Hacked emails published by WikiLeaks in the run up to the U.S. presidential election weren’t supplied by Russia, Julian Assange said in a new interview published Thursday, challenging his antisecrecy website’s own policy as well as the opinion of the U.S. intelligence community.
Mr. Assange, the publisher and co-founder of WikiLeaks, denied Russia supplied his website with emails obtained from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, the chairman of the Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in an interview with documentarian John Pilger.
“The Clinton camp has been able to project a neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything. Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications,” Mr. Assange said, according to a preview published Thursday by the state-funded television network formerly known as Russia Today, RT.
“That’s false — we can say that the Russian government is not the source,” Mr. Assange told Mr. Pilger, RT reported.
In publicly rejecting Russia’s alleged role, Mr. Assange has challenged the U.S. government’s findings in addition to WikiLeaks’ long-standing policy on discussing sources.
Since at least 2009, WikiLeaks has insisted it never discusses the source of its documents.
“We do not comment on our sources and the way they obtained information. Source protection is paramount,” WikiLeaks said in a Dec. 2009 tweet.
More recently, Mr. Assange personally reiterated the policy when pressed for details on the DNC emails.
“Well we don’t comment as to our sources,” Mr. Assange told NPR in August. “We don’t comment on sourcing, because it makes it easier for any investigation.”
WikiLeaks still referred to Pvt. Chelsea Manning as an “alleged source” as recently as an October 2016 tweet more than three years after the former Army intelligence analyst admitted giving the website sensitive State Department and military documents.
“Occasionally these two mandates are in conflict when the subject of our publications has substantial media connections. This is the case for the Podesta Emails. In such a case, saying nothing leads to a vacuum into which false claims about our sources can be projected. We tolerate such claims until they are used to distract from the publication,” WikiLeaks said in an emailed statement to The Washington Times later Thursday.
“After careful consideration of the source protection requirements involved we are confident that eliminating state parties does not appreciably increase the risks to our sources for this publication,” WikiLeaks continued. “In this statement we refer only to our sources for this publication. The sources to other media groups or websites are beyond its scope.”
WikiLeaks has released thousands of Mr. Podesta’s hacked emails since early October, and months earlier published a trove of internal Democratic National Committee correspondence.
The U.S. intelligence community “is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organization” the Obama administration said on Oct. 7, adding that the disclosures of emails by WikiLeaks were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the allegations.
Cybersecurity experts have tied the DNC hack and Podesta breach to the same group of hackers believed to be working on behalf of the Russian government. Even if Moscow directed the hacking, however, the documents could have easily made their way to WikiLeaks through intermediaries.
The interview with Mr. Assange was done by a U.K. production company, Dartmouth Films, and sold to broadcasters including RT, WikiLeaks said on Twitter. RT described the interview online as its “November surprise” and said the network will exclusively broadcast the 25-minute clip on Saturday.
• Andrew Blake can be reached at email@example.com.
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