I have a bone to pick with Julian Assange.
On Election Day, Assange posted a rambling screed defending his right as WikiLeaks founder and editor to publish a drip-drip-drip of private emails over the past four months that reveal “what the Clinton campaign says about itself to itself.” His words, not mine.
In this “Assange Statement on the US Election” he cloaks himself in the First Amendment, and like a true megalomaniac his diatribe is not so much about the election as it is about Julian Assange.
Even though I practice free speech and freedom of the press on a regular basis, I’m no expert on the First Amendment. But neither is Assange.
For my part, I’ve been harassed, surveilled, and twice had to hire an attorney to defend my First Amendment rights. I’ve also been the victim of hacking.
The most recent was this past July. The company that Tod (my husband) works for was hacked by the Russians. We know this because he’s the IT Manager and he traced the hack to a malicious email and the IP address to Russia where the trail ended. Their hackers are very clever. In this case they cloned an email notification from the company’s voicemail messaging service. When an employee clicked on the link to get the voicemail message — boom — the hacker planted a back door into the company’s network.
Our home server is separate from the company’s network so the most the hacker got from me was a bunch of boring emails to Tod. So it’s no big deal for me. But if my emails suddenly appeared on the internet I would consider that an invasion of my privacy.
It was certainly a big deal for the company. The hack interfered with their network and cleaning up the mess required several days. From all appearances the purpose of the hack was to snoop for information and to show off to us “idiot Americans” that they can hack us anytime, anywhere they choose.
We are indeed vulnerable.
In his statement on Tuesday, Assange said: “The Clinton campaign, when they were not spreading obvious untruths, pointed to unnamed sources or to speculative and vague statements from the intelligence community to suggest a nefarious allegiance with Russia. The campaign was unable to invoke evidence about our publications — because none exists.”
While I can believe any evidence of a connection between WikiLeaks and Russian hackers has been eliminated, I absolutely DO believe such a connection exists.
Last month the Obama administration formally accused Russia of being behind the series of thefts of emails from the DNC and other Clinton campaign affiliate groups which were published by WikiLeaks. The White House declared that Moscow’s aim was to “interfere with the U.S. election process.”
Then WikiLeaks released the Podesta emails and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the process was “consistent with Russian-directed efforts.”
John Bambenek, threat systems manager for Fidelis Cybersecurity, and Laura Galante, director of global intelligence for FireEye told Politico last month that “U.S. intelligence agencies probably have their own technical analyses of the WikiLeaks dumps.”
… Bambenek noted that government spies have access to tools like electronic surveillance that could further back up their claims of a Russia-WikiLeaks connection.
“In my mind, so many more different factors lead us to make the conclusion that we think Russia behind this activity,” Galante said. “If you think about how WikiLeaks is timing their releases, who’s benefiting from it, what information is being exposed — those factors lead us to believe WikiLeaks is in some kind of alignment with Russia.”
Others point to overlaps between Fancy Bear — a group of hackers that security experts and U.S. intelligence agencies have connected to Russian intelligence — and the WikiLeaks documents.
“Our previous research has shown several examples in which Fancy Bear has targeted individuals’ and organizations’ Gmail accounts with Gmail themed phishing pages,” said Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer at ThreatConnect. “In these examples, FANCY BEAR later used strategic leaking sites or personas like Wikileaks, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 to publicly share pilfered intelligence.”
The latest batch of Podesta releases, he added, “aligns with the past information dumps where the content comes from a personal Gmail account and is being leaked from a strategic platform” …
In other words, a pattern has emerged. To which I would only add this has a familiar ring as it relates to Tod’s experience with the Russian hacker last summer.
It’s impossible to imagine Putin as a champion of First Amendment rights. Much easier to see Assange shrouding the theft and publication of private emails and information under the First Amendment umbrella, because that’s exactly what he does in his statement.
After all the First Amendment, as adopted in 1791, is utterly vague and completely open for interpretation:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Assange says: “The right to receive and impart true information is the guiding principle of WikiLeaks — an organization that has a staff and organizational mission far beyond myself. Our organization defends the public’s right to be informed.”
But are we informed? Or are we mislead?
Journalists (I include myself in that group) are considered the standard bearers of the First Amendment. We often stumble upon or are given access to privileged information and we have to decide whether to publish. It’s an awesome responsibility. But it is indeed a responsibility.
There are a multitude of considerations whether to publish. To name a few:
- Will the source confirm the information?
- Does the information represent an invasion of an individual’s right to privacy?
- What is the purpose in publishing the information?
There needs to be a meaningful context, or storyline, in which to present the information. Otherwise it’s a document dump. And while document dumps have their purpose, they should at the very least HAVE a purpose.
Assange says: “[I]f the press obeys considerations above informing the public, we are no longer talking about a free press, and we are no longer talking about an informed public.”
To which I say, if journalists do not behave responsibly and take those considerations into account then we are no better than Gawker. And the result is not an informed public but rather a public chaotically inundated by pointless information without form or substance. Or worse a public that has been systematically mislead into accepting, by way of implication, a sinister plot that doesn’t exist.
Assange definitely had a purpose in dumping thousands of emails related to Clinton’s campaign prior to the election. To understand his purpose we have to go back to December 2006, and his original stated purpose in creating WikiLeaks, excerpted from The Intercept:
… Assange posted an essay on his blog, “Conspiracy as Governance,” in which he explained his theory that authoritarian regimes — and western political parties — maintain power by conspiring to keep the public in the dark, through “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” In order for the people to regain control of the political system, Assange argued, it is necessary to find ways of “throttling the conspiracy,” like disrupting the ability of the conspirators to communicate secretly.
With that in mind, Assange wrote, “let us consider two closely balanced and broadly conspiratorial power groupings, the US Democratic and Republican parties.” He continued, “Consider what would happen if one of these parties gave up their mobile phones, fax and email correspondence — let alone the computer systems which manage their subscribers, donors, budgets, polling, call centres and direct mail campaigns? They would immediately fall into an organisational stupor and lose to the other.”
A decade later, by releasing thousands of unredacted emails and voice-mail messages hacked from the Democratic Party — in a database that makes it easy to search for the social security numbers of donors, as well as their passport and credit card details — Assange was finally able to put his theory into practice, by attempting to throttle one of the “conspiratorial power groupings” that selects candidates to run the U.S. government …
The fact that WikiLeaks had neglected to redact personal information from those emails drew criticism. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:
… Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.
Glenn Greenwald told Slate he was troubled that WikiLeaks had abandoned its long time policy of redaction, saying: “There were tons of redactions when they were releasing Pentagon documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. And they even wrote a letter to the State Department before they released the cables requesting the State Department’s help in figuring out which information ought to be withheld.”
An unnamed American privacy advocate told a Time reporter: “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.”
How ironic that the whole purpose for Assange creating WikiLeaks in the first place, and reiterated in his statement on Tuesday, was because: “[T]he New York Times withheld evidence of illegal mass surveillance of the US population for a year until after the 2004 election, denying the public a critical understanding of the incumbent president George W Bush, which probably secured his reelection.”
So Assange published stolen emails obtained from illegal mass surveillance (hacking) of US citizens by Russian sources to smear one candidate only — Hillary Clinton — and to inject chaos and interfere with the US 2016 election.
Assange claims: “To date, we have not received information on Donald Trump’s campaign, or Jill Stein’s campaign, or Gary Johnson’s campaign or any of the other candidates that fufills our stated editorial criteria.”
Which simply adds more Russian fuel to the flame’s source. It is no secret that Putin was not with HER.
Funny how sites like WikiLeaks have taught us how to connect the dots.
Julian Assange believes WikiLeaks is “publishing information that informs the public,” as is his First Amendment right.
However, what he informed us is likely not what he intended. He informed us that Russia is conducting illegal mass surveillance on US corporations, businesses, organizations, and ordinary citizens.
Based on my own sources and knowledge, I can confirm this is true.
And Julian Assange is obviously playing the Russian’s pawn.
Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency