Monday, 6 December 2010

CASE 202 - Wikileaks

WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and news leaks, but is it just a massive CIA, Mossad honey pot plot to wage a cyber war between certain individuals, im suprized Julian Assange is still alive, is he just another hero for us to follow or is it truthful knowledge really being leaked...?. Its website, launched in 2006 and run by The Sunshine Press, claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year of its launch. The organisation describes its founders as a mix of Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians, and start-up company technologists from the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its director. WikiLeaks was originally launched as a user-editable wiki site, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model, and no longer accepts either user comments or edits. In April 2010, WikiLeaks posted video from a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians and journalists were killed by US forces, on a website called Collateral Murder. In July of the same year, WikiLeaks released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan not previously available for public review. In October 2010, the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organisations. In November 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables.

WikiLeaks has received praise as well as massive criticism. The organisation won a number of awards, including The Economist's New Media Award in 2008 and Amnesty International's UK Media Award in 2009. In 2010, the New York City Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites "that could totally change the news", and Julian Assange was named the Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year in 2010. Supporters of Wikileaks in the media have commended it for exposing state and corporate secrets, increasing transparency, supporting freedom of the press, and enhancing democratic discourse while challenging powerful institutions. At the same time, several U.S. government officials have criticised WikiLeaks for exposing classified information, harming national security, and compromising international diplomacy. Several human rights organisations have criticised WikiLeaks for not adequately redacting the names of civilians working with international forces. Some journalists have likewise criticised a perceived lack of editorial discretion when releasing thousands of documents at once and without sufficient analysis. Among negative public reactions in the United States, people have characterised the organisation as irresponsible, immoral, and illegal.

In October 2009, for example, it posted a list of names and addresses of people it claimed belonged to the British National Party (BNP). The BNP said the list was “malicious forgery”. During the 2008 US elections, it published screenshots of the e-mail inbox, pictures and address book of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Other controversial documents hosted on the site include a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta, a document that detailed restrictions placed on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It provoked controversy when it first appeared on the net in December 2006 and still splits opinion. For some it is lauded as the future of investigative journalism. For others it is a risk. In mid March 2010 the site’s director, Julian Assange, published a document purportedly from the US intelligence services, claiming that Wikileaks represented a “threat to the US Army”. The US government later confirmed to the BBC that the documents were genuine.

“The unauthorised publication of Army and DoD sensitive documents on Wikileaks provides foreign intelligence services access to information that they may use to harm Army and DoD interests,” a spokesperson told BBC News.

The site now claims to host more than one million documents. Anyone can submit to Wikileaks anonymously, but a team of reviewers – volunteers from the mainstream press, journalists and Wikileaks staff – decides what is published.

“We use advanced cryptographic techniques and legal techniques to protect sources,” Mr Assange told the BBC in February.

The site says that it accepts “classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance” but does not take “rumour, opinion or other kinds of first hand reporting or material that is already publicly available”.

“We specialise in allowing whistleblowers and journalists who have been censored to get material out to the public,” said Mr Assange.

It is operated by an organisation known as the Sunshine Press and claims to be “funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public”. Since it appeared on the net, it has faced various legal challenges to take it offline. In 2008, for example, the Swiss Bank Julius Baer won a court ruling to block the site after Wikileaks posted “several hundred” documents about its offshore activities. However, various “mirrors” of the site – hosted on different servers around the world – continued to operate. The order was eventually overturned. Wikileaks claims to have fought off more than “100 legal attacks” in its life, in part because of what is described as its “bulletproof hosting”. The site is primarily hosted by Swedish ISP PeRiQuito (PRQ), which became famous for hosting file-sharing website The Pirate Bay.

“If it is legal in Sweden, we will host it, and will keep it up regardless of any pressure to take it down,” the ISP’s site says.

The site also hosts documents in other jurisdictions, including Belgium. Its experience of different laws around the world meant that it was drafted to help Icelandic MPs draw up plans for its Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI).
The plan calls on the country’s government to adopt laws protecting journalists and their sources.

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