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
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
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
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
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
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.