September 01, 2011, 6:38 PM — WikiLeaks.org has posted an editorial accusing a reporter at the British Guardian newspaper of "negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks' decryption passwords" – a goof that turned what could have been a minor error by WikiLeaks itself into a major disaster, according to an article apparently written by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
German newspapers reported yesterday that an encrypted version of a file containing all 250,000 secret cables WikiLeaks obtained about the U.S. State Department was posted online earlier in the year, but no one interested had been able to decrypt it.
That changed after a Guardian investigations editor named David Leigh, "recklessly and without gaining out approval, knowingly disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian," in February, according to an editorial published by WikiLeaks.org today.
The password allowed anyone interested to decrypt the file and get access to more than 100,000 cables that were being released slowly and in planned stages as newspapers that agreed to work on the documents were able to read, fact-check and redact from them names of low-level intelligence sources and other material WikiLeaks had agreed not to disseminate.
The Guardian responded immediately, claiming any responsibility was not theirs, but Assange's.
The book covering the portion of the cables that had already been released did include a password, the Guardian story said.
Guardian staffers said they'd been told the password was temporary and would be changed before the book was published. Even if it weren't, the password only worked on a particular file that was not available publicly, so there were two solid reasons publishing it would do no harm, the Guardian protested.
"It was a meaningless piece of information to anyone except the person(s) who created the database," the Guardian's protest read, in part.
"Unknown to anyone at the Guardian, the same file with the same password was republished later on BitTorrent, a network typically used to distribute films and music. This file's contents were never publicised, nor was it linked online to WikiLeaks in any way."