Julian Assange Stockholm August 2010 AP
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2010. Photo by AP
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The secret sources of the WikiLeaks files were accidentally exposed over the internet as a result of a dispute between confidantes of the website’s founder Julian Assange and others formerly associated with the organization, according to a report in the German press Monday. WikiLeaks denied these reports in a message on its Twitter feed Monday night.

Last year, WikiLeaks publicized 251,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables sent from all over the world to the U.S. State Department. The cables included embarrassing details concerning U.S. foreign policy, assessments of U.S. officials and others of the political situation in those states.

In order to protect its secret agents, thousands of names were removed from the documents that were publicized by news organizations that worked in coordination with WikiLeaks.

The original documents with the secret names were guarded carefully in the organization’s computer, but at the end of 2010, Assange announced that he was preparing a ‘Judgment Day Document’ that would be published in the event that he would be assassinated or kidnapped.

Assange uploaded the encrypted file to his website and millions of web surfers downloaded it to their private computers and saved it. A second file with the encryption key to unlock the first file remained in the WikiLeaks computers, with detailed instructions of the conditions under which it is to be made available.

It was revealed that eight months ago, a group of Assange’s supporters accidentally uploaded the encryption key file to the internet. The file was uploaded among others when this group suspected that the former WikiLeaks spokesperson in Germany, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, planned to delete or sabotage the files.

Apparently, Assange’s supporters did not intend to upload the encryption key and did not even know that it was located in the folder that they uploaded. The security failure was publicized by the group ‘OpenLeaks’, a rival group to WikiLeaks which was founded by Domscheit-Berg.

A bitter feud has erupted over the past few months, with the two sides accusing each other of not properly protecting secret information that is leaked to them. This newest revelation is intended to demonstrate that despite Assange’s declared intentions to disseminate information while protecting his sources, he actually puts them at risk.

Those who have seen the original documents with the original names intact say that they contain the names of intelligence officials and sources from many places in the world, including Arab countries and even Israel.

Their impending publication is likely to embarrass many, including political, military, government and intelligence figures who felt comfortable expressing themselves and share sensitive information with U.S. diplomats on the assumption that they would not be published.