BERLIN – The online whistle-blower WikiLeaks said it will continue to publish more secret files from governments around the world despite U.S. demands to cancel plans to release classified military documents.
“I can assure you that we will keep publishing documents — that’s what we do,” a WikiLeaks spokesman, who says he goes by the name Daniel Schmitt in order to protect his identity, told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.
Schmitt said he could not comment on any specific documents but asserted that the publication of classified documents about the Afghanistan war directly contributed to the public’s understanding of the conflict.
“Knowledge about ongoing issues like the war in Afghanistan is the only way to help create something like safety,” Schmitt said. “Hopefully with this understanding, public scrutiny will then influence governments to develop better politics.”
He rejected allegations that the group’s publication of leaked U.S. government documents was a threat to America’s national security or put lives at risk.
“For this reason, we conveyed a request to the White House prior to the publication, asking that the International Security Assistance Force provide us with reviewers,” Schmitt said. “That request remains open. However, the Pentagon has stated that it is not interested in ‘harm minimization’ and has not contacted us, directly, or indirectly to discuss this offer.”
The NATO-led ISAF security force is mostly deployed in Afghanistan’s less volatile north.
The Pentagon has maintained that the Defense Department had no direct contact with WikiLeaks about possible efforts to redact those documents to make them less of a security threat.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said late last month that it was “absolutely, unequivocally not true” that WikiLeaks had offered to let U.S. government officials go through the documents to make sure no innocent people were identified.
The Pentagon demanded on Thursday that WikiLeaks cancel any plan to publish more classified military documents and pull back tens of thousands of secret Afghan war logs already posted on the Internet.
The demand to stop publishing more classified documents, which the Pentagon has no independent power to enforce, is primarily aimed at preventing release of approximately 15,000 secret documents that the website WikiLeaks has said it is holding and possibly classified U.S. State Department cables.
The Pentagon also hopes to stop WikiLeaks from making public the contents of a mammoth encrypted file recently added to the site. Contents of that file remain a mystery and Schmitt did not want to comment specifically on the content of a file the group posted online with the label “Insurance” in recent days.
He only said that “we regularly distribute backups of documents that have not been published … This one has just been placed on a very popular site right now to make sure that it has been distributed as widely as possible.”
Schmitt said that the group is committed to the security concerns of the world’s entire population — which may in some cases be opposed to the United States’ national interests.
“WikiLeaks is a globally acting organization,” he said. “In that respect we are responsible toward the people of the world and not the people or the specific interests of one particular nation.”
WikiLeaks posted more than 76,900 classified military and other documents, mostly raw intelligence reportsfrom Afghanistan, on its website July 25. The 15,000 additional documents are apparently related to that material.
The documents leaked so far illustrate the frustration of U.S. forces in fighting the protracted Afghan conflict and revived debate over the war’s uncertain progress. The White House angrily denounced the leaks, saying they put the lives of Afghan informants and U.S. troops at risk.
An Army private, Bradley Manning, is jailed on suspicion of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks in a previous case. He is a “person of interest” in the latest release, the Pentagon has said.
Schmitt said that he, editor-in-chief Julian Assange and three more people work full-time for WikiLeaks, and between 800 and 1,000 volunteerwith tasks like verifying documents, programming software or legal defense.
The group publishes their material out of “three to four dozen countries” and has had numerous attacks on its website, he said.