Uncensored cables from WikiLeaks leak out online
Site, newspaper pointing fingers at one another
LONDON - Uncensored copies of WikiLeaks’s massive archive of US State Department cables circulated freely yesterday across the Internet, leaving a whole new batch of US sources vulnerable to embarrassment and potential retribution.
The United States, meanwhile, denied ever cooperating with the antisecrecy group and blasted WikiLeaks for allegedly threatening national security and the safety of confidential informants.
WikiLeaks has blamed the Guardian newspaper of Britain for the breach, saying that an investigative journalist had revealed the password needed to unlock the files in a book published earlier this year.
Guardian journalists countered that it was sloppy security at Julian Assange’s antisecrecy website which helped expose the cables to the world.
In a 1,600-word editorial posted to the Internet, WikiLeaks accused the Guardian’s investigative reporter David Leigh of betrayal, saying that his disclosure had jeopardized months of “careful work’’ that WikiLeaks had undertaken to redact and publish the cables.
“Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public,’’ WikiLeaks said in its statement.
Leigh and the Guardian both denied wrongdoing, and the exact sequence of events WikiLeaks was referring to remained clouded in confusion and recriminations.
It has long been known that WikiLeaks lost control of the raw cables even before they were published. One copy of the secret documents leaked to The New York Times in the fall of 2010, and other media organizations, including The Associated Press, have since received copies independently of WikiLeaks.
But never before has the entire catalog of unredacted cables made its way to the Web.
Until recently, WikiLeaks released relatively small batches of files to its partner organizations - dozens of international media and human rights groups - so they could remove information which could put innocent people in jeopardy.
Only then were the files posted online.
But with the unredacted cables now sloshing around in the public domain, all that work has effectively been thrown out the window.
In its statement, WikiLeaks laid the blame on the Guardian and an unnamed “German individual.’’
Leigh, however, told the AP that WikiLeaks’s assertion was “time-wasting nonsense.’’
He acknowledged that Assange had supplied him with a password needed to access the US embassy cables from a server back in July 2010 but said Assange told him the site would expire within a matter of hours.
“What we published much later in our book was obsolete and harmless,’’ Leigh said in an e-mail. “We did not disclose the URL [Web address] where the file was located, and in any event, Assange had told us it would no longer exist.’’
Another Guardian journalist, who once worked for WikiLeaks, said that Assange was to blame, alleging that the 40-year-old Australian had recycled an old password when he republished the encrypted data later. “Personal banking sites tell you not to reuse passwords. WikiLeaks doing the same for a file of such sensitivity is gross negligence,’’ James Ball said in a message posted to Twitter early yesterday.
Repeated attempts to reach WikiLeaks staffers for further clarification were unsuccessful, although on its Twitter feed the group contested statements by Leigh and others, warning of “continuous lies to come.’’
To add to the intrigue, WikiLeaks asked its 1 million or so followers to download a large coded file which it said it would decrypt at a later point.
Then it threatened to directly publish the entire unredacted archive of State Department documents.
The latest in the WikiLeaks saga caps nine months or revelations that have infuriated and humiliated high-ranking officials across the world. Several people, including the US ambassador to Mexico, have lost their jobs over the disclosures.