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Leaking Process - LeaksWiki

Leaking Process

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Diagram of the leaking process

This is a discussion of the common practices and differences between leaking organizations in the leaking process within the framework of the general leaking process presented on the Main Page. As they are perhaps the primary activity of leaking organizations, special attention is paid to the leak processing steps in the middle.


[edit] Source Leaks Documents

All of the leaking organizations examined provide some way for sources to send encrypted documents. Cryptome and Public Intelligence post GPG keys so sources can send them encrypted emails and files.[1][2] Juzne vesti and Associated Whistleblowing Press use the free and open source GlobaLeaks submission system and have instructions on how to securely submit documents.[3][4] WikiLeaks did use a secure drop box similar to the GlobaLeaks system but that is not online now. They offer to help potential sources submit documents securely.[5]

It is also worth noting that Public Intelligence obtains many of their documents themselves because "people are rarely, if ever, going to risk their lives and/or livelihoods to come and drop material in your lap. This is one of the things most people don't understand about so-called "leak" sites: they receive far fewer "leaks" than you would imagine."[2] This seems to be true for the other organizations studied to some extent. WikiLeaks may have gotten their first documents from a Tor exit node.[6] Associated Whistleblowing Press has mostly analyzed WikiLeaks's Cablegate documents.[4] Juzni vesti gets many of their own documents through FOIA.[3] Cryptome has a whole section on their website for external documents, and many of the documents posted are emails John Young has received personally.[1]

[edit] Organization Receives Documents

Cryptome and Public Intelligence receive documents directly via email.[1][2] Cryptome also accepts documents via fax or mail. In both Cryptome and Public Intelligence, only the people running the organization see the document before release.[7][2]

AWP and Juzne vesti receive documents via their submission system or email.[3][4] AWP accepts submissions on the website of their local nodes but all documents go directly to their server in Iceland where they are stored offline. They are then retransmitted to the local nodes after an initial review.[4] WikiLeaks has a similar procedure except it is media partners and not local nodes that may see documents before release.[5]

[edit] Leak Processing

These steps are done in a different order for each leaking organization. Notably, redaction is often done at the same time as analysis/formatting.[4][7] Verification is consistently done first unless a document is authenticated after release.[4]

[edit] Verification

There are generally two parts to verification, checking if the document meets publication policies and verifying the authenticity of the document. The first step is done almost universally. Even organizations like Cryptome that publish almost everything they receive will wait until a document is complete before publishing it[8] and avoid publishing spam. Most of the organizations other than Cryptome have a more rigorous approach to this part of the verification step and make some judgment about the value of the information. In the case of Juzne vesti, the document must reveal a wrongdoing for them to proceed.[3] For WikiLeaks and the Associated Whistleblowing Press, the leak needs to be significant or reveal a wrongdoing for it to be published.[4][9] Public Intelligence tries to assess the public worth of a document. To do so, they ask the following questions: "Does the document describe or reveal something about a public process? Does the document relate information that is informative or educational in a broader societal context? Who produced the document and what are the rules/laws governing its disclosure or publication? Has someone else already published the document? Does the publication of the document contribute in some way to the body of available information on a topic of public importance?"[2] These questions also seem to be similar some of those WikiLeaks or Juzne vesti may ask based on their publication policy.

After deciding if a document is worth their time, leaking organizations sometimes verify the authenticity of the document. Cryptome will very rarely verify the authenticity of a document, but it has on at least one occasion.[10] Generally, Cryptome states that they "do not believe in verification, authentication".[7] Public Intelligence normally has no need to verify a document because they say "we often know the source of a document directly because we obtain the documents ourselves and can thus determine their authenticity, provenance and purpose by understanding the nature of the source from which we obtained them".[2] While WikiLeaks cannot verify the authenticity of their documents by virtue of knowing their source, they do ask the source for suggestions on how they could best verify the document.[9]

Aside from verifying the authenticity of the leaked information based on the source, there seem to be a combination of four approaches used by WikiLeaks, Associated Whistleblowing Press, and Juzne vesti. First, the staff of a leaking website could file a FOIA request for a document or otherwise request the document directly from the organization that created it. In many cases, this is unlikely to work but provides high certainty of the validity of the document if it does work (although the organization involved could have created a fake document in the first place). Juzne vesti favors this tactic where possible.[3] WikiLeaks supporters have used FOIA as an advocacy tactic as well.[11]

Second, the document could be verified indirectly by the organization that created it. This can result from the first approach when the document is not released, but its existence is verified. Leaking organizations can also call people from these organizations and ask them for comments on the document. If they comment, the existence of the document is verified. This method is particularly useful if a leaking website has information about the document but not access to the document itself. While not as accurate or precise as the first two methods, the indirect verification method can be attempted in most cases. Juzne vesti has successfully used this method to ascertain the existence of documents they did not have.[3] Associated Whistleblowing Press mentions this as a good method of verification as well.[4]

The remaining two methods of verification rely less on response from or access to the organizations involved. Third, the leaking organization can cross-check the document for evidence of forgery based on the content. This could include searching for inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the historical or political facts mentioned. Conceptual cross-checking may also include analysis of motives for and the difficulty of forgery. A fake document can certainly get past conceptual cross-checking, but it has to be a very good fake. The conceptual cross-checking validation method also requires people who are very knowledgeable about the topics relevant to the leak. Fourth, the leaking organization can look for electronic evidence for forgery. Electronic cross-checking can eliminate obvious fakes but Associated Whistleblowing Press noted that electronic forgeries can be "almost perfect".[4] The exact methods used in electronic cross-checking were not specified. Both Associated Whistleblowing Press and WikiLeaks discuss these methods but provide few details on how they are performed. They do both mention that people who the documents are relevant to are likely to be the best conceptual cross-checkers.[4][5]

[edit] Redaction

While only some organizations verify the authenticity of their releases, some level of redaction is near universal. Even the leaking organizations that tend the most towards radical transparency, like Cryptome, generally still remove some names for protection of sources and others.[7] Public Intelligence, a leaking organization with a transparency ideology close to radical transparency, justifies their redaction policy by saying ""over time, this allows for more information to enter into the public domain than if we were to simply post the document with nothing removed".[2] That said, most leaking organizations redact as little as possible.[2][4] The one exception to this is Juzne vesti. Juzne vesti redacts everything but the part relevant to the article they write.[3]

Removal of names seems to be done by hand.[3][4][2][7] There is some speculation that WikiLeaks sometimes uses automated redaction but that is not confirmed.[12] Automated redaction may be necessary to manage large leaks.

In addition to removing names and identifying information, WikiLeaks and the Associated Whistleblowing Press also remove document metadata that could lead to the identification of the source.[4][5] For this, they use a few unspecified tools, but AWP notes that they remove a lot of metadata by hand.[4] The GlobaLeaks whistleblowing framework is currently working on integrating automatic metadata removal into their submission system so Juzne vesti and AWP will have the option for automatic metadata removal in the future.[13]

[edit] Analysis/Formatting

Analysis/Formatting is the area where leaking organizations diverge the most based on transparency ideology. Cryptome only does basic formatting to make their releases more readable.[7] Public Intelligence writes some summaries to go along with their documents, making them more accessible to readers. Otherwise, they try to avoid adding context or additional information, because any additional details would add bias to the supplementary information.[2] Both Public Intelligence and Cryptome prefer to let the readers judge the documents themselves. Neither organization uses any special tools in their formatting and analysis process.[2][7]

WikiLeaks, Associated Whistleblowing Press, and Juzne vesti are different. Not only do these organizations add information to their releases, but they release the documents with articles placing them into a narrative and explaining their context.[4][3][5] This is a stark contrast to Cryptome which states "We do not believe in "context." That is authoritarian nonsense."[7] For AWP, WikiLeaks, and Juzne vesti, analysis involves journalists reviewing documents and writing articles about them.[5][3][4] Each of these three organizations takes a different approach to the articles. AWP has local journalists associated with their local nodes write the articles.[4] Juzne vesti itself is a media organization dedicated to investigative journalism and writes its own articles.[3] WikiLeaks has global media partners that write articles about their releases.[5]

The article based on the release method works well for small releases, but large dumps of information are challenging. At the very least, big releases may require a document tracking system like Document Cloud or the one WikiLeaks uses to manage the release of its media partners.[14] Some organizations have experimented with crowd sourcing for analysis of large sets of documents. Public Intelligence tried crowd sourcing using a forum and failed to receive meaningful contributions.[2] WikiLeaks has tried crowd sourcing as well, using the Twitter hashtag #wlfind for people to report their findings as they read through the cables and retweeting the responses. They have had some limited success with this tactic.[15] AWP is currently experimenting with a crowdsourcing platform on the WikiLeaks Cablegate documents. This platform also includes a graphing tool for easy analysis of the connections between cables. It is not clear how successful AWP's open source crowd sourcing platform will be at this point.[4]

[edit] Release

All of the leaking organizations in the case studies put all or part of the document on their website at release. The exact form this takes varies. AWP and Juzne vesti post documents on their own news sites.[4][3] While AWP also posts the full leaked documents, Juzne vesti only publishes the minimum information needed to understand the wrongdoing they discuss.[4] WikiLeaks and AWP both work with external media partners who may also publish an article at the same time as they publish the document.[4][5] Public Intelligence and Cryptome both publish the leaked information directly on their websites and nowhere else.[2][7]

[edit] Post-Release Actions

After release, most of the leaking organizations studied will do interviews, hold press conferences, or otherwise try to publicize their releases either voluntarily[5] or on request.[2] Juzne vesti may update articles if a wrongdoing is corrected.[3] AWP goes a step further and hopes to mobilize their local nodes around issues presented in the release.[4]

[edit] Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cryptome
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Public Intelligence Interview
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Juzne vesti Interview
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 Associated Whistleblowing Press Interview
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 WikiLeaks About
  6. WikiLeaks Was Launched With Documents Intercepted From Tor
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Cryptome Interview
  8. Media.MIT Interviews Cryptome
  9. 9.0 9.1 WikiLeaks Submissions
  10. WikiLeaks Insiders Messages
  11. [ Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables FOIA documents
  12. Wikileaks Iraq Redactions Last-Minute, Possibly Automated
  13. Metadata Cleanup integration / API
  15. WikiLeaks Find Twitter
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