"Every war in past 50 years a result of media lies"
Laura Emmett's interview with Julian Assange
RT: Julian, thank you for talking to RT. Now, through the course of your work, you have some insight into the way that political decisions are made throughout the world. What do you make of the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa at the moment? Do you think that we are seeing genuine social unrest or are we seeing some kind of orchestrated revolt and if so, who do you think is behind all this?
JA: There is genuine change in some parts of the Middle East. I mean Egypt is a clear case. I was concerned at the beginning over the Egyptian revolution: whether we just saw a changing of the chairs and the maintenance of the same existing power structure, or whether something was really happening.
But after Mubarak fled Cairo, you saw mini-revolutions occurring in every institution within Egypt, from Alexandria to Cairo. So, that’s the sort of change that’s hard to undo.
What’s happening in some other countries is a bit different. The situation in Libya clearly has an involvement of state actors in it from many different areas. That’s something that has been driven by state actors. Now, it is normal for neighboring countries to have interconnections with each other: the activists in different countries, families in different countries, businesses in different countries, and the states from neighboring countries. That’s normal.
When outside forces from very, very far-flung countries start to take an aggressive role in a regional affair, then we have to look a bit more and say that what is going on is not normal. So, what’s happening in Libya, for example, is not normal.
RT: And social networking, what role, do you think, sites like Facebook and Twitter, have played in the revolutions in the Middle East? How easy, would you say, is it to manipulate media like that?
JA: Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use.
Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by US intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that US intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them.
RT: OK, let’s talk about other latest WikiLeaks cables that have been released. They show the UK as a haven for extremism, with at least 35 Guantanamo detainees having at least passed through the UK. Is the UK still a haven for terrorists?
JA: You know it has been a haven for terrorists, and it is certainly a haven for oligarchs and former regime dictators that have come here. I mean, remember the famous Pinochet trial for the extradition of Pinochet from the UK, which Thatcher resisted – incredibly, using a lawyer that is involved in trying to extradite me from the United Kingdom. Now, part of that is, perhaps, good. It’s an example of true liberalism in the United Kingdom: everyone come here, and we’ll protect you. On the other hand, there does seem to be a disconnect. Is it really supporting free-speech activists like me who come to the UK? But, on the other hand, it is supporting people like sons of Gaddafi.
RT: The Guantanamo information… why has WikiLeaks released it now? I mean it seems sort of to be after the fact. Is it because Obama has recently announced his re-election campaign and obviously closing Guantanamo was one of his main election promises?
JA: There is a number of reasons why we released it now. The primary one is that we are a small organization, although a very committed one. Last year we came under extraordinary attack. All these things continue to go on. And so they’ve really dampened down our ability to move quickly and publish quickly.
The timing is good. Obama has given up on closing Guantanamo and has decided to re-open the trial process. And we now have a situation where even the Obama administration says that 48 of those people still in Guantanamo are completely innocent and they should be sent somewhere, and they are not being sent anywhere. So, completely innocent people are incarcerated for years and years and years with no trial and no hope of relief. No country would agree to house them, including the United States. But the United States has made them its problem.
The United States was involved in rounding up these innocent people, setting up a process that was from the very beginning corrupt. There is a reason why they are in Guantanamo and not on the US mainland and not in an allied country. And that reason was to hide them and to keep them outside of the law. Just like you have Caribbean islands engaged in money laundering, the United States is engaged in people laundering.
RT:Let me talk about your media partners, one of which is The Guardian, with whom you're now involved in a dispute. But you chose them as your primary English-language partner for distributing the WikiLeaks cables. And now Guardian journalists have published this book on WikiLeaks, which you say is an attack on you. How would you describe, following that, The Guardian’s stance on whistleblowing and media freedom in general?
JA: They are a publishing organization, and so, of course, they want as much rights over publishing them as possible, that's a natural self-interest. What they have done with this cable-cooking in this incredible over-redaction of cables is they have pushed the right of the people to know to the very, very edge. And what they are concerned about is any possible attack on them.
But we have seen this sort of abuse of the material that we have provided several times. The Guardian is the worst offender, but we saw it also by The New York Times. The New York Times redacted a 62-page cable down to two paragraphs. And this is completely against the agreement that we originally set up with them on November 1, 2010. That agreement was that the only redactions that should take place are to protect people's lives. There should be no other redaction, not to protect reputation, not to protect The Guardian's profits, but only to protect lives.
What happens in the West is that there is no border between state interest and commercial interest. The edges of the state, as a result of privatization, are fuzzed and blurred out into the edges of companies. So, when you look at how The Guardian behaves, or how The New York Times behaves, it is part of that mesh of corporate and state interests seamlessly blurring into each other. The Guardian is concerned predominantly about being criticized by these powerful interests, about lawsuits against it driven by oligarchs, driven by people powerful enough to push a court case forward.
RT: Let’s talk a little bit about you and what you are going through at the moment. You are currently fighting extradition to Sweden. What are your fears should you be extradited there?
JA.: The problem is in two parts. The United States is trying to get up an extradition case for me to the United States. Just today we saw a new subpoena coming out of the secret grand jury that is operating in Alexandria, Virginia, and it’s trying to get up that espionage case against us. It is building that case, and whatever country I am in, once it decides to indict, they will try to extradite me from that country, and possibly not just me, possibly our other staff.
The other problem with the Swedish extradition is that the process itself has been corrupted. It was corrupted from the very beginning. We’ve seen corruption in Swedish media, we’ve seen all sorts of strange actions in relation to how this case is progressed.
RT: What message do you think you would send to the world, if the UK did turn around, almost unexpectedly at this point, it seems, and refuse to extradite you?
JA.: It depends on to which country. Here is the sort of calculation that’s going on in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom wants to keep its good relationships with the United States. So, if the UK was to reject the US extradition order, that would pose terrible problems for it. Similarly, if it was to reject the Swedish extradition order, that would pose problems for it, because it would look like it was seeking to harbor me. And this is the sort of difficult situation that Afghanistan faced when it appeared as if it was harboring bin Laden, and as a result there was an aggressive response. Any country which appears to be harboring us, as the United States is trying to conduct its aggressive response, faces political pressures. If the United Kingdom does attempt to extradite me to the United States, then it faces a difficult position politically. The bulk of the people in the United Kingdom support us.
RT: And finally, Julian, who do you consider to be your No. 1 enemy?
JA: Our No. 1 enemy is ignorance. And I believe that is the No. 1 enemy for everyone – it’s not understanding what actually is going on in the world. It's only when you start to understand that you can make effective decisions and effective plans. Now, the question is, who is promoting ignorance? Well, those organizations that try to keep things secret, and those organizations which distort true information to make it false or misrepresentative. In this latter category, it is bad media.
It really is my opinion that media in general are so bad that we have to question whether the world wouldn't be better off without them altogether. They are so distortive to how the world actually is that the result is… we see wars, and we see corrupt governments continue on.
One of the hopeful things that I’ve discovered is that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could've stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn't reprinted government propaganda they could've stopped it. But what does that mean? Well, that means that basically populations don't like wars, and populations have to be fooled into wars. Populations don't willingly, with open eyes, go into a war. So if we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment.
RT: Thank you very much.