WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Sunday detailed a plan to release a deluge of secret documents should the whistleblower website be permanently shut down.
In an exclusive interview with CBS News’s “60 Minutes,” Assange said his group had a “system whereby we distribute encrypted backups of things we have yet to publish.”
“There are backups distributed amongst many, many people, 100,000 people, and all we need to do is give them an encrypted key and they will be able to continue on,” he said.
The WikiLeaks founder, who is currently under US criminal investigation over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret military reports and diplomatic cables, said the key would only be released as a last resort.
“If a number of people were imprisoned or assassinated, then we would feel that we could not go on, and other people would have to take over our work, and we would release the keys,” he said.
In the same interview the 39-year-old Australian denied he was motivated by anti-Americanism or other political agendas, describing his group as “free press activists.”
“It’s not about saving the whales. It’s about giving people the information they need to support whaling or not support whaling,” he said.
“That is the raw ingredient that is needed to make a just and civil society. And without that you’re just sailing in the dark.”
Assange refused to discuss the Swedish sex crimes allegations that have him largely confined to a house in the British countryside on bail pending extradition proceedings, and he refused to discuss future publishing plans.
He chuckled when asked about possible plans to release information on Bank of America, refusing to confirm or deny them.
“We have all these banks squirming, thinking maybe it’s them,” he said.
“When you see abusive organizations suffer the consequences as a result of their abuse, and you see victims elevated… that’s a very pleasurable activity to be involved in.”
Assange claimed in an interview with Forbes magazine in late November that a “megaleak” by the website would target a major US bank early this year.
He has previously said that he has a treasure trove of documents on Bank of America, the largest US bank, whose shares tumbled more than three percent on November 30 shortly after the Forbes interview was released.
This video is from CBS’s 60 Minutes Overtime, broadcast Jan. 30, 2011.