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Assange: U.S. Probe of WikiLeaks & “Show Trial” of Bradley Manning Aims to Scare Whistleblowers

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Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of disclosing a trove of government documents and cables to WikiLeaks, is set to go on trial next week. Manning has already pleaded guilty to misusing classified material he felt “should become public,” but has denied the top charge of aiding the enemy. Speaking from his refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange calls Manning’s case “a show trial … to terrorize people from communicating with journalists and communicating with the public.” Assange also discusses his own legal status as he continues to evade extradition to Sweden. Assange fears that returning to Sweden would result in him being sent to the United States, where he fears a grand jury has secretly indicted him for publishing the diplomatic cables leaked by Manning. Click here to watch our web-only extended interview with Assange.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Julian Assange for the hour. He is in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. If he steps foot outside, the British government says they’ll arrest him and extradite him to Sweden. If you could just for a moment, Julian, describe your situation right now, physically where you are—you’re standing in front of an image. Describe what that image is and, well, the fact of how long you have been inside that embassy.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Right now I am inside the embassy, as I have been for 11 months. Before that, I was under house arrest for approximately 590 days, and before that, I was in solitary confinement for 10 days. The image that you see behind you is a frame from “Collateral Murder,” a famous release by WikiLeaks, which displays the murder of two Reuters staff and a number of others in Baghdad in 2007, which was then subsequently covered up by the U.S. military. Bradley Manning has been charged with supplying that video to us and has himself said that he did so. You will see a cannon shell through the front of the van and some dead bodies lying around. One of them is Namir Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, the two Reuters staff. This video we had as a background frame for a talk that I did at Oxford, similar to the way I’m conducting this one now, beaming into the Oxford Union. And the Oxford Union redacted the whole background by hand. Even the little monitors that were in the audience, that the audience could see, footage of those monitors they redacted by hand and put that out on the Internet. You can google for “Assange censored Oxford.” So, partly to pay tribute to the people who died in this incident, but also to Bradley Manning, and to take a stand against the censorship of Oxford, we have presented this background.

AMY GOODMAN: A quick question. Since we last spoke to you, again holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy, in November, Bradley Manning has pled guilty. Bradley Manning pled guilty to misusing classified material that he felt, quote, “should become public,” but denied the top charge against him, aiding the enemy. He acknowledged he gave the classified documents, among them the video that you’re describing, what you’ve called “Collateral Murder,” that shows the journalists and the men in New Baghdad blown up by an Apache helicopter, and it’s footage from the Apache helicopter, and then the subsequent exploding of the van that had two children in it. But he has pled guilty to doing this and to giving these documents to WikiLeaks, to you. You have always said you will not reveal your sources, but since he has pled guilty to this, can you talk about the significance of what Bradley Manning gave to WikiLeaks and what you published?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Bradley Manning is making his statements under duress, presently. He is facing a capital offense, which Barack Obama would have to sign, so politically there is possibly only a 3 percent, say, chance that Barack Obama would sign a death certificate or that the judge would decide to promote a death certificate. But if there was a 3 percent chance of you crossing the road, you wouldn’t do so.

He’s also facing a quite decent chance of life imprisonment. And the life imprisonment charge comes from a very new ambit claim of the Pentagon, that is—and the Department of Justice, that is, communicating with a journalist is communicating to the public, is communicating to al-Qaeda. And there’s no allegation that Bradley Manning intended to communicate to al-Qaeda. The only allegation is that he indirectly did so as a result of communicating with journalists, who communicated to the public. If that precedent is allowed to be erected, it will do two things. Firstly, it means it’s a potential death penalty for any person in the military speaking to a journalist about a sensitive matter. Secondly, it also embroils the journalist and the publication in that chain of communicating, they would say, to the enemy, and therefore making them susceptible, as well, to the Espionage Act, which also has capital offenses. And that is part of the U.S.—that latter part is part of the U.S. attack on WikiLeaks, including myself.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Julian Assange, there are about 150 witnesses who are set to testify against Manning at the trial. Among those witnesses, The Washington Post reports, is a person they have called a DOD operator, whose name they have not revealed, who is likely to say that Osama bin Laden received access to some of the WikiLeaks material through an associate because of what Manning revealed.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, the latest information I have is that there are, in fact, four of those people involved in the Osama bin Laden raid who will be testifying in one way or another. This is, of course, part of the show trial. The alleged actions here are a communication between a source and a journalist. There’s no allegation anyone else was present in the room. So, 141 prosecution witnesses, 31 of them are giving secret testimony, in part, or behind a screen or something like this. This is a show trial. The trial is meant to go for 14 to 16 weeks, And the prosecution, the Pentagon and possibly White House is hungry for this. This is their big Broadway musical moment, and they have their star divas, from the SEALs and elsewhere, that they intend to put up in order to terrorize people from communicating with journalists and communicating with the public.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Julian Assange, what do you think the significance is of the fact that over two dozen witnesses will partially testify in secret?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, it’s a furtherance of what we’ve been seeing, as this new pyramidical structure of centralized intelligence and military power continues to gain financial and political capital. It is advancing the frontiers to the degree where it is now conducting extensive secret trials. The same thing has been introduced here in the U.K. But we all know that without open justice, there is no justice at all. Justice must be seen to be done. Judges must themselves be on trial before the public as they conduct trials. We are all aware of the terrible abuses in the past that have come about as a result of secret star chambers. But nonetheless, the neo-military-industrial complex has gained enough political power where it is able to—or at least it thinks that it is able to go back to this earlier depraved time.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to recent comments made by the Australian foreign minister, Bob Carr. He was speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and was asked specifically about the threat of your possible extradition to the U.S. in the event that you’re taken to Sweden.

BOB CARR: Julian Assange could have been the subject of extradition action by the United States any time in the last two years, when he’s been residing in the U.K. He wasn’t. To suggest that the Swedes are after him, as a CIA conspiracy, to get him to Stockholm and allowing—allowing him to be bundled off to Langley, Virginia, is sheer fantasy. The Swedes have won in the U.K. courts. It’s nothing to do with WikiLeaks. It’s about a criminal allegation made in Sweden. And that’s why he is in the Ecuadorean embassy. In this, Australia has precisely no status. We’ve got no standing in the courts on this in the United Kingdom. We’ve made representations to the Swedes about him being treated with due process. We’ve done that three times this month. We’ve made every effort—

TONY JONES: And, by the way, just on that score, have you got some sort of assurance from the Swedes he would never be—

BOB CARR: Oh, yes, yes. Well, the Swedes—

TONY JONES: —extradited to the United States?

BOB CARR: The Swedes say, “It is our policy, and it’s been our policy for decades, that we never extradite someone on a matter related to military or intelligence.” They just don’t do it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Julian Assange, that was Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr. Could you comment on what he said?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Bob Carr is a well-known liar in Australian politics. The man’s ignorance is only eclipsed by his arrogance. WikiLeaks published records showing how Bob Carr became a U.S. embassy informer way back in the 1970s, while he was in the unions, while he had no business whatsoever dealing with the U.S. embassy. At that time, he was giving sensitive political intelligence on the Australian prime minister, Gough Whitlam, and that Gough Whitlam was subsequently removed in 1975 in a political coup in Australia.

Look, let’s go through these points by Bob Carr. Bob Carr is a master of rhetoric. For example, he says that there’s no evidence of some CIA conspiracy designed to smuggle me off to Langley, Virginia. Quite right, that’s not the issue at stake here. That’s a straw man that is erected by Bob Carr. What there is is extensive evidence—in fact, the DOJ admits, as of March, which is subsequent, but has also made previous admissions, that the investigation, the criminal investigation against WikiLeaks, which Australian diplomats, in their own official correspondence, have said is of unprecedented scale and nature, continues. That is admitted by the DOJ. The subpoenas that have come out as a result of the grand jury always just have two names on them: Bradley Manning’s name and my name. Those are the only two people who were named in those subpoenas. In the Bradley Manning court case, government witnesses say, when cross-examined, under oath, that the targets of the grand jury investigation are the founders and managers of WikiLeaks, amongst some others.

Now, in relation to whether Sweden extradites, there’s a number of issues here. First of all, let’s look at timing. Bob Carr says the United States could have extradited any time that they liked. Well, just go and look at justice4assange, with the numeral 4, dot com, slash extraditing, dash assange, dot html. It’s justice4assange.com/extraditing-assange.html. It is normal for grand juries to go for two to three years. That is absolutely normal. The DOJ admits that this grand jury, in relation to us, is still going. John Kiriakou’s grand jury went for a number of years. [Thomas] Drake’s grand jury went for a number of years. Furthermore, it is unlawful for any U.S. official to admit to the existence of a sealed indictment, even to other U.S. officials, except in carrying out the arrest. It’s only after the person has been arrested. So that is the situation I face in the U.K. if I walk outside. I could be arrested in relation to Sweden. I could be arrested in relation to the United States. What Bob Carr doesn’t say is that I have never been charged for an offense in Sweden. While there’s a decent chance of a secret indictment in the United States, and my lawyers say that they believe that there is a secret indictment, that records from Stratfor, allegedly obtained by Jeremy Hammond, reveal the existence of a secret indictment, there is no charge against me in relation to Sweden. The Ecuador—the Swedes refuse to provide a guarantee to me, to Ecuador, that I will not be re-extradited to the United States as soon as I hit Sweden. They also say, formally, and said so before I came into the embassy, that I would be imprisoned without charge in Sweden, initially said held incommunicado during the course of their preliminary investigation, is perfectly normal. And the head of the Swedish Supreme Court even has come out and said it is normal and correct for Swedish police, if they are investigating some allegation, to have a phone call with the person, to take a statement, to come to the country here. The Swedes refuse to do that. They refuse to explain why even that they are doing that. And this whole matter was investigated by the most senior prosecutor in Stockholm, Eva Finné, who the Swedes have now been appointed to head up investigation into their race riots, investigated by Eva Finné, and dropped. The case was dropped. It was resurrected subsequently by a politician, Claes Borgström, who went to a different city, Gothenburg, and to a particular prosecutor there and got that prosecutor to resurrect the matter.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion. We’re speaking with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. The British government says if he steps foot outside, they’ll arrest him and extradite him to Sweden. The Ecuadorean foreign minister has accused the British government of trampling on the human rights of Julian Assange by refusing to allow him to travel to Ecuador. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with Julian Assange in a moment.

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