August 18, 2010 – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday that the Pentagon is willing to discuss his request for help in reviewing classified documents from the Afghan war and removing information that could harm civilians; the Pentagon denies direct contact with WikiLeaks.
Assange told The Associated Press by phone, “This week we received contact through our lawyers that the General Counsel” of the Pentagon “says now that they want to discuss the issue.”
Assange added that the contacts have been brokered by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID.
But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman denied any direct contact between the Pentagon and WikiLeaks. He said the Pentagon is not interested in cooperating with WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has asked for help in reviewing the documents to purge the names of Afghan informants from the files.
But Whitman says they’re not interested in negotiation “some sort of minimized or sanitized version of classified documents.”
“These documents are property of the United States government. The unauthorized release of them threatens the lives of coalition forces as well as Afghan nationals.”
Asked if CID had brokered contact between defense lawyers and Wikileaks lawyers, Whitman said: “CID is conducting an investigation and I am not going to comment on their investigation.”
Assange said Wednesday that “contact has been established” but added it was not clear whether and how the U.S. military would assist WikiLeaks.
“It is always positive for parties to talk to each other,” Assange said. “We welcome their engagement.”
Second batch of documents to be released
Assange said WikiLeaks plans to release its second batch of secret Afghan war documents within “two weeks to a month.”
The first batch of documents covered the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The Taliban has promised to use the material to track down people it considers traitors.
Non-governmental organizations, including the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, have criticized WikiLeaks as being irresponsible.
WikiLeaks describes itself as a public service organization for whistleblowers, journalists and activists.
“We encourage other media and human rights groups who have a genuine concern about reviewing the material to assist us with the difficult and very expensive task of getting a large historical archive into the public’s record,” Assange said.
Assange takes full advantage of countries that provide whistleblower protection. However, while Assange prepares an application for a publishing certificate to allow WikiLeaks to take full advantage of the Scandinavian nation’s press freedom laws, it means WikiLeaks would have to appoint a publisher that could be held legally responsible for the material.
Asked who that person would be, Assange responded the person would be “either me or one of our Swedish people.”
Material on WikiLeaks is routed through Sweden and Belgium because of their whistleblower protection laws, but it also has backup servers in other countries to make sure the site is not shut down, Assange said.
Over 90,000 Afghanistan war documents leaked online condemned (download data)
President Obama condemns WikiLeaks’ leak of more than 90,000 secret raw Afghanistan war documents