Hypocrite of the week: Wikileaks’ Assange threatens employee leakers with $20 million fine

If Wikileaks does turn itself into a for-profit entity, auctioning off state secrets to the highest bidder, their new corporate slogan could be “don’t leak on me.” 

From Wired:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now makes his associates sign a draconian nondisclosure agreement that, among other things, asserts that the organization’s huge trove of leaked material is “solely the property of WikiLeaks,” according to a report Wednesday.

“You accept and agree that the information disclosed, or to be disclosed to you pursuant to this agreement is, by its nature, valuable proprietary commercial information,” the agreement reads, “the misuse or unauthorized disclosure of which would be likely to cause us considerable damage.”

The confidentiality agreement (.pdf), revealed by the New Statesman, imposes a penalty of 12 million British pounds– nearly $20 million — on anyone responsible for a significant leak of the organization’s unpublished material. The figure is based on a “typical open-market valuation” of WikiLeaks’ collection, the agreement claims.

Interestingly, the agreement warns that any breach is likely to cause WikiLeaks to lose the “opportunity to sell the information to other news broadcasters and publishers.”

WikiLeaks is not known to have sold any of its leaked material, though Assange has discussed the possibility in the past. The organization announced in 2008 that it was auctioning off early access to thousands of e-mails belonging to a top aide to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, but the auction ultimately fell apart.

So Wikileaks cares about protecting its proprietary information and intellectual property, but believes that governments have no right to protect their classified data. Well that’s not the least bit hypocritical …

Alternet, your witness:

The prospect of Wikileaks as a for-profit operation would change the whole game, rendering hollow Assange’s persona as a government disclosure crusader. Revealing state secrets for the greater public good is one thing; charging money for them is an entirely other thing (that also might compromise his whole outside-the-laws-of-espionage situation).

New Statesman? Your turn:

All this legalese can only mean that WikiLeaks takes the commercial aspect of selling “its” information seriously: there would be no other reason for this document to have such precise, onerous and unusual provisions.

On the basis of this legal gag alone, it would be fair to take the view that WikiLeaks is nothing other a highly commercially charged enterprise, seeking to protect and maximise its earnings from selling information that has been leaked to it. If so, WikiLeaks is nothing other than a business.

As opposed to a selfless crusade to save humanity? Say it isn’t so…

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11 Responses to Hypocrite of the week: Wikileaks’ Assange threatens employee leakers with $20 million fine

  1. C.I.A. Joy, sorry! This was all a C.I.A. operation with Assange as one of the operatives. How does it fall out of the news overnight? Why did it cause only third world countries to collapse when supposedly he was targeting U.S. Where is the damage to U.S., France, Germany, U.K., China, Japan, or any other big players? When it hit Libya and Kaddafi quelled it and the U.S. jumped in to try and push it over the edge…this was a dead give away!

  2. Alli says:

    No surprise here. I’ve always wondered why this guy doesn’t just release the information that he has instead of dangling it in front of his targets. Ah well, so much for the left’s latest hero. When will people learn?

  3. Malagodi says:

    If hypocrisy were a crime there wouldn’t be enough prison space in the universe, and we would all greet each other as inmates.

    It’s a shame and odd to watch a journalist use their skill to carry out a campaign against whistleblowers.

    I think the personnel department in the Democratic Party has gotten the message already; they know you’re on their side.

  4. Len says:

    And you’re in the paid employ of Greenwald. Tit for tat.

  5. bmull says:

    How would you run Wikileaks? They’re experimenting with ways to ensure the integrity of the organization and getting maximum exposure for their material. I see no hypocrisy in that.

    1) Lots of organizations have silly NDAs that would never hold up in court.
    2) Assange himself said the auction idea was not as much about raising money as getting publicity for the material.

  6. SpkTruth2Pwr says:

    Wow. Doesn’t get any more hypocritical than that. What happened to the public’s right to know, Assange?

  7. Beulahmo says:


    Wait. Your only comment is about how this is an unwarranted campaign against whistleblowers? You have no comment about the conclusions expressed by Alternet and New Statesman? This warrants no other comment from you?

    I agree with Alternet’s assessment (above), but I think Wikileaks’ raison d’etre is compromised simply because they assume they’re entitled to place such strict control on the information they obtain. This desire for ultimate control means “for the greater public good” becomes of secondary importance. Further, Wikileaks’ control of secret information means we’re only exchanging WHOM the public is vulnerable to. If we’re FORCED to place our “trust” in the judgment and interests of Wikileaks’ chief, how does this improve our lot? Do we have to just presume that Wikileaks’ motives will ALWAYS be better than the government’s? Why? And if we can’t presume that, how can we continue to think of Assange/Wikileaks as a whistleblower?

  8. Where does he get his money, donations only? He seems to be doing well for himself.

  9. Beulahmo says:


    Wikileaks has received donations of over $1 million; however, Assange’s annual salary is reported to be around $86,000–certainly not extravagant.

    I hesitate to jump to the conclusion that this is about greed on Assange’s part. I just note that for a guy whose organization champions the cause of open, transparent government through freedom of information, he certainly has revealed a personal desire to control it. That seems to kill his purported mission, doesn’t it?

  10. Matt Osborne says:

    Once again proving that one man’s whistleblower is another man’s traitor.

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