WikiLeaks: Assange doubts value of Bank of America e-mails

Charlotte ObserverFebruary 11, 2011 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — WikiLeaks has data from Bank of America Corp., but founder Julian Assange isn't sure whether it holds any big news and it may be difficult to interpret, according to a Reuters report this week.

The information consists of e-mails from an executive's computer hard drive, according to Reuters, which cited people familiar with Assange's private discussions. The most recent messages are from 2006, which would preclude information about the bank's 2008 Countrywide Financial Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. acquisitions.

"Assange privately acknowledged the material was not self-explanatory and that he personally was unable to make much sense of it," the Reuters story Wednesday stated, citing the sources. "Assange indicated it would require a substantial amount of effort by financial experts to determine whether any of the material was newsworthy."

Assange in November said his next big "megaleak" would target a major bank. That led to speculation that Bank of America was the subject because Assange said in a 2009 interview that his anti-secrecy group had a hard drive from one of the Charlotte bank's executives.

In a "60 Minutes" interview aired last week, Assange wouldn't say whether Bank of America would be the subject of a leak. "I think it's great," Assange said. "We have all these banks squirming, thinking maybe it's them."

Meanwhile, another report this week said three data intelligence firms developed "a strategic plan of attack" against WikiLeaks at the request of a law firm, Hunton & Williams, that is working for Bank of America. The presentation included such tactics as fueling internal feuds at WikiLeaks, emphasizing the radical nature of WikiLeaks in the media and investigating employees for leaks using social media.

A website, thetechherald .com , reported on the presentation allegedly prepared by Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal and Berico Technologies. WikiLeaks has also posted the presentation on its site. According to thetechherald .com , revelations about the presentation are tied to a cyberattack on HBGary that resulted in the release of thousands of e-mails.

In a statement on its website, HBGary Inc. said the firm and a separate related company, HBGary Federal, have been the "victims of an intentional criminal cyberattack" and are working with law enforcement authorities. "Meanwhile, please be aware that any information currently in the public domain is not reliable because the perpetrators of this offense, or people working closely with them, have intentionally falsified certain data," the statement says.

Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri said neither the bank nor any of its vendors "have engaged HBGary in this matter." The bank hasn't engaged in and has no plans to engage in the "practices discussed in recent press reports involving HBGary Federal," he added.

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