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Julian Assange Rolling Stone interview (rollingstone.com)
162 points by libraryatnight on Jan 19, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

Amazing guy. I'd be interested to here a more nuanced discussion with him about when it is or isn't justifiable to keep something secret.

I think he missed an opportunity, there. One of the stickiest claims against Wikileaks, at least among the tech crowd, is that they stand for radical transparency and believe government should hold no secrets. I would have liked him to expound on exactly what secrets the government can or should keep, as it seems fairly central to their mission. By not doing so, I think he allowed the narrative put forth by his critics to retain dominance.

What's missing from this question/answer?

> Do you think governments should be allowed to keep some secrets?

> This is a question that is much more interesting than the answer. In some cases – tracking down organized crime, say – government officials have an obligation to keep their investigations secret at the moment that they are performing them. Similarly, a doctor has an obligation to keep information about your medical records secret under most circumstances. This is a question about obligations. It is absurd to suggest that simply because a police officer may have the obligation to keep secret certain information relating to an investigation, that the entire world also must be subject to a coercive force.

I don't think you can get much more specific than that. It's a fuzzy issue.

I think an exposition of a state's right to secrecy in regards to national security and diplomacy would have been helpful, as that's the area to which most of Wikileaks' criticisms are addressed. Specifically, I would like to hear what information a government or military:

a) Should keep secret (troop movements, etc)

b) May keep secret (?)

c) May not keep secret (abuses, human rights violations, etc)

Furthermore, I would like to see similar answers in regards to international diplomacy. A "horse's mouth" statement on the matter would go a long way towards alleviating confusion.

I don't think the question of what should be open vs secret is a very interesting debate, because the bulk of that answer is largely agreed upon. I think the more interesting discussion is answering this problem: How can a government have the ability to keep secret those things that are necessary, in a way that disallows (or minimizes) the ability to abuse that power to keep other things secret as well?

I agree that having an explicit statement that there may exist military and diplomatic secrets that are legitimate would help convince the people (like myself) who think his positions are too extreme to be useful.

"In some cases – tracking down organized crime, say – government officials have an obligation to keep their investigations secret at the moment that they are performing them." -- Julian Assange, in the linked article

Seems like a straightforward statement that he believes there are legitimate secrets for a state to keep, at least temporarily.

The problem is that there is not, and frankly can not be a fixed definition of any of that. We may well all have a common understanding that we all agree is moral and lawful, but the second it makes a government uncomfortable its will suddenly get redefined.

There is a curious thing that happens with language and government. They make up new words or redefine current words to mean what ever their agenda is. For an unrelated example, WMD used to be nukes only, and austerity measures is the new word for cuts. Remember when things needed money? Its resources now.

What I understand from this is that it is not about what information governments can keep secret but what means they can employ to keep that information secret. In Wikileaks' case they are forcing non-government entities, the media to keep state secrets.

I think the key quote from the article relating to this is "Legitimate authority is important. All human systems require authority, but authority must be granted as a result of the informed consent of the governed. Presently, the consent, if there is any, is not informed, and therefore it's not legitimate."

A great interview. But as I read it, one section jumped out as verifiably odd.

  Back when we last did a survey, in February, there were a total of 33 million
  references on the Internet to the word "rape" in any context, from Helen of Troy
  to the Congo. If you search for "rape" and my name, there were just over 20
  million. In other words, perceptively, two-thirds of all rapes that have ever
  happened anywhere in the world, ever, have something to do with me.
Obviously, "back when we last did a survey" means anything done now "doesn't count", but: Googling "rape" returns 226M pages. Googling "'Julian Assange' 'rape'" returns 4.2M pages. Still an interestingly high number ("'Kobe Bryant' 'rape'" returns 1.6M pages; "'Roman Polanski' 'rape'" is 4.5M), but not the two-thirds number he uses. I think that's what feeds the "ego" accusations.

Actually doing the same search on google.co.uk returns 32 million for 'rape' and 5.5 million for 'rape assange'. Its still not what he says - but much closer.

Google's results are context dependent, varying based on your location and based on your user profile.

Also, Google's ranking is very complex and takes into account such things as the article's publishing date, if it can be inferred. I'm also sure they are also returning results based on recent trends. So it isn't unlikely that at some point Google returned 20 million results on him, given that he was in the center of world wide news after those leaks.

And while I think his statistic is flawed, 4.2 million pages is still a freakishly huge number. It's also obvious that authorities and the world don't give a crap about him allegedly raping somebody and the probability of him being framed is too high considering how he pissed so many governments and institutions that are above the law.

We live in a world where democracy and transparency are slowly becoming fairy-tales that we'll tell our children, just like parents at some point tell their kids that they won't die (after the child understands the concept and starts crying) ... pretty sad really.

It saddens me a little bit that this is the current top post on this subject. I have no problem with pedantic fact checking, but it is hardly the most pertinent issue in the interview.

My post is hardly pedantic fact checking. The intro talks about how many consider Assange a "megalomaniac" and he seems bewildered by the suggestion. My point clearly suggests that thinking 2/3rds of the time people talk about rape they're talking about you suggests an over-inflated sense of self-importance. (Also, for what it's worth: roughly 90% of what he says can't be fact checked. One thing that is close to verifiable is demonstrably false, though twelvechairs offers an explanation that's closer to his made-up numbers. That's pretty central to the topic of Assange, though I leave that as an implication for the reader.)

And "Mendax" doesn't mean "nobly untruthful" in Latin. It just means "a liar." I don't know Latin, so it took me 87 seconds to check this.

These are insignificant points. But somehow I feel they reflect negatively on the credibility of Assange, Rolling Stone, and Michael Hastings. As they say in Latin, "falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus."

(Not that this reflects positively on the credibility of the State Department, the New York Times, or the Swedish sex police...)

I found his comment about Swedish prisons to be interesting. From what I've heard and read, Swedish prisons (and Scandinavian ones in general) are some of the most mild in the world.

I think he answers your question: "That's because in 47 percent of cases, prisoners in Sweden are held incommunicado."

I've read (in comments on blogs, so apply grain of salt) that the prosecutor in Sweden has requested that he be held in detention incommunicado, and that this is normal practice in Sweden for foreigners awaiting trial. And then the Swedes can slowly, slowly prepare for a trial and he can perhaps disappear for 1 year.

I believe you're just thinking about "Norway prisons" not "Scandinavian prisons". It's probably just Norway that has those prisons in some kind of natural reservations.

I know Denmark has been critized by human-rights groups for overusing solitary confinement.

I would be extremely interested to find the source of Assange's idea that the prisons in Sweden are the worst in Europe. I've tried searching http://www.ipcaworldwide.org/, but perhaps my Google-skills are failing me.

I'm probably not objective since I am from Sweden, but his description is very far from my perception of the Swedish judicial system. I don't agree with every verdict I read about, but I guess that would be the case in which ever country I lived in. In general it seems quite fair to me.

My guess is that Assange will be cleared of all charges or worst case senteced to a conditional sentence if he ever stands trial (which will not necessarily happen even). It seem to me that he is a man of dubious moral standards regarding women (trying to have sex with someone without a condom when they explicitly wanted to use a condom), but that will generally not make you go to prison (and probably rightfully so).

I'm a bit depressed that his behavior has damaged Wikileaks and their cause which is important.

edit: Would appreciate a comment from people down-voting me.

So, based on two unanswered, unsupported, and unproven allegations, you are willing to claim that "he is a man of dubious moral standards", and that this behaviour has hurt Wikileaks?

Are you not slightly more disturbed by the clear political machinations behind the case?

As I wrote; that's the way it -seem- to me. I'm convinced that he will get a fair trial in Sweden and I don't understand why it would be reasonable to think that he should not be interrogated by the Swedish police when accused of a crime (whether guilty or not). Remember that it has still not been decided if he should be tried for the crime he is accused of or not, that is why they are trying to get him extradited to Sweden.

And no, I don't see any "clear political machinations" in this case, I see a horny dude who doesn't like to use a condom. I'm sorry if this is a too simple of an explanation for your taste. I could be wrong of course.

If there were any political reasons for this I'm quite sure that they could have framed him for something more grave and produced obvious evidence.

I encourage you to read the article! I'm one pg-down click through and:

"The British Supreme Court will hear his extradition appeal on February 1st – but even if he wins, he will likely still remain a wanted man. Interpol has issued a so-called "red notice" for his arrest on behalf of Swedish authorities for questioning in "connection with a number of sexual offenses" – Qaddafi, accused of war crimes, earned only an "orange notice" – and the U.S. government has branded him a "high-tech terrorist," unleashing a massive and unprecedented investigation designed to depict Assange's journalism as a form of international espionage."

So he's more wanted than Qaddafi. If that doesn't make you think about the political motivations behind this a bit more, I'm not sure what could.

I don't know if he's a horny dude or not. Probably. But that doesn't mean his case isn't being blown far out of proportion for political cause. How many other Swedish strict-legal-definition-of-rape cases have Interpol flags out more severe than those of known repressive dictator madmen?

I bet not many.

You need to look into what interpol notices mean, they don't correspond to how wanted a person is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpol_notice

Assange should have turned himself over to the police in the beginning instead of leaving Sweden with such haste and refusing to be heard by the swedish police. Instead he used the political climate surrounding wikileaks as an excuse to stay away and started to paint a picture of Sweden as a third world country regarding it's legal system. It's classic stalling technique, the longer he can stay away the less the other witnesses and himself remembers.

That post is a ridiculous misrepresentation of what happened. Assange went to police and they said the case was going to be dropped and he could go. Then he left because he had other places to be.

Post flagged for spreading misinformation.

That was before they raised the accusations to rape again, when he was only accused of sexual molestation. After the renewed rape charges he left before the police had held a new interrogation.

Also, the police never said the case was going to be dropped, he was heard for sexual molestation after the rape charges had been dropped by the procecutor, the day after they were raised in the first place. That charged (sexual molestation) have never been dropped, instead new charges have been added. But that's ok, I wont flag your post.

> I don't understand why it would be reasonable to think that he should not be interrogated by the Swedish police when accused of a crime (whether guilty or not)

He offered to talk to Swedish prosecutors in England, which they refused to do. I think the fear from his camp is that once in Sweden they can put him in solitary confinement and then start pulling out new charges on different issues, including extradition to the USA which is according to the article probably easier than from England.

The Magistrates' Court decision that originally approved the extradition seems to state that it would be strictly harder:

> If Mr Assange is surrendered to Sweden and a request is made to Sweden for his extradition to the United States of America, then article 28 of the framework decision applies. In such an event the consent of the Secretary of State in this country will be required, in accordance with section 58 of the Extradition Act 2003, before Sweden can order Mr Assange’s extradition to a third State. The Secretary of State is required to give notice to Mr Assange unless it is impracticable to do so. Mr Assange would have the protection of the courts in Sweden and, as the Secretary of State’s decision can be reviewed, he would have the protection of the English courts also.

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgment... , page 28

“… clear political machinations behind the case?”

Don’t be ridiculous.

I honestly can't tell if you're being sarcastic, or you don't believe in the pretty damn clear political machination at play.

Are you wearing your tinfoil hat?

Kind of weird to see a Swede confusing sex with politics, especially since we're only talking about allegations. If he's found to be a rapist, fair, let's call him despicable, but until now he has held up to high standards even by endangering his life.

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