The case of the leaked DNC emails took a bizarre turn Tuesday afternoon when WikiLeaks announced a $20,000 reward for information relating to the death of a DNC staffer.
It became positively surreal a few hours later when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange suggested the staffer, not the Russians, was the source of the leaked emails.
Seth Rich, a 27-year-old DNC data analyst was murdered in what D.C. Metropolitan Police described as a "robbery gone wrong." It went so wrong that, according to his father, nothing was taken from Rich at all—he still had his watch, his wallet, his credit cards and his phone when his body was discovered.
Conspiracy theories began building, particularly among those in the "hacktivist" community, suggesting Rich may have been on his way to the FBI to discuss knowledge he had relative to an investigation. The FBI, however, has not been involved in the investigation of Rich's murder.
Shortly before noon EDT Tuesday, WikiLeaks announced it had decided to offer a $20,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction for Rich's murder. Immediately, the media picked up on the odd announcement—unusual not only for its timing, but because there was no previously known connection to Rich and the hacktivist organization.
Once again, the conspiracy theories poured in, some with at least a semblance of factual basis and others that were way off base. But then word came out that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had discussed Rich's death during an interview with the Dutch news program Nieuwsuur (Newshour).
Here's what Assange said when asked if WikiLeaks was "sitting on" a potential "October surprise" for the U.S. presidential election:
"WikiLeaks never sits on information. Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks. As a 27 year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington."
Assange then disputed the host's suggestion that Rich's murder was the byproduct of a robbery. Asked to clarify what he was "suggesting," the WikiLeaks founder said:
"I'm suggesting that our sources take risks and they are—they become concerned to see things occurring like that."
The host asked if Rich was one of WikiLeak's sources, but Assange simply said the organization doesn't comment about who it's sources are. The host further pressed the matter with Assange, asking why he would then bring up Rich's murder.
"We have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States," he responded. "Our sources are—you know, our sources face serious risks. That's why they come to us. So we can protect their anonymity."
The Dutch newsman noted that Assange was suggesting the murder was related to the DNC leaks.
"Others have suggested that. We are investigating to understand what happened in that situation with Seth Rich. I think it is a concerning situation. There's not a conclusion yet. We will be willing to say when there's a conclusion, but we're very concerned about it. More importantly, a variety of our sources are concerned when that kind of thing happens."
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