Guardian investigations executive editor David Leigh negligently disclosed top-secret WikiLeaks’ decryption passwords, thus enabling public access to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.
According to Wired.com, a keyword search of the file shows that “the uncensored cables contain more than 2,000 occurrences of the phrase ‘strictly protect’, which is used in cables to denote sources of information whose identities diplomats consider confidential.”
As Nigel Parry framed it:
“[Leigh revealed] the top-secret password revealing the names of U.S. collaborators around the world—information now freely available to all the enemies of the U.S.”
Specifically, Leigh published the password as a chapter heading in his book, “WIKILEAKS: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy“, which is still being promoted on the Guardian’s online bookshop:
Many believe that the Guardian disclosure is a violation of the confidentiality agreement between WikiLeaks and Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, signed July 30, 2010. David Leigh, Parry notes, is also Alan Rusbridger’s brother in law, which has led some to believe that David Leigh has been unfairly protected from the fallout.
Indeed, it is not the first time the WikiLeaks security agreement has been violated by the Guardian.
David Leigh and the Guardian have, per WikiLeaks, repeatedly violated WikiLeaks security conditions, including requirements that the unpublished cables be kept safe from state intelligence services by keeping them only on computers not connected to the internet. It has been claimed that Ian Katz, Deputy Editor of the Guardian, admitted in December 2010 meeting that this condition was not being followed by the Guardian.
By any estimate, this breach by Leigh seems to represent journalistic malfeasance on a grand scale.
Many sources have apparently been revealed in the document dump and even extreme left blogger Glenn Greenwald is acknowledging that lives (including whistleblowers and human rights activists) have been put in danger.
PJ Crowley, U.S. State Department spokesman, told AP on the 30th of August, 2011 that “any autocratic security service worth its salt” would probably already have the complete unredacted archive. For many people in totalitarian states this could prove life-threatening.
As we noted back in January, regarding Leigh’s role in orchestrating the WikiLeaks plot, the initial release of documents even then included secret cables containing a list of key U.S. installations around the world which, if targeted by terrorists, could have a potentially “debilitating impact on security, national economic security, [or] national public health.”
The current public release of unredacted versions of cables, Der Spiegel argued, represents “A chain of careless mistakes…indiscretions and confusion [which] now means that no potential whistleblower would feel comfortable turning to a leaking platform right now.”
In other words, Leigh’s careless behavior – his recklessness in pursuit of what he determined to be in the public’s best interest – may have a severe chilling effect on socially minded citizens who would normally be predisposed (with the assumption of confidentiality) to inform the public about dishonest or illegal activities occurring in a government, a public or private organization, or a corporation.
Leigh’s “war on secrecy” may have the unintended consequence of making it far less likely that secrets whose revelation would truly serve the public interest will be revealed.
- U.S. Sources Exposed as Unredacted State Department Cables Are Unleashed Online (wired.com)
- WikiLeaks Is WikiLeaked (Weekly Standard)