Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder compared to terrorists by Vice President Joe Biden, to Thomas Jefferson by the activist-journalist John Pilger, and to Martin Luther King by himself, went on the offensive today against, well, everyone.
In a series of interviews, he lashed out at the Guardian newspaper, one of his closest collaborators in the controlled release of the trove of US diplomatic cables that has infuriated Mr. Biden and many others in the US government. The Guardian and a few other news outlets were given the full data dump, while the number of cables provided to the public so far remains below 2,000.
Mr. Assange told The Times of London that two women who have accused him of rape in Sweden were probably motivated by a desire for revenge or money. He also told the BBC that he was fighting extradition to Sweden because he could expect "no natural justice" there.
Assange's falling out with former allies may come as little surprise to many who have worked closely with him. Former WikiLeaks No. 2 Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who formerly went by the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt until breaking with the group earlier this year, has described Assange as "dictatorial" and has said he's creating a rival group dedicated to releasing government secrets in a more open and transparent manner.
While plumbing Assange's motivations has become a cottage industry for journalists and pundits, perhaps his most interesting comments published today were aimed at the Guardian. In an interview with the rival paper The Times, his primary complaint seemed to be that the paper had published a leak. About him.
Assange complained that confidential documents about his rape accusations were leaked to the Guardian, that the paper used the information "selectively," and that it was published as part of an effort to convince a British judge not to grant him bail on Dec. 16.
"The leak of the police report to the Guardian was clearly designed to undermine my bail application," Assange told The Times. "It was timed to come up on the desk of the judge that morning.... The leak was clearly designed to undermine my bail application ... someone in authority clearly intended to keep Julian in prison," he told the paper, referring to himself in the third person.
The Guardian, for its part, says no documents were leaked to it, though it was allowed to read some of the documents pertaining to his case. The paper says it only published a story with that information after his bail was granted Dec. 16. On his Twitter feed, the Guardian's David Leigh, who leads the paper's team combing through the 250,000 US embassy cables provided by Assange, dripped with sarcasm.
"The Guardian published too many leaks for Assange's liking, it seems," Mr. Leigh wrote. "So now he's signed up 'exclusively' with Murdoch's Times. Gosh." Australian-American media titan Rupert Murdoch owns The Times.
Nick Davies, the Guardian reporter who first reached out to Assange over the summer and suggested he collaborate with established news outlets, also appears to have soured on Assange. "Assange finally admits 'no evidence of honeytrap' on Swedish sex claims but does not apologise for misleading the world," he wrote, referring to sexual assault allegations leveled against Assange.
Assange also delivered a pointed warning to a "major bank" in his interview with The Times, suggesting that his mission with WikiLeaks may not be related solely to radical transparency, as he sometimes implies. In this instance he appears to want senior executives to be fired.
"We don’t want the bank to suffer unless it’s called for," Assange told the paper. "But if its management is operating in a responsive way there will be resignations."