Is WikiLeaks — the self-styled “intelligence agency of the people” that the American Pentagon considers a security threat — a form of investigative journalism?

The whistle-blower web site WikiLeaks — the self-styled “intelligence agency of the people” that’s listed as a security threat
by the American Pentagon — increasingly resembles a form of
investigative journalism. It comes with a political twist and much controversy.

WikiLeaks
recently released a video of a U.S. military assault on civilians in
Baghdad in 2007; of the 12 killed two worked for Reuters. Reuters had
failed in its efforts over two years to obtain the video through
regular channels. After WikiLeaks got the video it issued a plea for
donated supercomputer time to break its encryption, then released it to
an audience of millions of Youtube viewers and television news watchers.

“WikiLeaks
has inserted itself in the national discussion about the role of
journalism in the digital age,” wrote Noam Cohen and Brian Stelter in the New York Times.
“By being everywhere, yet in no exact place, WikiLeaks is, in effect,
beyond the reach of any institution or government that hopes to silence
it.”

“The diffuse, international nature of the organization
has protected Wikileaks from the fate of other organizations that seek
to expose wrongdoing by powerful interests,” noted Johnathan Stray in Foreign Policy.
“It prints no paper, but instead stores its articles online in Sweden,
where journalists are required by law not to reveal sources.”

WikiLeaks
was founded three years ago by activists, an Australian journalist and
computer experts. “Since then, WikiLeaks has published documents about
toxic dumping in Africa, protocols from Guantánamo Bay, e-mail messages
from Sarah Palin’s personal account and 9/11 pager messages,” noted the
Times.

“Wikileaks’
disregard for gag orders and their unabashed advocacy makes
full-throated praise for the organization rare,” wrote Stray in FP.
“Yet no journalist I’ve spoken to will speak ill of Wikileaks in
private: Every reporter understands that Wikileaks is the thin end of
the wedge. If they can’t run a dangerous story, no one can.”

As
it challenges definitions of “journalism” and what should and should
not be released, expect increasing controversy from and about WikiLeaks.

As a profile of co-founder Julian Assange in Mother Jones magazine noted,
“WikiLeaks’ commitment to what might be called extreme transparency
also means that it won’t turn away documents that have questionable
news value or are just plain dishy.”

[node:ad]