In the summer of 2016, as WikiLeaks was publishing documents from Democratic operatives allegedly obtained by Kremlin-directed hackers, Julian Assange turned down a large cache of documents related to the Russian government, according to chat messages and a source who provided the records.
WikiLeaks declined to publish a wide-ranging trove of documents — at least 68 gigabytes of data — that came from inside the Russian Interior Ministry, according to partial chat logs reviewed by Foreign Policy.
The logs, which were provided to FP, only included WikiLeaks’s side of the conversation.
“As far as we recall these are already public,” WikiLeaks wrote at the time.
“WikiLeaks rejects all submissions that it cannot verify. WikiLeaks rejects submissions that have already been published elsewhere or which are likely to be considered insignificant. WikiLeaks has never rejected a submission due to its country of origin,” the organization wrote in a Twitter direct message when contacted by FP about the Russian cache.
(The account is widely believed to be operated solely by Assange, the group’s founder, but in a Twitter message to FP, the organization said it is maintained by “staff.”)
In 2014, the BBC and other news outlets reported on the cache, which revealed details about Russian military and intelligence involvement in Ukraine. However, the information from that hack was less than half the data that later became available in 2016, when Assange turned it down.
“We had several leaks sent to Wikileaks, including the Russian hack. It would have exposed Russian activities and shown WikiLeaks was not controlled by Russian security services,” the source who provided the messages wrote to FP. “Many Wikileaks staff and volunteers or their families suffered at the hands of Russian corruption and cruelty, we were sure Wikileaks would release it. Assange gave excuse after excuse.”
The Russian cache was eventually quietly published online elsewhere, to almost no attention or scrutiny.
In the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of potentially damaging emails about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign, information the U.S. intelligence community believes was hacked as part of a Kremlin-directed campaign. Assange’s role in publishing the leaks sparked allegations that he was advancing a Russian-backed agenda.
Back in 2010, Assange vowed to publish documents on any institution that resisted oversight.
With notably rare exceptions, apparently.