Guardian denies responsibility for unredacted cables

The Guardian released a statement today assailing Wikileaks' accusation that one of its reporters published the password to an unredacted set of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. The newspaper admits publishing the password, but says it was assured that the files encrypted with it were temporary and would not become public.

The file has been available on file-sharing networks for several months, but has only recently been publicized in the mainstream media. The Guardian published the password in its book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy.

The tl;dr? It looks like Wikileaks screwed up somehow by letting the unredacted cables get into the wild, and that The Guardian screwed up by publishing the password to it. Apportion blame according to preference.

The full text of the statement follows after the jump.

Guardian statement in response to WikiLeaks

The Guardian calls on WikiLeaks not to carry through its plan to release the unredacted state department cables. We believe this would be grossly irresponsible.

The paper utterly rejects any suggestion that it is responsible for the release of the unedited cables.

It has been our consistent position that the material should not be released in unredacted form. It was out of concern over security that we ended our partnership with WikiLeaks on December 23 2010. The Guardian was told 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. One version was posted on December 7 2010 – a few hours before Julian Assange was arrested following an extradition request.

The unencrypted version of the cables published on the web last night (WEDS) was not the one accessed by the Guardian last year. The Guardian’s book about WikiLeaks was published last February. No concerns about security were expressed when the book was published or at any stage during the past seven months.

A WikiLeaks “editorial” says “knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months… for the past month WikiLeaks has been in the unenviable position of not being able to comment on what has happened.”

But on 4 August 2011 – at Julian Assange’s request – the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, met Assange. The two hour meeting, which was filmed by Assange’s colleague, was cordial. Not only did Assange never mention the supposed security leak, he proposed working with the Guardian again on specific future projects. Since that date WikiLeaks has been in contact with the Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, to discuss collaboration. There were two further contacts during the week of August 8.

It should be noted that this is the third time that Assange has claimed he is suing the Guardian or its journalists. The first claim was made on November 1 2010 – and was for supposed loss of earnings. Secondly, he claimed he was suing the Guardian for libel in February 2011 over the Guardian’s book. Separately, he threatened to sue the author and Freedom of Information campaigner, Heather Brooke, for “criminal deception.” None of these actions ever materialised.

The Guardian and its partners went to great lengths to protect potentially vulnerable sources identified in the WikiLeaks documents throughout their collaboration with the organisation.

Initially, as has been widely reported, Assange was unwilling to remove material to protect informants but the Guardian and its media partners persuaded him that the diplomatic cables should be carefully redacted before release, and this editing process was carried out by the newspapers. We are deeply concerned that the release of the unredacted files could put at risk sources we and our partner newspapers worked very hard to protect.

WikiLeaks published 130,000 apparently unredacted cables last week. Until Wednesday of this week very few people had the required information to access the full cables, but over the last few days

WikiLeaks has published more and more hints about how they could be accessed and are now carrying out their own “online poll” about whether they should publish all the cables.

WikiLeaks should take responsibility for its own pattern of actions and not seek to deflect it elsewhere.