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WikiLeaks says it has obtained 2.4 million emails from Syria, claims revelations forthcoming

 

The secret-spilling group WikiLeaks said Thursday it was in the process of publishing material from 2.4 million Syrian emails -- many of which it said came from official government accounts.

WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, said he decided to release these emails now because they show that certain European companies were still doing business with the Assad regime as recently as this year.

WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison told journalists at London's Frontline Club that the emails reveal interactions between the Syrian government and Western companies, although she declined to go into much further detail.

Harrison quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as saying that "the material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria's external opponents."

WikiLeaks released 25 of the 2.4 million emails Thursday focusing on an Italian defense technology group and a Greek company. The emails reveal the companies sold sophisticated radios and equipment to the Syrian police -- the same police who are killing and torturing civilians.

The emails show the back and forth of a 2008 deal cut before the violence began. The $50 million deal was signed by Italy's Finnmeccanica, its Selex Elsag unit, and a Greek firm Intracom-Telecom to provide Tetra-secure, encrypted radios to the Syrian government. As recently as February technicians from the firms were training Syrians to use these radios.

Finnmeccanica denied the report, saying, "This system was intended for use by emergency and rescue organizations ("public safety"). ...After the beginning of the violence in Syria, and following the stance taken by the international community, no deliveries have been authorized nor, consequently, executed."

WikiLeaks says it will continue releasing more of the two million plus emails in the coming days and months.

The handful of documents posted Thursday on the WikiLeaks website -- whose source WikiLeaks has not made clear -- wouldn't be the first major leak of Syrian emails.

In February, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published excerpts of what it said were emails hacked from Syrian servers by Anonymous, the shadowy Internet activist group. In March, Britain's Guardian newspaper published emails it sourced to Syrian opposition activists.

The messages appeared to catch the glamorous wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad shopping for pricey shoes while her country slipped toward civil war.

Harrison said the WikiLeaks emails dated from August 2006 to March 2012 and originated from hundreds of different domains, including Syria's ministry of presidential affairs.

Harrison said her group was "statistically confident" that the body of material was genuine.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he didn't believe the disclosures would change anything.

"There is ample evidence about the exact violence that they are perpetrating against their own people," he told reporters. "So my initial reaction is that I am not sure that any additional internal correspondence will change our perspective."

Assange, who is currently seeking asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, was not at the brief presentation. He is wanted by British police for possible extradition to Sweden to face questions about alleged sexual misconduct there.

He has denied wrongdoing but faces arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Harrison acknowledged that WikiLeaks is facing "a difficult time at the moment" but said "we are continuing to work through that."

Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.