WASHINGTON – The whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks made public its entire cache of pirated State Department cables Thursday night in a torrent of once secret information that is sure to renew debate over the impact of one of the largest security breaches in U.S. history.
After nearly nine months in which the 251,287 cables had been trickling out at a pace that guaranteed there would be WikiLeaks documents still unreleased 10 years from now, the website announced on Twitter that all of the cables had been made public.
“Shining a light on 45 years of U.S. ‘diplomacy,’ it is time to open the archives forever,” WikiLeaks said. The tweet included a link to the WikiLeaks website, showing all the cables had been made public.
In a statement emailed to reporters Thursday morning, WikiLeaks had anticipated the release, saying that in recent days it had become well known on the Web that a book about WikiLeaks published last February by the British newspaper the Guardian contained the password that would allow anyone to open an encrypted file containing all the information that had been widely circulated on the Internet last year.
“Knowledge of the Guardian disclosure has spread privately over several months but reached critical mass last week,” the statement said. WikiLeaks said it would release the remaining files to protect their impact on news events.
“Revolutions and reforms are in danger of being lost as the unpublished cables spread to intelligence contractors and governments before the public,” the statement said.
That claim is likely to be challenged in coming days by many who believe WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have exaggerated their impact on recent events.
WikiLeaks’ claims are likely also to be balanced with debate over whether releasing the entire unredacted cache will place at risk innocent people whose names appear in the cables as sources of information for U.S. diplomats.
A search by McClatchy Newspapers of the cables found 1,900 in which U.S. diplomats had flagged the identities of sources with the admonition “strictly protect,” though it is unclear how much danger many of those people would face.