Julian Assange and the Wikileaks masterplan, as seen on CBS (Review)

Will the real Julian Assange please stand up? In what was said to be his first major TV interview the Wikileaks founder was a far cry from the scruffy individual described in a lengthy New York Times article that same day.

And he clearly impressed TV interviewer Steve Kroft, who after spending two days with Assange at the English mansion where he is under house arrest, delivered the verdict that Mr Wikileaks was "very smart . . brilliant." Yes, he was odd dark and eccentric but, said Kroft, the media had presented a misleading picture.

Assange, who is currently under US criminal investigation over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret military reports and diplomatic cables, denied he was motivated by a dislike of America.

“Our founding values are those of the US revolution,” he claimed . “They are those of people like [Thomas] Jefferson and [James] Madison."

Members of Wikileaks were "free press activists", he said. The website did not have a political agenda.

"It's not about saving the whales. It's about giving people the information they need to support whaling or not support whaling," the 39-year-old Australian said.

"That is the raw ingredient that is needed to make a just and civil society. And without that you're just sailing in the dark."Wikileaks was playing "inside the rules" and "operated just like any US publisher operates".

He disclosed a plan to release a host of secret documents should Wikileaks be permanently shut down.

Mr Assange told Kroft his group had a "system whereby we distribute encrypted backups of things we have yet to publish".

"There are backups distributed amongst many, many people, 100,000 people, and all we need to do is give them an encrypted key and they will be able to continue on," he said. The Wikileaks founder said the key would only be released as a last resort. "If a number of people were imprisoned or assassinated, then we would feel that we could not go on, and other people would have to take over our work, and we would release the keys," he said.

Assange refused to confirm or deny a plan to release information on Bank of America. "We have all these banks squirming, thinking maybe it's them," he said. "When you see abusive organisations suffer the consequences as a result of their abuse, and you see victims elevated ... that's a very pleasurable activity to be involved in."

Mr Assange refused to discuss the Swedish sex crimes allegations, which he denies.He is confined to the house in England on bail pending extradition proceedings.

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