While Keller gets points for vigorously defending the value of the leaks—“They deepen and correct your understanding of how things unfold; they raise or lower your estimation of world leaders…”—his defense of the paper’s poor reporting on Iran’s allegedly obtaining missiles feels as weak as the paper’s rewrite at the time.

One of our first articles drawn from the diplomatic cables, for example, reported on a secret intelligence assessment that Iran had obtained a supply of advanced missiles from North Korea, missiles that could reach European capitals. Outside experts long suspected that Iran obtained missile parts but not the entire weapons, so this glimpse of the official view was revealing. The Washington Post fired back with a different take, casting doubt on whether the missile in question had been transferred to Iran or whether it was even a workable weapon. We went back to the cables—and the experts—and concluded in a subsequent article that the evidence presented “a murkier picture.”

Finally, while Keller says he thinks of WikiLeaks as he would a source, and in no way as a partner, he offers another strong defense on its behalf.

…it is chilling to contemplate the possible government prosecution of WikiLeaks for making secrets public, let alone the passage of new laws to punish the dissemination of classified information, as some have advocated. Taking legal recourse against a government official who violates his trust by divulging secrets he is sworn to protect is one thing. But criminalizing the publication of such secrets by someone who has no official obligation seems to me to run up against the First Amendment and the best traditions of this country.


Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.