American officials say Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks probably have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services. But the agendas of WikiLeaks and the Kremlin have often dovetailed.
A former Monsanto Co executive who tipped the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to accounting improprieties involving the company’s top-selling Roundup product has been awarded more than $22 million from the agency’s whistleblower program, the executive’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
In return for helping states to enforce securities fraud laws and protect residents from financial harm, confidential informants earn a piece of the penalty.
Tony Fullman is a middle-aged former tax man and a pro-democracy activist. But four years ago, a botched operation launched by New Zealand spies meant he suddenly found himself deemed a potential terrorist — his passport was revoked, his home was raided, and he was placed on a top-secret National Security Agency surveillance list. The extraordinary covert operation, revealed Sunday by Television New Zealand in collaboration with The Intercept, was launched in 2012 after New Zealand authorities believed they had identified a group planning to violently overthrow Fiji’s military regime. As part of the spy mission, the NSA used its powerful global surveillance apparatus to intercept the emails and Facebook chats of people associated with a Fijian “thumbs up for democracy” campaign. The agency then passed the messages to its New Zealand counterpart, Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB. One of the main targets was Fullman, a New Zealand citizen, whose communications were monitored by the NSA after New Zealand authorities, citing secret evidence, accused him of planning an “an act of terrorism” overseas. But it turned out that the claims were baseless — Fullman, then 47, was not involved in any violent plot. He was a long-time public servant and peaceful pro-democracy activist who, like the New Zealand and Australian governments at that time, was opposed to Fiji’s authoritarian military ruler Frank Bainimarama. Details about the surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. More than 190 pages of top-secret NSA logs of intercepted communications dated between May and August 2012 show that the agency used the controversial internet surveillance system PRISM to eavesdrop on Fullman and other Fiji pro-democracy advocates’ Gmail and Facebook messages. Fullman is the first person in the world to be publicly identified a confirmed PRISM target. At the time of the spying, New Zealand’s surveillance agency was not permitted to monitor New Zealand citizens. Despite this, it worked with the NSA to eavesdrop on Fullman’s communications, which suggests he is one of 88 unnamed New Zealanders who were spied on between 2003 and 2012 in operations that may have been illegal, as revealed in an explosive 2013 New Zealand government report. In response to questions for this story, the NSA declined to address the Fullman case directly. A spokesperson for the agency, Michael Halbig, said in a statement to The Intercept that it “works with a number of partners in meeting its foreign-intelligence mission goals, and those operations comply with U.S. law and with the applicable laws under which those partners operate.” Antony Byers, a spokesperson for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies, said he would not comment “on matters that may or may not be operational.” The country’s spy agencies “operate within the law,” Byers said, adding: “We do not ask partners to do things that would circumvent the law, and New Zealand gets significant value from our international relationships.” A Fijian military soldier stands guard on Parliament grounds. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images Unexpected Twist Fullman was born in Fiji in 1965 and emigrated to New Zealand when he was about 21. He became naturalized as a New Zealand citizen and spent most of his working life in the country, including more than 20 years in various roles at the government’s tax department, where he was based out of offices first in Auckland and later in the capital city of Wellington. In his spare time, Fullman worked as an amateur boxing judge and referee and helped out once a month at a Wellington soup kitchen run by a Christian charity. Between 2001 and 2003, he attended graduate school, earning two masters degrees: one in public management, the other in information systems. And in 2009, he decided to return to Fiji after he was offered a job as chief executive of the Fiji Water Authority. The move back to Fiji, however, led to a dramatic and unexpected twist in the course of his life — partly due to an old childhood friend. Fullman and Ratu having dinner in Fiji, December 2005. Photo: Tony FullmanFullman had grown up in Fiji in the port town of Levuka. There, during the 1960s, his mother had worked as secretary to Kamisese Mara, an influental local politician who went on to serve as Fiji’s prime minister between 1970 and 1992. Kamisese had a young son — Ratu Tevita Mara — who was about the same age as Fullman. The two boys became best friends, together attending school, playing rugby, and going on trips. “Weekends we would go fishing or go up to his mother’s farm, help out on the farm,” Fullman recalled in an interview with The Intercept. “We spent a lot of time together. He was like a brother to me.” When Fullman left Fiji for New Zealand in his early 20s, he kept in contact with Ratu through phone and email. And by the time Fullman returned to Fiji in 2009 to take the water authority job, Ratu had become a powerful military officer, serving as the Fijian army’s chief of staff. But the political situation in Fiji was now highly unstable, and Ratu was at the center of some of the tensions. The country had experienced three military coups between 1987 and 2006 that were rooted in ethnic and religious divisions. Following the latest coup in 2006, which had brought authoritarian ruler Bainimarama to power, the military government and police were accused of systematically cracking down on freedom of speech and arresting critics and human rights defenders. Ratu was dissatisfied with the leadership and, in May 2011, he became embroiled in a high-profile dispute with the Bainimarama regime. He was accused of plotting to overthrow the government and charged with uttering a seditious comment. He was hauled before a court, where he was threatened with imprisonment for allegedly uttering the words, “This government is fuck all.” Ratu was freed on bail while the case against him remained ongoing. But he was concerned about the prospect of ultimately receiving a lengthy jail term. He decided to take a drastic course of action — and fled Fiji, escaping on a boat to nearby Tonga. Following Ratu’s dramatic getaway, Fullman was questioned by the Fijian military. It had found records of phone calls between him and Ratu dated from shortly before Ratu had left. Facing potential punishment over allegations that he helped Ratu escape, Fullman decided that he too would have to promptly leave Fiji. The NSA surveillance file shows a photo of Fullman that he uploaded to Facebook. Source: NSA surveillance file on Fullman NSA Spying By 2012, Fullman had moved to Sydney, Australia, where he was living with his sister and her family. Alongside Ratu and other former Fiji residents, he was working with a group called the Fiji Movement for Freedom and Democracy, which was campaigning against the Bainimarama regime. In early July 2012, Fullman and Ratu traveled to New Zealand, where they held meetings with some of the group’s supporters in Auckland. The meetings appear to have attracted the attention of New Zealand’s spies — and culminated in an extraordinary sequence of events: Fullman’s home was raided, his passport revoked, and both he and Ratu were put under top-secret NSA surveillance. Ratu Tevita Mara pictured in a video made for the pro-democracy campaign. Source: YoutubeA New Zealand government source familiar with the operation that targeted the democracy group, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information, told The Intercept that an investigation was launched after New Zealand’s equivalent of the FBI, the Security Intelligence Service, bugged telephone calls in which it believed it heard people discussing a plot to violently overthrow Bainimarama. According to the source, security officials were “very excited,” thinking they “finally had some baddies, real live terrorists in New Zealand.” At the time, the New Zealand government had been keeping close tabs on the political situation in Fiji, which consists of some 333 small islandslocated about a three-hour flight north of Auckland. Fiji has historically maintained strong trading and tourism links with New Zealand, but the relationship had soured in the aftermath of the 2006 military coup. The New Zealand government expressed its opposition to the Bainimarama regime’s takeover, placing sanctions on Fiji and calling for the restoration of democracy. By mid-2012, however, relations between the countries were beginning to thaw. New Zealand government officials were openly discussing the possibility of ending the sanctions, in part because they may have been concerned that Fiji seemed to be moving closer to forming an allegiance with China and other Asian nations. At 7am on July 17, 2012, about a week after Fullman had returned to Australia from the trip to New Zealand, a team of more than a dozen Australian security agents and two Australian federal police detectives arrived at his sister’s home in Sydney looking for weapons and other evidence of the suspected plot. They seized computers, phones and documents from the premises and confiscated Fullman’s passport on behalf of the New Zealand authorities. Teams of New Zealand Security Intelligence Service officers and police simultaneously raided Fullman’s former apartment in the Wellington suburb of Karori and the homes of at least three other Fiji Freedom and Democracy movement supporters in Auckland, seizing their computers and other property. The same day that the raids took place, New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs Chris Tremain signed a notice canceling Fullman’s passport. The notice said the minister had canceled the passport based on secret details provided by the Security Intelligence Service. “The majority of that information is classified but in summary I have good reason to believe that … you are involved in planning violent action intended to force a change of Government in a foreign state; and you intend to engage in, or facilitate, an act of terrorism overseas.” Fullman was baffled by the allegations, which he denied, and sought legal advice to challenge them. At the same time, unknown to him, he had also entered onto the radar of the world’s most powerful surveillance agency: the NSA. Between early July and early August 2012, New Zealand spies appear to have requested American assistance to obtain the emails and Facebook communications of Fullman and Ratu, including from a “democfiji” email address used by Fullman to organize events for the campaign group, whose slogan was “thumbs up for democracy.” The NSA’s documents contain a “priority list” that names the two men as “Fiji targets” alongside their Gmail addresses and an account number identifying Fullman’s Facebook page. The documents indicate that the NSA began intercepting messages associated with Ratu’s accounts on about the July 9, 2012 and on August 3 started spying on Fullman’s messages. The agency also obtained historic messages from the two men dating back to the beginning of May 2012. A slide from a leaked NSA document about PRISM, published by the Washington Post in 2013. Source: Washington Post/NSA To conduct the electronic eavesdropping, the NSA turned to one of its most controversial surveillance programs: PRISM. The agency uses PRISM to secretly obtain communications that are processed by major technology companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo, as the Washington Post and The Guardian first reported in 2013. Almost all of the more than 190 pages of intercepted Gmail and Facebook messages from Fullman and Ratu is headed “US-984XN,” the code for surveillance that is carried out under PRISM. The pages reveal that the legal justifications NSA cited for the surveillance were selected inconsistently. Most of Fullman’s emails and Facebook messages were obtained as “foreign government” targets, while others such as his bank statements and Facebook photographs were collected under the category of “counter-terrorism.” The classification markings on the files — “REL TO USA/NZ” — make clear that the intercepted communications were to be released to New Zealand spies. In one of the files showing Fullman’s intercepted emails and Facebook chats, the NSA explicitly noted that the intercepted material had been forwarded to its New Zealand intelligence counterpart, the GCSB. (New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes, a surveillance alliance that also includes electronic eavesdropping agencies from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.) The NSA collected Fullman’s bank records. (Reproduced here with Fullman’s consent.) Source: NSA The NSA surveillance, however, produced no evidence of a plot. The intercepted messages contained personal information and typical Facebook chit chat. The NSA collected Fullman’s bank statements, which were attached to his emails and showed his visits to a coffee shop, a pharmacy, and purchases at a shoe store. There was correspondence about Fullman working to establish a tourism venture on an island in Tonga, emails about a birthday party, many communications about the Fijian pro-democracy group’s blog posts, and details about alleged abuses committed by Fijian military officials. There were discussions about an unwell mother and a young relative with a confidential health problem. A top-secret intelligence document even reproduced a photograph of Fullman’s silver Mitsubishi station wagon alongside details of its precise location. But there was not a single hint of any plans for violence or other clandestine activity. It would soon become clear that there was no evidence to support the New Zealand authorities’ suspicions. And gradually, their case would fall apart. On 16 April, 2013, the internal affairs minister, Tremain, wrote again to Fullman. Contrary to the earlier letter, Tremain now said that “based on advice” provided by the Security Intelligence Service, there were “no longer national security concerns” about Fullman. The cancellation of his passport was lifted “without requiring an application for a replacement, or payment of a fee.” The change of position followed Fullman initiating legal action against the New Zealand government in the Wellington High Court two months earlier. The NSA intercepted Fullman’s discussions about an unwell mother and a young relative with a confidential health problem. Another of the pro-democracy members whose home was raided during the operation was former Fiji sports minister and then-grocery store owner Rajesh Singh. After his home was searched by police and security agents, Singh complained to New Zealand’s inspector general of intelligence and security, Andrew McGechan, who questioned the officers involved and reviewed the investigation. His report said the Security Intelligence Service had applied for a domestic intelligence warrant “against a number of individuals” because of “suspicions of a plan to inflict violence.” But McGechan identified neither unlawful behavior by Singh nor evidence of the supposed terrorist plot. His May 2014 report said: “There is nothing in the issue of the Warrant itself or in the questions and answers that followed … which comes even near to approaching proof of criminal activity or participation in terrorism.” He noted that “no police activity has resulted, or charges been laid.” The Intercept asked Fullman if he or Ratu had ever heard of — or been involved in — discussions about overthrowing or assassinating Bainimarama. Far from denying it, he said that sort of talk happened frequently within Fijian pro-democracy circles. However, he said it was just angry ranting, when the alcohol was flowing, something completely different from real plans. “People would say things like, ‘Please can we just hire the Americans to send one drone to Fiji to get rid of those bastards’, or ‘Let me go back to Fiji and I’ll just get a knife and stab him!’” Fullman said. “It’s venting. It’s our way of maintaining sanity — we just sit and bitch about everything. We don’t want violence. We want something where there’s control, a planned approach. More to the effect where it’s the people who protest and say, ‘Enough is enough. This is wrong. We want to go back to the old constitution and have elections.’” The New Zealand security agency may not have recognized the difference between eavesdropped venting and an actual plot, prematurely launching its raids and broad secret surveillance operation without any clear evidence. Four days after the raids on Fullman and his fellow campaigners, New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully traveled to Fiji for trade talks. Fullman believes that the timing was no coincidence — and that the raids targeting the pro-democracy group were used by the New Zealand government as a bargaining chip to curry favor with the Bainimarama regime. “The minister can go to Fiji and say, ‘look we saved you, let’s be friends again, let’s start talking about how we can help each other again’,” Fullman says. “It was part of the frame up.” No charges were ever brought against any of the Fiji campaigners, yet the ramifications of the case are still felt. Fullman says he gets pulled out of airline queues for security searches every time he travels, and he has had trouble finding work since news reports following the raids in 2012 linked him to a Fiji assassination plan. He told The Intercept that he was never notified that his private communications had been monitored by New Zealand with the help of American counterparts at the NSA — possibly illegally — nor did he ever receive an apology or compensation for his treatment. As he recalls the saga, there is no anger in Fullman’s voice, only disappointment. Since the affair, he has not felt like returning to live in New Zealand and plans to stay in Australia for the foreseeable future. “To be betrayed by your own country, it’s really hard,” he says, letting out a sigh. “It puts a sour taste in your mouth.” Documents published with this story: Tony Fullman NSA files The post In Bungled Spying Operation, NSA Targeted Pro-Democracy Campaigner appeared first on The Intercept.
The D.N.C. emails were in the public interest but they also show how reckless and agenda-driven WikiLeaks has become.
In recent months, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers. Clinton celebrates her role in killing #Libya’s head of state which led to ISIS takeover https://t.co/E2oAtKJ4ei pic.twitter.com/6ESnLhsQtV — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2016 Does "Board after party" image illustrate HRC’s poor WikiLeaks poll results–entitled, uncool and unaware of it? pic.twitter.com/ht01ZlP8Z0 — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 30, 2016 US poll: Who will you vote to become President? — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 29, 2016 Bernie Sanders Delegates drop this Wikileaks Banner as Hillary Clinton speaks #DNCinPHL #DNCLeak #FeelTheBern pic.twitter.com/oVGkQIc4Qu — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 29, 2016 Poll of polls: Trump now favored to win election after Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton #DNCLeak https://t.co/DOooNoC7hO #DNCinPHL — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 29, 2016 Audience at DNC turns on Bernie Sanders after he says "we must elect Hillary Clinton" following #DNCLeak https://t.co/yJszgko2XK #DNCinPHL — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 25, 2016 Hillary Clinton’s showy rewarding of corruption by DWS is an ill wind for the corruption-overton-window of a future presidency. — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 24, 2016 Hillary Clinton has stolen our innovative WikiLeaks twitter logo design. Compare: @WikiLeaks vs @HillaryClinton pic.twitter.com/mifka4mXf4 — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 12, 2015 This has puzzled some of the group’s supporters, and led to speculation that the site’s Australian founder, Julian Assange, had timed the release of emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee to drive a wedge between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The publication of emails that revealed an anti-Sanders agenda inside the Democratic party was certainly welcomed by the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. The Wikileaks e-mail release today was so bad to Sanders that it will make it impossible for him to support her, unless he is a fraud! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2016 @realDonaldTrump That is https://t.co/kpFxYDoNyX — everyone can see for themselves. pic.twitter.com/JBEoTSZocO — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 23, 2016 But it should come as no surprise to anyone who looks back at the founding principles of WikiLeaks that Assange — who has clearly stated his distaste for the idea of the former secretary of state becoming president — would make aggressive use of leaked documents to try to undermine her. As Raffi Khatchadourian explained in a New Yorker profile of the WikiLeaks founder in 2010, “Assange, despite his claims to scientific journalism, emphasized to me that his mission is to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events.” To Assange, Khatchadourian wrote, “Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.” In other words, Assange’s project has been from the start more like opposition research than dispassionate reporting. His goal is to find dirt in the servers of powerful individuals or organizations he sees as corrupt or dangerous, and bring them down by exposing it. As he memorably told Der Spiegel in 2010, “I enjoy crushing bastards.” His recent focus on “crushing” Clinton but not Trump has led some to ask Assange if he is worried about helping to elect someone who might be even more hostile to him — let alone to the causes of justice and peace that have motivated Wikileaks’ previous disclosures. Asked recently by Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” if he does prefer Trump over Clinton, Assange replied, “You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?” Speaking to Bill Maher on Friday night from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been effectively confined for more than four years, Assange joked about hacking Trump’s tax returns, but added, “from the perspective of WikiLeaks trying to protect its sources, you have really two very bad presidential candidates.” In an address to the American Green Party convention on Saturday, Assange reiterated that both major party candidates for the presidency were “horrific,” but argued that “it certainly doesn’t make as much difference as people say,” which of them gets elected. What is important, he said, is to build political pressure “to discipline and hold to account and check the abuses of power during the next four years.” Standing ovation for Julian Assange of @wikileaks at the #GNCinHOU pic.twitter.com/duXmSrAFF3 — Green Party of MN (@MnGreens) August 6, 2016 To better understand Assange’s recent intervention in the U.S. election, it helps to look more closely at a sort of manifesto he wrote as he was creating WikiLeaks. The same month that WikiLeaks.org went live, in December of 2006, Assange posted an essay on his blog, “Conspiracy as Governance,” in which he explained his theory that authoritarian regimes — and western political parties — maintain power by conspiring to keep the public in the dark, through “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” In order for the people to regain control of the political system, Assange argued, it is necessary to find ways of “throttling the conspiracy,” like disrupting the ability of the conspirators to communicate secretly. With that in mind, Assange wrote, “let us consider two closely balanced and broadly conspiratorial power groupings, the US Democratic and Republican parties.” He continued, “Consider what would happen if one of these parties gave up their mobile phones, fax and email correspondence — let alone the computer systems which manage their subscribers, donors, budgets, polling, call centres and direct mail campaigns? They would immediately fall into an organisational stupor and lose to the other.” A decade later, by releasing thousands of unredacted emails and voice-mail messages hacked from the Democratic Party — in a database that makes it easy to search for the social security numbers of donors, as well as their passport and credit card details — Assange was finally able to put his theory into practice, by attempting to throttle one of the “conspiratorial power groupings” that selects candidates to run the U.S. government. Assange’s attack on the DNC certainly revealed hypocrisy within the party, and led to the resignations of four senior officials, but his decision to not redact personal information from those documents — or from a second cache of emails hacked from a Turkish political party — also led to criticism from some longtime supporters, including Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. 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 My colleague Glenn Greenwald also told Slate last week that he was troubled by the fact that WikiLeaks had abandoned its previous policy of redaction. “There were tons of redactions when they were releasing Pentagon documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars,” he noted. “And they even wrote a letter to the State Department before they released the cables requesting the State Department’s help in figuring out which information ought to be withheld.” Although Assange has spoken of the dumping of “pristine,” unedited documents as a philosophical principle — and his biographer Andrew O’Hagan reported that the collapse of his working relationship with the editors of the New York Times and the Guardian was partly fueled by disagreements about redaction — it seems possible that the intense pressure on the organization has also made it nearly impossible to carry out careful editing of every document it obtains. Assange continues to be confined to Ecuador’s embassy in London — which has been described as illegal, “arbitrary detention” by a United Nations panel — and Sarah Harrison, his investigations editor, has chosen to live in exile in Berlin since helping Snowden get from Hong Kong to Russia, heeding legal advice that she could face prosecution if she tried to return to Britain. Whatever the reason, it is difficult to see a public-interest argument for making public some of what was contained in the DNC files. One of the voice-mail recordings, for instance, was a conversation between a staffer and his young child during a visit to a zoo, which appears to have been left by accident, following a pocket-dial. The staffer’s phone number was made available, much to the delight of some Trump supporters. The Wikileaks voicemail leaks are very damning now we have names and phone numbers and voices — Made In America (@dileximan) July 30, 2016 As the Turkish scholar Zeynep Tufekci explained in the Huffington Post, a trove of Turkish-language emails WikiLeaks released last month, inaccurately presented as private messages from members of Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, also included little of public interest but did reveal the private information of ordinary citizens. RELEASE: 294,548 emails from Turkey’s ruling political party, Erdo?an’s AKP #AKPemails https://t.co/1Yof7YZpH7 pic.twitter.com/GGzGS8oUrY — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 19, 2016 To make matters worse, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed also shared a link to another cache of hacked Turkish documents that included home addresses or phone numbers for every female voter in 79 of Turkey’s 81 provinces. You know the safety, privacy and misrepresentation of millions of people in other countries MATTERS too? Maybe not to Wikileaks, but to us? — Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) August 1, 2016 Unfortunately, for believers in the WikiLeaks project, Assange has responded to criticism of his redaction-free document dumps by attacking even longtime supporters who have spoken out. The @wikiLeaks Twitter account the site’s founder uses to annotate documents and rebut critics replied angrily to Snowden’s message about the desirability of some sort of selective editing, accusing the NSA whistleblower whom Assange helped get asylum in Russia of angling for a pardon from Clinton. @Snowden Opportunism won’t earn you a pardon from Clinton & curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows https://t.co/4FeygfPynk — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 28, 2016 WikiLeaks also suggested, wrongly, that Tufekci is an “apologist” for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a leader she has, in fact, frequently criticized for his opposition to internet freedom. I am … printing this one and putting in my wallet next time I’m in Turkey. "Hi, I’m an Erdogan apologist." ???? pic.twitter.com/mduPcb9qlV — Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) July 25, 2016 Of course, Assange is hardly alone in being quick to denounce his critics on Twitter, but the way in which he uses the @wikileaks account these days matters to the overall functioning of the organization because it is the only obvious way for outsiders to provide feedback on the annotation or analysis of the documents. Despite the site’s name, WikiLeaks never developed into a Wikipedia-like website that welcomes, or facilitates crowd-sourced annotation and vetting of the documents it obtains. If you spot an error on Wikipedia, you can fix it, but WikiLeaks does not allow for that kind of collaborative fact-checking. That the site was originally intended to function more like a crowd-sourced, wiki platform was suggested by the Wikipedia-like annotation that accompanied the very first document uploaded by WikiLeaks in 2006. (Although it was described as a “leak,” that document — an order from an Islamist rebel leader in Somalia that the site’s editors could not verify as authentic — was not provided by a whistleblower, but stolen from Chinese hackers by a WikiLeaks activist who intercepted traffic flowing through a Tor network server he owned.) Since the crowd-sourced aspect of WikiLeaks proved difficult to implement, and the site no longer relies mainly on collaborations with news organizations to vet and make sense of the vast troves of documents it obtains, Assange has, over time, taken on the role of the organization’s main analyst. Before the advent of Twitter, analysis and annotation written by Assange and his volunteers filled a section of the WikiLeaks website. Lately, though, most of the interpretation of the documents has been done only in short bursts on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed, where the site’s founder draws attention to items he thinks are important, and tries to provide some context and analysis. The micro-blogging format has obvious limits, however, when it comes to making complex annotations. The generally hostile tone of the WikiLeaks Twitter feed in response to even well-intentioned efforts to fact-check the group’s work has also severely hampered the project’s ability to use crowd-sourcing to properly annotate and vet the documents it posts. (I know this from first-hand experience, having been denounced by @wikileaks last month for pointing to a factual error in one of the group’s tweets about a DNC email.) This criticism might seem like a narrow, technical objection — and it is certainly the case that journalists independently continue to help verify and interpret the most significant documents Assange publishes — but WikiLeaks’ lack of scrutiny of the documents it obtains, and its founder’s hostility to constructive criticism from outsiders, could be a significant problem if it is ever duped into publishing a forgery. What if, as the cybersecurity consultant Matt Tait asked last month in relation to the DNC emails, a source — like, say, a hacker working for a Russian intelligence agency — provided WikiLeaks with a cache of documents that was tampered with in order to smear a political candidate? In a post on the blog Lawfare, Tait explained that he had spent some time looking through the DNC files for any signs of a fake email planted among the genuine ones: The metadata analysis I did on the leaked documents that day was almost by accident. I was actually looking for evidence of something much more frightening and which still keeps me up at night: What if the documents were mostly real, but had been surgically doctored? How effective would a carefully planted paragraph in an otherwise valid document be at derailing a campaign? How easily could Russia remove or sidestep an inconvenient DNC official with a single doctored paragraph showing “proof” of dishonest, unethical or illegal practices? And how little credibility would the sheepish official have in asserting that “all of the rest of the emails are true, but just not the one paragraph or email that makes me look bad?” WikiLeaks is justly proud of its record to date of not being duped by forgers. “The materials that we release are pristine,” Assange told Bill Maher on Friday. “We’re really good at this, we have a ten-year perfect record of having never got it wrong in relation to the integrity of what we’ve released.” Still, given that WikiLeaks is now unwilling or unable to closely scrutinize all of the documents it obtains, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where something like this could occur — and that possibility itself serves to diminish the group’s credibility as a source of unvarnished truth. Even so, for an organization so wounded by official persecution, it remains capable of inflicting remarkable damage. Although the DNC leaks have so far failed to derail Clinton’s campaign, Assange has hinted in recent interviews that he has more material on the candidate that he plans to release soon. While it is unclear why Assange would hold on to any secrets that might torpedo Clinton, if he has something like that, the fear of a WikiLeaks-powered October surprise must still haunt the dreams of her advisors. Sign up for The Intercept Newsletter here.The post What Julian Assange’s War on Hillary Clinton Says About WikiLeaks appeared first on The Intercept.