How the New York Times Forced Julian Assange to Give Up Guantanamo Bay Files

Michael Calderone at Huffington Post wrote yesterday about the scramble to publish WikiLeaks Guantanamo Bay documents. The curious aspect to the whole tale is that five months had passed since a source told Reuters that Julian Assange had “personal files of every prisoner in GITMO” and the documents still hadn’t emerged.

The documents were finally published when the New York Times obtained them, and decided to share them with NPR and Guardian.  But Times executive editor Bill Keller told The Huffington Post that, “WikiLeaks is not our source. We got the material with no embargo.” This suggests that the source presumably was Wikileaks defector Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

So why did Julian Assange hoard the documents and refuse to publish them? John Cook at Gawker writes that though Assange has claimed he held on to his secrets in order to honor his sources’ desires for “maximum impact,” and also wanted time to review the documents to minimize harm, the real reason is that Assange just wanted to protect himself.

Assange has come to view the unpublished bits of [Bradley] Manning‘s cache as, literally, insurance… With each new disclosure, that insurance file affords him less and less leverage, which explains his reluctance to follow Manning’s wishes and actually disclose information…

And without the threat of more earth-shattering disclosures down the road, will anyone really care whether Assange is extradited to Sweden, or gets convicted of rape, or goes to jail? Not really. Which is why he’s publishing the Gitmo files under duress.

Perhaps WikiLeaks is less an agent for truth than an agent for Julian Assange.