Julian Assange, founder of the vigilante website WikiLeaks, fancies himself a leader of the moral vanguard.
Coming under fire for his editorial decisions in recent months, the computer programmer and activist wrote a defense of his publishing strategy on his website on Tuesday, election day in the U.S.
Assange has been publishing leaked emails and documents from the Democratic political party, its campaigns, and officials throughout the election cycle. He has dumped electronic archives allegedly stolen from the Democratic National Committee as well as the personal Gmail account of John Podesta, chairman of the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate.
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In his defense, Assange cited a perceived civic duty as motivation for his actions. “We publish material given to us if it is of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical importance and which has not been published elsewhere,” he said, noting that the aforementioned leaks “fit our editorial criteria.”
“No-one disputes the public importance of these publications,” he continued, referring to revelations about internal workings of top campaigns and organizations affiliated with the candidates, like the Clinton Foundation. “It would be unconscionable for WikiLeaks to withhold such an archive from the public during an election,” he said.
The moves have drawn criticism from many wings, including from liberals who believe Assange to be hypocritically playing favorites in the presidential race, from Americans who fear Assange is undermining the country’s democratic process, as well as from geopolitical insiders who view Assange as playing handmaiden to Russia by laundering documents believed to have been obtained by the country’s intelligence agencies.
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Founded a decade ago with the mission to use cryptography and the Internet to expose global injustices—especially in places with oppressive regimes—WikiLeaks has spent far more of its energy targeting the U.S. while seemingly turning a blind eye to other countries such as Russia, as a recent profile of the website and its editor-in-chief by the New York Times reveals.
When asked about the trend, Assange downplayed the importance of the Kremlin’s influence as justification. Per the Times:
But given WikiLeaks’ limited resources and the hurdles of translation, Mr. Assange said, why focus on Russia, which he described as a “bit player on the world stage,” compared with countries like China and the United States? In any event, he said, Kremlin corruption is an old story. “Every man and his dog is criticizing Russia,” he said. “It’s a bit boring, isn’t it?”
Assange said that he and WikiLeaks had endured criticism for his publications in recent months. He said that the organization has not been able to address every accusation or frustration leveled against it because it is constrained by its resources, and he called on people to support it by donating funds.
“Publishing is what we do,” Assange said. “To withhold the publication of such information until after the election would have been to favour one of the candidates above the public’s right to know.”
Assange also noted that he had not obtained any documents relating to any other presidential contender, including Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.