Wednesday 18 January 2017

Smearing Edward Snowden and Wikileaks

Smearing Snowden and WikiLeaks In The Name Of Anonymous
by Suzie Dawson

16 January, 2016
The WikiLeaks and Snowden smears are getting more disingenuous by the day.
In the latest attack on what is without doubt the most significant media organization in the world—WikiLeaks—a far less consequential publisher—The Daily Kos—has managed to squeeze an entire article out of one Twitter rant by what they describe as a “quasi-official Anonymous Twitter account” – @YourAnonCentral, also known as YAC.

In doing so, The Daily Kos is the latest to demonstrate that there is nothing more intellectually insubstantial than the recent trend of quasi-journalists slapping together an entire quasi-article about someone having had a moan on Twitter.
Poorly-investigated and deficiently-sourced, their article fails to dig any deeper than the surface contents of the singular thread, trusting that it contains sufficient reference points that no one will invest the time or effort to look into the matter any further.

Unfortunately for them, we have.

The 25-tweet diatribe their article is based off can be read here and is dissected tweet by tweet at the bottom of this page. But first, let’s look a little deeper into the opinions and attitudes espoused by @YourAnonCentral, and give you the story that The Daily Kos didn’t.

YAC doesn’t just hate Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. He also has it in for Edward Snowden.
The animosity isn’t restricted to silly memes or playing favorites among whistleblowers. It extends to pronouncements that blatantly violate the basic principles and beliefs of the Anonymous movement.
The idea that an Anonymous account would be openly calling for the prosecution of a whistleblower and advocating that they be subjected to “law and punishment” with “no exceptions” is not only contrary to the ideological premise of the collective, but is frankly extreme in its audacity and hypocrisy.

For an account claiming to be a part of a movement whose members have been aggressively hunted by law enforcement agencies, to advocate throwing a whistleblower to the dogs, is flabbergasting.

But their vitriol doesn’t end there. Since July 2014, YAC has been waging an unrelenting smear campaign against the pillars of the activism community.
Major Anonymous accounts like @AnonymousVideo, tweeting content from Thomas Drake to YAC, go without amplification or acknowledgement.
Other old school Anonymous accounts like @AnonSwedeninfo get acidic responses from YAC…

Or are completely ignored when they attempt to share relevant content with them:

Sputnik News noted the disparity between the positions of @YourAnonNews and YAC, on Snowden:
YAC’s smears against Snowden are completely baseless. Even the most cursory knowledge of his revelations and activity easily dispels them. Take for example, the following tweet:
In their desperation to discredit him and hoping that any mud will stick, Snowden’s detractors routinely contradict each other’s narratives. While some deride him for having spoken out about NSA spying on Chinese university students while still in Hong Kong, YAC audaciously claim that he has never cared about non-US citizens. Yet by the time of their above tweet, in October 2015, Snowden had spoken via video conference in a whole host of non-US countries, about revelations specific to those citizens, including but not limited to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany and others.

Of course, if you wanted further proof of how far YAC have been barking up the wrong tree, you need only look at their own historical tweets, which disprove their more recent ones:
Time and time again, YAC stumbles over its own opinion and contradicts its own messaging. For example, they cast aspersions on radical leftists and Russian-based media organisations, despite having a long history of sharing information from precisely those sources.
At various times they accuse Snowden of being both aligned with US government and the Russians. Likewise, with WikiLeaks.
They accused WikiLeaks of being beholden to other foreign governments:
…yet make bizarre attempts to associate WikiLeaks staff with being pro-US government – specifically claiming that they have “ties to the US military and intelligence”:
The attempt to portray WikiLeaks as being an agent of the US military-industrial complex is followed by, three months later, a switch of course to complain that WikiLeaks only exposes US war crimes:
In aggregate, it seems that they don’t care who WikiLeaks or Snowden is or isn’t working for, they are only trying to cause the maximum possible damage to their reputations, as seen by the posting of skewed opinion polls such as the following, which do not provide any dissenting option.
Glenn Greenwald is another frequent victim of attempts to detract from those doing the most significant and visible work to circulate revelations from the Snowden archives.
Accusations that The Intercept has not released enough documents, or with the speed that many would like, are commonplace. However, YAC chose the precise day that Greenwald and The Intercept had just come out with further major revelations, in order to attack them about it. Ultimately serving as a distraction from the information that had just hit the public arena.
Rather than analyzing and amplifying the documents that they claimed to be so eager to see released, YAC just tore chunks out of those doing the actual work instead.
Things didn’t always used to be this way. A trip down memory lane reveals that at a certain point, there was a seismic shift in YAC’s position.
Going back through YAC’s tweets in reverse-chronological order, there was a clear delineation between the original stances of the account, with its reversed positions and open hostility.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the old YAC:

So what happened? How did YAC go from an account covering Occupy-related media and sharing pro-whistleblower content and leaks, in neatly laid out well-sourced tweets, to what appears to be an angry and aggressively anti-Snowden/WikiLeaks admin?
In the course of investigating this story I discovered the below tweet from fellow ex-Occupier and WRC journalist, Cassandra Fairbanks.
Suddenly, it all clicked. The concise news-style presentation of the early YAC tweets is likely attributable to Cassandra’s efforts. I reached out to her and asked for her take on what happened.
We Are Change: Cassandra, the @YourAnonCentral account shared a lot of great work throughout the Occupy movement and had a really effective tweet style with a focus on info-sharing, up until June of 2014. Since then it devolved into what appears to be one person’s endless rant against pillars of the activism world like Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. Can you tell us how this occurred?”
Cassandra Fairbanks: “That’s about when I left YAC. I had been using it to promote WikiLeaks and Snowden stuff, but we had massive internal disagreements so I quit. The main person running the account was using it as a tool to promote the person they were dating (@georgieBC) who had personal issues with Wikileaks even though she had previously ran WikiLeaks Central, which was essentially a fan site.”
YAC’s anti-Snowden tweets have very little uptake and the threads routinely feature dissenting opinions by readers that are puzzled by the maliciousness on display. Likewise, the malevolent nature of the specific accusations leveled at WikiLeaks by YAC that were picked up by the Daily Kos, did not escape notice.

So let’s break down the 25 YAC tweets, referenced by The Daily Kos in the article “Anonymous Squeals On WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

Tweets 1-2/25: YAC tweets at @Khannoiseur, an anti-Trump, anti-WikiLeaks journalist, that they find his conspiracy theory that Julian Assange is being blackmailed by Putin “fascinating and quite in line with reality” and “would like to touch on the subject, given that we have somewhat of an insight into the matter.
Tweet 3/25: YAC describes Julian Assange as a “fascist ideologue“, without any reference or source.

Tweets 4-5/25: YAC says that the attributes commonly associated with WikiLeaks including supporting “human rights, gov’t transparency, and open government” are “not in line with Assange’s politics”.
YAC then sets about trying to ascribe those qualities to people who have ceased working for WikiLeaks in the past, in an attempt to effectively strip WikiLeaks of its identity.

Tweets 6-7/25: YAC claims that WikiLeaks ability to receive leaks was dependent upon someone who had departed the organization. YAC says “the software developer behind it (leak platform) left the project. We assume he is still writing software.”

The “software developer” in question may be Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who volunteered full-time for WikiLeaks in 2009. In this annotated transcript of the film “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” an unauthorized biography by filmmaker Alex Gibney, WikiLeaks points out that

in 2007 WikiLeaks uncovered billions of dollars’ worth of corruption in Kenya, a leak that made front pages around the world, and is widely viewed to have changed the results of the Kenyan 2007 Presidential Election. In 2008 WikiLeaks defeated the largest private Swiss bank in US courts after revealing its Cayman Islands trusts, costing the bank hundreds of millions as it cancelled its scheduled US IPO. However these leaks pre-date Domscheit-Berg’s substantive involvement.”

If the leaks pre-date Domscheit-Berg’s involvement, the idea that Domscheit-Berg was the sole engineer of the WikiLeaks platform—or so crucial that his departure crippled the technological functioning of the organization—is counter-intuitive. Meaning that in fact, the claims made by YAC in these tweets are demonstrably false.

But in fact, they are worse than merely slanders of WikiLeaks. They are an attempt to form a revisionist history that seeks to raise the profile of someone—Domscheit-Berg—who was not merely a disgruntled former volunteer. He was without doubt, a saboteur.

Here is why I can say that with such confidence: Domscheit-Berg didn’t merely beef with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. He didn’t merely sell-out by writing a book slamming them and selling the movie rights to Dreamworks. He did much, much worse. By all accounts, he deliberately destroyed evidence of war crimes and other corporate transgressions and withheld documented proof of such that were entrusted to him.

I gave WikiLeaks some documents detailing proof of torture and government abuse of a Latin America country. The documents were only in hard copy. I entrusted those valuable documents – the only copy available – to Wikileaks because of the expertise of the people running it, their procedures and the mechanisms they used to maximize impact when published. I did not intend to give such material to Mr. Domscheit-Berg personally, as was made clear to him by me at the time. My intention was to give it to the platform I trusted and contributed to; to WikiLeaks. The material has not been published and I am disturbed to read public statements by Mr. Domscheit-Berg in which he states that he has not returned such documents to WikiLeaks.” – Renata Avila
Avila describes being present at Domscheit-Berg’s home when he was toasting journalist Heather Brooke with champagne. Brooke later stated: ““one of [Assange’s] disaffected colleagues gave me a full set of the US diplomatic cables that Assange was planning to use in his next publication.”

These were, of course, files supplied to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning. Of Domscheit-Berg’s attitude towards Manning, Renata Avila notes:

After the arrest of Bradley Manning became public, I asked Mr. Domscheit-Berg how I could help the young soldier, but he did not appear to be interested. He was on holiday. I sent him contact details of human rights workers I thought would be able to support Manning, which he said he forwarded on to someone else. He never followed it up. I was under the impression that he didn’t care or that someone else must have the situation well in hand. It was only after he was suspended from WikiLeaks that he became outspoken about Manning.” – Renata Avila

The comments section on Avila’s post is well worth reading, to begin to understand the full extent of the betrayals by Domscheit-Berg, referred to as DDB.

OpenLeaks, DDB’s project to springboard off WikiLeaks, was a spectacular failure that resulted in his temporary expulsion from the Chaos Computer Club.
Slashdot sums it up:
Then of course, there’s another tiny problem with the theory of DDB being the technical brains behind the WikiLeaks leaks submission platform.

It turns out he wasn’t actually a developer, a programmer, a computer scientist or a software architect. Nor did he invent, design, build or maintain the platform. He just did a really effective job of sabotaging and temporarily compromising it.
WikiLeaks also confirmed that Domscheit-Berg made off with the “internals” of up to 20 neo-Nazi organizations.
Tweets 8-9/25: YAC alleged that WikiLeaks “copied the publish everything leak platform” concept‘s John Young. Then YAC alleges that Cryptome “left” WikiLeaks but still adheres to the principle. According to Young, Cryptome curate their content and do not simply publish everything. Nor do they guarantee the authenticity of the documents they publish or offer any protection to their sources. According to the Wikipedia page for Cryptome, Young says their organisation does not believe in “context“, “verification,authentication” or “background“. Additionally, unlike WikiLeaks, they have complied with official requests for removal of content.

Cryptome has a long established history of obscuring events related to the security of their website with conflicting statements.
Given the massive disparities between the two organizations, not the least of which is their core modus operandi, it is hard to decipher precisely what it is YAC now accuse WikiLeaks of copying from them. The function of receiving documents? That’s what journalists do. Cryptome might have been an early influence for WikiLeaks but they did not invent journalism.
Of WikiLeaks, Young said in a 2010 interview with The Observer:
So after joining WikiLeaks in 2006, publicly trashing it in 2007, printing its internal communications and then doing mainstream media interviews about the project he had abandoned after discovering years later that it had become successful regardless, John Young is a WikiLeaks “member”, “insider”, “devotee” and “critic”.  Take from that what you will.

This is, of course, the same John Young who claimed to Vocative in July 2014 that Cryptome would be imminently publishing the Snowden documents that had been withheld from the public. He described the leak of the full archive as inevitable. It has yet to eventuate.

Tweets 10-11/25:  These tweets are virtually meaningless. YAC says that WikiLeaks postures itself as anti-war and then attributes that stance to Chelsea Manning. Then anomalously states that Chelsea still holds these beliefs. As if WikiLeaks prior to 2010 wasn’t anti-war, when it clearly was, or as if WikiLeaks is somehow pro-war. The assertion is such a lame duck that it’s not even worth taking the time to debunk. Look at what they were releasing prior to 2010, and what they have since, and the writing is on the wall.

Tweets 12-13/25: YAC’s attempts to insinuate that WikiLeaks is usurping the achievements of others, with a complete lack of context, continues. Swiftly moving on to Iceland, invoking the terms ‘open government‘ and ‘transparency‘ then raising the IMMI (Icelandic Modern Media Initiative), brainchild of Iceland’s Pirate Party leader Birgitta Jonsdottir. What YAC fails to mention is how events in Iceland came to the head that they did. The tide of public dissent that the Pirate Party was able to ride to prominence came about from leaks published by WikiLeaks, exposing gross corruption on the part of Icelandic bankers.

Their supposition that WikiLeaks was not involved in IMMI at a fundamental level is also factually incorrect. In the original video of Birgitta and Julian Assange speaking about IMMI at the 2010 Logan Symposium, the truth couldn’t be any more clear, or any more different than YAC portrayed it.

The reason why I am here is that early this year me and a group of people including WikiLeaks started to work on a proposal for the Icelandic Parliament tasking the Icelandic government to create sort of a reversal ideology of a tax haven, where they pick good legislation around the world to create secrecy, we want to pick the best possible legislation from around the world to create transparency…

when I heard this idea, originally the idea about IMMI was introduced by Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt at a conference in Iceland in December last year, where I was also speaking. Coming from a background of being an activist, a journalist and a writer and a pioneer on the internet, I immediately understood the importance of this.” – Birgitta Jonsdottir
The video is well worth the watch so here it is:

Tweets 14-16/25: YAC says that WikiLeaks only “supported human rights, horizontal governance and was a megaphone for those at risk… based on their (@wikileaks) Twitter feed from 2010 to 2012. News tweeted by @Wikileaks then was based on work of @GeorgieBC.” Once again, this is a ridiculous statement. WikiLeaks interest in human rights both pre and post dates Georgie’s admittedly excellent work on @WLCentral, which for a time was a brilliant and regularly lauded contribution to the WikiLeaks platform.

WikiLeaks’ most significant achievement in acting as “a megaphone for those at risk” has been in the establishment and undertakings of the Courage Foundation, which is a unique, groundbreaking organization acting to defend, promote and represent the best interests of some of the world’s most high-risk, high-profile and fiercely persecuted whistleblowers and journalists. Courage was established long after WLCentral was discontinued.

Therefore the idea that their interest in either of the aforementioned principles was somehow bestowed upon them by a departed third party is frankly, disingenuous.

With regards to horizontal governance, it is true that GeorgieBC has done some really innovative, thorough and challenging thinking and writing on that topic and made many proposals through her personal blog and elsewhere. However, YAC is clearly no expert on how WikiLeaks currently operates or is structured behind the scenes.

The proof is in the pudding really and whatever WikiLeaks are doing, they are doing it right. The stats are long since in – they were the most impactful and significant media organisation on social media during the recent U.S. election. They sport an unblemished record of relentless publishing. It is simply sour grapes to deny them the credit they are due for having achieved so much, in such dire and drastic circumstances as having intelligence agencies, particularly those of the West, set against their success and continued livelihood at every turn. Yet they have triumphed regardless.

Tweets 17-18/25: YAC bizarrely suggests that Jeremy Hammond having leaked the GIFiles from Stratfor was the sum total of WikiLeaks work against ‘corporate tyranny’. But their established record of publishing huge leaks on (not to mention confronting in court and winning against) corporates goes back to 2007 and stretches to the current day. As a campaigner against the TPPA I can tell you that WikiLeaks consistent publishing and analysis of the TPPA, TISA and TTIP texts was hugely consequential in helping to grow the movements against those ‘trade’ agreements – which were not trade agreements at all, but corporate coup d’etat undermining national sovereignty for the benefit of the bottom lines of giant transnational conglomerates – and that is just the most recent example. To swing the pendulum all the way back, it was 2007-2008 when WikiLeaks first took on banks and won.

Tweet 19/25: People thought @Wikileaks wanted to support the weak against the powerful. That was #Anonymous, not Julian Assange.” What else is there to do but shake one’s head at this inanity? Compared to the entire might of the Western Empire and its military-industrial complex, WikiLeaks *was* the weak. They are quite literally David vs Goliath and they have delivered time and time again. The false dichotomy between Anonymous and Julian Assange is a deliberate attempt at divide and conquer. The vast majority of Anonymous supports WikiLeaks and Assange and always has. Their genesis is from the same community. They cannot be separated just by someone with a Twitter account who desperately hopes they can be. When Assange’s internet was cut by Ecuador in 2016, what happened? Vast swathes of the connectivity of the East Coast of America (and elsewhere) was taken down in retaliation. No matter how much B.S. YAC circulates to the contrary, YAC cannot break solidarity between hackers just because they wish it were so.

Tweet 20-25/25: Bereft of any actual evidence and not having posted a single source link in the entire 25-tweet diatribe, YAC resorts to ad hominems. Assange is this, Assange is that. It is well known that The WikiLeaks Party was infiltrated, just as its parent organisation had been repeatedly in the past, and then smeared for supporting neo-Nazis, just as Anonymous itself was once smeared as supporting neo-Nazis. Just as Occupy was smeared as supporting neo-Nazis, just as any significant activism movement or group supporting any kind of radical change is hauled into the exact same smear because it is a known tactic of the state to do so. According to YAC, somehow Julian’s support of the First Amendment of the US Constitution is also bad – despite Birgitta Jonsdottir having expressed exactly the same admiration for it in the above video.

None of the people who have ever been involved in @Wikileaks have changed…
Well, the people involved in @YourAnonCentral have definitely changed and it sure as hell wasn’t an improvement.

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