By Kim Zetter
June 1, 2010
Wikileaks, the controversial whistleblowing site that exposes secrets of
governments and corporations, bootstrapped itself with a cache of
documents obtained through an internet eavesdropping operation by one of
its activists, according to a new profile of the organization's founder.
The activist siphoned more than a million documents as they traveled
across the internet through Tor, also known as "The Onion Router," a
sophisticated privacy tool that lets users navigate and send documents
through the internet anonymously.
The siphoned documents, supposedly stolen by Chinese hackers or spies
who were using the Tor network to transmit the data, were the basis for
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's assertion in 2006 that his
organization had already "received over one million documents from 13
countries" before his site was launched, according to the article in The
Only a small portion of those intercepted documents were ever posted on
Wikileaks, but the new report indicates that some of the data and
documents on WikiLeaks did not come from sources who intended for the
documents to be seen or posted. It also explains an enduring mystery of
Wikileaks' launch: how the organization was able to amass a collection
of secret documents before its website was open for business.
Tor is a sophisticated privacy tool endorsed by the Electronic Frontier
Foundation and other civil liberties groups as a method for
whistleblowers and human rights workers to communicate with journalists,
among other uses. In its search for government and corporate secrets
traveling through the Tor network, it's conceivable that WikiLeaks may
have also vacuumed up sensitive information from human rights workers
who did not want their data seen by outsiders.
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