WikiLeaks founder says enjoys making banks squirm

(Reuters) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he enjoys making banks squirm thinking they might be the next targets of his website which has published U.S. diplomatic and military secrets.

“I think it’s great. We have all these banks squirming, thinking maybe it’s them,” Assange told the CBS television program “60 Minutes” in an interview.

CBS released a partial transcript on Friday ahead of Sunday’s broadcast of the full segment.

Bank of America Corp shares fell more than 3 percent on November 30 on investor fears that the largest U.S. bank by assets would be the subject of a document release.

Interviewer Steve Kroft asked Assange whether he had acquired a five-gigabyte hard drive belonging to one of the bank’s executives, as Assange had previously asserted.

“I won’t make any comment in relation to that upcoming publication,” said Assange, who is under a form of modified house arrest in England, awaiting an extradition hearing to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex offenses that he denies.

Assange had told Forbes magazine that WikiLeaks planned a “megaleak” by releasing tens of thousands of internal documents from a major U.S. bank in early 2011 that he expected would lead to investigations of the bank.

In an October 2009 interview, Assange told Computerworld that WikiLeaks had obtained five gigabytes of data from a Bank of America executive’s hard drive.

The Forbes interview came just after WikiLeaks released 250,000 U.S. government diplomatic cables. Previously, WikiLeaks had made public nearly 500,000 classified U.S. files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Major headlines were generated by some of the cables, which revealed that Saudi leaders had urged U.S. military action against Iran and detailed contacts between U.S. diplomats and political dissidents and opposition leaders in some countries.

Assange told “60 Minutes” he fully expected U.S. retaliation but that the American government was incapable of taking his website down.

“The U.S. does not have the technology to take the site down . … Just the way our technology is constructed, the way the Internet is constructed,” Assange said.

“We’ve had attacks on particular domain names. Little pieces of infrastructure knocked out. But we now have some 2,000 fully independent in every way websites, where we’re publishing around the world. It is — I mean, it’s not possible to do.”

WikiLeaks says it is a nonprofit organization funded by human rights campaigners, journalists and the general public. Launched in 2006, it promotes the leaking of information to fight government and corporate corruption.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Xavier Briand)


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