What's in the box? Pulitzers!
Meanwhile, the reason Assange is being tortured beneath the old Bailey is because he didn't sanitise his leaks like the other outlets oligarchs generously provide for those trying to expose them. Wikileaks absence of editorialisation and their unwillingness to engage with lawyers was an affront to an unspoken tradition of translucent disclosure. This was why Assange wasn't considered a journalist, the people he was exposing do not believe transparency equates to journalism.
For those who fear exposure, journalism is a negotiation over the opacity of disclosure; mediated through a formal process they control, legitimised through editorialisation or what they call responsible journalism. To put it plainly, Assange fucked with real power. Not the appearance of it or its prestige, but the reality of that which has been brought to bear upon him. Assange fucked with the Information Authorities, particularly with the disclosure of State Department and other diplomatic cables still pertinent to the contemporary political climate. He operated an information pipeline that bypassed all the filtration mechanisms put in place to keep the farce of modern democracy from being exposed to a critical mass of the population required to buy in ideologically to keep it going.
While this is a brave thing to do, it is also an utterly insane thing to do. Just as having credibility and being credible is a dangerous way to live these days. And to do this openly as opposed to anonymously, could only ever have been done by a narcissist. A rare case in which an unwavering willpower such a trait invokes, becomes kind of admirable against the odds it faces. A captain Ahab complex type thing. Though it's better to be in awe of it from a safe distance than on the actual ship.
The fact Assange felt safe to even be in London, as if it were a jurisdiction beyond the reach of those he was exposing; suggests he likely did not truly understand what he was up against. These two things, narcissism and naivety, along with his unique technical ability, gave us wikileaks. Wikileaks broke the unwritten rules of the disclosure game. So in response Assange was dealt with in an unwritten manner. One which breaks all the laws he would've been afforded had he played their game, which would've ultimately netted him a pulitzer instead of a prison cell. Though he was never a pulitzer kind of guy.
Snowden on the other hand did play by the rules by going through The Intercept and the newspapers of record rewarded Pulitzers for their sanitation work. What Snowden leaked didn't actually threaten Information authorities, rather one branch of their collection apparatus – the NSA. And the impact of these 'revelations' were ultimately just the normalisation of activities anyone paying attention already knew about. And here we are are years later with an attitude towards data surveillance which is more apathetic than it has ever been. One could even argue that the Snowden leaks have helped bring out into the open activities which, rather than be reformed, have become normalised to a point of acceptance. Which is where the real danger lies.
“they know everything about you anyway” has replaced “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide” as a conceded turn of phrase used these days to brush off privacy concerns. The aim is no longer to circumvent privacy through voyeurism, but to legitimise it openly so that its full potential can be realised. This potential is the widespread belief, but also acceptance, that there exists an information authority, an institution or integrated network of such, which effectively meets both criteria's for being a God. Omnipresence and All-Knowingness. The former can be achieved quite easily by putting cameras everywhere for instance. But the latter can only be achieved if people accept that the information captured by those cameras can be processed into meaningful knowledge used against them. And even if it can be, the power of the camera itself does not come from the fact it is recording, but from the belief it is. And to create this belief requires a demonstration of its power, which requires a universal acceptance of its existence, which thanks to Snowden there now is.. However, this demonstration of power cannot be conducted so long as agencies such as the NSA retain their voyeurs status. This is because the demonstration of that power is an act of shame. Once people no longer care, they will become shameless. And that is where we are heading.
The point here is that even if the reality of a surveillance state exists in infrastructure, it cannot manifest itself in culture until it is allowed to demonstrate to society that it is All-Knowing and that this is actually meaningful. It will do this only when it is no longer ashamed to do so. Because of this there is creeping attempt to so slowly demonstrate the power of the surveillance state through controlled leaks of it. The leaks serve no other purpose since they don't reform things only make people accept them.
Keeping a surveillance state a secret is only necessary during its rollout, which is when it could be stopped. Once the means are in place, the pursuit of ends begins. And this is all about getting society to understand and accept the reality of what has been built up behind their backs for decades. The only defence would be to pretend what they know isn't real. Effectively gaslight them as they do us. Possibly there is hope in the courts and the utter bullshit chain of custody digital evidence presents for future cases. Deep fakes and what not.
Beyond this, ever since the Snowden leaks The Intercept has been functioning as a whistleblower honey pot. They have been responsible for exposing, inadvertently or not, at least two sources behind their biggest scoops; Daniel Hale and Reality Winner.
It's quite believable Jeremy Scahill, the face of The Intercepts post-Greenwald era, and who was responsible for protecting those two sources, is just another useful idiot swept up in the professional prestige of his book deals and prizes, with a not completely unconscious understanding for the implicit expectations that come with an ever inflating six figure salary.
The Intercept itself was probably founded in earnest by a naïve Glenn Greenwald, who somehow managed to swallow the platitudes of First Look Media owner Pierre Omidyar's philanthropy, along with his cash, to reconcile the oddity of independent journalism on a billionaires allowance. It wasn't until the most recent election cycle Greenwald appears to have finally recognised parallels between his career trajectory and the parable of the organ grinder's monkey. Though he did give up his money and prestige unlike some, he was still complicit in the gradual sanitisation of the Snowden NSA files.
Another pet project Pierre Omidyar has paid into is the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ). ICIJ is an international network of journalists that sanitise the data which has been persistently leaking out of the offshore banking secrecy jurisdictions in recent years. In this case Omidyar isn't the solitary contributor, nor is he its primary. That would be George Soros. A figure many either roll their eyes at or clench their fists when mentioned, but this according to the two pretty credible journalists who relied on ICIJ resources in assisting them manage what became known as the Panama Papers.
The subsequent book deal these journalists got was actually put to good use. It reads as a chronicle of two ordinary journalists who end up in possession of a reservoir of information too large and complex for them to navigate. So they embark on a somewhat suspicious collaboration with the ICIJ out of necessity. Parts of it mention how the ICIJ in certain instances told them to delay the release of certain stories, or pass the handling and publication of them onto other journalists in the ICIJ network. Interestingly, it outlines how impossible it is to manage the actual data that was leaked to them without having to sacrifice its integrity through using ICIJ provided data technicians to make it navigable. Ultimately there was so much leaked to them, they had to rely on the use of costly specialised equipment which could only be provided by a handful of specialised vendors. I'm speculating here, but the opportunity for the data to have been processed on a compromised system was certainly there, the only question is if that opportunity was taken.
If you look at what the ICIJ investigations expose as 'power players' in thir latest investigative efforts, it should be clear they have no real intent on reforming the off shore banking network.
Such outcomes are akin to doing investigations into international drug traffic, only to expose a few junkies with name recognition instead of their dealers. Almost all the politicians named in this most recent Pandora Papers drop are from non-Western nations. I think there's one Scandinavian finance minister, while the only Anglo mentioned from any of the Commonwealth nations or United States is Tony Blair. Who is retired siting on the boards of multinationals without a care and happy to gobble up scandals like they are desserts just to get his name in the paper. Notable Westerners have been kept to celebrities and sporting stars. Two groups of people who are very likely to have no idea what is being done with their money beyond a monthly meeting with the person skimming from them.
Will there be reforms? Possibly a few loopholes will get closed, but only upon new ones being opened. And this is circumvention not reform. This is the impotence of responsible journalism. A fear to bite down into the rotten core. Such a thing just isn't professional.