Elections

WikiLeaks' Assange signals release of documents before U.S. election

Material said to be related to election

Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, speaks via video link during a news conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016. (REUTERS/Axel Schmidt)
Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, speaks via video link during a news conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016. (REUTERS/Axel Schmidt)

BERLIN — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Tuesday the group would publish about 1 million documents related to the U.S. election and three governments in coming weeks, but denied the release was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton.

Assange, speaking via a video link, said the documents would be released before the end of the year, starting with an initial batch in the coming week.

Assange, 45, who remains at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he sought refuge in 2012 to avoid possible extradition to Sweden, said the election material was “significant” and would come out before the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

He criticized Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, for demonizing his WikiLeaks group’s work after a spate of releases related to the Democratic National Committee before the Democratic political convention this summer.

Assange said her campaign had falsely suggested that accessing WikiLeaks data would expose users to malicious software.

But he denied the release of documents relating to the U.S. election was specifically aimed at damaging Clinton, saying he had been misquoted.

“The material that WikiLeaks is going to publish before the end of the year is of ... a very significant moment in different directions, affecting three powerful organizations in three different states as well as ... the U.S. election process,” he said via a video link at an event marking the group’s 10th anniversary.

He said the material would focus on war, weapons, oil, mass surveillance, the technology giant Google and the U.S. election, but declined to give any details.

“There has been a misquoting of me and WikiLeaks publications ... (suggesting) we intend to harm Hillary Clinton or I intend to harm Hillary Clinton or that I don’t like Hillary Clinton. All those are false,” he said.

Assange had told Fox News in an interview conducted by satellite in August that the group would release significant information related to Clinton’s campaign.

Assange also signaled changes in the way WikiLeaks is organized and funded, saying the group would soon open itself to membership. He said the group was looking to expand its media ties beyond the 100 outlets it already works with.

He told journalists gathered at a Berlin theater that the group’s work would continue, even if he had to resign in the future, and he appealed to supporters to fund its work. He also held up copies of several forthcoming books.

Assange and his attorney said Britain’s vote to leave the European Union could complicate his situation by limiting his ability to appeal to the European Court of Justice or the Council of Europe, a European human rights body.

Asked how he felt after four years in the embassy, he said “pale” and joked he would be a good candidate for medical study since he was otherwise healthy but had not seen the sun in over four years.

Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning about allegations that he committed rape in 2010. He denies the charges, and says he fears subsequent extradition to the United States, where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is underway.

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In 2010, WikiLeaks released more than 90,000 secret documents on the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq. Those disclosures were followed by the release of millions of diplomatic cables dating back to 1973.

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