‘Se­crets will flow de­spite dirty tricks’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

LONDON: Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange said he feared the US was get­ting ready to in­dict him, but in­sisted the se­cret-spilling site would con­tinue its work de­spite what he has called a dirty-tricks cam­paign.

As­sange spoke from snow­bound Elling­ham Hall, a sup­porter’s 10-bed­room coun­try man­sion where he is con­fined on bail as he fights Swe­den’s at­tempt to ex­tra­dite him on al­le­ga­tions of rape and mo­lesta­tion.

As­sange in­sisted to tele­vi­sion in­ter­view­ers he was be­ing sub­jected to a smear cam­paign and “what ap­pears to be a se­cret grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion against me or our or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

He did not elab­o­rate, but said he had re­tained an un­named US law firm to rep­re­sent him.

As­sange has re­peat­edly voiced con­cerns that US au­thor­i­ties were get­ting ready to press charges over Wik­iLeaks’s con­tin­u­ing re­lease of about 250 000 se­cret State Depart­ment ca­bles, which have an­gered and em­bar­rassed US of­fi­cials world­wide.

US of­fi­cials are in­ves­ti­gat­ing Wik­iLeaks and con­sid­er­ing charges, a case that, if pur­sued, could end up pit­ting the govern­ment’s ef­forts to pro­tect sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion against press and speech free­doms guar­an­teed by First Amend­ment free-speech rights.

The govern­ment sus­pects Wik­iLeaks re­ceived the doc­u­ments from army pri­vate Bradley Man­ning, who is in the brig on charges of leak­ing other clas­si­fied doc­u­ments to the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

A High Court judge in Bri­tain freed As­sange on bail on Thurs­day on con­di­tion he re­side at the 240 hectare es­tate in east­ern Eng­land, wear an elec­tronic tag and re­port to the po­lice daily. As­sange spent more than a week in prison af­ter hand­ing him­self over to the Bri­tish po­lice on on De­cem­ber 7.

He is wanted in Swe­den for ques­tion­ing about sex al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against him by two women he spent time with while vis­it­ing the coun­try in Au­gust.

Swedish of­fi­cials – and the lawyer for the women in­volved – have de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions by As­sange and his sup­port­ers that the al­le­ga­tions are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. At­tempts to reach As­sange’s Bri­tish lawyers weren’t suc­cess­ful yes­ter­day.

In an in­ter­view yes­ter­day on ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­ica, As­sange said he had never even heard Man­ning’s name un­til the press be­gan re­port­ing it, though in his ear­lier ap­pear­ance at Elling­ham Hall he ap­peared to come close to ac­knowl­edg­ing he was one Wik­iLeaks source.

He called him “a young man some­how em­broiled in our pub­lish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties”.

“We can see that he’s the only per­son – only one of our mil­i­tary sources – who has been ac­cused.”

As­sange also claimed to have in­for­ma­tion that more “smears” were on their way, but didn’t go into de­tail.

Al­though he promised to fo­cus on clear­ing his name, he said his first pri­or­ity was to his work – which he said would con­tinue at a faster pace now that he was back in charge.

“Now that I am back to as­sist the di­rect­ing of our ship, our work will pro­ceed in a faster man­ner,” he said in an in­ter­view with the BBC late on Thurs­day. – Sapa-AP

PIC­TURE: AP

LUX­U­RI­OUS CON­FINE­MENT: Ju­lian As­sange faces the me­dia yes­ter­day in the grounds of Elling­ham Hall, home of Front Line Club found­ing mem­ber Vaughan Smith, at Bun­gay, Eng­land.

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