Julian Assange: WikiLeaks’ 10 most shocking secrets

Assassination, Iraq and Sarah Palin's email address – the stories that made WikiLeaks.

Julian Assange WikiLeaks
Free (for now) Julian Assange claimed asylum in London’s Ecuadorean embassy in 2012. Image Picture Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Julian Assange is about to come out of hiding.

A UN legal panel has declared that the controversial WikiLeaks founder should be freed and handed compensation for “deprivation of liberty”.

The 44-year-old, who claimed asylum in London’s Ecuadorean embassy in 2012, faces extradition to Sweden over a rape claim. The UN ruled he’s been arbitrarily detained since his arrest in 2010.

But Swedish prosecutors have noted that the latest turn of events will have no impact on their inquiry, and British police say he still faces arrest.

As the complicated Assange story develops, here are ten of the most shocking revelations from Assange’s whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.


 

1

Trafigura

Oil company Trafigura controversially blocked a report from scientist John Minton from publication in The Guardian in 2009. The paper was locked in a five-week battle to get the information out into the open due to its environmental repercussions. Trafigura were dumping toxic waste across the Ivory Coast that had fatal amounts of sulphur. When WikiLeaks got their hands on Minton’s report, they quickly unleashed the document The Guardian was legally barred from publishing.

2

Iraq

Leaked footage from an Apache helicopter’s gun camera captured the moment 15 people were mowed down by the US Army in Iraq in 2010. The jingoistic screams of “Light ‘em up” didn’t help matters. Or the fact that two Reuters journalists were killed in the attack because the crew claimed they mistook their cameras for weapons.

3

Cablegate

The release in 2010 of 250,000 leaked US State Department cables was a seismic moment in the life of WikiLeaks. This was the biggest ever public domain leak of confidential records in history, and gave news outlets material for months. The documents contained diplomatic analysis from world leaders and assessments of countries and their officials.

4

Australia’s internet blacklist

In 2009, a proposed internet blacklist from the Australian government found its way to WikiLeaks. What was meant to be a list comprised entirely of “depravity and potentially very dangerous material” instead included Wikipedia entries, YouTube video and a Queensland dentist’s website.

Julian Assange WikiLeaks
Whistleblowers Julian Assange's WikiLeaks website knows how to make headlines. Image Picture Joe Raedle/Getty Images

5

Guantanamo Bay

A 2007 leak lifted the very unpleasant lid on the controversial detention camp. US Army soldiers at Camp Delta were given a Standard Operating Procedures manual on how to deal with prisoners. Instructions include a roll of toilet paper for perceived good behaviour. At one point, David Gray’s Babylon was reportedly used to torture one GTMO prisoner. Barbaric.

6

9/11

In 2009, WikiLeaks published more than half-a-million pager messages received during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The site understandably came under fire when critics questioned if these messages – most of them heartbreaking – were in the public interest.

7

Scientology

The unorthodox practices of the Church of Scientology were published for all to see back in 2008. Before then, L Ron Hubbard’s religion had been shrouded in mystery. WikiLeaks revealed the “levels” needed to become Operating Thetans. Much of these discoveries helped shape Alex Gibney’s landmark documentary Going Clear.

8

BNP

Nick Griffin’s far-right party was rocked in 2008 when the names of 13,500 members were released by WikiLeaks. Not only that, but their addresses and job information also made it online. This knocked Griffin and co right off their perch, and happened during a time when they were clashing with senior figures in the British military.

9

Sarah Palin’s email address

Anonymous’s 2008 hack of Sarah Palin’s email account (a Yahoo address, in case you wondered) was swiftly followed by leaked screengrabs from WikiLeaks. Palin, at the time the running mate of Republican candidate John McCain, saw details of her entire campaign exposed.

10

Assassination

In December 2006, the site revealed a document containing a “secret decision” signed by Somali rebel leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. The purpose? To execute government officials by hiring hitmen and disguising them as criminals. This was a landmark post for WikiLeaks – it was their very first.

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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