In 2010 the Bank of America employed the services of a group of information security firms collectively known as Team Themis when it became concerned about information that Wikileaks held about it and was planning to release. Team Themis included private intelligence and security firms HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies. In 2011 hacktivist group Anonymous released emails it had obtained from HBGary Federal. Among other things, the emails revealed that Team Themis had planned to sabotage and discredit Wikileaks using various plans. One plan was to attack Wikileaks servers and obtain information about document submitters to "kill the project". Another was to submit fake documents to Wikileaks and then call out the error. A further plan involved pressuring supporters of Wikileaks such as journalist Glenn Greenwald. The plans were not implemented and, after the emails were published, Palantir CEO Alex Karp issued a public apology for his company’s role.
Tulsi Gabbard spoke of the "chilling effect on investigative journalism", first of the US government's reclassification of Wikileaks (from "news organization" during the Obama administration to "hostile intelligence service" after the 2016 election), then of his arrest.
In November 2017, it was revealed that the WikiLeaks Twitter account corresponded with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 presidential election. The correspondence shows how WikiLeaks actively solicited the co-operation of Trump Jr., a campaign surrogate and advisor in the campaign of his father. WikiLeaks urged the Trump campaign to reject the results of the 2016 presidential election at a time when it looked as if the Trump campaign would lose. WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to share a claim by Assange that Hillary Clinton had wanted to attack him with drones. WikiLeaks also shared a link to a site that would help people to search through WikiLeaks documents. Trump Jr. shared both. After the election, WikiLeaks also requested that the president-elect push Australia to appoint Assange as ambassador to the US. After The New York Times published a fragment of Donald Trump's tax returns for one year, WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. for one or more of his father's tax returns, explaining that it would be in his father's best interest because it would "dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality" and not come "through the most biased source (e.g. NYT/MSNBC)." WikiLeaks also asked Trump Jr. to leak his own e-mails to them days after The New York Times broke a story about e-mail correspondence between Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-affiliated lawyer; WikiLeaks said that it would be "beautifully confounding" for them to publish the e-mails and that it would deprive other news outlets from putting a negative spin on the correspondence. Trump Jr. provided this correspondence to congressional investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Several Republicans who had once been highly critical of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange began to speak fondly of him after WikiLeaks published the DNC leaks and started to regularly criticise Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Having called WikiLeaks "disgraceful" in 2010, President-Elect Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks in October 2016, saying, "I love WikiLeaks." In 2019, Trump said "I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing." Newt Gingrich, who called for Assange to be "treated as an enemy combatant" in 2010, praised him as a "down to Earth, straight forward interviewee" in 2017. Sean Hannity, who had in 2010 said that Assange waged a "war" on the United States, praised him in 2016 for showing "how corrupt, dishonest and phony our government is". Sarah Palin, who had in 2010 described Assange as an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands", praised Assange in 2017.
WikiLeaks has been criticised for making misleading claims about the contents of its leaks. Media outlets have also been criticized for uncritically repeating WikiLeaks' misleading claims about its leaks. According to University of North Carolina Professor Zeynep Tufekci, this is part of a pattern of behaviour. According to Tufekci, there are three steps to WikiLeaks' "disinformation campaigns": "The first step is to dump many documents at once — rather than allowing journalists to scrutinise them and absorb their significance before publication. The second step is to sensationalise the material with misleading news releases and tweets. The third step is to sit back and watch as the news media unwittingly promotes the WikiLeaks agenda under the auspices of independent reporting."
After President Trump's National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn resigned in February 2017 due to reports over his communications with Russian officials and subsequent lies over the content and nature of those communications, WikiLeaks tweeted that Flynn resigned "after [a] destabilization campaign by U.S. spies, Democrats, press."
Those working for WikiLeaks are reportedly required to sign sweeping non-disclosure agreements covering all conversations, conduct, and material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure. The penalty for non-compliance in one such agreement was reportedly £12 million. WikiLeaks has been challenged for this practice, as it seen to be hypocritical for an organisation dedicated to transparency to limit the transparency of its inner workings and limit the accountability of powerful individuals in the organisation.
The group has released a number of prominent document dumps. Early releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war, a report informing a corruption investigation in Kenya, and a manual for operations at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the Collateral Murder footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed. Other releases in 2010 included the Afghan War Diary and the "Iraq War Logs". The latter allowed the mapping of 109,032 deaths in "significant" attacks by insurgents in Iraq that had been reported to Multi-National Force – Iraq, including about 15,000 that had not been previously published. In 2010, WikiLeaks also released the US State Department diplomatic "cables", classified cables that had been sent to the US State Department. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In 2012, WikiLeaks released the "Syria Files," over two million emails sent by Syrian politicians, corporations and government ministries. In 2015, WikiLeaks published Saudi Arabian diplomatic cables, documents detailing spying by the U.S. National Security Agency on successive French Presidents, and the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial international trade agreement which had been negotiated in secret.
During the 2016 US presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks released emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta. These releases caused significant harm to the Clinton campaign, and have been attributed as a potential contributing factor to her loss. The U.S. intelligence community expressed "high confidence" that the leaked emails had been hacked by Russia and supplied to WikiLeaks, while WikiLeaks denied their source was Russia or any other state. During the campaign, WikiLeaks promoted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. In private conversations from November 2015 that were later leaked, Julian Assange expressed a preference for a GOP victory in the 2016 election, explaining that "Dems+Media+liberals woudl [sic] then form a block to reign [sic] in their worst qualities. With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities, dems+media+neoliberals will be mute." In further leaked correspondence with the Trump campaign on election day (8 November 2016), WikiLeaks encouraged the Trump campaign to contest the election results as being "rigged" should they lose.
In January 2011, Rudolf Elmer, a former Swiss banker, passed data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Assange, who stated that the information will be vetted before being made publicly available at a later date. In May 2010, WikiLeaks said it had video footage of a massacre of civilians in Afghanistan by the US military which they were preparing to release. In an interview with Chris Anderson on 19 July 2010, Assange showed a document WikiLeaks had on an Albanian oil-well blowout, and said they also had material from inside British Petroleum, and that they were "getting enormous quantity of whistle-blower disclosures of a very high calibre" but added that they had not been able to verify and release the material because they did not have enough volunteer journalists. In December 2010, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC Television that WikiLeaks had information it considered to be a "thermo-nuclear device" which it would release if the organisation needs to defend itself against the authorities.
WikiLeaks has been accused of anti-semitism both in its Twitter activity and hiring decisions. According to Ian Hislop, Assange claimed that a "Jewish conspiracy" was attempting to discredit the organization. Assange denied making this remark, stating "'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in spirit and in word. It is serious and upsetting."
The Wau Holland Foundation helps to process donations to WikiLeaks. In July 2010, the Foundation stated that WikiLeaks was not receiving any money for personnel costs, only for hardware, travelling and bandwidth. An article in TechEye stated:
In September 2017, WikiLeaks released "Spy Files Russia," revealing "how a St. Petersburg-based technology company called Peter-Service helped state entities gather detailed data on Russian cellphone users, part of a national system of online surveillance called System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM)." Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov said that "there is some data here that’s worth publishing. Anything that gets people talking about Russia’s capabilities and actions in this area should be seen as a positive development."
WikiLeaks has popularized conspiracies about the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, such as tweeting articles which suggested Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta engaged in satanic rituals, implying that the Democratic Party had Seth Rich killed, claiming that Hillary Clinton wanted to drone strike Assange, suggesting that Clinton wore earpieces to debates and interviews, promoting conspiracy theories about Clinton's health, and promoting a conspiracy theory from a Donald Trump–related Internet community tying the Clinton campaign to child kidnapper Laura Silsby.
WikiLeaks has received praise as well as criticism. The organisation won a number of awards in its early years, including The Economist's New Media Award in 2008 at the Index on Censorship Awards and Amnesty International's UK Media Award in 2009. In 2010, the New York Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites "that could totally change the news," and Julian Assange received the Sam Adams Award and was named the Readers' Choice for TIME's Person of the Year in 2010. The UK Information Commissioner has stated that "WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen." During its first days, an Internet petition in support of WikiLeaks attracted more than six hundred thousand signatures.
However, WikiLeaks established an editorial policy that accepted only documents that were "of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical interest" (and excluded "material that is already publicly available"). This coincided with early criticism that having no editorial policy would drive out good material with spam and promote "automated or indiscriminate publication of confidential records". The original FAQ is no longer in effect, and no one can post or edit documents on WikiLeaks. Now, submissions to WikiLeaks are reviewed by anonymous WikiLeaks reviewers, and documents that do not meet the editorial criteria are rejected. By 2008, the revised FAQ stated: "Anybody can post comments to it. [ ... ] Users can publicly discuss documents and analyse their credibility and veracity." After the 2010 reorganisation, posting new comments on leaks was no longer possible.
In 2013, the organisation assisted Edward Snowden (who is responsible for the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures) in leaving Hong Kong. Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks activist, accompanied Snowden on the flight. Scott Shane of The New York Times stated that the WikiLeaks involvement "shows that despite its shoestring staff, limited fund-raising from a boycott by major financial firms, and defections prompted by Mr. Assange's personal troubles and abrasive style, it remains a force to be reckoned with on the global stage."
WikiLeaks is not a Wikimedia project and is thus not affiliated with Wikipedia. For a list of Wikimedia projects, see Wikimedia Foundation § Projects and initiatives.
In October 2010, Assange told a major Moscow newspaper that "The Kremlin had better brace itself for a coming wave of WikiLeaks disclosures about Russia". Assange later clarified: "we have material on many businesses and governments, including in Russia. It's not right to say there's going to be a particular focus on Russia".
WikiLeaks has drawn criticism for violating the personal privacy of individuals and inadequately curating its content. These critics include transparency advocates, such as Edward Snowden, the Sunlight Foundation and the Federation of American Scientists.