WikiLeaks is back – without Assange, but with a cache of Syrian emails

  • @jerometaylor

WikiLeaks today signalled that it can still publish embarrassing data with or without its controversial founder, as the whistle-blowing platform unveiled what it described as its biggest leak since the release of diplomatic cables from the US.

In the first major press conference to be held without Julian Assange, who is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks said it would begin publishing more the 2.4 million emails taken from Syrian political figures, ministries and corporations.

Sarah Harrison, a full time member who has taken on an increasingly public role within the organisation in recent weeks, read out a statement from Mr Assange claiming that the emails would be “embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents.”

Only a handful of the emails were made available today. As with previous releases, WikiLeaks has partnered with a variety of mainstream media outlets in Germany, France, Italy, Egypt and Lebanon to sift through the data. Emails will then be made public in conjunction with news stories.

The first emails released today reveal how an Italian company sold radio communication equipment to Syrian police and army and continued to provide technical assistance even as the country spiralled into violence which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

According to the Italian magazine L’Espresso, which has advanced access to the emails, Selex Elsag, a subsidiary of the Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, sold Tetra radios to the Syrian Wireless Organisation.

The EUR40m contract was signed in 2008 at a time when relations between the Assad regime and the West were significantly more cordial.

Nonetheless emails show that Selex employees were happy to supply technical know-how even as the country was gripped by civil war.

One email sent in February of this year mentions the pending arrival of Selex employees in Damascus. Separate emails also reveal how the Syrians requested encrypted radio equipment with Selex passing on the request to the Italian government.

While it remains to be seen what details the so-called Syria files contain, it is undoubtedly a victory for WikiLeaks which has been struggling to remain relevant following a financial embargo against the website and the ongoing legal troubles of its founder.

Speaking to reporters today, Miss Harrison said she would not be drawn on the status of Mr Assange, who walked into Ecuador’s embassy two weeks ago and claimed asylum.