Why I Don't Trust Julian Assange

Wikileaks is on an unstable path because of Julian Assange. It’s an important service for opening government and holding government accountable, but it seems like it’s beginning to get unstable due to one man’s messiah complex. The organization is seemily accusing everyone it can (add me to the list friends!) of trying to take it down. Assange is afraid of coming to America because he might be killed. Though not a shred of real evidence has been produced along those lines.

While just as unreliable, check out cryptome’s page of accusations. Here’s Wikileaks fighting back. Wikileaks tells us to check our primary sources. But to date, the only source of any data that Wikileaks has published has no primary sources, except for the one that sits in military jail. That’s the point of publishing leaked information and protecting your sources. It’s also the greatest weakness of the whole issue.

I commend both organizations– cryptome and wikileaks on their missions. I thought of both of them as great compatriots to what I was doing as Director of Sunlight Labs. But there’s something strange going on here and you ought to pay attention. When the world’s out to get you, and you can’t prove it, you’re probably not using your head.

My bullshit filter first popped up when Julian Assange emailed me at Sunlight with this message:

The watchdog/cynic in me desperately wanted it to be true. A plan from the government to knock out the famous Wikileaks! I read the plan– all 22 pages. You should read it too. Once you do, you’ll find that the sensational headline is a bit unwarranted. This isn’t a plan to destroy wikileaks. It’s something I’d actually want my government to do: pay attention to what Wikileaks is doing.

The most telling part of the entire document comes in the conclusions. Here are the two most sinister parts.

and two:

This document is a U.S. Army report that’s pretty dang basic and what I’d expect from the U.S. Army. Something that says: “Hey, Wikileaks exists, if we want to shut it down, we’ll probably have to arrest some people. Also, we probably need to remind everybody to change their passwords regularly.”

If this is what constitutes a plan by U.S. Military standards, then the real story here isn’t that the U.S. Military is trying to take down Wikileaks, it’s how bad at planning the U.S. Military is. I’m open to more evidence that Assange and Wikileaks is being attacked, but it looks like the Wikileaks team is more enthralled with the idea of being attacked and the idea of a man-as-journalism-hero rather than providing what Assange wants to provide: “a real free press.”

A real free press cannot be formed around a cult of personality, or any one man trying to be a hero. The “everyone’s out to get me” mentality isn’t just delusional, it’s dangerous. It creates a delusional sense of grandeur that detracts from the actual mission at hand. Wired’s most certainly not at war with Wikileaks, and the Knight Foundation most certainly isn’t out to get them either.

That’s why I don’t trust Julian Assange. To date, all he’s given us is a strange sense of importance in himself by convincing us that the world’s out to get him. Take a look at the Wikileaks wikipedia page from a year ago. You’ll see that a year ago, Assange was barely a mention on the entry but the current version is much more focused on Assange.

No organization like Wikileaks can survive a cult of personality, or one person’s delusions of grandeur. Trust me – I worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. And while I’m supportive of Wikileaks’ great work in trying to release information that sees the light of day, this open government activist and infovegan can’t really get caught up in what’s clearly someone else’s drama.

When it comes down to it, Wikileaks should be concerned with releasing information, not enthralling us with the drama and intrigue of the US Government trying to assassinate someone. If there wasn’t someone there, and the service was run anonymously, then we could focus on the information this great service releases.

Remember: nothing makes a great story like adversity. It’s easy to paint pictures of boogey-men and black helicopters but Assange is not Agent Mulder. The X-files was a fictional television show. Wikileaks is better left being run with the omission of one man’s quest to become the free press’ messiah.

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