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In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes", Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said he loved watching banks "squirm" about rumors of his latest upcoming leak.  (Source: CBS)

Questions about Mr. Assange's motives (he has called himself an anarchist in the past) went unasked, as did the question of whether Wikileaks might be profiting off the stock shifts its leaks cause.  (Source: CBS)
Assange claims U.S. is utterly incapable of removing his site from the web

In an interview [video] with the CBS show 60 Minutes, the founder-and-chief of the controversial secrets site Wikileaks discusses the recent backlash against his site, following the release of U.S. Military and State Department secrets.  He states, "The U.S. does not have the technology to take the site down . ... Just the way our technology is constructed, the way the Internet is constructed."

He adds, "We've had attacks on particular domain names. Little pieces of infrastructure knocked out. But we now have some 2,000 fully independent in every way websites, where we're publishing around the world. It is -- I mean, it's not possible to do."

Assange is referring to the fact that his site lost its central domain name, most of its official hosting, and its donations accounts.  Volunteers, who host mirrors of the webpage, now sustain the site.  Attempting to access Wikileaks or searching for it in Google results in visitors being redirected to one of these mirrored sites.

While the issue of what Wikileaks has done is hot in the minds of many, much of the 60 Minutes interview focuses on the site's threats that it will release damning information implicating a major U.S. bank in wrongdoing.

In an October 2009 interview with the International Data Group's publication ComputerWorld, Mr. Assange claimed to possess a hard drive with a wealth of information from the Bank of America.  

In an interview with top business periodical Forbes, which took place in late November, Wikileaks' Assange claimed to be preparing a "megaleak", which would likely lead to a major U.S. financial institution (presumably Bank of America) being investigated and potentially charged by international authorities.

During the 60 Minutes special, interest was high on the topic, but the interviewer's attempt to extract more info from Mr. Assange was largely rebuffed.  He states, "I won't make any comment in relation to that upcoming publication."

But he did express that he gains pleasure from the ill effects on the financial world his news is causing.  He states, "I think it's great. We have all these banks squirming, thinking maybe it's them."

The interview did not touch on a significant point in that regard -- the question of whether any Wikileaks members -- including Mr. Assange -- had profited off the stock shifts triggered by the organization's new releases.

Some have suggested that Mr. Assange and Wikileaks may be using its new releases to profit on the stock market.  Using certain mechanisms the site could selectively release news, dropping a commercial entity's stock price, making money off the drop.  Indeed, the Bank of America's share price dropped 3 percent in late 2010 on speculation that it was in Wikileaks crosshairs.  The actual release could drop stock further.  It would be relatively easy for someone affiliated with the site or its members to exploit the financial repercussions of the site's actions.

Wikileaks is a relatively loosely organized and regulated operation, with less than a dozen full time staff members, by almost all accounts.  The site publishes no details of its operating procedures or finances.

Unfortunately, that question, like many others (Mr. Assange's self-labeling as an "anarchist" in the 1990s) went unasked in the 60 Minutes interview.

Update: Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011:

Some seemed to imply that we were making up allegations that Wikileaks was manipulating the stock market to profit itself or its financiers.  This is absolutely not the case.  Those capable of a quick Google search should be able to find a number of stories on this topic, such as:
"Wikileaks is harmful now, but could become even more destructive" -- Kansas City Star

Which writes:

Shares in Bank of America dropped 3 percent Tuesday. Although they recovered Wednesday, banking analyst Dick Bove said on CNBC that this may represent a new means of stock-market manipulation, by which the unknown funders of Wikileaks could profit by cratering shares in targeted companies.

Also some challenged whether Assange was ever really an anarchist.  Well he said he was, at least at one time, back in the 90s.  In the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier by Suelette Dreyfus, which Mr. Assange edited, researched, and contributed text to, an autobiographical passage by Assange describes:

As he quietly backed out of the system, wiping away his footprints as he tip-toed away, Mendax [Assange] thought about what he had seen. He was deeply disturbed that any hacker would work for the US military.

Hackers, he thought, should be anarchists, not hawks. 

He may well have changed his views since his teenage years in Australia in the 1980s, but it is well documented that at least at one time he expressed anarchistic views.


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Honesty is always the best policy
By DoeBoy on 1/31/2011 7:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
I think this all proves that honesty is always the best policy. There wouldn't be any bad exposure if these people getting leaked on were open and honest about what they do. I find the Wikileaks a great way to force people to be honest with those they represent. Of all the people we need to keep honest its our politicians since they are supposed to be representing the peoples interests and not their own or a company that has been feeding their war chest.




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