Featured Sociopolitical Stories

Julian Assange says WikiLeaks wants to expose China and Russia as much as US


In interview, Assange denies US focus and says WikiLeaks can be force for opening up closed countries like China and Russia



Julian Assange WikiLeaks China Russia

Julian Assange: WikiLeaks and sites like it can be force for opening up countries like China and Russia. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wanted to expose China's andRussia's secrets as much as those of the US, and believes Hillary Clintonshould resign if she ordered diplomats to engage in espionage.

"[Clinton] should resign if it could be shown that she was responsible for ordering US diplomatic figures to engage in espionage of UN activities, in violation of the international covenants to which the US signed up," he said in an interview with Time magazine, published yesterday following the leak of secret US diplomatic cables that have caused huge embarrassment for the country.

Assange gave the interview via Skype from an undisclosed location after a warrant was issued by Interpol following rape allegations in Sweden, which his lawyer said amounted to persecution and a smear campaign.

While Assange has been accused by former members of the WikiLeaks project of obsessively focusing on the US, he said countries with less transparency, such as China and Russia, had the most potential to be reformed by whistleblowers.

"We believe it is the most closed societies that have the most reform potential," he said. Assange said that while parts of the Chinese government and security services "appear terrified of free speech" he believed it was "an optimistic sign because it means speech can still cause reform."

He added: "Journalism and writing is capable of achieving change which is why Chinese authorities are so scared of it."

Assange argued that countries like China could be easier to reform than countries like the US and the UK, which "have been so heavily fiscalised through contractual obligations that political change doesn't seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn't result in change."

While secrecy was important, Assange said, in keeping the identity of sources hidden, secrecy "shouldn't be used to cover up abuses."

He said that revealing abuses could lead to positive changes in countries and organisations. "They have one of two choices … to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavours, and proud to display them to the public" or "to lock down internally and to balkanise, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were. To me, that is a very good outcome, because organizations can either be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient."

Turning back to the US, Assange said he believed American society was "becoming more closed" and its "relative degree of openness … probably peaked in about 1978, and has been on the way down, unfortunately, since."

Speaking about accusations that he had singled out the US as a force for harm in the world, Assange said the view lacked "the necessary subtlety".

"I don't think the US is, by world standards, an exception; rather it is a very interesting case both for its abuses and for some of its founding principles."

Assange said the media interest in the WikiLeaks cables had been tremendous.

"The media scrutiny and the reaction are so tremendous that it actually eclipses our ability to understand it," he said, with "a tremendous rearrangement of viewings about many different countries".

Assange also gave a glimpse into why WikiLeaks had chosen to partner with traditional media organisations to release the files, rather than, as might have been expected, amateur bloggers. In 2006, "we thought we would have the analytical work done by bloggers and people who wrote Wikipedia articles and so on," he said.

But "when people write political commentary on blogs or other social media, it is my experience that it is not, with some exceptions, their goal to expose the truth.

"Rather, it is their goal to position themselves amongst their peers on whatever the issue of the day is. The most effective, the most economical way to do that, is simply to take the story that's going around, [which] has already created a marketable audience for itself, and say whether they're in favour of that interpretation or not."

Now, he said, the analytical work was "done by professional journalists we work with and by professional human rights activists. It is not done by the broader community." Social networks acted as amplifiers, he added – and, as WikiLeaks gained more publicity, an important supplier of source material.

0 Talk: