||This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (October 2013)|
|Web address||WikiLeaks.org a|
|Slogan||We open governments.|
|Type of site||Document archive and disclosure|
|Available in||English, but the documents are written in various languages|
|Created by||Julian Assange|
|Launched||4 October 2006|
|Alexa rank||14,957 (April 2014[update])|
WikiLeaks is an international, online, non-profit, journalistic organisation which publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources. Its website, initiated in 2006 in Iceland by the organization Sunshine Press, claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year of its launch. Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its founder, editor-in-chief, and director. Kristinn Hrafnsson, Joseph Farrell, and Sarah Harrison are the only other publicly known and acknowledged associates of Julian Assange. Hrafnsson is also a member of Sunshine Press Productions along with Assange, Ingi Ragnar Ingason, and Gavin MacFadyen.
The group has released a number of significant documents which have become front-page news items. Early releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war and corruption in Kenya. In April 2010, WikiLeaks published gunsight footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed by an AH-64 Apache helicopter, known as the Collateral Murder video. In July of the same year, WikiLeaks released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan not previously available to the public. In October 2010, the group released a set of almost 400,000 documents called the "Iraq War Logs" in coordination with major commercial media organisations. This allowed the mapping of 109,032 deaths in "significant" attacks by insurgents in Iraq that had been reported to Multi-National Force – Iraq, including about 15,000 that had not been previously published. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
In November 2010, WikiLeaks collaborated with major global media organisations to release U.S. State department diplomatic "cables" in redacted format. On 1 September 2011, it became public that an encrypted version of WikiLeaks' huge archive of unredacted U.S. State Department cables had been available via BitTorrent for months and that the decryption key (similar to a password) was available to those who knew where to find it. WikiLeaks blamed the breach on its former publication partner, the UK newspaper The Guardian, and that newspaper's journalist David Leigh, who revealed the key in a book published in February 2011; The Guardian argued that WikiLeaks was to blame since they gave the impression that the decryption key was temporary (something not possible for a file decryption key). The German periodical Der Spiegel reported a more complex story involving errors on both sides. The incident resulted in widely expressed fears that the information released could endanger innocent lives.
- 1 History
- 2 Administration
- 3 Leaks
- 4 Other activities
- 5 Backlash and pressure
- 5.1 Operational challenges
- 5.2 Response from media
- 5.3 Response from governments
- 5.4 Response from corporations
- 5.5 U.S. diplomatic cables leak responses
- 5.6 Response from the financial industry
- 6 Internal conflicts
- 7 Reception
- 8 Spin-offs
- 9 Depictions in media
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
- 14 External links
The wikileaks.org domain name was registered on 4 October 2006. The website was begun, and published its first document, in December 2006. WikiLeaks has been predominantly represented in public since January 2007 by Julian Assange, who is now generally recognised as the "founder of WikiLeaks". According to the magazine Wired, a volunteer said that Assange described himself in a private conversation as "the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier, and all the rest".
WikiLeaks relies to some degree on volunteers and previously described its founders as a mixture of Asian dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa, but has progressively adopted a more traditional publication model and no longer accepts either user comments or edits. As of June 2009[update], the website had more than 1,200 registered volunteers and listed an advisory board comprising Assange, his deputy Jash Vora and seven other people, some of whom denied any association with the organisation.
Despite using the name "WikiLeaks", the website has not used the "wiki" publication method since May 2010. Also, despite some popular confusion due to both having "wiki" in their names, WikiLeaks and Wikipedia are not affiliated with each other ("wiki" is not a brand name); Wikia, a for-profit corporation affiliated loosely with the Wikimedia Foundation, did purchase several WikiLeaks-related domain names (including wikileaks.com and wikileaks.net) as a "protective brand measure" in 2007.
According to the WikiLeaks website, its goal is "to bring important news and information to the public... One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth."
Another of the organisation's goals is to ensure that journalists and whistleblowers are not jailed for emailing sensitive or classified documents. The online "drop box" is described by the WikiLeaks website as "an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to [WikiLeaks] journalists".
In an interview as part of the American television programme The Colbert Report, Assange discussed the limit to the freedom of speech, saying, "[it is] not an ultimate freedom, however free speech is what regulates government and regulates law. That is why in the US Constitution the Bill of Rights says that Congress is to make no such law abridging the freedom of the press. It is to take the rights of the press outside the rights of the law because those rights are superior to the law because in fact they create the law. Every constitution, every bit of legislation is derived from the flow of information. Similarly every government is elected as a result of people understanding things".
The project has been compared to Daniel Ellsberg's revelation of the "Pentagon Papers" (US war-related secrets) in 1971. In the United States, the "leaking" of some documents may be legally protected. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution guarantees anonymity, at least in the context of political discourse. Author and journalist Whitley Strieber has spoken about the benefits of the WikiLeaks project, noting that "Leaking a government document can mean jail, but jail sentences for this can be fairly short. However, there are many places where it means long incarceration or even death, such as China and parts of Africa and the Middle East."
According to a January 2010 interview, the WikiLeaks team then consisted of five people working full-time and about 800 people who worked occasionally, none of whom were compensated. WikiLeaks does not have any official headquarters. In November 2010 the Wikileaks-endorsed news and activism site Wikileaks Central was initiated and was administrated by editor Heather Marsh who oversaw 70+ writers and volunteers. She resigned as editor in chief, administrator and domain holder of Wikileaks Central on 8 March 2012.
WikiLeaks describes itself as "an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking". The website is available on multiple servers and different domain names as a result of a number of denial-of-service attacks and its elimination from different Domain Name System (DNS) providers.
Until August 2010, WikiLeaks was hosted by PRQ, a Sweden-based company providing "highly secure, no-questions-asked hosting services". PRQ is said to have "almost no information about its clientele and maintains few if any of its own logs". Currently, WikiLeaks is hosted mainly by the Swedish internet service provider Bahnhof in the Pionen facility, a former nuclear bunker in Sweden. Other servers are spread around the world with the main server located in Sweden. Julian Assange has said that the servers are located in Sweden (and the other countries) "specifically because those nations offer legal protection to the disclosures made on the site". He talks about the Swedish constitution, which gives the information providers total legal protection. It is forbidden according to Swedish law for any administrative authority to make inquiries about the sources of any type of newspaper. These laws, and the hosting by PRQ, make it difficult for any authorities to eliminate WikiLeaks; they place an onus of proof upon any complainant whose suit would circumscribe WikiLeaks' liberty, e.g. its rights to exercise free speech online. Furthermore, "WikiLeaks maintains its own servers at undisclosed locations, keeps no logs and uses military-grade encryption to protect sources and other confidential information." Such arrangements have been called "bulletproof hosting."
After the site became the target of a denial-of-service attack on its old servers, WikiLeaks moved its website to Amazon.com's servers. Later, however, the website was "ousted" from the Amazon servers. In a public statement, Amazon said that WikiLeaks was not following its terms of service. The company further explained, "There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that 'you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content... that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.' It's clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content." WikiLeaks was then moved to servers at OVH, a private web-hosting service in France. After criticism from the French government, the company sought two court rulings about the legality of hosting WikiLeaks. While the court in Lille immediately refused to force OVH to deactivate the WikiLeaks website, the court in Paris stated it would need more time to examine the complex technical issue.
To preserve anonymity WikiLeaks uses software like Tor and PGP, though in November 2007 the published PGP key expired. WikiLeaks warned against fake PGP keys on keyservers and proposed as an alternative using a SSL-encrypted chat.
On 4 November 2010, Julian Assange told Swiss public television organization Télévision Suisse Romande (TSR) that he is seriously considering seeking political asylum in neutral Switzerland and establishing a WikiLeaks foundation to move the operation there. According to Assange at the time, Switzerland and Iceland were the only countries where WikiLeaks would be safe to operate.
Domain name service
WikiLeaks had been using EveryDNS's domain name system (DNS). Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Wikileaks hurt DNS quality of service for other EveryDNS customers; as a result, the company dropped WikiLeaks. Supporters of WikiLeaks waged verbal and DDoS attacks on EveryDNS. Because of a typographical error in blogs mistaking EveryDNS for competitor EasyDNS, that sizable internet backlash hit EasyDNS. Despite that, EasyDNS (upon request of a customer who was setting up new Wikileaks hosting) began providing WikiLeaks with DNS service on "two 'battle hardened' servers" to protect quality of service for its other customers.
Verification of submissions
WikiLeaks states that it has never released a misattributed document and that documents are assessed before release. In response to concerns about the possibility of misleading or fraudulent leaks, WikiLeaks has stated that misleading leaks "are already well-placed in the mainstream media. WikiLeaks is of no additional assistance." The FAQ states that: "The simplest and most effective countermeasure is a worldwide community of informed users and editors who can scrutinise and discuss leaked documents."
According to statements by Assange in 2010, submitted documents are vetted by a group of five reviewers, with expertise in different topics such as language or programming, who also investigate the background of the leaker if his or her identity is known. In that group, Assange has the final decision about the assessment of a document.
The legal status of WikiLeaks is complex. Assange considers WikiLeaks a protection intermediary. Rather than leaking directly to the press, and fearing exposure and retribution, whistleblowers can leak to WikiLeaks, which then leaks to the press for them. Its servers are located throughout Europe and are accessible from any uncensored web connection. The group located its headquarters in Sweden because it has one of the world's strongest laws to protect confidential source-journalist relationships. WikiLeaks has stated it does not solicit any information. However, Assange used his speech during the Hack In The Box conference in Malaysia to ask the crowd of hackers and security researchers to help find documents on its "Most Wanted Leaks of 2009" list.
Potential criminal prosecution
The U.S. Justice Department began a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange soon after the leak of diplomatic cables began. Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed the investigation was "not saber-rattling", but was "an active, ongoing criminal investigation." The Washington Post reported that the department was considering charges under the Espionage Act of 1917, an action which former prosecutors characterised as "difficult" because of First Amendment protections for the press. Several Supreme Court cases have established previously that the American constitution protects the re-publication of illegally gained information provided the publishers did not themselves violate any laws in acquiring it. Federal prosecutors have also considered prosecuting Assange for trafficking in stolen government property, but since the diplomatic cables are intellectual rather than physical property, that method is also difficult. Any prosecution of Assange would require extraditing him to the United States, a procedure made more complicated and potentially delayed by any preceding extradition to Sweden. One of Assange's lawyers, however, says they are fighting extradition to Sweden because it might result in his extradition to the United States. Assange's attorney, Mark Stephens, has "heard from Swedish authorities there has been a secretly empanelled grand jury in Alexandria [Virginia]" meeting to consider criminal charges for the WikiLeaks case.
In Australia, the government and the Australian Federal Police have not stated what Australian laws may have been violated by WikiLeaks, but then Prime Minister Julia Gillard has stated that the foundation of WikiLeaks and the stealing of classified documents from the US administration is illegal in foreign countries. Gillard later clarified her statement as referring to "the original theft of the material by a junior US serviceman rather than any action by Mr Assange." Spencer Zifcak, President of Liberty Victoria, an Australian civil liberties group, notes that without a charge or a trial completed, it is inappropriate to state that WikiLeaks is guilty of illegal activities.
On threats by various governments toward Julian Assange, legal expert Ben Saul argues that Assange is the target of a global smear campaign to demonise him as a criminal or as a terrorist, without any legal basis. The U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights has issued a statement emphasizing its alarm at the "multiple examples of legal overreach and irregularities" in his arrest.
Insurance files 
On 29 July 2010 WikiLeaks added a 1.4 GB "Insurance file" to the Afghan War Diary page. The file is AES encrypted and has a SHA1 checksum of "cce54d3a8af370213d23fcbfe8cddc8619a0734c". There has been speculation that it was intended to serve as insurance in case the WikiLeaks website or its spokesman Julian Assange are incapacitated, upon which the passphrase could be published. After the first few days' release of the US diplomatic cables starting 28 November 2010, the US television broadcasting company CBS predicted that "If anything happens to Assange or the website, a key will go out to unlock the files. There would then be no way to stop the information from spreading like wildfire because so many people already have copies." CBS correspondent Declan McCullagh stated, "What most folks are speculating is that the insurance file contains unreleased information that would be especially embarrassing to the US government if it were released."
The insurance files are not to be confused with another encrypted file containing diplomatic cables, the password of which has been compromised. The insurance files' passwords have not been compromised and their contents are still unknown.
On 17 August 2013, WikiLeaks released another three insurance files, this time 3.6 GB, 49 GB and 349 GB in size. Like previous insurance files, the contents of these three insurance files are still unknown.
WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit organisation, funded largely by volunteers, and it is dependent on public donations. Its main financing methods include conventional bank transfers and online payment systems. Annual expenses have been estimated at about €200,000, mainly for servers and dealing with bureaucracy, but might reportedly become €600,000 if work currently done by volunteers were to become paid.
WikiLeaks' lawyers often work pro bono, and in some cases legal aid has been donated by media organisations such as the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association. WikiLeaks' only revenue consists of donations, but it has considered other options including auctioning early access to documents. During September 2011, Wikileaks began auctioning items on eBay to raise funds, and Assange told an audience at Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas that the organisation might not be able to survive.
The Wau Holland Foundation helps to process donations to WikiLeaks. In July 2010, the Foundation stated that WikiLeaks was not receiving any money for personnel costs, only for hardware, travelling and bandwidth. An article in TechEye stated:
As a charity accountable under German law, donations for WikiLeaks can be made to the foundation. Funds are held in escrow and are given to WikiLeaks after the whistleblower website files an application containing a statement with proof of payment. The foundation does not pay any sort of salary nor give any renumeration [sic] to WikiLeaks' personnel, corroborating the statement of the site's former German representative Daniel Schmitt [real name Daniel Domscheit-Berg] on national television that all personnel works voluntarily, even its speakers.
On 24 December 2009, WikiLeaks announced that it was experiencing a shortage of funds and suspended all access to its website except for a form to submit new material. Material that was previously published was no longer available, although some could still be accessed on unofficial mirror websites. WikiLeaks stated on its website that it would resume full operation once the operational costs were paid. WikiLeaks saw this as a kind of work stoppage "to ensure that everyone who is involved stops normal work and actually spends time raising revenue". While the organisation initially planned for funds to be secured by 6 January 2010, it was not until 3 February 2010 that WikiLeaks announced that its minimum fundraising goal had been achieved.
On 22 January 2010, the internet payment intermediary PayPal suspended WikiLeaks' donation account and froze its assets. WikiLeaks said that this had happened before, and was done for "no obvious reason". The account was restored on 25 January 2010. On 18 May 2010, WikiLeaks announced that its website and archive were operational again.
In June 2010, WikiLeaks was a finalist for a grant of more than half a million dollars from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, but did not make the final approval. WikiLeaks commented via Twitter, "WikiLeaks was highest rated project in the Knight challenge, strongly recommended to the board but gets no funding. Go figure." WikiLeaks said that the Knight foundation announced the award to "'12 Grantees who will impact future of news' – but not WikiLeaks" and questioned whether Knight foundation was "really looking for impact". A spokesman of the Knight Foundation disputed parts of WikiLeaks' statement, saying "WikiLeaks was not recommended by Knight staff to the board." However, he declined to say whether WikiLeaks was the project rated highest by the Knight advisory panel, which consists of non-staffers, among them journalist Jennifer 8. Lee, who has done PR work for WikiLeaks with the press and on social networking websites.
During 2010, WikiLeaks received €635,772.73 in PayPal donations, less €30,000 in PayPal fees, and €695,925.46 in bank transfers. €500,988.89 of the sum was received in the month of December, primarily as bank transfers as PayPal suspended payments 4 December. €298,057.38 of the remainder was received in April.
The Wau Holland Foundation, one of the WikiLeaks' main funding channels, stated that they received more than €900,000 in public donations between October 2009 and December 2010, of which €370,000 has been passed on to WikiLeaks. Hendrik Fulda, vice president of the Wau Holland Foundation, mentioned that the Foundation had been receiving twice as many donations through PayPal as through normal banks, before PayPal's decision to suspend WikiLeaks' account. He also noted that every new WikiLeaks publication brought "a wave of support", and that donations were strongest in the weeks after WikiLeaks started publishing leaked diplomatic cables.
The Icelandic judiciary decided that Valitor (a company related to Visa and Mastercard) was violating the law when it prevented donation to the site by credit card. A justice ruled that the donations will be allowed to return to the site after 14 days or they would be fined in the amount of U$ 6,000 a day.
WikiLeaks posted its first document in December 2006, a decision to assassinate government officials signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys." In August 2007, the UK newspaper The Guardian published a story about corruption by the family of the former Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi based on information provided via WikiLeaks. In November 2007, a March 2003 copy of Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta detailing the protocol of the U.S. Army at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was released. The document revealed that some prisoners were off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross, something that the U.S. military had in the past denied repeatedly. In February 2008, WikiLeaks released allegations of illegal activities at the Cayman Islands branch of the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, which resulted in the bank suing WikiLeaks and obtaining an injunction which temporarily suspended the operation of wikileaks.org. The California judge had the service provider of WikiLeaks block the site's domain (wikileaks.org) on 18 February 2008, although the bank only wanted the documents to be removed but WikiLeaks had failed to name a contact. The website was instantly mirrored by supporters, and later that month the judge overturned his previous decision citing First Amendment concerns and questions about legal jurisdiction. In March 2008, WikiLeaks published what they referred to as "the collected secret 'bibles' of Scientology," and three days later received letters threatening to sue them for breach of copyright. In September 2008, during the 2008 United States presidential election campaigns, the contents of a Yahoo account belonging to Sarah Palin (the running mate of Republican presidential nominee John McCain) were posted on WikiLeaks after being hacked into by members of a group known as Anonymous. In November 2008, the membership list of the far-right British National Party was posted to WikiLeaks, after appearing briefly on a weblog. A year later, on October 2009, another list of BNP members was leaked.
In January 2009, WikiLeaks released 86 telephone intercept recordings of Peruvian politicians and businessmen involved in the 2008 Peru oil scandal. During February, WikiLeaks released 6,780 Congressional Research Service reports followed in March by a list of contributors to the Norm Coleman senatorial campaign and a set of documents belonging to Barclays Bank that had been ordered removed from the website of The Guardian. In July, it released a report relating to a serious nuclear accident that had occurred at the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility in 2009. Later media reports have suggested that the accident was related to the Stuxnet computer worm. In September, internal documents from Kaupthing Bank were leaked, from shortly before the collapse of Iceland's banking sector, which caused the 2008–2012 Icelandic financial crisis. The document shows that suspiciously large sums of money were loaned to various owners of the bank, and large debts written off. In October, Joint Services Protocol 440, a British document advising the security services on how to avoid documents being leaked, was published by WikiLeaks. Later that month, it announced that a super-injunction was being used by the commodities company Trafigura to stop The Guardian (London) from reporting on a leaked internal document regarding a toxic dumping incident in Côte d'Ivoire. In November, it hosted copies of e-mail correspondence between climate scientists, although they were not leaked originally to WikiLeaks. It also released 570,000 intercepts of pager messages sent on the day of the 11 September attacks. During 2008 and 2009, WikiLeaks published the alleged lists of forbidden or illegal web addresses for Australia, Denmark and Thailand. These were originally created to prevent access to child pornography and terrorism, but the leaks revealed that other sites featuring unrelated subjects were also listed.
In mid-February 2010, WikiLeaks received a leaked diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in Reykjavik relating to the Icesave scandal, which they published on 18 February. The cable, known as Reykjavik 13 was the first of the classified documents WikiLeaks published among those allegedly provided to them by US Army Private Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley). In March 2010, WikiLeaks released a secret 32-page U.S. Department of Defense Counterintelligence Analysis Report written in March 2008 discussing the leaking of material by WikiLeaks and how it could be deterred. In April, a classified video of the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike was released, showing two Reuters employees being fired at, after the pilots mistakenly thought the men were carrying weapons, which were in fact cameras. In the week after the release, "wikileaks" was the search term with the most significant growth worldwide during the last seven days as measured by Google Insights. In June 2010, Manning was arrested after alleged chat logs were given to US authorities by former hacker Adrian Lamo, in whom she had confided. Manning reportedly told Lamo she had leaked the "Collateral Murder" video, in addition to a video of the Granai airstrike and about 260,000 diplomatic cables, to WikiLeaks. In July, WikiLeaks released 92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009 to the publications The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel. The documents detail individual incidents including "friendly fire" and civilian casualties. At the end of July, a 1.4 GB "insurance file" was added to the Afghan War Diary page, whose decryption details would be released if WikiLeaks or Assange were harmed. About 15,000 of the 92,000 documents have not yet been released by WikiLeaks, as the group is currently reviewing the documents to remove some of the sources of the information. WikiLeaks asked the Pentagon and human-rights groups to help remove names from the documents to reduce the potential harm caused by their release, but did not receive assistance. After the Love Parade stampede in Duisburg, Germany, on 24 July 2010, a local resident published internal documents of the city administration regarding the planning of Love Parade. The city government reacted by securing a court order on 16 August forcing the removal of the documents from the website on which it was hosted. On 20 August 2010, WikiLeaks released a publication entitled Loveparade 2010 Duisburg planning documents, 2007–2010, which comprised 43 internal documents regarding the Love Parade 2010. After the leak of information concerning the Afghan War, in October 2010, around 400,000 documents relating to the Iraq War were released. The BBC quoted the US Dept. of Defense referring to the Iraq War Logs as "the largest leak of classified documents in its history." Media coverage of the leaked documents emphasized claims that the U.S. government had ignored reports of torture by the Iraqi authorities during the period after the 2003 war.
Diplomatic cables release
On 28 November 2010, WikiLeaks and five major newspapers from Spain (El País), France (Le Monde), Germany (Der Spiegel), the United Kingdom (The Guardian), and the United States (The New York Times) started simultaneously to publish the first 220 of 251,287 leaked confidential – but not top-secret (dated from 28 December 1966 to 28 February 2010). WikiLeaks plans to release the entirety of the cables in phases over several months.
The contents of the diplomatic cables include numerous unguarded comments and revelations regarding: critiques and praises about the host countries of various US embassies; political manoeuvring regarding climate change; discussion and resolutions towards ending ongoing tension in the Middle East; efforts and resistance towards nuclear disarmament; actions in the War on Terror; assessments of other threats around the world; dealings between various countries; US intelligence and counterintelligence efforts; and other diplomatic actions. Reactions to the United States diplomatic cables leak varied. On 14 December 2010 the United States Department of Justice issued a subpoena directing Twitter to provide information for accounts registered to or associated with WikiLeaks. Twitter decided to notify its users. The overthrow of the presidency in Tunisia of 2011 has been attributed partly to reaction against the corruption revealed by leaked cables.
In late April 2011, files related to the Guantanamo prison were released. In December 2011, WikiLeaks started to release the Spy Files. On 27 February 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor.
On 5 July 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria Files, more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies, dating from August 2006 to March 2012.
On Thursday, 25 October 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Detainee Policies, more than 100 classified or otherwise restricted files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody.
In September 2013 Dagens Næringsliv said that Wikileaks, on the previous evening, had published on its website "the whereabouts of 20 chiefs of European surveillance technology companies, during the last year". This was part of Wikileaks Spy Files 3 project, which was a release of close to 250 documents from more than 90 surveillance companies.
Announcements of upcoming leaks
In an interview with Chris Anderson on 19 July 2010, Assange showed a document WikiLeaks had on an Albanian oil-well blowout, and said they also had material from inside British Petroleum, and that they were "getting enormous quantity of whistle-blower disclosures of a very high calibre" but added that they had not been able to verify and release the material because they did not have enough volunteer journalists.
In October 2010, Assange told a major Moscow newspaper that "The Kremlin had better brace itself for a coming wave of WikiLeaks disclosures about Russia". Assange later clarified: "we have material on many businesses and governments, including in Russia. It's not right to say there's going to be a particular focus on Russia".
In a 2009 interview by the magazine Computerworld, Assange claimed to be in possession of "5GB from Bank of America". In 2010, he told Forbes magazine that WikiLeaks was planning another "megaleak" early in 2011, from the private sector, involving "a big U.S. bank" and revealing an "ecosystem of corruption". Bank of America's stock price decreased by 3%, apparently as a result of this announcement. Assange commented on the possible effect of the release that "it could take down a bank or two." In August 2011, Reuters announced that Daniel Domscheit-Berg had destroyed approximately 5GB of data cache from Bank of America, that Assange had under his control.
In December 2010, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC Television that WikiLeaks had information it considered to be a "thermo-nuclear device" which it would release if the organisation needs to defend itself against the authorities.
In January 2011, Rudolf Elmer, a former Swiss banker, passed data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Assange, who stated that the information will be vetted before being made publicly available at a later date.
In 2013, the organisation assisted Edward Snowden (who is responsible for the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures) in leaving Hong Kong. Sarah Harrison, a Wikileaks activist, accompanied Snowden on the flight. Scott Shane of The New York Times stated that the Wikileaks involvement "shows that despite its shoestring staff, limited fund-raising from a boycott by major financial firms, and defections prompted by Mr. Assange's personal troubles and abrasive style, it remains a force to be reckoned with on the global stage."
Backlash and pressure
Assange has acknowledged that the practice of posting largely unfiltered classified information online could one day cause the website to have "blood on our hands." He expressed the opinion that the potential to save lives, however, outweighs the danger to innocents. Furthermore, WikiLeaks has highlighted independent investigations which have failed to find any evidence of civilians harmed as a result of WikiLeaks' activities. A surveillance-resistant social network, Friends of WikiLeaks (FoWL), was initiated by sympathizers with the organization in May 2012 to perform advocacy.
Response from media
Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. An article in The New Yorker said:
One of the WikiLeaks activists owned a server that was being used as a node for the Tor network. Millions of secret transmissions passed through it. The activist noticed that hackers from China were using the network to gather foreign governments' information, and began to record this traffic. Only a small fraction has ever been posted on WikiLeaks, but the initial tranche served as the site's foundation, and Assange was able to say, "[w]e have received over one million documents from thirteen countries."—Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker
Assange responded to the suggestion that eavesdropping on Chinese hackers played a crucial part in the early days of WikiLeaks by saying "the imputation is incorrect. The facts concern a 2006 investigation into Chinese espionage one of our contacts was involved in. Somewhere between none and handful of those documents were ever released on WikiLeaks. Non-government targets of the Chinese espionage, such as Tibetan associations were informed (by us)".
Response from governments
On 16 March 2009, the Australian Communications and Media Authority added WikiLeaks to their proposed list of sites that will be blocked for all Australians if the mandatory internet filtering scheme is implemented as planned. The blacklisting had been removed by 29 November 2010.
People's Republic of China
The WikiLeaks website claims that the government of the People's Republic of China has attempted to block all traffic to websites with "wikileaks" in the URL since 2007, but that this can be bypassed by encrypted connections or by using one of WikiLeaks' many covert URLs.
The home of Theodor Reppe, registrant of the German WikiLeaks domain name, wikileaks.de, was raided on 24 March 2009 after WikiLeaks released the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) censorship blacklist. The site was not affected.
After the release of the 2007 Baghdad airstrikes video and as they prepared to release film of the Granai airstrike, Julian Assange has said that his group of volunteers came under intense surveillance. In an interview and Twitter posts he said that a restaurant in Reykjavík where his group of volunteers met came under surveillance in March; that there was "covert following and hidden photography" by police and foreign intelligence services; that an apparent British intelligence agent made thinly veiled threats in a Luxembourg car park; and that one of the volunteers was detained by police for 21 hours. Another volunteer posted that computers were seized, saying "If anything happens to us, you know why... and you know who is responsible." According to the Columbia Journalism Review, "the Icelandic press took a look at Assange's charges of being surveilled in Iceland [...] and, at best, have found nothing to substantiate them."
In August 2009, Kaupthing Bank secured a court order preventing Iceland's national broadcaster, RÚV, from broadcasting a risk analysis report showing the bank's substantial exposure to debt default risk. This information had been leaked to WikiLeaks and remained available on the WikiLeaks website; faced with an injunction minutes before broadcast, the channel aired a screen-shot of the WikiLeaks site instead of the scheduled piece on the bank. Citizens of Iceland were reported to be outraged that RÚV was prevented from broadcasting news of relevance. Therefore, WikiLeaks has been credited with inspiring the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a bill meant to reclaim Iceland's 2007 Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) ranking as first in the world for free speech. It aims to enact a range of protections for sources, journalists, and publishers. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks volunteer and member of the Icelandic parliament, is the chief sponsor of the proposal.
The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) is currently censoring the WikiLeaks website in Thailand and more than 40,000 other websites because of the emergency decree declared in Thailand at the beginning of April 2010 as a result of political instabilities.
On 17 July 2010, Jacob Appelbaum spoke on behalf of WikiLeaks at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in New York City, replacing Assange because of the presence of federal agents at the conference. He announced that the WikiLeaks submission system was again operating, after it had been suspended temporarily. Assange was a surprise speaker at a TED conference on 19 July 2010 in Oxford, England, and confirmed that the site had begun accepting submissions again.
Upon returning to the US from the Netherlands, on 29 July, Appelbaum was detained for three hours at the airport by US agents, according to anonymous sources. The sources told CNET that Appelbaum's bag was searched, receipts from his bag were photocopied, and his laptop computer was inspected, although in what manner was unknown. Appelbaum reportedly refused to answer questions without a lawyer present, and was not allowed to make a telephone call. His three mobile telephones were reportedly taken and not returned. On 31 July, he spoke at a Defcon conference and mentioned his telephone being "seized". After speaking, he was approached by two FBI agents and questioned.
Access to WikiLeaks is currently blocked in the United States Library of Congress. On 3 December 2010 the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memorandum forbidding all unauthorised federal government employees and contractors from accessing classified documents publicly available on WikiLeaks and other websites. The U.S. Army, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Justice Department are considering criminally prosecuting WikiLeaks and Assange "on grounds they encouraged the theft of government property", although former prosecutors say doing so would be difficult. According to a report on the website Daily Beast, the Obama administration asked the UK, Germany, and Australia among others to also consider bringing criminal charges against Assange for the Afghan war leaks and to help limit Assange's travels across international borders. Columbia University students have been warned by their Office of Career Services that the U.S. State Department had contacted the office in an email saying that the diplomatic cables which were released by WikiLeaks were "still considered classified" and that "online discourse about the documents 'would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information'".
All U.S. federal government staff have been blocked from viewing WikiLeaks.
As for individual responses, government officials had mixed feelings. Although Hillary Clinton refused to comment on specific reports, she claimed that the leaks "put people's lives in danger" and "threatens national security". Former United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commented, "Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."
Response from corporations
U.S. diplomatic cables leak responses
According to The Times (London), WikiLeaks and its members have complained about continuing harassment and surveillance by law enforcement and intelligence organisations, including extended detention, seizure of computers, veiled threats, "covert following and hidden photography." Two lawyers for Julian Assange in the United Kingdom told The Guardian that they believed they were being watched by the security services after the U.S. cables leak, which started on 28 November 2010.
Furthermore, several companies ended association with WikiLeaks. After providing 24-hour notification, American-owned EveryDNS deleted WikiLeaks from its entries on 2 December 2010, citing DDoS attacks that "threatened the stability of its infrastructure". The website's 'info' DNS lookup remained operational at alternative addresses for direct access respectively to the WikiLeaks and Cablegate websites. On the same day, Amazon.com severed its association with WikiLeaks, to which it was providing infrastructure services, after an intervention by an aide of U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman. Amazon denied acting under political pressure, citing a violation of its terms of service. Citing indirect pressure from the U.S. Government, Tableau Software also deleted WikiLeaks' data from its website for people to use for data visualisation.
During the days following, hundreds of (and eventually more than a thousand) mirror websites of the WikiLeaks website were established, and the Anonymous group of Internet activists asked sympathizers to attack the websites of companies which opposed WikiLeaks, under the banner of Operation Payback, previously directed at anti-piracy organisations. AFP reported that attempts to deactivate the wikileaks.org address had resulted in the website surviving via the so-called Streisand effect, whereby attempts to censor information online causes it to be replicated in many places.
On 3 December, PayPal, the payment processor owned by eBay, permanently ended the account of the Wau Holland Foundation that had been redirecting donations to WikiLeaks. PayPal alleged that the account violated its "Acceptable Use Policy", specifically that the account was used for "activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity." The Vice President of PayPal stated later that they stopped accepting payments after the "State Department told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward." Later the same day, he said that his previous statement was incorrect, and that it was in fact based on a letter from the State Department to WikiLeaks. On 8 December 2010, the Wau Holland Foundation released a press statement, saying it has filed a legal action against PayPal for blocking its account used for WikiLeaks payments and for libel due to PayPal's allegations of "illegal activity".
On 6 December, the Swiss bank PostFinance announced that it had frozen the assets of Assange that it holds, totalling €31,000. In a statement on its website, it stated that this was because Assange "provided false information regarding his place of residence" when opening the account. WikiLeaks released a statement saying this was because Assange, "as a homeless refugee attempting to gain residency in Switzerland, had used his lawyer's address in Geneva for the bank's correspondence".
On the same day, MasterCard announced that it was "taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products", adding "MasterCard rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal." The next day, Visa Inc. announced it was suspending payments to WikiLeaks, pending "further investigations". In a move of support for WikiLeaks, the organization XIPWIRE established a way to donate to WikiLeaks, and waived their fees. Datacell, the Iceland-based IT company controlled by Swiss investors that enabled WikiLeaks to accept credit card donations, announced that it would take legal action against Visa Europe and Mastercard, in order to resume allowing payments to the website.
On 7 December 2010, The Guardian stated that people could donate to WikiLeaks via Commerzbank in Kassel, Germany, or Landsbanki in Iceland, or by post to a post office box at the University of Melbourne or at the wikileaks.ch domain.
As part of its 'Initial Assessments Pursuant to... WikiLeaks', the US Presidential Executive Office has issued a memorandum to the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies asking whether they have an 'insider threat program'.
On 14 July 2011, WikiLeaks and DataCell ehf. of Iceland filed a complaint against the international card companies, VISA Europe and MasterCard Europe, for infringement of the antitrust rules of the EU, in response to their withdrawal of financial services to the organisation. In a joint press release, the organisations stated: "The closure by VISA Europe and MasterCard of Datcell's access to the payment card networks in order to stop donations to WikiLeaks violates the competition rules of the European Community." DataCell filed a complaint with the European Commission on 14 July 2011.
Response from the financial industry
Since the publications of CableGate, WikiLeaks has experienced an unprecedented global financial blockade by major finance companies including Mastercard, Visa and PayPal although there has been no legal accusation of any wrongdoing.
In October 2010, it was reported that the organization Moneybookers, which collected donations for WikiLeaks, had ended its relationship with the website. Moneybookers stated that its decision had been made "to comply with money laundering or other investigations conducted by government authorities, agencies or commissions."
On 18 December 2010, Bank of America announced it would "not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for Wikileaks," citing "Wikileaks might be engaged in activities... inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments". WikiLeaks responded in a tweet by encouraging their sympathizers who were BoA customers to close their accounts. Bank of America has long been believed to be the target of WikiLeaks' next major release.
Late in 2010, Bank of America communicated with the law company Hunton & Williams to stop WikiLeaks. Hunton & Williams assembled a group of security specialists, HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies.
During 5 and 6 February 2011, the group Anonymous hacked HBGary's website, copied tens of thousands of documents from HBGary, posted tens of thousands of company emails online, and usurped Barr's Twitter account in revenge. Some of the documents taken by Anonymous show HBGary Federal was working on behalf of Bank of America to respond to WikiLeaks' planned release of the bank's internal documents. Emails detailed a supposed business proposal by HBGary to assist Bank of America's law company, Hunton & Williams, and revealed that the companies were willing to violate the law to damage WikiLeaks and Anonymous.
CEO Aaron Barr thought he'd uncovered the hackers' identities and like rats, they'd scurry for cover. If he could nail them, he could cover up the crimes H&W, HBGary, and BoA planned, bring down WikiLeaks, decapitate Anonymous, and place his opponents in prison while collecting a cool fee. He thought he was 88% right; he was 88% wrong.—Leigh Lundin, Criminal Brief
In October 2011, Julian Assange said the financial blockade had destroyed 95% of WikiLeaks' revenues and announced that it was suspending publishing operations in order to concentrate on fighting the blockade and raising new funds.
On 18 July 2012, Wikileaks, shunned by the financial industry and almost insolvent, announced that it had found a new method to accept donations. Accordingly, the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality (FDNN) had agreed to channel contributions via Carte Bleue, and WikiLeaks claimed that contractual obligation would prevent Visa and MasterCard blocking participation with such transactions.
On 24 January 2014, Wikileaks announced via Twitter that the majority of its donations came from (the cryptocurrencies) Litecoin and Bitcoin. Wikileaks massive returns from early investment into Bitcoin cryptocurrency has helped the organisation to survive various legal and financial hardships.
To the user, WikiLeaks will look very much like Wikipedia. Anybody can post to it, anybody can edit it. No technical knowledge is required. Leakers can post documents anonymously and untraceably. Users can publicly discuss documents and analyze their credibility and veracity. Users can discuss interpretations and context and collaboratively formulate collective publications. Users can read and write explanatory articles on leaks along with background material and context. The political relevance of documents and their verisimilitude will be revealed by a cast of thousands.
However, WikiLeaks established an editorial policy that accepted only documents that were "of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical interest" (and excluded "material that is already publicly available"). This coincided with early criticism that having no editorial policy would drive out good material with spam and promote "automated or indiscriminate publication of confidential records." It is no longer possible for anybody to post to it or edit it, in any country, as the original FAQ promised. Instead, submissions are regulated by an internal review process and some are published, while documents not conforming to the editorial criteria are rejected by anonymous WikiLeaks reviewers. By 2008, the revised FAQ stated that "Anybody can post comments to it. [...] Users can publicly discuss documents and analyse their credibility and veracity." After the 2010 reorganization, posting new comments on leaks was no longer possible.
Within WikiLeaks, there has been public disagreement between founder and spokesperson Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the website's former German representative who was suspended by Assange. Domscheit-Berg announced on 28 September 2010 that he was leaving the organisation due to internal conflicts over management of the website.
On 25 September 2010, after being suspended by Assange for "disloyalty, insubordination and destabilization", Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the German spokesman for WikiLeaks, told Der Spiegel that he was resigning, saying "WikiLeaks has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that's why I am leaving the project". Assange accused Domscheit-Berg of leaking information to Newsweek, claiming the WikiLeaks team was unhappy with Assange's management and handling of the Afghan war document releases. Domscheit-Berg left with a small group to start OpenLeaks, a new leak organisation and website with a different management and distribution philosophy.
While leaving, Daniel Domscheit-Berg copied and then deleted roughly 3,500 unpublished documents from the WikiLeaks servers, including information on the US government's 'no-fly list' and inside information from 20 right-wing organizations, and according to a WikiLeaks statement, 5 gigabytes of data relating to Bank of America, the internal communications of 20 neo-Nazi organisations and US intercept information for "over a hundred internet companies." In Domscheit-Berg's book he wrote: "To this day, we are waiting for Julian to restore security, so that we can return the material to him, which was on the submission platform". In August 2011, Domscheit-Berg claims he permanently deleted the files "in order to ensure that the sources are not compromised".
Herbert Snorrason, a 25-year-old Icelandic university student, resigned after he challenged Assange on his decision to suspend Domscheit-Berg and was bluntly rebuked. Iceland MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir also left WikiLeaks, citing lack of transparency, lack of structure, and poor communication flow in the organisation. According to the periodical The Independent (London), at least a dozen key supporters of WikiLeaks left the website during 2010.
WikiLeaks has received praise as well as criticism. The organisation has won a number of awards, including The Economist's New Media Award in 2008 at the Index on Censorship Awards and Amnesty International's UK Media Award in 2009. In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites "that could totally change the news", and Julian Assange received the Sam Adams Award and was named the Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year in 2010. The UK Information Commissioner has stated that "WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen". During its first days, an Internet petition calling for the cessation of extra-judicial intimidation of WikiLeaks attracted more than six hundred thousand signatures. Sympathizers of WikiLeaks in the media and academia have commended it for exposing state and corporate secrets, increasing transparency, assisting freedom of the press, and enhancing democratic discourse while challenging powerful institutions.
At the same time, several U.S. government officials have criticized WikiLeaks for exposing classified information and claimed that the leaks harm national security and compromise international diplomacy. Several human rights organisations requested with respect to earlier document releases that WikiLeaks adequately redact the names of civilians working with international forces, in order to prevent repercussions. Some journalists have likewise criticised a perceived lack of editorial discretion when releasing thousands of documents at once and without sufficient analysis. In response to some of the negative reaction, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the "cyber war" against WikiLeaks, and in a joint statement with the Organization of American States the UN Special Rapporteur has called on states and other actors to keep international legal principles in mind. According to journalist Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, WikiLeaks is motivated by "a theory of anarchy," not a theory of journalism or social activism.
Release of US diplomatic cables was followed by the creation of a number of other organisations based on the WikiLeaks format.
- OpenLeaks was created by a former WikiLeaks spokesperson. Daniel Domscheit-Berg said the intention was to be more transparent than WikiLeaks. OpenLeaks was supposed to start public operations in early 2011 but despite much media coverage, as of April 2013[update] it is not operating.
- In December 2011, WikiLeaks launched Friends of WikiLeaks, a social network for supporters and founders of the website.
- Brussels Leaks emphasized the European Union as a collaborative effort of media professionals and activists that sought to "pull the shady inner workings of the EU system out into the public domain. This is about getting important information out there, not about Brusselsleaks [or any other 'leaks' for that matter]."
- TradeLeaks was created to "do to trade and commerce what WikiLeaks has done to politics." It was initiated by Australian Ruslan Kogan. Its goal is to ensure "individuals and businesses should attain values from others through mutually beneficial and fully consensual trade, rather than force, fraud or deception." However, the website itself seems to have become discounted by its users, as evidenced by the highest rated article being "Tradeleaks tampering with leak vote count mechanism".
- Balkan Leaks was initiated by Bulgarian Atanas Chobanov in order to make Balkan politics more transparent and to fight corruption as "There are plenty of people out there that want to change the Balkans for good and are ready to take on the challenge. We're offering them a hand."
- Indoleaks is an Indonesian website that seeks to publish classified documents primarily from the Indonesian government.
- On 9 September 2013  a number of major Dutch media outlets supported the launch of Publeaks, which provides a secure website for people to leak documents to the media using the GlobaLeaks whistleblowing software.
- RuLeaks is aimed at being a Russian equivalent to WikiLeaks. It was initiated originally to provide translated versions of the WikiLeaks cables but the Moscow Times reports it has started to publish its own content as well.
- PPLeaks and PSOELeaks are related to the Spanish Partido Popular and PSOE leaks and scandals.
- Leakymails is a project designed to obtain and publish relevant documents exposing corruption of the political class and the powerful in Argentina.
- Honest Appalachia, initiated in January 2012, is a website based in the United States intended to appeal to potential "whistleblowers" in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, and serve as a replicable model for similar projects elsewhere.
Depictions in media
A thriller about WikiLeaks was released in the United States on October 18, 2013.
War, lies and videotape A documentary by french directors Paul Moreira and Luc Hermann from press agency Premieres Lignes. The film was first released in France, in 2011 and then broadcast worldwide.
- Anonymous (group)
- Chilling Effects
- Classified information in the United States
- Digital rights
- Freedom of information
- Freedom of the press
- Freedom of the Press Foundation
- Information security
- Memory hole
- New York Times Co. v. United States
- Open society
- 1993 PGP Criminal investigation
- Transparency (social)
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|Find more about WikiLeaks at Wikipedia's sister projects|
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|News stories from Wikinews|
|Quotations from Wikiquote|
|Database entry Q359 on Wikidata|
- Official website
- IRC server: irc://sunshinepress.org:9999/ (SSL required)
- WikiLeaks Cablegate browser
- Works by or about WikiLeaks in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- WikiLeaks collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- WikiLeaks collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- WikiLeaks collected news and commentary at Democracy Now!
- WikiLeaks Central, an endorsed unofficial WikiLeaks resource
- WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance