From bombshells to behind bars: Here are 4 of the most cataclysmic events in Julian Assange's WikiLeaks history

Julian Assange, editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, has been arrested at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and is now in policy custody. The 47-year-old Assange had been taking refuge in the Embassy for six years, and his arrest was confirmed on Twitter by U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid—who posted, on Thursday morning, April 11, “Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the U.K. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation.”


Founded by Assange in 2006, WikiLeaks has been one of the Internet’s most controversial and hotly debated websites. WikiLeaks’ defenders, who range from liberals and progressives to right-wing libertarians, view it as a valuable site that—by releasing classified or confidential information—encourages governments to be more ethical. But WikiLeaks’ detractors on both the left and right view it as a site that harms intelligence agencies and undermines law enforcement. And there are many on the left and right who have mixed feelings about WikiLeaks. Here are some of the biggest bombshells in WikiLeaks’ 13-year-history.

1. The Chelsea Manning leaks Millions of Internet users learned about WikiLeaks in the early 2010s thanks to the activities of Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who was stationed in Iraq and disclosed thousands of military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks—some of them classified, some of them not classified but still considered sensitive. Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison, although her sentence was commuted to almost seven years by President Barack Obama in early 2017 not long before he left office and Donald Trump was sworn in as president.

2. The 2016 John Podesta and DNC e-mail leaks During the 2016 presidential race, numerous e-mails by John Podesta (Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were stolen by hackers—allegedly, hackers who were employed by the Russian government—and passed along to WikiLeaks, which published them. During the Russia investigation, one of the many things that Special Counsel Robert Mueller carefully probed was the theft of the DNC and Podesta’s e-mails and WikiLeaks’ decision to publish them.

3. The Afghan War documents leaks In the early 2010s, WikiLeaks released thousands of documents pertaining to the Afghan War (some of which described civilian casualties and incidents of “friendly fire”). The documents spanned much of the 2000s, and WikiLeaks shared them with major publications like the New York Times, the Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel.

4. Donald Trump’s praise and condemnation of WikiLeaks In 2010, when WikiLeaks was publishing Iraq-related documents it had obtained from Chelsea Manning, Donald Trump had nothing good to say about the organization. In a 2010 interview with Brian Kilmeade (of Fox News fame), Trump said of WikiLeaks, “I think it’s disgraceful. I think there should be like death penalty or something.” But Trump totally flip flopped in 2016. Seeing WikiLeaks as a thorn in the side of the DNC and Clinton’s campaign, Trump enthusiastically declared, “I love WikiLeaks.”

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