Julian Assange Says Lengthy Embassy Stay Has Sharpened His Perspective On The World : The Two-Way The founder of WikiLeaks talks about what it's like to be confined to a building for more than three years. He says he misses nothing from the outside world, apart from his children and his mother.
NPR logo

Julian Assange Says Lengthy Embassy Stay Has Sharpened His Perspective On The World

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/466955541/467318885" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Julian Assange Says Lengthy Embassy Stay Has Sharpened His Perspective On The World

Julian Assange Says Lengthy Embassy Stay Has Sharpened His Perspective On The World

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/466955541/467318885" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On June 19, 2012, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, walked into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and asked for asylum. He's been there ever since. British authorities say if he ever leaves, he will be extradited to Sweden over rape allegations. He denies the allegations and further says if he's ever sent to Sweden, Sweden might extradite him again to the United States, where he could face prosecution for leaking classified cables on WikiLeaks. Our colleague, David Greene, had the rare opportunity to talk with Julian Assange this week on a phone line from the Ecuadorian Embassy. He wasn't given much time, told he had exactly five minutes.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

What do you miss the most about, you know, the outside world?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, I get this question, and I've decided my response to it is nothing at all except my children, their mother because there is an attempt here to create a general deterrence in relation to publishing, and that's not an attempt that should be permitted. The United States says that it proceeds with its pending prosecutions for so-called espionage, conspiracy, to commit espionage, computer terrorism, general conspiracy and (unintelligible) to government secrets. There's no allegation that this is anything other than our normal publishing activity. So of course, it's absurd, it's a threat to investigative journalism within the United States, but more than that, it's a threat to journalism worldwide because this is a extraterritorial law grab from people in D.C. trying to push out what were already very controversial U.S. laws to try and push them to journalists operating in different countries.

GREENE: And we should say that there's a U.N. working group that has agreed with you and said that you should be immediately set free. But there are so many Americans who want to understand what it's like to be you. Is there just sort of a nugget of what life is like being confined to this place? I think it's something that is on the minds of so many people when they hear your story.

ASSANGE: Well, it's an interesting thing. When I became confined here, I found some quite interesting books produced by Californian solitary confinement prisoners into what sort of psychological and exercise regimes that they use to try and get them through. So in some ways, it gives you a sense of perspective because your environment is static, and the world doesn't change. For example, let's say you're watching the boats in the river, but you're sailing at the same time. It's hard to understand how much they're moving versus you're moving. If you have a fixed position, you can compare what's going on more easily.

GREENE: Given your legal saga has become so much of a focus, is there an argument that WikiLeaks would be better off without you still leading it?

ASSANGE: Interesting question, if I felt it would be stronger that way, I would be very happy to do the other ideas that I have, which are many. But we have to understand that there's been attempt to create a general deterrent, a very nasty one in relation to Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for 35 years and subject to psychological torture - that's a formal binding by the U.N. - in their military prison, purely delegation, even by the Pentagon, purely (unintelligible) communicating information to the press to communicate it to the public, in this case, allegation is (unintelligible) with us. That's a very nasty general deterrent, and they're trying to do the same thing with me. So I'm not going to permit that general deterrent to have effect by, for example, knocking off editors, in this case, the editor of WikiLeaks.

GREENE: Mr. Assange, forgive me. I have one more question on my list if I could ask, and then I'll let you go. Would that be OK? Mr. Assange, are you still there? Julian Assange had just disappeared from the line, and our interview was over.

INSKEEP: That's our colleague, David Greene. Julian Assange never did explain the line being cut off. It appeared the time that he was willing to talk had expired.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.