Look, I know you're firmly on the left side of the political spectrum but "Also Wikileaks is a joke now," really? How much of the Kool-Aid did you drink? Do you actually buy that Russian mouthpiece bit?
Ok. Sit down. Let’s talk about Wikileaks.
First of all, I’d like to talk about the good things Wikileaks has done. When it was first created, it was lauded by people on the left for contributing to transparency and exposing corruption to the world. It released evidence that the government was lying about the way it treated detainees, that Cayman Islands banks were committing crimes, the “secret bibles” of Scientology. Proof that the US was committing war crimes and lying about it. Chelsea Manning’s leaks, Edward Snowden’s leaks. Their collaboration with the Guardian. It was never perfect, of course, and some of the stuff it hosted was more of a breach of privacy than some earth-shattering reveal, but it was all in the spirit of a “no stone left unturned” philosophy.
Then they started to get crass and careless in their publications. They left unredacted State Department cables available online for over half a year, and who knows how many people that endangered. It’s ironic, in fact, that Wikileaks would accuse Clinton of mishandling classified information. A bit of the pot calling the kettle black, except rather than leaving that unredacted information vulnerable Wikileaks simply released it publicly to the world at large, so I would say the pot is quite a bit blacker. Consider the words of John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, another transparency advocacy group: “It’s become something else. It’s not striving for objectivity. It’s more careless. When they publish information it appears to be in service of some specific goal, of retribution, at the expense of the individual.”
The former German spokesperson for Wikileaks left in 2010, claiming, “[it] has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that’s why I am leaving the project.” He took with him thousands of documents saying he would wait for Julian to “restore security,” before permanently deleting them “to ensure that the sources are not compromised.” At least a dozen other members of Wikileaks followed him out that year, some citing “lack of transparency, lack of structure, and poor communication flow in the organisation.”
Additionally, they no longer release dumps like they used to. Now, like with the Podesta emails, they release them piecemeal to maximize their time in the public eye, which is transparently a political play. Their leaks are calculated, in service of a particular goal, rather than in the name of transparency. They are not a neutral organization anymore and have not been for a long time. In fact, since 2011, they have hardly released anything that does not target the US, its allies, or the NSA (AKA, the key rival of the FSB/KGB). Not to mention Assange has requested Russian security and was the one who advised Snowden to go to the Russians for asylum. What does Wikileaks put out when people criticize Russia or Putin? This kind of stuff:
Not to mention their use of the anti-Semitic (((brackets))) meme popularized by the alt-right and neo-Nazis online. Their obsession with the Rothschilds and Soros is unnerving, to say the least, the kind of thing you’d expect to read on /pol/. They’ve also taken stances on many issues disconcertingly similar to Russia’s. Furthermore, Julian Assange himself is a narcissistic asshole more concerned with his own image and his own hide than anything else. He has no journalistic integrity, he merely wants to sell books and be lauded for his deeds. That’s why, when the Swedish girl he had sex with asked him to get tested for STDs because he pressured her into unprotected sex or she would go to the police to force him to, he refused, blamed the controversy on US intelligence trying to destroy Wikileaks, and fled to Ecuador.
Let us not spend a moment pretending that Russia does not engage in the exact same human rights violations (if not worse) as the US, the exact same imperialism (if not worse) as the US, the exact same domestic corruption (if not worse) as the US. But where is Wikileaks condemning any of this, exposing any of it? Where are the leaks about Putin, or Russian politicians? They don’t exist, or if they do, Wikileaks isn’t publishing them. How convenient is that? It’s almost as though Assange is friendly to the Russian government, what he publishes is received from the Russian government, and furthers the interests of the Russian government. We already know that Putin has helped fund fascist movements in NATO countries. Considering that the majority of their leaks target the US/NSA and have for five years, it is no stretch to say that they are a de facto Russian intelligence clearing house.
Furthermore, the kind of stuff they are releasing could easily be forged. If Wikileaks is indeed a very biased organization as the mountains of evidence point to, then there is no reason to believe that what they have released is entirely legit. In fact, they seem to be fairly open and above board about their intention being to smear the United States’s reputation and that of certain individuals. That puts them on the level of brazen propaganda. They don’t even need to be the ones faking the leaks. If they are just publishing what they receive, they might not even know what is fake and what’s not. On the whole, they are just another propaganda wing now; worse, they may be acting as Putin’s own personal Correct the Record.
Finally, from an information security perspective, and as someone who has written before on this blog about the importance of privacy in the digital era, Wikileaks is downright dangerous. They gleefully destroy the foundation of a free and open Internet in their “noble” crusade for supposedly that exact thing. They have published email addresses, credit cards, phone numbers. As one privacy advocate put it, “I’m more afraid of WikiLeaks than I am of the NSA. When they first burst into our consciousness, they were acting like publishers and journalists. The idea that these rascals were turning the tables on the deep state had great emotional relevance to me. But they turned out not have any principles.” Here’s an example of Wikileaks publishing the personal emails and phone numbers of 20 million Turkish women. Even Edward Snowden has said of the organization, “Their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.” Wikileaks, of course, responded with insult and ridicule, as they do to anyone who questions their motives or methods.
So anyone who cites Wikileaks earns no respect or trust from me. They are about as believable as an O’Keefe video, and no less politically motivated. People like you are always quick to accuse others of “drinking the Kool-Aid,” but I ask you – what exactly have you been drinking?
(In case you’re not hip this is Wikileaks parroting literal Russian propaganda, straight from Russia Today.)
“Adam” was different: He immediately asked for everything relating to Russia, eastern Europe, and Israel – and got it, more than 100,000 documents in all. A few stray comments of his about “Jews” prompted a few concerns on my part, dismissed quickly by another WikiLeaker – “don’t be silly… He’s Jewish himself, isn’t he?”
A short while later, I learned “Adam”’s real identity, or at least the name he most often uses: He was Israel Shamir, a known pro-Kremlin and anti-Semitic writer. He had been photographed leaving the internal ministry of Belarus, and a free speech charity was concerned this meant the country’s dictator had access to the cables and their information on opposition groups in the country.
Assange showed no concern at these allegations, dismissing and ignoring them until the media required a response. Assange simply denied Shamir had ever had access to any documents.
This was untrue, Assange knew it was untrue, and I knew it was untrue — it was me, at Assange’s instructions, who gave them to him.
There are few limits to how far Assange will go to try to control those around him. Those working at WikiLeaks – a radical transparency organisation based on the idea that all power must be accountable – were asked to sign a sweeping nondisclosure agreement covering all conversations, conduct, and material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure. The penalty for noncompliance was £12 million.
I refused to sign the document, which was sprung on me on what was supposed to be a short trip to a country house used by WikiLeaks. The others present – all of whom had signed without reading – then alternately pressured, cajoled, persuaded, charmed and pestered me to sign it, alone and in groups, until well past 4am.
Given how remote the house was, there was no prospect of leaving. I stayed the night, only to be woken very early by Assange, sitting on my bed, prodding me in the face with a stuffed giraffe, immediately once again pressuring me to sign. It was two hours later before I could get Assange off the bed so I could (finally) get some pants on, and many hours more until I managed to leave the house without signing the ridiculous contract. An apologetic staffer present for the farce later admitted they’d been under orders to “psychologically pressure” me until I signed.
Those who have faced the greatest torments are, of course, the two women who accused Assange of sexual offences in Sweden in the summer of 2010. The details of what happened over those few days remain a matter for the Swedish justice system, not speculation, but having seen and heard Assange and those around him discuss the case, having read out the court documents, and having followed the extradition case in the UK all the way to the supreme court, I can say it is a real, complicated sexual assault and rape case. It is no CIA smear, and it relates to Assange’s role at WikiLeaks only in that his work there is how they met.