Julian Assange Says Document Dump Targets 'Lying, Corrupt and Murderous Leadership' Wikileaks Chief Promises to Reveal Many More Government Secrets.
By JIM SCIUTTO, RUSSELL GOLDMAN and LEE FERRAN
November 29, 2010
The chief Wikileaker who the U.S. promised today to prosecute said his Internet site was just beginning to unload its diplomatic secrets and said the documents will skewer "lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil."
Julian Assange, the Australian who heads the secret-sharing Web site, told ABC News today he believes his safety and freedom are in danger. He responded to questions by email from a clandestine hideout.
He was undaunted by vows from the U.S. and Australia to prosecute him and said the forthcoming diplomatic cables are aimed at "lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil."
"We're only one thousandth of the way in and look at what has so far being revealed. There will be many more," he wrote defiantly.
Assange also dismissed a warning today by Secretary of State HillaryClinton who said the dump of secret documents "puts peoples lives in danger," particularly those sources who provided the U.S. with information about abuses in foreign countries.
"U.S. officials have for 50 years trotted out this line when they are afraid the public is going to see how they really behave," Assange said in his email. "The facts are that we wrote to the State Department asking for a list of any specific concerns that might have. They refused to assist, and said they demanded everything, including those documents that revealed abuses, be destroyed."
The Obama administration's top diplomat and lawyer put Wikileaks and Assange on alert today, promising to prosecute any individual, regardless of nationality, who broke U.S. law by making public hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables.
"[To] the extent that we can find anybody involved of breaking American law who has put at risk the assets and the people that I have described…they will be held responsible. They will be held accountable," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference.
Clinton called the release of hundreds of thousands of secret cables "not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests [but] an attack on the international community: the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
"Some mistakenly applaud those responsible," Clinton said. "There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people… nothing brave about sabotaging peaceful relations between nations."
Holder said he advocates closing any gaps in current U.S. legislation that would prevent the federal government from fully prosecuting a foreign national like Assange, who published secrets of vital American national interest.
"To the extent that there are gaps in our laws, we will work to close those gaps. Which is not to say… that anybody at this point because of their citizenship or their residence is not a target for or subject of the investigation that's ongoing."
"Let me be clear," the attorney general said. "It is not saber rattling. This is an active ongoing investigation."
Rep. Pete King Wants Wikileaks Declared a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Though dedicated to bringing to light secret government documents, Wikileaks operates in the shadows, running a sophisticated Website, manned by an international team from a bunker in Iceland.
The current raft of documents, some 250,000 diplomatic cables that span decades and include various – and sometimes embarrassing – details about the way U.S. evoys see their foreign counterparts is the latest document dump Wikileaks received last year from Army Private Bradley Manning, currently awaiting court marshall.
Assange, in a statement today, suggested there were other leakers aside from Manning who turned over documents.
Assange said there were people who entrusted us with the documents," and went on to described them as "good and courageous people inside government who believe in transparency and more ethical foreign policy."
Holder's declaration that he would seek to hold Wikileaks responsible was met with praise from across the aisle.
Rep. Peter King, R- NY, said he supported the efforts Holder was taking and said Assange's "purposeful intent to damage not only our national interests in fighting the war on terror, but also undermines the very safety of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Both Holder and King agreed that Wikileaks should not treated as a media outlet, but a criminal entity intimately involved in the effort to steal secret documents and make them public.
King also called on Clinton to declare Wikileaks a foreign terrorist organization.
Over the course of the year, Wikileaks has released secret military documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The latest batch of documents span a variety of communications ranging from flippant remarks about foreign leaders to deadly serious security concerns.
Wikileaks Documents: Fears Over Iran and Missiles
Many of the sensitive cables deal with the imminent threat from Iran, revealing that the U.S. now believes Iran has missiles, obtained from North Korea, capable of striking Western Europe. Fearing mounting danger, Arab leaders are seen pleading with the U.S. to do something.
Saudi Arabia wants the U.S. to intervene against an ascendant nuclear Iran, but is unwilling to confront a fellow Muslim country or sacrifice its own citizens, suggested Defense Secretrary Robert Gates at a meeting with French envoys, according a secret diplomatic cable recently made public.
During a conversation with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in 2008 about encouraging China to sign a resolution condemning Iran, Gates said the Saudis "always want to 'fight the Iranians to the last American,' but that now it is time for them to get into the game," according the cable.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah repeatedly urges the U.S. to "cut the head off the snake." The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates says "Ahmadinejad is Hitler" and told one U.S. top State Department official that "the threat from al Qaeda would be minor if Iran has nukes."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that the leak would not affect his country's policy to any other countries, The Associated Press reported.
The cables also reveal the delicacy of negotiations with Iran over the release of the three American hostages taken prisoner last year. One of the hostages, Sarah Shroud was released this summer.
The cables depict a grim prospect, in which the U.S. government is warned by French diplomats its damned either way -- if they too vocally call for the hikers' release, or if they quietly try to negotiate behind the scenes.
The French warn "the Iranians have in the past tried to 'blackmail' them," trading release of a French national for an Iranian national.
"Be vocal," one French envoy advises, "even more so if the Iranians ask you not to be, because silence will not expedite the process."
Some of the documents also reveal a diplomatic struggle with Pakistan over nuclear proliferation -- a disagreement that Hoekstra said had no business in the public sphere.
"Bottom line here is we want to work with the Pakistanis on proliferation. Putting the negotiations, the agreements and the disagreements that we have with our allies, putting them in the public spotlight is going to make it more difficult for us to get to the ultimate objective, which is to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said. "Wikileaks is not providing us a service."
Beyond policy concerns, the White House said that the leak puts individuals in danger.
"Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government," the White House said in a statement Sunday.
One official told ABC News that the administration is concerned over cables that contain the name of foreign dissidents who could now be in danger in their home countries.
"These people will disappear," the official said.
The source of the leak is believed to be former military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who was arrested in July for distributing classified information. Authorities also believe Manning was behind a previous Wikileaks document drop, referred to as the Iraq War Logs.
This latest leak, seven times the size of the Iraq War Logs, amounts to "the Sept. 11 of world diplomacy," according to Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Hoekstra said it reflected a "colossal failure" by the U.S. intelligence community.
"We have to take a look at our own intel community and recognize that this is a massive failure. This database should never have been created, hundreds of thousands of people should never have been given access to it," Hoekstra said. "This is a colossal failure by our intel community, by our Department of Defense to keep classified information secret."
Assange has given hints of what is still to come from Wikileaks, claiming in a statement the U.S. spies on its allies, turns a "blind eye" to corruption and human rights abuse and "makes backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries and lobbying for U.S. corporations."
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