Julian Assange, co-founder and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, discusses the 15 thousand unreleased intelligence reports from Afghanistan, efforts to get the WikiLeaks Garani massacre video ready for public release, the warning from Seymour Hersh that government officials were ready to ignore the rule of law to silence him (Assange), indications that the supposedly leaked 260,000 diplomatic cables never made it to WikiLeaks, the secret rendition program from Somalia to Kenya and how Bradley Manning’s confinement in Kuwait is essentially rendition.
MP3 here. (14:36) Transcript below.
Julian Assange is the public face of WikiLeaks. He may also be the founder and director. More biographical information is available in this piece in the London Times.
Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Julian Assange July 28, 2010
Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show, Antiwar Radio. Sorry, a little sloppy with the break time in there, but you got to do what you got to do to keep Dan Ellsberg on the phone. All right, next guest is Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, responsible for the largest intelligence leak in the history of mankind this Sunday. Welcome to the show.
Julian Assange: Good day, Scott. How are you doing? But, first I must correct your introduction. We are simply publishers, and of course the real hero in this situation is our source or sources who took the risk to get this stuff to us.
Horton: Indeed. And, in fact that was something we were just talking with Daniel Ellsberg about, is the heroism of Bradley Manning, who apparently is responsible for at least some of these leaks. I know you can’t confirm or deny that, but, according to the chat logs, he said he was willing to risk life in prison or even the firing squad in order to do the right thing and get the truth out to people here. With the highest of motives, he did what he did, apparently, and I certainly take that at face value.
So, now, I know you’re very short on time today, and there’s so much to go over here. First of all, you have said to other media sources that there are 15,000 more documents that you are going over to black out names and so forth that are fixing to be released. Is that true? On Afghanistan.
Assange: Yes, that’s true, that’s true. And a lot of these are intelligence reports as opposed to field reports. They’re more interesting in the sense that they contain more stories, sort of narrative disclosures, less interesting in the sense that it’s often material from informers who are indeed informing for mixed reasons, sometimes making stuff up for personal revenge, or doing it for the money, but also other times telling the truth.
Horton: And, so are these a high level of classification?
Assange: They’re at the same level of classification, but they’re a different type of material. They’re intelligence reports as opposed to field reports.
Horton: And Newsweek is reporting today – Mark Hosenball is saying he has three sources that say that there’s a cache of Iraq documents that you’re preparing to release that will be three times the size of this recent dump of Afghan documents. Is that correct?
Assange: We don’t speak about what we’re going to publish unless there’s been a very careful consideration, but it appears that his source for that – trying to read between the lines – is just what he’s pulled out of the chat logs. Or perhaps he’s been speaking to Adrian Lamo, the informer who is said to be responsible for putting Mr. Manning in prison.
Horton: Okay. Well, you have confirmed in the past that you have the video of the Garani massacre in Afghanistan, and you’ve said that you have plans to release that, right?
Assange: That’s correct. We are still working on the Garani video. It is quite complex, and in this case we also have managed to acquire a number of tracking documents, underlying reports. So it’s fleshed out a bit – but a very complex attack occurring over a five- to six-hour period, many different bombers and aircraft involved. So it’s quite a difficult bit of work.
Horton: Okay, now, so there have been numerous reports over the time, and they seem to have changed in the tone, but they say that, at least for a time, you were concerned that the CIA was after you, and I think there were even quotes from maybe DOD officials that they were looking for you. Can you tell us the status of that? Is that a bunch of hype, or are you really concerned that the U.S. government is trying to get you?
Assange: We never said that the CIA was after us. However, I was contacted by Sy Hersh, who’s a senior national security reporter in the United States, conveying some information, and our other sources in the United States government were concerned about some of the rhetoric being used in private.
However, since that point, the public rhetoric by the U.S. and private rhetoric has aligned to be more reasonable and there seems to be an understanding pertaining to follow the rule of law when dealing with us – with the exception of surveillance, according to a Canberra Times reporter who’s a former Australian diplomat.
The Australian government received a high-level request to engage in some state surveillance and perhaps some collections of evidence against our people in Australia that was denied mostly by the Australian government with the exceptions of willing to give out some movements of where our people were. It was felt that actions which might result in Australian journalists spending time in overseas prison would not be politically acceptable to the Australian public, and the Australian government is approaching an election in five to six weeks’ time.
Horton: Could you please clarify the role of Seymour Hersh in this? You say that the CIA passed a message to you through him, is that right?
Assange: No, no. Mr. Hersh simply contacted me and provided me with a warning.
Horton: Oh, I see. He was just advising you to keep your head down, is what you’re saying?
Assange: Yeah, essentially. And there were another U.S. national security reporter who provided the same information, and we also had some other confidential sources giving similar statements. And some people who had invited me to a conference in the United States gave some information, and then a former New York Times reporter, Philip Shenon – his government sources gave him similar information. So there was a constellation of signals coming out of the U.S. administration which were alarming during that period, including a request to the Australian intelligence.
Horton: Okay, now, according to the chat logs – as published by Wired and the Washington Post, anyway – Bradley Manning, who may be one of your sources, claimed to have sent in hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, more than a quarter-million of them, and I guess I’ve read that you’ve denied in the past that you did receive those from him. And I wouldn’t want you to implicate Bradley Manning in any way here, Julian, but can you tell me if you have any State Department documents that would make Hillary Clinton have a heart attack one morning if she woke up and read the front page?
Assange: Well, we would love to have those, but, if you read the charges carefully against Mr. Manning, if we take them at sort of face value, they say, “Well, he is charged with downloading 150,000 to his personal computer.” He has only been charged with leaking 51 of them, though it really doesn’t say to where.
But, you know, if anyone has those cables or has access to similar material, we encourage them to send them to us. Interestingly, in this material we have released about Afghanistan, there are about 60 U.S. embassy cables feed into the sort of Afghan data collection system where different embassies around the world, mainly the American embassy in Kabul, are discussing information that they perceive to be of relevance to the situation in Afghanistan.
Horton: Is it true that – I guess there was a CNN report that said that WikiLeaks has received, I guess especially since the “Collateral Murder” video was published, a deluge of new high-level leaks from people inside the U.S. government?
Assange: Yes, that is true. And we are, as an organization, suffering, if you like, under this enormous backlog of material we’re trying to get through. It will cause substantial reform when that material is released. Bar a catastrophe, that’s going to go ahead, not just from the U.S. – we have a six months’ backlog to go through because we were busy fundraising and reengineering for this period of intense public interest. So it’ll be interesting days ahead.
Horton: Yeah, it sounds like it. So I’m interested – one of the things we like to cover on the show a lot here is American involvement in the war in Somalia since Christmastime 2006, and –
Assange: Well, that’s good, that’s good. That’s very underreported. The first leak that we ever did was about Somalia.
Horton: Well, I’d read that, and I wonder whether you have any information about the renditions going on there, CIA, JSOC intervention inside Somalia on behalf of the Ethiopians and African Union forces there?
Assange: We have a little, although nothing – I don’t know in the queue, this big pile of material we’ve had to go through for the past six months, how much material there is there relates. But certainly there are some classified orders and policy material related to that. We also released a rendition log from Kenya – where most of the Somalis end up passing through – for about 103 people were – I have to be careful on this number actually – but somewhere between 50 and 150 people were renditioned through Kenya, most of them from Somalia, and we have the flight logs, which we put up about a year ago.
Horton: Right, well, and we know at least some of those, or at least one of those was an American citizen who was renditioned to Ethiopia. Sure would like to look into that more. And, you know what, I know I’ve already pushed my time limit here, Julian, is it okay if I ask you one more thing here, or do you really need to go?
Assange: Go, Scott. Go ahead. They’re still setting up here.
Horton: Okay, well, this is sort of just from inside the recent leak. You know, it’s made the news that there are reports of heat-seeking missiles being used to bring down American helicopters in Afghanistan, and I was just wondering, from having gone through all this material, at least as much as anyone, how many different reports were there of heat-seeking missiles being used? Is this a total game changer in the war, or it’s just, you know, maybe one or two?
Assange: Yeah, I’m not sure. I wasn’t the one who did that. It was someone else in our partnership who knows, who [inaudible] the detail. I mean we’ve also seen other reports that the Taliban were using chemical weapons and modifying RPGs to give them chemical boost. But for some reason the Times, who initially discovered that, decided, I guess, that the report there was not credible enough. So perhaps not enough incidents of that kind of reporting. I don’t see those things as the real game changer.
The big picture that I see from all this material is you can see that the war is escalating, that it’s not failing for the Taliban or the insurgent groups – it’s sort of wrong to call them Taliban – that insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan are becoming more sophisticated and more civilians are being killed, and the human intelligence environment is very difficult – that informers are, you know, taking money for bribes and just giving up completely outlandish stories about Osama bin Laden or in some cases the ISI, in other cases stories that appear to be true, say, about the extensive ISI involvement in supporting the Taliban.
Horton: Okay, and one last thing, I’m looking at BradleyManning.org, here, Julian, and they have a legal fund established to try to fight the imprisonment of Bradley Manning. Do you support this effort?
Assange: Absolutely. You know, regardless of whether Bradley Manning ends up to be our source or some intermediary or completely innocent of these allegations that have been made against him, there is no doubt that this young soldier, 22 years old, has been effectively renditioned to Kuwait, from where he was stationed in Baghdad. He’s been kept away from his family, from civilian lawyers within the United States, and from effective press representation by keeping him in Kuwait. Kuwait is serving as a Guantanamo Bay for this young solider to keep him outside of the U.S. continent where he can be effectively represented.
Horton: All right, thank you so much for your time. I really do appreciate it, Julian.
Assange: You’re welcome. Bye bye, Scott.
Horton: Everyone, that’s Julian Assange. He is the public face of WikiLeaks. Check out the war logs at Afghan war log – well, let me get the exact address for you here instead of getting it wrong. It’s WarDiary.WikiLeaks.org. And that’s the website of the organization that is changing journalism on the face of the earth. Good stuff. We’ll be right back.
[Transcript slightly edited to include “this big pile of material that we have to go through for the past six months,” and a closed quote on a paraphrase of the charging documents again Bradley Manning.]