What is WikiLeaks?

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor

This is dating myself but I remember many years ago being contacted by a traveling salesman selling encyclopedias. Yes, our family, when the kids were very little, did buy a full set of encyclopedias buying the pitch that the books would help foster a better education for our youngsters. The salesman was right, the kids used the books and they did help them carve out a better education.
Now, we have an Internet tool called Google and we have one called Wikipedia. The latter is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 17 million articles (over 3.5 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site.
This gets us back to talking about WikiLeaks, which is not associated with Wikipedia.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, WikiLeaks is not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia  Foundation. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks
Wikipedia says WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and news leaks.
Its website, launched in 2006 under The Sunshine Press organisation, claimed a database of more than 1.2 million documents within a year of its launch. WikiLeaks 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. The site was originally launched as a user-editable wiki, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model and no longer accepts either user comments or edits.
Assange is currently wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding alleged sexual offences, and was arrested in London, England on in December of 2010. He is currently on bail and under house arrest in England pending an extradition hearing on scheduled for this week.  Assange has denied the allegations and claimed that they are politically motivated.
From Wikipedia we read: “Assange founded the WikiLeaks website in 2006 and serves on its advisory board. He has published material about extrajudicial killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire, Church of Scientology manuals, Guantanamo Bay procedures, and banks such as Kaupthing and Julius Baer.
“In 2010, he published classified details about American involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On Nov. 28, 2010, WikiLeaks and its five international print media partners (Der Spiegel, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian and El País) began publishing secret US diplomatic cables.”
This organization, which we will learn more about by going to its website, reminds me of my days of being an editor of the Austin High School newspaper, The Sentinel, and editor of the JC Journal, the Austin State Junior College publication.
With these school publications, editors including myself, were able to step out of bounds occasionally in what we would print in our newspapers. By that, I remember putting out an April Fools issue in 1964 in the JC Journal that spoofed stories. One of the breaking stories said Malcolm X was coming to Austin to give a special on civil liberty. This man, at the time, was one of the most outspoken in the civil rights movement.
In that same college publication, we published a photo, said to be a team photo of the Austin Junior College team that won the state championship. The photo only showed the team members in uniform from the waist on down.
In totality, our high school and college publications were quite calm. I recall, when working as publisher for the Post Review in North Branch, breaking a story on the school newspaper going underground. Of course, school administration objected to this publication and our weekly newspaper, the Post Review, had a hay day with it.
Well, let’s learn a little more about WikiLeaks. Go to the WikiLeaks website at http://wikileaks.ch/
We read from the “About” link to the WikiLeaks site: “WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box).
“One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities.
“WikiLeaks has sustained and triumphed against legal and political attacks designed to silence our publishing organisation, our journalists and our anonymous sources. The broader principles on which our work is based are the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history.
“We derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 19 inspires the work of our journalists and other volunteers. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. We agree, and we seek to uphold this and the other Articles of the Declaration.”
Wikileaks will accept restricted or censored material of political, ethical, diplomatic or historical significance. WikiLeads does not accept rumor, opinion, other kinds of first hand accounts or material that is publicly available elsewhere. At the moment WikiLeaks is not accepting new submissions due to re-engineering improvements the site to make it both more secure and more user-friendly.

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