Osama Bin Laden was found with WikiLeaks documents. Julian Assange asks, ‘So what?’

Julian Assange gave an interview for Lateline TV which was broadcast June 10, 2013.  During the interview Assange discusses the business of Wikkileaks, and Edward Snowden, the NSA’s most recent usurper.


EMMA ALBERICI: This month marks a year since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London seeking political asylum. The WikiLeaks founder is responsible for publishing the 700,000 classified documents released by American soldier Bradley Manning, who’s pleaded guilty to the leaking of that material and is now on trial for aiding the enemy. Julian Assange is convinced there is a sealed indictment waiting for him in the US. We recorded this interview with him just a short time ago.

Julian Assange, welcome to Lateline.


EMMA ALBERICI: We’ll get to your political ambitions shortly. Let’s begin though with Bradley Manning and the charge that he aided the enemy. When you published the documents he gave you, didn’t it occur to you that you might be compromising American and allied military operations in the release of that information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, there’s been a lot of speculation and rumours about that by the yellow press. But the fact is not even the Pentagon alleges that a single person came to harm as a result of any of our publications anywhere in the world, and in fact, no other government agency does either. It is not a matter in this case. That’s one of the disturbing aspects about the Bradley Manning case, is that they have forbidden the defence to table any evidence whatsoever that no-one came to harm and the prosecution is not going to table any evidence - because there isn’t any - that anyone did come to harm.

EMMA ALBERICI: We’ve learnt that a Navy SEAL found WikiLeaks documents at the Pakistan compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. Presumably you knew it was possible, even probable, that those documents would be read by al-Qaeda, sensitive documents you were releasing.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well I am sure al-Qaeda reads the New York Times. He mentioned that he read Bob Woodward books. He probably has People, maybe even Who Magazine, possibly even Dr Seuss laying around his compound. So what? There’s no allegation that al-Qaeda was in any way aided by the publications that we published. Despite the fact, despite the fact that Bradley Manning has been charged with aiding the enemy, a capital offence, the judge in this case has said that the prosecution does not need to show that al-Qaeda was aided in any way whatsoever and the prosecution doesn’t allege that al-Qaeda was. All they intend to show is that al-Qaeda had our publications just like everyone else in the world.

EMMA ALBERICI: How can you be 100 per cent certain that information you’ve released hasn’t contributed to at the very least an atmosphere of mistrust between the US and others?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, look, the United States’ behaviour is what has led to an atmosphere of distrust. People should not trust the United States military industrial complex. Of course they shouldn’t. We’ve seen abuse after abuse. In fact this organisation revealed that the United States military, the Pentagon has been involved in the killing, directly or indirectly, according to its own records, of 129,000 people. Now that wasn’t simply in aggregate in Iraq or in aggregate in Afghanistan. That was the individual death records and their locations and what military units were involved in those two countries. That’s what we documented.

EMMA ALBERICI: So it doesn’t matter to you if you did contribute to a sense of acrimony between the US and other countries?

JULIAN ASSANGE: It does matter; in fact it’s very important that the level of trust is proportionate to the level of behaviour. So it’s been an extremely important thing that - for example, that Australians do not trust speculative military adventures in Central Asia. Of course it is.

EMMA ALBERICI: One of the key charges levelled against you is that you released that massive volume of material with scant regard for the consequences. Certainly Julia Gillard has said that there was no moral purpose to what you were doing.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, you know, the Senate has twice demanded that Julia Gillard apologise for her statements. Twice they have passed that resolution. Julia Gillard’s libellous statements are made outside of Parliament. She’s only saved by the statute of limitations. Have resulted in a banking blockade against an Australian publisher. They’ve also resulted in the Bank of America refusing to send a payment to WikiLeaks, the Australian political organisation. Julia Gillard has a lot to be responsible for in terms of her libellous comments. If we go to our publications - well not even NATO in Kabul, as it said to CNN, could find a single person in need of protection. So this is all yellow press hype. The Government doesn’t allege it. NATO has even looked into the speculative component and says that there’s nothing.

EMMA ALBERICI: You’ve been in the Ecuadorian embassy for a year now. How much longer do you expect to be there?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well it’s an interesting question. The situation is very interesting. But, you know, I’m quite optimistic. The support for WikiLeaks as an organisation increases. We can see that in the media in different countries around the world. We can see it politically. We can see it in polling results in Australia where a full 40 per cent of people under the age of 30 say that they intend to vote for WikiLeaks, between 25 and 28 per cent nationwide in Australia. And that is across three polls now by the Government’s own polling agency, UMR. Additionally, the political situation that is developing in United States, in the UK has gradually been improving over time. And I think the lies and fictions of Bob Carr, for example, are now well and truly over. Even his office is now speaking about the grand jury in the United States. We’ve seen in the Bradley Manning trial this week, the intent and focus of the United States Government to go after this organisation. And they’re aware that this organisation and people like it and our values are forming a new body politic and people like Edward Snowden are part of that phenomena.

EMMA ALBERICI: We will discuss Edward Snowden, but before that I wanted to ask you how much contact you’re having with the Australian High Commission there in London.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, so that’s actually - it’s remarkable to look at the statements made by the Foreign Minister, but other Australians who have been in difficult situations will tell you it’s all exactly the same. So, I have not met anyone from any consulate, any Australian Government official since 2010, since I was in prison. In the time that I’ve been in this embassy here - we laugh about it, that once a month, there will be a tick-the-box call to the consul here saying, “Well, how’s Mr Assange?” And, well, my response is, “Well, what’s your offer?” The last time that they offered some medical assistance to the Ecuadorian Government - the only concrete offer that they ever put on the table - the Ecuadorian consul went to meet with the Australian consul, completely utterly wasted his time. The result of that was, “Well, here you are, here’s a list of doctors in London.” A list of doctors that the Australian Government is going to pay for? “No.” Nothing, nothing at all. Just a list of doctors that I should never, ever go to, apparently. Because, in fact, all that the so-called consular support is doing here is it’s simply collecting political intelligence for Bob Carr. There’s an Australian member - there’s a DFAT member sitting in on the Bradley Manning case. There has been for about six months, secretly sitting there, recording notes. Are those notes passed on to our legal team? Absolutely not. They produce briefing notes for Bob Carr so he can set up his press lines.

So actually, so-called consular support for me and for many other Australians in similar situations, what it’s actually about is collecting political intelligence for the minister to set up their press lines, so it’s really a type of corruption where money that should be spent on actual consular support is simply spent on producing press releases for the Foreign Minister to make it look like he gives a damn about Australians. As we know, he doesn’t give a damn about Australians at all. Since the 1970s he’s been in bed with the US. Even as a union leader he was having multiple meetings with the US embassy.

EMMA ALBERICI: I know you say that the last real contact you had was 2010. What advice have they given you about your predicament?

JULIAN ASSANGE: They have given no advice, nothing at all. No advice, no information, nothing whatsoever. Not me, not to my lawyers, nothing. You see these absurd claims by Bob Carr saying that there’s been, I don’t know, 87 consular contacts. They include just calling, just this tick-a-box call procedure. No information whatsoever. We asked, “Can the Australian consul give me a passport?,” for example. “No.” The absurd response is, “Well just come down to the Australian consulate.” It’s a joke. I mean, they insult the Ecuadorians with this sort of behaviour. They insult me. They insult all of Australia with this sort of behaviour.

EMMA ALBERICI: How are you any more vulnerable to US extradition from Sweden than you are in the UK?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well I have political asylum here in the US - in the Ecuadorian embassy. I am completely invulnerable to extradition to the United States.

EMMA ALBERICI: That wasn’t always the case though.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, but, you know, these are complex legal issues. If you go to Justice4Assange.com with the numeral “4″, you can read all about the precise legal issues. But basically, this is a lot more than just about the law. The law isn’t good in either country, but there’s also process, there’s also the fact that I speak English, I don’t speak Swedish. I was only intending to be in Sweden for one week. I have no knowledge of their system. The whole system moves incredibly quickly. Sweden is isolated from the world’s press, you can’t rely on that, it’s a very small, tight-knit community and so on. So there’s - while in some ways parts of the law are better in Sweden, the process itself is not at all good. Since the year 2000, every single person the United States has requested for extradition from Sweden has been extradited - no exceptions. Here in the UK, about 10 per cent of people that the US has requested extradition have not been extradited. The nearest equivalent, and it’s a pretty direct case, Gary McKinnon, they’ve been fighting to extradite him for 10 years and finally the UK eventually, very reluctantly, vetoed his extradition to the US. That’s never happened in Sweden.

EMMA ALBERICI: Let’s talk about the 29-year-old former CIA staffer Edward Snowden. It’s now been revealed that he was responsible for those leaks to The Guardian and The Washington Post revealing the way the US National Security Agency gains information from internet companies - Google, Facebook, as well as US telecoms. Have you had any communication with him?

JULIAN ASSANGE: We have had indirect communication with his people.

EMMA ALBERICI: What do you mean?

JULIAN ASSANGE: I don’t think it’s appropriate at this time that I go into further details, but let’s look at the case and let’s look at what he’s revealed. What he has revealed is what I have been speaking about for years, that their National Security Agency and its allies have been involved in a mass interception program of Google, Facebook, the various telecommunications data, the telecommunications flow to the United States - which is about 99 per cent, for example, of Latin American traffic flows to the United States - bulk interceptions of many, many people, many, many Australians. And we must ask the question, and the Australian Government must answer the question: how many Australians have been intercepted? In the relationship between the Defence Signals Directorate and ASIO and US Intelligence, has the Australian Government been pooling that information about Australians? Has it been pooling that information about Americans? There’s been an admission here in the UK that GCHQ - which is the big spy - electronic spying agency here, the equivalent of DSD or the National Security Agency - has been involved in that program, in the Prism program since at least 2010, accessing data obtained from Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. Is the Australian Government still involved in this warrantless interception program? Are there collection points in Australia? Have Australian companies been part of this, having their information sucked out to the United States? Is this being done without a warrant? It is simply not acceptable.

And if I am elected to the Senate, the Australian WikiLeaks Party position is that there should be no interception, none at all of Australians without proper judicial oversight. No warrants without a judge assessing independently the warrant and there must be reporting every six months to the Australian Parliament on how many interceptions are occurring. You know, we run the danger here of the West more broadly drifting into a state where there are two systems. There’s one law for the average person and there’s another law if you’re inside the national intelligence complex. You can intercept whoever you want, you’re complete unaccountable for your actions, there’s no judicial review. That is not acceptable. I don’t believe Australians find that acceptable. I don’t believe that Americans find that acceptable. Snowden clearly didn’t find that acceptable and he was even someone in the system.

EMMA ALBERICI: And is that the basis for your pitch for election to the Australian Senate?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well we have a great many reasons and there’s various policies of different kinds will be released during the election cycle. But in essence, the values of transparency and accountability and resistance under pressure that I have developed through hard experience with WikiLeaks, that is what we intend to take to Canberra. You know, we went toe-to-toe with the Pentagon, we’ve gone toe-to-toe with many other corrupt states. Canberra is a corrupt little mini-state. We all know that. There’s a corruption of purpose. We elect people, we send them to Canberra to represent Australians, to represent Australians to the bureaucracy, to hold the bureaucracy to account, to represent Australian interests overseas. And yet we have people like Bob Carr and Julia Gillard representing mining industries, representing Macquarie Bank, representing their long-lost American pals. That is not acceptable.

EMMA ALBERICI: Well how do you expect to represent the people of Victoria when you’re locked up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and you’re wanted in Sweden on sexual assault allegations?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, you mention these in an inflammatory way. People should go to Justice4Assange.com and they can read all about your so-called allegations where even the women concerned say they had absolutely no intention to file any such formal allegations. This is a matter that has been taken by the Swedish state. That is admitted in the Supreme Court here on paper, it’s admitted in the High Court here. This is matter taken by the Swedish state. So people should have a look at Justice4Assange.com. They can also look at the excellent Four Corners investigation into that entire episode.

Now if we go to the legal situation and representation, that’s actually quite interesting. It’s really very fascinating. You know, the State of Victoria was created by exactly such a situation. Once upon a time there was just New South Wales, Greater New South Wales and it included the people of Melbourne, the people of Port Phillip Bay. And they found that they were not represented in the NSW Parliament whatsoever. And so they nominated Earl Grey, the same Earl Grey that is responsible for the tea, he was the secretary of the colonies to represent them in the NSW Parliament. He was here in the UK. He was elected, even though he was in the UK and he could not take his place in the NSW Legislature. And the result, fascinating result was that he created the State of Victoria when he was kicked out of the NSW Legislature. So in fact the very founding of the State of Victoria is analogous to the situation that I’m in.

But if we then go and look at the Australian Constitution, well, I would be taking my seat in July next year, so hopefully the situation has been resolved by then, but if it doesn’t, we have a fascinating situation, which is the Australian Senate would have to vote to kick me out if I didn’t turn up in the Senate for a period of two months. That’d be a very interesting political situation. It would reveal a lot about the two sides of politics in this country and what they do in the Senate and what they think is in Australian interests. But if they do, then another person from the WikiLeaks Party, one of the other publicly declared candidates, can easily take my place while I’m not able to take it.

EMMA ALBERICI: Finally, Julian Assange, Jemima Khan, who was once a keen supporter of yours, has recently lamented that you, in her words, expect supporters to follow unquestioningly in blinkered, cultish devotion, claiming that you had become more like an Australian L. Ron Hubbard. What do you make of that?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, come on. I mean, really? Jemima Khan? Seriously? This concerns a Hollywood documentary made by Universal for $2.5 million. They wanted WikiLeaks to partake in that, but we thought they were going to produce a pretty sleazy result, so we said no. In fact, the documentary team that we are working with is the same one that is now holed up in Hong Kong with Snowden. That’s Laura Poitras. Anyway, so because we went with Laura Poitras and we didn’t go with Alex Gibney in the US, the result was Gibney then went to Jemima Khan and recruited her to try and bring us in to that documentary process over two years ago, giving her access and an executive credit in the film. But we couldn’t tolerate the film. So we attacked the film, but she was part of the film, so as a result, she attacked back. I mean, it’s really just - it’s nothing.

EMMA ALBERICI: We have to leave it there. Julian Assange, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us.

JULIAN ASSANGE: You’re welcome.