The title of "Open Secrets: Wikileaks, War and American Diplomacy" doesn't do much to explain what the book is about -or isn't about, so I'll start there. This is a collection of 93 articles about the contents and reaction to the Afghan and Iraq War logs, the cache of US State Department cables that Wikileaks has made public, and reaction to Wikileaks itself. All but a handful of the articles have appeared previously in The New York Times. Articles are organized into 6 sections with 5 appendices. The appendices contain diplomatic cables and war logs referenced in the articles, additional images, notes on contributors, and acknowledgements.
If you're looking for new insight into Wikileaks or its collaboration with The New York Times, you won't find it here. Bill Keller's introductory article "The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (26 January 2011), which caused so much ire when it was published in the paper, appears in slightly longer form here, with no new information. It is well-written but sprinkled with personal attacks on Julian Assange that do more to embarrass Keller. Most of the article is spent reassuring readers of The Times' independence from the other news organizations involved and from the government, its sensitivity to potential harm and national security concerns, and defending its decision to use Wikileaks' material. Keller says exactly what one would expect of an editor caught in a political firestorm. There is nothing sinister about that -but nothing interesting either.
To give the reader some background on the sources of the material, the now-infamous Burns article on Assange (23 October 2010) and somewhat less notorious profile of Bradley Manning by Ginger Thompson (8 August 2010) are included. They are notorious for Julian Assange's objection to them, but Assange tends to be oversensitive in these matters. The portrait that John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya paint of him is intermittently snide but not unsympathetic. The journalists seem to admire Assange on one level, but they portray his personality as deteriorating, and there are some errors in their discussion of the Swedish sex case, which they apparently got from The Guardian. Likewise, the article on Bradley Manning paints a picture of a bright but volatile young man but suffers for not having access to the man himself or to his close friends.
The value of "Open Secrets" is not in those articles but in the sections on the State Department cables (48 articles), war logs (18 articles), and the reaction. Many articles are introduced by excellent color photos (best enjoyed on a Mac or PC), and they give the ebook format opportunity to shine. Some articles link directly to the cables or war logs to which they refer. And military acronyms in the war logs link to a glossary. Very handy. Unfortunately, many critical cables on which the articles are based are not included, leaving me to go searching for them on Wikileaks' web site. There are also sections dedicated to the aftermath of these mass leaks (2 articles) and to opinion pieces (22 articles) about their content or about Wikileaks.
"Open Secrets" is a convenient collection of The New York Times' analysis and opinion of the leaked State Department cables and War Logs, and I rate it on that basis. If you've been following this story and would like a compact version, or if you haven't been following it and don't know where to start, this will work. The Wikileaks story is, in itself, huge, and "Open Secrets" contribution on that topic is limited. I have been unimpressed with The New York Times coverage of Wikileaks and information activism, but I am finding this a useful reference on the other topics. It would be a lot more useful, however, had it included all of the relevant primary source documents.