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Wednesday, July 28, 2010 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES
2010-07-28

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange: "Transparent Government Tends to Produce Just Government"

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We spend the hour with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, talking about the biggest leak in US history: the release of more than 91,000 classified military records on the war in Afghanistan. As the Pentagon announces it is launching a criminal probe into who leaked the documents, Assange asks what about investigating the "war crimes" revealed in the leaked military records? He also talks about the media, why he isn’t coming to the US anytime soon, and what gives him hope. "What keeps us going is our sources. These are the people, presumably, who are inside these organizations, who want change," Assange says. "They are both heroic figures taking much greater risks than I ever do, and they are pushing and showing that they want change in, in fact, an extremely effective way." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Capitol Hill, the House has voted to approve an additional $37 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure passed by a vote of 308 to 114. A hundred two Democrats joined twelve Republicans in opposing the bill. Last year, only thirty-two Democrats voted against the war funding. A number of Democrats voting against said they were influenced by the revelations in the massive archive of the leaked military records published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks Sunday. The more than 91,000 classified military records paint a devastating picture of the war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, how a black ops special forces unit hunts down targets for assassination or detention without trial, and how Pakistan is fueling the insurgency. The war spending now goes to President Obama for his signature.

On Tuesday, Obama made his first public comment on the leaks. The President spoke at the Rose Garden after a meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the war funding.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I also urged the House leaders to pass the necessary funding to support our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I know much has been written about this in recent days as a result of the substantial leak of documents from Afghanistan covering a period from 2004 to 2009. While I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations, the fact is these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan. Indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.

    So let me underscore what I’ve said many times: for seven years, we failed to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge in this region, the region from which the 9/11 attacks were waged and other attacks against the United States and our friends and allies have been planned. That’s why we’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work, and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan. Now we have to see that strategy through.

    And as I told the leaders, I hope the House will act today to join the Senate, which voted unanimously in favor of this funding, to ensure that our troops have the resources they need and that we’re able to do what’s necessary for our national security.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the man President Obama tapped to head US Central Command and oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also denounced the leaks. General James Mattis was nominated to replace General David Petraeus. At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Mattis was questioned by Arizona Republican John McCain.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: What effect does this publication of these top-secret communications — what effect does that have on the degree of candor that military officers and senior NCOs in the field, who are doing their best to report, the best of their ability, what effect does this have on them?

    GEN. JAMES MATTIS: Sir, I would speculate that due to the urgency of the operations in a combat zone, it probably won’t have much, because at the moment they’re actually reporting, they’re probably more eager to get the truth up the chain of command. That said, I just thought it was a — just an appallingly irresponsible act to release this information. It didn’t tell us anything, that I’ve seen so far, that we weren’t already aware of. I’ve seen no big revelations. One of the newspaper headlines was that it’s a — the war is a tense and dangerous thing. Well, if that is news, I don’t know who it’s news to that’s on this planet.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: But there is also reports that certain elements of ISI are at least cooperating to some extent with the Taliban. Is that correct?

    GEN. JAMES MATTIS: That’s correct, yes, sir.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: And could that be because they’re hedging their bets as to whether the United States is going to remain or not?

    GEN. JAMES MATTIS: Sir, I need to get more current. However, history didn’t start at 2001, and some of those same groups we had a relationship with back when we were fighting the Soviets. So it’s no surprise to me that there may be some continued relationship there, but whether or not it’s because they’re working with them, they’re trying to infiltrate them, there’s any number of motives, and I’m just not current enough to say why. I think, though, that it’s hard to wipe the slate clean and just start over at any one point. And clearly, the offensive against many of the people they allegedly used to work with is showing they’re no longer friends with most of them.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: And let me just be clear again. You said that you were appalled at the publication of these — that the WikiLeaks — that just happened?

    GEN. JAMES MATTIS: Yes, sir. I thought it was grossly irresponsible.

AMY GOODMAN: General James Mattis speaking at his confirmation hearing to head US Central Command.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced it’s launching a criminal investigation into the source of the leak. Private Bradley Manning is a person of interest in the probe. He’s the Army intelligence analyst arrested last month on charges of leaking a military video of the helicopter gunship attack in Baghdad that killed twelve people. He was charged this month with downloading more than 150,000 classified diplomatic cables.

Well, today we spend the hour with the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. He says it’s the crimes documented in the records that should be investigated. He joined us yesterday from London for an extended interview about leaking the Afghan war logs, the media, why he isn’t coming to the United States anytime soon, and what gives him hope.

I began by asking Julian Assange what he thought of the most important revelations in the 91,000 documents he published on Sunday, the biggest leak in US history.

    JULIAN ASSANGE: So, everyone’s asking for a specific revelation that is the most important — you know, a massacre of 500 people at one point in time. But, to me, what is most important is the vast sweep of abuses that have occurred during the past six years, the vast sweep of sort of the everyday squalor and carnage of war. If we add all that up, we see that in fact most civilian casualties occur in instances where one, two, ten or twenty people are killed. And they really numerically dominate the list of events, so it’s, of course, hard for us to imagine that. It’s so much material. But that is the way to really understand this war, is by seeing that there is one sort of kill after another every day going on and on and on in all sorts of different circumstances.

    AMY GOODMAN: You have said you feel there is evidence of war crimes here. Can you talk about that? And specifically, what are the examples that you feel are the most important?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah. Yeah, well, these reports can be quite terse, so I wouldn’t want to prejudge the issue and say for sure that a war crime has committed —- been committed. But some are deeply suspicious, and there are examples which have been not mentioned in the Western press but, as we’ve discovered, have been mentioned elsewhere that are almost surely war crimes.

    As an example, in the material, there’s a Polish My Lai. Polish troops were hit by an IED and the next day went to the closest village, which I guess they felt had supported the IED attack, and shelled the village. Similarly, we see something like Task Force 373, a special forces assassination squad so secretive that it changes its military code name every six months, working its way down the JPEL, Joint Priority Effects List, kill or capture list, usually a kill list. And we have seen events where it has performed secret missile strikes on a house, from within close proximity, and ended up killing at least seven children, and a number of other instances. The report itself about that says at the beginning that the information about 373 being involved in that event, together with the use of the HIMARS missile system, this ground-to-ground missile attack, is to be kept secret even from other people in the coalition of forces which equal ISAF, I-S-A-F.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel you have accomplished what you wanted to with the release of these documents?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Not yet. We’ve made a good initial forray: fourteen pages in The Guardian on Monday, seventeen pages in Der Spiegel, front page of the New York Times, together with underlying support. But altogether, the journalistic coalition that we put around this material to try and bring it out to the public and get impact for it has read about 2,000 of these reports in detail. There’s 91,000 reports. We really need the public, other journalists and especially former soldiers to go through this material and say, "Look, this connects to that," or "I was there. Let me tell you what really happened. Let me tell you the rest of the detail." And over the next few days, we’ll be putting up easier— and easier-to-use search interfaces, the same ones that our journalistic teams use to extract this data. Already if you go to war diaries — wardiary.wikileaks.org, you’ll see several different ways of browsing through this. You can look through some 200 different categories that the US military applied to these reports. As an example, there’s 2,200 escalation of force events self-described by the US military.

    You have to be careful when reading the material. Reports that are made by military units that were involved in an attack or a counterattack are often biased, just like we know that when a police officer is involved in a shooting and creates the report about that shooting, the facts are likely to be distorted or twisted. Similarly, when a military unit is involved in killing someone who turns out to be a civilian, we see lots of exculpatory language or hiding of facts. And where we know an additional sort of public record or a full investigation has occurred, as an example Kunduz, the bombing that occurred in 2005 which especially the German press investigated in great detail, we can go back and see the initial report that the troops filed about what they did, and we see, instead of civilian kills, no mentions of civilians at all. Instead of over a hundred people killed, we just see fifty-six. And we can see that in report after report. So the sort of corrupt reporting starts on the ground and then moves its way up through the Pentagon and the press relations people and is then put into a politically sort of digestible form. But what you don’t see straightaway is a sort of contradiction by the base material and what is put out in public, although we are starting to see that in different events. But because this internal military reporting specifies where an event happened, which units were involved and when, and were done sort of on the same day, why there is simple cover-ups. They cannot be complex cover-ups in this material. So, by joining together several of these reports together with the public record, we’ve been able to discover the material of the sort of civilian casualty cover-ups or the involvement with the ISI and the Taliban that the New York Times published. We’ve been able to bring this material out, even though any individual report can’t be strictly trusted.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange. We’ll be back with the founder of WikiLeaks in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

    AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times says it consulted with the White House, showed them the documents to, oh, redact whatever would endanger people, sources on the ground. How have you — or I should say, Julian Assange, have you communicated with the White House at this point?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, there’s quite some disingenuous messages coming out of the White House in relation to the lead-up to publication. Our media team didn’t want to all be stepping on each other’s toes, so we selected the New York Times to be the group that would approach the White House and try and get what their statement was on the matter. That said, you know, there is a bit of a difference between how the Times and the Washington Post, who was involved in this issue, but how the American press tends to deal with government agencies prior to publication and the standards that we have and the standards the European press has. We don’t see that an organization that is — we don’t see, in the case of a story where an organization has engaged in some kind of abusive conduct and that story is being revealed, that it has a right to know the story before the public, a right to know the story before the victims, because we know that what happens in practice is that that is just extra lead time to spin the story. And we see some sort of pathetic attempts by the White House to engage in a bit of spin about whether we contacted them or not. In fact, we did contact them through the New York Times as a coalition.

    AMY GOODMAN: And they praised the New York Times.

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes, they praised the New York Times. I mean, you have to understand, the New York Times is a mainstream organization, and it does work within a particular milieu and particular constraints that appear to be present. But we aren’t totally happy about the way that the Times has sort of defensively written. That does seem a little bit unprofessional. So, as an example, the New York Times stated that it chose not to link to our website. I mean, it is just ridiculous. The public can see that and Google it, if they want. If the New York Times, for whatever reason, wants to not link to WikiLeaks for its own defensive politics, then it can do that, and it’s perfectly entitled to. But to deliberately say that that is being avoided smacks of unprofessional conduct, to me. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s been approved by the editor to do that, but it does seem to be quite pusillanimous to be engaging in that kind of defensive conduct, instead of pursuing the real meat of the story.

    AMY GOODMAN: But it is WikiLeaks that reached out to these three news organizations — Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times — to release simultaneously on Sunday these secret documents, is that right?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes, that’s right. Our promise to our source is that we will try and get the maximum possible impact for their material. And we could see that this was an issue where we could actually pull together a coalition of both influential media organizations and media organizations which have the capacity to engage in some research. That was a — in itself, that’s an unusual collaboration to have brought together these four groups, have them exchanging research data, and all agree on the same publication timeline.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, you mentioned your sources. Who are your sources?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, obviously, we can’t say, as an organization that specializes in source protection. We are also obligated, under the Swedish Constitution’s right to anonymity, to not reveal our sources. Revealing our sources is, in fact, a criminal offense in Sweden. And also, that holds for our contractors and computer programmers. Now, that said, we can see that the material did come from the United States government somewhere. And that’s obvious from some of the other material that we have put out over the years. It’s one of the hopeful things about these sort of publications, is that it’s not just us exposing abuses of war, it’s not just us exposing corruption in Africa; rather, it is insiders who are men or women of good conscience who are deciding to help expose the situation, because they want their own organizations to be reformed. So there are good people within the United States government, and supportive of us and our ideals, and those people step forward to make events like this a reality. Now remember, we have put in a lot of work into this, and we have had some legal and surveillance difficulties in the past few months, but the real heroes behind this material is, of course, our sources.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pentagon has announced it is starting a criminal investigation to find your sources. Your response to that?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes. We are concerned that the United States has not announced that it is going to conduct criminal investigations into the large number of previously undisclosed civilian casualty events that are revealed by this material. Why is it that an investigation is announced to go into the source, before an investigation is announced to deal with the potentially criminal conduct that is revealed by this material? The rest of the world is taking note. There’s fourteen pages in Monday’s Guardian newspaper, nearly — more than one-third of the entire paper dedicated to this issue; seventeen pages in Der Spiegel, the most influential publication in Germany. So, Europe is certainly taking note of the tenor that is coming out of the White House and to concrete reactions coming out of this material. It’s clear what the European population wants to see, and hopefully that’s also what the US population wants to see, which is a clear response to deal with the problems that are occurring in Afghanistan, not a clear response to try and stifle or cover up further allegations of abuse.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, in a memo, a US government secret memo that WikiLeaks posted in March, marked "unauthorized disclosure subject to criminal sanctions," it concludes, quote, "'WikiLeaks.org represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC and INFOSEC threat to the U.S. Army' — or, in plain English, a threat to Army operations and information." Can you respond to this?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah. This was a 2008 counterintelligence analysis of us by the US Army. Now, some thirty-two pages — and these initial headers, you don’t need to worry about. In order for a counterintelligence agent to be writing a report — analyst to be writing a report about anything, they have to justify why they are writing a report with language like that, and the same with the conclusions.

    Now, what’s more interesting about that report is the middle. It says that — it recommends that we be attacked by destroying our center of gravity — that is, the trust that confidential sources have in us and the trust that the public has in the integrity of the material that we release. It goes on to explain examples of why we maybe should be attacked. And those examples are examples which have embarrassed the US military, revelations of abuses at Guantanamo Bay, abuses in Fallujah, and potentially illegal use of small chemical weapons in Iraq. Now, it says that one of the ways of attacking that center of gravity is by publicly prosecuting whistleblowers. It even uses that word, "whistleblower," not US military personnel or other personnel who are engaging in irresponsible leaking, but rather whistleblowers, people who are blowing the whistle on abuse. Now, we don’t know whether the recommendations of that report were treated seriously or were followed. It’s quite possible that the analyst who wrote that report was not treated seriously, was viewed as politically too hard to go after us in that way. But it is concerning that that intelligence analyst felt that the US Army culture was such that it was even acceptable to produce a report like that about press criticism and how to stop it.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, what about your safety? Daniel Ellsberg, the most famous whistleblower in America, who released the Pentagon Papers, expressed concern about your safety. Can you talk specifically about what the US government has done, in relation to the Australian government and in other ways, in dealing with you?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah. So, some months —- well, between one and two months ago, there were concerning noises coming out of the US administration that we were aware of from our sources there. And I was given warnings, by Sy Hersh and other people who are connected to that world, to watch my back. Subsequently, we have discovered that the US administration, according to a well-placed Australian national security journalist and former diplomat, that an approach was made to Australian intelligence by the US for them to conduct extensive surveillance and possibly raids or detainment of our people in Australia. That was largely rejected, according to this reporter, by the Australian government for political reasons. It’s quite sensitive for the Australian government to engage in a cooperation that would lead to an Australian citizen, especially an Australian journalist, ending up in an overseas prison or being prosecuted in some way. Within the United Kingdom, of course, there is fairly extensive surveillance of political people, people who are viewed as politically sensitive in the United Kingdom. That said, we do have extensive political and media support here. And I would be extremely surprised to see any aggressive action by intelligence within the UK or by overseas intelligence operating within the United Kingdom. I think that would be unlikely to be tolerated.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian, do you feel you can come into the United States?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: My legal advice is to not attend the United States, and I cancelled three media appearances in the United States, including at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas. Now, on that same panel that I was due to speak at was Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer, but also Scott Risen, a New York Times reporter who wrote a book -—

    AMY GOODMAN: James Risen.

    JULIAN ASSANGE: — revealing some — I’m sorry, yes, James Risen, who wrote a book revealing some details of some bungled CIA operations. He also did not speak at that panel for legal reasons relating to protecting his sources.

    AMY GOODMAN: Congress is now rushing to pass a critical war-financing bill, reportedly as early as today, fearing disclosures could stoke antiwar sentiment in this country, the WikiLeak exposures. Your response to this?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Congress should understand that, as a result of these exposures and what seems to be a general shift in feeling about the war in Afghanistan, that the population is watching intensely to what will happen. So I would ask that those — that war bill of $60 billion worth of funding have its proper airing. If it doesn’t, we may be pushed into a position where this past nine years will extend possibly another nine. Maybe right now is the moment to try and restructure this war in Afghanistan. It’s clear that there’s no easy way out of the conflict, but it is also clear that the war is escalating on all sides, that the number of kills going up, both civilian and military, is unsustainable. Something has to change, and it might as well be now. And the funding bill can be used as that moment where change has to happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, I’d like you to respond quickly to the responses of the administration, of the Obama administration: one, that this is old news, that it goes until December '09, exactly when the Obama administration changed its policy with the surge.

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, so, this is a bit of rhetorical trickery by the White House. The material goes to December 31, ’09, so it's valid up to the beginning of 2010, for a six-year period. So it does cover a sweep of the war which hasn’t yet turned around. Now, Obama’s policy change came in on the 1st of December, so there is, in fact, an overlap. We can see some of what happens. But looking back through the data at successive policy changes — for example, the policy changes introduced by McChrystal — what we don’t see is a real change to how things happen on the ground. So a policy change is just words, but what actually happens on the ground, well, we can see it from this data. Very little happens. The US military and the soldiers in Afghanistan are a very, very big ship to turn around. Their interaction with that environment and with the Taliban and with the local population has its own dynamic that is independent to the policies that are tried — that people try and push down from on high. We can see that, as an example, when McChrystal tried to introduce more metrics, more measurements, of how civilian casualties were occurring. Fields pop up in the database around that time. But we see that troops that are causing civilian casualties simply don’t fill out that field, or they lie about whether the casualties have occurred, or they misrepresent whether it was a civilian casualty versus an insurgent casualty. That sort of — that culture and interaction between Taliban and US forces and other elements operating in Afghanistan is very difficult to change. And so, we don’t expect that the situation, as it stands now, some seven months after this data stopped being collected, would be that different to the previous six years, which we can see in the material that has been released.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, the charge that WikiLeaks releasing these documents is a threat to national security and people on the ground in Afghanistan?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, this is a nonsense. First of all, whenever we hear this term, "threat to national security," what are we talking about? It’s time people stop responding to that question, unless it’s well phrased. Do we mean the national security, the security of the entire nation of the United States? It is clearly an obvious nonsense that — probably almost any kind of information could be a threat to the national security of the United States. Now, do we mean threats to a few soldiers in Afghanistan? That is a more reasonable question and a serious one. Well, the material is seven months old. It doesn’t talk about particular movements of soldiers now or any ongoing sort of operation that’s going to occur, so it’s not of tactical significance. But it is of significance for investigators. It is of significance for understanding the broad sweep of what is happening in Afghanistan. Remember, it is this data that the US military uses internally to monitor the situation, that it uses to develop those aggregate figures about civilian casualties, Taliban, the ratio between killed and wounded, the ration between killed and detained over time. Now, all that original reporting, unmassaged by the Pentagon press office, is available to academics, historians and the general public to understand that war.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. I spoke to him yesterday in London. The war funding bill passed by the House last night. We’ll be back with Assange in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview with the founder of WikiLeaks.

    AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, the data that you — the documents you have withheld, is it some 15,000? And what are you planning to do with them?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: That’s correct. It’s some 15,000 that sometimes mention the names of informers in Afghanistan. And because of the security situation there, we want to look at these in a bit more detail, with a bit closer scrutiny, before we release them. But we will release them as soon as possible. In the rare instances where there are people named who are innocent informers, we will redact those names. And once the security situation in Afghanistan improves, we will release the full text of that material.

    AMY GOODMAN: So you have released more than 91,000 documents, and you have 15,000 more to go?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: There are more than 91,000 documents in the full collection that we shared with our media partners. We have released to the public about 76,000, and we will release another 15,000 over the coming months.

    AMY GOODMAN: And those who say, particularly the Obama administration — Robert Gibbs, the spokesperson, said President Obama was alarmed by this release. Your response?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, organizations that we expose typically are alarmed by the material we release, that is true. Now, if we sort of dissect that, Robert Gibbs has not read this material in detail. The people who know it best at the moment are us and the three media organizations that we worked with. Other people talking about this really don’t know what they’re talking about.

    AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the Washington Post. Did you work with them in releasing these? They’re not included in those three newspapers.

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, they’re not included, although we have had a subsequent overture from the Post. Last Monday, the Post produced some really quite fine work by Dana Priest, looking at the growth in the US sort of intelligence contractor industry. Approximately 900,000 people almost now have top-secret security clearances, according to the Post, and there’s almost a bit of a shadow state developing, which the rest of the community is not aware of the work of. That’s a good sign from the Post.

    But we have seen other things that are a bit disturbing. For example, Dana Priest’s article on the CIA black sites had all the names of the countries removed from it after a request by the White House to the editors of the Post. Similarly, it is standard Washington Post practice, whenever Dana Priest is to reveal a new story showing significant allegations of abuse, say, by the CIA, to call up the press office the night before to give them the heads-up, as a courtesy move. That doesn’t seem like independent journalism to us. It seems to us that a journalist’s relationship should be with the public, on the one hand, and with their sources, on the other hand, who are providing them with information to give to the public. It seems that the Post is engaging in a sort of an unclear cooperation with the very organizations that it’s meant to be policing. So we’re a little bit hesitant about dealing with them.

    But the recent Dana Priest article covering the extensive expanse of money going into the top-secret industry in the United States is encouraging. So perhaps, if that’s a sign of the movement by the Washington Post to a more combative form of journalism, then we would be happy to work with them.

    AMY GOODMAN: The total history of the Afghan war, from 2004 to 2010, that you have released in these documents, what isn’t included? For example, US special forces, CIA?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah. Yeah, that’s an important question you raise. So it is not everything. It is most of what the regular Army was involved in, where they considered it important enough to report a significant action. So that is most deaths that the US Army was involved in, except for the ones that some units possibly didn’t report at all, because they were trying to cover it up. Now, it doesn’t include most special forces operations. It does include some, where the regular Army was also involved in the same operation. It doesn’t include CIA operations or CIA drone attacks, except, once again, occasionally where the regular Army was involved in that. It does include, interestingly, a number of US embassy cables that were sent to the Marines, intelligence and others who were working in Afghanistan, because the embassies believed that the information being revealed was relevant to the war in Afghanistan. It does include a number of reports by informers or reports by US intelligence on meetings with, say, governors in Afghanistan. There’s quite a lot of reports about corruption within the Afghani government, reports about drug eradication and poppy growing and so on.

    AMY GOODMAN: Private contractors like Blackwater?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: There are a number of references to private contractors, yes, and some reports fed into the system, not directly by private contractors, as far as we can tell, but by contact from private contractors to US Army or US Marines.

    AMY GOODMAN: What has come of Bradley Manning, who has been arrested? Is it true that you are trying to raise money for his defense? Was he the source, as he said in his email back and forth, his chatting back and forth, of the video from July 12th, 2007, of the US military Apache helicopter opening fire on Iraqi civilians?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: In relation to a military source, alleged military source, Bradley Manning, who has been charged with supplying — the charges don’t say to us, but supplying to someone the helicopter video showing the killing of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad in July 2007, he is now being held in Kuwait itself. A bit of a problem. Why isn’t he being held in the United States? Is it to keep him away from effective legal representation? Is it to keep him away from the press? We’re not sure. But there doesn’t seem to be any reason why he could not be transferred to the United States. We obviously cannot say whether he is our source. We in fact specialize in not knowing the names of our sources. But nonetheless, he is a young man being held in dire circumstances on the allegation that he supplied this material to the press, and we were the initial publisher of that Iraq video. So we are trying to raise money for his legal representation. We have committed $50,000 of our own funds, that if the general public could contribute or other people could contribute, I know that his military counsel would find that of significant value. The lawyers that we have spoken to say that his representation will cost $200,000, assuming that it’s a regular sort of trial, it goes ahead. People can go to bradleymanning.org, where there is a grassroots campaign that his friends and family and some internet activists have become involved to try and support him.

    AMY GOODMAN: And for those who say you’re an antiwar campaigner, and so, though the documents aren’t suspect, because they’re clearly from the US government, your motives are, what is your response?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: We have clearly stated motives, but they are not antiwar motives. We are not pacifists. We are transparency activists who understand that transparent government tends to produce just government. And that is our sort of modus operandi behind our whole organization, is to get out suppressed information into the public, where the press and the public and our nation’s politics can work on it to produce better outcomes.

    AMY GOODMAN: And do you have more documents to release on Iraq?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: We have an enormous backlog of documents, stemming all the way back to January. During the past six months, we have been concentrating on raising funds and dealing with just a few of our leaks and upgrading our infrastructure to deal with the worldwide demand. So that huge backlog is something that we are just starting to get through, and this latest Afghan leak is an example of that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Julian Assange, I know you have to go, but what gives you hope? You face great risk. What keeps you going?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: What keeps us going is our sources. These are the people, presumably, who are inside these organizations, who want change. They are both heroic figures taking much greater risks than I ever do, and they are pushing and showing that they want change in, in fact, an extremely effective way.

    AMY GOODMAN: If people want to get you information, how do they do it?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Go to wikileaks.org, W-I-K-I-L-E-A-K-S-dot-O-R-G. In relation to this recent Afghan story, people should look at wardiary.wikileaks.org.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, speaking to us from London. The Pentagon says they’re opening a criminal investigation into who provided more than 91,000 Afghan war records to WikiLeaks. To get a copy of today’s interview, you can see also all our coverage of WikiLeaks, go to our website at democracynow.org.

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