September 02, 2011, 4:39 PM — After a series of mixups, misunderstandings and disastrous disconnects put a file will all the secret CableGate files onto public servers, then made the password available in excerpts from an upcoming book, WikiLeaks has given up all hope of keeping the names of informants or other sensitive information under wraps and just posted the whole thing online.
The newly posted documents include more than 1,000 with the names of individual activists, 150 identifying whistleblowers and several thousand carrying a tag indicating individuals named in the cable could be in danger if their names became public.
The chain reaction started last fall, when a conflict with founder Julian Assange prompted two WikiLeaks staffers to quit, taking the contents of one server with them. On that server was the only copy WikiLeaks had of of the encrypted file with more than 251,000 State Department cables, according to German daily Der Spiegel.
In December one of the staffers, German spokesperson and Assange deputy Daniel Domscheit-Berg, returned many of the files to Assange, including the encrypted CableGate database, even as he was helping found a WikiLeaks rival called OpenLeak.
Rather than return everything to Assange, who he told German newspapers had made WikiLeaks insecure, Domscheit-Berg reportedly destroyed thousands of unpublished documents given to WikiLeaks.
To avoid being caught by a similar departure, Assange supporters posted the file to a public web site, apparently not realizing it contained all the original cables, not just the 150,000 or so WikiLeaks had already published, minus key bits of info like the names of informants in authoritarian countries.
The file was quickly found and mirrored onto other servers, destroying any chance Assange might have had to re-secure the file.
In February, U.K. daily The Guardian started posting excerpts from an upcoming book analyzing the cables, printing the password for the encrypted file.
In an editorial published earlier this week to defend themselves against accusations from Assange, Guardian staffers said the password was included because they thought it was a temporary one that was no longer valid and that even the encrypted version would be safely hidden away before the excerpt hit the web.
Neither was the case.