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Supporters of the WikiLeaks organization unwittingly released unedited versions of U.S. displomatic cables onto the Internet, potentially putting several lives at risk of retaliation. These are the same cables that were made public in November 2010, except the originals were edited to protect the names and identities of informants.
According to German website Spiegel Online, the screw up is the result of an ongoing dispute between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former German spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Before going public with the cables in November 2010, Assange stored the information in a password protected file buried in a WikiLeaks server and shared the password with an external contact (remember this tidbit, we'll return to it in a moment). Domscheit-Berg quit WikiLeaks in September 2010, and with the help of a German programmer, he took the contents of the server with him, including unedited versions of some 251,000 U.S. State Department documents.
By the end of the year, Domscheit-Berg returned most of the files he had taken. Encrypted cables were part of the digital care package, which WikiLeaks supporters released into cyberspace as a public archive of sorts. They had no idea the data contained an encrypted file with all of the original cables. That's part 1.
Part 2 of the WikiLeaks bungle involves the external contact Assange shared the password with. The contact coughed up the password to the public, not knowing that it would grant access to the unedited cables. It took a few months for someone to discover the screw up, and now that everyone knows, Domscheit-Bert and his rival OpenLeaks organization claim it's proof that any data WikiLeaks obtains is anything but secure.
WikiLeaks informants reside all around the globe, and several of them in countries with less than favorable opinions of the U.S. This massive breakdown in communication puts them all at risk.