WikiLeaks (/ˈwɪkiliːks/) is an international non-profit
organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks, and
classified media provided by anonymous sources. Its website,
initiated in 2006 in
Iceland by the organisation Sunshine Press,
claims a database of 10 million documents in 10 years since its
launch. Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is
generally described as its founder, editor-in-chief, and director.
The group has released a number of prominent document dumps. Early
releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings
in the Afghanistan war and a report informing a corruption
investigation in Kenya. In April 2010,
WikiLeaks released the
so-called Collateral Murder footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad
airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed. Other
releases in 2010 included the
Afghan War Diary and the "Iraq War
Logs". The latter 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 2010,
WikiLeaks also released
the US State Department diplomatic "cables", classified cables that
had been sent to the US State Department. In April 2011, WikiLeaks
began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in
the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
During the 2016 US presidential election campaign,
emails and other documents from the
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee and
from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta. These
releases caused significant harm to the Clinton campaign,[citation
needed] and have been attributed as potential contributing factors to
her loss. The U.S. intelligence community expressed "high
confidence" that the leaked emails had been hacked by Russia and
supplied to WikiLeaks, while
WikiLeaks denied their source was Russia
or any other state. During the campaign,
conspiracy theories about
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic
Party. In private conversations from November 2015 that
were later leaked,
Julian Assange expressed a preference for a GOP
victory in the 2016 election, explaining that "Dems+Media+liberals
woudl [sic] then form a block to reign [sic] in their worst qualities.
With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities,
dems+media+neoliberals will be mute." In secret correspondence
with the Trump campaign on election day (November 8, 2016), WikiLeaks
encouraged the Trump campaign to contest the election results in case
WikiLeaks has drawn criticism for its absence of whistleblowing on or
criticism of Russia, and for criticising the Panama Papers' exposé of
businesses and individuals with offshore bank accounts.
WikiLeaks has also been criticised for inadequately curating its
content and violating the personal privacy of individuals. WikiLeaks
has, for instance, revealed Social Security numbers, medical
information, credit card numbers, details of suicide attempts, and
other sensitive personal information.
1.1 Staff, name and founding
3 Legal status
3.1 Potential criminal prosecution
5.4 Diplomatic cables release
5.8 Claims of upcoming leaks
7 Promotion of conspiracy theories
7.1 Murder of Seth Rich
7.2 Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton
8.1 Allegations of anti-Americanism
8.2 Allegations of anti-Clinton and pro-Trump bias
8.2.1 Correspondence between
Donald Trump Jr.
8.3 Allegations of Russian influence
8.4 Allegations of anti-semitism
8.5 Exaggerated and misleading descriptions of the contents of leaks
8.6 Inadequate curation and violations of personal privacy
8.7 Internal conflicts and lack of transparency
8.7.1 Non-disclosure agreements
9.2 In popular culture
10 See also
12 External links
Staff, name and founding
Julian Assange was one of the early members of the
WikiLeaks staff and
is credited as the website's founder.
The wikileaks.org domain name was registered on 4 October 2006. The
website was established and published its first document in December
WikiLeaks is usually represented in public by Julian
Assange, who has been described as "the heart and soul of this
organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder,
organiser, financier, and all the rest". Sarah Harrison,
Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell are the only other publicly
known and acknowledged associates of Assange. Harrison is also a
member of Sunshine Press Productions along with Assange and Ingi
WikiLeaks was originally established with a "wiki" communal
publication method, which was terminated by May 2010. Original
volunteers and founders were once described as a mixture of Asian
dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company
technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and
South Africa. As of June 2009[update], the website had more
than 1,200 registered volunteers.
Despite some popular confusion, related to the fact both sites use the
"wiki" name and website design template,
WikiLeaks and are
not affiliated. Wikia, a for-profit corporation affiliated loosely
with the Wikimedia Foundation, purchased several WikiLeaks-related
domain names 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 prosecuted for emailing
sensitive or classified documents. The online "drop box" is described
WikiLeaks website as "an innovative, secure and anonymous way
for sources to leak information to [WikiLeaks] journalists".
WikiLeaks as a media or journalistic organisation. For
example, in a 2013 resolution, the International Federation of
Journalists, a trade union of journalists, called
WikiLeaks a "new
breed of media organisation" that "offers important opportunities for
media organisations." Harvard professor
Yochai Benkler has praised
WikiLeaks as a new form of journalistic enterprise, testifying at
the court-martial of
Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning) that
WikiLeaks did serve a particular journalistic function" although
"It's a hard line to draw." Others do not consider
WikiLeaks to be
journalistic in nature. Media ethicist Kelly McBride of the Poynter
Institute for Media Studies wrote in 2011 that "Wikileaks might grow
into a journalist endeavor. But it's not there yet." Bill Keller
The New York Times
The New York Times considers
WikiLeaks to be a "complicated source"
rather than a journalistic partner. Prominent First Amendment
Floyd Abrams writes that Wikileaks is not a journalistic group,
but instead "an organization of political activists; ... a source for
journalists; and ... a conduit of leaked information to the press and
the public." Noting Assange's statements that he and his
colleagues read only a small fraction of information before deciding
to publish it, Abrams writes that "No journalistic entity I have ever
heard of—none—simply releases to the world an elephantine amount
of material it has not read."
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.
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 on 8 March 2012.
WikiLeaks describes itself as "an uncensorable system for untraceable
mass document leaking". The website is available on multiple
servers, different domain names and has an official
(available on the Tor Network) 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".
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.
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
WikiLeaks moved its website to Amazon'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.
WikiLeaks had been using EveryDNS's
Domain Name System
Domain Name System (DNS).
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against
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
EveryDNS for competitor EasyDNS, that sizeable 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.
WikiLeaks restructured its process for contributions after its first
document leaks did not gain much attention. Assange stated this was
part of an attempt to take the voluntary efforts typically seen in
"Wiki" projects, and "redirect it to...material that has real
potential for change." Some sympathisers were unhappy[citation
WikiLeaks ended a community-based wiki format in favour
of a more centralised organisation. The "about" page originally
To the user,
WikiLeaks will look very much like. 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 analyse 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.
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".
The original FAQ is no longer in effect, and no one can post or edit
documents on WikiLeaks. Now, submissions to
WikiLeaks are reviewed by
WikiLeaks reviewers, and documents that do not meet the
editorial criteria are rejected. 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 reorganisation, posting new comments on leaks was no longer
Further information: Reception of WikiLeaks
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
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 US Justice Department began a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks
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
The Washington Post
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 (e.g. Bartnicki v. Vopper) 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
In Australia, the government and the
Australian Federal Police
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
WikiLeaks and the stealing of classified documents from the United
States administration is illegal in foreign countries. Gillard
later clarified her statement as referring to "the original theft of
the material by a junior U.S. 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 towards 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 US
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Constitutional Rights has issued a
statement emphasising its alarm at the "multiple examples of legal
overreach and irregularities" in his arrest.
WikiLeaks is a self-described 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. According to Assange, WikiLeaks' lawyers often work
pro bono. Assange has said that 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.
Assange said in 2010 that WikiLeaks' only revenue consists of
donations, but it has considered other options including auctioning
early access to documents. During September 2011,
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.
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.
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,[citation
needed] it was not until 3 February 2010 that
WikiLeaks announced that
its minimum fundraising goal had been achieved.
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
As a charity accountable under German law, donations for
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
However, in December 2010 the
Wau Holland Foundation stated that 4
permanent employees, including Julian Assange, had begun to receive
In 2010, Assange said the organisation was registered as a library in
Australia, a foundation in France, and a newspaper in Sweden, and that
it also used two United States-based non-profit
for funding purposes.
On 22 January 2010, the Internet payment intermediary
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
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
WikiLeaks received €635,772.73 in
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 US$6,000 a day.
Main article: Information published by WikiLeaks
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
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 US 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 US 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, in 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
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
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.
Iraq War documents leak and Afghan War documents leak
Gun camera footage of the airstrike of 12 July 2007 in Baghdad,
showing the slaying of
Namir Noor-Eldeen and a dozen other civilians
by a US helicopter.
In mid-February 2010,
WikiLeaks received a leaked diplomatic cable
United States 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
United States Army
Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley). In March 2010,
WikiLeaks released a secret 32-page US 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
being fired at, after the pilots mistakenly thought the men were
carrying weapons, which were in fact cameras. After the mistaken
killing, the video shows US forces firing on a family van that stopped
to pick up the bodies. 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 United
States 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.
WikiLeaks released 92,000 documents related to the war in
Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009 to the publications The
The New York Times
The New York Times and Der Spiegel. The documents detail
individual incidents including "friendly fire" and civilian
casualties. 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
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 Department of Defense
referring to the
Iraq War Logs as "the largest leak of classified
documents in its history". Media coverage of the leaked documents
emphasised claims that the US government had ignored reports of
torture by the Iraqi authorities during the period after the 2003
On 29 July 2010
WikiLeaks added an "Insurance file" to the Afghan War
Diary page. The file is AES encrypted. There has
been speculation that it was intended to serve as insurance in case
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
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."
Diplomatic cables release
United States diplomatic cables leak, contents, and
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
documents labelled confidential – but not top-secret –
and dated from 28 December 1966 to 28 February 2010.
WikiLeaks planned to release the entirety of the cables in phases over
several months.[needs update]
WikiLeaks supporters protest in front of the British Embassy in
Madrid, 11 December 2010
The contents of the diplomatic cables include numerous unguarded
comments and revelations regarding: critiques and praises about the
host countries of various
United States 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
United States 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
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
On 1 September 2011, it became public that an encrypted version of
WikiLeaks' huge archive of unredacted US 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. Guardian newspaper editor David Leigh had just published
the decryption key in his book, so the files were now publicly
available to anyone. Rather than let malicious actors publish selected
WikiLeaks decided to publish the entire, unredacted archive in
searchable form on its website.
Main articles: Guantanamo Bay files leak, Global Intelligence Files
leak, Syria Files, and 2012–13
Stratfor email leak
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 (emails from Syrian political figures 2006–2012).
On 25 October 2012,
WikiLeaks began publishing The Detainee Policies,
files covering the rules and procedures for detainees in US military
custody. In April 2013
WikiLeaks published more than
1.7 million US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the
1970s, including the Kissinger cables.
Placard in front of Embassy of Ecuador, London, 22 August 2012
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
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."
In September 2013,
WikiLeaks published "Spy Files 3", 250 documents
from more than 90 surveillance companies. On 13 November 2013, a
draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership's Intellectual Property Rights
chapter was published by WikiLeaks. On 10 June 2015,
WikiLeaks published the draft on the Trans-Pacific Partnership's
Transparency for Healthcare Annex, along with each country's
negotiating position. On 19 June 2015
WikiLeaks began publishing
The Saudi Cables: more than half a million cables and other documents
from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications
from various Saudi Embassies around the world.
On 23 June 2015,
WikiLeaks published documents under the name of
"Espionnage Élysée", which showed that NSA spied on the French
government, including but not limited to then President Francois
Hollande and his predecessors
Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.
On 29 June 2015,
WikiLeaks published more NSA top secrets intercepts
regarding France, detailing an economic espionage against French
companies and associations. In July 2015,
documents which showed that the NSA had tapped the telephones of many
German federal ministries, including that of the Chancellor Angela
Merkel, for years since the 1990s. On 4 July 2015, WikiLeaks
published documents which showed that 29 Brazilian government numbers
were selected for secret espionage by the NSA. Among the targets there
were also the President Dilma Rousseff, many assistants and advisors,
her presidential jet and other key figures in the Brazilian
On 29 July 2015,
WikiLeaks published a top secret letter from the
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in
December 2013 which illustrated the position of negotiating countries
on "state-owned enterprises" (SOEs). On 31 July 2015, WikiLeaks
published secret intercepts and the related target list showing that
the NSA spied on Japanese government, including the Cabinet and
Japanese companies such as
Mitsubishi and Mitsui. The documents
United States espionage against Japan concerned broad
sections of communications about the US-Japan diplomatic relationship
and Japan's position on climate change issues, other than an extensive
monitoring of the Japanese economy. On 21 October 2015 WikiLeaks
published some of John O. Brennan's emails, including a draft security
clearance application which contained personal information.
Main articles: 2016
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee email leak and
On 4 July 2016,
WikiLeaks tweeted a link to a trove of emails sent or
received by then-US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and released
under the Freedom of Information Act. The link contained 1258
emails sent from Clinton's personal mail server which were selected in
terms of their relevance to the
Iraq War and were apparently timed to
precede the release of the UK government's
Iraq Inquiry report.
On 19 July 2016,
WikiLeaks released 294,548 emails from Turkey's
ruling Justice and Development party (AKP). According to
WikiLeaks, the material, which they claim to be the first batch from
the "AKP Emails", was obtained a week before the attempted coup in the
country and "is not connected, in any way, to the elements behind the
attempted coup, or to a rival political party or state". After
WikiLeaks announced that they would release the emails, the
organisation stayed for over 24 hours under a "sustained
attack". Following the leak, the Turkish government
ordered the site to be blocked nationwide.
WikiLeaks had also tweeted a link to a database which contained
sensitive information, such as the Turkish Identification Number, of
approximately 50 million Turkish citizens, including nearly every
female voter in Turkey. This information first appeared online in
April of the same year and was not in the files uploaded by
WikiLeaks, but in files archived by Michael Best, who then
removed it when the personal data was discovered.
On 22 July 2016,
WikiLeaks released approximately 20,000 emails and
8,000 files sent from or received by Democratic National Committee
(DNC) personnel. Some of the emails contained personal
information of donors, including home addresses and Social Security
numbers. Other emails appeared to criticise
Bernie Sanders and
showed apparent favouritism towards Clinton.
On 7 October 2016,
WikiLeaks started releasing series of emails and
documents sent from or received by
Hillary Clinton campaign manager
John Podesta, including Hillary Clinton's paid speeches to
banks. According to a spokesman for the Clinton
campaign, "By dribbling these out every day
WikiLeaks is proving they
are nothing but a propaganda arm of the Kremlin with a political
agenda doing Vladimir Putin's dirty work to help elect Donald
The New York Times
The New York Times reported that when asked, president
Vladimir Putin replied that Russia was being falsely accused. "The
hysteria is merely caused by the fact that somebody needs to divert
the attention of the American people from the essence of what was
exposed by the hackers."
On 17 October 2016
WikiLeaks announced that a "state party" had
severed the Internet connection of
Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian
United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State John Kerry
of pressuring the Ecuadorian government in severing Assange's
Internet, an accusation which the
United States State Department
denied. The Ecuadorian government stated that it had
"temporarily" severed Assange's Internet connection because of
WikiLeaks' release of documents "impacting on the U.S. election
campaign," although it also stated that this was not meant to prevent
WikiLeaks from operating.
On 16 February 2017,
WikiLeaks released a purported report on CIA
espionage orders (marked as NOFORN) for the 2012 French presidential
election. The order called for details of party
funding, internal rivalries and future attitudes toward the United
Associated Press noted that "the orders seemed to
represent standard intelligence-gathering."
On 7 March 2017,
WikiLeaks started publishing content code-named
"Vault 7". In a series of tweets and a Facebook Live + Periscope press
WikiLeaks announced these documents contain CIA internal
documentation of their "massive arsenal" of hacking tools including
malware, viruses trojects, weaponised "zero day" exploits and remote
control systems to name a few. Leaked documents, dated
from 2013–2016, detail the capabilities of the
United States Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) to perform electronic surveillance and cyber
warfare, such as the ability to compromise cars, smart TVs, web
Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox,
Opera Software ASA), and the operating systems of
most smartphones (including Apple's iOS and Google's Android), as well
as other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS, and
On 5 May 2017,
WikiLeaks posted links to e-mails purported to be from
Emmanuel Macron's campaign in the French 2017 presidential
election. The documents were first relayed on the 4chan forum
(used by far-right American groups) and by pro-Trump
and then by WikiLeaks, who indicated they did not author the
leaks. Experts have asserted that the
account played a key role in publicising the leaks through the hashtag
#MacronLeaks just some three-and-a-half hours after the first tweet
with hashtag appeared. The campaign stated that false
documents were mixed in with real ones, and that "the ambition of the
authors of this leak is obviously to harm the movement En Marche! in
the final hours before the second round of the French presidential
election". France's Electoral Commission described the
action as a "massive and coordinated piracy action".
France's Electoral Commission urged journalists not to report on the
contents of the leaks, but to heed "the sense of responsibility they
must demonstrate, as at stake are the free expression of voters and
the sincerity of the election".
Cybersecurity experts initially
believed that groups linked to Russia were involved in this attack.
The Kremlin denied any involvement. The head of the
French cyber-security agency, ANSSI, later said that they did not have
evidence connecting the hack with Russia, saying that the attack was
so simple, that "we can imagine that it was a person who did this
alone. They could be in any country."
In September 2017,
WikiLeaks released "Spy Files Russia," revealing
"how a St. Petersburg-based technology company called Peter-Service
helped state entities gather detailed data on Russian cellphone users,
part of a national system of online surveillance called System for
Operative Investigative Activities (SORM)."
Claims of upcoming leaks
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 May 2010,
WikiLeaks said it had
video footage of a massacre of civilians in Afghanistan by the US
military which they were preparing to release. In an
interview with Chris Anderson on 19 July 2010, Assange showed a
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 December 2010, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens,
The Andrew Marr Show
The Andrew Marr Show on
BBC Television that
information it considered to be a "thermo-nuclear device" which it
would release if the organisation needs to defend itself against the
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
Reuters announced that
Daniel Domscheit-Berg had
destroyed approximately 5GB of data cache from Bank of America, that
Assange had under his control.
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
WikiLeaks has contended 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.
Eric Zorn wrote in 2016 that "it's possible, even likely,
that every stolen email
WikiLeaks has posted has been authentic."
Glenn Greenwald goes further, asserting that
WikiLeaks has a
"perfect, long-standing record of only publishing authentic
documents.") However, cybersecurity experts agree that it is
trivially easy for a person to fabricate an email or alter it, as by
changing headers and metadata. Some of the more recent releases,
such as many of the emails contained in the Podesta emails, contain
DKIM headers. This allows them to be verified as genuine to some
degree of certainty.
In July 2016, the Aspen Institute's Homeland Security Group, a
bipartisan counterterrorism organisation, warned that hackers who
stole authentic data might "salt the files they release with plausible
forgeries." Russian intelligence agencies have frequently used
disinformation tactics, "which means carefully faked emails might be
included in the
WikiLeaks dumps. After all, the best way to make false
information believable is to mix it in with true information."
Promotion of conspiracy theories
Murder of Seth Rich
WikiLeaks has promoted conspiracy theories about the murder of Seth
Rich. Unfounded conspiracy theories, spread by some
right-wing figures and media outlets, hold that Rich was the source of
leaked emails and was killed for working with WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks fuelled the conspiracy theories by offering a reward of
$20,000 for information leading to the capture of Rich's killer and
hinting that Rich may have been the source of the leaked emails.
No evidence supports the claim that Rich was the source of the
The Guardian wrote that WikiLeaks, along with individuals and groups
on the hard right, had been involved in the "ruthless exploitation of
[Rich's] death for political purposes". The executive director of
the Sunlight Foundation, an organization that advocates for open
government, was critical of WikiLeaks' fueling of conspiracy theories
surrounding the murder of Seth Rich: "If they feel like they have a
link to the staffer’s death, they should say it and be responsible
about it. The insinuations, to me, are just disgusting."
Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton
WikiLeaks has popularized conspiracies about the Democratic Party and
Hillary Clinton, such as tweeting an article which suggested Clinton
John Podesta engaged in satanic rituals (which
was later revealed to be false), implying that the
Democratic Party had Seth Rich killed, suggesting that Clinton
wore earpieces to debates and interviews, claiming that Hillary
Clinton wanted to drone strike Assange, promoting conspiracy
theories about Clinton's health, and promoting a
conspiracy theory from a Donald Trump-related Internet community tying
the Clinton campaign to child kidnapper Laura Silsby.
Allegations of anti-Americanism
Short of simply disclosing information in the public interest,
WikiLeaks has been accused of purposely targeting certain states and
people, and presenting its disclosures in misleading and
conspiratorial ways to harm those people. Writing in 2012,
Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating noted that "nearly all its major
operations have targeted the U.S. government or American
corporations." In a 2017 speech addressing the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, CIA Director
Mike Pompeo referred
WikiLeaks as "a non-state hostile intelligence service" and
Julian Assange as a narcissist, fraud, and
Allegations of anti-Clinton and pro-Trump bias
Assange wrote on
WikiLeaks in February 2016: "I have had years of
experience in dealing with
Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of
her cables. Hillary lacks judgement and will push the United States
into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. ... she
certainly should not become president of the United States." In
July 2017, during an interview by Amy Goodman,
Julian Assange said
that choosing between
Hillary Clinton and
Donald Trump is like
choosing between cholera or gonorrhea. "Personally, I would prefer
WikiLeaks editor, Sarah Harrison, has stated that the
site is not choosing which damaging publications to release, rather
releasing information that is available to them.
In conversations that were leaked in February 2018, WikiLeaks
expressed a preference for a Republican victory in the 2016
Having released information that exposed the inner working of a broad
range of organisations and politicians,
WikiLeaks started by 2016 to
focus almost exclusively on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton. In the 2016 US presidential election,
exposed material damaging to the
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee and
WikiLeaks even rejected the opportunity to publish
unrelated leaks, because it dedicated all its resources to Hillary
Clinton and the Democratic Party. According to The New York Times,
WikiLeaks timed one of its large leaks so that it would happen on the
eve of the Democratic Convention.
The Washington Post
The Washington Post noted that
the leaks came at an important sensitive moment in the Clinton
campaign, as she was preparing to announce her vice-presidential pick
and unite the party behind her. The Sunlight Foundation, an
organisation that advocates for open government, said that such
actions meant that
WikiLeaks was no longer striving to be transparent
but rather sought to achieve political goals: "It's become something
else. It's not striving for objectivity. It's more careless. When they
publish information it appears to be in service of some specific goal,
of retribution, at the expense of the individual."
WikiLeaks explained its actions in a 2017 statement to Foreign Policy:
WikiLeaks schedules publications to maximize readership and reader
engagement. During distracting media events such as the Olympics or a
high profile election, unrelated publications are sometimes delayed
until the distraction passes but never are rejected for this
reason." On 7 October 2016, an hour after the media had begun to
dedicate wall-to-wall coverage of the revelation that Trump had
bragged on video about sexually harassing women,
WikiLeaks began to
release emails hacked from the personal account of Clinton campaign
chairman John Podesta.
CNN notes that due to extensive
coverage of the Trump tapes, the leaks were an "afterthought" in news
coverage. Podesta suggested that the emails were timed to deflect
attention from the Trump tapes.
Donald Trump called
WikiLeaks "disgraceful" and suggested
that the "death penalty" should be a punishment for WikiLeaks'
releases of information. Following the dump of e-mails hacked
Hillary Clinton campaign,
Donald Trump told voters, "I love
WikiLeaks!" Trump made many references to
WikiLeaks during the
course of the campaign; by one estimate, he referenced disclosures by
WikiLeaks over 160 times in speeches during the last 30 days of the
Donald Trump Jr.
In November 2017, it was revealed that the
Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 presidential
election. The correspondence shows how
solicited the co-operation of Trump Jr., a campaign surrogate and
advisor in the campaign of his father.
WikiLeaks urged the Trump
campaign to reject the results of the 2016 presidential election at a
time when it looked as if the Trump campaign would lose. WikiLeaks
asked Trump Jr. to share a false claim by Assange that Hillary Clinton
had wanted to attack him with drones.
WikiLeaks also shared a link
to a site that would help people to search through WikiLeaks
documents. Trump Jr. shared both. After the election, WikiLeaks
also requested that the president-elect push Australia to appoint
Assange as ambassador to the US. After
The New York Times
The New York Times published a
fragment of Donald Trump's tax returns for one year,
Trump Jr. for one or more of his father's tax returns, explaining that
it would be in his father's best interest because it would
"dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality" and not come
"through the most biased source (e.g. NYT/MSNBC)."
asked Trump Jr. to leak his own e-mails to them days after The New
York Times broke a story about e-mail correspondence between Trump Jr.
and a Kremlin-affiliated lawyer;
WikiLeaks said that it would be
"beautifully confounding" for them to publish the e-mails and that it
would deprive other news outlets from putting a negative spin on the
correspondence. Trump Jr. provided this correspondence to
congressional investigators looking into Russian interference in the
Allegations of Russian influence
In August 2016, after
WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails, it
was claimed that Russian intelligence had hacked the e-mails and
leaked them to WikiLeaks. At the time, DNC officials made such claims,
along with a number of cybersecurity experts and cybersecurity
firms. In October 2016, the US intelligence community
announced that it was "confident that the Russian Government directed
the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions,
including from U.S. political organizations". The US intelligence
agencies said that the hacks were consistent with the methods of
Russian-directed efforts, and that people high up within the Kremlin
were likely involved. On 14 October 2016,
CNN reported that "there
is mounting evidence that the Russian government is supplying
WikiLeaks with hacked emails pertaining to the U.S. presidential
WikiLeaks has denied any connection to or co-operation
with Russia. President Putin has strongly denied any Russian
involvement in the election.
In September 2016, the German weekly magazine Focus reported that
according to a confidential German government dossier,
long since been infiltrated by Russian agents aiming to discredit NATO
governments. The magazine added that French and British intelligence
services had come to the same conclusion and said Russian President
Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev receive details
WikiLeaks publishes before publication. The Focus
report followed a
New York Times
New York Times story that suggested that WikiLeaks
may be a laundering machine for compromising material about Western
countries gathered by Russian spies.
On 10 December 2016, several news outlets, including
The Guardian and
The Washington Post, reported that the Central Intelligence Agency
concluded that Russia intelligence operatives provided materials to
WikiLeaks in an effort to help Donald Trump's election bid. The
Washington Post article stated: "The CIA has concluded in a secret
assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald
Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in
the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the
The Guardian article reported, "individuals linked to
the Russian government had provided
WikiLeaks with thousands of
confidential emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee
(DNC) and others."
WikiLeaks has frequently been criticised for
its absence of whistleblowing on or criticism of Russia. The
Guardian notes that journalists are killed frequently in Russia, and
notes that Freedom House has ranked Russian press freedom as "not
free... The main national news agenda is firmly controlled by the
Kremlin. The government sets editorial policy at state-owned
television stations, which dominate the media landscape and generate
In April 2016,
WikiLeaks tweeted criticism of the Panama Papers, which
had among other things revealed Russian businesses and individuals
linked with offshore ties (Vladimir Putin's associates had as much as
$2 billion in offshore accounts). The
account tweeted, "#PanamaPapers Putin attack was produced by OCCRP
which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID and
[George] Soros". Putin would later go on to dismiss the Panama
Papers by citing WikiLeaks: "
WikiLeaks has showed us that official
people and official organs of the U.S. are behind this.”
According to The New York Times, both Assange claims are
substance-free: "there is no evidence suggesting that the United
States government had a role in releasing the Panama Papers."
Assange also falsely asserted that the
Panama Papers gave Western
figures a free pass, when the leaks in fact reported on a number of
high-profile Western politicians, including UK Prime Minister David
In 2012 when
WikiLeaks began to run out of funds, Assange began to
host a television show on Russia Today, Russia's state-owned news
network. Assange has never disclosed how much he or WikiLeaks
were paid for his tv-show.
After President Trump's National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn
resigned in February 2017 due to reports over his communications with
Russian officials and subsequent lies over the content and nature of
WikiLeaks tweeted that Flynn resigned "after
destabilization campaign by U.S. spies, Democrats, press."
In April 2017, the
Twitter account suggested that the Khan
Shaykhun chemical attack, which international human rights
organisations and governments of the United States, United Kingdom,
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, and Israel attributed to the Syrian
government, was a false flag attack.
WikiLeaks stated that "while
western establishment media beat the drum for more war in Syria the
matter is far from clear", and shared a video by a Syrian activist who
claimed that Islamist extremists were probably behind the chemical
attack, not the Syrian government.
In May 2017, cybersecurity experts stated that they believed that
groups affiliated with the Russian government were involved in the
hacking and leaking of e-mails associated with the Emmanuel Macron
campaign; these e-mails were published on
Pastebin but heavily
WikiLeaks social media channels.
In April 2017, CIA Director
Mike Pompeo stated: "It is time to call
WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile
intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia."
Pompeo said that the US Intelligence Community had concluded that
Russia's "primary propaganda outlet," RT had "actively collaborated"
In August 2017,
Foreign Policy reported that
WikiLeaks had in the
summer of 2016 turned down a large cache of documents containing
information damaging to the Russian government. WikiLeaks
justified this by saying "As far as we recall these are already
WikiLeaks rejects all information that it cannot verify.
WikiLeaks rejects submissions that have already been published
elsewhere". Whereas news outlets had reported on some contents of
the leaks in 2014, the information that news outlets reported on was
less than half of the data that was made available to
WikiLeaks in the
summer of 2016.
In October 2017, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a company
working on behalf of the Trump presidential campaign, had contacted
WikiLeaks about missing
Hillary Clinton e-mails and the possibility of
creating a searchable database for the campaign to use.
After this was reported, Assange confirmed that
WikiLeaks had been
Cambridge Analytica but had rejected the
WikiLeaks did not disclose what the subject of
Cambridge Analytica's approach was.
Allegations of anti-semitism
WikiLeaks has been accused of anti-semitism. The
Twitter account tweeted anti-semitic jibes. The
organisation has called out Jewish "lobbies" and claimed that a
"Jewish conspiracy" is attempting to discredit the
organisation. In July 2016,
WikiLeaks suggested that triple
parentheses, or (((echoes))) – a tool used by neo-Nazis to identify
Jews on Twitter, appropriated by Jews across the Twittersphere – had
been used as a way for "establishment climbers" to identify one
another. Assange denied making claims of a Jewish
conspiracy, stating, "'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in
spirit and in word. It is serious and upsetting."
In leaked internal conversations,
WikiLeaks described a journalist as
a "rat" and noted that "he's Jewish".
WikiLeaks also noted that
the journalist had been "engaged" in the contesting anti-Semitic jibes
on Twitter, and encouraged others to troll the journalist.
Exaggerated and misleading descriptions of the contents of leaks
WikiLeaks has been criticised for making misleading claims about the
contents of its leaks. Media outlets have also been
criticised for reporting on WikiLeaks' claims about the CIA leak,
which were later retracted.
According to University of
North Carolina Professor Zeynep Tufekci,
this is part of a pattern of behaviour. After the 2016 Turkish coup
WikiLeaks announced that it would release e-mails
belonging to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party. When these
e-mails were released, however, it "was nothing but mundane mailing
lists of tens of thousands of ordinary people who discussed politics
online. Back then, too, the ruse worked: Many Western journalists had
hyped these non-leaks." According to Tufekci, there are three
steps to WikiLeaks' "disinformation campaigns": "The first step is to
dump many documents at once — rather than allowing journalists to
scrutinise them and absorb their significance before publication. The
second step is to sensationalise the material with misleading news
releases and tweets. The third step is to sit back and watch as the
news media unwittingly promotes the
WikiLeaks agenda under the
auspices of independent reporting."
Inadequate curation and violations of personal privacy
WikiLeaks has drawn criticism for violating the personal privacy of a
multitude of individuals and inadequately curating its content. These
critics include transparency advocates, such as Edward Snowden, the
Sunlight Foundation and the Federation of American Scientists.
WikiLeaks has published individuals' Social Security numbers, medical
information, and credit card numbers. An analysis by the
Associated Press found that
WikiLeaks had in one of its
mass-disclosures published "the personal information of hundreds of
people – including sick children, rape victims and mental health
WikiLeaks has named teenage rape victims, and outed an
individual arrested for homosexuality in Saudi Arabia. Some of
WikiLeaks' cables "described patients with psychiatric conditions,
seriously ill children or refugees". An analysis of WikiLeaks'
Saudi cables "turned up more than 500 passport, identity, academic or
employment files... three dozen records pertaining to family issues in
the cables – including messages about marriages, divorces, missing
children, elopements and custody battles. Many are very personal, like
the marital certificates that reveal whether the bride was a virgin.
Others deal with Saudis who are deeply in debt, including one man who
says his wife stole his money. One divorce document details a male
partner's infertility. Others identify the partners of women suffering
from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C."
Two individuals named in the DNC leaks were targeted by identity
thieves following WikiLeaks' reveal of their Social Security and
credit card information. In its leak of DNC e-mails, WikiLeaks
revealed the details of an ordinary staffer's suicide attempt and
brought attention to it through a tweet.
WikiLeaks' publishing of Sony's hacked e-mails drew criticism for
violating the privacy of Sony's employees and for failing to be in the
public interest. Michael A. Cohen, a fellow at the Century
Foundation, argues that "data dumps like these represent a threat to
our already shrinking zone of privacy." He noted that the
WikiLeaks to publish information of this type
encourages hacking and cybertheft: "With ready and willing amplifiers,
what's to deter the next cyberthief from stealing a company's database
of information and threatening to send it to Wikileaks if a list of
demands aren't met?"
The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for open
government, has criticised
WikiLeaks for inadequate curation of its
content and for "weaponised transparency," writing that with the DNC
leaks, "Wikileaks again failed the due diligence review we expect of
putatively journalistic entities when it published the personal
information of ordinary citizens, including passport and Social
Security numbers contained in the hacked emails of Democratic National
Committee staff. We are not alone in raising ethical questions about
Wikileaks' shift from whistleblower to platform for weaponised
transparency. Any organisation that 'doxxes' a public is harming
privacy." The manner in which
WikiLeaks publishes content can
have the effect of censoring political enemies: "Wikileaks'
indiscriminate disclosure in this case is perhaps the closest we've
seen in reality to the bogeyman projected by enemies to reform —
that transparency is just a Trojan Horse for chilling speech and
silencing political enemies."
In July 2016,
Edward Snowden criticised
WikiLeaks for insufficiently
curating its content. When Snowden made data public, he did so by
working with the Washington Post, the Guardian and other news
organisations, choosing only to make documents public which exposed
National Security Agency surveillance programs. Content that
compromised national security or exposed sensitive personal
information was withheld. WikiLeaks, on the other hand, makes
little effort to remove sensitive personal information or withhold
content with adverse national security implications. WikiLeaks
responded by accusing Snowden of pandering to Democratic presidential
nominee Hillary Clinton.
North Carolina Professor
Zeynep Tufekci has criticised
WikiLeaks for exposing sensitive personal information: "WikiLeaks, for
example, gleefully tweeted to its millions of followers that a Clinton
Foundation employee had attempted suicide... Data dumps by WikiLeaks
have outed rape victims and gay people in Saudi Arabia, private
citizens' emails and personal information in Turkey, and the voice
mail messages of
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee staff members." She
argues these data dumps which violate personal privacy without being
in the public interest "threaten our ability to dissent by destroying
privacy and unleashing a glut of questionable information that
functions, somewhat unexpectedly, as its own form of censorship,
rather than as a way to illuminate the maneuverings of the
In January 2017, the
WikiLeaks Task Force, a
associated with WikiLeaks, proposed the creation of a database to
Twitter users, including sensitive personal information
on individuals' homes, families and finances. According
to the Chicago Tribune, "the proposal faced a sharp and swift backlash
as technologists, journalists and security researchers slammed the
idea as a 'sinister' and dangerous abuse of power and privacy."
Twitter furthermore bans the use of
Twitter data for "surveillance
purposes," stating "Posting another person's private and confidential
information is a violation of the
Internal conflicts and lack of transparency
Within WikiLeaks, there has been public disagreement between founder
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
Julian Assange (left) with Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Domscheit-Berg was
WikiLeaks and started a rival "whistleblower"
organisation named OpenLeaks.
On 25 September 2010, after being suspended by Assange for
"disloyalty, insubordination and destabilisation", 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
Daniel Domscheit-Berg wanted greater
transparency in the articles released to the public. Another vision of
his was to focus on providing technology that allowed whistle-blowers
to protect their identity as well as a more transparent way of
communicating with the media, forming new partnerships and involving
new people. Domscheit-Berg left with a small group to start
OpenLeaks, a new leak organisation and website with a different
management and distribution philosophy.
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 organisations, 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.
Those working for
WikiLeaks are reportedly required to sign sweeping
non-disclosure agreements covering all conversations, conduct, and
material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure. The
penalty for non-compliance in one such agreement was reportedly
WikiLeaks has been challenged for this
practice, as it seen to be hypocritical for an organisation dedicated
to transparency to limit the transparency of its inner workings and
limit the accountability of powerful individuals in the
Main article: Reception of WikiLeaks
Bilbao "We want to know."
WikiLeaks has received praise as well as criticism. The organisation
won a number of awards in its early years, 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
WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered
citizen." During its first days, an
Internet petition in support
WikiLeaks attracted more than six hundred thousand signatures.
WikiLeaks in the media and academia commended it
during its early tears for exposing state and corporate secrets,
increasing transparency, assisting freedom of the press, and enhancing
democratic discourse while challenging powerful
institutions. In 2010, the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the "cyber war"
being led at the time against WikiLeaks, and in a joint statement
Organization of American States
Organization of American States the UN
called on states and other people to keep international legal
principles in mind.
Several Republicans who had once been highly critical of
Julian Assange began to speak fondly of him after
the DNC leaks and started to regularly criticise
Hillary Clinton and
the Democratic Party. Having called
in 2010, President-Elect
Donald Trump praised
WikiLeaks in October
2016, saying, "I love WikiLeaks." Newt Gingrich, who called
for Assange to be "treated as an enemy combatant" in 2010, praised him
as a "down to Earth, straight forward interviewee" in 2017. Sean
Hannity, who had in 2010 said that Assange waged a "war" on the United
States, praised him in 2016 for showing "how corrupt, dishonest and
phony our government is". Sarah Palin, who had in 2010 described
Assange as an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands",
lavished praise on him in 2017. Ann Coulter called for Assange to
be awarded the presidential medal of freedom.
At the same time, several US government officials have criticised
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, 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 2016, Harvard law professor and Electronic Frontier Foundation
Jonathan Zittrain argued that a culture in which one
constantly risks being "outed" as a result of virtual Watergate-like
break-ins (or 4th amendment violations) could lead people to hesitate
to speak their minds.
In April 2017, CIA Director
Mike Pompeo called
WikiLeaks "a non-state
hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like
In 2011, hacktivist group Anonymous published a secret proposal
presented by a
Palantir Technologies employee to Hunton &
Williams, a Washington, D.C. law firm, to attempt to discredit
WikiLeaks and supporters such as
Glenn Greenwald with disinformation
and cyberattacks. Two other private security firms, Berico
Technologies and HBGary, were also involved in the
proposal. Palantir temporarily suspended the
employee, its CEO
Alex Karp apologised to Greenwald, and a
spokesperson said the company would have collapsed if it had carried
out the proposal.
United States diplomatic cables was followed by the
creation of a number of other organisations based on the WikiLeaks
OpenLeaks was created by a former
WikiLeaks spokesperson. Daniel
Domscheit-Berg said the intention was to be more transparent than
OpenLeaks was supposed to start public operations in early
2011 but despite much media coverage, as of April 2013[update] it
is not operating.[needs update]
In December 2011,
WikiLeaks launched Friends of WikiLeaks, a social
network for supporters and founders of the website.
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
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.
Leakymails is a project designed to obtain and publish relevant
documents exposing corruption of the political class and the powerful
Honest Appalachia, initiated in January 2012, is a website based
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
In popular culture
The Fifth Estate (film)
The Fifth Estate (film) and We Steal Secrets: The
Story of WikiLeaks
A thriller about
WikiLeaks was released in the
United States on 18
October 2013. The documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Alex Gibney premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film
Festival. War, lies and videotape is a documentary by French
Paul Moreira and Luc Hermann from press agency Premieres
Lignes. The film was first released in France, in 2011 and then
broadcast worldwide. The Source is a 2014 oratorio by Ted Hearne,
with a libretto by Mark Doten that features
disclosures by Chelsea Manning.
Freedom of speech portal
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee email leak
Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority
Classified information in the United States
Freedom of information
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the Press Foundation
New York Times
New York Times Co. v. United States
1993 PGP Criminal investigation
Russian interference in the 2016
United States elections
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