WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made lots of new enemies in recent days. The site's online publication of a vast trove of sensitive and classified US diplomatic documents has angered government officials from America to Australia, and plenty of places in between.
But Mr. Assange may have lots of enemies already. Earlier this year, he told a seminar at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Journalism that he and his organization long have noticed that they’re being watched by what they presume are intelligence agents.
“Whenever you see surveillance, what you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg, because it’s when people have screwed up and you notice it,” Assange told the seminar, according to video of the event taken by Fora.tv. He spoke there in April, after WikiLeaks had posted a military video shot from the cockpit of an Apache helicopter that showed men in Baghdad being gunned down by American forces.
Assange said WikiLeaks has experienced many such incidents. He described in detail one that he said took place in a Luxembourg parking lot. One of Assange’s associates was ambushed, in a sense.
“Someone followed [the associate] to the car park and then waited for him to come out of his car and then started asking questions about WikiLeaks and asking questions about me, and saying, ‘It’s in your interests to come and have a coffee with me,’ ” said Assange.
The WikiLeaks founder described the semi-assailant as someone about 6- foot, 4-inches tall, 40 years old, with “a good watch.”
Assange surmised the man to be British intelligence, or perhaps a private investigator hired by a big bank.
He also noted that US Army counterintelligence had compiled a 32-page report on his group that paints it as a threat to US security and suggests it might best be attacked by hitting at its “center of gravity” – the trust WikiLeaks' sources have that their identity will be kept secret.
“There’s a lot of money sloshing around in intelligence and counterintelligence, and [there are] people without much to do, so maybe it’s one of them,” said Assange. “None of our sources to our knowledge have ever been exposed.”
Assange spoke, of course, before the arrest in May of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is suspected of feeding to WikiLeaks the Apache gunship videotape as well as documents about the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, and US diplomatic cables between and about officials worldwide.
This attack took the WikiLeaks site down for a few hours, but the group’s online structure is set up to deal with that sort of thing, Assange told the Berkeley meeting, with layers of Internet service providers feeding into one another to provide a resilient electronic capability.