What is Wikileaks.org? Why "wikify" leaking?

Wikileaks is an uncensorable version of Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. It combines the protection and anonymity of cutting-edge cryptographic technologies with the transparency and simplicity of a wiki interface.

Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.

Consider Daniel Ellsberg, working within the US government during the Vietnam War. He comes into contact with the Pentagon Papers, a meticulously kept record of military and strategic planning throughout the war. Those papers reveal the depths to which the US government has sunk in deceiving the population about the war. Yet the public and the media know nothing of this urgent and shocking information. Indeed, secrecy laws are being used to keep the public ignorant of gross dishonesty practiced by their government. In spite of those secrecy laws and at great personal risk, Ellsberg manages to disseminate the Pentagon papers to journalists and to the world. Despite facing criminal charges, eventually dropped, the release of the Pentagon papers shocks the world, exposes the government, and helps to shorten the war and save thousands of lives.

The power of principled leaking to embarrass governments, corporations and institutions is amply demonstrated through recent history. Public scrutiny of otherwise unaccountable and secretive institutions pressures them to act ethically. What official will chance a secret, corrupt transaction when the public is likely to find out? What repressive plan will be carried out when it is revealed to the citizenry, not just of its own country, but the world? When the risks of embarrassment through openness and honesty increase, the tables are turned against conspiracy, corruption, exploitation and oppression. Open government answers injustice rather than causing it. Open government exposes and undoes corruption. Open governance is the most cost effective method of promoting good governance.

Today, with authoritarian governments in power around much of the world, increasing authoritarian tendencies in democratic governments, and increasing amounts of power vested in unaccountable corporations, the need for openness and democratization is greater than ever.

Wikileaks is a tool to satisfy that need.

Wikileaks reduces the risk to potential leakers and improves the analysis and dissemination of leaked documents.

Wikileaks provides simple and straightforward means for anonymous and untraceable leaking of documents.

At the same time, Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to a much more exacting scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency could provide: the scrutiny of a worldwide community of informed wiki editors.

Instead of a couple of academic specialists, Wikileaks will provide a forum for the entire global community to examine any document relentlessly for credibility, plausibility, veracity and falsifiability. They will be able to interpret documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document is leaked from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document is leaked from Somalia, the entire Somali refugee community can analyze it and put it in context. And so on.

Wikileaks may become the most powerful "intelligence agency" on earth -- an intelligence agency of the people. It will be an open source, democratic intelligence agency. But it will be far more principled, and far less parochial than any governmental intelligence agency; consequently, it will be more accurate, and more relevant. It will have no commercial or national interests at heart; its only interests will be truth and freedom of information. Unlike the covert activities of state intelligence agencies, Wikileaks will rely upon the power of overt fact to inform citizens about the truths of their world.

Wikileaks will be the outlet for every government official, every bureaucrat, every corporate worker, who becomes privy to embarrassing information which 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.

Wikileaks will be a forum for the ethical defection of unaccountable and abusive power to the people.

How will Wikileaks operate?

To the user, Wikileaks will look very much like Wikipedia. Anybody can post to it, anybody can edit it. No technical knowledge is required. Leakers can post documents anonymously and untraceably. Users can publicly discuss documents and analyze their credibility and veracity. Users can discuss interpretations and context and collaboratively formulate collective publications. Users can read and write explanatory articles on leaks along with background material and context. The political relevance of documents and their verisimilitude will be revealed by a cast of thousands.

Wikileaks will also incorporate advanced cryptographic technologies for anonymity and untraceability. Those who provide leaked information may face severe risks, whether of political repercussions, legal sanctions or physical violence. Accordingly, extremely sophisticated mathematical and cryptographic techniques will be used to secure privacy, anonymity and untraceability.

For the technically minded, Wikileaks integrates technologies including modified versions of FreeNet, Tor, PGP and software of our own design.

Wikileaks will be deployed in a way that makes it impervious to political and legal attacks. In this sense it is uncensorable.

Who is behind Wikileaks?

Wikileaks was founded by Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Our advisory board, which is still forming, includes representatives from expatriate Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers.

There are currently 22 people directly involved in the project and counting.

What is your relationship to Wikipedia?

Wikileaks has no formal relationship to Wikipedia. However both employ the same wiki interface and technology. Both share the same radically democratic philosophy that allowing anyone to be an author or editor leads to a vast and accurate collective intelligence and knowledge. Both place their trust in an informed community of citizens. What Wikipedia is to the encyclopedia, Wikileaks will be to leaks.

Wikipedia provides a positive example on which Wikileaks is based. The success of Wikipedia in providing accurate and up-to-date information has been stunning and surprising to many. Wikipedia shows that the collective wisdom of an informed community of users may produce massive volumes of accurate knowledge in a rapid, democratic and transparent manner. Wikileaks aims to harness this phenomenon to provide fast and accurate dissemination, verification, analysis, interpretation and explanation of leaked documents, for the benefit of people all around the world.

What is Wikileaks' present stage of development?

Wikileaks has developed a prototype which has been successful in testing, but there are still many demands required before we have the scale required for a full public deployment. We require additional funding, the support of further dissident communities, human rights groups, reporters and media representative bodies (as consumers of leaks), language regionalization, volunteer editors/analysts and server operators.

We have received over 1.2 million documents so far. We plan to numerically eclipse the content of the English Wikipedia with leaked documents.

Anyone interested in helping us out with any of the above should contact us by email.

When will Wikileaks go live?

We cannot yet give an exact date. We estimate February or March 2007.

Where is a sample document?

A leaked document, “Inside Somalia and the Union of Islamic Courts”, and an analysis of the document is available from the news page.

Couldn't leaking involve invasions of privacy? Couldn't mass leaking of documents be irresponsible? Aren't some leaks deliberately false and misleading?

Providing a forum for freely posting information involves the potential for abuse, but measures can be taken to minimize any potential harm. The simplest and most effective countermeasure is a worldwide community of informed users and editors who can scrutinize and discuss leaked documents.

Concerns about privacy, irresponsibility and false information also arise with Wikipedia. On Wikipedia, irresponsible posting or editing of material, or posting of false material, can be reversed by other users, and the results have been extremely satisfying and reassuring. There is no reason to expect any different from Wikileaks. Indeed, as discovered with Wikipedia to the surprise of many, the collective wisdom of an informed community of users may provide rapid and accurate dissemination, verification and analysis.

Furthermore, misleading leaks and misinformation are already well placed in the mainstream media, as recent history shows, an obvious example being the lead-up to the Iraq war. Peddlers of misinformation will find themselves undone by Wikileaks, equipped as it is to scrutinize leaked documents in a way that no mainstream media outlet is capable of. An analogus example is this excellent unweaving of the British government's politically motivated additions to an intelligence dossier on Iraq. The dossier was cited by Colin Powell in his address to the United Nations the same month to justify the pending US invasion of Iraq.

In any case, our overarching goal is to provide a forum where embarrassing information can expose injustice. All policy will be formulated with this goal in mind.

Is Wikileaks concerned about any legal consequences?

Our roots are in dissident communities and our focus is on non-western authoritarian regimes. Consequently we believe a politically motivated legal attack on us would be seen as a grave error in western administrations. However, we are prepared, structurally and technically, to deal with all legal attacks. We design the software, and promote its human rights agenda, but the servers are run by anonymous volunteers. Because we have no commercial interest in the software, there is no need to restrict its distribution. In the very unlikely event that we were to face coercion to make the software censorship friendly, there are many others who will continue the work in other jurisdictions.

Is leaking ethical?

We favour, and uphold, ethical behavior in all circumstances. Every person is the ultimate arbiter of justice in their own conscience. Where there is a lack of freedom and injustice is enshrined in law, there is a place for principled civil disobedience. Where the simple act of distributing information may embarrass a regime or expose crime, we recognize a right, indeed a duty, to perform that act. Such whistleblowing normally involves major personal risk. Just like whistleblower protection laws in some jurisdictions, Wikileaks provides means and opportunity to minimize such risks.

We propose that every authoritarian government, every oppressive institution, and even every corrupt corporation, be subject to the pressure, not merely of international diplomacy or freedom of information laws, not even of quadrennial elections, but of something far stronger: the individual consciences of the people within them.


“We were young, we were foolish, we were arrogant, but we were right.” -- Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers)