Julian Assange on Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and the Emerging Surveillance State
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JULIAN ASSANGE: The attempts to squash WikiLeaks are there to set a general deterrent. I mean, there’s no doubt about this. Since 2008, that’s been the case. We released a classified U.S. intelligence report, in fact, showing in 2008 the concern that the U.S. military had about WikiLeaks and the ways in which it could be crushed. Other material came out showing that Bank of America had hired lawyers who had looked into hiring people to make all sorts of attacks and smears on us, massively funded millions of dollars per month. And you can look that up. It’s the HBGary report.
I think this tension between power and knowledge is extremely important. So, we’ve all heard the saying that knowledge is power. Well, it’s true. And the mass surveillance and mass interception that is occurring to all of us now who use the internet is also a mass transfer of power from individuals into extremely sophisticated state and private intelligence organizations and their cronies. Now, if that is to be resisted, we must have a transfer of information that is going the other way.
Fortunately, the system is in part eating itself. When it sets up these huge databases designed to be extremely efficient, brings in five million people, a state within a state in the United States, who have security clearances to work out how to best use it in order to maximize the power of that sector, it also leaves itself open to people extracting some of that information and reversing the flow and giving it back to the public, putting it into our common intellectual record. But it’s not, by any means, an easy battle. I would say that the transfer of power that has occurred as a result of the NSA’s admitted 1.6 billion interceptions per day is much greater than the transfer that has happened the other way. The successes of WikiLeaks, yes, to some degree, reflect our vigor and the vigor of activists on the internet, but I think they more fairly represent the vast treasure of global information that is being accumulated by these otherwise unaccountable intelligence organizations.
AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction—you mentioned Petraeus, General Petraeus, before and how he’s been taken down as his email was gone through. What do you think about that? The—here he was—
JULIAN ASSANGE: I think it’s fascinating, Amy. Now, we can look into—you know, if you’ve been involved in this business for a while, you can start to smell when there must be something more to the situation. So I assume, in those emails that the FBI got hold of, there’s additional information that would be embarrassing to Petraeus above and beyond an extramarital affair, which is why he’s resigned. But that someone in the position of being the ultimate—an ultimate insider, the head of the CIA, has fallen victim to the surveillance state really shows you how massively out of control the thing has become, where it is like a vicious dog that has suddenly spotted its own tail and has gone after it, is lashing out irrationally, and now it’s affected an insider. And people have started to take note, but of course it’s been doing that to activists and, in fact, most of—most of us, it has been doing that, although we can’t see the result, for years.
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, as we wrap up, your final thoughts as you speak to us from political exile inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London? This is extremely rare. How long do you plan to be holed up there? Could you see yourself being there for years?