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Wikileaks is a website that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, organizational or religious documents, while attempting to preserve the anonymity and untraceability of its contributors. Within one year of its December 2006 launch, its database had grown to more than 1.2 million documents, leading to many front-page newspaper articles and political reforms.

History

The site and its project were secret until their existence was disclosed in a January 2007 article after Wikileaks invited the editor of Secrecy News to serve on their advisory board. The site states that it was "founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa". The creators of Wikileaks were unidentified , although it has been represented in public since January 2007 by non-anonymous speakers such as Julian Assange, who had described himself as a member of Wikileaks' advisory board and was later referred to as the "founder of Wikileaks". , the site had over 1,200 registered volunteers and the advisory board consisted of Assange, Phillip Adams, Wang Dan, CJ Hinke, Ben Laurie, Tashi Namgyal Khamsitsang, Xiao Qiang, Chico Whitaker, and Wang Youcai.

Wikileaks states that its "primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations."

In January 2007, the website stated that it had over 1.2 million leaked documents that it was preparing to publish. The group has subsequently released a number of other significant documents which have become front-page news items, ranging from documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war to corruption in Kenya.

Their stated goal is to ensure that whistle-blowers and journalists are not thrown into jail for emailing sensitive or classified documents, such as what happened to Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacremarker.

The project has drawn comparisons to Daniel Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. In the United States, the leaking of some documents may be legally protected. The U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker has ruled that the Constitution guarantees anonymity, at least in the area 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."

The site has won a number of significant awards, including the 2008 Economist magazine New Media Award.

In June 2009, Wikileaks and Julian Assange won Amnesty International UK's Media Award 2009 (in the category "New Media") for the 2008 publication of "Kenya: The Cry of Blood - Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances", a report by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights about police killings in Kenyamarker.

Technology

The "about" page originally read: "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". This coincided with early criticism that 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", as the original FAQ promised. Instead, submissions are regulated by an internal review process and some are published, while documents not fitting the editorial criterial are rejected by anonymous Wikileaks reviewers. The revised FAQ now states that "Anybody can post comments to it."

Wikileaks is based on several software packages, including MediaWiki, Freenet, Tor, and PGP.

Hosting, access and security

Wikileaks describes itself as "an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking". Wikileaks is 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". PRQ is owned by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij who, through their involvement in The Pirate Bay, have significant experience in withstanding legal challenges from authorities. Being hosted by PRQ makes it difficult to take Wikileaks offline. 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".

Chinese censorship

The Chinese government currently attempts to censor every web site with "wikileaks" in the URL, including the primary .org site and the regional variations .cn and .uk. However, the site is still accessible from behind the Chinese firewall through one of the many alternative names used by the project, such as "secure.sunshinepress.org". The alternate sites change frequently, and Wikileaks encourages users to search "wikileaks cover names" outside mainland China for the latest alternative names. Mainland search engines, including Baidu and Yahoo, also censor references to "wikileaks".

Potential future Australian censorship

On 16 March 2009, the Australian Communications and Media Authority added URLs to particular pages on  Wikileaks to their blacklist, after blacklists from other countries were uploaded. These pages will be blocked for all Australians if the mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme is implemented as planned.


Verification of submissions

WikiLeaks states that it has never released a misattributed document. 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 scrutinize and discuss leaked documents."

Notable leaks

Daniel arap Moi family corruption

On 31 August 2007, The Guardian (Britain) featured on its front page a story about corruption by the family of the former Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi. The newspaper stated that their source of the information was Wikileaks.

Bank Julius Baer lawsuit

In February 2008, the Wikileaks.org domain name was taken offline after the Swiss Bank Julius Baer sued Wikileaks and the wikileaks.org domain registrar, Dynadot, in a court in Californiamarker, United States, and obtained a permanent injunction ordering the shutdown. Wikileaks had hosted allegations of illegal activities at the bank's Cayman Islandmarker branch. Wikileaks' U.S. ISP, Dynadot, complied with the order by removing its DNS entries. However, the website remained accessible via its numeric IP address, and online activists immediately mirrored Wikileaks at dozens of alternate websites worldwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a motion protesting the censorship of Wikileaks. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press assembled a coalition of media and press that filed an amicus curiae brief on Wikileaks' behalf. The coalition included major U.S. newspaper publishers and press organisations, such as: the American Society of Newspaper Editors, The Associated Press, the Citizen Media Law Project, The E.W. Scripps Company, the Gannett Company, The Hearst Corporation, the Los Angeles Times, the National Newspaper Association, the Newspaper Association of America, The Radio-Television News Directors Association, and The Society of Professional Journalists. The coalition requested to be heard as a friend of the court to call attention to relevant points of law that it believed the court had overlooked (on the grounds that Wikileaks had not appeared in court to defend itself, and that no First Amendment issues had yet been raised before the court). Amongst others, the coalition argued that: "Wikileaks provides a forum for dissidents and whistleblowers across the globe to post documents, but the Dynadot injunction imposes a prior restraint that drastically curtails access to Wikileaks from the Internet based on a limited number of postings challenged by Plaintiffs. The Dynadot injunction therefore violates the bedrock principle that an injunction cannot enjoin all communication by a publisher or other speaker."

The same judge, Judge Jeffrey White, who issued the injunction vacated it on 29 February 2008, citing First Amendment concerns and questions about legal jurisdiction. Wikileaks was thus able to bring its site online again. The bank dropped the case on 5 March 2008. The judge also denied the bank's request for an order prohibiting the website's publication.

The Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Lucy Dalglish, commented: "It's not very often a federal judge does a 180 degree turn in a case and dissolves an order. But we're very pleased the judge recognized the constitutional implications in this prior restraint."

Guantánamo Bay procedures

A copy of Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta – the protocol of the U.S. Army at the Guantánamo Bay detention campmarker – dated March 2003 was released on the Wikileaks website on 7 November 2007. The document, named "gitmo-sop.pdf", is also mirrored at The Guardian. Its release revealed some of the restrictions placed over detainees at the camp, including the designation of some prisoners as off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross, something that the U.S. military had in the past repeatedly denied.

On 3 December 2007, Wikileaks released a copy of the 2004 edition of the manual, together with a detailed analysis of the changes.

Scientology

On 7 April 2008, Wikileaks reported receiving a letter (dated 27 March) from the Religious Technology Centre claiming ownership of several recently leaked documents pertaining to OT Levels within the Church of Scientology. These same documents were at the centre of a 1994 scandal. The email stated:

The letter continued on to request the release of the logs of the uploader, which would remove their anonymity. Wikileaks responded with a statement released on Wikinews stating: "in response to the attempted suppression, Wikileaks will release several thousand additional pages of Scientology material next week", and did so.

Hack of Sarah Palin's Yahoo account

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. The contents of the mailbox seemed to suggest that she used the private Yahoo account to send work-related messages in order to evade public record laws. The hacking of the account was widely reported in mainstream news outlets. Although Wikileaks was able to conceal the hacker's identity, the source of the Palin emails was eventually publicly identified in another way; the hacker attempted to conceal his identity by using the anonymous proxy service ctunnel.com, but, because of the illegal nature of the access, ctunnel website administrator Gabriel Ramuglia assisted the FBI in tracking down the source of the hack. The hacker was revealed to be David Kernell, a 20-year-old economics student at the University of Tennessee and the son of Democratic Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell from Memphis.

BNP membership list

After briefly appearing on a blog, the membership list of the far-right British National Party was posted to Wikileaks on 18 November 2008. The name, address, age and occupation of many of the 13,500 members were given, including several police officers, two solicitors, four ministers of religion, at least one doctor, and a number of primary and secondary school teachers. In Britain, police officers are banned from joining or promoting the BNP, and at least one officer was dismissed for being a member. The BNP was known for going to considerable lengths to conceal the identities of members. On 19 November, BNP leader Nick Griffin stated that he knew the identity of the person who initially leaked the list on 17 November, describing him as a "hardliner" senior employee who left the party in 2007. On 20 October 2009, a list of BNP members from April 2009 was leaked. This list contained 11,811 members.

2009 leaks

In January 2009, over 600 internal United Nations reports (60 of them marked "strictly confidential") were leaked.

On 7 February 2009, Wikileaks released 6,780 Congressional Research Service reports.

In March 2009, Wikileaks published 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.

Internet Censorship Lists

The lists of forbidden or illegal web addresses for several countries have been published on Wikileaks.

On 19 March 2009, Wikileaks published what was alleged to be the Australian Communications and Media Authority's blacklist of sites to be banned under Australia's proposed laws on Internet censorship. Reactions to the publication of the list by the Australian media and politicians were varied. Particular note was made by journalistic outlets of the type of websites on the list; while the Internet censorship scheme submitted by the Australian Labor Party in 2008 was proposed with the stated intention of preventing access to child pornography and sites related to terrorism, the list leaked on Wikileaks contains a number of sites unrelated to sex crimes involving minors. When questioned about the leak, Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in Australia's Rudd Labor Government, responded by claiming that the list was not the actual list, yet threatening to prosecute anyone involved in distributing it. On 20 March 2009, Wikileaks published an updated list, dated 18 March 2009; it more closely matches the claimed size of the ACMA blacklist, and contains two pages which have been independently confirmed to be blacklisted by ACMA.

Wikileaks also contains details of Internet censorship in Thailand, including lists of censored sites dating back to May 2006

Bilderberg Group meeting reports

Since May 2009, Wikileaks has made available reports of several meetings of the Bilderberg Group. It includes the group's history and meeting reports from the years 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, and 1980.

2008 Peru oil scandal

On January 28, 2009, Wikileaks released 86 telephone intercept recordings of Peruvian politicians and businessman involved in the "Petrogate" oil scandal. The release of the tapes lead the front pages of five Peruvian newspapers.

Toxic dumping in Africa: The Minton report

In September 2006, commodities giant Trafigura commissioned an internal report about a toxic dumping incident in the Ivory Coast, which (according to the United Nations) affected 108,000 people. The document, called the Minton Report, names various harmful chemicals "likely to be present" in the waste — sodium hydroxide, cobalt phthalocyanine sulfonate, coker naphtha, thiols, sodium alkanethiolate, sodium hydrosulfide, sodium sulfide, dialkyl disulfides, hydrogen sulfide — and notes that some of them "may cause harm at some distance". The report states that potential health effects include "burns to the skin, eyes and lungs, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness and death", and suggests that the high number of reported casualties is "consistent with there having been a significant release of hydrogen sulphide gas".

On September 11, 2009, Trafigura's lawyers, Carter-Ruck, obtained a secret "super-injunction" against The Guardian, banning that newspaper from publishing the contents of the document. Trafigura also threatened a number of other media organizations with legal action if they published the report's contents, including the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporationmarker and The Chemical Engineer magazine. On September 14, 2009, Wikileaks posted the report.

On October 12, Carter-Ruck warned The Guardian against mentioning the content of a parliamentary question that was due to be asked about the report. Instead, the paper published an article stating that they were unable to report on an unspecified question and claiming that the situation appeared to "call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1689 Bill of Rights". The suppressed details rapidly circulated via the internet and Twitter and, amid uproar, Carter-Ruck agreed the next day to the modification of the injunction before it was challenged in court, permitting The Guardian to reveal the existence of the question and the injunction. The injunction was lifted on October 16.

Kaupthing Bank

Wikileaks has made available an internal document from Kaupthing Bank from just prior to the collapse of Iceland's banking sector, which led to the 2008–2009 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. Kaupthing's lawyers have threatened Wikileaks with legal action, citing banking privacy laws. The leak has caused an uproar in Iceland and may result in criminal charges against the individuals involved.

9/11 Pager Messages

On November 25 the organization released 570,000 intercepts of pager messages from the day of the September 11 attacks. Among the released messages are communications between Pentagonmarker officials and New York City police.

Police raid on German Wikileaks domain owner's home

The home of Theodor Reppe, owner 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.

See also



References

  1. Richard Guilliat: "Rudd Government blacklist hacker monitors police", The Australian (30 May 2009) [lead-in to a longer article in that day's The Weekend Australian Magazine]
  2. Advisory Board Wikileaks . Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  3. , Wikileaks
  4. Scott Bradner "Wikileaks: a site for exposure", Linuxworld, 18 January 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
  5. Scott Bradner "Wikileaks: a site for exposure", Linuxworld, 18 January 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
  6. Winners of Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award
  7. Kenya: The Cry of Blood - Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, Sep 2008 Wikileaks
  8. Amnesty announces Media Awards 2009 winners Amnesty.org.uk, 2 June 2009
  9. WikiLeaks' submissions page
  10. Daniel Friedman "Web site aims to post government secrets", Federal Times, 4 January 2007.
  11. wikileaks.org
  12. "Sensitive Guantánamo Bay Manual Leaked Through Wiki Site", Wired 14 November 2007
  13. specific address at The Guardian.
  14. Wikileaks.org
  15. Wikileaks.org
  16. Internet censorship in Thailand
  17. Leigh, David (October 12, 2009). Guardian gagged from reporting parliament. The Guardian.
  18. Rusbridger, Alan (October 14, 2009). The Trafigura fiasco tears up the textbook. The Guardian.
  19. Higham, Nick (October 13, 2009). When is a secret not a secret? BBC News.
  20. The mysterious British House of Commons. Wikipedia Reference Desk
  21. 570,000 pager messages from 9/11 released MSNBC November 25, 2009
  22. Wikileaks raided by German police
  23. Police raid home of Wikileaks.de domain owner over censorship lists
  24. Police raid Wikileaks owner


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