Project Veritas released today an exclusive audio tape of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking in 2011 with State Department attorney Cliff Johnson, pleading with the government lawyer to act to contain the release of information classified by the U.S. government.
“A whistleblower provided this audio to Project Veritas, so that the American people have a more accurate account of Assange and his conduct,” said James O’Keefe, the founder and CEO of Project Veritas.
“Political pressure is building for President Donald Trump to pardon Assange at the end of his first term and this tape goes a long way to rebooting how he has been portrayed,” O’Keefe said.
Assange warns State Department upcoming leak of classified information
During the 75-minute conversation, Assange, who initiated the call, said to Johnson that WikiLeaks is very concerned that classified information from the State Department is about to be released—outside of its control by a rogue former employee, who stole the information in order to establish his own rival media outlet.
“Yes, so the situation is that we have intelligence that the State Department Database Archive of 250,000 diplomatic cables including declassified cables is being spread around and is to the degree that we believe that within the next few days it will become public,” said Assange.
“We’re not sure but the timing could be imminently or within the next few days to a week and there may be some possibility to stop it,” he said.
Assange said to Johnson that in the past WikiLeaks only released unclassified State Department, but the next tranche from Wikileaks would have classified information with sensitive information redacted.
However, he said, he was alerting the U.S. government that the rogue former employee would not take care to protect sensitive information and that unless something was done to stop him—that release was days or hours away.
State Department attorney Cliff Johnson: “Who would be releasing these cables? Is this WikiLeaks?”
Julian Assange: “No, we would not be releasing them–this is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a previous employee that we suspended last August.”
Johnson: “And he apparently has access to the material that Wikileaks also has?”
Assange: “Yes. That’s correct.”
Johnson: “And he has access to everything you have is that right?”
Assange: “That’s correct.”
Johnson: “OK. And that includes classified as well as the unclassified cables.”
Assange: “That’s correct.”
“The thing that stands out throughout this tape is that over and over again, Assange expresses his concern for the people endangered by what he believes to be a reckless release—like when he told Johnson: ‘In case there are any individuals who haven’t been warned that they should be warned.’”
Assange even shows his concern for possible political blowback onto the United States, he said.
“There is an integrity to Assange’s conduct that cannot be denied, whether you welcomed his releases or not,” he said.
State Department attorney thanks Assange
Although Assange said to the attorney, he did not actually control the classified information, he did have the encryption key to unlock the materials and he knew where on the web it was being held.
“The material, there is an encrypted version of the materials on the web somewhere, that we do not control,” Assange said. “One doesn’t actually need to convey the material itself, one only needs to convey the location of the material, and its encryption key.”
With Assange’s help, the journalist said he believed the U.S. government with its resources could corral the information in time to prevent its release or to even eliminate the files covertly.
“If there is another possibility which is the taking down of those files, that is a degree of research and effort that we do not have the capacity to do,” he said. “There are not so many of them.”
Cliff Johnson: “And, you know all the locations of them, do you think?”
Julian Assange: “We know several and it’s probably not that hard to find the others.”
Johnson: “Can you provide us with that location information?”
Assange: “I can encourage other people to do so.”
Johnson: “Right. I appreciate what you’ve told us Mr. Assange.”
Assange’s work with Manning made him a fugitive from American justice
The Australian-born journalist has been targeted by the U.S. government since 2011, when he partnered with Pvt. Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence specialist, to release documents and videos Manning downloaded from Army computers.
Manning pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and accepted a 35-year sentence.
President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to time served, roughly seven years, Jan. 17, 2017—three days before the end of his term.
For many years, Assange was holed up in the Ecuador’s embassy in London, until he was turned out in 2019, and then apprehended by British officials acting in concert with the U.S. government.
The day he was arrested by British officials, April 11, 2019, the Justice Department unsealed its indictment of Assange charging him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, or hacking. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and stems from Assuage offering Manning help cracking a government password.
Journalists have broad privilege to publish classified or otherwise illegally obtained information, only if they do not participate in the acquisition.
Assange remains in British incarceration awaiting his January hearing where it will be decided if the United Kingdom will extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States.