Assange denies Russian source, sort of

An John Pilger interview of Julian Assange will be broadcast in Saturday but a preview has been released by RT:

Assange: WikiLeaks did not receive Clinton emails from Russian govt (EXCLUSIVE)

In an exclusive interview with John Pilger to be broadcast by RT on Saturday, whistleblower Julian Assange categorically denied that the troves of US Democratic Party and Clinton work and staff emails released this year have come from the Russian government.

“The Clinton camp has been able to project a neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything. Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 US intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications. That’s false – we can say that the Russian government is not the source,” Assange told the veteran Australian broadcaster as part of a 25-minute John Pilger Special.

That mentions “that Russia was the source” but only denies that the Russian government was the source, a distinct difference. It’s hard to tell without seeing the whole interview.

The Homeland Security Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence posted a joint statement in October, claiming they were “confident” that the Russian government “directed” this year’s leaks.

Moscow has rejected the accusation, with presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov calling the claims “nonsense,”while Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the “public bickering on Russia” before the US election is probably a “smokescreen” to draw the voters’ attention away from serious domestic issues.

There’s a range of terms being used here that could mean different things. The Russian government may not have been involved at all, but the also may have directed the leaking but not been the actual source – if they were involved it is more than likely they would use intermediaries. It’s not like Putin would hand deliver the data to Assange in person.

But then in the world of politics and spies it could be someone else doing the hacking, like ISIS, and pointing blame at the Russians to try and liven up the cold war.

Or it could be Bernie Sanders taking out his disappointment on Clinton. Or it could be Sarah Palin. Or Mickey Mouse.

Are we plebs going to find out who has actually done what? That’s a long shot.

Why Wikileaks v. Clinton fizzled

Bill Scher via RealClear Politics on Why the WikiLeaks Attack Fizzled

“Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done.  – #Wikileaks.”, tweeted Roger Stone, the longtime Donald Trump adviser and Republican operative, on Oct. 2. He was incorrect on two counts. The splashy release of Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails from WikiLeaks came on the following Friday. And Hillary Clinton is not done.

A little more than two weeks have passed since the stolen messages were turned into a searchable online database. Since then, Clinton’s lead in the RealClearPolitics poll average has widened slightly.

Why is that? The emails show the Clinton campaign team to be obsessively calculating political operatives. Some are privately rude to the populists on their left flank, whom they need on Election Day. The revealed transcripts of Clinton’s private speeches suggest she may hold some disingenuous positions in public.

In the alternative universe where Clinton runs against a generic Republican politician, the media might have turned the emails into a sensationalized feeding frenzy.

But we don’t live in the alternative universe. We live in the universe where WikiLeaks tried to take down a candidate with embarrassing private emails and failed.

Clinton didn’t suffer much from contextually challenged coverage like that in The Hill because Trump hogged most of the negative coverage for himself. A firm believer in the “no such thing as bad publicity” school, Trump chose to rail against those accusing him of sexual assault, thereby ensuring tons of stories about Trump.

So Clinton dodged a bullet.

In failing to turn unvarnished internal political machinations into a paralyzing scandal, WikiLeaks may have inadvertently raised the bar on what constitutes a successful act of political cyberwar. If all an email hack accomplishes is the temporary embarrassment of some political aides and supersized serving of gossip for Washington cocktail parties, then the hack is hardly potent ammo.

The truth is, if we saw the raw email from the Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush or Bernie Sanders campaigns we would surely see similar political calculations over tricky issues, deliberations how to quash negative media narratives and intemperate comments made about adversaries or even allies.

Many journalists probably had a good idea how politics worked in private and most were not shocked by the emails. And I think most people were not interested in the emails or were bored by them.

Perhaps Wikileaks are saving the best (or worst) until last, but time is running out.

The Russian government, which American intelligence believes stole the emails and fed them to WikiLeaks, doesn’t necessarily expect to elect Trump, but wants to, as The Economist put it, “discredit and erode universal liberal values by nurturing the idea that the West is just as corrupt as Russia.”

But that is only true if Americans are gullible enough to be led down the path Russia want us to take. The blasé reaction from American voters to the contents of Podesta’s emails is a heartening sign that we will not.

There are some similarities to what happened in the New Zealand general election campaign, where both Nicky Hager through his book ‘Dirty Politics’ and Kim Dotcom sought to swing the election against John Key and National, and if anything it backfired and ensured the incumbent was returned for another term.

Perhaps voters end up working things out well for themselves, however the media covers abnormal activities, especially if some people try to disproportionally influence elections.


Ecuador cuts Assange’s election interference

The Ecuador government has said they have cut Julian Assange’s internet in their embassy so they won’t be helping him interfere in the US election.


WikiLeaks had earlier said a “state party” had “intentionally severed” Assange’s internet access.

I think it is wise of Ecuador not to have anything to do with ongoing foreign interference in a country’s election.


Is Assange nuts?

A detailed look at Julian Assange in his current isolation in the Ecudorian Embassy and his effect on the US presidential campaign, from Bloomberg BusinessWeek: How Julian Assange Turned WikiLeaks Into Trump’s Best Friend – Can a lonely man in a tiny bedroom deliver a real October Surprise?

The founder of the online publishing platform WikiLeaks was the world’s best-known activist hacker when he walked into the modest row house in 2012, applying for humanitarian asylum rather than face questioning in Sweden over accusations of rape and sexual molestation. He claimed the case had been ginned up by the U.S., which, he believes, has been secretly trying to have him extradited for much of the past decade. The U.S. opened a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks after the organization published hundreds of thousands of leaked State Department cables in 2010. Although he has not been formally charged, Assange has often implied—without much hard evidence—that the U.S. would gladly try to assassinate him.

So it wasn’t entirely surprising last week when, on the occasion of WikiLeaks’s 10-year anniversary, Assange abruptly cancelled a planned appearance on the embassy’s balcony, citing security concerns. Instead he opted to appear, Oz-like, via video at a heavily hyped press conference held in Berlin.

Meanwhile, around the world, WikiLeaks fans—including a motley collection of radical activists, Breitbart readers, Redditors, and alt-right pundits—tuned in via multiple livestreams and Twitter feeds for what many hoped would be the leak to end Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

By the time of the anniversary event in the Berlin nightclub, many in the conservative media—and even some Trump advisers—had come to believe that a so-called October Surprise was imminent, a final blow to the Clinton campaign that would reverse their candidate’s precipitous drop in the polls, which began falling even before leaked audio from a 2005 television appearance sent the Trump campaign into crisis mode. Alex Jones, a right wing talk show host, stayed up all night to broadcast the proceedings, and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative and Trump adviser, promised that Assange would effectively end Clinton’s campaign.

Trump supporters are still waiting for a Hail Mary from WikiLeaks to resurrect their chances of defeating Clinton.

“For him, the choice of Trump and Clinton is bad and bad,” Richter says. “Of course, he’s taking the chance to intervene. He might think Trump is terrible, but it might be more interesting to have Trump. If Hillary becomes president, it’ll all be the same.”

Put another way: Assange sees an opportunity in derailing the Clinton candidacy—a chance to reassert WikiLeaks’s relevance by helping to dent the legacy of one of the most powerful political families in America while at the same time elevating an unlikely candidate to the highest office on earth. If you’re in the business of critiquing power structures, it doesn’t really get any better than that.

Assange’s turn toward Trump has also exposed WikiLeaks to a large and previously untapped audience of conspiracy-minded, antigovernment types. “He’s going on shows like Hannity because they will have him,” says James Spione, who directed the whistleblower documentary Silenced. In Spione’s view, the Trump flirtation is a put-on, a chance to get Assange and his organization in front of viewers. “He’s being pragmatic,” Spione says. In a recent tweet, WikiLeaks claimed that its approval ratings in the U.S. were up 27 percent over the past three years, an apparent validation of the new strategy. 

Assange has said that he expects Clinton to be elected president, “almost certainly,” but the possibility of a Trump win may also be motivating his calculation about whom to support. Assange believes that the Obama administration, with then-Secretary Clinton playing a leading role, pushed for him to be investigated criminally. It’s hard to imagine Clinton, who was in charge of the State Department when Assange’s source hacked it, would pursue WikiLeaks any less vigorously than Obama has. As if to make the point, WikiLeaks recently tweeted an anonymously sourced report that claimed Clinton had once asked, “Can’t we just drone this guy?” in reference to Assange. (Clinton said she did not recall making the statement and that if she had, it would have been a joke.)

The Trump campaign declined to say whether a Trump administration would seek to pursue Assange. But at a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 10, the candidate declared, “I love WikiLeaks.” In addition, a number people close to Trump have given hints that he might view Assange more favorably than Clinton. The day after the WikiLeaks press conference, Trump ally Roger Stone, who has previously referred to Assange as “a freedom fighter” and “a truth teller,” told Jones that the rape case against Assange was “a complete frame.” Stone expressed confidence that an October Surprise is still forthcoming. “This payload is coming,” he said.

There have been claims that the Trump campaign has been fed information from Assange via Stone. But ‘the payload’ doesn’t seem to have been launched yet.

Sarah Harrison, a British journalist and a longtime WikiLeaks editor, says that the organization would publish documents damaging to Trump if it had them. “It’s not that we’re choosing publications to pick a certain line,” she says. She declined to say whether Assange has been in touch with Stone.

Even so, Assange and the Trump campaign have lately seemed to be very much in sync, with WikiLeaks operating at times as a sort of extension of the alt-right press.

Longtime allies have generally been horrified by these developments, with friends and supporters suggesting that Assange has been so intent on playing the media that he may be in danger of losing control. “I’m not sure what to make of this turn to the alt-right,” says John Kiriakou. Among fellow whistleblowers and their friends, Kiriakou says, “There’s no consensus other than maybe Julian is just going nuts.” (Harrison disputes this, but not entirely. “There are big psychological pressures,” she says. “It’s difficult for him.”)

The whole WikiLeaks/US Election thing seems nuts.

On the other hand, Assange is devilishly smart, a point that even his fiercest critics are quick to concede, and is operating with limited options. And the 2016 election has been crazy enough that a tacit alliance with Trump might not just be nuts—it might be rational.

Maybe Assange thinks a Trump presidency is the best way of gutting the power of the United States of America, whose unity looks seriously threatened by the current campaign. In part thanks to Assange and WikiLeaks.

Or maybe the ‘October surprise’ is a deliberate distraction for Trump’s campaign, and there is no game changing surprise.

But the emails…

WikiLeaks continues to drip feed emails into the US presidential campaign.

Fox News: Emails show ’08 Clinton camp probed Obama vulnerability on Muslim father, cocaine use

Another day, another batch of WikiLeaks emails – this time, showing the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign’s efforts to test then-Sen. Barack Obama’s potential vulnerabilities, including on deeply personal matters like his father’s Muslim faith and his own past cocaine use.

WikiLeaks say they will keep leaking ‘daily’ but this is a continuation of stuff that is not getting the attention of the Trump sexual assault stories. It’s mostly very dry and convoluted, and is failing to make many headlines.

Often of more interest is why WikiLeaks is effectively campaigning against Clinton.

From the UK Guardian: From liberal beacon to a prop for Trump: what has happened to WikiLeaks?

How did WikiLeaks go from darling of the liberal left and scourge of American imperialism to apparent tool of Donald Trump’s divisive, incendiary presidential campaign?

Robert Mackey of The Intercept website wrote in August: “The WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.”

The seeming alliance between Trump and WikiLeaks is an astonishing role reversal. In 2010 it was lauded by transparency campaigners for releasing, in cooperation with publications including the Guardian, more than a quarter of a million classified cables from US embassies around the world. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange became a hero to many.

At the time, Republican politicians expressed outrage at WikiLeaks, but now some are seizing on its revelations as potential salvation for Trump’s ailing candidacy.

Conversely, liberal activists have expressed dismay at the hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account and the calculated timing of the release.

Last week US intelligence officials blamed Russia for previous hacks. It is not yet known whether Podesta’s emails were hacked by the Russians, but US officials say the attack fits the same pattern. Russian president Vladimir Putin has denied the allegation.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters on Thursday: “The Department of Homeland Security took the unprecedented step of saying … beyond any doubt that this hack and then the leaking of the emails was perpetrated by the Russian government for the purpose of intervening in the election and trying to affect the outcome in favor of Donald Trump. This is getting closer and closer to the Trump campaign itself.”

All of which raises the question: do Assange, Putin and Trump form a triangle? Are they in communication with each other or merely exploiting a coincidence of interests?

Trump has praised Putin and numerous links with Russia have emerged this year. But on Wednesday he denied any business interests beyond staging Miss Universe there. He has contradicted earlier statements about knowing Putin.

Some observers argue that Assange’s war on Clinton is personal: she was secretary of state at the time of the diplomatic cables leak. Her perceived secrecy and hawkish foreign policy represents the antithesis of his anti-US imperialist worldview. The capricious, nihilistic, non-ideological Trump might seem like a kindred spirit by comparison.

Alina Polyakova, deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, said: “My impression of Julian Assange is that he sees US hegemony in the international world order as the biggest problem facing us today. In his attempt to bring ‘transparency’, he ends up siding with the very regimes that deny transparency and human rights. That’s the irony of my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

So far WikiLeak’s campaign against Clinton has been largely ineffectual.

If the Republicans had chosen a safer traditional type candidate they could have chugged away and let Wikileaks damage Clinton.

But they have Trump, who has used the media adeptly to get the nomination, but that has now turned dramatically against him.

Wikileaks reveal something about Clinton

As promised Wikileaks have released some Hillary Clinton emails. Initial reports indicated that there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly concerning.

However the timing of the release, while Donald Trump’s campaign is under extreme pressure, has been suggested as an indication of Wikileaks’ determination to swing the election against Clinton.

Politico: The most revealing Clinton campaign emails in WikiLeaks release

WikiLeaks released a trove of emails apparently hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman email account, unleashing thousands of messages that reveal for the first time excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches — including those delivered before Wall Street — that were flagged as problematic or potentially damaging.

The late-Friday release came almost immediately after a devastating tape emerged of Donald Trump in 2005 talking about how being “a star” entitled him to make aggressive sexual advances on women, fueling speculation that WikiLeaks is trying to tip the balance of the election.

The batch of emails — which Wikileaks promised is the first of many more to come — provided a glimpse into the inner workings of the campaign, and offered telling details about Clinton’s views on trade and the middle class.

In one of the most notable exchanges, Clinton campaign research director Tony Carrk emails other members of the team on Jan. 25, 2016 to share excerpts of her paid speeches that could come back to bite the campaign.

“Attached are the flags from HRC’s paid speeches we have from HWA. I put some highlights below. There is a lot of policy positions that we should give an extra scrub with Policy,” Carrk writes.

The first excerpt highlighted — with the header *CLINTON ADMITS SHE IS OUT OF TOUCH* — is from a Goldman Sachs-Black Rock event in 2014 in which Clinton discusses her distance from middle-class Americans.

The speech excerpts also delve into her support for a Canadian-style universal health care system and offer revealing comments about trade, which could prove controversial after Clinton dragged her feet in voicing fierce opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that progressives loathe.

Beyond those excerpts, the emails affirm the campaign’s reputation for extreme caution, with an eagerness to proactively influence news coverage. Whether it’s plotting the candidates’ response to an early attack on influence peddling at the Clinton Foundation or writing jokes for an Iowa dinner speech, ad hoc committees — often incorporating advice from Bill Clinton — are shown agonizing over wording and tone. Under fire, they’re determined “not to look beleaguered,” as one aide put it.

Politico details “eight more e-mail exchanges that shed light on the methods and mindset of Clinton’s allies in Brooklyn and Washington”.

There doesn’t appear to be much that’s potentially very controversial.

Clinton’s campaign team has tried to imply doubts about authenticity of some of the material.

The most remarkable aspect of this is whether Wikileaks is going to try and match each Trump disaster with a hit against Clinton.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation

Just before the Democrat convention that presumably would have tried to show they were less of a circus than the Republicans the Democrat National Committee ringmaster has resigned, in part due to embarrassing emails leaked by Wikileaks, but some feel this was just the last straw.

Jim Manley at The Wall Street Journal: Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC Resignation and Headlines the Clinton Campaign Doesn’t Want During Convention

A few days ago I thought the Democratic convention in Philadelphia would be a boring and news-less event–a prediction blown apart by the fight over Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the announcement Sunday that she would resign as chair of the Democratic National Committee at the end of the convention.

With Democrats desperate to show a more united front than the circus on display at last week’s Republican convention, this could not be happening at a worse time. The congresswoman’s departure was forced by the WikiLeaks site’s release of more than 19,000 emails, some of which disclosed discussion and behavior of party staffers that appeared aimed at undermining the presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as he competed for months against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s decision to step down and try to avoid fanning the flames was the right one–but a day late and a dollar short.

Sanders has said he still fully supports Clinton, who says she knew nothing about the one sided campaigning by Wasserman Schultz, but this all suggests the Democrats have their share of internal problems.

To many Democrats, some of Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s actions seemed to reflect her personal objectives rather than party goals. The leaked emails were not themselves decisive–politics is a blood sport–but for many they were the last straw.

After months of tensions, Ms. Wasserman Schultz has come to embody what some see as establishment efforts to undermine the Sanders campaign and ensure that Mrs. Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination.

With Sanders supporters sensitive to slights of their candidate and his agenda, allowing her to stay on through the convention and to address the hall is likely to be a bad decision. The Sanders folks smell blood in the water–they are all but certain to make her time at the podium a living hell.

While Sanders will presumably put party interests first many of his supporters have been very negative about Clinton already, and may now make their displeasure known at the convention.

What’s the chances of Gary Johnson being given a serious shot at the presidency by media? Probably bugger all.

But there must be an opportunity begging for an ‘A Pox on Both Parties’ campaign.