WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has imposed a complicated embargo on the media organizations he shared millions of Stratfor emails with causing confusion and at least a few mixups, The Atlantic Wire has learned.
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Before sharing its cache of documents taken from the global intelligence firm Stratfor, WikiLeaks made the 25 or so media entities it collaborated with agree to a publishing schedule embargoing certain topics and coverage areas beyond Monday's announcement of the project. Media organizations are prohibited from covering Stratfor-related emails related to specific countries, such as Israel, Turkey, India and Afghanistan until an agreed upon date, a senior editor at a publication collaborating with WikiLeaks tells us. The idea is that media organizations in smaller countries with less resources that are collaborating with WikiLeaks get a fair shot at covering the stories that involve their country.
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In addition to that concern, the embargo also placed a hold on certain topics, such as Occupy Wall Street, the hacker collective Anonymous and Julian Assange himself. Thus far, Monday's approved topics were the United States, China, Europe and Latin America, which sort of makes sense given the number of stories on Hugo Chavez. Today, the approved topics including Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street.
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It's an extremely complicated system, and, as we've seen today, the complexity has already caused some confusion. For instance, after the Australian newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald published stories about a "secret" U.S. indictment" against Assange today, WikiLeaks accused the publications of breaching the embargo, and advised the rest of the media outlets that "all partners may publish all Stratfor derived WikiLeaks/Assange stories NOW (otherwise, embargo holds)." But, technically the Australian newspapers did not violate the contract because it required outlets to wait until Wednesday to publish on those topics, and it was already Wednesday in Australia when they published. Our source says the schedule does not stipulate what timezones apply to the schedule.
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A third reason there haven't been many new stories on the Stratfor dump is reluctance on the collaborating editors' part, the source tells us. The source emphasized that gaining access to Stratfor emails is far more difficult to do anything with, as opposed to the leak of State Department cables where the names of ambassadors were attached to quotations that were identifying foreign ministers and other diplomats by name. By contrast, the Stratfor emails represent gossip in many cases that has no sourcing. A case in point was today's "secret indictment" on Assange relying on Stratfor vice president of intelligence Fred Burton who merely wrote in an email, "We have a sealed indictment on Assange" without attributing that information to anyone. As our source says, these tidbits of information mostly make for good tips but not necessarily publishable stories.