Writing last night, The Nation’s Greg Mitchell asked “Who leaked the WikiLeaks files to The Times?” Then Mitchell tries to tease out whether the last-minute embargo break by WikiLeaks led to early publication on the Guantánamo files, or whether a decision to go early from the Times caused the WikiLeaks to lift its embargo.

Who leaked the WikiLeaks files to The Times? To summarize: WikiLeaks gave its Gitmo files to 7 news outlets but not the NYT or The Guardian, probably due to falling out with them over previous leaks. But someone leaked the files to the Times, which in turn gave them to The Guardian and NPR. The Times decided to go ahead tonight with covering / publishing files tonight, and WikiLeaks and partners apparently then rushed to lift embargo and come out with their coverage an hour or two behind the Times. At least that’s all suggested by McClatchy and The Guardian. Or did NYTlearn that embarge was about to be broken and so moved “abruptly” first?


Remember, the Times is not claiming that it got them from a government or Gitmo or military source, or from the original leaker — it says these ARE the WikiLeaks documents. So does that mean they came from one of several disgruntled ex-WikiLeakers?

We will have to wait and see.

The Reports

The Washington Post, taking its first swing at a WikiLeaks dump as an official WikiLeaks partner, offers a report by Peter Finn that focuses on revelations within the documents about the movements of Al Qaeda operatives in the aftermath of 9/11. The piece is a catalogue of escapes and movements and tracks Bin Laden in the months immediately following the WTC attacks.

Bin Laden, accompanied by Zawahiri and a handful of close associates in his security detail, escaped to his cave complex in Tora Bora in November. Around Nov. 25, he was seen giving a speech to the leaders and fighters at the complex.

He told them to “remain strong in their commitment to fight, to obey the leaders, to help the Taliban, and that it was a grave mistake and taboo to leave before the fight was completed.”

According to the documents, bin Laden and his deputy escaped from Tora Bora in mid-December 2001. At the time, the al-Qaeda leader was apparently so strapped for cash that he borrowed $7,000 from one of his protectors—a sum he paid back within a year.

Finn’s is a well-synthesized and intriguing report, and an accompanying interactive database of prisoners past and present, produced before the leaks and linking to “Status Review Tribunal Transcripts” for some of the detainees, is informative and easy to use. But compared to some other coverage it feels slight. This may be the result of the suddenly lifted embargo, and we should expect more to come.

The New York Times has a more robust package that includes a wonderful interactive, “The Guantanamo Docket,” which shows the number of detainees held and transferred at any given time between January 2002 and 2011. The numbers are broken down by nationality (Afghani, Saudi Arabian, Pakistani, Yemeni, and other) and, when you press play on the Docket’s timeline, you can see how many detainees of each nationality are held and released as time goes by. Here’s a screenshot:

Click on the dots and you learn the name, status, and citizenship of the prisoner it represents.

The reports on this latest leak also seem more muscular and more critical from the Times than they had been for some of the previous WikiLeaks dumps. One report, “Lives in An American Limbo,” notes that “the leaked files show why, by laying bare the patchwork and contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in a criminal court or a military tribunal.” Among a list of findings in the same report are examples of extreme interrogations—on which there is little said in the documents—as well as cases of seeming innocents being declared “enemy combatants” against available evidence, and this report on an Al Jazeera journalist held in captivity at Gitmo.

A journalist’s interrogation: The documents show that a major reason a Sudanese cameraman for Al Jazeera, Sami al-Hajj, was held at Guantánamo for six years was for questioning about the television network’s “training program, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan,” including contacts with terrorist groups. While Mr. Hajj insisted he was just a journalist, his file says he helped Islamic extremist groups courier money and obtain Stinger missiles and cites the United Arab Emirates’ claim that he was a Qaeda member. He was released in 2008 and returned to work for Al Jazeera.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.