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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wikileaks' Julian Assange and NYT's Bill Keller Trade Barbs at UC Berkeley

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 5:42 PM

Page 2 of 2

He said that during his negotiations with the Times and cocollaborators at the Guardian in London as well as the German magazine Der Spiegel, the Times seemed to take unusual pains to preserve the fiction that the newspaper wasn't collaborating with Assange. That was despite the fact that both sides had engaged in lengthy discussions on how the Pentagon information would be used. Assange said he considers himself -- and Wikileaks -- publishers of information, like the NYT, and that they worked as collegial organizations.

Unusually for a competitive newspaper, the NYT pressed for Wikileaks to publish the documents before it did, in order to preserve the appearance that the newspaper was keeping Assange at arm's length as a source of information no different than any other. The reason for this, Assange alleged, was that the Times wished to avoid looking like it was involved in a conspiracy to unveil secret information and possibly violate the Espionage Act.

"That's why The New York Times is careful to say this was not a collaboration," Assange said."What the Times is afraid of is that one man's collaboration is another man's conspiracy."

Assange went on to assert that Times executives gave unusual deference to the Pentagon when writing about Wikileaks to the point of seeming more interested in concealing rather than releasing information.

"I'm sure you will see Bill Keller boast that they were hand in glove with the Pentagon," Assange said. "But news organizations should be careful to understand their role. Their role is to hold powerful organizations into account. It is not to cover up."

click to enlarge Why do I have to deal with this shit? - MATT SMITH
  • Matt Smith
  • Why do I have to deal with this shit?
Keller, for his part, parried with a cocktail-style joke about how the Wikileaks affair has been the subject of discussions and panels since the series went to print. Keller said he did not work hand in glove with the Pentagon, but rather gave the military the opportunity to respond to stories in advance of publication, as is customary for U.S. news reports.

Assange has "had his revenge. We're now destined to appear in panel discussions about Wikileaks," Keller joked.

Keller did get his dander up after Assange said that watching the American news media cover international events is like watching a goldfish bowl where readers pay little attention to outside perspectives.

Keller seemed to take that as a slight against the prestigious New York Times overseas correspondents. "I have to object to the idea that we're not interested in what happens outside the U.S.," he said. "We have 40 correspondents and stringers overseas, and we have four people who have been killed covering the wars."

Assange said he meant no disrespect to the work of Times correspondents  living or dead. But he did get the last word on that topic.

"I say that 40 people covering the entire world in the New York Times, which is the opinion leader of the United States, is a state of desperation," he said.

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