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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Will Wikileaks "salt" the Clinton-Podesta emails before the election?

Fans of the TV series Deadwood will be familar with this lesser known definition of the word "salt." In that Old West series the owner of the Gem Saloon "salts" what he thinks is a worthless claim, with gold nuggets, so that he can swindle a naive prospector from the East by selling it to him. Salting is a tried and true method of the con artist.

So far, the "revelations" stemming from the almost daily release of Clinton/Podesta emails by Wikileaks have been less than Earth shaking, but they have largely established the credibility and authenticity of the dump. Why is Wikileaks trickling out the emails this way instead of publishing them all at once as they've done in the past? This could be the setup. For the sting, Julian Assange could "salt" a release just days before the election with an email that is either fake or altered, but a real "bombshell," a revelation so significant that it might change the outcome of the election, and with little on no time for his opposition, Hillary Clinton, to debunk or disprove it.

This is not a prediction of what will happen but it is a heads up about what could happen. Both the public and the media need to be aware of how this could be played by Wikileaks or the strong power that is feeding it.

Whatever happened to Wikileaks?

Although Wikileaks was founded by Sunshine Press in Iceland in 2006 and already claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year, it didn't gain wide notice until April 2010 when it shocked the world with the release the gun camera video of the 2007 AH-64 Apache helicopter attack on a group of civilians in Baghdad, Iraq that they titled Collateral Murder:

This was soon followed by two extremely important revelations about the wars the US was fighting. In July 2010 it released the Afghan War Diary, a collection of 76,900 leaked documents about the US war in Afghanistan, and in October 2010 it released the Iraq War Logs, a set of more than 400,000 documents in co-ordination with a number of major media organizations. Both of these document dumps, and especially the video, performed a tremendous public service in exposing the brutality and banality of the war policies of US imperialism. Although one of the major features of the way Wikileaks operates is that they allow anonymous data dumps so that they can credibly claim to not even know the source itself, it is now widely recognized that these three items were gifts to the people from Chelsea Manning, gifts that she will be paying for for a long time.

Chelsea Manning was also the source of more than a quarter million US State Department diplomatic communications that Wikileaks began making public in November 2010 in a release that became known as Cablegate. Among other things, information about the president of Tunisia revealed in those cables, helped him become the first Arab dictator to fall of the popular demands of the Arab Spring just two month later.

Julian Assange is generally credited with founding and leading Wikileaks. He was a member of the founding organization, Sunshine Press Productions, and has since emerged as the leader and one of a handful of people publically associated with Wikileaks. In point of fact, Julian Assange runs Wikileaks.

I joined the staff of Wikileaks Central in January 2011 with developments in North Africa as my beat. Wikileaks Central or WL Central was a Wikileaks endorsed news site administered by our editor in chief Heather Marsh. I was also with the D[aily]Kos-Anons group and at the time there was a lot of synergy between Anonymous, which had kicked off its OpTunisia on 2 January and quickly followed it up with OpLibya, OpAlgeria and OpEgypt, and Wikileaks. Now things are very different, whereas Anonymous has declared war on Trump, Wikileaks has been very much in Trump's corner.

One job of WL Central was to find and break stories from the Wikileaks sources that could have immediate real world impact. The result was some of the most satisfying and effective political work I have ever been involved in.

For example, after demands for longtime president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, to step down grew beyond the point where he could ignore them, he made clear what his first line of retreat would be. Whereas he had never allowed for a vice-president, now he appointed his longtime head of state security, Omar Suleiman, as his VP and successor. At WL Central we thought we had the data to shortstop that. We started digging through "the files" and we found a lot of dirt on Suleiman. For almost two weeks we broke a story about Suleiman just about everyday. The power of WL Central was that when we spoke, the mainstream media listened, and what got into the mainstream press got into the regional media too. Soon Omar Suleiman was damaged goods. There was nothing left for him to do but announce Mubarak's resignation and then fade into history with him.

WL Central also played an important role in sparking the Occupy movement. From March 2011 it started agitating for a US Day of Rage, after the Egyptian model, and referenced what would become the occupy movement in an article by the editor in the first issue. It founded the US Day of Rage facebook page on 14 March 2011 and the @usdayrage twitter profile at the same time. These were used to organize the original #September 17 action to Occupy Wall Street.

I also joined the Wikileaks research and publican team for the 2 million emails in the Syria Files and the 5 million emails in the Stratfor Global Intelligence Files. In one major post Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad, 14 September 2012, I made public more than 20 new documents from those treasure troves of data.

The way that Wikileaks handled the document dumps in those days was that for each dump or "file," they would partner with selected researchers, generally journalists from their partner publications, which included The Guardian and the Washington Post on various files, as well as other journalists and bloggers with knowledge in the area. The files would be made available via Tors on a darknet through a search engine similar to the one used for final publication.

When you found a juice bit, you could claim it, so to speak, by submitting a short description of how you were going to use it, where you were going to publish it and when. If that wasn't disputed, you could then invest the time to break that story right, knowing you would be breaking that story. After this research team had spent a few months searching out and publishing the juicy bits, Wikileaks would make the whole archive public by moving it from the Tor network to the Internet. At least that's how it works on the files I partnered with them on in 2012, in 2016 with the Clinton-Podesta Emails, clearly they are using a different model. 2016 is an election year in the United States and Wikileaks has emerged as a partisan player in US electoral politics, but what could be called Wikileaks' turn to the dark side began years earlier.

Wiki to the Dark Side 

In November 2010, separate allegations were made by two woman that Julian Assange had sexually molested them. The troubles from these allegations continue to follow him to this day. They are the reason he is holding up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. James Ball joined the Wikileaks staff about the same time these allegations surfaced. He later wrote in The Guardian, what he observed:
Julian's arrest loomed, on allegations of sexual assault. Aware he would need money to post surety, he scrabbled for sources of cash. He attempted to access WikiLeaks funds, received through donations.

He approached the Wau Holland Foundation, which manages the bulk of WikiLeaks' finances, to ask for substantial funds – for "the future of WikiLeaks". Quite properly, it refused, as Julian's personal legal action was not one of the stated purposes of the donations.

Assange also tried to obtain the cash held by WikiLeaks' Icelandic division, asking the directors to sign a form authorising the transfer of their (much smaller) coffers.
After three months, Ball left Wikileaks, saying:
I couldn't support its internal culture, its lack of accountability, willingness to lie publicly, and crucially its failure to condemn Shamir. I supported the organisation's principles, but not its methods.
He said Israel Shamir was a Russian "peace campaigner" who had been introduce to the team as "Adam," and it was only after he disappeared with a trove of unredacted documents that most of the team found out who he really was.

In March 2012 a struggle broke out over the purpose and future direction of Wikileaks Central. Its mission had been to make use of the Wikileaks products, the files, and other source materials, to break stories relating to ongoing struggles around the world, with reporting on Wikileaks itself as a clearly secondary function. The staff rallied behind this mission and our editor in chief Heather Marsh, but Julian Assange now clearly had other ideas. He was feeling growing pressure on himself. He demanded that WL Central drop its other activities and report only on Wikileaks. Most of felt he was turning WL Central into his personal PR organization but he had the power to outvote everyone else. Heather Marsh held the domain registration for wlcentral.org, but the site ran on Wikileaks servers and Assange threaten to disown the site and denounce it unless it was transferred to his name and run as he liked. At one point he threaten to just pull the plug and shut the site down entirely until I pointed out that wlcentral.org had thousands of links on hundreds of sites referencing important information and he would be breaking all those links, and it would be known that he was responsible. He backed off then, and wlcentral.org remained up for years. Now in researching this article, I see that wlcentral.org is gone, so those links are broken. Furthermore, the other Wikileaks documents such as the Syria files and GIF files have been moved in such a way that older links to them no longer work.

In April 2012, Julian Assange got his own TV show, World Tomorrow, on the Russian financed RT.com. The guest on his first show was Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Linux Beach published Syria is bleeding.

Fast forward to election year

On the very same day Donald Trump was tweeting his love of the latest Wikileaks email dump:
Computer security experts where repremanding Wikileaks for offering malware to the public along with the stolen emails:

In its report titled WikiLeaks Has Morphed from Journalism Hotshot to Malware Hub, 19 August 2016, Backchannel wrote:
Some of the code represented downloaders, which do nothing more than download a second stage of malignant code later. Also in the cache was ransomware, which would encrypt a user’s files until a payment is made. Other programs install a bot that allows a remote attacker to take over your computer. Bontchev, who is an assistant professor at the National Laboratory of Computer Virology in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, wrote up a report, which he posted on Github, including links to AKP emails that contained malicious attachments.
Backchannel also recognized that Wikileaks had changed in other ways:
More recently, WikiLeaks’ tenor has changed. On July 19, it released an unredacted database of emails from the Turkish party AKP, which also included the addresses and other personal details of millions of Turkish women, as reported by scholar and journalist Zeynep Tufekci. Three days later, in its leak of 19,252 emails from the Democratic National Committee, WikiLeaks once again included the social security and credit card numbers of donors, amidst other sensitive information.
PBS Newshour also noted that Wikileaks was becoming reckless in publishing private individual's personal information, 23 August, in reporting on an AP investigation:
In what the AP calls particularly egregious, WikiLeaks published the names of two teenage rape victims, as well as the name of a Saudi citizen who’d been arrested for being gay. That revelation could endanger the man’s life because, in Saudi Arabia, being gay is punishable by death.
Commenting further on the type of personal informational Wikileaks was making public in its email dumps, Raphael Satter said:
We found all kinds of things.

If it’s personal or sensitive or family-related, we found it. So, we found details of custody battles. We found parents writing to authorities about missing children. We found details of elopements, of divorces, of partners who had sexually transmitted diseases, partners who had AIDS, people who were in debt, in distress, in all kinds of financial difficulty, and, of course, some of the cases that you mentioned earlier, that is to say, people who were raped, including children who were raped.
Discussing these changes further William Brangham of PBS interviewed the AP reporter that wrote the story:
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know that, in the past WikiLeaks, has worked with journalists, who will then go through some of this information before it’s released and redact information to try to protect people’s data.

Do you have any sense why that didn’t happen in this case?

RAPHAEL SATTER: That kind of thing has not happened for some time, at least not at any great scale.
As criticisms of Wikileaks continues to mount, even Edward Snowden weighed in.
It was because of Wikileaks that Edward Snowden found himself stranded in Russia. The unsigned Ecuadorian travel documents that Julian Assange got for Snowden were void before he even left for Moscow. Once he got there, he had nowhere else to go.

Wikileaks for Trump?

I also pointed out the exposure of hundreds, if not thousands of private email address in commenting on the DNC email dump just days before the DNC in Timing is everything - Why were WikiLeaks DNC emails released now?, but the main point of that piece was to show that the email dump had been held back so that it wouldn't help Bernie Sanders against Clinton. The releases began after Clinton had been chosen and they could only help Donald Trump.

A number of US intelligence agencies have said Russian state actors have been behind the DNC and Clinton email thieves. Wikileaks denies this but true to its reputation, it won't say who its source is. But we don't need to know who the email thieves are to see that Wikileaks' timing of the releases has not been to serve the public interest. These releases have been timed to serve the Trump campaign. The public service could have best been served by releasing the hacked emails as early as possible. If this material had been released during the Democratic primary process, it is quite possible Hillary Clinton wouldn't be the Democratic nominee, but these email dumps were not designed to help Bernie Sanders. They came too late for that. Robert Mackey wrote in The Intercept, 6 August 2016:
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.
One negative aspect of the original Wikileaks pledge to be an anonymous publishing house for any leaker or hacker is that it could allow someone with resources for major hacks, like a state actor, to use Wikileaks to laundry their stolen data to the public. Wikileaks may be relying on this principle to shield it from charges that it is attempting to manipulate the US election, but as long as it is receiving and publishing material that is detrimental to only one candidate. It knows exactly what it is doing.

Much Ado About Nothing

Presidential elections are known for their "October Surprises," new revelations designed to rock the campaigns. Donald Trump's latest campaign troubles started a little after 20:00 UTC on Friday 7 October when the Washington Post released the now famous Access Hollywood video in which The Donald bragged about gropping women. After he denied this behavior during the debate the following Sunday, we have seen a steady stream of women come forward, 11 so far, to say the Trump did what he said to them.

The main counter the Trump campaign has had to this, in fact the core of their anti-Clinton message in these two weeks, has been the steady stream of Wikileaks dumps of Podesta emails, 18 so far, for a total of 50,000 emails from the private gmail account of longtime Clinton associate John Podesta. This latest anti-Clinton campaign was announced by Wikileaks about an hour after the video was released, although obviously it had already been prepared for release in advance.

So far, what has been revealed in these emails has been less than shocking, but with so many emails to comb through, its not that hard to find a few phrases that can be made to sound suspicious in a tweet or headline. So far, that would appear to be their main value. The opposition campaigns now can make just about any claim against Clinton, no matter how outrageous, and point to the Podesta emails as "proof," as with this tweet from Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein:
Notice that no link to a specific email is offered, but Stein assures us the proof is to be found there, somewhere among the 50,000 emails. ISIS isn't funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Qatar, although Assad does buy oil from them, and Russian technicians are working in an ISIS controlled gas plant. What Stein is claiming Wikileaks has proven is merely Putin propaganda being spoken out of the left side of his mouth. Here are a few more charges stemming from the stolen emails:
On CNN Gina Loudon, a Trump surrogate claimed the emailed revealed a Clinton playbook to discredit Trump with claims of sexual abuse
Rudy Jullian claims the emails prove Clinton is a socialist because he went to Canada and told them she likes their medical system better
On 21 Oct RT ran with 'His proposal sucks': Sanders savaged by Podesta in WikiLeaks' latest Clinton mails This headline is base this comment Podesta made about Sanders' plan in a private email exchange with Judd Legum. I guess the breaking news here is that Podesta's opinion of Sanders may be less than many Sanders supporters would like:
Thx. His actual proposal sucks, but we live in a leftie alternative universe

This is typical of the sort of "damning" headlines they've culled from the Podesta emails. This doesn't mean the Clinton Foundation is refusing to pay men and women equally for the same work, which is the measure of equality that can correctly be applied to the individual enterprise. It does mean that there are proportionally more men with higher paid skills, but that is the result of inequality in the larger society. Every enterprise has to hire from the available labor pool, and if you were to require that no enterprise hire more, say, male Linux systems administrators, than female ones, you would put the Internet in pretty bad straits for quite a few years. But try explaining that in a tweet.

This may be the WikiLeaks tweet that most clearly shows how they support the Alt-Right candidacy of Donald Trump. A few days after Trump renew his claims that the election was rigged, another county was heard from:

A 140 character limit and still they managed to use "rigged" three times! YourNewWire.com reported, 21 October 2016:
WikiLeaks couldn’t have made it clearer in a series of tweets on Thursday – the US election for the President of the United States is rigged. The establishment have selected their President and by hook or crook she will be “elected.”
Jill Stein found her own way of agreeing with Trump that it's a rigged election:
That tweet was actually a strategic support of Trump because at the time all of his talking heads were trying to excuse his historic refusal to say he would accept the results of the election, because he says it is rigged, by pointing to Gore's refusal to immediately concede the 2000 election to George W. Bush.
Just one more example of how Wikileaks has allowed both anti-Clinton camps to make any claim they can think of and point to the Podesta emails as proof. Libertarian presidential candidate Governor Gary Johnson has not been fawning over the Wikileaks dump, unlike Trump and Stein. In fact, looking at his recent Tweeter stream, this is the only reference to Wikileaks I could find:
I guess he doesn't trust Wikileaks either.

For what its worth...

Circles within circles, patterns repeating in scales. This how we are being played: Wikileaks has built up great credibility over the years because its releases have always proven to the accurate, and served a social benefit that greatly outweighed the criminality of the hack or leak, which in any case, was not done by Wikileaks. This history gives the documents its releases in 2016 about the DNC and Clinton campaign a lot of credibility. The documents aren't just published en masse, as has been done in the past, they are trickled out a few thousands everyday or so up till election day, and indeed, these leaked emails prove to be authentic, day after day. Now the stage is set. To spring the trap, fake or doctored emails with explosive content are salted into the stream a few days before the election. This explosive story breaks too late to be debunked and turns the tide against Clinton or tries too. Watch for it...

Has Wikileaks been turned?

Why this has happened is harder to discern. A very sophisticated state actor or intelligence agency might set up a group like Wikileaks far in advance of its planned usage and even provide it with some good stuff to leak just to build credibility, "chicken feed," in intelligence jargon, so that it is in a position to play a decisive role at the critical moment. This doesn't appear to be the case with Wikileaks. It looked like the genuine article in the beginning because it was. The question is: What is it now and why?

Wikipedia [ no relations ] has this to say about Wikileaks:
In September 2016, the German weekly Focus reported that according to a confidential German government dossier, WikiLeaks had long since been infiltrated by Russian agents aiming to discredit NATO governments. The magazine added that French and British intelligence services had come to the same conclusion and said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev receive details about what WikiLeaks publishes before publication.[297][298] The Focus report followed a New York Times story that suggested that WikiLeaks may be a laundering machine for compromising material about Western countries gathered by Russian spies.[299]

On 14 October 2016, CNN reported that "there is mounting evidence that the Russian government is supplying WikiLeaks with hacked emails pertaining to the US presidential election."[300] Wikileaks has denied any connection to or cooperation with Russia.[300] President Putin has strongly denied any Russian involvement.[301][302]

A sign of the times

This is the tweet Wikileaks sent out after Ecuador cut Julian Assange's embassy Internet access to uphold "the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states" according to the official communiqué. Wikileaks knew it was Ecuador that cut off the access but they wanted to generate mystery and speculation. This is how Wikileaks views transparency these days:

And now I'll leave you with a joke that is truly a sign of our times. Notice the replies to the Wikileaks complaint. Someone blames Verizon and the Verizon Support bot immediate chimes in: "You Rang.?" Yeah, Verizon send a repair truck over to the Ecuadorian embassy in London and get Julian back on-line, why don't you?

My other recent posts relating to this unique election cycle:
Trump Super Predator behavior is Workplace Sexual Harassment writ large
Is US Green Party's Jill Stein a holocaust denier?
Jill Stein now claiming Donald Trump is less of two evils
Did Dishonest Jill Stein change her Syria statement on the sly?
Republican support for Green Party @DrJillStein is emerging
Why "Jill not Hill" is a pro-Trump slogan
Donald Trump can only win if Jill Stein stays in

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria


  1. Clay,

    Am generally an admirer, particularly on your work on Syria.

    I can't agree with this piece though. I also now have my misgivings about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. I think in order to lay claim to a new age of scientific freeing of information, those who allow the flow have to let it flow naturally and without prejudice. This means allowing all of it, with necessary redaction to protect innocent lives etc out into the public domain as and when it is leaked. You also have a duty to make people aware that when they form their world view based on these leaks, the black spots where no leaks can be found can also be telling of the most repressive and authoritarian regimes. This may seem to be so obvious as to not be worth saying, but it never fails to amaze me that, without this very important proviso, this is exactly how people often form a world view. As for the timing and rationing of leaks in media - this is just another information distortion and it is almost as guilty of manipulation of the public in my mind as outright fabrication.

    I've followed Assange in some detail and been an admirer of the philosophical enquiries of Cypherpunk. This discussion of the role of information and the internet was ahead of it's time and is still relevant today.

    If Assange has lost the plot, become unbalanced and vindictive, falling short of his own ideals then it is disappointing but hardly surprising. How many ideologues and revolutionaries end this way? So many they are the rule rather than the exception. This however, does not invalidate their actions that were good and we should not seek to retrospectively condemn and suspect everything they ever did as if their entire mission all along was to be destructive. It is especially important that we still heed the very valid warnings of Cypherpunk and how they foretold the Snowden revelations. The potential for total and irreversible authoritarian strangleholds with today's technology is something we should all worry about and if we cannot admire Assange's actions now we can at least give him credit for where he has tried to do good and try to view him in his past and present actions with some objectivity.

    As a woman who has looked exhaustively into the rape claims against Assange and someone who knows how thorough you can be with research when you want to be, I am aghast at your position here. The claims against him here are without foundation. It was serendipity for the US administration that someone they found to be a dangerous nuisance was stupid enough to anger some Swedish women and that their ludicrous rape laws allowed him to be potentially criminalised due to this. Having recently given up on feminism to proclaim myself egalitarian and against the onward march of increasingly worrying partnerships between some feminists and authoritarian state tendencies, I can vouch for the atmosphere of hysterical witchhunt that now gets switched on and off at will by those manipulative enough to play the sexual abuse cards in western democracies. There is no rationality left here and due process is crushed to allow mob rule and judgement, sometimes at very convenient and suspect junctures. The Clintons themselves have been victims of this.

    I wonder if as a tough game player like Assange himself, you like him are now willing to let truth be a casualty in order to win battles? I for one am sick of all the game playing and find myself in agreement with very few over this these days. Truth and honour may sound naive and outdated to some, but to me they are all that is ultimately going to save us from drowning in this inreasingly grey sludge of information/disinformation.

    1. Fi W,

      I don't see your point. I didn't offer an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of JA on the 2 rape charges. All I said was:

      "In November 2010, separate allegations were made by two woman that Julian Assange had sexually molested them. The troubles from these allegations continue to follow him to this day."

      Not only are those facts indisputable, they are an essential part of the story.

      You think it wrong to even mention these charges?