Wikileaks has come under a good deal of fire over the last few weeks after unredacted versions of its cables started appearing online, but it appears that the password needed to access the cables, which have been widely circulating in encrypted form for the last year, may have been leaked by senior journalists from The Guardian.
WikiLeaks chief and media-whore Julian Assange has been stuck between a rock and a hard place over the past few weeks as the unredacted cables have appeared online, as to call out the leaking of the cables password in David Leigh and Luke Harding’s book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy publshed by The Guardian. Leigh seems to be claiming that he believed the password he was given to access the PGP encrypted files was temporary. Now either he has really misunderstood how PGP works, which from Assange’s description of him as technologically inept may be true, or he is lying – a “snaky brit”. Either way, The Guardian could and should have checked whether the cables widely shared on the internet by the time the book was published, as Assange noted in an interview with the paper back in December last year when he said:
The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the US and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form. If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically.
The Guardian and David Leigh have had a tumultuous relationship with WikiLeaks over the cables as they both sent the cables to the New York Times, when Assange wanted to use the Washington Post in the US, WikiLeaks and The Telegraph have claimed the paper were the ones to name Bradley Manning as the source of the leak – something most people imagined after he was arrested in the US and Wired published much of his self-incriminating chat-logs. Indeed, WikiLeaks has previously claimed to have threatened The Guardian with litigation before, but The Guardian has responded by saying that they have received no such legal filings.
In a press release Assange/WikiLeaks noted:
A Guardian journalist has negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks’ decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.
Knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week. The unpublished WikiLeaks’ material includes over 100,000 classified unredacted cables that were being analyzed, in parts, by over 50 media and human rights organizations from around the world.
For the past month WikiLeaks has been in the unenviable position of not being able to comment on what has happened, since to do so would be to draw attention to the decryption passwords in the Guardian book. Now that the connection has been made public by others we can explain what happened and what we intend to do.
WikiLeaks has commenced pre-litigation action against the Guardian and an individual in Germany who was distributing the Guardian passwords for personal gain.