WikiLeaks founder at the Frontline: ‘We will fill the journalism vacuum’

July 28, 2010


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Watch the whole event here. 

 

By Heather Christie

“We’re not an organisation concerned with protecting troops,” said Julian Assange.  “We’re an organisation concerned with protecting human beings.”

The founder of WikiLeaks, the secretive whistle-blowing website, did not mince his words at last night’s Frontline Club talk.  Rather, he revealed an extreme – almost dogmatic – aversion to the military and citizen inaction as well as a strong defence of the data and coding behind the most recent leak: The Afghan War Diary

 

Tall, pale, and with that shock of now-famous white-blond hair, Assange answered – and evaded – questions posed by the packed room of admirers and critics of his work.

Although his responses were often elusive – as befits a man condemned by the US government – one thing was for certain: Julian Assange wants the general public to read The Afghan Diary’s data and spend “serious time” going through it.

I condemn the view that people should do so little that they have no chance of doing any harm.  We can all do little and harm no one. You have to try and then be willing to take the blame…

You never know which way events are going to turn.  You just need to take solace in an important bit of intellectual philosphy: that without truth, nothing is meaningful except in lucky circumstances.

But when asked about “taking the blame” for the deaths of soldiers who might die because of this leaked information, Assange said he didn’t feel responsible: “A threat to national security? Are they serious? It’s not a threat to the entire nation of the United States. That is Ridiculous.”

Assange added that WikiLeaks’ “harm minimisation policy” ensures that as few people as possible are harmed by any of their leaks. What exactly that policy is, however, is unclear.

The former internet hacker however assured critics that as WikiLeaks has read more leaked documents than any other non-espionage agency on earth, they are the most qualified to create a policy to protect sources and innocents.

Here is an audio interview by me with Assange on the best and worst case outcomes of WikiLeaks – listen here:

Listen!

Assange said that WikiLeaks first shared the Afghan Diary’s contents with The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel, because those papers have a track record of “throwing their weight behind” data. Hed said the three-way collaboration kept the data free from spin and corruption.

But despite this impressive and unprecedented press coalition,

We’re not in competition with the rest of the press; we operate in a vacuum that has been left by the rest of the press.  We get stories that have been ignored –  in most cases, wrongfully ignored.

But in order to end on a less “serious” note – Assange used that word some 50 times throughout his talk – here are some new pieces of information about his life that we didn’t know before:

1 – As per speculation, he has confirmed that he “enjoys crushing bastards”

2 – His red boots are from Hong Kong

3 – He neither confirmed nor denied the fact that, as a self-proclaimed geek, he does not own a laptop.

and finally, 4 – He has a USB stick in his pocket that could hold all the White House emails; it doesn’t, he said, but it might one day.

See also Journalism.co.uk’s report here.