Wikileaks History

History

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.[4] The website was established and published its first document in December 2006.[29][30] 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”.[31][32] Sarah Harrison, Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell are the only other publicly known and acknowledged associates of Assange who are currently living.[33] Harrison is also a member of Sunshine Press Productions along with Assange and Ingi Ragnar Ingason.[34][35] Gavin MacFadyen was acknowledged by Assange as a ″beloved director of WikiLeaks″ shortly after his death in 2016.[36]

WikiLeaks was originally established with a “wiki” communal publication method, which was terminated by May 2010.[37] 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.[38] As of June 2009, the website had more than 1,200 registered volunteers.[38][39][40]

Despite some popular confusion, related to the fact both sites use the “wiki” name and website design template, WikiLeaks and Wikipedia are not affiliated.[41] Wikia, a for-profit corporation affiliated loosely with the Wikimedia Foundation, purchased several WikiLeaks-related domain names as a “protective brand measure” in 2007.[42]

On 26 September 2018, Julian Assange stepped down as editor in chief of WikiLeaks.[citation needed]

Purpose

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 by the WikiLeaks website as “an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to [WikiLeaks] journalists”.[43]

Some describe 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”.[44] Harvard professor Yochai Benkler praised WikiLeaks as a new form of journalistic enterprise,[45] testifying at the court-martial of Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning) that “WikiLeaks did serve a particular journalistic function,” and that the “range of the journalist’s privilege” is “a hard line to draw”.[46] Others do not consider WikiLeaks to be journalistic in nature. Media ethicist Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies wrote in 2011: “WikiLeaks might grow into a journalist endeavor. But it’s not there yet.”[47] Bill Keller of The New York Times considers WikiLeaks to be a “complicated source” rather than a journalistic partner.[47] Prominent First Amendment lawyer 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”.[48] Noting Assange’s statements that he and his colleagues read only a small fraction of information before deciding to publish it, Abrams writes: “No journalistic entity I have ever heard of—none—simply releases to the world an elephantine amount of material it has not read.”[48]

Administration

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.[49] WikiLeaks does not have any official headquarters. In November 2010 the WikiLeaks-endorsed[50] news and activism site WikiLeaks Central was initiated and was administrated by editor Heather Marsh who oversaw over 70 writers and volunteers.[51] She resigned on 8 March 2012.[52]

WikiLeaks describes itself as “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking”.[53] The website is available on multiple servers, different domain names and has an official Darkweb version (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.[54][55]

Until August 2010, WikiLeaks was hosted by PRQ, a Sweden-based company providing “highly secure, no-questions-asked hosting services”. PRQ is said to have “almost no information about its clientele and maintains few if any of its own logs“.[56] Currently, WikiLeaks is hosted mainly by the Swedish Internet service provider Bahnhof in the Pionen facility, a former nuclear bunker in Sweden.[57][58] Other servers are spread around the world with the main server located in Sweden.[59] 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.[59] It is forbidden, according to Swedish law, for any administrative authority to make inquiries about the sources of any type of newspaper.[60] These laws, and the hosting by PRQ, make it difficult for any authority 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. Furthermore, “WikiLeaks maintains its own servers at undisclosed locations, keeps no logs and uses military-grade encryption to protect sources and other confidential information.” Such arrangements have been called “bulletproof hosting“.[56][61]

After the site became the target of a denial-of-service attack on its old servers, WikiLeaks moved its website to Amazon‘s servers.[62] Later, however, the website was “ousted” from the Amazon servers.[62] 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.”[63] WikiLeaks was then moved to servers at OVH, a private web-hosting service in France.[64] 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.[65][66]

WikiLeaks used EveryDNS, but was dropped by the company after distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against WikiLeaks hurt the quality of service for its other customers. Supporters of WikiLeaks waged verbal and DDoS attacks on EveryDNS. Because of a typographical error in blogs mistaking EveryDNS for competitor EasyDNS, the 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 the quality of service for its other customers.[67]

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 effort typically seen in “Wiki” projects, and “redirect it to … material that has real potential for change”.[68] Some sympathisers were unhappy[citation needed] when WikiLeaks ended a community-based wiki format in favour of a more centralised organisation. The “about” page originally read:[69]

To the user, WikiLeaks will look very much like Wikipedia. Anybody can post to it, anybody can edit it. No technical knowledge is required. Leakers can post documents anonymously and untraceably. Users can publicly discuss documents and 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.

However, 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”).[70] 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”.[71] 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 anonymous WikiLeaks reviewers, and documents that do not meet the editorial criteria are rejected. By 2008, the revised FAQ stated: “Anybody can post comments to it. [ … ] Users can publicly discuss documents and analyse their credibility and veracity.”[72] After the 2010 reorganisation, posting new comments on leaks was no longer possible.[37]

Legal status

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.[73] 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 source-journalist relationships.[74][75] WikiLeaks has stated it does not solicit any information.[74] 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.[76]

Potential criminal prosecution

The US Justice Department began a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange soon after the leak of diplomatic cables began.[77][78] Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed the investigation was “not saber-rattling”, but was “an active, ongoing criminal investigation”.[78] 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.[77][79] 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.[80] 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.[81] 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.[82] One of Assange’s lawyers, however, says they are fighting extradition to Sweden because it might result in his extradition to the United States.[83] 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 WikiLeaks case.[84]

In Australia, the government and the 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 of WikiLeaks and the stealing of classified documents from the United States administration is illegal in foreign countries.[85] 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.”[86] 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.[87]

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.[88][89] The US Center for Constitutional Rights has issued a statement emphasising its alarm at the “multiple examples of legal overreach and irregularities” in his arrest.[90]

Use of leaked documents in court

In a UK Supreme Court Judgement given on 8 February 2018, the court unanimously decided that a document leaked through WikiLeaks “could be admitted into evidence”.[91][92]

The appeal that led to this ruling centred on a US government cable provided by Chelsea Manning and published by WikiLeaks. The Chagos islanders argued that the document showed the UK’s motive for setting up a marine park on their territory was improper, but it had been excluded from proceedings earlier in the case.[93]

In an “important test of Vienna Convention in relation to Wikileaks documents” The Court ruled that “the cable should have been admitted into evidence before the Administrative Court”, addressing the main issue. During this decision, the leaked document was said to not meet the criteria necessary to help the Chagos Refugee Group recover their homeland.[92][93]

Financing

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.[49] Assange said in 2010 that WikiLeaks’ only revenue consists of donations, but it has considered other options including auctioning early access to documents.[49] During September 2011, WikiLeaks began 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.[citation needed]

On 24 December 2009, WikiLeaks announced that it was experiencing a shortage of funds[citation needed] and suspended all access to its website except for a form to submit new material.[94] Material that was previously published was no longer available, although some could still be accessed on unofficial mirror websites.[95] WikiLeaks stated on its website that it would resume full operation once the operational costs were paid.[94] 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”.[49] 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.[citation needed]

The 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.[96] An article in TechEye stated:

As a charity accountable under German law, donations for WikiLeaks can 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][97] on national television that all personnel works voluntarily, even its speakers.[96]

However, in December 2010 the Wau Holland Foundation stated that 4 permanent employees, including Julian Assange, had begun to receive salaries.[98]

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 501c3 organisations for funding purposes.[99]

On 22 January 2010, the Internet payment intermediary PayPal suspended WikiLeaks’ donation account and froze its assets. WikiLeaks said that this had happened before, and was done for “no obvious reason”.[citation needed] The account was restored on 25 January 2010.[citation needed] On 18 May 2010, WikiLeaks announced that its website and archive were operational again.[citation needed]

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,[30] but did not make the final approval.[100] WikiLeaks commented via Twitter: “WikiLeaks was highest rated project in the Knight challenge, strongly recommended to the board but gets no funding. Go figure.”[101] 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”.[100] A spokesman of the Knight Foundation disputed parts of WikiLeaks’ statement, saying “WikiLeaks was not recommended by Knight staff to the board.”[101] 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 websites.[101]

During 2010, WikiLeaks received €635,772.73 in PayPal donations, 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.[102]

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.[103][104]

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.[105]

Leaks

2006–08

WikiLeaks posted its first document in December 2006, a decision to assassinate government officials signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.[30] In August 2007, the UK newspaper The Guardian published a story about corruption by the family of the former Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi based on information provided via WikiLeaks.[106] 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.[107][108] 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.[109] 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.[110] 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.[111][112] 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.[113] 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.[114][115] In November 2008, the membership list of the far-right British National Party was posted to WikiLeaks, after appearing briefly on a weblog.[116] A year later, in October 2009, another list of BNP members was leaked.[117]

2009

In January 2009, WikiLeaks released 86 telephone intercept recordings of Peruvian politicians and businessmen involved in the 2008 Peru oil scandal.[118] During February, WikiLeaks released 6,780 Congressional Research Service reports[119] followed in March by a list of contributors to the Norm Coleman senatorial campaign[120][121] and a set of documents belonging to Barclays Bank that had been ordered removed from the website of The Guardian.[122] In July, it released a report relating to a serious nuclear accident that had occurred at the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility in 2009.[123] Later media reports have suggested that the accident was related to the Stuxnet computer worm.[124][125] 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.[126] In October, Joint Services Protocol 440, a British document advising the security services on how to avoid documents being leaked, was published by WikiLeaks.[127] Later that month, it announced that a super-injunction was being used by the commodities company Trafigura to stop The Guardian (London) from reporting on a leaked internal document regarding a toxic dumping incident in Côte d’Ivoire.[128][129] In November, it hosted copies of e-mail correspondence between climate scientists, although they were not leaked originally to WikiLeaks.[130][131] It also released 570,000 intercepts of pager messages sent on the day of the 11 September attacks.[132][133][134] 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.[135][136][137]

2010

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 from the United States Embassy in Reykjavik relating to the Icesave scandal, which they published on 18 February.[138] 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 Private 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.[139][140][141] In April, a classified video of the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike was released, showing two Reuters employees being fired at, after the pilots mistakenly thought the men were carrying weapons, which were in fact cameras.[142] After the mistaken killing, the video shows US forces firing on a family van that stopped to pick up the bodies.[143] 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.[144] 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.[145]

In July, WikiLeaks released 92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009 to the publications The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel. The documents detail individual incidents including “friendly fire” and civilian casualties.[146] 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.[147] After the 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.[148] 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.[149][150] 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 war.[151]

On 29 July 2010 WikiLeaks added an “Insurance file” to the Afghan War Diary page. The file is AES encrypted.[152][citation needed] There has been speculation that it was intended to serve as insurance in case the WikiLeaks website or its spokesman Julian Assange are incapacitated, upon which the passphrase could be published.[153][154] After the first few days’ release of the US diplomatic cables starting 28 November 2010, the US television broadcasting company CBS predicted 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.”[155] 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.”[155]

Diplomatic cables release

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.[156][157] WikiLeaks planned to release the entirety of the cables in phases over several months.[needs update][157]

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 various countries; 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 WikiLeaks.[158] Twitter decided to notify its users.[159] The overthrow of the presidency in Tunisia of 2011 has been attributed partly to reaction against the corruption revealed by leaked cables.[160][161][162]

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.[163][164] 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 data, WikiLeaks decided to publish the entire, unredacted archive in searchable form on its website.[citation needed]

2011–2015

In late April 2011, files related to the Guantanamo prison were released.[165] In December 2011, WikiLeaks started to release the Spy Files.[166] On 27 February 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor.[167] On 5 July 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria Files (emails from Syrian political figures 2006–2012).[168] On 25 October 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Detainee Policies, files covering the rules and procedures for detainees in US military custody.[169] In April 2013 WikiLeaks published more than 1.7 million US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s, including the Kissinger cables.[170]

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 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.”[171]

In September 2013, WikiLeaks published “Spy Files 3“, 250 documents from more than 90 surveillance companies.[172] On 13 November 2013, a draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership‘s Intellectual Property Rights chapter was published by WikiLeaks.[173][174] 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.[175] 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.[176]

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.[177] On 29 June 2015, WikiLeaks published more NSA top secrets intercepts regarding France, detailing an economic espionage against French companies and associations.[178] In July 2015, WikiLeaks published 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.[179] 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 government.[180]

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).[181] 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 revealed that 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.[182] On 21 October 2015 WikiLeaks published some of John O. Brennan‘s emails, including a draft security clearance application which contained personal information.[183]

2016

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.[184] 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.[185]

On 19 July 2016, in response to the Turkish government’s purges that followed the coup attempt,[186] WikiLeaks released 294,548 emails from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP).[187] 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”.[188] After WikiLeaks announced that they would release the emails, the organisation stayed for over 24 hours under a “sustained attack”.[citation needed] Following the leak, the Turkish government ordered the site to be blocked nationwide.[189][190][191][192] 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.[193] This information first appeared online in April of the same year and was not in the files uploaded by WikiLeaks,[194] but in files archived by Michael Best, who then removed it when the personal data was discovered.[195][196][197]

On 22 July 2016, WikiLeaks released approximately 20,000 emails and 8,000 files sent from or received by Democratic National Committee (DNC) personnel.[198] Some of the emails contained personal information of donors, including home addresses and Social Security numbers.[199] Other emails appeared to criticise Bernie Sanders and showed apparent favouritism towards Clinton.[200][201]

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.[202][203][204][205] 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 Trump.”[206] 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.”[207][208]

On 17 October 2016 WikiLeaks announced that a “state party” had severed the Internet connection of Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy. WikiLeaks blamed 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.[209] 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.[210]

2017

On 16 February 2017, WikiLeaks released a purported report on CIA espionage orders (marked as NOFORN) for the 2012 French presidential election.[211][212][213] The order called for details of party funding, internal rivalries and future attitudes toward the United States. The Associated Press noted that “the orders seemed to represent standard intelligence-gathering.”[214]

On 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks started publishing content code-named “Vault 7“. In a series of tweets and a Facebook Live + Periscope press conference, 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.[215][216][217] 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,[217] web browsers (including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera Software ASA),[218][219][220] 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 Linux.[221]

On 5 May 2017, WikiLeaks posted links to e-mails purported to be from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in the French 2017 presidential election.[222] The documents were first relayed on the 4chan forum and by pro-Trump Twitter accounts, and then by WikiLeaks, who indicated they did not author the leaks.[222][223] Experts have asserted that the WikiLeaks Twitter 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.[224][225] 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”.[222][226] France’s Electoral Commission described the action as a “massive and coordinated piracy action”.[226][222] 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”.[226] Cybersecurity experts initially believed that groups linked to Russia were involved in this attack. The Kremlin denied any involvement.[227][228][229] 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.”[230]

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).”[231]

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.[232] 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.[233][234] In an interview with Chris Anderson on 19 July 2010, Assange showed a document WikiLeaks had on an Albanian oil-well blowout, and said they also had material from inside British Petroleum,[235] 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.[236] In December 2010, Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC Television that WikiLeaks had information it considered to be a “thermo-nuclear device” which it would release if the organisation needs to defend itself against the authorities.[237]

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.[238][239] Assange commented on the possible effect of the release that “it could take down a bank or two”.[240][241] In August 2011, Reuters announced that Daniel Domscheit-Berg had destroyed approximately 5GB of data cache from Bank of America, that Assange had under his control.[242]

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”.[243][244] 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 Russia”.[245]