Monday September 3rd 2012
Transcript of an interview by Uruguayan journalist Jorge Gestoso Julian Assange from within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Originally aired on GamaTV, August 30, 2012
Jorge Gestoso: Julian, do you believe that this interview is being heard or spied on by the London police that is surrounding this Embassy?
Julian Assange: Just a few days ago, it came out that SS10, a covert operations group, was involved in the policing around the Embassy, and also the counter-terrorism command. Quite interesting story where there was a police officer outside and a photographer from the Press Association used his zoom lens to zoom up on the piece of paper he was holding and could read all the details about what the police were doing around here. So, yes, we assume that.
Gestoso: The UK was threatening the Ecuadorian Government through a memorandum saying that they would be ready to storm the Embassy in order to arrest you. That happened the night before the Ecuadorian Government announces that you were having their diplomatic asylum. Tell us a little bit about that night.
Assange: Since I came to the Embassy two months ago, there was a policing presence; we had two policemen outside the front door most of the time. However, leading up to that night—with a formal threat made by the United Kingdom to Ecuador, saying that they had the right to go into the Embassy and take me—the number of police increased to fifty. So it was a really quite dramatic situation. We could hear police running up and down the stairs of the interior fire escape, big police vans being pulled around here. When we put out a notification that this was happening, many of our supporters turned up, some hundred people—over a hundred people—turned up outside the front, and they were live-streaming what was happening on their phones and so on, video taping constantly what was happening.
Gestoso: The press, they are criticising you, or criticising Ecuador, it’s… According to what you read, you can read that Julian Assange is Ecuador for its personal agenda, and Ecuador is using Julian Assange for political purposes for President Correa. Are you using Ecuador, or you feel that Ecuador is using you?
Assange: I don’t feel that we have been used at all. There’s a mutuality in values. There’s a mutuality also in the groups that are negatively affecting us and are negatively affecting Ecuador. So, this is… And I suppose we can even go beyond that. Let’s go straight down to the personal: that I am a person that, it has been established, is under a political persecution by the United States and its allies. That’s a fact. And that fact was recognised… We had to put a lot of work into giving the Ecuadorian Government evidence after evidence after evidence about that fact, and they created an assessment, and they’re right. They’re right that political persecution of me and our organisation is ongoing. So that’s enough. But if we then look into the broader context, Ecuador has been right to demonstrate its values in this case in, not just giving me asylum, but also then publicly. It should give every one asylum who deserves asylum and where it has the economic capacity to do so, but in going the extra mile to defending my rights in public. Because, my rights correlate to some of the values that Ecuador would like to project. And I think it does actually believe in those values.
Gestoso: Did you ever thought that Latin America would be behind you so strongly?
Assange: I knew we had a lot of Latin American support. I was very pleasantly surprised that it was so uniform. It was everyone, everyone in Latin America came to support us. Even those relatively right-wing groups in a couple of countries did not oppose us. So this Latin American solidarity over this issue and supporting me, I think that’s something important. I don’t think that’s something that could’ve happened ten years ago. I think that reflects a growing strength and integration of Latin America; a sort-of mutuality, a mutual defence and shared values.
Gestoso: November 28th, 2010, WikiLeaks publishes what is called the Cablegate. Basically, 251,000 cables, mostly about diplomatic cables from diplomatic offices of the U.S. Embassies, and also about the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And here’s what happens the day after in the U.S. Just a recap. The following day, November 29th, 2010, Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential candidate in 2008, she said, “Assange is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al-Qaeda and the Taliban leaders”.
Assange: Well, I think Sarah Palin was a bit unhappy because we published her emails before.
Gestoso: It is more than her that is unhappy. So we have, on November 29th, Tony Shaffer, former U.S. intelligence officer on Fox News: “I would look at this very much as a military issue with potentially military action against him and his organisation”, again the 29th and 30th of November. Mike Huckabee, 2008 Presidential candidate in the Republican primaries: “Anything less than execution is too kind a penalty”. November 30th, INTERPOL issues a Red Notice to 188 countries for Julian Assange. November 30th, Tom Flanagan, ex-senior adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he’s currently a political science lecturer at the University of Calgary, says,”Well, I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something. I would not feel unhappy if Assange disappeared”. November 30th, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham referring to WikiLeaks: “We are at war. I hope Eric Holder”, the Attorney-General, “who’s a good man, will start showing some leadership here and get our laws in line with being at war”. November 30th, Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York: “Julian Assange is a terrorist”. Former Senator Rick Santorum, also another possible Presidential candidate for the 2012 Presidential election in the U.S.: “… prosecuted as a terrorist”. Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News: “I’d like to see a little drone hit Julian Assange. I think he’s a bad man. If he lived in Britain, 007 would take care of him”. December 5, Mitch McConnell, he is the Senate Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate: “I think this man is a terrorist and needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and, if this becomes a problem, you need to change the law”. December 5th, Newt Gingrich, another Presidential candidate in 2012 Republican primaries: “Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an enemy combatant”. Like in Guantanamo or… type of prisoner. “WikiLeaks should be closed down permanently and decisively”. Bob Beckel, political commentator of Fox News: “Dead men can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor, he’s a treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States and, I’m not for the death penalty, so there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch”. December 7th, PayPal and MasterCard and VISA shut down the donations to WikiLeaks. December 8th, Retired Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Ralph Peters: “Julian Assange should be on the kill or capture list. He’s a maggot. He’s guilty of sabotage, espionage, crimes against humanity; he should be killed”. Finally, the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of the U.S. calls Assange a “high-tech terrorist”. Reuters, talking about what is taking place, say, “The Obama Administration has said, Assange’s immediate faith is in the hand of Britain, Sweden, and Ecuador”. But Nuland’s predecessor P.J. Crowley said, “Assange has painted himself into a corner and he’s going to stay there for some time.” This is very interesting, and I will like to hear your opinion. It says, “Based on emails hacked from a Texas consulting firm, Assange claimed that U.S. Authorities issued a secret indictment against him which could result in him being imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and executed.” And Stratfor, that is the global intelligence company found in Austin, Texas, said that, “Emails leaked by WikiLeaks have this concern surrounding a secret Grand Jury with a secret indictment”. Later, a media organisation received the classified diplomatic cables that confirm a secret indictment exists. The documents go to say that Australia has no objection to a potential extradition to the United States. The Australian Government confirmed that possibility of extradition, but stated that it wasn’t unusual as there was an ongoing investigation about WikiLeaks. They point out that the United States may not be intended to Assange. But I want to tell you, before any comment, what your mother said. Your mother said, “When Julian initially started WikiLeaks in 2006, he told me that he was doing it to help people in repressive regimes to be able to whistleblow, to get the truth about some of the abuses happening inside the countries. For four years, that is what happened, and his life was not threatened in any way. He was safe with that work. But then, when the documents came to WikiLeaks’ drop-box on America, things all changed. For some reason, it was alright to produce documents about other countries, but as soon as the United States was embarrassed, his life became threatened. So, I have two reactions: one as a mother, of course, I wish he had never done it, but as a citizen, having investigated what WikiLeaks has done to bring transparency to the world about abusive power, corruption, extortion, kidnapping, torture, and fraud involved with big financial institutions, of course I completely support my son”. That’s why you’re here.
Assange: Yeah, that’s right. The decision by the Ecuadorian Government to grant me asylum under the basis that my fears of persecution by the United States are reasonable, and they spent two months looking at all this material, like some of the material you just read. That’s important also for my organisation; it’s important for other people who are in similar positions. Being the most prominent person, there is the most movement towards me, because it sets the strongest example, that if you defy the will of the United States, then something bad happens to you. So, they need a prominent person to display that to. But there are other people that are swept up in this Grand Jury investigation; it’s come out that there are at least seven. And those include the founders and managers of WikiLeaks which is principally me, but perhaps also some of our other people. I mean, this enormous list that you gave, it misses some things, of course it misses many more addition threats, but there’s some recent material. For example, that the Department of Justice just six weeks ago said to Agence France-Presse, ‘Yes, we admit that there is an ongoing investigation’. The State Department just last week said, ‘No, no, there’s not a persecution, but we won’t answer whether there’s a prosecution”. So, there’s a large investigation, and I guess it’s important to understand the scale of this matter. Australian diplomats to Washington reported back what they were told by U.S. officials, and they say that the investigation against WikiLeaks is unprecedented both in its scale—its size—and its nature.
Gestoso: The U.S. official version, this is Victoria Nuland, she is a State Department spokesperson. She said, “Well, let me start with the fact that”, talking about Julian Assange, “he’s making all kinds of wild assertions about us, when in fact his issue is with the Government of the United Kingdom. Has to do with whether he’s going to go stand, y’know, face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks. It has to do with charges of sexual misconduct. So, he’s clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue which is whether he’s going to face justice in Sweden, which is the immediate issue. So, that case has nothing to do with us; it’s a matter between the UK, Sweden, and now Ecuador has inserted itself”.
Assange: The U.S. Government also falsely stated that I was charged. You see exactly what happened. Now, you have to be very careful with this and the statements that officials are making. So here—and we’ve seen the U.S. Ambassador to Australia do the exact same sort-of rhetorical trick—it’s to say: the extradition case between the UK and Sweden for Mr Assange is nothing to do with us. Now, formally, that’s true. In a formal sense it is nothing to do with them, in terms of Sweden has made an application, the UK is responding to the application. What is not being said is that there are other matters the U.S. is involved in, y’know? Just admitted by the Department of Justice that it is ongoing, in fact in that same statement by the State Department, if you go a bit further down, she does this, ‘Well, I refuse to say whether there’s a prosecution, there’s not a persecution, but I refuse to say whether there’s a prosecution’. So, these are matters that are to do with the United States, but it’s a little rhetorical trick they use in order to manipulate the public and to manipulate the press. And the press should not better. In fact, it really depends on whether the press is favourable to us, or favourable to the U.S., or favourable to the UK, on what gets reported. So, you see a statement like that, where if you go further down, actually you see there’s essential an admission of an ongoing investigation, prosecution. But the first part is a denial. And they’ll just take the denial and they’ll not report the rest, because they want an excuse to push a particular agenda.
Gestoso: What are you going to say if you have to give your side of the story to the investigation in Sweden?
Assange: We’ve been trying to do that for two and a half years. Two and a half years. And the courts here, they refused to permit us to say anything. Refused!
Gestoso: Okay, but what I’m saying is, there are at least allegations. What do you have to say to those allegations?
Assange: Well, we’re trying to do the formal method, which is to formally present them to the Swedish authorities; they’ve refused. They have even refused to accept a written, sworn statement.
Gestoso: People want to know if this is a set up, or you were committing some irregular act; rape, sexual molestation, sexual whatever-you-want-to-call-it.
Assange: Well, it is an abuse of language to use these words. I mean, even before the Supreme Court here, there is an admission by the UK Government, by the Swedish Government, there is an admission that no woman went to a police station to complain about me. That this is something that the police decided to do. That is admitted. Unfortunately in this sort of situation, when you’re accused of these sorts of accusations…
Gestoso: You’re not accused. At least you are…
Assange: When these sort of allegations are floating around in the media, you can’t respond.
Gestoso: Why not?
Assange: Because it’s like to wrestle with a pig. You know, you get mud all over yourself. It just suits the people who are throwing mud. If you respond you bring yourself into the situation; you legitimise the scurrilous accusations that have been made against you. And this sort-of situation is… People care about women, they care about children, and they don’t like to see bad things happen to them. So, when you make such an accusation against someone, the instinct is to fight for the…
Gestoso: Victims. Alleged victims.
Assange: The alleged victim. That’s the instinct; I have this instinct. But people can just go and see—I mean it is on the internet—they can go and read the original police reports; they can see what various people said. And I defy anyone to read those and come away with an impression other than these women have been pushed, or it is a complete absurdity. Complete absurdity.
Gestoso: The Swedish Government now is saying that if your life is at risk, if you could be submitted to the death penalty if they were to extradite to the U.S., they would not do it. Do you believe that at any point you will be ready to consider to go to Sweden because you feel that there is a written commitment that you’re not going to be extradited?
Assange: At some point, yes. If the ground is right. I mean, if you look at what the Swedish were demanding, that is, to immediately put me in Sweden and keep me there without charge, you know, that’s not very acceptable either. So, we have important work to do. That is wrong to do. If someone has been cooperative the whole time, has tried to… I stayed five weeks in Sweden to try and clear up that matter, I was given permission to leave, and then in the middle of Cablegate they put out an INTERPOL Red Notice to the whole world. That’s not right for someone that is completely cooperative in trying to assist an investigation. It is not right to hold them in prison without charge.
Gestoso: And do you believe that Sweden’s actions in line with the U.S. policies regarding unfriendly characters that you could be considered?
Assange: Sweden’s a very interesting country. There’s historically a lot of good things about Sweden. There’s important advances of some kinds that were made in the 70s. But it’s changed in a very sad way, and most Swedes—Swedes who are old enough—see what has happened and they see the change, and they see a state that has said that it was proud of its neutrality—there’s been questions about even the 70s about actually how neutral it was—to a position now where Sweden is on over a hundred NATO committees, where its forces under U.S. command in Afghanistan, where it was the fifth into Libya with planes, it was the first to have its parliament to vote to send planes into Libya, it is the number one per capita arms manufacturer in the world—the number one arms manufacturer per capita in the world, nearly double that of Israel—it was the number one supplier of arms to the United States during the Iraq War in absolute terms, and it is now currently the third largest supplier of arms to the United States in absolute terms, eighth largest arms manufacturer in the world in absolute terms. There we have this very strange situation where, if you go to the Sweden Foreign Ministry website, there is a formal statement there that Sweden is a neutral country. And just last year, actually maybe just the beginning of this year, there was a combined operation with the United States and NATO and Sweden called Operation Loyal Arrow in relation to defeating some hypothetical Russian threat. In 2007, the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden reporting back to Washington in a cable from Stockholm said, and this is the title of the cable, “Sweden has consigned neutrality to the rubbish bin of history”.
Gestoso: What is your opinion of what’s going on in Syria?
Assange: WikiLeaks is in the process of releasing some five million… Sorry, 2.4 million emails from the Syria Government. So, we have somewhat of an insider’s perspective. But it’s obvious that the western powers are using the Syrian issue in order to get rid of Syria’s political opposition to the role of Israel, to weaken Iran, and that’s clear. It’s clear that there’s been enormous media manipulation of what has happened in Syria.
Gestoso: By the western media.
Assange: Just… extraordinary. I mean, photos appearing on BBC website of couple of hundred bodies laid out on the ground… Actually it was of Iraq! It was from a butchery in Iraq. But saying it was Syria. There’s information we released through our Stratfor files, this American intelligence contractor, where they had meetings last year with people in the U.S. Military, and also some from European militaries, saying how they were looking forward to this campaign—military campaign, military intervention—that they already had Special Ops forces on the ground in Syria. Many people in Lebanon have campaigned for the liberation of Syrian people. So, under Assad, there is a one-party state, there’s a one-party Ba’athist state. The Government cannot be comprised of a party other than the Ba’ath party, or at least it couldn’t be until recent constitutional change in the past months. Those constitutional changes are being introduced, so there is a… In response to this threat by the people domestically, and the international threat, there is a democratisation that is occurring in Syria. It’s clear that the U.S., the UK, Israel, France, is not at all concerned about the democratisation. I mean, where’s the campaign to democratise Saudi Arabia? Where’s the campaign to democratise Bahrain? Countries where to be an opposition activist is significantly more precarious. In fact, a friend of mine has just been sentenced to three years in Bahrain, in prison for going to a protest and sending a tweet. It is a targeting manoeuvre for geopolitical reasons. Now, the consequence of a war with Syria is so severe, that that is something that should be resisted. The military intervention must be pulled back. It must be. Because, if there is a proper military war in Syria, we’re talking—you know there were 20-40 thousand dead in Libya, we’re talking 100,000 people, perhaps, killed in a civil war—and with a political outcome that is still unpredictable. So, we don’t know that we’re going to see a much better government after this; we may see a much worse government.
Gestoso: Talking about the merits of WikiLeaks and its contribution to the defence of human rights and investigative journalism, Fidel Narvaez, who is the consul of Ecuador here in London, he wrote, “To ignore these merits can only come from antagonism and it’s clear from the opinion of the director of the NGO Fundamedios in Ecuador when he says, this gentleman, his name is César Ricaurte, “WikiLeaks does not practice journalism, only leaks. And it’s truly absurd to want to say that the work of Assange is a model of investigative journalism””. And he, meaning Mr Narvaez, continues saying, “Paradoxically, Fundamedios and its director participated in Ecuador with great enthusiasm at the Latin American Conference of Investigative Journalism 2011, where the keynote speaker was precisely one of the WikiLeaks spokesman who was invited to give a seminar to dozens of the most experienced journalists in the continent”. So, are you just a machine of leaking cables or information? Or you are practising investigative journalism and the process of between you receive information and you pass it along goes through different stages?
Assange: WikiLeaks is a publication, it’s the name of a publication. Behind the publication there is an organisation, the organisation is Sunshine Press. So, we do everything that a big media organisation does. So, that means we have to get information, create the infrastructure to do that, defend ourselves legally, defend ourselves financially, defend ourselves politically, train our staff, make sure they’re in safe locations, and so on. And, as part of the political defence, we campaigned for the rights of sources, the rights of journalists, and the rights to publish. This particular word, ‘journalist’, has never had such power as in relation to the assault on WikiLeaks. The concern as to the definition of this word. Now, when a cameraman goes to war and he photographs something and comes back, we all acknowledge that he is a war journalist. Even though he is not writing an opinion piece. For the material that we publish, we publish the truth always. There’s never been an accusation that a single thing we have published over five years has not been true. We verify what is published, we analyse what is published… Our analysis, yes, is sometimes like classical news wire analysis: this happened this day etc., in a narrative form. But, this is the internet. We’re dealing with… Last year we published over one million documents from different places. It is simply not physically possible to write individual news stories about one million documents. That is not possible. We work at a high level, which is that we create the structure of analysis. So, that is, after all the verification, publication is done, to, for example, with the Afghan War Logs, to show exactly where on maps people were killed, how many by the size of the circle on the map, and so on. That’s the only way to do things at scale. And the world’s a big place, and if you really want to change the world, you have to do things at the same scale as the problem. The U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, the State Department, the Syrian Government—these are big organisations. These organisations have to be understood by understanding their many millions of pieces all at once, and that’s what we do. I don’t care whether people call this journalism or not; it’s completely irrelevant. This is more important that that. It is about adding to our shared intellectual record, documenting what is actually going on, producing just change as a result of that documentation.
Gestoso: For the record, do you buy information? Do you sell information?
Assange: We haven’t bought or sold any information, but I have no philosophical objection against that. It is just for legal and political reasons, or just logistics, that we haven’t. But, I understand other people do occasionally, and I have no objection against that. Why should only journalists and lawyers be paid? The other people who actually take the real risks, they’re the sources of information. And I think they should be compensated for the risks.
Gestoso: When the U.S. is saying you are putting the lives of many people at risk because of the releasing of all those 250,000 cables, do you admit that?
Assange: This is a basic rhetorical trick. So, they didn’t say—well, they said that for every publication we’ve done about the U.S., actually, they’ve tried some variant on that—but this first started when we produced the Afghan War Logs. We did an analysis that showed that, just in those records that the U.S. Government had, were documented individual cases of 20,000 people being killed in Afghanistan.
Assange: Mostly civilians. The vast majority civilians. 20,000. And so, not all of them killed by the U.S. Military, many of them killed by the Taliban, but killed by the situation that the U.S. Military had brought to Afghanistan. So, what is the accusation? The accusation is the U.S. Military, here, has directly killed several thousand people, and indirectly killed 20,000 people, according to its own records, and here’s every single record showing the children that were killed, the adults that were killed, the women, etc. And we published it. So, our accusation is they not really have blood on their hands, they’re a machine to put blood all over Afghanistan.
Gestoso: The U.S.
Assange: The U.S.! The U.S. Military was putting blood all over Afghanistan: the blood of children, the blood of women, the blood of men, and the blood of its own soldiers. All over Afghanistan. That was our accusation. So, if that is the accusation of your opponent, how do you try and turn that around? You just say the same thing back. I mean, it’s like primary school. WikiLeaks says, ‘Pentagon killed thousands of people,’ Pentagon says, ‘WikiLeaks might have blood on its hands’. And, what is astounding is that, over the past two and a half years, there has been no claim by the American Government, or any other government, that we have killed—or were responsible for the death of—a single person. A single actual person.
Gestoso: So, you weren’t directly, indirectly didn’t kill with your information anywhere.
Assange: Exactly. Exactly. No person, there is no allegation that any person was harmed physically from our publications, from all our… not a single. They haven’t been able to bring up a single person, just like weren’t able to find weapons of mass destruction.
Gestoso: So, when Sarah Palin says that you have blood in your hands…
Assange: She’s lying. She’s lying! But if you Google for the phrase “blood on hands” and “WikiLeaks” you get something like 700,000 results. If you Google for that same phrase in relation to the Pentagon only, not speaking about WikiLeaks, you get about 70,000 results. So all the wars, because of the corruption in the media, ten times as many articles have been produced saying that WikiLeaks has blood on its hands, when not a single has been harmed even according to the U.S. Government. Compared to all the wars the U.S. has ever fought; over 150,000 deaths in Iraq, over 20,000 deaths in Afghanistan, documented. And yet, the perception, if you read the rest of the media, the statistically measured perception is that WikiLeaks has killed ten times as many people as the Pentagon.
Gestoso: So, if I’m understanding you well, you say the U.S. Government has never ever questioned the veracity of your information.
Assange: That’s right.
Gestoso: So, your biggest sin for some of the people in the U.S. has been to dare to bring the truth, to bring transparency, to bring the information that the general population hasn’t had access to, and therefore they’re going to punish you—or they’re punishing you—they’re hunting you, they’re on a witch-hunt, and basically the message is: you better don’t deal with us. And nobody else tried to follow your steps because that is going to happen to Julian Assange, and that could happen to you, too.
Assange: They say that explicitly. They have said that in official documents, they have said explicitly that, it is not just about prosecuting Julian Assange for espionage, it’s about stopping WikiLeaks’ ongoing activities.
Gestoso: Why are you doing in life what you’re doing?
Assange: I don’t like to see injustice, and I don’t like to see lies. Y’know, I find that deeply annoying when powerful people lie to cause injustice to people that are less powerful. That revolts my basic sense of fairness. And I’m in a fortunate position where I can do something about that at a global level.
Gestoso: Another side of the coin is that you have been a hacker. Why?
Assange: I was a hacker as a teenager, before the internet was available to people. It was only available to the military and research groups in universities. So, as a young, curious man who wanted to understand the world, who wanted to understand how these big institutions work. Well, of course. You go out. Australia is… Where I grew up has a fairly nice culture, and decency and respect for people. It is an island, so… You have to explore if you want to understand the world.
Gestoso: What is the impact that internet, social media, and the social movements are having in the new world, in the new world that we’re living.
Assange: Okay, so there’s two rivalrous possibilities. One possibility is that the connecting up of everyone in their desires, for example: when you search on Google for something, Google records it permanently. Google’s based in the United States. Google knows you better than you know yourself. Do you remember what you were searching for two days, three hours ago? Google does. It remembers. It knows you better than your mother.
Gestoso: What that information goes to?
Assange: Well, so that’s stored, permanently, by Google but also it is intercepted by the National Security Agency as it goes through the United States. People in Latin America may not realise this, but the United States’ geographical position is one of the things that has given its intelligence agencies such power. All communications flows to Europe, to Asia, from Latin America, passes through the United States, where they’re intercepted by the National Security Agency. And the new game in interception is not anymore to go, ‘Ah, is he an interesting guy? I just saw he made an email here, that he looked at a website there, that he tried to telephone his mother in Madrid’. No. The new game in interception is you just record everything. It’s cheaper. You just record everything coming out of Latin America going through the U.S. and store it. And then, if in a couple of years, you become interesting to U.S. intelligence or their pals, then they go, ‘Okay, let’s look what he was doing two years ago, let’s look what he was doing one year ago, let’s look to see who his friends are, who he’s communicating with’. And this is not speculation. There are companies across the world that sell the equipment to do this and who have marketing guides for the intelligence agencies: this is what our equipment will do, this is how much it costs, you can intercept everything, you don’t have to worry about finding which person you’re interested in, just intercept it all and store it all. And we published these earlier this year, they’re called the Spy Files.
Gestoso: We meaning WikiLeaks.
Assange: WikiLeaks published 170 companies that provide the intelligence sector with this ability to bulk-spy the entire population, communication flows going through an entire country, everything out, every telephone call out of the country; store it permanently, don’t bother deleting it. So that’s the dark aspect of internet. As we have moved more of our private lives onto the internet—our plans, our timetables, our emails—all those things that perhaps would’ve been kept in our homes once, or be done face-to-face, we have given it all to intelligence agencies every goddamn thing. And some countries are better able to intercept that because the have greater technological prowess and they have a history of doing this, or their geographical position permits them to do it. On the other hand, we also have the ability to make alliances much faster, to make our plans much faster, with one another. And, for social situations to arise so quickly, that even if you’re intercepting, even if you know who everyone is, that the situation moves too fast to do anything about it. By the time you followed all the tendrils and trials of the different activists, it’s too late. But they’re getting better and better at this, and they’re starting to automate this technology. Companies working for German intelligence, even two years ago, are selling systems where they go, ‘Oh, if this person is on his mobile phone, he’s in this location,’ because all the mobile phones are tracked, that’s the best way to describe a mobile phone: it is a tracking device that also makes calls.
Gestoso: Like a GPS.
Assange: It’s a tracking device that also makes calls. This is how it’s described in the intelligence community. So if this person happens to be in proximity to a person that has come from another country—y’know, just general rules—then automatically issue a dispatch, and send someone there, and correlate that to the email, and so on. This is all being automated now. It’s not about an individual being targeted; it is automated. They look for patterns. The U.S. Military in its drone strikes in Yemen now—is speaking about, and Obama is wanting to authorise, and it probably has gone through—this motion of signature strikes, which is: when they’re assassinating someone with a drone, they don’t have to know who they are, just sort of statistically if they sort of went here and went there then…
Gestoso: They should be there.
Assange: Then… they should be killed. Y’know, just because statistically they might be a bad guy. According to their interpretation. So that’s really quite dark, really very dark. And as far as I see, the only way to stop this avalanche of pending transnational totalitarianism, because that’s what it is, when there is total surveillance that is part of totalitarianism because it’s total. Everyone is under this. So how can we stop that world rushing forward? If we look at the legislation that is passing through the United States, if we look at the attacks on us, if we look at the involvement of all the banks in trying to attack us outside the law. Where is all this heading? Where’s all that going? People being detained without charge here in the UK for eight years…
Gestoso: Your case.
Assange: I’ve been detained for 600 days without charge, but there’s people been eight years in prison detained without charge, more severe than my case. Where’s all that going? I mean, just look at the trajectory of where it’s going.
Gestoso: And where’s it going?
Assange: It’s going into some sort-of—at least in the west, possibly in other countries as well—a very, very strong, centralised transnational state. It’s not going to be the UK or U.S. this happens to, no, because of the way the equipment is flowing, the way it’s flowing socially, the linking up of all the intelligence apparatuses, military apparatuses, the social elites of these various countries. It’s a transnational phenomena, it’s a western phenomena. It’s not about simply the United States; it’s bigger than the United States. That’s moving to a very, very dark place. So, what can we do to prevent that? Regional alternative power blocks is the first thing. So, Latin America getting together and trying to combat that sort of surveillance. Perhaps the Latin Americans can, in their big communications links to Europe, and their big communications links to Asia, they can start encrypting it all as it passes through the United States. I mean, that’s just a start. But to also make it so that the impact of bulk-spying on Latin America is reduced. Okay, so you know everything that we’re doing, but that doesn’t mean you can stop it, because the strength, the brotherhood of Latin America is strong enough to resist that. As individuals, it’s quite hard now to resist this sort of thing. You have to be really a cryptographer or a security expert; it’s really quite hard. But perhaps there can be investment, y’know, perhaps there can be investment in alternatives to Facebook, where all that information is collected and held in the United States.
Gestoso: So, it’s almost like something perverse, if you want, that the official line is, ‘we are promoting or we are living in states that are democratic’, we’re talking about some western countries, when in reality they’re practising the exact opposite.
Assange: It’s completely perverse. It’s completely perverse. I mean, it’s in such runaway accelerating decay, the rule of law in the west. And we saw this with Guantanamo Bay, that’s where it first… detention without trial in Guantanamo Bay. I mean, you now have a case that I worked on, the Omar Khadr case: young man, 15 years old, detained, from Afghanistan. He has been kept in Guantanamo for ten years now; he’s gone from a boy to be a man in Guantanamo, the only life he knows now is Guantanamo. Over 80 people there are cleared for release—even the U.S. Government says they were never terrorists—still there, after years. The most grievous offence against the rule of law, to deliberately, intentionally, order the murder of your own citizens, outside of any judicial process, where there’s no possibility to review. Some of my lawyers tried to take a case against what they believed was a pending drone strike on Awlaki, a priest in Yemen—an American, who had moved to Yemen and become an imam. They were prevented from doing so. Now, prevented from doing so because the laws in the United States are now that that would be considered material support for terrorism. To take a lawsuit to prevent someone from being assassinated would be material support for terrorism. They have introduced the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, in the United States. If you listen to Congress, and the guy of the name Peter T. King, a Congressman, he says that that act would help the U.S. Government detain me offshore—me personally—offshore imprisoned without charge, like in Guantanamo. They’ll do that even to their own citizens now, with this act: permanent detention, without charge, by the military.
Gestoso: So, very scary.
Assange: It’s just in total decay. The rights of people to, if they’re in a court case, something that… Actually, I’ll tell you a very, very ironic situation. So, the National Security Agency was spying—not just on Latin American traffic flowing through the United States, but also domestically within the United States—it was bulk-spying on traffic. And that has been discovered, some of the machines in San Francisco were unveiled and there were some whistleblowers that came forward, like Mark Klein from AT&T came forward. So, people took a class action suit in the United States saying, ‘We were all spied on, illegally, outside the law, and therefore we want to sue the Government, and sue these telecommunications companies for doing it’. The judges ruled that they hand no standing. That they shouldn’t be recognised as someone who should be able to sue. Why? ‘Because’, he said, ‘This happened to everyone. This crime happened to everyone, you’re not special.’
Gestoso: Therefore it’s okay.
Assange: Therefore there’s no case. So, if you want to go and rob someone, you want to go and murder someone, just do it to everyone
Gestoso: And in that case there’s no…
Assange: And then there’s no case.
Gestoso: So, that witch-hunt, for about two years, to have all that pressure on you, how much that was affecting Julian Assange, the person.
Assange: I haven’t had time to… People have asked me this question a number of times. That, I haven’t had time to sort-of sit and stop and worry about how it’s affecting Julian Assange, the person.
Gestoso: But anyway, if you’re here, and you have to go to bed, and you’re surrounded as we are at this very moment, and you have policemen in the corner, policemen in the other corner, policemen on the entrance of the building…
Assange: Policemen behind the toilet.
Gestoso: Policemen behind the toilet, policemen… you open of the kitchen and there are… How difficult it is to sleep with all that surrounding you. Basically, you are siege, you are in a siege.
Assange: Yes, but, you get use… I mean, you get used to everything. It’s, I suppose, all through this time, that the… It’s quite easy to weigh these threats, y’know these threats to my person, and to some of our people… they are not so big in comparison. I mean, yes, it is a whole government investigation, yes, it’s unprecedented in scale, yes, I suppose, in many ways it’s very bad. But, if we then look to see what we are achieving: our contribution to the revolution of countries, to the shifting political balance between the people and royal families such as in Morocco, and so on. That is so tremendous, it dwarfs.
Gestoso: Is it worth even your life?
Assange: Yes. And I don’t say that… I don’t believe anyone should be a martyr. I don’t believe anyone should throw their lives away. People should make a good fight, retreat, rearm, fight again. That is the way to truly fight for what you believe in. So, I don’t believe in making foolish steps that then stop your ability to then continue on. But that hasn’t happened to us yet. Yes, it has been very hard with these banking blockades, and arrests, and so on, but they haven’t stopped us.
Gestoso: When do you see yourself leaving this Embassy of Ecuador in London? How long will it take you?
Assange: I don’t know. My guess is that the situation will resolve through diplomacy, through some unusual thing happening in the world we can’t predict, like a war with Iran, like the U.S. election, like the Swedes dropping the case—which I think I the most likely outcome, I think. An internal investigation into what happened there, and they’ll drop it. And so, I think that will resolve in six to twelve months. That would be my…
Gestoso: Your guess.
Assange: My guess.
Gestoso: Finally, let’s assume that Julian Assange, between six months and twelve months, and a year, is walking out this Embassy. What’s next in your life?
Assange: Well, I must continue the fight. I mean, the fight is not just about me. I have an organisation of people and supporters and others who are close allies who have also been attacked and targeted. This is not just a persecution of individual, it is a persecution of an organisation, it is a persecution of a group. It is a persecution of people who believe in something, who believe in human rights. Who actually believe in this, who are not just using it for propaganda purposes to bash the Soviet Union or to bash China or something, but who actually believe that it’s important., because we want a civilisation that is civilised. Y’know, when there’s arbitrary law, when the rule of law is in collapse, there’s no safe place you can go. You can’t decide that, well, if I pal up to this bit of the establishment here or there, if I keep my head down I’ll be okay. Because it’s arbitrary. It’s unpredictable. It doesn’t matter whether you do something that is perceived to be wrong, or do something that is perceived to be right, because it is arbitrary. So it is necessary for us, for me, for everyone to continue that fight, because otherwise we are all moving toward an international system of arbitrary rule by complex groups that are connected to each other. Where it’s not about the electoral system, it’s non-democratic rule of these people for their own interest. I mean, they need to understand that by supporting such actions, they are moving their societies into a regime where even they won’t like the outcome.
Gestoso: Julian Assange, thank you very much for being with us.
Assange: Muchos gracias.