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War of the whistleblowers

Wikileaks, the non-profit website, that delivered the mountain of classified information about the war in Afghanistan, promises anonymity to whistleblowers who provide it with information, but those behind it also appear to prefer to remain in the shadows, reports Anirudh Bhattacharya.

world Updated: Jul 27, 2010 00:44 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharya

Wikileaks, the non-profit website, that delivered the mountain of classified information about the war in Afghanistan, promises anonymity to whistleblowers who provide it with information, but those behind it also appear to prefer to remain in the shadows.

Its Facebook page says briefly, “Our publisher, The Sunshine Press, is an international non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists, lawyers and the general public. Since 2007 we have exposed thousands of military, political and corporate abuses — fighting off over 100 legal attacks to do so.”

It was apparently founded in January 2007 by a group of people including journalists, activists, Chinese and Tibetan dissident. Its public face it Julian Assange, a 39-year-old, who, at various times, has been described as its Editor-in-Chief or member of its Advisory Board.

In an interview to the Guardian, Assange, a nomadic character with roots ranging from Scandinavia to Australia, said of the purpose behind the leaks: “The significance of this material is both the overarching context, that is covers the entire war since 2004, and individual events, which also are significant.”

It has a truly global footprint, registered as a charity in Germany, partly funded by a Dutch group and banned in China.

Among the scoops it has delivered in the past were the contents of Sarah Palin’s hacked webmail account when she was John McCain’s running mate during the 2008 Presidential election. It has often offended the Obama administration. In April this year, it released a video of an airstrike in Baghdad in 2007 that killed a dozen persons. That video is available on its sister website, Collateral Murder. This year, a US army analysts was held for apparently not just providing that footage to Wikileaks but also many American diplomatic cables.

On its website, it outlines the principles: “WikiLeaks helps every government official, every bureaucrat, and every corporate worker, who becomes privy to embarrassing information that the institution wants to hide but the public needs to know. What conscience cannot contain, and institutional secrecy unjustly conceals, WikiLeaks can broadcast to the world.