Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange blatantly lied about publishing only the "last four digits" of credit card numbers from democratic donors during an appearance on the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday. Image: HBO
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"We did not publish full credit card numbers of donors," Assange said in response to a torrent of criticism from the show's host. "It's the last four digits, just like your 7-Eleven receipt."
Maher, who was already frustrated by Assange's defensive blathering, let the comment slide. But as the reporter who broke the original story, I can definitively say Assange looked directly into the camera and lied.
This is the same person who prides himself on exposing the absolute truth and built his notoriety promising to do so. He could have said that he can't account for all the emails or doesn't care about sensitive information.
But he didn't. Instead, he lied.
The fact is Wikileaks published dozens of full (and active) credit card numbers in the original DNC email dump. The emails that include these numbers are so rife with personally identifiable information, it makes it nearly impossible to publish a redacted screenshot in a responsible way.
"We're really good at this," Assange said. "We have a 10-year perfect record of having never got it wrong in relation to the integrity of what we have released."
This is one email of dozens containing personally identifiable information from donors. This email is about 800 words long and almost every line contains sensitive information about innocent people. (Image: Michael Nunez / Gizmodo)
That's not exactly true, either. A decade ago when Wikileaks was born, its founders promised to "facilitate safety in the ethical leaking movement", but they have since abandoned that promise. The organisation has been criticised for publishing the names of Afghan civilians, putting Turkish women in danger and now publishing personal information of donors to the Democratic National Committee. Wikileaks ethics are closer to pure anarchy than any virtuous cause.
Assange's latest interview with Bill Maher leads me to believe that he and other Wikileaks editors have no clue what the site is publishing. Maybe the editors just don't care any more, but that's not what they're saying publicly. Instead, they're trying to mislead the public and misrepresent the data it has published.
For example, the organisation tried to stir up controversy on the last night of the Democratic National Convention by sending a tweet that made it appear it had published new DNC voicemails. Several news organisations took the bait despite the fact that the voicemails were discovered five days earlier. And now, Wikileaks' editor-in-chief has been caught lying on national television.
If an organisation that predicates itself on revealing the absolute truth is so willing to mislead journalists and the public — sometimes by obfuscation and other times by lying outright — can it be trusted? Sadly, the answer is no.