The federal government is making public a huge trove of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq, posting them on the Internet in a step that is at once a nod to the Web's power and an admission that U.S. intelligence resources are overloaded.
Republican leaders in Congress pushed for the release, which was first proposed by conservative commentators and bloggers hoping to find evidence about the fate of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, or possible links to terror groups.
The web surfers have begun posting translations and comments, digging through the documents with gusto. The idea of the government turning over a massive database to volunteers is revolutionary — and not only to them.
"Let's unleash the power of the Internet on these documents," said House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "I don't know if there's a smoking gun on WMD or not. But it will give us a better understanding of what was going on in Iraq before the war."
One such web surfer referenced above is Joseph Shahda, who has already translated ten of these documents as of this writing and vows to continue on until the deed is done.
Shahda is originally from Lebanon, having come to the United States in 1994 during his early twenties. He has lived in the United States for the last twelve years. Shahda is a Christian and speaks Arabic and English fluently.
In Shahda's own words:
I feel a great sense of duty to do the translation of some these documents because that is the least I can do in time of war to serve the United States of America to whom I am in eternal debt and gratitude, and what I am doing is a small payback toward this debt that I can never fully repay no matter what I do. My efforts to do the translation pale in comparison to the great efforts and sacrifice that our brave troops are doing on a daily basis.
I asked Shahda during a phone interview with him on March 29, 2006, why he thought the government didn’t translate the documents.