‘Rolling Stone’ to publish big Julian Assange interview by Michael Hastings, the guy who blew the lid off Gen. McChrystal

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Michael Hastings, Julian Assange. ()
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Michael Hastings is in the news this week for his latest book, The Operators, a 379-page follow-up to the journalist's explosive June 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose career-making spot as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan came to a screeching halt after the article revealed him trash-talking Vice President Joseph Biden and some of the president's top aides.

Now the 31-year-old war reporter has another potentially explosive Rolling Stone story in the pipeline: The magazine is gearing up to publish an extensive interview that Hastings recently conducted with elusive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Capital has learned.

The Q & A, which is expected to drop next week, according to people familiar with Rolling Stone's publication schedule, was conducted over three days just before Christmas at an undisclosed location in England, where Assange has been sequestered under house arrest as he fights extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.

Gaining this type of access to the infamous whistleblower and anti-secrecy advocate is a coup not only given Assange's high profile, but the extent to which he's alienated himself from much of the mainstream press. Participation from Assange in media coverage has become increasingly rare, and he's cut ties with certain influential news outlets, such as The New York Times and The Guardian, that he'd previously worked with when coordinating WikiLeaks' massive document dumps.

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We're told the Rolling Stone piece wasn't easy to broker, and that Assange agreed only after a solid month of negotiating the terms.

A spokesman for the magazine declined to comment, as did Hastings when reached by Capital.

The piece will be Rolling Stone's second big WikiLeaks feature since Dec. 2010, when Nathaniel Rich profiled Jacob Applebaum, the only known American member of WikiLeaks.

The website has blown the lid off troves of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents over the past several years, but ceased publishing last fall due to what Assange recently called a financial "blockade" that has decimated its funding.

Bradley Manning, meanwhile, the former U.S. Army analyst suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with much of the intel that put the site on the map, now stands to face trial after a military tribunal recommended he be court martialed yesterday.