News / Science & Technology

What Is Wikileaks?

Wikileaks first came online in 2007, promising any individual a forum to anonymously publish previously classified, hidden or sensitive documents and make them publicly available.  The idea was relatively simple: given the viral nature of the Internet - and the ease of duplicating digital documents - once secret information was published, it could never become secret again.

The first documents were often of limited long-term importance but still generated notoriety- such as the publication of documents from the Church of Scientology, or then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal emails.  But Wikileaks also had a broader political agenda; its "...primary agenda is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East..." according to its own mission statement.

That hasn't stopped Wikileaks from publishing a variety of documents unflattering to the U.S. and other national governments.  Examples include U.S. military protocols for Guantanamo Bay detainees and battlefield video of a controversial U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. As more and more documents began to clog its servers, Wikileaks abandoned it's all-access-posting rule in favor of requesting submissions from leakers. Wikileaks network of volunteers then attempt to authenticate the document, and determine its overall relevance and importance.

Ironically, for an organization that has described itself as an "...intelligence service of the people...", much of Wikileak's operations remain intentionally shadowy. Founder Julian Assange, an Australian reformed computer-hacker, says Wikileaks has hundreds of volunteers around the world to help translate and authenticate documents, but he won't name them. The site's servers are said to be scattered in dozens of locations; again, Assange won't say where.  Even Assange himself cloaks himself in mystery, shuttling between undisclosed locations and unnamed supporters.

Not surprisingly, Wikileaks' activities have earned it praise from some free-speech quarters and harsh criticism, or worse, from a variety of national and institutional interests. The site has faced numerous lawsuits (all of which they've won), hack attacks, police harassment in Germany, Israel, Kenya and elsewhere.  Assange says he himself has been the target of high-level intelligence services.

In an interview earlier in 2010 with VOA, Assange described his job as part journalism, part advocacy.

"Wikileaks aims to achieve just political reforms by getting out information that has been suppressed to the public," he said.  "We never censor," he added. "And as far as we're aware, we've never made a mistake."

With the recent release of tens of thousands of U.S. military documents on the Afghan war, Assange and Wikileaks has already been sharply criticized and condemned by the White House and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

You can listen to our earlier interview with Julian Assange, and learn more about Wikileaks here.


Doug Bernard

dbjohnson+voanews.com

Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid