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With "Syria Files," Has WikiLeaks Broken Its Slump?

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, July 5 2012

WikiLeaks began today to publish the "Syria Files" — more than two million emails that the document-leaking organization says chronicle exchanges with Syrian officials dating from August 2006 to March 2012.

WikiLeaks itself warns that not every document it is publishing can verifiably be said to be authentic, and has not indicated yet where it got the tranche.

This isn't the first time that internal Syrian communications have been exposed to public view. In February 2012 a group of hackers aligned with Anonymous released a cache of private emails from Syrian government officials, including private correspondence between Bashar al-Assad and his wife.

With founder Julian Assange facing extradition from the UK to Sweden and a dearth of new material until today, WikiLeaks has been beleaguered of late. Besides Assange's legal battle, credit card companies have put the site under blockade and former admirers turned to critics upon discovering that Wikileaks' failure to redact sensitive names put innocent people in danger.

The "Syria Files" might be the first significant information released by WikiLeaks in a long time, but not everyone seems to agree that this is the case. The Guardian reports that Syrian activists are "frustrated and underwhelmed" by the release of the Syria emails. And on Twitter, independent researcher Ashkan Soltani urges journalists to take precautions and practice "good data hygiene" whenever handling "leaked" documents.

WikiLeaks suggests that stories from the cables "will appear" in a number of news outlets, including the Associated Press, but stops short of announcing any sort of partnership. In its initial coverage of the WikiLeaks announcement, the AP says nothing of a collaboration of any sort with WikiLeaks. The organization's previous attempts at working closely with news organizations ended on less-than-amicable terms with the New York Times and with The Guardian.

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