Assange’s Call to the State Department


Audio & transcript of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s call to the U.S. State Department in 2011, warning of the impending public release of unredacted diplomatic cables

75 Minute call to US State Department – Transcript

26 August 2011

  • Julian Assange
  • Sarah Harrison
  • Chad Thornberry
  • Cliff Johnson

Sarah Harrison

Hello?

Chad Thornberry

Hello is this Miss Harrison?

Sarah Harrison

Speaking.

Chad Thornberry

Hi Miss Harrison this is Chad Thornberry from the State Department Operation Center we spoke yesterday.

Sarah Harrison

Oh yes how are you today.

Chad Thornberry

I’m doing well thank you how are you.

Sarah Harrison

Very good thank you.

Chad Thornberry

Miss Harrison, if Mr Assange is available I have one of the secretary’s lawyers on the line who has been asked to return the call on the Department of State’s behalf.

Sarah Harrison

OK, could I take his name please?

Chad Thornberry

His name is Cliff Johnson.

Sarah Harrison

Cliff Johnson, and he’s a lawyer for the Secretary of State did you say?

Chad Thornberry

Yeah, he’s one of the lawyers here at the Department of State.

Sarah Harrison

OK, one moment please.

Chad Thornberry

OK.

Sarah Harrison

[whispered] It’s the lawyer of the Department of the Secretary of State [inaudible] Cliff Johnson, Cliff.

Julian Assange

G’day Cliff.

Chad Thornberry

Hello Mr Assange, this is Chad Thornberry from the Operations Center I’m going to bring Mr Johnson to the line now OK.

Julian Assange

OK thank you.

Chad Thornberry

Introducing Mr Cliff Johnson to the call.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange hello it’s Cliff Johnson.

Julian Assange

G’day Cliff, thank you for calling back.

Cliff Johnson

Certainly.

Julian Assange

Have you been briefed?

Cliff Johnson

I believe so. We had understood that you and perhaps Sarah had been trying to reach out but to the Department and some calls put into Embassy London, and I’ve been asked to get back to you with respect to those calls.

Julian Assange

Yes, so the situation is that we have intelligence that the State Department Database Archive of 250,000 diplomatic cables including declassified cables is being spread around and is to the degree that we believe that within the next few days it will become public and we’re not sure but the timing could be imminently or within the next few days to a week. And there may be some possibility to stop it.

Cliff Johnson

And who would be releasing these cables? Is this WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange

No, we would not be releasing them, we are doing our usual thing of continuing on with our redaction plan, but we have in the past 24 hours released a some 100,000 unclassified cables as an attempt to head off the incentives for others to release the entire archive, but I believe that nonetheless while we may have delayed things a little by doing that they will do so unless attempts are made to stop them. We have already engaged in some legal attempts to get them to stop but I think that it will not be enough.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange, who is this, who are these other people.

Julian Assange

This is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a previous employee who we suspended last August.

Cliff Johnson

And he apparently has access to the material that Wikileaks also has?

Julian Assange

Yes that is correct?

Cliff Johnson

And he has access to everything you have is that right?

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And that includes classified as well as unclassified cables.

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

So your organization, the recent release of the 100,000 cables that I think were unclassified, that was something that you guys had done but what you’re indicated now is that a broader group of classified ones might be released by this other entity.

Julian Assange

Yes it was in part we have had a program to go through the cables and release them as we can and as the journalism is done so part of that is a natural progression I mean our release schedule. But we have moved forward the unclassified released schedule very significantly in order to deal with this situation whether there is a high demand for the cables and there is an individual who is spreading them around and the particular manner in which they’re being spread means that sort of a greatly increased number of people receiving access to them and we believe that it’s only moments to days until the information is made public which would permit everyone to have access to them. And there are some key details some, there are two key pieces of information which if combined together are enough to give people anyone access to the material. So an encryption key and another piece of information. And this is what has been spread around. And that is why the situation is so delicate because it is extremely easy to spread that information, we have already received it back from at least two relatively minor newspapers, one in Germany and one in Denmark.

Cliff Johnson

Does anybody else besides this group also have access to this same material or at this stage is it just them.

Julian Assange

At this stage we are only aware of other than this group newspapers having access to it. Although of course one might have certain suspicions based upon the demand. But at this stage the only, what one could speculate on intelligence activity but I will not do that, but as far as things that are not matters of speculation we only know of this individual attempting to spread this information around.

Cliff Johnson

And how did that individual get access to it?

Julian Assange

For legal reasons I don’t want to go into the specifics but they were an employee of WikiLeaks last year. We suspended them in August last year and they took a variety of materials and funds with them. They were a rogue, if you like, from our perspective.

Cliff Johnson

I see. And in terms of what they took does that mean that they now have the ability themselves without your control or authorization to make this as available as they want? Is this now entirely under their control?

Julian Assange

That’s correct. They have been doing that for some time, however, in order to sort of gain benefit with various media organizations they wish to collaborate with, and that hasn’t been such a concern to us previously, but the manner in which it is being done now, we believe will lead to imminent release within the week and possibly within the hour to the general public. And at the moment presently within the I suppose, not quite public but within a rather wide journalism or other groups, activist groups in general.

Cliff Johnson

In other words your sense is that they’re trying to reach out to these other media or activist groups themselves to coordinate some sort of release, or?

Julian Assange

I wouldn’t say it’s coordinating a release, rather it is spreading information in such a form, the motivation is to, is to embarrass us, to, and destroy our exclusivity as severely as possible. And the best way to do that is to make the information completely public, and en masse, instead of in an ordered way, and that is what is being done.

Cliff Johnson

And have you made any efforts to try to stop them, or are you…?

Julian Assange

Yes, we have written legal demands to them through our German lawyers and to, and asked the, one of the publications Freitag, who was given them in this manner, to not publicly reveal the key information that would permit them to spread, those publications have been swapping the key information over unencrypted email, which they sent to us, in researching their story, and they’ve made that a story, and also in Denmark it’s been printed, and I would suspect that within the next 24 hours Reuters or a similar news wire will also, if not directly mention the details will mention the factual side. What we want the State Department to do is to step up its warning procedures which it was engaged in earlier in the year, like last year, to a State Department sources to mention it in the cables. I assume but am not sure that all of those individuals at the State Department at risk in despotic regimes have been contacted and certainly they’ve had because of the press significant warning that this sort of thing was coming, but in case they are any individuals who haven’t been warned that they should be warned. Insofar as the State Department can impress upon people within Germany to encourage them to desist that behavior that would be helpful.

Cliff Johnson

And my understanding is that the legal actions you’ve initiated have been in Germany, you don’t have any lawyers in the US, or there’s nothing legal happening on the US side is that right?

Julian Assange

In the US side there’s no point because the individual concerned is in Germany. As far as the law is concerned we do not have standing to initiate such action because the material does not belong to us, and we would be one of its, neither could we say that we were directly harmed by its release, we could only say that we would be reputationally, indirectly, harmed, so it is very difficult for us to take legal action in court. We have issued demands to the individual concerned, legally, but we do not have legal ability, standing to initiate a legal action itself.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And do you have direct contact with this individual, or you’re learning about this from the media circling back to you?

Julian Assange

We’re learning about this from the media circling back to us from Germany and Denmark contacting us from what they had said publicly, publication, yesterday, and we have learned about it from our own sources where this individual has been spreading this information to them and to others and has been inviting over 111 people in Germany on a mailing list to contact him to receive these details.

Cliff Johnson

And by the details, am I right that these are the encryption keys that would…

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

Sort of, and it would permit access to the complete unredacted forms of the materials?

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

I see.

Julian Assange

So the material, there is an encrypted version of the materials on the web somewhere, that we do not control. Probably in a rather, number of places, rather, to make sure they don’t disappear, which is fine, because the encryption is strong, but it’s the, the encryption key and the location of the material are the only two things that need to be disclosed. And so that is information that could spread extremely quickly. One doesn’t actually need to convey the material itself, one only needs to convey the location of the material, and its encryption key.

Cliff Johnson

And you believe that this other group is motivated not just to establish some kind of relationship with the media and go about sort of a release of the cables but that they’re also interested in more broadly making the key available on the web as a whole which would give access presumably to anybody?

Julian Assange

That is correct. We can see by their actions they are inviting many people including people not from the media to approach them to get the key. And the level of people is now such that we believe it will very quickly spread outside the media; it has already spread to media such as a computer journal in Denmark, so it has already spread outside investigative journalists.

Cliff Johnson

So it sounds like now that you’ve lost control of this material that [inaudible] that either you or anybody else can do to stop it, unless I guess you’re successful in the legal proceedings in Germany.

Julian Assange

I think it is only, we may be able to slow it down a little.

Cliff Johnson

Oh.

Julian Assange

I do not think it is possible to stop, I think, it may be possible to slow it down, the number of people who have apparently been given access by this individual in Germany that we suspended last year now, I think is at a critical mass. But perhaps it can be slowed down a little bit and during that time anyone who needs to be informed, any say human rights workers who haven’t already been informed who are in contact with US embassies will be informed.

Cliff Johnson

I mean I will certainly pass that message, I mean obviously if we’re talking about a release which you indicated could be happening in an uncontrolled way within 24 hours, there’s real limitations on the ability to do steps beyond what’s been done, and…

Julian Assange

Yes I can see that, but I don’t know that it will be 24 hours. We have been trying to suck the oxygen out of the market demand by releasing all the unclassified cables and that is distracting a bit from market demand but my strong suspicion is once that distraction disappears which will be within the next few days the market demand will just like any demand for an interesting rumor will cause that information to spread, just like interesting rumors do spread.

Cliff Johnson

What do you think the motivation, with this individual having previously been part of your organization what do you think is their motivation at this stage and how does that differ from WikiLeaks’ own motivations with these releases?

Julian Assange

Their motivation appears to be competitive to us, so, because, the information has news value to us, they have started a competing organization although it hasn’t published anything yet, but, so their motivation is to compromise our reputation as much as possible.

Cliff Johnson

I guess from, I mean from the State Department’s perspective, it sounds like, what we’re dealing with is another WikiLeaks in a sense. I mean that they’re…

Julian Assange

Well, it is, they won’t actually be publishing it you see, so it’s not like they’re actually standing up and saying we believe in what we’re doing and it has value to historic record and value to potential political reform, they’re doing it under the surface. There’s no attempt at redaction program and no attempt at harm minimization.

Cliff Johnson

I’m not at all a computer or an encryption expert but am I right that this encryption key issue, it has two parts and they have both of them or it’s a single key or…

Julian Assange

There is the location of the file on the internet, or rather, locations, there are several locations, and the key, which decrypts the file. One needs both of these pieces of information. The key has been disclosed, a violation of our agreements, by a mainstream media organization

Cliff Johnson

Disclosed to who?

Julian Assange

Disclosed to the public, but I won’t mention other details because it will enable anyone listening to the call to know how to get it. But the public doesn’t know that that key is meaningful. All one needs to do, the information that is being spread is the meaning of that disclosure, by that mainstream media organization, together with the location of the file.

Cliff Johnson

I see. So the key is out there but it was out there before in a way that people might not know

Julian Assange

Yes, they definitely would not know the key to the particular file that exists presently.

Cliff Johnson

Isn’t this something that you can change? The key or the location of the files?

Julian Assange

No, because the files, we do not control. There are not so many, perhaps 5 locations, although we haven’t researched for all of them. But we do not control these encrypted files, other people have placed them there as backups, to prevent censorship, without knowing that this particular file is included in their collections.

Cliff Johnson

But these different locations where the files were… Weren’t those ones that WikiLeaks had placed earlier? Although you retained the key but now what has changed is…

Julian Assange

No, the key, we had some others that we used to prevent censorship of our up and coming publications.

Cliff Johnson

And you still retain control over those?

Julian Assange

We don’t retain control over the files but we retain control of the key, so that is not a problem for those and they’re working the way that they’re meant to, that is the encrypted information is very widely distributed but uses top secret ciphers and a key that is retained by us and not known to others. So they’re alright, it’s just this one particular file.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And I guess you’d mentioned these new 5 locations, those locations were recently created or is this something that has been out there for a while?

Julian Assange

I’m not sure how these came to be, they appear to have been out there for a few months, they weren’t there last year, but they retain collections of a number of files we have released, maybe several thousands of files that we have released, and this file is one that is included in those several thousands of files, so unless you know to look for which particular collection and which particular file then the information is hidden, but if you know the precise file location and you know the key then that is an option. And that is the information that is being deliberately spread.

Cliff Johnson

Doesn’t it… I mean I guess I’m just trying to think as you are what their next steps or motivations might be, but why would it be in their interest to make all of this available worldwide to everybody if part of what they’re trying to do is position themselves as an organization that has control of the material.

Julian Assange

Ah, because they understand that we and others already have that material, and it is a reputational asset for us to gradually roll it out in a safe way. And we are the organization that is most strongly associated reputationally with the material. And the current attack that is being used is that we cannot keep control of our own materials, and therefore we are an insecure organization and therefore sources can’t give us material. And the best way to demonstrate that is this current approach which is to hand over the material to various organizations and spread these two pieces of information and when the material all becomes public, that will permit the attack, the reputational attack, to say that we had put people in harm by permitting such information to become public in unredacted form to the public.

Cliff Johnson

OK, I understand.

Julian Assange

So without that information spreading, at least for us it was secure. There are certain views about what certain handling procedures of some of the mainstream media organizations has been a violation of our agreement, that they not store it on any internet-connected computer, The Guardian for instance. But we don’t have any proof that information has been smuggled out by any third parties, from those media organizations. But from this particular case we can see it going, that invitations are being made to collect the key and the location from this individual and it is being rapidly spread to very minor media players together with this particular story. So it is not just to give them the information, it is also to give them the statement that we are an insecure harmful organization, as proven by the information this individual is conveying to them. So it’s actually a rather sophisticated spin. But because we’ve been seeing this develop behind the scenes for about a month now we can see what it’s motivated by.

Cliff Johnson

Well I appreciate your thoughts on that and I appreciate that you’ve recognized that these kinds of releases absolutely can pose a threat to the very sources reflected in the material, and I think without belaboring the point I think you know from the statements our government has made the grave concerns we’ve had with this kind of dissemination and the potential for it, and the fact that this material has now spread farther, obviously, and I share your concerns here, just exacerbates the concerns that we had originally with the danger it can pose – is there other material that WikiLeaks has that these groups do not have, or that similarly could be compromised?

Julian Assange

There are some possibilities, but I would have to think carefully about that. At the moment I am only dealing with this particular issue.

Cliff Johnson

OK. Cause I think, particularly in light of this latest chapter, I think that’s worth considering because…

Julian Assange

We have tremendously, we have undergone a lot of internal changes as a result of this insider last August but I have to say from our perspective a lot of this happened as a result of the overbearing pressure by the United States; if the United States, the State Department had responded to our overtures to meet and discuss the matter, and not made such threatening statements that put the safety of our individuals, our employees at risk, we would have been able to manage the internal dynamics a lot better, and so, this is an example of when you push people into a corner, they stop behaving in a step-by-step methodical manner, because of the threats that they are under. If it hadn’t been for those sorts of threats, the internal stability of our organization would be more coherent and we wouldn’t have had to suspend this individual.

Cliff Johnson

Well, I don’t know how productive it is to go back to that stage but truly you can understand when the department is confronted with a situation where very sensitive national security material is being compromised, at risk and at threat to national interests as well as individuals, that it would be understandable that we would react to that and take…

Julian Assange

I understand of course there’s the pressures, but we had a publication scheduled that was not going to be until January and everything would be much more ordered and the newspapers as a result of the pressure that they were feeling decided to rush that forwards against our wishes, to November 4, and we had to take legal action to get it extended to November 29, so just for your own information and how the State Department may handle such a similar situation in the future, if you can’t actually stop someone from publication, if you threaten them legally, although it’s not only the State Department who’s at fault here, the Pentagon made a 40 minute press conference threatening the organization and me personally, with various measures, the result is that people feel that they must publish or perish, that they must act extremely quickly within the threats that are made towards them.

Cliff Johnson

But Mr Assange does this suggest that your efforts in Germany to pursue litigation and pressure against this group will result in their doing exactly what you just laid out and accelerating the release and doing it in this uncontrolled way.

Julian Assange

I don’t think so because their motivations are different, their motivations are to keep their own reputation and to damage us, their motivations are as far as I can determine and other people who are involved can determine are not higher than that. We have been involved in 11 months of negotiation with them through a mediator, so it is not like we have rushed him into pushing him to do something, this has been 11 months of negotiation.

Cliff Johnson

And with a mediator, is that a kind of process where if the mediator decides a certain way they would be bound to proceeding accordingly, or do you feel that that process has run its course and…

Julian Assange

The mediator pulled out about 2 weeks ago because of the amount of lies that were being made by this individual, so they said they would return the information, return the information, made many promises, and it was eventually viewed by the mediator that the mediation was impossible under those circumstances so they pulled out.

Cliff Johnson

From your knowledge of this individual do you see any path for persuading them not to proceed do they seem intended to proceed, or?

Julian Assange

Well they’re proceeding under the surface, so they have a cover for what they are doing, they are proud of what they are doing. They are not admitting that they are spreading information this way but we know and it is abundantly apparent to anyone who reads even the public newspaper stories by information.dk and Freitag in Berlin and from the last information from the media. So I’m not certain that they are, that it is impossible to stop them from the path that they’re conducting, they’re engaged in the path that they’re going down because they believe it to be efficient to meeting their desires, rather than it being an ideological committed goal.

Cliff Johnson

During the course of this long mediation, what was it that they thought they were seeking from you that would stop this process, I mean was there some, presumably there was some effort during the course of that mediation for you to get back control of the material, were there indications that they were prepared to do that, or that there was something they were seeking in order to do that?

Julian Assange

They, the only leverage we had in the mediation was that they had made a previous public statement that they would return all of the material, so it was only a reputational issue that permitted the mediation to occur. That is, they faced a potential reputational loss by not returning the material. And possibly, we also started an initial legal process back in February and stopped that to conduct the mediation. So there was a reputational motivation and a motivation to stave off court action.

Cliff Johnson

And they have a legal entity in Germany that is the subject of your legal efforts or… Julian Assange No, they did not have a legal entity, it is just an individual although they say that they intend to form a legal entity.

Cliff Johnson

Are there any other individuals or groups that we should also be concerned about that either may now have or in the future have access to this information – and I realize that all of that is to some degree moot if this broad release happens that you’ve alerted us to.

Julian Assange

There are individuals who have been transferring information, but they, for instance the Guardian gave all the cables to Haaretz in Germany, sorry in Israel, but these are moves that are done by individuals within those newspaper institutions as a competitive play to other newspapers where they have arrangements. For example the Guardian gave them against our agreement to the New York Times, a violation of our written contract, and to a number of other groups, but as far as we are aware, we don’t know, it’s hard to be aware of other groups but as far as we are aware they are giving them to other news organizations as a competitive maneuver in relation to us.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange is there anything else at this stage which you think would be useful for us to know.

Julian Assange

Well there are these two key details I would like to convey in person, not over an unencrypted connection.

Cliff Johnson

I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

Julian Assange

The two key pieces of information, which are necessary, the location and the information about the passphrase, and these I obviously cannot convey over an insecure connection.

Cliff Johnson

Right but you would be prepared to provide those to us.

Julian Assange

I would be prepared to encourage someone to provide you with that information.

Cliff Johnson

And how would that play out? What would the next step be?

Julian Assange

There are two possibilities. One is to encourage the individual in Germany to desist in their activities, if you – because they are concerned about the reputational risk, if they are told that if they continue their activities it may lead to people coming to harm, then that is possible leverage to get them to stop, although we have tried, we have made those statements, it may be viewed as more serious if it comes from the US or a Human Rights Organization or the German Government.

Cliff Johnson

I guess earlier in our discussion you seemed to suggest that given their motivation they wouldn’t care about that kind of concern.

Julian Assange

They care about reputational risk. They’re not going to care about that, clearly by the behavior, but they may care about reputational risk. They know about it because we’ve informed them about it and made a demand through our lawyers to stop doing it but they may care about the reputational risk. So if it becomes public that they were asked to desist, they may desist. If there is another possibility which is the taking down of those files, that is a degree of research and effort that we do not have the capacity to do. There are not so many of them.

Cliff Johnson

And you know all the locations of them, do you think?

Julian Assange

We know several and it’s probably not that hard to find the others – they are not viewed by the public as important files. There are some important encrypted files that we have released which there, some 100,000 people have copies to them but the keys are well secured.

Cliff Johnson

Can you provide us with that location information?

Julian Assange

I can encourage other people to do so.

Cliff Johnson

OK. I mean in terms of your suggests that we make clear the harm that could follow from the release of such information, I mean that’s almost the response we had in our public statement from when we tried to dissuade WikiLeaks from doing its releases on the same ground, and I don’t know why we would fare any better with, you…

Julian Assange

Well I mean, I don’t suggest that it is a result of those public statements but we released cables slowly, to media partners, and went through every cable and redacted source identities accordingly. The differences between that scenario of journalists and human rights activists reading cables, redacting them and putting them out through us, which is what has been happening, and all of them, all 250,000, including all the classified cables, going out without any redaction at all. So there is quite a degree of difference between these two scenarios. Yes, we were not influenced to do more than what we had planned to do but I think of course there are always compromises to make in this sort of thing but they are, at least as far as publication was concerned, while it might have been politically annoying, we acted as other media organizations acted; in fact, it was mainstream media organizations who were redacting our cables for us and then feeding them back through our redaction system.

Cliff Johnson

If we were… Just speculating if we were able to influence these other groups or this other group from making a release or if your litigation efforts succeeded in that, what would, could we expect from WikiLeaks, would you continue to proceed with the releases of this exact same information?

Julian Assange

We would continue to proceed in the way which we have been proceeding, which is, in an orderly fashion reading the classified cables one by one and redacting source identities where necessary.

Cliff Johnson

I see. So the difference in the two scenarios is, is your sense that this other group would not have any interest in redactions or any other more, I don’t know how to describe it, sort of a more planned release.

Julian Assange

That’s correct, because they are not releasing the information for either a highly illogical purpose or for their reputation. So they are not seeking to grow their reputation as a news organization by producing newsworthy information, rather they are seeking to secretly release this information to others in order to damage our reputation. So it is quite a different motivation and it means it is not possible to dissuade them reputationally from engaging in the course of conduct that they are engaging in because they are doing it under the surface.

Cliff Johnson

Right, but I guess in terms of the redactions, even though we have seen some of the releases that have been coming through the media reflecting some redactions of particular individuals’ names or sensitivities or source sensitivities, as I think you can understand we have not seen and nor do we have the sense that there’s any redactions of the actual classified material in the cables as well so I guess I do appreciate that there’s a distinction in terms of some of the redactions but overall the WikiLeaks releases that you’ve done that you would intend to do would still involve the release of material that was classified.

Julian Assange

Our redactions are done by our media partners, so our material is given to those media partners and then they feed back the redactions that they feel are appropriate, that is within their expertise within that particular region.

Cliff Johnson

And then you make a final decision as to what’s released or not?

Julian Assange

No, we do not make that decision, that is a process that is conducted purely by the media partners.

Cliff Johnson

In terms of, and I realize it’s late there Mr Assange and I appreciate that you’ve been willing to talk at this length, in terms of the litigation in Germany do you have an assessment from your own lawyers as to how likely that is to succeed or not succeed?

Julian Assange

The current assessment is that we do not have standing. We have made certain demands but we do not have standing to take a court action because the information does not belong to any parties and we would have to be one of the US informants say that are mentioned in the material to have a standing with the courts to take such an action.

Cliff Johnson

And Germany is the only country where…

Julian Assange

We perhaps could sue for, we could sue in London for the breach of confidence and the reputational loss that would come from it, but that of course won’t have any effect in Germany.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange, earlier you had mentioned that there were two items that you were interested in providing us but wanted to do so in person or directly.

Julian Assange

That is correct.

Cliff Johnson

I just wanted to make sure I had a clear understanding of that. What were those? Was one of them the locations of the files and the encryption key?

Julian Assange

I wouldn’t venture to say that I would provide you with that information but I would encourage others to give you that information.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And are those the two items or is that the…?

Julian Assange

Those are the two items, the encryption key and the location.

Cliff Johnson

Mm. I mean we’re certainly prepared to receive those, but I guess I’m in your hands in terms of the process for that, or, it sounds as if you might take steps through some intermediary to do something like that.

Julian Assange

The process would be that, because I am under house arrest, you would have to send someone out here to Norfolk, and then a contact would give you that information.

Cliff Johnson

OK. So if we were to…

Julian Assange

We have been trying to get the US Ambassador out here, we’ve been calling him for 24 hours now, more than 24 hours.

Cliff Johnson

Yeah, and they have been coordinating with us which is why I wanted to be in a position to return this call on behalf of both the embassy and the department so we could centralize some of the communication. But if we were to arrange for somebody from the embassy to come out to you then that would be the mechanism for you to provide us with that information, is that right?

Julian Assange

That would be the mechanism by which you would be provided with the information.

Cliff Johnson

And then to set that up, should we, what should we do, should we reach back out to…

Julian Assange

You should call this number and make an appointment.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And how soon if we were to arrange this early next week that would be…

Julian Assange

I would suggest immediately, but…

Cliff Johnson

So we could do it at the weekend or…

Julian Assange

Our view is that it is more your problem than it is ours but we have been calling the State Department and the Embassy for over a day trying to explain the urgency and they have not called back other than this call.

Cliff Johnson

But again, even if we had, and once we have this material, it’s not clear to me how that would prevent any of these releases that you are anticipating.

Julian Assange

Which particular ones?

Cliff Johnson

By this other group.

Julian Assange

The particular manner, the approach that they are taking to spreading information is to just give this password and location and thereby they are able to give the appearance that they are not spreading the information itself, do you understand?

Cliff Johnson

Um. I think so, you’re suggesting that they’re, uh…

Julian Assange

They have developed a sophisticated cover for their activity, which is to spread the password and location, but not actually directly convey the data itself, even though the effect is precisely the same, which is to convey the data. And so either if they are pressed upon to cease that activity or the file is removed from the internet, then they will not be able to engage in that activity. Of course, they may still spread this file in other manners, in another manner, but they believe it has greater evidential weight if they spread it in another manner, so I believe that they will not do that, or at least, they will take a lot longer to do that.

Cliff Johnson

Right. But if in some manner or for some reason they’re prevented from spreading it in this current manner that involves these five locations it sounds as if your sense is that they would still have the capability to release this information in another way.

Julian Assange

Yes, that’s correct. But I don’t believe that they would necessarily do so for some time. Perhaps something else can be negotiated or perhaps other motivations may come into play.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

At the moment they have a very easy option, which is they can make it look like they are not spreading the material, yet in fact spread the material to those that they wish to curry favor with or build alliances with. At the same time also make a reputational attack on this organization and do so by looking like it is not, like they have not deliberately engaged in a course of action to provide all the material to the public. Because all that is needed is this location and password, and they are spreading it to people. They know that fairly soon that information can simply be sent over an email or by a single tweet, and once it is done so, it will be in a million people’s hands, within a few hours. So this is really the key difference. The information that can spread to several million people within a few hours, or information that is very very large, and your involvement in transmitting it is clear.

Cliff Johnson

So is the idea that by having this information and spreading it they could basically provide people with access to stuff that was under the WikiLeaks umbrella but they would in fact be providing, in a sense they would be unlocking your own material, is that what it is?

Julian Assange

They would be making available all these State Department cables, all 250,000.

Cliff Johnson

And access would be provided through the WikiLeaks website or through these other…

Julian Assange

No, through these other, through these other files that are held by people we don’t know who they are, but they are publicly available.

Cliff Johnson

I’ll report back to folks and we will…

Julian Assange

The people who have them, and who have made them publicly available, do not know what they have.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

So they appear to just be people who have a collection of various information that is available to us.

Cliff Johnson

How could they not know what they have?

Julian Assange

Because the collection is extremely large.

Cliff Johnson

Uh-huh.

Julian Assange

And this is just one file among a very large collection.

Cliff Johnson

So to be able to use it they would need to know where to get it.

Julian Assange

Exactly. Exactly.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

And this is the information that is being spread by this individual.

Cliff Johnson

Well we will loop back to you to make an appointment to visit. Is there anything else that would be useful for me to know at this time?

Julian Assange

An article has appeared in Freitag, that’s f r i e t a g, sorry f r e i t a g, of billion, provided by that individual who works with, is trying to set up a business relationship with Freitag. The information in it is not strictly accurate, because he is trying to use his connection with Freitag to make an attack against us, but it will give you a hint of the game that’s being played, and also information.dk has an article in Danish, also provided by, the source of which is also this individual Daniel Domscheit-Berg, it’s the same attack in both cases, and it’s a preexisting connection between this individual and these two papers. But it is, a my news at Freitag was going to publish and I spoke to the publisher before the publication and impressed upon him that he should obscure as many details as possible in the publication. Unfortunately while there are some that are obscured, nonetheless there may be people who will put two and two together from this, and certainly if these reports continue it will create a tremendous demand to know what it is, what this password is, and what the location is. And that tremendous demand will be satisfied by this individual, because he is clearly the source of the information and has asked that other people contact him.

Cliff Johnson

OK. I hear what you’re saying.

Julian Assange

The leverage on him is a reputational pressure that can be applied to him, that he is doing all of this behind the scenes, and thinks that if it all becomes public it will all be to his benefit, it will be to our loss, and that is why he is spreading information. But if he feels it would in fact work against him reputationally, he will stop doing that so publicly, and there is the other possibility of tracking down who is supplying these files and asking them to stop.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

At the moment, the people do not think these files are particularly interesting. Once it is understood their significance then they will spread. And they will be impossible to get rid of.

Cliff Johnson

Right. I appreciate what you’ve told us Mr Assange. I mean, as I’ve mentioned before as you can probably imagine from our perspective the notion of one entity putting out classified US government material versus another entity doing it, either way it’s something that to our minds continues to pose equal harm to us, but…

Julian Assange

Well, you know, we heard these statements from the Pentagon, that they’re not concerned about harm minimization., but I would suggest that that’s a rather disturbing attitude. If it is the case that the State Department has contacted the relevant players and forewarned them already, I know a lot of that activity has occurred, and it is my strong suspicion that, or rather, I think it is probable that nearly all people mentioned who need to be informed have been informed, either directly by the State Department or directly through the news media, then, I suppose that is fine and the chance of harm to those sources of the State Department is minimal. On the other hand the State Department has made statements countering to that effect, although a significant time ago.

Cliff Johnson

No I guess my point is really the opposite one, that we face a great harm however the material is released, whether by you or by them, it’s not that we’re indifferent to an another organization also releasing it, it’s more the minute anybody other than our government has access to our material it creates the risk, inherent risk that it will leave somebody’s control, and then it will spread regardless of what individuals’ motivations are, and I also don’t want to leave you with the sense that when you’re talking about this volume of material, that even with the best efforts of the United States Government that we’re able to protect all or even a significant amount of source equity from them. So you’re certainly right that that’s something that’s been a major concern and that efforts have been made when they can be made, but they are by no means, we do not have the ability to completely protect our interests just on the source issue, and as I mentioned our concerns with this kind of material goes well beyond that, there’s certainly a primary concern with lives and individuals whose well-being can be threatened but there’s also national security material throughout the classified cables that also causes us harm, I mean, you know, you’ve heard those things before, I expect you appreciate them whether you agree with them or not, but I do wanna say that I appreciate the time you’ve taken to talk about this latest step in this.

Julian Assange

Well I understand you need to make that statement for legal reasons, and you will understand that I need to make the following statement also, we do not believe that in the material that through our partners have released that that is the case, and we continue to make sure that the there is no harm to the interests of the United States and rather the news benefit to the American people and to others is paramount in everything that we do. And that is partly why you have received this call and we’re saying as we said last year that if you have genuine concerns that we ask that you act on them and last year we asked that you provide us, or assist us to find out which information would be harmful to release, and now we are asking that you take measures to reduce any possible harm including via contacting those people who might be at harm and to assisting the steps we have taken to prevent unredacted release of the material.

Cliff Johnson

I hear you and I won’t repeat what I said before because I’m confident you heard that too. So if there’s nothing else that’s useful to discuss further at this stage, if it makes sense to you the way I would leave it is that we will follow up with you probably by embassy but I’ll just need to discuss that further.

The post Assange’s Call to the State Department appeared first on Assange Defense.

Share DeepPol