Julian Assange compares Wikileaks to US Founding Fathers
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has likened the values of the whistle-blowing website to those of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
In a CBS interview with 60 Minutes aired on Sunday night Mr Assange, who is currently under US criminal investigation over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret military reports and diplomatic cables, also denied that he was motivated by a dislike of America.
“Our founding values are those of the US revolution,” Mr Assange told Steve Kroft. “They are those of people like [Thomas] Jefferson and [James] Madison," he added.
Mr Assange, 39, described members of Wikileaks as "free press activists" and said the website did not have a political agenda.
"It's not about saving the whales. It's about giving people the information they need to support whaling or not support whaling," the Australian said.
"That is the raw ingredient that is needed to make a just and civil society. And without that you're just sailing in the dark."
Mr Assange insisted that Wikileaks was playing "inside the rules" and "operated just like any US publisher operates".
He also disclosed that a plan exists to release a deluge of secret documents should Wikileaks be permanently shut down.
Mr Assange said his group had a "system whereby we distribute encrypted backups of things we have yet to publish".
"There are backups distributed amongst many, many people, 100,000 people, and all we need to do is give them an encrypted key and they will be able to continue on," he said.
The Wikileaks founder said the key would only be released as a last resort.
"If a number of people were imprisoned or assassinated, then we would feel that we could not go on, and other people would have to take over our work, and we would release the keys," he said.
Mr Assange refused to discuss future publishing plans and laughed when asked about possible plans to release information on Bank of America, refusing to confirm or deny them.
"We have all these banks squirming, thinking maybe it's them," he said.
"When you see abusive organisations suffer the consequences as a result of their abuse, and you see victims elevated ... that's a very pleasurable activity to be involved in."
Mr Assange claimed in an interview with Forbes magazine in late November that a "megaleak" by the website would target a major US bank early this year.
He has previously said that he has a treasure trove of documents on Bank of America, the largest US bank, whose shares tumbled more than three per cent on November 30 shortly after the Forbes interview was released.
Mr Assange refused to discuss the Swedish sex crimes allegations, which he denies, that have him largely confined to a house in the British countryside on bail pending extradition proceedings.