Assange defends WikiLeaks

AFP, Tuesday 7 Dec 2010

Assange has published an op-ed in an Australian newspaper, making no mention of the Swedish charges, instead defending WikiLeaks and the public's need to know the "facts"

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in a newspaper opinion piece published in Sydney on Wednesday after his arrest in London, said the whistle-blowing website was "fearlessly" pursuing facts in the public interest.

In his commentary for The Australian newspaper, Assange made no mention of a legal case against him in Sweden over allegations of rape. He was due to appear in court after surrendering to British detectives Tuesday.

The 39-year-old Australian defended the controversial website's methods, and wrote that "not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed" through its revelations.

Assange likened his campaign to the World War I reporting of Keith Murdoch, the father of media baron Rupert Murdoch, which excoriated British generals' management of the Gallipoli campaign in which thousands of Australians died.

"Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public," the website's supremo wrote.

Long-established newspapers have published its leaks but WikiLeaks alone "has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes", he said.

The US State Department, joined by politicians in Australia, was chanting "a provably false chorus" that WikiLeaks was risking lives, national security and troops' safety, Assange said.

The Pentagon, NATO and the Australian government had all said there was no evidence of people coming to harm or of sensitive intelligence sources being compromised as a result of the website's reporting, he said.

He accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard of a "disgraceful pandering" to calls from right-wing US politicians for his assassination or execution.

"We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn't want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings," Assange wrote.

He recapped some of the many revelations made in a trove of US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, and prior releases of US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing they were all in the public interest.

Assange denied that he was anti-war, supporting the notion of "just wars" when nations have right on their side.

"But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies," he said.

The WikiLeaks founder recalled a landmark ruling in 1971 by the US Supreme Court, which upheld newspapers' right to publish the government's secret "Pentagon Papers" about the Vietnam War.

"The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth," Assange concluded.

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