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Wikileaks documents caused no harm to US informants, Assange extradition hearing told

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg tells court Wikileak revelations are ‘amongst the most important truthful revelations of hidden criminal state behaviour that have been made public’

HUNDREDS of thousands of leaked documents published by Wikileaks caused no harm to US informants, Julian Assange’s extradition hearing was told today.

Investigative journalist John Goetz, who worked with Wikileaks while at news website Der Spiegel in Germany, said: “I don’t know of any case of anyone coming to harm from the publication of the diplomatic cables.

“This question of harm was the central issue in the Chelsea Manning trial and, as far as I know, I don’t know of any case of any specific incident where harm has been shown from the release of the documents.”

Giving evidence by video link at the Old Bailey, Mr Goetz said that he worked closely with Assange and other media partners on the Afghan war documents leak in 2010.

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, 89, who was prosecuted under the Espionage Act in the US in 1971 over the leaking of top secret documents relating to the Vietnam war, told the court he did not believe Assange’s actions had led to anyone being harmed.

He said: “The most shocking aspect of the Wikileaks revelations is that corruption, torture and assassination have become so common that they are not even classified top secret.

“Wikileaks’ revelations are amongst the most important truthful revelations of hidden criminal state behaviour that have been made public in US history. They are comparable importance [to the Pentagon Papers].”

The hearing is considering the US government’s application to extradite Assange to face charges under the Espionage Act, for which he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison. 

Mr Ellsberg told the court that the Pentagon Papers were a “high-level” document, classified top secret. 

The Afghan and Iraq war logs by contrast, were “field-level” reports of a kind he had written as a serviceman. 

“In my day, reports of murder and assassination would have been shocking and given the highest classification. Today they have been normalised,” he said.

James Lewis QC, cross-examining, put it to Ellsberg that hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals had been placed in jeopardy as a result of Wikileaks’ publications. 

He suggested that some had probably been murdered and many had to flee their countries of origin. 

Mr Ellsberg replied: “It does not seem to me at all obvious that the small number of people among all of those murdered in those countries can be attributed to the WikiLeaks disclosures.”

The hearing continues.

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