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article imageVideo: RT News interviews Julian Assange on Edward Snowden

By Anne Sewell     Jun 11, 2013 in World
London - RT interviewed Julian Assange live at the Ecuadorian Embassy to discuss the case of Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower and asked his opinion on this situation and the position with whistleblowers as a whole.
When asked what he thinks about the whole situation with Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks, Assange says, "Not only do I empathize, having been through a very similar situation myself, I am trying to actively support through this interview and in other ways, Mr Snowden's plight.
Assange said that he is pleased to see that the mass surveillance being run by the NSA is out in the open and that the public can now see exactly what is going on.
"Back in October last year I published a book called Cypherpunks calling for exactly these sorts of actions in relation to the mass-surveillance state that has developed in the United States and in the West more broadly, exactly what Mr Snowden is doing. So it's very pleasing to see such concrete, simple proof presented before the public."
Assange is then asked his opinion on whether Snowden could end up in a similar position to himself at the end of the day; on the run, avoiding prosecution from the US.
"Well, already we have seen that the Department of Justice in the United States has taken up the issue. There has been many calls for his prosecution. His family has been raided in Honolulu by police already."
"So yes, he will be subject to prosecution by the United States for years. I am certain of that."
Assange is asked about claims that he has been in contact with Snowden lately and how recently that was and about what he had to say to him.
"Well, we never discussed sourcing issues. What we said was that we were in contact with Snowden's people in relation to the various support and advice that we can give him."
Assange then discusses the tricky situation of Snowden being in Hong Kong at the same time that the Chinese President is meeting US President Barack Obama to discuss cyber wars, amongst other matters. He said that while it might be thought that the Chinese government would help Snowden, this is very unlikely to happen.
Assange said:
"China was the first country to censor WikiLeaks back in 2007, their policies have varied a bit since that time but to this present day the "Great Firewall of China" still tries to blockade WikiLeaks. They send out censorship demands to censor the reportage of the WikiLeaks cables in China. Not just about China, but about anything at all after the first day of reportage."
"We got hold of that request and published it. So we will see what this new president of China is like, but certainly under the previous Politburo, the Chinese government is no friend of people blowing the whistle on corrupt practices, whether its from someone else's government or from their own. So he [Snowden] is in a difficult position in Hong Kong. Perhaps he has a plan that we don't know about. I do hope so."
RT's interviewer then tells Assange that Russian President Putin had mentioned that they might offer Snowden asylum and asked Assange if he thinks Snowden should ask for it.
Assange said:
"I think he would be well advised to consider that offer. He would be advised to try and find a similar offer in South America. These are countries that .. for South America its quite clear where they are ideologically aligned. They have had extensive experience with the United States and have been dominated by the United States."
Carrying on that this would be a far better situation for Snowden in the long run, Assange mentioned in relation to South America that, ".. as revealed in Mr Snowden's papers, 99 per cent of South America's communications with the world, with Europe, with Russia, with Asia, with everyone, pass through the United States and intercepted there by the National Security Agency."
"So Latin America has a real, personal if you like, interest in what's going on, and of course, Russia understands this game and Putin understands this game, for a long time now."
Speaking of Assange himself, Bradley Manning and now Snowden, the interviewer asks if between them they have made any sort of headway in the war of attrition with governments who are keeping things secret, or does the situation still depress him at night?
"It's an amazing time. Just three years after the alleged Bradley Manning revelations, with Bradley Manning in trial for the past week.. expected to go for another eleven weeks, and the Snowden revelations come out after I and many others had called for exactly such revelations to expose the surveillance state."
"So, I think we are winning, that part of a new international politic that is developing. The internet has put many, many people in contact with each other and when people are in contact with each other and communicating with each other, they naturally form a body politic. It's just finding it's feet and the first two principles to fall out of that is, 1) freedom of speech, and 2) no mass surveillance of communications."
"This is a body politic founded on communication, so the values of protecting their rights to communicate and protecting the privacy of communication are the first two natural values to fall out of that interaction of now, over 2 billion people on the Internet, so it is an interesting time."
"On the other hand, we see the enmeshing of the big US tech companies like, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo etc., now Skype which is owned by Microsoft, into this surveillance system. Over 2.3 billion interceptions per month for the month of March revealed just for the United States alone. So worldwide, perhaps, 10, 20 billion interceptions per month by this system. That is a vast, sprawling, transnational surveillance system."
"The question is can this new collaboration of people and these new ideas, and new values, and this technology that we are using today, which knits people together of good value and good principle ... is that capable of battling the Lockheed-Martins and Googles and the National Security Agencies of the world. Time will tell."
Assange is asked if anything that has come out this week has shocked him, the scale of the whole thing?
"The total integration is something that I wasn't aware of. People who have been deeply involved in this business, studying it, researching it, and publishing documents about it were aware of most of the Snowden revelations, but in a thousand pieces, from one court case here, from a whistleblower there, from a leaked document here ... a thousand revelations, working closely at black budgets and so on, and bringing all this together."
"So for those people deeply involved it is not surprising, and I've written about this, but what is surprising is such clear direct proof in simple documents, in secret court orders by the United States for mass interception."
"And the various different forms of mass interception, whether they are from high-tech companies, from fiber optic lines, from Verizon and other carriers in the United States. These are all inter-meshed together now into one system. That inter-meshing into one system is surprising."
The interviewer says that seeing as this all started in around 2006, and considering how many people would have been involved, isn't Assange surprised that this hadn't come to light earlier and that there haven't been other whistleblowers coming out of the woodwork.
"Yes, I am, but the crackdown on whistleblowers has been very public and I think that has scared people a bit. There are ways to do it without ending up like, perhaps, the way Bradley Manning is going to go, or Snowden."
"Most sources who reveal information are perfectly fine, in fact we have dealt with thousands, and yet we only know of two that have had problems, and it is alleged that this is because they talked to informants."
In other words, Assange says that we don't see all the people who are getting away with successful activism, because they are invisible and they remain anonymous. Those that have got in trouble are visible because the United States likes to hold them up as symbols of what will happen to you if you act as a whistleblower.
Assange continued, "But at the same time they are visible because the media and their supporters hold them up as a symbol of virtue and abusive treatment."
"Unfortunately these people become very prominent, but they are, in fact, in the minority."
Assange is then asked what danger he thinks whistleblowers could be in, especially knowing his current situation. It is felt that Bradley Manning is going to be made an example of. Snowden was heard to say that he was worried just a couple of days ago about his girlfriend, his family. He is asked if the whistleblowers that he knows are scared right now.
"Many sources are quite scared. We have seen ... colleagues of mine have even stated publicly that their sources are reluctant to talk because of the crackdown against Bradley Manning. And that is what that whole trial is trying to achieve. It is trying to set the precedent that communicating with the media is the same as communicating with the enemy, and that is a death penalty offense. An outrageous precedent."
"It works like this: they allege that Bradley Manning communicated with a media organization, WikiLeaks, who then communicated with the public and with other media organizations. Amongst the public, there exists Al Qaeda."
"There is no allegation that Bradley Manning was intending to communicate with Al Qaeda, did directly communicate with Al Qaeda, or anything like that."
"What this alleges is that Al Qaeda, like everyone else in the world, read WikiLeaks."
"Now, we know that Bin Laden has also recommended Bob Woodward books and reads the New York Times. This is of no consequence whatsoever. He probably had "Dr Zeuss" in his compound."
"So that sort of argument means that any source communicating sensitive information to the media can be prosecuted for aiding the enemy and as a result sentenced to death."
"Really it is the end of national security journalism in the United States if that precedent is established."
Assange is then asked what he thinks his personal chances are, given the current situation and what keeps him going?
"What keeps us going is the worldwide support that we have, which is really quite extraordinary."
"Yes, WikiLeaks has a banking blockade that has cut out about 95 per cent of its finances, but we have worldwide support. So even 5 per cent is not nothing."
"The UK government has admitted that it has spent 5 million dollars in the past ten months on surveilling this embassy in relation to me which is completely and utterly disproportionate. It is an offense to UK taxpayers, people can see the geo-politics, but things are starting to change politically."
"In Australia the WikiLeaks party now according to the governments own polling outfit has been 25 and 28 per cent of the vote in the elections in September."
Please note: This article is not a full transcript of the interview and contains excerpts of the most relevant portions. For the full interview, please view the video above.
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