Talk with Julian Assange

Julian Assange is a controversial figure renowned as the founder of WikiLeaks, heralded as a truth champion and criticized as a threat to national security.


Who is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange is a controversial figure best known as the founder of WikiLeaks, an organization that publishes secret information and news leaks provided by anonymous sources. Born on July 3, 1971 in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, Assange's work through WikiLeaks has sparked global debate about freedom of the press, transparency in government, and national security. Some of his most notable leaks involve the U.S. military and diplomatic communications. Due to these leaks, multiple criminal charges have been filed against him by the United States government. He sought and was granted asylum at the embassy of Ecuador in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations which were later dropped. In 2019, his asylum was withdrawn and he was arrested by British police. He is currently serving a 50-week prison sentence in the UK for breaching bail conditions.

Explain the major leaks attributed to Julian Assange?

Julian Assange, through WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization he founded in 2006, disseminated numerous confidential documents that had significant global repercussions. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Afghanistan War logs: In July 2010, WikiLeaks released over 75,000 secret U.S. military reports about the war in Afghanistan. The documents revealed unreported instances of Afghan civilian killings and information about secret operations.

  2. Iraq War logs: In October 2010, a cache of nearly 400,000 documents were released. These documents provided a chilling snapshot of the violence in Iraq, including instances of torture and reports of high civilian death toll.

  3. U.S. Diplomatic Cables: Known colloquially as "Cablegate", this 2010 release was a collection of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. These revealed behind-the-scenes diplomatic activity, candid assessments of foreign leaders, and insights into negotiations, among other details.

  4. Guantanamo Bay files: In April 2011, WikiLeaks released files surrounding the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The documents held detailed accounts of the detainees' backgrounds, their treatment, and potential threats they posed.

  5. Collateral Murder Video: As part of the leaks provided by Chelsea Manning, a video showing a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad by a U.S. Army helicopter was released in 2010. The incident led to the death of several civilians, including two Reuters journalists.

  6. Democratic National Committee emails: WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 emails just before the 2016 Democratic National Convention, stirring controversy within the party and raising broader issues about election interference. The emails included private discussions among DNC employees.

It is worth noting that Julian Assange or WikiLeaks did not generate these documents. Their role was to publish the material after it had been leaked to them. The confidential nature of the documents and the potential impacts on individuals' lives and international relations have made their releases controversial and marked Julian Assange as a significant figure in the realms of journalism, freedom of speech, and national security.

Could you describe Julian Assange's time at the Ecuadorian Embassy?

Julian Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on June 19, 2012, after exhausting all his options to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations, which he denied. Fearing that Sweden would consequently extradite him to the United States where he could face serious charges due to WikiLeaks' publishing of classified American documents, Assange sought refuge at the embassy.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012, stating that there were fears Assange's human rights might be violated if he were extradited. During his stay at the embassy, he lived in a small room converted into living quarters, without access to outdoor space. He had internet access and received several high-profile visitors, including celebrities and political activists.

Assange's relationship with his Ecuadorian hosts went through ups and downs. There were complaints about his behavior, including poor hygiene and not cleaning up after his cat. The embassy even set house rules for Assange to follow and briefly cut off his internet connection due to his perceived interference in the political affairs of other nations.

Assange's health reportedly deteriorated during his sanctuary, due to the lack of sunlight and fresh air. His doctors stressed the damaging impact of his confined living conditions on both his physical and mental well-being.

On April 11, 2019, Assange's diplomatic asylum was withdrawn by Ecuador's government, and he was arrested by British police. The Ecuadorian president, Lenín Moreno, justified his decision by claiming Assange had violated the terms of his asylum.

What's Julian Assange's opinion on journalistic integrity?

Julian Assange places a high value on journalistic integrity. He believes in the importance of journalists maintaining independence, ensuring accuracy, and pursuing the truth, even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. He sees journalism as a key mechanism to hold power accountable and unearth hidden or obscured information that the public has a right to know.

Through his work with WikiLeaks, he has practiced a form of journalism based on the idea of "radical transparency", providing original source materials to the public with minimal editorial intervention. He argues that this approach allows people to make their own judgments about the issues at hand.

Assange's work has been widely debated, with some praising him for exposing government secrets and others criticizing him for risking national security. It's worth noting that while his belief in transparency aligns with a fundamental principle of journalism, his methods have sparked discussions on journalistic ethics and the balance between transparency and security/safety.

What are Julian Assange's published works?

Julian Assange is known for his publication of classified information through his media organisation, WikiLeaks. However, he has also authored and co-authored several books and articles. Here are a few of them:

  1. "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet" (2012): This book, co-authored by Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann, discusses the future of the internet in light of increasing government surveillance.

  2. "When Google Met WikiLeaks" (2014): This book focuses on a conversation between Assange and Google's Eric Schmidt and includes Assange's vision for a revolutionary political programme grounded in the use of the internet.

  3. "The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire" (2015): An analysis and examination of U.S. foreign policy based on cables released by WikiLeaks.

  4. "The Unauthorized Autobiography - Julian Assange" (2011): A controversial book due to the nature of authorization, it is nonetheless attributed to Assange.

  5. "Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier" (1997): This book, co-authored with Suelette Dreyfus, traces the lives of young hackers.

Additionally, Assange has contributed to journalistic outlets and academic journals, giving his view on freedom of speech, surveillance, and the role of the media.

What drove Julian Assange to create WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange was driven by a strong belief in transparency, freedom of speech, and holding those in power accountable. He created WikiLeaks with the intention of providing a platform where anonymous sources can leak information that exposes corruption, unethical practices, and wrongdoing, particularly in government and corporate settings. Assange was especially motivated by his conviction that the public has the right to access critical information that traditional media may be unable or unwilling to disclose, often due to geopolitical considerations or restrictive laws.

This was all in line with his background as an activist and programmer, where he was often found challenging power structures and promoting a free exchange of information. He was notably influenced by his experiences and observations of global politics, and by his active involvement in the hacker community. WikiLeaks also reflects Assange's own ideals stemming from a reportedly anti-establishment worldview, and became a pivotal platform for whistleblowers worldwide.

Can the US extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges?

Extraditing someone from one country to another requires several legal steps. For the United States to extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges, it would need to meet certain conditions outlined in extradition treaties with the country where Assange is located.

In Assange's case, he was in the United Kingdom at the Embassy of Ecuador while accused by the United States. He was subsequently arrested by the British police. As of this point, the United States had requested his extradition from the UK on charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010.

A judge would need to approve this request, the Secretary of State in the UK would have the power to grant or deny the extradition request. Any decision is likely to be appealed in the courts as long as potential legal issues remain unresolved, including his health condition or if extradition breaches his human rights.

Extradition can only occur if the alleged crimes are recognized as criminal in both jurisdictions, and Assange's legal team has argued that political offences, such as espionage, are exempt from extradition according to the treaty between the UK and the US.

This complex legal issue is also compounded by public interest, international diplomacy, and human rights considerations.

Will Julian Assange go to the United States?

Julian Assange's extradition to the United States has been a topic of much controversy and legal action. In January 2021, the UK district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected a US request to extradite him, citing concerns over his mental health and high risk of suicide. However, the U.S. has appealed this decision, so the situation is still uncertain and largely dependent on the legal proceedings which could extend for years.

As of the latest update, he is still being held in a high-security prison in Britain. So, whether Assange will go to the United States as of now remains undecided. It will likely be decided through judicial processes and negotiations between governments of the U.K., U.S., and potentially other countries interested in his case such as Australia, his country of origin.

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