Wikileaks has always had a healthy sense of self-importance—one that seems, at least in part, well-deserved. But there's something uniquely hubristic about accusing a major newspaper (and former collaborator) of "gross negligence or malice" over the release of 251,000 unredacted top-secret cables—when the fault lies with the website itself.
Well, it's a day of the week ending in "-day," which means that Wikileaks is flinging about wild and paranoid accusations on Twitter. Who's the target this time? None other than The Guardian, the British newspaper with which the website has collaborated on several document releases—until a falling-out earlier this year—which Wikileaks accuses of "betrayal."
The Guardian, Wikileaks elaborates in a statement, "negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks' [sic] decryption passwords." Indeed, the statement appears to confirm several rumors that had been floating around—some for weeks, some for months—most importantly, that a password published in full in WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, a book about The Guardian's work with the site and its founder, was a "decryption password" for the complete, unredacted archive of U.S. diplomatic cables, which the site had released in part in late 2010 in concert with several newspapers.
The password's public existence is scary because it contains the top-secret names of informants and sources whose lives could be put in danger by their publication. But what Wikileaks fails to mention is that the password works in conjunction with a BitTorrent file of the archive, uploaded by overeager Wikileaks supporters, that has been floating around the internet for months—possibly since last year, well before the publication of the book. According to The Guardian, the journalists covering the leak—who were given access to the files "through a secure server online for a period of hours," a "basic security precaution"—were told the password was "temporary" and "would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours." The paper says it had no idea about the BitTorrent file.
But even being if we're charitable to Wikileaks, which claims (at its least hysterical) "negligence" on the part of the paper—let's say, for example, that the journalists were never told the password was temporary, or even that they were told it was top-secret—it doesn't look good for the secret-sharing website. Leaving aside the irony of the site accusing another organization of leaking classified information, there's a very basic security problem: Why is there only one, unchanging password for the database? This seems like an unbelievably stupid policy for something as confidential and important as the database. And, even then, why use the password for the public Torrent file as the password for the file given to Guardian editor David Leigh, whom Assange allegedly greatly mistrusted? Why not a temporary, unique password? Maybe the Guardian is full of "snaky" (as Assange called them) liars—but that just makes Assange look like a moron.
In any event, Wikileaks seems uninterested in answering those questions. And, having accused The Guardian of being negligent, and having wrung its hands over all of the "[r]evolutions and reforms... in danger of being lost" with the public availability of the files, is asking its Twitter followers if it should release all the cables in searchable form immediately.