Wikileaks Runs Dry?

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The renegade transparency group announces that it is suspending leak publications. Has it run out of more than just money?

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Today, at a news conference in London, Wikileaks' Julian Assange announced that the organization was ceasing its publishing operation and focusing its efforts on fighting back against a financial blockade. As The Guardian reported:

WikiLeaks said in a statement: "The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency. "The US government itself found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade. But the blockade of WikiLeaks by politicised US finance companies continues regardless." Assange said donations to WikiLeaks were running at €100,000 a month in 2010, but had dropped to a monthly figure of €6,000 to €7,000 this year. This had cost the organisation a cumulative €40m to €50m, he claimed, assuming donations had stayed at their 2010 level without the financial blockade.

But what Wikileaks is framing as a paucity of dollars (or pounds) may actually be a paucity of something more fundamental to the Wikileaks operation: leaks. In September, Wikileaks published the entirety of its 251,000-cable dump. A ticker on the website said "Currently released so far ... 251,287/251,287." As a report in the Sydney Morning Herald by Philip Dorling, who had been following the story for months, explained:

But more seriously, nearly a year after critical software was removed by Domscheit-Berg and another WikiLeaks defector, WikiLeaks' confidential submission mechanism remains out of action.

Assange says the facility will be up and running soon and that WikiLeaks has more startling information in its secure servers, but this remains to be seen.

If Wikileaks has reached the end of its cache, this raises important questions about the efficacy of transparency in an age of so much information. It's not that Wikileaks has had no effect -- an article here in The Atlantic detailed the deleterious effect on Zimbabwe, and the American ambassador to Libya was recalled to Washington -- but overall the revelations did not upset the basic landscape of American power abroad, because, as Bill Keller explained in the New York Times,

The value of these documents -- and I believe they have immense value -- is not that they expose some deep, unsuspected perfidy in high places or that they upend your whole view of the world. For those who pay close attention to foreign policy, these documents provide texture, nuance and drama. They deepen and correct your understanding of how things unfold; they raise or lower your estimation of world leaders.

Perhaps such subtle results are not what Julian Assange dreamed of, but they may, in the end, be all he'll get.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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