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. Anastasia

    The last thing we need is another Vietnam. The people in Washington are playing politics with the lives of soldiers. I don't care what party you are or who you voted for in the last election. Can you honestly tell me what the military strategy and policy is for the men still fighting in the middle east?

    Are their deaths really going to help achieve this goal? Finally, do you trust those in charge to do the right thing? If you can answer these questions honestly as to why you support this mess good luck. The people in Washington can't solve the budget deficit how can we trust them with a war at this point.

    Whoever blew this whistle, God bless. It may slow down the death rate for the new- Vietnam. I think more people would be interested if we still had the draft. Don't forget boys you still have to sign up at 18.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Rex

      What are you talking about? The person who released the information was endangering American military service members. Not helping them. Wikileaks does nothing that supports America, is run by a coward anti-American in Europe, and only endangers American military service members.

      Shut Wikileaks down by uploading terabytes of pointless videos of your plants growing to their site, and change the names of the videos to "American Military Target Innocent Babies." Just consume their bandwidth and time.

      July 26, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. chris1365

    All of the arguments and dissagreements would be moot if we started to watch our own back yard instead of every where else. Wikileaks couldn't survive if it weren't for people crying out for the truth. The truth in and of itself isn't the enemy, it merely points the way. It's who that truth points to that is the enemy, and that enemy must be made to answer for thier actions. And if it is our government (notice I said "our" government) then so be it! Its time for some answers, the public is tired of being kept in the dark. Wikileaks is a step in the right direction.

    July 26, 2010 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    nader paul kucinich gravel mckinney
    much more to come very soon
    a steady stream
    midnight oil

    July 26, 2010 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. truthywood

    Thanks Wikileak for keeping truth alive.

    July 26, 2010 at 4:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mitch

    Why is much of what wikileaks publishes not considered "treason"?

    July 26, 2010 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Lamont Cranston

      He is not a traitor, since he is not an American citizen. "Enemy of (our) state" maybe, but not a traitor.

      The folks yelling, "shut down Wiki leaks" are ignorant as to what they are asking for. Do they really want to have foreign governments shutting down websites they disagree with? What if the hosting country in question declines to comply?

      July 27, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. jackson

    It's a shame that the members of the wikileaks organization were not aboard the 9/11 jets that crashed into the world trade towers.

    July 26, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • iceandsnow3

      To jackson: Amen to that!!! Creator of Wikileaks needs to be taken out with EXTREME PREJUDICE.

      July 26, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. Keldorama

    Question for CNN:

    If this type of information had been garnered as a result of an investigation done by one of your journalists, would you publish it?

    July 26, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rex

    Trash Wikileaks !!! Upload really large pointless files, like 30 minutes of your grass growing to them, and name it something like "American Soliders Kill Little Babies." Consume their bandwidth and time–help prevent traitors from accessing their website. Join FaceBook "Trash WikiLeaks" page and participate in uploading pointless trash.

    July 26, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sandy

    Anyone posting such information to threaten national security or lives of Americans should be arrested and put on trial for treason.

    July 26, 2010 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jon

    Why are you not reporting that WikiLeaks edits its videos before posting? For some stories on CNN, that seems to be emphasized, but not others. Why is that?

    July 26, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kurt

    Would someone please explain to me how this is an act of treason or the founder of WikiLeaks is a criminal of the state? The site is only posting the attocities of the war. It is telling the truth (with facts) of what is happening. War is hell so either accept it or fight it. You need to know what the US is doing... and not all of it is pretty folks.

    July 26, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • iceandsnow3

      To Kurt..........You're dumber than a sack of hair. Take off the rose colored glasses.

      July 26, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Kurt

      TO ice and snow...wow, your lack of intellict scares me.

      July 26, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. TXMike

    National security? That is the term the government hides behind to do the "questionable" things. We all complain that the media in general will not publish the real news, so I dont see a problem with Wikileaks revealing some truths that the past 6 administrations hid. So long as the site does not give away operational information, whats the problem? You dont think the bad guys dont see what happening right in front of them, do you? Sarah Palin running her mouth for some absorbant amount of money at some benefit I'd never be able to attend is not news.... Being a hot PTA mom does not qualify her to be president of the US.

    Rex – Causing "Denial of service attacks" on anyone's website is cyber-terrorism. Can it!

    July 26, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. Military Guy

    I'm starting to believe that China may have the right idea about many things. Our military, in its entirety, is exposed to a degree never achieved before with the internet. I am a pretty liberal guy, but I promise you this phenomenon is not good, and not one that many other countries tolerate. God help us.

    July 26, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nubian

    why would this site leak confidential information to the press? how stupid

    July 26, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. dont ya know?

    freedom of speech is offered in this country, but the reports are coming from sweden. if wikileaks is doing nothing wrong then they can come to this country and do the reports and such here, and if they are breaking the law they should be brought to justice. I support freedom of speech, but i think people should "have some self control and decency" when it comes to the people that protect those rights, and to the person that said "marines kill little girl" for 1 i am going to be a marine. that's not appreciated, 2 how do you know Taliban doesn't have child suicide bombers ? wait you don't know that because your here putting the blame on people that are currently protecting you. god bless our troops,and Semper Fi

    July 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
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