Compiled by Kelsey Heckert
What exactly is Wikileaks? Well first off, contrary to my original assumptions, Wikileaks has absolutely no corporate ties withWikipedia; however, the two sites do share a common ideology—a network of public-generated/leaked information.
Wikileaks is an international non-profit media organization that publishes, or “leaks,” submitted documents from anonymous sources. Consequently, Wikileaks has been a major focus in the news for the past year due to content of some of these documents, primarily national security/defense operations records. The following is a condensed timeline of Wikileaks’ short yet controversial history including some of the biggest leaks.
(Side-note: I was tempted to go to the website to see directly how Wikileaks wants to describe itself before I summarize. Too bad the “website cannot be found.” On December 2, 2010, the U.S. domain-name provider EveryDNS had withdrawn service to the site, claiming that hacker attacks might destroy the other 500,000 websites on the network. Sounds to me like EveryDNS just wants to stay out of it, following the likes of Amazon and Paypal who also pulled services)
| 2006 |
December: The Wikileaks website first appeared on the Internet. Wikileaks was imagined from the likes of minds of Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and technologists from all around the world. Although the original creators (approximately half a dozen) were never formally named, Australian former hacker Julian Assange has acknowledged his prominence in the company as director.
| 2007 |
August: Wikileaks posts a 2004 report by an international security and investigations firm Kroll Associates. The report shows that the Kenyan government hired Kroll Associates to help find assets stolen or moved during the tenure of Kenya’s former president.
December: The Guantanamo Bay operating procedures is released, a US Army manual for soldiers at Camp Delta. (Background: Guantanamo Bay is a detainment facility of the United States situated in Cuba where they keep detainees from the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.) According to the manual:
– Prisoners could be denied access to the Red Cross for up to four weeks
– Inmates could earn “special rewards” for good behavior and cooperation—one of the rewards was a roll of toilet paper
| 2008 |
February: San Franciscan Judge Jeffrey S. White orders the shutdown of Wikileaks for posting documents accusing a Cayman Islands’ branch of Swiss Bank Julius Baer of money laundering and tax evasion schemes. The company responded that an executive fired for “misconduct” stole the document and illegally posted online.
The initial decision sparked protests by major U.S. news organizations and free- speech advocates. Therefore, Judge White reverses his decision in March and Wikileaks goes back online.
March: Documents from the Church of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs were leaked, including the official procedure of how to detect “thetans” in the religion’s adherents. (I tried to read what a thetan is but I was having a hard time understand: it’s like a soul or spirit in other religions, but not quite). The Church of Scientology demanded it to be taken down due to copyright infringement and because it is a church doctrine. Wikileaks responded by posting thousands of more memos concerning Scientology.
September: Two e-mails from Sarah Palin’s personal account were linked in the final months of the presidential campaign, including a contact list and various family photos. It was found that Palin had been using the account for official business, allegedly to avoid American public record laws.
November: A British National Party membership list was released with the names, addresses and occupations of 13,500. The list included the names of several police officers, senior members of the military, doctors and professors. (The BNP is a far-right political party that focuses on racial discrimination, calling themselves “indigenous Caucasians.”)
| 2009 |
January: A U.N. report alleging the abuse of girls and women by peacekeepers in eastern Congo that both the United Nations and human rights organizations have referred to, but it was never released until Wikileaks posted it publicly.
May: Wikileaks reports an alleged security breach of Virginia’s prescription drug database, which includes 8 million patients records and 35 million prescriptions. The state-run program allows medical professionals and pharmacies statewide to track powerful narcotics and painkillers to reduce abuse, theft and illegal sale. Virginia Governor says that the state won’t pay a $10 million ransom to the hacker or hackers.
October: An internal study called the Minton Report focused the health effects of waste dumping in Africa, particularly Trafigura. John Minton said that the chemical processes Trafigura used to clean dumped gasoline on the Ivory Coast was amateurish and would probably have left dangerous sulfur compounds untreated.
November: Wikileaks released more than 1,000 emails sent over 10 years by staff at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit where they appeared to show that scientists engaged in ways to help bolster arguments that global warming is both real and man-made. Skeptics said that the emails were proof that scientists had overblown the potential impact of global warming. Ultimately urged more transparency and public accountability among scientific communities.
About 573,000 pager messages sent in New York City on the day of the September 11 attacks—some were official messages, but most were from ordinary people. There was debate over whether the release was in the public interested because it released personal messages. A Wikileaks spokesperson said that it represented “one more building block to getting a full picture of what happened that day.”
December: The draft agreement from the Copenhagen Climate Conference that would abort the Kyoto accord and limit the UN’s role in future negotiations is posted to Wikileaks. Developing nations criticize the agreement as favoring wealthy countries. The summit plunges into disarray and a much-watered down accord is agreed to afterward.
| 2010 |
April: A video of a U.S. Apache helicopter killing Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists. While the U.S. had never denied that the civilians and journalists were killed, the graphic footage of the horrors of war quickly goes viral online. This was one of the first known leaks provided by Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst who used his top-secret clearance to access classified information and download it to his iPod, labeling the files as “Lady Gaga” or other popular artists. The video was actually shot from the cockpit of an Apache helicopter where the gunners can be heard laughing and referring to the men as “dead bastards.” The video ends up being called “Collateral Murder” on Wikileaks, clearly showing Assange’s views on the Iraq War. This video was arguably the top reason why WikiLeaks has received so much attention because it was an actual American in the Army who leaked the information under the government’s nose.
June: Manning was arrested for allegedly leaking the U.S. helicopter gunship attack. He is placed in pretrial confinement in Kuwait while the Army conducts an investigation. However, e-mail logs released by former hacker Adrian Lamo confirmed that it was in fact Manning who uploaded such files. Manning once told Lamo, “I can’t believe I’m telling you this.”
July: Manning is charged with multiple counts of mishandling and leaking classified data and putting national security at risk.
WikiLeaks posts 76,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan from 204 to 2010. The documents are described as battlefield reports compiled by various military units that provide an unvarnished look at six years of combat, including U.S. frustration over reports Pakistan secretly aided insurgents and civilian causalities at the hand of U.S. troops. The New York Times, London’s Guardian and the German weekly Der Speigel were given early access to the documents. The White House condemns this leak, saying it “put the lives of Americans and our partners and risk.” The files raises questions about potential war crimes committed by coalition troops, Pakistani support for the Taliban, the use of advanced anti-air missiles and exposes Task Force 373, a unit tasked with killing Taliban leaders.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says the Afghanistan leak has jeopardized the lives of Afghans working with the U.S. and its war allies. Gibbs says the Taliban spokesman have declared they will comb the documents for the names of people who cooperated with international forces in Afghanistan. There have not been any publicly confirmed deaths due to the release, but in a war, anything is possible.
August: Wikileaks post to its website a huge encrypted file named “insurance,” sparking speculation that those behind the organization may be prepared to release more classified information if authorities interfere with them.
September: A senior Swedish prosecutor reopens a rape investigation against Julian Assange. Assange denies the allegations and suggested that they are a part of a smear campaign from opponents of WikiLeaks. On August 20, Stockholm issued an arrest warrant for rape/molestation in two different cases but was withdrawn a day later.
October: WikiLeaks publishes nearly 400,000 classified military documents from the Iraq war, providing a new picture of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed, the role that Iran has played in supporting Iraqi militants and many accounts of abuse by Iraqi’s army and police. Assange refuses to identify the source of the classified information. It has been called the largest leak of secret information in U.S. history. Although the government employed more than 100 analysts to investigate the documents, it has never indicated that any past WikiLeaks releases were inaccurate. In general summary, the documents catalog thousands of battles with insurgents and roadside bomb attacks, along with equipment failure and shots by civilians contractors.
November: WikiLeaks releases hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents revealing a hidden world of backstage international diplomacy. It discloses candid comments from word leaders and occasional U.S. pressure tactics aimed at hot spots in Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. The documents also contain new revelations about long-simmering nuclear trouble spots, detailing fears of Iran’s growing nuclear program and U.S. discussions about a united Korean peninsula as a long-term solution to North Korean aggression.
The Obama administration forcefully moves to contain damage from the release of more than 250,000 classified diplomatic files, branding the action as an attack of the United States and raising the prospect of legal action against WikiLeaks. Secreatry of State Hillary Clinton says that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the material. The White House orders a government-wide review of how agencies safeguard sensitive information.
Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables show China’s frustration with communist ally North Korea and speculate Beijing would accept a future Korean unified under South Korean rule, according the documents. Nevertheless, China would not accept the presence of U.S. troops north of the demilitarized zone that currently forms the North-South border.
State Department severs its computer files from the government’s classified networks, world leaders try to clean up from sensitive leaked documents. Meanwhile, Interpol places Assange on its most-wanted list after Sweden issues an arrest warrant against him that were already addressed earlier in the year. As of November 30, 2010 Assange’s whereabouts are publicly unknown.
December: Freelance computer hackers apparently aided the U.S. government in taking WikiLeaks off of Amazon.com Inc.’s computer network, temporarily stopping the leak of embarrassing diplomatic documents. Yet the website was back online within hours and it published from its previous host, Bahnhof, where servers are housed in a fortified bunker in Sweden. (WikiLeaks had originally left Bahnhof due to several attacks so it moved to a U.S. server.) A secret diplomatic memo shows that the American ambassador to Thailand Eric John warned the Thai Prime Minister in February 2009 that associates of suspected Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout tried to prevent his extradition from Thailand to the U.S. by bribery schemes and a plot to arrest to U.S. federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents who were assigned to the Bout investigation.
WikiLeaks was forced to switch over to a Swiss domain name, wikileaks.ch, after a new round of hacker attacks on its system prompted its American domain name provider, EveryDNS, to withdraw service.
Paypal has cut the accounted used by WikiLeaks to collect donations. Paypal said in a blog posting that the move was prompted by a violation of its policy, “which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”
Although it was not specifically WikiLeaks, supporters of the Wikileaks ideals hacked its way into the Visa and Mastercard websites and rendered the sites inaccessible on and off during December 8th. The attack was probably in response to Visa and Mastercard’s refusals to accept credit cards on the WikiLeaks website