Wikileaks is possibly the most opaque transparency organization. The group, founded by Julian Assange, sometimes hides its true motives, and has not published any information about its own finances in years, despite amassing tens of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency.
Now, an activist who has developed an adversarial relationship with the group has published over 11,000 Wikileaks Twitter direct messages.
“The idea was that the attitudes and behavior of WL [Wikileaks] behind closed doors is relevant, especially their coordination of PR, propaganda and troll ops through assets that are public supporters but not publicly known to take cues from WL,” Emma Best, the freedom of information activist, told Motherboard in a Twitter direct message.
The DMs concern a particular group chat between the official Wikileaks account and several supporters. In the chat—dubbed “Wikileaks +10” due to number of participants—Wikileaks would coordinate smear campaigns against the group’s rivals, including journalists, according to the DMs. The official Wikileaks account, widely believed to be controlled by Assange, also pushed antisemitic and transphobic messages, according to the messages.
Various outlets have reported on leaks from this group chat before, including The Intercept and The Daily Beast. But now anyone can scroll through the lightly redacted messages themselves. In an accompanying post, Best says the redactions were made to protect the privacy and personal information of “innocent, third parties.”
“[2016-08-23 04:46:09] He’s always ben a rat.
[2016-08-23 04:46:27] But he’s jewish and engaged with the ((()))) issue,” one part of the direct messages reads, referring to Raphael Satter, a journalist from the Associated Press who has shown how Wikileaks endangered innocent citizens in the group’s Saudi publications.
Micah Lee, a technologist and journalist at The Intercept, and one of the reporters who worked on the publication’s earlier coverage of the DMs, told Motherboard that Best’s DM cache is the same as his.
“When Emma contacted me saying the source sent her the same docs too, I took a hash of my original HTML file and it checked out, so she has a copy of the same file as me,” Lee told Motherboard in a Twitter direct message. A hash is a cryptographic fingerprint of a file; if someone has tampered the file at all, those hashes won’t match.
Lee said his source provided an HTML file of the DMs, and then Lee logged into the Twitter account himself and downloaded the direct messages with an automated tool.
“I confirmed that they were authentic (Twitter itself would have had to doctor them) and that the source didn't modify the content in the copy he gave me,” Lee told Motherboard.
The official Wikileaks account did not respond to a request for comment.
Best said “I think there are still more things in there to cover, both little details and as part of a larger investigation (i.e. how WikiLeaks spins things).”