Julian Assange interviewed on Late Night Live Radio, 6 June 2012. Full audio is available via the RadioNational website.
Phillip Adams: Good day, beloved listeners. Last night on this little wireless program, I was talking to Shapiro about the Obama kill-list. It’s pretty dangerous being deemed an enemy of the American people these days, because at any moment a drone will come in and take you out. And of course tonight we’ve learned that another member of Bin Laden Proprietary Limited has been killed by one of those precision attacks. I think if I was Julian Assange, I’d be more concerned with a drone attack than with mere extradition, but let’s see how Julian is feeling at this time of, well, endless strife. Julian, who’s talking to us from his hideout in the English countryside where he’s under house arrest, joins us on the program. How are you coping with this incredible stress level?
Julian Assange: Good day, Phillip. Well, over the last few years we’ve gotten used to it. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s not necessarily a good thing, I suppose. Y’know, people in quite adverse conditions get used to those conditions and they start to normalize.
Phillip Adams: Of course, it’s not only your physical and mental health that’s been under attack; your financial health has taken a bit of a dive, hasn’t it?
Julian Assange: Yes. That’s been one of the most interesting aspects of all we’ve done. So we released a lot of information about how the US empire works. And I don’t want to use that word ’empire’ in a sort-of classic 1960’s Latin American radical way, because people close their minds. But if you read the State Department cables, for example, you see that that is the brain of the US empire’s relationships with its foreign counterparts. And that’s got everything from how it conducts its business relationships to arms sales and various procedures to get young leaders from around the world embedded into Washington think tanks and then send them back out. Now, it’s not just information that we’ve released that’s interesting, but the back reaction to that. So everything we’ve released is some degrees in the past, but the reaction to our publishing is happening right now. And that defines certain contours of power relationships in the United States and between the United States and the UK and England which were unexpected to a lot of people.
Phillip Adams: Julian, I’m talking about your personal bank account which was shut down. I understand that you’re now technically bankrupt. Your bank accounts have been closed, many people associated with you have lost their jobs, even some who were quite indirectly connected. You’ve been… You’re under the hammer, aren’t you?
Julian Assange: Yes. I’ve been declared a PEP, a politically exposed person, and that means in practice that I can’t open any bank accounts. So they have to go through extra steps to do that. There’s a worldwide financial blockade completely outside the law by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, American Express, Moneybookers, Western Union, Bank of America – all US organizations. They closed my Swiss accounts that we were using publicly to raise legal defence money and my personal ability to move money – even as far back as September 2010 – from Australia into Sweden, was also blocked on the network. The Vienna to Australian blacklist, a US watch-list, at that time, back in 2010.
Phillip Adams: I wonder whether you weren’t prepared for the verdict the other day; you must have thought it was on the cards.
Julian Assange: Yeah, we did, and we planned as best we could. But y’know, if you believe strongly in something then there comes a time where you have to choose to take the risks and go with your ideals or be a hypocrite. And we took the risk, and I’m proud of taking the risk. And now we suffer a bit from it, but I think in the medium to long term we’ll be alright and I think we’ll be seen to have been the right thing to do.
Phillip Adams: Julian, what chance do you have of the appeal being successful.
Julian Assange: The situation in the British Supreme Court is really interesting. So the case itself concerns… It doesn’t sort of concern any of the trivial allegations. It concerns a really central tenet of the relationship between European states and the use of coercive force. So if you say that a state is defined by an area of land – well maybe not land, even, these days – where there is some governing body that has monopoly use on coercive force, then who can use coercive force defines the powers in the state. And the UK has got itself wrapped into post-9/11 agreements, an inter-extradition agreement with other European states, that is wasn’t really aware of. And even the Supreme Court justices who ruled against us, for technical reasons, and the Supreme Court said explicitly the parliament was misled about what they were buying into, and that it was quote, “disturbing”, unquote, what had happened. So the current situation, if their current interpretation is allowed to stand, is that any individual in the United Kingdom can be extradited by any bureaucrat anywhere in Europe without going through a court, without any evidence, and without any charge, from any 27 EU countries.
Phillip Adams: I was talking to our mutual friend Pilger the other night about you and he felt the need to remind the listener that you haven’t been charged with anything, that you made yourself available for interviews in Sweden, and that in fact you were also more than happy to be interrogated, y’know, in the UK via Skype or some of the new technologies which are now so common. And yet, many people, many of your erstwhile supporters, see you as in some way avoiding confrontation with your accusers.
Julian Assange: Well, I’m not sure ‘more than happy’ is the correct word, Phillip, I think ‘mightily pissed off’, but I’m understanding it might be necessary to resolve the situation. Yeah, so I was given… I only visited Sweden because the FBI came to the UK and raided one of my alleged source’s mother’s house, Bradley Manning, in Wales. So the FBI was here in the UK, stomping around the UK, and we thought I’d better get out. And I managed to get some people to write an invite to a talk on the first casualty of… Sorry, the first casualty of the war is the truth, in Sweden, and use that invite as sort-of a safe passage to get out through UK customs to Sweden. And then everything blew up while I was there for a week. And I didn’t leave, rather I deliberately stayed in order to try and clear things up. They dropped everything, and then the prosecutor – the new prosecutor, that went through a whole bunch after some political involvement by someone who’s a bit equivalent to the shadow Attorney-General, in Sweden – said that I could leave. And so I left, went about my business preparing the Iraq War Logs release and the US diplomatic cables release. And then they said, ‘Oh, actually we want you back here’, and we said, ‘OK, we’ll prepare to do that’. And then other things started happening and they put out an Interpol Red Notice for me. They didn’t even do that for Gaddafi until a very, very late stage. Then a European Arrest Warrant. And so I said, ‘This is absurd. I’m not even charged, I’m perfectly willing to speak’, but what is happening in Sweden makes us suspicious of how impartial this process is. ‘So you can come to the Swedish Embassy in London to interview me or use the standard European procedure’, which is the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, ‘if you want to talk to me, or you can speak to me on a video-phone’, etc etc. And they had refused this entire time to do that, and, more importantly, they had refused to even explain to the British courts why they refused, saying that they do not have to explain why they refuse to follow standard, basic EU procedure. And as a result, I’ve been detained, without charge, for over 540 days now, under house arrest.
Phillip Adams: Pilger tells us that you’ve been demonized to a great extent in the Swedish media, and I take… I haven’t actually read the British attacks on you of late, but apparently you’re not exactly a poster boy in London these days.
Julian Assange: There was a Reuters survey of 24 countries back in March last year – 18,000 people, the error margin 3% – about support for WikiLeaks and support for me. The number one supportive countries was South Africa, Germany, India, Australia, and Russia, and Argentina. And at the other end of the spectrum, the least supportive was the United States, but we still had 40% support in the United States, despite all the vitriol from people like Joseph Biden, saying I was a hi-tech terrorist. Within the United Kingdom, we had a legal dispute with The Guardian newspaper. Now, that would be normally in a position ideologically, in terms of its audience, to go in to bat for us, because it often takes stands against the US. But The Guardian, as a result of a legal dispute, completely flipped sides at its senior management level and came out relentlessly, day after day, attacking us. So that poisoned the UK environment. Within Sweden, something else is happening. The British executive – wisely, I think – made no comment on my legal case. They did make one comment early on saying they deplored leaks, but otherwise they have made no comment to date at all on my legal case. In contrast, the Swedish executive, although it is unlawful to do so under Swedish law, the Prime Minister, the Justice Minister, and the Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, including up into 2012, have come out and attacked me. There has been front page fabricated stories in Sweden about how we were spying on Swedish journalists’ homes with private detectives, collecting classified Swedish documents, we’re going to surround all the Swedish Embassies, we’re going to release information to show that Carl Bildt was a US spy, etc etc. So the environment there is as toxic. A new book has come out about this by a Swede called “A Brief History of Swedish Sex”, looking at how Sweden used to be perceived to be a libertine environment back in the 1960s 1970s, and that it has swung the other way, to be the most sort-of sexually conservative and erotic environment in all of the Western world now. And there’s a whole bunch of crazy cases that are permitted, and these are very political because the sort-of sex politics in Sweden is real political currency, such political currency that it involves – and not just women – that involves the careers and political destinies of senior men in cabinet.
Phillip Adams: Whilst you are now a pariah to the likes of The New York Times and The Guardian, it’s interesting that you’ve collected some new fans and supporters. I’m a great admirer of Dan Ellsberg, and I know he’s been helping out.
Julian Assange: Dan’s been great. I mean, through this process it’s brought out the worst in some people, but it’s also brought out the best in others, and Dan is one of those. Y’know, whenever you’re in a particular niche of society – and let’s say my niche is sort-of aggressive journalism, exposing the state, and in some kind of battle – there’s competition within that niche, and sometimes people react on competitive tendencies. For example, The Guardian newspaper is competitive with us for that social/political niche. But Dan Ellsberg, John Pilger, Amy Goodman: all these people have completely risen above any sort-of competitive instinct.
Phillip Adams: Well, Pilger, I think, Pilger’s performance has been particularly commendable because you haven’t always been kind to John in the past. Another recruit that was of all people Ron Paul, who did make a quite impassioned and rational speech, didn’t he?
Julian Assange: Ron Paul, a right-wing Libertarian from the US – part of this great tradition, actually, of strong, right-wing Libertarians in the US – made an impassioned speech from the floor of the Congress, back in the heat of the moment, when it was almost aa sort-of Neo-McCarthyesque feeling about attacking us, when it was almost every man and his dog was coming out and saying that I should be assassinated and hung up, hunted down like Osama bin Laden. Ron Paul, in the middle of that, stood up and said, ‘Look, what we need is the truth. Look, right here is a cable about the meeting that took place with representatives of Saddam Hussein right before the Gulf War. And it shows that the US gave tacit permission for it to go ahead’.
Phillip Adams: I’m talking to Julian Assange on a pretty bad line from the UK and this is LNL on RN. The pseudo-left, as you might describe them, haven’t been so good, have they? In fact many, many, if not most, seem to have run a mile.
Julian Assange: Yeah, it’s this interesting tendency, and I was just speaking to my mother the other night and, y’know, there’s this classic grid where you draw the vertical axis as authoritarian to libertarian, and the horizontal axis left to right. And so you have the libertarian-right, the libertarian-left, and the authoritarian-right, and authoritarian-left. But if we look at the strong libertarian-right and the strong libertarian-left, and even the strong libertarian-centre, [Adams laughs] this group has been overwhelmingly supportive on all sides of politics. But the sort-of soft liberal-left, well I’ve come to develop a great disrespect for these people, because they have certain values which they espouse, but then when push comes to shove, when they actually have to risk something, when they have to risk alliances, when they have to risk reputation, where they have to risk being swept up in a financial blockade, or something like this, they turn in exactly the opposite direction.
Phillip Adams: I think Salman Rushdie had much the same experience as you did, you must be extremely elated that you aren’t on the kill list of the President because we heard from his US Ambassador here that the United States isn’t vaguely interested in extraditing you. Do you take comfort from that at all, or are you deeply suspicious?
Julian Assange: [laughs] Well, deeply suspicious. Jeffrey Bleich is a lawyer, so what he was saying is, ‘We have no interest in the Swedish extradition’, so that was the context of his statement, not ‘That we have… and that there is no action against him’. But in fact the US, for the past nearly 18 months – oh yeah, nearly 18 months – has been running a grand jury against me in Virginia, meets every month for several days, nine prosecutors involved, Department of Justice spilling out subpoenas to Google, Twitter, Facebook, to any one of my friends or associates, or rumoured friends or associates who entered into the United States. There were, just in the past three weeks, Jérémie Zimmermann, the free speech activist who visited me a month or so ago, was detained on his way out of the US by the FBI, interrogated about me, asked to become an informant; Smári McCarthy from Iceland, just two weeks ago, going to the US – in fact the same thing happened – followed around Washington DC, approached at 1:30AM in the morning by three people who said they were FBI officers, asked him to become an informant. So, y’know, it’s not that the Australian Government doesn’t know this; it knows it perfectly well, in fact the Sydney Morning Herald has gotten hold of a bunch of FOIs through the good work of one of their journalists, Phillip Dorling, and… I need to find that… [shuffling through papers] So yeah, they speak about Bleich. So this is from the SMH, about five days ago: “A highly qualified lawyer, Ambassador Bleich… So, Bleich has denied that there even exists such thing as a secret warrant”. But that wasn’t the question; the question was about a sealed indictment. “A highly qualified lawyer, Ambassador Bleich, knows that a warrant is not the same thing as an indictment. If a formal accusation or crime is issued by a US grand jury; a grand jury hearing is held in secret and an indictment may also be sealed, that is kept secret until the arrest warrant has been issued and the defendant is taken into custody. To say that secret warrants don’t exist is true, but that is not the point”.
Phillip Adams: Julian, your mother has… Well, many of us would believe that the Australian Government has done precious little to help you. How do you rate their performance currently? There are loud protestations that they’re on our side.
Julian Assange: They’re absolutely abysmal, absolutely abysmal. I haven’t met with a representative of the Australian Government in any kind since late 2010. Now, what they do, they pen little emails across saying, ‘Oh, we might want to know if you have any concerns’, dadadadada. And in every single one of these SMSs that they send to my lawyer, looking to make an appointment to get more intelligence back from us that they can use to prepare their media lines, they then say that’s a consular communication, or a consular visit. The last thing that happened is that one of my lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, met with Nicola Roxon, the Australian Attorney-General, just about three weeks ago, and presented to her a list of extremely reasonable (by international standards) request, that is, for example, that the Australian Government request that the Swedish Government not extradite me to the United States for anything to do with WikiLeaks publishing matter, or that I be… If I did end up in Sweden, that I not be placed in custody without charge. [Adams: Yeah.] I’ve been 540 days here under house arrest, I’ve kept to my house arrest – without charge – but the Swedish prosecutor refuses to agree to that. So our lawyers have asked, they’ve refused. They will apply to hold me in custody without charge while this so-called investigation continues. The Australian Government refused to do that. If I wind up in the United States, or wind up in Sweden, can I serve my sentence in Australia. And they refused to ask them to do that. The attacks by the executive in Sweden… It seems to me that if you have the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, repeatedly attacking me… By the way, Hillary Clinton just spent the weekend with Carl Bildt and the Swedish executive, this, y’know, two days ago; the first visit since 1976 of the Secretary of State. So Carl Bildt and the Prime Minister, Reinfeldt, have been attacking me in 2012 publicly against Swedish procedure. So it seems to me, that if an Australian citizen is attacked by a Foreign Minister of another country when they’re in judicial process, that the Foreign Minister of Australia or the Attorney-General of Australia should say, make representations to please do not do that, because it’s impossible to have a sort-of fair process while that is occurring. They have refused to do that. In fact, the only way that you can describe this recent letter of refusal to do anything at all, whatsoever, in any area, by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, is a declaration of abandonment.
Phillip Adams: Julian, people forget that you’ve been in jail. You had 10 days in solitary, and I remember you suggesting that everyone should have 10 days in solitary, especially politicians. [Assange: Especially politicians!] And you have a lot of sympathy with Bradley Manning as a result. Now worst-case scenario: you’re in prison in Sweden. You’ve done some research on it and apparently Swedish prisons are – surprise, surprise – regarded by many as the worst in Europe.
Julian Assange: Well, not by me. Fair Trials International, just a week ago, released their description of what Swedish remand prisons were like. And yes, they are some of the worst in Europe. The immediately former-head of the International Prisons Chaplains Association, the guys who visit more prisons in the world than any other people, themselves Swedish, said that Swedish remand prisons are the worst in Europe. And the reason is because they hold people without charge, in incommunicado detention; they’re allowed to speak to their lawyers and no one else. The prosecutor, who is partisan, has total control over the conditions. So they, y’know, they use this as part of sort-of an interrogation process: ‘Well, you want to see your mother, well sorry, y’know, you haven’t been cooperative this week’.
Phillip Adams: Have you found a media outlet that’s allowed you to discuss the allegations about your sexual molestation charges – I’m sorry, allegations? Have you have a good chance to put your case?
Julian Assange: No, I mean, this is the really sort-of pernicious situation that we’ve fallen into where, because I haven’t been charged, I do not have even the rights of a defendant. So I have no rights to any of the full accusations against me, any of the evidence against me, I have no rights to protest any of that. Under the basis that I haven’t been charged… Y’know, if we look at this from sort-of legal philosophy that we’ve become accustomed to in Australia – and actually as all common law systems have become mostly accustomed to, and even continental systems – which is, as an adult, you are a free individual, free to go about your business in life, without being deprived of your liberty by the state, unless a formal accusation has been made against you, unless you’re formally charged, unless you’re indicted. And at that point you are still innocent until proven guilty, but you are forced to go into a process to establish that, and that might require going up to court hearings, maybe it will require being on bail, but until that point – until the point of being charged – you are a free man. But I haven’t been charged. And so, until I am charged, I don’t think that my private affairs – my completely legitimate private affairs – are of any business to the state. It is not my responsibility to prove the innocence of my private affairs. It is the state’s responsibility to take an accusation, turn it into a charge, charge me if necessary, and at that point prove its accusations.
Phillip Adams: Julian, in the few moments we have left, let’s move to the Bradley Manning hearing, which I understand was attended by US Justice Department representatives specifically to see how it might impact on their investigation into WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange: That’s right, it was – the next hearing by the way is tomorrow – but the ones in December were attended by three people – at least three sort-of figures who would not identify themselves, who were not part of the military prosecution – we know at least one of them is from the Department of Justice, the others might be from CIA or other interests who have some equity – remember, there is a publicly declared CIA task force into WikiLeaks, the WikiLeaks Task Force – and yeah, so the overlap between these two hearings – between the grand jury process and Bradley Manning’s ongoing procedures – is there. And Bradley Manning’s lawyer has found 250,000 pages of material that exists – that is part of the grand jury proceedings or various other investigations into WikiLeaks – that are not part of the case against his client, and he is trying to get hold of those in order to see if they help with the case against his client, and that has been refused. He says, Bradley Manning’s lawyer, back in December, that the terrible conditions that Bradley Manning was placed under, that the UN declared as cruel punishment akin to torture – that was the finding of the UN special Rapporteur into Torture – that he was put through that in order to coerce him into testifying against me. Similarly, that he was given a death penalty charge of aiding the enemy – which is absurd, because they say that the aiding of the enemy, the military’s allegation is that he aided the enemy by conveying information to the public – that death penalty charge is absurd and cannot survive, but it’s there to put pressure on him to rat on us.
Phillip Adams: Oh what a tangled web. Look, Julian, thanks for your time, and I know it’s been…
Julian Assange: Just one more thing, Phil. We just got this letter from the Attorney-General’s office: “The Government has stated that the debate about the WikiLeaks matter, not about censoring free speech or preventing the media from reporting news, the Government’s concern relates to the reckless disregard of the potential damage that could be caused by unauthorized disclosure of classified materials”. OK, well that’s their standard suck-up to the US party line. But now let’s look at who it came from: Anna Harmer, Assistant Secretary, International Crime Cooperation Central Authorities.
Phillip Adams: We’ve got to wrap it, I’m afraid, Julian, and thanks for your time, and you have of course my best wishes. WikiLeaks founder, the besieged and beleaguered Julian Assange, on LNL on RN.