Video: Assange: Manning a ‘political prisoner’ in U.S.
updated 12/22/2010 6:28:18 PM ET 2010-12-22T23:28:18

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday that former presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin were emblematic of an "idiot trying to make a name” with calls for the execution of whoever leaked secret U.S. documents to his organization. He said people calling for violence against him should be prosecuted for incitement to murder.

Assange also told msnbc cable television that the world was facing “a new type of digital McCarthyism that is being pushed from Washington” in an attempt to quash his organization’s reporting, and he called an Army soldier suspected of helping WikiLeaks a "political prisoner."

Answering allegations by Vice President Joe Biden and others that WikiLeaks was a terrorist organization, Assange said that no one has "ever been physically harmed" by WikiLeaks' release of secret documents.

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"Whoever the terrorists are here, it's not us," Assange told msnbc.

Assange said there had been calls by politicians and "shock jocks" on TV for his assassination and the kidnapping of his staff. He called it "the threat of violence in order to achieve a political end ... and that is the definition of terrorism."

Asked by msnbc's Cenk Uygur how he would respond to comments by Huckabee and Palin about his organization, Assange said: "It's just another idiot trying to make a name for himself."

"If we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people," he said. "That is incitement to commit murder."

Story: Assange warns of 'digital McCarthyism'

Assange, an Australian national, is under house arrest at a British mansion near London, facing a Swedish warrant seeking his extradition for questioning on charges of rape. Assange has denied the allegations.

WikiLeaks' release of secret diplomatic cables has caused a diplomatic crisis and laid bear some of the most sensitive U.S. dealings with governments around the world. It also has prompted an American effort to stifle WikiLeaks by pressuring financial institutions to cut off the flow of money to the organization. U.S. Attorney General Eric holder has said his department is also considering whether it can prosecute the release of information under the Espionage Act.

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Video: Assange: Manning a ‘political prisoner’ in U.S. (on this page)

In other WikiLeaks developments Wednesday:

  • Russia's leading opposition newspaper said it would publish new WikiLeaks disclosures unmasking corruption among Russia's "highest political echelons." Novaya Gazeta, a weekly known for its critical, anti-Kremlin investigative reporting, said by joining forces with Assange, it had gained unlimited access to new material linking Russia's political elite to organized crime. President Dmitry Medvedev angrily dismissed as irrelevant U.S. diplomatic cables published so far that cast Russia as corrupt.
  • Anna Nicole Smith hit the Bahamas like a hurricane, spreading scandals that toppled a string of officials , according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. The government fell two months after the last cable was written. "Not since Category 4 Hurricane Betsy made landfall in 1965 has one woman done as much damage in Nassau," reads a colorful November 2006 document, apparently written by Deputy Chief of Mission D. Brent Hardt. It was released by WikiLeaks and published by the British newspaper The Guardian late Tuesday.
  • The United Nations said it would look into the treatment of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is being held in solitary confinement on suspicions that he is the source for many of the classified documents released by WikiLeaks. The U.N. office for torture issues in Geneva said it received a complaint from one of Manning's supporters alleging that conditions at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., amount to torture. Visitors say he spends at least 23 hours a day alone in a cell. He's not allowed to exercise in his cell or have sheets or a pillow.

Assange told msnbc that WikiLeaks was unsure "if this young man is our source or not. Our technology is set up so that we don't know that."

"If we are to believe the allegations, then this man acted for political reasons. He is a political prisoner in the United States. ... Civil rights organizations should be investigating the conditions under which he is held."

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He called allegations that WikiLeaks had conspired with Manning "absolute nonsense."

"That's not how our technology works, that's not how our organization works," Assange said. "I never heard of the name of Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media."

But Assange offered a warning to other media that if a conspiracy charge could be levied against him, then it could be levied against any reporter who works confidential sources to get sensitive information.

"That's going to take out all of good government journalism as it occurs in the United States," he said.

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