Vanity Fair posted their big Julian Assange article at midnight last night.
The lengthy piece turns out the be disappointingly tame (considering the subject) and despite the Assange hype weirdly spends the first two or three pages recounting the history of the Guardian newspaper before getting back to Assange and WikiLeaks.
What it doesn’t manage to cover — Assange’s reaction to the release of his rape charges — is merely the usual failure of print to be completely up-to-date on a moving story.
There is also very little mention of the NYT role here. It is clear the Guardian was the main player in this operation and the NYT and Der Spiegel were brought in to buttress their position against the government.
Here, then, are the three things you need to know from the article.
Julian Assange has a leaker. This may be the only new information to come out of the piece.
Last October a former WikiLeaks volunteer leaked package three of Iraq war logs to Heather Brooke, a British freelance journalist who had written a book on freedom of information. Upon learning this the Guardian quickly invited Brooke to join their team, not only to keep it from getting scooped by another paper but because “by securing the same database from a source other than Assange, The Guardian might then be free of its promise to wait for Assange’s green light to publish.” [Interestingly Brooke suggests on Twitter today this might not be the whole story]. The Guardian then distributed these documents to the NYT and Der Spiegel enraging Julian Assange, who is clearly terrified of losing control and (apparently failing to see the irony) threatened to sue.
“That was when Assange stormed into Rusbridger’s office, threatening to sue. Rusbridger, Leigh, and the editors from Der Spiegel spent a marathon session with Assange, his lawyer, and Hrafnsson, eventually restoring an uneasy calm. Some in the Guardian camp had wanted to break off relations with Assange entirely.”
How the initial dump came about.
Guardian reporter Nick Davies (who was also responsible for leaking the details of Assange’s rape charges) initially tracked down and met with Assange to discuss publishing the WikiLeaks document. “The two laid plans to set up a research bunker in The Guardian’s offices. They agreed that they wouldn’t talk about the project on cell phones. They agreed that, in two days, Assange would send Davies an e-mail with the address of a Web site that hadn’t previously existed, and that would exist for only an hour or two. Assange took a paper napkin with the hotel’s name and logo and circled various words. At the top he wrote, “no spaces.” By linking the words together, Davies had his password.”
Julian Assange may only have two outfits. [At least before he started to photoshoots for Newsweek]
“Iain Overton, editor of the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Reporting, who worked with Assange on the Iraq War Logs, says he has only seen him in one of two outfits, a dark suit for press conferences or, when he’s not onstage, a gray pullover and leather jacket. “He is not a man who looks like he’s greedy,” Overton says.”
Bonus: Graydon Carter is not the biggest fan of Assange.
“It is a new-world clearinghouse for raw material leaked to it by anyone. Though its mission is transparency, it operates in great secrecy and believes that its only duty is to put anything and everything into public view, letting the chips fall where they may—almost a Darwinian approach to information. Assange, too, embodies his organization: subversive, fickle, abrasive, and doctrinaire, with an element of showy drama. This is a tale about the clash of these two worlds.”