loose lips

Julian Assange Picks a Media Fight With the Guardian [Updated]

Between the hacktivists’ first information war and the United States’s crusade to bring down WikiLeaks, it’s hard to keep the lines of battle surrounding Julian Assange straight. The mercurial whistle-blower muddied the lines even further today in an interview with the Times U.K. (behind a pay wall — those clever buggers). The WikiLeaks founder lashes out at old friends and sworn enemies alike, sometimes in the third person. As part of “a wide-ranging series of attacks” to defend “his public and private conduct,” Assange takes aim at one former ally in particular: The Guardian, one of the few major media partners given advance access to WikiLeaks’s trove of diplomatic cables. Assange called the Guardian’s decision to “selectively publish” incriminating sections of the Swedish police report on the sex charges against Assange “disgusting.” Assange took particular umbrage with senior reporter Nick Davies, a former friend, despite the fact that the paper gave Assange several days to respond and left some graphic details out of its story. According to Assange, the Guardian received the leaked document from Swedish authorities or “other intelligence agencies” intent on undermining his legal defense. “The leak was clearly designed to undermine my bail application,” he said. “Someone in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison.”

Referring to yourself in the third person is maybe not the best way to convince the world you’re not an evil genius mastermind. But saying “I’m not promiscuous. I just really like women” in the middle of a sex-charge trial doesn’t seem terribly press-savvy either.

This isn’t the first time that Assange has alienated an ally. And like his former right-hand man, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the Guardian wasn’t shy about firing back. David Leigh, the Guardian’s investigations editor, who led the team of reporters who dug into the raw WikiLeaks files, retorted on the infamous portal for media flame wars, Twitter: “The #guardian published too many leaks for #Assange ‘s liking, it seems. So now he’s signed up ‘exclusively’ with #Murdoch’s Times. Gosh.” That was after the slightly more troubling tweet, “I’ve discovered #Nick Davies of the #Guardian left things out of the Swedish police file on #Assange in order to be kind. He’s like that.” Hmm, not sure if showing deference to a source in the middle of the frenzy to get the facts straight really enhances your credibility as a news organization. Davies also entered into the Twitter fray, “Assange finally admits ’no evidence of honeytrap’ on Swedish sex claims but does not apologise for misleading the world.” (Honeytrap being the euphemism for a sting operation where Assange was trapped with his accusers, um, honeypots.)

As for that American crusade to indict Assange, he feels certain the Justice Department will “turn around absolutely” thanks to popular support for WikiLeaks. “The people in power are organised and were able to respond quickly,” he said. “But numerically they are not that strong and our support in the general population is tremendous.” That groundswell of support would “turn the tables”, said Assange. “They’ll make statements by [Sarah] Palin and [Bill] Clinton not only ineffective but lethal.” Provoking an overreaction to rally the resistance? See, like we said, this is all working out according to Assange’s plan. That is, if his latest snit fit and hypocritical stance on which leaks are appropriate for publication doesn’t turn off supporters.

Update: Looks like the public can expect more infighting and insights from the international kvetcher of mystery. Assange is rumored to have sold the rights to his memoirs to publishers in the U.S. and the U.K.[Guardian UK]

WikiWars: Assange turns on friends, foes and lovers [Times UK]
Assange concerned over ‘natural justice’ in Sweden [BBC]
Senior Guardian hacks turn on Assange [Register UK]
Related: The WikiLeaks Saga Is All Working Out According to Assange’s Plan

Julian Assange Picks a Media Fight With the Guardian [Updated]