Sweden Rescinds Warrant for WikiLeaks Founder
Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, had quickly posted a denial of the Swedish allegations on Twitter after the accusations were reported and said: “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks.’ Now we have the first one.”
Mr. Assange became an instant celebrity last month after WikiLeaks posted about 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the war in Afghanistan. In recent weeks, he has warned the Pentagon that he intends to release 15,000 more documents.
American prosecutors have been exploring whether or how to criminally prosecute Mr. Assange or WikiLeaks for the recent disclosures, and he has spent much of that time in Sweden, which has strong press freedom laws that he hoped would offer protection against legal actions.
Mr. Assange did not respond immediately to attempts by reporters for The New York Times to reach him by e-mail and telephone, and Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for Sweden’s national prosecutor’s office, said in a telephone interview that the police did not know Mr. Assange’s whereabouts.
Mrs. Rosander initially confirmed that Mr. Assange was wanted for questioning on rape allegations, but she could not be reached after news reports said the prosecutor’s office was no longer seeking him. The prosecutor’s Web site said,
The prosecutor’s office had provided few details of the accusations earlier in the day.
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Assange remained in Sweden, where he made his last public appearance on Monday, at a news conference in Stockholm in which he said that WikiLeaks planned to defy Pentagon warnings and go ahead with the Internet posting of 15,000 more secret documents on the Afghanistan war, probably within a month.
WikiLeaks posted all but 15,000 of the documents on the Afghan war on its Web site last month, calling it an “Afghan War Diary,” after sharing them in advance of the posting with three publications, including The Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, a German magazine, each of which ran extensive articles based on the documents. The publications described the logs as giving important new insights into the way in which the war is being fought by the United States and its allies.
Pentagon officials have described the leak as one of the most damaging in years, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a Pentagon news conference that an inquiry by investigators for the Pentagon and the F.B.I. “should go wherever it needs to go.”
On the same occasion, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said WikiLeaks
Before publishing its own articles based on the 70,000 documents posted on the Internet, The Times, acting on a White House request, passed on to Mr. Assange a request that WikiLeaks not publish documents or other information that could lead to people’s being harmed.
In its articles, The Times and the other two publications excluded details that identified individuals or could compromise operations.
Mr. Assange responded to the White House request by announcing that WikiLeaks was withholding 15,000 of the 90,000 Pentagon documents involved for review in what WikiLeaks has described as a “harm minimization” process, redacting the documents to eliminate the risk of what Mr. Assange, in a forum with reporters in London earlier this month, described as an effort to eliminate any risk of “unjustified retribution” for individuals who could otherwise be identified from the documents.
He also asked the Pentagon to assist in redacting the unreleased documents, saying that WikiLeaks lacked the $700,000 it would need to carry out the exhaustive job of reviewing the documents. But the Pentagon rejected the proposal, and demanded that WikiLeaks return all the secret United States documents in its possession.
Pentagon officials also warned of possible criminal charges against Mr. Assange and others as a result of its own investigation of the leaks.
In the wake of the Pentagon warnings, Mr. Assange, who has adopted a Pimpernel existence since founding WikiLeaks in 2006, has reverted to a secretive, shadowy lifestyle, announcing an appearance at London’s Frontline Club two weeks ago, then canceling the appearance for “logistical” reasons and then rescheduling it a few days later and appearing by Skype from Sweden.
John F. Burns reported from London, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington.
Image: An unrelated leaked photo from the war: a US soldier poses with a dead Afghani man in the hills of Afghanistan
Wikileaks has cracked the encryption to a key document relating to the war in Afghanistan. The document, titled "NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative", details the "story" NATO representatives are to give to, and to avoid giving to, journalists.
The encrypted document, which is dated October 6, and believed to be current, can be found on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) website oneteam.centcom.mil. [UPDATE: Fri Feb 27 15:18:38 GMT 2009, the entire Pentagon site is now down--probably in response to this editorial, parts of the site can still be seen in Google's cache ]
The encryption password is progress, which perhaps reflects the Pentagon's desire to stay on-message, even to itself.
Among the revelations, which we encourage the press to review in detail, is Jordan's presence as secret member of the US lead occupation force, the ISAF.
Jordan is a middle eastern monarchy, backed by the US, and historically the CIA's closest partner in its extraordinary rendition program. "the practice of torture is routine" in the country, according to a January 2007 report by UN special investigator for torture, Manfred Nowak.
The document states NATO spokespersons are to keep Jordan's involvement secret. Publicly, Jordan withdrew in 2001 and the country does not appear on this month's public list of ISAF member states.
Some other notes on matters to treat delicately are:
Any decision on the end date/end state will be taken by the respective national and/or Alliance political committee. Under no circumstances should the mission end-date be a topic for speculation in public by any NATO/ISAF spokespeople.
The term "compensation" is inappropriate and should not be used because it brings with it legal implications that do not apply.
Any talk of stationing or deploying Russian military assets in Afghanistan is out of the question and has never been the subject of any considerations.
Only if pressed: ISAF forces are frequently fired at from inside Pakistan, very close to the border. In some cases defensive fire is required, against specific threats. Wherever possible, such fire is pre-coordinated with the Pakistani military.
Altogether four classified or restricted NATO documents on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) site were discovered to share the 'progress' password. Wikileaks has decrypted the documents and released them in full:
NATO Media Operations Centre: NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative, 6 Oct 2008
ISAF Afghanistan Theatre Strategic Communications Strategy, 25 Oct 2008
NATO-ISAF Afghanistan Strategic Communications External Linkages, 20 Oct 2008
NATO-ISAF Strategic Communications Ends, Ways and Means, slide, 20 Oct 2008