Wikileaks threatens to sue The Guardian … over a leak!

1 Sep 2011

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Until recently Wikileaks and The Guardian newspaper were firm allies. However, Wikileaks has commenced pre-litigation against the newspaper, alleging a Gurdian journalist disclosed top secret WikiLeaks’ decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.

Wikileaks alleges Guardian investigations editor, David Leigh disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian. Leigh states the book was rushed forward to be written in three weeks—the rights were then sold to Hollywood.

The group says the Guardian disclosure is a violation of the confidentiality agreement between WikiLeaks and Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, signed July 30, 2010.

The Guardian and Wikileaks have until now been firm allies and worked together to bring important cables to light as well as covering Julian Assange’s arrest and detention in the UK.

“Knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week,” Wikileaks said in a statement. “The unpublished WikiLeaks’ material includes over 100,000 classified unredacted cables that were being analysed, in parts, by over 50 media and human rights organisations from around the world.”

“For the past month WikiLeaks has been in the unenviable position of not being able to comment on what has happened, since to do so would be to draw attention to the decryption passwords in the Guardian book. Now that the connection has been made public by others we can explain what happened and what we intend to do.

“WikiLeaks has commenced pre-litigation action against the Guardian and an individual in Germany who was distributing the Guardian passwords for personal gain,” Wikileaks said.

How the Wikileaks method works

Over the past nine months, WikiLeaks says it has been has been releasing US diplomatic cables according to a carefully laid out plan to stimulate profound changes.

“A number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, believe that the co-ordinated release of the cables contributed to triggering the Arab Spring. By forming partnerships with over 90 other media and human rights organizations WikiLeaks has been laying the ground for positive political change all over the world.

“The WikiLeaks method involves a sophisticated procedure of packaging leaked US diplomatic cables up into country groups or themes, such as ’resources corruption’, and providing it to those organizations that agreed to do the most research in exchange for time-limited exclusivity.

“As part of the WikiLeaks agreement, these groups, using their local knowledge, remove the names of persons reporting unjust acts to US embassies, and feed the results back to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks then publishes, simultaneously with its partners, the underlying cables together with the politically explosive revelations. This way publications that are too frightened to publish the cables have the proof they need, and the public can check to make sure the claims are accurate.

“Over time WikiLeaks has been building up, and publishing, the complete Cablegate "library"—the most significant political document ever published. The mammoth task of reading and lightly redacting what amounts to 3,000 volumes or 284 million words of global political history is shared by WikiLeaks and its partners. That careful work has been compromised as a result of the recklessness of the Guardian,” Wikileaks said.

Guardian denies it compromised Wikileaks’ security

The Guardian has denied the allegations and said: “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.

“No concerns were expressed when the book was published and if anyone at WikiLeaks had thought this compromised security they have had seven months to remove the files. That they didn’t do so clearly shows the problem was not caused by the Guardian’s book,” the newspaper said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com