WikiLeaks Is WikiLeaked
4:29 PM, Sep 1, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
WikiLeaks has long claimed that it is taking measures to protect the men and women whose identities may be exposed in leaked documents for the first time. These people include spies, sources, and the like who never thought their names would appear on the Internet in a leaked State Department document. But now, from Spiegel, one of the media outlets that has cooperated with WikiLeaks in exposing America’s secrets, we learn:
Time will tell just what impact these disclosures really have. But you can bet that would-be “informants” (as Spiegel calls them) are probably going to think twice before sharing sensitive information with State Department officials in foreign countries. After all, there are no guarantees that their identities will be protected.
What’s truly rich about this story is that it begins with a screw up by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange put the unredacted cables on a server to share with David Leigh, a journalist at the left-wing Guardian (UK) newspaper. Assange gave Leigh a secret password that he could use to access the cables. The journalist thought the password was only temporary (it wasn’t) and so he decided to publish it in his book, Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.
Meanwhile, Assange forgot to remove the cables from the server, which housed the cables in a hidden dataset that was then unwittingly downloaded by a soon-to-be disgruntled WikiLeaks employee. After some investigative work, online enthusiasts pieced together the dataset and the password. Long story short: the cables are now freely available online. And WikiLeaks is blaming the Guardian, while the Guardian is blaming WikiLeaks.
Apparently the U.S. government isn’t the only organization that has a hard time keeping the State Department’s cables secret. This chapter of the WikiLeaks story would be comical if lives weren't potentially on the line.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.