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Assange: 'If Something Happens' To WikiLeaks, 'Key' Cables Will Be Released

More than 100,000 people now have "encrypted" copies of the State Department diplomatic cables in WikiLeaks' latest disclosures, founder Julian Assange claimed today in an online exchange with readers of The Guardian.

So, he said, "if something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically." In other words, if authorities shut down his website, the information will still be public.

On whether his site's leaks have endangered lives, Assange wrote that "there has been no credible allegation, even by organisations like the Pentagon that even a single person has come to harm as a result of our activities."

As for Assange's whereabouts, the Swedish arrest warrant stemming from an alleged rape case (he says he's innocent) or the prospect that he may soon be put in custody, those subjects didn't get much time in the online forum. The one indirect mention: A reader asked about the "personal" nature of the reactions to the leaks -- " 'Julian Assange leaked documents', 'Julian Assange is a terrorist', 'Julian Assange alledgedly raped a woman', 'Julian Assange should be assassinated' " -- and whether Assange should not have made himself the "face" of WikiLeaks.

From Assange's response:

"This is an interesting question. I originally tried hard for the organisation to have no face, because I wanted egos to play no part in our activities. ... (But) in the end, someone must be responsible to the public and only a leadership that is willing to be publicly courageous can genuinely suggest that sources take risks for the greater good. In that process, I have become the lightening rod. I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life, but then I also get undue credit as some kind of balancing force."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.