by Chas Danner
Joshua Keating thinks the group may be finished:
As [Julian] Assange remains in international legal limbo, granted asylum in Ecuador but with no foreseeable way to get there, and as WikiLeaks struggles to stay afloat in the face of money problems and denial-of-service attacks, it's worth reflecting on how we got here. How did an organization that once touted itself as the future of journalism — and for a time seemed to have a credible case for the claim — devolve into one man's soap opera?
Keating notes the numerous ways the group has put its relevance and credibility at risk, from over-politicizing itself, to faux neutrality, to the massive fight it's picked with the US and with news organizations. And then there are the leaks themselves, which now come less and less, and what has been leaked rarely proves to be as important or reliable as the group hypes it to be:
Even WikiLeaks' crowning achievement — Cablegate — may have been embarrassing to the State Department and put some U.S. government sources at risk, but didn't actually reveal much in the way of nefarious doings by U.S. diplomats. If anything, it often revealed them to be a bit more informed about their postings than their public statements might suggest. Yes, cables detailing the personal excesses of the Tunisian ruling family were one of several factors that helped spark protests in that country in early 2011, but WikiLeaks' claims that the Arab Spring was a direct result of its work doesn't pass the laugh test.
Then, of course, there is the man at the top. It seems Assange is more of an anchor than a leader, more a distraction than an inspiration. Regarding the convoluted asylum situation, Max Fisher explains what Ecuador is up to:
[Their] decision to grant Assange asylum appears, on the surface, bizarre or even irrational, given the apparent costs. The small-ish Latin American nation has effectively blown up relations with the much more powerful United Kingdom just over Assange, whose only real interest in Ecuador appears to come from one Ecuadorian officials' late 2010 hints of asylum. But it's possible that the diplomatic stand-off itself, and not Assange's freedom, is precisely Ecuador's goal. Though we can't know the Ecuadorian government's motivation for sure, engineering a high-profile and possibly protracted confrontation with a Western government would actually be quite consistent with Correa's practice of using excessively confrontational foreign policy in a way that helps cement his populist credibility at home. It would also be consistent with his habit of using foreign embassies as proxies for these showdowns — possibly because they tend to generate lots of Western outrage with little risk of unendurable consequences.