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The Strange Career of WikiLeaks

Twists and turns.

12:00 AM, Apr 29, 2010 • By JOHN ROSENTHAL
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Consultation of original WikiLeaks pages that are still available on mirror sites shows that much of the material did not really consist of leaks strictly speaking. But apart from a crusading stance toward the freedom of information, it does not reveal any obvious political bias or preferences. For instance, a WikiLeaks reprint of an April 27, 2009 article from FrontPage Magazine via the The Hawaii Free Press bears the title “Obama's Chilling Crew: The legal harassment of those investigating Tony Rezko.” The piece refers to the legal efforts of the “Iraqi-British ex-Baathist billionaire” Nadhmi Auchi to suppress news articles on his financial relationship with the Obama backer Rezko, and it notes that eight such articles that were removed from other sites were re-posted on WikiLeaks. Incidentally, the WikiLeaks post containing the articles in question appears in the meanwhile to have been scrubbed.

It was not to be found on three Wikileaks mirror sites consulted by the present author. According to Wikinews, WikiLeaks also hosted a copy of Geert Wilder’s anti-Islam film Fitna after the film was removed from the LiveLeak video-sharing site.

Perhaps the biggest genuine scoop produced by the old WikiLeaks involved the publication in November 2008 of what was identified as a list of IP address ranges assigned by the German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom to the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, under a disguised domain name. The authenticity of the document was inadvertently confirmed by Deutsche Telekom, when its T-Systems division sent an e-mail to WikiLeaks claiming the document as its property and requesting that it be deleted. The IP address ranges were assigned to the bvoe.de domain name as part of a so called “BVOE project.” Within two days of the publication of the list on WikiLeaks, all the bvoe.de networks are reported to have been purged by T-Systems from the European IP registry RIPE. In their article “WTF is BVOE?”, two of the anonymous hackers of Germany’s “Chaos Computer Club” – “0023” and “0042” – describe being “amazed and amused” as they followed the process in real time.

The fact that both the document and the subsequent scrubbing operation appeared to reveal collusion between the BND and Deutsche Telekom was already enough to raise some eyebrows. Via its subsidiary T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom is a major player on the international wireless market. It is the parent company of T-Mobile America. The German federal government remains the principal shareholder in Deutsche Telekom.

But it was the revelation that the BND-linked IP addresses had been used to edit Wikipedia entries that sparked particular interest and controversy. One of the entries was the German-language Wikipedia entry on the BND itself. The edited passage concerned the Goethe Institute: the German government’s worldwide network of German cultural centers. Before the edit from the BND-linked IP, the passage read:

…it is an open secret that many of the foreign offices of the Goethe Institute are used by the BND as unofficial headquarters.

After the edit, it became the bizarre non-sequitur:

The foreign offices of the Goethe Institute are not, however, used by the BND as unofficial headquarters.

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