Today, Thursday 5 July 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria Files – more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies, dating from August 2006 to March 2012.
This extraordinary data set derives from 680 Syria-related entities or domain names, including those of the Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture.
Over the next two months, ground-breaking stories derived from the files will appear in WikiLeaks (global), Al Akhbar (Lebanon), Al Masry Al Youm (Egypt), ARD (Germany), Associated Press (US), L’Espresso (Italy), Owni (France) and Publico.es (Spain). Other publications will announce themselves closer to their publishing date.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: "The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents. It helps us not merely to criticise 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."
At this time Syria is undergoing a violent internal conflict that has killed between 6,000 and 15,000 people in the last 18 months. The Syria Files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, but they also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.
The range of information extends from the intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath party figures to records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations.
The database comprises 2,434,899 emails from the 680 domains. There are 678,752 different email addresses that have sent emails and 1,082,447 different recipients. There are a number of different languages in the set, including around 400,000 emails in Arabic and 68,000 emails in Russian. The data is more than eight times the size of ’Cablegate’ in terms of number of documents, and more than 100 times the size in terms of data. Around 42,000 emails were infected with viruses or trojans. To solve these complexities, WikiLeaks built a general-purpose, multi-language political data-mining system which can handle massive data sets like those represented by the Syria Files.
In such a large collection of information, it is not possible to verify every single email at once; however, WikiLeaks and its co-publishers have done so for all initial stories to be published. We are statistically confident that the vast majority of the data are what they purport to be.
We would like to thank our sources, technical team, donors and defenders without whom this contribution to the historical record would not be possible. https://wlfriends.org/
Updated July 06, 2012
Video: Philip Williams discusses the release of the Syria emails (ABC News)
WikiLeaks has begun publishing more than 2 million emails from Syrian political figures that it says will shed light on the regime's crackdown on dissent and embarrass Syria's opponents.
The emails date back to 2006 but also cover the past 16 months, in which thousands have been killed in a bloody crackdown by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's forces.
The whistleblowing website says the files will give an insight into how the Assad government operates, and also reveal Western countries and businesses which continue to support Syria.
Read the Syria files on the WikiLeaks website.
WikiLeaks says the emails came from Syrian ministries including foreign affairs, finance and presidential affairs.
Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the material is embarrassing to Syria, as well as to Syria's opponents.
"It helps us not merely to criticise one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts," he said in a statement.
"It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it."
Altogether, the site says it will publish 2,434,899 emails from 680 domains, which it is "statistically confident" are accurate and authentic.
It says there are 678,752 different email addresses involved, and 1,082,447 different recipients.
There are around 400,000 emails in Arabic but also 68,000 emails in Russian.
Europe correspondent Philip Williams told Lateline the first files raise questions about Italian defence giant Finmeccanica's involvement with Syria:
They're hinting that there is a good deal of hypocrisy both from the companies and Western governments.
Although they haven't really given us any detail other than one example of an Italian company that appears to have been supplying radio equipment to the Syrian police as little as a couple of months ago.
So no real sort of substantial evidence yet, just an enormous pot of emails, 2.4 million of them to be gone through.
Of course that will take weeks, perhaps months, and they're not all going to be released at once so we'll have to wait and see the substance of those.
But certainly the Syrian government and perhaps some Western governments and companies will be holding their breath about that.
- Philip Williams
WikiLeaks will not comment on the rest of the material until stories derived from the files are published.
It is not the first time Syrian emails have been leaked.
In March, Britain's Guardian newspaper published emails which claimed Mr Assad's wife Asma was spending tens of thousands of pounds on jewellery and fancy furniture amid the bloodshed.
The Syria files are WikiLeaks' first major publication since it began disclosing internal emails from the US-based intelligence firm Stratfor in February.
WikiLeaks was forced to suspend many of its publishing operations last October after Visa, MasterCard and PayPal refused to continue processing donations to the whistleblowing website.
WikiLeaks' publication comes amid continued wrangling between world powers about how the bloody conflict in Syria should be tackled.
The revolt, which started with peaceful pro-democracy protests, has turned into a something approaching a civil war as the government's crackdown triggered an armed uprising.
Rights groups as many as 16,500 people have been killed in the 16-month uprising, while Mr Assad blames the deaths on "terrorist gangs".
Meanwhile, Mr Assange remains currently holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London seeking political asylum.
He is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning on sex abuse allegations.
He denies the allegations, which he says are politically motivated.
WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing a flood of classified information and diplomatic cables in 2010, and Mr Assange says America wants to try him for leaking the documents.
Mr Assange fears that once he is in Sweden, the US will seek his extradition.
Even if he is granted asylum in Ecuador, British police say they will arrest him for being in breach of his bail conditions as soon as he sets foot outside the embassy.
Mr Assange was on $315,000 bail, which included the condition he spend nights at home.