A few weeks ago I awoke to find out that from a professional journalist I had overnight turned into an “information mule”.
This unusual definition appeared in a press release sent by WikiLeaks in regard to a cyber assault and exposure of emails from Stratfor, a Texas-based private corporation which, according to its website, provides “geopolitical analysis of international affairs”.
It was a clumsy effort by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, to smear my name and my reputation by portraying me as someone who has “channeled tips to the Mossad”.
I have known Fred Burton, a senior researcher at Stratfor, since he contacted me four years ago to ask my views regarding a book he was writing on the mysterious murder in July 1973 of Colonel Joe Alon, Israel’s Air Force Attaché in Washington.
That was enough for Mr. Assange, who awaits a court decision in London to be extradited to Sweden to face charges of rape. As a professional propagandist who believes in conspiracies, he is a master of innuendo.
My “relations” with Mr. Assange began a year ago. He phoned and offered me an interview for my paper, the Israeli daily Haaretz. I agreed. A few days later he called again and attached strings and conditions. He demanded that he would be granted the right to censor the interview before publication and that no questions would be asked about references he had made about the nature of Jews. In return he promised to provide me and my paper with new documents which were yet not published.
My editors and I rejected his offer. Instead I was assigned by Haaretz to try to get the WikiLeaks documents from other sources. Within a few weeks I succeeded. I brought back to my newsroom a disk containing all the documents which were in Julian Assange’s possession – 250,000 U.S. State Department cables which contain nearly 30 million words. I gained access to them by hard-working journalism without violating any law in any country.
In April 2011 Haaretz published a series of articles of more than a hundred stories of interest to Israel, Israelis and the Middle East. In Mr. Assange’s paranoid view this was paramount to a conspiracy to “move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel”.
Hours before publication Mr. Assange called me and my editors and demanded to stop the publication. He had the chutzpah to claim that the documents belonged to him and if we published them we would be infringing his “intellectual property”. No less. In between his calls he cursed my mother and called me an S.O.B.
Because of our legitimate and professional journalistic work I am now added to the long list of Mr. Assange’s enemies. The list not only includes governments, armies, intelligence agencies and corporations but also prestigious media outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian and others.
I am proud to be on this list.
Yossi Melman is an Israeli ICIJ member who specializes in security and intelligence matters.