WikiLeaks is back in the news with a project that’s more than eight times the size of Cablegate. The WikiLeaks team announced Thursday that it has published the first batch of over 2.4 million emails from the Syrian government. The group plans to release the rest of the emails over the next two months.
"The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in a statement. “It helps us not merely to criticize one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it."
The first batch of emails released today detail the involvement of companies that have been providing technology and supplies to the Syrian regime as it has been violently repressing uprisings from rebel groups. One such company is Italy’s largest tech manufacturer Finmeccanica, which specializes in defense and security technology. Finmeccanica is owned by communications company Selex Elsag. One email exchange between a Syrian official and Selex program manager Simone Bonechi reveals how Finmeccanica supplied Syria with helicopter technology that used parts manufactured in the U.S., and how Finmeccanica consequently had to find a way to elude U.S. intelligence.
Finmeccanica has been providing the Syrian regime with a high tech radio communications system known as TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio), which is typically used by police and security forces. It also supplied the Syrian regime with helicopter technology.
This wouldn’t be the first time Finmeccanica was outed for providing repressive regimes with technology. In 2007, Finmeccanica sold $8.2 million worth of radio technology to Iranian government agencies.
Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi has been placed under investigation by Italian police for suspected international corruption and money laundering. Orsi insists that the allegations amount to nothing short of slander.
Syria’s bloody conflict has killed between 6,000 and 15,000 people in the last 18 months. The emails being published on WikiLeaks span from August 2006 to March 2012 and include more than 670,000 different email addresses across 680 domains. Some 400,000 emails are in Arabic while 68,000 are in Russian.
WikiLeaks says that in terms of the number of documents, the Syria Files are eight times the size of Cablegate (the U.S. cables that were released in late 2010), and it’s more than 100 times the size in terms of data.
This isn’t the first time that the emails of Syrian officials have been hacked. Earlier this year, individuals associated with Anonymous hacked into the emails of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, which revealed, among other things, the fact that Syria's UN Mission thinks Americans are painfully stupid. Meanwhile, 33 of the 78 staff accounts that Anonymous hacked into were all using the password “12345.”
Anonymous also hacked into the Syrian government’s defense ministry in August 2011. Shortly thereafter, the group hacked into and vandalized several Syrian government websites.
Image source: wikileaks.org