Home One Year After Cablegate Began, WikiLeaks’ Operations Still Handicapped

One Year After Cablegate Began, WikiLeaks’ Operations Still Handicapped

One year ago today, the slow leak of over 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks began. It would be the biggest exposure of such information in recorded history, and the event would trigger both a massive wave of support for the organization and an unprecedented backlash that has included governments, financial institutions and Internet companies.

Today, WikiLeaks is struggling to survive, let alone operate as it once did. A financial blockade has crippled its finances, its founder continues to fight extradition over sexual assault charges and others have defected from the organization entirely. Some of them even launched a competing site for whistleblowers.

The organization’s system for accepting document and data submissions was supposed to be relaunched today, but has been delayed for an undisclosed amount of time.

The system is being reengineered to provide tighter data security and source protection, Julian Assange said last month. The organization said that it would delay the launch of the system “in the interest of source protection.” In the meantime, people are still unable to submit documents to the organization online. Sure, material can be handed over in person, but that option lacks the anonymity and ease of supplying information over the Internet. Indeed, it is the underlying technology and unique architecture of the Internet that has enabled WikiLeaks to exist and operate in the first place.

WikiLeaks’ Impact on Journalism, Global Affairs and Online Privacy

WikiLeaks and its release of the diplomatic cables have had an enormous, if controversial impact on world affairs over the last year. Additional light has been shed on abuses in places like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, all of which saw their leadership deposed in 2011. Information contained in the cables may have even expedited the end of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The organization’s impact on journalism has also been significant. The trove of information revealed by WikiLeaks provided nearly endless fodder for reporters across the globe. Despite a falling out with Julian Assange, the New York Times relied on documents supplied by WikiLeaks for stories in almost half of its printed issues this year, according to The Atlantic.

In addition to supplying hundreds of thousands of data points for reporters, WikiLeaks’ impact was felt on the media landscape when Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar suddenly resigned in September, after leaked documents pointed to possible self-censorship of Al Jazeera’s reporting in response to U.S. pressure.

The fallout from Cablegate has also had an influence on online privacy in the United States. This year, as part of its ongoing of WikiLeaks, the U.S. Justice Department has asked tech companies for private data pertaining alleged collaborators and supporters of the organization. Google complied, handing over Gmail account data belonging to Jacob Appelbaum, a Tor developer who has worked with WikiLeaks. After initially resisting another secret, warrantless request, Twitter was recently ordered to hand over data as well.

For now, the organization’s impact, for better or worse, remains handicapped by ongoing legal, financial and technical problems. Until a new system for submitting new material is up and running and it gets its finances in order, we may be hearing less and less from WikiLeaks.

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