Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has decided to release all 251,287 of the United States diplomatic cables that he acquired last year, without editing out the identities of diplomatic informants and highly sensitive classified information. It’s a decision that is in stark contrast to the efforts of news organizations including the Guardian and the News York Times to redact such information, out of real fears that informants could suffer reprisals including arrest and violence. Since November of last year, those two papers and also Der Spiegel, El País and Le Monde had begun publishing a small selection of the cables, with identities and other information redacted.
The News York Times’ Lede blog says that, actually, a Wikileaks computer file containing all the raw US cables was posted online “by mistake” last year, as revealed last week by Der Freitag, a small, left-leaning publication based in Berlin. Der Freitag said that it had found a 1.73 GB file named “cables.csv”; its contents were ”definitively unredacted versions of the cables.” While “cables.csv” was encrypted, its password could be found on the internet. Then on Monday, a “former Wikileaks operative” said that the file had been available at least since March:
As Spiegel Online reports, the password-protected file with the unredacted cables was made available because of “a chain of careless mistakes, coincidences, indiscretions and confusion” that followed the splintering of the antisecrecy organization into rival factions over the past year.
The most important of these errors appears to have been made some time before Dec. 12, 2010, when someone working with WikiLeaks posted the encrypted cable archive on a file-sharing site at a time when supporters of the group wanted to make sure that the leaked data could be made public if the group’s founder, Julian Assange, was arrested and his site closed down. A copy of the file, which seems to have been last modified on June 9, 2010, also appears to have been posted on the mirrors or complete copies of the main WikiLeaks site the group encouraged its supporters to create.
The password that unlocks the file was revealed in part because Mr. Assange also broke with editors at The New York Times and The Guardian — after both published some carefully redacted versions of the cables last year — over differences in philosophy and critical reports about his personal life.
A Guardian article says that Assange had actually “foreshadowed” a plan to release the entire trove of cables at a secret meeting last November:
Photo by Sean MacEntee
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