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WikiLeaks sparks fury with release of unredacted cables

September 02, 2011

“Shining a light on 45 years of US 'diplomacy', it is time to open the archives forever,” said WikiLeaks in a tweet announcing the release. – Dawn File Photo

LONDON: Anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks on Friday published its full unredacted archive of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables online, drawing a furious response from its media partners.

The website confirmed in a message on Twitter that all 251,287 of the US embassy cables had been placed on the Internet and posted a link to a site containing the documents that can be accessed without a password.

“Shining a light on 45 years of US 'diplomacy', it is time to open the archives forever,” said WikiLeaks in a tweet announcing the release.

WikiLeaks had been slowly releasing the leaked cables since November and had largely worked with media groups which trawled through the information to delete the names of sources who spoke to US diplomats.

But the decision to dump the remaining documents in one go, apparently without any editorial checks, is hugely controversial and will anger the United States.

Five media organisations which worked with WikiLeaks on the first release of cables last year, including the New York Times and the Guardian, condemned the decision to release unredacted cables, saying it put sources at risk.

The United States had warned that dumping the documents in their unredacted form could endanger the lives of its sources and Washington was angered last week when some of the cables were published with informants' names unprotected.

Previous releases revealed the often candid views of American diplomats about foreign governments around the world and caused huge embarrassment to the United States.

Among the newly released documents were tens of thousands from countries with which Washington has difficult relationships, including nearly 20,000 about Afghanistan, 13,000 on Pakistan and 30,000 about Iran.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported the newly published archives contained more than 1,000 cables identifying individual activists, as well as some labelled with a tag used by the US to mark sources it believed could be in danger if identified.

The document release came amid a row between WikiLeaks and the Guardian over who was behind last week's release of thousands of unredacted cables.

WikiLeaks accused the Guardian of leaking the password to the archive, but the newspaper denied the allegation.

A joint statement from the five media partners -- the Guardian, the New York Times, German news magazine Der Spiegel, Spanish daily El Pais and French daily Le Monde -- said: “We deplore the decision of Wikileaks to publish the unredacted State Department cables, which may put sources at risk.

“Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough editing and clearance process.”They said the decision to publish the full archive was the decision of WikiLeaks' Australian founder Julian Assange “and his alone”.

Assange is currently living under stringent bail conditions in Britain, fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over alleged rape and sexual assault.

The State Department said Thursday WikiLeaks had informed it in advance of the document releases, but ignored US appeals that making them public could endanger lives and put US national security at risk.

“We have made clear our views and concerns about illegally disclosed classified information and the continuing risk to individuals and national security that such releases cause,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

WikiLeaks has defended the release of the diplomatic cables -- as well as the previous release of leaked Iraq and Afghanistan war reports -- as the journalistic exposure of official deception.

US soldier Bradley Manning is suspected of leaking the cables and other military documents to WikiLeaks. He was arrested in June last year while deployed in Iraq and is being held in a US military prison.