Wikileaks on TED

Worth the 20 minutes:

Watch it.

45 replies
  1. 1
    bkny says:

    seriously, i am shocked this guy hasn’t been murdered yet; or at the very least rendered to some black prison site never to be seen again.

    he is one crazy brave mofo.

  2. 2
    Corner Stone says:

    I can’t believe how hard it would be to grow his organization. As he said re: the material they receive, it would only take one wrong hire.
    And also, who would pay to fund his efforts?

  3. 3
    Corner Stone says:

    I also didn’t need to see that Apache video again. Made my chest tighten just watching.

  4. 4
    Jim, Once says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Made my chest tighten just watching.

    God. Yes. Not to mention nausea.

  5. 5
    Leinad says:

    This guy is fucking ridiculous, he’s straight out of an 80s Neuromancer rip-off and yet he is real and a compatriot. The future present is fucking weird.

  6. 6
    Michael D. says:

    The Wikileaks guy sounds like David Walliams from Little Britain.

  7. 7
    Corner Stone says:

    What company would be stupid enough to send a non-redacted internal document to a “leaks” org, on the hopeful chance the org will back their play in hunting down the leaker?
    “You want us to prove it, huh?! Well, just take a look at this buster!
    Now tell us where you got your copy, eh?!”

  8. 8
    neill says:

    i’m watchn’ this,
    i’m in awe of this guy,
    and all of a sudden i realize that the world where this combative, nurturing-the-victims renegade-hero works is now where all my hopey changey shit is…

    we are so fucked unless people start “cowboyin’ up” like this long tall Brit…

  9. 9
    BR says:

    Combine Mr. Wikileaks with Derrick Jensen and maybe there’s a bit of hope for the future.

  10. 10
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    I’m of mixed feelings regarding the role of Wikileaks. On one hand, the the classified materials guidance has been utilized to hide mistakes and screw-ups (note, it isn’t supposed to work that way by law); however, much of this stuff is classified for a reason, and can cause death/destruction by its release.

  11. 11
    Corner Stone says:

    @DecidedFenceSitter: Living up to your handle I see.

  12. 12
    Dr. Morpheus says:


    …however, much of this stuff is classified for a reason, and can cause death/destruction by its release.

    And it can, and has, caused deaths by its non-release.

  13. 13
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Yes, unfortunately every single person who has leaked the US classified information has given their oath to the United States that they’ll follow proper channels to declassify it (which they are legally obligated to attempt to do).

    Much like civil disobedience, it is a case of depending on motive, I may respect the act; dislike the environment that makes it necessary, and accept/understand/and expect the hammer that comes down.

  14. 14
    Guster says:

    I’m pretty much a fence-sitter, too. And in a world in which there were, say, professional global organizations dedicated to investigating rich and powerful entrenched interests, and, I dunno, ‘reporting’ on what they found, in a responsible way, I might think that Wikileaks was redundant or possibly dangerous. But until such, erm, ‘news’ organizations exist, seems to me that Wikileaks occupies a vital and currently-unoccupied position in the information ecosystem.

  15. 15
    Violet says:


    we are so fucked unless people start “cowboyin’ up” like this long tall Brit…

    Isn’t he Australian?

  16. 16
    Leinad says:

    @Violet yep, product of Townsville, FNQ (Far North Queensland – think tropical Texas).

  17. 17
    Corner Stone says:

    @Guster: He claims Wikileaks has released more classified info than the world’s media combined.
    It could be argued the media is more prudent. I think if that stat is accurate then there are other arguments to be made.

  18. 18
    b-psycho says:

    Even if you believe there should be some sort of objective standard for what goes public & what doesn’t, it will ALWAYS morph into “the public doesn’t need to know this because they won’t like it”. With that in mind, I’d rather err heavily on the side of transparency — and by heavily, I mean completely.

  19. 19
    MikeJ says:

    @Corner Stone: One of those arguments is that just too much stuff is classified.

    There are certain buildings around DC, not owned by the government, not staffed by the government, but doing the government’s work, where everything that is produced, including lunch menus for the cafeteria, is classified.

  20. 20
    oliver's neck says:

    @Corner Stone:

    And also, who would pay to fund his efforts?

    I do.You can too.

  21. 21
    Guster says:

    @Corner Stone: Yeah, that’s what I mean. If what he says is accurate, he went after the document in Kenya and got it. In theory, there’s already a class of people who do that: journalists. Except they kinda don’t. At least most of ’em.

    It’s quite an indictment of news organizations, that Wikileaks so quickly rose to prominence. It’s like if my son’s Little League team beat the Yankees. You might say, ‘Well, Little League kids have no place in professional sports,’ and you’d be right. But that’s not the big story, there. And people can complain that the players are flicking boogers, but the real issue is that the Yankees suck so bad they’re losing to kids.

    Wikileaks might be irresponsible, I dunno; but the bigger issue is that the Very Serious media empires that _are_ serious are uninterested in performing acts of journalism.

  22. 22
    EZSmirkzz says:

    Well done John.

  23. 23
    Warren Terra says:

    I can’t see the video now, but I urge people to read around: see the Mother Jones article, for example.

    The idea behind Wikileaks is interesting, but it’s all one guy, unaccountable and a total loon.

  24. 24
    Warren Terra says:

    One “document in Kenya” he released was the manuscript of Michaela Wrong’s latest book. That’s not journalism, it’s theft from a rare writer who makes a living writing books on modern Africa.

  25. 25
    Warren Terra says:

    I realize I’m bombarding the thread (limitations of my phone) but one last note: I salute what Wikileaks does to expose government secrecy, but it also goes after private lives at its founder’s whim.

  26. 26
    Corner Stone says:

    @Warren Terra:

    The idea behind Wikileaks is interesting, but it’s all one guy, unaccountable and a total loon.

    I didn’t get the impression he was a loon, or even irresponsible.
    But I admit I don’t know enough about him or the org.

    One guess would be that he’s a very easy figure to discredit, and many people would wish to do so.

  27. 27
    Amanda in the South Bay says:


    And it doesn’t help that (in my experience) that many people who go into careers requiring TS/SCI clearances and whatnot tend to already have an itch/bug for paranoia and secrecy.

  28. 28
    Corner Stone says:

    @Warren Terra:

    I can’t see the video now, but I urge people to read around: see the Mother Jones article, for example

    I just skimmed that MJ article, and Assange’s response and some of the back and forth in comments.
    And I have to say that at this point, I’m calling bullshit on MoJo.

  29. 29
    Warren Terra says:

    Corner Stone,
    The part where he fabricated the advisory board – in effect libelling the people he named – is cool with you? The part where he alone decides what’s true, and what’s worthy, a good idea?

  30. 30
    demimondian says:

    @Corner Stone: Actually, no, it’s very hard to discredit him. There are two possibilities: either he’s sincere, which is the position I take about him, or he’s a demagogue. In the former case, ironically, he’s *more* vulnerable that in the latter; demagogues aren’t constrained by the truth, and inevitably build a reality distortion field about themselves by drawing in vulnerable followers whose voices drown out legitimate questioners. Think Sarah Palin, or anti-vaxers.

  31. 31
    Corner Stone says:

    @Warren Terra:

    The part where he alone decides what’s true, and what’s worthy, a good idea?

    I disagree. He, and he alone, may have ultimate editor rights over the material. But I am the ultimate arbiter of what I believe to be true, or the truth. The org provides information, possibly biased or not, and I review it through my own contextual bias.
    I can’t ask anymore than the provision of information. After that it’s up to me.

    And I must’ve missed the fabrication part. I’ve skimmed the MJ main articl I cited, the Sketchy Origins one and the New Yorker one, as well as comments. Where can I find that allegation please?
    I think you said you’re limited by phone so any info you remember would be helpful.

  32. 32
    Warren Terra says:

    The Mother Jones article is mostly about how one weird guy makes all the decisions. Near the end the author contacts members of Wikileaks’ advisory board, who say they’re not on it or they do nothing.

  33. 33
    Corner Stone says:


    Actually, no, it’s very hard to discredit him.

    I’m not sure we’re disagreeing here. But I would say further that I find it very easy to discredit a lone figure pushing against CW or against authority. There’s an inherent bias in most of the population to distrust the type of people who do not conform, and they only need a little nudge here and there.
    In the original MJ article they used a picture of Assange looking like an acid tripping Andy Warhol against a really weird color pink screen with a large bullseye and I suspect Iraqis being targeted.
    They also use the words “shadowy figure” in the subhead, so before you ever read one weird you’re already leaning to him being a nutjob.

    I don’t know him. And I haven’t studied Wikileaks mission statement or track record. IMO, he’s doing something a lot of people in power would prefer he not do. Sometimes they’re correct, but not always. I tend to be sceptical when it comes to authority.

  34. 34
    Corner Stone says:

    @Warren Terra:

    When asked about his supposed advisors’ denials, Assange downplays the board as “pretty informal.” But can WikiLeaks be trusted with sensitive, and possibly life-threatening, documents when it is less than transparent itself?

    Ah, I think I found what you were referring to.
    I’m honestly not sure what to make of it. They also cite John Young, founder of as saying some things he rebuts on his website that he never said, and are lying about his interactions with Wikileaks. Although he does conclude he doesn’t care for Wikileaks fundraising mission.
    Mother Jones Smears Wikileaks
    I guess we’re going to see this in two different ways because I find the MJ article to be a very poor article, and a journo hit piece or smear as Mr. Young says.

  35. 35
    Mary2002 says:

    @DecidedFenceSitter: And cause even more death and even more destruction when it is allowed to be kept secret.

  36. 36


    What bothers me about Wikileaks isn’t so much that they publish classified government material, it’s that they publish basically anything that’s “secret” they get their hands on, because this guy is one of those people who don’t believe people have any right to privacy, in effect.

  37. 37
    fourmorewars says:

    Find myself sympathetic to the guy, but honestly, couldn’t the interviewer muster the imagination to ask some question probing his limits, along the lines of something like this?

    ‘The government is monitoring a neo-Nazi organization, or monitoring the Klan. You receive leaked documents that reveal the names of sources who’ve infiltrated the group and are reporting back on it. Do you publish?’

  38. 38
    Jordan says:

    I’m also curious to know their rules & limits. Assange says halfway through the video, “you know, there *are* legitimate secrets.” And the interviewer put the fairly perceptive question to him about the irony…they expose secrets, but in order to protect their whistleblowers, Wikileaks itself has to be a highly secretive organization. Maybe it isn’t ironic & just seems that way at first glance.

    Do they have rules about publishing secrets that could actually get someone hurt? To take your basic “loose lips” example: an upcoming military operation…doesn’t matter what country. Would they release the plans, even if it meant putting real soldiers in harm’s way?

    Would they print a NOC list?

  39. 39
    fortygeek says:

    @fourmorewars: @Jordan:

    Both of you create instances where harm would certainly befall individuals who were identified. In his response to the MotherJones article Assange claims that, in the 4-year publishing record of WikiLeaks, no article has lead to individual harm that he is aware of.

    With the kind of enemies he’s capable of creating, I’m sure something would have shown up.

  40. 40
    Warren Terra says:

    fortygeek, as I said upthread I think Wikileaks does important work when it exposes secrets of the powerful (governments, major corporations, religions) that affect our lives, our rights, and our society, and that we should know about.

    But, from that Mother Jones article, Wesley Snipes’s tax returns? Some fraternity’s initiation rites?

    And from the front page of Wikileaks right now: the key to steal yourself a copy of Microsoft Office in Portuguese? Mind you, that’s in among a lot of seemingly worthy exposes of governmental and corporate activity – but that’s the point I’m making: it’s not that Wikileaks is a bad thing, it’s that it’s a suspect thing. It’s a tool that can be used to pursue personal vendettas and intellectual theft as well as to redress the balance of power, and all the evidence appears to suggest that it’s run as a one-man fiefdom reflecting the preferences of someone who is plainly believed by even those he chooses to name as his close associates and advisors to be “strange” at best, unhinged at worst. Maybe the article isn’t fair, but it’s central question, about why an organization supposedly dedicated to fostering transparency is itself so thoroughly opaque, is quite a good one.

    And there are certainly weird things in Assange’s behavior as the site’s administrator, such as his mingling his role as a conduit for information with his role as a policy advocate when he created the “collateral murder site” (that I salute the leak doesn’t mean I think his labeling it thusly was wise), such as his fraudulent “advisory board”, which went down the memory hole once exposed, or (to name the trivial), such as when his comment to the Mother Jones article “inexplicably accumulated tens of thousands of “recommends” from just a few thousand page views.” He doesn’t seem like someone I’d trust with the authority he’s arrogated to himself.

  41. 41
    terry chay says:

    @Jordan, @fourmorewars: The problem with these examples is that WikiLeaks has a policy of redacting personally identifiable information (like people’s names). In those cases, all they would publish would be one big redaction.

    I think there are areas where Wikileaks policy could be called into question as being potentially damaging (basically once people figure out how to use selective leaking to Wikileaks as a tool to further policy aims), it just happens these hypotheticals aren’t one of them.

    BTW, having been in the internet business for the last 11 years, I can say the “advisory board” isn’t much of anything. While in some cases they can direct a lot of influence, in many cases they don’t do anything at all. I think I’m on the advisory board of a couple startups myself, and it pretty much means that if I’m having a beer with the founder, we can talk about stuff without having to sign another NDA.

  42. 42
    Corner Stone says:

    @Warren Terra:

    but it’s central question, about why an organization supposedly dedicated to fostering transparency is itself so thoroughly opaque, is quite a good one.

    I would be shocked if we had ever heard of Wikileaks if there were not redundant obscuring mechanisms in place.
    Who the hell would trust anyone with important info if they could read their life story through their online database?
    We’re not talking about America’s Funniest Home Video competition here.

  43. 43
    John Yong says:

    Wikileaks is to be commended for reinvigorating the long-toothed, actually nearly toothless, leak paradigm. Over the 3-4 decades the term has been used to valorize and monetize, and lately exaggerate, “unauthorized” disclosures, the leaked product has become less and less revelatory and more hyperbolized. Journalism has become much too careful about publishing official and condifidential information, fearing legal and financial retribution, not to say loss of advertising revenue.

    Even so, to survive, Wikileaks must struggle with the never ending need for funding, as witnessed by its shutdown due to paltry contributions, if temporarily saved by an inrush of donations recently.

    My early squabble with the admirable initiative was over its ambition to raise 5 million dollars in short order without having demonstated substance beyond promise. It has since demonstrated considerable substance, if still rather ostenatious about its exaggerated reputation and capability, and likely suffered loss of funding due to its courageous outpouring. This suggests the need for more public support with many small donations to head off the likelihood of Wikileaks being forced to suck up to wealthy idiots obsessed with private agendas, or, far worse, go commercial. Commercial as in private spying for huge profits, a booming industry worldwide ensnaring hard-up scholars, hackers, do-gooders, small businesses, minorities, all the stigmatized and outcasts with bills to pay.

    To be sure, there are others as well who are facing hard economic times and may be considering monetizing their skills and beliefs, dreaming of a lottery win in the Google and social media ambience.

    If Wikileaks can demonstrate an economic survival model along with rejuventating honorable leaking of over-secretized information without succumbing to the lure of filthy lucre now asserted to be unavoidable, it should be awarded not only a Nobel Prize in Peace but in Economics as well. Then reject the contaminated awards and their million dollar bribes for good behavior.

  44. 44
    John Young says:

    Can’t spell my own name. John Young, as in

  45. 45
    I have issues with Baltimore says:

    I’m a little late to the game on this post, but I didn’t see anybody post this link to the New Yorker Assange profile from last month. I’m just catching up on my back issues, and I read it on Sunday. Then there’s this post. Timely.

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