WikiLeaks.org makes some bold claims:
WikiLeaks is developing an uncensorable version of WikiPedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary targets are highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia, central eurasia, the middle east and sub-saharan Africa, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by non-technical people. We have received over 1.1 million documents so far. We plan to numerically eclipse the content the english wikipedia with leaked documents.
Some obvious questions which spring to mind about wikileaks.org:
- Are they serious ?
- Who are WikiLeaks ?
- How can they be trusted ?
- Who is funding the project ?
- Why is their website hosted on a Google server ?
- How is anyone in, say, China, ever going to see it ?
- How do they prove that they are not working for, or have been infiltrated by United States (or other) intelligence or law enforcement agencies or by political parties or religious cults ?
The US Government has funded work to try to overcome the internet censorship in, say Iran, but the United States of America is not as widely trusted as it used to be, even by friends and allies.
- How can document leakers and whistleblowers trust that they are not simply being snooped on via a honeypot intelligence gathering operation ?
- Although they mention a PGP public encryption key, with some obscure GPG command line instructions, this PGP key is not actually to be found on the major PGP public keyservers e.g.
It can be found on some. but not all of the PGP Keyservers via
However, having to hunt through multiple PGP Keyservers is not exactly user friendly,
- Why not publish the PGP key on the website ?
- Why is there no SSL v3 / TLS v1 encrypted version of the website ?
- If they are basing their system on Wikipedia, then how are they going to solve the problems such as Denial of Service attacks, and the editing and counter editing / censorship warfare which Wikipedia suffers from ?
It is disputable that a Wiki is "easy to use" for "non-technical people" - formatting is certainly not trivial, for anybody already used to a Word Processor or even to HTML syntax.
- What are they doing about Communications Data Traffic Analysis ?
- What precautions do you take to anonymise the sources of your leaked documents, especially with regard to meta-data in Microsoft Word or Adobe .pdf files, Microsoft Smart Tags, EXIF data in digital images, embedded thumbnails in digital images, characteristic wear patterns on facsimile or printed documents images, ineptly pixellated or digitally blacked out redacted or censored parts of documents etc. ?
The site includes an example of an alleged Somali document which includes meta data which mentions an easy to search engine query for name "Captain Weli", which could be a "Joe job" reputation attack on "ex-captain of Somalia National Airlines, Sheikh Mohamed Mohamud (Captain Weli)"
- Why should a document leaker or whistleblower use this service, in preference to, say:
- Why will WikiLeaks.org succeed, when various anti-censorship schemes and software projects such as those by Hactivismo or Freenet or Anonymous Remailers or Tor or Psiphon, which have failed to catch on with more than a small minority of people ?
Perhaps there are answers to these questions on some private email list somewhere, but, to be honest, the current WikiLeaks.org web page does not inspire sufficient confidence for any aspirant whistleblowers or document leakers in Western Democracies, let alone those living under totalitarian regimes, who face much bigger risks to themselves and to their families, than the UK based civil servants, journalists and bloggers we wrote our whistleblower hints and tips for.
05/01/07: WikiLeaks gets leaked
Due to a single blog posting of just a few words wikileaks has been thrust into the spot light far earlier then expected.
They do now seem to have published a few more details of the background and plans, but still no actual PGP key on their website.
For the technically minded, WikiLeaks integrates technologies including modified versions of FreeNet, Tor, PGP and software of our own design.
WikiLeaks will be deployed in a way that makes it impervious to political and legal attacks. In this sense it is uncensorable.
We can see that FreeNet, Tor and PGP and other software might be made to work smoothly together with a Wikipedia style system, but to claim that this will be "impervious to political and legal attacks" seems rather far fetched.
Who is behind WikiLeaks?
WikiLeaks was founded by Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.
Our advisory board, which is still forming, includes representatives from expatriate Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers.
There are currently 22 people directly involved in the project and counting.
What is WikiLeaks' present stage of development?
WikiLeaks has developed a prototype which has been successful in testing, but there are still many demands required before we have the scale required for a full public deployment. We require additional funding, the support of further dissident communities, human rights groups, reporters and media representative bodies (as consumers of leaks), language regionalization, volunteer editors/analysts and server operators.
We have received over 1.1 million documents so far. We plan to numerically eclipse the content of the English wikipedia with leaked documents.
Anyone interested in helping us out with any of the above should contact us by email.
When will WikiLeaks go live?
We cannot yet give an exact date. We estimate February or March 2007.
Should we get involved in this or not ?
Is WikiLeaks concerned about any legal consequences?
Our roots are in dissident communities and our focus is on non-western authoritarian regimes. Consequently we believe a politically motivated legal attack on us would be seen as a grave error in western administrations. However, we are prepared, structurally and technically, to deal with all legal attacks. We design the software, and promote its human rights agenda, but the servers are run by anonymous volunteers. Because we have no commercial interest in the software, there is no need to restrict its distribution. In the very unlikely event that we were to face coercion to make the software censorship friendly, there are many others who will continue the work in other jurisdictions.
Given the relatively low number of Tor exit nodes here in the United Kingdom, we suspect that unless the software developer succeed in bundling their software together into one easy installation, for Microsoft Windows platforms, not just for Linux etc., this project is unlikely to take off here in the UK.
Will putting a Wikipedia front end and search facility, solve the problems of easily finding things, which are inherent with FreeNet and with Tor hidden services ?
We do look forward to the release of this software, and we will then be watching to see if they can establish a trusted reputation, and if they do actually protect leakers and whistleblowers or not.
We still have doubts that this system will not be abused, and that it will not subject the volunteers who run such wikileaks servers to "political and legal" harassment, here in the United Kingdom and the European Union, let alone elsewhere.