Irony Alert: Wikileaks Sends Reporters A List Of 140 Things Not To Say About Julian Assange; Tells Them Not To Publish

from the i-mean,-come-on dept

Either Julian Assange is the least self-aware person in the British Isles (currently), or Wikileaks is playing some sort of weird joke on the press. The organization, whose entire reason for being is publishing documents whose authors don’t wish them to be published has bizarrely sent a list of 140 things reporters are not supposed to say about Assange (if this is a troll by Assange, you have to wonder if the 140 — Twitter’s original character limit — is somehow on purpose). We’ll get to the list in a moment, but first, the list included this hilarious statement:


Ha, ha. Good one, Julian. Very funny. First of all, you don’t send “confidential legal communications” to the media. That’s not how it works. Second, unless there’s already a pre-agreed upon deal not to publish certain materials, you don’t get to email reporters willy nilly and insist that they can’t report on it. That is also not how it works. Finally, this is Wikileaks we’re talking about. I mean, come on.

Incredibly, Reuters, who first wrote about the existence of this list did not publish the list. Instead, that was initially left to FOIA/transparency/national security guru Emma Best who published the full list on her site. A few other publications followed later.

It is entirely possible that this is some sort of reverse Streisand Effect attempt, in which Assange purposefully put the idiotic “not for publication” line atop the email knowing that would make it more likely that the document would get attention, but no matter where you sit, for reporters, this now seems like a list of 140 things that Julian Assange is now calling for everyone to investigate. Of course, some of them are really just silly. For example:

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange stinks.
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever tortured a cat or dog.
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange does not use cutlery or does not wash his hands.
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange lives, or has ever lived, in a basement, cupboard or under the stairs.

Um… what? Why even bring up any of these? Of course, much of the list involves some of the more serious claims that people have made against Assange over the years, especially regarding any connection with Russian Intelligence and or any attempt to influence the US election. And, while these don’t necessarily break new ground, for investigative reporters, it seems like there could be some interesting breadcrumbs in the list of things Julian Assange really, really doesn’t want the press to say about him.

Also, it appears that in a later version of the list that was posted to Pastebin, Wikileaks removed the line about Assange stinking and living in a cupboard under the stairs (that was Harry Potter, you see…). Emma Best set up a comparison of the two “leaked” copies of the list, if you’re interested in delving into the details of what I guess is now up for discussion (does Assange have a scar in the shape of lightening bolt?).

Separately, each of the items on the list begin “it is false and defamatory to….” At the very least, this suggests that Assange has a fairly limited understanding of what “defamatory” actually means. Defamation requires a bit more than saying that Julian Assange stinks. Others may be false, but would hardly be “defamatory.” For example:

It is false and defamatory to deny that Julian Assange co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation with John Perry Barlow.

I mean, it is a false statement since Assange did not co-found the Freedom of the Press Foundation with JPB (he was just one of their first beneficiaries). But, what is possibly “defamatory” about that sentence?

Either this is all an elaborate troll by Assange, or he’s so freaking full of himself that he doesn’t realize how petty and immature this whole thing looks (oops, is that on the list of things we can’t say?).

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Comments on “Irony Alert: Wikileaks Sends Reporters A List Of 140 Things Not To Say About Julian Assange; Tells Them Not To Publish”

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Facts optional publishing says:

Do you know facts????

Hey, Julian Assange has been locked in an embassy in london for over a year with no internet connection. How can Julian Assange have put this list together and emailed anyone? Facts please otherwise it just looks really stupid. Obviously someone is trying to make Julian look stupid, he is not stupid, he is more intelligent than this.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do you know facts????

This was reported by multiple news sites. TD has no way of knowing if the list is forged – but has no reasonable reason to believe it’s fake either.
Are you saying this article shouldn’t be published unless TD has had the opportunity to run a forensic check on this somehow?
Julian may be cut off from the internet, but he still can use the postal service to mail actual letters to Wikileaks. Saying that he couldn’t possible have written this is… False and Defamatory! 🙂

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Do you know facts????

“Hey, Julian Assange has been locked in an embassy in london for over a year with no internet connection”

Not entirely true

He had his connectivity “partially restored” in October last year. Also, I’m rather sure that Assange has other ways to communicate documents and ideas that can be performed offline if it were indeed him providing the list.

“Facts please otherwise it just looks really stupid.”

More importantly – COMPLETE facts, else you look really, really stupid when your “corrections” are proven to be at best incomplete.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If organizations went around denying everything untrue people have said/posted about them, they’d never be able to do anything else.

I doubt Wikileaks as an entity much cares unless someone presses them for a comment.

Otherwise it’s just a vaguely amusing joke as I would doubt either Mr. Assange or Wikileaks ever released this (the provenance is dubious).

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There was a period where Assange was something of a darling of the left because he released Chelsea Manning’s leaks which, among other things, revealed US abuses during the Iraq War.

But I think most of his liberal supporters abandoned him around the time he was hit with rape allegations, well before the 2016 election.

carlb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, no. The Swedish allegations have some serious issues, including that his accusers colluded with each other and were seeking media attention, that means they have no real prospect of standing up in court. Australian media at one point was honestly reporting this much – although most other mainstream media won’t touch the question with a barge pole as calling someone out on a spurious allegation lessens the chances of real victims of sexual assault speaking out in future. (Evidently, this was before all of the other tactics used by the real abusers and their lawyers – from NDA’s to catch-and-kill tabloids to having victims followed – became infamous in the #MeToo era. Some of the people in power now, or at the time, have no moral right to lecture!)

Assange fell out of favour with the left when, cut off from Western funding sources by US control of payment processors like Visa/MC/Amex, he was left dependent on Russia – who used him to release the product of a break-in of the DNC (or its computers) worthy of a certain infamous third-rate burglary of the Watergate era.

At some point, there are no good guys in this.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The Swedish allegations have some serious issues, including that his accusers colluded with each other and were seeking media attention, that means they have no real prospect of standing up in court.

I remember seeing online commenters use this exact line of reasoning in defense of Bill Cosby, as recently as two years ago. They were mistaken.

Perhaps you’re right and European courts work differently than American ones do. But Assange sure isn’t acting like a man who’s confident that the accusations against him wouldn’t hold up in court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“dishing it out on both sides as true journalists should”

Not that both sides crap again. As if such claims alter the public perception(s). Action speaks louder than words and words are cheap.

True journalists actively attempt to avoid bullshit, report verified data and annotate editorial comments as such – among other things. They have no responsibility to report what both sides say regardless of its veracity.

Lawny (profile) says:

Ah, the delicious irony in attempting to force unpublishability for the sake of (what appears to be, from the list) controlling a little more of the narrative of how people view Julian. For what goal I can’t guess, really.

Bonus points: if you go to the defence page on Wikileaks, it says “defend the right to publish.” So either their next action has to be to take no action against those publishing (and be unable to control the narrative now the list has been published, but remain true to the stance they claim to hold), contradict themselves (take some measure to pull down the list and prevent republishing) and thus show themselves as hypocritical, or deny this outright as a third actor attempting to cause problems for Wikileaks as a whole.

And that is just if it was a real document and not instead someone attempting to cause a stir; in which case mission accomplished.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m no lawyer, but I have to assume that Wikileaks’/Assange’s lawyers are involved in this. That title may well be just the *formal way* in which these legal communications are sent to media organisations. i.e if you want to send a legal communication to media outlets which you request not to be published, this is how you do that.

Do we have a lawyer in the comments group?

This appears are a request not to publish which Reuters deigns to ignore. Fair enough, information (well verified by Emma Best) about how wikileaks are attempting to defend themselves against dubious claims in media articles is news enough.

By “dubious claims” I mean that at least The Guardian has been publishing very unreliable information trying to connect Wikileaks/Assange with the Russian government.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


While it ‘might’ work in the UK, the bumptious legal threat “CONFIDENTIAL LEGAL COMMUNICATION NOT FOR PUBLICATION” means nothing. It is used by pretend lawyers & really stupid ones to try and frighten recipients into pretending they have to listen to them.

Y’all send me an email & tell me not to tell anyone…
You aren’t the FISA court so my response is GFY.

Anonymous Coward says:


In response to my “I’m not a lawyer” but the reason may be X, you respond with “It is used by pretend lawyers & really stupid ones”.

I call for evidence. I was asking for a lawyer from the comments community to comment. Are you one?

I have provided you with evidence of a deliberate disinformation campaign by The Guardian against Wikileaks/Assange and this is not at all surprising when the director of the CIA called them a “hostile non-state intelligence agency”. This is, of course, absolute horse shit. The CIA publishes disinformation through media lackeys whilst Wikileaks publishes vetted primary source documents.

For more on idiotic regurgitation of spurious claims by intelligence agencies, you can read another of Greenwald’s pieces:

I am making a credible claim about Wikileaks trying to counter an obvious disinformation campaign, and asking whether the ALL CAPS title may be standard legal procedure. It may not be. I don’t know, but I can see why Wikileaks are doing this.

MM had a field day describing the poor optics of this for Wikileaks, and fair enough there too; it does look rather poor.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:


In the US, for better or worse, privacy laws tend to assert that any information given to a third party can not assumed to be private, nor can you declare the information private and unilaterrally assert it. Without a formal contract (non disclosure agreement), you can not assert privacy.

There are exceptions, such as most discussions with a mental health professional, or discussions with a lawyer. When a civilian talks about a confidential communication, they mean that type of privileged communication, often combined with professional ethical duties.

None of this applies to this kind of unsolicited communication to the press.

While the EU has stricter privacy laws, they also tend to not apply to unsolicited communications to third parties from my admittedly lacking understanding.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: tl;dr

You’re inverting burden of proof. You’re asking someone else to prove that putting "not for publication" at the top of an e-mail doesn’t make it illegal to publish it. That’s not how it works. If you don’t know of any evidence that a restraint on speech is legally binding, you should assume that it isn’t, not that it is.

But, since you asked for a lawyer’s opinion, here’s an excerpt from a letter by Actual Lawyer Ken White of Popehat:

As a preliminary matter I reject your pretenses to the confidentiality of your communication. You have threatened me with suit if I write about a legal proceeding of public interest. You have no basis to demand that I keep such a threat confidential, and I will not do so. Rather, I will publish it, and this response, to help readers assess your client’s case.

Anonymous Coward says:


Confidential legal communications are sent from lawyer to lawyer; this was sent from WikiLeaks to various journalists and editors.

I think this was more to set a foundation so that when various parties attempt smear campaigns, Assange and WIkileaks’ position is already in place.

That said, I’ve seen all of those statements in blog posts and articles over the past week; I’m not sure why the sudden interest in Assange again, but it’s definitely out there, even if it’s stupid.

WikiLeaks lost its credibility when it stopped being transparent adn started supporting particular agendas; Assange I think of as a bit of an egotistic nutter with his heart (sometimes) in the right place who offended the wrong people. He really shouldn’t be news anymore, other than as part of the fallout from the current newsworthy events he’s been part of.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is sad he has been forgotten by the world.
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is surrounded by a team of incompetents & idiots.
It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange that a majority of these things have actually been said.

It is true and famatory to suggest that Julian Assange did this to stroke his own ego & chase the spotlight.

Anonymous Coward says:


No. The wikileaks twitter handle published a link to the document, well analysed by Emma Best.

But, it is rather weird that Wikileaks would expect this to not blow up in their face.

As another noted, perhaps they are just trying to pre-establish their legal position against this bullshit coming out of the Guardian. Buy, why do the ALL CAPS legal threat? Seems a bit mad, unless they were wanting to create the discussion. I’ve no idea why, but that may be the case.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The joke is he doesn’t really care about those unflattering things said about him. It satirically points out the propaganda war being waged against him, in a format those propagandists recognize. It simultaneously points out their hypocrisy in that they will publish anything unless government or some billionaire tied to government says not to. They act like their hands are tied all of the time in giving information to the public, but it is just a choice, as Assange brilliantly showed.

I’m really sad for society that something this easy to understand is going right over so many people’s heads. People who complain about the lack of critical thinking are not as chicken little as I thought.

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