Information-releasing company WikiLeaks is blaming the U.K. Guardian newspaper for the release of a quarter million confidential U.S. State Department documents containing names of foreign activists and government agents.
The Guardian’s investigations editor, David Leigh, revealed the password to open the locked file in a book, while the file containing the documents was leaked to the Web through a WikiLeaks file.
Prior to the release, the State Department cables were being gradually published to the Web with the names of informants removed.
"Guardian investigations editor, David Leigh, recklessly, and without gaining our approval, knowingly disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian." said WikiLeaks in a statement on its website.
"Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public," reads the statement.
WikiLeaks says it will take legal action against the Guardian and an individual in Germany who it alleges was distributing the passwords for personal gain. This could go either way, however, since WikiLeaks obtained the documents illegally. They were allegedly provided to the organization by Army PVT. Bradley Manning.
The Guardian denied that David Leigh’s book had compromised the safety of informants, pointing out in a statement, "Our book about WikiLeaks was published last February. It contained a password, but no details of the location of the files.”
The statement claims that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told them the password was temporary and 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,” states the Guardian.
WikiLeaks responded on Twitter, "Encryption passwords (PGP) are permanent. David Leigh constantly lies, hence even in his own book, ‘snaky Brits.’”
In addition, WikiLeaks says the Guardian stored unpublished cables on computers connected to the Internet, in violation of an agreement.
The leak took place through two different slip-ups, one allegedly on behalf of the Guardian, and the other by WikiLeaks.
Shortly after the leak was made public, WikiLeaks stated through Twitter, “The issue relates to a mainstream media partner and a malicious individual." The "media partner" it referred to was the Guardian, while the "malicious individual" was likely in reference to former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
Daniel Domscheit-Berg and another staff member defected from WikiLeaks last year and formed competing organization, OpenLeaks. They left due to a belief that Assange was mishandling names of informants and not properly securing sensitive materials.
When they left, they took the WikiLeaks submission system with them, which allegedly unknown to them, contained the 1.73 GB encrypted file of State Department cables, which Assange had stored inside.
In December, Domscheit-Berg returned the file to WikiLeaks, yet according to Der Spiegel, supporters of the company released an archive of the data to create a public archive of information they believed was already released by WikiLeaks. The file was later found inside the archive, and was able to be unlocked, allegedly, with the password revealed by the Guardian.