WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange insisted on Thursday that the whistleblower website still planned to release its final batch of US military files on the Afghan war, despite American demands that it hold back.
Speaking via video link to an audience in London, Assange said the site was preparing to release the final 15,000 classified files, the remaining documents from a huge cache which were published last month. "We are about 7,000 reports in," he said, without giving a date when the files would be released.
Asked whether the website would press ahead with the release, he responded "Absolutely."
His comments came despite renewed pressure from the Pentagon to withhold the material, and harsh criticism from media freedom group Reporters without Borders, which accused the site of "incredible irresponsibility."
Speaking during a debate at the Frontline Club in the British capital, Assange said that WikiLeaks had received "no assistance, despite repeated requests, from the White House or the Pentagon".
The Pentagon last week demanded WikiLeaks "do the right thing" and return around 70,000 classified US military documents on Afghanistan it released in late July.It also urged the website to halt plans for any future releases.
In a statement on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the "only responsible course of action for them is to immediately remove all the stolen documents from their website and expunge all classified material from their computers."
Morrell said additional publications would be "the height of irresponsibility" and "would compound a mistake that has already put far too many lives at risk."
The files contained a string of damaging claims, including allegations that Pakistani spies met directly with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up. But the documents also included the names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives.
In an open letter to Assange, Reporters with Borders said it "regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article 'Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010' on the WikiLeaks website on 25 July."
The group said WikiLeaks had in the past played a useful role by making public information that exposed violations of human rights committed in the name of the US "war against terror." "But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous.
"It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks," it said.
Last week, Morrell said the Defense Department was seeking the return of all versions of documents "obtained directly or indirectly" from Pentagon databases or records. He said the Pentagon was aware there was other information in WikiLeaks' possession that "has not been pushed into the public domain yet."
"We hope this message will help convince them not to publish," he added.
Assange, 39, an Australian former hacker and computer programmer, has previously said he believed the publication would help focus public debate on the war in Afghanistan and on possible atrocities by US-led forces.
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