January 15 2021 — On January 15 2001, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia. This phenomenon is the world’s 15th most popular website in terms of overall visitor traffic, with a worldwide monthly readership of approximately half a billion. And, for obvious reasons, the spooks love Wikipedia. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
RELATED POST: Spooks & The Media
UPDATE (January 15 2021) — Today, Rory Cellan-Jones — BBC Technology correspondent — wrote a piece to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia.
“It is where everyone from students, to politicians to yes, journalists, turn for a quick briefing on any subject, although even Wikipedia says it should not be used as a primary source.”
The article discusses “five Wikipedia articles that tell the story of this phenomenon.”
Without surprise, the story I discovered in 2007 is not among them…
The BBC journalist quotes David Gerard, who has been a volunteer editor since the early days.
“David Gerard describes Wikipedia as both totally anarchic with nobody in charge, and a complex bureaucracy you have to learn to navigate. So far, anarchic bureaucracy seems to be working.”
Anarchic bureaucracy? In 2007, while reading the Wikipedia page about Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie), I discovered that Western Intelligence Agencies were editing sensitive information on Wikipedia.
At 12:00 GMT TODAY, Lord Carloway — The Lord Justice General in the 3rd Lockerbie appeal — will deliver the opinion of the Scottish Appeal Court.
The Wikipedia page — Pan Am Flight 103 — does not mention the SCCRC decision (March 11 2020) to recommend this third appeal. And the Wikipedia page does not say a word about this appeal held in November 2020. Anarchic bureaucracy? I have my doubts…
END of UPDATE
The spooks like Wikipedia for at least two reasons. They can keep the control over the pages containing sensitive information and they can monitor in real-time who is editing the encyclopedia.
On July 26 2007, I published a piece regarding suspicious edits made to some articles on Wikipedia.
At first, I simply noticed that some information regarding a Palestinian terrorist group had been erased.
Upon closer inspection, I came to the conclusion that Western Intelligence Agencies were editing sensitive information on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia administrators reacted angrily to the story.
“This article is just wild speculative nonsense,” Jimmy Wales wrote.
On August 17 2007, I published a second story in which I listed the CIA edits to Wikipedia pages.
Between June 29, 2004, and July 30, 2007, Wikipedia has been edited 297 times by some individual(s) using computers that belong to the CIA network.
Among the pages that were edited by the CIA individual(s), I found:
- The 2003 invasion of Iraq (modified on 2004-11-09 15:57:47)
- William Colby (modified on 2005-06-23 22:45:00, 2005-06-24 16:32:11, 2005-06-24 16:34:19 and 2006-06-20 18:32:45)
- The Iraq Intelligence Commission (modified on 2005-06-30 21:27:22)
- The Central Intelligence Agency (modified on 2005-07-18 17:54:46)
- The United States Intelligence Community (modified on 2005-08-15 15:05:43)
- Ahmed Chalabi (modified on 2005-12-09 18:13:04)
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (modified on 2005-12-15 16:38:49)
- The National Counter Terrorism Center (modified on 2005-12-22 16:24:26)
- The National Security Council (modified on 2005-12-27 13:42:09 and 2005-12-27 13:44:14)
- Porter J. Goss (modified on 2006-01-25 00:08:00 and 2006-01-25 00:10:10)
- George Tenet (modified on 2006-02-10 10:36:53)
- Kyle Foggo (modified on 2006-05-08 17:00:42)
- Encryption (modified on 2006-10-27 16:41:05)
- The list of Yale University student organizations (modified on 2007-01-23 23:54:42)
- China and Weapons of Mass Destruction (modified on 2007-02-05 17:27:24)
- The Director of National Intelligence (modified on 2007-04-24 20:07:24).
Jimmy Wales never apologized for the insulting comments he fired up when the story went viral.
Wikipedia has erased all traces of this ‘old’ story. The affair does not even appears on the official list of the Wikipedia scandals.
The CIA never confirmed nor denied the story. Of course…
“I cannot confirm that the traffic came from agency computers,” a CIA spokesperson stated.
“I’d like in any case to underscore a far larger and more significant point that no one should doubt or forget: The CIA has a vital mission in protecting the United States, and the focus of this agency is there, on that decisive work.”
Back to the present, it is interesting that Jimmy Wales reacted to the ‘Philip Cross Affair’ exactly like he reacted to my story ten years ago. ( “Philip Cross” has made 133,612 edits to Wikipedia over the last few years!)
“Sure – there is very little evidence of any such thing and Wikipedia remains a robust and open platform for reasoned debate.
You clearly have very very little idea how it works. If your worldview is shaped by idiotic conspiracy sites, you will have a hard time grasping reality.”
“Philip Cross” has not had one single day off from editing Wikipedia in almost five years.
According to former UK ambassador Craig Murray, “Philip Cross” has edited every single day from 29 August 2013 to 14 May 2018. Including five Christmas Days.
That’s 1,721 consecutive days of editing.
Wikipedia as a target for NSA surveillance
One of the documents revealed by the whistle-blower Edward J. Snowden specifically identified Wikipedia as a target for surveillance by the NSA.
The leaked slide from a classified PowerPoint presentation declared that monitoring these sites could allow NSA analysts to learn “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”
The NSA does not just monitor the content of what was read or typed by an individual.
The agency also records information that can be linked to the person’s physical location and possible identity.
In March 2015, Jimmy Wales finally filed a lawsuit against the NSA.
“We’re filing a lawsuit against the National Security Agency to protect the rights of the 500 million people who use Wikipedia every month.
We’re doing so because a fundamental pillar of democracy is at stake: the free exchange of knowledge and ideas.
Our lawsuit says that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance of Internet traffic on American soil — often called “upstream” surveillance — violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects the right to privacy, as well as the First Amendment, which protects the freedoms of expression and association.
We also argue that this agency activity exceeds the authority granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Congress amended in 2008.”
That was a bit late in the game. If only Jimbo had listened to me a decade earlier.
Wikipedia Sues NSA For Spying Program
The Dark Side of Wikipedia — FullMeasure
See: The Philip Cross Affair — Craig Murray
BBC News 15/08/2007: Wikipedia ‘shows CIA page edits’
Stop Spying on Wikipedia Users — NYT (March 2015)
On This Day — Wikipedia Is Born (January 15 2001)
On This Day — Wikipedia Is Born. And The Spooks Love It! (January 15 2001) 
20 Years Ago — Wikipedia Is Born. And The Spooks Love It! (January 15 2001)