Foreign Policy (FP) has reported that WikiLeaks, the controversial whistle-blowing organisation, has ignored a large cache of Russia-specific documents, instead choosing to publish documents relating to Hillary Clinton and the US presidential election that were alleged obtained by Kremlin-directed hackers.
WikiLeaks declined to publish the trove of documents, reportedly at least 68 gigabytes of data, that came from inside the Russian Interior Ministry, according to partial chat logs that were shown to Foreign Policy.
WikiLeaks, rejecting the documents in 2016, wrote that “As far as we recall these are already public.”
When contacted by FP to comment on the allegations, WikiLeaks said: “WikiLeaks rejects all submissions that it cannot verify. WikiLeaks rejects submissions that have already been published elsewhere or which are likely to be considered insignificant. WikiLeaks has never rejected a submission due to its country of origin.”
In 2014, various news outlets reported on the cache, that included details as to Russian military and intelligence activities in Ukraine. However, the 2014 cache contained less than half the data that later became available to WikiLeaks in 2016, when Julian Assange, the organisation’s founder, rejected it.
The source that highlighted the selective publishing to Foreign Policy said: “We had several leaks sent to WikiLeaks, including the Russian hack. It would have exposed Russian activities and shown WikiLeaks was not controlled by Russian security services.”
“Many WikiLeaks staff and volunteers of their family suffered at the hands of Russian corruption and cruelty, we were sure WikiLeaks would release it. Assange gave excuse after excuse,” the source continued.
Prior to the 2016 US presidential election, WikiLeaks published thousands of leaked, “damaging emails” from Hillary Clinton and her campaign team. The American intelligence community has highlighted its belief that such information was obtained as part of a Kremlin-sponsored hacking campaign. WikiLeaks’ role in publishing the documents has led to accusations that WikiLeaks was advancing a Russian-backed agenda.
In 2010, Assange had vowed to publish compromising information on any institution that avoided scrutiny. “We don’t have targets,” Assange said, as WikiLeaks published information on Peruvian politicians, Sarah Palin and surveillance companies.
However, by 2016, WikiLeaks had effected a sea-change. It began to focus obsessively on Clinton and her presidential bid, sparing Donald Trump’s. Approached later in 2016 by the same source that offered it the Russian leaks with information on an American security company, WikiLeaks again turned it down. WikiLeaks justified that by saying: “We’re not doing anything until after the election unless it is fast or election related. We just don’t have the resources.”
WikiLeaks’ policy began that anything unrelated to the 2016 election was “diversionary.” Writing to Foreign policy, WikiLeaks said: “Schedules publications to maximise readership and reader engagement. During distracting media events, such as the Olympics or a high profile election, unrelated publications are sometimes delayed until the distraction passes but never are rejected for this reason.”
WikiLeaks’ relationship with Moscow was initially rocky. In October 2010, WikiLeaks, then in partnership with the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, promised to publish documents on the Kremlin. However, in November 2010, it was interrupted by the release of US diplomatic cables from the Chelsea Manning leak.
Ultimately, from the Manning leak, only a handful of stories were published out of an archive of over a quarter of a million files from the US Embassy in Moscow.
Assange’s relationship with Russia was evolving. In 2012, he accepted his own show on Russian-funded network RT, and produced episodes interviewing figures such as Noam Chomsky.
Questions about Assange’s ties to Russia were raised in 2016, when the Daily Dot reported that WikiLeaks failed to publish documents that revealed 2 billion euro transaction between Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and a Kremlin-owned bank in 2012. WikiLeaks told the Daily Dot that no emails were removed from what the organisation had published and suggested that the Daily Dot was “pushing the Hillary Clinton’s neo-McCarthyist conspiracy theories about critical media.”
Assange is reported to believe that American officials, hoping to tarnish his reputation, leaked the records. WikiLeaks denies such allegations.
When, in April 2016, Novaya Gazeta reported on the Guardian’s expose on 11.5 million documents that were dubbed the Panama Papers, that exposed how powerful figures stashed their money overseas, Assange publicly criticised the work. Assange suggested that media outlets had selectively chosen “Putin-basing, North-Korea bashing, sanctions-bashing ...” documents.
Roman Sleynov, a Russian investigative journalist told the New York Times: “It was a surprise that Mr Assange was repeating the same excuse that our officials, even back in Soviet days, used to say – that it’s all some conspiracy from abroad.”
“There should be more leaks from Russia,” Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks spokesman turned rebel, in an interview with France24 in March. Domscheit-Berg suggested that since WikiLeaks mainly catered to an English-speaking audience there was little demand for leaks from non-English speaking countries.
A version of this was first published on foreignpolicy.com