Amidst “security concerns”, the heroic Julian Assange has canceled a scheduled trip to speak today in Las Vegas after appearing remotely to a New York scheduled appearance, earlier in the week. U.S. officials confirm the Defense Department is scrambling to discover his whereabouts. Daniel Ellsburg and Philip Shenon discussed this today at “The Dylan Ratigan Show” on MSNBC (10:58):
Pentagon investigators are searching for Julian Assange “for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables”, according to “government officials”, Philip Shenon reported yesterday at The Daily Beast.
Mr. Assange—the Australian-born editor and founder of Wikileaks, a website devoted to being an outlet for whistleblowers to confidentially leak secret documents and information—“says he’s arranging the legal defense for 22-year-old Bradley Manning, now in his third week in military custody”, Kevin Poulson and Kim Zetter reported this afternoon at Wired. Adrian Lamo, a hacker in contact with Spc. Manning, handed over chat logs where Spc. Manning disclosed that he had access to a wealth of confidential U.S. government documents and media; also, that he leaked media and over a quarter-million diplomatic cables to Mr. Assange’s site.
Spc. Manning is an intelligence analyst at the U.S. Army, stationed in Baghdad, Iraq being kidnapped by the military.
Among the media was the 2007 video of what’s been dubbed as the “West Baghdad Massacre”, where well over a dozen civilians—including a Reuters photojournalist—were gunned down from a helicopter, firing “indiscriminately”. Wikileaks released the video in April,under the title, Collateral Murder.
Another is video of a strike in which U.S. warplanes repeatedly dropped bombs, killing up to 147 civilians—including up to 95 children. The operation has been dubbed the “Granai Massacre” and Mr. Assange has reported a video in his possession of a massacre in Afghanistan from 2009, which is yet to be released, that his team is working on.
Wikileaks has yet to confirm whether or not Spc. Manning is their source. Statements imply those affiliated with the site are not privy to the detailed identities of all of their sources, though would honor confidentiality if they were.
Mr. Shenon’s added that Mr. Assange has no permanent residence and lawyers has advised him not to return to the U.S.:
The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.
American officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait.
The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.
Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, is as secretive as his website and has no permanent home.
He was scheduled to speak Friday in Las Vegas at an International Reporters and Editors conference. But the group’s executive director, Mark Horvit, tells The Daily Beast that Assange canceled the appearance—he was on a panel to discuss anonymous sources—within the last several days as a result of unspecificed “security concerns.” Horvit said he communicated with Assange through email and did not know where he might be.
Last week, Assange was scheduled to join famed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg for a talk at New York’s Personal Democracy Forum. Assange appeared via Skype from Australia instead, saying lawyers recommended he not return to the United States.
American officials were unwilling to say what would happen if Assange is tracked down, although they suggested they would have many more legal options available to them if he were still somewhere in the United States.
Raffi Khatchdourian wrote an amazing profile last week of the heroic Mr. Assange and Wikileaks at The New Yorker. Read it here.
Daniel Ellsburg, the former international security affairs official at the Pentagon who leaked “The Pentagon Papers”, discussed this week with Scott Horton at AntiWar Radio: the arrest of Spc. Manning and why he ought to be congratulated; the negative connotation of the word, “whistleblower”, no matter how heroic the act of leaking government secrets; and the Obama Administration’s persecution of whistleblowers (33:12):