WikiLeaks Reveals Aaron Swartz May Have Been A Source: Wise Move?

from the question-of-trust dept

WikiLeaks currently finds itself in a difficult position. Funds are trickling in because of a questionable financial blockade against it, and Julian Assange is stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. So it’s understandable that it should want to take every opportunity to remind people that it is still around and keen to continue publishing highly-sensitive documents in a confidential fashion. But I do wonder if this series of tweets disclosing that Aaron Swartz was involved with WikiLeaks is the best way of doing that:

Due to the investigation into the Secret Service involvement with #AaronSwartz we have decided to disclose the following facts (1-3)

1. Aaron Swartz assisted WikiLeaks #aaronswartz (1/3)

2. Aaron Swartz was in communication with Julian Assange, including during 2010 and 2011

3. We have strong reasons to believe, but cannot prove, that Aaron Swartz was a WikiLeaks source. #aaronswartz

There are a number of issues here. First, WikiLeaks is revealing the name of one of its sources — surely something it should never do under any circumstances if it wants to retain the confidence of future whistleblowers. Worse, it’s not even sure Aaron Swartz was a contributor, but is making the claim anyway. That matters because it may encourage the US authorities to start investigating others in his circle as possible WikiLeaks contributors. At best, that could be awkward for them, and at worst, extremely dangerous given what has happened to the alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.

It’s hard to see what WikiLeaks thought it would gain from making these statements, other than some quick publicity, perhaps. But that seems a very transient gain in the face of the long-term dangers it may have exposed others to. Moreover, those four tweets may also have compromised its credibility with potential sources, who must now be asking themselves whether WikiLeaks can really be trusted again.

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Comments on “WikiLeaks Reveals Aaron Swartz May Have Been A Source: Wise Move?”

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Brad says:

Re: That whoosh

“First, WikiLeaks is revealing the name of one of its sources — surely something it should never do under any circumstances if it wants to retain the confidence of future whistleblowers…”

The writer of this article cannot be a journalist. The prohibition against revealing sources involves a relationship of trust between a journalist and a source. If the journalist doesn’t know who the source is, there is no such relationship.

That One Guy (profile) says:

This is leaning towards tin-foil hat territory, but I can’t help but wonder, how hard would it be to fake a tweet like that or hijack an account long enough to post a few tweets?

I ask because making posts like that seems to go beyond stupid and straight into the realm of suicidal, and the only people that would appear to come out ahead from posts like that(especially the third) is the USG.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well that’s the thing, someone hacking their twitter account would seem to be the best-case scenario for them, with the alternative being that someone over there had a seizure, or suffered massive cranial trauma shortly before posting and thought posts like those would help them out, instead of being made-to-order to destroy any future the organization had.

I guess I just find it hard to believe that a group that has survived this long, despite the long list of enemies they’ve made, would take themselves out all on their own, no outside help needed.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I guess I just find it hard to believe that a group that has survived this long, despite the long list of enemies they’ve made, would take themselves out all on their own, no outside help needed.”

Very easy to believe actually.

Power (or often even the illusion of power) Corrupts…

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

To expand on my above post just a bit.

What I am saying is that when WikiLeaks started publishing information they gained power. Power to influence the public at large. Power to embarrass governments, and the list goes on.

When a group of people (or even a single person) attain such power it is inevitable that they will come to believe that the rules don’t apply to them.

By rules I don’t just mean laws, I mean that they seem to think that they are above being subject to the ramifications for their actions.

In this case it appears that Wikileaks who depends on whistle blowers (who will almost without fail want to remain anonymous), has decided that they will not lose any sources because they ‘outed’ a source (assuming Swatrz is actually a source), even if the source is now dead. I think the reality will be far different. I think they will lose sources, but that remains to be seen.

Cath says:

I think the reason Wikileaks does this, is because they think the treathment of Aaron had to do with his supposed involvement with them. We should keep supporting Julian Assange and Wikileaks because Aaron and they worked on the same cause. I find it very hard to see even techdirth distancing them from Julian Assange and the cause of Wikileaks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

no not quite right, there is no evidence to support that claim, THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF…

does not mean there are not detailed records of it on some wikileaks hard drive or some other documented evidence (and proof).

But just because you are not aware of it does not mean it does not exist.. unless you are some kind of all knowing God or something.. and that position is held by Masnick..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think it’s both. I think they are trying to “help” by implying that he was overzealously prosecuted due to his connections to well as giving themselves publicity. I don’t think it actually “helps” though and the statement that he possibly contributed as a source definitely hurts their credibility. If they simply stated that they suspected this because of his support for them and connections that would be one thing, but saying that he was a possible source was a mistake.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m mixed on this. First, WL might be using public information to fine to a conclusion about Aaron’s involvement.

Recently, it was deciphered that Aaron’s prosecution came from his FOIA requests. So it could be possible that he was a source since he is in the same camp as Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and other whistleblowers.

Still, this is a poorly boneheaded move for the reasons laid out above. Short term gain for a long term loss.

And there are no other sites right now that are as good as WL but that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming soon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Point 1 is stupid. There is no reason to point that out unless you are seeking publicity.

Point 2 is undecided. If Assange wants to colaborate on that and the real reason for the talks is revealed, they may have a point, but in itself it is not a good idea to reveal.

Point 3 is absolutely insane. Why would you draw the interest of all companies/governments having been outed on the site to Aaron Swartz and the people around him? At the same time they are making it clear that they cannot be sure of it so it is not even very convincing for potential readers.

I start to doubt their judgement and eventually discretion. Since they live or die on discretion, this is the beginning of the end for them unless they have an elaborate plan on it…

Pixelation says:

Re: Re:

“Point 1 is stupid. There is no reason to point that out unless you are seeking publicity.” What if they think pointing it out will lead to the discovery of wrongdoing on the part of the US government in pushing the case against Swartz? Perhaps it’s a warning shot over the bow letting the US know Wikileaks has more information from Swartz, something damaging. Unlikely perhaps but possible.

Wally (profile) says:

True Colors

See?? This is Julian Assange showing his true colors. While Swartz may or may not have been a source of information for WikiLeaks, I feel compelled to point out that Assange is using Aron Swartz’s death as a way to gain the relevance he lost.

I’m under the firm belief that Aron Swartz was more of the type that called for informational openness and was a complete foil of Assange in what he did. Given Swartz’s principles, I highly doubt he contributed anything to WikiLeaks. If Aron Swortz had, my attitude towards him will not change because he, unlike Assange, was never ever thought of himself in what he was doing.

Jake says:

First, Wikileaks is revealing the name of one of its sources — surely something it should never do under any circumstances if it wants to retain the confidence of future whistleblowers.

If Swartz really was a Wikileaks source, then I’d argue that they don’t just have the right but a duty to name him, because it throws some very important light on the circumstances surrounding his suicide… No, the hell with that, I’m calling it what it really was. His murder.

DMNTD says:

Re: Re: Re:

Grow up Dreampod, The amount of shit you don’t know about the usa government could bury HALF of this country in human feces. This release of info is about as surprising as learning fast and furious is “real” and not a f’n movie. It’s good to know there are so many useless ape brains in the world for anyone who has the will to abuse.

Kenneth Michaels (profile) says:

Swartz, Assange & House & Harassment by Feds

What I find interesting is that (1) Swartz was FOIAing information about Manning and by doing so mentioned David House; (2) David House has been harassed by the feds (because of his association with Manning’s support network) at the border and currently has a federal action against the feds.

So, if the Feds harassed House as much as they could, it only makes sense that they would also harass Swartz.

Swartz’s FOIA request:
David House’s case:

The Feds harassed Swartz because of Manning and Assange

Eponymous Coward says:

Re: Now you're just making shit up...

Where, besides your ass, are you pulling this info that he was “facing way more serious prosecution for much more serious crimes”? Also, just to let you know, it wasn’t a “serious crime” for Aaron to provide info to Wikileaks, if in fact he did. And the final kicker is if he was “facing more serious prosecution” why the need for Ortiz’s trumped up charges, like Wire Fraud, if there really were serious charges coming his way? Good to see though that you’re now admitting Ortiz’s farce of a prosecution wasn’t actually “serious”!

shane (profile) says:


Swartz was a Wikileaks source for what? I imagine in his own mind Assange is making the connection thinking he is outing the government without realizing that in the U.S. he makes Swartz look bad to a lot of people by association, but unless someone comes up with something that Swartz leaked, and that something is important, there’s no substantive change here.

alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

I read this article earlier today, and left in disgust. Came back this evening hoping there would be an update to help clarify Wikileaks’ action.

Until and unless they provide depth of reasoning, all we’re left to do is guess, and it makes me ill. For all they do to help this world, on the surface, without context, I can’t help but think this was a publicity ploy. And if that turns out to be the case, they’ve lost all credibility as far as I’m concerned.

Anonymous Coward says:

your upset that wikileaks has posted private and confidential information.. especially ON THEMSELVES.. oh that’s right it’s ok to post this information about other group’s and Government, but they are allowed to have their secret’s ??

It is only fitting and proper that someone from Wikileaks LEAKS all of Wikileaks internal documents.. After all that IS what they do…

Did you expect to respect privacy and security ?

Kevin (profile) says:

Down and further down

Is it me or am I reading too much into the negative opinions in this and other forums.
The way I see it is the USA is just one basket case. It apparently has totally lost it’s way and appears to be so far from what the forefathers envisioned. If those men could spend one day in the current climate they may go back and rip up the constitution and wonder if it is even worth having one.
Lies and secrets eventually fester to the degree when everything is rotten. The USA is close to that point. Wikileaks was trying to get the real truth to the people only to be stomped on by those who thrive of lies and secrets.
Time for 100% open Government. The truth has never been the cause of corruption and wars. Lies and secrets have

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