Today, Wikileaks caused a splash with its attack helicopter video. But the group also quietly backed down from their more alarming claims of U.S. spying. Plus, "man date" discoverer and former Times reporter Jenny 8 Lee's apparent Wikileaks connection.
The most attention-grabbing allegation made in recent weeks by Wikileaks is that a volunteer was detained by Icelandic authorities and questioned about Wikileaks' work on classified Pentagon video—apparently at the behest of U.S. authorities. (Read all the allegations here.) However, when we spoke to Assange after this morning's press conference, he called the volunteer's claim into question. Assange said police claim they detained the volunteer because they believed he had stolen a Wikileaks laptop, and that "there are some reasons not to believe the volunteer, and some reasons not to believe the police." Assange said he was leaning towards believing the police story.
And during the press conference, Assange repeated allegations that he had been tailed by U.S. State Department employees from Iceland to an investigative journalism conference in Norway. But he now believes those tails were more likely related to Wikileaks' work on leaking documents related to the Icelandic financial crisis—not Pentagon video.
We also now know what at least one former Times reporter is doing with all her free time and sweet buyout money. We spotted famous trend-spotter and Chinese food scholar Jenny 8. Lee at the press conference at D.C.'s National Press Club, apparently helping out as an informal press liasion: She passed around an iPad on which journalists entered contact information (yep, we touched an iPad!), live-tweeted the event, and later sent out an email to the journalists in attendance with links to further reading. So, she's traded discovering the man date for international non-profit investigative journalism?
As for future of Wikileaks, it's clear this recent release marks a new stage for the site. Perhaps the most overlooked detail of the helicopter video release is that Wikileaks was not only able to obtain and decrypt video that had eluded Reuters reporters for years, it also sent two Icelandic journalists to Baghdad to research the events in the video and add context which significantly boosted the video's impact. They spoke to eyewitnesses who were able to identify the two reporters, and tracked down two children injured in the attack. The raw video—pixellated and confusing—would have been much more assailable without this extra research. With the influx of attention and funding that will likely follow this high-profile scoop, we predict WIkileaks will expand further into boots-on-the-ground reporting, morphing from a cache of secret documents to an investigative reporting operation in it is own right.