Mark Davis: Who published first and who redacted the files

Mark Davis is a multi-award winning Australian journalist who was an eye-witness to the entire preparation of the Afghan War Logs, submitted in 2010 to Wikileaks by the whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Davis had documented the process in a film called ‘Inside Wikileaks’, which showed the Wikileaks editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, working alongside journalists from the New York Times, Guardian & Der Spiegel. At a recent Sydney event entitled ‘Julian Assange & the Alliance against the US Culture of Revenge’, Davis revealed details of the interactions he had never spoken of publicly before.

With the aid of his own archival footage from inside the Guardian’s “bunker”, Davis describes the high level participation of the collaborating news outlets in the creation of the publication the New York Times described as “a six-year archive of classified military documents [that] offers an unvarnished and grim picture of the Afghan war”. It was the Guardian technical team, Davis informs us, that built the searchable database and graphic user interface. His images of Julian Assange and Guardian journalist Nick Davis working together to analyse the “impenetrable data” support his assertion that there was no professional distance whatsoever between the journalists.

With disdain, Davis reveals how the New York Times, presumably to avoid blowback, set Julian Assange up as the unwitting lightening rod by urging his small start-up to “scoop them” and publish first. This would enable the NYT (we hear the late Gavin MacFadyen comment in an exchange with Assange) to simply report on what Wikileaks had published.

Most shocking in these revelations is Mark Davis’s account of how the Guardian journalists neglected and appeared to care little about redacting the documents. They had a “graveyard humour” about people being harmed and no one, he stated emphatically, expressed concern about civilian casualties except Julian Assange. He recalls that Nick Davis, a long-time critic of Assange, had only expressed concern to David Leigh about the the Guardian mentioning a particular name, and being deeply disturbed when Leigh replied: “But we are not publishing this”. Julian Assange had subsequently requested that the release of the Afghan War Logs be delayed for the purpose of redaction, but the Guardian not only insisted on the agreed date, they abandoned him to redact 10,000 documents alone.

The Wikileaks publication was delayed however, due to a technical problem. That is why it came to pass, Davis explains, that the MSN media partners collectively lied for two days to the public about the War Logs having already been published. As it turned out, the New York Times and then the Guardian, were the first to break the story. Of the 91,000 documents submitted by Manning, some 17,000 were withheld from publication to minimise harm to individuals, largely due to the redaction effectuated by Assange.

Davis paints a picture of a “naive” Assange being set up to “walk the plank” and then “fall off the plank”. The second phase of the plan was to condemn him, very much in line with the US’s claim that Wikileaks “had blood on their hands”. It was soon seen to be a false claim however, since no individual had been harmed, and Wikileaks went on to publish Cablegate.

What happened next beggars belief. In January 2011, the Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding published a book entitled: “Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, which contained the password to the entire database of un-redacted material. Realising that harm was now certainly on the way, particularly to US informants in Afghanistan, Wikileaks responded by publishing the lot in a manner that would not only be accessible to governments and intelligence agencies. It would give people a chance to escape. The Guardian lashed out again in condemnation of Wikileaks, but the result is that no one to date has been harmed by the publication.

Much more on WiiLeaks / Julian on Consortium News

Video also referenced in Greg Beans article Media dead silent as Wikileaks insider explodes the myths around Julian Assange