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2011-07-05

Exclusive: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks & Philosopher Slavoj Žižek in Conversation with Amy Goodman

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In one of his first public events since being held under house arrest, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in London Saturday for a conversation with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, moderated by Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman. They discuss the impact of WikiLeaks on world politics, the release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and Cablegate—the largest trove of classified U.S. government records in history. “From being inside the center of the storm, I have learned not just about the structure of government, not just about how power flows in many governments around the world that we’ve dealt with, but rather how history is shaped and distorted by the media,” Assange said. Assange also talks about his new defense team, as well as U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, the accused Army whistleblower who has been jailed for the past year. Assange is currently under house arrest in Norfolk, outside London, pending a July 12 appeals hearing on his pending extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct case. He has now spent six months under house arrest, despite not being charged with a crime in any country. Assange was wearing an ankle monitor under his boot and Saturday’s event concluded shortly after 6 p.m. so he could return to his bail address by his curfew. The event was sponsored by the Frontline Club, founded in part to remember journalists killed on the front lines of war. Today we play highlights from part one of their discussion. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! was in London this weekend for an unusual gathering. Eighteen hundred people gathered in an old theater in the East End of London called the Troxy to watch a conversation between WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and renowned Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. I moderated the event. Our discussion centered on the impact of WikiLeaks on world politics, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, and Cablegate, the largest release of U.S. State Department cables in history.

Julian Assange is currently under house arrest in Norfolk, outside London, pending his trial, pending his going to court next week. He is appealing extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct case. Assange has now spent six months under house arrest despite not being charged with a crime in any country.

On Friday, WikiLeaks announced it intends to sue Visa and MasterCard for blocking donations to the service, an action it described as, quote, "an unlawful, U.S.-influenced financial blockade."

Saturday’s event was sponsored by the Frontline Club, which was founded in part to honor journalists who fall on the front lines of war. Its founder, Vaughan Smith, has given refuge to Julian Assange at his estate in Norfolk. Assange was wearing an ankle monitor under his boot, and the event at the Troxy was concluded shortly after 6:00 p.m. so that Assange could return to his bail address by his curfew.

Today we play the first part of the conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: It is a great honor to be with you this afternoon, and a shout out to all of the people who are watching this broadcast all over the world. We are live-streaming this at democracynow.org. By the way, how many of you watch or listen to or read Democracy Now!?

We have given out about a thousand fliers of where we broadcast in Britain and also where you can watch, read and listen to the broadcast. We’re also live-streaming. We’ve offered the embed for anyone to take to put on their website. The Nation is live-streaming us. MichaelMoore.com is live-streaming us. Free Speech TV is broadcasting Democracy Now! across the United States. And there are many others. I hope people tweet in, Facebook in, let us know what you’re doing with this broadcast.

It’s extremely important, because information is power. Information is a matter of life and death. We’ve learned that through these remarkable trove of documents that have been released in the last year. The Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, and what’s been called Cablegate, the U.S. State Department documents that are continuing to be released.

Why does it matter so much? Well, we’ll talk about that this afternoon, but let’s just take one example that came out in the Iraq War Logs, February of 2007. The war logs show that two men were standing, Iraqis, under an Apache helicopter. The men have their hands up. They clearly are attempting to surrender. The Apache helicopter can see this. So, they’re not rogue. The soldiers call back to the base, and they say, "What should we do? These men have their hands up." The lawyer on the base says you cannot surrender to a helicopter, and they blow the men attempting to surrender away. That was February 2007.

Now, we will fast-forward to July 12th, 2007, and video that has been released by WikiLeaks. This devastating video of an area of Baghdad called New Baghdad, where a group of men were showing around two Reuters journalists. Well, one was a videographer, a young up-and-coming videographer named Namir Noor-Eldeen, and one was his driver, Saeed Chmagh. He was 40 years old. He was the father of four. And they were showing them around the area. The same Apache helicopter unit is hovering above. They open fire. The video is chilling. I am sure many of you have seen it. If you watch or listen to Democracy Now!, we played it repeatedly, discussing it with various people, from Julian Assange to soldiers who were there on the ground. Over time, we dissected this.

The soldiers opened fire. You have the video of the target, and you have the audio of the sounds of the soldiers cursing, laughing—but not rogue, always going up the chain of command, asking for permission to open fire. In the first explosion, Namir Noor-Eldeen and the other men on the ground are killed. Saeed Chmagh, you can see him attempting to crawl away. And then a van pulls up from the neighborhood, and they’re attempting to pick up the wounded. There are children in the van. And the Apache helicopter opens fire again, and Saeed Chmagh, others in the van are killed. Two little children are critically injured inside.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Where’s that van at?

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Right down there by the bodies.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: OK, yeah.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse. We have individuals going to the scene, looks like possibly picking up bodies and weapons.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Let me engage. Can I shoot?

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Roger. Break. Crazy Horse one-eight, request permission to engage.

U.S. SOLDIER 3: Picking up the wounded?

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Yeah, we’re trying to get permission to engage. Come on, let us shoot!

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: They’re taking him.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Bushmaster, Crazy Horse one-eight.

U.S. SOLDIER 4: This is Bushmaster seven, go ahead.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Roger. We have a black SUV—or Bongo truck picking up the bodies. Request permission to engage.

U.S. SOLDIER 4: Bushmaster seven, roger. This is Bushmaster seven, roger. Engage.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: One-eight, engage. Clear.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Come on!

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Clear. Clear.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: We’re engaging.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Coming around. Clear.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Roger. Trying to—

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Clear.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: I hear ’em—I lost ’em in the dust.

U.S. SOLDIER 3: I got ’em.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Should have a van in the middle of the road with about 12 to 15 bodies.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield! Ha ha!

AMY GOODMAN: Now, I dare say that if we had seen what came out in the Iraq War Logs in February of 2007, if we had learned the story at the time, after it happened, of the men with their hands up trying to surrender, there would have been an outcry. People are good. People care. People are compassionate. They would have called for an investigation. Perhaps one would have begun. But it might well have saved the lives of so many. Certainly, months later, perhaps that same Apache helicopter unit under investigation would not have done what it did. And maybe Namir Noor-Eldeen, the young Reuters videographer, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, not to mention the other men who were killed and the kids critically injured, none of that would have happened to them. That’s why information matters. It is important we know what is done in our name. And today we’re going to talk about this new age of information.

We’re joined by two people many of you know well. Earlier, I asked a young man who had come to the gathering why he had traveled so far. He said, "Are you kidding? To be with two of the most dangerous people." Well, the National Review calls Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek "the most dangerous political philosopher in the West," and the New York Times says he’s "the Elvis of cultural theory." Slavoj Žižek has written over 50 books on philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory. His latest book, Living in the End Times. And we’ll talk about what he thinks and talks about around the world.

Now, we’re joined by another man who has published perhaps more than anyone in the world. In fact, he wrote a book on the underground computer information age called Underground: The International Computer Underground [Ed.: Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness, and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier. But with the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, now the U.S. government cables that have yet to be fully released, I would say that Julian Assange is perhaps the most widely published person on earth.

Today we’re going to have a conversation about information, and I’d like to ask Julian to begin by going back to that moment in 2007, as we talk about the Iraq War Logs, and talk about the significance of them for you and why you’ve chosen to release this information.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, Amy, I suspect, under that criteria, perhaps Rupert Murdoch is the most widely published person on earth. Something [inaudible]. People say that Australia has given two people to the world, Rupert Murdoch and me, fairly big in publishing.

Well, in some ways, things are very easy for us and very easy for me, in that we make a promise to sources that if they give us material that is of a certain type, that is significant, of diplomatic, critical, ethical or historical significance, not published and under some sort of threat, we will publish it. And that actually is enough.

Of course, we have a goal with publishing material in general. But it has been my long-term belief that what advances us as a civilization is the entirety of our intellectual record and the entirety of our understanding about what we are going through, what human institutions are actually like and how they actually behave. And if we are to make rational policy decisions, insofar as any decision can be rational, then we have to have information that is drawn from the real world, in a description of the real world. And at the moment, we are severely lacking in the information from the interior of big secretive organizations that have such a role in shaping how civilization evolves and how we all live.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll continue our conversation with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with this unusual rare gathering in the East End of London on Saturday of July 4th weekend, a discussion between Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

JULIAN ASSANGE: So, getting down into Iraq, so that was 400,000 documents, each one written in military speak; on the other hand, each one having a geographic coordinate down often to 10 meters, a death count of civilians, U.S. military troops, Iraqi troops and suspected insurgents. So, it was the first—rather, the largest, because we also did the Afghan War Logs—the largest history of a war, the most detailed significant history of a war to have ever been published, probably at all, but definitely during the course of a war. And so, it provided a picture of the everyday squalor of war, from children being killed at roadside blocks to over a thousand people being handed over to the Iraqi police for torture, to the reality of close-air support and how modern military combat is done, linking up with other information such as this video that we discovered of the men surrendering, being attacked.

So, as an archive of human history, this is a beautiful and horrifying thing, both at the same time. It is the history of the nation of Iraq, in most significant recording, during its most significant development in the past 20 years. And while we always see newspaper stories revealing and personalizing some—if we’re lucky, some individual event or some individual family dying, this provides the broad scope of the entire war and all the individual events, the details of over 104,000 deaths.

And we worked together to statistically analyze this with various groups around the world, such as Iraq Body Count, who became a specialist in this area, and lawyers here in the U.K. who represented Iraqi refugees, to pull out the stories of 15,000 Iraqi civilians, labeled as civilians by the U.S. military, who were killed, who were never before reported in the Iraqi press, never before reported in the U.S. press or in the world press, even in aggregate, even saying, "Today a thousand people died"—not reported in any manner whatsoever. And you just think about that: 15,000 people whose deaths were recorded by the U.S. military but were completely unknown to the rest of the world. That’s a very significant thing. And compare that to the 3,000 people who died on 9/11. Imagine the significance for Iraqis.

So, that is something that we specialize in and that I like to do and I’ve always tried to do, is to go from the small to the large, not just by abstraction or by analogy, but actually by encompassing all of it together, and then trying to look at it and abstract, through mathematics or statistics, and so to try and push both of these things at the same time, the individual relationship plus the state relationship plus the relationship that has to do with civilization as a whole.

AMY GOODMAN: Slavoj Žižek, the importance of WikiLeaks today in the world?

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Well, to understand properly this question, it’s just—you can withdraw and give me two hours. No, but I will try to condense it. First, let me say also how proud I am to be here and to let me mention something which maybe most of you don’t know, that how difficult even it was to organize this event, like it had to be moved two times, out and more out from Central London and so on.

So, again, what I want to say is, let me begin with the significance of what you, Amy, started with, these shots. I mean, not shooting, but video shots of those Apache helicopters shooting on. You know why this is important? Because the way ideology functions today, it’s not so much that—let’s not be naive—that people didn’t know about it, but I think the way those in power manipulate it. Yes, we all know dirty things are being done, but you are being informed about this obliquely, in such a way that basically you are able to ignore it.

And can I make a terrible, maybe sexual offensive, but not dirty—don’t be afraid—remark? You know, like a husband—sorry for making male chauvinist twist—a husband may know abstractly "my wife is cheating on me." And you can accept, "OK, I’m modern, tolerant husband." But, you know, when you get the thought of your wife doing things, it’s quite a different thing. And it’s, I would say, with all respect, something similar. It’s very important, because the same—no, no, I’m not dreaming here. The same thing I remembered happened I think about two years ago in Serbia. You know, people rationally accept that we did horrible things in Srebrenica and so on, but, you know, it was just abstract knowledge. Then, by chance, all the honor to Serb media who published this, they got hold of a video effectively showing a group of Serbs pushing to an edge and shooting a couple of Bosnian prisoners. And the effect was a total shock, national shock, although, again, strictly seeing, nobody learned anything new.

So here, so that I don’t get lost, if you allow me just a little bit more, here we should see the significance of WikiLeaks. Many of my friends who are skeptical about it are telling me, "So, what did we really learn? Isn’t it clear that every power, in order to function, you have collateral damage? You have to have a certain discretion—what you say, what you don’t say." But to conclude, I will propose a formula of what WikiLeaks is doing, and it’s extremely important. Of course, I’m not a utopian. Neither me nor Julian believes in this kind of a pseudo-radical openness—everything should be clear and so on. But, what are we dealing with here?

Another example from cinema, very short, Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka. You find there a wonderful joke, where, I think towards the beginning of the film, the hero enters a cafeteria and says, "Can I get some coffee with cream, please?" And the waiter answers him, "Sorry, we ran out of cream. We only have milk. So, can we give you—can I serve you with coffee without milk?" That’s the trick here. Like, when we learn something from the media, like, if I may repeat the metaphor, they behave as if they are serving coffee with cream. That is to say, of course we all know they are not telling the entire truth, but, you know, that is the trick of ideology. Even if they don’t lie directly, the implications, the unsaid, is a lie. And you bring this out. You are not so much putting them—catching them, as they put it, with their pants down, lying on behalf of what they explicitly say, but precisely on behalf of what they are implying. And I think this is an absolutely crucial mechanism in ideology. It doesn’t only matter what you say; it matters what you imply to say, and so on.

So, just to make the last point, I think that—are we aware at what an important moment we are living today? On the one hand, as you said, information is crucial and so on. We all know that it’s crucial even economically. I claim that one of maybe the main reasons capitalism will get into crisis is intellectual property. In the long term, it simply cannot deal with it. But what I’m saying is just take the phenomenon that media are trying to get us enthusiastic for clouds. Like, you know, computers getting smaller and smaller, and all is done for you up there in a cloud. OK, but the problem is that clouds are not up there in clouds. They are controlled and so on. For example, you rely on—maybe you have an iPhone. But you mentioned Murdoch, name was mentioned here. Do you know—it’s good to know—if you rely on your news through iPhone or whatever, that Apple signed an exclusive agreement with Murdoch? Murdoch’s corporation is again the exclusive provider of entire news, and so on and so on. This is the danger today. It’s no longer this clear distinction: private space/public space. The public space itself gets, as it were, privatized in a whole series of invisible ways, like the model of it being clouds, which is why—and again, this involves new modes of censorship.

I repeat this. That’s why you shouldn’t be tricked when you say, "But what really did we learn new?" Maybe we learned nothing new, but, you know, it’s the same as in that beautiful old undersense fairytale, "The Emperor is Naked." The emperor is naked. We may all know that the emperor is naked, but the moment somebody publicly says, "The emperor is naked," everything changes. This is why, even if we learned nothing new—but we did learn many new things—but even if nothing learned, the forum matters. So, don’t confuse Julian and his gang—in a good sense, not the way they accuse you—don’t confuse them with this usual bourgeois heroism, fight for investigative journalism, free flow and so on. You are doing something much more radical. You are—that’s why it aroused such an explosion of resentment. You are not only violating the rules, disclosing secrets and so on. Let me call it in the old Marxist way the bourgeois press today has its own way to be transgressive. Its ideology not only controls what you say, but even how you can violate what you are allowed to say. You are not just violating the rules. You are changing the very rules how we were allowed to violate the rules. This is maybe the most important thing you can do.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, Julian, even as you were releasing information in all different ways, you then turn to the very gatekeepers who, in some cases, had kept back this information, and you worked with the mainstream media throughout the world in releasing various documents. Talk about that experience and that level of cooperation and what has happened after that.

JULIAN ASSANGE: If you want to have an impact, and you promise an impact, and you’re an organization which is very small, well, actually, you have to co-opt or leverage the rest of the mainstream press. So, under our model of how you make an impact and how you get people to do things that you wouldn’t have been otherwise able to do, unless you have an army that can physically go someplace and panzer divisions that can roll over, the only way that you can easily make an impact is push information about the world to many, many people across the world. And so, the mainstream press has developed expertise on how to do that. And it is competition also for people’s attention. So, if we had had several billion dollars to spend on advertising across the world, even if we can get our ads placed, we wouldn’t easily be able to have made the same impact that we did. And we don’t have that kind of money. So, instead, if you like, we entered into relationships with now over 80 media organizations across the world, including some very good ones that I wouldn’t want to disparage, to increase the impact and translate and push our material into now over 50 different countries endemically. And that has been, yes, subverting the filters of the mainstream press.

But an interesting phenomena has developed amongst the journalists who work in these very large organizations that are close to power and negotiate with power at the highest levels, which is the journalists, having read our material and having been forced to go through it to pull out stories, have themselves become educated and radicalized. And that is an ideological penetration of the truth into all these mainstream media organizations. And that, to some degree, may be one of the lasting legacies over the past year.

Also by—you know, even Fox News, which is much disparaged, is an organization that wants viewers. It cannot do anything else without viewers. So, it will try and push news content. So, for example, with Collateral Murder, CNN showed only the first few seconds, and they blanked out all the bullets going to the street, completely blanked it out, and said that they did so out of respect for the families of the people who were killed. Well, there was no blood, there was no gore. And then they cut out all the most politically salient points. And the families had come forward and said it was very important for us to know that they had already seen it. But Fox actually displayed the first killing scene in full. It’s quite interesting. So, Fox, not perceiving itself to be amenable to the threat of it not acting in a moral way, actually gave people more of the truth than CNN did. And so, Fox, also motivated to grab in a hungry way as great an audience share as possible, took this content and gave it to more people. Now, afterwards, of course, they put in their commentators to talk against it, but I think the truth that we got out of Fox was often stronger than the truth that we got out of CNN, and similarly for many institutions in the media that we think of as liberal.

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to ask you about what you face next week, the extradition case on July 12th. The Nation magazine has done two pieces. One is forthcoming. And they quote your new lawyer, Gareth Peirce, who is very well known for representing prisoners at Guantánamo, a renowned human rights attorney. And Tom Hayden, who writes the piece, interviewed many people in Sweden and the United States and sort of talks about a feeling in Sweden of an attack, very much represented by your past lawyers, on the Swedish justice system and on the integrity of the women in Sweden. And he quotes Gareth Peirce saying, "The—

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, our lawyers never attacked any integrity of women.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, he quotes Gareth Peirce saying, “The history of this case is as unfortunate as it is possible to imagine. Each of the human beings involved deserves respect and consideration.” And I just wanted to ask if you are seeing this as a change of approach with your legal team in dealing with your possible extradition to Sweden?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Possibly. I mean, the situation—what has happened to Europe and what has happened to Sweden is fascinating. I mean, it’s something that I have come to learn because I’ve been embroiled in it. But it is intellectually extraordinary. So, we see, for example, that the European Union introduced an arrest warrant system. And that arrest warrant system to extradite from one state of the E.U. to another state of the E.U. was put in place in response to 9/11 to extradite terrorists, to have fast extradition of terrorists. And it introduced this concept, or rather recycled a European Union concept of mutual recognition. This is sort of a very feel-good phrase, that one state in the E.U. mutually recognizes another state in the E.U., and that sunk down into mutual recognition between one court in the E.U. to another court in the E.U. But actually, what it seems to be talking about, if you think about it, given the reality that three people a day are extradited from this country to the rest of Europe, is a mutual recognition of the elite in each country in the E.U. It is a method of being at peace. So, the elite in each country in the E.U. has, if you like, made literally a treaty with each other to recognize each other and to not complain about the behavior.

Now, you might say that, well, OK, we have justice systems in the E.U. and various countries. Yes, they vary in all sorts of ways. Some are better, some are worse, depending on your values system. But we have sunk so low that it’s not even like that anymore. The European arrest warrant talks about the mutual recognition of judicial authorities—so, courts. But it has permitted each country to define what they call a judicial authority. And Sweden has chosen to call policemen and prosecutors judicial authorities. And the whole basis of this term being used, in the original introduction of the European arrest warrant, was that you would keep the executive separated from the judicial system, that it was meant to be a natural and neutral party who would request extradition. And it’s not.

So, there are many things like this that are going on in that case. I haven’t been charged. So, is it right to extradite someone to a state where they do not speak the language, where they do not have family, they do not know the lawyers, they do not know the legal system? If you don’t even have enough evidence to charge them, you won’t even come over, as we have offered many times, to speak to the people concerned.

So, previous complaints about these sort of problems have led to some inquires in Sweden. For instance, the biggest Swedish law magazine, that goes out to all the lawyers, had a survey on this, and one-third of the lawyers responding said that, yes, that these complaints about the Swedish judicial system, they truly are a problem. On the other hand, it has also engendered a situation where the Swedish prime minister and the Swedish justice minister have personally attacked me and said—the Swedish prime minister said that I had been charged, to the Swedish public, when I hadn’t been.

So it is a delicate situation. The Sweden—the Sweden we have now is not the Sweden of Olof Palme in the 1970s. Sweden recently sent troops—recently passed a bill to send marines into Libya. It was the fifth country out to send fighter jets into Libya. This is a different dynamic that is happening now, and we have to be careful dealing with it. So it’s one thing to sort of be considerate of differences in the way various justice systems are administered, but it is another to tolerate any difference. And I don’t think any difference should be tolerated in the E.U.

You know, what is it that prevents the justice systems of E.U. states from fundamentally collapsing and decaying? We say there’s mutual recognition. It’s mutual recognition between the U.K. and Romania. And what if the Romanian justice system collapses more and more and more? Who’s going to account for that? Who’s going to scrutinize it? Is it going to be some bureaucrats in the EC that are going to scrutinize the Romanian justice system? No. The only sustainable approach to scrutinizing the justice systems of the E.U. is the extradition process. So, it is extradition lawyers and defendants who have the highest motivation to scrutinize the quality of justice in the state that they are being extradited to. And that’s a healthy system that permits outside scrutiny, and so it can stop European states from decaying. But the European arrest warrant system removes that possibility. It’s not open to us to look at any of the facts in the case in the extradition at all. That is completely removed. All we’re arguing about is whether the two-page request that was filled out, which literally has a box ticked "rape," is a valid document.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Julian, about Bradley Manning. Mike Huckabee, who also was a presidential candidate, the governor of Arkansas, said that the person who leaked the information to Julian Assange should be tried for treason and executed. He said, "Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty." Bradley Manning is a young U.S. soldier who was in Iraq, has been held for more than a year, much of that time in solitary confinement in Quantico in Virginia. It was exposed that his treatment was tantamount to torture. P.J. Crowley, the White House—the State Department spokesperson, spoke to a group of bloggers at MIT and said his treatment is stupid. For that, he was forced out of the State Department. Bradley Manning was then moved to Fort Leavenworth because of the outcry, but he remains in prison. He remains not tried. What are your comments on him?

JULIAN ASSANGE: First of all, Amy, thanks for asking this question, but it is difficult for me to speak in detail about that case, and—but I can speak about why it is difficult for me to speak about it. So, Bradley Manning is an alleged source of WikiLeaks who was detained in Baghdad, and then, although there was very little—no mainstream press publicity at the time, shipped off to Kuwait, where he was, if you like, held in an extrajudicial circumstance in Kuwait, in a similar manner to which detainees are held in Guantánamo Bay. Eventually, through some legal—creative legal methods, he was brought back to the United States, and he’s been in prison now for over a year. He was being kept in Quantico for eight months under extremely adverse conditions. Quantico is not meant for long-term prisoners. Other prisoners, the maximum duration over the past year has been three months. And people that have been visiting Bradley Manning say—and we have other sources who say—that they were applying those conditions to him because they wanted him to confess that he was involved in a conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States with me. That pressure on Manning appears to have backfired. So, by all reports, this is a young man of high moral character. And when people of high moral character are pressured in a way that is illegitimate, they become stronger and not weaker. And that seems to have been the case with Bradley Manning, and he has told U.S. authorities, as far as we know, nothing about his involvement.

Now, there has concurrently been a secret grand jury taking place six kilometers from the center of Washington. That grand jury involves 19 to 23 people selected from that area. Now, why was it in Alexandria, Virginia, six kilometers to the center of Washington, that that grand jury was placed and those people drawn? Well, it has the highest density of government employees anywhere in the United States. The U.S. government was free to select the place, and they selected this place in order to bias the jury from the very beginning. This is, in fact, wrong to call a jury. This is a type of medieval star chamber. There are these 19 to 23 individuals from the population that are sworn to secrecy. They cannot consult with anyone else. There is no judge, there is no defense counsel, and there are four prosecutors. So, that is why people that are familiar with grand jury inquiries in the United States say that a grand jury would not only indict a ham sandwich, it would indict the ham and the sandwich. And that’s a real threat to us.

A grand jury, which was removed from U.K. jurisprudence because of abuses, combines the executive and the judiciary. So this old common law notion of the separation of these branches of power is removed in a grand jury. U.S. government argues that these captive 19 to 23 individuals are the branch of the judiciary, if they perform a judicial function, where of course actually they are just captive patsies for the Department of Justice, the United States and FBI. So they have been going out, and they have coercive powers. They can force people to testify. And they have been pulling in all sorts of people that are connected to WikiLeaks and people that are not. They have recently—a number of individuals that have been pulled to the grand jury understand what is going on, and they have refused to testify and have pleaded the First Amendment, Third Amendment‚ and the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, to—well, I’m not sure the purpose, I don’t have direct communication, but from the outside it appears to nullify that political witch hunt in the United States against us.

Now, in response, the grand jury has been instructed to send out immunity certificates. So these are certificates that go to subpoenaed individuals that say that if you come to the grand jury to testify, your testimony cannot be used against you, and therefore you have no right to plead the Fifth. What this means in practice is coerced, compulsive interrogation in secret with no defense counsel. There’s not—not even lawyers for the subpoenaed witnesses are permitted into the grand jury. It is just the prosecutors and these people from six kilometers away from the center of Washington. That’s something that should be opposed.

There is another grand jury that has sprung up in the United States and is investigating antiwar activists, engaged in the same sort of witch hunt. So these are really a classical device that was looked at very critically in the U.K. 400 years ago, and the result in the U.K. is this concept of the—if justice is to be done, it must be done publicly. And that has been a concept that is waylaid. It’s interesting why or how it has been waylaid, so that on the surface this device of—well, you want the police to have an investigation. The executive says it wants to conduct an investigation into some group of people. Well, we get people from the community, 19 to 23 people from the community, and they monitor the investigation. They make sure it’s not overstepping and so on. But actually this has been turned on its head and used as a way to completely subvert the judicial system in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek speaking on Saturday before about 1,800 people in the East End of London. We had to end the event in order for Julian Assange to return to his bail address in order for him to meet his curfew. The event was sponsored by the Frontline Club. Part two of our conversation tomorrow, when, among other things, Julian Assange will talk about WikiLeaks’ case against MasterCard and Visa.

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