After playing a historic role in the 2016 US presidential election by publishing the Clinton campaign’s internal emails, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has gone on a media blitz that started with a press conference Monday and a Reddit AMA interview Tuesday.
In the press conference, Assange stuck by his assertion that the source of the leaks did not originate from hacking by the Russian government, and went so far as to say that US intelligence reports to the contrary are politically motivated and “quite embarrassing to the reputations of the US intelligence services.”
On Reddit the following day, the Australian computer programmer and controversial journalist was grilled by commenters along the same lines in his AMA (Ask Me Anything) group interview.
Assange ducked some of the more pointed questions about the controversy, even though they had received thousands of votes from the Reddit community, such as:
“Please address the allegations that WikiLeaks has a friendly relationship with Russia and cannot be considered objective with their leaks and their agenda. The timeline that makes these allegations seem plausible:
1/20/11 – Julian Assange gets Russian Visa
Since you are so adamant that Russia was not involved in the recent leaks that played a major role in the US presidential election, it would be helpful if you can make a compelling case for why Americans should trust you over their own intelligence agencies whose reason for existence is to defend the US against foreign threats and who are saying the opposite about Russian involvement.”
“During latest interview on FOX News, with Sean Hannity you clearly stated that ‘that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party’. You were referring to DNC hack data and John Podesta emails.
You did not mention the possibility that WikiLeaks got the material from a third party.
And because submissions to WikiLeaks are anonymous through TOR network, it’s practically impossible for WikiLeaks to identify the leaker if he doesn’t want to be identified. If leaker wants to be identified, it is still possible he impersonates somebody. I understand that you can’t give any details about those submissions…
My question is:
Do you have any further comments regarding possibility that DNC servers were hacked by Russian intelligence, or do you want to distance yourself from any speculations about actual people who breached DNC servers?”
Another popular question that went unanswered about the ideas driving policy was:
“People frequently group you together with Edward Snowden because you’ve both released classified American documents. But your motivations and philospophies couldn’t be more different.
Snowden claims to fight for privacy. He’s called privacy the bedrock of freedom, that one cannot be free without privacy.
You have called privacy obsolete and unsustainable. You’ve said that privacy has no inherent value. You appear to believe privacy and freedom are incompatible, that you cannot be free if others can keep secrets from you. You’ve published the credit card numbers, social security numbers, medical information, and sexual preferences of individuals of zero public interest. Two of your most recent publications are the personal Gmail inboxes of civilians, exactly the sort of thing Snowden has tried to protect.
Can you convince me that you’re right and Snowden’s wrong?”
What questions did the WikiLeaks founder answer?
Along the lines of the Russian hacking theory, one commentator did note how unusual it was for WikiLeaks to confirm or deny a source:
“As someone who’s followed WikiLeaks for a long time, what’s most remarkable to me about the US election publications is that this is the only time (with the possible exception of Aaron Swartz) that you’ve ever confirmed or denied a source. You’d been asked previously on multiple occasions to deny a state party was the source for these releases but refused, saying it would be “dangerous” and “irresponsible” to do so.
I found it very suspicious that, just weeks later, the first time you ever denied a source was in a heavily-edited interview aired on RT, an organization that obviously benefits from you denying they’re the source, regardless of whether they are. You’ve reaffirmed the other day that you’re uncomfortable having so.
Your denial, in particular, seems to be spliced together from three separate responses (masked by cuts to reaction shots), in response to a question removed in the cutting room (though the cut happens a few frames after he starts to open his mouth to ask it). With zero follow-up from you or Pilger.
My question is twofold. Do you think the edited interview accurately reflects the answers you gave? If so, did your previous business arrangement with RT in any waeny influence your decision to break WikiLeaks’s most sacred rule in an interview exclusivley aired on their network?”
Julian Assange answered:
“We have never confirmed or denied a source. We have occasionally stated broad properties about who a source is or is not where we felt it was crucial to do so (to prevent the risk of war or the undermining of the publication). The interview was not with RT it was for Dartmouth and a UK broadcaster. It was then sold, somewhat irritatingly, to RT.”
Many of the other questions Assange responded to were about how WikiLeaks operates and maintains its security / operational integrity under the harsh pressures of its role in geopolitics. Many were technical questions about the organization’s use of encryption to accomplish its goals.
A lot of commenters asked Assange to prove he was really alive and that the interview was actually live, which clearly irritated him and which he dismissed as “silly.”
The questions arose because of speculation since last Fall that Assange was dead or had been detained under CIA rendition, speculation resulting from the blackout of Assange’s Internet connection in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he’s been holed up since 2012 to avoid extradition to the United States.
“We hoped people concerned with my safety would direct their attention to those people responsible for the situation, the UK Government, the US Government and the Ecuadorian government. Some did, and that is quite possibly why the Internet was put back on.”
In his live streamed video answers to the Reddit questions (archived video here), Assange praised the work and tenacity of his people at WikiLeaks:
“They are really tough, smart people. It’s like troops who lose their commander in the middle of a battle with bombs raining down on them. What usually happens is people scatter, go home, get scared or careless, but that didn’t happen, not with our people.”
Investigation into alleged conspiratorial ties among WikiLeaks, the Russian government, and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to swirl in the intelligence community under close media scrutiny, dominating headlines the day after Assange’s AMA.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons