The move makes 251,000 secret cables public and could potentially expose and harm the lives of thousands of people who are named in the documents.
The media partners WikiLeaks has previously worked with to publish only select and redacted documents — the Guardian, New York Times, El Pais and Der Spiegel — all condemned the move, releasing a joint statement that said: “We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted State Department cables, which may put sources at risk. ... We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data — indeed, we are united in condemning it.”
The media partners were clear that this time, the decision to publish was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s decision, alone.
Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom group, also immediately revoked its support, saying the move could put many journalists in danger.
Assange may have gotten the approval of some of the whistleblower’s Twitter fans, however, having run a poll on whether to publish the documents. WikiLeaks did not release the findings of the poll.
The Guardian reports that the now-public and easily-searchable archive contains more than 1,000 cables identifying individual activists, more than 150 that specifically mention whistleblowers, and several thousands marked “STRICTLY PROTECT,” for sources who could be in danger.
The cables also identify the locations of government sensitive buildings and gives information about victims of sex offenses.
David Kenner, Associate Editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, tweeted out other revelatory cables Friday, including that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2009 said that “Israel has a plan, it seems' to use military action against Iran,” that fugitive Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was borderline diabetic and a “hypochondriac,” and the alleged reasons for Iran’s 2009 election fraud.
On Twitter, some suggested that Wikileaks — which had previously said there was a “100 to one” chance it would publish the cables — released them to get attention.
The secret-leaking group has faced criticism for months that it was no longer relevant.
On Thursday, John Cook wrote on Gawker, “The reason Assange held on to these prizes [the cables] is clear: Without them, he is little more than a poorly groomed blowhard under house arrest. ... So you’ve got no reason to pay attention to Julian Assange anymore. There's nothing left there to see.”
Many were unimpressed with the new release Friday, saying they would no longer follow the organization because at this point, it was “basically spam.”
WikiLeaks, however, was unmoved by the criticism, writing in a tweet Friday that it was “shining a light on 45 years of US 'diplomacy', it is time to open the archives forever.”