The conduit of silence over Wiki Leaks’ thousands of sources – many of whose lives are at danger if recognized – has been devastated, all thanks to the most ordinary, all-too-human security screw-up conceivable.
To wit: Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange wrote down the password on a piece of paper, and then forgets to change it later.
The security break has thrown open the doors to Wiki Leaks’ entire archive of 251,000 secret U.S. political cables.
To the dismay of the media associates it has work with in the past to cautiously redact the documents – The protector, The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde – WikiLeaks has published its entire archive, unredacted, putting in danger several thousands of people whom the U.S. has tagged as being at risk if exposed. The documents also cite more than 150 whistleblowers.
“We censure the decision of Wiki Leaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
“Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough joint editing and clearance process. We will continue to defend our previous collaborative publishing endeavour. We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data – indeed, we are united in condemning it.”
The media partners made it clear that this time, with this move, Assange got no help from them. “The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone,” they said in the statement.Der Spiegel has chronicled the archive’s publishing, tracing it back to a meeting between Assange and David Leigh of The Guardian.
According to the account, as the British journalist recounts in his book “Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, Leigh and Assange at one point sat down to discuss how Assange would provide Leigh with a file including all of the diplomatic dispatches received by WikiLeaks.
PasswordAccording to Der Spiegel, Assange placed the file on a server and wrote part of the password on a slip of paper. To make it work, one had to complete the list of characters with a certain word.
But one thing is certain: The platforms to which whistleblowers have hitherto brought their leaks are compromised. They are as riddled with security holes, as flailing with common human weaknesses, as the most ridiculed home user running an unsecured wireless network and the most inept office worker writing down his password on a Post-It note.