WikiLeaks publishes the first documents leaked by Chelsea Manning


Year
2010
Month Day
February 18

On February 18, 2010, a relatively obscure website called WikiLeaks publishes a leaked diplomatic cable detailing discussions between American diplomats and Icelandic government officials. The leak of “Reikjavik13” barely registered with the public, but it was the first of what turned out to be nearly 750,000 sensitive documents sent to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning. Manning is now considered one of the most prolific and significant whistleblowers in American history, as her leaks shed light on atrocities committed by American armed forces, painted a far grimmer picture of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and greatly embarrassed the United States’ diplomatic establishment.

Manning, an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, was deployed to Iraq in October of 2009. Her job gave her access to all manner of classified and sensitive information from various organs of state. On January 5th, 2010, she began downloading massive amounts of material, starting with 400,000 documents pertaining to the Iraq War. Manning put the information on a CD marked “Lady Gaga” in order to smuggle it home and upload it to her personal computer. On leave in the United States, she shopped the information to both The New York Times and The Washington Post but neither took an interest. She began sending material to WikiLeaks in early February, but again got no response.

Then, on February 18, Manning sent WikiLeaks the cable known as “Reykjavik13.” The site published it within hours. Manning later said that she felt the cable depicted the U.S. government “bullying” the government of Iceland, and hoped that the leak would put pressure on the U.S. to lend economic assistance. The incident would have been a tiny historical footnote if not for the leaks that followed. Throughout the spring of 2010, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of documents leaked by Manning, oftentimes via The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian

The diplomatic cables contained frank discussions of policy and American descriptions of foreign leaders, many of whom found cause to be offended, but other leaks revealed shocking truths about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning and WikiLeaks released multiple accounts and even videos of U.S. airstrikes that killed civilians, and the information they disclosed led watchdogs to estimate that American armed forces were responsible for over 10,000 more civilian deaths than they had officially acknowledged. As a whole, the leaks showed that the wars were not only going much worse than the government led the populace to believe, but that the scope of the humanitarian disaster was larger as well.

Manning was arrested in May of 2010 and was eventually sentenced to 35 years in military prison, which many called an extremely harsh sentence for a whistleblower. President Barack Obama stopped short of pardoning her but commuted her sentence in January of 2017, just three days before leaving office. She received international acclaim from free speech and anti-war activists, and is now known as a one of the most significant whistleblowers in U.S. history.

READ MORE: The United States Began Protecting Whistleblowers in 1777

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Terrorists attack Ahmadiyya mosques in Pakistan

Year
2010
Month Day
May 28

As Friday prayers came to a close on May 28, 2010 in Lahore, Pakistan, seven terrorists wielding guns, grenades and suicide vests stormed into two crowded Ahmadi Muslim mosques and opened fire, killing 94 victims and injuring more than 120. The coordinated attacks took place just minutes apart.

At the Bait-ul-Noor Mosque in Model Town—an upscale neighborhood in Lahore—people ran for their lives as three gunmen entered with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, opening fire on security personnel and worshippers alike. The attack lasted more than one hour as the attackers shot into the horrified crowd. Twenty-seven people were killed.

Several miles away, near Lahore’s main railway station, another three attackers barged into the Dar-ul-Zakir mosque with the same destructive intentions. They sprayed bullets into the congregation and took several hundred people hostage. A three-hour standoff ensued, as police and terrorists exchanged gunfire. Two of the attackers then detonated their suicide vests, killing 67.

The nightmare didn’t end for survivors the day of the mosque attacks. A few days later, gunmen attacked the intensive-care Unit of Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, where victims and one of the alleged attackers were recovering. Twelve more people, including police officers and hospital staff, were killed. The attackers escaped.

A Punjab provincial chapter of the Taliban took responsibility for all the attacks.

Although the incidents came as a horrifying surprise, a leader at the Model Town mosque expressed that they had been receiving threatening phone calls in the weeks prior to the attacks. When Mosque leaders reached out to the police for more security, they received no response.

Unfortunately, threats and violence are nothing new for the Ahmadi, who are always met with discrimination from majority Muslim sects. Though the Ahmadi consider themselves Muslim, Pakistani law does not. Even an act as simple as declaring themselves Muslim is considered blasphemy under the law, and can be punished with fines, prison time or death. Sunni Muslim conservatives have led a recent campaign to ostracize the Ahmadis, and Sunni extremists have made them the targets of violence.

The victims of the attacks were buried in Rabwah—the home to the Ahmadi’s religious headquarters. Although Pakistani ministers, politicians and other prominent figures issued statements of condemnation toward the attackers and their actions, none of them attended the services—likely due to fear of political and religious backlash for publicly supporting the much-maligned sect.

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Massive oil spill begins in Gulf of Mexico

Year
2010
Month Day
April 20

April 20, 2010: An explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, kills 11 people and triggers the largest offshore oil spill in American history. The rig had been in the final phases of drilling an exploratory well for BP, the British oil giant. By the time the well was capped three months later, an estimated 4.9 million barrels (or around 206 million gallons) of crude oil had poured into the Gulf.

The disaster began when a surge of natural gas from the well shot up a riser pipe to the rig’s platform, where it set off a series of explosions and a massive blaze. Of the 126 people on board the nearly 400-foot-long Deepwater Horizon, 11 workers perished and 17 others were seriously injured. The fire burned for more than a day before the Deepwater Horizon, constructed for $350 million in 2001, sank on April 22 in some 5,000 feet of water.

Before evacuating the Deepwater Horizon, crew members tried unsuccessfully to activate a safety device called a blowout preventer, which was designed to shut off the flow of oil from the well in an emergency. Over the next three months, a variety of techniques were tried in an effort to plug the hemorrhaging well, which was spewing thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf each day. Finally, on July 15, BP announced the well had been temporarily capped, and on September 19, after cement was injected into the well to permanently seal it, the federal government declared the well dead. By that point, however, oil from the spill had reached coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, where it would inflict a heavy toll on the region’s economy, particularly the fishing and tourism industries, and wildlife. Scientists say the full extent of the environmental damage could take decades to assess.

In January 2011, a national investigative commission released a report concluding the Deepwater Horizon disaster was “foreseeable and preventable” and the result of “human error, engineering mistakes and management failures,” along with ineffective government regulation. In November 2012, BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges brought against it by the U.S. Justice Department, and pay $4.5 billion in fines. Additionally, the Justice Department charged two BP managers who supervised testing on the well with manslaughter, and another company executive with making false statements about the size of the spill. In July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines. 

PLUS: Listen to Obama on the BP Oil Spill 

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Joran van der Sloot arrested for murder in South America

Year
2010
Month Day
June 03

On this day in 2010, Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, is arrested in Chile in connection with the slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was murdered on May 30, 2010, exactly five years to the day after Holloway went missing while on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island. In January 2012, Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to Flores’ murder.

In May 2010, Van der Sloot, who was born in the Netherlands in 1987 and raised in Dutch-speaking Aruba, was in the Peruvian capital for a poker tournament. He reportedly met Flores, a college student and daughter of a prominent Peruvian businessman, at a Lima casino. The two were seen entering Van der Sloot’s room at Hotel TAC around 5 a.m. on May 30. Approximately four hours later, surveillance video captured Van der Sloot leaving the room alone and carrying his bags. After Flores’ family reported her missing, she was found dead in the hotel room on June 2, beaten and with a broken neck. Her money and credit cards were missing.

After Peruvian officials reviewed the hotel surveillance video, Van der Sloot emerged as the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Police believed he had fled in Flores’ car and later abandoned it in another part of Lima, before traveling south to Chile. On June 3, Van der Sloot was arrested in Chile, and deported to Peru soon afterward. On June 7, the Dutchman admitted to Peruvian authorities he had killed Flores during an argument after she used his computer without permission (authorities suggested she might have discovered he was linked to the Holloway case). Van der Sloot stated he beat and strangled Flores then suffocated her with his shirt. The Dutchman later retracted this confession, saying he was frightened and confused when he made it.

On the day Van der Sloot was arrested in South America, U.S. authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a plot to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s family in exchange for revealing the location of her remains. Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Alabama, was last seen leaving an Aruban bar and restaurant with Van der Sloot and two of his friends in the early hours of May 30, 2005. Her disappearance generated widespread media coverage in the United States. Despite an extensive search, Holloway’s body was never found. Van der Sloot was arrested twice in Aruba in conjunction with her disappearance but never charged.

On January 11, 2012, Van der Sloot, who has been behind bars in Peru since his June 2010 arrest, pleaded guilty in a Lima courtroom to Flores’ murder. Two days later, a panel of judges sentenced him to 28 years in prison and ordered him to pay $75,000 in reparation to Flores’ family.

One day before Van der Sloot was sentenced, a judge in Birmingham, Alabama, signed an order declaring Natalee Holloway legally dead. The judge made the ruling at the request of Holloway’s father, so that he could settle his daughter’s estate.

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Betty White becomes oldest “Saturday Night Live” host

Year
2010
Month Day
May 08

On May 8, 2010, 88-year-old actress Betty White, known for her former roles on “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” becomes the oldest person to host the long-running, late-night TV sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” (SNL). White’s hosting gig came about, in part, after hundreds of thousands of her fans signed onto a Facebook campaign rallying for it.

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1922, Betty Marion White attended high school in Beverly Hills, California, before launching her career in radio and television, an industry still in its infancy at the time. She was a pioneering TV talk show host and producer in the 1950s, and also became a frequent celebrity panelist on TV game shows. In the 1970s, she played the acerbic, man-hungry “happy homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens on Mary Tyler Moore’s hit sitcom. Beginning in 1985, White co-starred as naïve, St. Olaf, Minnesota, native Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls.” When the popular program ended in 1992, White went on to guest-star in a long list of TV shows, often using her sweet, wholesome appearance and sharp, sometimes raunchy, sense of humor to great comedic effect.

In late December 2009, a 29-year-old fan started a Facebook campaign dubbed “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!” That March, after nearly half a million fans had joined the campaign, it was confirmed White would host the show on May 8, 2011. Lorne Michaels, SNL’s Canadian-born creator and executive producer, later said the show had tried to get White to host at least three times in previous decades but was unable to make it work with her schedule.

“Saturday Night Live,” which debuted in October 1975, is known for its topical parodies and impersonations, and for pushing boundaries with its sketches. The show has introduced a long list of memorable characters and catchphrases that have become part of pop-culture history. Over the years, it also has launched the careers of such performers as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade, Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig. SNL features a different guest host and musical act each week. Comedian George Carlin hosted the first-ever episode of SNL in 1975; that same year, actress Candice Bergen was the first woman to host the program. In 1982, 7-year-old Drew Barrymore became the youngest person ever to host SNL.

As SNL’s eldest host, White earned positive reviews, and the show, which featured musical guest Jay-Z, drew its highest ratings in 18 months. The octogenarian actress later won the seventh Emmy Award of her career for her SNL appearance.

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Tiger Woods apologizes for extramarital affairs


Year
2010
Month Day
February 19

On February 19, 2010, professional golfer Tiger Woods gives a televised news conference in which he apologizes for his marital infidelities and admits to “selfish” and “foolish” behavior. The 34-year-old Woods, one of the greatest players in the history of golf as well as one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, read a scripted statement at PGA headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, before a pre-selected audience that included his mother but not his Swedish-born wife, Elin Nordegren. Members of the media were present but were not allowed to ask questions.

Woods’ statement marked the first time he had spoken publicly since crashing his car into a fire hydrant and tree near his home in Windermere, Florida, an Orlando suburb, around 2:30 a.m. on November 27, 2009. The low-speed, single-car crash left him briefly hospitalized. Nordegren reportedly told police she heard the crash from the couple’s home, went outside and smashed the rear window of Woods’ Cadillac Escalade in an attempt to extricate him. After the accident, Woods initially declined to speak with Florida Highway Patrol officers and issued no immediate public statement, sparking rumors and speculation about why he was leaving his house at that hour. At the time of the incident, a tabloid newspaper was reporting allegations that Woods had cheated on his wife.

In the days and weeks following the car crash, Woods saw his stellar reputation shattered as more than a dozen young women came forward to publicly claim they had been romantically involved with the married golfer, who wed Nordegren in 2004. Woods and his wife met in 2001, while she was working as a nanny for Swedish golf pro Jesper Parnevik.

On April 8, 2010, less than two months after Woods’ apology-filled Florida news conference, he returned to professional golf by competing in the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. The event received widespread coverage, and Woods finished the tournament tied for fourth place.

Four months later, in August, Woods and his wife officially divorced. Nordegren, with whom Woods has two children, reportedly received a $100 million settlement.

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Massive earthquake strikes Haiti


Year
2010
Month Day
January 12

On January 12, 2010, Haiti is devastated by a massive earthquake. It drew an outpouring of support from around the globe but the small nation has yet to fully recover.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, due largely to its history of colonization, occupation and exploitation by Spain, France and the United States. It also has a history of seismic activity—devastating earthquakes were recorded there in 1751, 1770, 1842 and 1946. The island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, lies mostly between two large tectonic plates, the North American and the Caribbean. The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince practically straddles this fault-line. Despite this knowledge and warnings from seismologists that another earthquake was likely in the near future, the country’s poverty meant that infrastructure and emergency services were not prepared to handle the effects of a natural disaster.

The 2010 earthquake struck just before 4pm. The tremor was felt as far away as Cuba and Venezuela, but the epicenter of the 7.0-magnitude quake was just 16 miles away from Port-au-Prince. Eight aftershocks followed the same day, and at least 52 were recorded over the next two weeks. The effects were catastrophic. All of the capital’s hospitals, as well as three facilities run by Doctors Without Borders, sustained serious damage, as did Port-au-Prince’s airport and its seaport, which was rendered inoperable. Telecoms services were greatly affected, major roads were rendered impassible and close to 300,000 buildings, most of which were residences, were damaged beyond repair. The National Assembly building and Port-au-Prince Cathedral were also destroyed.

The human toll was horrific and remains incalculable. Some estimates put the number of deaths around 40-50,000, while the Haitian government estimated that over 316,000 died, but all authorities acknowledge that the death toll is impossible to truly count. Something approaching 1 million people were displaced.

News and images of the quake, including photos of the heavily-damaged National Palace, quickly activated a massive humanitarian response. The Dominican Republic and Dominican Red Cross responded immediately with emergency supplies and airlifts to Dominican hospitals. Nations from every continent contributed money, supplies, and manpower. Port-au-Prince’s airport operated around the clock but could not accommodate all the arrivals. Foreign air forces, including those of the United States and Great Britain, airlifted survivors to hospital ships off the coast, and some supplies were dropped to the island by parachute. The “Hope for Haiti” telethon on January 22nd broke records by raising $58 million in one day.

Though the humanitarian response was immediate and overwhelming, Haiti’s crippled infrastructure made the delivery of aid difficult. The situation was still classified as an emergency six months after the earthquake. A million people on the island lived in tents, and a cholera epidemic that began in October claimed over 3,300 more lives. Whether or not Haiti has yet recovered is a matter of debate, but the effects of the earthquake were palpable for the next decade. 

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Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first female director to win an Oscar


Year
2010
Month Day
March 07

On March 7, 2010, Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director, for her movie “The Hurt Locker,” about an American bomb squad that disables explosives in Iraq in 2004. Prior to Bigelow, only three women had been nominated for a best director Oscar: Lina Wertmueller for 1975’s “Seven Beauties,” Jane Campion for 1993’s “The Piano” and Sofia Coppola for 2003’s “Lost in Translation.”

Born in San Carlos, California, in 1951, Bigelow graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972 and later earned a master’s degree in film from Columbia University. She made her feature film debut with 1982’s “The Loveless,” which she co-wrote and co-directed. The film, about a motorcycle gang, starred Willem Dafoe. The next movie Bigelow directed, 1987’s “Near Dark,” was a western-horror hybrid that gained a cult following. She went on to helm 1990’s “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis as a police officer stalked by a killer, and 1991’s “Point Break,” about bank-robbing surfers, featuring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Bigelow’s other directing credits include 1995’s “Strange Days” with Ralph Fiennes, 2000’s “The Weight of Water” with Sean Penn and 2002’s “K-19: The Widowmaker” with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

At the 82nd Academy Awards in March 2010, Bigelow’s fellow best-director nominees included James Cameron (“Avatar”), whom she was married to from 1989 to 1991, along with Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Inglorious Basterds”). After making history by winning the directing prize, Bigelow said, “I hope I’m the first of many [women], and of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point.” Her movie “The Hurt Locker,” which starred Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, also won Oscars for best picture, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing and original screenplay.

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Chilean miners are rescued after 69 days underground

Year
2010
Month Day
October 13

On October 13, 2010, the last of 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground for more than two months at a caved-in mine in northern Chile, are rescued. The miners survived longer than anyone else trapped underground in recorded history.

The miners’ ordeal began on August 5, 2010, when the San Jose gold and copper mine where they were working, some 500 miles north of the Chilean capital city of Santiago, collapsed. The 33 men moved to an underground emergency shelter area, where they discovered just several days’ worth of food rations. As their situation grew more desperate over the next 17 days, the miners, uncertain if anyone would find them, considered suicide and cannibalism. Then, on August 22, a drill sent by rescuers broke through to the area where the miners were located, and the men sent back up a note saying, “We are fine in the refuge, the 33.” Food, water, letters, medicine and other supplies were soon delivered to the miners via a narrow bore hole. Video cameras were also sent down, making it possible for rescuers to see the men and the hot, humid space in which they were entombed. As engineering and mining experts from around the world collaborated on the long, complex process of devising a way to bring the 33 men up to the surface, the miners maintained a system of jobs and routines in order to keep up morale.

Rescuers eventually drilled and reinforced an escape shaft wide enough to extract the men, one by one. (Employees of a Pennsylvania-based drilling-tool company played a role in drilling the rescue shaft.) On October 12, the first of the miners was raised to the surface in a narrow, 13-foot-tall capsule painted white, blue and red, the colors of the Chilean flag. The approximately 2,000-foot ascent to the surface in the capsule took around 15 minutes for each man.

The miners were greeted by a cheering crowd that included Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera; media from around the world; and friends and relatives, many of whom had been camped at the base of the mine in the Atacama Desert for months. Millions of people around the globe watched the rescue on live TV. Less than 24 hours after the operation began, all 33 of the miners, who ranged in age from 19 to 63, had been safely rescued. Almost all the men were in good health, and each of them sported dark glasses to protect their eyes after being in a dimly lit space for so long.

The rescued miners were later honored with trips to a variety of destinations, including England, Israel and Florida’s Walt Disney World, where a parade was held in their honor.

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JetBlue flight attendant quits job via escape slide

Year
2010
Month Day
August 09

On August 9, 2010, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater quits his job in dramatic style by sliding down his plane’s emergency-escape chute while the aircraft is stopped near the terminal gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Slater, who claimed his actions were prompted by the behavior of a rude passenger, quickly became a media sensation and national folk hero.

At the time of the incident, the 38-year-old Slater was a steward on Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh to New York City. He contended that when the flight landed a passenger became abusive toward him during an argument over luggage. Although other passengers on the flight later disputed Slater’s account of the passenger’s behavior, what happened next was clear: The flight attendant got on the plane’s public address system, cursed at the passenger and said, “I’ve been in this business for twenty years. And that’s it. I’ve had it. I’m done.” Afterward, he took two beers from the beverage cart, deployed the emergency exit and started down the slide. Realizing he’d left his bags on the aircraft, he scrambled back up the slide to retrieve them before fleeing down the chute again. After leaving the airport terminal, he drove to his home in Queens, New York.

Slater, the son of a pilot and a flight attendant, was soon taken into police custody. After posting $2,500 bail, he walked out of jail the next night an instant celebrity and even a folk hero to stressed-out, overworked Americans. Experiencing his 15 minutes of fame, Slater appeared on national talk shows, was honored with Facebook fan pages and received offers to do reality TV programs and endorse a variety of products.

In October 2010, Slater, facing charges of reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and criminal trespassing, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of attempted criminal mischief and was spared jail time. As part of the deal, he agreed to undergo regular mental health and substance abuse counseling sessions for a year. Additionally, he was required to pay JetBlue $10,000 in restitution to replace the emergency chute. The Queens district attorney, Richard Brown, said of the famous flight attendant: “My own view of the situation was that Mr. Slater was humiliated by what he perceived as degrading working conditions, and he had a level of rage at that time that was exacerbated perhaps by alcohol consumption and maybe by other contributing stress factors.” Brown also said that he felt Slater “recognized the seriousness of his actions.”

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