2011-01-17 Press conference at Frontline with Rudolf Elmer and Julian Assange

This morning at the Frontline club, Rudolf Elmer handed over to Julian Assange a set of CDs containing leaked banking materials for 2,000 offshore bank accounts. As we reported on Sunday, "[d]details on the CD's ... include information on business people, approximately 40 politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates, from US, Britain, Germany, Austria, Asia" and other currently undisclosed locations. The context of today's press conference, as well as Elmer's previously expressed motivations, can be found here.

Elmer clarified his position as a banker who "has the right" to prevent further "damage to society" by taking steps to inform the public of ongoing unethical activities. He expressed his gratitude to Wikileaks, which he described as a tool that allowed him to tell the people what he thinks "society has a right to know."

His aim today was to discuss the system, and not to reveal any names or other details contained in the leaked materials.

Elmer added that he was offered an abundance of money for his silence in the past, but that his conscience would not allow him to accept a bribe--this despite the fact that buying silence seems to be modus operandi in the banking industry.

In response to a question regarding his motives for turning over the information to Wikileaks, Elmer clarified that he is not using Wikileaks to secure his own protection against potential criminal allegations. In fact, prior to having made the decision to leak this information through Wikileaks, he felt his mental stability was being jeopardized by the moral predicament that came with knowing about activities being carried out.

Hence the decision was made today to hand over the data to Wikileaks so that they might be investigated. "I'm taking responsibility for this," he added, pointing out that he was solely responsible for the collection of the data and that under no circumstances would he reveal his own sources.

Julian Assange also made a brief statement in which he emphasized that the press conference should not be focused on Wikileaks. When asked about Wikileaks, he replied, "this is not my news conference, this is Mr. Elmer's news conference. I am here to support him... he has important things to say."

When asked how long it would be before the data would be released, he replied that it could be weeks or longer, depending on the amount of "stuff" on the CDs, and on various other circumstances. The material will be treated in the same manner as all leaked materials are treated.

The question arose as to "Why Wikileaks?" Why would the data not be released to the press, instead?

Assange stated that sources must be protected. To this end, Wikileaks is a sound choice because the organization has developed expertise in scientific journalism, which also serves to "keep the press honest":

"Good journalists write honestly, but we all know that there are opportunists that twist and distort and hype up material, and as a result, distort the historical record on which all our political decisions are made. So primary sources must be available at the same time that news stories are available."

Only in this way can we ensure that "honest journalists rise high and dishonest journalists are made to struggle."

Many thanks go out to on-site journalists who shared their insights in real-time via Twitter.