Resistance From a Cage: Julian Assange Speaks to Norwegian Journalist Eirik Vold
Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
This is an exclusive English translation of an interview published Saturday, February 16, 2013, in the Norwegian news outlet Dagens Næringsliv.
No academic title came out of Assange's university studies in Canberra and Melbourne. But the typical hacker outlook - rebellious, but apolitical - went through a deep metamorphosis. Faced with what Assange calls "the ivory tower's connections to economic power relations on the ground" and global geopolitics, Mendax merged with the political consciousness of Assange the university student.
The result was WikiLeaks.
Assange explained how US foreign policy was exposed as violent and dishonest, how the revelations made the ground shake beneath corrupt and oppressive regimes and corporations all over the world and stimulated revolutions, as in Tunisia, and reformist movements in Ghana and Kenya.
WikiLeaks is "a rebel library of Alexandria," Assange declares, making a parallel to the largest known library of classical antiquity.
The chase begins. Assange has still not revealed how WikiLeaks got the Collateral Murder video decrypted. Presumably, one of his cryptographer friends had something to do with it. But in the Pentagon, eyes turned to a young American soldier on duty in Iraq. On May 26, 2010, Private Bradley Manning was arrested.
In the United States, WikiLeaks' domain name in California was shut down. Bank of America announced that all transactions dealing with WikiLeaks would be blocked. Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Western Union and Amazon followed. German tax authorities started to investigate WikiLeaks.
"Friends of mine were stopped and interrogated in airports. People who only had remote connections to WikiLeaks started to lose jobs and contracts," he says.
A short awkward silence follows.
"So you believe that those who are after you exaggerate their ability to harm you?"
"Those who want to harm WikiLeaks constantly exaggerate their ability to harm us. They are mostly incompetent people."
Is this the cocky Mendax, talking about helpless old policemen in their clumsy hunt for an agile young hacker in cyberspace? Has Assange forgotten that he's entering his seventh month holed up in a 50-square-meter embassy out of fear of ending up like Bradley Manning?
"This isn't about me. What happens to me is not important, beyond the practical difficulties it might create for WikiLeaks."
"They demanded that WikiLeaks hand over all the documents, eliminate all the copies and cut off all contact with whistleblowers in the US military. Or else they would, and I quote, 'compel us to do so.'"
"And then there's the media."
Then it all went downhill.
So, why did Assange choose to apply for political asylum in a country popularly known as the "banana republic" par excellence of South America?
On August 15 last year, however, a lot of people doubted that this lifeline would be enough to save Assange. In response to Ecuador's granting political asylum to Assange the day before, the British government sent a letter wherein it threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of the embassy and go in to arrest Assange. International media described warnings about economic sanctions with catastrophic consequences for Ecuador if Assange was not sacrificed. Most analysts seemed to believe Ecuador would give in. Correa reacted by gathering the entire South American continent behind a declaration that unanimously condemned the threat and scared the British government into a humiliating retreat.
"I'm improving my boxing too, now," Assange says.
The mysterious boxing trainer - Assange does not provide his name - is not the only former intelligence agent who has sided with the Australian “rebel librarian."
A recent letter to the British newspaper The Guardian in support of Assange was signed by an impressive list of former CIA agents and former colleagues from other agencies. On January 25, the CIA officer John Kiriakou was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for blowing the whistle on waterboarding torture by the US military, while the torturers continue to go free. These are hard times for talkative military and intelligence personnel in the US, and many see Assange and WikiLeaks as their voice.
In addition, a broad spectrum of intellectuals, musicians, politicians from the left and right, hackers and even celebrity feminist Naomi Klein have thrown their support behind Assange and demand that he get free passage to Ecuador. The EU parliament voted against the US-imposed banking blockade against WikiLeaks. Last week, Iceland's interior minister Ogmundur Jonasson revealed that he told the FBI agents to get out of Iceland when he found out about the illegal interrogations in the US embassy.
Garzón has already confronted Great Britain in another high-profile extradition case in the past. In 1998, the former military dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, was arrested in London on the orders of Interpol. Garzón wanted him extradited to Spain to have him prosecuted for murder, torture and kidnappings committed during his 17-year dictatorship. The British government, however, released Pinochet and let him return to Chile as a free man. Now Garzón is trying to convince the British government that Assange is innocent and does not deserve a harsher treatment - so far, in vain.
Still, escape "in a British police car" is the option with the lowest odds, only 1.38, at the Irish bookmaker site Paddy Power, which takes bets on how the celebrity refugee will leave the embassy in the end. A seat in the Australian senate stands at 3.5.
1. Perhaps notably, one of Assange's attorneys said at his 2011 extradition hearing that he would not challenge that the women "found Mr. Assange's sexual behavior in these encounters disreputable, discourteous, disturbing or even pushing towards the boundaries of what they were comfortable with." Also of note is that rape laws vary from country to country. -Truthout editors
2. In fact, some progressive leaders' assessments of the allegations' validity have cast a disturbing light on the way in which rape is viewed by large contingents of the left, at least when one of their own is accused. Some have dismissed the allegations immediately - perhaps calling into question their underlying assumptions about women and rape. In a news analysis about the Assange situation earlier this year, Truthout's Alissa Bohling quotes Claudia Garcia-Rojas, a journalist who spent three years at the Chicago Task Force on Violence Against Girls and Young Women: "Just because the men in the quote-unquote, like, 'the movement,' are involved in social justice work, this doesn't mean that they can't participate in the patriarchy, in some of the more horrid crimes." -Truthout editors