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In hyperventilating magazine style, Vanity Fair looks “behind the headlines” at the collaboration between “the Web’s notorious information anarchist” and “some of the world’s most respected news organizations.” Sarah Ellison’s less-than-friendly takeout, The Man Who Spilled the Secrets, focusses on his relations with the British newspaper The Guardian, describing the collaboration as “a clash of civilizations — and ambitions…” in a struggle “to corral a whistle-blowing stampede amid growing distrust and anger.”
The article begins on an intimate note:
On the afternoon of November 1, 2010, Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks.org, marched with his lawyer into the London office of Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian. Assange was pallid and sweaty, his thin frame racked by a cough that had been plaguing him for weeks. He was also angry …
(Sources tell me he also pulled out his handkerchief and sneezed into it three times, which went unreported.)
The article is very friendly to The Guardian editor, quoting him at length, along with lots of other people involved in publishing the leaks. But there’s a gaping hole at its center. Assange himself is missing. Could be that’s why Ellison doesn’t seem to like him much. She is reduced to quoting people who know him, usually in a negative way. Like this:
“He is short of money and short of secrets,” someone who has worked extensively with Assange told me. “The whole thing has collapsed.”
We’ll see if it has.
In other news: Republicans set sights on WikiLeaks and Assange. There’s also this: WikiLeaks cables prompt U.S. to move diplomatic sources.
Jan. 8 — The Guardian reports: “A former WikiLeaks volunteer says the U.S. justice department has ordered Twitter to hand over her private messages.” She will fight the subpoena. “Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?” Hell, even if they did, would that matter?
“The justice department has gone completely over the top,” Birgitta Jonsdottir told the newspaper, adding that personal information from Twitter as well as her private messages had also been demanded. The story noted:
She is not the first WikiLeaks associate to be targeted by US officials. Last July Jacob Appelbaum, one of Assange’s closest colleagues, was interrogated for three hours and had his phones confiscated upon entering the country at Newark airport. Customs officials photocopied receipts and searched his laptop.
Greenwald gives the details of the witchhunt.
Jan. 10 — U.S. journalists back away from Wikileaks founder:
Not so long ago, [he] could count on American journalists to support his campaign to publish secret documents that banks and governments didn’t want the world to see. [But now] much of the U.S. journalistic community has shunned Assange […] With a few notable exceptions, it’s been left to foreign journalism organizations to offer the loudest calls for the U.S. to recognize WikiLeaks’ and Assange’s right to publish under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Tom Paine would be appalled: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
Jan. 11 — Assange appeared in a British court today for an extradition review hearing on Swedish allegations of rape and sexual assault. The Guardian reports that his lawyers outlined their argument that if he is extradited to Sweden he could face rendition to the U.S. and therefore could be detained in Guantánamo or, possibly, executed. They noted:
Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed.
After the hearing he made a short statement, which The Guardian has posted in a video with its report.
Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated. We are stepping up our publications for matters relating to Cablegate and other materials. These will shortly be available through our newspaper partners around the world — big and small newspapers and human rights organisations.
Assange is due back in court on Feb. 7, when the prosecution is scheduled to make its case for extradition.
Jan. 18 — A Swiss banker has leaked confidential tax data to Assange, claiming it will reveal offshore money-laundering and large-scale illegal tax evasion by 2,000 wealthy and prominent individuals.
“I was close to giving up,” the whistle-blower said in a press conference in London, “but then a friend of mine told me: ‘There’s WikiLeaks.’ I looked at it and thought: ‘That’s the only hope I have to [let] society know what’s going on.'” The Guardian reports:
Rudolf Elmer, formerly a senior executive at the Swiss bank Julius Baer, based in the Cayman islands, said he was handing the data to WikiLeaks as part of an attempt “to educate society.” […] Elmer said he was passing the information to WikiLeaks because he had previously approached universities with the information but it had not been followed up. He said his attempts to interest the Swiss media had resulted only in his being dismissed as “a paranoid person, a mentally ill person.”
Assange promised to release the information to the British government’s Serious Fraud Office. “Once we look at the data [to protect sources], there will be full disclosure,” he said, possibly within several weeks.
Jan. 20 — Read all about it:
To say that the Obama administration’s campaign against WikiLeaks has been based on wildly exaggerated and even false claims is to understate the case. But now, there is evidence that Obama officials have been knowingly lying in public about these matters.