WikiLeaks ‘blackmailed’ over Bank of America leaks

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks is under a “kind of blackmail” over leaked Bank of America documents, according to the organisation’s editor-in-chief, Julian Assange.

Speaking at a special Frontline Club event on Saturday alongside renowned philosopher Slavoj Žižek and investigative journalist Amy Goodman, Assange spoke at length about the pressures faced by WikiLeaks amid a political backlash.

He dismissed threats of assassination made against him by prominent commentators and politicians as “wrong and outrageous”, but admitted documents reportedly obtained by WikiLeaks about the Bank of America – who stopped processing payments to the organisation in 2010 – had not yet been released due to a complication.

“We are under a kind of blackmail in relation to those documents that will be dealt with over time,” he said, though did not divulge the kind of blackmail the organisation was facing or from whom, saying only that “there are a range of possibilities.”

The event, held at the Troxy in East London, was attended by almost 2000 people and streamed live across the internet by independent US broadcaster Democracy Now! It was originally set to be held at the University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE), but was moved after the IOE raised concerns over potential controversy.

Discussing the ethics, philosophy and implications of WikiLeaks – particularly in relation to the Afgahanistan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate – Assange said that “what advances us as a civilisation is the entirety of our intellectual record.”

He added: “If we are to make rational policies, in so far as any decision can be rational, then we have to have information that is drawn from the real world.”

The 40-year-old Australian, who has been on strict bail conditions at the Norkolk home of Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith for over six months, stated his belief that a pervasive element of the mainstream media is “our single greatest impediment to advancement”.

“History is shaped and distorted by the media,” he said. “The journalists themselves having read our material and having been forced to go through it have themselves become educated and radicalised. And that is an ideological penetration of the truth in to all these mainstream media organisations.”

Assange is set to appear at the High Court in London on 12 July over sex-crime allegations made against him in Sweden. His greatest hope for the future, he said, was to see a more civilised world and to change the author George Orwell’s dictum that ‘he who controls the present controls the past.’

“By civilised I mean people collaborating to not do the dumb thing,” he added. “To instead learn from previous experiences … to pull with eachother, together, in order to get through the life that we live in a less adverse way.”

Žižek, who has authored over 50 books and is widely held as one of the most influential living philosophers, spoke passionately about the impact of WikiLeaks on global politics.

“You are not just violating the rules, you are changing the very rules [and] how we are allowed to violate them,” he said. “We may all know that the emperor is naked, but the moment somebody says the emperor is naked, everything changes.”

Part I and II of our reports on the event can be found here and here. Full video can be watched here and you can read our live blog of the event here.