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U.S. Says WikiLeaks Document Release Endangers Lives

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Photographer: Julian Assange/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. State Department warned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that the planned release of government documents will endanger the lives of “countless individuals” and threaten cooperation with allied countries.

WikiLeaks has provided The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel newspapers with about 250,000 documents for publication, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh wrote in an e-mail yesterday to Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson.

The Pentagon last week warned the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees that the website “intends to release several hundred thousand” classified U.S. State Department cables.

Publication of classified documents would “place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals” from journalists to soldiers; threaten ongoing military operations; and undermine “cooperation between countries,” the U.S. State Department said according to its e-mail.

The State Department will “not engage in negotiation” regarding a request by Assange to provide information on individuals who may be “at significant risk of harm” because of the publications’ release.

“Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals,” Koh wrote.

The State Department demanded Assange return classified U.S. government documents leaked to the website and purge all copies from the organization’s records.

Advance Access

“If any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorization, they were provided in violation of U.S. law,” Koh wrote. “As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.”

Assange said today the planned release will cover “every major issue” in the world today, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The material that we are about to release covers essentially every major issue in every country in the world,” AFP cited Assange as saying in Jordan by a video link.

The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel were given advance access to two earlier WikiLeaks releases of U.S. military documents: almost 400,000 related to the Iraq war dated between 2003 and 2010 and about 75,000 from the same period on the Afghanistan war. The Iraq documents were published Oct. 22 and the Afghanistan documents July 25.

National Security Risk

When the Iraq documents were released, a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Colonel David Lapan, described them as “raw observations from the tactical level of combat operations” and said their publication posed a risk to national security.

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Nov. 23 that the U.S. was preparing for the release of additional classified documents. The department is “assessing the possible impact on our on-going diplomatic activity and notifying both Congress and other governments what may occur,” he said.

Launched in 2007, WikiLeaks receives confidential material that governments and business want to keep secret and posts the information on the Internet “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” the group says on its website.

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