Going underground at the Wikileaks nerve centre

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To enter the old nuclear bunker in Stockholm where the Wikileaks secrets are stored is like passing into another surreal world, half way between planet Earth and cyberspace.

The entrance on the street is non-descript. It is just a door in a face of rock. Steam billows from pipes alongside into the bitterly cold Swedish air.

If you press the bell and get invited in, glass doors open and you walk into a James Bond world of soft lighting. There is the high security of doors which only open when the door behind you has closed, and which need special passes for every few steps of the journey into the inner cavern.

But there is also falling water in fountains and pot plants, because people work here, watching monitors from a control room. One of the carpets has the surface of the moon on it to give an added surreal effect.

And then there are the computer servers in a cave, with bare rock walls underneath the wooden houses of Stockholm. In the inner cavern are rows and rows of computer storage cases.

And on one of them are the files of Wikileaks, only a fraction of which have so far been made public to the immense embarrassment of politicians who once said something indiscreet to an American diplomat, never dreaming the words would bite back in public.

Image caption,
A James Bond world of soft lighting

The data centre is owned by a company called Bahnhof, and its founder, Jon Karlung, gave the BBC a tour. Mr Karlung took over the remnant from the Cold War in 2007 and had to dynamite out a further 4,000 cubic metres of rock to make it big enough.

It is ultra-secure and needs submarine turbines - just inside the entrance - to generate enough power to maintain a moderate temperature even in the vicious Swedish winter.

Postal service

But the threat to data is not from physical theft - not from robbers with guns - though they would have a hard job - but from cyber attack. Mr Karlung said they monitored the traffic into and out of the centre. But he said he would be naive to think that people would not try so they had given Wikileaks a separate channel in - its own pipe for data as it were.

Image caption,
Only a fraction of the files have been made public

Does he fear the wrath of the United States because his facility stores such embarrassing information?

"Our role must be to keep this service up. We are in Sweden and this service is legal in Sweden and therefore we must stand up for our client," he said.

"We must do everything in our power to keep the service up. I believe in the freedom of speech".

He said his data centre was like the postal service. You do not blame the postman for the content of the letter - nor do you open the letter if you are a postal delivery person.

So it is with servers, he thinks: "We should be able to help Wikileaks operate their servers as long as they are not violating any laws.

"That principle is the most important thing to stand for".

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