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Monday, January 17, 2011

WikiLeaks: the latest developments | World news |

Logo used by WikileaksImage via WikipediaWikiLeaks: the latest developments | World news |

Whistleblower Rudolf Elmer hands over Swiss bank documents, Dutch media publishes Afghan cables and more of today's WikiLeaks news and views

Rudolf Elmer in Mauritius: Photograph: Rene Soobaroyen for the Guardian
2.17pm: There is some scepticism in the comments and it is probably worth pointing out that, for the moment, only Elmer knows what is on the CDs. WikiLeaks presumably won't until its people have had a look at them. So despite this morning's events at the Frontline Club, which prove if nothing else that Assange is still in business, we don't really know how dramatic or not their contents will be.

12.36pm: The press conference to hand over the Swiss banking data - containing the offshore account details of 2,000 prominent people and companies - is now over, but here is a summary of some of Assange's later answers.

• Assange says he wants to go the "safe route" and have professionals look at the Elmer CDs; he also says WikiLeaks has found "sources need to be protected before the information is passed out to others."

• He says some journalists can be opportunists who "twist and hype up the material and distort the historical record" so WikiLeaks makes "primary source documents available so honest journalists rise high and dishonest journalists struggle."

• He is also asked about the embassy cables release. Assange says 2.3% has been released and the process will continue over the coming months.

• Assange says WikiLeaks has had more legal threats from banks "than any other organisations". (Update Elmer said of the Swiss banking system: "I started pulling on the tail of a mouse and it became a fire-breathing dragon.")

12.16pm: Elmer holds up the two CDs of data he is to hand over to WikiLeaks. He says his relationship is not with Assange but with WikiLeaks ("I'll say it again. WikiLeaks," he says) and his intention is not to reveal individual's names but to get the information looked at. Elmer also adds that he is taking full responsibility for the data. Assange is asked when the information will be released - he says it depends how long it takes to deal with, that the organisation is "attending to other matters".

Assange says he won't be taking questions on his own legal process as it is Elmer's press conference – and the Swiss whistleblower himself has a court date this week.

12.12pm: Interesting: Assange says he does not know if Elmer is WikiLeaks' source or not. He says WikiLeaks is structured in such a way to make that impossible to know.

12.11pm: Assange is now talking: he is explaining how Julius Baer, Elmer's former bank, tried to use a US court in 2008 to take down the domain. He said it was then WikiLeaks realised that the techniques it had developed to deal with Chinese censorship would be needed for operating in western countries too.

The bank lost their injunction on first ammendment (freedom of speech) grounds with WikiLeaks supported in the case by US campaigners and media organisations, Assange tells the conference. He compares this to what he calls the "McCarthyist" state of play today.

12.03pm: Esther Addley tweets that Assange has arrived at the Elmer press conference and is fighting through banks of cameras to get to the microphone.

11.50am: The Elmer press conference is underway at the Frontline Club in London. You can watch it streaming on Frontline's website or its ustream channel.

11.30am: Good morning. Here are the latest WikiLeaks developments:

• Swiss banking whistleblower Rudolf Elmer is in London today, where he intends to give WikiLeaks the "offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous" ahead of trial later this week in Switzerland. From the Observer's story yesterday:

British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London. Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, "approximately 40 politicians".

Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands and employee of the powerful Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information

Julian Assange has said it is "no coincidence" he gave cables from the US's embassy in The Hague to two Dutch media organisations. Dutch MPs are about to vote on whether to participate in a Nato police training mission in Afghanistan. Assange said: "If there is relevant material, it has to come out before they do."

One story to come out so far is that Dutch civil servants urged US officials to pressure former Labour party leader Wouter Bos to support a continued military mission in Afghanistan. "They complain 'he just doesn't get it'," the cables says of the Dutch officials attitude to Bos.

The US ambassador, Hartog Levin, suggests following tactic for the Pittsburgh G20 summit in her cable back to Washington (pdf):

A pull-aside for Bos by a senior USG official such as NSA General Jones at the Pittsburgh Summit would be beneficial. It would make Bos aware of how important we view international leadership -- measured by a country's actions across the board. A pull-aside would also demonstrate to Prime Minister Balkenende our support for his efforts to get Cabinet approval of continued Dutch deployment

If you can read Dutch (or skip the Dutch and read the English quotes) RTL has a page on the Netherlands and the G20, with pdfs of relevant cables.

• Question: what links Muammar Gaddafi and Teresa Scanlan, winner of Miss America 2011? The answer is they both made strong statements over the weekend against WikiLeaks.

Gaddafi blamed the Tunisia uprising on cables written by "ambassadors in order to create chaos". In answer to a question on WikiLeaks at the pageant, Scanlan, who (more conventionally) also played the piano and wore a bikini, said the release of the cables "was actually based on espionage, and when it comes to the security of our nation, we have to focus on security first and then people's right to know."

• Here is a link to Friday's WikiLeaks blog.

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