GENEVA (Reuters) - The founder of WikiLeaks called on the United States on Thursday to fully examine abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to halt its “aggressive investigation” into his whistle-blowing organization.
Julian Assange said WikiLeaks would release thousands of documents this year concerning not only the United States, but other countries including Russia and Lebanon.
It has made public nearly 500,000 classified U.S. files on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, drawing ire from the Pentagon. Some U.S. secret documents contained accounts of Iraqi forces torturing Iraqi prisoners and the failure of the U.S. military to investigate those instances.
“It is time the United States opened up instead of covering up,” Assange told a news conference in Geneva on the eve of an examination by the U.N. Human Rights Council of the overall U.S. record.
“The United States is in grave danger of losing its way,” said the Australian, who is moving from country to country to seek protection through their whistleblower laws.
The U.S. delegation has said it is open to fair criticism of its human rights record, including racial discrimination and counterterrorism policies, at Friday’s debate, where Muslim countries are expected to voice concern about detainee abuse.
U.S. officials have said the military had not systematically ignored cases of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqi forces.
The Obama administration has not announced any investigation into the abuses — some of which occurred during its first year in office — unlike Britain and Denmark, which have begun looking into their own troops’ behavior, according to Assange.
“The only investigation to my knowledge that has been announced by the United States is into us, into possible sources within the U.S. military,” Assange said.
“The only action to date has been to threaten this organization, to place the alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning into prison, where he sits now in Quantico (Virginia) facing a potential sentence of 52 years,” he said.
The U.S. probe into the source of the leaked documents has focused on Manning, who worked as a U.S. army intelligence analyst in Iraq. He is under arrest and charged with leaking a classified video showing a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.
The massive WikiLeaks disclosures of leaked documents have been the largest in U.S. military history.
WikiLeaks has said the documents detailed the deaths of 15,000 more Iraqi civilians than the U.S. military had reported.
The Pentagon has said it did not under-report the number of civilian deaths or ignore prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces.
“If the United States is to be seen as a credible country that obeys the rule of law...it must conduct investigations into plausible violations of those laws,” he said.
It was vital for the United States to submit its record to international scrutiny by the 47-member rights body, Assange said, recalling its tradition of allowing free speech.
WikiLeaks has publicly acknowledged it has some 15,000 more documents on the war in Afghanistan that it has threatened to release, along with an Afghanistan video file.
“We are continuing to publish as fast as we can,” he said.
Editing by Michael Roddy