Beyond the revelations themselves, “Cablegate” in Brazil would have a significant impact on the profession of journalism and strengthen the culture of transparency even as the country was starting to revisit the legacy of its military dictatorship. Brazil was the first South American country to receive the cables—thanks to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s strategic dissemination plan, and to that little pen drive.
I was a member of the team carefully assembled by WikiLeaks in the weeks before the initial publication of the cables on November 29, 2010. The goal was to build a network of local media partners in countries rich and poor that would make the stories go global. A task force of independent journalists would review the cables, write groundbreaking stories for the WikiLeaks website, and devise a strategy for other media outlets to investigate and report on the leaked documents.
Assange, the product of a cyberpunk culture based on collaboration and data sharing, formed his strategy around that philosophy, balancing it with an acknowledgment of the mainstream media’s traditional demand for exclusivity. WikiLeaks’ original partnership was with four major news outlets—the Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel—that received the collection of 250,000 cables months in advance. A fifth, the New York Times, obtained them from the Guardian. These publications agreed to surrender their exclusive control over the material in January 2011. In the end, WikiLeaks was able to partner with more than ninety media outlets around the world.
Read the full piece in English or in Spanish at The Nation.