Whistleblowers or terrorists? The Wikileaks story

Summary:This self-styled media organization leaked the largest cache of classified intelligence in U.S. history. But who are these guys anyway? Our special report takes a closer look at the inner workings of Wikileaks and its connection to the hactivists known as 'Anonymous'.

This series explores in empirical detail the U.S. diplomatic cables release by Wikileaks -- a self-styled media organisation -- where over 250,000 classified communiques were published in the public domain.

To understand the nature of the work Wikileaks performs, this series, formed out of my undergraduate dissertation, analyses their organisational structure, capabilities and its technological advantages.

The consequences of Wikileaks' work ultimately led to allegations made towards founder, Julian Assange, and his organisation became a worldwide target for intelligence agencies, governments and journalists alike.

As the largest cache of classified intelligence leaked in United States' history, the wide ranging ramifications of the release raised questions about governmental transparency, openness and trust.

Wikileaks is an organisation -- decentralised in structure and with no fixed headquarters or abode. The internal dialogue of the organisation has been blended and distorted by the media, with claims of inner corruption and conflicts of power, arrogance and self-seeking hedonism by Assange.

Yet a more pragmatic and objective view of the goals and objectives of Wikileaks, shows it to be a not-for-profit organisation acting in a capacity to bring news and information into the public domain. Similar in style to that of a broadcasting or media company, Wikileaks is famed for publishing leaked documents; some highly classified in nature.

The magnitude of the diplomatic cable release is said to have triggered the 2011 revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa; toppling regimes and bringing down dictatorships, making politicians and governments forcibly accountable for the first time in generations.

It allowed the media to dissect and to scrutinise the decisions made by our executives and shed light on a side to government never seen before.

Wikileaks, though has been operational since 2007, has recently had extreme media attention with the release of U.S. diplomatic cables, some classified as 'SECRET' noting their sensitivity, and released seemingly indiscriminately into the public domain. Since this release, extradition hearings have been underway in England to deport Assange to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.

Yet before the explosion of media interest in 2010, Wikileaks was lesser known and fought for different motives. The transformation of the organisation resulted through the varying level of information leaked to Wikileaks, from low level private industry whistle-blowing leaks to full transnational governmental releases.

The themes noted in this work explore empirically how the self-styled media organisation operates and notes its organisational structure.

Also, this work will critically examine in empirical detail how 'hactivist' group Anonymous have defended Wikileaks in paramilitary style, and will uncover how the cables came to be in the public light.

Read in full:

Part 1: The diplomatic cables release and media reactions Introducing the work of Wikileaks during the U.S. diplomatic cables release in 2010, and how this impacted the world of journalism.

Part 2: A brief history of Wikileaks, pre-2010 Going back to pre-2010 before the cables were released to discover the roots of the whistleblowing organisation.

Part 3: How the organization functions and operates Examining the operations of Wikileaks and how it functions, amid the vast media preoccupation with its values of secrecy.

Part 4: How 'Anonymous' subverted the most powerful governments How does anonymity prevail on the web? Examining the connection between Wikileaks and online 'hactivist' group, Anonymous.

Part 5: How Wikileaks leaked the diplomatic cables Detailing how U.S. Army officer Bradley Manning allegedly leaked the largest cache of secret data in U.S. history.

Part 6: How the diplomatic cables sparked the 2011 Arab Spring How the release of the diplomatic cables sparked revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, and the wider effect on international relations.

Topics: Mobility, Government, Government : US, Hardware, Networking, Telcos

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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