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An interview with’s Joshua Foust about the release of thousands of secret documents

Earlier this week, 75,000 classified U.S. government documents were released by WikiLeaks. They’re the new Pentagon Papers — or, much ado about nothing, with many analysts concluding that the reports simply confirm our worst fears about how the war in Afghanistan is being prosecuted.

But for those taking the time to read the leaked documents, there is concern that they contain dangerous information. Among those expressing concern was U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said Thursday that the leaks could cost the lives of American service members.

Joshua Foust, a military analyst who has lived and worked in Afghanistan, is one of those who fears there could be lasting and deadly consequences.

Foust blogs at and is a contributor to Need to Know’s website. On Monday, he wrote: “If I were a Taliban operative with access to a computer — and lots of them have access to computers — I’d start searching the WikiLeaks data for incident reports near my area of operation to see if I recognized anyone. And then I’d kill whomever I could identify.” This morning, Channel 4 news in the U.K. reports that indeed,  the Taliban is studying the report and will hunt down and punish any U.S. informers it identifies.

Here, he discusses the tension between transparency and security with Need to Know host Jon Meacham.



  • Drake

    Wikileaks isn’t American, why should they care what you think? If American’s think the world is behind them, think again.

  • edward

    nothing in wiki leaks was secret ! just subdued from public notice,, as is usual for the u.s. government, factual events are not complementary to american miletary operations , especially in countries espousing negatives to america, factual exposey of events connected with american violance are few and far from being exposed ! the mentality / bioist concept of many american miletary servants is negative , and as such , invokes the adage ‘kill first, ask questions later ” many beautiful families have and are being destroyed from this concept, arrangance / bigotry motivates americans in a given confrontation to kill ! but not because of bravery, many americans join the miletary because of not being capabale of earning a living on the competive skill market, so they opt to join the ranks of being in charge of a killing gun, the degrading of american

  • Al

    @ Ed: Have you been there? If not, I understand why you feel that way. The military is willing to go and do things that your average citizen would not dare to do. We go and fight the popular wars as well as the unpopular ones. I’m in the military because I enjoy the lifestyle, with my post grad studies I could probably go back to the civilian workforce, but why?, to be laid off so some executive’s bonus can be bigger? nah. I really enjoy what I do.

  • chuckvw

    Is it possible that Foust’s opinions are shaped by the fact that “he’s spent the vast majority of his adult life doing defense and intelligence consulting for the U.S. government”? You couldn’t book a guest who sees value in the wikileaks material? There are plenty of such people out there, some of them well-established public figures. But I guess the danger of an actual, informative discussion breaking out was just too great…

  • Joseph A. Mungai

    In 2003 the Pentagon leaked to the world at least 40,000 of the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq didn’t have basic Kevlar Interceptor vests or the ceramic plates needed for full protection.

    And then U.S. officials noticed the thousands of Humvees that weren’t armored to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs including the “explosively formed penetrators” (EFP) that were inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in Iraq.

    Armed with this information the terrorists (those native to Afghanistan) and their sympathizers steadily increased their strikes with more powerful roadside bombs. In fact, “The US military recorded 8,159 IED incidents in Afghanistan in 2009, compared with 3,867 in 2008 and 2,677 the year before.” ( That’s a threefold increase from 2007!!!

    And then there were all the informants that weren’t protected by our government sending a clear message to innocent citizens throughout Afghanistan as July became the deadliest month for our own, 66 U.S. Soldiers (

    Too many elected and appointed official in our country forgot these pertinent facts, intentionally ignored them or were told to learn how to play the game better.

    So far this is what change looks like, so I firmly believe we need to do things differently, radically different. We the People will steer our nation in a new direction — that’s the audacity of hope.

  • Carlton Sagara

    The impression that Joshua Foust gives is that he is an administration spokesperson. Fine. And as you introduced him, you were aware of that.

    What might have been more productive if you had instigated a discussion of what needs to be know, and whether this leak contributed to that discussion.

    It was interesting that Foust listed what supposedly was known — unintentional civilian casualties (we knew that already), Pakistan is aiding the Taliban (we knew that already), how bad the drug war is going and we can’t stop it (we knew that already), soldiers believe that the Afgan government and soldiers are unreliable (we knew that already).

    Now Mr. Foust, as someone who follows the wars as a “profession”, may be aware that all of these things are happening at the same time; but as a follower of the news, we only get these things in a piece meal manner.

    If every news story about the war began, “In this tenth year, 3,565th day of the war, this many American troops have died, approximately this many civilians have been killed, Pakistan is still collaborating with the Taliban, Afgani troops have not increased in their reliability, etc.” and then reported on what is the news item of the day.

    Perhaps Americans might begin thinking about this war in a different way.

  • Robert1014

    Bill Moyers’ Journal, which your program superseded, would possibly have had Mr. Foust on to discuss Wikileaks’ publication of these documents, but they would very likely have also had on a guest with the opposing view, namely, that the publication of these documents was a necessary and valuable act of public service. This points up a significant difference between the two programs, and it’s a pity the opportunity for a debate on this point was lost.

    Mr. Assange of Wikileaks, by the way, has stated that he does not believe any heretofore unknown identities of any persons who might be marked for death for their collaboration with the American forces is revealed in these documents, and that such an assertion by those such as Mr. Foust serves as a handily “reasonable,” if so far unsupported, condemnation of the publication of these documents that is meant to appeal even to those who oppose the war.

    Is Mr. Assange correct, or is Mr. Foust? I don’t know. We will see, I suppose, but again, this could have been part of a valuable dialogue on the subject, a dialogue that we did not hear.

    Until compelling arguments can be made that might make me feel otherwise, I think the publication of these documents, and more that remain unpublished but may soon be, is necessary and important, and yes, heroic.

  • Oscar Romero

    More cutting edge reporting from NEED TO KNOW.

    PS: I don’t think NEED TO KNOW is a very good judge of what I (we) need to know.

  • simon

    This so called journalist has no shame. He is a big time lair and cowrd.just go back and listen to what he is saying. He think people are stupid. But no. He is staightup laie. The leak is true and what in the leak is true, Also nobody here in our America seems to think of those innocent peiople ,who died I guess because they are Muslim and Muslims shouls go to hell. I guess so. Hey the Truth hurts.

  • Susan

    Joshua Foust is an apologist for the war. This program will have no credibility if it continues to invite guests like this. When the business networks invite guests to comment on stocks, they are required to declare their interests. Why on earth would we not expect the same level of disclosure for guests who can manipulate public opinion on something as important as war.

  • rws

    Need To Know,

    You are a new show replacing the great Bill Moyers. You are in the position of trying to attain your credibility. Bringing on this “Military Analyst” and presenting him as the expert on the Wikileaks and whether it was harmful or helpful, while in the same breath mentioning Ellsberg seemed 1) a stupid programming decision, or 2) a cynical attempt to manipulate your audience. And blows your credibility.

    Why didn’t you have Ellsberg on at least to present another view of it. This guy Joshua Foust has business and political interests he is promoting and instead of introducing him as a “military analyst” why didn’t you introduce him under his own self professed title: “Senior Intelligence Analyst at Northrop Grumman Information Systems”. He works for Grumman! A HUGE military contractor. Of course he will tell us this leak was harmful It was harmful to proponents of the war and the companies that make money off the war, like his real employer Grumman.

    A simple Google search which your producers could have done turned up his work profile on Link’ed In, in which he identifies himself as a Grumman employee, May 2009 to “present”.

  • Maggie Rose

    I was surprised to hear Joshua Foust on Need To Know speaking with such adamant surety about the WikiLeaks story, against its founder. I did go to his website and looked around Google a bit to see what he was about. Seems he is good with words, but I’m not sure what he really believes in the end. This story is very fresh, ongoing and extremely contentious. I don’t think Bill Moyers or David Brancaccio would have even broached the topic at this time, not until more had been uncovered with clarity. And they certainly would never had invited a sole guest (though Foust is not a guest, but an NTK columnist) with such an entrenched, unyielding viewpoint People are still reeling from seeing what-we-already-knew in broad daylight. NTK should have let this unfold more before giving Foust such a large audience. His being a defense & intelligence consultant for the U.S government does not in itself tell us everything about him, but it points in a certain direction.

    Even NTK’s comedian echoed Foust’s side of the story. Puh-lease! If this is the new face of PBS Friday “alternative” news, I think we are in a bit of trouble. I find the general informational atmosphere of the show to be rather light and twittery, despite the seriousness of many of the stories. If I want light, I’ll watch The Daily Show. Youth in the U.S. and Canada (where I watch) are perfectly capable of taking in serious news without falling asleep. The trend to be trendy is dumbing down and forgetting lessons that should have been learned from your predecessors in the time slot. I hope that the WikiLeaks story will be expanded upon on Need To Know in the future. But, most importantly, from various approaches, facets and angles of view.

  • links for 2010-08-01 « lugar do conhecimento

    [...] WikiLeakgate | Need to Know | PBS WikiLeakgate [...]

  • Robert1014

    I’m glad Maggie Rose brought up “NTK’s comedian.” Funny, he’s not. A joke, yes. Curious, indeed, is the rapturous laughter he elicits from the hosts with his labored silliness, and one is forced to conclude they feel they must (or are being directed to) act as a living laugh track so we, the audience, will know that what we’re hearing is intended as satire, or something.

    Please dispense with him, and please also try to have multiple guests for each segment with informed opposing views who may debate each other, or, where there is only one guest, please have the hosts offer arguments that those with opposing views have put forth, (as Bill Moyers often did), so we may hear the guest respond to them, the better for we, the viewers, to appraise the guest’s own comments as either well-founded or specious, serious or self-interested, thought-through or merely scripted.

  • J. Sierra

    Many of the previous comments echo my own thoughts on the way this story was presented. First who would Bill Moyers have on his show? Andrew Bacevich? Daniel Ellsberg? Julian Assange?

    I had a week to listen to many insightful analysists on Democracy Now, Uprisisng Radio, Counterspin, and Anand Gopal on Pacifica. The Need to Know segment was laughable. A mere echo of the Obama administration’s prostestations about harmful this is and “no new revelations.”David Leigh editor of the Guardian explained to Amy Goodman on July 27, “…going to take out names that we thought might be in danger of reprisals. And we decided not to publish certain intelligence reports that describe that kind of thing. So all those decisions had been taken.” “He, (Assange) too, agreed that it will be a good thing to redact anything that might endanger sources. And because he planned to publish the entire database, not just selected data that had been studied in advance, like us, he’s had to hold back 15,000, he says, for review to see what the problems might be.”

  • Scott

    Asleep at the switch at NTK: WikiLeaks was not alone in releasing the 91,000 classified reports from the United States military in Afghanistan, an important point that no one on you show (including your biased guest) seemed to find it convenient to mention. The New York Times, The Guardian of London and Der Spiegel in Germany also collaborated in the release. So if there’s blame to spread, then spread it all around, please.

  • Joshua

    The interview with this military shill made me yearn for Moyers.

  • Ayman Fadel

    It’s disgusting how blasé Joshua Foust is about “innocents’ deaths.” Fighting that indifference is the tremendous value of Wikileaks. It is bringing to the public’s attention the scale of destruction the US military is perpetrating on the people of Afghanistan. The whole war in Afghanistan is disgusting. We support groups of thugs against other groups of thugs, all of whom use weapons they purchased or captured mostly from us using money they’ve made selling us opium which we consume.

  • Goran Tomic

    Could you have found someone more in bed with the government and military industrial complex to interview?

    The man is actually arguing that the government should decide what can be released in all cases and what is “not damaging” and remains unchallenged on the fundamental truism that your government is not to be trusted to provide transparency on anything for any amount of time.

    Not only that, he is equating Wikileaks protecting their sources with government lieing about what is essentially the policy set for use of untold public resources and resulting in hundreds of thousands dead civilians. How can he get to not be laughed out of the room at this point?


  • E. Rivers

    Need To Know is not showing any real improvement since its entry. This segment about Wikileaks and its disclosures was, like many other segments, not only shallow and lopsided, but reaching a new low. As other commenters have said, who would Moyers have interviewed? Just one pro-military shill? Wouldn’t there at least be some sort of critical discussion?

    At the end of the written article, NTK has the audacity to ask its readers to help them read the released documents. Why should we help you when this article is so clearly one sided?

    We’re still laboring under an illegal invasion into Iraq that was certainly not aided by our “watchdog press”. During that previous eight year reign, we’ve been lied to about “national security” and in the meantime, have lost habeas corpus, rights of privacy, etc. What does Shelley Lewis think the Air America audience thinks of the Pentagon demanding Wikileaks return documents. How on earth does Shelley allow such a shallow, bootlicking segment to go on the air?