Julian Assange lashed out at the New York Times and its former editor in a lengthy new interview.
In a profile with Rolling Stone released on Wednesday, Assange sat down with contributing editor Michael Hastings to discuss the Wikileaks scandal and his upcoming extradition trial in early February.
Assange, who founded the whistleblower website Wikileaks, has been at odds with the Times since he provided the paper with over 250,000 leaked U.S. State Department cables in 2010.
Along with The Guardian, Wikileaks partnered with the Times and big media outlets to publicly release the cables. In January 2011, the Times' then-executive editor Bill Keller penned a lengthy, scathing essay in New York Times magazine, labeling Assange as a source, not a partner.
Keller alleged that Assange grew angry at the Times when the paper would not link to the Wikileaks website. He wrote that he also grew to suspect that Wikileaks may have hacked the email accounts of Times staffers. After the relationship went sour, the Guardian eventually went behind Assange's back and provided the Times with cables that Assange had purposefully withheld from the paper.
Assange described his bitter relationship with the Times to Hastings. He said that the paper had "abandoned" Wikileaks once pressure from the United States government arose after they had learned of the leaked cables. With espionage and conspiracy investigations looming, and even threats of investigations into the Times itself, Assange said that the paper had distanced itself from Wikileaks out of fear.
"The Times ran in the face of fire," Assange said. "It abandoned us once the heat started from the U.S. administration. In doing so, it also abandoned itself, and it abandoned all journalists working on national-security journalism in the United States."
Assange has publicly criticized The Times in the past for the actions the paper took when publishing the leaked cables. He disapproved of the paper's decision to inform the White House that it planned to publish the contents of leaked U.S. State Department cables. He also criticized the paper for publishing only 100 of the over 250,000 cables.
Assange also said that Keller's essay was an example of how the paper tried to distance itself from Wikileaks after it published the cables. "Keller was trying to save his own skin from the espionage investigation in two ways. First, on a legal technicality, by claiming that there was no collaboration, only a passive relationship between journalist and source." Assange also said that Keller and The Times used "all the standard tabloid character-assassination attacks," to personally denigrate him.
In the midst of the Wikileaks scandal, Assange was also accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden in August 2010. He was placed under house arrest as he battled courts against extradition to Sweden. He faces his final extradition trial on February 1. The court will determine if he must return to Sweden to face questioning, where he has been accused of rape, coercion and molestation.
While Assange has had to pay the legal fees regarding the sexual assault allegations, he told Hastings that he thought Wikileaks should really foot the bills. Assange argued that the case "has been politicized as a result of [his] role in the organization. However, to avoid the attack that the funding would be spent on this case, which is effectively used by our opponents to assassinate my character, it's completely separate. Which means that I'm now completely bankrupt as a result."
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