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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Filed Under: aaron swartz, anonymity, credibility, source, wikileaks

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 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 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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