Wikileaks’ Julian Assange defies Pentagon threats
Wikileaks founder defies military demand to return classified documents
The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was today remaining defiant in the face of intense pressure from the US military to hand over tens of thousands of classified files. In a televised statement yesterday, the Pentagon threatened to "compel" the whistle-blowing website to return the documents.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: "If doing the right thing is not good enough for them, then we will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing. Let me leave it at that."
A representative of Wikileaks, perhaps Assange, summed the situation up on Twitter: "Obnoxious Pentagon spokesperson issues formal threat against Wikileaks: destroy everything, or else."
Wikileaks last month released some 76,900 military files relating to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009. They disclosed incidents of civilian deaths and friendly fire cases.
The site claims it is holding back a further 15,000 secret memos because they contain information which might endanger innocent people.
Assange says he has even approached the Pentagon for help in analysing the 15,000 documents, in order that the military themselves might help decide which files can be published without endangering lives.
But the Pentagon dismissed this overture, with Morrell saying: "We're not looking to have a conversation about harm-minimisation."
Morrell added: "We're looking to have a conversation about how to get these perilous documents off the website as soon as possible, return them to their rightful owners and expunge them from their records."
It is not clear how the Pentagon might fulfill its threat to "compel" Wikileaks to delete its files or not to publish any more. The site has been structured so that it is too big for nations to control, according to Assange. Nominally registered in Sweden, it has servers across the globe.
Assange himself travels frequently between countries. He told an audience in London last week that he had been tipped off not to return to the US because he could be arrested and charged with espionage. ·
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