Assange a high-tech terrorist, says Biden

Monday, December 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - US Vice President Joe Biden has said that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “closer to being a high-tech terrorist”, and acknowledged the fact that the leak of classified US diplomatic cables have damaged foreign relations.

In an interview with the NBC’s “Meet the Press” programme, when Biden was asked if what Assange had done was criminal, the vice president said it would be considered criminal if it could be established that the WikiLeaks founder had encouraged or helped Bradley Manning, the US intelligence analyst suspected of being behind the leak.

Biden said this was different from a journalist receiving leaked material, another media report said.

“If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military, that’s fundamentally different than if somebody drops on your lap here… you’re a press person, ‘Here is classified material’,” Biden was quoted as saying.

On being told by the show host that a Republican senator considered Assange to be a “high-tech terrorist”, while many others say his document release was more like the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, Biden said: “I would argue that it’s closer to being high-tech terrorist than to the Pentagon Papers.”

“This guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world,” he said.

“He’s made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends. For example, in my meetings, you know I meet with most of these world leaders. There is a desire now to meet with me alone rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome. And so it has done damage.”

The vice president had earlier told the channel, “I don’t think there’s any substantive damage” as a result of the WikiLeaks disclosures.

“Some of the cables that are coming out here and around the world are embarrassing,” but that they contain “nothing that I am aware of that goes to the essence of the relationship” between the US and foreign governments.

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