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Julian Assange Anxious that Wikileaks may be on the verge of publishing a batch of secret State Department cables, investigators are desperately searching for founder Julian Assange. Philip Shenon reports.
Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.
The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.
“We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this,” one U.S. official said of Assange.
American officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait.
And given the contents of the cables, the feds have good reason to be concerned.
As The Daily Beast reported June 8, Manning, while posted in Iraq, apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East, regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders, according to an American diplomat.
The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.
American officials would not discuss the methods being used to find Assange, nor would they say if they had information to suggest where he is now. "We'd like to know where he is; we'd like his cooperation in this," one U.S. official said of Assange.
Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, is as secretive as his website and has no permanent home.
He was in the United States as recently as several weeks ago, when he gave press interviews to promote the website’s release of an explosive 2007 video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters.
Wikileaks has not replied directly to email messages from The Daily Beast.
However, in cryptic posts this week on the website Twitter, Wikileaks referred to an earlier Daily Beast article on the investigation of Manning and said that it “looks like we’re about to be attacked by everything the U.S. has.”
In one post, the site said that allegations that “we have been sent 260,000 classified U.S. embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”
Pentagon investigators say that particular post may have been an effort by Wikileaks to throw them—and news organizations—off the track as the site prepared the library of State Department cables for release, officials said.
“It looks like they’re playing some sort of semantic games,” one American official said of Wikileaks. “They may not have 260,000 cables, but they’ve probably got enough cables to make trouble.”
In another cryptic Twitter post, the site said that while the State Department might be alarmed about the prospect of the release of classified cables, “we have not been contacted.”
American officials were unwilling to say what would happen if Assange is tracked down, although they suggested they would have many more legal options available to them if he is still somewhere in the United States.
Our Foreign Policy has relied on too much two-facing for too long. Before we commit ourselves to another 50 years of Janus diplomacy give a chance for the light of day to all the kludge and drudge of anti-communist paranoia morphing into anti-terrorist paranoia.
I wish Julian luck.