Thursday, September 01, 2016

Putin and Russia - Wilileaks' Main Beneficiary

With Russian hackers attacking news outlets, the Democrat party and perhaps now American voting systems, one seeming ally is Wikileaks and its egotistical founder Julian Assange who remains in the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he avoids possible prosecution for rape in Sweden.  A length pieces in the New York Times looks at Assange and his apparent alliance with Russia and Vladimir Putin and a mutual goal of harming America and western democracies in general.  The hypocrisy of Assange displayed by his actions and those of Wikileaks versus his supposed goals is stunning, especially in the way Assange ignores the murder of Putin's political opponents.  Any respect I might have had for Wikileaks is gone and I now view Assange as a dangerous, dangerous and perhaps delusional individual.  Here are some story highlights:
From the cramped confines of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum four years ago amid a legal imbroglio, Mr. Assange proffered a vision of America as superbully: a nation that has achieved imperial power by proclaiming allegiance to principles of human rights while deploying its military-intelligence apparatus in “pincer” formation to “push” countries into doing its bidding, and punishing people like him who dare to speak the truth.
Notably absent from Mr. Assange’s analysis, however, was criticism of another world power, Russia, or its president, Vladimir V. Putin, who has hardly lived up to WikiLeaks’ ideal of transparency. Mr. Putin’s government has cracked down hard on dissent — spying on, jailing, and, critics charge, sometimes assassinating opponents while consolidating control over the news media and internet. If Mr. Assange appreciated the irony of the moment — denouncing censorship in an interview on Russia Today, the Kremlin-controlled English-language propaganda channel — it was not readily apparent.
Now, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks are back in the spotlight, roiling the geopolitical landscape with new disclosures and a promise of more to come.
In July, the organization released nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails suggesting that the party had conspired with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to undermine her primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. Mr. Assange — who has been openly critical of Mrs. Clinton — has promised further disclosures that could upend her campaign against the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump. Separately, WikiLeaks announced that it would soon release some of the crown jewels of American intelligence: a “pristine” set of cyberspying codes.
That raises a question: Has WikiLeaks become a laundering machine for compromising material gathered by Russian spies? And more broadly, what precisely is the relationship between Mr. Assange and Mr. Putin’s Kremlin?
Those questions are made all the more pointed by Russia’s prominent place in the American presidential election campaign. Mr. Putin, who clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, has publicly praised Mr. Trump, who has returned the compliment, calling for closer ties to Russia and speaking favorably of Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
Mr. Assange said he was motivated by a desire to use “cryptography to protect human rights,” and would focus on authoritarian governments like Russia’s.  But a New York Times examination of WikiLeaks’ activities during Mr. Assange’s years in exile found a different pattern: Whether by conviction, convenience or coincidence, WikiLeaks’ document releases, along with many of Mr. Assange’s statements, have often benefited Russia, at the expense of the West.
To Gavin MacFadyen, a WikiLeaks supporter who runs the Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of London, the question for Mr. Assange is not where the material comes from, but whether it is true and in the public interest. He noted that intelligence services had a long history of using news organizations to plant stories, and that Western news outlets often published “material that comes from the C.I.A. uncritically.”
Recent events, though, have left some transparency advocates wondering if WikiLeaks has lost its way. There is a big difference between publishing materials from a whistle-blower like Chelsea Manning — the soldier who gave WikiLeaks its war log and diplomatic cable scoops — and accepting information, even indirectly, from a foreign intelligence service seeking to advance its own powerful interests, said John Wonderlich, the executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group devoted to government transparency.
Others see Mr. Assange assuming an increasingly blinkered approach to the world that, coupled with his own secrecy, has left them disillusioned.
Another person who collaborated with WikiLeaks in the past added: “He views everything through the prism of how he’s treated. America and Hillary Clinton have caused him trouble, and Russia never has.”
The result has been a “one-dimensional confrontation with the U.S.A.,” Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who before quitting WikiLeaks in 2010 was one of Mr. Assange’s closest partners, has said.
And the beneficiary of that confrontation, played out in a series of public statements by Mr. Assange and strategically timed document releases by WikiLeaks, has often been Mr. Putin.
Like Mr. Trump, who stood to gain from the Democratic Party leak, Mr. Assange supported Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and he has repeatedly gone after NATO — taking on two organizations that Mr. Putin would like nothing more than to defang or dismantle.

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