Collaborate with WikiLeaks at your own risk

The original "About Us" page from the founding of WikiLeaks delares the site's intention to be of "assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations." And indeed, the idea that the decentralized operating model and online anonymity provided by WikiLeaks could protect whistleblowers was central to the site's original model:

Whistleblowers can face a great many risks, depending on their position, the nature of the information and other circumstances. Powerful institutions may use whatever methods are available to them to withhold damaging information, whether by legal means, political pressure or physical violence. The risk cannot be entirely removed (for instance, a government may know who had access to a document in the first place) but it can be lessened. Posting CD's in the mail combined with advanced cryptographic technology can help to make communications on and off the internet effectively anonymous and untraceable. Wikileaks applauds the courage of those who blow the whistle on injustice, and seeks to reduce the risks they face.

Our servers are distributed over multiple international jurisdictions and do not keep logs. Hence these logs cannot be seized. Without specialized global internet traffic analysis, multiple parts of our organization and volunteers must conspire with each other to strip submitters of their anonymity. However, we will also provide instructions on how to submit material to us, by post and from netcafés and wireless hotspots, so even if Wikileaks is infiltrated by a government intelligence agency submitters cannot be traced.

Of course, a lot's changed since 2006. The site now relies more on cooperation with major news outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times rather than its own website, which can no longer really be described as a Wiki. WikiLeaks' primary adeversaries these days are global superpowers and the world's most powerful corporations, rather than the "oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East" who were its original stated targets. 

But perhaps most important for the WikiLeaks project, the site no longer seems very good at protecting its sources. Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier thought to be the source of the Afghan and Iraq war logs as well as the WikiLeaks cables, has been held a detention center in Quantico, Va. for the last five months without even a pre-trial hearing,  kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and prevented from excercising or sleeping during the day. WikiLeaks dragged its feet for months on a pledge to donate money to his defense fund.

Yesterday, Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer was arrested by Swiss authorities after handing over two CDs of client data to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Elmer had just avoided jail time related to a previous release of data to WikiLeaks in 2007.

Granted, Elmer's motives seem more than a little suspect and he had no interest in anonymity -- he handed over the data to Assange at a news conference. But the fact that the sources behind WikiLeaks' biggest revelations are winding up in jail -- contradicting the site's original stated purpose -- doesn't bode very well for its ability to continue attracting whistleblowers. 



Aristide: I want to come back too

Looks like Jean-Claude "Baby, Give Me One More Chance" Duvalier isn't the only exiled former Haitian leader looking to return home: 

[O]usted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sent out a letter saying he is ready to come back from six years of South African exile "today, tomorrow, at any time."

"As far as I am concerned, I am ready," he wrote in an e-mail distributed by supporters and posted online. "The purpose is very clear: To contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education."[...]

[I]n the letter, whose authenticity was confirmed by Lavalas spokeswoman Maryse Narcisse, his return is necessary to help his countrymen and for his medical needs following six eye surgeries in his six years of exile.

"The unbearable pain experienced in the winter must be avoided in order to reduce any risk of further complications and blindness," he said. South African winter begins in June.

"Let us hope that the Haitian and South African governments will enter into communication in order to make that happen in the next coming days," he said.

The return of Aristide, a priest and popular opposition leader during the Duvalier regime whose tenure as president was marred by corruption and electoral fraud, would be yet another wild card in Haiti's already fraught political drama. U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley addressed Aristide's request on his Twitter feed, saying:

This is an important period for . What it needs is calm, not divisive actions that distract from the task of forming a new government. ... We do not doubt President Aristide's desire to help the people of Haiti. But today needs to focus on its future, not its past.

Aristide's relationship with the United States has been complex to say the least. U.N. peacekeeprs, with strong U.S. backing, helped him return to power after a military coup in 1994, but the George W. Bush administration looked the other way when he was forced from power in 2004 and Aristide continues to blame U.S. pressure for his ouster. 

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out great piece on Duvalier's legacy.