WikiLeaks' NDA Proves Why We Need A WikiLeaks Free Of Julian Assange

Last Updated May 12, 2011 4:42 PM EDT

Do as I say, not as I do.
While the leaking of WikiLeaks' NDA has redefined the word irony, its mere existence has also raised some serious questions. Questions like: Wait, what? WikiLeaks has its own NDA form? For who? Legitimate questions all, and ones that illustrate why WikiLeaks the idea is good, but WikLeaks the organization is not.
The non-disclosure agreement, published by the New Statesman in the U.K., lays out very clearly what Julian Assange really thinks about the free flow of information.

It says that if you release information about the organization you are damaging it because of:

  • Loss of opportunity to sell the information
  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of opportunity to execute future agreements with regard to the information
  • Loss of value of information
  • Loss of opportunity to execute future agreements ... by reason of loss of reputation (Hereafter referred to as the redundancy clause.)
  • Possible legal proceedings against WikiLeaks
The penalties for doing this? Severe. By signing the document you have agreed to a valuation of $20 million on the information.

The information in question isn't just the information that has been given to Assange et al. It is anything to do with how WikiLeaks operates. To wit, "emails, written communications, meeting records, information exchanged in meetings or discussions, or other newsworthy facts." It is worth noting that most news organizations manage to do without a similar document.

WikiBucks!
All this certainly makes it seem that WikiLeaks either is or wants to be in the business of making money. Feel free to disregard everything Julian Assange has ever said about public documents and the people's right to know. And that right there is the problem with Wikileaks: Assange and how he runs it.

Set aside the issue of Assange's alleged sexual misconduct. Instead, focus on his own actions regarding WikiLeaks. He operates at a level of secrecy that at least equals those of the organizations he denounces. How is he financed? Who knows? Assange's own hypocrisy makes it very difficult to pay attention to his accusations of hypocrisy against others.

Let's be clear: WikiLeaks has provided very real service by releasing information on everything from information on the Iraq and Afghan war to possible chicanery in climate change science. Indeed, many people argue that WikiLeaks' release of State Department cables played a role in the Arab Spring by showing that the U.S. shared people's concern about the abuses of power across the Arab world. (By the way, Julian, where are those Bank of America documents you've been talking about for so long? [Still waiting for a better offer? -Ed.])

So the idea of WikiLeaks -- a safe place for the distribution of information that might not otherwise come to light -- is good. That's why it's encouraging that many others are now following Assange's lead and setting up similar sites -- but without the baggage. One of them, OpenLeaks, was even created by former WikiLeaks members.

So, thanks and goodbye, WikiLeaks. Your replacements are here.

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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald, TheStreet.com, CSO, and Boston Magazine.