an interview with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Hrafnsson

‘Everything Was Done To Make Julian Assange’s Life Miserable’; In his first interview since Julian Assange’s arrest, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson discusses the “disgraceful” detention of the platform’s founder, criticism of its links to Russia and what he describes as the “appalling” treatment of Chelsea Manning., spiegel.de, May 3, 2019

I have no idea what Germany’s Fair Use laws for interviews are, but I’ll choose some parts, and you can read the rest if you’d care to.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Hrafnsson, on Wednesday you saw WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a court room in London, where he was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for violating the conditions of his bail. British police arrested him on April 11 in the Ecuadorian Embassy after the government of Ecuador withdrew his political asylum. How is he doing?

Hrafnsson: He is in the Belmarsh high-security prison in South London. There, he is waiting for his trial for the extradition request from the United States government. On Wednesday, a court found him guilty of a bail act offense when he was using his human right to seek asylum.

DER SPIEGEL: As the new editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, do you sometimes worry you could end up in a high-security prison like Assange?

Hrafnsson: As WikiLeaks has been under attack for 10 years, I am aware of the dangers that come with the job. I have been working full-time for WikiLeaks since midsummer 2010. It is obvious that I am in the cross hairs of the U.S. government, its military and its secret services. We have known since 2014 that not only Julian Assange, but also other people who are connected with the organization are under investigation.

DER SPIEGEL: How did the diplomatic asylum end which Assange was granted by the Ecuadorian government in August 2012?

Hrafnsson: The ambassador asked him into the meeting room of the embassy and presented a letter, which he read out loud, saying the diplomatic asylum had been revoked and that he had to leave the embassy immediately. When Julian left the meeting room and wanted to go back to his room, the lobby of the embassy was full of British Policemen who grabbed him.

DER SPIEGEL: That doesn’t really fit with diplomatic rules.

Hrafnsson: Well, it was a long prepared, politically motivated move. Already last year, the embassy started a war of attrition, psychological warfare: cutting off the Internet, installing cell phone jammers, restricting visitors, turning off the heating. Everything was done to make Julian Assange’s life miserable.

DER SPIEGEL: He certainly didn’t look particularly well when he was dragged out of the embassy.

You may want to click in to see Kristinn’s response to these Qs as well; I’d forgotten that it’s so lengthy.

DER SPIEGEL: Is it true that you were offered the surveillance material from the embassy?

DER SPIEGEL: There were reports of Assange not behaving in a way that one would expect from a guest of the embassy. He supposedly didn’t flush the toilet, and he has been described as arrogant and narcissistic.

DER SPIEGEL: WikiLeaks has a rather simple but radical approach. If documents are in the public interest and authentic, they will be published. Is this still the idea?

Hrafnsson: WikiLeaks’ approach would not have been radical a few decades ago, but that changed with the enormous escalation of secrecy of those in power after 9/11. State secrecy and corporate secrecy have been increasing without being convincingly justified. In this environment, the fight of an organization like WikiLeaks is becoming more radical in an environment changing for the worse. At the same time, regular people are unprotected against the invasion of their privacy, as former CIA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to us. And private entities like Google, Facebook and others are harvesting our private information as well. So, yes, this is still the idea.

DER SPIEGEL: In the beginning, WikiLeaks said: “We don’t discriminate, we publish what we get.” Does that still apply today?

Hrafnsson: When we started to publish U.S. military documents in 2010 on a massive scale, we were criticized for just “dumping documents” unredacted. We were accused of having “blood on our hands.” In 2013, during Chelsea Manning’s trial, a Pentagon official was called to testify about the harm the publications had caused and the people who had been killed because of these. He had to admit that nobody had been harmed.

DER SPIEGEL: But of course, you still have a responsibility for the people mentioned in the documents.

Hrafnsson: Once again: There have been millions of documents published by WikiLeaks. Where is the harm? And where is the harm in truthful information? And that compared to the harm that has been exposed and the bloodshed that was caused by the parties that were exposed.

Now this part pretty much backs up what I’ve posited, and as Hrafnsson talks with Jen Robinson and Julian’s other attorneys, I’m guessing they see it this way as well:

Hrafnsson: He almost got the maximum sentence of one year in jail for skipping bail, but the real battle is the extradition case. It can take two or three years. The U.S. government has been given two months, until June 12, to produce additional information supporting the extradition request.

DER SPIEGEL: The request is based on an indictment on a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion that holds a maximum sentence of five years. Will that be the only charge?

Hrafnsson: It is obviously only the first step, and it would be extremely naive to try to maintain that other charges will not be added when he is on American soil. Letters were issued to individuals connected with WikiLeaks where they were offered immunity if they provided information pertaining to the investigation into what obviously was being described as the violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you think the government in Washington is trying to get Assange to the U.S. in the first place on the pretext of the relatively benign charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, so that it can then come up with additional charges that might lead to a life sentence or even the death penalty?

Hrafnsson: That’s an absolute certainty. That is the playbook.

DER SPIEGEL: What conclusions do you draw from Manning’s treatment?

Hrafnsson: It looks like that when it comes to the criminal justice system in the U.S., in certain cases, it’s just a criminal system without justice. Look at the letters that have been sent out to several individuals who were connected with WikiLeaks and are now living in exile — some here in Germany, some in Iceland — threat letters with the offer of immunity if they work with the grand jury in Virginia in the persecution of WikiLeaks. In other words: If you don’t cooperate, we will go after you. I refer to this as the Don Corleone offer, which is from the Godfather, an offer you can’t refuse.

The rest, again, is here.

From WL on twitter yesterday:

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