In early 2007, the organizers of a new website called WikiLeaks invited Steven Aftergood, a Federation of American Scientists researcher who publishes a government secrecy e-newsletter, to serve on their advisory board.
At the time, the site's founders described themselves as Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists in the United States, Australia, Europe, South Africa and Taiwan.
National Journal's now-defunct Technology Daily reported that Aftergood had not decided whether to get involved: "I still want to see how they launch, what the focus is and if they're putting out good material ... and if the positive outweighs the negative," Aftergood explained.
Flash forward to 2010. In June, Aftergood posted a commentary saying that "WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals. . . .WikiLeaks routinely tramples on the privacy of non-governmental, non-corporate groups for no valid public policy reason."
After the most recent leak of diplomatic cables containing embarrassing and damaging details about U.S. allies, Aftergood wrote, "WikiLeaks has been inattentive to the unintended consequences of its actions, careless about putting individuals in harm's way, particularly in the case of the Afghan war records, and ethically deficient in its invasions of personal privacy."
Aftergood tells Nextgov that -- shocker -- he never became an adviser to WikiLeaks. "We had some friendly communications in late 2006 and early 2007. But basically I concluded that I didn't support their basic approach to publication of confidential records, and that was the end of it," he said.
During his brief correspondence with the group, Aftergood did offer one piece of advice that WikiLeaks apparently ignored: "As I recall, I told them it was a mistake to publish anything without some kind of editorial filter to screen out false, libelous or dangerous information."