Worthy of a George Clooney spy thriller movie (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, comes to mind), the intrigue of this story is riveting. Unraveling across continents, high levels of government, potential treason and investigative journalism are all intertwined and unfolding in real-time through social media channels that might eventually expose cover-ups in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Any Twitter account with almost 58,000 followers and who follows no one in return gives one pause to ponder. Such is the case with a group known as "Wikileaks," a whistle-blowing organization that has patterned itself after Wikipedia and is defined on their Web site as "a journalistic tool" that could "become as important as the Freedom of Information Act."
Julian AssangeUpon closer scrutiny, Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of the site appears to have possession of military documents that the US State Department doesn't want released to the general public. Considered classified and what has the capability of doing serious damage to the US' national security, Assange is not only uncooperative with government officials, but he is currently MIA.
According to a Daily Beast report, even if the State Department was able to locate him, it is doubtful that they would be able to block publication of the data that Assange is in possession of and holds safely on a server in Sweden.
Specialist Bradley ManningThis case revolves around cables Bradley Manning, an Army intel analyst leaked to Assange. The 22-year old resident of Potomac, Maryland, now under arrest in Kuwait for possible treason, is also believed to have provided Wikileaks with an explosive video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters.
Manning, 22, was arrested in Iraq last month after he was turned over to US authorities by a former hacker, Adrian Lamo, to whom he boasted of leaking the video and documents.
In one of his messages to Lamo, obtained by Wired, Manning said: "Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available."
Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, is as secretive as his Web site and has no permanent home.
In response to the "friendly" dragnet that the government has put out to find Assange, the Wikileaks' leader doesn't think kindly in regards to their probe. He responds tersely with a tweet this morning that is pointed and somewhat threatening.
Don't know exactly what Assange feels he can do to retaliate? However, he does seem to have a large enough ego, and of course an arsenal of followers that can support his cause should the government decide to get rough with him. At the moment, their requests seem relatively mild…
The intrigue doesn't stop here. Last week, Assange was to meet with the infamous whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of the famed Pentagon Papers and the secret history of Vietnam back in 1971. In stead of meeting in person, Assange appeared via Skype from Australia stating that lawyers recommended he was not to return to the US just yet for his own personal security.
Just a few hours before this post, Julian tweeted that there would be a "Super panel tonight in Vegas with himself, Valerie Plame & Scott Risen." Interesting company, wouldn't you say?
At the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference in Las Vegas, the title of the panel discussion is "Walking the tightrope: The risks and rewards of anonymous sources."
There is no indication whether or not Assange will fly in for the event, but based on who might be waiting for him at the airport, I kind of think he will again be 'Skyping' his way through those discussions.
I will follow this post with future updates as they come in. If any readers have any current information regarding this case, please provide us with your feedback in the comment section below. Whistleblowers are welcome!
UPDATE: June 11, 10 PM ET - FDL Report - Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, appeared on MSNBC today with Dylan Ratigan. He
said he fears for the safety of Julian Assange and advises him not to reveal his whereabouts.
UPDATE: June 12 - The Daily Beast - Scheduled to speak Friday (June 11) in Las Vegas at an International Reporters and
Editors conference, the group’s executive director, Mark Horvit,
tells The Daily Beast that Assange canceled the appearance—he was on a
panel to discuss anonymous sources.” Horvit said he communicated
with Assange through email and did not know his where-abouts.