Washington Post | 28 July 2016
Two of the biggest names in government data leaks clashed over how to responsibly release information on Twitter on Thursday.
It started when Edward Snowden tweeted that WikiLeaks’ “hostility to even modest curation” was a mistake. WikiLeaks wasn’t happy about the criticism — and hit Snowden back by accusing him of pandering to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The spat spotlights a major split between how WikiLeaks and Snowden have handled the data they helped make public. Snowden worked with The Washington Post and other news organizations to expose National Security Agency surveillance programs. The journalists vetted the documents, many of which have not been made public, and chose to withhold some information that government officials said would compromise national security.
WikiLeaks’ approach to data disclosure is more radical: It often posts massive, searchable caches online with few — if any — apparent efforts to remove sensitive personal information.
The group’s recent release of emails from the Democratic National Committee exposed things such as the credit card numbers, social security numbers and passport numbers of some donors — putting them at risk of identity theft. Some observers, including North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci, also criticized the organization for promoting links to a leaked database containing Turkish citizens’ personal information after a recent coup attempt in the country.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was the subject of a U.S. investigation after WikiLeaks posted a cache of diplomatic cables and military documents provided by the now-imprisoned Chelsea Manning — then known as Bradley Manning — in 2010. Although Assange was not charged, he has accused Clinton of pushing to indict him while she was secretary of state.
WikiLeaks released the DNC emails just before the Democratic National Convention where Clinton formally received her party’s presidential nomination. The Clinton campaign and some cybersecurity experts have alleged the Russian government was behind the release — possibly in a bid to hurt her candidacy. (Snowden currently lives in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum following his NSA disclosures. A WikiLeaks activist accompanied him from Hong Kong to Moscow, making the current tension all the more surprising.)
On Wednesday, Republican nominee Donald Trump publicly urged Russian hackers to go looking for emails from the private server Clinton used during her tenure at the State Department. Trump later defended his comments as being “sarcastic.”