Wikileaks has its share of critics – the organisation is too centred around Julian Assange and a personality-type cult exists – but surely the vast bulk of information the group has released since 2006 makes it a major force for good (not least because it’s forced governments and many journalists on the defensive about their insider tactics):
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted the Guardian on Tuesday, saying the British paper’s “negligence” in publishing an encryption key to uncensored files forced his organization’s hand in publishing the secret U.S. diplomatic memos.
It was Assange’s first public comments since WikiLeaks disclosed its entire archive of U.S. State Department cables last week. The United States has fiercely criticized the move, saying it could endanger the lives of the sources named in the cables, including opposition figures or human rights advocates.
Speaking via a video link, Assange told an audience at a Berlin technology trade fair that a Guardian journalist had published the password to the encrypted files in his book, creating a situation where some people got access to the uncensored files while others did not.
“We had a case where every intelligence agency has the material and the people who are mentioned do not have the material,” he said from a mansion about two hours’ drive from London, where he is under virtual house arrest pending extradition proceedings to Sweden on unrelated sexual assault allegations.
“So you have a race between the bad guys and the good guys and it was necessary for us to stand on the side of the good guys,” he said.
Assange gave the conference’s keynote address and answered questions from a monitor.
WikiLeaks on Friday posted the 251,287 cables on its website, making potentially sensitive diplomatic sources available to anyone.
A joint statement published that day on the Guardian’s website said it and its international media 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.”
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.
But Assange specifically blamed the Guardian, pointing out that a sensitive password used to decrypt the files was published in a book by David Leigh, one of the paper’s investigative reporters and a collaborator-turned-critic of Assange.
He also blamed WikiLeaks defector Daniel Domscheit-Berg, though not by name, alleging he told media organizations where to find the encrypted files and how to use the password.
“An individual in Berlin had been spreading the location of a hidden encrypted file that had been encrypted with that password with selected media organizations in order to gain personal benefit,” Assange said.
With the information available to some people, Assange said he decided to make it available to everyone.
“It was necessary to give the information in an authenticated way to the general public, to journalists and to those people who might be mentioned in those materials to show that they were mentioned and what might have been said about them,” he said.