Julian Assange on Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and the Emerging Surveillance State
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, may testify today at a pretrial proceeding for the first time since he was arrested in May 2010. Manning could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious of 22 counts against him. His trial is expected to begin in February.
Meanwhile, the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought refuge nearly six months ago to avoid being extradited to Sweden to be questioned over sexual assault claims. Earlier this week, Assange vowed WikiLeaks would persevere despite attacks against it. On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that the credit card company Visa did not break the European Union’s antitrust rules by blocking donations to WikiLeaks. Shortly after the ruling, Assange addressed reporters in Brussels via video stream from inside the Ecuadorean embassy.
JULIAN ASSANGE: The strength of popular and private support means that we continue. There is no danger that WikiLeaks will cease to exist as an organization. Rather, its natural and rightful growth has been compromised, and that is wrong and must change. It would set a very bad precedent—it was not only wrong for WikiLeaks; it sets an extremely bad precedent for all other European organizations and all media organizations worldwide that monopolies can simply exercise financial death penalties over organizations and companies as a result of political controversy.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Julian Assange speaking on Tuesday. He now joins us in a rare interview from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He has been granted political asylum in Ecuador but can’t leave the embassy because the British government promises to arrest him if he steps foot on British soil. He has just co-authored a new book called Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet. The book examines how the internet can be used as both an instrument of freedom and oppression.
We want to welcome you, Julian Assange, back to Democracy Now! and first get your reaction to the European Commission’s decision around the issue of Visa, saying it wasn’t breaking antitrust laws when it blocked donations to you. The significance of the credit card company’s blockade of donations to WikiLeaks, what it’s meant for your website?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, it’s good to be with you, Amy and Juan. The decision is disgraceful, but it is only a preliminary decision. We have another submission that the commission has asked for, so hopefully they will turn around before the end of the year or the beginning of next year. Commission had been investigating our complaint for 16 months. The normal turnaround time is four months. The European Parliament last week voted, through an Article 32 section, on how banks should be reformed and credit card companies should be reformed in order to stop arbitrary, extrajudicial financial blockades such as the one that is being applied to WikiLeaks. This year, we—the Council of Europe, all 47 foreign ministers last year passed a resolution saying that these sorts of arbitrary financial blockades on WikiLeaks should not continue, so that it’s interesting to see the playoff in the political wills in Europe between, on the one hand, the Council of Europe and the Parliament and, on the other hand, the commission. But it’s been known for a long time that the commission is closer to big business, and it is often successfully lobbied. Hopefully the commission will do the right thing and turn around in this case.