Real Time with Bill Maher: Episode 271, February 8, 2013 – Julian Assange, WikiLeaks

HBO: Real Time with Bill Maher – Episode 271, February 8, 2013 — Guests: Julian Assange, Tina Brown, Josh Barro, Martin Bashir, Lawrence Krauss


Bill Maher — “How do you come by the documents that you do release? I would guess hacking and stealing is involved.”

Julian Assange ( — “Well, that’s the allegation. We’re set up in such a way that we don’t know how we come by them [documents]. That’s part of the technology involved, that people can give us material. And if you really want to keep sources safe, you need to make sure that no one, even inside your own organization, can tell what’s going on. Even if you are penetrated by intelligence agencies, you can’t out your own sources.

Bill Maher — “One thing I find very disconcerting here in America is that, even the people in our liberal party [Democratic Party] have lined up against you. — Look, I’m not going to kid around, I am on your side. — If you could just briefly tell the American people why they should be on your side.”

Julian Assange (WikiLeaks) interview - Real Time with Bill Maher

Julian Assange — “Well look, we have risen to a situation, or collapsed to a situation in the United States now where you can be killed by someone in the White House, the President on down, for completely arbitrary reasons. You won’t know you’re on the kill list until you’re dead. And lawyers, if you have a suspicion you’re on this kill list, they can’t even represent you. — I can’t see a greater collapse. When the executive can kill it’s own citizens arbitrarily, at will, in secret, without any of the decision-making becoming public, without even the rules of procedure, without even the law behind this being public. So that’s why we need organizations like WikiLeaks.”

Bill Maher — “Is there anything you would not publish? I mean, would you not publish nuclear codes? Or, if you found the plans to get bin Laden before that raid had been conducted.”

Julian Assange — “Well, if you engage in these hypotheticals like 24 [TV series], then you can justify anything. You can justify torturing people with hypotheticals and ticking time-bombs and so on. But unlike most media organizations, we have a publicly stated policy on what we publish and what we don’t publish. We don’t make this up based on our political alliances like most organizations do. We accept material that is political, diplomatic, or historical, or ethical significance, that hasn’t been published before and is under some kind of censorship threat. If it meets all those criteria, we will throw our resources into publishing it, and defending it. We may keep some portions of it at bay for a period of time if it would subject someone to reprisals, for example. We promise to publish all eventually, but some pieces may need to be withheld for a period of time.

Bill Maher — “But I know you’ve published diplomatic cables, and diplomacy by it’s very nature has to do with, well, being diplomatic. And sometimes that’s a good thing. For example, during the Cuban missile crisis, it was a lot of face-saving. We were on the brink of war, we made a deal behind the scenes where if the Russians took the missiles out of Cuba, we said we would take the missiles out of Turkey. But the missiles were coming out of Turkey anyway. It was purely a face-saving endeavor to end the standoff. But if that had become public, it wouldn’t have been face-saving, and maybe the world would have went to war.”

Julian Assange — “Yeah, maybe. I mean I can see arguments for, in the minutes of the negotiations, that the negotiations need confidentiality at the moment they are happening. But we’re talking what’s happening a significant time afterwords. And you know, this is a matter of there being costs and benefits. We look at the benefits of what we’ve published. I mean there’s massive reforms around the world. These documents that we have published contributed significantly to the Arab Spring. That’s not us saying that, that’s Amnesty International and a lot of other reports saying that. But in the end, yes, sometimes the State Department and other organizations have a responsibility to keep things secret for a limited period of time. They failed in that responsibility, arguably. Us, as a publishing organization, we have a responsibility also. And our responsibility is to publish fairly and fearlessly, and represent the whistle-blowers who bring us material. And it’s alright for different bodies in society to have conflicting roles. That’s what keeps all our different organizations honest.

Bill Maher — “I think if the United States could prosecute a foreign journalist it would set a rather chilling precedent around the world. I don’t know what would stop other countries from prosecuting our journalists if they felt like it. Russia comes to mind.”

Julian Assange — “Already this case is being used to justify prosecutions around the world. It’s used in Ethiopia, it’s used in a lot of countries to justify a crack down on journalists. And it’s not just me who is involved in this. The young soldier Bradly Manning has now been detained without trial in a U.S. military prison for longer than any case in U.S. military history.”

Bill Maher — “OK, well, I hope you get out soon Julian. We’d like to see you out on the outside again, and I don’t want to have to send Ben Affleck in there like we did in Iran. [laughter] Julian Assange everybody. Thank you Julian. — Oh good, he smiled!”

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