WikiLeaks' growing impact
November 29th, 2010
01:35 PM ET

WikiLeaks' growing impact

With its sparse design, WikiLeaks doesn't look like it would stir incredible worldwide controversy. But that's what the whistleblower website has done since this summer, and most recently over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On Sunday, WikiLeaks published part of what it says is a cache of more than a quarter-million U.S. diplomatic cables. The leak of this classified material could be embarrassing at best, some say. At worst, revelations in the cables "can damage national security" and "may put lives at risk."

The organization known as WikiLeaks has been defined many different ways. It has previously said it publishes and comments on leaked documents that allege government and corporate misconduct, and it is supported by private, confidential donors. The Wall Street Journal breaks down how the site keeps its funding secret.

Although WikiLeaks has been online since 2006, it attained megawatt international celebrity in July after what was then considered the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history - the release of 90,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan - appeared on the site.

The July leak was followed by other leaks. In October, WikiLeaks released classified documents related to the Iraq war.

The leaks have outraged top U.S. defense officials and spurred the Pentagon to work overtime reviewing the material.

WikiLeaks has said its sources are anonymous.

Some have praised the site as a beacon of free speech. Others have criticized it as a threat to U.S. national security and America's relationship with its allies. Those who have assailed WikiLeaks also say that because the site has either directly published names of informants or other identifying information, it has endangered the lives of people around the world who are fighting terrorism.

The nonprofit site's servers are spread around the globe, including in Sweden and Iceland, because those nations offer legal protection to the disclosures made on the site.

WikiLeaks' staff is a loose band of tech-savvy volunteers who are also scattered around the world, many who have day jobs, according to interviews with past and present WikiLeaks contributors.

Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks and is considered its public face. Time magazine nominated the slightly built 39-year-old Australian with instantly recognizable white hair as a candidate for Person of the Year. The  magazine called him a "new kind of whistleblower ... for the digital age."

Assange is constantly traveling, convinced that the work that WikiLeaks does puts him in jeopardy because various government officials would like to see the site shut down. An enigmatic figure, he rarely talks about his past except during this TED Talk earlier this year.

Shortly after the Afghanistan war log release in July, Assange became the subject of a sex crime case in Sweden, the details of which can be seen here.

It's unclear who is behind the latest batch of leaks from WikiLeaks.

It's unclear now what the fallout may be, but WikiLeaks is promising that it will release more cables in the coming weeks and months.

During all of WikiLeaks' history, there has been only one person charged in relation to a leak that appeared on the site.

In April of this year, a secret video taken in 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a dozen civilians, including two unarmed Reuters journalists, appeared on WikiLeaks' site. 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."

The U.S. military arrested Pfc. Bradley Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, in June. The then-22-year-old was charged with eight violations of the U.S. Criminal Code for transferring classified data. (Read more about Manning and details of his case.)

Manning allegedly confessed, in instant chats with an infamous California-based hacker, that he had downloaded classified information to his computer while pretending to listen to Lady Gaga.

The hacker, Adrian Lamo, turned Manning in to the FBI. Lamo says Manning had help leaking from other people, including students affiliated with MIT.

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Filed under: Julian Assange • WikiLeaks
soundoff (335 Responses)
  1. chrisfb1

    Let being true about the whole inccident. Wikileaks can be dead in the next hour, day or month, how do you know there wont be another site that will do the exact same thing? Wikileaks did not stole the information from the US government. the Government leak the information to the public. Wikileaks or not, it's not the issue here.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. publius enigma

    You cant stop the internet.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Yes they can. The Department of Homeland Security has been shutting down websites that transmit the wikileaks torrents. It's totally out of their jurisdiction but they can do it and get away with it because America is practically Nazi Germany these days.

      December 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. publius enigma

    "I don't think there is reason to suspect that he has committed r@pe (mispelt to fool the censorbot)."
    Chief prosecutor Eva Finné

    That does not mean she didnt have enough evidence to bring charges. It means it wasnt r@pe.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wakeup

    Wake up people! Having these secrets keeps us safe. What need or purpose does it serve any of us in our daily lives to know about foreign relations to the extent of what was leaked, especially in the wake of all the terrisom that surrounds us. To call this man a hero shows your lack of repect to this country.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pavol, PA

      If the government wanted you safe, they would not support regimes like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. In fact, the leaks show that they KNOW what these regimes are doing, yet the US government not only does nothing about it, but continues to support them and act as if everything is just peachy. And THAT'S what they try to keep secret. So wake up, it has nothing to do with your safety.

      The leaks simply expose (a portion of) what the government knows, and and it is up to you to compare it with the government actions.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • publius enigma

      Which secret specifically is it you think is keeping you safe? I dont think any one of them or all together could be said to be keeping anyone safe.

      December 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      lol @ the terrorism that surrounds us.

      You're right, what we should do is continue to do the bidding of the Saudis and bomb Iran so we can take the blame for it, rather than the people who are actually behind the decision. That certainly won't put our soldiers or common people at risk!

      December 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tcaros

    He's a hero to many.

    It's the criminals that want him captured for exposing their crimes.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tcaros

    I suppose when you expose criminals they fabricate a story that you're a rapist.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nk

    This should be treated as an attack on the United States.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Xylozex

      Wake up! First Assange is a rapist, now he's a terrorist. What will it be next? Is he planning to destroy the world with his nuclear missles? America is seeming more and more like an Orwell book every day.

      December 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Leo

    You CNN and the US press are colluded with the government BS and corruption to prevent the truth come out. I am sure all that accusation to Wikileaks are pure lies and conspiracy from the US government. The truth hurt and that is what going on now with all this corrupt people from the government, wall street and corporations. Always they want to cover the truth to come out for they own interest and we the tax payer and citizen we have the right to know the truth because we support this country and like always the government cover things to prevent we open the eyes.

    December 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. scott

    any information given to the US public will also be known to the bad guys....there goes our safrty and security.

    December 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pavol, PA

      Information like this can actually make you more safe, because it will be harder to trick you into supporting wars, you will be able to pick your officials better, you will see if the government truly has your interest in mind when doing shade backdoor deals etc.

      No doubt, secrets are necessary. But reading some of the cables, I wonder, if they tried to keep it secret from our enemies, or from us and our allies...

      December 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • sigthor jonsson

      If you stop being so narrow minded you might see the good side of the leak.

      1. N-Korea knows now that they have lost there biggest ally, so there position has been dwarfed. They cant nuclear any country as they would be eliminated within seconds.

      2. Neighbours of Pakistan now know about this potential threat of nuclear weapons going to terrorists so they will demand actions on the behalf of the Pakistani government, the Pakistani government cant afford to loose business relations to there neighbours.

      3. Hillary Clinton has broken international laws, so that women should be sentenced to jail, like any other criminal now governments internationally can not trust her, that is good for US because its unlikely they will try something like that in the future which will in the end make allies more supportive to US security.

      People need to think, yes this leak might be damaging to the US, but in whole it is good for the world.

      December 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    I'm an American with family in Afghanistan, and Manning and Assange are heros. I don't understand how Adrian Lamo could donate to WikiLeaks and then turn into a lying snitch. At least they're trying to do good in the world, unlike the whining coward nationalists in the US. A soldier must do what is morally right, even when it conflicts with orders.

    December 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dutchman

    @justin fontenot.

    You'd make a fine fascist and it is somewhat ironical that the very same people who once "rid us of fascism" and now the ones who seem to export it.

    He can't be a traitor btw as he is not American. Thank God I'd say. Personally my respect for America has gone downhill for some years now.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Danny

    Assange is doing what our mainstream media should be doing...keeping the powers that be in check with presenting knowledge to the masses. I hope he lives on and Wikileaks becomes more powerful than Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC combined. Maybe then we'll have honest politicians and honest governments rather than this backdoor dealings that put ordinary citizens at jeopardy.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. J

    "In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." – Orwell, 1984

    December 1, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    December 3, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Manuel Caetano

    I've started this action and hope you publish it.
    Copy and forward to all. We have activated this broadcast to our own mail lists with over 200 000 people in 157 countries. Now we asking you that you do the same to your contact list. (or change the letter to your liking)

    Beatrice Ask


    Minister for Justice, Ministry of Justice


    Via e-mail:

    Subject: Julian Assange

    Dear Ms. Ask

    Reading your profile, you stated that, and I quote verbatim:

    "Sweden must be a country where everyone is safe and secure, no matter who they are or where they live. The fight against crime must be conducted on a broad scale and with a citizen's perspective. Civil law must be simple, clear and predictable. I want people to feel that the judicial system is accessible to them and that it exists for their service and protection, that the laws and rules are reasonable and relevant and that the judicial system works in an effective and legally secure way."

    In light of the current actions by your department in the matter of allegations against Julian Assange it appears that the current position taken by your own department against him falls far short of your own ideals. And I for one am deeply desapointed as I always saw Sweeden as being a fair and transperent governed country.

    In view thereof, and because we all know what is really going on I want you to know that if Julian Assange is extradited to the USA from your country, I will never again in my life buy a product from any Swedish companies.

    In addition I will ask all of my friends, acquaintances as well as relatives to do the same.


    December 14, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Corey Cashion

    I am telling you all! This man, Assange, is not well. Wikileaks is bad for business... Eveyone's business, for he does not allow anyone to decide what is private business and what is public business. Humans have excersised the right to privacy for thousands of years, and this man wants to abolish privacy! The stubborness that lives and breathes within those who are claiming this, a beacon of free speech, may only understand the monster that truly is Wikileaks after a large amount of suffering has occured. I am concerned for those who may have to suffer for one mans greed and want for total control of certain information. Let us not forget where greed and a desire for total control can take a persons mind and soul, and the effects that greed can have on those that stand in its path.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corey Cashion

      I am open to criticism, constructively criticise, positive and forthright posts to learn from.


      December 17, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
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