The Guardian has now responded to Wikileaks' accusations. They state that they were told that the password was only temporary, and that the server from which the file was downloaded was only live for a few hours.
They also claim that the file was available on BitTorrent at some point.
This statement raises a valid point, namely how the files came to be posted on the web. Had their present location been controlled by Wikileaks, the file would have been removed by now. According to Spiegel (original), the file was posted online by "supporters", after it was handed back by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who had seized the Wikileaks servers. According to Heise, he was asked to return the old Wikileaks website, which he did. The file in question must have been transferred along with it.
Please see our previous coverage for more information.
It finally happened. An old cablegate file was detected on the internet, and it could be decrypted with a password that was published by a Guardian journalist. The file is not in an obvious location, and it may be doubted that anyone would have ever found it, along with the matching password, had it not been for Der Freitag publishing an article on the matter, which was then followed up by several other news outlets. Der Freitag is a media partner of Openleaks and has strong ties with the Guardian.
WL Central had guessed the source of the password early on but decided not to publish.
Wikileaks responded with the following statement:
"Statement on the betrayal of WikiLeaks passwords by the Guardian.
GMT Wed Aug 31 22:27:48 2011 GMT
A Guardian journalist has, in a previously undetected act of gross negligence or malice, and in violation a signed security agreement with the Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, disclosed top secret decryption passwords to the entire, unredacted, WikiLeaks Cablegate archive. We have already spoken to the State Department and commenced pre-litigation action. We will issue a formal statement in due course.
For our previous coverage of the topic please see this link.
The recent controversy surrounding Openleaks and its founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg prompted us to have a closer look on the project. At first glance, the main media partner of the project appears to be TAZ, a well respected leftist publication, who granted Openleaks a subdomain during the initial test phase of the system. It can be accessed under https://leaks.taz.de/. There, one finds a brief outline of the project:
"Vom 11. bis 14. August 2011 bieten unter der Schirmherrschaft der deutschen Zeitung taz die tageszeitung, die deutsche Wochenzeitung Der Freitag, die portugisische Zeitung Expresso, die dänische Zeitung Information, sowie die NGO Foodwatch in Kooperation mit OpenLeaks diese öffentliche Plattform an. In dieser Zeit können Sie hier Dokumente hochladen, die im Anschluss durch die beteiligten Organisationen verarbeitet werden.
Ziel dieser Phase ist eine Sicherheitsüberprüfung des Systems während des Chaos Communication Camps 2011. "
It lists the media partners of the project and invites the public to submit documents, which will then be sent on to be processed by these media partners. It goes on to say: "The aim of this phase is to test the security of the system during the Chaos Communication Camp 2011".
To a reader, these statements appear strangely contradictory, as one is left wondering whether the public is indeed invited to submit genuine documents, or whether this is just a test run. In fact, as a brief search of older TAZ articles reveals, the present interface is merely an alpha version of Openleaks. In the light of these facts, the project would have been better advised to make it absolutely clear that the public should only submit test files.
Wikileaks posted a press release responding to the rumour of the day, namely, the one published by Private Eye, and republished here, that Julian Assange attributes The Guardian's recent demonstrable and disproportionate enmity towards his person to a "Jewish conspiracy."
Despite the main thrust of the Private Eye article, the last few paragraphs of it (now excised from the post above, and only available by purchasing the issue of Private Eye) expresses remorse for Assange, in light of the fact that the journalism sector is so constituted as to force him to deal with every futile and irrelevant canard available, all while he is trying to perform activities of genuine benefit to both the public and the media. In short, the end of the article betrays guilt over the balance of it.
Suddenly I got the impression Mr Assange was bored. Bored of me. Bored of answering questions. The energy and anger seemed to have gone from his voice. He was almost weary when he told me that he was not powerful, but had been crushed by powerful global interests and the least I could do was not support them by running pieces critical of him.
I did feel guilty. Briefly. I told him that I would email him the whole piece and that I would happily run a letter from him, answer his points in full, or put him in contact with out lawyers if he wanted. He gave me an address and I sent him the article. I heard nothing back. In the circumstances, I thought the best thing to do was to publish as much as I could remember of our conversation in Private Eye. As a "mode of information flow."
Israel Shamir's recent article on CounterPunch, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks, follows on from his previous piece, Paradigm in Belarus: The Minsk Election in a Wikileaks Mirror, in levelling some serious allegations against The Guardian newspaper and its journalistic practices.
The earlier piece was an odd amalgam of politically questionable apologism for the regime in Belarus and invective against The Guardian and the mainstream Western press, part of which provided valuable insight into the selection biases of newspapers (as I documented here) and part of which invoked conspiratorial motives that are unnecessary to explain those same selection biases.
Charges against The Guardian
The newest piece, published on January 11th, presents evidence that The Guardian has been engaging in strange redaction procedures on some of the cables it has been releasing, and infers from this that there is some foul play involved in The Guardian's editorial decisions. Because of Shamir's peculiar status, it is necessary to suject his claims to some scrutiny. As I will outline here, Shamir is mostly correct that The Guardian has been redacting the cables aggressively, and that the result of the redactions is, effectively, to conceal the correspondences of American diplomats writing candidly of a culture of corruption involving British corporations and high ranking officials in the former Soviet bloc. However, odious though this situation is, Shamir's inference to conspiracy or foul play in order to explain these redactions is, I believe, probably too quick.
Observations about the cables referred to in Israel's Shamir's recent CounterPunch article, Redacting Corruption: The Guardian's Political Censorship of Wikileaks raised some controversies about Shamir's legitimacy as a publisher of Wikileaks' cables. Shamir criticized The Guardian for redacting cables for political reasons, and published unredacted versions of those cables to support his case. The unredacted cables he published appeared to have slight disparities, raising the possibility, for some, that Shamir may have "gone rogue" - publishing unredacted versions of cables without prior authorization by Wikileaks, or even doctoring cables.
A close examination of the cables in question reveals most of these claims as idle speculation. It is highly unlikely that his recent article betrays journalistic foulplay of the sort alleged.
Shamir's article deals with three cables, 10ASTANA72, 06TASHKENT465 and 06TASHKENT902. The article provides links (here and here) to self-published and unredacted versions of the Tashkent cables, and reveals the passages that were redacted in the Astana cable. At the time of the publication of Shamir's article (11th, January, 2011) neither Tashkent cable had been yet released on Wikileaks site. Furthermore, the version of the 10ASTANA72 cable on Wikileaks' site was the redacted version released by The Guardian.
The Telegraph this evening ran a story on tomorrow's Wikileaks book by the Guardian editors David Leigh and Luke Harding - just one of several books in a publishing run by Wikileaks' media partners. Among the revelations forthcoming in that volume, we are told, is the rather stale information that Bradley Manning is alleged to be Wikileaks' anonymous source for Cablegate and the War Log releases.
The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, of The Guardian, name Specialist Bradley Manning, the soldier being held in a US military jail, as the alleged source of the information which was passed on to The Guardian by WikiLeaks.
While Rayner attempts to present this information as if some new information was being disclosed in the book, it appears, in fact, that we will learn nothing new from it. As the facts stand, Bradley Manning is still the "alleged" source of the information. He has not been convicted of the acts with which he is charged, and all of the evidence in favour of those charges yet available to the public is highly speculative.
The distinction between reportage which mentions Manning as "Wikileaks' source" and that which mentions him as "Wikileaks' alleged source" is of some importance, since to the extent that newspapers - for whatever reason - elide this difference, public opinion might be swayed in such a way as to incriminate Manning, and to prejudice his trial. It is therefore important that media organizations treat the distinction with care.
Bill Keller, the New York Times' executive editor, published an enormous article on the 26th of January about the New York Times' dealings with WikiLeaks. The article develops further the running story of WikiLeaks' relationship with its media partners, the subject of a Vanity Fair piece earlier in the month.
Much has been made of the negative light in which Julian Assange appears in the article. Wired's Kim Zetter published a digest piece, in which the more absurd claims of the piece are given particular attention but little critical treatment. The more colourful parts of the article were, predictably, grist to the celebrity gossip mill.
Perhaps the most important thing about the article, though, is that it is the first authoritative indication that the Times is willing to take a stand for media freedoms in the United States. During the height of official outrage over Cablegate late last year, when the use of the Espionage Act was being widely touted as a convenient way to perform an end run around First Amendment protections, it fell to the Washington Post's editorial section to issue a strong defense of freedom of speech. The Times, with its history of media partnership with WikiLeaks, remained conspicuously silent.
No longer. Keller now issues a strong (albeit heavily qualified) defense of those freedoms:
Early last week, The Guardian published an Op-Ed piece by a James Richardson, which attributed to Wikileaks all of the journalistic responsibility for possible fallout in the Zimbabwean government following from the release of the 09HARARE1004 cable.
I covered the initial James Richardson piece several hours after its publication, here on WL Central, where I pointed out that the Guardian in fact bears as much if not more responsibility for the consequences of the publication of any of the Cablegate cables, because it is in fact the media partners who greenlight and redact (or fail to redact) each of the cables, before they are forwarded to Wikileaks.
Here is my post about the inadequate correction by the Guardian, which was performed on Tuesday, a full week after the original article was published. Glenn Greenwald also covered the issue yesterday, in a comprehensive article on Salon.com. There was also some dispute about a minor detail of the case, which I covered here.
The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger yesterday responded to a tweet by Greenwald to the effect that The Guardian would "reply at greater length" to questions he had raised about the satisfactoriness of The Guardian's correction of its James Richardson piece.
Last week, The Guardian published an article by James Richardson, a political and communications consultant who has worked in electoral campaigns for the Republican Party in the United States, in which Richardson aggressively criticized Wikileaks for the release of 09HARARE1004, a cable that, he argued, gave Robert Mugabe's faction within the Zimbabwe government a pretext for bringing a high treason trial against Morgan Tsvangirai.
I outlined here on WL Central how The Guardian was in breach of its journalistic duty in the publication of the piece.
Israel Shamir, the subject of some controversy in a recent Guardian piece has published an interesting article at Counterpunch, which not only tries to address many of the concerns raised in the Guardian, but takes the battle to the Guardian, and takes up the cause of Wikileaks quite forcefully.
The piece is very interesting, for a number of reasons. It provides new developments in the Shamir-Wikileaks story. Shamir claims to have no official or professional relationship with Wikileaks. He also points out a pre-publication page on Amazon that may or may not indicate that the Guardian is preparing a book on Wikileaks called "The Rise and Fall of Wikileaks." Shamir alleges that the Guardian is engaged in a smear campaign against Assange in anticipation of this "fall."
Certainly, over the last week, we at WL Central have had the opportunity to catch The Guardian falling short of what one might expect of an exemplary journalistic publication. Nick Davies was seen to propagate a straightforward falsehood when he alleged that Julian Assange had been using the Wikileaks Twitter account to smear the alleged victims of his alleged crimes. And on Monday the Guardian published an article by James Richardson which accused Wikileaks of potentially fatal negligence in the clearance for publication of a cable from Harare, when it was in fact the Guardian that cleared this cable.