Interview with Sarah Hewson 18.09.2014
JA: Google has now spread to every country, every single person, who has access to the internet, billions of people, giving their information over to Google. Google has become in its behaviour a privatised version of the NSA. It is not that it is doing things that are illegal, it’s not. But, what it is doing legally, it’s collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, using it to create profiles of people to predict their interests and behaviours and then selling that to advertisers and others. And, that is the same procedure that the National Security Agency or GCHQ goes through and that’s why the National Security Agency has then latched on top of what Google is collecting.
SH: But Google has said that any spying by the NSA is outrageous.
JA: Well, they eventually came late to that position but they’ve been involved since at least 2002, working with the NSA in terms of contracts. They are formally listed as part of the defense industrial base since 2009. They have been engaged in the Prism system, where nearly all information collected by Google is available to the National Security Agency. People do not know what Google is, I mean, Google had been reasonably successful in the US debate, shifting its collaboration with the NSA towards the NSA itself. Google was intimating something like it was unknowingly partook in or was forced into, and that’s not true. It might have been forced in there, later on down the track, there are coercive movements that are used against these high tech companies, but at the institutional level, Google is deeply involved in US foreign policy.
SH: You talk in the book about your pride in the role that WikiLeaks played in the Arab Spring. When you look at the Middle East now, we have a power vacuum out of which has emerged Islamic State ISIS. ISIS is very sophisticated in its use of the internet and particularly social media as a propaganda tool, as a tool for radicalisation, recruitment. Is there a case there where we should see some degree of censorship.
JA: That is an interesting question. The answer is ‘not yet’. Censorship is a very slippery slope, yes of course it is putting out propaganda to try to provoke the West. Why do they want to provoke the West? They want to provoke the West in order to unify the disagreements the rest of the Sunni population has in Iraq with ISIS.
SH: You’ve been here for two years, Chelsea Manning has been jailed for 35 years, there has been a lot of collateral damage, I suppose, has it been worth it?
JA: Amnesty International has formally found that Chelsea Manning is a prisoner of Conscience, there up for Appeal at the US Army Criminal Court of Appeal, later this year, so hopefully, there will be a recognition, that that was an unjust act. For me, when I have been involved in those kind of publications for a long time, when we started publishing the US diplomatic cables, I predicted that it would take five to seven years, to be clear of this process. I think that that is going to be correct, I think the, in fact, I am sure that the view of what has happened historically, will be favourable and the organisation, WikiLeaks the publisher, the organisation is on the black, unlike many publishers.
SH: What is the end game for you, you talk recently about leaving soon, how, when?
JA: Something really important has happened, here in the UK. There has been a recognition, inside judicial circles and inside the Tory back bench that what has happened here was wrong, and should not happen to anyone else. I haven’t been charged. I haven’t been charged with an offence in any country, and so as a result it is an absurd situation that someone should be extradited, before they have even been charged. And, new legislation has been drafted and has been put into law earlier this year to reflect that concern and a number of other concerns. So, we believe, it is now inevitable that my Asylum will cease to be obstructed.
SH: So, where will you go, because you are wanted for questioning by the Swedish Authorities.
JA: I am for the past four years, since the very beginning, I have been saying, ‘please ask me questions, let us submit a statement, let me do a video interview, let me do a telephone call” etc, and there has been a refusal, and there has been a refusal to give a proper explanation as to even why there is a refusal.
SH: What has the last two years been like. What has the impact been on you personally, and on WikiLeaks.
JA: On WikiLeaks, in some ways, it has been positive. That is [to say] an Embassy is a protected environment, that is to a degree a national security reporter’s dream. You cannot be subpoenaed from an Embassy, you cannot be arrested in the middle of the night from people investigating our publications. On the other hand, there is extensive surveillance outside this embassy. So, that makes, yes, a difficult situation for me to meet with people I would normally meet with, in the course of my work.
SH: And personally, you dedicate the book to your family which you say you love and miss very much. What impact has it had on them?
JA: The impact on my family is severe. My family did not ask for such a situation. Perhaps, by the nature of my work, I did but my family didn’t.
SH: And what next?
JA: There is a lot of interesting things happening to the internet. The internet, because to has merged with society, is now the future destiny of human society. Unlike our nation states, the internet is a global phenomenon , so, the laws and standards that we all erect on the internet, we are erecting for the whole world at once, so, if we get them wrong, it will affect everywhere at once. So, those are the stakes.
This interview has been covered here: http://rt.com/news/188896-assange-google-nsa-spying/