WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is firing back against critics, including former National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, who say the organization’s aversion to selectivity in the information it publishes is dangerous.
“We don’t contaminate the evidence,” Assange told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday, speaking in a video interview from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has been living there in exile for nearly four years.
Assange said WikiLeaks has a track record of publishing “pristine archives” that “readers can check” and can be used in subsequent “litigation and prosecution.”
After WikiLeaks published thousands of internal emails from the Democratic National Committee last month, Snowden wrote on Twitter that WikiLeaks should be more open to having independent review of leaked documents. Snowden funneled his own massive leak of NSA documents through journalists like former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald.
Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 28, 2016
The 45-year-old Australian said such criticism is an effort by the Hillary Clinton campaign to distract from revelations contained in the DNC emails that suggested members of the committee were plotting against Bernie Sanders in an effort to boost Clinton during their hard-fought primary.
The leak, which was timed to coincide with the start of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, resulted in the resignations of several top DNC officials, including Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“Hillary Clinton’s boss and her team, naturally, have tried to distract from the very real revelations that led to these resignations at the DNC with anything they can,” Assange said Monday. “[They’re] desperate to try and criticize, amazingly, their opponents as being Russian agents or the media or us as somehow being Russian agents. I think that’s an extremely worrying trend in this election.”
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) August 15, 2016
Earlier this month, Assange himself floated the idea that Seth Rich, a DNC employee who was shot to death last month in Washington, was a WikiLeaks informant.
“Whistleblowers often take very significant efforts to bring us material and often at very significant risks,” Assange said in an interview with the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur that was first reported by Buzzfeed. “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.”
While the case remains unsolved, police believe Rich was killed in an attempted robbery.
Rich’s family condemned the conspiracy theorists, and urged the public to “refrain from pushing unproven and harmful theories about Seth’s murder.”
Last month, Assange would not say whether Russia had any involvement in WikiLeaks’ release of the DNC emails, which U.S. officials believe were obtained in a hack of the DNC’s servers by Russian intelligence. As a candidate, Donald Trump has taken a relatively soft stance against Russia and has even echoed the Kremlin’s message about its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“We can’t go around speculating on who our sources are. That would be irresponsible,” Assange said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I do think it’s an interesting question, of course, as to who our sources are. But as a source protection organization that many sources from across the world of many different types rely on to protect their identity, and their rights, to communicate the truth to the public. And that’s what we’re talking about here, communicating the truth.”
But Assange also hinted that more leaks about the Clinton campaign may be on the way.
“We have more material related to the Hillary Clinton campaign,” Assange told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on July 30. “That is correct to say that.”
Assange’s latest comments come on the eve of the fourth anniversary of his living in asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy. He told Tapper that on Tuesday, his lawyer plans to deliver a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking why the Justice Department’s six-year probe of WikiLeaks has yet to be completed given the “new standard” applied in the FBI’s probe of Clinton’s email server.