It has been 10 years since WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents regarding the Afghanistan War.
On July 25, 2010, WikiLeaks published 75,000 documents on the Afghanistan War, most of which were classified documents and ranged from January 2004 to December 2009. It is known to be one of the largest ever U.S. military leaks.
The six-year dump of secret documents brought to light highly sensitive information, such as specific Taliban attacks, deaths of hundreds of civilians, friendly-fire deaths, psychological warfare tactics, Iran’s extensive covert campaign to support the Taliban in Afghanistan, and more.
WikiLeaks claimed to have an additional 15,000 documents on the Afghanistan War, which it refrained from posting while the U.S. Department of Justice considered charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange called the document leak “the most comprehensive history of a war ever to be published, during the course of the war,” and compared its significance to that of the Pentagon Papers released in the 1970s.
WikiLeaks went on to publish more than 391,000 additional classified U.S. military documents with the Iraq War Logs in October 2010.
The Department of Justice accused Assange of conspiring with former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was an Army Private named Bradley Manning at the time.
“The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications,” a Department of Justice release stated in 2019.
Assange is accused of helping Manning breach Pentagon computers, which made it possible for the pair to collect the documents. The two communicated in real-time, during which Assange helped Manning crack passwords to DOD profiles.
The tactic made it more difficult for investigators to determine how the leak happened.
Manning was convicted and served out seven years of a 35-year sentence, which was commuted by former President Barack Obama in January 2017, just days before he left office. Manning was released from prison in May 2017.
Assange has been in London’s Ecuadoran Embassy since 2012, but was arrested after Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno withdrew Assange’s asylum, citing repeated violations of international law. He is currently imprisoned in London’s HM Prison Belmarsh.
If extradited to the U.S., Assange faces up to 170 years in prison under the Espionage Act of 1917, under which he was indicted on 17 charges.