WikiLeaks on Thursday blamed a journalist from the British newspaper The Guardian for the release of hundreds of thousands of unredacted U.S. State Department documents.
WikiLeaks has been redacting portions of the diplomatic cables to protect human rights activists and others, and releasing the documents in assorted batches since November 2010.
But a 1.73-GB password-protected file named “cables.csv,” which contains all cables in their unredacted forms, has been circulating on the Internet.
The German newspaper Der Freitag said last week that it had found the file and easily obtained the password to unlock it.
WikiLeaks accused Guardian‘s investigative reporter David Leigh of “recklessly” giving the password to another Guardian journalist, Luke Harding, who published it in a book earlier this year.
“David Leigh and the Guardian have subsequently and repeatedly violated WikiLeaks security conditions, including our requirements that the unpublished cables be kept safe from state intelligence services by keeping them only on computers not connected to the Internet.”
Leigh told the Associated Press that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had given him the password with the assurance that the cache of diplomatic cables would be deleted within a matter of hours.
“What we published much later in our book was obsolete and harmless,” Leigh said. “We did not disclose the URL where the file was located, and in any event, Assange had told us it would no longer exist.”
The unredacted cables were accidentally released after former WikiLeaks staffer Domscheit-Berg returned a collection of various files he had taken after leaving the organization, according to Der Spiegel. WikiLeaks supporters later published those files online, unaware that they were publishing the encrypted cables.
The unredacted cables could potentially endanger the lives of human rights activists and informants who live in autocratic regimes.
In response, WikiLeaks said it had warned Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International about the leak of the unredacted documents. Assange also spoke with a legal adviser at the U.S. State Department for 75 minutes on August 25.