Category Archives: WikiLeaks

Chaos, information abundance and the Kardashev scale of civilisations: 2009 interview with Daniel Domscheit-Berg

Just over a month ago, I published the full transcript of my interview with Julian Assange at the 2009 Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin. If you’ve read my new book Barefoot into Cyberspace, you’ll know from Chapter 2 (“Courage is contagious”) that I also interviewed Daniel Domscheit-Berg – then known as Daniel Schmitt – at around the same time. Today I’m publishing the full transcript of that interview.

Daniel’s been in the news last week, after the Chaos Computer Club, the renowned German hacker organisation who put on the Congress each year in the days between Christmas and New Year, expelled him from their number. OpenLeaks – the spin-off whistle-blowing website Daniel has been developing since his split with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange midway through 2010 – was felt by Club members to be exploiting the collective’s reputation when it used the once-every-four-years Chaos Communications Camp as a platform to announce an initial round of security testing to the world’s media. The following week, news began to emerge that Domscheit-Berg destroyed data leaked to WikiLeaks (motivated, he says, by fears about lax security), for example by whistle-blowers associated with the Bank of America. Just yesterday, he was in the news again thanks to new revelations about a possible data breach at WikiLeaks. Enemies of transparency and free expression must be mighty glad of the respite this in-fighting is affording them.

2009 was a simpler time. Julian and Daniel were still working together, and that work was not yet the focus of the world’s attention. In this interview, Daniel talks about his philosophical motivations for being involved in WikiLeaks, and the strong ideological connections between WikiLeaks and the Chaos Computer Club. As with the Assange interview, I am publishing this now for the cheap thrills of hindsight and the benefit of posterity. I make no claim, and nor should anyone else, that the opinions expressed in this interview conducted more than 18 months ago are opinions Daniel holds today.

A few more random notes:

  • This transcript is basically word for word, except for explanatory notes I have added in italics. It is, moreover, the words of a non-native English speaker. So apologies if it’s hard to read as text. If you want something easier to read, consider reading my book.
  • I use ellipses (“…”) to denote pauses in conversation, or changes of tack mid-sentence, and not elided speech.
  • As with the Assange interview, if there’s enough interest, I might find a way to share the audio of this interview as well, so please indicate interest in the comments.

Here goes…

Interview recorded 29 December 2009 at the 26th Chaos Communications Congress, held at the bcc Berliner Conference Centre in Berlin, Germany. “Interviewer” is Becky Hogge, “Respondent” is Daniel Domscheit-Berg (then known as Daniel Schmitt), spokesperson of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

[Start of recorded material]

Interviewer:   So this is Daniel Schmitt and first of all your role within WikiLeaks, are there defined roles? What’s your role?

Respondent:  I’m sort of a spokesperson.

Interviewer:   You’re the spokesperson.

Respondent:  No, there are different spokespeople obviously, so I’m one of them.

Interviewer:   So my first question is, I was really struck by…ummm.. when you gave in your presentation, you said you’ve provided more scoops around the world in one year than the WSJ have in 30 years. Why do you think that WikiLeaks is so successful at delivering scoops compared to the people whose real job it is?

Respondent:  So first of all it was the Washington Post.

Interviewer:   Oh, sorry.

Respondent:  That’s all right. Then, it’s since we are in existence, so that means like in the last 2½ years or so. And that was not something we said but rather something that The National quoted, so …

Interviewer:   But nonetheless it does seem that you are never out of the news these days.

Respondent:  Yes, that’s… OK, so there… I think there is various explanations for this. One is that obviously a lot of people are starting to use the internet and they start to see that there are possibilities maybe outside of what they perceived before as, let’s say, the opportunities they have within the social framework that they know, or other possibilities where they can interact. So there are a lot of people that obviously have knowledge about things that are going on, but that don’t have any close reporter to them in their life where they feel they would want to talk to a journalist because they can trust them. So that is something where we help, just because we are… we have a certain reputation by now, that helps. And we offer these services to anyone that feels motivated in this right moment in time, where this person feels motivated. In the sense that you can go online and just do it, when you have this peak of motivation of doing it. You have reasons to believe that this is anonymous. You don’t have to worry about who could you contact, what newspaper could you call? I don’t know, about these sorts of things. And that I think leads to us receiving a lot of, more and more, high quality material.

Interviewer:   That’s not simple though, because making people trust an architecture or a system, that it’s secure, must be a big job. I mean, when you first launched a lot of people… one of the big worries was that the system wouldn’t be secure, you know. So how have you built that reputation? I must myself try and submit something to find out.

Respondent:  No, that’s all right. The thing is it’s built by success…

Interviewer:   So you’ve had one success…

Respondent:  …People see – yes – and people see that somebody else entrusted us with confidence and with… entrusted us with something that might have screwed him over if it went wrong; and it worked out. And the more good examples there are where this works out for people I guess the more people will rely on you and they hear about you and then maybe they see that there’s been other information that has been much more confidential or where you think, “Oh wow this has been more risky than what I’m doing here”. I mean, most of the things, it’s not like lives are at stake for people that provide most of the information. So I mean there are certainly lives at stake for some people. For these we need to take special care. But generally that’s what we’re trying to say with “courage is contagious” because one of these things that we try to advocate is that people are… if people perceive that you are doing something courageous and you’re not suffering from it because you’re doing it wrong, then they see that as a good example.

Interviewer:   So, in saying that, are you implicitly saying that the mainstream media, who were… before WikiLeaks were the place where leaks would go to, have failed to establish that trust?

Respondent:  OK, so as I said initially, there are many, many reasons to this. This trust thing I think is one part. You just don’t have to deal with newspapers, especially single reporters or whatever, because for that single purpose of leaking a document there is a service. Compared to, I don’t know, finding the right newspaper that has the interest in that specific topic that you could provide information of, about. And then finding the right journalist in that paper that you will trust, that [has integrity], that writes good stories, I don’t know. And in the end what do you get? You don’t get anything but a journalist sitting on your document, in most cases.

Interviewer:   Right, because you have promised to publish.

Respondent:  Yes, and that is the next thing why people come to us and not newspapers is… Newspapers do not provide all the information, from my point of view at least, that is necessary to… in order to provoke the change that is possible with the information. Or that actually the source, in many cases, I guess, wants to see. So the source has an objective. They want that what they expose becomes known to people so that something changes. That is in most cases their motivation. If this is because they are pissed off by people, whoever they work for or if it’s because they feel that something morally is going on, but anyway they want something to change and that is why they are leaking the document. So they want that people know about it in as much detail as possible and that’s why they are giving us stuff so that not just one journalist that they give it to makes a story about it but actually everyone can do a story about it. So that is the next, maybe the next component what motivates people to come to us instead of going to the regular press.

Interviewer:   It strikes me… I had the wrong impression of you guys before I met you and Julian here because I’d thought that what you were engaged in was very much more directly related to failures inside the mainstream media but the more I speak to you and the more I think actually that’s only just a small side effect of, you know… Actually what you’re doing is getting truth out there and working towards transparency and it sounds like you’re learning to work with mainstream journalists. Your next steps are to use the… to take your practice and work with journalists to make the leaks more effective, is that right?

Respondent:  Yes, absolutely. This is, we’re sort of a more complementary effort, or we’re filling a gap that was opened up for various reasons.

Interviewer:   What reasons do you think that gap opened up?

Respondent:  Ah, that’s complicated. I think there are a lot of different aspects. So it’s a general funding situation with all of the media. The whole idea that, or the whole topic that no-one has a real idea of where it’s going to with print versus digital media and there’s a lot of liability issues with, let’s say, hot stories that are being covered in investigative journalism that is being conducted. So it’s not very attractive any more to invest in investigative journalism. It’s very expensive, it’s very unlikely that you… or it’s becoming more and more unlikely that you get material just because maybe, I don’t know, journalists are not, they can’t always protect their sources anymore. That leads to sources not being maybe so open to giving out material in the first place, which is where we come in again. That might be another angle. But… so the whole legal aspect. But there are so many reasons why this whole industry is suffering from these developments and we are sort of a complementary effort to try to make this cheap again. I’m sure that Julian has mentioned something about this economic side of ..? [I guess I nod here] OK. And to encourage all, I don’t know, single reporters, every investigative journalist, every journalist actually that feels he wants to investigate, to have access to this…

Interviewer:   Who funds the WikiLeaks? Do you disclose that?

Respondent:  Well… WikiLeaks was initially funded and is up to now still funded by people that are believing in what this project is doing.

Interviewer:   Individuals?

Respondent:  Yes. So it’s individual people that are investing money into keeping this thing running. That is how it was kick-started and we’re still sort of in the kick-start phase that is now going over, let’s hope, into some more regular operational model.

Interviewer:   And the operational model will be, do you think, based on donations or will you start to look at commercial models? Or are you not there yet?

Respondent:  There are ideas for commercial models. I mean, we’re always trying to figure out how to make best use of whatever we’re doing. Ironically, if you provide things for free they are not worth anything. Which is, by creating scarcity you somehow create value that’s objectively there before, but no-one cared about it.

Interviewer:   But that’s a problem everybody is facing now, not just …

Respondent:  Yeah, this is, yeah that is just interesting to perceive for us. And there are some commercial models that we could think of. On the other hand the general idea that information will be public and it will be free for everyone to use, that will never change. So we are… for the funding part, I guess we have to rely on getting partnerships with organisations that fund these kind of things, like investigative journalism foundations, human rights foundations, all sorts of anti-corruption people maybe, depending on, I mean we’re working for very different groups of people that can benefit from what we are doing. So all these people hopefully will be supporting what we are doing at some point in time and from that there will be a pool of resources that can sustain this, let’s say, on a regular basis. And then there is the second part of people, independent people that are still contributing individual contributions and that, I guess, will always, let’s say, guarantee the independence from single points of interest. So that’s why we also rely on people donating servers for infrastructure. Just because the infrastructure as an operational part as, let’s say, the project existing with its mechanisms is something that should be carried by individuals, rather by any foundation for example.

Interviewer:   Sure. Good. I just want to shift the conversation now and talk about transparency and information. Obviously there are lots of traditions around freedom of expression. There’s an American tradition, which is a very radical free speech tradition. There’s a European tradition which is freedom of expression, which is… there are contingencies on free speech based around what either the state or society would see as societal goods, so illegal content, blah blah blah. But I think there’s also this kind of establishment view that people shouldn’t know everything. There’s kind of a very – [reacting to growing noise levels in the CCC press room] we’re going to have to speak a bit louder, sorry – but a kind of paternalistic view that it’s right to cover the eyes of society to promote, I don’t know, integration or harmony.

Respondent:  Yes, no absolutely, absolutely.

Interviewer:   It strikes me that WikiLeaks sits right at the end of the spectrum of ideas about free speech. Are you for radical transparency? What’s your philosophy as an organisation?

Respondent:  OK, so if that is a matter, OK so you want, just to be clear: as an organisation, that is a different question from …

Interviewer:   All right, as a personal view I’ll ask you.

Respondent:  OK. I mean, I’m absolutely for any kind of radical transparency that you would want to think about, I guess. I mean, in the end, so what I believe is that, and I think, I mean in parts this fits with what the whole project is about and that’s basically, I think, why I’m involved with this as well because I believe in these things personally and they fit into what this project accomplishes. So in order to get to, let’s say, the next step of civilisational model that we need for this world to live in, I mean in the next few hundred years or whatever. I’m not sure if you heard about the Kardashev Scheme for example, if that is something  you …

Interviewer:   The Carter ..?

Respondent:  Kardashev Scheme.

Interviewer:   No.

Respondent:  It’s done by some Russian astronomer from the 1960s and it’s a civilisational model to measure …

Interviewer:   Like that? [I’m spelling it out on a bit of paper, Daniel reaches over and corrects the spelling]

Respondent:  Like that, Kardashev.  I mean, it depends a bit on how it gets translated from Russian to… but you should find something like this.

Interviewer:   And he talks about the next step for civilisation?

Respondent:  No, he talks about how can you measure the progress of civilisational advancement. So how can you measure at what stage in its development, in its evolution is this civilisation. And he proposed this model that said that he’s going to measure it just by the energy production of a civilisation. So it’s purely related to, let’s say, your technological advancement of society that will happen basically in whatever society you are. You have pure technological evolution, that represents how advanced you are as a society and it’s independent from your political views, social, religious views, whatever. So it’s a pretty factual view. So right now we are some way in between Type 0 which is like the start of this whole scheme and Type 1, which is the first step. So we’re at point 0.8 I think. [I’m probably looking a bit baffled at this point] It’ll make sense in a second, OK? So a Type 1 civilisation, from an energy production perspective, means that we are harvesting all the energy that we can produce with what is on this planet. So this encompasses like all natural resources like wind, solar, all of that. And if we are, if we have the means to harvest this all as efficiently as possible we are, from an energy production perspective, in a Type 1 civilisation. So if you now abstract the requirements you have for this next kind of world to live in, or civilisational model, then you realise that the whole idea behind Type 1 is that we are living in a global world and that we today realise that whatever we do is happening on a global level, that I need to know if I’m buying certain things in a shop today, from a certain brand, that this has an implication on whatever’s happening on the remote end of the world. So that… this information that is underlying my decisions that I’m taking and basically anyhow that I’m behaving in this whole world is very crucial to make sure that the, let’s say, the holistic development of our global society in some way is, let’s say, at least tending to go into a good direction. So the more people that have access and easy access and full access and detailed access and unfiltered access to all of this information that we have, that is out there, and that in many cases unfortunately people are trying to hide because they know it would change things, so this information becomes really important. Just because we need to be able to take these decisions. So for me it’s basically a matter of being able to sustain society to a point where we, as a species, can actually, I don’t know, survive in the long run just because we had the right information to take decisions. I’m not sure if we got away too far from the question.

Interviewer:   No, actually I think that’s a really interesting way of putting it. I suppose the fear that the paternalistic approach has when they shield people from information is that people can’t cope with all the information that they will use maybe primitive instinctual tools to interpret the information, like ideology or this… and you’ll get the wrong… so an example would be with the corpus of emails that you published from UEA. Unfortunately because there was a very strong ideological barrier, then it didn’t have this effect that maybe it could have done if people were open and ready for information.

Respondent:  Yes, but the main thing is I believe that it’s like Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in his Nobel Prize speech that the only solution to, what is the exact translation?

Interviewer:   The only solution to speech is more speech? No.

Respondent:  No, it’s similar to it. The only solution to the problems we have in society is that everything is everyone’s business. And that, I think, is the key to the information society, is that we have to actually care about what is, what information is, and about the information we have. So that we go from a world that we live in right now where we rely on others taking responsibility for knowing about things but we don’t actually want to know about things, that we are in a society where we expect politicians and the media to filter things for us because we don’t want to know all about it. That we go from this society to a society where we actually want to know. So on a philosophical perspective you could now argue maybe that, let’s say, one of the proofs of being global enough to survive in the long run is that you actually care. And that you’re not just deciding to offshore the responsibility – to offshore? Not offshore but – outsource the responsibility, the knowledge and everything to someone who is taking the decision for you and you’re just like some sheep in a herd running after it. But that actually you participate again. It’s going from spectator sports again to participating in the game, somehow. And if you don’t, you’ll just be sitting there watching it until it’s over and that’s it, basically.

Interviewer:   Yeah. This is a big question. I feel bad about throwing it in, but what happens to privacy in this world?

Respondent:  That’s a good question. In a world where you think that …

Interviewer:   …If everything is everybody’s business …

Respondent:  …Where does the privacy belong?

Interviewer:   Yeah. Because the traditional understanding is that privacy underpins human dignity, which is the foundation of every human right going. But again, I heard Julian say privacy is like terrorism, you know. People invoke it as a fear mechanism when actually… so what happens to privacy?

Respondent:  Yes, the question is where do you draw that barrier? It’s like, I don’t know, hearing of, I don’t know, child abuse cases where people had, I don’t know, their children locked into cellars for years…

Interviewer:   …And nobody knew…

Respondent:  …And nobody knew. Or people… or you find out even worse that people could easily have known if they just had cared about it. Or had just not been this ignorant around… of everyone else, which is sort of a misunderstood privacy again. It’s, I think the question …

Interviewer:   That’s great. “I’ll see your privacy and I’ll raise you paedophilia”. That’s a really good answer.

Respondent:  No [laughs]… you know… it’s… the question is not, I think, about privacy. It’s more a redefinition of something like, not sentiment, but maybe emotional capacity towards others as well. It’s… the question is: Where does privacy begin, and where does your emotional attachment or your emotional binding to another human being begin as well? It’s not so much about… I mean sure there are facts, I mean we’re publishing documents and in many cases this pertains to private information but then where’s the trade-off between the public benefit out of spoiling someone’s privacy because he was doing something bad, and the benefit that the public has? Where’s this trade-off protecting that privacy again? Where’s the trade-off between not being too interested in what your neighbour is doing and maybe understanding that something terrible is happening? So, this is all part of what I think can only be solved by having people that are of a good nature and that have a good horizon, good perspectives in life and emotional… good emotional character somehow. So it all, again, boils down to all of us having access to more information, to understand how complex this world is, how complex human beings are, how complex human emotion is and how all of this affects how people are behaving. It’s similar to this BNP membership list, for example. The question is what do you do? What do you make out of it? So do you torch your neighbour’s car because you understand that he’s a BNP member and you don’t agree with his radical political view? Or do you maybe start, I don’t know, talking to him when you meet him on the street and you start questioning why he has these motives and you understand that he wasn’t born like this or it’s not a genetic issue that he has, but it’s rather that he as a person has been treated in a certain way all over his life, that he has developed these political views. So I totally agree, from my perspective everyone is entitled to his political views, whether left or right, it doesn’t matter, he’s a person and that is his private business. But if that means that for me as a person in this society this has implications because these people are interacting with me then I need to understand their motives and I need to understand why… what maybe we have to change in this world in order to not grow people that are hateful towards others, that have these radical views. But rather to grow people that are happy and that live in a world that they are comfortable with.

Interviewer:   I have one last question, which is going to a different… shifting again. And that is: What is the link between WikiLeaks and CCC [the Chaos Computer Club]? You did a great talk here. Why is this a good audience for you?

Respondent:  So I think one of the main reasons is that, let’s say, we are on the internet, this is how, I mean we’re publishing on the internet and all of these things and we are defending a lot of the freedoms on the internet just because we are engaged in keeping the internet a place for free speech and for publication of information. So this is where there’s a mutual interest in what we do and what the CCC does and what a lot of other technology, computer-oriented cultures do. So this is, let’s say, one part. Then Germany generally, the German computer scene is pretty political as well, which is a good thing – at least compared to, let’s say, from my perspective at least, to the United States for example. They are very more technology-focused here, it’s, I think, traditionally more political, in some way. So this is how I think that fits on a very basic level. And these people know what we are doing, they know… they are… maybe there are a few people in our society that understand the real value of the technology we’re using. So they understand what is at stake that we are trying to defend and what the implications would be if no-one was defending it. And that is, I think, why they know they can value what we are doing maybe much better than my grandfather, for example, who understands why suppression of free speech is an issue, why it’s important that no-one can censor the press, but he does not maybe understand why defending this medium that is just transporting information from A to B and not doing anything else, why defending this medium is so important for future generations to come. Because no-one wants to revert what we’ve done wrong, it’s better to just prevent before something has gone wrong.

Interviewer:   Did you come to conferences like this before you were involved in WikiLeaks?

Respondent:  Yes, sure.

Interviewer:   What’s your background? Journalist, hacker?

Respondent:  No, I’ve had some… I’ve worked in the computer network security industry for quite a while so that’s basically my background and I have a large interest in… I mean as everyone here, as I said… I have some political interests and a big interest in the freedom of speech and freedom of the press and the media and just to preserve the ways of communication for the future. I mean, I understand why that is important, so…

Interviewer:   Excellent. That’s it. Thank you very much. Do you want to say anything more?

Respondent:  That’s all right. I guess we had some good questions. I just hope I was not still too tired.

[End of recorded material]

News of the World, media cartels and the fiscalisation of power: 2009 interview with Julian Assange

I first met Julian Assange at the 2009 Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin. I was there on my very first research trip for my book, Barefoot Into Cyberspace. Back then, I thought that the book would be one part cultural anthropology, two parts eulogy. I was less than a year out of working for the Open Rights Group, and still nursing the bruises from where my ideological zeal had banged up against the cold, hard surfaces that cocoon the institutions of the old world. I feared that the hackers at Chaos were a dying tribe, that the beautiful virtual landscapes they had lovingly sown and tended since the CCC’s founding in 1984 would soon be bulldozed entirely, replaced overnight by the concrete uniformity of sanitized corporate pseudo-public spaces owned by Google, Facebook and Apple.

In short, I had no idea what was about to happen.

Even though I’d come to the conference to meet hackers, not journalists, by the time I’d finished listening to Julian Assange and Daniel “Schmitt” Domscheit-Berg’s talk about the year ahead for WikiLeaks (that’s me 2:24 minutes in to this video of their talk, trying to be clever), I knew I wanted to know more. At first Julian wasn’t sure he wanted to speak to me. But I managed to present him with glowing references from enough mutual friends for him to relax a little.

The result is this interview. It certainly isn’t the best interview I’ve ever done and with hindsight, there are a lot of things I would have liked to have picked him up on, or to have understood more. It’s also a very strange thing to read back now the next 18 months of his and WikiLeaks’ story are behind us. Intentionally or otherwise, some of it is very prescient indeed.

Why am I publishing it now? To draw attention to my book, of course, which is published tomorrow. If you think that makes me unscrupulous, that’s fine, and I’d agree with you up to a point. But I’d also note that I didn’t publish it or try and sell it to anyone the day Julian was arrested and thrown in gaol in December last year, when every news organisation on the planet wanted something – anything – that was fresh on him. That’s not just because I’m incompetent at being unscrupulous. I also didn’t want to contribute to that kind of rabid, voyeuristic public “discourse”, because I don’t think it’s helpful in the long term (a pussy liberal view I’ve no doubt Julian would scorn). As it happens, I was interviewing another one of the folk who helped release the Collateral Murder video that day about everything that was going on, someone who had basically switched off their phone because of the harassment they were undergoing from the international news media. And I didn’t sell that interview to anyone that day either.

In this and subsequent interviews, Julian has talked a lot about the historic record, and it’s to that thing – posterity – I’m offering this now. To reiterate, this interview was conducted 18 months ago: I make no claim, and nor should anyone else, that the opinions expressed in it (for example, around the News of the World phone hacking scandal) are opinions he holds today. The facts have changed and, who knows, the man might have changed too. This is about understanding who he was and what was motivating him before he set out on what was probably the most eventful and scary year of his life.

A few more random notes:

  • This transcript is basically word for word – apologies if it’s hard to read as text
  • I use ellipses (“…”) to denote pauses in conversation, or changes of tack mid-sentence, and not elided speech.
  • Julian had a horrible cough during the whole interview, so if I sound maternal in places, that’s probably why.
  • Given the significance of Julian’s opinion on the Iraq War Inquiry at the time he was giving the interview, I can’t believe I turned off the recorder when I did, but that honestly is when I switched it off and I honestly can’t remember what he went on to say.
  • If there’s enough interest, I might find a way to share the audio of this interview as well.
  • A couple of times, we refer back to a question I asked and he answered the previous day after his talk, about the Climactic Research Centre’s email dump WikiLeaks had released the previous month.

Here goes…

Interview recorded 28 December 2009 at the 26th Chaos Communications Congress, held at the bcc Berliner Conference Centre in Berlin, Germany. “Interviewer” is Becky Hogge, “Respondent” is Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

[Start of recorded material]

Interviewer: Julian, I’ve got a few questions to ask you. First off, on the face of it WikiLeaks looks like it espouses radical transparency, as in “publish everything”. But, since I asked you the question yesterday I’ve been thinking about it and, actually, there are still thresholds that people have to meet before information gets published. So, is it about “publish everything”? Or is it more subtle than that, more complex than that?

Respondent: There’s two answers to this question. So actually I believe as a general stance that publishing should not be interfered with. Not because in some cases it wouldn’t be beneficial for publishing to be interfered with – there’s some cases where it’s clear that freedom of the press is abused. But rather because to have an organisation that censors requires an apparatus of censorship. And that apparatus of censorship is some kind of probably human organisation and it is then vulnerable to corruption. So this is similar to the traditional problem with Communism which is, if you say “From each according to his ability and to each according to her needs”, someone actually has to do that calculation. We can all see that on the surface this is a right and just thing. But behind it lies an organisation which does that transfer and that organisation, through its power, becomes corrupt or vulnerable to influence. So, as a general stance, I believe that publishing should not be interfered with because the organisation, that would do that monitoring, itself would be corrupted by that process. And all the other cases where publishing is… most of the other cases where publishing is free you can see in practice lead to sustainable, democratic government.

Interviewer: And the second answer…

Respondent: The second answer is that we are a limited number of people with a limited number of resources. And our interest in this project is achieving a just reform and improving the quality of civilisation: making civilisation more civil. And therefore we have to spend our limited resources wisely. So we choose to spend those limited resources on the cases that are most likely to achieve just reform. And not on every case, because that would take time away from those most beneficial cases. That said, our criteria is very narrow, as to what we exclude, and clearly defined. That is, provided it has been withheld from the public and is of diplomatic, ethical or historical significance, we will release it, we promise to release it. We may engage in some harm minimisation before we release it – there’s been a few incidences where we contact people before we release something to minimise harm. Otherwise, like a lawyer who promises to represent a client to the court, we promise to represent forces to the court of public opinion.

Interviewer: Am I being lazy or are those narrow criteria clearly stated publicly on your website?

Respondent: They’re clearly stated if you go to make a submission. If you look in the About section, you won’t see it. But if you actually go to make a submission you’ll see it.

Interviewer: OK. What about material that was never meant for publication? Would it always have to have been withheld. So, for example …

Respondent: It has to be material that never was meant for publication.

Interviewer: Of course.

Respondent: Because material that was meant for publication we’re not interested in.

Interviewer: Right. OK. Sure. So I suppose I was confused by your first answer because you spoke about authorities that exist to censor material that was intended for publication and I started thinking about Chinese State censorship where someone would want to …

Respondent: Oh I see what you mean. Right. There are cases that we deal with where something was going through a publishing process and then was censored.

Interviewer: But all sorts of private data is withheld from the public, so I guess that’s where your two qualifiers come in. It has to have been withheld from the public and been of diplomatic or other …

Respondent: Historical, political …

Interviewer: Historical, political significance. And so when you answered my question about the climate change emails the judge of whether that was historically, politically or diplomatically significant …

Respondent: I think it was probably all of those, in this case.

Interviewer: Yeah, OK, OK.

Respondent: So, in other words, we’re not interested in the private emails of private people. Simply because they have no chance for reform effect.

Interviewer: Sure.

Respondent: So it’s not that we are philosophically opposed to necessarily… We are not philosophically opposed to other people publishing those materials, on a case by case basis. Of course, we may think that’s not a wise idea. But it would simply be a waste of our resources to deal with those cases.

Interviewer: Sure. Sure. Why do you think that WikiLeaks has scored so many scoops in its short history compared to the mainstream press? You quoted a really great line yesterday about having scored more scoops than the [Washington Post] in 30 years. Why has that happened?

Respondent: Good question, isn’t it?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Respondent: So one part of me says it’s because no-one else is doing their job, I guess.

Interviewer: And why is no-one doing their job?

Respondent: Another symptom seems to be, for the West, that… I know many, many courageous developing world journalists. I know a guy in Malaysia, Raja Petra, who has four arrest warrants out for him for publishing Malaysia Today from in hiding. Do you see any journalists doing that in the UK? No, of course not. Why aren’t there more journalists in the West being killed?

Interviewer: Because there aren’t so many journalists in the West breaking rules.

Respondent: Well, I mean, journalism is a serious job. It has a serious policing function. Why aren’t there journalists being killed? There’s policemen being killed. It’s a serious job, it has a serious policing function, and police are expected to engage in dangerous situations as part of doing their job. Why aren’t journalists doing their job?

Interviewer: Why aren’t journalists doing their job?

Respondent: I think they have been fiscalised, and the nature of their relationships and the nature of relationships in the West in general is one underpinned by fiscalisation as opposed to politics. In the developing world it’s still mainly politics, not fiscalisation. And I guess they start to become comfortable once they have some influence. They start to become comfortable and they don’t want to lose it… by taking risks. They can still have access to high levels of political power without taking risks and they can still go to all the right cocktail parties without taking risks. There are some exceptions to this but there’s not many.

Interviewer: When you talk about this fiscalisation, I understand that to mean politicians turn into managers, there’s no more ideology any more. Politics is no longer interesting. Is that what you mean? Or are you talking more about …

Respondent: It’s much, much, much broader. The power relationships are done through contracts and bank transfers, and options and shares. And so if there’s a change in political mood it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the values on contracts, it doesn’t change the numbers in banks. I also see this: that in the West perhaps speech is free because it actually has very little ability to change underlying power dynamics, because of the fiscalisation. That is, power interests have put their wealth into a structure which is immune, not totally but mostly immune from political sanctions. Whereas in developing world countries, the basic structure of society is political. And so when the political mood changes, who has power and who has assets can completely change.

Interviewer: But do you see yourself, not yourself but the WikiLeaks project, as something that can mitigate against that or something that can turn that around or both? Or neither?

Respondent: Well, it does a bit but we also face the same problems in dealing with the fiscalisation of power in the West that other mainstream press journalists do. That is, if we release a report on a bank and people who are using that bank, that it may be very complex, extremely complex and as a result may have no political impact. And even if it does have political impact that may not take the money away. Maybe it will introduce some laws down the track, but it’s not actually going to empty those accounts. So that’s not something that we can easily deal with either. We have had a lot of success, I don’t want to suggest we haven’t had a lot of successes in Western countries because we have. But it is really very hard to deal with this evasion of political sanction by placing assets and power relationships into complex fiscal arrangements. We have… I’m not sure that we have a way past that. That’s still a big problem. There are some times we do see a way around that. That is that when we release a leaked document it can be picked up by one of three different groups. It can be picked up by the general public, then it becomes a matter of political will. But if the power relationships have been fiscalised then the political will can’t do much.

Interviewer: It dissipates.

Respondent: And the money can move faster than politics can move as well. Or, it can be picked up by organisations that specialise in understanding the complexity. That can be the police, or it can be opposing intelligence agencies, or it can be opposing banks or sometimes… some type of opposing competition. And they are positioned in such a way that they can understand these complex fiscal relationships, or not even necessarily fiscal but, say, complex military terminology, which also is good at hiding moral travesties… They are specialists and they can deal with it but it’s all done out of the public eye. But nonetheless that reaction provides a disincentive for engaging in the behaviour that led to us receiving that document in the first place.

Interviewer: Sure. And the third …

Respondent: And the third is that the audience also includes the organisation the document came from. So when we receive documents from inside an organisation, it creates disharmony and suspicion and distrust inside the organisation. And that makes it much harder for that organisation to operate in its secret way because, to engage in broadly conspiratorial behaviours, i.e. behaviours they don’t want to let the public know about, you have to have trust inside your own organisation. And by making those organisations distrust each other they are not able to internally communicate quickly and efficiently.

Interviewer: So I’m surprised by how absent the mainstream media has been from any of our discussions so far. When I wrote these questions down I thought, ‘Oh, this will be a discussion about the failure of the mainstream media’ and, you know, either some kind of ameliorative action that you feel you’re taking or some kind of revolutionary action to take beyond what the media can achieve…

Respondent: Well no, the mainstream media is number one, that is, when it becomes of political, of general public interest.

Interviewer: So they come in under public.

Respondent: But the other two cases there’s no press at all. But in the first case, you know, insofar as the politics is important, those cases are really important.

Interviewer: But from some of the ideas you were putting forward yesterday you’ve recognised the mainstream media can still perform a positive function and now you’ve gone into that, but I’m surprised again that you’ve lumped them with the public I suppose because actually there’s a lot of skills specific to journalists which WikiLeaks not needs, needs is the wrong word, but can benefit them, like editorialisation, like the mass audience which is still …

Respondent: Contextualisation and adapting something to a local community and a political mood at that particular moment and making it emotional and hyping it up. You know, very important. And also what a lot of journalists do is, because conflict sells, if you have a relatively abstract document how the hell can you get somebody interested in it? Well, you have to start a fight. So, you ring up one power group and you say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this document? Doesn’t this imply that you’re a pack of bastards?’ And they say, ‘No, no, no. actually it’s not like that.’ And then you call up another power group and you say, ‘Hey, doesn’t this document imply that these other guys are a pack of bastards?’ And they say, ‘Yes, absolutely. They are a pack of bastards.’ Then you go back to the first group and you say, ‘Hey, the second group says you’re a pack of bastards.’ And so now you’ve got a fight that has just happened that day and that’s a conflict between major power groups. And human beings are naturally and rightfully interested in fights between power.

Interviewer: When does WikiLeaks… WikiLeaks must become one of the opponents in some of those stories, like the UEA climate email for example. Is that something you’re prepared for?

Respondent: Well, we weren’t really in that case. But in other cases, sure, we become part of the fight and we have actually, of course, used our entry into one of those fights in order to draw attention to the material itself. In some cases, many cases, no-one’s interested in the material until people try and sue us about it.

Interviewer: How many people involved in WikiLeaks come from the media world, the world of journalism?

Respondent: It’s hard to know because our borders between inside and outside are not clear. So, I mean I deal with former colleagues and new people I know in the press all the time. Are they part of WikiLeaks or not? It’s kind of hard to know. Some… What about a journalist that I have never, or none of us who do this 24 hours a day, have ever met or spoken to but actually they’ve written five or six Wikileaks related stories? They are sort of economically bound up with our destiny. So are they part of Wikileaks or not?

Interviewer: I suppose, yeah that’s a very good point and worth making. But someone started WikiLeaks, some bunch of people had the idea, I guess… saw the opportunity? Because WikiLeaks couldn’t work in any age but this. Or am I wrong there? I mean, WikiLeaks is in a sense a child of the internet, right? I mean, you said, ‘We’re not hackers.’ You look like hackers to me.

Respondent: Yeah. I registered in 1999. So actually the ideas for things like that have been floating around a while. But there’s been a particular intersection of economic forces and understanding that has made this moment… economical.

Interviewer: So you’re part, OK now I need to work out what you mean by economics and how that is different from the fiscal power structures you spoke about before.

Respondent: I just mean that if you want to blow up a balloon, more air has to go into the balloon than comes out. So any organisation that grows in its influence has to have more energy going in than out. And you can talk about that in economic terms. That is, that it’s cheap for it to do its work and people appreciate its work so that means more going into the balloon than coming out, so the balloon gets bigger. So that’s been true for us these past couple of years. But back in 1999 when I and some other people were thinking about the very embryonic forms of these ideas, that wasn’t true.

Interviewer: You, yourself – do you have a technical background, a background in media?

Respondent: Both. Background in activism, media, technical, human rights.

Interviewer: Were you running Tor nodes before… I mean, I don’t know, how technical are you? If you had to give yourself one label …

Respondent: I started one of the first three ISPs in Australia in 1993.

Interviewer: By which you mean: I have a Wikipedia entry, go and look it up and stop asking me these basic questions.

Respondent: No, I don’t have a Wikipedia entry.

Interviewer: Why don’t you have a Wikipedia entry?

Respondent: I’m not into that kind of stuff.

Interviewer: Well, you wouldn’t have written it yourself.

Respondent: Most people encourage their Wikipedia entries. But I also don’t have a website. I don’t have a blog.

Interviewer: So this is my one and only opportunity in the nine minutes I have left to find out about you, or are you going to not disclose very much about your personal background…

Respondent: I can understand why people like to build personal profiles. It can be actually very helpful in pushing your ideas. But it’s not my character to do that.

Interviewer: So let’s talk about ideology versus information instead, for the next eight minutes. Which is… information is not a neutral force. I mean, you can put a bunch of information out in the public domain and it won’t necessarily have the effects that you think it’s going to have or that you think it should have because you can look at it, your biases will always come through. Is that something you knew, is that something you’re learning, is that something that there is any answer to? Is that something that interests you at all?

Respondent: I have an answer to this, or maybe not an answer but a perspective. There is a universe of bits, all the possible… all the information that human beings individually have access to, that have not necessarily turned public yet. Some of those bits are… have a civilising effect on our life on earth. That is, they have a reform effect. And the one that we’re particularly interested in is, that they contribute to a more just civilisation. So the question becomes: How do you find those bits? So we can imagine, say it’s like highlighting them with a colour highlighter. We want to see some highlight on some of these bits because then we can preferentially spend our labours on those bits and not on other bits. And if you’re interested in producing justice then that’s what you want to do. So how do you see this colour highlight? So I say a very good economic signal for this highlight is that certain organisations spend economic effort in suppressing those bits and making sure those bits are not public. And the degree of reform effect that those bits may have is broadly in proportion to the degree of economic effort that is spent on suppressing that material. Because, why do you want to suppress it? Do you want to suppress it because you’re… an organisation wants to suppress something because it’s concerned about the reform effect that the release of that information will have. It’s concerned that that information will have an effect on the world if it is released. Now that organisation or… the authors of the material, ie this suppressive organisation we’re talking about, they know the material best because they wrote it. So without having to understand the material, me as a journalist, can go, ‘I believe that’s interesting material’ because the authors believe it’s interesting material, and they are exposing their interest to the degree that they are suppressing the material.

Interviewer: That’s a very… that’s a sort of public interest argument that’s also used to do long-shot paparazzi shots of celebrities’ children, or stand outside, you know, the houses of starlets to see which man leaves the door. Does that make you uncomfortable at all? Because that’s not about justice.

Respondent: I’ve never heard that argument used in relation to paparazzi but I can see that maybe that’s true. However, I’m a great supporter of the paparazzi, usually. In fact I believe they have a very important role in society and I would actually like to see a public policy paparazzi. I would like to see people taking long-shots of public policy documents and I would like to see a great competition to get hold of documents that might affect public policy, not just celebrities. I think it’s… the concern with paparazzi is a fairly disgusting, liberal, middle class preoccupation with saying that all the interests of the proletariat are debased.

Interviewer: But doesn’t the fact that …

Respondent: But I disagree that they’re debased. I say, in fact, if Berlusconi is fucking eighteen year olds …

Interviewer: Oh, Berlusconi fucking eighteen year olds is news. But what about, you know, someone who isn’t in political life but say in cultural life …

Respondent: Let’s say an opera singer. Let’s take one more remove. Some opera singer in Italy is fucking eighteen year olds. Does that opera singer publicly support Berlusconi?

Interviewer: I see.

Respondent: Yes or no. Because they will have some position. In fact celebrities use their position all the time and are paid even to use their celebrity power to influence companies and politics and the general political mood. So actually they are political animals, and they try and build themselves up and build a profile and then spend that profile by doing favours for people in politics or in business. And sometimes they’re well paid for doing those favours. So, that other people spend effort trying to tear them down and exposing them for who they actually are in their lives, is great. It’s fantastic. And if they, if they’re unhappy with that, well they can stop trying to live different private lives to public lives. Or get out of the game. But that’s the game that they’re in and it’s… the market has, I think correctly, determined that they are of interest… that their true nature is of interest to the people. And it is of interest to the people because they have influence with the people.

Interviewer: So I might throw some more pussy liberal views your way and see how you bat them aside.

Respondent: It’s like this: you see this News… Perhaps I shouldn’t… This is for the book, right? So this News of the World thing, with this using a default password on a couple of, or maybe it was many, but anyway there’s only proof of a couple, of celebrities’ voicemail boxes to listen to some of the voicemails that they were receiving. So was this a terrible, terrible thing? Of course it wasn’t a terrible, terrible thing. This is possibly a wrong thing for those particular people to do. There’s a law of the land and if the land says you shouldn’t listen to people’s voicemails, then of course the people who did listen to this directly should be treated equally under the law like everyone else. But is it a terrible, terrible thing that a newspaper took that end product and maybe turned a little bit of a blind… didn’t look too hard into how private investigators were acquiring this material? Not at all. These celebrities were wielding their influence on the public and that’s why the public were interested in them. In Peru we released 68… maybe 78… over 60 telephone intercepts of politicians speaking to businessmen. And that was the biggest political event in Peru this year according to one of the Peruvian newspapers, and it was on all five major daily front… in all five major dailies’ front pages. These were actual telephone intercepts. These weren’t voicemail boxes, in fact. So I feel that it was just disgraceful that the Guardian wasted its time on that issue, just disgraceful and all they ended up doing was producing a climate that increased the amount of regulation of actually even more important investigative journalism. I mean, the jumping up and down about the fact that News of the World had not actually just reprinted an AP newswire or stolen something from somewhere else or reprinted a press release, but they’d actually done original investigative work about people in this society that its readers were genuinely interested in.

Interviewer: Sure.

Respondent: To my mind it was actually an excuse by the Guardian to mention all these celebrities, to actually talk about… to get tabloid stories into the Guardian. That’s what was really going on. And then this middle class, holier than thou, ‘Oh my god, look at the proletariat and what they’re interested in, aren’t they so debased? Well, it’s a good thing we’re not like that.’ But at the same time sucking in all these tabloid stories into the Guardian. ‘Well we had to do that just to talk about it.’

Interviewer: Well, it’s the oldest trick in the book for them.

Respondent: Yeah, ‘Look what the tabloids are reporting on today. Isn’t it a disgrace?’

Interviewer: ‘Aren’t they sordid? And here’s a lovely front page image of a buxom young starlet.’ Indeed.
Would you, would WikiLeaks ever pay for leaked information?

Respondent: We haven’t, but I have no general philosophical position on that and I think it’s one of the strengths of the UK press versus the US press that it does actually pay for leaks occasionally. The US quality press has generated a cartel to not pay sources. It’s a disgrace. What if the real… What are they saying? If they get a leaked document and it is the real… it should be on the front page. If that’s the real story of the day that the public should know about. But because they have decided to have the cartel, they’re not going to pay for the news that is actually the real news of civilisation on that day. So they have instead swapped that out for something that is not the top story of the day…

Interviewer: Would you have taken the MPs expenses?

Respondent: ..based upon their desire to engage in a cartel, to keep their input costs down. And then the sort of… there’s the moral stance, that journalists get a job out of reporting stories. They have their living expenses paid and they get free lawyers if they’re prosecuted, from the newspaper. The newspaper proprietors get stuff out of it, the delivery men get stuff out of it, the newsagents earn their living etc. And the reader becomes informed. And… But what about the source? Isn’t it actually right that if this is a big story, that the source who is the one who is undergoing the really difficult stuff – this is the person who is actually taking a risk – isn’t it morally right that this person should be compensated for their work to the public?

Interviewer: It’s like… well it could be two ways: You know, they don’t pay women to give their eggs for in vitro fertilisation because you don’t want to incentivise people to become sources, or you know, egg donors…

Respondent: Of course you want to… you do want to… you absolutely… I mean, if you believe in the press, you believe that the public has – sometimes its desires are incorrect – but, that the public is interested in particular things, mostly interested in people who are perceived to have power, and what they’re doing. So if the public is interested in that, and you believe in the fourth estate, then why wouldn’t you want to get as much politically, or… information about power as possible into the hands of the public where they can use it? Why wouldn’t you want to incentivise that path?

Interviewer: I suppose because you would be increasing the risk of them giving you false information for personal gain. Or is that risk already there?

Respondent: That is absolute bullshit.

Interviewer: OK. Tell me why.

Respondent: Absolute, that is the worst, most disgusting abuse of a moral line for cartel behaviour. OK.

Interviewer: Oh, I’m not suggesting that I approve of it.

Respondent: No, I’m just saying I disapprove of it, OK. All right. If you’re a good journalist you can tell the difference between bullshit and non-bullshit. It doesn’t matter whether you paid for it or not. In fact, if you paid for it you might have an idea what motivated the source. It was the money. If you haven’t paid for it, something else has motivated them. And that may be a bit dodgy, OK. If it’s the money at least it’s relatively pure. And then if you’re a good journalist actually you check your facts before you publish. It doesn’t matter whether you paid the source or not. If it’s a leaked document it’s actually really easy to check because you don’t have to check every fucking fact in the document, you just need to make sure that the document itself is a bona fide document…

Interviewer: How can you do that?

Respondent: …Then, you can structure these arrangements in a really easy way. You say, I’m not going to pay the source… We’ll pay the source $500 now and $50,000 in three months’ time if it all turns out to be true. I mean what’s, it’s just so easy. All, everything you hear about ….

Interviewer: Sure, yeah that sounds easy.

Respondent: …Everything you hear about this is just a goddamn lie to justify cartel behaviour of not paying for your input costs. I mean, what are the newspaper… if newspapers said, ‘If we pay for ink, that will buy us the ink producers. And it’s not right that we pay for ink, so we’re going to engage in a cartel and we’re going to either pay nothing or as little as possible for the ink.’ Well, you know what would happen. You would end up with no ink, OK? In the case of ink. But because sources have other motivations than earning a living, they will sometimes give stuff to the newspaper, just like if you had some religious cult that was really into ink, maybe newspapers would still get ink. But it’s clearly going to reduce the quality of your ink. And I say this cartel behaviour in the United States has reduced the quality of the political information that is flowing through it.

Interviewer: And similarly in the UK you’ve seen a lot of cartelisation as well, you’ve seen a lot of concentrated media ownership. I suppose what I worry about, and this will be my last question – I’m sorry, we’ve already gone over half an hour but if you’d answer another one – which is misinformation and disinformation. And I’m interested to know… well, I’m interested to know how you protect yourself against being used as a tool for both. So either getting a whack… I mean the UEA case may be kind of disinformation, the true information is out there but it acts as – or maybe I mean misinformation, or maybe either – but you know… How do you prevent yourself from giving… from publishing false information? And how do you prevent yourself from publishing information that is then taken in the wrong way? Or do you?

Respondent: We make sure that the documents we’re publishing, or videos or other materials, are bona fide documents. Their contents is another matter. What the contents say is up to the public, and to history and to other journalists. Sometimes we will spend attention on the content as well, if we think that no-one else will.

Interviewer: Right. Could you give me an example? [LOTS OF COUGHING FROM JULIAN] I’m so sorry. Are you OK?

Respondent: I just had the flu. Otherwise fine. So, last example. There are so many.

Interviewer: Would the 9/11 one be an example of that? Was that the strategy to avoid 9/11 conspiracy theorists…?

Respondent: No, the 9/11 material I didn’t write any analysis about at all, because I knew that people would pick it up anyway, because the story had already been made by events in the past. And so I knew just by making it available in a sort of exciting way, that was enough for people to analyse it. But there’s frequently material we get, an example is the 2002 US Special Forces Manual on… not this one that I mentioned in the talk, but… on foreign internal defence. So that’s the suppressing insurgencies, sometimes secretly. I knew from past experience that most journalists are diplomatically and militarily ignorant and that, without exclusivity mechanisms as well, have very little motivation to write about that material. So because I know more about this field and I guess I have self-exclusivity. WikiLeaks has …

Interviewer: Yeah, you can be the exclusive if you want.

Respondent: Right, so we have self-exclusivity. So I wrote about that material. And so yeah, we’ve done this quite a few times when we feel material won’t get picked up. But we have so much material we can’t do that enough. So there’s lots of material we release just has no public political effect. It still fits into these two private categories that I spoke about and the third one… a fourth one, which is when people Google for some name, they’ll hit the material directly and they don’t write about it in public but maybe their cousin’s just about to marry someone and they’re searching for them or they’re about to invest in some company and they’re searching for some detail or someone’s about to engage in some military mission to a particular place and they’re searching for information about that. Yes.

Interviewer: But there’s nothing that you’ve taken from the UEA…

Respondent: The UEA? You mean the CRU…

Interviewer: Yeah, sorry. I live next door to it so I think of it differently… But would you have done that differently now, looking back?

Respondent: I have wanted to write an article about that but I haven’t had time. Other people are writing broadly around the issue so I don’t need to. Would I have? Yes, if I knew how big that was going to be I guess we would have. We were very busy then, but we would have spent a little bit of time to maybe write a broad overview. But our source was also very… our source didn’t give us much time either, for that material. So we didn’t… we actually didn’t have that option to slowly write and understand it. There’s a lot of material. I mean, there’s over 1,000 emails and 3,000 other files.

Interviewer: I have it all on my computer now. But I’m waiting for the independent review to find out what all of it says. Maybe that’s something …

Respondent: The independent review may not be as independent as you think it is either.

Interviewer: No, well it’s a former of civil servant …

Respondent: You know, no-one, I’m not sure I know of any case where I’ve ever seen independent commission of anything.

Interviewer: Yeah, no of course. You’re right, that’s naïve. I was just saying I haven’t got the motivation to read everything.

Respondent: Why, who the hell would want to appoint an independent commission? You don’t know the result. It’s extremely dangerous, politically. People only appoint commissions when they believe the result will be in a particular direction, or spun in a particular direction.

Interviewer: Do you think that’s even the case for the Iraq war enquiry now? I’ll switch this off…

[End of recorded material]

Why I signed the Wikileaks NDA

Posted today on New Statesman:

I confess I didn’t think too hard before I signed a non-disclosure agreement with WikiLeaks in October 2010. It helped that I wasn’t planning on doing anything to undermine the organisation’s operations, that the penalty mentioned for doing so was a mere £100,000 – and not the £12m detailed in the document released by the New Statesman last week – and that, unlike last week’s document, there was no clause gagging me from speaking about Wikileaks’s own operations. I skim-read the document, noted how badly drafted it was, saw it was to expire a fortnight or so later, and took my chances.

As a result, I got something I have taken to regarding as a quaint souvenir from the heady days of information anarchism, embellished with the signature of the world’s most wanted man. I’m not particularly proud of this attitude, especially as I ended up doing almost no work for the organisation in exchange for my trinket.

What a cynical and misleading headline for a blog post, you might be thinking, and you’d be right. But then, isn’t that sort of eye-catching sensationalism the stock-in-trade of the mainstream press? Yes, it is, and that’s the point.

Read the rest here.