Much has been talked about WikiLeaks in recent times, mainly due to his involvement in the leak of information about the U.S. government. But very few people know exactly what it is the organization, what it fights for and who is behind all these leaks.First of all, before we have to talk about WikiLeaks itself, we have to talk a little about Julian Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks. Julian Assange is a hacker-activist who became internationally known as the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. Assange is an Australian hacker, programmer and journalist, who already been awarded and nominated for prizes like the reader’s choice of “Person of the year” by Time Magazine and the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Prize for journalism. Assange had the international attention in 2010 with the beginning of the publication of U.S. military and diplomatic documents — because of that he earned the title of “Enemy of United States” by the U.S. Department of Defense — and since December 2010 Assange has been subject because of a European Arrest Warrant, a response for the Swedish police request about a sexual assault investigation.

Since July 2012, he stays in Ecuador embassy in London where he has been granted diplomatic asylum. And, because of the sexual warrant, the British government intends to extradite Assange to Sweden as soon as he leaves the Ecuador embassy. Because of this attitude of the UK, Assange fears this warrant results in an extradition to U.S., where he will respond for the classified information cases.WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 when J. Assange wrote two essays about the philosophy of then. In one of the essays that became the “ground zero” of WikiLeaks Assange says:The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie…. Since unjust systems, by their nature, induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance. (CHURCHER, 2012)Furthermore Assange is the most prominent speaker for the WikiLeaks cause. He became a kind of leader for it. Among other things, Assange defends that journalism, as the other sciences, must have a scientific and transparent approach to avoid the regular errors in media. With such thoughts in mind the WikiLeaks was born and has as main objective publish all sorts of information that might be relevant to citizens of all countries, or in the own words of the statute of the organization:WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organization. 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. (WikiLeaks, 2012)Another important goal of WikiLeaks is to maintain the anonymity and safety of their whistleblowers and journalists around the world and prevent them from being arrested for bringing to light these emails containing classified documents.In that way, we can assume WikiLeaks wants to be a free information source that spreads classified information, which is usually denied to the citizens by the U.S. government and all the other governments. The truth about all governments around the world is that they fear population have access to information about their vested business. And that is the core meaning of WikiLeaks: shows the information that governments do not want us to know.For regular people like us, what does means the existence of an organization that shares important information that is usually not available to the public?It means we can reach top secret files about politics, economy and many other kinds of documents about the powerful countries. It means that we can know about what is happening above our heads, while we work hard to maintain these governments. It means that we can know about what kind of politics our country is involved in. It means the information is not anymore a scarce resource that would be protected and sustained on the hand of a few powerful executives and politicians.Besides this ability to spread the erstwhile secret information, WikiLeaks also helps regular citizens to know the dirt of the government and shows how this information is used as an instrument of power.

A brief example about how the governments manipulate the information is the last election in China for the primer ministry and president. As we all know China have a dictatorial government characterized by a severe restriction of civil rights and to free access to information (even Google is blocked in the election period). In a scenario like that what kind of media organization can act? What kind of media organization can, actually, free itself from the legal and the economic ties and provide us free information about and for a closed country? The answer to that is not so simple, but we can think that a free media source can do the job with more efficiency than the regular ones — like a newspaper or a TV company (or Google news, for instance) — which has agreements with advertisers and collusions with the governments.A possible argumentation is that China is an extreme case when we are talking about access to information (classified or not). In fact, this is not all true. All governments around the world hide information from the regular citizens with the excuse to protect them from an outside enemy. That excuse is exactly the same we see the “terror war” orchestrated by U.S. in the first months after the 9/11 events.Today we cannot even think about all the classified information that flow in all directions without we know. You can think, for instance, that U.S. government have no interest in the election in Guatemala, but, thanks to WikiLeaks, we can know that U.S. not only have interest in the election but also maintained regular meetings with one of the candidates.Another important point is to determine what information is (and how to get that from the governments). In fact, all data is, in some way, classified information — this kind of classified information that leaks and is published by WikiLeaks is called “cables” — and gain access to these cables to spread the information there is the silence fight of WikiLeaks. For that they maintain a network of anonymous collaborators that send to then all those cables, which is filtered, revised and finally publicized — always maintaining the source anonymous [1].

A recent example of the intervention of WikiLeaks in the normal information disclosure flux is the publication of a huge amount of information about the Syrian government and companies from all around the world who trade with Syrian government or Syrian companies. These cables recently begun to be published — they are called “The Syria Files” — and they are comprised by a collection of more than two million emails from Syrian politicians, ministries and companies.

These “Syria files” contain information about the government of that country and information about the other companies and governments who deal with Syria. The most important thing on these cables is that they have information about every side of the political game, involving Russians and Americans, for instance. With these emails WikiLeaks says that U.S. has funded opposition groups in Syria, also the messages show that the U.S. Department of State funneled more than 6 million dollars to these groups since 2006. The documents from WikiLeaks show us that the money from U.S. started flowing in George W. Bush government after he freeze the diplomatic ties with Damascus. The documents do not inform if the Department of State from U.S. still finances the groups after Bush’s government, although the budget for that is signed until September 2010.In a note, Assange says that the Syrian government is not the only one to be embarrassed with the cables, but all the companies involved with the conflict in Syria. And he is right. The only way for us to know and understand the conflict itself — conflict that already killed something between six and fifteen thousand people in the last eleven months, according to WikiLeaks — is to inform about the conflict, but the details about it are often biased and irrelevant, since the media protect certain interests. In that gap between what people should know and what the media leave the people know is that come WikiLeaks to put a light this conflict.

To assist with the divulgation of these files WikiLeaks counts with help of the main media conglomerates in the world, like Associated Press, which is work side-by-side on that.And even Brazil is in the route of the cables. In December 2010 WikiLeaks publicized more the 251 thousand classified documents about the communication between the U.S. embassy and other embassies and governmental departments around the world. One of these documents talk about the participation of the Brazilian president, Dilma Roussef, during the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964–1985) and her actions as terrorist (such as bank robberies). At other cable we can read about the concern of some locations, which are considered vital for the Brazilian national security (the national security of countries that are U.S. allies is a constant concern by the U.S. Department of Defense), and among the many mentioned places we can quote the submarine cables with connections in Rio de Janeiro e Fortaleza and ore mines in Minas Gerais and Goias. The concern about the Brazilian national security extends until the Olympics and possible opportunities for American companies in Brazil. All these cables are not released by the government because they are handled as classified information and cannot fall into wrong hands, and for that we, citizens, are blocked from having access to this information.However, not everyone has sympathy for the work of WikiLeaks. The main criticism comes from the governments whose documents were released by the organization. We can cite the incident where a very significant amount of personal emails from the ambassadors of several nations of G8 were disclosed. On these emails we can read about the personal features of each head of state, like Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin. In other words, the powerful countries — those whom have more to hide — like U.S., France and Russia, have proved completely hold the cause of WikiLeaks and treated Assange like a criminal.It is not difficult to realize why the governments have this kind of reaction with the disclosure of the classified documents by WikiLeaks. This action weakens the power of these states, since in our era information is the most precious and powerful asset that we can have. So, the reaction of the states is an attempt to deny the actions and keep the crowd under control, thus maintaining the status quo of the power in society. But we also have to understand that with all the data exposed by WikiLeaks, it is not difficult to imagine that a wide range of people can use them with bad intentions against the country that had their data exposed by the organization.Another argument against WikiLeaks diplomatic concerns the information leaked.

That kind of violation, argues who contends that this type of information should not leak, is not the purpose of WikiLeaks. That ends up bringing a lot of negative consequences to the intelligence of the countries involved in the leak of this diplomatic correspondence. The most visible consequence is that it brings confusion to people about the organization. And this type of misinformation and confusion ends up tarnishing the image of WikiLeaks. What is defended by those who believe that WikiLeaks should worry about other types of cables is that this type of leak does not bring any benefit to the population or world politics, since it is just a lot of correspondence between ambassadors and heads of state.In general we can say that the receipt of the cables by ordinary citizens has been a mix of credulity and misinformation. The credulity came because the regular citizens are used to believes in everything that is on television and newspapers, creating with that a perfect environment for the government to lie about everything inside the country without receive any kind of resistance by the citizens. The misinformation is because most of population do not the access to everything which is happening in their country — in other words, there is a purposeful hole in the transmission of knowledge — and often this causes a gap between real information that was limited for the public and the understanding of this information by the public. But, in general, we can say the majority has embraced the cause of WikiLeaks because they are feeling the importance of having this kind of publication to bring another kind of information to them. So we can say WikiLeaks has had the popular support in most cities around the world and Assange has obtained the popular support to remain free, despite the numerous attempts from UK to arrest and extradite him to U.S.The fight for freedom of press is not only in the hands of WikiLeaks, in fact, we have many other organizations around the world, which are concerned about the direction of the press, censorship and freedom. One of these is the Reporters Without Borders (RWB), which is a French-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information. The way RWB is organized and operates is a little different from the WikiLeaks. While WikiLeaks focuses more on cables and the Internet, RWB focuses more on acting in loco, operating together with several correspondents worldwide. They also conduct investigations about the press in different nations and maintains the “Press Freedom Index”, which is an annual ranking about freedom of the press in all possible countries — some countries do not allow RWB to make the index. This index is compiled and published by RWB and is based on a questionnaire sent to representatives all around the world (more than 130 correspondents around the world compounded by journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists). The index consists on questions about attacks against press, against journalists and any other kind of pressure against free press.

The RWB also provides assistance to journalists who are in danger or exiled and also try to help the families of journalists who have been killed. Hence we can say that RWB diverges from WikiLeaks in the way it operates but the core cause, the spread of free information, is the same in both.With all that, we can accept that this kind of organization in a “connected world” as ours is very important to assure that all the information freely flows and everyone must have access to information in every corner of the world. It does not matter where you are and what you stand for. This information should come to you in a free way, without any kind of interference. You should are the only one who decide the validity of this information. Not your government nor any company or even WikiLeaks should block your access. The power of information should be allowed to everyone in a synchronous way and without any kind of barrier between the citizens and the information. Information nowadays means power, and power must be with the crowd and not with the government or any kind of company.


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[1] This anonymity is provided by a large sort of security software layers, like TOR (an acronym for “The Onion Router”) which is a software that makes a series of internet tunnels overlying the internet itself where the router are the computers of all the TOR users, which are connected to the internet.