THE United States has rejected talks with WikiLeaks over its planned release of confidential US documents, saying the whistle-blower website was holding them in violation of US law.
The US State Department set out its position in a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his lawyer that was released to the media. “We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained US government classified materials,” State Department legal adviser Harold Koh wrote.
“As you know, if any of the materials you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorisation, they were provided in violation of US law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action,” he continued. “As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.”
US officials said Assange had sent a letter to the Department of State on Friday, in which he tried to address US concerns that WikiLeaks’ planned release of classified documents placed individual persons at risk.
In his letter, Assange said he wanted information regarding individuals who might be “at significant risk of harm” because of WikiLeaks’ actions, the officials said. It was not immediately clear what other offers, if any, Assange’s letter contained. But Mr Koh’s response strongly condemned the anticipated release.
“Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals,” the US legal adviser wrote. “You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger.”
Mr Koh said the document release would have “grave consequences” and place at risk the lives of “countless innocent individuals”, from journalists to human rights activists to bloggers and soldiers. It would place at risk ongoing military operations, including operations to stop terrorists, and cooperation between countries, he added.
An independent French website reported that the leaks would be published simultaneously at 2130 GMT Sunday (8.30am AEDT Monday) by several Western newspapers. The website, owni.fr, had previously launched an interface allowing the public to search the Iraq war logs published by WikiLeaks in October.
It said The New York Times, Britain’s The Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, Spain’s El Pais and France’s Le Monde would release their first analysis of the documents, with leaks expected to trickle out before then.