DAVID GREENE, HOST:
For years, WikiLeaks has published a steady stream of documents exposing the underbelly of war and diplomacy. In 2010, the organization released a trove of information related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The disclosure was explosive, and the U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating.
We reached WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange yesterday on Skype at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has been closely following another breach with great interest, Hillary Clinton's State Department emails.
JULIAN ASSANGE: The DOJ has erected a new standard, it seems, with their decision to not proceed against Hillary Clinton in relation to alleged national security violations in her email.
GREENE: You're saying that if they drop the case against her, if they don't have any evidence that you're a threat to national security, they should drop the case against you.
ASSANGE: Right. It's an incredible double standard that they have kept the case going against me and WikiLeaks as an organization for six years.
GREENE: Now, as the U.S. government continues to investigate WikiLeaks, the organization has thrust itself back into the U.S. political scene, becoming one of the most unexpected and unpredictable players in the presidential election. The site released some 20,000 emails last month, pulling back the curtain on the Democratic National Committee's senior leadership and their efforts in support of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Four top committee officials have resigned, but a key question still remains.
Did those hacks that WikiLeaks released, those emails, come from Russia?
ASSANGE: Well, we don't comment as to our sources. But James Clapper, DNI, director of national intelligence of the United States, oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. He has said that there is media hyperventilation about this issue, and that they're not in a position to make any attributions, let alone claims, as to motivation.
GREENE: Every cyber expert who's looked at this has said it's Russia. Are you telling me that that information did not come to you from Russia?
ASSANGE: No cyber expert has said our emails that we published come from Russia. What they have said is that they have looked at some of the hacking of the DNC over the last two years and said that the malware in that hacking appeared to be Russian. And that's a different question.
GREENE: Do you know where these emails came from?
ASSANGE: Yes, I know where they came from. They came from the DNC.
GREENE: Do you know the source that provided them to you?
ASSANGE: Well, we don't comment on sourcing because it makes it easier for any investigation.
GREENE: Mr. Assange, did you have a motive, though, once you were in possession of these emails? Was there a motive to release them - to decide, these emails are from the DNC, they have to do with Hillary Clinton's campaign so you decided, I'm going to release them for a reason here?
ASSANGE: I mean, yes. It's a wonderful scoop. What media organization who had received that information would not publish it? I think that's a real question. I would like to say the answer is no media organization would censor that material. Unfortunately, due to incredible partisanization that is occurring in the U.S. media landscape in the lead-up to the election, we're not confident that, in fact, all media in the United States would have published those emails.
GREENE: Do you have emails from the Trump campaign or the Republican Party?
ASSANGE: We try to avoid talking too much about pending publications because it kind of - you know, we don't want to accidentally scoop ourselves...
GREENE: Although pending publications makes it sound like something might be pending that might be coming from you about the Trump campaign.
ASSANGE: We - the U.S. electoral process - we have two pretty much reviled candidates, having the lowest approval ratings of any pair of candidates in the last hundred years, going into the U.S. election - is generating a desire by various sources, inside and outside campaigns, to contribute information to WikiLeaks and the rest of the news media.
GREENE: OK. So if you do indeed have or get in possession of stuff about the Trump campaign, you would be just as ready to release that as you were the DNC emails?
ASSANGE: Yes, of course. If anyone has information that is from inside the Trump campaign, which is authentic, it's not like some claimed witness statement but actually internal documentation, we'd be very happy to receive it and publish it.
GREENE: I want to circle back to where we began the conversation because you brought up this question of whether there's an argument that you're a threat to national security. I mean, there are cybersecurity experts who say that someone in Russia, perhaps the Russian government, was responsible for getting this information to you. If you, indeed, have...
ASSANGE: No, there aren't. They are speaking about the hacks of the DNC, not our publications. There's a difference. It is possible for people to count the two. One, there's been hacks at the DNC and many other organizations over the last few years. Two, WikiLeaks published the information from the DNC.
GREENE: But if the United States government thought that you might have knowledge that a foreign government had hacked into a political institution in the United States during a presidential election...
ASSANGE: They haven't asked. They haven't asked.
GREENE: But could you see that as a reason they might want to continue this investigation as seeing you as a possible threat to national security?
ASSANGE: Well, that would be a different investigation. So once again, there's various hacks of the DNC and there's our publications. They're different things.
GREENE: But, I mean, could you blame the DOJ for wanting to carry on with this investigation until they figured this out, in case they, you know, believe that you might have knowledge here of the Russians doing this?
ASSANGE: Well, that would be a different investigation. We have published many things about many countries over the years, including, you know, NSA revelations about the United States. There's actually very serious ones about spying on the French presidency, trying to interfere in the climate negotiations, etc. All of these are potential investigations, but they are different investigations.
GREENE: Well, let me - apart from the different investigations, could you see people in the U.S. government thinking that you might be a threat to national security?
ASSANGE: Well, I mean, there's great people in the U.S. government - many of them are our sources - and there's terrible people in the U.S. government. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is a - you know, a reflection, to some degree, of the rest of society. So it's filled with its share of paranoid and sociopathic power climbers...
GREENE: But is it paranoid to look at these uncensored documents?
ASSANGE: ...People who make errors of judgment, etc.
GREENE: Is it paranoid to look at these uncensored documents, these emails, that are released by you? And if they believe that that could change a U.S. presidential election, could be a threat to national security, why isn't it logical...
ASSANGE: I just - I mean...
GREENE: ...For them to see you as a possible threat?
ASSANGE: Hold on. Hold on.
ASSANGE: Hold it right there.
ASSANGE: Hold right there. This is a great journalistic scoop - 20,000 emails from within the heart of the DNC, which has led to the resignation of the top four officials of the DNC. Those resignations occurred because it revealed an attempt to fix the primary process in favor of Hillary Clinton. That's a remarkable and important contribution to U.S. democracy by our sources and by WikiLeaks. Any allegation that that is a process that should be stopped is deeply worrying. Of course - let's be realistic - it's coming about because Hillary Clinton is in a position where she is trying to gain support and reduce criticism. And her support is in the media and elsewhere, are trying to distract.
GREENE: Now, of course, others suggest WikiLeaks has been making an effort to distract, to draw attention away from its alleged sources in Russia. The group announced it would offer a $20,000 reward for information about Seth Rich, a 27-year-old DNC staffer, who was shot and killed last month in what police suspect was a late-night robbery gone bad. WikiLeaks offering that reward sparked speculation that Rich was in some way involved with the DNC emails.
Some have seen that as possibly a some kind of smoke screen, maybe an effort by you to draw attention away from some relationship with your actual sources in Russia.
GREENE: How do you respond to that?
ASSANGE: Yeah - it's false. His parents are grieving. They have called for information. The police have called for information. We're trying to contribute to that. We are not alleging that his murder is a result of these allegations of him being a WikiLeaks source because we don't have proof of that. Any allegation that someone has been murdered because they're a WikiLeaks source, even if it only has a small probability of being true, is very concerning to us. We have a perfect record in protecting the identity of our sources. And we want to establish quickly exactly what the circumstances were of Seth Rich's killing.
GREENE: Was he a source of yours?
ASSANGE: We don't disclose sources, even dead sources.
GREENE: We should remember Julian Assange received political asylum from Ecuador in 2012. He has been stuck in that country's embassy in London ever since, unable to leave because Britain would likely extradite him to Sweden, where he's wanted for questioning on suspicion of rape.
I wanted to give you the chance to reflect on your four years, now, since getting political asylum. I wonder how you're holding up in there and if you're missing anything on the outside.
ASSANGE: Yeah. Well, today is the anniversary, if you can call it that, of my successful political asylum case, where Ecuador awarded me political asylum. The embassy was then surrounded by police siege, a very expensive one, which has continued to this day. But here's a situation where an individual - me - stuck in an embassy siege for four years, not able to see their family, not able to, you know, see their son.
GREENE: Why is it all worth it for you?
ASSANGE: Well, you know, I believe that the way to justice is education. And by bringing out, into the public domain, how human institutions actually behave, we can understand, frankly, to a degree for the first time, the civilization that we actually have. So we are building a kind of rebel Library of Alexandria. All the 11 million documents that WikiLeaks has published so far wouldn't have existed in the world had we not and our sources had not fought hard to publish.
GREENE: That was a conversation with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He was speaking to us from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
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