ISSN 2330-717X

Ten Thoughts About Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

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Since its founding in December 2006, WikiLeaks, which was established as, essentially, a secure information clearing house for whistleblowers around the world to provide sensitive information, some of which would then be released to the public, and which was reportedly set up by “Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa,” has declared that its “primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations.” From the release of a single document in December 2006 — a “secret decision,” signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a Somali rebel leader for the Islamic Courts Union, which “had been culled from traffic passing through the Tor network to China,” and which “called for the execution of government officials by hiring ‘criminals’ as hit men” — WikiLeaks has received millions of documents, and has, amongst other achievements, exposed corruption in Kenya, made available the Standard Operating Procedure for Guantánamo from 2003 and 2004 (and compared the changes), attacked Scientology, exposed Sarah Palin’s emails, and published a membership list of Britain’s far-right BNP.

In the last eight months, however, since WikiLeaks began focusing on major stories involving the United States, there are concerns that Julian Assange the figurehead has been taking over from WikiLeaks the organization in perceived importance, and that both are overshadowing the importance of the whistleblower who leaked the information in the first place — by many accounts, Bradley Manning, a 23-year old junior US army intelligence analyst. who is facing a court martial and a 52-year prison sentence for leaking the 251,287 US diplomatic cables that are currently being published, as well as the army field reports from Afghanistan and Iraq (released in July and October), and “Collateral Murder“, the 39-minute video showing an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of armed men, civilians and two Reuters journalists in Baghdad, whch was released in April, and which started the global focus on WikiLeaks as the foremost exposer of American secrets.

As Raffi Khatchadourian of the New Yorker explained in an article in June this year, the leaked video “was digitally encrypted, and it took WikiLeaks three months to crack.” Assange told Khatchadourian that unlocking the file was “moderately difficult.” Bradley, increasingly overlooked in media reports, may not have a company philosophy like WikiLeaks, but it is important that he is not forgotten, and it is also important to recognize his own reasons for embarking on the biggest leak of secrets in US history. “God knows what happ