WikiLeaks's Assange confirmed US cables deal on napkin
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange confirmed a deal to release over 250,000 US diplomatic cables by scribbling on a napkin, extracts from a new biography revealed Tuesday.
Two journalists from Britain's Guardian newspaper, Ian Traynor and Nick Davies, negotiated for six hours with Assange in a Belgian cafe as they strove to be the first publication allowed access to the leaked cables, the book claimed.
Passages from "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy," published in Tuesday's Guardian, revealed how Traynor, the paper's European editor, was informed of a deal in an unusual fashion.
"Julian [Assange] whipped out this mini-laptop, opened it up and did something on his computer," Traynor recalled.
"He picked up a napkin and said, 'OK you've got it.' "We said: 'Got what?' "He said: 'You've got the whole file. The password is this napkin.'
"I was stunned. We were expecting further, very long negotiations and conditions. This was instant. It was an act of faith," he added.
Assange struck similar deals with the New York Times and Germany's Der Spiegel magazine and later with France's Le Monde and Spain's El Pais newspapers.
Davies broke off relations with Assange, saying he felt "betrayed," when some of the Afghanistan war logs were presented to the Guardian's television rivals, Channel 4, the book revealed.
Negotiations were further complicated when Assange became infuriated with the New York Times after it published an unflattering profile of him.
Eventually, Assange agreed to allow the five publications to begin the leak when it was discovered that the cables had apparently fallen into the hands of London-based US journalist Heather Brooke, according to the book.
The first batch of documents was set to be published simultaneously by the five outlets at 2130 GMT on November 28, but the plan was thrown into disarray when Der Spiegel suffered its own leak, Tuesday's extracts revealed.
Copies of the weekly news magazine were delivered a day early to a train station in Basel, Switzerland, after a distribution van set off too soon.
The paper fell into the hands of Radio Basel, and cables documenting what the US thought about German leader Angela Merkel, former Russian president Vladimir Putin and Italy's leader Silvio Berlusconi were soon circulating the Internet.
According to the book, the unwanted breach forced all five publications to bring forward the release of the cables by over three hours.
Assange is currently on bail in Britain while fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sex case.
© 2011 AFP