If WikiLeaks did not exist, the public would know much less than it does about what government and politicians are doing in its name.
When a 35-year-old Australian named Julian Assange launched WikiLeaks with a few like-minded friends in 2006, he little knew what exposing malfeasance would cost him. The WikiLeaks model was simple: provide a safe repository for documents showing state and corporate wrongdoing while guaranteeing anonymity for the leaker. Newspapers were not necessarily safe for whistle-blowers, as British civil servant Sarah Tisdall discovered in 1983 when London’s The Guardian caved in to a court order and handed over documents that identified her as the source for its story on US cruise missile deployment in the UK. She went to prison for four months and lost her job.
Conscientious employees in government and the private sector trusted WikiLeaks enough to send damning papers that WikiLeaks published and made available to international media. WikiLeaks became a vital source of information for journalists and not, as then CIA director Mike Pompeo would call it in 2017 “a non-state hostile intelligence service.” It was providing information not to spy agencies and departments of defense but to you and me. Without it, we would not have known what happened when an Apache helicopter shot and killed seven civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Baghdad in 2007.
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