« back to The Forum - Journalism, insight and debate at the Frontline Club home


Wikileaks and Julian Assange: where can they go from here?

Faced with the fact that there were only "many" places he could live following the leak of hundreds and thousands of war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asked 'what are we saying in the world if journalists are forced to take refuge in Moscow or Cuba?

Speaking at the Frontline Club following the leak at the weekend of 391,832 US army field reports from the Iraq war, Julian Assange was asked by CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, who was chairing the event: "Where are you going to live if the doors seem to keep closing behind you how worried are you that you won't be able to find a place where you can live legally and continue to direct Wikileaks?"

Julian Assange responded that there were a number of countries he could go to but added that he did not want "to turn into a Philip Agee" referring to the former Central Intelligence Agency officer after leaving became the service became one of its leading opponents and died in Cuba.

I don't think I'm forced into that position and I wouldn't like to be forced into that position.  I'm sure I could live in Moscow or Cuba, but what the hell are we saying then? Is that how bad things have become?

Joining Julian Assange was one of the most famous whistle blowers in history, Daniel Ellsberg, who was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

Daniel Ellsberg explained that the then President Richard Nixon's "paranoia" about the possibility of him making any further revelations about his actions in North Vietnam "drove him quite rationally and instrumentally to try and get information to blackmail me into silence by going into my former doctor's office and even going to the point of bringing a dozen Cubans up to incapacitate me totally, a hit squad".

Julian Assange said the last few months had been the most difficult for Wikileaks but despite that it had succeeded in  releasing on schedule the documents detailing the war and occupation in Iraq, from January 2004 to December 2009.

"The attacks on us and the difficult situation we are in will probably continue," said Julian Assange, who added that the three demands made by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, that they take down the material, for the return of information and refrain from soliciting similar material in the future were significant.

That unusual word return, which seems unusual to use for digital content, actually mirrors language that is used in the Official Secrets Act. The language used in that Pentagon demand comes out of the US espionage act and those three statements and earlier statements about the alleged content of the material is in fact a trigger to prosecute us under the US espionage act.

You can watch the event in full on our website here and listen to the podcast here: