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LEAK AT WIKILEAKS: A Dispatch Disaster in Six Acts – SPIEGEL ONLINE

September 3, 2011

A Dispatch Disaster in Six Acts

By Christian Stöcker

09/01/2011

Some 250,000 diplomatic dispatches from the US State Department have accidentally been made completely public. The files include the names of informants who now must fear for their lives. It is the result of a series of blunders by WikiLeaks and its supporters.

In the end, all the efforts at confidentiality came to naught. Everyone who knows a bit about computers can now have a look into the 250,000 US diplomatic dispatches that WikiLeaks made available to select news outlets late last year. All of them. What’s more, they are the unedited, unredacted versions complete with the names of US diplomats’ informants — sensitive names from Iran, China, Afghanistan, the Arab world and elsewhere.

SPIEGEL reported on the secrecy slip-up last weekend, but declined to go into detail. Now, however, the story has blown up. And is one that comes as a result of a series of mistakes made by several different people. Together, they add up to a catastrophe. And the series of events reads like the script for a B movie.

Act One: The Whistleblower and the Journalist

The story began with a secret deal. When David Leigh of the Guardian finally found himself sitting across from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as the British journalist recounts in his book “Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, the two agreed that Assange would provide Leigh with a file including all of the diplomatic dispatches received by WikiLeaks.

Assange placed the file on a server and wrote down the password on a slip of paper — but not the entire password. To make it work, one had to complete the list of characters with a certain word. Can you remember it? Assange asked. Of course, responded Leigh.

It was the first step in a disclosure that became a worldwide sensation. As a result of Leigh’s meeting with Assange, not only the Guardian, but also the New York Times, SPIEGEL and other media outlets published carefully chosen — and redacted — dispatches. Editors were at pains to black out the names of informants who could be endangered by the publication of the documents.

via Leak at WikiLeaks: A Dispatch Disaster in Six Acts – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International.

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