Whither WikiLeaks? Cryptome Has You Covered
In case you missed it, over the weekend WikiLeaks flag bearer and international man of no mystery whatsoever Julian Assange gave an impassioned speech to his followers from the window of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He apparently took pains to remain in the window and not venture forth onto the balcony, which is technically British soil and would subject him to being shanghaied by commandos suspended from Harrier jets and whisked directly into a basement cell at Gitmo.
Assange had arranged a press conference to address his newly granted political asylum -- and because he hadn't been in front of a camera in weeks and had begun to break out in hives.
In a brief speech, Assange thanked the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, every nation in South America, and his supporters in the United States and United Kingdom, as well as his family and children. (Did you know Assange had a wife and kids? I didn't. Talk about your state secrets.)
He also said this:
As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies. We must use this movement to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America. Will it return and reaffirm the values it was founded on? Or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?
Then he broke into an impressively impassioned rendition of "Don't Cry for Me, WikiTina."
I'm kidding about that last bit, unfortunately.
At about the same time, in a quieter part of the Webosphere far from the cameras, John Young was patiently answering a reporter's questions about real and fake leak sites. In case you've never heard of John Young, he's the 76-year-old New York architect who also happens to be the creator of Cryptome.org, which has since June 1996 been the place where dark secrets emerge into the light and whistleblowers can reveal the truth.
In his answers to Radio Free Europe's Luke Allnut, Young recommended a handful of trustworthy, legitimate disclosure sites like PublicIntelligence.net and Cryptocomb.org; WikiLeaks was not among them. He also named sites that pretended to be leak sites but were in fact designed to spread propaganda and disinformation; among them was Allnut's own Radio Free Europe.
Interestingly, for a brief period Young was involved with WikiLeaks. As he told Cnet's Declan McCullagh in 2010, he initially worked with WikiLeaks, but when the site's founders began talking about raising millions of dollars to keep the site running, Roberts smelled a rat:
When they explained the amount of money they were going to try to raise, that was [my] basis for parting company with them. I thought it was going to be more like Cryptome, which is a collective of people contributing their time to it and not a centralized operation raising lots of money. ...Someone said that the initial goal was $5 million. That caught my attention. One, because I think the type of stuff I was going to publish, you should never do it for money. Only because that contaminates the credibility and it turns it into a business opportunity where there's great treachery and lying going on.
And it will contaminate WikiLeaks. It always does. In fact, that's the principal means by which noble endeavors are contaminated, the money trail.
Cryptome.org costs about $100 a month to operate, Young added.
Unlike Assange, Young doesn't seek the limelight. He doesn't stand on (or near) the balconies of foreign embassies issuing impassioned yet baldly self-serving statements about freedom of the press. He doesn't make himself the center of every story. He just reveals things that those in power would rather remain opaque. He does what WikiLeaks used to do, back before it became the Julian Assange Show.
So when those of you out there in Cringeville wonder why I am so snide when it comes to Julian Assange, especially after my early support of WikiLeaks, now you know. The idea of WikiLeaks is great; the reality, something less than great.
You can't do this for fame or adulation or money. You do it for truth, or you don't do it at all.
What do you think of the Julian Assange Show? Post your critiques below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Whither WikiLeaks? Cryptome has you covered," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.