Edward Snowden Called Out WikiLeaks Over Meddling in U.S. Election

Through a series of election-related email dumps, WikiLeaks played a major role in the U.S. elections.

There have already been many explanations given to explain why the Democratic party’s nominee Hillary Clinton lost the U.S. Presidential elections in 2016. They range from personal failings, DNC campaign shenanigans, FBI director Comey’s letter to Congress, turnout issues, forgetting the working class, not finding a way to connect with enough disaffected Bernie Sanders voters to over-relying on data analysis and incorrect polls. But besides all that, partial responsibility for her loss must lie with WikiLeaks, an organization that built a reputation for disclosing secret information to the public in the interest of greater transparency, but which, in effect, helped destroy the image of Hillary Clinton in the mind of many possible voters.


The email dumps by WikiLeaks exposed Clinton’s paid Wall Street speeches, a possible conflict of interest with the Clinton Foundation, and the fact that she got some questions passed on to her before the debates. But it was the release of emails from DNC officials that suggested the Democratic party was playing favorites and was set on Clinton winning the nomination that probably did the most damage. Apparently, DNC got so annoyed with Bernie’s surging candidacy that it was looking for a way to slow his momentum, even considering whether to use his religion against him. 

A further WikiLeaks dump right before the election worsened the perception of DNC’s mistreatment of Bernie Sanders by suggesting Bernie was somehow blackmailed by the Clinton campaign during the primary campaign.

All the leaks proved highly embarrassing for the Clinton campaign and worked to further alienate Sanders’s voters. Certainly, many of them came on board anyway, but as the results in Michigan and Wisconsin show, it’s very possible Clinton did not connect with enough of Bernie’s voters to get her over the top in those states. Both of them were won by Sanders in the Democratic primaries. 

The revelations by WikiLeaks also contributed to the hard-to-shake perception of Hilary Clinton and her campaign as secretive and somehow deceitful. Maybe the disclosures did not change the minds of many voters, but in a close election, they could have very well made enough of a difference, even just by driving down the excitement and turnout of her potential supporters. 

So why did WikiLeaks do it? Did it want Trump to be elected President?

This cartoon from the WikiLeaks page with a searchable archive of Clinton’s emails shows a clear stance on what the organization thinks of the Secretary of State, drawing her as a corporate warmonger --

It was criticized by Edward Snowden, himself famous for disclosing classified information in the interest of transparency. In his tweet, he accused WikiLeaks of not having “even modest curation” of what it releases and how. 

Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.

— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 28, 2016

For his part, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks said in a statement that WikiLeaks is simply fulfilling its mission and publishes information as it gets it. If it had info on Trump or other candidates, it would publish that as well. 

“Publishing is what we do. To withhold the publication of such information until after the election would have been to favour one of the candidates above the public’s right to know, “ wrote Assange. 

WikiLeaks also responded in less lofty terms to Snowden, claiming he's trying to get a pardon from Clinton should she get elected by tweeting:

@Snowden Opportunism won't earn you a pardon from Clinton & curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows https://t.co/4FeygfPynk

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 28, 2016

As Assange is now regarded as a hero in rightwing circles while increasingly reactionary Reddit thinks Trump will pardon him, and with the U.S. intelligence community now confirming Russia as being the source of the leaks, it’s undeniable that WikiLeaks had a profound impact on the elections and has even more revelations to make. 

The question remains - is the interest of freedom of speech and transparency overriding any need for control over what information is released and when and what its repercussions are going to be? Was it fair that Clinton’s campaign seemed to be singled out by an Internet crusader, helping to bring the unknown of a Trump Presidency to fruition? The answer to this might depend on your political leanings, but even die-hard-liberals may find it hard to view freedom of speech and transparency in the same way after the unprecedented influence WikiLeaks had in 2016.

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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
    Patriotic.

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.


Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.