Sputnik had the opportunity to talk to investigative journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson, the official representative of Wikileaks.
Hrafnsson reflected on the organization’s past success and future plans, as well as the fate of Julian Assange and threats to privacy.
Can you name some of the most striking WikiLeaks publications over the past 4 years?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: I think that the publication of the diplomatic cables that we started around four years ago was probably the most high profile. The importance of other revelations is quite high, even the military documents, pertaining to Iraq and Afghanistan, and other information that we have been publishing about surveillance through the private companies and the spy files. Lately, we can mention the information about the secret state negotiations going on with the Transpacific Partnership agreement (the TPP). But I think the diplomatic cables are probably the most high profile of our releases in this period.
There have recently been rumors about WikiLeaks planning to launch a new media project in Latin America. Is that true?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: We have recently been dedicated to continuing our path and cooperating with the established media. As for new media initiatives, I cannot mention any in particular at this instance, but they of course will continue. It is worth mentioning of course the books that have been published by Julian Assange on various topics. And the latest one has been, of course, on Google and the revelations pertaining to that company, and how it is becoming a key element and the center of work for the military information complex. And there are other revelations that pertain to the protection of privacy, like it was mentioned earlier – the spy files.
Does Google actually work for the State Department?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: Google contracts with the US government on various fronts. The book is based on a discussion from 2010 between Julian Assange and Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, it is quite revealing on how Google sees the world, according to Eric Schmidt, and how it wants to place itself in the center of the information collection and dissimulation, which of course is at the center of our modern vision about national security and security issues. Eric Schmidt himself said, as mentioned in the book, that he wants Google to be the Lockheed Martin of the 21st century. Lockheed Martin, of course, is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the heart of the old military and industrial complex.
If Google is dangerous, do you think social networks are neglecting the privacy of people?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: They obviously are when they are coerced or in an initiative, cooperating with spy agencies in collecting information about people, and analyzing that, as we now know thanks to Edward Snowden, in the NSA. It is very strange that we live in times where the privacy of individuals is becoming practically nonexistent, but the secrecy of those in power is increasing day by day. That is something that is totally against every principle and value of society, and of course it should be reversed. We need more transparency for those in power. We need more privacy for the powerless – the individual.
What are the conditions under which Julian Assange can leave the embassy?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: Julian has maintained and has said that if the Swedish Government gives him a guarantee that he will not be extradited onward to the US for his work as the publisher and editor of WikiLeaks, he would be willing to travel to Sweden. That has been denied. Sweden does not want to give such kind of guarantee.
Of course, he has asylum in Ecuador and he should be allowed to enjoy that asylum, which is totally legitimate and should be respected according to the 1951 treaty on asylum refugees. The UK government should give him safe passage to Ecuador. Swedish authorities should travel to London to finish this questioning phase and continue with that case. The US government should drop the ridiculous, still-ongoing and far-reaching criminal investigation into the work of WikiLeaks, which, we believe, has only one aim – to result in an indictment against Julian Assange and all those working for the organization.
Do you think there is a chance that Assange might actually surrender?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: No, I don’t see any chance for that and there is no need for that. He has the right as an individual to enjoy the asylum that has been granted to him and he will simply continue the fight.
Of course he has to spend part of the time on his own struggle to get out of this absurd situation which is getting to become almost Kafkaesque in nature. But apart from that his work at WikiLeaks goes on and he’s a very busy man and works at leading the organization.
It is natural that being locked inside for as long as he has (more than two years – almost two and a half years) has affected him as an individual.
What measures are being taken to protect the WikiLeaks logo and the overall image of Julian Assange?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: The WikiLeaks logo and the image of Julian Assange are more and more used on all kinds of icons, not for the benefit of the organization. And often enough in a context that is rather weird and has no relevance to the work of WikiLeaks. So WikiLeaks has made an agreement to oversee the licensing of the logo and the image of Julian. If there’s an interest in using them on a clothing brand is something that has to be seen. But this is a twofold purpose. One is to give the supporters an opportunity to support the organization, knowing that the proceeds of what they are purchasing goes to the organization and showing the support through products with the brand logo. The second purpose is to secure the integrity of the image and the brand and make sure there are no abuses or really any use of those items.
Are people allowed to visit Julian Assange in the embassy?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: He has a lot of visitors, he is a free man inside the embassy. There are frequent visits and quite a lot of people come both for work and friendship. And so for socialization and work there are people coming in and out every day almost.
Could you please give a brief summary the whole situation around Julian Assange?
Kristinn Hrafnsson: This has gone far beyond being anything but a total violation of an individual’s human rights. This is a person that is basically being locked in limbo not getting any chance to get out of that situation with several countries involved. None of the countries will take a step towards securing some formidable case – itself a gross violation of human rights. The opportunities are there, the countries and governments are simply passing the buck or refusing to move and that is a totally unacceptable situation and of course it has to be stopped very soon. It has gone way too far.