WikiLeaks: Changing Journalism as We Know it.
July 12th 2007, Baghdad, Iraq. United States’ soldiers from infantry Bravo Company 2–16 have been fighting Iraqi terrorists all morning. The terrorists have the soldiers surrounded. Rocket propelled grades and high caliber bullets are flying through the air from all different directions. The terrorists are gaining ground. The soldiers need help. They’re frantically calling for an air strike. Finally, two Apache Helicopters, with the code names Crazy Horse 18 and Crazy Horse 19, fly in, to help the men on the ground. After about forty minutes of heavy fire from the air, more than a dozen people, including two Reuters journalist, lay on the ground, dead.
What happened during those forty minutes? Were these civilians’ deaths justified? Years later, WikiLeaks is determined to reveal the full story behind this air strike.
A New Form of Media
Wikileaks is a multinational, online, media organization that releases and reports on classified documents and videos for everyone around the world to view and read. The main objective of the organization is to reveal the truths that governments and private corporations hide from the general public.
As stated on the website, “WikiLeaks specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying, and corruption.”
From its founding in 2006, the company has leaked files relating to the war in Iraq, prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and the 2016 United States presidential campaign and has received numerous awards for its journalism.
Julian Assange: The Mastermind Behind it All
The founder and CEO of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was born in Townsville, Australia in 1971. He found his passion for computers at an early age; when his mom bought him his first computer, a Commodore 64, at the age sixteen. Not even 10 years later, in 1995, Assange had his first encounter with law officials due to his activities on the internet. Along with a friend, he was accused of multiple hacking- to use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system- activities online.
Fast Forward to 2006, the same year as he founded Wikileaks, Assange published multiple essays in which he explains his ideology when it comes to classified documents and revealing secrets.
“Assange’s personal philosophy,” Jonathan Zittrain, writer for MIT’s Technology Review, explains, “Is in opposition to what he calls secrecy-based, authoritarian conspiracy governments, in which category he includes the US government and many others not conventionally thought of as authoritarian,”
These ideas and political beliefs are what inspired Julian Assange’s creation of Wikileaks.
The Creation of WikiLeaks as We Know it
October 4th 2006 is when Julian Assange and five others officially created an internet based “dead-box” in which hackers can submit classified files to be published for the world to see, known today as Wikileaks. Assange and the five other self-deemed “activists” activated Wikileaks on a Swedish Internet provider, PRQ.se, for the purpose of warding off cyber-attacks and preserving the anonymity of anyone who were to submit files.
On December 28, 2006, over two months later, WikiLeaks released their first classified document for all the internet to view. The release, entitled “Secret Decision,” is a document written and signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a Somali rebel for the Islamic Courts Union. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is signing an order which calls for the assassination of Somalian government officials. Not sure of the credibility of the document, the founders viewed this as a test-run which later turned into a great success.
Responses Throughout the World
After the leak, media outlets all around the world reported on this new organization. There was nothing on the internet even similar to it, so people did not know how to act. The whole world was wondering if this was a positive or negative contribution to the media establishment?
With each leak, the organization continued to become more popular amongst the public, but as Wikileaks’ popularity grew so did the concerns from foreign governments and private corporations. Wikileaks began to uncover the dark secrets of governments, corporations, and notable people around the world.
Continuing to Shock the World
2010, Reykjavi, Iceland. Julian Assange, along with a group of activists, start working in a house with all the windows covered so neither someone’s eyesight nor the light of day can come through. Using six computers, the group works night and day.
What are they working on? A mission Assange named, “Project B,” finding a video taken from the cockpit of the Apache Helicopters in Iraq on July 12th 2007. Wikileaks is going to find out what happened during those forty minutes of heavy air fire. After hours and hours of work, Julian Assange and his group of activists are able to get their hands on the video.
On April 5, 2010, Wikileaks releases the classified military video onto their website, entitling the leak “Collateral Murder.” The Video shows everything that occurred during the airstrike, including the deaths of the Reuters journalists.
Along with the video, WikiLeaks states “The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers.”
WikiLeaks left it up to the citizens of the world to form their own opinion. We had to decide, were those civilian deaths justified?
Fast forwarding ten years from the creation of the organization, Wikileaks played a major role in the 2016 presidential election. Over the span of the presidential campaign, WikiLeaks released thousands of documents related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. These leaks included emails from when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager, and employees of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C..
Wikileaks received a lot of backlash from liberal leaning Americans because they viewed these leaks as altering the results of the contentious election, but Assange believed these leaks were benefiting the American people.
“…Irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election,” Assange stated, “the real victor is the US public which is better informed as a result of our work.”
The Future of Wikileaks and Jornalism
WikiLeaks continues to open the eyes of people all around the world to information being hidden from them. In 2017, WikiLeaks has released thousands of documents pertaining to highly classified CIA missions. And there does not appear to be an end in sight for the organization and its self proclaimed activism.
So the questions arises: Is WikiLeaks the future of Journalism?
If so, how long until the mainstream media, such as CNN and BBC, start to reveal classified information?
Only time will tell.