After six years, WikiLeaks anonymous leak submissions returns
Six years after the original went down, WikiLeaks announced that it has launched a beta version of its new anonymous leak submission system. According to hackread.com, the system is currently open to the public, and it will allow the whistleblower site to receive any and all information in a way that protects the person that submits it.
WikLeaks was founded in 2006 “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” according to its founder, Julian Assange. It was also designed so that journalists and whistleblowers could submit sensitive and classified documents anonymously. To do this, the site created an online, secure drop box.
Within less than two months of its debut, the site published its first major document leak, which showed that Somali Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys ordered the assassination of several government officials. WikiLeaks soon after made a name for itself by publishing stories about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, illegal activities by the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, and a well publicized released of documents pertaining to Scientology. WikiLeaks doesn’t generally comment on where or how it received its information – that would defeat the point – but most of its content came from anonymous drops.
The site began to become internationally renowned thanks to its releases of several documents related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which were later credited to US Army private Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning). The leaks included videos of civilians being killed, which helped WikiLeaks to become one of the most searched for site in the world – and earned Manning a lengthy prison sentence.
Around this time, the early version of WikiLeaks’ secure drop box went off line. The site had other means to privately receive information, but the anonymous drops ceased.
Then in 2010, WikiLeaks partnered with five of the biggest newspapers in the world – El Pais, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The Guardian, and The New York Times – to release the first batch of over 250,000 classified diplomatic cables.
Although the documents helped to make WikiLeaks one of the most influential sites in the world, its management team began to splinter. Assange was always a divisive figure, and many of his own staff began to distrust his actions and his motives.
There was also significant infighting over how the documents should be released. That argument included questions regarding how much responsibility WikiLeaks itself had to redact information that could potentially endanger the lives of people mentioned in the documents. That led to several high profile departures.
To some Assange is a hero, to others he was a criminal. He was under investigation by several governments for espionage, as well as accusations in Sweden of sexual assault, a claim Assange and his supporters continue to claim was politically motivated. In 2012, he was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remains.
With Assange in exile and many of WikiLeaks’ most influential people leaving, the site has been a shell of its former self. The site’s ability to anonymously receive documents was compromised in 2009, which also limited its ability. It has still received and published leaked documents, but it has lacked a safe and secure way for random whistleblowers to reach them and pass on documents securely without having to contact staff members, which could potentially put the whistleblower at risk.
Following the reshuffling at WikiLeaks in 2010, the remaining staffers that seized control began to promise a new, anonymous drop box. It has taken five years of development, which is partly due to Assange’s legal issues and the site’s financial problems, but the new system is preparing to launch.
“WikiLeaks will continue publishing, as it has since its foundation, full archives of suppressed documents in strategic global partnerships,” Assange said in a statement posted on WikiLeaks. “The 2.0 public-facing submission system is an important new method in our arsenal for recovering subjugated history.”
When it does, it will allow users to submit documents, emails, and videos. It will all run on Tor, the freeware software designed to use a separate networks to route traffic anonymously on the Internet. The software masks the identity and the location of the users.
If Tor is not an option for whatever reason, WikiLeaks is promising other methods for anonymously sending information. It will require contacting WikiLeaks though, which could be less secure for the whistleblower.
The system is accepting submissions now. WikiLeaks has been a shadow of its former self, but with the new system in place, and a name that still carries a lot of weight, the site hopes to be a player on the international stage once again.