WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared Sunday night on 60 Minutes sharing his believes and vision behind his work, as well as his thoughts on the possibility of facing criminal charges in the US. The man behind the whistle-blowing website that released tens of thousands of secret U.S. military reports and diplomatic cables has been in the center of the media hurricane for the past few months causing controversy and criticism as well as being seen as a defender of free speech and freedom by his supporters worldwide.
Steve Kroft spent two days interviewing Assange at his Britain home, where he is in house arrest fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning in two sexual assault cases. In the exclusive 60 minutes interview, Assange discussed his relationship with sources, Wikileaks’ vulnerability to government shut down, as well as rumors about documents embarrassing to Bank of America that are yet to be released.
Before he was placed to house arrest, Assange was constantly on the move, changing his appearances as often as he would change cities and jumped borders in attempt to avoid being killed, arrested, or kidnapped. Even before publishing U.S. secrets, Assange’s work caused threatening statements from powerful people.
Being asked to talk about specific statements that he considered were threatening to him, Assange pointed out “The statements by the Vice President Biden saying, for instance that I was a high-tech terrorist. Sarah Palin calling to our organization to be dealt with like the Taliban, and be hunted down. There’s calls either for my assassination or the assassination of my staff or for us to be kidnapped and renditioned back to the United States to be executed.“
Assange said that the United States does not have the power to put an end on the releases on WikiLeaks website.
“The U.S. does not have the technology to take the site down. Just the way our technology is constructed, the way the Internet is constructed, it’s quite hard to stop things reappearing. We’ve had attacks on particular domain names. Little pieces of infrastructure — knocked out. But we now have some 2,000 fully independent in every way websites, where we’re publishing around the world. …It’s not possible to do.” Assange tells Steve Kroft.
During the interview, Kroft pointed out that Assange’s agenda is viewed by a part of the public as anti-American. Defending the vision behind WikiLeaks, Assange told to the interviewer “Our founding values are those of the U.S. revolution. They are those of people like Jefferson and Madison.“
He also stressed that the website has played within the United States’ rules, saying his organization is comparable to any other publisher and should be protected under the First Amendment.
“We operated just like any U.S. publisher operates … and there has been no precedent that I’m aware of, in the past 50 years, of prosecuting a publisher for espionage,” Assange said. “It is just not done. Those are the rules. You do not do it.“