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WikiLeaks won’t back off, will publish more records

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke at a seminar in Sweden yesterday. The site will publish more war records. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke at a seminar in Sweden yesterday. The site will publish more war records. (Bertil Ericson/ Scanpix via Reuters)
By Keith Moore
Associated Press / August 15, 2010

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STOCKHOLM — The organization WikiLeaks.org will publish its remaining 15,000 Afghan war documents within a month, despite warnings from the US government, the group’s founder said yesterday.

The Pentagon has said that secret information will be even more damaging to security and risk more lives than WikiLeaks’s initial release of some 76,000 war documents.

“This organization will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group,’’ Julian Assange told reporters in Stockholm. “We proceed cautiously and safely with this material.’’

In an interview, Assange said that if US defense officials want to be seen as promoting democracy, then they “must protect what the United States’ founders considered to be their central value, which is freedom of the press.’’

“For the Pentagon to be making threatening demands for censorship of a press organization is a cause for concern, not just for the press but for the Pentagon itself,’’ the Australian added.

He said WikiLeaks was about halfway though a “line-by-line review’’ of the 15,000 documents and that “innocent parties who are under reasonable threat’’ would be redacted from the material.

“It should be approximately two weeks before that process is complete,’’ Assange said. “There will then be a journalistic review, so you’re talking two weeks to a month.’’

WikiLeaks would be working with media partners in releasing the remaining documents, he said, but declined to name them.

The first files in WikiLeaks’s “Afghan War Diary’’ laid bare classified military documents covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The release angered US officials, energized critics of the NATO-led campaign, and drew the attention of the Taliban, which has promised to use the material to track down people it considers traitors.

That has aroused the concern of several human rights group operating in Afghanistan and the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which has accused WikiLeaks of recklessness. Jean-Francois Julliard, the group’s secretary general, said last week that WikiLeaks showed “incredible irresponsibility’’ when posting the documents online.

WikiLeaks describes itself as a public service organization for whistle-blowers, journalists, and activists.

“There are no easy choices for our organization,’’ Assange said. “We have a duty to the people most directly affected by this material, the people of Afghanistan, and the course of this war, which is killing hundreds every week. We have a duty to the broader historical record and its accuracy and its integrity. And we have a duty to our sources to try and protect them.’’

Assange said that while no country has taken steps to shut down WikiLeaks, some have been gathering intelligence on the organization.

“There has been extensive surveillance in Australia,’’ Assange said. “There has been surveillance in the United Kingdom. There has been the detainment of one of our volunteers who entered the United States a week and a half ago. But he was released after four hours.’’ He did not give details of that incident.

In addition to speaking at a seminar, Assange was in Sweden to investigate assertions that the website was not covered by laws protecting anonymous sources in the Scandinavian country.

Assange confirmed that WikiLeaks passes information through Belgium and Sweden to take advantage of press freedom laws there. But some analysts say the site does not have the publishing certificate needed for full protection in Sweden.

Two Swedish publications offered their publication certificates to WikiLeaks, Assange said, “but we will soon be registering our own this week.’’