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Disclaimer: on the one hand I always try to keep the translation as close to the original text as possible, to catch

the main tune ;) on the other hand: This article seems to be a translation from English and French and is err well not that good in German. So this is a close translation of a badly written German article \o/ yay me. I included some statements re choice of words, persuative use of words etc its in red. If youre interested in it go ahead ^^ Also, as usual: English is not my first language, so if you find any mistakes: keep them, they are for free. Disclaimer source: This is a translation of an interview printed in the German newspaper DIE ZEIT, published on 25th of April. I asked if a translation is okay, I didnt receive any answer. If not: ohai ZEIT, one of your journalists used a translation done by me for one of his articles without giving credit to me. I think we can call it a draw ;)

Im a persistent person Julian Assange talks with Alexande Lacroix about the future of the internet, his life in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, about the Swedish judiciary and his new major project.

>> The Australian internet activist and founder of the whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012, where he to this very day enjoys political asylum. [Sorry, guys directly translated the words they used] In Great Britain he could face extradition to Sweden because of rape allegations. Hes afraid of that because, by his own account, he could then face extradition to the US and more trials. Wikileaks released with sensational actions in the past years secret documents of the US army, embassies and agencies online, which, amongst other things, are related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last Wednesday in London Margaret Thatcher was borne to her final rest. While the funeral procession moved to the St. Pauls Cathedral and the gravely dressed pedestrians followed it slowly, our author Alexandre Lacroix went to the Ecuadorian embassy. He met Julian Assange, who is 41 today, already once in October 2011, when the latter was guest in the splendid mansion of a war correspondent. Back then Julian Assange was already in the middle of the legal fight to prevent his extradition to Sweden, where hed face a, in his opinion, unjust trial. Today, in this tiny Ecuadorian embassy in the first floor of an apartment building, which is guarded day and night by 4 cops and a truck with video cameras, and without even a yard to take a stroll, Julian Assange seems to be affected by the imprisonment. [Disclaimer: The writer had the choice between bewacht >guarded< and berwacht - >monitored< he chose bewacht. Interesting choice, since the cops arent there to guard the embassy against threats.] Did the spokesperson of WikiLeaks lose the fight against the superpowers? DIE ZEIT: Mister Assange, how are you? Julian Assange: Fine. Obviously some journalists feel the urge to see me lamenting about my situation; they expect that I present them a spectacle ending in the calming realization: Who resists the power of the US will just feel the consequences. This is nonsense. We defeated an empire. We

won the fight which we had to fight in all aspects. Today the US tries to get back at us and to attack us indirectly. But we will win again. We have a strategy and we make huge progress. ZEIT: What exactly are you doing the whole day in the embassy? Assange: THE US and its allies brought me into a situation where I cant do anything else but work. In the same time they alienated the whole organization and millions of people. Quite stupid of them, dont you think? ZEIT: Do you see any way of getting out here? Assange: Many, but that doesnt primarily interest me. What would happen then? Im not the only one whos in danger. Coming here was part of a bigger plan. I didnt accidently walk into this building. That was a strategic decision. ZEIT: If the Swedish agencies guarantee you that you wont be extradited to the US, will you travel to Sweden and answer the judges? Assange: Without doubt there is much misinformation circulating. There are no judges. There are no charges against me. I have to appear as witness. But when I try to call somebody in Sweden, the cops dont even answer the phone. Ecuador asked via diplomatic channels for a formal guarantee that I wont be extradited. I asked for that guarantee from the beginning. Sweden refuses and also refuses to give reasons for its refusal. Earlier this year the chairman of the highest Swedish court, the constitutional court, Constitutional Court Judge Stefan Linskog, said, that there is nothing preventing Sweden from visiting me and talk to me, if it wants, und that he doesnt understand why this doesnt happen. According to Swedish media its a question about the Swedish reputation I didnt realize that Sweden has in this thing any reputation left. In Spanish theres a proverb which is translated: Stop playing the Swede!. It means: Stop behaving like you dont know whats happening its absurd. ZEIT: Lets talk about the beginnings of your internet activities. Would you say that, for its founders, the internet was a kind of a utopia? Assange: In the early 1990s I was involved in the buildup of the internet in Australia, and indeed you could say that the first hackers had a utopian mindset. It was a kind of knowledge-utopia. We thought that its our mission to develop a network which would enable humankind to spread and share knowledge. We believed that its necessary to do that because of the role the mass media played with their consensusproduction and their misinformation. But back then there still was a huge gap between our platonic dream of a transnational network and the real existing technology. In its beginnings the internet was fragmentary and poor on information. It was only at the end of the 90s that a huge enough momentum developed to let us hope that were close to the goal. Then for some years there really existed a golden network age, if we understand that as a free net. In the 2000s a different dynamic started when other players entered the stage: big companies like Google, Facebook, Paypal and so on replaced the hacker pioneers and net publicists who fought for the freedom of speech and opinion. They took over the directing in the expansion of the internet. With the development of highly efficient tools for mass surveillance our utopia was killed. ZEIT: From the start you understood the internet as a political entity. Why?

Assange: Most people see the internet only as a communication medium. But thats way too simple. In reality the medium isnt politically neutral. Those who use the internet indirectly accept certain values. An internet user for instance expects free access to all information hes interested in. Being a transnational public space the internet bypasses national controls over the distribution of information. Here is its unique blasting force: internet users can cross borders. This is such an extraordinary power; that the internet became the nervous system of our society. Its the space for decision-making, and for the consensus on certain topics, for instance on the question of waging a war or not. But this space doesnt work like a parliament which is only open to elected members. Its not controllable or hierarchized like the mass media. In a way the internet doubles the system of representative democracy: Outside of the parliaments it opens a new space for the collective, interactive and permanent debate of citizens among each other. Thats why authoritarian regimes and representative democracies worry about this medium. ZEIT: In the near future the internet will change democratic and undemocratic regimes fundamentally? Assange: Ive been in many countries, in 2007 I even lived for some time in Egypt, and I have the feeling that everywhere almost everything is the same. Lets describe the daily routine of any human phenomenologically: they drive by car to work, they use energy, they marry, they raise a family, they consume the same products The difference between representative democracy and an authoritarian regime isnt as distinctive today as it was in times of the Cold War. And the internet is one of the most crucial factors of that globalization. ZEIT: In your theoretical writings from the middle of the 2000s, that means in your blog Interesting Questions (2006/2007) as also in your essay Governance as Conspiracy (2006) you propose not less than a new definition of State. Traditionally the state controls the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force. Those who want to fight the state have to go onto the streets. In your view the state today resembles more a giant computer. Thus everything changes. Assange: Those theoretical texts were only notes I sent to friends. Talking about the state, it still is correct: The internet established a whole new initial position. By now we understand the state as a kind of casing into which some information enters while other information leaves it. In the casing itself certain information dealing with power abuse, injustice and corruption, are hidden carefully. This perspective leads to the following: the citizens have to know what the casing contains if they want to execute democratic control over their states. Putting it differently: In a democracy the casing of a state should be as transparent as possible. ZEIT: What does that mean politically? Assange: This changes the nature of our political fights. Take a look at the pentagon: Information enters and leaves this organization but also people enter and leave. Among these men, among these countless people keeping the state machine running are some who have high morals. If those people witness a case of corruption or unlawful torture they might want to talk about this information. Its difficult for a state to prevent its servants from making scandals public. This isnt really news but its highly visible that with the internet an age of information began, in which the publishing of sensitive data became part of the political fight. ZEIT: Do we live in a new age?

Assange: The state didnt yet lose its materiality because of a simple digital wand. It still owns the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force, and wars still cost real lifes. ZEIT: Lets come to the dark side of the internet: surveillance. Which dimensions does surveillance have nowadays? Assange: Very simple: every action you perform online, every site you visit, every message you send is intercepted and stored. This also applies to your smartphone with the addition that it also makes it possible to track you geographically. Depending on the regulations of a country the logged data contains either the fact that A at a certain point of time contacted B, or even the content of the message itself. In the 00-years these possibilities to intercept and store private data rose. The number of data having been logged already is much higher than the world population. The national security agency of the US acknowledged towards the congress that they intercept over 1.6 billion messages a day. ZEIT: During a discussion meeting at the university of Berkeley you announced in April 2010 bad news and good news. The bad news was that were monitored permanently. The good news was that nobody has the time to check this tremendous amount of data. Are you less optimistic today? Assange: Yes today Id be most certainly less optimistic. On the one hand the technical resources have been immensely perfected. Today its easy to cover all people somebody had contact with, his/her whole sociography. Divergent behavior online or on the telephone can be detected automatically, as well as the crossing of certain borders or the search for certain information. Aditionally: Because the military and the State Department dont possess the know-how of developing surveillance programs they contacted private companies which offer a huge spectrum of services. The by WikiLeaks in 2011 published Spy Files (disclaimer: ZEIT printed PSY Files I laughed hysterically for some minutes and corrected it for the translation), documents of the surveillance industry, showed that. ZEIT: Can you give concrete examples? Assange: VAStech for example, a south African company, got the order, for not less than 10 million US$, to record for one year the telephone calls of hundred million people this is about the number of all German speaking Europeans. The French company Vupen sells antivirus programs for individual computers and telephones (including iPhones, Blackberrys and Androids) which enables the access to private data. The list can be continued for a long time. ZEIT: What is alarming about that kind of surveillance? Assange: All these services are provided by private companies. When the states in the 19th century began to compile records about their citizens the data collection was only in the hands of the police, of state servants. As we all know the police is often corrupt, but the parliaments reacted on cases of abuse of power and installed ombudsmen, let the police check the police, passed bills for freedom of information and so on. These policing mechanisms dont apply to private companies. Today private providers conduct data collection and storage for states and other companies alike. ZEIT: What is so bad about that?

Assange: This private data was changed into a product which could be sold to the highest bidder. Today computer systems decide about when a house should be on foreclosure sale. This makes it possible to hollow the accountability for this kind of decisions, because there are no more moral instances that could be called to account for it. The British army tested in 2003 a technology which could make it possible to locate targets during an attack over their phones. Back then it was only possible to locate a handful of people. Today thousands of city dwellers can be screened and located. Just imagine the military consequences of this technology. ZEIT: In your book Cypherpunks. Freedom and the Future of the Internet (German version: Cypherpunks: Unsere Freiheit und die Zukunft des Internets - Campus, 2013) you advise cryptography, the encryption of data, as a way to avoid surveillance. But do you really believe that an average internet user like me could be able to protect his private data with a cryptographic encryption? (Disclaimer: yes.. the original article says: kryptographische Verschlsselung a tautology. But hey) Assange: This calls for a detailed not that simple explanation, because its a rather technical thing. Every internet user already has to deal with cryptographic tools, although he might not notice them. If you for example log into Amazon or an online banking system, you use the most common form of encryption technology: https. The question of principle here is: When your internet browser leads you to the homepage of the CIA how can you know if this is the real website of the CIA? Your computer knows the answer: Your browser, for example Firefox, has cryptographic keys or certificates of ca 60 companies already installed, and their job is to provide cryptographic signatures for all other websites. The whole thing would work perfectly if these companies were perfect. But unfortunately they are corrupt: They issue wrong certificates. Some even were hacked, so that now somebody somewhere can imitate such certificates. This makes the whole certification system bogus. Therefore I decided to work the next years on a highly ambitious project. ZEIT: You work on a new big project? Assange: Indeed, and this project deals with the encryption of data. Since it is about technical skills which might seem quite abstract for laymen, Ill try to explain it as simple as possible. Different from what some might believe, the internet is not virtual or immaterial. It functions on the base of fiber optics and routers, and also facilities to store data. Most of the providers for that are sitting in California. Which means those very concrete infrastructures are controlled by US companies. Also domain names and IP addresses are controlled by a US NGO called ICANN which is able to basically delete any web address overnight. The companies, on the other hand, who control the fiber optic cables can intercept messages passing through them. So the question is: How can internet users occupy this space if they have neither its infrastructure nor its reference system under their control? ZEIT: Yes, how? Assange: Think about what I said earlier: the internet should be a huge building preserving the whole knowledge of mankind. But today, from one moment to another, even the fundaments of this building can crumble. They belong to other instances than its denizens. Can we build on such a fundament? I think, yes, but in order to do that we need to clear the way. Zeit: And right now you work on that?

Assange: I want to find a method to ensure that the name online information gets is really based on its content and features. Imagine somebody claims to be in possession of a secret document about, lets say, the US nuclear program date 1st of January 2013. He wants to send you this digital document. But how can you be sure that the document is genuine? And how can you know that it wont be intercepted and manipulated during its transfer through the internet? Both questions can be answered with cryptography. In other words: It is possible to give a document an unbreakable cryptographic key which guarantees the authenticity of it. ZEIT: let us assume a group of creationists wants to delete Darwins On the Origin of Species completely from the internet or to rewrite ome pages. Could your cryptographic method prevent them from doing so? Assange: Most certainly. I work with cryptographic certificates which will ensure during the opening of a file that its the original document and that nothing was changed in it although it might have been opened a thousand times. This works for the books of Darwin as for the King-James-bible or the first amendment of the US constitution, whose reference and content therefore can be made unchangeable and indestructible. ZEIT: This sounds like the opposite of Wikipedia. It would be impossible to change the original document. Assange: Thats right. Plus its also the only possibility to create solid foundations for our building of knowledge. We internet users dont possess IP addresses or fiber optics, so we have to find another way of checking the authenticity of information we access. This project naturally arises out of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks dealt with the gravest case of knowledge storage by the state. Now we have to shoulder a different task. We have to fight against the controlling and storage of knowledge. Right now complete collections of information can be erased from the internet by the will of the US State department. ZEIT: So behind your current work on a new and uncheatable kind of data safety is still a social utopia? Assange: Think about what I said earlier about the utopian dimensions of the internet. On the one side we shouldnt give up the idea of building a network of collective knowledge. But on the other side internet users dont rule over the material infrastructure or the referencesystem if the net. The only practicable solution for this power problem is to create unchangeable and foolproof online information which would be protected from any manipulation through official or private super powers. ZEIT: I think that the internet populates the stage of history with new actors. From a classic Hegelian point of view history is made by great man who had great ideas: Napoleon, Churchill, Einstein But today with the internet its the big collectives who shape the history. The Arab Spring, Anonymous and Occupy all dont have any leaders anymore. Isnt it a good thing that we got rid of the charismatic leaders and replaced them with collective acting? Assange: Im not as happy as you about the disappearance of charismatic leaders. Although I believe we dont need a leader itself Im to libertarian for that I still think that its necessary to have symbolic leaders. People who stand for ideas. Lets take Anonymous. Much more than a unified movement Anonymous consists of many small groups being able to accomplish enormously much

and where leaders are existing. Overall the actions of Anonymous are extremely positive. But Anonymous can also be used as camouflage. Indeed one of the most known leaders, a hacker named Sabu, was an FBI informant. Court files say hes still active for the FBI. ZEIT: And what do you think about the Occupy Movement? Assange: Its a shame it doesnt have a leadership figure. Yes, the philosopher Slavoj iek was there and lend the movement his voice. I love iek, hes a friend, but being a Slovenian intellectual who grew up under communist rule, he wasnt the man of the hour. A young US professor (disclaimer: German indicates, both versions are used, female and male professor and professor oO dont ask me) should have come out of the cover and should have shown him/herself mastering the challenge. Its a shame that the academic world of the US obviously is intellectually too bankrupt to bring up a symbolic leader for the Occupy Movement. ZEIT: And how are the power structures at WikiLeaks? And: Who claims responsibility for the consequences of publishing sensitive data? Assange: I like to compare WikiLeaks with a warship. There everybody on board is important: The technicians and engineers are important and the programmers too. When we came under attack, the people who could clean the mess, our lawyers, were equally important. In an organization that moves something you cant do without any function (Disclaimer: as in position). I, for my part, adopted the role of the spokesperson, I was the face of the movement what is equally important when it comes to efficiency (Disclaimer: ZEIT used a word: Effiziensgesichtspunkte which basically doesnt exist, so I tried my best :3). But I dont claim to be a great man in the Hegelian meaning. Im nothing more but a persistent guy. But enough about me. Take a look at how brave Bradley Manning seems to be ZEIT: the soldier who passed in May 2010 secret video material and internal records of US embassies to the web platform WikiLeaks and who faces lifetime in jail. Assange: He showed his moral strength and virtue because he didnt let the crucial treatment he was subject to break him. The people are used to slick politicians who promise them everything and let them down first thing. Its incredibly impressive to see people like Bradley Manning really risking their life for their beliefs. ZEIT: But didnt you also endanger people with the publishing of material through WikiLeaks? Assange: No, not at all. Not even the US government claims that a single person suffered physical harm because of our work. Not a single one. If you heard anything different, you should think carefully and for a long time about how that information reached you and what information was blocked by it. ZEIT: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Assange: Good question. However it will be in ten years my personal situation depends on the international situation. If the world evolves into the right direction and the international community is sympathetic to freedom of speech, if governmental acting is more transparent, then my activities will be re-evaluated and show in a better light. Then the role WikiLeaks played in the exposure of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan will be valued, it will be acknowledged that Cablegate helped

preparing the Arab Spring, because the publishing of the cables of the US embassies helped to undermine the legitimacy of dictators like Mubarak, Ben Ali or Gaddhafi. But that is all quite hypothetical. If the world evolves into a different direction, in the direction of a totalitarian apocalypse with even more surveillance and control, Ill be imprisoned somewhere. So you see, that all doesnt depend upon me.