By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over the weekend, 20,000 hacked emails from Democratic Party officials were posted on the WikiLeaks website. In the past, WikiLeaks has been responsible for leaking information from the CIA, Sony Pictures and a huge off-shore bank.

So, what is WikiLeaks? Good Question.

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In its 10 years, WikiLeaks has published more than 10 million documents.

Its leader and founder, Julian Assange, has said, “WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, we analyze them, we promote them and we obtain more.”

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“It’s a mysterious organization,” Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said. “Essentially their purpose is to obliterate the idea of secrecy, about anything they think the public has a right to know and, of course, that’s their determination.”

WikiLeaks doesn’t steal the information, but once it’s given to them, they put it in an easily searchable database and publish it.  In its earlier days, WikiLeaks reportedly did little to assess the information.  According to Kirtley, the group now analyzes and verifies the data. WikiLeaks claims a perfect record when it comes to authenticity.

For four years, Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questions about two sexual assaults.  Assange calls the charges a smear campaign and has denied the allegations.  He fears the U.S. wants to charge him with espionage.

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“The whole question of whether WikiLeaks could be prosecuted in the United States is very much an undecided question,” Kirtley said. “In some countries in the world, it’s not really legal, but in the United States, we don’t exactly know the answer.”

Heather Brown