WikiLeaks’ Assange hints at fresh US political revelations
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WikiLeaks’ Assange hints at fresh US political revelations

But in speech transmitted from Ecuador Embassy in UK, organization’s founder douses expectations of immediate bombshell

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses a press conference held by the organization in Berlin on October 4, 2016. Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, to evade an extradition request by Sweden over rape allegations. (screen capture: YouTube)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses a press conference held by the organization in Berlin on October 4, 2016. Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, to evade an extradition request by Sweden over rape allegations. (screen capture: YouTube)

From his refuge in the Ecuador Embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed a press conference of his supporters in Berlin on Tuesday, amid speculation that he planned to reveal potentially incriminating information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

But early into his speech, Assange said that while more revelations were to come, he would not be making any major announcements, asserting that there would be no point in dropping making such revelations at a time when most Americans would be sleeping.

He also downplayed the magnitude of the revelations, saying that “there has been a lot of misquoting of me and WikiLeaks publications.” He said such claims “are false,” but did concede that there would be releases that are “significant in relation to the US elections,” centering on what he called “interesting features of US power factions.”

Assange told Fox News in August that he had information about Clinton, which he vowed to release ahead of the November 8 presidential election. “It’s a variety of documents, from different types of institutions that are associated with the election campaign, some quite unexpected angles, some quite interesting, some even entertaining,” Assange said at the time.

The press conference was part of the whistleblower website’s celebrations for its 10th birthday, commemorating the 2006 registration of the domain name wikileaks.org.

Assange at the last minute cancelled what would have been a rare public appearance on the balcony of his 18-square-metre room in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, citing security concerns. Assange has been holed up in the embassy for five years, avoiding a Swedish extradition request over allegations of rape. He denies the accusations.

In July, WikiLeaks posted emails that suggested the Democratic National Committee was favoring Clinton over her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary season. Clinton’s campaign pointed to a massive hacking of DNC computers in June that cybersecurity firms linked to the Russian government. The FBI said at the time that it was investigating how the thousands of DNC emails were hacked.

Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who also was involved in Jewish outreach, was killed near his Washington, DC, home on July 10, 2016. (Facebook via JTA)
Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who also was involved in Jewish outreach, was killed near his Washington, DC, home on July 10, 2016. (Facebook via JTA)

The organization also suggested that the murder of Jewish DNC staffer Seth Rich in Washington, DC in July was a politically motivated assassination, offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of his killer.

The Wikileaks offer came after Roger Stone, a one-time adviser to Trump, alleged on Twitter that Clinton was responsible for Rich’s death. Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich, 27, may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories. Rich’s family has dismissed the suggestions that he was involved in leaking information.

No self-censorship

The site is now facing growing charges that it is manipulated by politicians — either by recycling documents provided by Moscow, or by allegedly serving Trump’s interests in the US presidential race.

“We’re not going to start censoring our publications because there is a US election,” Assange told Der Spiegel in an interview published online in English at the weekend. “Adversity has hardened us,” he said. “We believe in what we are doing… If you are pushed you push back.”

WikiLeaks launched in January 2007, with Assange saying it would use encryption and a censorship-proof website to protect sources and publicize secret information. The site has since published more than 10 million leaked documents.

It first caught the world’s attention when it released manuals for prison guards at Guantanamo Bay. But it really hit its stride in 2010, unveiling logs of US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a video showing a US helicopter crew mowing down a group of unarmed civilians — including two journalists — in Baghdad.

In this July 30, 2013 file photo released by Sunshine Press Productions, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (AP/Sunshine Press Productions, File)
In this July 30, 2013 file photo released by Sunshine Press Productions, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (AP/Sunshine Press Productions, File)

That same year it also published a cache of diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world, deeply embarrassing Washington.

“The most important single collection of material we have published is the US diplomatic cable series,” Assange told Der Spiegel.

Backlash

But 2010 also saw grave blows to the organization.

Assange was accused of having sex with a woman while she was asleep after the two met at a Stockholm conference. He took refuge in the London embassy of Ecuador — which granted him political asylum in 2012 after he lost a legal battle to block his extradition to Sweden.

The 45-year-old has always maintained the allegations are false and has refused to travel to Stockholm for questioning due to concerns that Sweden will hand him over to the US to stand trial for espionage.

Assange’s abrasive style and insistence on publishing unredacted documents quickly grated on colleagues and journalists who worked with him.

“If an Afghan civilian helps coalition forces, he deserves to die,” Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies later recalled Assange saying in an argument over whether to remove names from war logs.

Snowden, Panama Papers

In 2013, former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden chose to leak documents exposing intelligence agencies’ mass surveillance programs to selected journalists instead of offering the trove to WikiLeaks. And many later whistleblowers have turned to other organizations.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists this year published stories based on data dumps from tax havens Panama and the Bahamas, while environmental group Greenpeace in May released documents from negotiations over a controversial US-EU free trade deal.

Assange himself is unmoved by criticisms of his organization.

“We believe in what we’re doing,” he told Spiegel. “The attacks only make us stronger.”

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