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“You Need to Know What’s Really Going On”: WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange on the Fight for the Truth

August 4, 2010

Assange: “In order to make any just decision you need to know and understand what abuses or plans for abuses are occurring.”

August 4, 2010

Australian founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, speaks to the press in London. The Pentagon has warned that the disclosure of classified US military files on the site has put the lives of informants at risk and threatens to undermine intelligence work in war-torn Afghanistan. Assange, however, has insisted that it was “extremely important” that the files were in the public domain.

Photo Credit: AFP/File – Leon Neal

Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, says his work is based on the “ancient vision” of uncovering the truth. And he says sources would rather turn over their information to him than to traditional news outlets because he can protect them better. Assange spoke with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ron Synovitz and Christopher Schwartz on July 27 by phone from London.

What is your response to those in Pakistan who doubt the veracity of WikiLeaks’ “Afghan War Diary?” In particular, Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, has said he thinks the reports are fabrications.

Julian Assange: We need to look at these reports in a subtle way. A lot of material is included there. There are 91,000 reports from units in the field, from embassies in relation to Afghanistan, intelligence officers, and from informers. The informers make their reports for money. They are paid by the United States government for making serious allegations. They make reports to knock out a competitor — a detested neighbor or family enemy — and they make reports for legitimate reasons.

In looking at the ISI material by informers, we see that the U.S. military puts a sort of label on each informer as to how reliable they believe they are. If we just look [at these], we do see an extensive number of reports about the ISI. Now, any one of them may be incorrect, any two of them may be correct. It’s really in the such large numbers and figures involving so many different circumstances and/or involving the ISI that we start to become very suspicious of the ISI [in Afghanistan].

There’s a rumor circulating in Pakistan — one that’s being encouraged by some Pakistani officials — that this leak was actually orchestrated by the U.S. government to justify an increased military presence in, or even invasion of, Pakistan.

Assange: Well, it’s simply not true, and people can read the individual reports and individual details and make connections about each one of those circumstances. Though we had a previous rumor that we were the CIA, [WikiLeaks] has put out information from the main manuals of Guantanamo Bay, [former U.S. vice-presidential candidate] Sarah Palin’s e-mails, secret Chinese censorship briefs, official assassinations in Kenya and East Timor. It is clear that we are strictly impartial and we do take all comers from across the world who have material that is difficult for them to get out to the public.

A lot of comparisons are being made between Wikileaks’ “Afghan War Diary” and Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking in 1971 of the U.S. Department of Defense’s classified report on the Vietnam War, known as the “Pentagon Papers.” Do you see a parallel?

Assange: We have great respect for Dan Ellsberg and the work that he has done and continues to do in promoting the importance of whistle-blowers and their role in society. As a comparison, this has been — this is the Pentagon Papers — it was the nearest analogy to what we were doing. And Dan Ellsberg says that he sees this being in the same way.

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