Julian Assange, the Australian-born founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, could face prosecution in Australia following the release last Thursday of 251,000 classified U.S. government diplomatic cables.
Officials in Canberra examining the documents for sensitive information about security agencies say at least one intelligence officer is named. The documents also identify 23 people living in Australia with alleged links to a militant cleric in Yemen, though all have denied any involvement with extremist groups.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that while the government believes Australian laws have been broken, it is uncertain if Assange will be prosecuted.
Assange responded to Canberra’s criticism in an email to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Attorney-General McClelland bemoans having his department being publicly caught ratting out 23 Australians to the U.S. embassy without due process,” he said. “If McClelland is unhappy about being caught out, perhaps he should consider cancelling my Australian passport again … Or cancel his own and deport himself.”
The Blame GameWikiLeaks insists it is not to blame for the avalanche of unedited material being made public and accuses London’s Guardian newspaper and a British journalist for allowing the documents to be viewed freely online.
The publication of the U.S. cables has been strongly criticized by newspapers that previously supported WikiLeaks, and some human rights groups believe the unedited documents could expose thousands of individuals to arrest or worse. The names include American informants across the Arab world as well as in Afghanistan, China and Iran.
Assange is currently fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden, where authorities want to question him over allegations of sexual assault. Assange calls the accusations politically motivated.