Thursday, December 23, 2010

Money and timing (by Suzie)

I’m a Dallas native who thinks Oswald was the lone gunman. So, you know I’m not big on conspiracies. I cringe when friends agree the sex-crime case against Julian Assange matters, adding: “But the timing is very suspicious.”

What I find curious is Assange’s timing. Imagine I say the following sotto voce. What if he seized on the allegations as a way to make himself look embattled and indispensible? Yes, there are conservatives who want him dead. Yes, the U.S. is investigating him. But there would be little action if not for the red notice, Interpol, jail, bail, mansion-arrest, etc., which has kept the story focused on him, not his organization or the cables themselves. He has become the champion of freedom, the international man of mystery, the rock star caught in the honeytrap. Supporters picket, write articles on his behalf, and donate to WikiLeaks, his defense fund and his bail. He is the man of the hour, and some say the year.

Despite criticism of the rich and powerful, Assange has been searching for big donors from the beginning. Despite criticism of the mainstream media, he has tried to place stories with large, respectable newspapers. Some WikiLeakers disliked this approach, but Assange knew a big splash would attract donors and other supporters. (John Young of Cryptome makes for excellent reading.)

The Wau Holland Foundation in Germany collects many of the donations and pays many of the costs of WikiLeaks, and it has just reported the best year ever for donations, although they have tapered off in recent months, according to today's Wall Street Journal. Costs also have risen.
... a big factor in the leap is a recent decision to begin paying salaries to staff. The primary beneficiary of that decision—which has been hotly debated within WikiLeaks—is Mr. Assange ...
He has received 66,000 euros (about $87,000) so far this year. (Not all invoices are in.) WikiLeaks has received $1.3 million in donations passed through the foundation.

A foundation spokesman says the donations have not gone toward legal expenses related to the Swedish case. I wonder how this is kept separate. Assange used WikiLeaks’s Facebook account and Twitter to smear the women, ensuring that people would view the case politically and think that his fate was inextricably linked to the fate of WikiLeaks. Lawyers for WikiLeaks often discuss the Swedish case, too. Do the lawyers have a ledger where they write "half-hour suggesting U.S. controls Swedish legal system" and "half-hour discussing the Espionage Act"?

Also today, the Times of London quoted "Peter Sunde, co-founder of the file-sharing website Pirate Bay" whose "micropayments website,, is an important source of funding for WikiLeaks."
I think it’s very important that Julian Assange comes to Sweden and has his trial in Sweden to show if he’s guilty or innocent. At the moment he’s dragging WikiLeaks down with him.
Sunde warned that, if Assange gets extradited instead, Anonymous will take out their anger on British government sites.
They are a very powerful force. Since there are very few people who can stop them, they can do basically whatever they want.
WikiLeaks had internal conflict before the accusations in August, and the accusations didn't help. Also that month, staff learned that Assange had cut a secret deal to release U.S. military documents on Iraq to newspapers in October, and some thought the release would be too early to properly redact the names of Iraqis who worked with the U.S. Key players in WikiLeaks began to resign. From the NYT:
After the Sweden scandal, strains within WikiLeaks reached a breaking point, with some of Mr. Assange’s closest collaborators publicly defecting. The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.
The newspaper obtained a transcript of an encrypted chat in September, in which Assange called colleagues "a confederacy of fools.” Meanwhile, Swedish police were interviewing people connected with the sex-crime case.

Assange left Sweden in September, with the understanding that he would return in October to be interviewed further. In October, he released the Iraq documents as promised, but he failed to return to Sweden. It issued an arrest warrant for him in November, and 10 days later he dumped the diplomatic cables. He turned himself in to British authorities on Dec. 7.

Has the Swedish case reduced support, or has he used it to his advantage? Perhaps we'll get more answers in the new year.
P.S. In the Times quotes, Assange mentions "my children." I've only seen his son Daniel discussed before.