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  • Chris Anderson: Julian, welcome.

  • It's been reported that WikiLeaks, your baby,

  • has, in the last few years

  • has released more classified documents

  • than the rest of the world's media combined.

  • Can that possibly be true?

  • Julian Assange: Yeah, can it possibly be true?

  • It's a worry -- isn't it? -- that the rest of the world's media

  • is doing such a bad job

  • that a little group of activists

  • is able to release more

  • of that type of information

  • than the rest of the world press combined.

  • CA: How does it work?

  • How do people release the documents?

  • And how do you secure their privacy?

  • JA: So these are -- as far as we can tell --

  • classical whistleblowers,

  • and we have a number of ways for them

  • to get information to us.

  • So we use this state-of-the-art encryption

  • to bounce stuff around the Internet, to hide trails,

  • pass it through legal jurisdictions

  • like Sweden and Belgium

  • to enact those legal protections.

  • We get information in the mail,

  • the regular postal mail,

  • encrypted or not,

  • vet it like a regular news organization, format it --

  • which is sometimes something that's quite hard to do,

  • when you're talking about

  • giant databases of information --

  • release it to the public

  • and then defend ourselves

  • against the inevitable legal and political attacks.

  • CA: So you make an effort to ensure

  • the documents are legitimate,

  • but you actually

  • almost never know who the identity of the source is?

  • JA: That's right, yeah. Very rarely do we ever know,

  • and if we find out at some stage

  • then we destroy that information as soon as possible.

  • (Phone ring) God damn it.

  • (Laughter)

  • CA: I think that's the CIA asking what the code is

  • for a TED membership.

  • (Laughter)

  • So let's take [an] example, actually.

  • This is something

  • you leaked a few years ago.

  • If we can have this document up ...

  • So this was a story in Kenya a few years ago.

  • Can you tell us what you leaked and what happened?

  • JA: So this is the Kroll Report.

  • This was a secret intelligence report

  • commissioned by the Kenyan government

  • after its election in 2004.

  • Prior to 2004, Kenya was ruled

  • by Daniel arap Moi

  • for about 18 years.

  • He was a soft dictator of Kenya.

  • And when Kibaki got into power --

  • through a coalition of forces that were trying

  • to clean up corruption in Kenya --

  • they commissioned this report,

  • spent about two million pounds

  • on this and an associated report.

  • And then the government sat on it

  • and used it for political leverage on Moi,

  • who was the richest man --

  • still is the richest man -- in Kenya.

  • It's the Holy Grail of Kenyan journalism.

  • So I went there in 2007,

  • and we managed to get hold of this

  • just prior to the election --

  • the national election, December 28.

  • When we released that report,

  • we did so three days after the new president, Kibaki,

  • had decided to pal up with

  • the man that he was going to clean out,

  • Daniel arap Moi,

  • so this report then

  • became a dead albatross

  • around President Kibaki's neck.

  • CA: And -- I mean, to cut a long story short --

  • word of the report leaked into Kenya,

  • not from the official media, but indirectly,

  • and in your opinion, it actually shifted the election.

  • JA: Yeah. So this became front page of the Guardian

  • and was then printed in all the surrounding countries of Kenya,

  • in Tanzanian and South African press.

  • And so it came in from the outside.

  • And that, after a couple of days,

  • made the Kenyan press feel safe to talk about it.

  • And it ran for 20 nights straight on Kenyan TV,

  • shifted the vote by 10 percent,

  • according to a Kenyan intelligence report,

  • which changed the result of the election.

  • CA: Wow, so your leak

  • really substantially changed the world?

  • JA: Yep.

  • (Applause)

  • CA: Here's -- We're going to just show

  • a short clip from this

  • Baghdad airstrike video.

  • The video itself is longer,

  • but here's a short clip.

  • This is -- this is intense material, I should warn you.

  • Radio: ... just fuckin', once you get on 'em just open 'em up.

  • I see your element, uh, got about four Humvees, uh, out along ...

  • You're clear. All right. Firing.

  • Let me know when you've got them. Let's shoot.

  • Light 'em all up.

  • C'mon, fire!

  • (Machine gun fire)

  • Keep shoot 'n. Keep shoot 'n.

  • (Machine gun fire)

  • Keep shoot 'n.

  • Hotel ... Bushmaster Two-Six, Bushmaster Two-Six,

  • we need to move, time now!

  • All right, we just engaged all eight individuals.

  • Yeah, we see two birds [helicopters], and we're still firing.

  • Roger. I got 'em.

  • Two-Six, this is Two-Six, we're mobile.

  • Oops, I'm sorry. What was going on?

  • God damn it, Kyle. All right, hahaha. I hit 'em.

  • CA: So, what was the impact of that?

  • JA: The impact on the people who worked on it

  • was severe.

  • We ended up sending two people to Baghdad

  • to further research that story.

  • So this is just the first of three attacks

  • that occurred in that scene.

  • CA: So, I mean, 11 people died in that attack, right,

  • including two Reuters employees?

  • JA: Yeah. Two Reuters employees,

  • two young children were wounded.

  • There were between 18 and 26 people killed all together.

  • CA: And releasing this caused

  • widespread outrage.

  • What was the key element of this

  • that actually caused the outrage, do you think?

  • JA: I don't know. I guess people can see

  • the gross disparity in force.

  • You have guys walking in a relaxed way down the street,

  • and then an Apache helicopter sitting up at one kilometer

  • firing 30-millimeter cannon shells

  • on everyone --

  • looking for any excuse to do so --

  • and killing people rescuing the wounded.

  • And there was two journalists involved that clearly weren't insurgents

  • because that's their full-time job.

  • CA: I mean, there's been this U.S. intelligence analyst,

  • Bradley Manning, arrested,

  • and it's alleged that he confessed in a chat room

  • to have leaked this video to you,

  • along with 280,000

  • classified U.S. embassy cables.

  • I mean, did he?

  • JA: We have denied receiving those cables.

  • He has been charged,

  • about five days ago,

  • with obtaining 150,000 cables

  • and releasing 50.

  • Now, we had released,

  • early in the year,

  • a cable from the Reykjavik U.S. embassy,

  • but this is not necessarily connected.

  • I mean, I was a known visitor of that embassy.

  • CA: I mean, if you did receive thousands

  • of U.S. embassy diplomatic cables ...

  • JA: We would have released them. (CA: You would?)

  • JA: Yeah. (CA: Because?)

  • JA: Well, because these sort of things

  • reveal what the true state

  • of, say,

  • Arab governments are like,

  • the true human-rights abuses in those governments.

  • If you look at declassified cables,

  • that's the sort of material that's there.

  • CA: So let's talk a little more broadly about this.

  • I mean, in general, what's your philosophy?

  • Why is it right

  • to encourage leaking of secret information?

  • JA: Well, there's a question as to what sort of information is important in the world,

  • what sort of information

  • can achieve reform.

  • And there's a lot of information.

  • So information that organizations

  • are spending economic effort into concealing,

  • that's a really good signal

  • that when the information gets out,

  • there's a hope of it doing some good --

  • because the organizations that know it best,

  • that know it from the inside out,

  • are spending work to conceal it.

  • And that's what we've found in practice,

  • and that's what the history of journalism is.

  • CA: But are there risks with that,

  • either to the individuals concerned

  • or indeed to society at large,

  • where leaking can actually have

  • an unintended consequence?

  • JA: Not that we have seen with anything we have released.

  • I mean, we have a harm immunization policy.

  • We have a way of dealing with information

  • that has sort of personal --

  • personally identifying information in it.

  • But there are legitimate secrets --

  • you know, your records with your doctor;

  • that's a legitimate secret --

  • but we deal with whistleblowers that are coming forward

  • that are really sort of well-motivated.

  • CA: So they are well-motivated.

  • And what would you say to, for example,

  • the, you know, the parent of someone

  • whose son is out serving the U.S. military,

  • and he says, "You know what,

  • you've put up something that someone had an incentive to put out.

  • It shows a U.S. soldier laughing

  • at people dying.

  • That gives the impression, has given the impression,

  • to millions of people around the world

  • that U.S. soldiers are inhuman people.

  • Actually, they're not. My son isn't. How dare you?"

  • What would you say to that?

  • JA: Yeah, we do get a lot of that.

  • But remember, the people in Baghdad,

  • the people in Iraq, the people in Afghanistan --

  • they don't need to see the video;

  • they see it every day.

  • So it's not going to change their opinion. It's not going to change their perception.

  • That's what they see every day.

  • It will change the perception and opinion

  • of the people who are paying for it all,

  • and that's our hope.

  • CA: So you found a way to shine light

  • into what you see

  • as these sort of dark secrets in companies and in government.

  • Light is good.

  • But do you see any irony in the fact that,

  • in order for you to shine that light,

  • you have to, yourself,

  • create secrecy around your sources?

  • JA: Not really. I mean, we don't have

  • any WikiLeaks dissidents yet.

  • We don't have sources who are dissidents on other sources.

  • Should they come forward, that would be a tricky situation for us,

  • but we're presumably acting in such a way

  • that people feel

  • morally compelled