Dec 18, 2010

Wikileaks : About and History

Wikileaks : About and History

Wikileaks is an international new media non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and news leaks. Its website, launched in 2006, is run by The Sunshine Press. Within a year of its launch, the site claimed its database had grown to more than 1.2 million documents.  The organisation has described itself as having been founded by Chinese dissidents, as well as journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa.  Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its director.

Wikileaks has received praise as well as criticism. The organization won a number of awards, including The Economist's 2008 New Media Award. In June 2009, Wikileaks and Julian Assange won Amnesty International's UK Media Award, in the category "New Media", for the 2008 publication of "Kenya: The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances",  a report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights about police killings in Kenya.  In May 2010, New York City's Daily News listed Wikileaks as first in a ranking of "websites that could totally change the news".  Julian Assange was named the Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year for 2010.  Several U.S. government officials have criticized Wikileaks for exposing state secrets, harming national security, and compromising international diplomacy.  Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International criticized Wikileaks for not adequately redacting the names of civilians working with the U.S. military.  Some journalists have criticized the lack of editorial discretion when releasing thousands of documents at once and without sufficient analysis.  Negative public reactions in the United States have characterized the organization as irresponsible, immoral, and illegal.

In April 2010, Wikileaks posted video from a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians and journalists were killed by US forces, on a website called Collateral Murder. 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 for public review.  In October 2010, the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organisations. In November 2010, Wikileaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables.

Wikileaks was originally launched as a user-editable wiki site, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model, and no longer accepts either user comments or edits. The site is available on multiple servers and different domain names following a number of denial-of-service attacks and its severance from different Domain Name System (DNS) providers.


The Wikileaks .org domain name was registered on 4 October 2006.  The website was unveiled, and published its first document in December 2006. The site claims to have been "founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa".

The creators of Wikileaks have not been formally identified.  It has been represented in public since January 2007 by Julian Assange and others. Assange describes himself as a member of Wikileaks ' advisory board.  News reports in The Australian have called Assange the "founder of Wikileaks ". According to Wired magazine, 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, organiser, financier, and all the rest".  As of June 2009[update], the site had over 1,200 registered volunteers  and listed an advisory board comprising Assange, Phillip Adams, Wang Dan, C. J. Hinke, Ben Laurie, Tashi Namgyal Khamsitsang, Xiao Qiang, Chico Whitaker and Wang Youcai.  Despite appearing on the list, when contacted by Mother Jones magazine in 2010, Khamsitsang said that while he received an e-mail from Wikileaks , he had never agreed to be an advisor.

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 behaviour 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.  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."

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 were 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)". 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.

The organisation's stated goal is to ensure that whistleblowers and journalists are not jailed for emailing sensitive or classified documents, as happened to Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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. Supreme Court 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."

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 mirrors. Wikileaks stated on its website that it would resume full operation once the operational costs were covered.  Wikileaks saw this as a kind of strike "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, 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 back up.

As of 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 cut.  Wikileaks commented, "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 sites.

On 17 July, Jacob Appelbaum spoke on behalf of Wikileaks at the 2010 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 up and running, after it had been temporarily suspended. Assange was a surprise speaker at a TED conference on 19 July 2010 in Oxford, 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, his laptop was inspected, although in what manner was unclear. Appelbaum reportedly refused to answer questions without a lawyer present, and was not allowed to make a phone call. His three mobile phones were reportedly taken and not returned. On 31 July, he spoke at a Defcon conference and mentioned his phone being "seized". After speaking, he was approached by two FBI agents and questioned.

Assange is quoted as acknowledging that his practice of posting largely unfiltered classified information online could one day lead the Web site to have "blood on our hands."

In 2010, at least a dozen key supporters of Wikileaks have left the website.

source: wikipedia

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