playing geopolitical chess with wikileaks

Assange offers to trade himself for Chelsea Manning and Obama called his bluff. I wouldn't hold my breath that WikiLeaks' boss will keep his word for once.

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Remember how 2016 was the weird year? Well, this one’s starting off with a whole lot of crazy as well, and one of the weirder happenings is WikiLeaks’ star source, Chelsea Manning, having her sentence commuted by Obama on his way out the door. No reward for guessing the reactions from the left and the right on this because they went exactly how you would predict. For the right, it was yet more proof of the outgoing president’s supposed hatred for the nation he served, even though they cheered WikiLeaks as it fanned the flames of various Clinton scandals and ignored their doxxing crew. For the left, this was an act of defiance by a man limited by his office just trying to set things right on his way out the door, even though Manning’s leaks were indiscriminate and dangerous, and were being handled by a narcissist with a dangerous case of megalomania who ultimately became a Russian asset. So, which was it? As always, the truth is most likely to be more nuanced than it appears at first blush and may center around the fact that Manning is simply a pawn in an ever more complicated geopolitical game.

See, a few days ago, Assange promised to surrender himself if this actually happened, so it seems like Obama was calling his bluff. Manning did commit a crime and a very serious one, but it was not treason. Leaking information to al Qaeda would be treason. Blasting it out was a botched attempt at what many saw as whistleblowing. So from Obama’s standpoint, Manning did not get off scot free, and if he could get Assange in her place, all the better since he’s a far bigger thorn in America’s side, while claiming the mantle of some sort of freedom fighter. His fans fans have apparently forgotten how quickly he abandoned Manning and a defense fund to keep her out of jail, paying in just $15,000 of the promised $50,000 only after being cajoled to do so, with three downward revisions in the anticipated donation. Maybe Assange was a little stir crazy and bored, and decided to spice things up thinking there was no way Obama would actually go through with it.

Now the ball is in his court. Should he live up to his end of the bargain, it’ll be the end of WikiLeaks. If he reneges on his promise, his credibility has to take a massive hit as millions of people will remind him that he’s merely a liar interested only in publicity and saving his hide from the consequences of his actions on a daily basis. Furthermore, if Assange actually keeps his word about something other than delivering on blackmail material for once, it will put Trump in a bind. Since WikiLeaks is alleged to have played a key role in the torrent of scandals during the election, he would have to dismantle the organization that was helping him get elected and take away an asset for the Russian intelligence services, actual or potential. If he doesn’t throw the full might of the DOJ at Assange and WikiLeaks, it will fuel even more rumors of him being little more than a Russian puppet since doing so could be a huge detriment to Putin. Unless, of course Russia, is sacrificing him, which is why he’s suddenly willing to surrender himself to his archnemesis, complete with a grand gesture to go out on top in the eyes of his fans.

For all his claims of being an advocate of radical transparency, pretty much all of his dealings are disturbingly opaque, so it’s hard not to speculate about what his true motivations might be. Russia probably does not want any sort of war with Europe and the U.S., but it does want enough latitude to share power with it, recreating their former Soviet hegemony and kicking off Cold War 2.0, which will focus on mutually assured blackmail, not nukes. So if we go with the popular theory that it used WikiLeaks to enhance its well known and ongoing propaganda campaigns on the web, we could also hypothesize that not to let the situation in America to get even more out of hand than it’s getting already, and since WikiLeaks already served its purpose, they could abandon it and just let things sort themselves out while whistling innocently in the background. This is all speculation, but then again, it’s not like we’re going to get honest, trustworthy, transparent answers from Assange…

Update 01.19.2017: And of course he weaseled out of it, with his lawyer now saying that Manning’s release should’ve been immediate for Assange’s offer to stand, a detail that was never, ever mentioned, anywhere, from anyone in any way associated with WikiLeaks. It seems that once again, instead of any kindness of concerns towards his sources, Assange was just disappointed his name briefly vanished from news headlines and wanted some attention. This is his usual M.O. so it’s hardly a shock that he wouldn’t keep his word.

# tech // geopolitics / hacking / wikileaks


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