"I really believe Assange is disturbed"

That's Technology Review Editor Jason Pontin's reaction to a piece about Wikileaks' draconian nondisclosure agreement by former Wikileaker James Ball. Now a Guardian employee, Ball leaked his NDA yesterday, and today, provides a glimpse of the working environment Julian Assange fostered: 

Julian arrived with a copy of this document for everyone in the room, and asked all to sign it there and then, to demonstrate to all present they were trustworthy and decent. Unlike everyone else present – who were largely young activists with little or no professional training – I read the document first.

In addition to the aforementioned concerns, the document was backdated – in my case by seven months. I had given dozens of print and TV interviews, at Julian's instruction, often covering small behind-the-scenes snippets. Could this document now be used retrospectively to mount a legal challenge should Julian ever so wish? It could.

I refused to sign, and listed several reasons why. At this point, more than one person in the room asked for their copy of the agreement back. This was refused.

Julian then proceeded to spend two hours – shouting – explaining why I must sign the document, or else risk the lives and wellbeing of everyone in the room, and never be trusted again. Eventually, he departed.

The rest of the day, and long into the night, was spent with other WikiLeakers begging, reasoning, or cajoling me into signing the document. I later learned Julian had specifically requested they use every possible effort to "apply psychological pressure" until I signed.

Next morning the conversation resumed in private. In far more measured terms than the previous day, Julian acknowledged no one but him was in any personal danger. He said as I had already given notice I'd be leaving the organisation, surely I could understand that WikiLeaks would need "something to use against you" should I prove unreliable. At one point, getting nowhere, he even referred to the need to protect his intellectual rights in case it damage the profitability of his book.

Refusing to sign the document was, in large part, thanks to the healthy instinct of self-preservation. But there are much larger issues at stake. The existence of gagging agreements and clauses is one of the biggest challenges to public interest whistleblowing.

Further evidence that Julian Assange is, in John Cook's words, "an agent of secrecy, not its enemy." 

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  • ||

    Another example of a less then perfect person having a good idea.

  • ||

    I don't know anything about Julian Assange other than what I've read in the media, and suffice it to say that if I had disclosed all the information he has--and pissed off as many people in high places and vicious dictators as he has...?

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get you.

  • ||

    If Hilary wanted me dead and arrested (not necessarily in that order) i would be a bit freaked out myself.

    What is sad is that Assange has apparently surrounded himself with yes men and probably does not have anyone to pull him back to reality.

  • ||

    "If Hilary wanted me dead and arrested (not necessarily in that order) i would be a bit freaked out myself."

    That'll give you nightmares.

    Then he's got people accusing him of sex crimes.

    Then he's got some vicious ex-dictators in Egypt and Tunisia who would love ten minutes alone with him.

    I have enough anxiety as it is--can you imagine what it must be like to...

    I don't know how he sleeps at night.

  • Old Salt||

    You know what would REALLY scare me?

    If Hillary told the world that she just "wanted" me!

    *SHUDDERS*

    *VOMITS*

    *SHITS SELF*

    *PASSES OUT IN OWN FILTH*

  • ||

    Wait, a left-wing icon turns out to be a hypocrite and control freak?? Say it isn't so!

  • Barack Obama||

    Seriously...

  • Vladimir Lenin||

    Tell me about it...

  • Max Stirner||

    Funny thing is, he stated he's sympathetic to free markets, as long as they're fair. At worst, he's a Keynesian, but hardly left-wing.

  • ||

    no, Assange is a left wing nut job.

    But i think it is important to separate the fact that he is also paranoid and that what he is doing with wikileaks (despite his fucked up agenda for doing it) is actually a good thing.

  • Max Stirner||

    http://blogs.forbes.com/andygr.....n-assange/

    >It’s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp, because I’ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I’m a libertarian, but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.

    >WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical.

    Again, so he loves markets but wants a minimum regulation to for a free market. He also states many of the corporate leaks have to do with entanglements with government, which is something libertarians should also be against. Again, nothing explicitly left-wing, unless being anti-war and anti-corporate welfare is left-wing. Then everyone on this sight is a left-wing nutjob.

  • prolefeed||

    Again, nothing explicitly left-wing

    "but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free."

    You need to brush up on your left-wing detection
    skills.

  • ||

    Perhaps not.

    Look, one could just as easily interpret that to mean that he is against, for example, AT&T's efforts to legalize its de facto monopoly.

  • ||

    AT&T did press Congress in the mid seventies to give it, AT&T, a de jure monopoly.

  • ||

    I don't think that Julian Assange would fit in perfectly here at RH&R, for example. He's probably left-er than we are.

    But who the fuck cares? Unless he's going through the leaks and changing what they said to make them more left-wing, he's entitled to his politics. What's the idea here, that we should only be in favor of someone shedding light on government secrets if they go through some libertarian purity test?

  • ||

    Interesting. What does he mean by "force them to be free".

    If he means you must have equitable enforcement of all laws and strict prohibitions of government favoritism, then we've got no disagreement.

    One nit I have to pick with many libertarians is that they often fail to recognize that markets will produce unfair outcomes if the laws and courts don't treat all participants fairly. Rule of law is a precondition for free markets.

  • SFC B||

    I think most libertarians here agree. So what happens to the markets when the courts and laws stop treating all participants fairly, as I think we are seeing in America now.

  • ||

    By "left-wing icon" I meant that he was an icon of the left wing, not that he was necessarily left wing himself.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    Narcissism is a common personality disorder in public figures of all political associations.

  • ||

    I refused to sign, and listed several reasons why. At this point, more than one person in the room asked for their copy of the agreement back. This was refused.

    This makes me laugh.

    Why was this the only guy to read the document let alone the only one to refuse to sign it?

  • tarran||

    Why won't it read!!!!!

  • roystgnr||

    I blame EULAs. We grow up now learning hundreds of lessons of "you will be presented with dozens of pages of dense legalese, most of which will be innocuous, the rest of which will be unenforceable, and all of which will go away and quit annoying you as soon as you make a symbolic gesture to agree". The fact that making this gesture reflexively can seriously bite you on the ass then becomes the exception rather than the prudent rule.

  • fish||

    I love this shit....we chew up and spit out new heros/icons like sunflower seeds! And at a similar rate!

  • Bruce Wayne||

    You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.

  • Harvey Dent||

    You stole my line! I'll see you in court!

  • Michael Wuertz||

    I'm on my way there now! Hop on in!

  • Federal Dog||

    Mistaking Assange for a hero is pretty fucking pathetic.

  • Max Stirner||

    While Assange is kind of crazy and definitely narcissistic, I still think Wikileaks is a good thing. You can never be too cautious when you fight federal governments, so it can in part be attributed to that. The only thing I'm worried about is every personal flaw Assange has is used against him by his detractors, and it moves the debate from whistle-blowing to his personal life.

    Oh well, like they say, you should never meet your heroes. I do think Wikileaks needs to keep the Bradley Manning situation alive though. People have already forgot that we're holding an American citizen in isolation indefinitely without trial.

  • Paul||

    The only thing I'm worried about is every personal flaw Assange has is used against him by his detractors, and it moves the debate from whistle-blowing to his personal life.

    Even if you ignore or wipe away the the concerning reports on his personal life, there seems to be a consistent stream of concerning question marks raised by people who have worked closely with him. Many of these come from enthusiastic journalists who were eager to work with Wikileaks as a concept, but then became concerned with how Assange runs it.

  • ||

    Again, even if Assange is somewhat paranoid or has certain personlity quirks, so the F what?

    EYES ON THE PRIZE!

  • Paul||

    See my post below. Is Assange undermining the value or mission of Wikileaks?

  • Paul||

    And by the way, the things I'm referring to aren't "paranoias" or "personality quirks", they're reported actions within the realm and mission of Wikileaks itself. Things that may be undermining the very thing Assange claims to be working toward. So eyes are on the prize, that's what raises the concern.

  • ||

    If I recall correctly, Assange doesn't believe in open information because he thinks it's a good in and of itself -- he supports open information because he thinks it's destructive to organizations and he wants to destroy as many organizations as possible.

  • ||

    yup I think you pretty much nailed it.

    The irony is that what he is doing will not actually achieve the destruction of institutions but in fact reform and improve them and that the only reason people help him is because open information is a good in and of itself.

    The double irony is that wikileaks needs an ego maniac like him for publicity, funding and notoriety.

    Anon just does not cut it for this sort of operation.

  • ||

    I eagerly await all the authority fetishists who hate Assange because he defied the state to point to this as a reason why Wikileaks--beyond Assange--is a bad thing.

  • Paul||

    Just spitballing here, but I wonder, just philosophically speaking, if you can have an organization like Wikileaks that agitates openness for state institutions, and keep the Wikileaks organization entirely open at the same time? Especially when those unscrupulous state actors all have you in their sights.

  • ||

    I don't know, and unfortunately Assange didn't try and find out. Maybe the next guy will.

  • Paul||

    I'm reading the linked article now. It's actually pretty interesting... and disturbing.

  • Riggs||

    Great question. You could apply it to D.C.'s open government orgs and come away with the same uneasiness.

  • Virginia||

    he's a crazed a-hole with a god complex and tries to screw anything that moves. sounds like all my friends back in college.

  • Q||

    But is he also a frustrated rock guitarist?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    The only people who aren't frustrated rock guitarists are

    * Real rock guitarists
    * Frustrated rock drummers.
    * Real rock drummers.

  • Les||

    Assange is an enemy of state secrecy. I don't care that he's an agent of his own organization's secrecy.

    The way Assange acts in regards to his organization's secrets is much less important than the way the government acts in regards to state secrets.

  • Paul||

    You should at least read the linked article by John Cook.

    The author makes the [plausible] argument that Assange isn't very interested in being an enemy of state secrecy, either. Which is why he's sitting on mountains of state secrets he refuses to reveal in direct contradiction of Bradley Manning's wishes, while Manning sits in jail.

  • ||

    I read it. It looks to me like the author makes the [plausible] argument that Julian Assange is a little bit intimidated by the explicit threats against his life, liberty, and reputation that various members of the US government have been making against him over the last year, and is both a little scared to release all of the stuff, and feels like if he does release it all, it will deny him a tool to keep from being imprisoned.

    I'd like it if they released everything, and I'm willing to believe that Assange is a douche. But he's also had the VP of the United States call him a terrorist, and the Secretary of State call for his arrest. Let's not pretend that he isn't under some pressure by really powerful people.

  • ||

    Yeah. He seems to accompany all his releases with statement about he's exposing the evils of the US government, even if the releases aren't really all that damaging to the US. I think his agenda is more like an anti-American one. Only release the bits that (he thinks) are the most damaging to the US.

    Albeit, he has done objectively more damage to OTHER governments, when it comes to it. It's mostly rolled off the back of the US.

  • ||

    Yeah, basically, if WikiLeaks itself is run like a little empire, well... hey, I would prefer different. Maybe OpenLeaks or whatever is better.

    But, you know, when WikiLeaks gets the power to tax, start wars, and arrest me, then I'll be a whole fuckload MORE concerned with how open it is.

    If WikiLeaks is close and tyrannical and secretive and run by douches, but it makes my government more open and transparent, then heck yeah, I'm in favor.

  • ||

    Amen.

  • Paul||

    But, you know, when WikiLeaks gets the power to tax, start wars, and arrest me, then I'll be a whole fuckload MORE concerned with how open it is.

    And with this there is no argument. My actual "concern" (if you could call it that) with WikiLeaks is that Assange is undermining the purported mission of the organization.

    Which I guess brings us to the question: Is Julian Assange Wikileaks, or does the organization and its mission go on without him?

  • ||

    I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.

    Umm, interesting take? I like how he blames the free markeeters for colluding with the State, but doesn't manage to work out that perhaps the State itself isn't entirely free of blame when monopolies arise.

    And, of course, manages to set the fox to guard the henhouse by requiring someone to force the markets to be free (gee, who could that be? What institution could possibly force markets to do anything?).

  • Paul||

    And, of course, manages to set the fox to guard the henhouse by requiring someone to force the markets to be free (gee, who could that be? What institution could possibly force markets to do anything?).

    According to secret sources who sometimes post right here on Hit&Run;, the market forces the government to do its bidding, not the other way around.

    The strange and twisted logic is that if we just get the right government in charge, pass the right cocktail of rules and paint the spirit circle just right, the government will no longer be the lackey to the free market.

  • Xenocles||

    What I don't understand is how he even plans to enforce such an agreement. Presumably he could be called as a witness in any legal action he initiates against a leaker, and I would think most courtrooms rank pretty low on Assange's list of places he wants to be. Another angle is that contracts to do illegal things are unenforceable. For good or ill, these are arguably agreements to obstruct justice. I don't really see a lot of (US, at least) judges enforcing it.

  • prolefeed||

    surely I could understand that WikiLeaks would need "something to use against you" should I prove unreliable

    You have to be a bit out of touch with reality to think "you need to voluntarily sign this document so I have the ability to fuck you over whenever I want, without any compensating benefit for you" is a persuasive argument.

    Or think you're working with idiots.

  • Scruffy Activist||

    But it's Wikileaks!

  • MJ||

    "Unlike everyone else present – who were largely young activists with little or no professional training – I read the document first."

    Assange thinks he's working with idiots is the way to go here.

  • ||

    Or he thinks that everyone present is necessarily on his "side".

    I think Assange sees himself as being a leader of a political movement, and assumed that all the people in the room were willing soldiers in that movement.

    With us or against us mentality. Anyone who doesn't sign the document is potentially an enemy. Not one of us.

  • mr simple||

    I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.

    Read: no expertise whatsoever. This is the default position of people with no knowledge in economics/politics and statists. It doesn't take much reading to find out that the truth is the complete opposite; only government creates monopolies. Every study comes to this conclusion.

  • yonemoto||

    huh?

    Depends on your definition of "you". You could equally be "the consumer" or "a competitor" or "an activist organization".

  •  ||

    Sounds like a cult.

  • i dont know what to think||

    guy sounds like a typhical douch. and yet he has a nation where half of its politicians want his head on a stick while still talking about how "great" there justice system is.

    the fact they even say stuff like that shows he has no chance in hells half acre at a fair trial in the states.

  • Not Voting for aPauling moRon||

    Careful, Mike Riggs! Your fellow "Reason" staffers still worship the ground this loose cannon nutjob Assange walks on. Your career here is likely to be short if they find out you don't worship their patron deity of leakers.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Why would someone expect a private company to not be secretive?

  • ||

    Check out the streaming on-demand video series, WikiLeaks: Security Threat or Media Savior? at FORA.tv (http://f4a.tv/eFjoq1)

  • ||

    Good that the ugly truth is revealed..sad though that the young american guy has to sit behind bars for the rest of his life while Assange making big money..
    Villalarm

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