Anger as Wikileaks releases all US cables unredacted

Wikileaks release logo Wikileaks has been keeping a countdown of the number of files released

Wikileaks' media partners have strongly criticised the whistleblower group's decision to release its entire archive of US cables uncensored.

Wikileaks says all 251,287 of the leaked diplomatic cables are now online in a searchable format.

It comes amid a row between Wikileaks and the Guardian newspaper over who was behind the earlier release of thousands of unredacted cables.

The papers said they were "united in condemning" the uncensored release.

Wikileaks has already published tens of thousands of the cables and had planned to keep doing so until November this year.

But on Friday it announced on its Twitter feed: "Shining a light on 45 years of US 'diplomacy', it is time to open the archives forever."

It then began publishing its remaining cables, grouped by the country they relate to. They include 34,687 files on Iraq, 8,003 on Kuwait, 9,755 on Australia and 12,606 on Egypt.

'Sources at risk'

The search database soon became overloaded, prompting Wikileaks to appeal for donations to fund additional server space.

Julian Assange at the High Court, London (13 July 2011) Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden

The Guardian said the archive contained several thousand files marked "Strictly protect," indicating US officials thought sources could be endangered if identified. Some files also name victims of sex offences, people persecuted by their governments and the locations of sensitive government installations, said the paper.

One cable dated December 2004 contains the telephone numbers of key figures at the Vatican, including the then Pope John Paul II.

In a joint statement, the Guardian, El Pais, New York Times and Der Spiegel said they "deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk".

Start Quote

We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data - indeed, we are united in condemning it”

End Quote Guardian, New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel

"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.

The papers said the decision to publish the files was made solely by Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange, who is on bail in the UK awaiting extradition to Sweden to answer allegations of rape and sexual assault.

French newspaper and Wikileaks partner Le Monde told the Associated Press it would also sign the statement.

In response, Wikileaks said on Twitter: "The Guardian continues to issue false statements. The nepotism in the Guardian has clearly compromised its accountability."

Among the latest revelations are:

Password online

Wikileaks has been steadily releasing the cables - written by staff at US embassies around to the world to the State Department - since 2010.

The confidential cables - containing officials' candid views on society, politics, state leaders and other individuals - have proved embarrassing to US officials and others worldwide.

Analysis

The Wikileaks saga began at the end of last year after Julian Assange's organisation obtained tens of thousands of confidential American diplomatic cables.

Together with a number of news organisations, Wikileaks began to release some of the documents. But the newspapers that then published them were absolutely clear about the need to redact references to confidential informants.

A careful editorial process was conducted in those first weeks of December 2010, as newspapers filled their pages with a mass of diplomatic tittle-tattle, some of it deeply embarrassing to the US.

Now though, the affair has taken a new twist. Unredacted versions of the entire archive of a quarter of a million American cables are on the internet. No encryption. No passwords needed.

The newspapers which initially collaborated with Wikileaks, are furious that valuable sources could be endangered. Today the Guardian in London said there had been "a chapter of accidents within Julian Assange's chaotic organisation".

Wikileaks initially agreed to pass the data to several newspapers, who searched for noteworthy stories, then removed names and other sensitive data before publishing.

However, it has long been known that Wikileaks lost control of the cables even before they were published and that encrypted files are circulating on the internet.

Earlier this week, Wikileaks announced it had released 133,887 cables in a batch, saying it wanted to "get as much of the material as possible into the hands of journalists and human rights lawyers who need it".

It said publishing en masse was the only "internally rational action", because the Guardian had already made public the password used to access the encrypted data online. Wikileaks has started legal action against the paper.

It emerged that in many cases, no identifying names had been removed.

On Thursday, it ran an online poll asking whether it should release the remaining files and said the response was "over 100 to 1 in favour".

The Guardian has strongly denied responsibility. It said while the password was published in a book seven months ago, it was only ever intended to be a temporary code which would expire within hours. It blamed Wikileaks for a security breach, saying they had had seven months to delete the files if they were concerned.

On Thursday, Reporters Without Borders said it was temporarily suspending its mirror site - which holds a backup of Wikileaks documents in case of a website overload or cyberattack - citing concerns for the safety of those involved.

"While it has not been demonstrated that lives have so far been put in danger by these revelations, the repercussions they could have for informants, such as dismissal, physical attacks and other reprisals, cannot be neglected," said the group.

It said it had "neither the technical, human or financial resources to check each cable" to ensure no-one was identified, so had decided to "play safe".

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