Some people have come under fire for being Wikileaks fans pre-2010 lately given their release of hacked DNC emails during the 2016 US Election cycle.
This chronology lays out my reading of wikileaks and understanding of what they are and what a benefit they are to a free and open society if caution and skepticism are used.
2009 – Hacked emails from climate scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia were released. This is the first leak I can recall being critical of wikileaks for; information that might potentially support a position contrary to my own but in the end turned out to be insignificant and showed no wrongdoing on the part of the scientists, if anything it taught a lot of people about the tough pursuit of real science and difficulty of data handling.
2010 – 2012 – Wikileaks released several important chunks of information; the US Embassy Cables, the Iraq war logs and Afghan war logs. I was critical of the Iraq war when it started in 2003, I was skeptical even back then watching the case being made living in the UK, for war, the “45 minute claim” and remember the unfortunate death of David Kelly.
These leaks came from Chelsea/Bradly Manning who was himself an unfortunate soul whom I characterized at the time as somebody who should not have held the job he had. However I am still supportive of his actions, given all that we learned and continue to learn today.
It was hard to dismiss allegations especially at the time that his leaks harmed people and aided “our enemies” but as his trial and later incarceration drew on it became hard to ignore that this was not the case due in part to the diligence of Wikileaks and journalists who published the information.
2014 – When Google Met Wikileaks – I read an excerpt from this in early 2015 detailing the close relationship between Google’s Eric Schmidt and Clinton’s State Department. It was clear that after the leak of the embassy cables, Wikileaks had attracted major attention with their work. Its clear at this point that Assange and Clinton are not friends.
July 22nd 2016 – DNC Leaks – Wikileaks publishes emails of top DNC officials hacked by Russian hackers. Within these leaks we learned of a top down direct effort to subvert the campaign of Bernie Sanders and steer the party nomination towards Clinton.
At the time, Bernie supporters, myself included all said in unison, “yeah, we know!” It was pretty obvious that the media favored Clinton to get the nomination given the disparity of coverage. Top down action from the DNC was also disturbingly consistent with allegations that in a few states, primaries where seeing voter roles purged or records changed, but now we had concrete proof there was some sort of concerted effort to short Bernie.
At around the same time the “Podesta emails” where released. I called them out for what they were when I read a few: boring irrelevant trash. Interesting side note, one was from Eric Schmidt talking about leveraging mobile apps for interfacing with voters, it was painted as some kind of creepy surveillance effort. These were widely criticized as being released purely for political purposes.
October 2016 – The hash flap – Shortly after the DNC leak it was rumored that Julian Assange’s internet connection had been cut off and that he had possibly been extradited to the US. These fears where stoked when several of the hashes for Wikileaks “dead man files” did not match the hases tweeted out, indicating a possible infiltration into the organization. As of November though, Assange appeared to be fine, still in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Key questions and assertions
Are Wikileaks just a direct Russian propaganda front ?
In my opinion no, they really don’t care where their information comes from or who it hurts or helps. This of course leaves them open to criticism as they can be seen as aligning with one group over another. One trend is undeniable though, they are very much seen as anti-US imperialist while their coverage of other warmongering states almost non-existent.
Does Julian Assange like Clinton or Trump ?
“Well, you’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea? Personally, I would prefer neither.”
I’ll take that as a no then.
Update: Dec 26th  – Assange has given his opinion on what Trump “means”:
What about Donald Trump? What is going to happen?
“If the question is how I personally feel about the situation, I am mixed: Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally. According to our publications Hillary Clinton was the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya. It is clear that she pursued this war as a staging effort for her Presidential bid. It wasn’t even a war for an ideological purpose. This war ended up producing the refugee crisis in Europe, changing the political colour of Europe, killing more than 40,000 people within a year in Libya, while the arms from Libya went to Mali and other places, boosting or causing civil wars, including the Syrian catastrophe. If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means”.
What do you think he means?
“Hillary Clinton’s election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better”.
See closing remarks below: This opportunity is for the Democrats, if we can take it.
Has Wikileaks changed ?
Yes. Undoubtedly. From 2010-2016 Assange was forced into hiding and attracted the attention of the US Government writ large. From that it seems Wikileaks anti-US stance has continued and certainly its anti-Clinton stance intensified as detailed above.
Why do you think they are important ?
Whistle blowers are an important class in an honest and just society, they should have a voice and protection. Even if their voice is co-mingled on an outlet that also posts the results of hacked content each carries the same weight if the information is true and verifiable. It is better to know than not, no matter the source.
I will refuse until death to label anyone who enables the flow of information, however inconvenient, a terrorist. After this administrations own draconian procedures for whistle blowers, I will refuse to believe that the “proper channels” are the appropriate route for information that could indict those very gate keepers.
History has shown us time and again that governments lie and we lose out when we don’t have accurate information, in this digital age Wikileaks is an imperfect but necessary tool.
Did Russian hacking, fake news and Wikileaks/DCLeaks.com and Guccifer lose Democracts the election single handedly?
No, not by a long shot.
Did the DNC leaks get you to change your vote ?
As much as I appreciated knowing the truth and having my suspicions confirmed that Bernie was being railroaded, No, I dealt with myself, got over it and voted for Clinton. Do I wish that a much bigger effort had been sustained against the DNC at the time and Bernie nominated ? yes he would have perhaps beaten Trump. That failure belongs with us. (The hacks were released on the 22nd and the convention was 25th-28th)
I will summarize my opinion thus:
If our electorate is easily manipulated, and by that I mean a certain hundred thousand voters in key flyover states, then our system is flawed, our citizens are too easily fooled and we need drastic change. People hold out hope for 2020, as do I, that the Democrats will finally get their shit together and we can elect a Bernie type candidate in a landslide.
Where would the impetus for that have come from if we didn’t know for certain that we where being played by the DNC ? and as a result of adhering to historical norms (Ruling parties rarely win a 3rd term) we get the most unpopular Republican administration of all time. There is your kick in the pants Democrats! Am I going to thank Assange et al. for contributing to it in perhaps a biased manner ? no, but I’m also not going to cast Wikileaks into a metaphorical pit of fire either. I remain neutral, they are neither terrorists nor angels.
In short the solution is not demon hunting, its becoming less easily “played” politically.
Further reading: If we really want to pay attention to what the rest of the world says about us, which we should, then this is worth a deep read.