Well, this is ugly: On Monday evening, international secret-sharing website WikiLeaks, whose founder Julian Assange’s behavior of late has been slightly concerning, tweeted out what certainly looks like an Amazon burner account journalist Kurt Eichenwald used to write positive reviews of his own books back in the aughts.
WikiLeaks’ animosity seems to have been inspired by a legal battle between former Sputnik writer Bill Moran and Newsweek, where Eichenwald published a now-deleted piece in October 2016 claiming President Donald Trump, the Russian government-owned Sputnik, and WikiLeaks were all engaged in a conspiracy to smear Hillary Clinton. Moran fought back with claims of libel and defamation. Moran also alleged that Eichenwald had tried to silence him with bribery and threats. The case resulted in a settlement this month.
Eichenwald’s story insinuated WikiLeaks was a tool of the Russian government. Eichenwald is hardly the only person to make the claim—US intelligence linked the hacked documents released by Wikileaks to the Russian government as well, though Assange denies it was his source—but Assange and Wikileaks have been reveling in Eichenwald’s embarrassment as if it somehow means that Wikileaks didn’t influence the election.
Here’s Assange suggesting that Eichenwald may have left his job at Newsweek over the Moran affair:
In a reply, Eichenwald claimed to simply be on leave writing a book.
And here’s a post from the verified Twitter account of the WikiLeaks Task Force, which the site uses to “Correct misinformation about #WikiLeaks.” It reads: “Haha! Court docs show that @KurtEichenwald’s alias is “Andrew McDonald”. Checkout these Amazon reviews of KE’s books.”
Linked is an Amazon profile using that name, which has two reviews from 2000 and 2005 calling Eichenwald’s books The Informant “one of the most exciting, unbelievable and astonishing books I have ever read,” and his later book Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story “just as thrilling.”
The “court docs” in question were subsequently linked to by WikiLeaks, and are briefs from the defense team of Timothy Ryan Richards, who was convicted of 11 child-pornography related offenses following Eichenwald’s 2005 series on JustinsFriends.com, a since-shuttered child porn site.
The documents link Eichenwald to two email addresses under the “Andrew McDonald” alias via a credit card tied to a PayPal account. Both the email addresses and the PayPal account were allegedly used by Eichenwald in the course of infiltrating JustinsFriends.com.
Eichenwald’s reporting on the now-shuttered JustinsFriends.com became a matter of a very public journalistic ethics controversy after it was revealed he paid $2,000 to the site’s namesake Justin Berry as part of an attempt to gain his confidence, which he did not disclose to his editors. (Eichenwald later asked for and received repayment of the money.)
Amusingly, all of this decade-old controversy about Eichenwald and his reporting is only coming back into the spotlight now because Eichenwald is being trolled by WikiLeaks following yet another controversial story. Eichenwald’s myopic political views and increasingly insufferable behavior on Twitter in recent years have made him a favorite target of online trolls, and WikiLeaks is tossing fuel on the fire in service of its own agenda. What’s worse: Eichenwald’s (alleged) humiliating reviews of his own book or WikiLeaks’ pettiness?
Both Eichenwald and Wikileaks did not respond to a request for comment. We’ll update if they do.