Guardian journalist accused of recklessly disclosing password

 

An uncensored version of the entire US State Department's cable database obtained by WikiLeaks last year has been circulating on the internet, prompting fears that lives have been put at risk.

Access to an unencrypted 1.73-gigabyte file containing more than 251,000 uncensored diplomatic cables has been made possible thanks to the distribution of a password that unlocks a secret cache.

The emergence of an accessible and fully unredacted database has raised fears that the lives of informants in countries that are hostile to the US may now be put at risk. It also highlights the inherent difficulties of protecting data in a digital age where copies can be made with ease.

Yesterday an acrimonious spat broke out between WikiLeaks and The Guardian newspaper as both organisations blamed each other for the data breach. The two groups once worked closely together in co-ordinating the release of WikiLeaks exposés, but they fell out publicly late last year.

WikiLeaks has blamed David Leigh, The Guardian's investigations editor, for publishing a password given to him by the group last year in a book he wrote with his fellow journalist Luke Harding about his time working with the whistle-blowing website.

The newspaper hit back by blaming WikiLeaks for using sloppy security protocols, adding that the unencrypted version of the cables now on the web was not the one accessed by the paper last year.

But in a 1,600-word statement WikiLeaks accused Leigh of "recklessly, and... knowingly" disclosing the decryption password in his book, which was published in February. The organisation added: "Knowledge of The Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week."

WikiLeaks accused The Guardian of undoing months of work that its team had done with partner media organisations and human rights groups in redacting sensitive files. A source close to the group told The Independent that only three people had been given access to the encryption password: Julian Assange, Leigh and one other WikiLeaks staffer.

But yesterday The Guardian denied those claims, stating that it had gone to great lengths to persuade WikiLeaks to take the protection of informants and confidential sources more seriously. Blaming WikiLeaks for using the same password to access different databases, the newspaper claimed that the file to which it was given access in July 2010 would only be on a secure server for a few hours and then taken off. "It appears that two versions of this file were subsequently posted to a peer-to-peer file-sharing network using the same password," the newspaper said.

Yesterday, Mr Assange said he was unable to comment further because of "ongoing legal issues". But he denied that the password he gave to the newspaper was temporary.

"Encryption is no more temporary than the translation of a book into another language," he said. "It's no more temporary than cutting off an arm."

Internet security experts have expressed dismay that WikiLeaks would either give out a password to an uncensored database or use the same password for two different caches.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of Science in this com...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of waste ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To promote and sell the Company...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea