In recent months, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.
This has puzzled some of the group’s supporters, and led to speculation that the site’s Australian founder, Julian Assange, had timed the release of emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee to drive a wedge between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The publication of emails that revealed an anti-Sanders agenda inside the Democratic party was certainly welcomed by the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
But it should come as no surprise to anyone who looks back at the founding principles of WikiLeaks that Assange — who has clearly stated his distaste for the idea of the former secretary of state becoming president — would make aggressive use of leaked documents to try to undermine her.
As Raffi Khatchadourian explained in a New Yorker profile of the WikiLeaks founder in 2010, “Assange, despite his claims to scientific journalism, emphasized to me that his mission is to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events.” To Assange, Khatchadourian wrote, “Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.”
In other words, Assange’s project has been from the start more like opposition research than dispassionate reporting. His goal is to find dirt in the servers of powerful individuals or organizations he sees as corrupt or dangerous, and bring them down by exposing it. As he memorably told Der Spiegel in 2010, “I enjoy crushing bastards.”
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His recent focus on “crushing” Clinton but not Trump has led some to ask Assange if he is worried about helping to elect someone who might be even more hostile to him — let alone to the causes of justice and peace that have motivated Wikileaks’ previous disclosures. Asked recently by Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” if he does prefer Trump over Clinton, Assange replied, “You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?”
Speaking to Bill Maher on Friday night from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been effectively confined for more than four years, Assange joked about hacking Trump’s tax returns, but added, “from the perspective of WikiLeaks trying to protect its sources, you have really two very bad presidential candidates.”
In an address to the American Green Party convention on Saturday, Assange reiterated that both major party candidates for the presidency were “horrific,” but argued that “it certainly doesn’t make as much difference as people say,” which of them gets elected. What is important, he said, is to build political pressure “to discipline and hold to account and check the abuses of power during the next four years.”
Read the rest at The Intercept.