London: Unfazed by mounting criticism,
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the US military bears
the ultimate responsibility for any deaths of Afghan informers
following the leak of some 75,000 secret war documents.
"We are appalled that the US military was so
lackadaisical with its Afghan sources. Just appalled. We are a
source protection organisation that specialises in protecting
sources and have a perfect record from our activities,"
Assange was quoted as saying by `The Observer`.
Hitting out at the US military, he says the Pentagon
bears the ultimate responsibility for any deaths of Afghan
informers in the wake of the publication by his organisation
of 75,000 leaked files of American army secrets.
Assange and WikiLeaks have been accused of disclosing
the names of Afghan collaborators who may now be subject to
reprisals by the Taliban.
Last week, Afghan president Hamid Karzai branded
Assange "irresponsible". US defence secretary Robert Gates
said he might have "blood on his hands".
But Assange responded by saying: "This material was
available to every soldier and contractor in Afghanistan? It`s
the US military that deserves the blame for not giving due
diligence to its informers."
He insisted there was no evidence that anyone had been
put at risk and that WikiLeaks had held sensitive information
back and taken great care not to put people at risk.
"Well, anything might happen, but nothing has happened.
And we are not about to leave the field of doing good simply
because harm might happen.... In our four-year publishing
history no one has ever come to physical harm that we are
aware of or that anyone has alleged."
However, he conceded that if it was proven someone had
been killed or injured because of the leak, then WikiLeaks
would consider changing the way it operates. "We will review
our procedures," he said.
Assange said that traditional journalism had vacated a
space into which WikiLeaks was stepping.
"We are creating a space behind us that permits a form
of journalism which lives up to the name that journalism has
always tried to establish for itself," he said.