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Could Wikileaks have prevented the Vietnam War?

That Julian Assange has been out and about again, taking part in a debate on the value of whistle-blowing, in between engagements with police which are part and parcel of his bail conditions.

The New Statesman-sponsored debate held at the Frontline Club, the founder of which, Vaughan Smith, is providing Assange with a roof over his head as a further condition of his bail, discussed the motion "This house believes whistle blowers make the world a safer place".

Also speaking in favour of the motion were Clayton Swisher of the Al Jazeera transparency unit, and Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman. Opposed were Sir David Richmond, of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Bob Ayers, a former director of the US Department of Defence Information Systems Security Programme and author Douglas Murray.

Swisher claimed there exists a "culture of collusion between mainstream media and government", which makes whistle blowing and leaking information all the more necessary. Governments will leak information when it suits them, he suggested. They also tell lies we suggest.

жAssange discussed what he called the "original sin of censorship" and wondered whether a leaker have prevented the Vietnam war. Would the Iraq War have been averted if David Kelly had not just blown his whistle to BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, but blown it more loudly and more often? He claimed whistle blowers prevented an attack on Iran in 2007.

ж"When whistle blowers speak anonymously they can feel proud that they have changed history and move on." he said. The Sydney Morning Herald has a video of the talk here.

Assange later argued that WikiLeaks is more accountable than democratically elected governments since it is supported by donations from members of the public.

"We are directly supported on a week-to-week basis by you," he told supporters in the audience. "You vote with your wallets every week if you believe that our work is worthwhile or not. If you believe we have erred, you do not support us. If you believe we need to be protected in our work, you keep us strong.

"That dynamic feedback, I say, is more responsive than a government that is elected after sourcing money from big business every four years."

Tags: assange, wikilwaks