WikiLeaks today began releasing a database of more than 2.4 million emails to and from Syrian political figures and others from a period stretching from August 2006 to March 2012.
According to WikiLeaks, the data set was gathered from “680 Syria-related entities or domain names,” including the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. At a news conference, WikiLeaks spokesperson Sarah Harrison said the emails are in different languages. Due to the size of the collection, it is not possible to verify every single email at once. Still, the organization is confident the vast majority of the emails are legitimate, according to Harrison.
“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said 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.”
Since March 2011, Syria has been the scene of a violent uprising by opponents of the repressive regime that’s headed by President Bashar al-Assad. Estimates of the number of people killed in the uprising vary, with some estimates putting the figure at more than 15,000.
Among the first batch of emails that were released are communications indicating Italian technology conglomerate Finmeccanica’s Selex Elsag subsidiary sold Syrian authorities mobile communications equipment even as the Syrian’s government crackdown raged. In announcing the release of the emails, WikiLeaks stated that the release of what it is calling the “Syria Files” will “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 release includes several times more material than was released in 2010 in what came to be known as “Cablegate,” when WikiLeaks dumped more than a quarter million diplomatic cables on the Internet. The move angered United State officials at the time and resulted in the arrest of U.S Army Private Bradley Manning on charges of leaking national defense information to an unauthorized source.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been laying low in Ecuador’s embassy in London after seeking asylum. Assange is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault accusations. He has denied the charges, which he has claimed were filed in 2010 as retribution for the release of the diplomatic cables.