NEW YORK -- When WikiLeaks began publishing some 2.4 million Syrian files on Thursday, a trove that it said includes emails from "political figures, ministries and associated companies," the anti-secrecy organization listed the Associated Press as one of its media "collaborators." And during a Thursday press conference, WikiLeaks spokeswoman Sarah Harrison said that "groundbreaking stories derived from the files" would be published in the coming months by several news organizations, including AP.
But AP has since been removed from the list, raising questions about the news organization's relationship with WikiLeaks on this major release.
AP spokesman Paul Colford told The Huffington Post that "the Associated Press is reviewing the emails for possible coverage," while adding that AP "did not have any advance agreement on how we might handle the material."
"Like a lot of news organizations, we were offered material by WikiLeaks to evaluate for possible coverage -- in the same way we receive health and science journals, survey results and such ahead of time in hopes of generating stories," Colford said. "To state that AP was 'collaborating' with WikiLeaks was a mistake."
WikiLeaks listed six other media outlets as collaborators: Al Akhbar (Lebanon), Al Masry Al Youm (Egypt), L'Espresso (Italy), NDR/ARD (Germany), Owni (France) and Publico.es (Spain).
The relationship between WikiLeaks and the media has drawn attention over the past few years, with some news organizations agreeing to analyze documents under embargo before publishing articles that provide context for the raw material and amplify the information for a broader audience. But some of those successful relationships later turned sour. The most notable spat occurred between WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange and editors at The New York Times and The Guardian, both of which received an advance look in 2010 at a wealth of U.S. government documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Assange, who is seeking asylum in Ecuador, was not at Thursday's press conference.)
Last year, both the Times and Guardian did not receive documents ahead of time from WikiLeaks detailing the circumstances of hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees. They raced to publish along with news organizations that did, including McClatchy and the Washington Post. For that release, WikiLeaks had also provided the documents in advance to several non-U.S. outlets, including The Telegraph (United Kingdom), El Pais (Spain), Le Monde (France) and Der Spiegel (Germany).
WikiLeaks said its 2.4 million documents relating to Syria -- where President Bashar al-Assad has been waging a brutal crackdown on protesters and opposition forces -- are dated from August 2006 to March 2012. "The Syria files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy," Harrison told reporters. "But they also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another."
While this is a far more substantial trove, it isn't the first time that emails have leaked out of Syria during the current conflict. In an article Thursday, AP noted that Haaretz published Syrian emails in February obtained by Internet activist group Anonymous, and The Guardian "published emails it sourced to Syrian opposition activists" the following month.