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WikiLeaks to defy U.S. demands on cables

** FILE ** WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seen during a seminar at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation headquarters in Stockholm on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Bertil Ericson, SCANPIX)** FILE ** WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seen during a seminar at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation headquarters in Stockholm on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Bertil Ericson, SCANPIX)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The online website WikiLeaks said Sunday it will release of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents in defiance of U.S. demands not to publish the files.

The WikiLeaks website appeared to be inaccessible, and WikiLeaks said in its Twitter feed that it was experiencing a denial-of-service attack. Nevertheless, WikiLeaks said that publications in the United States and Europe would print the leaked diplomatic cables even if it could not.

The group's founder, Julian Assange, also told the U.S. ambassador to Britain that WikiLeaks would not bow to Washington's demands.

The Obama administration has been bracing for the release for the past week. Top officials have notified allies that the contents of the diplomatic cables could prove embarrassing because they contain candid assessments of foreign leaders and their governments, as well as details of American policy.

WikiLeaks said on Twitter that Spain's El Pais, France's Le Monde, Germany's Der Spiegel, Britain's Guardian newspaper and the New York Times "will publish many US embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down." Shortly before, WikiLeaks said its website was "currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack."

There was no way to confirm the cyberattack immediately, although the WikiLeaks website was not available online.

The State Department's top lawyer warned Mr. Assange late Saturday that lives and military operations would be put at risk if the cables were released. Legal adviser Harold Koh said WikiLeaks would be breaking the law if it went ahead, and he also rejected a request from Mr. Assange to cooperate in removing sensitive details from the documents.

Mr. Assange, in a response released Sunday by his London lawyer, said he had no intention of halting the release. He claimed the administration was trying to cover up alleged evidence of serious "human rights abuse and other criminal behavior" by the U.S. government.

The letter to the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Louis Sussman, also said WikiLeaks had no desire to harm either "individual persons" or "the national security of the United States." But he said the administration's refusal to cooperate showed that the risks were "fanciful."

"I understand that the United States government would prefer not to have the information that will be published in the public domain and is not in favor of openness," Mr. Assange wrote. "That said, either there is a risk or there is not."

"You have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behavior," he said.

"We will now proceed to release the material subject to our checks and the checks of our media partners unless you get back to me," Mr. Assange wrote.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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