NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t AIR

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and a team of Times reporters worked with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for months before the Times published hundreds of classified documents obtained by WikiLeaks late last year. In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Keller described how the Times’ relationship with Assange began to deteriorate after the paper published several of the Afghanistan war logs provided by WikiLeaks. On Tuesday’s Fresh Air, Keller explains why the Times decided to publish the documents, the impact of those cables and why he came to regard Julian Assange as “elusive, manipulative and volatile.” Keller tells Terry Gross that during an early conversation with representatives of The Guardian, Assange was told that both The Guardian and The New York Times wanted to edit out the names of ordinary Afghan citizens in classified military documents. “Assange’s reaction was, ‘Well, they’re informants. There’s no reason for protecting them,’ ” Keller says. “But I think over time, he came around to the view that at least, from a public relations point of view, it was better to allow for a certain amount of editing out of things that could cost lives.” But after the Times published the cables, their relationship with Assange went from “wary to hostile.” Assange was upset, Keller says, because the Times would not link to the WikiLeaks website, which did not redact the names of low-level informants. “Obviously, there was no way we were going to prevent people from going to the WikiLeaks website to see the documents, but as a matter of principle, we said that when we published our stories about the Afghanistan documents, we were not going to link to their website,” Keller says. “We feared that it could become hit-list material for the Taliban. [Assange] was deeply offended, not just that we had not linked to his website, but that we had made a point of not linking to his website. He thought we had shown disrespect.” MORE

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