Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization appear to be actively encouraging a conspiracy theory that a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered for nefarious political purposes, perhaps by Hillary Clinton.
Seth Rich was killed last month in Washington, D.C., in an early morning shooting that police have speculated was a failed robbery. Because Rich did voter outreach for the DNC and because we live in a ridiculous world, conspiracy theorists have glommed on to a fantastical story that Rich was an FBI informant meeting with purported agents who were actually a hit team sent by Hillary Clinton. There is of course absolutely zero evidence for this and Snopes has issued a comprehensive debunking of the premise itself (Rich is only 27 and has only worked at the DNC since 2014 so is unlikely to be in possession of information that might take down Clinton, he was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time of the shooting and she hasn’t reported any FBI meeting, there have been a string of robberies in the area, an FBI rendezvous at 4 a.m. only happens in movies, the whole thing is batshit crazy, etc.).
The fact that the idea is so absurd, though, has not stopped Assange from suggesting that Rich was murdered for nefarious political purposes either because he was an informant for the FBI or because he may have been a source in last month’s WikiLeaks release of thousands of DNC emails. In an interview on Tuesday that was picked up by BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, Assange seemed to lend credence to the idea that Rich had been retaliated against.
“WikiLeaks never sits on material. Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks,” Assange said in an interview with the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur. “There’s a 27-year-old who works for the DNC who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the streets in Washington.”
When Assange was questioned as to what the hell he was talking about, he said, “I’m suggesting that our sources take risks and they are—they become concerned to see things occurring like that.”
The implication here is that either Assange’s sources are fearful that Rich might have been a whistleblower to the FBI or someone else and was taken out by Clinton or others—as the conspiracy theory suggests—or that he was a whistleblower for Assange’s group and was murdered because of that.
When the interviewer asked Assange if he was implying that Rich was a WikiLeaks source, he said, “We don’t comment on who our sources are.”
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks sent out a tweet offering a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s murder:
ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 9, 2016
“We are investigating to understand what happened in that situation with Seth Rich,” Assange told the Dutch network. “I think it is a concerning situation. There’s not a conclusion yet, we wouldn’t be willing to state a conclusion, but we are concerned about it and more importantly a variety of Wikileaks sources are concerned when that kind of thing happens.”