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8 Dec, 2013 12:28

'Not real James Bonds': Assange explains why 'small publisher' WikiLeaks beat the Pentagon

'Not real James Bonds': Assange explains why 'small publisher' WikiLeaks beat the Pentagon

WikiLeaks’ major achievement is in weakening the authority of US intelligence, according to the whistleblowing website founder, Julian Assange, who has just marked three years under virtual house arrest in the UK.

Julian Assange believes that the WikiLeaks website he founded represents “an example of a small publisher beating the Pentagon” and by doing so reducing the public fear of government institutions.

If a small publisher can beat the Pentagon, then some committed and strong political groups in various countries don't have to be quite as scared of US as they have been before,” Assange said in a comprehensive interview given to Slovenia's Delo newspaper. “The US intelligence agencies have a big budget and immense technological resources, but the more we learn about them, the more we see how incompetent they are. They are definitely not real-life James Bonds. More a vast number of sickly office workers dreaming about their next holiday.”

Assange has acidly compared the government agencies that had their activities exposed by WikiLeaks’ revelations, to “creepy and sleazy beetles which start to run around in panic when the stone which was shielding them from the daylight is torn away.

This panic has led to a severe crackdown on whistleblowers. The most recent example has been the persecution of Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, who is wanted in the US on espionage charges and has found temporary asylum in Russia.

Assange himself has spent the last three years under virtual house arrest in the UK. For more than half of this time he was confined to a five square-meter room, after he had been granted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, fearing extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted in relation to a sexual misconduct investigation. The WikiLeaks founder has labeled the investigation as politically motivated and has said it will lead to his further extradition to the US, where he could be brought to court for leaking sensitive data.

Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a major WikiLeaks contributor, was sentenced to 35 years in August 2013 for having released classified files. Assange believes Manning’s revelations should have led to quite different trials.

There is a nasty case concerning our single most popular and known public disclosure, the video tape of an US Army Apache helicopter attacking some civilians and Reuters journalists in Iraq. What is the outcome of it? Manning, who revealed that document, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, while there are no disciplinary actions against the gunner, the pilot, or their superiors - they are still serving in the US military.

AFP Photo / John Macdougall

Speaking of his unsuccessful Australian Senate election campaign, Assange said it had not been in vain, as the WikiLeaks Party had “established a network of people working for us in Australia.” The whistleblower insists he wanted to make politics different and “to come into the Senate as a spy for the people.

During the prosecution of Manning, the District Attorney said about WikiLeaks that they are ‘the intelligence agency of the people,' and I consider this a big compliment. It is a phrase I used years ago to describe us. This is what we are: spies for the people. If states have their intelligence agencies to spy on us and control us, should the people and history itself also not have their own counterintelligence?

As for Snowden’s revelations, the WikiLeaks founder says he was not generally surprised to learn of the NSA’s mass surveillance tactics. It was rather certain individuals’ behavior that had him stunned, particularly some US personalities’ desire to impose American values and worldview on Arab and Asian countries. Assange came up with the example of Google executive Jared Cohen.

Some documents that were given to me disclose how Cohen and his collaborators met in London with leading managers of the Bollywood cinema and promised them financial support from a covert fund, and link ups with Hollywood if they eliminated extremist messages – presumably stabs against America. I have no doubt that while Cohen was corrupting these individuals, Bollywood, Hollywood, the State Department, the funds accountants and himself, he thought he was saving poor Indians from terrorism”.

Assange has also spoken of the WikiLeaks’ uneasy relations with the media. At first, they were eager to make sensational leaks public, while, later, they “began to carefully control and contain the damage to the establishment” and manipulate with the data they received, redacting certain parts of the documents, which resulted in distortions of the information they contained.

For example; there was a cable on Yulia Tymoshenko that said she's hiding her money in London: they deliberately redacted that portion,” Assange said, adding that they nevertheless “did run a big story on how the president of Belarus had stolen $9 billion. The cable says the allegation was very thinly sourced from a Ukrainian opposition newspaper via Russia. The Guardian, which is the UK establishment's preferred attack dog on the former Soviet, kept the $9 billion theft allegation, but redacted how the allegation had little credibility. They published the story immediately before the Belarus election.

Assange has called on readers of the media not to be passive news consumers and to check the information’s credibility at WikiLeaks website, where the full versions of the classified documents can be found.

This is what we want to achieve - to bring people to use WikiLeaks website the same way millions of us use Wikipedia, as a universal encyclopedia which allows you to measure the partiality of other sources of information.