One of the pillars of the internet’s success has been the anonymity of interactions. The ability to take on a secret identity and go forth saying things and doing deeds that won’t be tied to your real life identity was the stuff of comics, but with the internet, everyone could be a superhero. While this sense of anonymity is being consistently chipped at by companies like Facebook and Google, yet, it still exists on the web. Anonymity is still prominent on the web, and there is no better example of that than the site Wikileaks.com.
Ever since its debut in 2006, it has been the bastion of whistle blowers, and the group behind it, the Sunshine Press, has been mostly shrouded in mystery. In December 2009, and due to funding issues, they had to suspend the website, close its wiki and limit the site’s functionality to only accepting submissions. But its Director, the eccentric Julian Assange, seems to have had just the right kind of expose to generate publicity for the site and guarantee that they would be able to secure the maximum amount of funding possible.
On April 3 2010, they released a video entitled “Collateral Damage” which caused quite the controversy for the US armed forces and incited Robert Gates to be driven into an unenviable corner. The video has been viewed more than 6.5 million times on Youtube alone, and certainly got wikileaks a good amount of exposure and hopefully made their fundraiser a success so that they would keep on doing what they do best: be the go-to guys for whistle-blowers around the world.
This is not the only notable leak for them, and they have a long history of breaking some of the most critical documents and stories since their inception. Here are some of their most notable leaks in the past:
Gitmo Procedures Manual
In 2007, the site got on the bad side of the US government and army by publishing the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta – the protocol manual for the US army at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. The leak helped catch the US army with their pants down. The manual had designated a list of prisoners that are off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross, something that the military has denied on numerous occasion.
Sarah Palin’s Yahoo Email Account Content
During the 2008, presidential elections members of Anonymous managed to hack the Yahoo email account of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee. Upon realizing that the email account has been used for business and work-related issues in order for her to circumvent public record laws they offloaded its contents to Wikileaks. The hacking was a widely discussed topic in the elections and helped drive the wedge in the credibility of Sarah Palin.
Bank Julius Baer lawsuit
In January of 2008, Wikileaks started releasing account data for clients of Bank Julius Baer which alluded at crimes of asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion at the Cayman branch of the bank. So, in order to protect its data, the bank took legal action and filed an injunction against Dynadot, Wikileaks’ DNS provider and managed to block the site’s url. That drew the scorn of several prominent journalistic societies and organizations and created a storm of negative publicity for the bank and eventually the judge was to overturn his initial decision in the injunction. Throughout this debacle, and even though the site wasn’t accessible through wikileaks.org, it remained accessible through it’s IP 188.8.131.52 and several mirrors sprouted to provide url access to the site.
Trafigura and the Minton Report
On September 11 2009, lawyers of Trafigura obtained a secret super-injunction against the Guardian to stop it from releasing information of the Minton report; an internal report commission by the giant to investigate the effects of toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast. The report was scathing to say the least, and the gag order on British media was only revealed after the parliament started asking questions about it. The only reason that the super gag order was revealed is because outlets like Wikileaks and the Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation (NRK) refused to adhere to the injunctions filed against them and publicly exposed the attempts of Trafigura lawyers to choke the freedom that is granted to the fourth estate.
Scientologists really like to keep their documents secret because if they are exposed, they will no longer be able to sell them for the exuberant amount that they currently sell their salvation for. They are also vigilant in protecting their “religion”. Therefore, on 7 April 2008, the Religious Technology Center of the church demanded of Wikileak to take down several leaked documents that discuss the Operating Thetan(OT) levels of the church and demanded logs of the uploads to identify and possibly prosecute the uploader. So Wikileaks replied to their request by releasing thousands of other documents that it had on Scientology.
With or against?
Those are just some of the major leaks that the site helped to break and I had a hard time choosing just 5 to mention since there are others that helped shine light into the corruption and crimes of countries, governments, corporations and individuals around the world.
While not everyone agrees to the methods of the website, it definitely serves as an example showing us the true power of being granted anonymity and being free to join forces with other like minded people. Keep on checking the website for they are promising another major leak in May that will surely poke the US military the wrong way again.
What do you think of the work of Wikileaks or other crowd sourcing efforts like it? Is social media supposed to only be fluffy or is there more to it?
Let us hear you thoughts.