Assange's Employee Nondisclosure: Wikileakers Caught Leaking Slapped with $20 Million Fine

Julian Assange keeps a notoriously tight lid on the hows and wherefores of Wikileaks, but now we know exactly how seriously he takes it. The Wikileaks founder now presents employees with a major nondisclosure agreement that says, among other things, if they are found to be leaking information that is previously unpublished by the organization, they will be charged 12 million British pounds, or around $20 Million dollars. Wired:

“You accept and agree that the information disclosed, or to be disclosed to you pursuant to this agreement is, by its nature, valuable proprietary commercial information,” the agreement reads, “the misuse or unauthorized disclosure of which would be likely to cause us considerable damage.” [...

Interestingly, the agreement warns that any breach is likely to cause WikiLeaks to lose the “opportunity to sell the information to other news broadcasters and publishers.”

WikiLeaks is not known to have sold any of its leaked material, though Assange has discussed the possibility in the past. The organization announced in 2008 that it was auctioning off early access to thousands of e-mails belonging to a top aide to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, but the auction ultimately fell apart.

The prospect of Wikileaks as a for-profit operation would change the whole game, rendering hollow Assange's persona as a government disclosure crusader. Revealing state secrets for the greater public good is one thing; charging money for them is an entirely other thing (that also might compromise his whole outside-the-laws-of-espionage situation). The New Statesman:

All this legalese can only mean that WikiLeaks takes the commercial aspect of selling "its" information seriously: there would be no other reason for this document to have such precise, onerous and unusual provisions.

On the basis of this legal gag alone, it would be fair to take the view that WikiLeaks is nothing other a highly commercially charged enterprise, seeking to protect and maximise its earnings from selling information that has been leaked to it. If so, WikiLeaks is nothing other than a business.

Still, it hasn't happened yet, and it could be that Assange is just covering his ass; the man is rightfully paranoid and guards information about his operation like a hawk. Besides... at some point he might need to pay off the ol' legal fees. More importantly: when's the next big leak? It's been a minute.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at May 12, 2011, 4:00am

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