In this article, Ian Anderson, a member of the Wellington branch of the Workers Party, looks back on the breaking of state secrets – including with regard to NZ’s role in Iraq – and how WikiLeaks has helped shape recent international events.
By now everyone with access to mainstream media has heard of WikiLeaks. Whether it’s the latest head-line from a leaked diplomatic cable, or a development in the Assange rape allegation drama, WikiLeaks is a centre-piece in media coverage. This article aims to give some background and analysis, to put the headlines in context.
Launched in March 2006, WikiLeaks relies on donations through the non-profit sector. Donations are processed by the Wau Holland Foundation in Germany, a non-profit organisation named after a “data philosopher” who developed notions such as hacker ethics. WikiLeaks is also registered through various other organisations internationally, many with only covert affiliations.
Like so many NGO-ist operations, WikiLeaks strives for political neutrality and does not have an explicitly anti-imperialist mandate. Until recently they used the following mission statement: “Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their own governments and corporations.”
In its early days WikiLeaks exposed corruption in Kenya, and found itself in conflict with censorious Chinese authorities. However, the website ultimately shot to fame by exposing the machinations of Western imperialism. In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the first file from PFC Bradley Manning, a video nicknamed “Collateral Murder.” This video depicted the US army murdering Iraqi civilians and firing upon reporters in a 2007 airstrike. In the weeks following this leak “WikiLeaks” was the search-term with the most significant growth on Google.
In his position as Intelligence Analyst for the US military, Manning had leaked two videos of airstrikes and about 260,000 diplomatic cables – many still unreleased by WikiLeaks. After former hacker Adrian Lamo blew the whistle, Manning was arrested and placed in solitary confinement. WikiLeaks continues to release the cables in batches, despite various attempts to shoot the messenger.