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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Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 2:51pm

    Manning is in trouble for reasons that would not apply to Aaron Schwartz.

     

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  2.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 2:52pm

    Very strange

    There is more to this. It just doesn't make any sense.

     

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  3.  
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    Nigel (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:02pm

    That whoosh

    Is the sound of any sort of journalistic credibility for WL flying out the window. Regardless of the circumstances.

    Nigel

     

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  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:05pm

    Only the third Swartz story today. You guys are really holding back.

     

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  5.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:07pm

    Re:

    Swartz. Sorry.

     

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  6.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    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.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:21pm

    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?

    If that was the case, I'd expect a thunderous denial from Wikileaks. So far: *crickets*

     

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  8.  
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    Cath, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    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.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:45pm

    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...

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:47pm

    Re:

    The main reason, of course, is that he is still alive.

     

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  11.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:55pm

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    akp (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 3:58pm

    My first reaction...

    ....ARE THEY INSANE?

     

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  13.  
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    Wally (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 4:04pm

    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.

     

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  14.  
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    Jake, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    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.

     

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  15.  
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    Wally (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 4:10pm

    Re:

    Julian Assange is claiming that Aron Swartz contributed to Wikileaks. There is no evidence to support that claim. This means Assange is using the death of Aron Swartz as a publicity vehicle.

     

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  16.  
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    Wally (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Re:

    I know...autocorrect is a pain...no worries :-)

     

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  17.  
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    Pixelation, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 4:18pm

    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.

     

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  18.  
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    Kenneth Michaels, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 5:07pm

    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: http://truth-out.org/news/item/13945
    David House's case: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120329/11143218297/court-suggests-politically-motivated-border-se arches-may-be-unconstitutional.shtml

    The Feds harassed Swartz because of Manning and Assange

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 6:12pm

    Re: Swartz, Assange & House & Harassment by Feds

    Isn't that more "The Feds harassed Swartz, Manning and Assange because the ask too many questions and/or poke their nose where it doesn't belong."

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 6:40pm

    If he was a wikileaks source, that explains the Secret Service becoming involved, and provides a much more likely explanation for his suicide: he was facing way more serious prosecution for much more serious crimes.

    Way to go Masnick. Care to retract any of the previous week's articles?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 7:07pm

    Julian Assange is a douche just proving his doucheyness.

     

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  22.  
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    Dreampod, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 7:23pm

    Re:

    Might want to get the fitting on that tin foil hat looked at.

     

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  23.  
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    DMNTD, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 8:13pm

    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.

     

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  24.  
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    shane (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 8:54pm

    Meh

    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.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Meh

    Until there's proof of Swartz's involvement in Wikileaks this is unfounded and rumor so take it with a grain of salt.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 10:48pm

    Swartz was a Wikileaks source for what?

    Well that's the question, isn't it? 2 days before he killed himself the Secret Service initiated an investigation into him. We know he was a hacker; what else had he hacked?

     

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  27.  
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    alanbleiweiss (profile), Jan 22nd, 2013 @ 11:59pm

    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.

     

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  28.  
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    Eponymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 12:16am

    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"!

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:27am

    Re: Re:

    Massachusetts has Depraved Heart standard murder in its penal code: Chapter 265 section 52.

    IT could still be seen as murder.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:30am

    Re:

    But the point is, as in the Dotcom case, the DoJ is trying to persecute those surrounding him, making them lok like ridiculous arrogant tools.

    WikiLeaks, however, should not have released that information out, as it damages their credibility massively. No-one comes out of this looking good, except Swartz.

     

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  31.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:48am

    I'll be cautious here. If the secret service got involved then maybe they knew about possible involvement with Wikileaks.

    In any case I'll wait for further developments to form an opinion. At first sight it seems a quite improper move.

     

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  32.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 3:42am

    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...

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 3:55am

    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 ?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 3:59am

    Re:

    in depth reasoning... IT IS WHAT WIKILEAKS DOES !!!!

    Sure they normally post OTHER people's and Governments secrets, but why not post your own, it's the only right thing to do right !!!!..

    They will give up manning next.. just wait..

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 4:01am

    Re: Re: Swartz, Assange & House & Harassment by Feds

    nice grouping.. Swartz, Manning and Assange.....

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 4:06am

    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..

     

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  37.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 4:07am

    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.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 5:13am

    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 them.as 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.

     

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  39.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 6:15am

    Re:

    Can it, Dolan.

     

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  40.  
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    Jay (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 7:11am

    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.

     

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  41.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re:

    I suspect the prosecutor, or others in the government, would like to change that.

     

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  42.  
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    Kevin (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 10:47am

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Kenneth Michaels, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Re: Down and further down

    Hear! Hear!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jan 25th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    After Death

    Your Legacy after death is not something to be kept secret.

    I see no negative in saying this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    Brad, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:35pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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