STOCKHOLM (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday the Pentagon has expressed willingness to discuss the online whistleblower’s request for help in reviewing 15,000 classified documents from the Afghan war and removing information that could harm civilians.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Assange told the Associated Press by telephone, “This week we received contact through our lawyers that the general counsel of the U.S. Army says now that they want to discuss the issue.”
Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins denied Army lawyers are involved but said Mr. Assange might have meant to say a Pentagon lawyer instead. Each service has its own counsel office, which is separate from the entire Defense Department’s general counsel, and Col. Collins was speaking only for the Army.
WikiLeaks has asked the Pentagon for help in reviewing the documents to purge the names of Afghan informants from the files. Last week, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he was not aware of any effort by department officials to contact WikiLeaks.
“It is always positive for parties to talk to each other,” Mr. Assange said. “We welcome their engagement.”
He reiterated that WikiLeaks plans to release its second batch of secret Afghan war documents within “two weeks to a month.”
The first 77,000 files in its “Afghan War Diary” laid bare classified military documents covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The release angered U.S. officials, energized critics of the NATO-led campaign and drew the attention of the Taliban, which has promised to use the material to track down people it considers traitors.
Nongovernmental organizations, including the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, have criticized WikiLeaks as being irresponsible.
WikiLeaks describes itself as a public service organization for whistleblowers, journalists and activists.
“We encourage other media and human rights groups who have a genuine concern about reviewing the material to assist us with the difficult and very expensive task of getting a large historical archive into the public’s record,” Mr. Assange said.
Mr. Assange, an Australian, was in Sweden in part to prepare an application for a publishing certificate that would allow WikiLeaks to take full advantage of the Scandinavian nation’s press freedom laws.
That also means WikiLeaks would have to appoint a publisher who could be held legally responsible for the material. Mr. Assange said that person would be “either me or one of our Swedish people.”View Entire Story
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