Lifting the Lid on WikiLeaks An Inside Look at Difficult Negotiations with Julian Assange

The publication of the US diplomatic cables was a journalistic sensation for WikiLeaks and its media partners, including SPIEGEL. In an excerpt from a new book, Holger Stark and Marcel Rosenbach recount the tense negotiations with Julian Assange in the run-up to the publication of the diplomatic cables.


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The joint publication of classified United States embassy cables in November 2010 in a number of major newspapers and magazines rocked the diplomatic world. In newly published books, editors at SPIEGEL and the New York Times have documented relationships between the founder of WikiLeaks and the publications that were at time tumultuous during preparations for the documents' release.

For some time now, Julian Assange has been sparring with New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. Assange claims the paper didn't publish the material in its entirety and made too many concessions to the White House before going to print.

Now, Keller is fighting back. On Monday, the New York Times will publish a book with its full account of the publication of the WikiLeaks documents. In his preface, Keller describes the stormy relationship with WikiLeaks founder Assange, comparing the Australian to a character straight out of a Stieg Larsson thriller, "a man who could figure either as a hero or villain." Keller claims that the journalists who worked with Assange saw him as a "source," a man who "clearly had his own agenda," and was not a "partner or collaborator."

Keller goes on to describe Assange as being "elusive, manipulative and volatile." He also writes that Assange's relationship with the New York Times became "openly hostile," and, in the end, the Australian wanted to exclude the newspaper from publishing any further WikiLeaks documents in the future.

The truth, however, is that the New York Times and the Guardian had already decided that they would publish the diplomatic cables without WikiLeaks' permission. Assange threatened to sue and the situation culminated in dramatic meetings. SPIEGEL's co-editor in chief, Georg Mascolo, and SPIEGEL editors Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark represented the magazine in those crisis meetings.

In an excerpt from their new book, "Staatsfeind WikiLeaks" ("WikiLeaks, Public Enemy No. 1"), Stark and Rosenbach describe their encounters with Assange.


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