wikileaks embraces transparency. eh, kind of.

WikiLeaks decides to give the world a peek at its books. Well, sort of. A few of them. And only kind of.

backstabbed whistleblower
Illustration by Ben Sanders

Because this blog was intended to be read for both information and entertainment with a strong emphasis on the former, when I see something that challenges my conclusions, I feel that I should acknowledge it to keep up my policy of being as factual as possible. In my last post/rant about WikiLeaks and its founder’s rather hypocritical behavior, I wondered how he would react if someone were to leak his organization’s finances for the world to see, and considering how viciously Assange peruses leakers in his own group, I was pretty sure that he would go through the roof. However, the Wau Holland Foundation, which handles a part of WikiLeaks’ financial data and has a grasp of some of its spending habits and salary data, will be releasing what they do know at the end of this year. And apparently, they have the group’s approval since the source of the news is one of WikiLeaks’ spokespeople. Well blow me down. We are getting some transparency after all. However, there are some statements I’ve made about the organization which seem to be supported by the information being released, and it doesn’t necessarily paint a pretty picture of how Assange operates. Consider this…

Fulda said the foundation had received only about 5,000 euro (US $6,000) in donations on behalf of WikiLeaks before the organization’s site went down last December… The site’s pledge break lasted for five months, during which its archive of leaks was largely unavailable. But in April [ the organization ] enjoyed a surge in fundraising when it released its first giant newsmaking leak: the Collateral Murder video of a 2007 helicopter attack in Baghdad. WikiLeaks claimed it raised more than $150,000 in just two days after the release of the video.

All right, let’s see if we can do a little mental math. The source for all the huge document dumps to which the entire WikiLeaks group owes its global notoriety, and which propelled Assange into a media star, come from the disgruntled Army officer Bradley Manning who was detained in June. When he leaked the video, Assange was on the ropes, having nothing to really publish or talk about. So he gets a video which shows what all too often happens to civilians in the fog of war, and the promise of nearly 750,000 secret documents. He breaks the site’s silence while it hunts for more donations and throws up a video, giving it a loaded title and the back story of careless soldiers mowing down reporters just for the hell of it, raises much of the money he needs to get the site back open in just a few days, and starts spacing out Manning’s leaks to keep the site relevant, all the while sitting on other leaks, as noted by his staffers working on the Iraq log projects, the staffers who ran for the door when Assange declared “I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off” in response to their objections over his newfound myopia and hobby of fame-hounding.

The few peeks that we have into a very secretive organization that exists to promote transparency, which let’s be honest is both ironic and hypocritical, don’t paint a pretty picture. Rather than a lone voice of justice whose mission in life is revealing abuses of power, we see an egomaniac with a messiah complex, whose primary concern became money, and whose goal is to make himself a major player in global politics. And the officer whose grudges at his commanding officers and the military and how it tried to handle sectarian messes in Iraq after he was passed over for a scheduled promotion made him decide to leak secret documents to the organization? Oh sure, Assange pledged to give him some cash while he’s in jail and says nice things about him in the press, but ultimately, he’s done with Manning. And after pledging to cover half of his best and most important source’s legal bills, he won’t even answer questions about how much he actually donated so far. In the meanwhile, he brags about how hunted he is on Twitter and has countless people who apparently aren’t aware of current events coverage past human interest stories and political talk shows eating out his hands, spreading random conspiracy theories about how he’s is going to get assassinated for being a hero in this world gone so horribly wrong. Well, I’m not pitying this aspiring martyr. He appears to love his job…

# politics // current events / julien assange / transparency / wikileaks


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