CITING WIKIPEDIA

CITING WIKIPEDIA. Today in TNR Eric Rauchway writes about Wikipedia's place in academia. Which prompted Steven Aftergood to comment in today's FAS Secrecy News email on the growing use of Wikipedia as a reference in U.S. government intelligence products, namely those produced by the Open Source Center.

A March 19 profile of Indian Congress Party Leader Rahul Gandhi prepared by the Open Source Center (OSC) of the Office of Director of National Intelligence is explicitly derived from "various internet sources including wikipedia.org." A March 21 OSC profile of Rajnath Singh, president of India's Bharatiya Janata Party, is likewise "sourced from wikipedia.org."

An OSC report last year on the leader of the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Prabhakaran, noted that he and his wife "have two children, a girl and a boy. According to wikipedia.com, the boy is named Charles Anthony and the girl, Duwaraha."

The OSC was created in November 2005 to aggregate the world's public information to compile reports for government intelligence services. So it makes sense that they'd reference Wikipedia, which is itself an aggregator of public information. But for the most part, I'd agree with Aftergood that it's pretty alarming for the government to be uncritically citing Wikipedia as a reliable source.

--Ann Friedman

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