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153777064 transcript-of-wiki leaks-press-conference-on-edward-snowden’s-exit-from-hong-kong

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  • 1. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 1 WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE ON EDWARD SNOWDEN'S EXIT FROM HONG KONG 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Operator: Welcome to today’s program. At this time, all participants are in a listen- only mode. You may register to ask a question by pressing * and 1 on your touchtone phone. We’ll take questions in turn during our Q&A session. Please note today’s call is being recorded. It is now my pleasure to introduce Trevor Fitzgibbon. Please begin. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Hey, thanks everybody for joining the call. Sorry, we’re getting started a little late. There were some journalists getting on. I just want to briefly let you know who is going to be speaking today. First of all, we’re going to have Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights as well as the U.S. attorney for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, will be our first speaker. Second speaker will be Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The third speaker is going to be either Jen Robinson, who is a human rights attorney as well as a legal adviser to WikiLeaks, as well as Kristinn Hrafnsson who is the WikiLeaks press spokesperson. After each person’s speech – and they’re going to speak fairly quickly just to provide enough data and make some key points – we will immediately open it up to Q&A and the operator will prompt you to be able to ask a question. Without further ado, I would like to hand it over to Michael Ratner, who is the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as the U.S. attorney for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Michael? Michael Ratner: Thank you and it’s good to be with you. I just wanted to discuss a few of the legal issues before we hear from Julian and others. The first is the issue of the application that has apparently been made by Edward Snowden for asylum from Ecuador. Minister Patino has talked about that in the recent press conferences, as well as mentioned it, but the Center for Constitutional Rights actually did some work on the initial application for
  • 2. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 2 asylum by Julian Assange when he was applying to Ecuador, and something that I think most people don’t realize is that under the Refugee Convention, whistleblowers is an activity – or rather, are people who are protected by the Refugee Convention under the idea that they’re being persecuted for political opinion. The Refugee Convention protects people who are being persecuted for political opinion. Whistleblower activities come within that. The United States itself has recognized that. It has protected people from China, from other countries in Africa, who are whistleblowers on their own government’s criminality, on their own government’s corruption. So it’s surprising to me now – although maybe not surprising in this case – to see the United States really ignoring that and trying to interfere with an application for asylum by a person who has been a, who is a clear whistleblower with regard to the activities of the U.S. government and other governments in the world. I want to make that strong point that people should understand, that whistleblowing and the protection under the Refugee Convention also trumps any efforts to extradite Edward Snowden. If it’s for the same crime, their alleged crime that they’re trying to extradite him for, it’s the very act that he is protected for under the laws of the Refugee Convention and asylum. A second part of that is that there’s supposed to be a non-interference with efforts to gain political asylum. The U.S. is doing everything to interfere with that effort. They’re bullying countries all over the world, even though they have no basis for doing so, bullying them to try and essentially get Ed Snowden rendered to the United States where he can be prosecuted for the alleged crimes that they’re trying to prosecute him for. There’s no basis for that. There’s no international legal arrest warrant that we know of. The crimes are classic political crimes under any extradition treaty, and so that effort is really an effort by a big country to bully other countries ‒ the biggest country to say, “Send him here,” ‒ when there’s
  • 3. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 3 actually no legal basis for it. He’s not a fugitive in any sense of the word. As I said, there’s no arrest warrant. A third point, which I just will reiterate, is that asylum trumps extradition, and a fourth point is that what we should be discussing ‒ unlike what seems to be the attention primarily right now, is that where is Ed Snowden? What country is he going to? ‒ is the massive surveillance system that is being carried out by the United States, the UK, and perhaps other countries all over the world, and the violation of rights of people all over the world, the narrow rights or the rights of – first, they’re hacking into everybody’s computers all over the world and the internet, etcetera, all over the world. There are violations of that, violations of all of our rights to privacy, violations in my view on this massive scale of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, violations of all kinds of statutes. So we’re seeing a discussion ‒ rather than of the violations of law of the massive invasion of all of our privacy ‒ what we’re seeing is looking at the person who is the whistleblower rather than really discussing what we should be discussing ‒ a massive worldwide surveillance system. So thank you. I just wanted to make sure you understand that there’s a significant and important legal basis for Ed Snowden’s application for asylum. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thanks very much, Michael. With that, we’ll turn it over to Julian Assange. Julian? Julian Assange: Thank you. Edward Snowden left Hong Kong on the 23rd of June, bound for Ecuador via a safe path through Russia and other states. Mr. Snowden has submitted an asylum application to Ecuador and possibly to other countries. The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Patino has said that the asylum application is being carefully considered. Mr. Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. The current status of Mr. Snowden and Ms. Harrison ‒ both are healthy and safe. Both are healthy and safe and they are in contact with their legal
  • 4. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 4 team. I cannot give further information as to their whereabouts or present circumstances, other than to say that the matter is in hand. Today, we have seen a range of extreme bellicose statements from the U.S. Administration attempting to bully Russia and other nations from facilitating Mr. Snowden’s asylum. Every person has the right to seek and receive political asylum. Those rights are enshrined in United Nations’ agreements of which the United States is a party. It is counter-productive and unacceptable for the Obama Administration to try to interfere with those rights. It reflects poorly on the U.S. Administration, and no self- respecting country would submit to such interference or such bullying by the U.S. in this manner. This morning, the U.S. Secretary of State called Edward Snowden a traitor. Edward Snowden is not a traitor. He is not a spy. He is a whistleblower who has told the public an important truth. The U.S. Secretary of State is wrong in law. A traitor must adhere to U.S. enemies and there’s also a requirement that the conduct is in Congressionally-approved wartime, neither of these feature here. The Obama Administration was not given a mandate by the people of the United States to hack and spy upon the entire world, to breach the U.S. Constitution and the laws of other nations in the manner that it has. To now attempt to violate international asylum law by calling for the rendition of Edward Snowden, further demonstrates the breakdown in the rule of law by the Obama Administration, which has sadly become familiar to so many. Let us not forget that today, while Edward Snowden is seeking asylum, the young soldier Bradley Manning is on trial for telling us the truth. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, unfortunately, are not anomalies. Their prosecution is part of a pattern of misconduct, a part of the Obama Administration's war on whistleblowers. The use of the 1917 Espionage Act against journalistic sources by the Obama Administration must be condemned. The Obama Administration
  • 5. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 5 has now pursued eight journalistic sources using the Espionage Act ‒ that is more than twice of all previous presidents combined, stemming back to 1917. The Obama Administration hopes to erect a new interpretation of law, which defines journalistic sources as spies, and that is not acceptable. If such a precedent is permitted, it will result in the complete destruction of national security journalism within the United States, and already serious national security journalists are speaking about how their government sources are too scared to reveal government misconduct in a national security sphere. That’s an extremely serious matter at the same time as the national security sector of the United States is increasing its share of the U.S. tax burden and at the same time where unprecedented levels of criminality and abuse are being uncovered. It seeks to weaken the press, which is the only effective mechanism of bringing it to account. In the Obama Administration’s attempt to crush these young whistleblowers with espionage charges, the U.S. government is taking on a young generation of people who find the mass violation of the rights of privacy and open process unacceptable. In taking on a generation, the Obama Administration can only lose. Pursuing Edward Snowden and pursuing Bradley Manning is not the way to fix the weaknesses of law and process in the United States. The only way to fix these are to change the policies, to stop spying on the world, to eradicate secret law, to cease indefinite detention without trial, to stop the Obama Administration’s assassination program, to stop invading other countries and sending young Americans off to kill and be killed. It is these problems which is stimulating national security whistleblowers to come forward. The Obama Administration doesn’t want government sources to speak to the press. It should stop engaging in conduct which is so outrageous as to cause them to come forward. The charging of Edward Snowden is not a matter of justice, it is an attempt to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights to tell us all the truth. Such behavior must not be
  • 6. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 6 tolerated and will not be tolerated by any self-respecting nation or by the press at large. Everyone should tell their governments to step forward and assist Mr. Snowden in his asylum, and the press also has an obligation to do so. That’s it from me. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay. Thanks so much, Julian. Did Kristinn make it on the call? If not… Kristinn Hrafnsson: Yes, I’m here. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay. Kristinn, I’d like to turn it to you. Kristinn Hrafnsson – and the spelling of your last name is H-R-A-F-N-S-S-O-N – and he is WikiLeaks official press spokesperson. Kristinn, I’d like to turn it over to you, and then we’re going to hear from Jen Robinson afterwards and then we’ll open it up for questions. Kristinn? Kristinn Hrafnsson: Thank you. My addition will be a brief one. Obviously, it’s fairly well known, I think, today what WikiLeaks did with regard to Mr. Snowden is to connect the legal teams together and assist in his process in seeking for an asylum and secondly, I think, as a go-between carrying the requests and messages to officials in government. It’s already public, of course, that I as a journalist did approach the Icelandic government with a formal request from Mr. Snowden for political asylum in Iceland, and similar processes were carried out elsewhere. I just want to echo what Michael Ratner said in the beginning that he hoped that journalists will not lose the focus on the real important story here, which is of course the incredibly important revelations that Mr. Snowden has offered to the world. It is of such a scale that it is, of course, shocking the world, and it calls for a deep analysis and a demand for answers and accountability on behalf of the government. It is, of course, outrageous that a person that exposes mass spying on not just U.S. individuals but the population of the world should be charged with espionage and called a spy. That is Kafkaesque in nature. That is all for me at the moment.
  • 7. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 7 Trevor Fitzgibbon: Excellent. Thank you so much. Finally, I’d like to turn it over to Jen Robinson, who is a human rights attorney and a legal adviser to WikiLeaks who is based in London. Jen? Jen Robinson: Thanks, Trevor. I’ll also be brief but in the context of Snowden’s asylum application, we want to emphasize the importance of Bradley Manning’s case, whose court martial continues in Fort Meade this week. Snowden himself, in choosing to leave the United States in order to blow the whistle on NSA’s mass surveillance program, cited the treatment of Bradley Manning and his assessment that he would not receive a fair hearing before U.S. justice. It’s also important to note, too, that the treatment of Bradley Manning was key in the asylum application made by Julian Assange to the Ecuadorian government that was successful. We should remember that Bradley Manning spent more than 1,000 days in pretrial confinement in conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez found amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, and possibly torture. He is currently facing court martial for a range of charges, the most serious of which is aiding the enemy, which of course attracts the death penalty, and he is facing life in prison. It is clear from the legal strategy and the case theory being put forward by the United States prosecutors that they are attempting to make the case that Assange conspired with Manning to publish ‒ a theory that threatens, has frightening consequences to, the First Amendment and a theory that can be applied to all the press and all of those who published the WikiLeaks material. As we’ve said from the outset since Eric Holder announced the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks, an investigation that is the most serious, large and complicated investigation into journalists, publishers and their sources in history, that this would have ramifications for all of the press and, as the U.S. prosecutors confirmed in the Bradley Manning
  • 8. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 8 proceedings, it makes no difference whether this was WikiLeaks or the New York Times. As James Goodale, the Pentagon Papers counsel for the New York Times, himself pointed out just last week, Obama and his Administration are attempting to make news gathering organizations and reporters criminally liable for what they do in gathering the news. We have seen the implications of the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks in the treatment now of journalists with the mainstream media, including Rosen with Fox News and most recently with the line of questioning adopted by David Gregory towards Glenn Greenwald in relation to the Snowden matter, asking him why shouldn’t he be charged with the crime for simply receiving and reporting those materials. These have grave implications for all of the press and it’s important that we remember the implications of Bradley Manning. Thanks, Trevor. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay. Operator, we’d like to turn it over for some questions from journalists. Thank you. Operator: Again, if you’d like to ask a question, you can do so by pressing * and 1. We have several questions in queue. We can go first to the line of Mark Hosenball from Reuters. Your line is open. Mark Hosenball: Hello. How are you doing? The question I have is to what extent has WikiLeaks either acquired or is it seeking to acquire any of the materials that Mr. Snowden has acquired and made available to The Guardian and the Washington Post, and to what extent would WikiLeaks do anything with such materials? For Julian Assange. Julian Assange: Hi, Mark. That’s a sourcing matter, so as a matter of policy…
  • 9. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 9 Mark Hosenball: Sorry? Julian Assange: That is a sourcing matter so as a matter of policy, I can’t speak about it. In relation to publishing such material, of course, WikiLeaks is in the business of publishing documents that are suppressed by governments. Mark Hosenball: Is WikiLeaks in the position technically to be able to put out stuff because you have some technical difficulties? Julian Assange: WikiLeaks has no problem publishing material. We’ve published over a million documents in the last 12 months. Mark Hosenball: Okay. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thank you. Next question? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Andrea Mitchell with NBC News. Your line is open. Andrea Mitchell: Thank you very much. Mr. Assange, can you tell us whether you believe that as a whistleblower, as you define him, that Snowden could have opted to go to Congress or to the Inspector General? Why did he go to Hong Kong, in particular, and now presumably he is still in Moscow? Julian Assange: It is clear that Mr. Snowden is a whistleblower by all his actions. The content both of his actions, communicating immediately with the press about matters of serious criminality; in fact, affecting all of us. Contrary to the less-informed opinions that appeared early on saying that Mr. Snowden was a spy for China, clearly we see that is not the case. If it was, he would’ve stayed in Hong Kong. Yes. Andrea Mitchell: Do you think he could still come forward and make his case in the United States or elsewhere as a whistleblower, as you’ve defined him?
  • 10. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 10 Julian Assange: Sorry. The internal factors. Mr. Snowden has spoken about Thomas Drake - another National Security Agency whistleblower who used every conceivable internal mechanism only to be prosecuted for espionage. Similarly, an NSA whistleblower, William Binney, has spoken about how internal mechanisms simply serve to identify a whistleblower within an organization and marginalize or prosecute them before they are effective. Andrea Mitchell: Thank you. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Andrea, this is Trevor. I would also say that you may want to connect with Jesselyn Radack on that because she has a really good take on that, how many whistleblowers have gone through the process. Well, actually, the government ends up using it against them. So she’d be a good person for you to get in touch with, and I can help you do that after the call, if you like. Andrea Mitchell: Thanks, Trevor. Yes. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Michael Isikoff with NBC News. Your line is open. Michael Isikoff: Yes. First of all, questions to all of you. Can any of you shed any light on where Mr. Snowden actually is as we speak? Then secondly, for Mr. Ratner, I think you indicated that you have helped with his asylum applications. How many applications and are you also assisting with his legal defense into the Justice Department charges? First, where Mr. Snowden actually is at the moment? Julian Assange: I can respond to that. We are aware of where Mr. Snowden is. He is in a safe place and his spirits are high. Due to the bellicose threats coming
  • 11. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 11 from the U.S. Administration, we cannot go into further details at this time. Michael Ratner: This is Michael Ratner. Can you hear? Michael Isikoff: Can you say what country he’s in? Or just follow up. Can you tell us what country he’s in right now? Julian Assange: Unfortunately, we cannot reveal what country he is in at this time. Michael Isikoff: Mr. Ratner? Michael Ratner: Okay. Michael, I’m sorry. I have a bad connection so I probably wasn’t heard well. As they’ve said, the Center for Constitutional Rights and myself represent Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in the U.S. We don’t represent Edward Snowden. What I was referring to is the work we did when Julian Assange applied for asylum with Ecuador is we looked at the Refugee Convention and found that whistleblowers do have protection for whistleblowing under the Refugee Convention as a form of political opinion. Countries around the world recognize that. [sound breaks up] is that that principle applies [sound breaks up]. Michael Isikoff: You’re breaking up, Michael. Yes. Michael Ratner: That principle applies four-square to Edward Snowden’s application [unintelligible]… Michael Isikoff: And maybe I misunderstood your earlier remarks, but did you assist with Edward Snowden’s asylum applications? Julian Assange: Perhaps I can answer that. The WikiLeaks legal team did assist with Mr. Snowden’s application and its drafting as we have significant experience in drafting such an application, having gone through the process already for me.
  • 12. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 12 Michael Isikoff: That includes the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael's group? Michael Ratner: No, I can answer that. It did not. Michael Isikoff: Oh, it did not? Okay. Michael Ratner: No. Michael Isikoff: I’m sorry. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Ok, next question. Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Scott Shane with New York Times. Your line is open. Scott Shane: Hi. My question is I guess directed at Julian Assange and Michael Ratner. Just to clarify, what aspects of the NSA surveillance do you object to? Much of the criticism is focused on the phone metadata collection in the United States and the false statement of the Director of National Intelligence about that, and the question of invading Americans’ privacy. Do you, either of you, separately object to the idea that a country, whether it’s the United States or Russia or China or any other country, uses these systems to spy on other countries - in other words, intercept foreign communications, whether it is terrorist groups or foreign diplomats or any other kind of foreign target because, of course, traditionally for decades now, all the countries that are capable of doing that kind of spying do it. So, that’s just to clarify. I’m asking you whether you object only to violations of Americans’ privacy by the NSA, or do you object to the whole concept that any country should go and spy on other countries? Julian Assange: Michael? Michael Ratner: Julian, why don’t you start with that?
  • 13. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 13 Julian Assange: Okay. There are not multiple types of human beings, American human beings and other human beings. There’s only one type of human being in this world, and that’s why we speak about human rights. The UN Conventions, which United States is a party to, protect human rights but if we ‒ and the National Security Agency has been violating them en masse ‒ which is not a matter of the U.S. targeting terrorist groups ‒ everyone, of course, would find that to be acceptable. It is conducting at least 1.7 billion interceptions per day and it is doing so en masse. It is hacking into the civilian infrastructure of countries with which it is not at war, and in that, it is violating the rights of organizations, governments and individuals. To my way of thinking, there is a larger, more significant political problem, which is when an organization like the National Security Agency has intercepted nearly the entire world’s communications at such scale and is storing it, indexing it, processing it, it leads to a concentration of power which is so dangerous that it must not be tolerated. The National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney has referred to this as “turnkey totalitarianism” where the infrastructure for an undreamt-of totalitarian state has been built and it only requires a small shift in the political nature of the U.S. Administration for that infrastructure to be so badly abused that even more serious results can come about, both to people of the United States and to the people of the rest of the world. Now, one may argue that we are already seeing that. It’s not that we just have worldwide mass surveillance being conducted by the National Security Agency but in the process of doing so, the National Security Agency is violating United Nations agreements, American Law and the laws of other countries and is doing so in secret. It seems in order to protect the people involved in that spying from criminal prosecution, the Obama Administration has further gone on to corrupt the oversight
  • 14. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 14 process. While Bush engaged in a much smaller scale abuse of executive power to encourage some of the telcos like Verizon to submit calling records en masse to the National Security Agency, Obama has engaged in a more systematic abuse: corrupting the FISA court into approving orders which were in law only intended for a limited number of people instead to apply to the entire population; corrupting the DOJ assessment process of the law to create secret interpretations of the Patriot Act to provide legal cover for this mass surveillance process; and corrupting the Senate Oversight Committees. So, we have secret courts, the FISA court. We have secret legal interpretations conducted by the DOJ. We have secret oversight committees and we have secret action. Everyone knows that any function of government which is conducted in complete secrecy, including its oversight committees over a long period of time, inevitably becomes abusive. That is an inevitable reality and it’s true for every government that has ever existed. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thank you so much, and Michael, I don’t know if you have anything to add to that. Michael Ratner: No. I think we should go on. That’s fine. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Yes. I just want to point out we have about 30 questions in the queue right now, so I would encourage everybody to try to keep questions and answers short. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to do follow-up questions so everyone will be able to get one question so we can move through these as quickly as possible in order to meet all the journalists’ needs. Next question? Operator: We’ll go next to the site of Raphael Satter with Associated Press. Your line is open.
  • 15. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 15 Raphael Satter: Hi, Julian. Hi, Jen, Kristinn and Mike. Two questions. One is, are you in a position to name the other countries that Edward has applied for asylum in? The second question was that there was a report published this morning in Izvestiya suggesting that Edward was being debriefed by the GRU and FSB officers from the Russian Intelligence Services. I don’t know if you’re in a position to talk about that because it speaks to the credibility of Edward Snowden as a whistleblower, and if he’s in contact with Russian Intelligence, that ‒ I think that that might be seized upon by some as evidence that he’s not. So if you could answer those questions, I’d be grateful. Julian Assange: In relation to the second question, Mr. Snowden – the report is false. Raphael Satter: Thanks. Julian Assange: Can someone else take the first? Kristinn Hrafnsson: With regard to the first question, it is only reported, of course, that there was an application for asylum in Iceland and now we know that Ecuador was approached, but I think we would refrain from at this point to discuss other applications or approaches that were made. Raphael Satter: Okay, so just to be sure that I understood, you said Ecuador and Iceland but the others you can’t speak about? Kristinn Hrafnsson: Correct. Raphael Satter: Okay. Thanks, Kristinn. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Anthony Faiola with Washington Post. Your line is open.
  • 16. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 16 Anthony Faiola: Yes, thank you. For Mr. Assange or anyone there. When Snowden left Hong Kong, can you describe whether he was traveling on a U.S. passport or some issuance from the Ecuadorian government, and if his passport has been revoked, how will he travel now? Julian Assange: The rights of citizenship should not be revocable under the UN Conventions to which the United States is a party. Citizens must be permitted to have free movement to enter and to leave their country. No one wants, when traveling overseas under difficult conditions, to have – to effectively have their citizenship being revoked by removing its most important instrument: a passport. That unilateral action without any due process against Mr. Snowden is another example of a secret process [sound breaks up] the United States [sound breaks up]. In relation to Hong Kong, Mr. Snowden was supplied with a refugee document of passage by the Ecuadorian government. Anthony Faiola: And is that a precursor to approval, or a sign that they would positively weigh his application for asylum? Julian Assange: That is, the refugee process has a number of steps and if we look in terms of rights – that’s UN rights where people have the right to apply, to seek asylum ‒ and so it’s part of the, an action of the right to seek asylum. It does not have a legal bearing on whether asylum will be received. Anthony Faiola: Thank you. Trevor Fitzgibbon: That’s great. Next question. Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Paul Adams of the BBC. Your line is open.
  • 17. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 17 Paul Adams: Yes. Good morning. Thank you very much for this. I wonder, Mr. Assange, what you make of the obvious irony of seeking the cooperation of the Chinese and Russian authorities in securing Mr. Snowden’s freedom given their somewhat problematic relationship with the sorts of values of privacy and freedom of speech that you hold dear. And if Edward Snowden ends up in Ecuador, doesn’t the same irony pertain? I wonder, are you simply involving those countries because they’re happy to stick one in the eye to the United States rather than upholding those values that you represent? Julian Assange: I simply do not see the irony. Mr. Snowden has revealed information about mass unlawful spying, which has affected every single one of us. The U.S. Administration has issued a series of bellicose unilateral threats against him and against others who are attempting to support his rights. That is a very serious situation, and any country wishing to assist in upholding his rights must be applauded for doing so. Paul Adams: Even when they don’t uphold those rights for their own citizens? Julian Assange: That’s another matter. In these cases, we do not criticize people for seeking refugee status in the United States despite its use of torture, drone strikes, secret court processes, executive kill lists, and so on. No one is suggesting that countries like Ecuador are engaged in those types of abuse. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay, thank you very much. Next question? Operator: Moving next to the line of Jonathan Tirone with Bloomberg News. Your line is open.
  • 18. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 18 Jonathan Tirone: Thanks. Mr. Assange, would it at least not be desirable for more specific details of the NSA activities to come out specifically that pertains to network architecture and actually figuring out whether the NSA would even be in a position to purge their databases of private information and therefore to prevent abuses, and, I guess, do you expect that more details will eventually come out? Julian Assange: We would like to see much greater detail of the NSA programs. What has come out so far is the ‒ largely the bird’s-eye view, and that is the most important way to see what is going on, that it is a global problem; the statistics of the number of interceptions in March for each country running into the billions; the mass violations of law that is occurring in London, with its fiberoptic cable intercepts of the traffic of many different countries. But I think it is now necessary to move into looking at particular – specific violations from individual organizations and parliaments and individuals and also to reveal precisely what other companies have been coerced or bribed into participating in the National Security Agency interception program. I believe such information is likely to appear. Jonathan Tirone: Thank you. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Ok, next question please. Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Carrie Rabin with CBS News. Your line is open. Carrie Rabin: Yes, hi. Can you tell us a little bit about the travel out of Hong Kong? Was this a normal drive to an airport? Was there any cloak and dagger involved? Also, I know you can’t tell us where Mr. Snowden is, but can
  • 19. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 19 you tell us if his travel plans have changed? When you mentioned the bellicose threats to other nations, has that changed his travel plans? Julian Assange: In relation to the travel out of Hong Kong, that is a fascinating story that I’m sure will one day would be told, but today is not the day. The Ecuador – sorry, the Hong Kong government has released a statement saying that the exit from Hong Kong was legal, and that is in accordance to what we know. For the security situation, as a result of the U.S. threats, I cannot speak further about that. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question… Carrie Rabin: You can’t speak further about his travel plans being changed either? Julian Assange: No. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thanks so much. Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the site of Catherine Herridge with Fox News. Your line is open. Catherine Herridge: Thanks for taking my question. First of all, was there any kind of debriefing or questioning by the Chinese authorities before the exit from Hong Kong? And can you just speak more broadly as to what other documents Mr. Snowden has with him and they plan to release? Thank you. Julian Assange: In relation to that other question, I cannot speak to that. In relation to the alleged interaction with the Chinese, as far as I am aware, that is false.
  • 20. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 20 Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Kevin Johnson with USA Today. Your line is open. Kevin Johnson: Good morning. A couple of questions. One, in trying to guarantee Mr. Snowden’s safe passage through Russia, what advanced communications did you all have with Russian officials there to indicate that he was on his way? And can you tell us who they were? Also, is it Mr. Snowden’s desire never to come back to the US? I mean, is he essentially gone for good? Thank you. Julian Assange: [Pause] [Laughter] Yeah, I can’t speak to what Mr. Snowden’s desires are other than to repeat what he has said; that he is an American and a patriot. His actions really come about as a result of a concern for the people of the United States. He has family in the United States, so I'm ‒ I think he would like very much to return, but that seems unlikely under the present administration. Trevor Fitzgibbon: That’s great. Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Matthew Mosk with ABC News. Your line is open. Matthew Mosk: Yes, hi. For Mr. Assange, we’ve heard that Mr. Snowden has a great deal of material in his possession. We’ve heard about four laptops. Have you offered any advice about how to maintain custody of that material? Are you concerned about the material he is carrying falling into the hands of governments whose motives might be different than yours or Mr. Snowden’s?
  • 21. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 21 Julian Assange: Mr. Snowden’s material has been secured by the relevant journalistic organizations prior to travel. Matthew Mosk: Can you elaborate on that at all? Julian Assange: I’m afraid I cannot. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Miranda Green with The Daily Beast. Your line is open. Miranda Green: Yes, thank you. My question is did WikiLeaks pay for Edward Snowden’s plane ticket, lodging and legal counsel, and if not, who did? Julian Assange: You broke a couple a little bit during the asking of the question. Can you repeat? Miranda Green: Sure, yes. The question I have is, is WikiLeaks responsible for paying for Edward Snowden’s plane ticket, lodging and legal counsel? To what extent did you help with that, and if not, who was responsible for helping him pay for that? Julian Assange: It is correct. We paid for those arrangements. No government or other organization assisted. Miranda Green: And was that from the beginning, when he first arrived in Hong Kong, that you have been assisting him with that?
  • 22. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 22 Julian Assange: In relation to his lodging in Hong Kong, that is a matter for Mr. Snowden. But as far as we are aware, the lodging was paid for by Mr. Snowden. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thank you so much. Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Jeanne Whalen from Wall Street Journal. Your line is open. Jeanne Whalen: Hi. I just wanted to repeat the question that another fellow asked earlier that I think Julian didn’t quite answer, which is what advanced communications did you have with Russian officials to ensure Snowden could land there? Can you tell us who they are and how you actually got contact with them in the first place? Julian Assange: In relation to Mr. Snowden’s safe passage to asylum, there was no advanced communication with Russian officials prior to its departure from Hong Kong. Jeanne Whalen: So he just landed there without the Russians knowing that he was coming? Julian Assange: I’ve already answered the question. Jeanne Whalen: So your answer to that was yes? Julian Assange: My answer was what it was. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Heba Kanso with CBS News. Your line is open.
  • 23. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 23 Heba Kanso: Hi there. This is actually toward Michael Ratner. As an attorney, what do you see as other possible countries for Assange [sic] to seek asylum in? In relation to that, too, it could be also Mr. Assange asking or answering this as well, what are your hopes for Snowden’s future? Michael Ratner: Right. I actually spoke to this a while ago. Countries that he could apply– other than Ecuador. This has to be [sound breaks up] in a country that’s strong enough to stand up against the United States. So it has to be either a big country that can do it, and the obvious big countries that are out of China, Russia. Apparently, those aren’t going to be the countries. The other countries are those in South America who have been willing to take an independent stand from the United States: Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba. That doesn’t mean anything about what he’s done, I just want to be clear. That’s just speaking directly as to what I’ve seen over the last few years of countries being willing to stand up to the United States and not be intimidated by political, military, economic means, which the United States has tremendous power in those areas. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Jane Mayer with New Yorker magazine. Your line is open. Jane Mayer: Hi. You’ve used the – referenced the term “rendered” or “renditioned” for what the United States is trying to do to Snowden. Julian Assange: That’s correct.
  • 24. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 24 Jane Mayer: I wondered, many of us think of that as a particular process. Is there any evidence that the CIA [crosstalk]…? Julian Assange: Right. It’s a particular non-process. Jane Mayer: Non-process, okay. [Laughter] Is there any evidence that the CIA or special forces or other parts of the United States government have tried to or are trying to snatch him in some way? Julian Assange: My comments were in relation to the statements made earlier today by the U.S. Administration calling on, in strong language, on Russia to expel Mr. Snowden to the United States. In terms of law, that means extradition without process, which is rendering. Jane Mayer: Okay. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thanks, Jane. Next question? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Atika Shubert with CNN. Your line is open. Atika Shubert: Hi. I just wanted to know a little bit more about how WikiLeaks became involved in this. If you could give us a few more details, I know you said that Snowden asked for WikiLeaks’ expertise. I’m wondering if we could ask some more details of how that happened and when it happened specifically. Julian Assange: As a result of the security situation, we cannot talk about communications methods or times. Atika Shubert: Do we have a – is there any details you can give on when this happened?
  • 25. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 25 Julian Assange: We can’t go into detail with that, either. [Pause] It should be that, you know, if we lived in a better world, we would be able to go into those details. Unfortunately, we live in a world as revealed by Mr. Snowden, where most people's communications are intercepted by the National Security Agency unlawfully. We also live in a world where – when a security agency in the United States like the National Security Agency is exposed and engaging in unlawful conduct, it pulls in other parts of the U.S. Administration, like the State Department, to enact revenge on those people who’ve done the public a favor. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Courtney Kube with NBC News. Your line is open. Courtney Kube: Thank you very much. My question has actually been answered already, but Mr. Assange, I’m just curious, I know you’ve been reticent on the conference call here today to talk about any personal communications between you and Mr. Snowden, but I’m wondering if either to you or to anyone on your team, has he expressed any regret in coming forward with his identity before he got to some final location ‒ to you or any of your colleagues? Julian Assange: No, he has not. And he has expressed no regret in his decision to reveal this important information to the public, at any time. Courtney Kube: I just asked because you, and I think Mr. Ratner, mentioned that since he’s come forward, that there has been so much attention on where he is, where he’s going and whatnot. As you said, it’s taken the attention off of what he
  • 26. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 26 was attempting to expose here. So I mean in that context, he hasn’t expressed any kind of regret that the narrative of the story right now is changed from what he was trying to put into the public’s attention? Julian Assange: It is not from Mr. Snowden, but I was in a very similar situation just three years ago where the – where we had unpublished, we had 251,000 U.S. diplomatic cables that were yet to be published and the various U.S. intelligence agencies knew that, as did the FBI. In these situations where there is a perception that – let me rephrase in terms of Snowden so it will be easier to reprint. In a situation where Mr. Snowden was perceived – Sorry. In a situation where the U.S. government perceived, wrongly or rightly, that eliminating Mr. Snowden would eliminate the exposure of its worldwide spying program, the kidnapping or incapacitating of Mr. Snowden must have been considered. So I believe Mr. Snowden was well- advised to go public at the time that he did in order to protect his personal safety and the safety of the journalists involved. Courtney Kube: Thank you. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Thank you so much. Next question, please? Folks, it’s 11:09 now. We’re going to go for about five more minutes until 11:15. Next question. Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Carol Cratty with CNN. Your line is open. Operator: [pause] Again, your line is open. Checking the function, please? Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay, next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to Oren Dorell with USA Today. Your line is open.
  • 27. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 27 Oren Dorell: Hi. Thanks for taking this – my call. I wanted to ask you, Mr. Assange, what is your situation right now? What are your prospects for – I believe you’re – are you still at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London? What are your prospects for – of getting out of there? Julian Assange: I have been at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for just over one year; protected in this embassy by the commitment of the Ecuadorian people, to which I am grateful. I formally applied for asylum on entry to the embassy on the 19th of June, 2012 and received political asylum on the 16th of August, 2012. In relation to the ongoing standoff, it is the Ecuadorian government’s legal analysis ‒ and our legal analysis had the same result ‒ the United Kingdom is in breach of its obligations to the UNHCR by surrounding the embassy with police and refusing my safe passage. The UK government has admitted publicly that it has spent $10 million on the surveillance program of me in the embassy in the past one year. Their figure is £6 million. Oren Dorell: Okay. So are you expecting to get out of there [crosstalk]…? Trevor Fitzgibbon: I’m sorry. We have too many questions right now. We need to move on to the next question. I apologize. Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Danny Kemp with AFP. Your line is open. Danny Kemp: Hi. This is a question for Mr. Assange. You mentioned earlier about the fact that the [unintelligible] on the part of the NSA to, and the U.S. Administration to enact revenge on people who have gone counter to it. Do you, in helping Mr. Snowden, do you get any sense, any feeling of satisfaction or feeling of vengeance against the United States given that’s – given what you believe they’ve done to you over the least three years?
  • 28. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 28 Julian Assange: I have personal sympathy with Mr. Snowden, having lived through a very similar experience, but the WikiLeaks organization more broadly exists to defend the practical rights of whistleblowers to bring their information to the public. Danny Kemp: Thanks. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay, thank you so much. Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Matthew Sledge with Huffington Post. Your line is open. Matthew Sledge: Yes. This question is for Mr. Assange. Is it in Mr. Snowden’s best interest to kind of bind himself to the WikiLeaks organization in the way that he seems to be doing? Julian Assange: Kristinn, do you want to answer that? Kristinn Hrafnsson: Yes, hello. I don’t think that Mr. Snowden [sound breaks up] and WikiLeaks [sound breaks up]… Trevor Fitzgibbon: Kristinn, we can’t hear you. Kristinn Hrafnsson: Can you hear me now? Julian Assange: No. No, not really. I’ll answer the question. Mr. Snowden found himself in a grave situation. He should not have been placed into that situation by the United States government. He should have felt that the U.S. legal system would protect his rights. However, his assessment is that it would not,
  • 29. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 29 based on the treatment of Bradley Manning, is as far as we are concerned correct. WikiLeaks has over six years of experience of dealing with threats to publishing and to whistleblowers, and specifically we have three years of experience in dealing with precisely an analogous situation to what Mr. Snowden found himself in. Trevor Fitzgibbon: That’s great. Next question, please? Operator: We’ll go next to the line of Larry Abramson with National Public Radio. Your line is open. Larry Abramson: Hi. Did you have any contact with Mr. Snowden before he left the U.S. and were you part of the decision that he made to go to Hong Kong first? Julian Assange: The question is to Mr. Assange. Is that correct? Larry Abramson: Yes, please. Thank you. Julian Assange: I instructed the organization to assist Mr. Snowden, and I cannot go into further details at this stage. Trevor Fitzgibbon: One final question, please? Operator: We’ll go to the line of Jay Newton-Small with TIME magazine. Your line is open. Jay Newton-Small: Hi. Two questions. First, what do you say, Mr. Assange, to American officials who claim that these programs have saved U.S. lives by preventing terrorism, is it worth it? And, secondly, have you personally spoken with Mr. Snowden, and if so, how many times?
  • 30. WIKILEAKS PRESS CONFERENCE 06/24/13 10:00 am ET Page 30 Julian Assange: I just answered the last question. In relation to the first one, the comments presented to date by the U.S. Administration in its attempt to justify this worldwide flagrant violation of individual rights and sovereign rights have been pitiful, and the U.S. press has exposed that many of those attempted justifications were false, but in the end there remains a question that it is the governments – in the end, we must understand that it is a basic principle of – in the end, we must understand that as a basic principle governments do not have rights. It is their duty to uphold the rights of citizens. And that includes their rights to privacy, their rights to life, their rights to be secure in their effects ‒ those rights which are listed under the US Bill of Rights. In choosing to preference one of those rights above all others as justification for the U.S. intelligence apparatus's enormous budgets of power and secrecy, the U.S. Administration is abridging those other rights, which it is constitutionally mandated to uphold. Trevor Fitzgibbon: Okay, thanks everybody for joining us on the call. I really appreciate it. I know we couldn’t get to all the questions, but we tried to get to as many as possible. Thank you again very much and talk to you soon. END