WASHINGTON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday that a US government effort to prosecute him should serve as a warning to journalists in the United States.
Assange, in an interview with the MSNBC television network, said there has been a “quite deliberate attempt to split off our organization from the First Amendment protections that are afforded to all publishers.”
The WikiLeaks founder said he considers himself a journalist and “we all have to stick together to resist this sort of reinterpretation of the First Amendment,” which guarantees the right to free speech.
“We have seen these statements, that The New York Times is, you know, also being looked at in terms of whether they have engaged in what they call ‘conspiracy to commit espionage,'” he said.
“If they want to push the line that when a newspaperman talks to someone in the government about looking for things relating to potential abuses, that that is a conspiracy to commit espionage, then that’s going to take out all the good government journalism that occurs in the United States,” he said.
Assange added that if the “Washington authorities target us and destroy us” other journalists should be worried because “they’re going to be next.”
Assange rejected US Vice President Joe Biden’s description of him as a “high-tech terrorist” and condemned calls for his assassination.
“The definition of terrorism is a group that uses violence or the threat of violence for political ends,” he said. “Now, no one in our four-year publishing history, covering over 120 countries, has ever been physically harmed as a result of what we have done.
“Whoever the terrorists are here, it’s not us,” Assange said. “But we see constant threats from people… calling for my assassination, calling for the illegal kidnapping of my staff.
“What sort of message does that send about the rule of law in the United States?” he said. “I mean, if we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people — that is incitement to commit murder.”
Assange also described Bradley Manning, the US army soldier suspected of providing WikiLeaks with secret US military and diplomatic documents, as a “political prisoner.”
“He has been a political prisoner without trial in the United States for some six or seven months,” Assange said, adding that he did not know if the material he received was from Manning since it is submitted anonymously.
“We recently heard calls to try and set up a plea deal with Bradley Manning to testify against me, personally, to say that we engaged in some kind of conspiracy to commit espionage,” he said, dismissing the charge as “absolute nonsense.”