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WikiLeaks (from Hawaiian wiki "fast" and English leaks "leaks", "holes", "leaks") is a disclosure platform founded in 2006 on which documents are published anonymously ( whistleblowing ) that are protected by secrecy as classified information , confidentiality , censorship or otherwise restricted in their accessibility. WikiLeaks assumes that there is a fundamental public interest in the information. The system that enables file uploads is powered by the anonymization network Tor realized.

According to the Wikileaks website, the disclosure platform was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange . See the History subsection for details .


At the core of WikiLeaks is the idea of ​​free access to information affecting public affairs. It thus continues earlier projects to promote freedom of information such as Cryptome or CL-Netz . The project claims to stand by those "who want to expose unethical behavior in their own governments and companies." According to their own statements, a system was created "for the mass publication of secret information and analyzes that cannot be traced back to the sender".

The name goes back to the fact that at times the comments on published content could be edited in a wiki , but this is no longer the case today. Despite the similar word stem and lettering in the logo, there is no connection between WikiLeaks and Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation . Wiki stands independently for a wiki principle .


According to Julian Assange's website, WikiLeaks was founded in 2006. There is also a narrative that Wikileaks was founded by Chinese dissidents , journalists, mathematicians and technicians from start-up companies in the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Later, doubts about this representation were expressed; WikiLeaks was “essentially a project by digital political activists from western democracies”. The founders are anonymous, according to the WikiLeaks website. Julian Assange was the initiator and the driving force in a group of five people and various supporters in starting the project and registering the domains , and on October 4, 2006. Assange is known to have both that he did not want to call himself "a founder" and that it was important for him to emphasize exactly this term.

By autumn 2009, WikiLeaks had developed into a central collection point with 1.2 million documents from critics of the regime and anonymous sources. The governments of the People's Republic of China , Israel , North Korea , Russia , Zimbabwe , Thailand and Turkey , among others, blocked access to WikiLeaks, at least temporarily.

At the 26th Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin at the end of 2009, WikiLeaks activists, including Julian Assange , presented the plan to set up a so-called “ data port ” in Iceland . The island nation is an attractive country for WikiLeaks because of its modern media legislation , on which WikiLeaks staff have worked in an advisory capacity.

In December 2009, instead of the usual page, contained only an appeal for donations and a video of the WikiLeaks contribution to the 26th Chaos Communication Congress . The site stated inactivity until at least January 18, 2010 due to lack of budgets. Julian Assange, spokesman for WikiLeaks, agreed in an interview with the analogy to a strike, reminding that WikiLeaks' work has value and relies on donations. From March 2010, the site was open again with much less content than before and without wiki functionality; the full range of functions was available again from May 2010.

In November 2010, WikiLeaks established a company in Reykjavík called Sunshine Press Productions . In addition to Julian Assange, Kristinn Hrafnsson , Ingi Ragnar Ingason and the director of the London Center for Investigative Journalism , Gavin MacFadyen , also appeared as those responsible . However, according to Hrafnsson, it was not yet clear whether the society would be used only to receive donations or also as a base of operations for the information service. This was the first legal presence of WikiLeaks in a country.

Since September 2010, it has no longer been possible to securely send data to WikiLeaks. New documents can therefore not be accepted. In March 2011, Kristinn Hrafnsson attributed this to the software and data taken with him when WikiLeaks forked in September and told Focus magazine that the duration of this state of affairs was "unpredictable". On November 28, 2011, the first anniversary of the Cablegate releases, Julian Assange announced a new system for secure document submission that would work without the "compromised" SSL protocol and is still being tested. Elsewhere, however, he admitted it was a diversionary tactic prior to the release of the Spy Files .

In October 2011, WikiLeaks announced that it was temporarily suspending the release of classified documents to focus on fundraising. The monthly donations fell from around 72,300 euros to 5,000 euros. Around 500,000 euros would be needed per year to keep the facility running. The Internet platform accuses several US payment processors such as VISA or Mastercard of blocking donations for months . However, the start of the Spy Files release followed at the beginning of December .

Earlier in 2021, a London court ruled that WikiLeaks founder Assange should not be extradited to the United States. The verdict was based on the suicide risk of the now 49-year-old.


The project uses various software such as OpenSSL , I2P , Freenet , Tor and PGP to publish and distribute the information . The encryption mechanisms used here are intended to ensure the anonymity and untraceability of the sources.


Julian Assange , founder and most prominent contributor to the whistleblower platform (March 2010)

WikiLeaks stated in 2008 that it had an Advisory Board ; however, some of the people mentioned later denied their participation. According to Julian Assange, in January 2010 WikiLeaks had five permanent employees – previously unpaid – and around 1,000 occasional contributors.

Of the operators, the Australian programmer and author Julian Assange is known by name, who is considered the driving force behind the project, as well as the German Daniel Domscheit-Berg , who was initially only known to the public under the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt and in September 2010 withdrew from the project due to internal disputes with Assange and founded its own platform OpenLeaks , which, however, never took up any publicly perceptible work. Shortly thereafter, five other leading members followed suit, including Icelander Herbert Snorrason . Kristinn Hrafnsson , also from Iceland, also appears publicly as a WikiLeaks employee.

In his 2011 book Inside WikiLeaks , Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticized the work of Israel Schamir , who is considered a Holocaust denier , and indirectly that of his son Johannes Wahlström at WikiLeaks. "However, I have never noticed Julian as an anti-Semite, at most as critical of Israel, which, however, only referred to the country's political leadership. I have no idea why he would allow a blatant anti-Semite around him today [2011].”

Former Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir and hackers Rop Gonggrijp and Jacob Appelbaum also worked at WikiLeaks for a time. Filmmaker and cinematographer Ingi Ragnar Ingason traveled with Hrafnsson to research for the film Collateral Murder in Baghdad and is involved in the business activities in Reykjavík.

Journalist James Ball joined the British newspaper The Guardian in 2011 from WikiLeaks . He did not agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement that included a £12m penalty for leaked or even internal information. Julian Assange submitted this declaration to ten employees for signature in January 2011.

In June 2011, two other WikiLeaks employees , Sarah Harrison and Joseph Farrell , became known by name. You previously worked at the Center for Investigative Journalism in London, run by Gavin MacFadyen . Sarah Harrison helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Russia in June 2013.

Overview: People in the context of WikiLeaks


Because WikiLeaks employees work voluntarily and from home, the biggest cost drivers are server costs, registration fees, and bureaucracy costs. In 2010, however, salaries were paid to seven people for the first time. This was based on the monthly salaries of 5,500 euros paid by Greenpeace . Court fees also make up part of WikiLeaks' costs due to its involvement in numerous lawsuits. According to the company, the total annual costs amount to around 600,000 US dollars, which are covered by donations from private individuals. WikiLeaks does not accept donations from companies or governments. Payment transactions for donations to WikiLeaks are handled by the Icelandic-Swiss company DataCell. Attorney's fees are not yet accrued as legal time is donated, including by supporters such as the Los Angeles Times , Associated Press , and the National Newspaper Association . According to Julian Assange, there have been no costs from lost proceedings so far: "No fines or damages yet, we have won all the proceedings so far."

Chelsea Manning , who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing information to the organization, has also received material support from WikiLeaks by partially funding her legal fees. The German Wau Holland Foundation , which is recognized as a non-profit organization , supported the project in 2010 with 402,000 euros from donations totaling 1.332 million euros. In 2011, only donations of 139,401 euros were received there; 660,522 euros were distributed to WikiLeaks.

Accessibility and Replication

For a while, the WikiLeaks website was hosted in Sweden by the company PeRiQuito AB (PRQ), later it was switched to servers in France and to a number of "mirrors" ( mirror servers ).

In response to attempts to block the web server, WikiLeaks organizers publicly asked other network activists to copy the web presence en masse and make it available on their own servers. For this purpose, the process of duplicating the website has been automated. The appeal met with a very positive response.

A first list of these mirror servers, which e.g. T. only represent another name entry, but are partly also complete copies of the website, was published on December 5, 2010 on the Etherpad server of the German Pirate Party . Website mirroring has also been supported by other countries' pirate parties . By the evening of December 5, 2010, independent copies of the website had been installed on 76 servers. A website used its Automated Wikileaks mirror tracker on December 6 to track over 800 web servers involved in WikiLeaks mirrors. However, not all were up to date or accessible. On December 10th, the number of mirror servers exceeded 1600. According to information on the WikiLeaks website, more than 1,000 mirror servers were in operation on December 7, 2010 and over 2,100 on December 14.

In addition, well-known web hosting providers in Germany, for example, declared their support. The French daily Liberation , the Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen and the NGO Reporters Without Borders also set up mirror servers. To make it easier to find the mirror server, banners are also distributed that automatically link to currently working addresses and thus provisionally decentralize the function of the Internet Domain Name Service.


WikiLeaks published its first high-profile material in 2007. It dealt with billions of dollars in corruption in the family of former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi . It was published in the Guardian on August 31, 2007 . In 2008, the releases revolved around internal documents of the Julius Baer Bank & Trust Company , Church of Scientology content , the British National Party membership list and Internet blacklists from various countries. In the same year there were also first legal disputes with the Religious Technology Center , a subsidiary of the Church of Scientology.

In 2009, WikiLeaks published an internal Kaupthing Bank document , the Minton report on toxic waste in Ivory Coast , a draft of the secret agreement between the European Union and the United States for the evaluation and transfer of European bank data to the United States, messages from radio pagers on the day of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks , e-mails from scientists at the University of East Anglia 's Climatic Research Unit , excerpts from the secret Toll Collect contracts and a military police report on a controversial bombing of two tanker trucks in Afghanistan .

In 2010, WikiLeaks published a document on possible PR strategies used by the US secret services in Germany and France and planning documents for the 2010 Love Parade . Also that year, a new line was taken in publication practice. With the video of the air raids in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, for example, material was published for the first time that was journalistically prepared with the end consumer in mind and was given a catchy title, Collateral Murder . In addition, with the publication of the Afghan War Diary and the Iraq War Log , there was intensive cooperation with various media companies. Both publications were the largest publication of US military documents.

The publication of around a quarter of a million diplomatic US reports on numerous governments and their members around the world on November 28, 2010 caused an international sensation . She became known as Cablegate . By August 20, 2011, 19,791 documents had been published in various tranches. In the days that followed, the speed of the release was massively increased and tens of thousands of other documents were made publicly available within a short period of time. On August 27, the number of dispatches that could be viewed was 143,014. At about the same time, a press report revealed that an encrypted file called cables.csv with a size of 1.73 gigabytes and the associated key were available on the Internet. The password had been published in a book by David Leigh - he thought it was no longer valid. The file contained the complete, unedited collection of embassy dispatches. After the breach, WikiLeaks itself released the entire collection of cables.

From Easter 2011, WikiLeaks published 765 files under the title Gitmo files within four weeks on the controversial detention center at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base , which at that time was still holding 172 prisoners. The military documents classified as "secret" date from 2002 to 2007 and relate to one prisoner at a time. The US government confirmed the authenticity of the documents and regretted their disclosure.

In early December 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 287 files from security and surveillance technology companies under the name The Spy Files , and announced that it would continue into 2012. WikiLeaks had worked with ARD , L'Espresso and the Washington Post . Most of the documents initially assembled were already accessible, but their gathering in one place and the ability to search them using an interactive map were considered comprehensive and useful. By denouncing an industry that supplies surveillance technology to states with dubious human rights records and dictatorial regimes, WikiLeaks is on the way to becoming a "campaign platform".

At the end of February 2012, WikiLeaks, in cooperation with 25 media partners, began publishing internal emails from the US company Stratfor , which offers its customers geopolitical analysis, under the title The Global Intelligence Files . WikiLeaks claimed to have five million emails between July 2004 and December 2011 and released 214 of them on the first day. The intention was to expose the company's informant network and to show that Stratfor was working with questionable or illegal methods, had a close relationship with intelligence services and was therefore itself a private and uncontrolled secret service. The collection of the data is credited to the collective Anonymous .

From early July 2012, WikiLeaks began making emails from Syrian politicians and other personalities, as well as Syrian ministries and companies, available online. In total, the publication of two million "Syria Files" from 2006 to 2012 is planned, which are to be collected in a publicly searchable database. WikiLeaks is working with several media partners, including Germany's NDR , to analyze the news.

Beginning in late October 2012, WikiLeaks published documents on the treatment of detainees in US military prisons and detention centers under the name Detainee Policies . The first of the published texts describes, in 33 pages , Standard Operating Procedures enacted in 2002 for Camp Delta prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention camps . Other documents contain, among other things, the guidelines for combating a possible prisoner uprising in the military prison of Mannheim 's Coleman Barracks . A total of around 100 documents are to be published over the course of a month, which also relate to Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca .

In May 2014, WikiLeaks released 244 older lists of participants and minutes from the Bilderberg conferences . In May 2015, WikiLeaks released transcripts from ten months of the ongoing NSA Board of Inquiry . Since June 2015, WikiLeaks has been releasing classified documents and data from Saudi Arabian embassies. In July 2015, WikiLeaks released secret documents proving that ministers, state secretaries and top officials were also bugged, and not just Angela Merkel. The spy affair affects the ECB , the Ministry of Economic Affairs , the Federal Ministry of Finance , the Ministry of Agriculture and others. A total of 69 telephone connections were overheard. The documents cover a period from 2010 to 2012. However, it is unclear when and for how long this spying operation took place. It is believed that the spying began in the 1990s.

In April 2016, WikiLeaks released a recording of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference call. Their topics were business games about how to continue to deal with the Greek sovereign debt crisis and "the IMF's negotiating strategy and its members' distrust of the commitments of the Greek government and those of the European lenders." In July 2016, four days after the attempted coup in Turkey , WikiLeaks began on a Search website releasing 294,548 emails from Turkey's ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) party. However, the content of the e-mails usually does not refer to the government's internal affairs, but to "relationships with the world".

Conflicts, attempts at censorship and countermeasures

“Access Denied” – Censorship on US Air Force computers while browsing a news story about Wikileaks on MSNBC 's website , 2010

Blocking of the German WikiLeaks domain in 2009

In April 2009, the domain , operated by Theodor Reppe since 2006 , which as an alternative address was purely a forwarding to the domain , was " blocked without warning by the German registry DENIC " according to a press release on WikiLeaks; since then, the A Resource Record has pointed to a DENIC IP address. However, it turned out that the provider had already given notice to the domain owner in December 2008 and no new provider had been named by the end of the period of notice. A little later, WikiLeaks was again available under the German top-level domain via .

Blocking of the Iranian WikiLeaks domain in 2009

In July 2009 , Iran blocked most of the domain names used by WikiLeaks after the site reported an alleged accident at the Natanz nuclear facility .

Internals of the US Secret Service

On March 15, 2010, an internal document by the US Secret Service CIA was published by WikiLeaks, in which the CIA describes why it considers WikiLeaks to be problematic and explains methods of how to take action against whistleblowers and WikiLeaks employees and thus weaken WikiLeaks. According to the document, the secret service fears that there could be other unpublished secret documents in its own ranks and at WikiLeaks, but also that WikiLeaks could be used to spread false or falsified information. Efforts are recommended to track down and expose WikiLeaks leakers. It is hoped that the whistleblowers' trust in WikiLeaks will be severely weakened and the community of supporters will collapse.

DDoS attacks on WikiLeaks

According to WikiLeaks, it was the victim of a distributed denial-of-service attack on November 28, 2010 . It came just hours before the US State Department announced it was releasing classified documents . In response to the ongoing DDoS attacks on WikiLeaks and its mirrors, internet activists from Anonymous themselves began Operation Payback , DDoSing attacks on companies opposed to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has distanced itself from the attacks and denied any contact with the perpetrators, but claimed the action reflected public opinion. Also in August 2011, WikiLeaks was attacked with a denial-of-service attack in the wake of the forced publication of US embassy cables. A year later, there were more such attacks, which a previously unknown group called “Antileaks” claimed responsibility for. They took place in direct temporal connection with the publication of documents about the US surveillance system TrapWire .

After the announcement that e-mails from circles belonging to the Turkish governing party AKP were to be published, extensive DDoS attacks on WikiLeaks' infrastructure followed shortly thereafter. The source of the attacks is unknown. WikiLeaks itself suspects the attackers to be in the Turkish government or in agencies close to it due to the temporal connection.

Blocking the Amazon servers

For the publication of a large number of documents in November 2010, WikiLeaks dodged the previous DDoS attacks on Amazon Web Services servers . However, these servers were blocked for WikiLeaks after just a few days. According to several consistent media reports, this happened as a result of public pressure from US Senator Joe Lieberman , which Amazon denied. Rather, the reason for the blocking was that WikiLeaks had violated Amazon's terms of service. The terms and conditions of Amazon's web services stipulate that the customer holds the rights to the content and that their use does not harm anyone. It is clear that WikiLeaks does not own the rights to the confidential documents, and given the large number of 250,000 documents, there is no guarantee that their publication will not endanger innocent people such as human rights activists, argued Amazon.

In response to the blocking, numerous Internet activists and members of organizations critical of the war, such as Daniel Ellsberg , a major whistleblower of the Vietnam War , spontaneously declared a boycott and the termination of business relationships with Amazon.

Suspension of the domain

On December 3, 2010, the free US service provider withdrew the domain from WikiLeaks, citing "continuing DDoS attacks" on its servers as the reason for this measure, which would endanger the stability of its service for other users. Access was temporarily only possible via the address . On the same day, WikiLeaks announced via Twitter that it could be reached via the Swiss domain . This domain was registered by the Swiss Pirate Party . This link to the Swiss website was also no longer accessible via DNS resolution for around two hours on the evening of December 3, 2010. After that, several name servers were made available as replacements. The Internet addresses "" and "" as well as "" were still accessible; From the end of May 2011, this also applied again to "".

Disabling Donation Opportunities

On December 4, 2010, eBay -owned internet payment service PayPal shut down the Wau Holland Foundation 's account , through which WikiLeaks processed a portion of its donations, on the grounds that the terms and conditions stipulated that PayPal was not responsible for encouraging, supporting, may be used to facilitate, encourage or guide third parties to act illegally.

On December 6, 2010, a spokesman for the US credit card company Mastercard announced that payment transactions with WikiLeaks had been stopped. The reason is the rule according to which customers who “directly or indirectly support or facilitate illegal activities” would be blocked.

Also on December 6, 2010, Swiss Postfinance blocked the account of WikiLeaks contributor Julian Assange. Assange stated Geneva as his domicile when opening the account. As this turned out to be untrue, according to Postfinance, the account was closed. Assange does not have a domicile in Switzerland, which is a prerequisite for a business relationship for foreign customers outside of the countries bordering Switzerland. In addition, Postfinance referred to a provision included in the Postal Act by the Council of States on November 30, 2010, which enables it to terminate business relationships that run counter to public and moral sensibilities. At that time, however, the National Council had not yet passed this new legislation, it was therefore not yet effective and Postfinance's reference to this new legislative provision was irrelevant and superfluous.

On December 7, 2010, Visa announced that it was also no longer able to make donations to WikiLeaks through its facilities.

In mid-December, Bank of America announced that it would stop all transfer requests to and from WikiLeaks accounts. Journalists interpreted this step as a reaction to Julian Assange's announcement in the business magazine Forbes that he would publish documents from a "major American bank". For its part, WikiLeaks tweeted its supporters to stop working with Bank of America, close accounts and move their money to “safer” places. The conflict escalated: Bank of America bought up domains as a precaution, the use of which would offend its management staff, and this brought itself into the conversation. On December 27, 2010 , activists of Operation Payback announced a DDoS attack on the bank's website hours before it actually happened . The bank's main page was only available irregularly that day. In January 2011, it was revealed that Bank of America had formed a special team to look for possible information leaks and be prepared for the release of internal documents. This happened, again by activists from Anonymous , then two months later.

A few days after Bank of America's crackdown on WikiLeaks, Apple removed an app from its App Store that allowed users to view WikiLeaks content and use part of the purchase price to make a $1 donation to WikiLeaks. The app itself was not an official WikiLeaks app, but was made by a private developer. At first it was said that this contradicted a basic rule from Apple, according to which apps intended for fundraising had to be free. Apple then announced that the app had been removed from the Apple Store for violating developer guidelines. Apps must comply with all local laws and must not endanger individuals or target groups. WikiLeaks content is still available via the device's browser .

Despite these difficulties, there are still ways to send donations to WikiLeaks.

The blocking of support options by payment service providers without a legal basis in connection with the effects of the financial crisis , which often put a heavy strain on public budgets, led to alternative payment systems receiving increased attention. In particular , Bitcoin , an open-source project that implements a decentralized electronic currency through a peer-to-peer system, has been seen as a possible answer to such interference. Since the ban continued without, even in the opinion of Timothy F. Geithner , there being no legal basis for it, WikiLeaks called for using Bitcoin to send donations and declared in October 2011 that it would initially not publish any further publications due to its poor economic situation , instead concentrating on a new fundraising campaign. Legal action will be taken against the financial blockade by VISA, Mastercard, Bank of America, PayPal and Western Union . A cessation of work by WikiLeaks is possible.

US Government Attempt to Obtain Personally Identifiable Information from Twitter

In January 2011, it was revealed that the previous December, a US federal judge had sent Twitter a secret, punitive disclosure order ( subpoena ) to hand over user account data linked to WikiLeaks to the US Department of Justice . All available data about people, their activities on Twitter and network information, such as IP addresses , that arose in this context were requested. Twitter, a US company, initially had to keep this a secret. Only after another court decision was Twitter able to inform users. They had until January 17 to appeal the request for information, which they did with the help of the US civil rights organizations Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union . Specifically affected were Julian Assange, Rop Gonggrijp , Jacob Appelbaum and the Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir . She announced that she would consult a lawyer and her country's Minister of Justice . Ministers Ögmundur Jónasson and Össur Skarphéðinsson spoke out clearly against the US course of action. The latter summoned the US Ambassador to lodge a formal protest against US actions. On March 11, a US federal court ruled that Twitter must release the disputed data. Those affected appealed and, as of October 2011, Twitter had not disclosed this data. In November, however, a federal district court in Virginia ruled that Twitter must release Gonggrjip, Appelbaum and Jónsdóttir's data. Those affected appealed to the Federal Court of Appeals to have the decision reviewed. Jónsdóttir also announced that he would take action against the judgment with the help of the Council of Europe. The Interparliamentary Union passed a resolution the previous month condemning the US Department of Justice's move.

The Internet provider Inc. and Google Inc. should also provide information about Jacob Appelbaum's personal data. had to give way in the argument; both companies went to court to force publicity for the government's request.

source protection

In August 2010, Swedish constitutional experts took the floor with the assessment that it is correct that Sweden has comprehensive source protection for journalists, but that this only applies to traditional and internet media if they can show the "Utgivningsbevis" - a special Swedish license . However, WikiLeaks lacks this. For this reason, WikiLeaks could not have invoked Swedish source protection in the event of a conflict. As recently as August, Julian Assange declared that he worked as a columnist for the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet , thus activating Swedish source protection for WikiLeaks.

The alleged unmasking of informant Chelsea Manning attracted particular attention . The US soldier was arrested after the release of video footage from an Apache helicopter operating in Iraq . The soldier is accused of having passed on secret information without authorization. It wasn't initially clear how Manning could be unmasked, but alleged chat transcripts have since been published in which the informant betrayed herself to hacker Adrian Lamo .

Blocking Attempts and Countermeasures

The background to the large number of internet addresses ( mirror sites ) of the WikiLeaks platform is that the US government and in particular politicians such as Joe Lieberman are urging companies that provide internet services for WikiLeaks to refuse such services. There are two points of attack here: A web host who operates a server can be forced to switch it off. Secondly, deleting the domain name can make accessing the data more difficult, since the visitor to a website then needs to know the current IP address of the server instead. There are add-ons for the Firefox and Chrome web browsers that can still be used to navigate to Internet addresses even if the domain name has been blocked or deleted. The US Department of Homeland Security is pressuring vendors of such software and has unsuccessfully asked the Mozilla Foundation to stop offering such an add-on. The attacks on the Internet address in December 2010 resulted in more than 2,000 WikiLeaks mirror sites going online within a few days thanks to global support for the platform.

Direct government intervention is legally and politically problematic in the United States because of the high value placed on free speech and the constitutional hurdles of the First Amendment . In the verdict on the Pentagon Papers at the time of the Vietnam War , it was stated that investigative journalists may also publish top secret documents.

Domains can be blocked relatively easily by the administrators or by Internet providers on the instructions of government agencies. For example, domain names containing the string "wikileaks" can be blocked. Blocking IP addresses for WikiLeaks servers is more complex, since all IP addresses used must be known. Depending on the type of censorship process used, the effectiveness of the blocking varies. With a large number of mirrors combined with the availability of proxy services like Tor , a full ban seems unlikely.

As a measure against bans, in November 2010 WikiLeaks began changing both Domain Name System domain names ("web addresses") and numeric IP addresses . WikiLeaks uses various top-level domains for the domain names . This also includes country-specific top-level domains, which are managed by the individual countries after they have been assigned by the US American ICANN . Updated addresses are distributed, among other things, via the Twitter service .

Use of encrypted and decentralized internet communication

As a countermeasure, WikiLeaks uses a number of well-known and widespread encryption techniques, including the Secure Shell protocol, the encrypted Tor network with " onion routing " and asymmetric encryption methods such as GnuPG and RSA encryption for secure encryption of the E -Mails from whistleblowers. On the other hand, (partially or fully) decentralized services such as BitTorrent , magnet links and the Gnutella file-sharing protocol are deployed with clients such as LimeWire and Transmission . Finally, the connections and services of the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) as the successor to Freenet are both strictly decentralized and heavily encrypted . Thus, all previous WikiLeaks publications are offered via an archive that can be downloaded from the website and then allows for decentralized download with a BitTorrent client.

Many of these network services are specifically designed for secure use in regions with authoritarian governments and limited freedom and confidentiality of communications, and the associated programs are collectively built as open-source software , verified and checksumed , i. H. cryptographic hash functions are distributed in distributions, which means that the software can be compromised , e.g. B. counteracted by secret services.

Since the publications on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been numerous threats, including calls for murder, against Assange in particular. Assange stated in an interview that as a security measure against a physical threat by the organizers of WikiLeaks, there is another file that is encrypted with the AES-256 method and serves as "life insurance" (life insurance) and contains numerous other messages. The file called insurance.aes256 with an unknown key is around 1.4 gigabytes in size and is also distributed via BitTorrent. If something happens to a WikiLeaks employee, the key will be released automatically. On August 16, 2013, WikiLeaks released three more "insurance files"; the encrypted files are 3.6, 49 and 349 gigabytes in size and are provided as a torrent . On June 17, 2016, WikiLeaks released a new 88 gigabyte "Insurance" file available as a torrent. The 2016 publication is linked to US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton 's email scandal .


Commentators say that this is a new type of fundamental conflict about hegemony in the dissemination of information, in which previous structures and power relations are fighting against changes brought about by the digital public sphere. “The most obvious lesson is that it represents the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the internet.” ( John Naugthon ) Some of these positions are close in content to a spectrum of libertarian positions in internet politics that are critical of power . B. based on the historic declaration of independence of cyberspace . Internet pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee also emphasize the particular importance of free speech on the Internet and independence from government censorship attempts.

Because of this fundamental discussion and the broad public attention, there are countless contributions from different people and organizations that deal with the unregulated publication of information in general and the specific approach and organizational structures of WikiLeaks.

The historian Karl Schlögel , for example, points out that after the First World War the Bolsheviks and the USA waged a struggle against the secret diplomacy of the "old world". All existing documents were released by the state; a task to which WikiLeaks is dedicated today against the will of the states concerned. Schlögel also refers to Woodrow Wilson's 14 - point program , the first point of which says: "... diplomacy should always be carried out honestly and before the whole world."


According to Time magazine's Tracy Schmidt , WikiLeaks could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act . WikiLeaks also sees itself as a supplier of investigative journalism .

The political scientist Hans J. Kleinsteuber considers WikiLeaks to be a useful invention because "many procedures are far too opaque". As a powerful person, you have an interest in hiding behind protective barriers and do everything to denigrate the informer's reputation in public.

Historically important publications such as the Pentagon Papers are repeatedly cited in commentary as examples of the importance of such investigative publications, and many statements and commentaries also pick up on previous positions expressed on these papers. The whistleblower at the time , Daniel Ellsberg , is a strong supporter of WikiLeaks and has been on friendly terms with the project since its inception in 2006. He said it wasn't the revelations, but "silence and lies" that put people at risk.

In December 2010, several German media published an "Appeal against the criminalization of Wikileaks". The tageszeitung (taz) , Frankfurter Rundschau , Freitag , Tagesspiegel and Perlentaucher were the initiators . Other media such as the Berliner Zeitung , Telepolis and Neues Deutschland followed suit. The appeal stated that WikiLeaks as an internet medium must enjoy the same protection as traditional media.

At a conference on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which preceded the presentation of the Nuremberg Human Rights Prize in 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of expression Frank La Rue defended WikiLeaks and, referring to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stated that the publications had the does not endanger the national security of the United States. He opposed the prosecution of Julian Assange, repeating his December 2010 statement that unlike whistleblowers, WikiLeaks as a medium cannot be prosecuted for its publications; they are an expression of freedom of expression.


In the FAZ , Thomas Thiel criticized WikiLeaks' anonymity and lack of control. Documents clearly recognizable as forgeries would also be published there. WikiLeaks argues that these documents were clearly marked as fake from the start and that release of the documents in the context of other information is important. According to the same principle, an alleged HIV test by Apple boss Steve Jobs , which was recognized as fake and used in stock market circles to manipulate Apple's share price, was published and publicly exposed as a fake.

According to WikiLeaks, documents posted there are being examined by investigative journalists. This includes checking for authenticity, "means, motive and opportunity" as well as noting any suspicions about the authenticity of a document. To date, no error has been detected in this process. The further examination of the documents is usually carried out by the established press picking up and analyzing the documents. A science editor for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung commented that WikiLeaks obscures more than it sheds light on. The masses of data published are full of trivialities, but are accompanied by messages intended to "help journalists to interpret them correctly". WikiLeaks even hinders debate and reporting on important issues through this flood.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg , who himself worked for WikiLeaks for two and a half years and was one of the spokespersons, criticized a hierarchical structure with too strong a fixation on Julian Assange in interviews and in his book Inside WikiLeaks after his departure. WikiLeaks advocates transparency and democratic values, but is itself non-transparent and not democratically controlled, which means a danger. WikiLeaks cannot yet manage its own power.

The Federation of American Scientists declined WikiLeaks' invitation to join the Advisory Board, citing the following reasoning: "In the absence of responsible editorial control, publications can very easily lead to an act of aggression or incitement to violence, not to mention interference in privacy or an attack on good taste.” The Federation further points to the difference between the unauthorized publication of confidential documents by an authoritarian state and those of a democratic constitutional state . The citizens of democratic states would have fundamental rights with which they could assert their rights. The danger of misuse is also pointed out, since anyone can anonymously publish unchecked documents.

The US government accused WikiLeaks of endangering the security of soldiers through the publication of military documents, without citing concrete examples. Persons who make secret military documents available to WikiLeaks expose themselves among other things: may be guilty of high treason and other charges in the US . Die Zeit evaluated: “When the hacker organization was founded at the end of 2006, it saw itself as the advocate of humanity. […] The international mission has turned into an information war against the USA.”

John Young, founder of Cryptome , a website that has existed since 1996 with similar aims to WikiLeaks, wrote an obituary for WikiLeaks in late 2010. As early as 2006 he had taken over the registration of the domains , and for the then new project . After a dispute with Julian Assange about the amount of donations to be collected for WikiLeaks, he left and since then has sharply distanced himself from WikiLeaks. In 2010 he criticized that documents were being published too slowly and that WikiLeaks was now too centered on Julian Assange as a person and on media effectiveness. He doubted the usefulness of the announced book publications by Assange and Domscheit-Berg. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks' original target is "floating dead in the water." He accuses WikiLeaks of being just "a business organization pretending to be a non-profit organization."

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales , in late September 2010, was critical of the July 2010 WikiLeaks-released documents on the war in Afghanistan . He criticized WikiLeaks for not redacting any names, including those of Afghan informants to Western troops. He accused WikiLeaks of risking the lives of innocent people. In principle, he advocates ways by which secret bearers could uncover misconduct. But this must go hand in hand with journalistic integrity and responsibility. He would also like a name change, since the platform is not a wiki . After Assange had planned a close link between the emerging project and Wikipedia when WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, he had already encountered rejection from Jimmy Wales.


In early September 2011, WikiLeaks published the confidential cables from the US embassies in their entirety and unedited , following a glitch that had allowed outsiders to post the decrypted and unedited text online at Cryptome . Both this and the decision to make the US embassy cables accessible in one fell swoop brought WikiLeaks back to the target of criticism from governments and journalists. Representatives from The Guardian , New York Times , El País , Der Spiegel and Le Monde , with whom WikiLeaks previously worked to release the documents, issued a joint statement protesting, fearing for the safety of US whistleblowers. Reporters Without Borders stopped their mirror server for the time being because they no longer felt that “established standards of informant protection” were guaranteed. People who had previously viewed WikiLeaks publications positively, such as Konstantin von Notz , Wolfgang Gehrcke and the British media director of Amnesty International , Mike Blakemore , also distanced themselves with the same reasoning . Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland pointed out that an employee of the Australian intelligence agency ASIO had been named, which is a criminal offense under Australian law. Assange defended his actions in a video-transmitted lecture at the Berlin Media Week. The unedited embassy cables were already in circulation anyway, so WikiLeaks would not have endangered anyone further by publishing them. The informants of the US diplomats had time to prepare for the publication. Despite this, serious consequences arose for an Ethiopian journalist who fled his country and two Zimbabwean generals who were charged with treason.

US Presidential Election 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to step down from chairing the presidential nomination convention in late July 2016 after WikiLeaks released emails from the DNC showing party leadership favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primary.

In the course of the 2016 US presidential election , WikiLeaks was accused of allowing itself to be exploited. In October 2016, WikiLeaks released documents from the email account of candidate Hillary Clinton 's campaign manager , John Podesta , in batches . The publication by WikiLeaks on October 11, just as Clinton's opponent Donald Trump was also coming under intense public pressure, was interpreted by Clinton's team as an attempt to influence the election on behalf of the Russian president. Shortly before, Trump had publicly demanded in a speech that Russia should publish the hacked emails. President Vladimir Putin has denied any involvement of his country in the attacks. The Russian Foreign Ministry called such allegations a political mandate from Washington. In several statements, Julian Assange also rejected allegations of cooperation with Russia that were “reminiscent of Senator McCarthy ”.

As part of the investigations by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the election , it emerged that there had been correspondence between WikiLeaks and the presumably Russian hacker "Guccifer 2.0" with the aim of damaging Clinton's elections influence. In the correspondence, WikiLeaks directly solicited incriminating material about Clinton and deliberately targeted its release for maximum campaign impact. During the same period, it also became known that there were targeted collusion and contacts between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr. – son of presidential candidate Donald Trump – regarding how to proceed in the election campaign. Assange has also been accused of intentionally withholding similar material from a hack against the Republicans - Donald Trump's own party. Assange denied having any such material. A civil lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against Russia, Trump's campaign organization and also WikiLeaks and Assange was dismissed on July 30, 2019. Russia, as the supposed key player, cannot be civilly sued in the US – and the actions of WikiLeaks and Assange are protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution under civil law .


On March 3, 2013, The WikiLeaks Party , which operates in Australia , was founded by a group led by Julian Assange .

The word Wikileaks and the logo, like his own name, are trademarks registered to Julian Assange .


Norwegian MP Snorre Valen officially proposed WikiLeaks to the Nobel Institute as a candidate for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize . In justification, the Sosialistisk Venstreparti MP said that WikiLeaks was "one of the most important contributions of this century to freedom of expression and transparency".


In 2013, director Alex Gibney made the documentary We Steal Secrets: The WikiLeaks Story , which explores Assange and the history of WikiLeaks.

In October 2013, the feature film Inside Wikileaks - The Fifth Estate by director Bill Condon was released, in which Benedict Cumberbatch played Julian Assange and Daniel Brühl played Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The film was written by Josh Singer and based in part on Domscheit-Berg's book Inside WikiLeaks: My Time at the World's Most Dangerous Website .

See also


web links

Commons : WikiLeaks  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: WikiLeaks  – in the news


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