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General News    H1'ed 11/29/12

Julian Assange on WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Cypherpunks, Surveillance State, from DemocracyNow

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In his most extended interview in months, Julian Assange speaks to Democracy Now! from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up for nearly six months. Assange vowed WikiLeaks would persevere despite attacks against it. On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that the credit card company Visa did not break the European Union's antitrust rules by blocking donations to WikiLeaks. "Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period. ... Our rightful and natural growth, our ability to publish as much as we would like, our ability to defend ourselves and our sources, has been diminished by that blockade." 
Assange also speaks about his new book, "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet." "The mass surveillance and mass interception that is occurring to all of us now who use the internet is also a mass transfer of power from individuals into extremely sophisticated state and private intelligence organizations and their cronies," he says. Assange also discusses the United States' targeting of WikiLeaks. "The Pentagon is maintaining a line that WikiLeaks inherently, as an institution that tells military and government whistleblowers to step forward with information, is a crime. They allege we are criminal, moving forward," Assange says. "Now, the new interpretation of the Espionage Act that the Pentagon is trying to hammer in to the legal system, and which the Department of Justice is complicit in, would mean the end of national security journalism in the United States." [includes rush transcript]

JUAN  GONZÁLEZ: Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, may testify today at a pretrial proceeding for the first time since he was arrested in May 2010. Manning could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious of 22 counts against him. His trial is expected to begin in February.

Meanwhile, the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought refuge nearly six months ago to avoid being extradited to Sweden to be questioned over sexual assault claims. Earlier this week, Assange vowed WikiLeaks would persevere despite attacks against it. On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that the credit card company Visa did not break the European Union's antitrust rules by blocking donations to WikiLeaks. Shortly after the ruling, Assange addressed reporters in Brussels via video stream from inside the Ecuadorean embassy.

JULIAN   ASSANGE : The strength of popular and private support means that we continue. There is no danger that WikiLeaks will cease to exist as an organization. Rather, its natural and rightful growth has been compromised, and that is wrong and must change. It would set a very bad precedent--it was not only wrong for WikiLeaks; it sets an extremely bad precedent for all other European organizations and all media organizations worldwide that monopolies can simply exercise financial death penalties over organizations and companies as a result of political controversy.

AMY   GOODMAN : That was Julian Assange speaking on Tuesday. He now joins us in a rare interview from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He has been granted political asylum in Ecuador but can't leave the embassy because the British government promises to arrest him if he steps foot on British soil. He has just co-authored a new book called Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet. The book examines how the internet can be used as both an instrument of freedom and oppression.

We want to welcome you, Julian Assange, back to Democracy Now! and first get your reaction to the European Commission's decision around the issue of Visa, saying it wasn't breaking antitrust laws when it blocked donations to you. The significance of the credit card company's blockade of donations to WikiLeaks, what it's meant for your website?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : Well, it's good to be with you, Amy and Juan. The decision is disgraceful, but it is only a preliminary decision. We have another submission that the commission has asked for, so hopefully they will turn around before the end of the year or the beginning of next year. Commission had been investigating our complaint for 16 months. The normal turnaround time is four months. The European Parliament last week voted, through an Article 32 section, on how banks should be reformed and credit card companies should be reformed in order to stop arbitrary, extrajudicial financial blockades such as the one that is being applied to WikiLeaks. This year, we--the Council of Europe, all 47 foreign ministers last year passed a resolution saying that these sorts of arbitrary financial blockades on WikiLeaks should not continue, so that it's interesting to see the playoff in the political wills in Europe between, on the one hand, the Council of Europe and the Parliament and, on the other hand, the commission. But it's been known for a long time that the commission is closer to big business, and it is often successfully lobbied. Hopefully the commission will do the right thing and turn around in this case.

AMY   GOODMAN : And how devastating has it been for WikiLeaks?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period. So, that is over $50 million. Now, fortunately, our 5 percent of $50 million is still not nothing, and so the organization can continue. But as I said in that press conference, our rightful and natural growth, our ability to publish as much as we would like, our ability to defend ourselves and our sources, has been diminished by that blockade.

Now, the United States government has looked into the blockade in January of 2011 and formally found that there is no lawful reason to erect a U.S. financial embargo against WikiLeaks. So what has happened here is that--and this came out in the commission documents that we published yesterday--is that Senator Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King pressured at the very least MasterCard and Amazon, but perhaps others, including Visa, as well, pressured those organizations to erect an extrajudicial blockade that they were not able to successfully erect through the legislature or through a formal administrative process.

JUAN  GONZÁLEZ: Julian, turning to your new book, Cypherpunks, those in the--around the world who have been amazed at your ability to advocate transparency in government and in the corporate world through the internet might be surprised that in your book you now say the internet is a danger to human civilization. Could you explain why?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : Human civilization has merged with the internet. Every society has gone onto the internet, with communications between all of us as individuals but also communications between businesses, economic transfers, and even the internal communications and external communications of states. So there is no barrier anymore between the internet and global civilization. That means that when the internet develops a sickness, global civilization also runs the risk of suffering the same sickness.

And the sickness that the internet has developed over the past 10 years is that nation states and their corporate powers have ganged up together to engage in strategic interception of all communications flowing over the internet across national borders and in many countries even within, within its national confines, such as the United States. We know that that has occurred in different places as a result of whistleblowing cases, such as Mark Klein's case or William Binney's, a former chief of research at the National Security Agency. So, we have gone from a position that dissidents face and activists face and individuals face 10, 20 years ago, where if we're engaged in political activity, we could be individually targeted and our friends could be targeted, to a situation where everything, almost, that everyone does over the internet is recorded and intercepted all the time. And that shift is a shift, as it's called in the internal documents of the hundreds of companies now who supply this national security sector, a shift between tactical interception on a few people and strategic interception, intercepting the entire nation.

We exposed documents earlier this year, the Spy Files--you can look them up--where, for example, the French company  AMISYS , which is closely connected to French intelligence, supplied a nationwide--that's its own words--interception system to Gaddafi's Libya back in 2009. And in fact, lawyers connected to WikiLeaks and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism were in the manual that AMISYS  shipped to Gaddafi as an example of how the interception system worked.

JUAN  GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of corporate surveillance, as well, you often find now in the media a huge push to get people to use social networks. The degree to which private surveillance or corporate surveillance is going on, as well as government surveillance?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : There's not a barrier anymore between corporate surveillance, on the one hand, and government surveillance, on the other. You know, Facebook is based--has its servers based in the United States. Gmail, as General Petraeus found out, has its servers based in the United States. And the interplay between U.S. intelligence agencies and other Western intelligence agencies and any intelligence agencies that can hack this is fluid. So, we're in a--if we look back to what's a earlier example of the worst penetration by an intelligence apparatus of a society, which is perhaps East Germany, where up to 10 percent of people over their lifetime had been an informer at one stage or another, in Iceland we have 88 percent penetration of Iceland by Facebook. Eighty-eight percent of people are there on Facebook informing on their friends and their movements and the nature of their relationships--and for free. They're not even being paid money. They're not even being directly coerced to do it. They're doing it for social credits to avoid the feeling of exclusion. But people should understand what is really going on. I don't believe people are doing this or would do it if they truly understood what was going on, that they are doing hundreds of billions of hours of free work for the Central Intelligence Agency, for the  FBI , and for all allied agencies and all countries that can ask for favors to get hold of that information.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
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