In Wake of WikiLeaks, what does FOIA tell us?

In the wake of the cache of classified information WikiLeaks dumped into the public domain, how much does FOIA tell us about what’s happening in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and Iraq?  The thousands of files that WikiLeaks posted appear to show on-the-ground first-hand accounts of the war without broader context, according to news accounts.  In its “Day 2” story, The New York Times today points out the unauthorized disclosure may give ammunition for opponents to push to end U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

We turned to our own FOIA Files database for help.  (Okay, this is, in part, self-promotion.)

The 23 stories we reviewed where a reporter or advocacy group (such as the American Civil Liberties Union) used FOIA to write about the region since 2005 focus on al Qaeda’s possible plans to use anthrax (#39 Al Qaeda Letters Are Said to Show Pre-9/11 Anthrax Plans), how taxpayer dollars go to “shoddy” projects (#421 Report: U.N. spent U.S. funds on shoddy projects) or contractors who make campaign contributions (#372 Windfalls of War), how U.S. treats detainees held and tortured (#70 Few Punished in Abuse Cases), how veterans fare with disability claims (#222, #58)).  FOIA has also helped reporters report on how the Pentagon seeks to control information through a network of military retirees who appear on cable news programs (#363 Pentagon, media clash over control of information).

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