According to German news magazine, Der Spiegel, based on an original report in Der Freitag, a convergence of screw-ups involving the group’s former German spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg and an external contact of Wikileaks leader Julian Assange wound up throwing the doors open to the full, unedited materials.
Updated with response from OpenLeaks after the jump.
When Domscheit-Berg left last year, he wound up taking a number of files with him, including that of the original cables. At the same time, Assange had given an “external contact” the file’s password so he could examine the materials. Domscheit-Berg returned the materials late in the year, and this year Wikileaks supporters “released a copy of this data collection onto the Internet as a kind of public archive of the documents that WikiLeaks had previously published.” The full, unedited documents were contained within that copy. The password was also apparently published.
According to Der Spiegel:
“Then, in the spring of 2011, Assange’s external contact made public the password that he had received from Assange without realizing that this would allow access to the unredacted US cables. The slip-up remained undetected for several months. Members of OpenLeaks, the rival whistleblower organization recently set up by Domscheit-Berg, have now drawn attention to the lapse. They say it proves Domscheit-Berg’s allegation, which he has been making for months, that data held by WikiLeaks is ‘not secure.'”
Assange has been criticized from the beginning, even by some who are sympathetic, for his lack of empathy and allegedly cavalier attitude toward the lives of those effected by his releases, specifically foreign workers and intelligence assets whose lives might be at risk should their identities become known. Domscheit-Berg was one of Wikileaks’ best known internal critics.
This latest debacle certainly indicates Mr. Assange’s incapacity for, or disinterest in, establishing coherent security guidelines for his organization. Seriously. Who gives out a password for unredacted materials to an outside source and doesn’t change it when the material disappears? Or reappears for that matter. Or doesn’t know that such materials are missing in the first place?
UPDATE: WikiLeaks responded on its Twitter account: “Totally false that any WikiLeaks sources have been exposed or will be exposed.”
To reiterate, the sources for our post were Der Spiegel and Der Freitag (and by association its source Daniel Domscheit-Berg).
Richard MacManus, ReadWriteWeb Editor-in-Chief
UPDATE: Herbert Snorrason, co-founder, with Domscheit-Berg, of OpenLeaks, responded to our email.
“We spotted the file and the password in the wild at different times. I personally verified the availability of the unredacted document at the end of March 2011. A decision was made shortly after that to remain quiet about the issue unless our hand were forced.
I should also point out that the Spiegel report is not based on that of Freitag, but independent.”
Also, Reporters Without Borders announced today that they were suspending their Wikileaks mirror due to the unredacted documents.