Julian Assange says Wikileaks release of diplomatic cables only the beginning, bank data next

The U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks offer unvarnished insights into the personal proclivities of world leaders.
Washington Post Staff
Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 2:35 PM

Wikileaks surged into prominence again this week as they released a large cache of sometimes classified American diplomatic data. The American government scrambled to contain the damage, as the Post reported:

The Obama administration sought Monday to dilute the fallout from the disclosure of more than 250,000 State Department cables, insisting that strong foreign partnerships could withstand the damage and that the leaks will not force any U.S. policy changes.

Some senior officials noted that the documents released by the Web site WikiLeaks portrayed an administration that was as tough on problem states such as Iran and North Korea in private as it tries to be in public.

But many acknowledged a far more disturbing reality, in which foreign governments will become far less open in their dealings with U.S. officials, and American diplomats will temper the information they send to Washington.

American law enforcement authorities are also looking into the possibility of charging Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, for the unauthorized release. As Ellen Nakashima and Jerry Markon explained:

Federal authorities are investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group's release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act, sources familiar with the inquiry said Monday.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation.'' Others familiar with the probe said the FBI is examining everyone who came into possession of the documents, including those who gave the materials to WikiLeaks and also the organization itself. No charges are imminent, the sources said, and it is unclear whether any will be brought.

Wikileaks has not remained silent as the world reacts to its decision, hinting at more leaks of sensitive data from a major American bank:

Looks like Wall Street has reason to worry: In a rare, two-hour interview conducted in London on November 11, Assange said that he's still sitting on a trove of secret documents, about half of which relate to the private sector. And WikiLeaks' next target will be a major American bank. "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," he said, adding: "For this, there's only one similar example. It's like the Enron emails."

Later in the interview, Assange says the documents "could take down a bank or two." I'm a lot less sympathetic to banks than I am to diplomats, but I'm not sure this guy's incentives -- which by now include impact and publicity -- are really trustworthy.

More from the Washington Post

World: Clinton faces Wikileaks backlash while abroad

Opinion: Wikileaks provides the truth Bush obscured

Foreign Policy: Why do diplomats still send cables?

Milbank: Amidst Wikileaks documents, novel diplomacy

© 2010 The Washington Post Company