In embracing partisanship, WikiLeaks loses its integrity

WikiLeaks was focused on accomplishing just a single goal—informing citizens through government transparency. In 2016, however, it is clear that WikiLeaks has lost sight of its original goal. How so? In the United States presidential election, WikiLeaks has worked with the Kremlin and President Putin to instigate a coordinated attack on the very foundation of the United States’ democratic institutions: our electoral process.

International non-profit WikiLeaks was launched in 2006 and quickly rose to prominence for releasing documents related to the war in Afghanistan in 2010, including over 76,900 internal U.S. military logs from January 2004 to December 2009. This massive release of government documents incited a national conversation about the military’s operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Later, in April 2011, WikiLeaks started another conversation—this time about the constitutionality of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp—after the site published 779 secret files pertaining to prisoners detained in the military prison.

WikiLeaks has received various praise and awards for its role in exposing government documents. Between 2008 and 2010, the site received The Economist’s New Media Award as well as Amnesty International’s UK Media Award. Julian Assange was even named the Reader’s Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year in 2010. In addition to a positive reception in the journalism community, the UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham stated that “WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen.”

However, beginning in July 2016, WikiLeaks began publishing private emails from top Democratic National Campaign  staffers, in addition to communications from members of Hillary Clinton’s staff.  These document dumps are unique from the previous WikiLeak document dumps. For one, WikiLeaks is distributing the communications of private citizens rather than government documents. Instead of inciting important national conversations, these emails only contain tidbits of internal campaign gossip and daily campaign activities. Furthermore, rather than presenting unbiased information, Assange has made it his explicit goal to take down Hillary Clinton. Assange frequently comments publicly on his hatred of Clinton and his desire to see her arrested.

The worst part about these documents however, is where they came from. On October 7, 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security publicly accused the Russian government of hacking U.S. political institutions, including the Democratic National Committee, and interfering with U.S. elections. A joint statement released by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence explained that “only Russia’s senior-most officials” could have authorized the hacking of emails from top Democratic National Committee officials. The statement continued that “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.” These hacked documents were subsequently published by WikiLeaks.

Assange has not been straightforward about where he received the hacked campaign emails. When appearing in a television interview for syndicated Fox commentator Sean Hannity, Assange kept mum on the documents’ origins. His silence says volumes about the tenuous ethical ground upon which he is standing.

Publishing emails that one sovereign nation hacked from another sovereign nation is unacceptable, especially considering Russia’s strong stake in the U.S. presidential election due to Donald Trump’s affinity for the Kremlin. It is evident that WikiLeaks is no longer a champion of citizens and government transparency, but rather a biased organization content with undermining journalistic integrity and the United States’ democratic process.

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