On the same day that Julian Assange desperately inserted his organization into Edward Snowden's quest for asylum, Wikileaks announced on Twitter last night that the late great journalist Michael Hastings had been in touch with a member of Assange's legal team before he died, apparently seeking help in an FBI investigation into Hastings. The world's most notorious leaking organization, notoriously losing steam and a grip on the public consciousness, has now found a backdoor into two of the biggest stories of the current news cycle — and a look at the tenuous connections show that Wikileaks may just be trying to take advantage of the public interest.
The tweet cites an attorney who's something of a human-rights watchdog and a protector of investigative journalists — not just a representative of Assange and his lengthy legal fight:
Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 19, 2013
Hastings apparently died in a car accident on Tuesday; police have determined that speed was factor but told LA Weekly that it would take weeks to get results from toxicology tests — and that they still haven't officially ID'd the body. (Update, 2:20 p.m. Eastern: No foul play, plus a positive ID, and word of a Jill Kelley story.) And Hastings was certainly a no-holds-barred investigator who had no fear in looking into the highest rankings of power, be it the intelligence community and the White House in his recent writing for Buzzfeed, or the famous profile that brought down Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his contributions to Rolling Stone. Which is where Assange comes in: Hastings interviewed him for a semi-sympathetic Assange profile in Rolling Stone in 2012. But that's just a profile, on a classic Rolling Stone political figure by one of the magazine's main political writers. That doesn't mean one call to one human-rights lawyer who happens to work for Assange one day before a man happened to die in a car accident is some sort of conspiracy. There's been plenty of human-rights and intelligence news to investigate lately, and sources are sources, and people make phone calls.
But then again, Wikileaks is Wikileaks. And now they're getting desperate.
Earlier on Wednesday, Assange had told reporters — on a conference call to celebrate his one year in asylum, obviously — that the Wikileaks legal team was in contact with Snowden and that they were involved in his mad dash to Iceland. The main journalist at the heart of Snowden's big NSA reveal, Glenn Greenwald, threw some ice on this development, telling Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray, "I'm not aware that WikiLeaks has any substantive involvement at all with Snowden, though I know they've previously offered to help."
Could a Wikileaks lawyer have called Snowden just a few hours before he vanished, saying the U.S. was investigating them, too? It's about as possible as sending out an ill-timed tweet for attention.