WikiLeaks working with media on biggest leak yet

Julian Assange Wikileaks

Organisations pay for access to leaked material, suggesting WikiLeaks may have found a way to make ends meet

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 16:30 ON Fri 10 Sep 2010

WikiLeaks is working with unnamed media organisations to publish within weeks its biggest leak of classified military documents yet – this time relating to US involvement in Iraq.

The new information dump will be handled in a similar way to July’s leak of 92,000 field reports from the war in Afghanistan, in which WikiLeaks worked with the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times for weeks to turn the material into news reports in advance of the publication of the raw files on its own website.

Iain Overton, editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is working with WikiLeaks to identify specific stories among the documents, told Newsweek that each of the organisations involved this time will come up with its own angle on the material, because "everyone wants their exclusive". He adds that the tranche of documents will be around three times the size of the Afghanistan leak.

Although he will not give any clue as to what revelations we can expect, it doesn't stop Newsweek from going out on a limb by speculating that the most shocking may relate to ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi – not US - forces.

The Guardian said after the July leak that no fee had been paid for the privilege of advanced access, but this time money has exchanged hands. Overton told Newsweek that the news organisations made financial contributions to "help meet production costs". The suggestion is that WikiLeaks – which is mostly run by volunteers - may finally have hit upon a business model to solve its previous funding problems.

WikiLeaks has had difficulties meeting its running costs – which would amount to €600,000 per year if its volunteers were to be paid for their time – in the past. In December 2009, the organisation actually suspended its full website – only leaving a form for whistleblowers to continue to submit leaked files.

Normal service was not resumed until May of this year, once sufficient funds had been raised. But during the hiatus, Julian Assange said that he was considering making news organisations pay a subscription for privileged access to leaked documents - and the manner of the new leak could signal a tentative move in that direction.

Even if charging newspapers for access doesn't work, the Pentagon needn't get too excited at the prospect of WikiLeaks' imminent bankruptcy. Even while the website was down in April, the organisation managed to make headlines and provoke condemnation by Western governments by releasing its 'Collateral Murder' video which showed a US helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of 12 Iraqi civilians. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more about