Daily Review: The WikiLeaks Saga (Finally) Comes to an End

Daily Review: The WikiLeaks Saga (Finally) Comes to an End
Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, May 19, 2017 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, agreed to plead guilty to a single felony count of illegally obtaining and disclosing U.S. national security material yesterday. In exchange, Assange will be sentenced to about five years, the amount of time he has already spent in prison in the U.K., bringing to an end a yearslong legal battle. (New York Times)

Our Take

In many ways, Assange’s plea bargain brings the curtain down on a story from another era, given WikiLeaks’ fall from relevance in the years since he was actively involved with it. The site hasn’t published anything since 2021, but more importantly, public perceptions of Assange and the organization he founded have shifted dramatically away from their early reputation as fearless crusaders for transparency.

When WikiLeaks first rose to prominence in 2010, it was welcomed by many critics of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who saw the site as providing much-needed visibility into the U.S. conduct of those wars, at a time when even critical news coverage was filtered through journalists embedded with the U.S. military. Subsequent leaks, like those of U.S. diplomatic cables, fed the site’s reputation among many observers as a watchdog.

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