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Assange tried to warn US of unredacted leaks on the internet, court hears

JULIAN ASSANGE made desperate phone calls to the US State Department warning that unredacted leaked documents were about to appear on the internet, his extradition hearing heard today.

Mark Summers QC, for the Wikileaks founder, said that Mr Assange had worked assiduously to ensure that leaks were redacted so as not to endanger life.

He said the password to an encrypted database was included in a book by Guardian journalists, however, and that unredacted leaks were subsequently published by platforms unrelated to Wikileaks.

The revelations came on the second day of the hearing before Westminster magistrates sitting at Woolwich Crown Court.

Among the extradition request’s most significant claims is that by publishing leaked cables, Mr Assange “knowingly put lives at risk.”

Mr Summers argued that not only was this inconsistent with the facts but that the US government knew that it was untrue.

Wikileaks had received diplomatic cables from whistleblower Chelsea Manning in April 2010 and had partnered up with The Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel and El Pais to extract information from the documents.

Together they devoted nine months to redacting material to avoid possible harm to individuals, the court heard.

Evidence from an employee of Der Spiegel attested that the US State Department had participated in the redaction.

Repeated attacks on the Wikileaks website following the publication of documents in November 2010 forced it to move operations to “mirror” sites, so that its material and the underlying archive remained accessible.

In February 2011, however, Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding published Wikileaks — Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. Its text included the password to access Wikileaks’ unredacted information.

This fact became known in September 2011, occasioning Mr Assange’s desperate phone calls. US officials did not follow these up, Mr Summers said.

Mr Summers also rejected suggestions that his client had helped download information from classified databases. He said that on multiple occasions, Ms Manning had not shared with Wikileaks documents that were on its “most wanted” list, despite them being accessible to her.

Mr Summers told the hearing that Ms Manning’s motivation for leaking the 2007 rules of engagement was to expose dishonesty in the US government’s response to the release of the “collateral murder” video, which showed apparent war crimes being committed by US personnel during a helicopter airstrike on Baghdad.

Mark Lewis, for the US government, accused Mr Summers of “knocking down straw men.” 

The detailed case for Mr Assange’s deportation will be made in the coming days.

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