In a Twitter statement released late Wednesday night, WikiLeaks said that UK newspaper The Guardian is the reason over 250,000 unredacted US diplomatic cables are now public. The organization singled out Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, whose recent book, WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, included a password used during the paper’s November 2010 collaboration with Assange. This week, German newspaper Der Freitag (among others) claimed to have successfully used password in question to access the sensitive, uncensored cables currently circulating on file-sharing site BitTorrent.
The Guardian has countered with a statement of its own, basically saying that Assange’s carelessness is to blame for the mess:
It’s nonsense to suggest the Guardian’s WikiLeaks book has compromised security in any way.
Our book about WikiLeaks was published last February. It contained a password, but no details of the location of the files, and we were told it was a temporary password which 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.
Meanwhile, interviews conducted by the New York Times suggest that the back-and-forth between Assange and the Guardian might be the biggest drama to come out of the leak — at least so far:
“We are not aware of anyone who has been arrested or injured because they were named in the cables,” said Dinah PoKempner, the general counsel of Human Rights Watch. “We remain concerned about the potential for reprisal.”
The State Department is keeping a close watch on the newly-released content for threats to both national security and protected sources abroad, whom they have vowed to help should the need arise. However, as former State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley pointed out, these situations are complicated:
The impact of the WikiLeaks disclosures were uncertain because those involved, whom he would not identify by name or country, were already at risk of persecution for their own political dissent.
“Was the dissident put in prison because he talked to our guy and turned up in a leaked cable?” he said. “Or was he put in prison because of what he was doing?”
So, if the News of the World voicemail hacks weren’t enough to convince everyone to regularly change their passwords, perhaps this is. Unless they’re so boring that nothing in their email is of interest to the international media; people like that can probably just keep using their mom’s maiden name for everything.