LONDON — Uncensored copies of WikiLeaks’ massive tome of U.S. State Department cables were circulating freely across the Internet Thursday, a dramatic development that leaves a new batch of U.S. sources vulnerable to embarrassment and potential retribution.
WikiLeaks has blamed Britain’s Guardian newspaper for the breach, saying an investigative journalist revealed the password needed to unlock the files in a book published earlier this year.
Guardian journalists said sloppy security at Julian Assange’s anti-secrecy website helped expose the cables to the world.
In a 1,600-word editorial posted to the Internet, WikiLeaks accused Guardian investigative reporter David Leigh of betrayal, saying his disclosure had jeopardized months of “careful work” WikiLeaks had undertaken to redact and publish the cables.
“Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public,” WikiLeaks said in its statement.
It has long been known that WikiLeaks lost control of the raw cables even before they were published.
One copy of the secret documents leaked to the New York Times in the fall of 2010, and other media organizations, including the Associated Press, have since received copies independently of WikiLeaks.
But never before has the entire catalog of unredacted cables made its way to the Web.
Until recently, WikiLeaks released relatively small batches of files to its partner organizations - dozens of international media and human rights groups - so they could remove information that could put innocent people in jeopardy. Only then were the files posted online.
Now, with the unredacted cables being sloshed around in the public domain, all that work has effectively been thrown out the window.
In its statement, WikiLeaks laid the blame on the Guardian and an unnamed “German individual.”
Mr. Leigh, however, told AP that WikiLeaks’ assertion was “time-wasting nonsense.”
He acknowledged that Mr. Assange had supplied him with a password needed to access the U.S. embassy cables from a server back in July 2010 - but said Mr. Assange had told him the site would expire within a matter of hours.
“What we published much later in our book was obsolete and harmless,” Mr. Leigh said in an email. “We did not disclose the [Web address] where the file was located, and in any event, Assange had told us it would no longer exist.”