WikiLeaks Threatens To Sue Over Guardian Leaks

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WikiLeaks is preparing to bite the hand that feeds it publicity, for disclosing the password to its leaked cables

Wikileaks is threatening to sue The Guardian newspaper over the disclosure of decryption passwords for the whistleblowing organisation’s stash of leaked messages.

The newspaper has a confidentiality agreement with Wikileaks that allows access to the stolen US Embassy messages that fell into Wikileaks’ possession.

Book Published Last February

The revelation was made in a book co-written by the newspaper’s investigations editor David Leigh, and published by The Guardian last February. In a description of how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange transferred the files from his netbook to the computer of a Guardian journalist, the base encryption password and a suffix password are spelled out in the clear.

In a statement, which details a redacted (censored) version of the section of the book, WikiLeaks stated, “A Guardian journalist [Leigh] has negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks’ decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted, unpublished US diplomatic cables.”

After quoting the book, the statement continues, “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.”

The reference to earlier trouble was a spat which began at the end of last year when Assange threatened to sue for libel after The Guardian said that, during the initial discussions about publication, he did not want to redact the cables and the informants mentioned in leaked war documents would deserve it if they were killed as a result of the leaks.

There has been a sour relationship between the two organisations ever since and a recent leak of the unredacted cables was blamed on The Guardian by WikiLeaks.

In the latest flare-up, WikiLeaks said that it is in pre-litigation action agains the newspaper and a German activist who was selling the password.

“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”, WikiLeaks said. “Now that the connection has been made public by others, we can explain what happened and what we intend to do.”

Planned Release To Stimulate Change

The organisation said that it was publishing the leaked information “according to a carefully laid out plan to stimulate profound changes”. It then stated that the uprisings and unrest referred to as the Arab Spring resulted from this publication strategy, crediting the opinion to Amnesty International.

Wikileaks closed its statement by explaining how it has been acting responsibly with Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the US Embassy in London to safeguard informants mentioned in the cables.

“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,” the statement said, “asking the editor not [to] allude to the Leigh book, and tasked its lawyers to demand those maliciously spreading its details about the Leigh book [to] stop.”

There has been frantic activity by WikiLeaks and its trusted partners which saw 130,000 cables published in the past week. The original plan was to publish all of the 251,000 messages held by Assange’s group by November 29, 2011 – a year after the first cables were published.

Newspaper Denies All Charges

The Guardian has denied the allegations in a news article by journalist James Ball which read, “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,” Ball claimed.

The Guardian maintains its innocence and has said it believes the information quoted from the book is meaningless to anyone except those who created the database.

Alongside WikiLeaks’ statement are facsimiles of a legal letter to German technology activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the memorandum of understanding with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, and another sample memorandum.

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