Thursday, January 20, 2011

Will Wikileaks Drop Document Bomb On Bank Of America?

By Jerry Smith Jan 20 2011

It seems ages ago that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange promised to unleash a cache of secret documents from the hard drive of a U.S. megabank executive. In 2009, Assange told Computer World that the bank was Bank of America (BofA). In 2010 he told Forbes that he needed time to lay out the information in a more user-friendly format and that the information was significant enough to "take down a bank or two". Last month, the rumor was WikiLeaks was about to drop a document bomb on Bank of America.

And now, a month later, no document bomb on Bank of America, or any bank, yet. Instead, Wikileaks has been very busy releasing US diplomatic cables, dubbed "Cablegate". About 3,000 cables from the cache, which reportedly holds more than 251,000 documents, have been published by Wikileaks, or in most cases, a newspaper partner.

Assange said on Monday his organization was focused on the publication of its cache of about 250,000 diplomatic cables, and that it could be several weeks before the bank documents Rudolf Elmer gave Wikileaks Monday will be reviewed and posted in the WikiLeaks website. "We will treat this information like all other information we get," Assange said. "There will be a full revelation." He also promised that the flow of leaked documents published by his organization would increase.

Mr. Elmer, who was a director at Julius Baer in Cayman Islands, said the documents include details of about 2,000 accounts held in offshore financial centers and the account holders include "high net worth" celebrities, business leaders and lawmakers from the U.S., Britain and Asia.

WikiLeaks has been condemned by the U.S. government for posting thousands of classified diplomatic communications and military documents to its website, including a video of a July 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters television cameraman, his driver and others.

Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Peter King, has been after the Treasury Department to place Wikileaks on its blacklist in order to "strangle (its) viability," by threatening any person or company who dares to engage in any economic transactions with Wikileaks and/or Julian Assange.

They have also been praised for helping the Tunisian revolution by releasing unflattering US diplomatic cables on the Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali regime.

From a July 17, 2009 cable. The New Yorker provides a sample:
Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems…. They tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising. Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior.

Cables released last month by Wikileaks from the former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to U.S. diplomats show government collusion regarding the murder of Northern Irish civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989.

While some have championed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as being a man who supports and pursuits the truth, others feel he is a clear and present danger to not only the security of the U.S., but to the world as well. Some have even said that he should simply be killed.

With the leaks involving Swiss bank accounts and other banking documents to be released, and the Cablegate cables still coming out, Wikileaks will not be stopping anytime soon. Assange and Wikileaks also have an ace in the hole that has been likened to a thermonuclear device by Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, and will be released should anything ever happen to Assange.

Julian Assange said in an exclusive interview with The New Stateman that the widely downloaded insurance file, released by Wikileaks, contains 504 U.S. cables on one broadcasting organization, as well as files on media mogul Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. The file is nearly 1.4GB in size and began circulating in July of 2010 on BitTorrent sites. Only those who made the file know for sure what it contains, but speculation is that it contains both text and media, such as audio and video.

The insurance file is protected by AES 256-bit encryption, and called the 'poison pill'. The key to unlock it will only be released in the event that Assange is assassinated or detained. In the unlikely event that WikiLeaks faces permanent removal from the Internet, the insurance file will be its final release.

Some have called the insurance file blackmail, and claim it hurts the credibility of the organization, but most understand the need for insurance by Assange and Wikileaks. In an interview with the BBC, Mark Stephens, Assange’s U.K. lawyer, argued that “They need to protect themselves. This is what they believe to be a thermo-nuclear device effectively in the electronic age.”

So far Mr. Assange's arrest and home detention at the mansion home of Vaughan Smith, the owner of the Frontline Club, have not been enough to release the key. When Assange returns to court next month there is speculation that depending on how things go, the archive could be unlocked.

Assange told The New Statesman that the U.S. State Departments investigation of him for conspiracy or espionage charges, though there have been no formal charges, is causing some fear in the media.

“I think what's emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too,” he said. “Even The New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case,” he added. “If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment, which journalists took for granted. That's being lost.”

While Cablegate goes forward, eight pages of new documents released on Thursday, click here to see them we all wait for the document bomb on Bank of America and the Elmer files to be released.

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