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With World Watching, Wikileaks Falls Into Disrepair PDF Print E-mail
Written by ph0bYx   
Monday, 05 July 2010 00:23

By Ryan Singel,

Would-be whistle-blowers hoping to leak documents to Wikileaks face a potentially frustrating surprise. Wikileaks’ submission process, which had been degraded for months, completely collapsed more than two weeks ago and remains offline, in a little-noted breakdown at the world’s most prominent secret-spilling website.



Julian AssangeDespite a surge in mostly laudatory media portraying Wikileaks as a fearless, unstoppable outlet for documents that embarrass corporations and overbearing governments, the site has published only 12 documents since the beginning of the year, the last one four months ago. And on June 12, Wikileaks’ secure submission page stopped working after the site failed to renew its SSL certificate, a basic web protection that costs less than $30 a year and takes only hours to set up.

Wikileaks still prominently displays a link on its homepage to a secure submission form for whistleblowers to upload documents. But the page doesn’t load. The site’s donation page remains reliably available. Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange declined to comment.

Launched in 2007, Wikileaks was thrust into renewed international prominence this month after the Army confirmed it had arrested an intelligence analyst based in Iraq on suspicion of leaking classified information. Bradley Manning, 22, has been held for five weeks without charges at an Army base in Kuwait, while officials investigate claims he made to an ex-hacker that he’d leaked two videos and several classified documents to Wikileaks, as well as an unfiltered database of 260,000 diplomatic cables.

Among the documents Manning claimed to have leaked was a classified U.S. embassy cable that appeared on Wikileaks on Feb. 18. That, in fact, was the last new document to appear at, though on April 5 Wikileaks made headlines when it released a classified video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a number of innocent civilians and injured two children. The video, which Manning took credit for in his online chats, and in discussions with a real-life friend, was published on another domain called

Wikileaks released the Apache video during a six-month fundraising drive in which Wikileaks’ archive was unavailable. By the time the site relaunched in May, careful observers had noted that its much-hailed cryptographic security had been degraded. Wikileaks’ system to upload documents using the anonymizing service Tor had stopped working by February, though there’s no indication of that status on Wikileaks’ page explaining how to securely submit documents. Wikileaks has also stopped supporting secure downloads from the site over HTTPS, meaning users downloading from the site are vulnerable to eavesdropping. spoke by instant messenger with Ben Laurie, a noted security expert who has served as a de facto security press person for Wikileaks, and who is listed on Wikileaks’s advisory board. When asked if it seemed odd that the most basic security features are missing from Wikileaks’ website, Laurie said, “I agree. I was not aware.”

By policy, Wikileaks does not publish a PGP key that would allow people interested in leaking documents or otherwise helping the site communicate securely by e-mail.  The site still offers a “secure” chat room, but that uses a security certificate that isn’t issued by a trusted third party.

A May profile in the New Yorker reported that Wikileaks had been receiving about 30 document submissions a day when it was fully operational. With its Tor Hidden Service down, and now its SSL submission page missing, the average Wikileaks leaker would seem to be blocked. For his part, Manning claimed to have direct contact with Assange that allowed him priority access. “Long term sources do get preference,” he wrote in a chat with ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, who turned him in.

If Wikileaks’ issues are financial, the site may yet surmount them. The organization recently announced that it has decrypted a U.S. video of the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan — another one of the leaks Manning claimed credit for in his chats with Lamo. Wikileaks has promised to release the video shortly, a move that could give its fundraising an added boost, even if it doesn’t help with Wikileaks’ lack of transparency regarding its security woes.

Last Updated on Monday, 05 July 2010 00:27

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