July 25th, 2010
07:01 PM ET

What is WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks website, speaks to reporters.

WikiLeaks publishes and comments on leaked documents that allege government and corporate misconduct.

The nonprofit site is run by a loose band of tech-savvy volunteers and has quickly become one of the Web's go-to locations.

One of its greatest controversies involves the publication in April of a secret video taken in 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a dozen civilians, including two unarmed Reuters journalists.

Thousands of alleged Afghan war documents go online

At the time, Maj. Shawn Turner, a U.S. military spokesman, said that "all evidence available supported the conclusion by those forces that they were engaging armed insurgents and not civilians."

Pfc. Bradley Manning, 22, has been charged by the U.S. military with eight violations of the U.S. Criminal Code for transferring classified data, according to a charge sheet released by the military this week.

This month, site founder Julian Assange, who is rarely seen in public, told a TED conference that Wikileaks thoroughly vets materials on the site. Watch his TED talk

Those who defend WikiLeaks say it protects whistle-blowers, journalists and activists who want to communicate sensitive information. Critics have charged it recklessly endangers national security and the livelihoods of people whose identities must be kept secret.

A 2008, a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center report, which was classified until it was uploaded to WikiLeaks in March, said that information posted to WikiLeaks.org could "aid enemy forces in planning terrorist attacks."

There are "legitimate secrets," Assange, 39, said at TED, including health records. But WikiLeaks deals, "with whistle-blowers that are well motivated," Assange said.

Assange has said that the organization gets material from whistle-blowers in a variety of ways - including postal mail. WikiLeaks rarely knows the identity of the source of the leak. "If we find out at some stage, we destroy that information as soon as possible," he said.

WikiLeaks operates in several countries, including Sweden and Iceland, Assange said, specifically because those nations offer legal protection to the disclosures made on the site.

Assange is considered a mystery and maintains a low profile. He said at TED that he has canceled at least three appearances in the United States, including a June talk at a national investigative journalism conference, because of what he called "unreasonable" statements that were made by U.S. officials. These statements were made in private, he said, and suggested that officials "may not follow the rule of law" in dealing with him.


Filed under: Afghanistan • National security • Technology • WikiLeaks
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. BreakingNewsBlog.us

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    The Economic Times: "BP accused of trying to silence scientists on spill: Report"
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    bit.ly/a75RKT
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    has BP "supported" also the Press???????
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    WHY all the Press STILL don't talk about the BP tool able to stop the oil spill in the early days of May????????
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    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-472981
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    July 25, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • guy

      Where is goldstone REPORT ?

      July 26, 2010 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. mot

    war is hell

    July 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      Wikileaks has killed alot of our soldiers because of your publications.

      July 26, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. DSK

    Only a matter of time, if it hasn't already happened, until the content on Wikileaks is responsible for getting someone killed. Of course, they (he, Julian) will not accept responsibility. His claims of doing good is just plain silly; his claims that he is afraid the US will not follow the law when dealing with him is also silly. The bottom line is that he and his organization are facilitating, promoting, and enabling extremist organizations, like the Taliban, to be able to operate more effectively.

    After watching the TED talk I came away with the feeling that Julian was a self-important paranoid egomaniac.

    July 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Informed

      what about the thousands that have ACTUALLY been killed? They are not some theoretical possibility. Sounds more like you're parroting the US Government statement on this issue. These reports contain NOTHING that the terrorists don't already know, besides they have informants in all of the forces providing far more information. Don't be so naive.

      July 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yangky1

      I hope this guy has great bodyguards as countless "family of war casualties" that WILL be caused by this Very Valuable information For OUR ENEMIES will now target this man for REVENGE!! I personally pray that he is not so STUPID as to think he can endanger lives with impunity just to MAKE A NAME FOR HIMSELF!!!! He is just another BENADICT ARNOULD and I hope he is happy living in a hole the rest of his days as every comrade who has a buddy who gets killed by this info will be out to get this guy. serves him right for being such a bloody IDIOT!!!!!

      July 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cal wc

    Whistle Blower....yeah right?...So where is the WikiLeak info that might help keep the US more safe?

    July 25, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • nolajoe

      why are unicorns hollow?

      Exactly, sometimes just because you can form a question and ask it, doesn't mean it should have an answer.

      Wikileaks is a site dedicated to doing what mainstream media – Worldwide - cannot do, report the truly dirty deeds of the world's power brokers. Why can't mainstream media report such info. you might ask? Because, the same power brokers OWN the media outlets. Wikileaks isn't about being for or against America or any other particular world power.

      Get it?

      July 25, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      nolajoe...Its a legit question...how is this helping anyone? What is america going to do with this? Andy why are they not spilling secrets on the OTHER guys? Seems like another fanatic group set to make themselves feel special by endagering lives. How is this helping the american people, really?

      He should be afraid.

      Someone needs to whistle blow on WIKILEAKS.
      Hollow unicorns? Seriously?

      July 26, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Rex

      Shut Wikileaks down by uploading terabytes of pointless videos of your grass growing to their site, and change the names of the videos to "American Marines Kill Little Girls."

      July 26, 2010 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sheldon

    Really DSK, what concern troll you are.
    The U.S. government is getting people killed all the time, and our ignorance of what our government does aids and abetts this killing. Wikileaks is necessary so that the people can know, and hopefully self correct this government.

    July 25, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sarah

    So the people can know and do....what, exactly? Come on, this nation did NOTHING when telecom companies were given our private information to spy on our email and phone conversations. This nation did NOTHING when it was found that there were in fact, no WMD's in Iraq. This nation did NOTHING when we began to hear of the civilian killings in Iraq and Afganistant. And do you know why we did nothing? Because we have become so complacent as a society that we don't care. But none of that is the point. Has the military made mistakes, you betchya! Does the citizenry have the right to leaked reports that detail those atrocities, that mar the memories of those that were killed, and that, yes, give intelligence information to people that want to kill us and do us harm, whether we invited it or not? NO. It doesn't! This is a national security issue. Pull the blug on Wikileaks, and do it now.

    July 25, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • nolajoe

      "that mar the memories of those that were killed" that makes no sense, Sarah.

      Also, nobody or country has the right to "pull the plug" on Wikileaks. Ironically, you are advocating that Wikileaks have taken away from it what, as an American, you have a right - freedom of speech. Are you sure you want to do this?

      To this day, I still don't know why the US army is in Iraq or Afghanistan. I have my hunches, but these hunches are not what has ever been reported as the reason.

      I used to believe our govt. did things in the best interest of its citizens, but as I get older, I realize more and more, that just the opposite is true.

      July 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • nolajoe

      "that mar the memories of those that were killed" I think they'd prefer marred memories over being dead, but that's just me.

      Also, nobody or country has the right to "pull the plug" on Wikileaks. Ironically, you are advocating that Wikileaks have taken away from it what, as an American, you have a right - freedom of speech. Are you sure you want to do this?

      To this day, I still don't know why the US army is in Iraq or Afghanistan. I have my hunches, but these hunches are not what has ever been reported as the reason.

      I used to believe our govt. did things in the best interest of its citizens, but as I get older, I realize more and more, that just the opposite is true.

      July 25, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      nolajoe

      When it endangers national security? When it publishes secret data? Seriously? This should not be stopped?

      Idiots like you should have the plug pulled. Stop talking like this country owes you anything. What have you personally done to fix things? Complain on a message board? haha

      Also, you really do not understand what we are doing in the middle east? Have you ever been there? Read on it? Researched? Fought over there? Or do you get your information from FOXNEWS?

      July 26, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • chris1365

      Sarah, you have brought to light that the American people did "nothing" in the past. Maybe because we didn't know about the issues until "after the fact". Its hard to do "something" when our own government makes sure that we know "nothing". If it takes an outfit like Wikileaks to let Americans know what thier government is really doing, then more power to them.

      July 26, 2010 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brian

    Wikileaks= Traitors.

    July 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Point!

      Julian Assange the owner of Wikileaks is not a US citizen - so he is not by definition a traitor, an enemy of the state maybe, but a traitor he is not.

      July 25, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rex

      Many of the people who support Wikileaks are traitors. The owners of Wikileaks is some loser who is too frighten to fight a kitten.

      Shut Wikileaks down by uploading terabytes of pointless videos of your cats playing to their site, and change the names of the videos to "American Soldiers Kill Little Boys."

      July 26, 2010 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. nevadaRebel

    where is my post

    July 25, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dwight huth

    The reason why there are so many leaks andwebsites about what is happening in the war is two fold. There was an article in Maxum magazine about veterans returning from the war. One veteran made the comment that being in the military doesn't amount ot anything in the real world. The real world? I am quite certain that alot of single military men have read the issue and have allowed the article to cloud their mind into thinking that they are nothing or nobodies in civilian lifeso they turn to dissimenating information about the war to news agencies in order to try and make their way back into civilized life hoping that they will become a star like those they grew up with watching American Idol. The site should be shut down and any member of the military so engaging in any action of disseminating information for profit to a news agency should be brought up on charges that could lead to a death sentence.

    July 25, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Topaz5465

      So...we should treat US citizens (not to mention soldiers) as criminals for using their right to freedom of speech? then kill them? You sound like a perfect candidate for terrorism.

      July 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Charles

    Whistleblowing in the case of war is always going to be on the borderline between having a net positive or net negative for our country – similar in that respect to the torture of prisoners. And like torture, there will never be a definitive way to say whether posting whistleblowing on the web is for the better or worse. In cases like this, we as a country have to resort to our fundamental principles. In this case, freedom of speech is the governing fundamental principle. Such whistleblowing only informs about the past, it does not tell our enemies what we will do. As an open society, we have to accept this as a tradeoff of openess. We know our government is capable of doing things that our morally reprehensive – the tuskegee syphilis experiments that ended as recently as 1972 are proof. We know whistleblowing is a defense against such acts. We know such openness hampers our military and security efforts. We accepted this tradeoff over 200 years ago.

    All that said, I think there's a moral imperative on the owners of wikileaks to appeal to the country as a whole for best suggestions on how to walk this tightrope. I personally would had suggested that wikileaks made this data available in rare format only after reviewing who is requesting the data (much like the freedom of information act) and that wikileaks makes their best effort to put on the web only summarized views of the data.

    July 25, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cal wc

    This is plain nonsense, selfish, and irresponsible.

    July 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NWLAPATRIOT

    1) British Petroleum donates millions to Democrats and Barack Hussein Obama.2) Barack Hussein Obama supports the outright release of the American murdering terrorist. In a letter written by Richard LeBaron, deputy head of the US embassy in London, LeBaron writes that "... if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose." In fact, the Obama administration opposed him staying in prison in Libya.3) Barack Hussein Obama in effect assists British Petroleum in cutting a deal where BP gets a Libyan oil contract in exchange for the release of the murderer.4) BP causes the greatest environmental disaster to the United States in history.5) Barack Hussein Obama reacts slowly trying to protect his financial relationship to BP and the Gulf of Mexico states are greatly damaged.6) Barack Hussein Obama publicly states how he is "surprised, disappointed and angry" about Megrahi being released. Just days later the truth comes out about Obama's support for the murderer’s release.7) Democrat Senators Schumer, Menendez, Gillibrand and Lautenberg initial outrage over the murderers release will probably turn to complete support for Hussein Obama’s actions to release the murderer.8) We can only guess what's next. a) Barack Hussein fires LeBaron, the American embassy employee who wrote the letter, and claims that this was not the Obama administration’s position. b) Proof comes out that Obama actually directed the embassy employee to write the letter. c) The employee is rehired and Obama apologizes to the employee and tells the American public that this is all a misunderstanding.

    IMPEACH THIS IDIOT TRAITOR BEFORE HE DESTROYS OUR GREAT COUNTRY.

    July 25, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Behold, the rantings and ravings of a crazy man.

      July 26, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Kurt

      Where was your call to impeach W. Bush when he got us in this war to begin with?!

      July 26, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. Allen

    nolajoe...Its a legit question...how is this helping anyone? What is america going to do with this? Andy why are they not spilling secrets on the OTHER guys? Seems like another fanatic group set to make themselves feel special by endagering lives. How is this helping the american people, really?

    He should be afraid.

    Someone needs to whistle blow on WIKILEAKS.
    Hollow unicorns? Seriously?

    July 26, 2010 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Allen

    nolajoe

    When it endangers national security? When it publishes secret data? Seriously? This should not be stopped?

    Idiots like you should have the plug pulled. Stop talking like this country owes you anything. What have you personally done to fix things? Complain on a message board? haha

    Also, you really do not understand what we are doing in the middle east? Have you ever been there? Read on it? Researched? Fought over there? Or do you get your information from FOXNEWS?

    July 26, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rex

    A new FaceBook page called Trash Wikileaks is born. It encourages people to upload really large pointless files to Wikileaks. Change the names of the files to something nefarious like American Soldiers Eating Babies. Just consume their bandwidth and time so traitors cannot disseminate classified information.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
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