WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks via teleconference today (Photo: Getty)
On Sunday night, WikiLeaks released the world's largest searchable collection of formerly confidential U.S. diplomatic communications.
The millions of diplomatic cables in the collection were written between 1973 and 1976, and they offer a window into international politics at the time. According to Wikileaks head Julian Assange, the cables are "the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published."
They certainly represent the largest release to date by WikiLeaks - 1.7 million records, more than 700 million words and 380 gigabytes of raw data - but unlike some other leaks by the organization, the cables didn't come from a whistleblower.
Instead, 'The Kissinger Cables', as WikiLeaks calls them (205,901 of the cables are connected to Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State) actually come from the National Archives and Records Association (NARA), which routinely assesses and releases government documents into the public domain 25 years after they first appear.
WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson in Washington today (Photo: Getty)
Although many of the documents were originally made public by NARA, the U.S. government has since made several efforts to reclassify them, according to Salon.
WikiLeaks has taken the unorganized PDFs from NARA's archives and reverse-engineered the information to make it searchable. The collection has already yielded some interesting tidbits about some major figures in U.S. politics.
For instance, there's this worrying exchange between Henry Kissinger, the then-U.S. ambassador to Turkey and two Turkish and Cypriot diplomats. According to documents, Kissinger told the group, "before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, 'The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.' [Laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I'm afraid to say things like that."
Democracy Now! reported on the new archive, and spoke with WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson. Check out their piece right here:
One piece from the archive has already led to front-page news in India. According to diplomatic documents in 'The Kissinger Cables', former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi acted as a middleman in the '70s for a Swedish company looking to sell fighter jets to the Indian air force.
He was employed by the Swedish company because of his access to his mother Indira Gandhi, who was the country's Prime Minister at the time. The Gandhi family remains prominent in India today.
And another cable from October, 1973, reveals that the Vatican once dismissed reports of massacres by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as "Communist propaganda."
As well as a resource for journalists, the new archive of searchable material "should prove a useful tool to historians," according to Wired.