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Sat Dec 8, 2012, 01:11 AM

Julian Assange: the fugitive [View all]

Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for six months. In a rare interview, we ask the WikiLeaks founder about reports of illness, paranoia and if he'll ever come out
Decca Aitkenhead
Friday 7 December 2012 17.58 EST

... Assange talks in the manner of a man who has worked out that the Earth is round, while everyone else is lumbering on under the impression that it is flat. It makes you sit up and listen, but raises two doubts about how to judge his thesis. There's no debate that Assange knows more about the subject than almost anyone alive, and the case he makes is both compelling and scary. But there's a question mark over his own credentials as a crusader against abuses of power, and another over his frame of mind. After all the dramas of the last two and a half years, it's hard to read his book without wondering, is Assange a hypocrite and is he a reliable witness?

Prodigiously gifted, he is often described as a genius, but he has the autodidact's tendency to come across as simultaneously credulous and a bit slapdash. He can leap from one country to another when characterising surveillance practices, as if all nations were analogous, and refers to the communications data bill currently before the UK parliament in such alarmist terms that I didn't even recognise the legislation and thought he must be talking about a bill I'd never heard of. "A bill promulgated by the Queen, no less!" he emphasises, as if the government could propose any other variety, before implying that it will give the state the right to read every email and listen in on every mobile phone call, which is simply not the case. It's the age-old dilemma: are we being warned by a uniquely clear-sighted Cassandra, or by a paranoid conspiracy theorist whose current circumstances only confirm all his suspicions of sinister secret state forces at work? ...

I try twice to ask how a campaigner for free speech can condone Ecuador's record on press controls, but I'm not sure he hears, because he is off into a coldly furious tirade against the Guardian. The details of the dispute are of doubtful interest to a wider audience, but in brief: WikiLeaks worked closely with both the Guardian and the New York Times in 2010 to publish huge caches of confidential documents, before falling out very badly with both. He maintains that the Guardian broke its word and behaved disgracefully, but he seems to have a habit of falling out with erstwhile allies. Leaving aside the two women in Sweden who were once his admirers and now allege rape and sexual assault, things also ended badly with Canongate, a small publisher that paid a large advance for his ghosted autobiography, only to have Assange pull out of the project after reading the first draft. It went ahead and published anyway, but lost an awful lot of money. Several staff walked out of WikiLeaks in 2010, including a close colleague, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who complained that Assange was behaving "like some kind of emperor or slave trader" ...

"Oh my God!" he interrupts angrily, raising his voice. "These people, we told them not to do that. They were wrong to do it, to violate the author's copyright like that." Did he ever consider giving his advance back? "Canongate owes me money. I have not seen a single cent from this book. Canongate owes me hundreds of thousands of pounds." But if he hasn't seen any money, it's because the advance was deposited in Assange's lawyers' bank account, to go towards paying their fees. Then the lawyers complained that the advance didn't cover the fees, and Assange fell out with them, too ...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/dec/07/julian-assange-fugitive-interview

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struggle4progress Dec 2012 OP
niyad Dec 2012 #1
freshwest Dec 2012 #2
Hissyspit Dec 2012 #3
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #4
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treestar Dec 2012 #6
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treestar Dec 2012 #10
Luminous Animal Dec 2012 #11