After coming under fire following the publishing of files surrounding the conflict in Afghanistan, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he has been much more vigorous in actively redacting the names of civilians when releasing documents from the Iraq war.
Assange told CNN that it was nothing to do with protecting civilians – he says they took adequate measures last time – but that he didn’t want a debate on the topic to overshadow the leaks themselves.
“In this case we have taken an even more vigorous approach than we took in relation of the Afghan material, not because we believe that approach was particularly lacking [but] rather just to prevent those sort of distractions from the serious content by people who would like to try and distract from the message,” Assange told CNN.
Fearing for safety
Earlier, Assange said on Israeli television that he was taking security precautions following the release of nearly 400,000 secret US military documents on the Iraq war, AFP reported.
“No, I’m not running for my life, but we do have to take extra security precautions,” Assange told Channel Two television in an interview that took place in London.
The Israeli channel reported that Assange was accompanied by bodyguards during the interview.
The mass of US documents from 2004 to 2009 released by WikiLeaks on Friday offer a grim snapshot of the Iraq conflict, especially of the abuse of civilians by Iraqi security forces.
“Just yesterday, in fact, the former general counsel of the CIA said that it was his view was that the US was trying to get me personally and possibly some other people into the US jurisdiction, and that corresponds to former statements made by the Pentagon,” Assange told Channel Two.
On Friday, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said before the material was made public: “We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies.”
Asked whether the WikiLeaks revelations could be of use to Osama bin Laden, Assange told the Israeli broadcaster that he was not privy to the thoughts of the Al-Qaeda chief.
“I do not have access to Osama bin Laden’s thoughts. Many people want the truth out, insofar as Al-Qaeda wants the truth out, they are correct,” he said.
Washington on Sunday came under increasing pressure to investigate allegations in the leaked documents.
The flood of material offers a grim snapshot of the conflict, especially of the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.
The heavily redacted logs appear to show that the US military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture and abuse of civilians by the Iraqi authorities.
WikiLeaks claim the documents reveal around 15,000 more civilian deaths than were previously known about.
The files contain graphic accounts of torture, civilian killings and Iran’s hand in the Iraq war, documenting years of bloodshed and suffering following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.
WikiLeaks held a news conference in London on Saturday, at which Assange defended the unauthorised release, saying it was intended to reveal the “truth” about the conflict.
“Most wars that are started by democracies involve lying,” he said. “If there’s enough truth early on enough then perhaps we won’t see these kind of wars.”