With a new release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents imminent, the State Department’s legal advisor, Harold Koh, warned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Saturday that publication of the material would “at a minimum … place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals” as well as “ongoing military operations.”
In a letter to Assange’s London-based lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, Koh laid out the U.S. government case that the expected release is illegal and that WikiLeaks should immediately cease publishing all such materials, return all classified U.S. government documents in its possession and remove and destroy all records from its databases.
Koh was responding to a letter from Assange requesting U.S. government help in reviewing the documents so that no lives would be put in danger by the release. But Koh said that “we will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials.”
WikiLeaks has already released thousands of classified documents revealing internal U.S. government discussions about the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Koh said “It is our understanding from conversations with representatives from The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Speigel, that WikiLeaks also has provided approximately 250,000 documents to each of them for publication, furthering the illegal dissemination of classified documents.” The new documents are believed to contain embarrassing information about diplomatic negotiations with Russia over the START Treaty and other countries.
Koh said that publications of the new documents would at a minimum:
- “Place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals – from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers to individuals providing information to further peace and security;
- “Place at risk on-going military operations, including operations to stop terrorists, traffickers in human beings and illicit arms, violent criminal enterprises and other actors that threaten global security; and,
- “Place at risk on-going cooperation between countries – partners, allies and common stakeholders – to confront common challenges from terrorism to pandemic diseases to nuclear proliferation that threaten global stability.”
Koh told Assange that “despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite.”