[globalresearch.ca] GROSS: Were you surprised to hear that Senator Lieberman had suggested the Justice Department investigate the New York Times?
Mr. SANGER: No, in fact, I had suspected that we would probably hear more calls like this at various points in this debate, and I think most people recognized that what the Times was trying to do was make sense of an enormous mass of material that was out in the world anyway.
If we had done nothing, if we had ignored it, I think it would have looked strange. I think that also would have been irresponsible. It is the responsibility of American journalism, back to the founding of this country, to get out and try to grapple with the hardest issues of the day and to do it independently of the government.
And we can argue for a long time whether this material ever should have leaked, and I have a lot of concerns about the leakage of classified information. I've also got a lot of concerns about the over-classification of information. But the fact of the matter was that this information's out there.
GROSS: Let me quote something that Julian Assange just wrote in an op-ed piece that was published in Australia, and he is an Australian citizen. He wrote: WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the U.S. embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain's The Guardian, the New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables, yet it is WikiLeaks, as the coordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the U.S. government and its acolytes.
The Australian Prime Minister Gillard and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organizations. That is because the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.
Do you consider Julian Assange a journalist?
Mr. SANGER: I don't, and the reason is that I believe what journalists do is not only dig out information but filter it, explain it, put it in context, do those things that you've come to expect of the New York Times and other great American newspapers and other media organizations for many decades. That's a very different thing from simply downloading a computer system and throwing it out onto the World Wide Web.
He's coming to this with a political motivation. As journalists at the Times and elsewhere, we are not. We are coming at this to explain the world. He was trying, as - just to use his own words, to embarrass the United States and make clear that America's actions are different than its rhetoric.
Well, in fact when you look through these documents, America's actions are pretty consistent with its rhetoric.