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Before John Brennan, 5 Historic Data Dumps From WikiLeaks

by Devin Coldewey /

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WikiLeaks, the notorious publisher of state secrets, has publicly posted a trove of documents culled from CIA Chief John Brennan's personal AOL account. While the documents posted Wednesday don't appear to contain anything of the magnitude found in previous leaks, they are only the latest in a series of controversial publications over the last five years that has made WikiLeaks an enemy of governments and corporations worldwide. Here are some of the most memorable.

Iraq Airstrikes, April 2010

Wikileaks, founded by Australian programmer Julian Assange in 2006, burst onto the international scene with the release of footage from a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that resulted in the deaths of, among several others, two Reuters journalists. The chilling video, which WikiLeaks released under the title "Collateral Murder," helped feed a growing sense of unease among Americans about the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and secret practices of the military.

Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, July & October 2010

Later that same year, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of documents detailing specific actions, troop movements and operations undertaken by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having access to these allowed journalists and activists to compare the public record of the wars with the internal one. The logs detailed the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and suggested U.S. authorities ignored evidence of torture and other crimes.

Cablegate and the Kissinger and Carter cables, November 2010-April 2013

This enormous database of cables, confidential written diplomatic communications, comprises nearly 3 million documents, most from the mid-1970s but including 250,000 from 2003-2010. These cables provide a rare, largely uncensored look at the complex web of international politics during wartime. The documents were redacted in order to protect people who might be materially affected by them, but an unredacted version was accidentally leaked — prompting backlash against Wikileaks for improperly securing the sensitive documents with which they had been entrusted.

Chelsea Manning (then called Army Pfc. Bradley Manning) was the primary source for the cables, war logs, and airstrike video, and in May of 2010 was arrested for leaking classified materials. After an extended detainment and trial Manning was convicted in 2013 on several charges and is now serving a 35-year term in prison.

Spyfiles, December 2011-September 2014

Edward Snowden isn't the only one leaking info about the NSA and other intelligence agencies. The "Spyfiles" are a collection of catalogs, presentations, videos and other internal documents detailing thousands of products and applications being used by or advertised to the world's spooks and spies, from cellphone interception devices to malware ready to be deployed against modern operating systems. It overlapped nicely with the data leaked by Snowden in 2013, which showed that these tools were not merely hypothetically useful, but were in fact being employed frequently and pervasively worldwide.

Related: NSA Eavesdropped on Last 3 French Presidents: Wikileaks

Sony Archives, April 2015

The hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment by as-yet-unidentified criminals and the subsequent release of thousands of corporate emails and documents in 2014 may go down as one of the most damaging data breaches of all time. Wikileaks made sure all that data was not just online, but indexed and searchable.

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