Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been on the run from the US authorities after being linked to a serious US national security breach, has come out of hiding in Belgium.
The Telegraph reports that trouble started for Assange after a US intelligence analyst bragged about sending 260,000 confidential state department cables about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the online whistleblower website. Washington tried to stop the classified information being posted online by arresting the analyst, Bradley Manning. Amid reports that he was the target of a US military manhunt, Mr Assange went to ground for one month.
On 22 June he resurfaced in Belgium but he has been advised by his lawyers not to travel to the United States. He appeared for the first time in a month and was speaking at a seminar on freedom of information at the European Parliament. According to the Telegraph, he said:
We need support and protection. We have that. More is always helpful. But we believe that the situation is stable and under control. There’s no need to be worried. There’s a need always to be on the alert.
Wikileaks appeared on the internet three years ago. It was created by an online network of journalists, computer experts and dissidents from all over the world, as a repository for highly sensitive, or secret information, often published straight from the secret files. The website’s content is held by as many as twenty servers around the world and the site uses some of the world’s most sophisticated anti-hacking technology as well as software that makes the original sources of the leaks untraceable.
The website caused more than usual controversy in April this year when it released classified video footage of an American helicopter gunship firing on Iraqis in a Baghdad street in 2007. The de-encrypted video, which WikiLeaks released on its own sites, as well as on YouTube, caused an international uproar.
But the website does not only lean in one ideological direction. In 2008 it “mirrored” a film by the Dutch MP Geert Wilder’s film about the dangers presented by militant Islam , “Fitna”. A trailer for the film was also published by YouTube who were forced to drop it after the Pakistani government ordered the country’s server to block all of YouTube’s sites. Despite receiving emails threatening violence, WikiLeaks mirrored the whole video, and apparently only removed it temporarily because it got so much traffic. Assange was confident that security was not threatened; in an interview published by Informationliberation he said
‘We didn’t believe them to be credible threats in the sense that we have good physical security in the sense of our internet infrastructure, secret locations and our personnel. That technology is geared at dealing with spy agencies. Islamic militants don’t have the capacity to get past those defences.”
Assange believes that WikiLeaks is for the “greater good.” And because WikiLeaks is not based in a particular country — and Assange’s team work from several different locations — no legal precedent exists to shut the site down.
Rumours abound that the secretive whistle-blowing website is gearing up to publish “devastating new material” on an incident involving U.S. forces in Afghanistan. What should we be expecting? asks the New York Times.
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