In releasing the trove of DNC and Podesta emails during the 2016 campaign, was WikiLeaks staying true to its radical transparency mission by refusing to engage in partisan politics? Or was WikiLeaks recklessly bolstering the Trump and the Republicans? For more, we speak with activist and journalist Allan Nairn and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In October, The Intercept published a conversation between Glenn Greenwald and Naomi Klein about WikiLeaks’s decision to disclose thousands of John Podesta’s personal emails. This is part of what Naomi Klein said.
NAOMI KLEIN: I would add, it’s not just that they didn’t curate it and just dumped it all, right? They are dumping it, but they are doling out the dumps — right? — to maximize — clearly, to maximize damage. Right? So they’re not just saying, “Hey, information wants to be free. Here is everything we have. Journalists, have a field day. Go through it.” Right? You know, they’re very clearly looking for maximum media attention — you can tell that just by looking at the WikiLeaks, you know, Twitter feed — and, you know, timing it right before the debate. You’ve written about how dangerous it is for media organizations to be taking such a highly political approach to this election, because they so clearly don’t want Trump to get elected, so they’re engaging in what you’ve described as journalistic fraud, right? I agree with you.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right.
NAOMI KLEIN: But we have to acknowledge how political WikiLeaks and Julian are being here.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Naomi Klein in October. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, your response to some of her remarks?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, I think it’s a bit rich for Naomi Klein, who’s a very wealthy woman, sitting up there in Canada, to be accusing a political prisoner, who’s been detained for the last seven years without charge, in violation of two UN rulings, without getting her facts straight.
So, what is WikiLeaks to do? Sit on and suppress evidence of interference in the DNC process? Wait until after the DNC congress to publish that information? That would be deeply unethical for this organization. I would argue it would be deeply unethical for any media organization. But for this organization, it would be deeply unethical. We have a commitment to the public that we will not suppress information like that. And we have a commitment to sources who come forward, taking risks to give us information, that we will publish it in a timely fashion, once we have verified that it is completely accurate. Now, do we wish that we had more money and could process information faster? Of course we do. But we did manage to get that publication out before the DNC, and I think that was very important, so that people involved in that process could understand who it was that they were choosing to go for.
Now, let’s be realistic. Naomi has a particular issue, a very important issue, and I agree it’s an important issue, which is climate change. And so, she was willing to attack anyone in her campaign to make sure Hillary Clinton was elected, because she perceived that Hillary Clinton would do better on climate change. And I agree it’s a very serious issue. But in relation to WikiLeaks, we are an organization that has a commitment to the public to publish true information and not suppress it, and to make sure that as many people read it as possible. Is it true that the way that we staged our publishing process increased the engagement of people in reading our material, going through it, etc., etc.? Of course it is. Did we do a good job — did we do a good job in getting people, enticing people, to read and report on our material? Yes, we did. And we will do that for any source, any whistleblower, that comes to us and gives us information. We will try and maximize the amount of readers that come as a result of the risks that those people take. That’s our promise to the public, to our readers and to our sources.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, early in the campaign, Naomi did write an article that — clearly supporting Bernie Sanders, writing Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted. But we are also joined by Allan Nairn, longtime investigative journalist and activist. Allan, if you can weigh in this discussion right now, as we talk to Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, I have a — first, I have a brief question for Julian Assange. Mr. Assange, you said that you did not get the leaks directly from a state. You said you know you did not get the leaks directly from a state. Do you know that Russia didn’t give you the leaks through an intermediary?
JULIAN ASSANGE: I’m not going to be playing 20 questions on our sources. I’m sure you understand, Allan, as a source protection organization, we’re not going to be inscribing circles around who our sources are, how we communicate with them, any properties that might be used to arrest them or criticize them in some future process.
ALLAN NAIRN: So it is possible that, as Comey said, Russia gave you the leaks through an intermediary?
JULIAN ASSANGE: I’m simply not going to comment on it.
ALLAN NAIRN: OK. Well, my view of this is that during the campaign, WikiLeaks often suggested that Trump would be less dangerous than Clinton.
JULIAN ASSANGE: No, we didn’t.
ALLAN NAIRN: I think you did.
JULIAN ASSANGE: No, we didn’t.
ALLAN NAIRN: I think that concept is wildly, gruesomely mistaken. There was the argument — well, it’s just —
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, that’s fine — it’s fine for you to say that, but you should understand that, no, we didn’t. In fact, I was asked that question directly on Democracy Now! at the time about what my position was, asked which one I preferred. And my response is, being asked this question is being asked: Do I prefer cholera, or do I prefer gonorrhea?
ALLAN NAIRN: OK. Well, let’s say — let’s say, if you frame it that way, the idea that the two —
JULIAN ASSANGE: All right? I mean, one can go into historical revisionism.
ALLAN NAIRN: I would like — I would —
JULIAN ASSANGE: And Clinton historical revisionism is occurring. And you understand why it is occurring. Because the Democratic Party had — I think it’s — I think it’s lost now, but the Democratic Party had a moment for very important internal reform after its epic loss to Donald Trump. The two — a very disliked candidate as far as the polling is concerned. So, the Democratic Party had an epic loss. Who was responsible for that epic loss?
ALLAN NAIRN: The Democrats.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, the Democratic Party was, and its various structures, its institutions, etc.
ALLAN NAIRN: The Democrats were responsible for that epic loss, no question.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Now, who was not — who was not responsible for that epic loss —
ALLAN NAIRN: But if — if — if I may —
JULIAN ASSANGE: — was those people telling the public the truth. Those people are not responsible. People take the truth, and they absorb it, and they think about it, and they do what they want with it. And the reality is, the American people so disliked what was being offered to them by the Democratic Party that they decided that they preferred to blow it all up rather than have Hillary Clinton. They decided they would throw the Trump grenade.
ALLAN NAIRN: I agree with that. However, I would note that the Trump campaign thought that WikiLeaks was on their side.
Now, the idea, that Mr. Assange just suggested, that Trump and Clinton were equally dangerous, two different deadly diseases, I think is wildly and gruesomely mistaken. Clinton represented a criminal establishment. But Trump and the people he brought in with him make it worse, make it even more criminal. This idea that it was just a choice between the lesser of two evils, well, in politics, in life, you fight like hell to have good choices, to have better choices — in this case, Sanders was a better alternative — but once that is no longer possible, then of course you choose the lesser evil. What do you want, more evil? More killing? More pollution? More abuse of immigrants? More racism? More impunity for corporations? More aid to death squads? More spending for the military? All of that is what you get with Trump, in distinction to the bad — the other bad things you would have gotten with Clinton. And the win of Clinton was not — or, I’m sorry, the victory of Trump was not equally as bad as it would have been if Clinton had lost. It’s a catastrophe. It’s an utter catastrophe. And those who are poorest, those who are already most oppressed and most vulnerable, are the ones who are suffering most as a result.
And we ain’t seen nothing yet. They’re just getting started. Now with Gorsuch coming on the Supreme Court and with the possibility that the legislative filibuster in the Senate will be abolished, as well as the Supreme Court filibuster, if that happens, that will give Trump and the radical Republican right, who now control the Congress, essentially absolute power. The only thing standing in their way will be some federal judges, which means that within the system there will be no blocking power. There will be nothing to stop them. In that case, the only way to stop them will be from outside the federal system, which means in the streets or from the systems of the states and localities. We’re in the midst of a right-wing revolution. I agree that a lot of this discussion about Russia and leaks is misguided, a lot of it, and it’s diverting attention from two main facts. One, we’re in the midst of a right-wing revolution that must be stopped and reversed. Two, the Democratic establishment discredited themselves, and they have to be removed and replaced by the Democratic base.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Julian, your response? I’d like to also, if you can, talk about — you’ve mentioned, at numerous times, the existence of the deep state, and what the relationship with the deep state is to your perspective about what’s going on right now in the United states?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, look, up until very recently — and I guess we still have to see how it goes — I’ve been delighted by the conflict that has been occurring between the incoming administration and between the security services, etc. Why is that? Because it has shed light on both. It is resulting in the courts throwing nooses around the power of the presidency and tying him down. And, I mean, that’s something that I predicted would happen, and it is happening very rapidly.
The problem for party politics in the United States is that the Democrats have been in collapse for almost eight years, at the council level, at the state level and at the national level. So, the election of Donald Trump, while he’s an unusual person psychologically, and Hillary Clinton was a particularly bad candidate, is actually part of something that’s much bigger. And it’s very interesting to think what that is, because any solution in terms of party politics has to understand why it is that the Democratic machinery has seemingly been in inexorable collapse over the last eight years. And you can perhaps say it’s to do with gross economic factors, perhaps the professionalization of the Democratic class, where you have a revolving door of contractors and so on. So you can see this in our DNC leaks, that you have educated, professionalized Democrats, who have lifted off the working-class base and who are then involved in a revolving-door system, becoming lobbyists, going back into the DNC, etc. If you read the emails we’ve published about John Podesta, you can see this is not just simply something that happens. This is an expectation within that community. And anyone who doesn’t engage in that expectation, anyone who doesn’t go into private industry and get a $400,000-a-year consulting contract as a local or foreign agent, is viewed to be as a fool. And so, you can only keep up that game for so long, and it starts to turn people off, and you start to lose the base. And that’s what happened in this particular run. But the — I caution —
AMY GOODMAN: Let me get — let me get Allan Nairn —
JULIAN ASSANGE: I caution Allan —
AMY GOODMAN: Let me get Allan’s comment.
JULIAN ASSANGE: I caution Allan strongly. I have a lot of respect for his work, but I caution him strongly to not to get swept up into what is an attempt by the Democratic Party in this particular case, but by the two parties, to polarize the population into party politics. There’s lots of interesting things that can come out of this Trump administration. We’re seeing great horrors, of course. But we are seeing these horrors. We are seeing the —
ALLAN NAIRN: Not so interesting to the people who are being killed and deported.
JULIAN ASSANGE: We’re seeing the — we’re seeing the conflict with the security services, the deep state. Now, I’ve been writing — well, I’ve been writing about the deep state for a decade, using that word. Now, Turkish academics have been writing about the equivalent in Turkey. Some Hungarian investigative journalists, the same within Hungary. And finally, this word is now something in U.S. politics. It’s not a new concept. It’s, you know, essentially the military-industrial complex plus lobbyists, plus contractors, plus people in the Senate Intelligence Committee, etc., etc. So —
AMY GOODMAN: We just — we just have —
JULIAN ASSANGE: — we all understand what that is, and — yes.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds, Allan, and I wanted to give you — get you a final comment.
ALLAN NAIRN: The conflict between Trump and the intelligence and the deep state is a spat, not a struggle. Trump has insulted them. He has disrespected them. So they’re unhappy with that. More importantly, Trump wants them to change their tactics to become more crude and even more violent. Once they work together on a couple of new wars, they’ll get along just fine.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you for joining us, Allan Nairn. And, Julian, in our last 10 seconds, you’re coming up on five years in the embassy. How are you doing in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, last year I won an epic victory against the UK government and the Swedish government at the UN, formal ruling. It’s repeated in November. Those governments still have to obey the UN I’m being illegally detained, and I should be freed and compensated. That’s according to the UN
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Happy birthday to David Prude.