WikiLeaks on Thursday announced that it was releasing 2,434,899 emails from Syrian political figures, ministries, and associated companies, sent between August 2006 and March 2012.
According to WikiLeaks, the emails come from “680 Syria-related entities or domain names, including those of the Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture,” and the documents include 678,752 different email addresses and 1,082,447 different recipients. The emails were sent in several languages: approximately 400,000 are in Arabic and approximately 68,000 are in Russian. 42,000 of the emails were infected with viruses or trojans.
Only a handful of the documents had been released by mid-morning Thursday, but WikiLeaks claimed in a statement that the emails included “intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath party figures” and “records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations.”
Thousands of people have died in the 16-month rebellion in Syria that has been brutally put down by the Assad regime.
“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the statement. “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.”
WikiLeaks said news stories stemming from material in the “Syria Files” are set to be published over the next two months in several international news outlets, including the Associated Press, Al Akhbar in Lebanon, and ARD in Germany.
Al Akhbar said the stories will be published “as they are verified.”
“It is a sensitive time in Syria and it is important to sort out what is real and what is fabricated,” Al-Akhbar’s Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim al-Amin said in a statement. “One thing is obvious though, the hypocrisy of global politics has reached a new high when dealing with Syria.”
This is not the first time that the Syrian regime has found its private documents released to the public. In February, hundreds of President Bashar al-Assad’s emails were put online by the hacker group Anonymous. In March, The Guardian obtained thousands of emails belonging to Assad and his wife Asma, including some that appeared to show Assad’s purchases on iTunes.
For WikiLeaks, meanwhile, the “Syria Files” mean a return to generating headlines for high-profile leaks. Since the February 2011 release of over 250,000 U.S. embassy cables, the organization and its leader, Assange, have struggled with legal trouble and bad press. Just last week, British police served Assange with an extradition notice, the BBC reported. Officers delivered the document to Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he is staying as he seeks diplomatic asylum to avoid being sent to Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations.
Watch WikiLeaks’ press conference on the “Syria Files,” via the Frontline Club:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com