No secret that WikiLeaks has shaken corridors of power

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, WikiLeaks is either the ultimate democratic tool in bringing governments to book or a dangerous and irresponsible development threatening national security.

Recently the whistle-blowing website has outgrown its humble beginnings to become a thorn in the side of American and UK authorities and it shows no signs of going away quietly.

In the last three months 90,000 secret files about US military activities during the war in Afghanistan and 400,000 documents relating to events in Iraq following the 2003 invasion have been released on the site. This week they have been joined by 250,000 supposedly secret embassy missives.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

As the trawling began, most of the initial postings seemed to concern repeated calls from Arab leaders urging the US to take military action against Iran. However, with further disclosures thought to feature embarrassing criticism of David Cameron, the Duke of York and the British military, no one it seems is safe from the relentless muck-raking of Wikileaks and its doggedly- determined founder Julian Assange.

The non-for-profit group had a quiet launch in 2007 and while its mission statement said its intention was to bring important news and information to the public, the scale of its influence only became clear in this country when it published a list of names and addresses of people said to belong to the far-right British National Party.

Amid allegations from the BNP the list was in fact a fake, Assange stuck to his guns, insisting the details has been verified and the website's modus operandi was to provide an "innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists."

However, the unauthorised release of classified information, particularly that relating to military intelligence, has found Assange facing much more serious charges. He now stands accused of endangering the lives of soldiers and citizens of the US and its allies. It's a accusation Assange predictably refutes.

"We do not have a goal of having innocent people being harmed," he said during a debate in London last month. "We have exactly the opposite goal. Our goal is to have those people protected. We don't maintain a philosophy of publish and be damned. Rather, we maintain a philosophy of trying to achieve justice."

Anyone can submit information to the site, with a team of journalists deciding what is published. Operated by an organisation known as the Sunshine Press, for most, Wikileaks is an impenetrable site.

However, those who are prepared to sift through the reams of documents –100 million at the last count and including everything from the restrictions placed on prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay to screenshots of Sarah Palin's email inbox, the results are potential dynamite.

Yesterday, Number 10, bracing itself for further disclosures said to contain criticism of David Cameron and the Duke York's behaviour as a trade envoy, refused to be drawn on the details of the leaked cables, while Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to Washington described the documents as "embarrassing" rather than damaging.

However, those hoping that playing down WikiLeaks' importance will lessen the impact of the documents contained on it, may be disappointed.

Political commentator Iain Dale wrote yesterday on his blog: "On Twitter, John Rentoul (the Independent on Sunday's chief political commentator] is running a series called 'Questions to which the answer is no'. I have another one for him. Are there any lengths to which Julian Assange will not go to slag off America and compromise the security of the west?

"Judicious use of leaks and proper investigative journalism is one thing. To do what he has done on Wikileaks this week is quite another.

"I might have a little more sympathy with him if he ever used information gained from Iran or North Korea, but all he seems to be interested in is bashing America. One day he will go too far and endanger lives. That is, if he hasn't done so already."

Since the website first appeared it has faced a number of legal challenges to take it off-line and also claims to have been subject to a cyber attack. So far all attempts to silence Assange have failed and, with more revelations set to hit the headlines in coming days, it seems we haven't heard the last of him yet.