WIKILEAKS _ New Scientist article
Launched online in early 2007, Wikileaks is run by an informal group of open government and anti-secrecy advocates who want to allow people living under oppressive regimes, or with something to say in the public interest, to anonymously leak documents that have been censored or are of ethical, political or diplomatic significance.
Wikileaks. fame has spread rapidly in recent weeks, thanks to the release of some headline-grabbing documents. These include the design for the Hiroshima atomic bomb, a report on how the UK acquired its nuclear weapons capability, and hundreds of camera phone pictures of the Tibetan riots.
In the last fortnight alone it has released 50 documents and it is now hosting more leaks than its global network of volunteer editors appear able to check.
Thanks to Wikileaks, potential whistle-blowers are now far more willing to come forward, says John Young, who runs the long-standing site Cryptome.org, which specialises in posting documents on espionage, intelligence and cryptography issues. .We started getting a lot less information after 9/11 as people became more cautious when law enforcement agencies got more draconian powers. So we are very happy to see Wikileaks doing what they are doing so aggressively..
This flood of leaked documents has been made possible by internet technology that allows whistle-blowers to post documents online without revealing their identity or IP address. The website uses a network called The Onion Router (Tor), to disguise the origin of documents. Tor routes documents sent to the Wikileaks website into a cloud of hundreds of servers, where they bounce randomly between a handful of them, before finally landing in one of Wikileaks. inboxes (see .The onion will cover your tracks.).
To track where a leaked document, picture or video came from would take the computing power of the US National Security Agency. And it would have to be trained on the right servers at the right time, making it virtually impossible to succeed.
.To trace a leak would take a vast amount of computing power trained on the right servers.
Ironically, given the number of military documents that are leaked to Wikileaks and other whistle-blowing websites, the Tor network was originally developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory, based in Washington DC, before becoming an open source project anybody can use. But this does not mean the military has a back door into the system, says Wikileaks spokesman Julian Assange. .Like the internet, Tor is out of the hands of those that were once involved in crafting it,. he says.
Wikileaks itself is actually much more than a single website. Wikileaks.org has mirror sites hosted in a number of countries, including Belgium, Sweden, Australia, Christmas Island and California. This means that if someone tries to take legal action against Wikileaks in one country - by taking down the wikileaks.org website for example, as a Swiss bank tried and failed to do earlier this year - it cannot take down the entire service. Also, Sweden and Belgium in particular have very strong anti-censorship legislation, making Wikileaks a resilient beast.
Once a document has been submitted to the website, and before it can be published, editors check it for veracity and assure themselves that it is of compelling public interest. .Anonymous leaking is an ancient art and many websites publish documents from sources they cannot identify,. says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy. .What Wikileaks has done is to professionalise the operation. They have created a standard procedure for receiving, processing and publishing leaks..
In 2007, for example, Wikileaks revealed massive corruption in the Kenyan government and made the startling discovery that agents of the Stasi, the former East German secret police, had become members of the commission investigating Stasi crimes. It also leaked a Pentagon handbook revealing that psychological torture was used against prisoners at the US.s Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay.
So how do Wikileaks. editors decide which leaks to post? Unlike print editors, Wikileaks. editors do not reject leaked documents just because they are unlikely to have widespread appeal. The only rule is that leaks must be in the public interest, says Assange. And there are few frivolous leaks, he says. .Our sources, perhaps inspired by examples already set, nearly always send in genuine public interest material. Wikileaks pushes submissions through a number of questions and only the well-motivated leaks get through..
One example is the manual for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), or smart bomb, available on the Wikileaks site. The leaked document from 2002 reveals that while the bomb, which has since been upgraded, had an accuracy of 2.8 metres in flight tests, this dropped to 7.8 metres in actual combat, thanks to guidance errors, failure to specify target coordinates accurately, and inaccuracies in the GPS systems.
.JDAM is the most strategically significant US military development in the past twenty years,. says Assange. It costs from $20,000 to $40,000 and bolts onto existing 500 to 2000-pound bombs, turning them into individually targeted gliders that are accurate to within 3 metres. Eighty JDAMs can level all the critical infrastructure of a medium-sized city in one B2 bomber flight, says Assange. .This means that posting the manual clearly fits our editorial policy that the material be of political, diplomatic or ethical significance..
Despite the success of Wikileaks in bringing such documents out into the open, potential whistle-blowers should remain on their guard when posting documents to any leak site, says Young. Some are in fact run by intelligence agencies hoping to catch whistle-blowers in the act, he says.
.There are lots of dirty tricks out there. We always caution against trusting our site or anybody else.s because there are so many .sting. sites out there,. he adds.
Meanwhile, some anti-secrecy advocates in the US criticise Wikileaks. editorial policy for being too open, as the website does not censor sensitive military documents, including potentially dangerous details on bombs.
Assange says there are no documents Wikileaks would not post on the grounds of military sensitivity. .It would be quite incorrect for us to express any national favouritism,. he says.
That greatly troubles Aftergood, who also leaks documents through his FAS newsletter Secrecy News and the FAS website. .They are essentially an outlaw operation - operating literally outside the framework of the law - and they have shown no willingness to refrain from publication of sensitive military technology..
This could make the website a threat to security, Aftergood says. .It.s troubling that Wikileaks is beyond accountability to anyone. The better they are at what they do the more pressing it becomes that there is some kind of accountability. Otherwise Wikileaks itself could become a threat..
First things first, says Assange. .When governments stop torturing and killing people, and when corporations stop abusing the legal system, then perhaps it will be time to ask if free speech activists are accountable..
.Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.. - H.L. Mencken
Wikileaks is a website that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive corporate and government documents, while taking measures to preserve the anonymity and traceability of its contributors. Within one year of its December 2006 launch, its database had grown to more than 1.2 million documents. Running on modified MediaWiki software, Wikileaks is hosted by PRQ, an internet service provider in Sweden.
The site and its project were secret until their existence was disclosed in a January 2007 article after Wikileaks invited the editor of Secrecy News to serve on their advisory board.
The site is being developed in part by Chinese government dissidents, and its primary target is the former Soviet bloc, sub-Saharan Africa, and Middle Eastern nations, but its developers expect it to be used for leaks of information about Western governments and corporations. All current staff, developers, or employees of Wikileaks are unidentified as of January 2007.
Wikileaks advisory board member Julian Assange stated the site was to go live in March 2007 but was unprepared for the media attention that its ahead-of-schedule disclosure generated. Their advisory board includes members of the expatriate Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former U.S. intelligence analyst, and cryptographers. There are no ties between Wikileaks and the Wikimedia Foundation. The website has stated that they already have over 1,200,000 leaked documents that they are preparing to publish. They also posted a 19 page analysis. The group has subsequently released a number of other significant documents which have become front-page news items, ranging from documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war to corruption in Kenya.
Wikileaks aims to be "an uncensorable version of Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis." Wikileaks developers have stated that there will be checks in place to keep the "completely anonymous" system from being flooded with false documents, pornography, and spam. All users will be able to comment on all documents, analyze them, and identify false material. Their stated goal is to ensure that whistle-blowers and journalists are not thrown into jail for emailing sensitive or classified documents, such as what happened to Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Traffic following its disclosure increased from eight Google searches to over 1,000,000 in the first two weeks.
The project has drawn comparisons to Daniel Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. In the United States, the leaking of some documents may be legally protected. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution guarantees anonymity, at least in the area of political discourse. Author and journalist Whitley Strieber has spoken about the benefits of the Wikileaks project, noting that "Leaking a government document can mean jail, but jail sentences for this can be fairly short. However, there are many places where it means long incarceration or even death, such as China and parts of Africa and the Middle East."
On 31 August 2007, The Guardian featured on its front page a story about corruption by the family of the former Kenyan leader Daniel Arap Moi. They claim their source of the information was Wikileaks.
The Chinese government currently attempts to censor every web site with "wikileaks" in the URL, including the primary .org site and the regional variations .cn and .uk. However, the site is still accessible from behind the Chinese firewall through one of the many alternative names used by the project, such as "secure.ljsf.org" and "secure.sunshinepress.org". The alternate sites change frequently, and Wikileaks encourages users to search "wikileaks cover names" outside mainland China for the latest alternative names. Mainland search engines, including Baidu and Yahoo, also censor references to "wikileaks".
According to the FAQ, "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 analyze 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 is based on several software packages, including MediaWiki, Freenet, Tor, and PGP
In response to concerns about the possibility of misleading or fraudulent leaks, Wikileaks said 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 scrutinize and discuss leaked documents"
A copy of Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta (the protocol of the U.S. Army at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp) dated March 2003 was released on the Wikileaks website on 7 November 2007. The document, named "gitmo-sop.pdf", is also mirrored at The Guardian. Its release revealed some of the restrictions placed over detainees at the camp, including the designation of some prisoners as off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross, something the U.S. military had in the past repeatedly denied.
On 3 December 2007, Wikileaks released a copy of the 2004 edition of the manual, together with a detailed analysis of the changes.
In February 2008, the Wikileaks.org domain name was taken offline after the Swiss Bank Julius Baer sued Wikileaks and the wikileaks.org domain registrar Dynadot in a California court and obtained a permanent injunction ordering the shutdown. Wikileaks had hosted allegations of illegal activities at the bank's Cayman Island branch.
The same judge who issued the injunction vacated it on February 29, 2008, citing First Amendment concerns and questions about legal jurisdiction. Wikileaks was thus able to bring its site online again. The bank dropped the case on March 5, 2008
On April 7, 2008, Wikileaks reported receiving a letter (dated March 27) from the Religious Technology Centre claiming ownership of several recently leaked documents pertaining to OT Levels within the Church of Scientology. These same documents were at the centre of a 1994 scandal documented here.
The email stated
"The Advanced Technology materials are unpublished, copyrighted works. Please be advised that your customer's action in this regard violates United States copyright law. Accordingly, we ask for your help in removing these works immediately from your service."
-- Moxon and Kobrin
The letter continued on to request the release of the logs of the uploader, which would remove their anonymity.
Wikileaks responded with a statement released on Wikinews stating
"in response to the attempted suppression, Wikileaks will release several thousand additional pages of Scientology material next week."
"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" . Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898)