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Updated: November 29, 2010 15:59 IST

U.S. tries to suppress evidence of human rights: Assange

PTI
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. File Photo
AP WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. File Photo

The WikiLeaks has alleged that the U.S. had rejected its offer for constructive dialogue and accused it of trying to suppress evidence of human rights abuses and other criminal behaviour, saying Washington’s concerns were “entirely 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 favour of openness,” WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange, said in a letter to Louis B Susman, the U.S. Ambassador to Britain.

The letter was in response to the one written by the State Department to WikiLeaks on Saturday asking it not to publish classified U.S. documents.

“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 behaviour,” Mr. Assange said.

“We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US Government classified materials,” Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser, State Department said in a letter to Jennifer Robinson, Attorney for Julian Assange, WikiLeaks.

This was in response to the communication from WikiLeaks a day earlier in which the whistle blower website informed the US about its intentions to publish classified US Government documents.

“Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals. You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger,” Koh said in his letter, which was released to the press late Saturday night, ahead of the possible release of such classified documents.

“WikiLeaks has absolutely no desire to put individual persons at significant risk of harm, nor do we wish to harm the national security of the United States,” Mr. Assange said in his letter on Sunday.

“WikiLeaks have spent significant time and resources redacting the material in our possession to achieve this outcome and sought to cross check our work and that of our traditional media partners with the US government,” he said.

“I wrote to you explicitly with this in mind in order to offer the US the opportunity to privately nominate specific instances where this may occur.

Instead of eliminating the risk you allege to lives and military operations you have rejected our offer for constructive dialogue and chosen a confrontational approach,” he said.

“The response provided by the U.S. State Department overnight was no more than a lawyer’s press release, which is confirmed by the fact you have released it to the press (a matter about which I make no complaint),” Mr. Assange 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, as you promised in the call with our lawyers last Friday,” said the WikiLeaks editor.

Meanwhile, Pentagon, angry over the leaks yesterday said it has taken measures to prevent criminal stealing of top secret documents in the future.

Providing journalists with the context and details regarding ongoing efforts to prevent further compromise of sensitive data, the Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, told correspondents that as a result of these measures, it is now much more difficult for a determined actor to get access to and move information outside of authorised channels.

The Department of Defence, he said, has undertaken a series of actions to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.

On Sunday WikiLeaks posted its third set of sensitive US documents.

The last publication included military and intelligence reports from Afghanistan, and another contained similar documents from Iraq.

On August 12, the Defence Secretary Robert Gates commissioned two reviews to determine what policy, procedural and/or technological shortfalls contributed to the unauthorized disclosure to the Wikileaks website.

As a result of these two reviews, a number of findings and recommendations are in the process of being reviewed and implemented, he said, including directing actions to include disabling all write capability to removable media on DoD classified computers, as a temporary technical solution to mitigate the future risks of personnel moving classified data to unclassified systems.

It also includes directing DoD organizations to have limited number of systems authorized to move data from classified to unclassified systems (similar to a KIOSK concept, where it is necessary to meet at a central, supervised location to conduct this activity).

DoD organizations have also been directed to implement two-person handling rules for moving data from classified to unclassified systems to ensure proper oversight and reduce chances of unauthorized release of classified material.

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