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WikiLeaks reveals all, media groups criticize move

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LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks disclosed its entire archive of U.S. State

Department cables Friday, much if not all of it uncensored – a move

that drew stinging condemnation from major newspapers which in the

past collaborated with the anti-secrecy group’s efforts to expose

corruption and double-dealing.

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Many media outlets, including The Associated Press, previously had

access to all or part of the uncensored tome. But WikiLeaks’

decision to post the 251,287 cables on its website makes

potentially sensitive diplomatic sources available to anyone,

anywhere at the stroke of a key. American officials have warned

that the disclosures could jeopardize vulnerable people such as

opposition figures or human rights campaigners.

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A joint statement published on the Guardian’s website said that the

British publication and its international counterparts – The New

York Times, France’s Le Monde, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Spain’s El

Pais – “deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted

State Department cables, which may put sources at risk.”

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Previously, international media outlets – and WikiLeaks itself –

had redacted the names of potentially vulnerable sources, although

the standard has varied and some experts warned that even people

whose names had been kept out of the cables were still at

risk.

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But now many, and possibly even all, of the cables posted to the

WikiLeaks website carried unredacted names.

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There’s a debate over what kind of an impact that will

have.

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In an interview with the AP earlier this week, former U.S. State

Department official P.J. Crowley warned that the new release could

be used to intimidate activists in authoritarian countries. Crowley

said “any autocratic security service worth its salt” probably

already would have the complete unredacted archive of cables, but

that the fresh releases mean that any intelligence agency that did

not “will have it in short order.”

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WikiLeaks staff members have not returned repeated requests for

comment sent in the past two days. But in a series of messages on

Twitter, the group suggested that it had no choice but to publish

the archive because copies of the document were already circulating

online following a security breach.

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WikiLeaks has blamed the Guardian for the blunder, pointing out

that a sensitive password used to decrypt the files was published

in a book put out by David Leigh, one of the paper’s investigative

reporters and a collaborator-turned-critic of WikiLeaks founder

Julian Assange.

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But the Guardian, Leigh and others have rejected the claim.

Although the password was in fact published in Leigh’s book about

seven months ago, Guardian journalists have suggested that the real

problem was that WikiLeaks posted the encrypted file to the Web by

accident and that Assange never bothered to change the password

needed to unlock it.

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In their statement, the Guardian’s international partners lined up

to slam the 40-year-old former computer hacker.

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“We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data –

indeed, we are united in condemning it,” the statement read. It

added: “The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his

alone.”

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The media organizations’ rejection is a further blow to WikiLeaks,

whose site is under financial embargo and whose leader remains

under virtual house arrest in an English country mansion pending

extradition proceedings to Sweden on unrelated sexual assault

allegations.

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It’s also a sign of the borderless online whistleblower’s

increasing estrangement from traditional media outlets. Assange and

his supporters have long feuded with the Guardian and The New York

Times, and in a recent statement the group noted that other Western

media organizations had “slowed their rate of publishing” stories

derived from the cables.

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As a result, the anti-secrecy site said it would increasingly turn

to “crowdsourcing” – that is, relying on Internet users to sift

through its leaked documents and flag important

material.

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It’s a relatively new tactic for the group, which has in the past

relied on mainstream partners to organize and promote its

spectacular leaks of classified information – including hundreds of

thousands of U.S. intelligence documents detailing the course of

America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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WikiLeaks says the process is working, pointing to one document

flagged by Twitter users who’ve already begun perusing the newly

released files.

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The cable, filed in 2006, carries an explosive allegation that U.S.

forces entered a house during a 2006 raid in Iraq, handcuffed 10

members of the same family and executed them.

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Although the U.N. letter in which the allegation was made was five

years old, its publication put new pressure on the already strained

negotiations over keeping U.S. forces in Iraq. Iraq’s government

said Friday that it is investigating, and some officials said the

document is reason enough for the country to force the American

military to leave instead of signing a deal allowing troops to stay

beyond a year-end departure deadline.

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“Crowdsourcing has proved to be a success,” WikiLeaks

said.

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But amid the controversy over the unredacted cables, some

supporters are keeping their distance. The press freedom group

Reporters Without Borders said Thursday that it had temporarily

suspended its WikiLeaks “mirror site.” Such sites act as

carbon-copies of their originals, relieving pressure due to heavy

traffic and preserving data in case of attack.

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In a statement, Reporters said it had “neither the technical, human

or financial resources to check each cable” for information that

could harm innocent people and thus “has to play safe.”

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Greg Keller in Paris contributed to this report.

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Raphael G. Satter can be reached at: 

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