WikiLeaks is a global non-profit organization that releases confidential information and publishes news leaks to the Internet. One has to wonder, “Should we expect to be informed of classified information or is WikiLeaks detrimental to government security?”
Their current motto, “We open governments,” is true to the organization’s goal. The site, which can be found at https://wikileaks.org, publishes secret documents from anonymous sources in order to inform the general public and to maintain “evidence of the truth.” The categories of the information WikiLeaks provides are intelligence, global economy, international politics, corporations, government and war and military.
The site was launched in 2006 in Iceland by Julian Assange, an Australian Internet journalist and activist. Today, Assange remains the WikiLeak’s editor-in-chief and director. The site is owned by the Sunshine Press, which is another name for WikiLeaks. Essentially, the site owns itself and self-publishes.
An image of the WikiLeaks homepage is featured below:
According to the site’s website, “WikiLeaks is entirely funded by its publisher, its publication sales and the general public.” In addition, “WikiLeaks has more than one hundred other staff accross the Americas, Africa, Eurasia and the Asia Pacific.” WikiLeaks also has a legal team to combat the myriad of legal charged being pressed against the site. The legal team is lead by Baltasar Garzón in Europe and Michael Rather in the United States.
To date, the website has claimed responsibility for releasing more than 10 million documents throughout the 10 years since its start-up. A number of these documents have made news headliners. In fact, WikiLeaks maintains that it has yet to publish a false document. As a response to the unease over the possibility that WikiLeaks has published erroneous information, the site has stated that misleading leaks “are already well-placed in the mainstream media. WikiLeaks is of no additional assistance.”
To ensure accuracy in publicized documents, submissions to WikiLeaks are reviewed by a group of five reviewers with expertise in various fields. This review team looks into the background of the individual who submits the document as well. At the end of this verification process, Assange makes the final call on whether or not the document is legitimate.
Der SPIEGEL, a weekly German news magazine, held an interview with Assange in July of 2015 about the comeback of WikiLeaks after much conflict with the United States government. In this interview, Assange discussed a variety of topics regarding WikiLeaks including the legal persecution threatening Assange and WikiLeaks, the purpose of WikiLeaks, difficulties for the WikiLeaks team, WikiLeaks’ relationships with the media and journalists, politicians’ reaction to WikiLeaks and the effect of WikiLeaks on academia among others.
A photo of the Der SPIEGEL interview with Assange, taken from The SPIEGEL Online, can be seen below:
One subject in particular, the relationship between WikiLeaks and the media, takes a unique form as addressed by Assange in the 2015 Der SPIEGEL interview. While responding to questions regarding this association, Assange revealed that WikiLeaks has contracts with over 100 media organizations around the world. He continues by expressing WikiLeaks’ desire to “maximize the impact of [its] sources” through assembling coalitions of media groups and journalists. Assange says, “We now have six years of experience with Western European media, American media, Indian media, Arab media and seeing what they do with the same material. Their results are unbelievably different.”
Later in the interview, Assange expands on WikiLeaks’ motivation for leaking information. In emphasizing the context behind releasing documents, Assange explains the leaked information on the site as promoting “systematic understanding” for the general public. According to Assange, academia in its current state is failing the people as a lack of information and connection between information is plaguing the world’s population. Assange states, “Generally there is not enough systematic understanding. This has to do with media economics, the short-term news cycles, but actually I don’t blame the media for that failure. There is a terrible failing in academia in understanding current geopolitical and technical developments and the intersection between these two areas.”
In a second interview with John Pilger, an Australian journalist, Assange discusses the hidden happenings going on behind the scenes during the 2016 U.S. election. The full interview, published by Russia Today, an international Russian television network that is funded by the Russian government, can be found below:
In this interview, Assange essentially says that political and financial elites will not permit Dondald Trump to win this election. Furthermore, Assange discusses Hillary Clinton and WikiLeaks’ publication of her emails among other topics. Here again, in another interview, Assange is elaborating on information exposed by WikiLeaks in order to promote the “systematic understanding” of the general public.
The WikiLeaks “About” section lists the multitude of awards the site has won including “The Amnesty New Media Award” in 2009, TIME Magazine Person of the Year, People’s Choice (highest global vote)” in 2010, the Voltaire Aware for Free Speech in 2011 and the Brazilian Press Association Human Rights Award in 2013 among many others. In addition to winning an abundance of awards, WikiLeaks has received nominations for the UN Mandela Prize in 2015 and nominations for six consecutive years, 2010-2015, for the Nobel Peace Prize.
While WikiLeaks has received droves of praise, the site has also received its fair-share of criticism. An article by Media Matters for America, a politically progressive media watchdog based in the United States and founded by David Brock in 2004, criticizes WikiLeaks and essentially calls it a site of misconduct. The article, titled “After Fox Spent 2016 Campaign Promoting Wikileaks, Trumps’s CIA Director Now Calls It ‘A Hostile Intelligence Service,'” is written by Nick Fernandez and discusses the indecency of the site as elaborated on by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Fernandez writes, “In an April 13 speech, CIA Director Mike Pompeo denounced Wikileaks, saying, ‘It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.’ Pompeo went on to call founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, a ‘narcissist’ and ‘a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.'”
Be it praise or criticism, WikiLeaks has captured the world’s attention with its free distribution of confidential information. As with most controversies, the answer to whether WikiLeaks is a media hero or a fiend is up to the individual. One can argue that WikiLeaks does the job of informing the people of the truth where the mainstream media fails to. On the other hand, one can counter that WikiLeaks is detrimental to government security. Regardless of its virtue, one thing is certain: WikiLeaks exposes the public to various governments’ secretive acts happening around them, and possibly even to them.
Assange, Julian. “What is WikiLeaks.” WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, 3 November 2015. Web. 12 April 2017. Retrieved from https://wikileaks.org/What-is-Wikileaks.html.
Assange, Julian. WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks. Web. 12 April 2017. Retrieved from https://wikileaks.org.
Chossudovsky, Michel. Who Is Behind WikiLeaks? Digital Image. GlobalResearch. GlobalResearch, 16 March 2017. Web. 12 April 2017. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/wikileaks-says-they-have-1700-emails-proving-hillary-clinton-knew-about-u-s-military-weapons-shipments-to-al-qaeda-and-isis/5541014.
Fernandez, Nick. “After Fox Spent 2016 Campaign Promoting Wikileaks, Trump’s CIA Director Now Calls It ‘A Hostile Intelligence Service.'” Media Matters for America. Media Matters for America, 17 April 2017. Web. 17 April 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2017/04/17/after-fox-spent-2016-campaign-promoting-wikileaks-trumps-cia-director-now-calls-it-hostile/216053.
Pilger, John and Julian Assange. “US Election Secrets: John Pilger Interviews Julian Assange.” Telesur. La nueva Televisión del Sur C.A., 5 November 2016. Web. 12 April 2017. Retrieved from http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/US-Election-Secrets-John-Pilger-Interviews-Julian-Assange-20161105-0008.html.
RT. “Secret World of US Election: Julian Assange talks to John Pilger (FULL INTERVIEW).” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 5 November 2016. Web. 12 April 2017. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sbT3_9dJY4.
Sontheimer, Michael. “We Are Drowning in Material.” SPIEGEL Online. SPIEGEL Online, 20 July 2015. Web. 12 April 2017. Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-interview-with-wikileaks-head-julian-assange-a-1044399.html.
Wikipedia contributors. “WikiLeaks.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Apr. 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks#Verification_of_submissions.