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WikiLeaks releases mystery file (31 Aug 2011)
#11
Global - Guardian journalist negligently disclosed Cablegate passwords
[URL="http://wikileaks.org/Guardian-journalist-negligently.html"]
WIKILEAKS EDITORIAL[/URL]

A Guardian journalist has negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks' decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.

Knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week. The unpublished WikiLeaks' material includes over 100,000 classified unredacted cables that were being analyzed, in parts, by over 50 media and human rights organizations from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.

Over the past nine months, WikiLeaks 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.

Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public. The Arab Spring would not have started in the manner it did if the Tunisian government of Ben Ali had copies of those WikiLeaks releases which helped to take down his government. Similarly, it is possible that the torturing Egyptian internal security chief, SuleimanWashington's proposed replacement for Mubarakwould now be the acting ruler of Egypt, had he acquired copies of the cables that exposed his methods prior to their publication.

Indeed, it is one of the indelible stains on Hillary Clinton that she personally set course to forewarn dozens of corrupt leaders, including Hosni Mubarak, about some of the most powerful details of WikiLeaks' revelations to come.

Every day that the corrupt leadership of a country or organization knows of a pending WikiLeaks disclosure is a day spent planning how to crush revolution and reform.

Guardian investigations editor, David Leigh, recklessly, and without gaining our approval, knowingly disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian. Leigh states the book was rushed forward to be written in three weeksthe rights were then sold to Hollywood.

The following extract is from the Guardian book:


Leigh tried his best not to fall out with this Australian impresario, who was prone to criticise what he called the "snaky Brits". Instead, Leigh used his ever-shifting demands as a negotiating lever. "You want us to postpone the Iraq logs' publication so you can get some TV," he said. [WikiLeaks: We required more time for redactions and to complete three Iraq war documentaries commissioned through the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The documentaries were syndicated through Channel 4 (UK) and al Jazeera English and Arabic] "We could refuse, and simply go ahead with publication as planned. If you want us to do something for you, then you've got to do something for us as well." He asked Assange to stop procrastinating, and hand over the biggest trove of all: the cables. Assange said, "I could give you half of them, covering the first 50% of the period."

Leigh refused. All or nothing, he said. "What happens if you end up in an orange jump-suit en route to Guantánamo before you can release the full files?" In return he would give Assange a promise to keep the cables secure, and not to publish them until the time came. Assange had always been vague about timing: he generally indicated, however, that October would be a suitable date. He believed the US army's charges against the imprisoned soldier Bradley Manning would have crystallised by then, and publication could not make his fate any worse. He also said, echoing Leigh's gallows humour: "I'm going to need to be safe in Cuba first!" Eventually, Assange capitulated. Late at night, after a two-hour debate, he started the process on one of his little netbooks that would enable Leigh to download the entire tranche of cables. The Guardian journalist had to set up the PGP encryption system on his laptop at home across the other side of London. Then he could feed in a password. Assange wrote down on a scrap of paper:

[WikiLeaks: we have replaced the password with Xs] XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"That's the password," he said. "But you have to add one extra word when you type it in. You have to put in the word XXXXXXX' before the word XXXXXX' [WikiLeaks: so if the paper were seized, the password would not work without Leigh's co-operation] Can you remember that?" "I can remember that." Leigh set off home, and successfully installed the PGP software.


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. David Leigh is also Alan Rusbridger's brother in law, which has caused other Guardian journalists to claim that David Leigh has been unfairly protected from the fallout. It is not the first time the WikiLeaks security agreement has been violated by the Guardian.

WikiLeaks severed future projects with the Guardian in December last year after it was discovered that the Guardian was engaged in a conspiracy to publish the cables without the knowledge of WikiLeaks, seriously compromising the security of our people in the United States and an alleged source who was in pre-trial detention. Leigh, without any basis, and in a flagrant violation of journalistic ethics, named Bradley Manning as the Cablegate source in his book. David Leigh secretly passed the entire archive to Bill Keller of the New York Times, in September 2011, or before, knowingly destroying WikiLeaks plans to publish instead with the Washington Post & McClatchy.

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. Ian Katz, Deputy Editor of the Guardian admitted in December 2010 meeting that this condition was not being followed by the Guardian.

PJ Crowley, State Department spokesman on the cables issue earlier this year, told AP on the 30th of August, 2011 that "any autocratic security service worth its salt" would probably already have the complete unredacted archive.

Two weeks ago, when it was discovered that information about the Leigh book had spread so much that it was about to be published in the German weekly Freitag, WikiLeaks took emergency action, asking the editor not allude to the Leigh book, and tasked its lawyers to demand those maliciously spreading its details about the Leigh book stop.

WikiLeaks advanced its regular publication schedule, to get as much of the material as possible into the hands of journalists and human rights lawyers who need it. WikiLeaks and its partners were scheduled to have published most of the Cablegate material by November 29, 2011 one year since the first publication. Over the past week, we have published over 130,000 cables, mostly unclassified. The cables have lead to hundreds of important news stories around the world. All were unclassified with the exception of the Australian, Swedish collections, and a few others, which were scheduled by our partners.

WikiLeaks has also been in contact with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty at a senior level. We contacted the US embassy in London and then the State Department in Washington on 25 August to see if their informant notification program, instituted last year, was complete, and if not, to take such steps as would be helpful. Only after repeated attempts through high level channels and 36 hours after our first contact, did the State Department, although it had been made aware of the issue, respond. Cliff Johnson (a legal advisor at the Department of State) spoke to Julian Assange for 75 minutes, but the State Department decided not to meet in person to receive further information, which could not, at that stage, be safely transmitted over the telephone.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#12
Facts and myths in the WikiLeaks/Guardian saga
BY GLENN GREENWALD

(updated below)

A series of unintentional though negligent acts by multiple parties -- WikiLeaks, The Guardian's investigative reporter David Leigh, and Open Leaks' Daniel Domscheit-Berg -- has resulted in the publication of all 251,287 diplomatic cables, in unredacted form, leaked last year to WikiLeaks (allegedly by Bradley Manning). Der Spiegel (in English) has the best and most comprehensive step-by-step account of how this occurred.

This incident is unfortunate in the extreme for multiple reasons: it's possible that diplomatic sources identified in the cables (including whistleblowers and human rights activists) will be harmed; this will be used by enemies of transparency and WikiLeaks to disparage both and even fuel efforts to prosecute the group; it implicates a newspaper, The Guardian, that generally produces very good and responsible journalism; it likely increases political pressure to impose more severe punishment on Bradley Manning if he's found guilty of having leaked these cables; and it will completely obscure the already-ignored, important revelations of serious wrongdoing from these documents. It's a disaster from every angle. But as usual with any controversy involving WikiLeaks, there are numerous important points being willfully distorted that need clarification.

Let's begin with the revelations that are being ignored and obscured by this controversy. Several days ago, WikiLeaks compiled a list of 30 significant revelations from the newly released cables, and that was when only a fraction of them had been published; there are surely many more now, including ones still undiscovered in the trove of documents (here's just one example). The cable receiving the most attention thus far -- first reported by John Glaser of Antiwar.com -- details a "heinous war crime [by U.S forces] during a house raid in Iraq in 2006, wherein one man, four women, two children, and three infants were summarily executed" and their house thereafter blown up by a U.S. airstrike in order to destroy the evidence. Back in 2006, the incident was discussed in American papers as a mere unproven "allegation" ("Regardless of which account is correct . . "), and the U.S. military (as usual) cleared itself of any and all wrongdoing. But the cable contains evidence vesting the allegations of Iraqis with substantial credibility, and that, in turn, has now prompted this:

Iraqi government officials say they will investigate newly surfaced allegations that U.S. soldiers shot women and children, then tried to cover it up with an airstrike, during a 2006 hunt for insurgents.

An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ali Al-Moussawi, said Friday the government will revive its stalled probe now that new information about the March 15, 2006, raid has come to light.

As usual, many of those running around righteously condemning WikiLeaks for the potential, prospective, unintentional harm to innocents caused by this leak will have nothing to say about these actual, deliberate acts of wanton slaughter by the U.S. The accidental release of these unredacted cables will receive far more attention and more outrage than the extreme, deliberate wrongdoing these cables expose. That's because many of those condemning WikiLeaks care nothing about harm to civilians as long as it's done by the U.S. government and military; indeed, such acts are endemic to the American wars they routinely cheer on. What they actually hate is transparency and exposure of wrongdoing by their government; "risk to civilians" is just the pretext for attacking those, such as WikiLeaks, who bring that about.

That said, and as many well-intentioned transparency supporters correctly point out, WikiLeaks deserves some of the blame for what happened here; any group that devotes itself to enabling leaks has the responsibility to safeguard what it receives and to do everything possible to avoid harm to innocent people. Regardless of who is at fault -- more on that in a minute -- WikiLeaks, due to insufficient security measures, failed to fulfill that duty here. There's just no getting around that (although ultimate responsibility for safeguarding the identity of America's diplomatic sources rests with the U.S. Government, which is at least as guilty as WikiLeaks in failing to exerise due care to safeguard these cables; if this information is really so sensitive and one wants to blame someone for inadequate security measures, start with the U.S. Government, which gave full access to these documents to hundreds of thousands of people around the world, at least).

Despite the fault fairly assigned to WikiLeaks, one point should be absolutely clear: there was nothing intentional about WikiLeaks' publication of the cables in unredacted form. They ultimately had no choice. Ever since WikiLekas was widely criticized (including by me) for publishing Afghan War documents without redacting the names of some sources (though much blame also lay with the U.S. Government for rebuffing its request for redaction advice), the group has been meticulous about protecting the identity of innocents. The New York Times' Scott Shane today describes "efforts by WikiLeaks and journalists to remove the names of vulnerable people in repressive countries" in subsequent releases; indeed, WikiLeaks "used software to remove proper names from Iraq war documents and worked with news organizations to redact the cables." After that Afghan release, the group has demonstrated a serious, diligent commitment to avoiding pointless exposure of innocent people -- certainly far more care than the U.S. Government took in safeguarding these documents.

What happened here was that their hand was forced by the reckless acts of The Guardian's Leigh and Domscheit-Berg. One key reason access to these unredacted cables was so widely distributed is that Leigh -- in his December, 2010, book about the work he did with WikiLeaks -- published the password to these files, which was given to him by Julian Assange to enable his reporting on the cables. Leigh claims -- and there's no reason to doubt him -- that he believed the password was only valid for a few days and would have expired by the time his book was published.

That belief turned out to be false because the files had been disseminated on the BitTorrent file sharing network, with that password embedded in them; Leigh's publication of the WikiLeaks password in his book thus enabled widespread access to the full set of cables. But the key point is this: even if Leigh believed that that particular password would no longer be valid, what possible point is there in publishing to the world the specific password used by WikiLeaks or divulging the types of passwords it uses to safeguard its data? It is reckless for an investigative reporter to gratuitously publish that type of information, and he absolutely deserves a large chunk of the blame for what happened here; read this superb analysis by Nigel Parry to see the full scope of Leigh's culpability.

Then there is Domscheit-Berg and "Open Leaks." Last year, Domscheit-Berg left WikiLeaks and started a new group to great media fanfare, even though his group has not produced a single disclosure. Instead, he and his thus-far-inaccurately-named group seem devoted to only two goals: (1) cashing in on a vindictive, petty, personality-based vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks; and (2) bolstering secrecy and destroying transparency, as Domscheit-Berg did when he permanently deleted thousands of files previously leaked to WikiLeaks, including documents relating to the Bank of America. It was Domscheit-Berg who removed the files from the WikiLeaks server, including (apparently unbeknownst to him) the full set of diplomatic cables.

That act by Domscheit-Berg, combined with the publication of its password by Leigh and the dissemination of the files to "mirror sites" by well-intentioned WikiLeaks supporters after cyber-attacks on the group, all combined to enable widespread, unfettered access to these diplomatic cables. Once WikiLeaks realized what had happened, they notified the State Department, but faced a quandary: virtually every government's intelligence agencies would have had access to these documents as a result of these events, but the rest of the world -- including journalists, whistleblowers and activists identified in the documents -- did not. At that point, WikiLeaks decided -- quite reasonably -- that the best and safest course was to release all the cables in full, so that not only the world's intelligence agencies but everyone had them, so that steps could be taken to protect the sources and so that the information in them was equally available.

Serious caution is warranted in making claims about the damage caused by publication of these cables. Recall that Adm. Michael Mullen and others accused WikiLeaks of having "blood on its hands" as a result of publication of the Afghan War documents, but that turned out to be totally false; as Shane noted today in the NYT: "no consequence more serious than dismissal from a job has been reported." Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates mocked claims about the damage done by WikiLeaks as "significantly overwrought."

That said, there's little doubt that release of all these documents in unredacted form poses real risk to some of the individuals identified in them, and that is truly lamentable. But it is just as true that WikiLeaks easily remains an important force for good. The acts of deliberate evil committed by the world's most powerful factions which it has exposed vastly outweigh the mistakes which this still-young and pioneering organization has made. And the harm caused by corrupt, excessive secrecy easily outweighs the harm caused by unauthorized, inadvisable leaks.



UPDATE: Several noteworthy points that have arisen from the discussion in the comment section (which is particularly worth reading today) and elsewhere:

(1) David Leigh appears in the comment section and responds, though he doesn't really address any of the criticisms I voiced; my reply to him is here;

(2) the information contained in the cable about the killings in Iraq was actually published previously in this report, though the WikiLeaks release has obviously drawn substantially more attention to it, as evidenced by the reaction of the Iraqi Government (on a positive note, it's very possible that the attention being drawn to this incident may thwart the Obama administration's efforts to have Iraq agree to keeping U.S. troops in that country beyond the 2011 deadline, as citizens tend to get angry when foreign armies murder their fellow citizens in cold blood and then air-attack the house where it happened to destroy the evidence);

(3) in terms of assessing harm from publication of the cables, recall -- as several commenters noted -- that the U.S. Government has known about the leak of these cables for more than a year and thus had ample time to warn anyone identified in them of this risk; that doesn't excuse any wrongdoing, but it does reduce the likelihood of serious harm; and,

(4) one of the newly released cables reveal that Israel, according to what it told the U.S., attacked what it claims were Hamas members in Gaza with drones, and accidentally killed 16 people inside a mosque during prayer time. You won't hear very many people condemning WikiLeaks for "putting civilians at risk" devote much of their attention to this revelation either.
http://www.salon.com/news/wikileaks/?sto...Fwikileaks
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#13
The Guardian at no stage should be trusted to handle any confidential information. Nor can any agreement it makes about handling be trusted. The Guardian deliberately violated every point in our signed agreement. Full document: http://wikileaks.org/IMG/pdf/Guardian_Le...kage_3.pdf
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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