Serial: Podcast Responses

Serial 2: Episode 2

In the second episode of Serial 2 titled The Golden Chicken, Sarah Koenig, our host, attempts to assemble and decipher “What is Bowe worth to us?” (Sarah Koenig, Serial2) from the perspective of both sides of the Taliban and the American Army.

Koenig pieces togatehr a cohesive story through past interviews performed by other reporters like Sami Yousafzai, an Afghan reporter for Newsweek hired by Page One, recorded conversations between Mark Boal and Bowe Bergdahl, and recountments from American soldiers and battional commanders. Between all of these perspectives, some accounts do contradict one another, such as where exactly was Bowe Bergdahl when the Taliban captured him, but with a little shuffling events seem to match.

Although, there is a concern with Koenig receiving secondary information and using it for portions of her broadcast. Is it dependable? While Koenig’s sources are essentially credible, she is conferring with people a given time after the initial event had already occurred. In addition to emotions being charged and the conditions being unfavorable, over time memories typically fade or become warped. Even Bowe Bergdahl, our protagonist and once captured but now on trial soldier, admits to not fully recollecting his time in captivity. When asked whether or not he remembered the Taliban doing a traditional dance in attempt to increase his morale, Bergdahl replied, “Uh, no”. (Bowe Bergdahl, Serial 2)

The same could also be said of the soldiers and commanders who were searching for Bergdahl. While they weren’t captured and tortured by the Taliban for five years, the soldiers were enduring their own turma. “Just 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No sleep, no nothing. You just ran out of juice. All the guys are just miserable, and it’s just like hell on earth,” told Daryl Hansen, a soldier. Because all efforts were expended on the search for Bergdahl, there wasn’t any time left for anything else, including the soldiers’ own well being. Platoons were being sent out for 19 to 37 days straight –five weeks– while carrying 60 to a 100 pounds of gear in 90 degree weather, all without break or resupply. Clothes were torn and people were sick; tensions were high and mentalities shaky. In these conditions it was easy for events, documents and reports to be confused. So it really is questionable if any reports received during that time are entirely true. Fortunately, for better or worse, the soldiers weren’t the only source of reference.    

WikiLeaks, as reported from their own site, “is a multi-national media organization and associated library,” that, “specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption”. During the time of Bergdahl’s capture, WikiLeaks had procured an LLVI (low level voice intercept) traffic report between the taliban about a captured soldier.

The conversation between the two taliban members, “1– I swear that I have not heard anything yet. What happened. Is that true that they captured an American guy?

2– Yes they did. He is alive. There is no where he can go (lol)

1– Is he still alive?

2– Yes he is alive. But I don’t have the whole story. Don’t know if they were fighting. All I know if they were fighting. All I know that they capture him alive and they are with him right now.” About a ten minute pause, “2– Cut the head off”.

The WikiLeaks version of this conversation and the retelling of it by Koenig in Serial 2 are alike; as well as other events recorded by WikiLeaks and retold by Koenig. By these reports it seems that Koenig had reliable sources, but what of WikiLeaks.

Is it right that WikiLeaks, a site accessible to the public, has access to sensitive military information? What of the other confidential documents WikiLeaks has also accessed? It it even safe?

According to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, “these “books” have educated many, and in some cases, in a literal sense, let the innocent go free.”(Julian Assange, Der Spiegel Interview) Reviewing WikiLeaks with this perspective in mind, it is possibly they could be in the right. Yes, WikiLeaks does manage confidential information, but why was it hidden in the first place. If the information was about the public or concerned their safety, the public has a right to know.

But some things aren’t meant for a large audiences and should stay between the intended parties, such as the incident with Hillary Clinton and the emails. While she shouldn’t have carried them on an unsecured line, it wasn’t right for WikiLeaks to leak them either. By releasing those emails, specifically when they did, WikiLeaks could have possibly influenced an election and swung the vote.

While WikiLeaks’s mission has honorable intentions, the unintended consequences affect the public and the surrounding environment too greatly. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.