Wikileaks is not compromised, says founder

Whistle-blowing
website Wikileaks has said that the detention of an alleged confidential source
by the US
military does not compromise its work.

Wikileaks
founder Julian Assange said that other potential whistle-blowers should not be
put off from sending material to the site.

The US has detained US military analyst Bradley Manning
on suspicion of leaking classified material to the site.

Mr Assange
would not confirm whether Mr Manning was a source.

“We endeavour
to protect our sources. We do not know if Mr Manning is a source, but we
understand there are allegations that are being taken seriously so we are
naturally inclined to try to defend [him].”

Kuwait

The US army in Iraq
has said that Specialist Manning was in Kuwait and had been “placed in
pre-trial confinement for allegedly releasing classified information”.

One video
reportedly posted to the site by Mr Manning shows a US Apache helicopter
killing up to 12 people – including two journalists – during an attack in Baghdad in 2007. Two
children were also seriously injured in the assault on the group, which
contained some armed men.

Mr Manning’s
identity was reportedly revealed to the US authorities by a former
high-profile hacker, Adrian Lamo, whom Mr Manning had contacted via e-mail and
instant messenger.

During the
course of their conversations Mr Manning boasted about handing over military videos
and 260,000 classified US embassy messages to Wikileaks.

“At the moment
he gave me the information, it was basically a suicide pact,” Mr Lamo said.

He handed his
name to US authorities because of concerns over US national security and because he
did not want to be found to have been “obstructing justice” in the course of
any investigation.

“I didn’t want
any more FBI agents knocking at the door,” he said.

Hacking

Mr Lamo has
previously been convicted for hacking into the New York Times, Yahoo and
Microsoft. He now works as a journalist and security analyst.

But Mr Assange
questioned Mr Lamo’s motives and credibility.

“He has broken
the most sacred oath of journalism, which is confidentiality of sources.”

Mr Assange
also said that some of his account did not ring true. “We do not recognise a
number of the claims made by Adrian Lamo as to what Mr Manning allegedly related
to him – they cannot be factually correct.”

In particular,
Mr Assange said that Wikileaks has no knowledge of the 260,000 confidential messages
that Mr Lamo said Mr Manning claimed to have uploaded to the site. However, as
Wikileaks never divulges its sources, confirming the existence of the documents
could implicate Mr Manning.

In response,
Mr Lamo said he understood why Mr Assange would not concede to handling
sensitive government data.

“I wouldn’t
admit to having them either,” he said.

He also said that
he was not approached by Mr Manning as a journalist.

“I was a
private citizen in a private capacity – there was no source, journalist relationship.

“I did tell
him that I worked as a journalist. I would have been happy to write about him
myself, but we just decided that it would be too unethical,” he said.

Associate

The story of
Mr Manning’s arrest was first reported on wired.com by Mr Lamo’s long-term
associate Kevin Poulsen, also a former hacker and now a journalist.

Wikileaks has
established a reputation for publishing leaked material since its first
appearance on the web in 2006. In November 2009, it published what it said were
573,000 intercepted pager messages sent during the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Previously it
had posted a list of names and addresses of people said to belong to the
British National Party and a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp
Delta, a document that detailed restrictions placed on prisoners at Guantanamo
Bay.

Earlier this
year, the website published a 2008 Pentagon report that said the site was
considered a “threat to the US
army”.

The document
says that “the possibility that current employees or moles within [the
Department of Defence] or elsewhere in the US government are providing
sensitive or classified information to Wikileaks.org cannot be ruled out”.

It goes on to
say that the “identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal
prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers
could potentially… deter others considering similar actions from using
[Wikileaks]”.

The US government
later said that the documents were genuine.

Exposed

When the
Pentagon document was leaked, the site stated that none of its sources had ever
knowingly been exposed.

Now, Mr
Assange said that Mr Manning’s case should not put people off from contributing
to the site.

“We have
deliberately structured our operation to protect our sources under threat of
criminal law,” he said.

The site does
not collect information about its sources and uses numerous web servers
scattered around the world to host content.

Mr Assange
said these were deliberately located in jurisdictions – such as Sweden – that
could prosecute Wikileaks if it revealed a source.

It is
currently advising the Icelandic government on efforts to increase legal protections
for whistle-blowers in the country.

“We make it
clear to [sources] that we will protect them.” He said this would apply to Mr
Manning.

“Assuming that
the allegations against [him] are true, we have taken steps to arrange for his
protection and legal defence.”