2006-WikiLeaks is launched, created by internet activist Julian Assange

October 4, 2022

WikiLeaks, created on October 4, 2006, was said by Julian Assange to have been created to allow the press to more quickly access and cover information leaks.

Founding and First Leaks

Julian Assange, taking inspiration from the release of the Pentagon Papers of 1971, first registered the domain name for the site on October 4, 2006. The site's servers were first operated in Australia but were soon relocated to countries like Sweden for their more robust legal protections in regard to journalism. The first document ever posted on the website was an assassination order against officials in the Somali government signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a rebel leader in the nation. For its first 4 years of operation, WikiLeaks continued to publish a variety of documents relating to financial, military, and government institutions. It wasn't until 2010 that WikiLeaks became a household name, gaining access to a trove of documents, photographs, and videos relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that led to widespread coverage.

The Iraq and Afghanistan War Leaks

In 2010, the first set of documents provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning was published. Beginning in February with leaked cables detailing a dispute between Iceland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In March, they released a 32-page report authored by the US Department of Defense that directly addressed WikiLeaks operations and discussed potential strategies to defend against these leaks. The following month, a video showed US pilots firing at employees of the media outlet Reuters after mistaking their cameras for weapons. Shortly after, a van stopped nearby, attempting to pick up the bodies and haul them away, but was fired upon by US troops. Following the outing of Chelsea Manning's activities to the United States government by hacker Adrian Lamo, over 92,000 more documents were released pertaining to the war in Afghanistan by WikiLeaks. The organization continued to publish leaks but did not gain widespread attention again until 2016, with the release of DNC emails.

DNC Emails and Charges Against Assange

In July of 2016, WikiLeaks published around 20,000 emails and 8,000 files now believed to have been obtained via a Russian "spear-phishing" attack that compromised the accounts of high-ranking DNC officials like John Podesta. The emails ranged in their particular subjects, but emails related to Hilary Clinton giving paid speeches to banks and receiving access to DNC debate questions in advance were among the most widely reported. While Clinton was faced with problems in the United States, Assange was facing problems in Sweden and the United Kingdom. He had been accused of sexual assault by two Swedish women in 2010 and had gained asylum with the Ecuadorian government until 2019, when this asylum was revoked, and he was remanded to British authorities and placed in Belmarsh Prison for bail violations, where he remains to this day.


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