Wikileaks has been making news since 2006, but in 2010 they made big news with a series of leaks starting with the “Collateral Murder” videos. Following that were the Afghan war logs and the Iraq war logs. Wikileaks’ final leak that year was the diplomatic cables, the largest leak of classified documents in history. As the leaks and the events surrounding them unfolded, Wikileaks became one of the biggest, most thrilling stories in years.
Getting to Know Wikileaks
Julian Assange, the group’s leader, became a high profile figure in the media, as a source on the leaks and as a spokesman for open governance.
Raffi Khatchadourian wrote this excellent, extensive profile of Julian Assange while “Collateral Murder,” his first major media coup, was in production and still a closely-guarded secret.
Andy Greenberg spoke to Assange at the end of 2010 in a wide-ranging interview covering recent and future leaks, Wikileaks’ future, and what Assange’s overarching goals are.
Rolling Stone published another in-depth interview with Assange in 2012 while he was waiting for a hearing to see if he’d be extradited to Sweden for questioning on his alleged molestation of two women in August 2010. They spoke about his arrest warrant, his time in solitary, and the future of journalism.
An excellent analysis of the Wikileaks ideology and some of Assange’s pre-Wikileaks writing, by Aaron Bady.
A more contrarian take on Wikileaks. Jared Lanier thinks a world without secrets would cause a breakdown of democracy and trust.
“The only surprising thing about the WikiLeaks revelations is that they contain no surprises. Didn’t we learn exactly what we expected to learn? The real disturbance was at the level of appearances: we can no longer pretend we don’t know what everyone knows we know. This is the paradox of public space: even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything.”
Wikileaks’ Relationship With The Media
Assange’s shadowy reputation and the circumstances of the leaks ultimately overshadowed the leaks themselves. In releasing most of its cache of classified documents, Wikileaks partnered with media establishments to help disseminate, analyse and report on their contents. This unprecedented collaboration proved to eventful and endlessly fascinating.
The Afghanistan logs were the first to be released through the media, with the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian simultaneously publishing selections of the documents with their respective analysis. In this article, Clint Hendler explains how it all came together.
Here Bill Keller recounts the media collaboration end to end, from his view as the New York Times executive editor. The Times’ relationship with Wikileaks soured when they declined to link to the Iraq war logs on the Wikileaks site, fearing it could put informants in danger.
This critical profile of Assange that The Times published alongside their Iraq War Logs coverage severed their ties completely.
With The Times’ relationship with Wikileaks collapsing, Assange wanted to exclude The Times from his next leak, the diplomatic cables. Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark represented Der Spiegel during these meetings, and here they relay the encounters from their position.
Vanity Fair also published a detailed, birds-eye view of the newspapers’ relationship with Assange.
The source of the leaks, allegedly, was Bradley Manning, an Army soldier stationed in Iraq. When Manning found out he was about to be discharged for punching a female intelligence analyst, he’s said to have contacted Adrian Lamo, a former hacker, claiming to be in possession of classified documents that he wanted to leak. Lamo went to the FBI, and Manning was arrested.
The Washington Post published a long profile of Manning and his involvement in the leaks leading up to his arrest, painting a picture of an emotional but promising young man.
New York Magazine also published a profile of Manning, calling him “one of America’s most unusual revolutionaries.”
Another profile of Manning, by Denver Nicks.
(Image via Vanity Fair)