LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the US justice system was suffering from a "calamitous collapse in the rule of law", as Washington reeled from the sensational exposure of vast spy agency surveillance programmes.
Speaking in an interview Friday with AFP at Ecuador's London embassy, where he has been holed up for almost a year, the founder of the whistleblowing website accused the US government of trying to "launder" its activities with regard to the far-reaching electronic spying effort revealed on Thursday.
"The US administration has the phone records of everyone in the United States and is receiving them daily from carriers to the National Security Agency under secret agreements. That's what's come out," said the 41-year-old Australian.
Two newspaper exposes have laid bare the extent to which President Barack Obama's intelligence apparatus is scooping up enormous amounts of personal data -- on telephone calls, emails, website visits -- on millions of Americans and foreigners.
Obama has defended the programmes, saying they are legal, necessary to combat terror, and balance security with privacy.
Assange, whose website has enraged Washington by publishing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables and classified files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the Obama administration was engaged in a bid to "criminalise all national security journalism in the United States".
US soldier Bradley Manning is being court-martialled for leaking the huge cache of government files to WikiLeaks, while there has been an outcry in the US media after the government seized the phone records of journalists at the Associated Press and Fox News in a bid to root out government sources. MORE