WikiLeaks, ‘The Guardian’ Trade Barbs over Unredacted Cables

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FOLLOW-UP: WikiLeaks has published 250,000+ U.S. Embassy cables to a searchable online database…

As the story goes, some 100,000 or more secret U.S. diplomatic cables found their way onto the internet recently—the cables had been rounded up by none other than WikiLeaks, the non-profit, secret-leaking organization with the simple motto, "We open governments."

Unlike previously-released WikiLeaks cables, however, this latest batch hadn’t been vetted first, so several pieces of sensitive information such as the names of confidential informants found its way out into the open as well.

(PHOTOS: Inside WikiLeaks’ Bunker)

The group has now blamed U.K. newspaper the Guardian for the leak: The paper published a book about WikiLeaks back in February and in it disclosed the password used to decrypt previous diplomatic cables. As it turns out, that password works to decrypt others as well.

According to WikiLeaks:

"The WikiLeaks method involves a sophisticated procedure of packaging leaked US diplomatic cables up into country groups or themes, such as ’resources corruption’, and providing it to those organizations that agreed to do the most research in exchange for time-limited exclusivity. As part of the WikiLeaks agreement, these groups, using their local knowledge, remove the names of persons reporting unjust acts to US embassies, and feed the results back to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks then publishes, simultaneously with its partners, the underlying cables together with the politically explosive revelations. This way publications that are too frightened to publish the cables have the proof they need, and the public can check to make sure the claims are accurate.

Over time WikiLeaks has been building up, and publishing, the complete Cablegate "library"—the most significant political document ever published. The mammoth task of reading and lightly redacting what amounts to 3,000 volumes or 284 million words of global political history is shared by WikiLeaks and its partners. That careful work has been compromised as a result of the recklessness of the Guardian…

…Guardian investigations editor, David Leigh, recklessly, and without gaining our approval, knowingly disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian."

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak, WikiLeaks has been taking a vote about whether or not it should just release all the U.S. diplomatic cables itself, saying, "Given that the full database file is downloadable from hundreds of sites there is only one internally rational action."

(MORE: Piles of Pivotal WikiLeaks Data May Have Been Obliterated)

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The Guardian has responded to WikiLeaks’ accusations, denying responsibility for the leaked cables and saying it "calls on WikiLeaks not to carry through its plan to release the unredacted state department cables. We believe this would be grossly irresponsible. The paper utterly rejects any suggestion that it is responsible for the release of the unedited cables."

(MORE: WikiLeaks Site Comes Under Attack)

The statement continues:

"WikiLeaks published 130,000 apparently unredacted cables last week. Until Wednesday of this week very few people had the required information to access the full cables, but over the last few days WikiLeaks has published more and more hints about how they could be accessed and are now carrying out their own ‘online poll’ about whether they should publish all the cables.

WikiLeaks should take responsibility for its own pattern of actions and not seek to deflect it elsewhere."

An article on the Guardian‘s website, too, relays the following:

"It’s nonsense to suggest the Guardian’s WikiLeaks book has compromised security in any way.

Our book about WikiLeaks was published last February. It contained a password, but no details of the location of the files, and we were told it was a temporary password which would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours.

It was a meaningless piece of information to anyone except the person(s) who created the database.

No concerns were expressed when the book was published and if anyone at WikiLeaks had thought this compromised security they have had seven months to remove the files. That they didn’t do so clearly shows the problem was not caused by the Guardian’s book."

On Wednesday of this week, WikiLeaks made public a link to an encrypted file—the most recent of the organizations releases. The Guardian‘s statement, however, claims that release "was not the one accessed by the Guardian last year."

WikiLeaks’ editorial about the Guardian states that the organization "has commenced pre-litigation action against the Guardian and an individual in Germany who was distributing the Guardian passwords for personal gain." The Guardian‘s statement, in turn, notes "that this is the third time that Assange has claimed he is suing the Guardian or its journalists… None of these actions ever materialised."

MORE: WikiLeaks Domain Name Killed (and Why It Won’t Kill WikiLeaks)

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