Lately it has occurred to me how much Julian Assange has in common with Donald Trump: Both have a talent for attracting media attention. Both have really unusual hair. And both are addicted to the spotlight, so much so that if they go too long without some form of media attention they have to manufacture "news" to attract it.
This week, The Donald served up his "election bombshell" -- offering to give $5 million to charity in exchange for seeing President Obama's birth certificate and college transcripts. Because, as we all know, that kind of information is vitally important to the future of our country. (The Donald refused to share his, though, when asked by Adam Gabbatt, a reporter for the U.K.'s Guardian.)
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Similarly, Assange sat down for a video interview with CNN this week in which he talked a bit about the latest Guantanamo documents released by WikiLeaks, as well as what life has been like for him cooped up in a windowless room in London's Ecuadorian embassy for the past four months:
"It's a little like living in a space station, because there's no natural light and you've got to make all your own stuff. You can't go out to shops and so on," Assange told CNN in an interview Thursday.
Maybe Assange does have it confused with Tralfamadore after all.
Earlier this week, well-known hacker Adrian Lamo posted an email he'd received from Assange in June 2010, shortly after it became known that Lamo was the person who'd tipped off the U.S government about Bradley Manning and his role in leaking 251,000 State Department cables. (That email was first published on Wired's Threat Level blog shortly after Lamo received it.)
Assange apparently thought he could manipulate Lamo into acting on Manning's behalf. The letter, though, kind of says everything you need to know about the WikiLeaks founder.
Manning's defence team, which I have commissioned, urgently requires all emails and chat logs you alleged to have come from Mr. Manning. Please send them to me, if necessary through our online submission system. They will be used strictly for Mr. Manning's defence, but must be complete.
In addition, it would be helpful if you described Mr. Manning as a "whistleblower" who had already lost his access over an unrelated issue, held no data, and was of no meaningful threat to anyone. In particular Mr. Manning was not an "alleged spy", and it is wrong for you to describe him as such, or to suggest that there were no other approaches to resolving the situation.
It would also be helpful to all concerned if you stopped trying to justify your behavior by whipping up sentiment against Mr. Manning in other ways. Your most effective personal strategy is to say you were scared due to your previous experiences, unthoughtful due to recent drug problems, and made a decision which you now bitterly regret and would under no circumstances repeat. Going around like a poor man's Tsutomu, constantly drawing attention to yourself through the destruction of a young romantic outlaw figure, will leave you permanently reviled by history-and me.
Just a few points.
- According to Lamo, Assange never commissioned any defence team for Manning, who was then being held in Kuwait. My take: The Albino Aussie thought he could socially engineer Lamo into giving up emails that Assange would later use to discredit him.
- Apparently Assange thought he could bully Lamo into acting like some kind of Bradley Manning spokesmodel. Did I just say "Albino Aussie"? I meant Audacious Aussie. Actually, I meant something else, but InfoWorld won't allow me to use that kind of language.
- By "poor man's Tsutomu," Assange was presumably referring to Tsutomu Shimomura, the American computer security wonk who along with New York Times reporter John Markoff tracked down hacker Kevin Mitnick.
When Assange talks about "constantly drawing attention to yourself through the destruction of a young romantic outlaw figure," you gotta wonder if he isn't projecting just a little bit of his own self image there.