media auction

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The controversial whistleblower website seems to be experimenting with a new way of raising money, by trying to auction off "exclusive" leaked material to

The Press release:

From: Wikileaks Press Office

Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 20:38:47 +0100

Inside Venezuela - over 8, 000 diplomatic emails 2005-2008

Wikileaks has prepared for publication over 8,000 internal and
external emails to and from a senior Venzuelan diplomat and former
speech writer for Hugo Chavez. The emails are dated 2005 to July
2008, and include several thousand attachments. The preparation
includes a "one touch" translation system to over a dozen different

The material provides a unqiue insight into the Bolivarian revolution,
President Chavez's manamgement of his inner circle, and affairs
ranging from Cuban and Venezuelan contacts, sentiments about CIA
activites in Venezuela, Columbian incursions, the visit of the
Pope and Venezuelan views on many other countries and events.

Organizations wishing to bid for exclusivity (proceeds to our source
defense fund) and embargoed access contact for
additional information.

This is certainly a departure from their previous media management and publicity efforts, and raises a few ethical questions, some of which are noted in Ryan Singel's article in Wired magazine - Latest Wikileaks Prize for Sale to the Highest Bidder - Update

Some Obvious Ethical and Practical Questions:

  1. How much money is this story / source material on offer worth, in terms of cold hard cash ?

  2. Will pay any money to people who provide them saleable "media exclusive" leaks ?

  3. If not, then why not ?

  4. If so, how will they still protect the anonymity of their sources, given that financial transactions leave an audit trail, or involve face to face meetings ?

  5. Will employ secret agent style dead letter drops or cut outs to pay informants ?

  6. Will modify their submission forms to include a "I do not want this information to be sold for money" caveat by the whistleblower ?

  7. Will they be bound by such a declaration by a whistleblower ?

  8. Many of the better quality mainstream media organisations do not pay for stories, as a matter of policy . Ryan Singel's article mentions The Washington Post, and Steve Aftergood quoted in the same article cites the New York Times. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is another such news organisation which does not pay for stories. Will such organisations refuse to touch a "story" where only tabloid sensationalist media are in the financial bidding ?

  9. Why should "exclusive access" for a period of time, be restricted to private sector media organisations with money ?

  10. How long should any such exclusive access embargo period last for ?

  11. Would delay publication of a "leak", if, say, a state controlled media organisation paid them to do so ?

  12. Would delay publication of a "leak", if, say, a private sector media organisation, owned by a billionaire with other commercial interests and government contacts e.g. the former Australian now US citizen Rupert Murdoch, or the Uzbek / Russian Alisher Usmanov, paid them to do so ?

  13. Will be open and transparent about their criteria for accepting or rejecting media bids for such exclusive story leaked source material ?

  14. Will just the fact of announcing a Media Auction, succeed in raising mainstream media interest in the story, regardless of how little money actually ever changes hands ?

The scenario involving the keeping the details of the leaked information secret, for a time period, even if it is going to be published eventually, is one which we have noted previously, in our criticism of the lack of a current, valid PGP Public Encryption Key to protect whistleblower leaked material sent via the postal mail route.

See Discussion on the lack of a current PGP public encryption key


You bring up some good points. I'm not a big user of WikiLeaks but from this post it seems nothing more than an extortion scheme. If they were to consistently employ these methods, why would an informant bother going through WikiLeaks, who would be basically extorting whichever group or organization threatened by said leak to either pay up or fail to keep the issue contained. I agree, it's a fundamental departure from their philosophy, which is a transparent and open access medium available to the public for investigation of leaked information. Are they took good for advertisements if they are following short of member contributions?

@ Carlos - since the Hugo Chavez emails have not surfaced either on, or in any major mainstream media stories, for over 3 weeks, does that mean that someone is actually paying for exclusive access, or that nobody is interested ?

About this blog

This blog here at (no "S") discusses the ethical and technical issues raised by the project, which is trying to be a resource for whistleblower leaks, by providing "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis".

These are bold and controversial aims and claims, with both pros and cons, especially for something which crosses international boundaries and legal jurisdictions.

This blog is not part of the project, and there really are no copies of leaked documents or files being mirrored here.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog@WikiLeak[dot]org

Before you send an email to this address, remember that this blog is independent of the project.

If you have confidential information that you want to share with us, please make use of our PGP public encryption key or an email account based overseas e.g. Hushmail

Now that the project is defunct, so far as new whistleblower are concerned, what are the alternatives ?

The wiki page lists links and anonymity analyses of some of the many post-wikileaks projects.

There are also links to better funded "official" whistlblowing crime or national security reporting tip off websites or mainstream media websites. These should, in theory, be even better at protecting the anonymity and security of their informants, than wikileaks, but that is not always so.

New whistleblower website operators or new potential whistleblowers should carefully evaluate the best techniques (or common mistakes) from around the world and make their personal risk assessments accordingly.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

The Submissions web page provides some methods for sending them leaked documents, with varying degrees of anonymity and security. Anybody planning to do this for real, should also read some of the other guides and advice to political activists and dissidents:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link:

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

WikiLeakS Links

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

WikiLeakS Twitter feeds

The website does not stay online all of the time, especially when there is a surge of traffic caused by mainstream media coverage of a particularly newsworthy leak.

Recently, they have been using their new Twitter feeds, to selectively publicise leaked documents to the media, and also to report on the status of routing or traffic congestion problems affecting the main website in Stockholm, Sweden.

N.B.the words "security" or "anonymity" and "Twitter" are mutually exclusive: Twitter feed via SSL encrypted session: unencrypted Twitter feed

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Temporary Autonomous Zone

Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) by Hakim Bey (Peter Lambourn Wilson)

Cyberpunk author William Gibson

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Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
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Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
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Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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