BUNGAY, England - The founder of WikiLeaks said Friday he feared the United States was preparing to indict him, but he insisted that the secret-spilling site would continue its work despite what he called a dirty-tricks campaign against him.
Julian Assange spoke from snowbound Ellingham Hall, a supporter's 10-bedroom country mansion where he is confined on bail as he fights Sweden's attempt to extradite him on allegations of rape and molestation.
He insisted to television interviewers that he was being subjected to a smear campaign and "what appears to be a secret grand jury investigation against me or our organization."
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has said repeatedly that a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks' continuing release of about 250,000 secret U.S. State Department cables was under way and that anyone found to have broken the law would be held accountable.
If pursued, the case could pit the government's efforts to protect sensitive information against press and speech freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. The government suspects WikiLeaks received the documents from an Army private, Bradley Manning, who is in the brig on charges of leaking other classified documents to the organization.
Assange said that he had retained an unspecified U.S. law firm to represent him.
A British High Court judge freed Assange on bail Thursday on condition he reside at the 600-acre estate in eastern England, wear an electronic tag, and report to police daily. Assange spent nine days in prison after handing himself in to British police Dec. 7. He is wanted in Sweden for questioning about sex allegations leveled against him by two women he spent time with while visiting the country in August.
Swedish officials - and the lawyer for the women involved - have denied accusations from Assange and his supporters that the allegations are politically motivated.
In an interview Friday on ABC's Good Morning America, Assange said that he had never heard Manning's name until the press began reporting it, although in another interview at Ellingham Hall he appeared close to acknowledging Manning was a WikiLeaks source.
He called Manning "a young man somehow embroiled in our publishing activities."