WikiLeaks' Nasty Little Spat With the New York Times

WikiLeaks vehemently denies numerous reports that they've revealed the confidential identities of sources in recently released U.S. diplomatic cables. Mainstream media outlets drew the ire of Julian Assange's army of whistleblowers for reporting on an article originally published by Steffen Kraft in the small German weekly Der Freitag. The article claimed that WikiLeaks had accidentally released an encrypted database--and later, its corresponding password--containing their entire cache of over 250,000 diplomatic cables, including the names of low-level sources whose identities were meant to be protected. "There has been no 'leak at WikiLeaks,'" the group tweeted on Monday night, referring to the title on the original Freitag article. "The issue relates to a mainstream media partner and a malicious individual." 

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It's not immediately clear to which "mainstream media partner" WikiLeaks is referring, but several more tweets suggest that it's either The New York Times or Der Spiegel. Both publications have covered the recent conflict between Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former WikiLeaks spokesman.  In their coverage of the unredacted database leak on Monday, Der Spiegel reported that Domscheit-Berg had taken the full database of diplomatic cables with him when he left WikiLeaks in Septebmer 2011 to help start a rival site, OpenLeaks. When Domscheit-Berg returned the data a few months later, WikiLeaks supporters unknowingly made public an encrypted file containing the database and later revealed the password to unlock the database "without realizing that this would allow access to the unredacted US cables." OpenLeaks members claim the slip-up "proves Domscheit-Berg's allegation, which he has been making for months, that data held by WikiLeaks is 'not secure.'" Domscheit-Berg also made headlines last week when he told Der Spiegel that he'd deleted over 3,500 unpublished WikiLeaks documents from the cache that he'd taken to OpenLeaks "in order to ensure that the sources are not compromised." 

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The New York Times pushed the allegations further in their Monday night report. Mentioning the leaked document in passing, the paper claims that the WikiLeaks fails to protect its sources with their new strategy to release cables directly to the public. In last week's release of over 134,000 cablesThe Times found "that the newly published cables included the names of some people who had spoken confidentially to American diplomats and whose identities were marked in the cables with the warning 'strictly protect.'" WikiLeaks aggressively denies this allegation. "Totally false that any WikiLeaks sources have been exposed or will be exposed. NYT drooling, senile, and evil," WikiLeaks tweeted Monday night. "Sorry, NYT, It doesn't matter how many sleazy hack jobs like Ravi Somaiya you hire, we've out published your Pentagon tabloid already," reads another tweet referring to the Times reporter who's covered Domscheit-Berg's role in founding OpenLeaks and is listed as a contributing reporter on Monday's article.

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This isn't the first time that WikiLeaks has been accused of leaking sources' identities. In January, Fast Company highlighted the dangerous situation created when a Russian WikiLeaks associate published unredacted cables in the left-wing magazine Counterpunch. The most recent reports on the newly leaked database casts fresh doubt on Julian Assange's "lack of empathy and allegedly cavalier attitude toward the lives of those effected by his releases" and "incapacity for, or disinterest in, establishing coherent security guidelines for his organization," to borrow ReadWriteWeb's Curt Hopkins words.

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What's most evident in WikiLeaks recent finger-pointing is a noticeable rift between the organization and its former partners. In the past, it was organizations like The Times and Der Spiegel who could prop up WikiLeaks's model on top of their decades of journalistic credibility. Now it appears that the organization appears to want to make an enemy out of them instead.