Julian Assange has lost everything

Why the leak of unredacted cables means WikiLeaks has outlived its usefulness

americanistadechiapas/Flickr

Until last week, Julian Assange seemed to be receding from view. As he wrestled with criminal charges and a financial chokehold on donations to his cause, Wikileaks’ data releases slowed to a trickle, and nothing that emerged proved too juicy.  Then, all of a sudden, Wikileaks burst open—134,000 diplomatic cables were dumped in just a few days.

This was not the tactical, deliberate approach that served Assange so well in the past. When Wikileaks began, Assange threw data online only to be disappointed by the lack of mainstream news attention. So Assange famously partnered with leading media outlets in 2010, dispersing his revelations under trusted mastheads that reassured the public that the information was authentic. Sensitive information, such as the names of confidential informants and operatives, was redacted by his mainstream media partners. (Some bristled at this characterization, preferring to call Assange a ‘source’. Whatever.)   In this manner, Wikileaks dominated the headlines for months, embarrassed governments, and perhaps led to some real political change—Assange’s stated goal.

By contrast, last week’s activity seemed sloppy and frantic. Assange knows from experience that dumping so much information all at once seriously limits the impact any of it will have. No news outlet has exclusivity, so no one wants to dedicate too much space or effort into reporting what is already public. The stories stay hidden in plain sight.

Furthermore, Assange has always bucked against critics who cite him for endangering lives—he claims that he redacts sensitive information on ethical grounds whenever possible. But the new leaks contain the names of activists, reporters and academics in repressive countries who supplied the U.S. government with information. So what gives?

The answer, it seems, is that Assange is trying to scoop himself. According to the German paper Der Freitag, the full archive of diplomatic cables has been leaked away from Assange and dumped in its entirety online (English account in Wired here). It can be opened using a password Der Freitag claims to have figured out. The claim has been confirmed by another German paper, Der Spiegel. In rushing to dump the cables himself, he is likely trying to get ahead of the story: if Der Freitag was able to get the password, then others will too, and Wikileaks’ prized possession, the complete cables, will soon be online, unredacted, everywhere.

If this is the case (Wikileaks tweets that it is not), then Julian Assange has lost control of Wikileaks and is no longer able to provide anything; he can’t give us new information, and he certainly cannot provide security for those who leaked to him in the past or those who are implicated by those leaks.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




Browse

Julian Assange has lost everything

  1. Assange warned them he’d do this, so why the surprise?

    He has a great deal more where that came from however.

    Anyway, it’s causing quite the uproar.

    • The surprise is the way it has happened this time, it is a rush job. The uproar comes from the fact that nothing has apparently been redacted.

      • Assange asserts that Oz ratted out Australian citizens…so he returned the favour.

        Names shouldn’t be in the cables either….they go to about 3 million people

        Maybe govts should stop attacking Assange, and trying to frame him…they are making it worse for themselves.

  2. Confirmed are you kidding. There is good chance that this leak was caused to discredit whistle blowing sites by someone who gave the password.

    “The issue relates to a mainstream media partner and a malicious individual.”http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/08/wikileaks-denies-leaking-sources-slams-new-york-times/41876/

  3. He is done, like toast! Finally!

    • Assange?  Hardly.

      Interesting you like to be kept in the dark though.

      • Do you want to bet?

        Or please enlighten me, how is this arrogant idiot any relevant!

        • Numerous changes in govt all around the world have taken place because of what he’s revealed.  There is more to come.

          And since you don’t know the man, stop calling him names.

          • Can we get a list of changes in gov’t caused by this idiot’s recklessness? The only thing that I can think of is that governments are going to be much more careful with their data-security.

          • I take it you don’t follow the news?

            Even during the Egyptian uprising and all the others, it was made clear that the revolutions started because of leaked Wikileaked documents.

    • Serious, you don’t want to know what sneaky things the government is up to?

      And I mean what sneaky things they’re actually up to, not what people make up for entertainment.

      • Not really. Not from this jerk.

        Noble idea, badly executed by a narcissist jerk!

        • So you don’t care what he is doing to get the truth out to the world ….it’s his personal life that concerns you?

          What an interesting idea of Ghandi, Churchill and Einstein you must have….because I’m sure their personal lives wouldn’t meet your exacting middle-class standards either.

          • You’re comparing Ghandi, Churchill and Einstein to a transient twice-accused rapist? I think you’re done.

          • I think you don’t know much about Ghandi, Churchill and Einstein….but you’ve certainly swallowed the US govt line on Assange.

          • The reason many of us are not fans of Assange (or Wikileaks) is that neither the man nor the organization has the inclination or capacity to be accountable for their actions.  Personally, I was less concerned about this when it was being filtered through established news organizations since they automatically assumed that role.  

            Governments by their very nature are large, complex organizations with many people working within them, and with their actions impact many others.  They have very legitimate reasons to keep some information confidential.  Of course, they routinely abuse those reasons to hold far too much information from the public.  For that reason, democratic oversight by elected officials and a vigorous media are crucial to responsible government.  

            Assange has taken the view that all information should be public (or at least all information that he thinks should be public should be public).  I understand that this resonates with those who believe that now that the tools for implementing direct democracy exist, that it is clearly the preferred approach to governance.  After all if everyone should have a say in everything, therefore everyone has a right to know about everything.  

            The problem is that if everyone votes on every detail, then no-one has to take responsibility for the consequences of poor decisions.  I suspect Assange actually understands this; at his core, the man is a anarchist.

          • He is certainly an information anarchist…and we need more of them not less.

            Govts act on our behalf, so we need to know what they’re doing.

            “The enormous gap between what US leaders do in the world and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the dominant political mythology.”
             
            - Michael Parenti

            I should add here that not knowing what your govt is doing leads to things like 9/11…which came as a complete surprise to Americans….it shouldn’t have.

            And Americans later got lied into a war in Iraq…something else that should never have happened.

            A lot of innocent people have died because govts abused power, and kept information secret.

          • @StewartSmith:disqus I couldn’t have said it better, and I couldn’t agree more.

      • I think all the alive people know how much the goverment do to stop the Wikileak and prevent their work. There is no doubt goverment always try to let their people know less about this!

  4. Yup. And all the recent hacking and knocking down of the WikiLeaks
    site just comes out of … well, nowhere .. I guess …

    • When your organizations stated goal is to screw over anybody with a secret, it’s not that surprising that people will be looking to reveal some of your own secrets.

  5. If it’s in an accessible database, someone will simply help themselves to it eventually. Either Assange tired of being the gate keeper and opened it all to open scrutiny, or someone beat him to it. Doesn’t much matter either way.

  6. Another irrelevant left wing narcissist bites the dust.

    • Strange, Assange can’t be described as any of those things.

      • Leftist – ?
        Narcissist – absolutely!

  7. I don’t see the problem.

    If anything, he’s more relevant than ever. Releasing UNREDACTED information is much jucier, and more in line with information libertarianism.

    • Even if it risks lifes of innocent people? Who speak to diplomats they trust? Weird.

  8. What this really means is that he won’t be getting more info. Who wants to provide it, when it is pretty obvious that eventually you will be found out.

    Wiki-leaks was getting less and less publicity, and I think this is a stunt. Either way, it is only useful, or even listened to, if it has good information. That will soon be over.

    • Mmm no, people still upload anonymously…people are named in the cables.

      Wikileaks is all over the news, and has been for months. You just haven’t been paying attention.

  9. Really? While it may be true that control of the cables may have got away from him – a completely predictable danger of collaborating with organizations whose interests don’t align with his – Assange can of course still “provide security for those who leaked to him” unlike you assert. Wikileaks was designed from the ground-up to assure anonymity and there is no evidence that any of the whistle-blowers that have sent information to the organization have ever been compromised by Wikileaks.

    The latest press-release (http://www.wikileaks.org/Guardian-journalist-negligently.html) sheds some like on the recent scrambling of Wikileaks. It seems to me is the only lesson is that Assange may have been a little naive to think his main-stream collaborators would behave as agreed whether due to maliciousness or incompetence. So control of the cables got away from him as a result of his failed attempt to control the release of the data in the mainstream media, and perhaps you are right that he can no longer guarantee proper redaction of information in the leaks. However, that is quite different than an inability to protect the sources that provided the leaks in the first place. 

    But hey, I am just glad the cables are out, redacted or not.

  10. Jesse Brown is to Macleans as Lorne Gunter is to The National Post????  Who’d a thunk it.  

    Am I to file this article with your Apple-is-no-big-deal themed articles? 

  11. Assange broke? Good…… He won’t need money in prison

  12. Brown is carrying water for the fascists.  Instead of discussing the evil things our governments have done to service their corporate masters, Brown wants us to talk about not those evil things, not the people doing those evil things, not the effects of Wilileaks’s actions, but meaningless peripheral stuff.

    And like good little sheep, commenters here have gone along with him. 

  13. Knowledge is
    everything.
    Lack of knowledge
    is IGNORANCE.

    Thank you Julian Assange.

Sign in to comment.