WikiLeaks Defends Release of Secret U.S. Cables as 'Perfectly Legal'

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

The disclosure of a trove of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks is perfectly legal, a spokesman for the whistle-blowing website said on Wednesday.

Kristinn Hrafnsson said people had a right to know what officials working on their behalf were doing and dismissed concern that the publication of classified U.S. communications would damage cooperation between countries.

Newspaper fronts reporting on the documents released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks are seen in New York, November 29, 2010. Credit: Reuters

"If global stability is based on deception and lies, maybe it needs a bit of a shaking up," he told Reuters Television.

WikiLeaks has shaken the diplomatic world by publishing excerpts of more than 250,000 confidential cables in partnership with five Western newspapers, including The New York Times and The Guardian in Britain.

The disclosures have angered the United States by exposing the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy, including candid assessments of world leaders.

"I think in general that all communications should be public as possible," said Hrafnsson, a former Icelandic television journalist now working for WikiLeaks.

"There may be some justification for secrecy but in general we are talking about officials who are working on behalf of the people, and the people have the right to know."

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, an Australian-born former computer hacker, leads a nomadic existence and keeps his location a secret for fear of reprisals, but Hrafnsson said he personally had no concerns about his own position.

"We are doing a good thing. We are doing this for the general public," he said. "I think it is perfectly legal. We haven't heard any justification or reference to an illegal code that we are supposed to have broken, so we don't think we have broken any law."

He said only a few hundred of the thousands of cables had been published and it could take months to disclose them all.

"We believe that transparency is the basis of healthy democracy. It is one of the foundations of what we base our operation on. A world without secrets is a better world."