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Controversy and Confusion Over the Latest WikiLeaks Revelations: 8 Things You Really Need to Know

The latest WikiLeaks release comes with a bunch of accusations and confusion.

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“In a September 2006 cable flagged by ZDNet, an official at the embassy in Tunis expressed reservations about a deal that provided 'for Microsoft investment in training, research, and development, but also commits the GOT [Government of Tunisia] to using licensed Microsoft software.' The basic concern was that the software giant would be helping Ben Ali's regime oppress Tunisians more effectively.”

On WikiLeaks' own site, it catalogues 30 new revelations, including that China's nuclear safety is at risk due to outdated technology, and that Wal-Mart has unions in China but not in the US. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has children, including former child soldiers, working for $1 or $2 a day in the mines and the government is looking the other way, and "Guyana is well on its way to narco-statehood."

One cable describes “institutionalised discrimination and the denial of public services” to Israel's Bedouin citizens, even though they "continue to serve voluntarily in the IDF and otherwise support the state, media commentators and Israeli politicians often refer to the threat of a second ’intifada’ coming from the Negev Bedouin."

And the New York Times reported in detail on the complications coming from the Chinese cables, none of which are super-secret, but which, the Times writes, “could lead to serious consequences for Chinese academics, students and others who talked frankly to American officials, and who are identified, either by name or by precise description, in cables dealing with analyses of Chinese positions.”

3. War with the press?

The release of the unredacted cables drew an angry response from WikiLeaks' former media partners, the Guardian, Le Monde , the New York Times , El Pais , and Der Spiegel. While WikiLeaks would post the cables on its own site, reporters at the media partners carefully pored through the cables and wrote articles explaining the most important (to them) facts within.

The partners released a statement that said in part "we deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the un-redacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk," and they argued "the decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone."

This last bit because Assange posted a commentary on the WikiLeaks site announcing that he had “commenced pre-litigation action" against the Guardian. Yet WikiLeaks, the Guardian noted, has threatened them with lawsuits before and none of them have come to pass.

Assange blames David Leigh and the Guardian for forcing his hand by releasing the password to the file cache; Leigh denies this, pointing out that he was told the password would be temporary and that the files should not have been so easily available.

Whomever is most to blame for the release of the unredacted cables, it seems likely that media organizations will be less interested in working with Assange and WikiLeaks in the future.

4. Fallout with former members of WikiLeaks

In addition to threatening suit against the Guardian, Assange has also threatened a lawsuit against Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former lieutenant to Assange at WikiLeaks before his departure (on bad terms) to found a competitor site, OpenLeaks (which Greenwald notes has so far yet to produce any leaks of its own). Assange claims that Domscheit-Berg was the one responsible for spreading the name and location of the file containing the unredacted cables around the Web.

Robert X. Cringely at InfoWorld, in analyzing responsibility for the revelations, wrote:

“If you want to tell the world what an irresponsible egomaniac Assange has been, that's fine -- but you don't do it by being an equally irresponsible egomaniac. The marriage of the stupidly leaked password with the location of the file it applies to comes down to a spat between two ego-driven radicals. Gee, that's one we all haven't heard before.”

 
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