‘Stop Julian Assange!’ The pressure mounts
Amnesty says Wikileaks founder risked Afghan lives; White House wants allies to help curtail his travels
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was under fire from two quite separate quarters today - human rights groups who claim he has put Afghan lives at risk, and the Obama administration who believe his actions threaten US national security.
Amnesty International and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) are among five human rights groups who believe that by posting leaked US military files on Wikileaks without removing the names of Afghan informants, Assange has set them up for reprisal by the Taliban.
"We fear the names could create new targets," AIHRC president Nader Nadery said. "We have noticed a sharp rise of assassinations by the Taliban against tribal leaders, religious leaders (in recent months)."
In late July, Wikileaks released some 76,900 military files relating to the war in Afghanistan. So far the site has held back another 15,000 more documents which it says contain information that might endanger innocent people.
But Taliban representatives have said publicly that they are already searching the published documents and plan to punish those who have helped US and Nato forces.
In a letter to Assange, seen by the Wall Street Journal, the rights groups ask Wikileaks to "strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyse all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted.
"We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathising with international forces."
In response, Assange reportedly asked the groups what they were doing to examine the classified documents, and whether they would be willing to help with the redaction process.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Assange told the human rights groups in a conference call that he was "very busy. [I] have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses".
As The First Post reported last week, Assange has remained defiant in the face of pressure from the US military to return the documents.
Now the pressure is becoming more intense. According to a report on the Daily Beast website, the Obama administration has asked its allies – Britain, Germany and Australia among others – to consider bringing criminal charges against Assange and to help limit Assange's travels across international borders.
Sources say that the administration's efforts reflect a growing opinion in Washington circles that Wikileaks threatens the United States' national security.
There is also a belief that foreign governments and organisations that might once have been sympathetic to Assange's anti-censorship cause have been put off by the posting of the secret military files.
As an unnamed US Defence Department official told the Daily Beast, "It's amazing how Assange has overplayed his hand. Now he's alienating the sort of people who you'd normally think would be his biggest supporters." ·