Sunday, April 17, 2011

Julian Assange Confronts Bill Keller

By Jerry Smith Apr 17 2011

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange confronted New York Times executive editor Bill Keller last week at U.C. Berkeley at the Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium, via Skype.

The event was moderated by former SF Weekly editor Jack Shafer, who now writes for Slate. He started the evening off by asking Keller about his "bag-lady" description of Assange.

Keller said that he didn't think that there was anything unusual in his description of Assange, and that he made Assange seem like an unhinged loser because he wanted to make his article, 'Dealing With Assange and the WikiLeaks Secrets', more readable and replied:
"We weren't writing an academic report, it was a story. That was information the reporter brought to me, and it was used as color."
Assange said of the New York Times' relationship with the Pentagon:
"I'm sure you will see Bill Keller boast that they were hand in glove with the Pentagon. But news organizations should be careful to understand their role. Their role is to hold powerful organizations into account. It is not to cover up."
Keller replied that he did not work "hand in glove with the Pentagon" and that he was only giving the military the chance to respond to the story before it was published, which is usual practice. He joked that Assange has:
"Had his revenge. We're now destined to appear in panel discussions about WikiLeaks."
Assange spoke about his negotiations with the New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel to publish the Pentagon documents.

Assange claims that the New York Times pressured WikiLeaks to publish the documents before it did so that it could preserve the appearance that they were keeping Assange as a source of information only, not a collaborator.

Assange alleges that the reason the New York Times did this was because they wanted to avoid looking like they were involved in a conspiracy to unveil secret information and possibly violate the Espionage Act and said:
"That's why The New York Times is careful to say this was not a collaboration. What the Times is afraid of is that one man's collaboration is another man's conspiracy."
Feeling slighted by Assange's remarks about American media coverage of international events, Keller defended the New York Times' overseas correspondents and said:
"I have to object to the idea that we're not interested in what happens outside the U.S. We have 40 correspondents and stringers overseas, and we have four people who have been killed covering the wars."
Assange said about the New York Times' 40 overseas correspondents:
"I say that 40 people covering the entire world in the New York Times, which is the opinion leader of the United States, is a state of desperation."
Assange, who is still under house arrest at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, Britain, will continue to fight being extradited to Sweden at a two day hearing at the High Court in London on July 12 and 13.

Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden where he has not been charged with anything but is wanted for questioning by the Swedish police about accusations of rape and sexual molestation made against him by Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin. Assange denies the allegations and says he had consensual sex with the two women.

Assange and his lawyers fear that if he is extradited to Sweden he may then be extradited to the United States, where he could face torture, confinement at Guantanamo Bay, both, or even the death penalty.

Assange has angered the United States with the publishing of leaked embarrassing diplomatic cables, the classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the 'Collateral Murder' video.

Click here to read Bill Keller's 'Dealing With Assange and the WikiLeaks Secrets'.

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