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Reporters' Roundtable: Can you trust WikiLeaks?

The mainstream press has used a lot of material that's been collected by the whistle-blower site. But can you trust it? Today, our guests include John Young, founder of Cryptome and an early contributor to WikiLeaks itself.

WikiLeaks launched in 2006 with the stated goal of being an open repository for documents that governments were trying to keep buried. It has become, though, more of a simple repository of U.S. military secrets. The site became notorious in 2007, when it released graphic U.S. military video of a helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians. It's released two other big caches of U.S. military docs recently, on Afghanistan and Iraq. And, despite its name, it's done so not in the wiki way--open and transparent--but selectively, giving media organizations advance news.

The site's main founder, Julian Assange, gets nearly as much press as the site itself. He has been described as "on the run" by The New York Times in an unflattering story that ran alongside a major feature detailing new findings from documents WikiLeaks released. To say Assange has an uneasy relationship with the mainstream media is an understatement.

Today we're talking about WikiLeaks and another site similar in some ways to it, Cryptome, focusing on their effect on journalism and government.

We have two guests. First up, Declan McCullagh, political reporter for CNET News. Later in our show, we're joined by John Young, the man who registered, and the founder of Cryptome, one of the Web's first repositories of leaked documents and top-secret information.

Now playing: Watch this: Reporters' Roundtable 53: Can you trust Wikileaks?


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Show notes and talking points

What is WikiLeaks? Some history.

How has its mission changed?

Why is Julian Assange such a big part of this story?

Compare Cryptome with WikiLeaks.

John Young, tell us your aim in launching Cryptome.

Cryptome does not endeavor to verify accuracy or source of documents. Why not?

Why are leak sites important?

Are these sites changing the nature of secrecy? Governing? Wars? Cryptography?

The biggest pre-Internet U.S. document leak was the Pentagon Papers. What effect did that have on the media?

What are governments doing about these sites?

What's next?