Australia's Kevin Rudd: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange not responsible for cable release

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the Americans who gave the cables to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are to blame, not Assange. Assange could be extradited to Sweden, where he faces rape allegations.

Lennart Preiss/AP/File
In this Oct. 23 file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaks during a news conference in London. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says Assange is not responsible for cable release.
Mick Tsikas/Reuters
Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

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Australia’s foreign minister Wednesday blamed the US for the leak of some 250,000 classified diplomatic cables, saying the attempts to blame or prosecute Australian native and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the leak are misguided.

His comments come as Mr. Assange, who was arrested in Britain Tuesday on rape and sexual molestation allegations in Sweden, was denied bail. He is preparing to fight extradition to Sweden next week for questioning about the allegations.

Swedish authorities say that case is unrelated to his release of secret documents that have embarrassed the US and world leaders. US officials have said they are investigating whether to prosecute Assange.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said those efforts are mistaken. “Mr. Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. The Americans are responsible for that,” said Mr. Rudd, according to Australia’s ABC News. "The bad people in this little exercise are the people who gave the information to him, because they're the people who breached the trust. They deserve to be chased and prosecuted."

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was arrested in May and charged with leaking classified information after he claimed online to have passed cables and other information to WikiLeaks. But it is unclear if he was the source of all of 250,000 cables WikiLeaks says it has, of which it has released only a small portion.

In an interview with the BBC Wednesday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeated the US demand that Assange return the cables, which the State Department considers “stolen property.” But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, that is now impossible. Five newspapers, including The New York Times and the Guardian, possess the entire archive of cables. And Assange uploaded an encrypted file, called both “insurance” and a “thermonuclear device” of the information age, to his website. It was then downloaded by tens of thousands of people, and Assange has threatened to release the code to unlock it if anything happens to him.

Assange plans to fight his extradition to Sweden, reports the Daily Telegraph. But the Washington Post reports that it would actually be more difficult for US authorities to bring him to trial if he is in Sweden, rather than Britain.

[T]o bring Assange to trial on American soil could be increasingly messy. Not only would the United States need to come up with creative charges that may be difficult to prove, it would also have to launch a laborious extradition request with Sweden, a country known for protecting asylum seekers.

In addition, if British authorities grant the Swedish request, Assange would be flown to a country that shares a significantly stricter extradition treaty with the United States. Swedish authorities said Tuesday that they would seriously weigh any request but noted that their treaty with the United States does not cover crimes that are political or military in nature.

The Post says that both the US attorney’s office in Alexandria and the FBI are conducting an “aggressive criminal probe” in an attempt to bring charges against Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act. But Espionage Act prosecutions are “highly complex” and such charges against Assange are not “imminent,” reports the Post.

Nonetheless, the US and other countries have exerted pressure upon WikiLeaks in other ways. Since it began leaking the cables, WikiLeaks has faced denial of service attacks on its website, and servers in the US and France refused to continue hosting the site. Banks and services like PayPal have also cut off their business with the organization.

Social media news website Mashable reports that those sites that cut off cooperation with WikiLeaks have since come under attack from hackers. The hackers succeeded in disabling the website of Swiss bank PostFinance, which froze Assange’s account, and brought down PayPal’s blog. The group of hackers said they would go after any organization that is “bowing down to government pressure.”

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