When WikiLeaks, the online clearing-house of secret documents, unleashes a new body of material, another installment of feuding with print-media outlets is bound to ensue--and the latest such release was no exception. After WikiLeaks pushed a new cache of diplomatic cables into the public domain, the group promptly lashed out at the New York Times for an article published in the paper of record's Tuesday print edition.
The Times piece, "WikiLeaks Leaves Names of Diplomatic Sources in Cables," takes WikiLeaks to task for its largest-yet leak of U.S. diplomatic cables, 134,000 of which have been published on the web in recent days.
Some of the documents, according to the Times' Scott Shane, reveal the names of sources who had spoken to American envoys on a confidential basis--a "shift of tactics that has alarmed American officials," Shane writes. "State Department officials and human rights activists have been concerned that such diplomatic sources, including activists, journalists and academics in authoritarian countries, could face reprisals, including dismissal from their jobs, prosecution or violence."
Shane adds: "Since late 2010, The New York Times and several other news organizations have had access to more than 250,000 State Department cables originally obtained by WikiLeaks, citing them in news articles and publishing a relatively small number of cables deemed newsworthy. But The Times and other publications that had access to the documents removed the names of people judged vulnerable to retaliation."
WikiLeaks fired back on its Twitter account, stating: "Totally false that any WikiLeaks sources have been exposed or will be exposed. NYT drooling, senile, and evil."
A subsequent tweet reads: "Sorry, NYT, It doesn't matter how many sleazy hack jobs like Ravi Somaiya you hire, we've out published your Pentagon tabloid already."
Somaiya, a London-based Times correspondent who has contributed to the Times' WikiLeaks coverage, has a reporting credit on today's piece. He also co-bylined, with John F. Burns, a damaging profile of WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange. That piece, published last October, effectively severed the already tenuous relationship between WikiLeaks and the Times, which had cooperated on previous document dumps. The Times had engaged in meticulous negotiations over proper sourcing, and insisted on concealment of sourcing in communiques that could jeopardize national security, or a source's life. Today's spat just stirred the smoldering hostility between WikiLeaks and the Times that has prevailed ever since last fall's bitter estrangement.
WikiLeaks is currently under a criminal investigation in the United States for its disclosures of classified government information. And the group's founder, Julian Assange, remains under house arrest in Britain as he wages a protracted battle against extradition to Sweden, where he stands accused of rape.