Rather than continuing to release the remaining 120,000 cables slowly and in batches small enough that newspapers helping to vet the cables could do so – deleting the names of low-level of informants to protect them as they did so – the whole pile of 251,000-plus cables hit the web in searchable form earlier this week.
The principals knew of the potential problem for months, ever since the encrypted file was first posted and then copied. Neither the file nor the situation became common knowledge until the Der Spiegel story Monday – a revelation that sparked protests from the U.S. State Department, several foreign governments, a DDOS attack on WikiLeaks.org that may or may not have been a proof-of-concept exercise for a new Web attack tool built by Anonymous, and a very public, very bitter round of finger-pointing between WikiLeaks and The Guardian.
According to a WikiLeaks editorial, it was a Guardian investigations editor named David Leigh who "recklessly and without gaining out approval, knowingly disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian."
The Guardian insists it acted properly and it was WikiLeaks whose security was weak and instructions misleading.
The idea that the password was temporary was "strictly false" according to a WikiLeaks Tweet yesterday. "The Guardian must ask for David Leigh's resignation, any other course of action embroils the whole of the Guardian in the misconduct," read another.
The cadre of newspapers that signed up to help vet the documents published a joint statement saying they "deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted State Department cables, which may put sources at risk.
"Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough joint editing and clearance process. We will continue to defend our previous collaborative publishing endeavour. We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data – indeed, we are united in condemning it.
Either way, the documents are public and it makes no sense to pretend otherwise according to a public statement from WikiLeaks today, announcing it had posted a searchable version of the database.