Wikileaks has accused USAID and billionaire George Soros of engaging in a conspiracy to besmirch Russian President Vladimir Putin through the recent Panama Papers leak.
Wikileaks, which was founded by fugitive and alleged sex offender Julian Assange, made its initial accusation Tuesday via twitter. The group claims that Soros and USAID, via the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), directly funded the Panama Papers’ report which claimed to unveil the system in which Putin and his cronies shuffle money and power, along with similar behavior from a vast array of political and economic players.
Shortly after the initial Wikileaks tweets, the Russian-funded RT news reported the allegations at face value.
“US [government] funded [Panama Papers] attack story on Putin via USAID. Some good journalists but no model for integrity,” said Wikileaks in its initial tweet. The allegation included no proof of direct involvement aside from what appears to be a screenshot of the lower portion of the OCCRP’s website, which says it is made possible by a Soros-funded organization and USAID. What the screenshot failed to include is that the organization also lists the Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Program (SRCP) as a source of funding.
Aside from the USAID, Soros and the SCRP, the OCCRP’s ‘about’ webpage says the organization is funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund, the Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ is the organization responsible for managing the more than 11 million documents included in the Panama Papers leak.
Wikileaks later followed up its initial accusation, saying “The U.S. OCCRP can do good work, but for the U.S. [government] to directly fund the [Panama Papers] attack on Putin seriously undermines its integrity.”
Pro-democracy organizations aligned with Soros were banned from Russia in 2015, with the Russian government deeming them “undesirable.”
“It was found that the activity of the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation represents a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and the security of the state,” said a November 2015 statement from the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office.
The so-called Panama Papers leak was made public by the ICIJ and its partner organizations Sunday night. The 2.6 terabytes worth of information exposed how Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca created and managed shell companies to help hide the money of various political figures, including Putin.
Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University who studies Russian history and security, explained Monday that while it is well-known that Russian leadership operates on corruption, the Panama Papers give a look inside how the system actually works. As Galeotti says, the ICIJ endeavor implicating Putin shows that power is the currency in Russia, not money.
Wikileaks initially made headlines in 2010 when the organization released a trove of top-secret U.S. government files leaked by U.S. Army private Bradley Manning (now known as Chelsea). Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden has said the Manning leak has caused irreparable damage to U.S. foreign policy and security interests, and described Assange as “a dangerous combination of arrogance and incompetence.”
The remarkable timing of the RT story and Wikileaks’ accusation hints towards a cooperation between the Russian government and Wikileaks analysts and foreign policy journalists have warned about for some time. Writing in 2013, Joshua Foust outlined Assange’s collaboration with Russian propaganda and intelligence. John Schindler, a former NSA operative and Naval War College professor, warned last year that “Wikileaks is a front for Russian intelligence.”
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