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WikiLeaks cables possibly released by accident

An unredacted file reportedly uploaded by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been redistributed across the Web (STEFAN WERMUTH/REUTERS)

Unredacted cables listing the names of confidential assets, sources and informants from WikiLeaks have reportedly been circulating around the Web for months after being accidentally released by the group, Der Spiegel reported Monday .

According to the report, the breach is a result of a personal conflict between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his former trusted lieutenant, Daniel Domscheit-Berg. The two men parted ways in September 2010, and Domscheit-Berg reportedly left with Assange’s access to various files, including the encrypted, unredacted file containing more than 250,000 original cables.

German-language weekly Der Freitag was the first to report the leak.

Shortly after Domscheit-Berg returned the files at the end of 2010, WikiLeaks supporters uploaded them all to the Internet without knowing the hidden file was among the stash. Then, a third-party published the password to the files, the report said, without realizing that the password would grant full access to the unredacted files.

A number of news organizations were given access to the unredacted cables in November 2010, and reported on the information in them while shielding the safety of those mentioned in the cables. But Domschei-Berg, who has since gone on to found his own leak organization, OpenLeaks, has repeatedly said that the security at WikiLeaks is not strong enough, and the former spokesman said that he has destroyed thousands of documents because he didn’t think he could guarantee the data’s safety.

The official WikiLeaks Twitter account has played down the impact of the report. “Current story being spun about wild cables, including from Spiegel, is significantly incorrect,” read one tweet sent out around 10 a.m., Eastern time. “WikiLeaks 'insurance' files have not been decrypted. All press are currently misreporting. There is an issue, but not that issue,” the account wrote again at 3 p.m., A third message reading, “There has been no 'leak at WikiLeaks'. The issue relates to a mainstream media partner and a malicious individual,” followed soon afterward.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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