The Summer WikiLeaks Went Crazy

The organization is fanning the flames of a conspiracy theory that Clinton murdered a DNC staffer. This isn’t whistleblowing—it’s madness

Like a lot of us, Julian Assange has had a weird summer. The editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, leaker of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, and expert satellite interviewee added a cherry atop his recent sundae of provocative behavior earlier this week when, in an interview with a Dutch newscast called Nieuwsuur, he implied that a murdered DNC staffer had been a source for his organization.

“Whistleblowers often take very significant efforts to bring us material and often at very significant risks,” Assange said over satellite in his usual pixelated form. “There’s a 27-year-old who works for the DNC and who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the streets in Washington.”

Ok, duuuude. This is a totally insane connection to make, really; one Trump-esque in its reckless provocation. The victim, Seth Rich, did voter outreach for the DNC. On July 10, returning home to a townhouse in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., an apparent armed robbery culminated in his tragic murder. The case remains unsolved, and WikiLeaks joined the D.C. police department in offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to a suspect’s capture.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"][This is] weaponized transparency, where exfiltrated data is released to sabotage a political target.[/quote]

Wikileaks has since walked back Assange’s comments, but it’s the implication from Assange that Rich was somehow murdered because he was a WikiLeaks source or blown informant of the FBI that has raised so many disgusted eyebrows. WikiLeaks’ amplification of the thoroughly debunked conspiracy gives voice to amateur sleuths and social media kooks. Days after the shooting, the internet did its thing, pushing theories with no evidence to the absolute brink of believability. Conspiracies, by definition, should live on the fringes of society. Yet few can deny a wild story, and for bodies like WikiLeaks (or politicians like, say, Donald Trump), there’s newscycles to dominate by feeding the beast.

It’s yet another politicized move which shows the DNC and, in particular, the campaign of Hillary Clinton firmly locked in the transparency-spouting organization’s crosshairs. In a recent interview on Real Time With Bill Maher, Assange repeatedly hammered the DNC for conspiring against the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. The emails expressed derision, sure, and a few (like one from staff member Brad Marshall where he floats the idea of using Sanders’ atheism as a wedge issue) were downright offensive to the point that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Committee, had to step down. But Assange has vastly overstated their damning qualities.

Those emails were undeniably newsworthy, but Assange’s extracurricular media-baiting has begun to undermine the credibility of his organization. Alex Howard, a senior analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for government transparency, explained to me how politicization could ruin WikiLeaks’ stated mission. “The hack of the Democratic National Committee was not the work of a whistleblower sharing private correspondence or records documenting corruption with a journalist,” he said. “We have referred to it as ‘weaponized transparency,’ where exfiltrated data is released to sabotage a political target.”

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]The DNC is not a government agency, legislative body or court, subject to Freedom of Information laws.[/quote]

“In that vein,” said Howard, “some of Wikileaks' recent activity suggests the organization has evolved from being a platform for whistleblowers to securely leak documents that expose corruption or crime to playing a more overtly partisan political role, which has led to concerns within the open government world.”

WikiLeaks timed the DNC email leak so it would chew-up headlines during the Democratic National Convention. And now, as the general election kicks into high gear, Assange is suggesting they are somehow maybe connected to the murder of their own staffer? It’s like he recently completed an internship with Sean Hannity. One can’t trust in an organization that promises to hold all governments and parties accountable when it is so clearly bullying just one, even when that one requires deep scrutiny.

“The DNC is not a government agency, legislative body or court, subject to Freedom of Information laws,” Howard continued. “It is, however, the organizing body of one of the two major political parties of the United States. Its operations, legitimacy, and policies have a significant impact on our society. Accountability for the party is therefore critically important, but it must be done in a thoughtful way that minimizes harms and maximizes the public interest.”

It’s in navigating the path for this “thoughtful way” where WikiLeaks can veer off course. The organization’s document dumps often include personal information on private citizens. It infamously refuses to redact or, as famed whistleblower Edward Snowden recently put it while criticizing their techniques, “curate” its information. This means its leaks can put regular, innocent people in danger if they fall into the wrong hands.

Assange has chosen being a troll over being thoughtful. WikiLeaks provides an invaluable service for citizens all over the world, yet it’s also now a threat to their privacy as well as their governments. It’s no wonder many hackers and whistleblowers have chosen competing outlets for their document leaks in recent years. Assange, with his provocative timing and embrace of conspiracies, makes that choice even easier. Howard’s characterization of “weaponized transparency” is right.

WikiLeaks has gone from an untampered spotlight to a weapon, and as long Assange has his satellite primed, it’s best to make sure he is denied the ammunition he needs to survive.


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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