Are spies on the heels of WikiLeaks?

It appears likely that Australian spy agencies tailed WikiLeaks founder and spokesman Julian Assange, but as he travels around the world, hiding out and leaking classified, sensitive information about various governments’ activities, are other intelligence agencies tapping into Oz’s intel and starting to keep their own watch?

WikiLeaks has been strongly criticized for publishing about 77,000 secret U.S. documents in July about the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that the leak, made “from the comfort of an office,” endangered the lives of many soldiers and others who are risking their lives for their countries’ security.

McClelland’s criticism hasn’t exactly discouraged WikiLeaks in its mission to expose clandestine government activity indiscriminately. Indeed, there’s buzz that WikiLeaks intends to publish a second round of sensitive U.S. government documents on October 18, this time about 400,000 documents pertaining to the war in Iraq.

Don’t think anyone’s going to wade through all those documents for golden nuggets of information that could jeopardize U.S. military and intelligence operations overseas? Think again…the world is crawling with terrorists itching to get their hands on every one of those hundreds of thousands of documents.

In fact, the October 18 date of release was leaked by several ex-WikiLeaks members who believe releasing the information so early will have serious repercussions for U.S. collaborators and informants in Iraq, whose covers may be compromised as a result.

On the flip side, how much government cover-up is too much? Topics like Guantanamo, the use of waterboarding and civilian death tolls are along the lines of what WikiLeaks aims to expose. But how selective is WikiLeaks about what it publishes…does the team weigh the potential dangers of releasing each document?

It’s not such a stretch to suggest that Assange – computer programmer, hacker (who got in trouble with the law back home in Australia) and whistleblower – is on the radar of intelligence agencies around the world. Assange certainly thinks so…he keeps his whereabouts on the DL, operates on a ‘need to know’ basis and often believes he is being followed. Indeed, he keeps on the move, never staying in one place for too long. Sounds paranoid, but he might just have good reason to be.

When Attorney General McClelland was asked to confirm rumors that Assange was being tracked by Australian intelligence, and that U.S., Britain and Sweden had access to that information, he responded vaguely, saying that he couldn’t comment, but that the U.S. does in fact cooperate internationally on a number of matters. No kidding!

In Australia, the Defense Signals Directorate, the intelligence agency responsible for SIGINT (signals intelligence) and information security, said formally that they have not been monitoring Assange, but ASIO (like the FBI), ASIS (like the CIA) and the federal police declined to comment on the topic.

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