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WikiLeaks editor: Documents pose no real risk to soldiers, civilians

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Did U.S. downplay Iraqi civilian deaths?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Julian Assange talks to CNN's Larry King
  • He says no names appear in the leaked documents
  • The Pentagon has said it fears the release could put U.S. troops in greater danger
  • Assange addresses the CNN interview he walked out of last week

(CNN) -- WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange is defending the group's recent leak and said it poses no real risk to soldiers or civilians in Iraq.

"This material doesn't mention any soldiers' names, doesn't mention any names of Iraqi civilians," he told CNN's Larry King Monday.

"The only thing at risk here is the reputations of the politicians and bureaucrats that put these soldiers into harm's way -- and who put Iraqis into harm's way," he said.

Last week, the whistle-blower website published some 400,000 classified documents detailing the war in Iraq.

They showed, Assange said, the deaths of 109,000 people, including soldiers and civilians. The release also revealed that roughly 15,000 more Iraqi civilians died during the conflict than previously thought, he said.

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The Pentagon has denounced the leak and has warned it could put U.S. troops in greater danger -- an accusation Assange denied.

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks released more than 70,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan. The website was heavily criticized then by the U.S. government, the military and some human rights groups for failing to withhold civilians' names, potentially putting them at risk of retaliation.

Assange said WikiLeaks redacted the new round of documents, which included 391,832 reports.

He also addressed an interview he gave last week to CNN's Atika Shubert. Assange walked out after she started to ask questions about investigations in Sweden, where he has been accused in separate cases of rape and molestation.

King, who appeared to be watching footage of the old interview, momentarily thought Assange had walked out on him.

"I didn't walk off Larry just then, but perhaps I should," Assange said.

He called such claims false and urged media groups not to conflate the content of the leak with "any sort of tabloid journalism."

"It should be obvious that these things are not in balance and they are not proportionate. It is not right to bring in sensational, and -- in fact false claims -- a relatively trivial matter compared to the deaths of 109,000 people," Assange said.

He also blasted an argument, which he said has been made by the Pentagon, that the recent leak does not contain any significant or new information.

"Of course, there's nothing new to them in the material. But there's a lot new to the rest of the world," he said.

CNN was offered access to the Iraq documents in advance of the release but declined because of conditions that were attached to accepting.

The New York Times and The Guardian, a British newspaper, were among a handful of organizations provided early access to the documents.

The Guardian said the reports detail torture, summary executions and war crimes. U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, the documents show, it said.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said field reports do not contain evidence of war crimes.

The Times wrote that hundreds of reports of beatings, burnings and lashings suggested that "such treatment was not an exception." Most abuse cases contained in the new batch of leaks appear to have been ultimately ignored, the paper said.

 
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