Wikileaks Mystique Blown Apart by Leaked Employee Contract
When Wikileaks caught the international eye last year with their infamous “Collateral Murder” video and the Afghan War Diaries, the clandestine site was greeted as the second coming of journalism, as a heroic cadre with only the best intentions: truth and justice. That’s not necessarily true.
As the five-year old organization founded by Julian Assange becomes more established, Wikileaks appears more and more like an opportunistic grab bag than a group dedicated to the free dissemination of information.
A newly leaked internal contract shows that Assange makes employees sign pledge not to distribute any of the organization’s classified data.
Doing so, the document explains, would result in the “loss of opportunity to sell the information; loss of reputation; [and] loss of opportunity to execute future agreements.” Failure to comply, the contract reads, will result in a 12 million pound fine, close to $20 million, which Wikileaks describes as “typical open market valuation.”
It’s not unusual for news agencies to present employees with contracts. Wikileaks, however, has always tried to set itself apart from the big networks and outlets, presenting itself as a rogue warrior doing the work too controversial or explosive for the media establishment. (“Courage is contagious” has become the group’s motto.)
These contracts, and the fact Wikileaks regularly sues allied newspapers, are perhaps the most black-and-white proof that Assange and “non-profit” Wikileaks aren’t in the news business simply for journalistic ideals and the free flow of information.
“One suspects that the various brave and well-intentioned people who have provided the leaked information would be quite unaware of – and perhaps horrified by – the express commercial intentions of WikiLeaks, as evidenced by this document,” remarked David Allen Green from the ‘New Statesman,’ which first published the document.
Those of us with a healthy dose of cynicism realized this day was coming — people on the left are not necessarily more noble than those on the right — but to people who blindly idolized Assange and Wikileaks simply because they took on governments and powerful people, this will be a kick in the pants.
This isn’t to say that Wikileaks doesn’t serve a journalistic purpose, it most certainly does, but it’s also not the knight in shining armor so many would have liked to believe, because capitalistic self-interest can and will arise wherever it can find fertile ground, even amongst “radicals” like Assange.