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The US puts pressure on Sweden over WikiLeaks

Moment of truth for our Swedish politicians as the U.S. tries every means to prevent further leaks.

Sweden plays key role in Wikileaks operations

The Pentagon on Thursday urged Sweden-based whistleblower website WikiLeaks to "do the right thing," and return thousands of leaked US military documents and stop any future public releases.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Defense Department demands that WikiLeaks give the US government all versions of documents "obtained directly or indirectly" from Pentagon databases or records.

Since Wikileaks' main server is located in Sweden, Pentagon is also said to put pressure on Sweden to pull the plug on the whistleblower website. Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange has said that that the organization passes information via Sweden to protect sources.

“I’m convinced that they are discussing this between the U.S. and Sweden. The U.S. tries every means to prevent further leaks that are dangerous to their security and warfare”, Anders Hellner, senior adviser at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, told daily Dagens Nyheter.

The problem for Pentagon is to convince the Swedish government that that material that irks the Pentagon is necessarily also illegal under Swedish law. Sweden has a strong tradition of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Protection of journalistic sources in Sweden is very strong.

Sweden also has a strong political movement for protecting freedom at the Internet. A Swedish political party, aimed at legalising Internet filesharing, in May said it would deliver bandwidth to a the notorious filesharing website The Pirate Bay after its service provider pulled the plug.

“It would not surprise me at all if Sweden is shortly subjected to American pressure to shut down Wikileaks,” Anna Troberg of the Swedish Pirate Party told the blog TorrentFreak. “They have acted similarly in terms of The Pirate Bay, and given that Wikileaks’ activities strikes at the very heart of American power, it’s probably just a matter of time before they act.”

“Now is the moment of truth for our Swedish politicians. Will they have enough backbone to stand up on Wikileaks and democracy, or will they give way to the U.S. and go after PRQ and Wikileaks?”

Geoff Morrell said there was other information in WikiLeaks' possession that "has not been pushed into the public domain yet that we hope this message will help convince them not to publish."

Some 70,000 classified documents on Afghanistan were published by WikiLeaks in late July. The files contained a string of damaging claims, including allegations that Pakistani spies met directly with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up.

The documents also included the names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives.

The website's disclosure "of a large number of our documents has already threatened the safety of our troops, our allies and Afghan citizens who are working with us to help bring about peace and stability in that part of the world," Morrell said.

"The only acceptable course is for WikiLeaks to take steps immediately to return all versions of all of these documents to the US government and permanently delete them from its website, computers and records," he said.

Morrell cautioned that any additional public disclosure of classified information "can only make the damage worse," adding that the Pentagon hoped WikiLeaks would heed its warning, but did not "have a high degree of confidence" that it would.

"If doing the right thing is not good enough for them, then we will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing... Let me leave it at that," Morrell told reporters, without elaborating on what pressure could be brought to bear.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 39, an Australian former hacker and computer programmer, has said he believed the publication would help focus public debate on the war in Afghanistan and on possible atrocities by US-led forces.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, both said the publication had endangered locals providing information to US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation swiftly launched an investigation into the case when it came to light July 25.

Earlier this week Daniel Schmitt, a WikiLeaks spokesman in Germany, told US news website The Daily Beast that the site wanted to open a line of communication with the Pentagon to review another 15,000 classified reports, in order to "make redactions so they can be safely published."

The Pentagon however said Wednesday it had not received any such request from WikiLeaks.

The site, which styles itself "the first intelligence agency of the people," was founded in December 2006 and invited would-be whistleblowers from around the world to make anonymous contributions.

WikiLeaks has never identified the source of the Afghan files, but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst under arrest for allegedly leaking video of a 2007 US Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad in which civilians died.

Manning is being held in a US military jail after being transferred from a US military base in Kuwait.

Last Updated (Friday, 06 August 2010 13:21)

 

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