20 WikiLeaks Most Explosive Revelations and Scandals
WikiLeaks is an organisation which has given us some of the most shocking scandals relating to governments and politicians in recent years. It was founded by Julian Assange, an internet activist who is currently seeking asylum in the Ecuador embassy in London over fear he will be extradited to the US and sentenced to death.
However, this threat hasn’t stopped Assange from publishing top-secret documents and the period of the 2016 US Election was one of WikiLeaks’ busiest yet. Let’s take a look at the top 20 biggest revelations courtesy of WikiLeaks…so far.
2007: Guantanamo Bay Documents Leaked
In 2007, WikiLeaks released information on the interrogations of over 700 terror suspects who were being held in Guantanamo Bay. It uncovered some important information such as how Al-Qaeda planned to release a ‘nuclear hellstorm’ should Osama Bin Laden be caught or assassinated, but the real scandal lied in another part of the leak. The documents showed that over 150 people who were completely innocent had been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay – in fact, only 220 people out of 780 were international terror suspects, 380 were low-level foot soldiers and 150 were innocent Pakistanis or Afghans with everyday jobs.
2007: US Military Equipment
In 2007, WikiLeaks released a top-secret document which listed the hardware used by the US Military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It listed equipment such as armoured cars, missile launchers and portable mobile chemical and biological stations. It became a scandal because the exotic equipment was similar to hardware that the US Military had falsely accused Saddam Hussein of possessing.
2016: Democratic Email Leak
For the run-up to the 2016 US Presidential Election, WikiLeaks released a series of emails. The emails showed, amongst other things, that the Democratic National Committee favoured Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate over Bernie Sanders. Most of the emails suggested the committee was trying to undermine Sanders’ campaign, with one stating that the committee should have told the media to ask Sanders whether he was an atheist.
2012: Middle Eastern Regimes
From 2012 onwards, WikiLeaks released a series of hacked emails from several countries in the Middle East, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria. WikiLeaks said that the documents exposed the severity of such countries’ regimes and in particular, the corruption and abuse that was ongoing within them. The latest leak came in 2016, when the organisation released almost 300,000 emails from Erdoğan’s AKP – Turkey’s ruling party.
2008: Scientology Secret Bibles
With Scientology a notoriously secret organisation, in 2008 their walls of security came crashing down as WikiLeaks released a series of documents which detailed internal operations and practices. Amongst the revelations, it showed that there were eight levels of ‘Operating Thetans’ that Scientologists can aspire to reach. The documents also contained drills written by the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard. Scientology lawyers tried to get WikiLeaks to take the information down, but to no avail.
2010: Iraq Apache Helicopter Attack
In 2010, WikiLeaks released horrifying footage of 15 people shot dead by a gunman from a US Army helicopter. Amongst the dead were two Reuters journalists. On the footage, the helicopter crew can be heard laughing, saying ‘dead bastards’ and ‘keep shooting, keep shooting’. The US Military didn’t discipline the crew and said that it was hard to distinguish whether the journalists were carrying weapons or cameras in a volatile area.
2012: Shadow CIA
In 2012 and 2013, documents were published by WikiLeaks from Stratfor, a security consultant firm which had been nicknamed ‘the Shadow CIA’. The documents dated from 2004- 2011 and showed various inner workings of the company, from how they laundered money through the Bahamas to how they planned to collate private data about US citizens from various Government organisations. The documents were uncovered by the hacker group Anonymous, who later said that Stratfor were ‘clueless’ when it came to database security – rather worrying for a company in possession of so much private data.
In 2010, hundreds of thousands of documents relating to US Diplomats were released by WikiLeaks. The documents were given to the organisation by an Army Analyst, who was jailed for 35 years. Manning will be released later in 2017 after former President Barack Obama cut her sentence earlier this year. The documents contained diplomatic cables between the US and diplomatic issues around the world. The revelations were endless – they included instructions from the then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to spy on officials from the United Nations, discussion around ongoing problems in the Middle East and actions in the War on Terror. It was the cables leak that landed Assange in trouble with the US law, and the reason he is still seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to this day.
2016: Hillary Clinton Debate Questions
In a batch of emails published by WikiLeaks from the Gmail account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, it was revealed that the interim head of the Democratic National Committee and CNN contributor, Donna Brazile, gave Clinton a warning about a potential debate question the day before she took on Bernie Sanders at a debate. Brazile warned that a ‘woman with a rash’ would ask a question about the Flint water crisis and this happened at the debate. When the emails were released, Brazile was let go from her position as a CNN contributor.
2009: BNP Membership List
In 2009, at the height of the backlash towards the British National Party (who had been deemed racist amongst other things), WikiLeaks released the names, addresses and occupations of every member of the UK political party. The Guardian analysed the data and found that the party had over 11,000 members including doctors, teachers and police officers. It was particularly bad news for the latter, as it was illegal to be in the Police and a member of the BNP. The party leader Nick Griffin compared the list to a ‘random phonebook’ but that didn’t stop the British media from making the story a headline.
2016: Trade Agreement Deals
From 2015-2016, WikiLeaks released a series of documents which related to the Trade in Services Agreement. It showed draft texts of tense negotiations between the US and several countries in the EU. The TISA agreement itself was highly controversial, with analysts predicting it would cause global ‘financial instability’ and even the former President Barack Obama clashed with members of his own party over the agreement.
2016: Hillary Clinton Admits Different Opinions Privately and Publicly
When emails relating to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign leaked, there were several noteworthy revelations. One was her stance on the 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown – publicly, Clinton blamed the banks entirely. Privately, she said that it would be ‘oversimplication’ to solely blame the banks. The contrast between her public and private stance on the issue cast a shadow over her Presidential campaign.
2009: 9/11 Pager Messages
Eight years after the events of 9/11 rocked the USA, WikiLeaks chronologically released thousands of pager messages from the day of the tragic terror attack. The first messages showed how it was a normal day, with the CNN headlines. At 8.46, a message is sent to say that Cantor API’s trading system is offline – because they had offices in the World Trade Center which had been struck by the first plane just 11 seconds earlier. The messages were mostly unrelated to the events, but they did include messages from the Police and workers at the Pentagon. WikiLeaks refused to say how it obtained the documents, but that it hoped it would lead to a better understanding of the tragedy.
2009: Climate Research Unit Emails
In 2009, WikiLeaks caused what some journalists dubbed “the worst scientific scandal of our generation” by releasing emails sent from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. There were over 1000 emails leaked that had been sent by staff over the course of 10 years. The overall gist of the emails seemed to show that any information which didn’t fit with current theories about climate change (that it is real and manmade) was suppressed. Staff discussed how they could put off releasing their data to the public through Freedom of Information laws. It’s important to note that many of the staff was responsible for the global media panic about climate change, so the scandal of them hiding data which could disprove their theory is all the more shocking.
2016: Obama Lied about Knowing of Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Server
When Obama was asked on CBS News about when he found out that Hillary Clinton had a private email server, he responded with ‘the same time everybody else learned it through news reports’. However, WikiLeaks released emails that showed Obama and Clinton exchanged at least 18 emails through Clinton’s private server and in some of them, he even used a pseudonym. The revelation that Obama had lied to the public threw Clinton’s campaign into disarray, something that it definitely didn’t need in the wake of all the other emails being released.
2009: Australian Internet Backlash
In 2009, WikiLeaks targeted Australia by releasing a series of documents which showed that the Australian Government were planning a ‘great firewall’ to prevent members of the public seeing any websites which were deemed unsuitable by the Government. However, rather than the child abuse pornographic material or other sites that you would expect, the blacklist named Wikipedia entries, YouTube videos, straight/gay pornography sites, fringe religious sites, and fetish sites amongst some of the pages that were to be banned. The list even, rather bizarrely, included a travel agent and a dentist website.
2016: ‘Needy Latinos’
As Hillary Clinton tried to control the damage from her leaked emails, one community of potential voters were particularly annoyed – the Latino community, or ‘needy Latinos’ as they were known as by her campaign team. The emails showed that Clinton was targeting ethnic voters, but she wasn’t going about it in a very flattering way.
2009: Trafigura Minton Report
Back in 2009, WikiLeaks hit the headlines once again after it showcased how Trafigura, an oil trading company, tried to block the publication of a study that they conducted internally about the effects of dumping waste in Africa. The report was written by a scientific consultant named John Milton, who concluded that Trafigura’s chemical processes that it used to clean the dumped oil was ‘amateurish’ and left sulphur compounds untreated, which could cause severe burns to the skin, corneal damage and even death to anyone who came into contact with it. UK newspaper The Guardian got hold of the report, but Trafigura filed an injunction, so WikiLeaks published it instead.
2009: British Military ‘How to Stop Leaks’
In perhaps what is WikiLeaks most amusing revelation, the organisation leaked a document from the British Military which gave guidance on how to stop leaks of secret information from occurring. The document warned that spying is no longer like it was in novels and that the ‘Chinese have an appetite for all kinds of information’.
2008: Sarah Palin’s Email Hacked
During the 2008 Presidential Election, Vice Presidential candidate was subjected to embarrassment when a personal Yahoo! Email account was hacked by a 20 year old college student. The student didn’t find anything overly incriminating, but the result was bad enough for Palin to accuse Assange of being ‘an anti-American operative with blood on his hands’- she later apologised for making such a bold statement.