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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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JULIAN   ASSANGE : Well, Stratfor is a organization based in Texas. It has tried to model itself after some weird combination between doing private intelligence work, on the one hand, and covering that with an illusion of journalism by creating this thing called the Stratfor report, which has become very influential within--within the military and within government. It has a particular worldview, which is--which the head of Stratfor, Friedman, admits to being a Kissingeresque realpolitik. And through stealing, bribing, gathering information in various ways, they're able to influence U.S. policy and, more broadly, Western policy. Now, it's also--you know, it's done all the usual nasty stuff, like working for Coca-Cola, making reports on PETA , making reports on Bhopal activists and so on. But its greatest importance is its private influence into the decision making of different people throughout government.

But we have found through the Stratfor files, which this young activist Jeremy Hammond is accused of hacking out of Stratfor and giving to us--we have found that actually the information or the sourcing for these reports is rather thin in many places or politically biased or is used to feed something that Stratfor set up called StratCap, which is a private capital investment company which takes the information that they've gained from bribery and uses it to make investments in, say, gold futures and so on. So, you know, you can see from the Stratfor material that this is a company that--where the boss, Friedman, has gone, "How can I be as evil as possible? How can I be some kind of stereotype cross between Kissinger and James Bond and tell everyone else to do it?" And, you know--and that's what is done in that company. So, whoever the source is of the Stratfor material deserves enormous credit. Story after story has come out from all around the world of--about material that Stratfor collected and didn't publish or gave to their private clients.

AMY   GOODMAN : And Julian, one of the emails that WikiLeaks released of Stratfor of the vice president said that there was a secret indictment against you by the secret grand jury that we believe is convened in Alexandria, Virginia, that is going after you and other WikiLeaks volunteers. Do you know any more about this information or any confirmation that there is this sealed indictment against you?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : There are some 3,000 emails in the Stratfor collection about me personally and many more thousands about WikiLeaks. The latest on the grand jury front is that the U.S. Department of Justice admits, as of about two weeks ago, that the investigation is ongoing. On September 28th this year, the Pentagon renewed its formal threats against us in relation to ongoing publishing but also, extremely seriously, in relation to ongoing, what they call, solicitation. So, that is asking sources publicly, you know, "Send us important material, and we will publish it." They say that that itself is a crime. So this is not simply a case about--that we received some information back in 2010 and have been publishing it and they say that that was the crime; 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, that we are--they allege we are criminal, moving forward.

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, and not only the United States, because the Pentagon is trying to apply this extraterritorially. Why would it be the end of national security journalism? Because the interpretation is that if any document that the U.S. government claims to be classified is given to a journalist, who then makes any part of it public, that journalist has committed espionage, and the person who gave them the material has committed the crime, communicating with the enemy. And we released other material about a young Air Force woman who was suspected of communicating with us, and they went to internally prosecute her under 104-D, which is communications with the enemy. So, who's the enemy? Well, the enemy is either WikiLeaks, formally an enemy of the United States, or the interpretation is that any time that there is a communication to the public--and we saw this in the Bradley Manning case--there is a chance for al-Qaeda or the Russians or Iran to read it; therefore, any communication to a journalist is communication to the public, is communication to al-Qaeda, which means that any communication to a journalist is communicating to the enemy. Now, it's absurd overreach, but it is an overreach now which has been put into practice, not at the conviction level yet, but certainly at the investigative and prosecution level. Barack Obama brags publicly on his campaign website of having prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined, in fact, more than twice that of all previous presidents combined.

JUAN  GONZÁLEZ: Julian, on that particular note, I'd like to ask you to, if you can, talk about what you consider to be the long-term impact of WikiLeaks, that as governments continually centralize through the digital revolution their information, it makes it more possible for dissidents or whistleblowers within the structures of these governments to make that information available to broader sectors of the public. And if WikiLeaks--if the governments are able to squash WikiLeaks, how do you see that movement developing in terms of other organizations that are arising that continue the kind of work that you've been doing?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : The attempts to squash WikiLeaks are there to set a general deterrent. I mean, there's no doubt about this. Since 2008, that's been the case. We released a classified U.S. intelligence report, in fact, showing in 2008 the concern that the U.S. military had about WikiLeaks and the ways in which it could be crushed. Other material came out showing that Bank of America had hired lawyers who had looked into hiring people to make all sorts of attacks and smears on us, massively funded millions of dollars per month. And you can look that up. It's the HBGary report.

I think this tension between power and knowledge is extremely important. So, we've all heard the saying that knowledge is power. Well, it's true. And 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. Now, if that is to be resisted, we must have a transfer of information that is going the other way.

Fortunately, the system is in part eating itself. When it sets up these huge databases designed to be extremely efficient, brings in five million people, a state within a state in the United States, who have security clearances to work out how to best use it in order to maximize the power of that sector, it also leaves itself open to people extracting some of that information and reversing the flow and giving it back to the public, putting it into our common intellectual record. But it's not, by any means, an easy battle. I would say that the transfer of power that has occurred as a result of the NSA's admitted 1.6 billion interceptions per day is much greater than the transfer that has happened the other way. The successes of WikiLeaks, yes, to some degree, reflect our vigor and the vigor of activists on the internet, but I think they more fairly represent the vast treasure of global information that is being accumulated by these otherwise unaccountable intelligence organizations.

AMY   GOODMAN : Your reaction--you mentioned Petraeus, General Petraeus, before and how he's been taken down as his email was gone through. What do you think about that? The--here he was--

JULIAN   ASSANGE : I think it's fascinating, Amy. Now, we can look into--you know, if you've been involved in this business for a while, you can start to smell when there must be something more to the situation. So I assume, in those emails that the  FBI  got hold of, there's additional information that would be embarrassing to Petraeus above and beyond an extramarital affair, which is why he's resigned. But that someone in the position of being the ultimate--an ultimate insider, the head of the  CIA , has fallen victim to the surveillance state really shows you how massively out of control the thing has become, where it is like a vicious dog that has suddenly spotted its own tail and has gone after it, is lashing out irrationally, and now it's affected an insider. And people have started to take note, but of course it's been doing that to activists and, in fact, most of--most of us, it has been doing that, although we can't see the result, for years.

AMY   GOODMAN : Julian Assange, as we wrap up, your final thoughts as you speak to us from political exile inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London? This is extremely rare. How long do you plan to be holed up there? Could you see yourself being there for years?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : Possibly, Amy. I mean, it is possible. I mean, the Ecuadorean government said, "If it takes 200 years for Mr. Assange to be safe, then 200 years it is," to their credit. There's an Ecuadorean national election in February next year. And it seems to be that there's a bit of a diplomatic waiting game on, as far as the U.S. and the U.K. are concerned, to look to see how that election goes. President Correa is the most popular political leader in Latin America, so by rights it should be fine. But there have been reports that the United States has increased its sort of anti-Correa funding by three times, so that's a potential problem. But the people of Ecuador have been very supportive, so I suspect, even if there is a switch to another leader, it's now a matter of sort of national pride for Ecuador, so they'll stick the course.

AMY   GOODMAN : And as to, you feel, the--how people should use the internet today and protect themselves, as we wrap up with your book, Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet?

JULIAN   ASSANGE : Well, first, first, they have to--it is not always possible to protect oneself. You know, if you walk over the edge of a cliff, it's not really that possible to protect yourself. But it's important to know the cliff is there, so you can simply avoid doing certain things that would put you at risk. Now, the first thing they should do is go out and buy the book. It's not easy to protect yourself. That is part of the problem. It really is not easy. It is, in fact, with some exceptions, something that is presently only open to extremely knowledgeable people. So, we must push forward to empower the greater development of this technology, the--preventing moves to outlaw it, which have been done--we fought a big war in the 1990s to prevent the outlawing of cryptography--and additionally, preventing the back-dooring of cryptographic technology. There are moves afoot to try and do that.

I'm sorry--sorry, Amy, I'm getting the cut-off signal for some reason.

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