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Assange Denies Knowing Detained US Army Specialist

Friday, 17 Dec 2010 08:49 AM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Friday denied any knowledge of the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst accused of providing his organization with classified reports that could lead to Assange's indictment on spy charges in the United States.

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," the Australian-born computer expert said the WikiLeaks computer system is designed to maintain the anonymity of sources who give the organization sensitive government documents, including the classified U.S. diplomatic cables that have exposed candid and embarrassing assessments of world leaders.

Army Specialist Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old intelligence analyst, was charged earlier this year with obtaining the classified video of a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq including two Reuters journalists and downloading more than 150,000 U.S. State Department documents.

U.S. authorities say Manning leaked some of the cables he downloaded but decline to say whether they are the same ones released by WikiLeaks.

The video of the helicopter attack was released by WikiLeaks in April. Manning is detained at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.

U.S. media reports say U.S. prosecutors could charge Assange with espionage and seek his extradition to the United States if they can show that he helped Manning collect the classified material.

"I had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press," Assange told ABC as he made the rounds of U.S. breakfast television shows.

"WikiLeaks technology (was) designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material. That is, in the end, the only way that sources can be guaranteed that they remain anonymous."

Assange, 39, walked free from a London court on Thursday, freed on 200,000 pound ($312,500) bail after nine days in London's largest jail. Sweden wants to extradite him for questioning over alleged sexual assaults on two WikiLeaks' volunteers.

But Assange told reporters soon after his release that he was more concerned the United States might try to extradite him than he was about being extradited to Sweden.

Assange and his lawyers have voiced fears that U.S. prosecutors might be preparing to indict him for espionage over WikiLeaks' publication of the documents.

"Something is very wrong with that situation and something is wrong in the United States that such an investigation against me and in effect my organization, and indeed now we see serious calls against the New York Times as well -- that all that is to be conducted in secret," he said in a separate interview with NBC's "Today" show. (Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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