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Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: Julian Assange threatened to sue the Guardian if it published some of the Cablegate documents, saying he personally owned their content. PA Wire

Assange 'threatened to sue Guardian' over Cablegate publication

A Vanity Fair article alleges that the WikiLeaks founder claimed ownership of the documents leaked from US embassies.

WIKILEAKS FOUNDER Julian Assange threatened to sue the Guardian newspaper four weeks before it began the publications of his site’s leaked US embassy cables, claiming it was publishing material he personally owned, it has been reported.

An article in Vanity Fair magazine, published today, claims that Assange had told Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger he would pursue legal action against the newspaper if it went ahead with plans to publish the documents it had received from WikiLeaks, which in turn had been leaked from within the US State Department.

The article claims that the Guardian had received the 251,287 leaked cables after they were sent by a ‘disgruntled’ volunteer at WikiLeaks, who had forwarded the final major tranche of the documents to the Guardian before Assange had given his personal blessing.

The manner of how the Guardian received the documents meant, Sarah Ellison’s article continues, that the paper – the first of the five major international news sources to strike up a relationship with the whistleblowers’ website – was released from its earlier arrangement where it could publish stories only when Assange had given it clearance to do so.

‘Personal owner’

Assange, claiming to be the personal owner of the documents and saying that he had not personally authorised their publication, then threatened to launch legal action against the newspaper if it continued with its planned publication of the documents, which contain messages sent to and from the United States’ various embassies worldwide.

Shortly after Assange’s threats, made on November 1, Rusbridger and other senior figures within the Guardian and Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, held a ‘marathon session’ meeting with Assange and his legal representatives.

That meeting ultimately led to a delay in the publication of the diplomatic cables, which gave WikiLeaks time to include Le Monde and El Pais in its media arrangements for the publication of the documents, ahead of their first release on November 28.

Elsewhere in the piece, it is indicated that Assange is still in possession of a fourth ‘megaleak’ – a cache of personal files relating to every prisoner detained at the United States’ detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Assange is currently on bail in the UK awaiting an extradition hearing to Sweden, where he is wanted on rape charges.

Read the full magazine at Vanity Fair >

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