A Norwegian newspaper says it has obtained the entire trove of 250,000 uncensored U.S. diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has been distributing. The announcement Thursday appears to make Aftenposten the first media organization outside WikiLeaks’ five partners to obtain the material — a development sure to heighten U.S. government fears that the public release of some uncensored diplomatic cables could endanger informants’ lives.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has not been charged in connection with leaked documents but was jailed in England this month after two women in Sweden accused him of sex crimes, including rape. He was freed on bail last week and is confined to a supporter’s country estate in Britain while he fights extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question him in the sex crimes inquiry.
Assange said Thursday that extraditing him to the U.S. would be “politically impossible” for Britain if he is charged there, but that ultimately his fate will lie in the hands of British Prime Minister David Cameron if the U.S. seeks his extradition.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, the WikiLeaks founder also said he knows he can survive solitary confinement mentally but believes there is a “high chance” he would be killed “Jack Ruby-style” — a reference to the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald — if placed in a U.S. jail.
Assange reiterated claims that the U.S. attorney general wants to indict him, saying statutes on computer hacking and support for terrorism are being reviewed, and said WikiLeaks lacks the funds to pay for his mounting legal bills — which are approaching 500,000 pounds ($771,350).
So far WikiLeaks has released about 1,900 of the more than 250,000 State Department documents it claims to possess, many of them containing critical or embarrassing U.S. assessments of foreign nations and their leaders. The documents are also being published by The New York Times, France’s Le Monde, Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Managing editor Ole Erik Almlid said Aftenposten has no restrictions on how to use the material, and will be publishing articles about the U.S. documents that it finds relevant in its online and paper editions.
Aftenposten will also post parts of some of the original documents on its website, redacting sensitive information such as names if needed, Almlid told The Associated Press.
“We have received these documents … without restrictions and without paying anything for it,” Almlid said, declining to say exactly how the paper obtained the material. “We never reveal our sources.”
Earlier this year, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is not known who sent the U.S. documents to WikiLeaks.
A U.S. solider, Pfc. Bradley Manning, was charged in July with leaking classified material, including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Manning is now in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Manfred Nowak, the U.N.’s top anti-torture envoy, said Nowak was looking into a complaint that Manning, who visitors say spends 23 hours a day alone in a cell, has been mistreated in custody. The Pentagon denies the claim. AP