo detainees who were famously waterboarded while in CIA detention, are cited as providing interrogators with information about hundreds of other Guantanamo detainees."

And while the torture-obtained information proved largely accurate, gentler efforts to get inmates to inform for incentives seemed to lead inaccurate tales.  According to NPR, "One detainee from Yemen, a convicted drug dealer who later affiliated with al Qaida, informed on so many of his fellow detainees at Guantanamo that authorities there decided the reliability of his information was 'in question.'"

III. Big Picture

There's plenty to take home from the latest release.  The most important thing, perhaps, is that Wikileaks is still around and still appears to be focusing the brunt of its scrutiny on the U.S. government (95+ percent of the site's documents are from the U.S.).

The release also renews the debate about whether Wikileaks is "whistleblowing".  Unlike some past releases like the State Department cables release, the information revealed this time around seems to offer legitimately compelling evidence that the U.S. was doing something wrong.  In that regard it seems like it could qualify under the premise of "whistleblowing" -- more so than past releases, at least.

Despite the fact that U.S. government rules provide certain protections for "whistleblowers" in the military, it seems unlikely that the concerns in the recent document will change Mr. Manning's legal plight given the more questionable nature of some of the previous releases and how Mr. Manning allegedly chose to release the information (to foreign nationals, rather than scrupulous U.S. news outlets like The New York Times).

The leaks offer a mixed picture of America's infamous Cuban prison.  Today only 172 prisoners remain at Guantánamo.  In total, 759 prisoners were covered in the leaked records -- 75 were not.  Of those estimated 834 individuals who entered the compound most appear to have been at least a mild threat to U.S. security, and many U.S. interrogation tactics appeared to have worked.

On the other hand, the U.S. may have stepped over the line in some cases and some people may have been wrongly imprisoned.

Clearly this was a high-pressure situation for the U.S. and at the end of the day the results were mixed -- the government did not perform perfectly.

There's a wealth of details that are outside the scope of this summary that are contained in various reports -- everything from a former detainee now assisting the U.S. as a leader of the resistance in Libya to the locations of suspected Al Qaeda officials before 9/11 and at the present date.

To learn more, check out the following publications:

1. The Washington Post -- "WikiLeaks discloses new details on whereabouts of al-Qaeda leaders on 9/11"
2.  The New York Times -- "Classified Files Offer New Insights Into Detainees"
3.  NPR -- "Military Documents Detail Life At Guantanamo"
4.  Guardian UK -- "Guantánamo leaks lift lid on world's most controversial prison"

The following legal blog also provides lots of links and a nice summary on the story.
The CenterLine -- "Hundreds of Guantanamo Documents Leaked"

The U.S. government has condemned the release.  Ambassador Daniel Fried, the Obama administration's special envoy on detainee issues, and Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell write, "Both administrations have made the protection of American citizens the top priority and we are concerned that the disclosure of these documents could be damaging to those efforts."

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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