Well, it beats screwing up the State Department…
In an interview with Andy Greenberg of Forbes earlier this month, Assange said his whistleblower website possesses and intends to disclose tens of thousands of secret documents from a major US financial institution early next year.
“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” Assange said.
He declined to provide any additional details but boldly predicted that the leak will be as high-impact as the Enron emails, which revealed the corruption of the Houston-based energy company and led to its demise in 2001.
“Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation,” he said. “For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails.”
Assange added: “You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.
Personally, I’m rooting for Goldman Sachs…
Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are trying to figure out whether they can charge Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen, with a crime, perhaps even espionage.
“We have an active, ongoing criminal investigation with regard to this matter,” US Attorney-General Eric Holder told a press conference on Monday.
Such charges, if pursued, could sharply up the legal pressure on WikiLeaks and 39-year-old Mr. Assange, who already faces allegations of rape in Sweden. (Assange’s lawyer says the case involved consensual sex, and Assange has claimed it’s part of a “smear campaign” against him and the site, according to British newspaper the Telegraph.)
The Washington Post cited several unnamed sources in reporting that the US Justice Department, Defense Department, FBI, and US district attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., were all probing WikiLeaks’ cable-dump.
One expert told the Post that US authorities have already laid the groundwork for legal action against him, and that he could be liable under the Espionage Act. “I’m confident that the Justice Department is figuring out how to prosecute him,” Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, told the Post.
Smith noted that State Department general counsel Harold H. Koh had sent a letter to Assange on Saturday urging him not to release the cables, to return all classified material, and to destroy all classified records from WikiLeaks databases.
“That language is not only the right thing to do policy-wise but puts the government in a position to prosecute him,” Smith said. Under the Espionage Act, anyone who has “unauthorized possession to information relating to the national defense” and has reason to believe it could harm the United States may be prosecuted if he publishes it or “willfully” retains it when the government has demanded its return, Smith said.
On Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said flatly, “WikiLeaks and people that disseminate information to people like this are criminals,” according to CBS News.