News / USA

What Is WikiLeaks?

The military trial of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning began Monday.  He is charged with violating the Espionage Act by knowingly leaking thousands of classified documents to the Wikileaks whistleblower website.

The documents, including sensitive State Department cables and classified military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, comprised one of the largest breaches of security in U.S. history.

Shortly after Wikileaks began posting the material online in May 2010, Manning, an intelligence analyst serving in Iraq, was detained by military authorities and has been held in solitary confinement since. Although he has already admitted leaking the documents and pleaded guilty to some of the charges, his closely watched trial is expected to last the summer.

What Is Wikileaks?
  • International not-for-profit group that publishes anonymously-submitted material online.
  • Published leaks includes internal documents from the Church of Scientology, secret memos targeting corruption in the Kenyan government, Icelandic documents that contributed to that nation's banking collapse, and what appears to be a U.S. military video of a deadly Apache helicopter raid in Iraq in 2007.
  • Founder Julian Assange told VOA Wikileaks "aims to achieve just political reforms by getting out information that has been suppressed to the public.”

Is What Wikileaks Does Legal?
  • Many governments around the world, including the United States, have stated or suggested that Wikileaks has violated numerous security and espionage laws by publicly posting classified, in some case highly sensitive material.
  • Transparency advocates, such as Daniel Ellsberg and others, counter that citizens have a right to know about the activities of their governments, and that leaks are "extra-legal", or beyond the realm of law.
  • At the urging of the U.S. government, major credit card companies Visa and Mastercard and the PayPal service banned any contributions to Wikileaks.
"Free speech is what regulates government and what regulates law." - Julian Assange
Who Is Julian Assange?
  • Generally credited as the lead founder of the Wikileaks website, Julian Assange usually describes himself as merely editor-in-chief.
  • Was a hacker (under the pseudonyn MENDAX) and Internet freedom activist in his native Australia while young and authored several successful computer security protocols.
  • Left Australia when Wikileaks launched, travelling to a wide variety of nations in a secretive fashion until landing in England.
  • Sought and was granted asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London while facing extradiction to Sweden on charges there of sexual assault.

Who Is Bradley Manning?
  • Private in the U.S. Army, stationed in Iraq as an intelligence analyst before he was detained by authorities.
  • First alluded to stealing classified documents in online chats with hacker and journalist Adrian Lamo in 2010, telling Lamo "lets just say *someone* i know intimately well, has been penetrating US classified networks, mining data like the ones described … sorting the data, compressing it, encrypting it, and uploading it to a crazy white haired Aussie who can’t seem to stay in one country very long."
  • Since his detention in solitary confinement in Spring 2010, Manning has admitted to leaking thousands of diplomatic cables and military logs to Wikileaks.
  • Is currently facing 22 charges in court martial, including aiding the enemy. Manning has already pleaded guilty to 10 of those counts.

For more of VOA's extensive coverage of Wikileaks, including an interview with founder Julian Assange and the case for and against Private Bradley Manning, visit our Digital Frontiers blog.

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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs