WikiLeaks and Russia
I heard that WikiLeaks worked with the Russians to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. Is this true?
- The WikiLeaks submission system is designed to protect the identity of sources, making it difficult to determine the identity of sources — let alone their motivations.
- Even if the identity and motivations of a source could be determined, those elements are outweighed by core journalistic questions: is the information accurate, newsworthy, and is sharing it in the public interest? Withholding information from the public simply because of speculation over a source’s agenda violates the journalistic principles of WikiLeaks — and those of most journalists.
- Most traditional journalists would have published under these circumstances. Some did. In fact, WikiLeaks was not the initial publisher of the materials obtained from the DNC. Many leading journalists have gone on record saying that they would have published these materials if they had been given them.
What is Julian Assange’s relationship with the Russian government?
Julian has no ties to the Russian government.
Some media reports have sought to portray a link between Julian and the Russian government by noting that a handful of Russian journalists were among the hundreds of people to visit Julian during his time in the Ecuadorian embassy. During this time, Julian’s visitors included people of all political persuasions — even Russian dissidents who oppose the Kremlin.
Some have also sought to portray a link between Julian and the Russian government by speculating that the Russian government may have contemplated offering Julian assistance in avoiding extradition to the United States. Media reports on this topic are vague. Even those outlets alleging that a plan was discussed call the details “sketchy,” note that it was quickly abandoned, and report that some discussion took place amongst government officials — and not Julian or his team. Reports also make it clear that Julian rejected any plans to help him escape the embassy, as those would send a message that the U.S. had won.
A senior Ecuadorian diplomat has gone on record stating his belief that the new Ecuadorian government was behind the claims of a link between Julian and Russia, and that those claims were part of a broader effort to distance themselves from Julian and “lower the political cost” of Ecuador surrendering to U.S. and U.K. pressure.
Has WikiLeaks ever released material critical of the Russian government?
Yes. WikiLeaks publishes material from whatever sources are available, as long as the information is accurate, newsworthy, and its release is in the public interest.
WikiLeaks has published over 600,000 files related to Russia and nearly 80,000 files mentioning Vladimir Putin. One of WikiLeaks’ most significant disclosures was Spy Files Russia, a collection released in 2017 which included documents on surveillance contractors in Russia and on domestic spying operations.
In 2012, WikiLeaks also published over 2 million documents from Syria, a close Russian ally. Many of these documents concerned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. That data set derives from 680 Syria-connected entities and includes 68,000 emails in Russian.