WikiLeaks used to be a champion for transparency. Now it champions Donald Trump

Jack Smith IV writes: Never mind that it was revealed today that Chelsea Manning — who went to prison for giving documents to WikiLeaks — could be pardoned by President Barack Obama, WikiLeaks is busy discrediting an attack against President-elect Donald Trump.

When BuzzFeed published an unverified, document alleging the Russians have a secret tape of Trump watching sex workers engage in “golden showers,” WikiLeaks came out swinging to defend Trump.


“WikiLeaks has a 100% record of accurate authentication,” the group said on its Twitter account. “We do not endorse Buzzfeed‘s publication of a document which is clearly bogus.”

Buzzfeed has taken a lot of flack for publishing the document, but WikiLeaks’ contention isn’t merely that the information contained in it is unverified. Instead, they’re claiming it’s illegitimate — an attempt to discredit a report which might hurt Trump.

WikiLeaks’ patently strange attack on others publishing leaked documents in circulation among Washington power brokers comes on the heels of a bad night for founder Julian Assange. An “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit drove Assange to silence over his betrayal of WikiLeaks’ core values and the possibility that WikiLeaks’ is technically compromised at the foundational level. And it’s just the latest episode of ethical malfeasance which appears to be moving WikiLeaks away from its mission of asking “hard questions of government” and toward the mercenary work of propping up political candidates.

The AMA session was a disaster. Diehard Assange supporters held him to account for why he never published damning material on Republican candidates — something a lot of people have noticed — and why he won’t be transparent about his sources for the Democratic National Committee hack.

The most damning allegation in the exchange came when someone asked Assange to verify he was still in control of WikiLeaks by asking him to send a message using his private encryption keys, a rudimentary task. Assange refused, suggesting to the community that the group’s founder has lost control of WikiLeaks at the fundamental, technical level.

“You are on record as indicating absence of the key is a signal of compromise, and now you refuse to prove you have the key,” one of his accusers wrote.

Finally, Assange just stopped taking the hard questions.

“Put some effort into this bloody AMA Julian,” one Reddit user said after it was clear Assange wouldn’t address the most troubling allegations. “We’re a large community that for the most part, had your back.

This sentiment is the final resting place of a truth long coming: Assange’s coalition of support has largely crumbled, leaving behind only establishment conservatives — who once compared him to al-Qaida, and wanted him hunted across the globe as a terrorist. [Continue reading…]

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In election hacking, Julian Assange’s years-old vision becomes reality

Jim Rutenberg writes: From the start, Mr. Assange said WikiLeaks’ prime directive was to expose hidden data sets that “reveal illegal or immoral behavior” in government and big business.

But in the essay [published in 2006, the year Assange founded Wikileaks] he also wrote in more ambitious terms about forcing regime change through data and technology rather than through the old, barbaric means of assassination.

As Mr. Assange saw it, power was held by vast networks of conspirators who shared vital information in secret, giving them a superior understanding of reality that enabled them to hold on to power. The technology revolution, he wrote, was providing the conspirators with the means to achieve what he called an even “higher total conspiratorial power.”

But it was also making them more vulnerable to sabotage, so that a governing conspiracy could be “slowed until it falls, stupefied; unable to comprehend and control the forces in its environment.”

As an example, he pointed to “two closely balanced and broadly conspiratorial power groupings,” the Democratic and the Republican Parties in the United States.

“Consider what would happen if one of these parties gave up their mobile phones, fax and email correspondence — let alone the computer systems,” he wrote. “They would immediately fall into an organizational stupor and lose to the other.”

The essay got new attention when WikiLeaks, working in tandem with The Guardian, The New York Times and other outlets, released extensive diplomatic cables in 2010, making WikiLeaks more of a household name.

No one seemed to grasp what Mr. Assange was hinting at more clearly than the conservative writer John Sexton, who foresaw the events of 2016 in a post that was published on Breitbart News and his own blog in 2010.

“You can take his example further by imagining what would happen to, say, the D.N.C., if it suffered a massive Wikileak of secret data,” Mr. Sexton wrote, referring to Mr. Assange’s essay. “It seems entirely possible that a leak of the contents of their email for one month would be exceedingly damaging to them.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump cited Wikileaks 164 times in last month of election but now claims this didn’t influence a single voter

Judd Legum writes: President-elect Trump says that information published by Wikileaks, which the U.S. intelligence community says was hacked by Russia, had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.” This was not the view of candidate Trump, who talked about Wikileaks and the content of the emails it released at least 164 times in last month of the campaign.

ThinkProgress calculated the number by reviewing transcripts of Trump’s speeches, media appearances and debates over the last 30 days of the campaign.

Trump talked extensively about Wikileaks in the final days of a campaign that was ultimately decided by just 100,000 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania combined.

For months, Trump insisted that Russia was not responsible for hacks targeting Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party. In a December interview on Fox News, for example, Trump called intelligence linking Russia to the hacks as “ridiculous,” adding “I don’t believe it.” During the campaign Trump had suggested that the hacks could have been the work of “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 lbs.”

On Friday, Trump received a classified briefing from the FBI, CIA, NSA and the DNI laying out the case that Russia was responsible for the hacks and then funneled the information through Wikileaks as part of a propaganda campaign intended to swing the election to Trump. (A declassified version of the report was released to the public.)

After the briefing, Trump moderated his stance. In a statement, Trump did not explicitly say the hacks were the work of Russian operatives, but also did not deny their involvement.

Instead, Trump honed in on a different argument: Whoever was responsible, the information that was hacked and then distributed through Wikileaks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Trump claims this is the view of the intelligence community. That is false. [Continue reading…]

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How the U.S. hobbled its hacking case against Russia and enabled truthers

Kevin Poulsen writes: Sometimes, in his covert influence campaign against America, Vladimir Putin need do nothing but sit back and chuckle mirthlessly while U.S. officials shoot themselves in the foot. Such was the case last week when the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI released a technical exposé of Russia’s hacking that industry experts are slamming as worse than useless—so jumbled that it potentially harms cybersecurity, so aimless that it muddies the clear public evidence that Russia hacked the Democratic Party to affect the election, and so wrong it enables the Trump-friendly conspiracy theorists trying to explain away that evidence.

“At every level this report is a failure,” says security researcher Robert M. Lee. “It didn’t do what it set out to do, and it didn’t provide useful data. They’re handing out bad information to the industry when good information exists.” At issue is the “Joint Analyses Report” released by DHS last Thursday as part of the Obama administration’s long-awaited response to Russia’s election hacking. The 13-page document was widely expected to lay out the government’s evidence that Russia was behind the intrusions into the Democratic National Committee’s private network, and a separate attack that exposed years of the private email belonging to Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

Instead, the report is a gumbo of earnest security advice mixed with random information from a broad range of hacking activity. One piece of well-known malware used by criminal hackers, the PAS webshell, is singled out for special attention, while the sophisticated Russian “SeaDuke” code used in the DNC hack barely rates a mention. A full page of the report is dedicated to listing names that computer security companies have assigned to Russian malware and hacking groups over the years, information that nobody is asking for. [Continue reading…]

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Intel report says U.S. identifies go-betweens who gave emails to WikiLeaks

CNN reports: US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., a veteran of four presidential administrations and one of the nation’s leading intelligence experts, resigned Thursday from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team because of growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies.

Woolsey’s resignation as a Trump senior adviser comes amid frustrations over the incoming administration’s national security plans and Trump’s public comments undermining the intelligence community. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. intercepts capture senior Russian officials celebrating Trump win

The Washington Post reports: Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of “actors” involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks.

Those and other data points are at the heart of an unprecedented intelligence report being circulated in Washington this week that details the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and catalogues other cyber operations by Moscow against U.S. election systems over the past nine years. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. obtained evidence after election that Russia leaked emails, say officials

Reuters reports: U.S. intelligence agencies obtained what they considered to be conclusive evidence after the November election that Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking, but had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The timing of the additional intelligence is important because U.S. President Barack Obama has faced criticism from his own party over why it took his administration months to respond to the cyber attack. U.S. Senate and House leaders, including prominent Republicans, have also called for an inquiry.

At the same time, President-elect Donald Trump has questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to help his candidacy and hurt Clinton’s. Russia has denied the hacking allegations.

A U.S. intelligence report on the hacking was scheduled to be presented to Obama on Thursday and to Trump on Friday, though its contents were still under discussion on Wednesday, officials said. [Continue reading…]

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Julian Assange’s non-denial denial on Russian interference in the U.S. election

On Saturday, Donald Trump said he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking, and that the information would be revealed “on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

It’s widely believed that the “revelation” Trump was alluding to would come from Julian Assange in an interview the Wikileaks founder did with Sean Hannity that aired on Fox News last night.

During that interview, Hannity pressed Assange on the question of Russian involvement in the hacking:

Assange: There is one person in the world and I think it’s actually only one, who knows exactly what is going on with our publications and that’s me.

Hannity: Can you say to the American people, unequivocally, that you did not get this information about the DNC, John Podesta’s emails — can you tell the American people 1,000% you did not get it from Russia [Assange interjects “yes”] or anybody associated with Russia?

Assange: We can say, have said repeatedly over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not [a] state party.

Assange chooses his words very carefully and for him to provide an unequivocal denial of Russian involvement he had no need to rephrase Hannity’s question. He could have simply responded that his source neither is nor was associated with Russia.

It has always been reasonable to assume that Russia would provide Wikileaks with plausible deniability by using an intermediary who was not overtly a state party or having easily identifiable ties to the Russian government and yet Assange declined to say that his source is/was not associated with Russia. The source might not be a “state party” (however Assange defines that expression) and yet, even now, Assange has not ruled out a Russian association.

Some day Assange may find himself on trial and be pressed on questions about what he did or did not know about his sources. As categorical as he might want statements he makes now to sound, he also most likely wants to leave himself wiggle room so that in the future he can still claim, “I didn’t know.” His concern then (and now) being to avoid being accused of knowingly trying to subvert an election by serving as an agent of a foreign power.

As for his professed dedication to truth-telling, it’s noteworthy that in the course of the interview, Assange repeatedly distorts the hacking narrative provided by the U.S. government by saying the Russia has been accused of hacking voting machines — an accusation that on the few occasions it has been made has swiftly been denied by government officials. In this, as he has often done so in the past, Assange shows that prizes the value not only of information but also disinformation.

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How Donald Trump served as a willing accomplice in the Russian email hacking operation

David Frum writes: The content of the Russian-hacked emails was actually remarkably unexplosive. Probably the biggest news was that Hillary Clinton had expressed herself in favor of a hemispheric common market in speeches to Wall Street executives. Otherwise, we learned from them that some people at the Democratic National Committee favored a lifelong Democrat for their party’s nomination over a socialist interloper who had joined the party for his own convenience. We learned that many Democrats, including Chelsea Clinton, disapproved of the ethical shortcomings of some of the people in Bill Clinton’s inner circle. We learned that Hillary Clinton acknowledged differences between her “public and private” positions on some issues. None of this even remotely corroborated Donald Trump’s wild characterizations of the Russian-hacked, Wikileaks-published material.

These Wikileaks emails confirm what those of us here today have known all along: Hillary Clinton is the vessel for a corrupt global establishment that is raiding our country and surrendering our sovereignty. This criminal government cartel doesn’t recognize borders, but believes in global governance, unlimited immigration, and rule by corporations.

Or:

The more emails WikiLeaks releases, the more lines between the Clinton Foundation, the secretary of state’s office and the Clintons’ personal finances—they all get blurred … I mean, at what point—at what point do we say it? Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency.

Without Trump’s own willingness to make false claims and misuse Russian-provided information, the Wikileaks material would have deflated of its own boringness. The Russian-hacked material did damage because, and only because, Russia found a willing accomplice in the person of Donald J. Trump. [Continue reading…]

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White House: Trump may have known Russia behind hacking before Election Day

Politico reports: The White House on Wednesday suggested Donald Trump knew Russia was behind a series of hacks that interfered with the U.S. presidential election when he invited Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

The president-elect has continued to deny U.S. intelligence assessments that highlight Russia as the culprit behind infiltrations of Democratic institutions, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal email account.

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest contended Wednesday that it’s entirely feasible that Trump was well aware of Russia’s interference well before the intelligence community confirmed as much in October, a month before the election.

“There’s ample evidence that was known long before the election and in most cases long before October about the Trump campaign and Russia — everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent,” Earnest told reporters. “It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent’s campaign.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump adviser reveals how Assange ally warned him about leaked Clinton emails

The Guardian reports: A key confidante of Donald Trump has provided new details about the “mutual friend” of Julian Assange who served as a back channel to give him broad tips in advance about WikiLeaks’ releases of emails to and from key allies of Hillary Clinton.

Roger Stone, a longtime unofficial adviser to the Republican presidential nominee, was briefed in general terms in advance about the sensitive and embarrassing leaked Democratic emails by an American libertarian who works in the media on the “opinion side”, he told the Guardian in an interview.

Stone claims his American source, whom he declined to identify, has met with Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, in London and is a “mutual friend” of Stone and Assange. The WikiLeaks source, Stone said, is not tied in any way to the Trump campaign but has served as a back channel for Stone, who is an outside adviser to the Republican presidential candidate, allowing the adviser to tweet and comment very broadly prior to some key WikiLeaks disclosures.

A source close to Trump Tower also told the Guardian that Stone once boasted to him of meeting with Assange himself and told the source, who is active in GOP political circles, that WikiLeaks would be “coming down like a ton of bricks” on Clinton. Stone adamantly denied meeting with Assange (“Your source is bullshitting u” he wrote in an email) or having any direct contact with Assange or anyone with WikiLeaks.

Despite Stone’s advance tweets and comments about some major WikiLeaks disclosures – including recent ones in October relating to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and the Clinton Foundation – the self-styled “rabble rouser” and onetime Watergate dirty tricks operative said the FBI had not contacted him in its investigation into the illegal computer hacking of private Democratic emails, and he was not worried. [Continue reading…]

On October 12, CBSMiami reported: “I do have a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend,” Stone told CBS4 News Wednesday evening. “That friend travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk. I had dinner with him last Monday.” [Continue reading…]

In 2008, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: [Stone] was just nineteen when he played a bit part in the Watergate scandals. He adopted the pseudonym Jason Rainier and made contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Stone then sent a receipt to the Manchester Union Leader, to “prove” that Nixon’s adversary was a left-wing stooge. Stone hired another Republican operative, who was given the pseudonym Sedan Chair II, to infiltrate the McGovern campaign. Stone’s Watergate high jinks were revealed during congressional hearings in 1973, and the news cost Stone his job on the staff of Senator Robert Dole. [Continue reading…]

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Inside the strange, paranoid world of Julian Assange

James Ball, who worked for Assange at WikiLeaks, writes: To an outsider, the WikiLeaks of 2016 looks totally unrelated to the WikiLeaks of 2010. Then it was a darling of many of the liberal left, working with some of the world’s most respected newspapers and exposing the truth behind drone killing, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, and surveillance of top UN officials.

Now it is the darling of the alt-right, revealing hacked emails seemingly to influence a presidential contest, claiming the US election is “rigged”, and descending into conspiracy. Just this week on Twitter, it described the deaths by natural causes of two of its supporters as a “bloody year for WikiLeaks”, and warned of media outlets “controlled by” members of the Rothschild family – a common anti-Semitic trope.

The questions asked about the organisation and its leader are often the wrong ones: How has WikiLeaks changed so much? Is Julian Assange the catspaw of Vladimir Putin? Is WikiLeaks endorsing a president candidate who has been described as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and more?

These questions miss a broader truth: Neither Assange nor WikiLeaks (and the two are virtually one and the same thing) have changed – the world they operate in has. WikiLeaks is in many ways the same bold, reckless, paranoid creation that once it was, but how that manifests, and who cheers it on, has changed. [Continue reading…]

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David Duke applauds his hero, Julian Assange

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Wikileaks emails provide Left fodder for challenging Clinton policy and appointments

Politico reports: Donald Trump is pointing to a stream of hacked emails as proof that Hillary Clinton would be a compromised president, but a surprising number of progressives are drawing similar conclusions — albeit for a totally different reasons.

Some of the left’s most influential voices and groups are taking offense at the way they and their causes were discussed behind their backs by Clinton and some of her closest advisers in the emails, which swipe liberal heroes and causes as “puritanical,” “pompous”, “naive”, “radical” and “dumb,” calling some “freaks,” who need to “get a life.”

There are more than personal feelings and relationships at stake, though.

If polls hold and Clinton wins the presidency, she will need the support of the professional left to offset what’s expected to be vociferous Republican opposition to her legislative proposals and appointments.

But among progressive operatives, goodwill for Clinton — and confidence in key advisers featured in the emails including John Podesta, Neera Tanden and Jake Sullivan — is eroding as WikiLeaks continues to release a daily stream of thousands of emails hacked from Podesta’s Gmail account that is expected to continue until Election Day.

Liberal groups and activists are assembling opposition research-style dossiers of the most dismissive comments in the WikiLeaks emails about icons of their movement like Clinton’s Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, and their stances on trade, Wall Street reform, energy and climate change. And some liberal activists are vowing to use the email fodder to oppose Clinton policy proposals or appointments deemed insufficiently progressive. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. urged Ecuador to act against WikiLeaks leader Assange

NBC News reports: Quiet pressure from the U.S. government played a role in Ecuador’s decision to block WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from using the internet at Ecuador’s London embassy, U.S. officials told NBC News.

“It was a bit of an eviction notice,” said a senior intelligence official.

Ecuador’s government said Tuesday it had partly restricted internet access for Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, who has lived in the South American country’s London embassy for more than four years. A source familiar with the situation says the Ecuadoran government has been frustrated with Assange and his presence at the embassy in London for months and has been considering how best to proceed.

The action came after U.S. officials conveyed their conclusion that Assange is a willing participant in a Russian intelligence operation to undermine the U.S. presidential election, NBC News has learned. U.S. intelligence officials believe Assange knows he is getting the information from Russian intelligence, though they do not believe he is involved in helping plan the hacking, officials told NBC.

“The general view is he is a willing participant in the Russian scheme but not an active plotter in it. They just realized they could use him,” said a senior intelligence official. [Continue reading…]

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s isolation deepens

The Wall Street Journal reports: Ecuador’s pulling the plug on Julian Assange’s internet connection highlighted the isolation of WikiLeaks, the organization he founded to expose the inner workings of governments and other powerful institutions.

Ecuador said Tuesday that it restricted access to private communications at its embassy in the United Kingdom, where Mr. Assange lives, on concerns that he was meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

In a statement, the Foreign Relations Ministry said the decision to cut off communications at its embassy was to prevent interference in the “internal affairs of other states.”

Some former allies and observers say that after four years confined to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Mr. Assange is alienating former supporters and undermining WikiLeaks’ relevance. They cite a series of leaks that they say supported Russian efforts to disrupt the U.S. election and carelessly promoted Turkish government documents exposing the personal information of thousands of ordinary citizens.

WikiLeaks “has pioneered open government but has now gone off the rails in a way that damages the global transparency movement,” said Alex Howard, a senior analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, a group once sympathetic to Wikileaks that backs open-government efforts in the U.S.

WikiLeaks’ relationship with Russia has come under particular scrutiny lately after the release of thousands of documents from the Democratic National Committee and allies of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. U.S. government officials have accused Russia of conducting those intrusions as part of an effort to influence the U.S. election. Computer-security firm Kaspersky Labs ZAO said another set of documents published on WikiLeaks, known as the Saudi Cables, most likely came from the same hackers who breached the DNC.

There is no evidence of collusion between Russia and WikiLeaks, said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. “However, Assange has made it very clear that he’s willing to be a useful idiot for any intelligence service, as long as it furthers his own agenda,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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