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An Interview With WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
Andy Greenberg, Forbes
… Forbes: To start, is it true you’re sitting on trove of unpublished documents?
Julian Assange: Sure. That’s usually the case. As we’ve gotten more successful, there’s a gap between the speed of our publishing pipeline and the speed of our receiving submissions pipeline. Our pipeline of leaks has been increasing exponentially as our profile rises, and our ability to publish is increasing linearly.
… Q: So do you have very high impact corporate stuff to release then?
Yes, but maybe not as high impact…I mean, it could take down a bank or two.
… Q: hat do you want to be the result of this [upcoming release about a big U.S. bank]?[Pauses] I’m not sure.
It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.
… You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.
… Q: [Do you have leaked material] about the energy industry?
Q: Aside from BP?
… Q: What do you think WikiLeaks mean for business? How do businesses need to adjust to a world where WikiLeaks exists?
… It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses. That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies. …
I think it’s extremely positive. You end up with a situation where honest companies producing quality products are more competitive than dishonest companies producing bad products. And companies that treat their employees well do better than those that treat them badly.
Q: Would you call yourself a free market proponent?
Absolutely. I have mixed attitudes towards capitalism, but I love markets. Having lived and worked in many countries, I can see the tremendous vibrancy in, say, the Malaysian telecom sector compared to U.S. sector. In the U.S. everything is vertically integrated and sewn up, so you don’t have a free market. In Malaysia, you have a broad spectrum of players, and you can see the benefits for all as a result.
Q: How do your leaks fit into that?
To put it simply, in order for there to be a market, there has to be information. A perfect market requires perfect information.
… So it’s only the obvious things that we want: Things concerning intelligence and war, and mass financial fraud. Because they affect so many people so severely.
Intelligence particularly, because the penalties are so severe. Although very few people have been caught, it’s worth noting. The penalties may be severe, but nearly everyone gets away with it.
To keep people in control, you only need to make them scared. The CIA is not scared as an institution of people leaking. It’s scared that people will know that people are leaking and getting away with it. If that happens, the management loses control.
Q: And WikiLeaks has the opposite strategy?
That’s right. It’s summed up by the phrase “courage is contagious.” If you demonstrate that individuals can leak something and go on to live a good life, it’s tremendously incentivizing to people.
(29 November 2010)
Related article in Forbes: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Wants To Spill Your Corporate Secrets.
Ron Paul: ‘What we need is more WikiLeaks’
Stephen C. Webster, The Raw Story
Popular Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul is no stranger to breaking with his party, but in a recent television appearance the libertarian-leaning Rep. went even further than any member of Congress in defending whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
Speaking to Fox Business host Judge Napolitano on Thursday about recent revelations at the Federal Reserve, Paul’s typical candor showed through.
“What we need is more WikiLeaks about the Federal Reserve,” he said. “Can you imagine what it’d be like if we had every conversation in the last 10 years with our Federal Reserve people, the Federal Reserve chairman, with all the central bankers of the world and every agreement or quid-pro-quo they have? It would be massive. People would be so outraged.”
Paul, a longtime critic of the US Federal Reserve, is the incoming chairman of a House subcommittee on monetary policy. His most recent book, titled “End the Fed,” takes aim at central banks the world over, blaming fiat money systems and fractional reserve banking for the world’s increasingly volatile economies.
“In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth,” Paul insisted. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it. … The Texas congressman echoed his message from Fox Business in a twitter post early Friday.
“In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth,” he wrote. “In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.”
(3 December 2010)
Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a Hero? Glenn Greenwald Debates Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News
Transparency-debate (video, audio and transcript)
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
WikiLeaks is coming under attack from all sides. The U.S. government and embassies around the world are criticizing the whistleblowing group for releasing a massive trove of secret State Department cables. The WikiLeaks website is struggling to stay online just days after Amazon pulled the site from its servers following political pressure. The U.S. State Department has blocked all its employees from accessing the site and is warning all government employees not to read the cables, even at home. “These attacks will not stop our mission, but should be setting off alarm bells about the rule of law in the United States,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. We host a debate between Steven Aftergood, a transparency advocate who has become a leading critic of WikiLeaks, and Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and legal blogger for Salon.com.
… STEVEN AFTERGOOD: I’m all for the exposure of corruption, including classified corruption. And to the extent that WikiLeaks has done that, I support its actions. The problem is, it has done a lot more than that, much of which is problematic. It has invaded personal privacy. It has published libelous material. It has violated intellectual property rights. And above all, it has launched a sweeping attack not simply on corruption, but on secrecy itself. And I think that’s both a strategic and a tactical error. It’s a strategic error because some secrecy is perfectly legitimate and desirable. It’s a tactical error because it has unleashed a furious response from the U.S. government and other governments that I fear is likely to harm the interests of a lot of other people besides WikiLeaks who are concerned with open government.
… AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we want to bring you in before the break with a response.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. Well, it’s interesting because we led off the segment with you, Amy, detailing a whole variety of repressive actions that are being taken against WikiLeaks. And one of the reasons for that is because people like Steven Aftergood have volunteered themselves and thrust themselves into the spotlight to stand up and say, “I’m a transparency advocate, but I think that what WikiLeaks is doing in so many instances is terrible.”
If you look at the overall record of WikiLeaks—and let me just stipulate right upfront that WikiLeaks is a four-year-old organization, four years old. They’re operating completely unchartered territory. Have they made some mistakes and taken some missteps? Absolutely. They’re an imperfect organization. But on the whole, the amount of corruption and injustice in the world that WikiLeaks is exposing, not only in the United States, but around the world, in Peru, in Australia, in Kenya and in West Africa and in Iceland, much—incidents that are not very well known in the United States, but where WikiLeaks single-handedly uncovered very pervasive and systematic improprieties that would not have otherwise been uncovered, on top of all of the grave crimes committed by the United States. There is nobody close to that organization in terms of shining light of what the world’s most powerful factions are doing and in subverting the secrecy regime that is used to spawn all sorts of evils.
And I think the big difference between myself and Steven Aftergood is it is true that WikiLeaks is somewhat of a severe response, but that’s because the problem that we’re confronting is quite severe, as well, this pervasive secrecy regime that the world’s powerful factions use to perpetrate all kinds of wrongdoing. And the types of solutions that Mr. Aftergood has been pursuing in his career, while commendable and nice and achieving very isolated successes here and there, is basically the equivalent of putting little nicks and scratches on an enormous monster. And WikiLeaks is really one of the very few, if not the only group, effectively putting fear into the hearts of the world’s most powerful and corrupt people, and that’s why they deserve, I think, enthusiastic support from anyone who truly believes in transparency, notwithstanding what might be valid, though relatively trivial, criticisms that Mr. Aftergood and a couple of others have been voicing.
(3 December 2010)
Cracks in the wilderness of mirrors
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times
… Daniel Ellsberg, who broke the Pentagon Papers in 1971, sees Assange as a hero. For vast swathes of the United States establishment, he is now public enemy number one – an unlikely echo of bin Laden. He may be now in southeast England, contactable by Scotland Yard, and about to be arrested at any minute courtesy of an Interpol mandate based on his being wanted in Sweden. Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan may be doing the twist in his media tomb; if the media are the message, when you can’t eliminate the message why not eliminate the media?
Let’s examine Assange’s crime. Here he is, in his own words, in “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”:
To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neo-corporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough to carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally we must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.
So Assange understands WikiLeaks as an anti-virus that should guide our navigation across the distortion of political language. If language is a virus from outer space, as William Naked Lunch Burroughs put it, WikiLeaks should be the antidote. Assange basically believes that the (cumulative) revelation of secrets will lead to the production of no future secrets. It’s an anarchic/romantic/utopian vision.
It’s vital to remember that Assange configures the US essentially as a huge authoritarian conspiracy. American political activist Noam Chomsky would say the same thing (and they wouldn’t want to arrest him for it). The difference is that Assange deploys a combat strategy: he aims to corrode the ability of the system to conspire. That’s where the metaphor of the computer network fits in. Assange wants to fight the power of the system, treating it as a computer choking in the desert sands.
(4 December 2010)