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Frost over the World - Julian Assange

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Frost: Hello and Welcome to a special edition of "Frost over the world". I'm joined today by probably the most talked about man in the world, at the moment. Julian Assange, is the founder of Wikileaks, Wikileaks, web site ... which is kindly releasing over a ¼ of a million confidential though not necessarily top secret American diplomatic cables. He's here in the UK, fighting extradition to Sweden, where he's wanted on charges of sexual behavior, sexual crimes. He's here now and I'll stop, obviously, and then continue with him. Julian, just to start with, do you feel that that any state has a right, any government has a right to have secrets at all, ideally? Assange: There is a practical need to have secrets in certain circumstances, for particular bodies and institutions. That is a long term matter of history, your doctor has a need to keep your medical records secret, in nearly, but not all, circumstances. But that is not to say that all others must obey that need. Media has a right and obligation to the public, to get out the information that the public needs to know. Similarly, some intelligence services have an obligation to go about their activities to the best of their ability and that, sometimes, involve secrecy. But, what is not a right, is for a General or, Hillary Clinton, to say that they want to use the criminal law on every person in the country, to stop talking about embarrassing information, that has been revealed from her institution or from US military. She does not have the right to proclaim what the worry is, that's a matter for the court. She does not have the right to use the coercive power, of police, armed police, to stop journalists and publishers from publishing. She does not have that right. Frost: What about the right, for instance, the Brits, the Americans and the others had to conceal where they were going to strike back Germany? where in France they were going to strike back? The revelation of that secret, ahead of time, could have destroyed the whole attempt to strike back at Germany. Would that be valid? Assange: We don't need to do the hypothetic. We have a four year publishing history. During that time we have published millions of documents. We can see what actually happens in practice in 21st century with our organization, with me as editor in chief. And what we see? There is not a single incidence of anyone being physically harmed by what we have done. There is not even a single incidence of a government alleging, not even the Pentagon. In facts, the Pentagon admits that he cannot find a single incidence of anyone being harmed. Frost: Do you, at the moment, fear the possibility of in some form or another, of being delivered back to the US? Assange: It's a serious problem, I mean, lawyers are discussing this every day. US officials are making public statements that they are trying to do that, Attorney General Eric Holder, spokespeople for the Justice Department and so on. There is pressure that is being applied to one of our alleged sources, Bradley Manning, in his prison cell. He's a young former intelligence analyst, has been held in Quantico, Virginia, for some 6 months now, prior to trial. And there is pressure on him, through his physical cell conditions, according to his lawyer David Coombs, to coerce him into testifying against me or against our organization, to try and suggest that there is some kind of conspiracy to commit espionage, which there is not, I've never heard his name before appearing in the media. But, that's what they are trying to push for, it's a serious business. And, why they are going after Wikileaks? Well, they want to stop this publication of information that embarrasses them. Why are they going after me? There is a particular reason, which is: they have been tremendously embarrassed, the State Department US Military has been tremendously embarrassed by these abuses being revealed. So, what to do if you are embarrassed? Well, you want to save face. How do you save face? You have to slap the face of the person who is perceived to embarrass you and because I'm the most recognizable person of Wikileaks, I'm the target. Frost: Therefore, in that situation, do you think, do you fear that you'll end up in an American jail? Assange: That's a problem, my lawyers certainly fear that, that I'll end up in an American jail, either directly through extradition from here or from extradition from Sweden. Frost: Which would be more dangerous to you? Is it worst, if they try to extradite you from the UK or from Sweden, or are you equally vulnerable from either to the US? The advice of my lawyers is that Sweden is much more dangerous. Frost: Much more? Assange: Much more dangerous. Because there is political ... the way these extradition treaties are done, there is usually an exemption for political reasons. So, you don't have to extradite someone if it's a political issue And espionage is the classical political offense. So, if they try to frame publishing as espionage and then latch on to this conspiracy to commit espionage, that would then activate, if you like it, a defense or saying that the extradition is political in nature. Frost: Just going back, for a moment, to early days, when you co-founded Wikileaks, what was your action motto? Phrase? What was you basic aim? Assange: Well, the phrase was "courage is contagious" which it is - Frost: that's a great slogan Assange: yes ... but if we look at transatlantic airplane flight in the nineteen thirties, this was one of the most heroic acts you could perform and almost no one did it. Now everyone does it, why? Because these are examples of other people doing it and succeeding, then no one thinks anything about how courageous it is to get on an airplane to cross the Atlantic, and so we could see early on that we could encourage, through successful examples, people to step forward at reveal abuses by governments and, by doing that, we could produce some more justice and civilization. Frost: America was possibly your leading target, wasn't it? Not your only target, but your leading target? Assange: No, it was actually the most closed societies, in the beginning, and the most corrupt ones and the US is not the most closed or the most corrupt. On the other hand, what we found in practice was that US is, as the dominating empire, is connected to all the other countries and being the largest security state, is spending approximately the same amount all the rest of world combined, on its military intelligence sector. It generates a tremendous amount of secrets, and being involved in two wars, two very unpopular wars, in US, it also generates a lot of dissenters. And those dissenters, tapping into the great American tradition, of free speech, of government accountability, and they are saying: "my institution is not accountable in a way that I thought it was, that I was told it was." And then they pass this material out. So, that's why we have such a focus recently on the US. It is not that we go asking for material from the US, rather these people within the US, good people, dissenters in the US, come forward, and they give us material. We are source-driven, we can only publish what people are giving us, and in the US they are giving us a lot of material. Frost: So, that would mean therefore, as you say, you are source-driven, you'll never get a fair, equal share of material from China, North Korea etc. Assange: China, we are getting some decent material, and have, as it is becoming more internet connected. North Korea, now you're right, we haven't received anything directly from North Korea. North Korea is blockaded from the internet, so that's not a surprise. But we do get, because the world is connected, actually, we do have a lot of material about North Korea, from other countries, providing angles on what's going on in North Korea. Frost: Do you ever pay for the secrets you get? Assange: No, we have no philosophical objection to pay, actually. Frost: you just need the money ... - Assange: why should journalists and lawyers be the only one to be compensated for their risks, when actually it is the source who is taking the greatest risk. No, it is simply being that we are overwhelmed with the amount of material, that the courageous, we suppose, are giving to us. So, we are now at the stage where that extra incentive needs to be given, but we have absolutely no philosophical objection to that. Frost: How do you finance the operation? And is it profit making or loss making? Assange: Well, until the beginning of this year, I financed, together with some of my friends the entire operation, with the majority of money coming from me. Actually, there is a reason why investigative journalism has never been historically funded by the government. It has not been funded by big business. It has been funded by readers and advertisers. Frost: And do you think of yourself, do you see references to yourself as anarchic, or an anarchist? Is an accurate description of what you are? Assange: No, it's not at all an accurate description. Frost: Why not? Assange: Oh, that's not what we do, we're an organization that goes about and has a long record, all over the world, of exposing abuses, by exposing concrete documentation, proof of bad behavior. That's not anarchy. That's what people do when they are civil. It's that they engage in organized activity that promotes justice. Frost: So therefore, in that sense, you're not anarchic because you actually, you're in favor of authority if it's doing the right thing ... Assange: Correct. - Frost: You're not automatically opposed to authority. Assange: Correct. You know, having run an organization I understand the difficulties in building an institution, having a good institution. Institutions are very important. I mean, anyone who has worked in Africa, as I have, knows that successful civil institutions don't come from nowhere. You will find a difference going between particular African countries and European African countries that ... well, clean roads, and so on, don't just come from nowhere. There is an institutional infrastructure behind this, but secret institutions start to become corrupted in their purpose, they are able to engage in secret plans, which would be opposed by the population, if the population knew, and then, carry them out, for their own internal purposes, so, not performing the function the people demanded they perform. Frost: And, in terms of the situation that you come across and so on, that ... is there anybody who is really leading the campaign against you at the moment? Or do you feel that's a rather opaque group? Assange: I think it's fascinating. We have seen MasterCard, Europe Visa, Amazon, Paypal, a Swiss bank, all financially censor us after pressure from the US government. Not a legal pressure, all done under the table. So, what's going on there? Who is ... is MasterCard leading the campaign against us? Of course not. It is the Washingtonian network: big business, politicians, people in the military and diplomatic area, and networks of friends, kosher holdings, that spreads up from Washington, and into Western countries, it's not purely American, it's interlinked across the Western World. Frost: And there is a sort of ... which, even though you are the subject of this, you see the humor of that so wide world in it, but I mean obviously you got the situation that you are coming up with all this material that's revealing things about people that they would prefer not be published and then you get absolutely lumbered in the middle of a situation where, in reverse, that's what's happening to you in Sweden, and you don't want all this stuff published in Sweden about the alleged rape, which has been drawn as a rape and talking about as sexual advances and so on. But I mean is ironic in a way, that it's you getting in and someone putting back to you or is it not ironic ... Assange: Not really. It's not ironic, it's actually much deeper and dangerous than that. We are an organization that, a little organization, that helps individual people, inside an abusive organization, expose the abuse by some powerful group. What has happened to me is that a powerful organization, at least the Swedish police prosecution service, may be Swedish intelligence, we don't know precisely what the interference is with this case, has breached their state of internal obligations, breached the law, to, first unveil my name, and just recently, in the last few days, to selectively take bits of the police investigative files, the most prejudicial bits they could find, and pumped this out to the Guardian newspaper, just before my court hearing, pumped it out to Le Monde, pumped it out to The New York Times, why? Who is doing that? That's a dirty trick, that's a clear dirty trick ... Frost: ... someone of those journals were the allies of yours, a few days ago, and you were feeding them stuff, the Guardian, The New York Times and so on ... Assange: That's not true, we have a business arrangement, but a particular journalist - you know the Guardian is a big place, it has a lot of journalists - but the particular journalist, that they picked, has a public record because of some ridiculous dispute we had about an embargo arrangement, has publicly said that he's personally opposed to me and, in fact, refused to work on cablegate, the biggest journalistic story of the past ten years. He is the one that was picked to let out that information through. Someone they knew would write in a negative way. Who would do that? Who had access to that material? Who was sophisticated enough to send it out to our media partners to the particular journalist that they knew would write in a negative way? Frost: And the answers to your question? Your answer to that question? Assange: I don't know! You can see who benefits, who might have the ability to do it. Clearly, someone connected, at some stage, to the government in Sweden. Maybe something was stolen from the government in Sweden. Who would have the capacities to steal some info from the government in Sweden? Frost: Why would the government of Sweden, obviously care about this? Assange: Well, whenever we talk about government, we are actually talking about individuals ... lots of peoples, individuals in government who work in particular sectors, who have friends, a family, and so on. In Sweden, we, two weeks ago, had the front page, with cablegate material, and in every major newspaper, the biggest newspaper, SVT had a 44 minute documentary on the Swedish television, equivalent to BBC, showing how ... what the US ambassador was writing about Sweden. And what he was writing? - Sweden is really in NATO, we pretend it is not, but it really is - He was writing that there is intelligence sharing arrangements of all types, and we have to keep it secret from parliament, not even most members of the government know what's going on. It is arguably a violation of the Swedish constitution so we are going to keep all quite. We saw the opposition leader in the recent election, being hold in to the US embassy, why? Because she had made statements saying that when we get elected we're going to take Swedish troops out of Afghanistan. She came in and she said: "Don't worry about that, that's just all for the people. Once we are in government we aren't going to do that." The opposition leader, head of the social democrats. Social democrats is the same political party, Claes Borgström is from. Claes Borgström is a politician, who ran in the last election. He's also the principal public advocate for the two women who are alleging these crimes. Frost: Obviously you have denied crime in that case, vigorously obviously, and so on .. you presumably, you don't deny having had sex with them. Assange: I don't talk about these things, about this as a matter of public record but I think it's not right for me to do a couple of things and it's hard, because of different cultural values. My cultural values are that a man does not talk about his private life and a man does not criticize women. Certainly he doesn't criticize women before he knows all the facts are in. In this case, we have just recently got a translation of part of one of the statements, by a close friend of one of the women and she says that she - one of the women - told her that she was bamboozled by police and other people into this position, and she is very unhappy about it. So, maybe it's not actually all a scheme from the women, although there is some suggested evidence that that is true. But maybe it's not, maybe they are innocent victims, who were bamboozled into making statements they didn't really want to make. Frost: So but, why don't you want go back to Sweden, in the sense, does it mean you feel, which will be a clear point, I mean, do you feel you can't get a fair trial, in Sweden, at the moment? Assange: Well, it's very interesting you ask that point. Because this was a point made by the prosecution, here, who applied to enforce solitary confinement and - I was denied bail, then when bail was granted, rightly so - appealed all the way to the High Court to prevent me being out on bail, and one of the arguments used, was that, they thought that I would not ... that I thought I would not get a fair trial in Sweden. So, if I say that I believe I cannot get a fair trail in Sweden, that there is no juries in Sweden ... that half of the juries are appointed by the social democrats ... so, not juries, half the panel of juries are appointed by the political party that is involved in this, if I say that sort of things, suggest that I don't have confidence in this Swedish judicial system, then my bail would be cancelled and I will go to prison. So, I have to look into the situation, is to whether there is a fair trial possibility in Sweden or not. That is something that we are researching, that is something I want to understand, before I'm extradited back to Sweden. What I want to understand is what are the charges, who is behind this. The prosecution has refused to give to the British courts any evidence, has said that it doesn't need and doesn't want to give any evidence, and by evidence I dont' mean a photograph or something like this. By evidence I mean even the statements, even the initial complaint it's refusing to hand over. That's not a situation that I feel it is right to walking into, I feel it is right, since I havent' even been charged. Since we are offering, I'm offering to do all sorts of interviews, for them to come here and say well, we are going talking about, what exactly ... that should happen first and we have an opportunity in the British legal system, which is more open, to get some of this information now, to find out what this is really about, and demonstrate publicly that something is not going on here that is right, that there are clear dirty tricks, at least in the abuse of process: how did my name get out in the first place, why did the most senior prosecutor in Sweden say not only that there was no evidence, she said "I read everything, there is not even a suspicion that he has committed a rape." Then? Intervention of this politician, Claes Borgström comes about passed off to another prosecutor in Götenborg, not in Stokholm. What is going on? Frost: That's the question that you most of all, but everybody would be interested to know the answer. Julian Assange, we look forward to talking to you again, thank you for this. Assange: thank to you. Credits: transcription by Andreas Formiconi with valuable help from Claude Almansi and Elettra Formiconi

Video Details

Duration: 24 minutes and 1 second
Year: 2011
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: AlJazeeraEnglish
Director: Sir David Frost
Views: 400
Posted by: arf on Jan 13, 2011

The WikiLeaks founder talks about secrets, leaks and why he will not go back to Sweden.

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