The Index on Censorship has published the legal toing and froing that took place between Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor in Chief, and a Legal Adviser to the US Department of State (USDOS) prior to the public release of classified US Government documents. The correspondence is brief and worth the read.
Assange offers the USDOS an opportunity to redact information that would put lives at risk if made public. They refused his offer. Here’s his rejoinder:
Ambassador Louis B. Susman
24 Grosvenor Square
London, W1A 1AE
28 November 2010
Dear Ambassador Susman,
As you know, WikiLeaks has absolutely no desire to put individual persons at significant risk of harm, nor do we wish to harm the national security of the United States.
WikiLeaks have spent significant time and resources redacting the material in our possession to achieve this outcome and sought to cross check our work and that of our traditional media partners with the US government.
I wrote to you explicitly with this in mind in order to offer the US the opportunity to privately nominate specific instances where this may occur. Instead of eliminating the risk you allege to lives and military operations you have rejected our offer for constructive dialogue and chosen a confrontational approach. The response provided by the US State Department overnight was no more than a lawyer’s press release, which is confirmed by the fact you have released it to the press (a matter about which I make no complaint).
I understand that the United States government would prefer not to have the information that will be published in the public domain and is not in favour of openness. That said, either there is a risk or there is not. You have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behaviour. We will now proceed to release the material subject to our checks and the checks of our media partners unless you get back to me, as you promised in the call with our lawyers last Friday.
Always the gentleman. Fair to say the US was and is incensed.