Julian Paul Assange is an Australian publisher and journalist. He is known as the editor-in-chief of the website WikiLeaks, which he co-founded in 2006 after an earlier career in hacking and programming. WikiLeaks achieved particular prominence in 2010 when it published U.S. military and diplomatic documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. Assange has been under investigation in the United States since that time. In the same year, the Swedish Director of Public Prosecution opened an investigation into sexual offences that Assange is alleged to have committed. In 2012, facing extradition to Sweden, he was granted political asylum by Ecuador and took refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.
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I am Julian Assange, founder, philosopher, original coder, organizer,
publisher and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, AMA.
Edit: I would love to carry on answering but I have a press conference with the Foreign Minister of Ecuador.
What advice would you give to ordinary citizens in regards to how they can have an impact?
Many of us feel helpless, overwhelmed and small.
We are screaming for change, but what steps can we take?
When we are aware of the world and the scale of its inhumanity and stupidity we feel small. It very hard to "think globally" and "act locally", because by thinking globally we become overwhelmed with the scale of the problems to be solved. However the Internet permits many people to act globally in a way they couldn't before. WikiLeaks is a realisation of this tension. By releasing materials on many parts of the world, we empower others to think and act.
What can ordinary people do? Support and promote projects that are acting at scale. WikiLeaks is my realisation of this tension, but there are a flood of others starting. The clash between diversity and global uniformity which has been created by wiring the world to itself is now in play. You are the troops.
Is there any one piece of information that you truly regret leaking?
No. We make a promise to our sources. We keep it.
What is your opinion on Edward Snowden?
Edward Snowden performed an intelligent and heroic act. I and others had been calling for exactly this act for years (you can read about that here: http://reason.com/archives/2013/03/12/the-second-great-crypto-war). I am a trustee for his legal defense and co-ordinated his asylum. Our Sarah Harrison kept him secure in his path out of Hong Kong and spent 40 days making sure he was OK in Moscow's airport. Just last week I co-launched a new international organisation, the Courage Foundation in Berlin. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire and many other great people are involved. Please support it and Mr. Snowden's asylum renewal campaign. See https://couragefound.org/. Snowden's most recent comments on WikiLeaks are here: https://t.co/27YfsDxstQ
what would you say was the most important piece of information you have leaked?
Our ongoing PLUSD series, which contains more than two million cables, has had by far the most impact and continues to be used in court cases and elections every week. You can search it here: https://wikileaks.org/plusd
Closest to my heart, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Collateral Murder http://collateralmurder.org/ and the military histories of nearly every death and incident in Iraq + Afghanistan https://wardiary.wikileaks.org/
What are your views on Narendra Modi, India's new Right-leaning Prime Minister?
The election of Modi is a very interesting development in Indian democracy. We have released many interesting documents on Modi's ascension to power, you can see them here: (just search for 'Modi') https://wikileaks.org/plusd and https://search.wikileaks.org. From these materials it's clear Modi can be most accurately described as a "business authoritarian". Whether Indian needs a stronger centre to compete with China is an open question. Inevitably strong leaders make mistakes and eventually lose their faculties. Other than his extensive big business alliances, I think it is an open question as to whether Modi will bring more good than bad to India.
Hi Julian, I have 2 questions.
First, what do you do to stop yourself going mental with boredom? From my understanding, you cannot leave the embassy or you'll be arrested, so you've basically placed yourself under house arrest. What are you day to day activities?
Second, (and I don't mean this to sound inflammatory), why did you start a website to leak classified information? Surely you can understand that many things kept confidential are for the reasons of national security, and releasing secret documents puts lives and international relations at risk?
1) I only wish there was a risk of boredom in my present situation. Besides being the centre of a pitched, prolonged diplomatic standoff, along with a police encirclement of the building I am in and the attendant surveillance and government investigations against myself and my staff, I am in one of the most populous cities in Europe, and everyone knows my exact location. People visit me nearly every day. I also continue to direct a small multinational organisation, WikiLeaks, which is a serious logistical and occupational endeavour. I barely have time to sleep, let alone become bored.
2) Confidential government documents we have published disclose evidence of war crimes, criminal back-room dealings and sundry abuses. That alone legitimates our publications, and that principally motivates our work. Secrecy was never intended to enable criminality in the highest offices of state. Secrecy is, yes, sometimes necessary, but healthy democracies understand that secrecy is the exception, not the rule. "National security" pretexts for secrecy are routinely used by powerful officials, but seldom justified. If we accept these terms of propaganda, strong national security journalism becomes impossible. Our publications have never jeopardized the "national security" of any nation. When secrecy is a cover-all for endemic official criminality, I suggest to you, it bespeaks a strange set of priorities to ask journalists to justify their own existence.
In regards to President Obama you were recently quoted as saying,
How do you think history will remember you, and how do you feel about that?
For presidents it is important, but for the rest of us it is more important to get things done and see your legacy in the world. We're doing well in the more academic or comprehensive histories and outside the worst aspects of the English speaking mainstream press. Smears don't have much staying power on their own because they deviate from the foundations of reality (what actually happened). They require constant energy from our opponents to keep going. The truth has a habit of reasserting itself.
If you had a chance to do this all again, would you, and what changes would you make?
Again - definitely; we only live once and every day spent living your principles is a day at liberty. It is clear that history is on our side. Most of our difficult decisions are constrained by resource limits, not ideas. But I was ignorant about the extent of Sweden's geopolitical reliance on the United States and to some extent the structure of UK society. You can read about that here: http://wikileaks.org/IMG/html/Affidavit_of_Julian_Assange.html#3
Elections I understand, but how are wikileaks documents admissible in a US court of law?
There are many precedents now to say they are admissible. See http://www.brickcourt.co.uk/news/detail/court-of-appeal-finds-wikileaks-cables-admissible-but-dismisses-chagos-islanders-mpa-challenge
By your estimation, which modern government has the most transparency?
For a small government, Iceland. But it is hard to compare small governments with large ones. In small societies the path length between individuals is also small, so it is easier to know what is going on in government. Transparency is enforced by proximity and cultural norms as well as bureaucratic standards. See https://immi.is/
The Associated Press has quantified this in some great 2011 research; basically, the "old" democracies are in a state of decay and the "new" democracies eclipse them in their striving to be something:
— Newer democracies were in general more responsive than some developed ones. Guatemala confirmed the AP request in 72 hours, and sent all documents in 10 days. Turkey sent spreadsheets and data within seven days. Mexico posted responses on the Web. By comparison, Canada asked for a 200-day extension. The FBI in the United States responded six months late with a single sheet with four dates, two words and a large section blanked. Austria never responded at all.
— More than half the countries did not release anything, and three out of 10 did not even acknowledge the request. African governments led the world for ignoring requests, with no response whatsoever from 11 out of 15 countries.
— Dozens of countries adopted their laws at least in part because of financial incentives, and so are more likely to ignore them or limit their impact. China changed its access-to-information rules as a condition to joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, to boost the economy by as much as 10 percent. Beijing has since expanded the rules beyond trade matters. Pakistan adopted its 2002 ordinance in return for $1.4 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund. Neither country responded to the AP's test.
"Having a law that's not being obeyed is almost worse than not having a law at all," says Daniel Metcalf, the leading U.S. Freedom of Information authority at the Justice Department for the past 25 years, now a law professor at American University. "The entire credibility of a government is at stake."
You are implying that Sweden's extradition request for you was at the behest of the U.S. Given the U.S. and UK "special relationship" why do you think the U.S. would not make a direct extradition request to London?
It may well do so. See http://justice4assange.com/extraditing-assange.html#UKEASIER
Like Edward Snowden, do you feel the media made an effort to focus on you rather than what you were doing? How would the choice to remain anonymous have impacted Wikileaks?
It is hard to stay anonymous and run a big ship. In a conflict at this level, once your opponent knows who you are, then you need the protection of a public profile. This consideration fed into both my and Edward Snowden's decision making.
As a Nepalese, we saw our Royal Family massacred and the blame was on Prince Dipendra (son of the then King) who also happen to die the next day and the Younger brother of the then king Gyanendra takes the thrown of Late king Birendra, who also gets dethroned and gradually the nation falls under the reign of the Maoist rebels and the entire nation is now on havoc with no constitution as of yet and more violence and crime unaddressed. As a Nepalese neither I nor anyone believes what was feed to us, I still feel the real truth is somewhere and thats what we all Nepalese would want to know is there any Truth missing from what was told to us? Please share your thoughts.
I am not personally aware of the situation, but I do recall it is discussed in our materials. See https://search.wikileaks.org/
Hi Julian! I'm a former SNL writer who penned some jokes that parodied your predicament -- including one you've re-tweeted as a meme. Now, you're probably going to have a large number of serious questions. I'm here to ask: What are your favorite pieces of fiction? And if you got a day out to have a good time, where would you go and what would you do?
We all got a chuckle from that. Less so when Amnesty (which is part funded by the UK government) did this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icF8UFcUotE but still refuses to call Chelsea Manning (or me) a political prisoner. See also http://roqayah.co/2012/05/27/amnesty-international-nato-keep-the-progress-going/
Favourite fiction: Cancer Ward.
Lebanon is one of the most politically corrupt nations in the world. For its size, it has a massive and complicated web of economic, political, military influence coming from neighboring countries which, many will argue, polarizes the already divided demographic.
What is your take on how Lebanon continues to somehow function and what direction might we expect it to take politically, socially, and economically, as the current state of affairs persist?
I love Lebanon and have many friends there, but your description as to why Lebanon is the way it is, is exactly right. It also makes Lebanon, for its size, the most politically interesting country on earth, because if you understand Lebanon you understand the powerflows across the region. Some of that is documented here: https://wikileaks.org/plusd
As for the future of Lebanon, I would not presume to understand more than Lebanese do. But pulling back from the dynamics of the moment, I believe the hope for Lebanon is in the web of business, social and political alliances created by the Lebanese diaspora. While the diaspora is often rightfully seen within Lebanon as a corrupting influence, it is also external support for the continued existence of the country in the same way that the jewish diaspora is for Israel.