Julian Assange could face arrest in Australia over unredacted cables
Julian Assange could face prosecution in Australia after publishing sensitive information about government officials amongst the 251,000 unredacted cables released this week.
WikiLeaks published its entire cache of US diplomatic cables without redactions to protect those named within, a move condemned by all five of the whistleblowing website’s original media partners.
Australia’s attorney general, Robert McClelland, confirmed in a statement on Friday that the new cable release identified at least one individual within the country’s intelligence service. He added it is a criminal offence in the country to publish any information which could lead to the identification of an intelligence officer.
“I am aware of at least one cable in which an ASIO officer is purported to have been identified,” he said. “ASIO and other Government agencies officers are working through the material to see the extent of the impact on Australian interests.
“On occasions before this week, WikiLeaks redacted identifying features where the safety of individuals or national security could be put at risk. It appears this hasn’t occurred with documents that have been distributed across the internet this week and this is extremely concerning.”
The new development adds to the pressure on the WikiLeaks founder, who is currently fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden to answer allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange will be unable to remain in the UK if his extradition appeal is successful, as his visa will by then have expired.
Assange already faces legal action in the US, where a grand jury has been convened in Virginia to decide whether to prosecute the founder of the whistleblowing website. Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the document, remains in custody in the US facing 34 separate charges.
The newly published archive contains more than 1,000 cables identifying individual activists; several thousand labelled with a tag used by the US to mark sources it believes could be placed in danger; and more than 150 specifically mentioning whistleblowers.
The cables also contain references to people persecuted by their governments, victims of sex offences, and locations of sensitive government installations and infrastructure.
The Guardian, New York Times, El País, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, who worked with WikiLeaks publishing carefully selected and redacted documents in December last year, issued a joint statement condemning the latest release.
“We deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk,” it said.
“Our previous dealings with WikiLeaks were on the clear basis that we would only publish cables which had been subjected to a thorough joint editing and clearance process. We will continue to defend our previous collaborative publishing endeavour. We cannot defend the needless publication of the complete data – indeed, we are united in condemning it.
“The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone.”