WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy Paperback – Feb 15 2011
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Mediaite, February 5, 2011
“While [The Guardian’s] rendition of experience does not fail to leave out the requisite depiction of Assange as overbearing and paranoid, the overall tone of the story, rather than vengeful, is surprisingly self-effacing.”
“You can imagine, then, how delighted I was to receive a copy of the Guardian’s new crash-published Wikileaks book and discover that it was all the things I wanted from the Times’ book. And more… Indeed, while ‘Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War On Secrecy’ is many things – a thriller, a story of international diplomacy, a tale of greed and ambition and double-crosses; a comedy, a tragedy – above all it’s a manifesto for the future of professional journalism…If Wikileaks is this generation’s Watergate, then ‘Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy’ might well prove to be its All The President’s Men; educating a whole new generation of would-be reporters on the power and importance of the professional press.”
Eurasian Review, February 4, 2011
The American Prospect, June, 2011
“The best overview of the story as it stood in early 2011 is WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy…This is a gripping, spy-novel-paced recounting of how WikiLeaks, the Guardian, and the other major organizations managed a first-of-its-kind global news-breaking collaboration.”
About the Author
David Leigh is Director of his own management and training consulting company, Prospects Unlimited.
Luke Harding is an award-winning foreign correspondent with "The Guardian". He is the author of" Expelled: A Journalist's Descent into the Russian Mafia State". He has reported from Delhi, Berlin and Moscow and has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. He is currently based at "The Guardian"'s office in London.
Robert Booth graduated from Harvard and from Boston University's graduate program in New England and American Studies. His guidebook "Boston's Freedom Trail" has been in print for twenty-five years and he has contributed to the anthology "Salem: Place, Myth & Memory". He is curator emeritus of the Pickering House in Salem and serves on the boards of several history organizations. He lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Top Customer Reviews
A Guardian journalist has negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks' decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.
Knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week. The unpublished WikiLeaks' material includes over 100,000 classified unredacted cables that were being analyzed, in parts, by over 50 media and human rights organizations from around the world.
For the past month WikiLeaks has been in the unenviable position of not being able to comment on what has happened, since to do so would be to draw attention to the decryption passwords in the Guardian book. Now that the connection has been made public by others we can explain what happened and what we intend to do.
WikiLeaks has commenced pre-litigation action against the Guardian and an individual in Germany who was distributing the Guardian passwords for personal gain.
Over the past nine months, WikiLeaks has been releasing US diplomatic cables according to a carefully laid out plan to stimulate profound changes. A number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, believe that the co-ordinated release of the cables contributed to triggering the Arab Spring. By forming partnerships with over 90 other media and human rights organizations WikiLeaks has been laying the ground for positive political change all over the world.
The WikiLeaks method involves a sophisticated procedure of packaging leaked US diplomatic cables up into country groups or themes, such as 'resources corruption', and providing it to those organizations that agreed to do the most research in exchange for time-limited exclusivity.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What one notices immediately is the general tone of these writings, not only devoid of any sympathy for the subject, but frankly bilious. Leaving you with an unpleasant taste in your mouth, this tone makes you slightly suspicious as for the authors' motivations and impartiality. It would also disappoint anyone hoping to get an insight into the "enigmatic" Wikileak's founder's human qualities. In fact, the way Julian Assange is presented throughout the book is not as a human at all, but rather as some exotic animal who needs to be constantly "managed" (and is now caged and can be poked at safely). Those few little human interest details about his childhood and youth included in the book can be easily searched for on the Internet (where the authors probably found them).
More than characterising its subject, this book characterises the media world. You do not get any sense of gratitude or recognition from The Guardian for Wikileaks giving it the biggest news stories of the last few decades, on a scale unimaginable to the Guardian's team of "investigative journalists". (Taking on Jonathan Aitken is not quite the same as taking on the Pentagon and the US government). There is no gratitude either for Julian Assange's hard work in taking the physical risks and psychological pressure for getting those news stories out. There is no sense of solidarity with Wikileaks, the organisation that essentially is serving the same purpose as any good newspaper should serve: getting the truth out.
This book is in line with some of the Guardian's previous publications on Assange, such as the leaked details of the rape accusations, carefully selected for their graphic impact. As well as smacking badly of vindictiveness, that publication was well in line with the good old English tabloid media tradition of hypocritical voyeurism, where one is meant to shudder in horror ("Why, isn't this awful, dear?!") while indulging in minute investigation of someone's sexual (mis)behaviour. The editors' claims that it was the paper's duty to publish such material once it came into their hands is risible and will not deceive anyone.
No doubt I am being naïve here, but I cannot help but cringe at the violation of one of the basic school playground rules of fair play: you don't kick your mate when he is down. Not even a former mate.
Finally do NOT purchase the book from this site in any case, since they also were totally complicit in the totalitarian witch-hunt against Assange and Wikileaks, denying them hosting services, and therefore (like the financial companies) basically voluntarily acting in the illegal ways the US Empire requested of them.
The authors begin with some background: sympathetic chapters on Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have leaked the data from the United States' SIPRNet, Julian Assange, and the evolution of Wikileaks, from the organization's first coup in 2007, when it published a report on Daniel Arap Moi's corruption in Kenya. Then it is to Norway, March 2010, when The Guardian had its first face-to-face contact with Assange. He showed David Leigh the Apache helicopter video that would later be known as "Collateral Murder". There is an exciting account of Nick Davies' meeting with Assange that produced the collaboration between Wikileaks, The Guardian, and, ultimately, other news agencies, leading to the global furor we are still experiencing 4 months after Cablegate.
There is a chapter on the incidents in Sweden that led to Julian Assange being pursued on suspicion of sex crimes, followed by The Guardian's version of the dispute that occurred between the paper and Assange when The Guardian received a second copy of the State Department cables from another source. Those 2 chapters stand out from the rest of the book in their tone and apparent purpose, but more on that later. Finally, there is a dramatic account of the amazing collaboration between The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais, The New York Times, and Wikileaks, a Herculean effort that the authors undoubtedly will not forget any time soon. I still detect residual adrenaline from the (botched) coordination of the release on 28 November.
Any account of the Wikileaks saga begs the question: Should we accept this version as authoritative? The short answer is: No. "Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy" is, first and foremost, a puff piece for The Guardian. Its goal is to cast that organization, its journalists, and its use of material supplied by Wikileaks in the best light possible. The book excels when it conveys the awe and excitement of the journalists in working with such an enormous cache of data in ways they had never before experienced. It's a little sloppy around the edges. There are some factual inaccuracies (e.g. the repeated assertion that Pfc. Manning had access to "top secret" information) and some misquotes, though I didn't find any that changed the meaning of the statement.
The chapters about Sweden and the dispute with Julian Assange over the publication of Cablegate are unique in that they are malicious toward Assange. The rest of the book is not. In fact, it paints a picture of Assange as an eccentric polymath and an astute strategist that is by no means unflattering. I obviously could not say what went on between Assange and The Guardian on the day he allegedly threatened to sue, but the authors omit the existence of a written agreement between them, in the form of a letter, I believe. And they quote extensively from the meeting without, I assume, the benefit of a recording. The purpose of the chapter entitled "Uneasy Partners" is to assert The Guardian's version of disputed events -at the expense of the other party, naturally.
The chapter on Sweden, entitled "The World's Most Famous Man", is sleazier and more complicated. The authors put a spin on events as recounted by the two Swedish complainants that does not exist in their statements to police. They accept the women's statements as gospel but never fail to preface any statement that would favor Assange with "Assange's lawyers claim", when his lawyers are, in fact, simply quoting witness statements from the Swedish police protocol. Ironically, by the authors' own account, the woman known as Miss W told two radically different versions of events to different people, but they don't point that out. They glibly dismiss the idea that the women's statements do not imply that any crime was committed, even under Swedish law.
But objectivity is not the authors' purpose. Their book is a compelling contribution to the Wikileaks narrative, not because it is accurate, but because it is an intriguing -and eminently readable- amalgamation of history, hyperbole, drama, self-promotion, self-defense, sensationalism, and name-calling. If I'm not mistaken, the authors malign Assange over his Swedish exploits in order to posit their own rather patronizing views of women as superior to those of the womanizing Australian. How amusing. Picking this book apart for all of its agendas is a project in itself, and one that I hope some historian will eventually undertake. It is valuable for its engaging glimpse behind-the-scenes at the Cablegate release, in particular, but also for capturing the many competing agendas that have developed around the representation of Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the media.
• Interesting background information behind Wikileaks including the motive and ideology that drove Assange and Private Manning.
• Reveals the back story of the relationship of the mainstream media with Wikileaks
• Honesty of the author’s portrait of Assange, warts and all. One gets the sense that this guy is an egomanic, self-important, undisciplined, unhygienic, paranoid man yet an opportunist, tries to speak out against oppressors, etc.
• Gives us more background to the rape accusation against Assange and also his reluctant confession that it was not a CIA love nest sting.
• Sometimes the book overstretch its claim of US military wrong doing in Iraq and Afghanistan uncovered by Wikileaks and at the end of the day, it definitely was not the bombshell that some were expecting it to be.
• Anti-climatic ending of the major news organizations who secretly cooperated with Wikileaks rushing to published stories from the cables. It was so anti-climatic to an interesting topic.
• Redundant feel when the book summarizes something and then quotes the document or online chat using the same words and phrase.
I believe our current government has too many secrets and a healthy republic require a more transparent and open government if it’s going to ever be accountable to the people. To that end, I sympathize with Wikileaks even though we are probably coming from a different political spectrum. I’m surprised at how immature both Manning and Assange could get and yet one gets the feeling that one has met such characters before in one’s own life people like Manning and Assange. They are more of a cross section of guys in this generation more than perhaps the author realized. I find Assange as a person to be quite repulsive: the author did a good job filling in the details of one of the accuser against Assange for being sexually wronged by him. Assange is a guy that doesn’t know how to handle women and handle them roughly. I thought the book in telling the story of Assange and Manning could have noted more explicitly the blatant ironies of the two of them. For instance, Assange is strongly for all information to be public—yet ironically, he react strongly against certain information about himself being made public. He says there’s people out there who are ought to smear him from the US government but he goes ahead and smears the women’s reputation and deliberately lies about them and their ideology. Assange runs an organization that has the name “leak” in it but strongly disapproves and threatens editors of the press for acquiring leaks from his own Wikileaks. He even said leaks of the stolen US government cables from Wikileaks is criminal. Oh the irony. It’s very hard to live a consistent worldview that’s reductionistic.
It doesn't make the story itself bad, it is a good story with a lot of cruft.
But the story itself it's about Wikileaks, from its inception to the release of the so called Cablegate -- the release of several diplomatic cables. Actually, Wikileaks is just the background story here; the whole action is more about how The Guardian dealt with Assange and the other publishing partners than Wikileaks itself.
It's not a bad story, even with the abundance of words. There are a lot of forgotten elements -- like the story behind Manning and his leaking -- which tend to be completely ignored at this point. But, again, there are too many unnecessary words that go nowhere. Prepare to get annoyed about the continuous mention of the some cable over and over again -- and see the said cable in its complete form in the end.
(Why I'm mentioning this? 'Cause the book makes a huge deal of how several cables affected international politics, but keep mentioning the same three cables over and over again. I mean, if several where that important, why are the same three mentioned so many times?)