Did Wikileaks Leak Informant Names in Latest Cables? Or Is Mainstream Media Just Parroting Itself?

One of the reasons Wikileaks has been so successful is that its methods for protecting sources is fairly airtight. Alleged Wikileaker Bradley Manning wouldn't have been discovered if it hadn't been for Adrian Lamo breaking his confidence, and when Cablegate began, the organization meticulously edited out any evidence that might incriminate the diplomats involved, and/or the leakers. 

Which is why a big story the mainstream media is running with today is so curious. The German paper Der Spiegel ran a story that in a new, "accidental" leak of the cables, the names of its diplomatic sources were revealed and "endangered," citing the "ongoing conflict between Julian Assange and his former German spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg." The piece states that an encrypted file containing sensitive documents resided on a Wikileaks server, and an "external contact" had the password, but that when Domscheit-Berg left, he took the files with him. 

At the end of 2010, Domscheit-Berg finally returned to WikiLeaks a collection of various files that he had taken with him, including the encrypted cables. Shortly afterwards, WikiLeaks supporters released a copy of this data collection onto the Internet as a kind of public archive of the documents that WikiLeaks had previously published. The supporters clearly did not realize, however, that the data contained the original cables, as the file was not only encrypted but concealed in a hidden subdirectory.

Then, in the spring of 2011, Assange's external contact made public the password that he had received from Assange without realizing that this would allow access to the unredacted US cables. The slip-up remained undetected for several months. Members of OpenLeaks, the rival whistleblower organization recently set up by Domscheit-Berg, have now drawn attention to the lapse. They say it proves Domscheit-Berg's allegation, which he has been making for months, that data held by WikiLeaks is "not secure."


Obviously, if WikiLeaks' security is breached, it breaks down the whole operation, either shushing potential whistleblowers or forcing them to take their info elsewhere—potentially, to organizations like OpenLeaks.

The New York Times echoed Der Spiegel's piece, but had a bit more info: 

Government officials and journalists were poring over the newly released cables on Monday to assess whether people named in them might face repercussions. A quick sampling found at least one cable posted on Monday, from the American Embassy in Australia, had a name removed, but several others left in the identities of people whom diplomats had flagged for protection.

Among those named, despite diplomats’ warnings, were a United Nations official in West Africa and a foreign human rights activist working in Cambodia. They had spoken candidly to American Embassy officials on the understanding that they would not be publicly identified.

A government secrecy expert told the times that upon reviewing the cables, he found that only one name had been redacted, and that the cables are likely to be "problematic."

Yet earlier today, Wikileaks' Twitter disputed their accounts. "WikiLeaks 'insurance' files have not been decrypted. All press are currently misreporting. There is an issue, but not that issue," it said.

Another tweet read, "There has been no WikiLeaks error. There has been a grossly negligent mainstream media error, to put it generously." 

There was no further clarification as to what the error was, but whomever is running the Wikileaks Twitter did take time out to clarify their opinion on the New York Times. "Totally false that any WikiLeaks sources have been exposed or will be exposed. NYT drooling, senile, and evil."

Meanwhile, information from the cables it disseminated last week began to congeal into stories, including this one on "the dark side of the Vatican," including their stance on Iraq, progressive governments, and abortion...  

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at August 30, 2011, 5:37am

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