Could Julian Assange himself become a victim of documents leaked by Wikileaks, the whistleblower website he founded? This past week, Wikileaks released all 251,287 of the US diplomatic cables it acquired. According to the Guardian — which has found itself accused of revealing the password Assange gave to one of its reporters to access the files — the Wikileaks founder could face arrest and prosecution in his native Australia for publishing sensitive information about government officials:
Australia’s attorney general, Robert McClelland, confirmed in a statement on Friday that the new cable release identified at least one individual within the country’s intelligence service. He added it is a criminal offence in the country to publish any information which could lead to the identification of an intelligence officer.
“I am aware of at least one cable in which an ASIO officer is purported to have been identified,” he said. “ASIO and other Government agencies officers are working through the material to see the extent of the impact on Australian interests.
Assange is currently fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden on charges of sexual misconduct over allegations of raping two women there. Should he be extradited, he will no longer be able to remain in the UK, as his visa will have expired. He also faces legal action in the US: A grand jury in Virginia is deciding whether to prosecute him. Bradley Manning, the US soldier who allegedly leaked the files, is currently in custody on 34 charges.
The BBC describes some of the latest revelations from the cables:
- concern from the US consulate in Guangzhou, China over “alarming” levels of contamination in the Pearl River and other water supplies, presenting serious health and economic problems
- a UN investigator in Iraq wrote to the US saying he had information that US troops handcuffed and executed 10 Iraqi civilians, including children, during a raid in 2006 – the soldiers were cleared of wrongdoing but Iraq now says it is reopening the investigation
- eight out of 10 girls interviewed in a town in Ivory Coast said they had exchanged sex for food or lodgingwith UN peacekeepers from Benin
- environmental scientists in Nigeria witnessed local people living in the middle of oil spills and had seen young boys swimming in crude oil
- Bedouin citizens of Israel are routinely marginalised, and unnamed Israeli officials fear they could “acquire anti-aircraft missiles for use against Israeli aircraft”
Several thousand of the files were marked “Strictly protect,” an indication that US officials “thought sources could be endangered if identified.” Other files included the names of victims of sex offenses, people who had been persecuted by their governments and the locations of sensitive government installations.
The Guardian, New York Times, El País, Der Spiegel and Le Monde had previously worked in conjunction with Wikileaks to edit the documents for sensitive material including the names of diplomatic informants prior to allowing the files to be released. All five media organizations have condemned the release of the full set of unredacted cables in a statement:
“We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk.
“Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough joint editing and clearance process. We will continue to defend our previous collaborative publishing endeavour. We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data – indeed, we are united in condemning it.
“The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone.”
The person who made those decisions may soon have to face their consequences.
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