Julian Assange interviewed on 2UE Radio, 4 June 2012. Full audio is available via the 2UE website.
Tim Shaw: Well, I'm really pleased to say, as promised, joining me live on the line from London is founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. Good morning from here, good afternoon/evening to you, Julian.
Julian Assange: Good morning.
Tim Shaw: I want to thank you very much for your time. Before we get started I just wanted to say what a remarkable woman your mother is, Julian.
Julian Assange: She's great. She's a real fighter, isn't she? I think we're all lucky to be in a position like I am, to have family rally around like that.
Tim Shaw: You know family's really important. I spoke to Senator Bob Carr, the Foreign Minister of Australia, and said to him, 'Bob Carr, if a member of your family or my family was under house arrest in a foreign country as an Australian citizen, I know I'd be doing everything I could to get to the bottom of this.' Can we go right back to Sweden. My friend, I've read documents that your mother has sent me, I've read reports from all over the world, but just remind my listeners: you were invited to Sweden to attend a conference and to speak at a conference, is that right?
Julian Assange: That's correct. But I suppose if you're wanting this big background picture, you have to look at the context. The context was: I was trying to play a very precarious game with the United States and had 251,000 U.S. diplomatic cables in my back pocket, and was doing things like trying to get out of Australia at that stage because we had intelligence that the Australian Labor Government was hostile, and that proved eventually to be correct. Went into the European Parliament to give a talk about censorship; made sure I flew through Hong Kong, so I was less likely to be seized by the United States. Eventually wound up in England preparing our big releases about Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Cablegate release. And we discovered that—in fact, it was in The Daily Mail—that FBI agents had arrived in the United Kingdom and had raided Bradley Manning's mother's house. Bradley Manning is a young soldier, young intelligence officer, who the U.S. Government accused of being one of our sources, who they put in prison—who they have kept in prison to date. And they raided him. So I was in London, FBI officers were in Wales cooperating with the British police, and under that circumstance I needed to get out again. So we arranged an invite to speak at a political gathering about Afghanistan and Sweden, thinking that would afford me safe passage out of the country.
Tim Shaw: So when you arrived in Sweden there was an offer, I think, to stay at the home of a Swedish national and you chose to do so.
Julian Assange: The political organization that invited me there, which was part of the Christian section of the Social Democrats in Sweden, arranged for a place for me to stay; yes, that's correct.
Tim Shaw: Okay. In your own words, Julian, just tell my listeners—and we're going right around the country—just tell us what happened.
Julian Assange: Well I can't go into the details of the case for obvious reasons, because it's before the courts. But you can look online and see what the Swedish police say what the allegations at their strongest against me. And I think anyone reading that will think the case is completely and utterly absurd. As for what my version of events is, that's something that we'll leave for the court, for strategic reasons. But also for another reason, which is this concerns my private life and it's not something that I should be forced to talk about, unless I am charged and put before a court.
Tim Shaw: And the important thing about that very clear point: there are no charges. These are assertions that are being made by authorities from Sweden, but am I correct in understanding that neither woman has signed any form of document asserting or alleging that you raped them?
Julian Assange: That's correct. We know, in fact, that what is said, what is admitted by the Swedish prosecution in its filing to the UK Supreme Court is that both women went into the police station to ask for advice, they say, about getting STD tests. And then, within a few hours, that had gotten to the Swedish Prime Minister's residence, and was picked up by a reporter, they say—the reporter said at that residence—and then was splashed all over the world. But the younger girl refused to even... aborted the sort-of conversation with the police once she had heard that they were intending to arrest me and refused to even sign her statement. And later on, in even the police documents, she says that she was railroaded by police.
Tim Shaw: Julian, you've spent over 500 days under house arrest in the United Kingdom. Senator Bob Carr, repeating the Ambassador to Australia from the United States Jeffrey Bleich—I've spoken to Jeffrey Bleich on my program specifically about you and about WikiLeaks. Jeffrey Bleich said last week, the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, there is no 26th of January of 2011 sealed file of indictment, that there is no grand jury, and that there is no interest in extraditing you to the United States. What do you want to say to my listeners about that statement?
Julian Assange: I don't know what he said to you precisely, but I have noticed a delicate game that Jeffrey has been playing. Jeffrey Bleich is a lawyer [Shaw: Yes] and so he says things like, "There is no such thing as a secret warrant." Well, he may be correct about that. But we're not talking about a secret warrant, we're talking about a sealed indictment issued by the grand jury. They're playing this word game to try and suggest there is no grand jury. In the past three weeks, two people flying out of the United States have been detained by the FBI and interrogated about me. The evidence of the grand jury is all over. People have stood on—witnesses who have been dragged into that grand jury have stood on the steps in Washington and described what they've been interrogated about. Subpoenas that have been issued by that grand jury. There are multiple court cases currently before the U.S. courts fighting those very subpoenas that have been issued by the grand jury. There are nine—at least at the time witnesses were reporting on it—nine prosecutors involved from the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuting that grand jury.
Tim Shaw: Let me also get clear this point: did you wait for a number of weeks, in Sweden, waiting, ready, and willing to be questioned by Swedish authorities, and did the Swedish authorities make any effort to question you in that time whilst you are in Sweden.
Julian Assange: They did not. I was there for 4 or 5 weeks. I was only intending to be in Sweden for less than one week, but because this came up I thought it would look bad if I left the country. So I stayed there and demanded to give my side of the story. The entire case was dropped within 12 hours, when the chief prosecutor of Stockholm came onto it, reviewed it, and said, 'there is nothing to show, nothing to suggest that a crime of rape has been committed.' And the whole case was dropped. And then there was the involvement of a Swedish politician, Claes Borgström, who was running for the federal election, which was just one month down the track. And he went to a friend of his, a prosecutor in Gothenburg—which is kind of like Ballarat, in Sweden—and got her to take this case back up. And we demanded that she interview me so I could get my side of the story, so I could leave the country, because I had many, many things to do, with preparing enormous revelations about Iraq, Afghanistan, U.S. diplomatic cables. She refused to give me a date to be interviewed, and eventually she admitted to my lawyer I was free to leave Sweden. And I did.
Tim Shaw: When you left Sweden and arrived in England, how quickly after your departure from Sweden was the International Arrest Warrant issued.
Julian Assange: Let's see... They issued it in very, very late November; I think it was two days before Cablegate. And this was an extraordinary thing for there to be an Interpol Red Notice when someone hadn't even been charged, let alone for the type of allegations these were. As an example: another Swedish prosecutor from Stockholm was investigating a case last year where a Swedish man had been beaten by two Irish musicians nearly to the point of death. It was all caught on CCTV camera. The Irish musicians confessed to doing it and then they went back to Ireland. And the Swedish prosecutor dropped the case and was questioned, 'Why on earth did you drop the case?' and he said, 'Well, we can't just be issuing European Arrest Warrants all the time. We only do that for really serious offenses like murder.'
Tim Shaw: Australians are listening to this, Julian, and it belies belief, you know. The fair-minded Australian believes that if there are charges to be answered, let's answer them. But there are no charges and as Christine spoke to me earlier—your mother—just reaffirmed that if you were willing, which you are, to be questioned by the Swedish authorities at the Swedish Embassy in London, you're prepared to answer any questions of those, and if charged, they would be required to provide the evidence as part of that charge, and that's where it seems the evidence is lacking. Would you agree with that?
Julian Assange: Right. So it seems this is what's been happening. I have been demanding, in Sweden, to be able to give my side of the story. When I got to the UK, have been demanding to give my side of the story in the UK. For over 540 days, I've had an electronic manacle around my leg, being under house arrest, being forced to be in this country because of one reason: The Swedish Government will not come to this country and interview me. They will not interview me on the phone. It is perfectly within their legal entitlements –there are standing treaties to do this, called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty—and it is done, in other cases in Sweden. So the case has not progressed because I am suspicious of what is happening in Sweden and the Swedes will not provide us sure answers. The obvious thing to do—the Swedish Government was criticized in the high court—is simply to pick up the telephone and call me. Or if they want to do it in person, to meet me. Or if they want to do it on Swedish soil it can be at the Embassy. Or they can use standard treaty techniques like the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. It makes you wonder what the hell is going on? And is this how a Government operates, is operating in good faith?
Tim Shaw: I am looking at a letter written on the letterhead of the honorable Nicola Roxon MP Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management, it's addressed to Jennifer Robinson, one of the legal team. You've got a copy of the letter, so have I. She met with the Attorney-General on the 2nd of May, some 30 days ago. Just take us through what that meeting was like for Jennifer Robinson and what Jennifer was seeking on your behalf.
Julian Assange: Well, look, what Jen tells me, my lawyer, is that she met on the 2nd of May with the Attorney-General for about 40 minutes; the Attorney-General with two other people—on her left her national security political adviser, on her right the departmental national security adviser—and the Attorney-General is responsible for the Australian intelligence services. Why are these two guys there? What have they got to do with the Swedish sex allegation? Why are they there? And now we look, now we have the response from Nicola Roxon about that meeting. My lawyer made various demands such as if the Australian Government demands that if I went to Sweden that I would not be incarcerated without charge. And the response back is it refused to do so. And if Robinson demanded to the Australian Government of the Swedes that they use a standard European mechanism and come to England to interview me or drop the case. The Australian Government refused to do so. Similarly, the language here in this letter can only be described as a declaration of abandonment. This is not even the usual mealy-mouthed weasel words that bureaucracies use. For example, it says, "Australia would not expect to be a part of any extradition discussions that may take place between the United States and United Kingdom, or the United States and Sweden." So it's simply aggregating any sort of involvement whatsoever. "In the event that Mr Assange were to stand trial for an offence in the United States, he would be subject to the usual procedures and due process in the United States constitution and United States law," i.e. nothing. "Should Mr Assange be convicted of an offence in the United States and be sentenced to imprisonment, he may apply for international prisoner transfer to Australia. His application would be considered on its merits and in accordance with the relevant legislation."
Tim Shaw: I can't help but thinking, Julian, that if a citizen of the United States or a citizen of Sweden was under house arrest in our country for more than 500 days, Australia, the democracy that we live in, that there would be representations at a diplomatic level and I would suggest also at a political level saying to the Australian authorities, if the situation were reversed, 'Put up or shut up.' Charge our citizen or release our citizen. This is what the Australian people just can't seem to get to the basis of. I put to the Federal Foreign Minister Bob Carr, what your mother Christine told me in the interview was that consular support has been provided at the highest and fullest level. Julian, you're the target. Tell us exactly what Bob Carr's, the Foreign Minsiter's, consular support has or has not been.
Julian Assange: Well, Bob Carr's trying to redefine consular support as a cheese sandwich. I mean, these are just empty words. The last time U.S. consular officials met with my lawyers was back in the past December and they didn't provide anything at all. We were just handing over these demands to them. They have provided us with no legal advice ever. Whatsoever. The last time that I met with any persons from the Australian Embassy, any person claiming to be related to consular support, was when I was in prison in 2010. December 2010, locked in solitary confinement and they gave me a notepad. So when Bob Carr says "consular support," what he means is the Foreign Minister's office coming to court and observing what's going on so that he can write a brief to the minister in order to best prepare the minister's press lines. None of that information comes back to us. And when we've tried to get hold of it, for example through the Freedom of Information Act or when the Sydney Morning Herald has tried to get hold of it, 95% of it is entirely blacked out, with FOIs being withheld in some cases for 18 months. Even though legally they should only be held for 40 days.
Tim Shaw: Julian Assange, what do you think is going to happen in the next 8 to 10 days in relation to quite a fair argument your lawyer made in the court of appeal, that specifically that the reference of the judgment was not related to the case that was argued? What do you actually think is going to happen in the next 8, 10, 12 days, since last Wednesday's decision.
Julian Assange: Look, it's a matter of politics. When a case becomes this political and this prominent, it ceases to sort-of fall under the normal procedural standards or just the wheel of the justice system grinding and in a way it becomes intimately political. In the current matter before the Supreme Court, four of the judges based their decision on a point that wasn't even made in court and that breaches sort-of the basic right that you are able to argue the case. Two of the judges, by the way, found in my favour, two of the Supreme Court judges. So we'll be trying to shift some of those remaining four onto our side. Another point that maybe Australian listeners don't realize is that the head of the Supreme Court said in reading his judgment summary, falsely, that I had been charged. It was a mistake, everyone ignored it, it was a mistake. But how can one have confidence in the Supreme Court under the situation where it can't even get basic elements like that in the case correct.
Tim Shaw: Julian, you had your critics. There are listeners to my program that have no interest in a website called WikiLeaks, but what Australians believe, fair-minded Australians want, is a due process, a fair process, but arguably some 500 days later we are no further ahead in really getting an outcome from the assertions being made by those in Sweden. Just tell my listeners, just finally, how do you feel, as an Australian citizen under lock-and-key house arrest, if you were not under house arrest in Britain, where would you like to be? Back in Australia?
Julian Assange: Well, right now I'd come back to Australia immediately. But back in December 2007, Australia was a dangerous place for me. The Labor Government in Australia, under Gillard, started up a whole Government task force against me and my organisation, publicly declared involving the A-G's office, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Defence, both internal and external intelligence agencies, publicly declared the A-G threatened to cancel my passport. You have to understand, this particular government and people who surround Gillard are deeply — perhaps "in bed" is not the right way to put it — but they are deeply involved in getting patronage and friends within the United States. And as far as I can see, what the Australian Labor Government is doing now, it understands that ship is sinking. So it's just going to use the rest of its time in office to make as many pals with powerful people as it possibly can, so when the whole thing goes down, they'll have another ship to jump to.
Tim Shaw: Julian Assange, just finally in your heart of hearts, and, I'll take you at your word, do you believe any of the actions caused by yourself as the publisher of WikiLeaks, the broader publishing in some of the biggest newspapers in the world, from Der Spiegel to American, British, and even Australian newspapers, that anything published from documents that were provided and published on WikiLeaks has led to the risk of or the causing of death of any American or Australian servicemen?
Julian Assange: Not even the U.S. Government is alleging that. It doesn't even allege that a single person has been physically harmed anywhere in the world as a result of our publishing activities. Now, we're doing something big at a grand scale, and just like someone who makes cars or introduces a new invention into the world, there's always a potential for harm. But thus far, there hasn't been any, and neither is anyone formally alleging.
Tim Shaw: Are you a technology terrorist or a titan of transparency, Julian Assange?
Julian Assange: [laughs] Yeah. So, Joseph Biden, the U.S. vice president, back in the heat of things in early 2011, said that I was akin to a high-tech terrorist and it's just crazy. The only people being terrorized by our publications are politicians that have got something to hide.
Tim Shaw: I want to thank you very much for joining me on the program, and I particularly through you want to thank you mother, Christine Assange. She's been a guest on my program twice. She's a fearless fighter, not just for her own son, Julian, but in my view, just what I believe fair-minded Australians want, which is truth, some honesty, and for those that believe that something's gone wrong or being done wrong, put up or shut up. And just from my point of view, whether I agree or disagree with the conduct of WikiLeaks and its publishing organisation as you run it and founded, I can't help but think that what you've been telling my listeners now, what your mother's been telling us, and certainly those journalists—Dorling particularly from the Sydney Morning Herald—have been telling us is that you are not getting the kind of support from the Department of Foreign Affairs, from the Foreign Affairs Minister, or from this Government led by Gillard.
Julian Assange: Look, I don't even have the rights of the defendant, because I haven't been charged. I don't have a right to see any evidence against me, see the detailed allegations against me, to counter these matters in a legal way, because I am not even a defendant. We have a basic motion in Australia that you are free to go about your life as an adult until the Government charges you with an offence. And then you must have your day in court, and it's the Government's responsibility to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you have done something wrong. But until at least being charged, let alone convicted, you are free to go about your life as a free citizen. For the last 540 days, I have been detained without charge.
Tim Shaw: Final word to Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, please, Julian.
Julian Assange: Well, I guess to Mr Carr, you are a new Foreign Minister and therefore we are watching very closely to see what you do with this case. I think everyone deserves a fair go in a new job and there's lots of misinformation flowing around about this case. But what we've just heard in this interview is suggestive that Mr Carr is not going to be any different than his predecessor, in fact far likely to be worse.
Tim Shaw: Julian, thank you...
Julian Assange: He's unelected.
Tim Shaw: It's true, it's true, it's a political appointment. Julian Assange, thank you for your time and I'm sorry, your mother sounds very similar to my mother so give her a big hug from me, will you?
Julian Assange: [laughs] Will do. Thanks, b-bye.
Tim Shaw: Thank you. Julian Assange, live from London. We spoke with Christine Assange on my Legal Matters program. Bob Carr, the Foreign Minister of Australia, made it perfectly clear that as far as he was concerned that there was the highest level of consular support for Julian Assange. You read Mr Assange as you will. And that was live and un-interrupted, I'm taking your calls now on this. Tell me what you think.