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Unredacted cables on Net after WikiLeaks breach

Document-leaking group accuses British newspaper of disclosing the password that allowed access to 251,000 State Department cables.

More than a quarter of a million unredacted copies of secret U.S. diplomatic cables have shown up on the Internet after a security breach at WikiLeaks.

The document-leaking organization today accused a reporter for the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper of disclosing the password that allowed access to the 251,000 State Department cables that WikiLeaks had obtained. The password was allegedly included in "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy," which the Guardian published in February.

"A Guardian journalist has negligently disclosed top secret WikiLeaks' decryption passwords to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables," the organization said in a 1,600-word blog post. "Guardian investigations editor, David Leigh, recklessly, and without gaining our approval, knowingly disclosed the decryption passwords in a book published by the Guardian. Leigh states the book was rushed forward to be written in three weeks--the rights were then sold to Hollywood."

In a statement included in its news story on the documents' release, the Guardian denied that any information included in the book led to the documents' release.

"It's nonsense to suggest the Guardian's WikiLeaks book has compromised security in any way," The Guardian said. "Our book about WikiLeaks was published last February. It contained a password, but no details of the location of the files, and we were told it was a temporary password which would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours."

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WikiLeaks said it knew the leaked decryption passwords bad been spreading privately for months but did not comment on the issue to prevent drawing attention to the book. The group said it came out with its allegations against the newspaper now, after news of the breach was leaked to the media.

"Now that the connection has been made public by others we can explain what happened and what we intend to do," the group said, adding that it had tried to warn the State Department about the unredacted diplomatic cables.

The group also said it has begun "pre-litigation action" against the newspaper and an unidentified individual in Germany whom the group accused of distributing the Guardian passwords for personal gain.

WikiLeaks, led by Julian Assange, has released thousands of documents and footage on everything from the wars in the Middle East to the treatment of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay prison. The group has also taken aim at major corporations, such as Bank of America.

Those leaks have made Assange a clear enemy of governments around the world and a target of investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice launched a criminal probe into the leaks last year.