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King of cyber-scoops on collision course with the CIA?

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2010-07-27

WikiLeaks, the website renowned for publishing confidential documents, has accused the CIA of trying to shut it down because of a compromising video of the US military it plans to make public.

In a row that is taking on biblical overtones, WikiLeaks has accused the US Central Intelligence Agency of trying to smite its top-secret document-publishing operation. In an editorial published on March 26, the website made startling declarations about the Intelligence Goliath.
 
"[T]he increase in surveillance activities this last month, at a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, is excessive," wrote Julian Assange, spokesman for the website and Sunshine Press, the non-profit organisation behind WikiLeaks. "The spying includes attempted covert following, photographing, filming and the overt detention & questioning of a WikiLeaks volunteer..."

Assange went on to claim he was tailed on a flight from Iceland by two agents. He said: "After receiving a tip, we obtained airline records for the flight concerned. Two individuals, recorded as brandishing diplomatic credentials checked in for my flight at 12:03 and 12:06 under the name of 'US State Department'. "

In one of its latest Twitter entries, WikiLeaks appeared to verge on paranoia: "If anything happens to us, you know why: it is our Apr. 5 film. And you know who is responsible. "

The film in question, Pentagon murder cover-up, is a video WikiLeaks has promised to make public at the US National Press Club on April 5. The group says the images show US military personnel killing civilians and journalists in Afghanistan.

Shooting down WikiLeaks

It is easy to see why US officials might be alarmed, given the whistleblower website's reputation for reliability. In 2008, the respected British magazine The Economist bestowed WikiLeaks with its Best New Media award.

This is not the first time the CIA has taken an interest in the nosy website. In a report drafted in 2008, the US intelligence described WikiLeaks as “a threat to US troops abroad”. The move promptly backfired when WikiLeaks published the report, forcing the Department of Justice to confirm its authenticity. The incident was all the more embarrassing for the CIA because the report detailed ways to shoot down the website; for instance, by disclosing the identity of WikiLeaks’s sources.

Publicity stunt?

For the time being WikiLeaks continues to operate and has even launched a counter-attack. In the wake of its foreboding editorial, the website published a CIA report titled "Shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe". It is a juicy document that states, among other things, that: "[French President Nicolas] Sarkozy..., may now be more vulnerable to an upsurge in casualties because his party faces key regional elections this March”.

Sarkozy’s party in fact suffered a humiliating defeat in those elections.

The alleged covert conflict between the CIA and WikiLeaks is also a boon for a media site in desperate need of funds. WikiLeaks still needs to raise some $300,000 in donations to balance its 2010 budget. And there's nothing like a good David vs. Goliath story to win sympathy and greenbacks for the cause.

 

Date created : 2010-03-28

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