June 20, 2017

Chelsea Manning's 2010 leak of thousands of Iraq War-related intelligence documents did minimal damage to U.S. national security, a secret report prepared by a Department of Defense task force, and recently obtained by BuzzFeed News, claims. Despite having apparent evidence to the contrary, the federal government publicly alleged that Manning's decision to share the intelligence with WikiLeaks threatened national security.

The newly public 2011 Department of Defense assessment had concluded "with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq." A separate set of documents leaked by Manning, related to the Afghanistan War, were also found to not have a "significant impact" on American operations, although they were ruled to potentially have significant consequences for the lives of "cooperative Afghans, Iraqis, and other foreign interlocutors" and could mean "serious damage" to "intelligence sources, informants, and the Afghan population."

"The report goes on to say that the documents the task force reviewed contained details about previously undisclosed civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, which 'could be used by the press or our adversaries to negatively impact support for current operations in the region,'" BuzzFeed News writes. Half of the report, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, remains redacted. More than 20 federal agencies, including the FBI, NSA, and CIA, collaborated on the report.

"Chelsea Manning's treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has asserted, while Trump called Manning a "traitor" last year. Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence earlier this year. Read more about the Department of Defense's findings at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange

Editor's note: This article originally mischaracterized the circumstances of Manning's release from prison. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

May 19, 2017

Early Friday, Sweden's director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said she is dropping the rape investigation into Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition. "Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny has today decided to shut down the preliminary investigation regarding suspected rape involving Julian Assange," her office said in a statement.

Scotland Yard said in a statement that Assange is still subject to a British warrant for failing to surrender in 2012, and "the Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy." But since Sweden has dropped its charges, the Metropolitan Police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate" to the "much less serious offense" Assange is accused of. The U.S. Justice Department is also weighing pressing charges against Assange over the leaking of thousands of secret and classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

This is breaking news, and the article has been updated throughout. Peter Weber

October 25, 2016

The latest round of emails from the Clinton camp published by WikiLeaks indicates President Obama might not have found out about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state at "the same time everybody else" did. Shortly after Obama told CBS in March 2015 that he learned about the server "through news reports," Clinton's former chief of staff at the State Department, Cheryl Mills, sent this email to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta:

Mills' urging to "clean this up" suggests that Obama not only knew about Clinton's personal email address, but he knowingly communicated with her via her non-government account as well. The Washington Examiner reported FBI agents "revealed in notes from their closed investigative file that Obama communicated with Clinton on her private server using a pseudonym."

Politico noted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest later clarified Obama's claim he was unaware of Clinton's email setup, explaining the president was simply "not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up." "The president, as I think many people expected, did over the course of his first several years in office exchange emails with his secretary of state," Earnest said at a daily briefing. Becca Stanek

October 24, 2016

Julian Assange isn't a Russia spy, but he is taking revenge on Hillary Clinton, and "if an anonymous or pseudonymous group came offering anti-Clinton leaks, they'd have found a host happy not to ask too many awkward questions," James Ball, who worked with WikiLeaks when it made its biggest splash, in 2010, writes at BuzzFeed News.

Anti-Clinton animus isn't the only thing driving Assange in 2016, after four years of self-imposed exile in a tiny apartment in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Ball writes: Assange thinks himself "the equal of a world leader," and the leak of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails "is his shot at reclaiming the world stage, and settling a score with Hillary Clinton as he does so." Yes, Donald Trump, the main beneficiary of this hack, is now praising WikiLeaks, as are many of his supporters, while Assange has lost many fans on the liberal left, Ball says, but "neither Assange nor WikiLeaks (and the two are virtually one and the same thing) have changed — the world they operate in has."

Still, Trump and Assange have quite a bit in common, Ball says: Like Trump, "Assange is a gifted public speaker with a talent for playing the media, struggling with an inability to scale up and professionalize his operation, to take advice, a man whose mission was often left on a backburner in his efforts to demonize his opponents." Neither seems bothered by Russia's authoritarianism. And then there's Trump and Assange's insistence on getting everyone to sign nondisclosure agreements — the thing Ball says led to his estrangement with Assange:

Those working at WikiLeaks — a radical transparency organization based on the idea that all power must be accountable — were asked to sign a sweeping nondisclosure agreement covering all conversations, conduct, and material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure. The penalty for noncompliance was £12 million. I refused to sign the document, which was sprung on me on what was supposed to be a short trip to a country house used by WikiLeaks.... Given how remote the house was, there was no prospect of leaving. I stayed the night, only to be woken very early by Assange, sitting on my bed, prodding me in the face with a stuffed giraffe, immediately once again pressuring me to sign. It was two hours later before I could get Assange off the bed. [Ball, BuzzFeed News]

Read more of Ball's sometimes sympathetic, sometimes scathing look at Assange at BuzzFeed News. Peter Weber

October 22, 2016

WikiLeaks said its supporters are responsible for the massive cyberattack Friday which took down numerous major websites, including The New York Times, Twitter, Etsy, Tumblr, Spotify, Comcast, and more. "Mr. Assange is still alive and WikiLeaks is still publishing," the organization wrote to hackers involved in the incident in a tweet Friday afternoon, asking for the widespread denial of service attacks to cease.

Also Friday afternoon, hacktivist groups Anonymous and New World confirmed the tweet's implications, saying they orchestrated the attack as retaliation for the Ecuadorian government's decision to take away internet access from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange following his site's ongoing release of emails hacked from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are investigating the attacks. Bonnie Kristian

October 18, 2016

On Tuesday, the government of Ecuador explained that it has "temporarily restricted" internet access at its embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resides, because it does not interfere in foreign elections.

The move came on Monday after WikiLeaks published another leak of documents from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. In a statement, the government said it stands by its decision to grant Assange asylum four years ago and was not pressured by a foreign country to restrict his internet, but it "respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states."

Earlier Tuesday, WikiLeaks claimed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Ecuador to keep Assange from publishing further documents from the Clinton campaign; the State Department denies this. Assange is living in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on rape charges. Catherine Garcia

October 18, 2016

So maybe Pamela Anderson didn't kill Julian Assange with a poisoned vegan sandwich after all. Early Monday, WikiLeaks poured fuel on a smoldering conspiracy fire by announcing that Assange's "internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party," and that it had "activated the appropriate contingency plans."

A few hours later, WikiLeaks confirmed that the "state party" is the nation that has granted Assange amnesty while he fights extradition to Sweden to face rape charges he denies.

Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's London embassy for more than four years, and it isn't clear why they cut off his internet now. Ecuador's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that "the Government of Ecuador ratifies the validity of the asylum granted to Julian Assange four years ago" and "we reaffirm that his protection by the Ecuadorean state will continue while the circumstances that led to the granting of asylum remain." This vague response has sparked its own theories, the most prevalent being that Ecuador isn't too fond of Donald Trump, and Assange is clearly aiming his leaks only at Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Or maybe after four years, things are just getting a little cramped in the embassy and this is a polite hint that Assange has overstayed his welcome. Peter Weber

October 17, 2016

WikiLeaks added to its collection of published emails purportedly stolen from the inbox of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and among this eighth batch on Saturday were excerpts of three speeches Clinton apparently gave to banks in 2013, months after stepping down as secretary of state. In one speech, The New York Times reports, Clinton expanded on her public support for intervening more forcefully in the Syrian civil war. "My view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene," she said, adding that "we used to be much better at this than we are now," when officials "can't help themselves" and go "tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: 'Look what we're doing, and I want credit for it.'"

There are risks to a "no-fly zone" in Syria, Clinton said, where the U.S. would "have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we're not putting our pilots at risk — you're going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians."

Clinton also shared with the bankers her first-person assessments of Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom she appears to admire; North Korea's Kim Jong Un; and Russian President Vladimir Putin, believed to be behind the cyber-espionage against Democrats this year. In one speech, Clinton recounted a conversation she had with an Australian leader in 2009 about China's claims to the South China Sea:

I made the point at one point in the argument that, you know, you can call it whatever you want to call it. You don't have a claim to all of it. I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it, we defended it. We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines.... And, you know, my counterpart sat up very straight and goes, "Well, you can't do that." [Clinton, via WikiLeaks]

The Clinton campaign is focusing on Russia's suspected role in WikiLeaks' operation, comparing the cyber-espionage to the Watergate break-in that brought down Richard Nixon. Peter Weber

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