A strange exchange occurred when members of the anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks were asked about the flight of Edward Snowden at a Chaos Computer Club conference last week.
WikiLeaks has been credited with helping Snowden escape extradition to the U.S. after the 30-year-old left Hawaii with at least hundreds of thousands of classified NSA files and flew to Hong Kong on May 20.
At the Chaos Computer Club conference on Dec. 29, Assange said that “WikiLeaks was able to rescue Edward Snowden because we are an organised institution with collective experience.”
Top WikiLeaks adviser Sarah Harrison, who met Snowden in Hong Kong and accompanied him to Moscow, then asked the last question coming from the Internet:
“What was the most difficult part on getting Snowden out of the U.S.?”
Assange, Harrison and “American WikiLeaks Hacker” Jacob Appelbaum all laughed, and then Appelbaum said: “That’s quite a loaded question.”
Assange then said: “Yeah, that’s interesting to think whether we can actually answer that question at all. I’ll give a variant of the answer because of the legal situation it is a little bit difficult.”
That is a very peculiar collective response. Most people have not considered that WikiLeaks may have become involved with Snowden before June 12, when the former CIA technician contacted the organisation after outing himself.
So the “loaded” question could have easily been pointed out as unsound, and Assange could have denied that WikiLeaks contacted Snowden before he reached out from China.
Instead, the 42-year-old Australian questioned whether it could be answered at all.
That’s not to say that the exchange proves that WikiLeaks abetted Snowden’s theft and getaway. But the reaction is concerning, given the renegade publisher’s closeness to the Kremlin and the fact that the two journalists who received documents from Snowden in Hong Kong (Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald) both sit on the board of a foundation launched to crowd-source funding for WikiLeaks.