Friday, September 23, 2011

Wikileaks Leaker Peeved His Book Leaked

Wikileaks Leaker Peeved His Book Leaked

Julian Assange loves leaking information. He loves finding other people's secrets and sharing it with the entire world. He even likes to say "information wants to be free."

The founder of Wikileaks.com made international news by accepting 250,000 leaked confidential cables and memos from US Army private Bradley Manning, and then sharing it with several newspapers in the US and Europe, revealing confidential information several governments would rather have kept secret.

Information wants to be free, Assange has shouted from the mountaintops. He thinks it should be shared openly, freely, and lavishly.

Unless it's his information. That's private.

Assange is accusing Scottish publisher, Canongate, of leaking his autobiography, about the founding of Wikileaks, without his approval.

He is currently in England, challenging a British court's decision to extradite him to Sweden to face trial on the charges of raping two women.

But this isn't the only time his information has been leaked. Assange was upset last year when Swedish police leaked over 100 pages of interview transcripts, photos, and other evidence. He said the police files were private, and not something that should have been leaked, because it would harm his defense if and when he goes to trial.

Information wants to be free. Unless it's Julian Assange's police files. Because releasing that information might damage his intended defense and endanger his freedom for a few years.

Of course, he had no problem releasing documents that would damage relationships between the U.S. and foreign governments, even though that damage could cost billions of dollars in trade, and may even ruin shaky diplomatic relationships.

Assange was also annoyed when the judge in his extradition hearing insisted on reading his "house arrest address" in England out loud in court.

Information wants to be free, unless it's Julian Assange's house. Because his location — which is Ellingham Hall; Ellingham, Northumberland NE67 5EY — is supposed to be secret so he can maintain his privacy.

Of course, he had no problem releasing documents that could threaten American counterterrorism efforts, and let the Taliban and al-Qaeda know how to defeat certain US military tactics, risking the injury and death of countless soldiers.

But let's get back to his unapproved autobiography, which was released without his permission.

According to the BBC, Assange says this book is "an unchecked work in progress," because he was not allowed to fact check everything that was written by the ghostwriter hired to produce the work. He says the publisher is making money from an erroneous draft.

Canongate said that Assange tried to cancel his contract, even though he had been paid a six-figure advance, and had not repaid it. He used it to pay his legal fees, which means he cannot pay it back, and now he wants to stop Canongate from publishing the manuscript they paid him for.

Publishers are very picky about authors canceling contracts or being told not to publish what they've written. They usually want their money back. If you don't have it, they'll just work with what you gave them.

That's what Canongate is doing now. They even said they would pay him his royalties.

But Assange believes Canongate has violated his contract and his personal assurance that his draft would not be released without his permission.

Information wants to be free, unless it's Julian Assange's autobiography. Because releasing his autobiography without his permission, even though he is unwilling to fix the manuscript. It's "opportunism and duplicity — screwing people over to make a buck," he said in a statement.

Of course, the US State Department told Assange that releasing 250,000 cables was illegal — i.e. he did not have their permission — and rejected his offer of "scrubbing the cables" of sensitive information — i.e. fixing them. Assange published the cables anyway, in a wave of opportunism and duplicity — screwing over entire countries and their citizens to make a name for himself.

Actually, I support the idea of government transparency. Yes, I worry that some of this information could cost lives (although to date, it has not resulted in even one death). And I worry that his leaks could damage important diplomatic relationships.

But I also believe that we have learned important information from Wikileaks, like how our government has lied about intelligence gathering and the war. Like how the Chinese government launched a cyberattack on Google. Or that Turkey helped al-Qaeda in Iraq. Or that President Bill Clinton ordered American diplomats to spy on UN officials.

I believe governments should not hide the way they do things, because it allows them to operate in secret, sometimes against their own citizens' interests.

But I also believe that the chief information-freer should not get his panties in a twist when it's his own information that's been freed.



My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing has also been released. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, as well as the Kindle or Nook now.

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