A Guardian journalist, David Leigh, has violated a confidentiality agreement with WikiLeaks by disclosing top secret WikiLeaks’ decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.
Leigh, an editor at the Guardian and brother in law of its editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, disclosed the decryption passwords for over 100,000 yet unpublished US State Department diplomatic cables in a book published by the Guardian. The book was reportedly rushed to publication, with the rights then promptly sold to Hollywood.
The unapproved disclosure has disrupted the process WikiLeaks has developed of timing the publication of the cables in conjunction with their partners in media and human rights organizations who cooperate to redact information that could leave potentially innocent people vulnerable. It also led to an accelerated release of diplomatic cables, ahead of WikiLeaks schedule.
The potential for this to implicate WikiLeaks in irresponsible behavior is high, although it was the actions of Leigh and the Guardian which made the sensitive information immediately available. U.S. government officials have already criticized WikiLeaks for including in unredacted information about suspected militants and U.S. Embassy contacts.
WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been in contact with the US State Department, reportedly talking on the phone with their legal advisor Cliff Johnson for 75 minutes.
WikiLeaks has begun pre-litigation action against the Guardian and an individual in Germany who was distributing the passwords “for personal gain,” as described in an editorial from the whistle-blowing website.
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