2011-02-03 Israel Shamir's Relationship with WikiLeaks?

Updated: See end of article.

The exact character of the relationship between Israel Shamir and WikiLeaks has been of much interest in recent weeks, given that Shamir himself is a person who has been associated with much controversy in the media. It has been assumed that, to the extent that WikiLeaks and Shamir are associated, controversy that applies to Shamir applies also to WikiLeaks. But this is not necessarily the case.

Certain accounts have alleged that Shamir is an "employee" of WikiLeaks - a claim that is almost certainly false (Edit: although, see the update, below). In fact, Shamir appears to have been on the payroll of the the various Russian and former Soviet publications for which he wrote, and on whose behalf he served as an "accredited journalist" - an individual whose job it was to access a specific set of cables, and to distribute them among newspapers of the former Soviet bloc.

While this relationship is official in character, it does not appear to have been unique, in that it is apparent that many individuals, all over the world, were given access to specific sets of cables, to convey those cables to media organizations in a particular geographic area.

Furthermore, given this relationship, it is doubtful whether the controversies purportedly associated with Israel Shamir thereby taint WikiLeaks in turn, no more than they would if a journalist working for The Guardian turned out to be mired in controversy. An association of this type does not constitute an endorsement of every belief or activity of that associate. And even assuming some negligence on the part of WikiLeaks in the accreditation of, for instance, a malpracticing journalist, that mistake does not constitute a wholesale indictment of WikiLeaks' project, but a regrettable indication that WikiLeaks had not been careful enough, and ought to improve in future.

What is Shamir's relationship with WikiLeaks?

On Friday 17th December 2010, Andrew Brown, the editor of The Guardian's Comment Is Free section on religious matters, posted to his a blog a collection of claims about WikiLeaks' connection to the controversial figure of Israel Shamir. Brown claimed that Shamir is "WikiLeaks's spokesperson and conduit in Russia." Shamir's apparent anti-semitism was dealt with in the last post in this series, but a question remains over Shamir's relationship with WikiLeaks. The connection is troubling, but the predominance of evidence on the matter has been foreign language news, and various blog posts which derive their evidence from a narrow resource of quotes. It is therefore necessary to assess the evidence in a comprehensive way.

Characterizations of Shamir's links with WikiLeaks have tended to exaggerate Shamir's affiliation with WikiLeaks.

Michael C. Moynihan, for instance, characterized Shamir as an "extremist employee" of WikiLeaks, and asked "Why is WikiLeaks employing a well-known Holocaust denier and his disgraced son?" The rest of this article is gravely irresponsible with the conclusions it draws from scant evidence.

But it has now been revealed that Israel Shamir, when he is not accusing Assange's accusers of setting CIA honey traps, works with WikiLeaks in an official capacity.

According to reports in the Swedish and Russian media, the broad strokes of which have been confirmed by a WikiLeaks spokesman, Shamir serves as the group's content aggregator in Russia, the man who "selects and distributes" the cables to Russian news organizations, according to an investigation by Swedish public radio. In the newspaper Expressen, Magnus Ljunggren, an emeritus professor of Russian literature at Gothenburg University, outlined Shamir's close ties to WikiLeaks and his position "spreading the documents in Russia." (The article is illustrated with a picture of Assange and Shamir in an unidentified office.)

During an appearance on Echo Moskvy radio, Yulia Latynina, a reporter at the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, wondered "What does it mean that Assange is allowing himself to be represented by an extremist?" Latynina also found that the Kremlin-friendly paper working with Shamir to promote the WikiLeaks material had already published "outright lies" Shamir claimed were supported by leaks...

Wahlström and Shamir, father and son, are the WikiLeaks representatives for two rather large geographic areas. According to Swedish Radio's investigation, Wahlström is the gatekeeper of the cables in Scandinavia, and "has the power to decide" which newspapers are provided access and what leaks they are allowed to see. (At the time of filing, Wahlström had yet to respond to an email request for comment.)

In Russia, the magazine Russian Reporter says that it has "privileged access" to the material through Shamir, who told a Moscow newspaper that he was "accredited" to work on behalf of WikiLeaks in Russia...

Strip away the caginess and the obfuscation-remember, no one is allowed secrets but WikiLeaks-and Hrafnsson, who took over spokesman duties when Assange was jailed last week, confirms that WikiLeaks chose Shamir to work with their Russian media partners. After its investigation, the Swedish Radio program Medierna concluded flatly that "Israel Shamir represents WikiLeaks in Russia."

A more cautious version appeared in Andrew Brown's blog post, recycling the same information:

From: 2010-12-17: The Guardian's Andrew Brown Blog: "WikiLeaks & Israel Shamir" by Andrew Brown

WikiLeaks's spokesperson and conduit in Russia has been exposed in the Swedish media as an anti-semite and Holocaust denier; his son, who represents the organisation in Sweden and is handing out stories to selected papers there, has been involved in an earlier scandal where a story he wrote about the supposed Israeli control of Swedish media was withdrawn after several of the people in it complained of being misquoted.

While this does not affect the credibility of the WikiLeaks revelations, it does raise uncomfortable questions for the whistleblowers' organisation....

...Aftonbladet is paying [Johannes Wahlstrom, Shamir's son] both as a researcher and a consultant, because he has exclusive access to the WikiLeaks cable dump in Sweden and is the gatekeeper who doles out stories to favoured media partners. This use of freelance journalists is the model used by WikiLeaks in countries where it does not have a large and established media partner like the Guardian or Der Spiegel.

The other recipients of Wahlström's stories are Uppdrag Granskning, a flagship current affairs programme on Swedish television, and Svenska Dagbladet, one of the main Stockholm newspapers (owned by the same concern as Aftonbladet)...

...[Shamir] also denied that he had any special connection with WikiLeaks, though the group's spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, confirmed that he was their representative in Russia, just as his son is in Scandinavia. Expressen also published a photograph of him standing behind Julian Assange at a computer, published in the Russian paper, which has been reprinting the WikiLeaks cables he passed to them.

There is actually very little in the cited Expressen article that describes any substantive ties between Shamir himself and WikiLeaks. The "confirmation" that Shamir is an employee of WikiLeaks was the following fragment of an interview with Kristinn Hrafnsonn on Swedish Radio:

From: 2010-12-10: SverigesRadio: Bekräftat för Medierna: ökänd antisemit jobbar med WikiLeaks (Audio - Partially in English)

Swedish Radio: Israel Shamir...Are you aware of him? Do you know him?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: Yes. Yes, he is associated with us.

SR: So what is his role?

KH: Well, I mean, we have a lot of journalists that are working with us all around the world. And they have different roles in working on this project. I won't go into specifics into what each and everybody's role is.

SR: Are you aware of how controversial Israel Shamir is in an international context?

KH: There are a lot of controversial people around the world that are associated with us. I don't really see the point of the question.

SR: Are you aware of the allegations that he is an anti-Semite?

KH: I have heard those allegations...yes, yes. [Pause] What is the question really there?

SR: The question is, do you that that would [sic] be a problem?

KH: No, I'm not going to comment on that.

For Moynihan (with the help of the Swedish Radio presenters) Shamir went from a journalist "associated with WikiLeaks" to "an employee of WikiLeaks," and "WikiLeaks' representative." We then had from Harry's Place a series of claims of escalating hysteria that gave Shamir the role of "WikiLeaks gatekeeper". None of these terms are apparently accurate. Consider Shamir's comment in the same interview that he was not an employee of WikiLeaks:

From: 2010-12-10: SverigesRadio: Bekräftat för Medierna: ökänd antisemit jobbar med WikiLeaks (Audio - Partially in English)

Shamir: I am just a journalist who writes about WikiLeaks. That's it.

SR: Someone told me that you had been also taking part in some meetings with WikiLeaks about how to distribute this latest...

Shamir: No... No... Not that much. Not that much. I contacted them and they contacted me and I talked about them quite a lot, but it's not like I am a part of WikiLeaks. I am not.

WikiLeaks have been reported to have been unforthcoming on the exact nature of the relationship. The Guardian seems here to interpret Assange's rather guarded and noncommital statement very creatively, reading into it that Assange was "defending" Shamir:

From: The Guardian: Julian Assange: my fate will rest in Cameron's hands if US charges me

Assange defended one of WikiLeaks' collaborators, Israel Shamir, following claims Shamir passed sensitive cables to Belarus's dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has arrested 600 opposition supporters and journalists since Sunday's presidential election. The whereabouts and fate of several of the president's high-profile opponents are unknown.

Of Shamir, Assange said: "WikiLeaks works with hundreds of journalists from different regions of the world. All are required to sign non-disclosure agreements and are generally only given limited review access to material relating to their region. We have no reason to believe these rumours in relation to Belarus are true."

In fact, Assange's comment above, about a non-disclosure legal agreement, and limited review access to regionally specific material, appears to correctly characterize Shamir's cable access. Shamir appears to be one of many freelance journalists who have been given regionally specific access to certain cables, under close review by Assange. There has been no indication that Shamir is an employee of WikiLeaks, that he is WikiLeaks' spokesperson to Russia, that he is their "gatekeeper," "content-aggregator" or "representative." What we have, in comments from Hrafnsson and Assange, is the impression that Shamir is just one of the many journalists who was given access to certain cables specific to his interest.

This relationship is not entirely out of kilter with the one Shamir himself appears to characterize. In one of his CounterPunch articles, published in the early days of CableGate, he gives the impression that he is merely one of many journalists given access to the documents.

From: Assange in the Entrails of Empire

The digital generation prefers the Matrix's Neo to Superman, but the dynamics remain the same. As Neo wanders Moebius' spaceship, he stumbles upon a group of down-to-earth, eager, sweet kids dedicated to the destruction of the Matrix. Hard as steel yet perfectly humane, these young men and women enjoy the camaraderie of an elite troop awaiting the signal to attack. They follow their leader simply because he is the best and the brightest. I felt this same esprit de corps on a recent visit to one of WikiLeaks' safe-houses somewhere in Europe. This confluence of hackers and journalists was assembled in preparation to launch what will be known to history as Cablegate, or perhaps Megaleaks. Here were Malena from Brazil, Joseph from Sweden, Sara from New Zealand, James from England, and numerous others no less important and valuable, all lounging on mats and sofas, laptops on laps and eyes peering into the heart of the Matrix.

In another CounterPunch piece, much more recently, he responds (rather polemically) to the rumours that he is an employee or representative of the organization, with the assurance that he is "just a friend." (Note: In his writing, Shamir very often appears to call those his friends towards whom he feels warm regard.)

From: 2011-01-05: The Secrets of WikiLeaks: Julian Assange's Deal With the Devil

The third piece was surprisingly an attempt to smear Assange by association with me.

This last attack was written by Andrew Brown has been described as "The Guardian's resident moron", and with good reason. I always enjoy discussing my views, though Brown completely missed the subtleties and nuances of my writings. Andrew Brown is a man who understands the public's need for screaming headlines. Now we are left with a lot of crazy bloggers who claim I am the Mossad's liaison to WikiLeaks and that WikiLeaks is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mossad.

I do not for a moment think that anybody sane takes these ridiculous accusations seriously - they are just more things to throw at Julian. I am not a member of WikiLeaks, not even a spokesman, just a friend. But even without me, Brown will still be able to attack Assange for quoting Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize winner and "notorious antisemite whose works are being published by a racist site." Quoting a popular blog, Brown "is beneath contempt, and, from now on, beneath notice". Still, the Guardian editors let him off his leash from time to time, to their eternal disgrace.

In the most recent article from Shamir, he has this to say:

From: 2011-02-01: Indicting the Messanger: BBC Joins Smear Campaign Against Assange and WikiLeaks

I have been mainly involved with the post-Soviet space, and from that vantge point I have delivered cables to very different media outlets, to the mainstream Russkiy Reporter, the mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda, to the opposition Novaya Gazeta, to the Naviny, an independent site in Belarus because I did not like The Guardian's arrangement of keeping embedded media in full control. If it worked in the East, it may work in the West: we may free ourselves from their mind control.

Foreign Language Source Collection

To ascertain the precise role Shamir has played in the conveyance of cables to the Russian media, it is necessary to delve into the Russian and Eastern European press. A Moscow Times article has deputy editor of Russian Reporter, Vladimir Shpak, confirming that Shamir is involved somehow in their relationship with WikiLeaks, but claiming that he is not Russian Reporter's only conduit to WikiLeaks. We also learn, by quote from Shamir, that he is a "freelancer who is accredited to WikiLeaks." Russian Reporter (RusRep) was the first media organization in Russia to have exclusive access to Cablegate materials.

Moscow Times: Putin bristles over leaked US cables

Meanwhile, questions remain about the handling of the stories in national media. While WikiLeaks did not mention Russian outlets among the select media that were given early access to the cables, Russian Reporter magazine said Thursday that it did have privileged access. The magazine has been in close contact with Assange since this summer and had access to hundreds of cables containing Russia-related information, deputy editor Vladimir Shpak said.

Shpak refuted criticism that Russian Reporter, which belongs to the Kremlin-friendly Expert publishing group, was withholding material damning to the authorities. "You can read allegations arguing the exact opposite - that we just publish damning material - in the patriotic press," he said by phone.

The magazine has cooperated with Israel Shamir, a Russian-born Israeli journalist, on WikiLeaks. But Shpak denied that Shamir alone was responsible for the magazine's access to WikiLeaks. Shamir said by phone that he was a freelancer who was "accredited" to WikiLeaks. "This means I have working relations with them but does not mean going to the banya together," he said.

In this Radio Liberty interview with the editor of Russian Reporter, Vitaly Leiben, some details as to the manner in which Russian Reporter came by the cables are divulged. Leiben appears to imply that the newspaper had arranged with WikiLeaks that Shamir would conduct the cables of specific Russian interest to RusRep. Shamir was allowed select the cables under the supervision of Assange.

Discussion between the editor in chief of the Russian reporter and editor in chief of "Top Secret" on the interpretation of the new portions of compromising

"Russian Reporter" has the right to publish the "secret files" of WikiLeaks in Russia . Latest issue of the magazine came out with the first portion of the materials, which seemed the most interesting to editorial. About the details of this cooperation, talking editor in chief of Russian reporter Vitaly Leibin (full text of the discussion on this topic, held in The Hour Newspapers, read HERE "Press Hour " ).

Elena Rykovtseva: Sure, it looks strange and unusual, when for reprint materials from the site requires a partnership, authorization, agreement. Normally, it would seem, posted on the Internet - so everyone can publish. Suddenly, it turned out - not all. How did that happen? How to come to you? How did you negotiate? How did you sign a contract?

Vitaly Leiben: No contract, no. WikiLeaks and its founder and leader Julian Assange - is very informal person, as can be read in an interview in our magazine a couple of months ago. The fact is that before each new "release" Julian offers a variety of media (rather large number, many of whom refuse to, for example, in the U.S. at this time only the New York Times agreed, and The Wall Street Journal refused) to cooperate - to begin to research the documents and understand what is in them. Accordingly, for this cooperation, these partners have the "right of first night", they are the first to lay out some of its own information on this database.

ER: So he hires you as the experts?

VL: No. There probably is our gain. Rather well. To be correct, we're cooperating in quite the same way as The Guardian and The New York Times. Their staff, journalists sat and worked together with volunteers from WikiLeaks, collated over this vast database to find some intriguing things of their and their organizations' interest. We did not work with our staff but worked with freelance journalist Israel Shamir, whose main activity is as a WikiLeaks activist. The remaining conditions - are the same. We had to understand what is interesting for us to do journalistic work on - to select the most interesting and start gradually to publish it . The Afghan and Iraqi dossiers were published immediately after the first release in full. Now, for various reasons WikiLeaks' leadership decided not to do this. Julian explains this by saying - then the public only noticed and discussed the overall figures for civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, but did not discuss different parts of diplomacy and military policy. That simply got lost in the data stream. But now he believes that the documents are best published gradually, so that with each new topic people are able to discuss it fully. This gradual publication of the documents will go on until about January 17. But Julian has his own war. He struggles with a superpower. He has in mind not only the U.S., but in general the whole of secret diplomacy. He believes that the big policies are designed so that some people can secretly negotiate behind the backs of people. Here is what he is trying to destroy.

ER: So, they have a huge volume of documents, which they did not spread immediately. If I understand correctly that you first print and then they broadcast? For example, what you have today in the magazine, and what was on your website - this is on the site WikiLeaks?

VL: There are some of intersections, but the fact is that we as "Guardian", as The New York Times, worked with a large selection and chose what we were interested in. Of course, as it turned out, "The Guardian" is also interested in Russia. But initially they were more interested in Iraq.

ER: Yes, we've heard that they are particularly interested in Yuri Luzhkov.

VL: I have read this document. We will publish it soon. I didn't find it most interesting, simply because everything on Yuri Luzhkov is clear. But it is interesting that in February this year, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow understood that Luzhkov was close to retirement. He had a hypothesis, do not know true or not, this is due to Luzhkov's extensive criminal connections.

EL: What are you get for it? You pay them money?

VL: No. Not allowed to pay WiliLeaks, because it's volunteer organization. I think many people are paying. But this question is voluntary. We will pay a journalist who worked there for us, the fee for the work - but not the site WiliLeaks. A benefit of WiliLeaks is that was the greatest global impact. And when there is a little mystery, fight for it, to nip off pieces of information before all everyone will see it in his opinion, this will deploy a better public debate.

There is some more information on the relationship between Shamir, WikiLeaks and RusRep in the introduction to the WikiLeaks release, on RusRep's site.

From: RusRep on Cablegate, by Vitaly Leiben and Israel Shamir

On November 28, WikiLeaks has begun a partial publication of the unique collection of confidential and classified documents. That it is from this huge database of secret dispatches of the U.S. embassies may cause international scandal? "RR" is the first reported preliminary results of the analysis of materials and some scandalous facts for the Russian audience...

In order to ensure that the materials reach interested readers, the publication will be implemented in concert with the leading newspapers of the world; the main partner in Russia - "Russian Reporter". In addition, WikiLeaks has attracted several independent journalists from different countries: from Great Britain, USA., Sweden, Russia, France and Brazil. Their publications on the site WikiLeaks will complement the newspaper and magazine publications...

Head and founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange has hidden from persecution in northern Europe. Next to him is now a journalist Israel Shamir; thanks to his work "Russian reporter" gets preliminary materials before they become public...

"Russian Reporter" has been making itself familiar with the material from WikiLeaks since Friday. Mainly these documents relate to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and other countries.

In this Russian Reporter article, Shamir takes issue with the claims of Julia Latynina, some of which were published in this Moscow Times article.

Latynina, school yourself in the material

The ignorance of the material here, and the impact on other prisoners is fantastic. She wonders why magazine "PP" does not repeat the same materials, which were given to the Guardian and The New York Times. Why, instead of the story of the Saudi king who gave the materials to Russia? Is this the miscalculation of a journalist who did not pass important information? No, "RR" was closed on Monday, when it came out of the Guardian and The New York Times. This was justified by editorial decisions - the interesting reports about the Saudi King had been printed in newspapers, of carefully mapping the "Guardian", and dispatches from Russia to wait for the magazine in the world. In addition, they were more interesting for Russian readers.

Pure fiction and the description of the activities of journalists working with WikiLeaks: "all the journalists came from around the world, got into the room where they locked up the key and watched the papers, - 250,000 of these cablegram. And indeed, apparently, in this room were only those people who Assange trusts." Latynina would have to estimate - how much space and time would be needed to work this way? Doubtless many years and hundreds of rooms. Of course, nothing like that happened. It is, without checking, voiced somebody distorted information.

In the transcript of an interview with Shamir in Zavtra Shamir mentions that he had access to Estonian documents, that documents were provided by him "on behalf" of Assange. We also learn that he was initially contacted by Assange in an email, in which he was given an offer to "represent" WikiLeaks in countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Zavtra: Round table in the wording of "Tomorrow"

Israel Shamir: I, for instance, now sit and deal with Estonian documents. They are very interesting, and I interpret them in a certain way. I see that the Dispatch fully confirms Russia's position in Estonia...

ALEXANDER NAGORNO: Israel, you are so confident talking about it, as if specially want to disclose the source of possible leaks or, conversely, trying to disguise it, pointing to a false target.

IS: I speak only about their own impressions of working with documents provided by me on behalf of Julian Assange. They, in my opinion, there is a very strong Middle Eastern accent.

AN: Israel, as well as the general did your collaboration and friendship with Assange - of course, if all of us here, this is an appropriate security clearance?

IS: In my opinion, Julian Assange - all unique and wonderful man, with a minimum of some personal needs and requirements. Sleeps anywhere, eat that give ... indifferent to money. And with his understanding of justice. But he has a bright idea that he is as far as possible trying to implement. And not for the fame, power or money. He wants, rather, something to give to the world than to take something from the world. And these people now, in our severe time not so very much ... And our collaboration began with what he sent me an email, in which he proposed to consult the WikiLeaks. Of course I said yes. Then, in the course of our correspondence, received an offer to represent WikiLeaks in CIS countries. I thought this offer very interesting, and I accepted it. Now every day becomes more interesting and fun ...

We learn in the Belarussian publication Interfax that he is "known as the only Russian accredited journalist at WikiLeaks." We also learn the apparently conflicting information that Assange "called" Shamir.

From: Interfax: "The Belarusian dossier" and other secrets WikiLeaks disclosed in Minsk

INTERFAX: You are known as the only Russian accredited journalist at WikiLeaks, a confidant of site creator Julian Assange. I would like to hear your opinion about the goals of the site, for which it was created, because now a lot of controversy surrounds WikiLeaks.

Israel Shamir: The site was created by Julian himself. He is a totally unique person - one such person in the world is not enough. It has clear guidelines on the light, the transparency, the fact that people know what is happening, what the authorities do. To avoid the conspiracy behind the people. In my opinion, it's great, and healthy.

INTERFAX: And how did you meet?

IS: He... called me one day, a few years ago.

INTERFAX: He came in contact with you?

IS: Yes. He is very apt to show the initiative ...

INTERFAX: Judging by the website, yes.

IS: He was a wonderful person. What he did - he has opened for us to create and have a complete picture of U.S. policy, as they try to influence the world to create their pockets of influence - it is amazing.

To conclude on Scandinavian sources, in this Journalisten (Norway) interview with Johannes Wahlstrom, we learn that the relationship Wahlstrom bears to WikiLeaks is apparently analogous to that of Shamir, in that he has access to a restricted set of cables relevant to the region in which he is operating:

The 29-year-old repeats that he has had access to 'Cablegate', which the diplomatic records are also called. This he told Morgenbladet before Christmas. His agreement with Assange concerned, however, only those reports from the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, and materials directly related to these. Neither Svenska Dagbladet nor Aftonbladet has apparently seen the rest of the leak, as has the SVT and VG.

From: Journalisten: Do not Aftenposten

In an interview with a former WikiLeaks volunteer, Herbert Snorrason, who acrimoniously left WikiLeaks to join Daniel Domscheit-Berg's OpenLeaks project, insinuates that WikiLeaks no longer can claim to exercise stringent control over Cablegate materials. The conclusion that WikiLeaks does not maintain full control of its materials ought to come as no surprise, since it released the full quantity of cables to five newspapers. Some views on, for instance, the Aftenposten leak are explored in the Journalisten article above.

From: 2010-12-10: SverigesRadio: Bekräftat för Medierna: ökänd antisemit jobbar med WikiLeaks (Audio - Partially in English)

[first excerpt]

Swedish Radio: Would you say that WikiLeaks today is in full control of the unpublished parts of the diplomatic leak?

Herbert Snorrason: I... doubt it very much.

SR: Why?

HS: Because... both because they have been spreading information to... various parties... which obviously they... can never have full control over.

SR: Meaning media companies or something else?

HS: Meaning, uh... primarily media companies, I believe... but in part, there is also the issue of... um... ... ... some people... within the organiz... or who previously were within the organization who may have gotten copies of these documents.

[later excerpt]

HS: This is an indication that... something is not... entirely... working right.

SR: Is this the ?bladet example?

HS: Well... they are the most obvious case but there have been other... news organizations publishing... stories.... on this content... without... well, without... that... story... having been broken anywhere else, so... ... ... It seems that a number of news organizations in Iceland... have... somehow... obtained access to this information.

[later exerpt]

HS: In that sense... of being... not engaged in any... issue of the day, politics... but rather focusing on the long term... I believe it is very important for WikiLeaks to stay... apolitical.

Finally, in a portion of the Swedish Radio interview with Hrafnsson that was not transcribed and printed by Reason.com, the interviewer probes Hrafnsson on doubts raised by Snorrason, and receives a rather vague, but unsurprising response.

From: 2010-12-10: SverigesRadio: Bekräftat för Medierna: ökänd antisemit jobbar med WikiLeaks (Audio - Partially in English)

KH: Do we have full control over the material?

SR: Yes. The documents.

KH: Yes.

SR: Because we heard that Aftonbladet got it against your will?

KH: I guess that is... not an accurate description of it.

SR: So that is not true?

KH: Uh, that is not an accurate description of of it, no.

SR: What would be an accurate description of it then?

KH: ... ... ... Well, maybe the fact of the matter is that we intend distribution at regional levels to many media organizations in each country, that is probably going to be happening in Sweden as well, as well as in other countries, so there are different processes in different countries, without going into that in detail.

It has to be remarked that on the date of the SverigesRadio programme, Julian Assange had been in prison for 3 days. It remains possible that Hrafnsson's evasiveness indicates not that he is witholding information, but that he doesn't actually have it.

There remains confusion about the precise nature of Shamir's relationship to WikiLeaks, but from the predominance of (sometimes contradictory) information it is unlikely that he is an employee of WikiLeaks, and equally unlikely that he is an officially sanctioned spokesperson. On the basis of the above sources it is likely that as an "accredited journalist," he, similarly to many journalists from around the world, was enjoined to sign a non-disclosure agreement with WikiLeaks, and allowed access to a select and limited number of cables specific to the Commonwealth of Independent States, which he was non-exclusively permitted to distribute to publications in that area, while perhaps being enjoined to allow Russian Reporter a lead in publication. It appears likely that he acted on behalf of those publications in some cases, and carried out some writing for them.

It is important not to exaggerate the relationship unless substantiating evidence is provided. The nominal relationship here described may yet be seen as justifying criticism of WikiLeaks. Given the controversy around Shamir's person, it may have been unwise to identify him as a trustworthy journalist, or to appear to endorse him. There may in fact be grounds for criticism of WikiLeaks, if that organization failed to adequately vet the individuals they selected to allow access to. That criticism, however, must take account of, and be proportional to, the facts.

There are, for instance, worries that Shamir has been misrepresenting the content of cables, and using them to influence the government in Belarus. These are indeed worries, but should they happen to be true, the relationship between WikiLeaks and Shamir, characterized above, does not warrant the wholesale villainization of WikiLeaks, nor does it warrant the "credible allegation" that "WikiLeaks actively collaborated" with anyone, as certain people have been only too willing to assert. To date, the best sources on the matter indicate that that relationship is not such as would vindicate allegations of vicarious liability.

Update: A Guardian article has been brought to my attention which appears to expand on the information above, and contradict some of it. Shamir appears still to have had limited access to cables, but appears to have - on the apparent testimony of a WikiLeaks staffer in Ellingham Hall - invoiced WikiLeaks for a sum of money for having "read and analysed" the Moscow cables.

(2011-03-01, 23:12 GMT) Update 2: Following on from a developing controversy about the Israel Shamir story, covered here, WikiLeaks released a clarificatory press statement on its relationship with WikiLeaks. The statement is straightforward and direct, and directly contradicts some of the information that has been treated as fact by the mainstream press. The statement is covered here.

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