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On Monday, transparency activist Emma Best published the full “confidential legal communication” sent by WikiLeaks to journalists the day prior, which warned them not to repeat any “inaccurate and defamatory claims” about the organization or its founder Julian Assange.
Existence of the 5,000-word email, which lists 140 “defamations” with citations, was first reported on Sunday by Reuters. The transparency organization had explicitly asked reporters not to publish the email sent to them.
As the story broke on Sunday, Best tweeted an appeal for a copy of the email, which she subsequently attained and published.
Although it is uncertain what provoked the email, WikiLeaks criticizes a “climate of falsehood” that it says has emerged since Assange had his internet access cut off by the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has resided in asylum since 2012, and which climaxed in the publication of a highly questionable story by the Guardian late November.
Among the 140 detailed “defamations,” which reporters are advised to avoid publishing, are assertions that Assange has ever been affiliated with an intelligence agency or that he has ever been affiliated with the Russian government.
Other “inaccuracies” flagged include observations about Assange being a hacker, unhygienic, that he smells, or has “tortured” animals. It even included a line decrying reporters from talking about how Julian Assange “lives under the stairs,” a reference to a Twitter bit that went viral.
As researchers combed through the email, WikiLeaks quickly came under fire for misgendering whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
It is the fault of Chelsea Manning, whom WikiLeaks refers to using a male pronoun, that she violated WikiLeaks security guidelines.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) January 7, 2019
Note: WikiLeaks does NOT claim it'd be defamatory to remind that Assange promised to agree to extradition to US if Manning were granted clemency. pic.twitter.com/JS1oRTkMZ7
After Best’s leak of “version 1.2” of the defamation list, the organization responded on its official Twitter page by publishing a different version of the list, updated with several retractions and deletions.
FULL DOC: WikiLeaks' legal letter of media myths and falsehoods, in the news today, has, unsurprisingly, leaked: https://t.co/frsaHhkZs4— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 7, 2019
The deletions included the removal of the listed “inaccuracy” that Assange “lives under the stairs” or in a basement. Manning’s misgendering, however, has not been amended.
The list also riled up #Resistance bros Ed and Brian Krassenstein, who immediately circulated the version of the list tweeted by WikiLeaks. The bros touted it as an “anonymous” leak of all 140 “defamations,” despite it being the reduced version endorsed publicly by the organization.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.