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How WikiLeaks Gags Its Own Staff 236

robbyyy writes "The New Statesman has just revealed the extent of the legal eccentricity and paranoia that exists at the WikiLeaks organization. The magazine published a leaked copy of the draconian and extraordinary legal gag which WikiLeaks imposes on its own staff. Clause 5 of the Confidentiality Agreement (PDF) imposes a penalty of £12,000,000 (approximately $20,000,000) on anyone who breaches this legal gag. Sounds like they don't trust their own staff."
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How WikiLeaks Gags Its Own Staff

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  • I like it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum ( 1173011 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @06:58PM (#36100360)
    I wonder how they like their documents being leaked. It would make my year if they sued over this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Presumably, there are people out there who want to leak documents, but want to be sure that wikileaks will properly redact it so as to protect members of the armed services, etc. This policy is probably in place for their peace of mind. If leakers just wanted to dump stuff onto the internet, anyone could do that. This policy is to make sure that the leak is done right.

      • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:21PM (#36100594) Homepage Journal

        Discredit WikiLeaks, Shoot the Messenger, Covert Operation Game Plan - as we were warned.

        • by moonbender ( 547943 ) <moonbender@ g m> on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:44PM (#36100838)

          For what it's worth, I don't have a fundamental problem with the confidentiality agreement: There is no real conflict with Wikileak's mission here, despite what many other people might claim in a kneejerk reaction. Wikileaks doesn't advocate the indiscriminate release of all information, and with any organisation dedicated to releasing confidential resources while protecting whistleblowers, secrecy is obviously a central fact of live. More so with an organisation that must be under tremendous, even violent, pressure from the US. And while I found the commercial aspects of the agreement a bit odious -- they talk about the financial damages caused by breaking the agreement -- it makes sense since, even though Wikileaks is not for profit, their media partners (e.g. the NYT, the Guardian, der Spiegel) are.

          All that said, Wikileaks is more secretive of their own organisation than is good for them, and it would not have hurt to simply be open about this confidentiality agreement: they could have posted it on their websites for potential volunteers to see, for instance. Of coure, if they had done that, everybody would have started shouting about the supposed paradoxical situation of a whistleblowing organisation having secrets themselves (hurr durr) -- ie. what's happening now.

          • 12000 pound is a bit out of reach for your average basement-dwelling hacktivist.

            it smacks of L Ron Hubbard's billion year sea org contracts... a really large number just to guarantee people don't defy you.

            Assange really does need to get his paranoia and narcissism sorted out though - they are the two biggest forces working against Wikileaks right now.

            • (oops, missed 3 zeroes)

            • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

              12000 pound is a bit out of reach for your average basement-dwelling hacktivist.

              Hence the point of it. Don't break confidentiality agreement.

              Think of it like a doctor breaking patient confidentiality. Only in wikileaks case, fallout for "patient" is far more dramatic.

              • Think of it like a doctor breaking patient confidentiality. Only in wikileaks case, fallout for "patient" is far more dramatic.

                Exactly, if a doctor breaks his confidentiality agreement the patient usually doesn't end up in a cia black hole prison being tortured for the rest of their life.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @09:10PM (#36101656) Homepage

          Why exactly would this document hurt Wikileaks image. For people who wish their identities to remain confidential when they release information, this penalty would be very reassuring.

          So you have, the 'New Statesman' and a junk journalist DAG, trying to put a negative spin on what many whistle blowers would find very comforting.

          So how great is the penalty that many whistle blowers suffer, well you need look no further than the psychological abuse suffered by Bradley E. Manning. So what value does that rag New Stateman and DAG, put on that, apparently nothing.

          Obviously the term 'confidential source' [] means absolutely nothing to that hack DAG or the New Statesman.

        • If only Wikileaks didn't make it so easy.......
      • Re:I like it! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:25PM (#36100654) Homepage Journal

        EXACTLY. Wikileaks can't seem to win. If they ever leak anything, people scream about how they are "endangering lives". If they do anything to control the level of detail in the leaking to address that issue, people (possibly the very same people) scream about how they limit leaking.

      • Yeah, right. The very first thing that stood out to me from that wonderful document:

        E. By reason of the matters set out in A-D above herein any breach by you likely to cause loss and damage to WikiLeaks including without limitation loss and damage in the nature of:
        - Loss of opportunity to sell the information to other news broadcasters and publishers;

        So much for the image of selfless anarchists righting the wrongs...

    • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
      Well, they seem also to handle pretty interesting stuff, you don't want your own people leaking information that was leaked to them. On that side, it's not about trust, it's about ensuring that your contacts/whistle-blowers will trust you because of that. And they're also supposed to help their whistle blowers censor proper parts so they won't be incriminated in further legal battles of stuff such as treason. There's a lot of legal concern in any part of their business and I think they're right to be concer
  • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:00PM (#36100378)

    Which threaten court martial and execution for breaching confidentiality, or a lifetime in prison. I'd take a $12 million fine which I can default on, any day of the week.

    • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:10PM (#36100482)

      The Armed Forces, where one takes an legally binding oath after volunteering, then volunteers again for the security clearance while taking another legally binding oath.

      Dude knew what he was getting into

      • You know what you're getting into in legal terms, but you can't possibly know if you can justify keeping quiet before seeing the confidential information. I can easily imagine someone signing a confidentiality agreement in good faith only to find out that the information does warrant whistleblowing, despite the possibility of dire personal consequences.

        • Then you accept the consequences without whining, right?
          • Don't do the crime if you can't do the time? That's a fairly simpleminded way to look at it. You need to be aware of the consequences your actions might have, but you don't have to accept them, you're well within your rights to complain about treatment you perceive as unjust and fight for better treatment (even violently, I suppose, and I don't say this lightly). Dissidents in corrupt countries almost always run afoul of some kind of law. Whether or not this applies to Manning or other Wikileaks-related peo

            • Yes, if you make an agreement that says you will agree not to do something lest you face consequences and you choose to break it you have little or nothing to complain about. If the guy truly believes in what he did, he should be more than willing to face what is coming.

              • You're missing the point. Confidentiality agreements necessarily involve agreeing to something the nature and scale of which you can't know at the time you agree to them. The point isn't whether or not you should have to face the consequences -- whatever, maybe you should, maybe you shouldn't, I don't really care to discuss it -- but rather that by it's very nature it's not an agreement any ethical person can agree to with complete confidence. That's very, very different from a typical contract involving, s

          • Being held in conditions described as torturous does merit "whining"

            Given the USG was too scared to even allow the UN Torture commisioner the access required to assess Pvt Mannings holding conditions, it tells you this really isnt "whining" but legitimate criticism of inhuman conditions.

        • Whistleblowing is something I support, but the data dump that someone exposed is not whistleblowing.

      • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
        We are not saying the army's clauses are bad. We are saying that they are stronger than wikileak's. I personally think it is ok to be that paranoid.
      • Oh... Manning deserves to be found guilty of treason, he did break his oath. I just don't think that Assange should be charged with espionage.
        • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday May 12, 2011 @05:04AM (#36104070) Homepage

          No, he did not. There are some obligations you can't sign away, among them the obligation to not perform human rights abuses or war crimes.

          According to Lamo's logs (a known liar who has every reason to demonize Manning, by the way), Manning was asked to assist in a human rights abuse - rounding up peaceful dissidents who merely published a scholarly article criticizing the Iraqi government. You are not allowed to obey an illegal order, so he tried to alert his superiors. When they told him to shut up and get back to work, rather than blowing the whistle on them, he concluded that the whole system was rotten and needed to be exposed.

          Now you may disagree about that (though if you have never been in such a situation, I don't value your opinion much) but it was not done "[out of loyalty to] to [the nations's] enemies, to give them aid and comfort" - which is the ONLY definition of treason the US constitution permits short of declaring war. Manning did what he thought was necessary to uphold his obligations to the US constitution and binding international agreements on human rights, and action taken for that reason, no matter how misguided, can never consitute treason in the US.

      • The Armed Forces, where one takes an legally binding oath after volunteering, then volunteers again for the security clearance while taking another legally binding oath.

        Yep, just like the legally binding oath the president swears to and then seems to forget as soon as convenient...

        "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
    • Well that's more enforceable and is a criminal offense - this one isn't (its breach of contract which is a civil offense) and as the NS journalist points out. it would be impossible to enforce.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by black3d ( 1648913 )

        As I noted later on ( it appears New Statesman made up the entire angle that staff would be fined £12,000,000. Read the entire agreement start to finish, and the only penality implied by the confidentiality agreement for a breach is employment termination. Employment termination IS enforceable. The £12,000,000 fine never existed. All smoke and mirrors from folks trying to muddy Wikileaks.

    • provides for execution for 'breaching confidentiality'.

      my impression is that there are only a few things that get you executed, including

      Aiding the enemy


      Misprison of treason

      bradley manning isnt even charged with treason, he is only charged with aiding the enemy.

      every other charge against him about giving out information only provides for jail or fines. not death.

      • Leaking classified information *is* aiding the enemy. Depending on what information is leaked, and when, it can also be Treason.

        • would that be treason?

          because that information is classified.

          i mean, technically, im breaking the law RIGHT NOW telling it to you.

          and unless you 'deliver' that information to a government agent 'entitled to receive it', you are breaking the law just by having this information in your computer memory.

          i cannot get a foreign service job because of my discussing this fact with you... should i also be in prison?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by krizoitz ( 1856864 )
      You're right, the military and government should just let anyone leak whatever confidential information they want without consequence, no matter how much that information harms anyone else. Anyone who thinks that governments don't have legitimate reasons to limit who knows what information is out of touch with reality. What if all the intel about tracking bin Laden had been made public? Would kind of defeat the purpose of hunting someone down if you were basically broadcasting how you were doing it so th
  • by CCarrot ( 1562079 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:02PM (#36100396)

    How, er, ironic.

    Well, I guess it's actually just hypocritical, but it sure smells like irony to me...

    • Actually, it's just a standard confidentiality agreement. It nowhere states that anyone will be fined. The New Statesman just made that up. Sorry to disappoint. It does have a clause stating the agreed value of a significant breach, but the only penalty inferred in the agreement is employment termination.

      • Sorry, didn't read TFA. Just tickled my funny bone, is all.

        It's nice to know that the leaker can 'only' be fired, if we infer correctly...leaving it up to whomever the leaked information was about to take it up in civil court with that handy 'value of a significant breach' number.

        Why would they have a dollar value assigned if it weren't intended to be used somewhere? IA*definitely*NAL, so I'm honestly curious here.

        • Oh, it definitely is so that they can sue, both the leaker (who leaked information with known x value) and whomever is purchasing it. This is primarily to stop staff who recieve leaks from selling information to news organisations themselves, for personal gain.

          The point here is that "Clause 5 of this "Confidentiality Agreement" (PDF) imposes a penalty of "£12,000,000 – twelve million pounds sterling" on anyone who breaches this legal gag." in the linked article is not true. There are several sim

      • It does have a clause stating the agreed value of a significant breach

        Not even that - "The parties agree that a genuine and reasonable pre-estimate of the loss to WikiLeaks from a breach of this agreement based on a typical open market valuation for the information for a significant breach of the agreement is in the region of 12,000,000 pounds (12 million pounds sterling)."

        So, it's just a "pre-estimate" - useless.

        And "based on a typical open market valuation for the information" - good luck with that

    • Oh you have one of those old ironics. Use distilled water.
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:04PM (#36100416)

    and found something damning (like Assange is a paid lackey of Putin), I sure as hell wouldn't hesitate to leak it to the press. Confidentiality agreement be damned.

    Why do these groups think these things hold any power? It's just words on a page.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      words on a page backed by men with a guns.

      • by Surt ( 22457 )

        Their confidentiality agreement is backed by guns only if they can find a country who will enforce it for them. They don't currently seem to have a lot of countries in such a mood.

      • >>>words on a page backed by men with a guns.

        i.e. Fear the government men with the guns.

    • This is a great way to owe someone 20 million dollars. Just agree to shit on paper because you think it doesn't mean anything.

    • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:33PM (#36100728) Homepage

      and found something damning (like Assange is a paid lackey of Putin), I sure as hell wouldn't hesitate to leak it to the press. Confidentiality agreement be damned.

      Why do these groups think these things hold any power? It's just words on a page.

      It isn't meant to stop really damning truth.
      It's to stop "volunteers" from profiting immensely by pre-leaking the documents for a price.

      A monetary fine is not a a deterrent for someone "doing the right thing".

      It does deter people from profiting off the compromising of valuable data and the organization itself by altering the reward calculation.

  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:04PM (#36100422)

    Given that WL 'clean up' the documents before they leak them to the media, don't you think someone who'd leak the top secret information to the media, or the entire batch of uncleaned files... would be both dangerous and would ruin WL's credibility?

    • That's a point that a lot of people here have missed completely. Wikileaks doesn't release material complete without redactions, the redactions might not be sufficient, but it's hard to say how much should be released when the party that doesn't want them released at all refuses to negotiate or participate.

      The measures there are primarily to ensure that they are finished before they make it to the press. I doubt very much that it'll ever get to the point of legal proceedings.

      • Probably they aren't missing it at all and are just a bunch of CIA agents trying to astroturf on /.

        The idiocy I see in wikileaks deterrents is not something that I would expect form a nerd gathering like this.

  • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Wednesday May 11, 2011 @07:09PM (#36100472)

    It appears nobody RTFPDF.

    It nowhere states that anybody is going to be fined any amount of money.

    E ... any breach by you is likely to cause loss and damage to Wikileaks including..
      d. loss of value of information
    5. The parties agree that a genuine and reasonable pre-estimate loss to WikiLeaks from a breach of this agreement based on a typical open market valuation for the information for a significant breach of the agreement is in the region of £12,000,000.

    Nowhere does it state that the signee will be liable to that value. Only that they agree they'll be terminated for a breach thereof. Agreeing to that value of a breach may open the path TO be sued for a figure in that region, however the summation that anyone who breaches will be fined £12,000,000 is a blatant falsehood.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )

      And we can't downvote stories anymore... Great.

      So basically the entire submission is bullshit and there isn't a whole lot to be seen.

  • What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • if the quoted figure of 12,000,000 was slightly different for each employee. Makes it easier to find out which one leaked the document then.

  • This is probably the only way for wikileaks to a. survive and b. get exposure through mainstream media. If information is not filtered to avoid imminent damage to life and limb of people on the ground, wikileaks and its sources will be subject to aggressive prosecution, not to mention seriously bad karma. And no newspaper will run a story without some kind of exclusive access agreement. If you truly want uncensored publication, there are millions of way to do so on Internet. You just will not get the same m

  • a legal document that states leaking our documents will subject you to a fine is leaked.....

  • be shown to whistleblowers who ask "How can I be sure one of your staff won't sell me out"?

  • If I had information I wanted to leak, I'd want them legally bound to secrecy too.
  • Is Wikileaks hypocritical? Is it a false flag op to discredit them? If it's real, why is it there? If it's not, who would benefit from such a (pretty dumb, I have to add) attempt to destroy their credibility?

    Personally, I won't make up my mind 'til I hear the other side. What does WL say 'bout it? I don't put one-sided trust into publications from a paper owned by a politician.

  • Wikileaks expressly discusses the value of the leaked material as material to be sold to news organizations.

    Assange's organization is EVIL.
    Support open and free alternatives.

  • So essentially they're operating under the supposition that breaches in information security can weaken or even destroy the organization, that is if the communication system appears insecure then people will fear cooperating with you, endangering your ability to operate effectively, ultimately leading to you being outmaneuvered. This is the same excuse governments give for secrecy -- if the diplomatic communication system appears insecure, foreign nationals will fear cooperating with them, endangering their
  • sounds like they don't trust their employees

    Yeah -- you think there aren't attempts to infiltrate them left and right? How dumb and naive would they be if they *did* trust their employees? Would you want to turn over documents to them if the person to whom you did turned out to be a secret agent?

    Or maybe they're just going to happen upon trustworthy employee by an extensive screening process and three rounds of interviews.

    • by lennier ( 44736 )

      How dumb and naive would they be if they *did* trust their employees?

      Well, they'd be consistent with the ideology of openness if they did. As it is, Wikileaks appears to be morphing from an open-source intelligence collective into something midway between an independent journalism organisation and a private intelligence agency in the style of "Global Frequency". While either of those are possibly not a bad thing to have, it is a bit depressing to see that the desire for openness evaporates when it faces real secrets with real consequences.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger