January 12, 2007
Chinese dissidents say they will launch a site designed with encryption software to let whistle-blowers worldwide post sensitive documents on the internet without being traced.
“Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their own governments and corporations,” says the site WikiLeaks (wikileaks.org).
A WikiLeaks staff member in Washington said it planned to go online from March. A cryptographer at WikiLeaks said the organisation was “an international collaboration” and some members were overseas Chinese. The site says it has received “over 1.1 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources”. It maintains its software can protect whistle-blowers and journalists from being thrown into jail for e-mailing sensitive documents. Chinese journalist Shi Tao was jailed for 10 years in 2005 after publicising an e-mail from Chinese officials about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
E-mails or documents posted to a website can be traced back to the source because they are made up of data packets – and each data packet carries the address of the last internet service provider through which it passed. The British weekly New Scientist, in a report to be carried in tomorrow’s issue, says WikiLeaks hides the data path by exploiting the existing internet protocol.
But it cautioned that each security breach would lead to improvements to the protocol system and there would always be a risk for the users. WikiLeaks’ website says the organisation was founded by “Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our advisory board . . . includes representatives from expatriate Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers”.
WikiLeaks has no formal links to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.