Saturday 24 March 2018

Julian Assange hints at more leaks

Julian Assange speaks via Skype at the South By SouthWest Interactive festival in Texas (AP)
Julian Assange speaks via Skype at the South By SouthWest Interactive festival in Texas (AP)

Fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said living at the Ecuadorean embassy in London is a bit like prison - with a more lenient visitor policy.

He was speaking over Skype in a streaming-video interview beamed to an audience of 3,500 attendees of the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

And he also hinted that new leaks are coming from WikiLeaks, though he gave no specifics on what these might be.

Mr Assange, who has been confined to the embassy since June 2012, discussed government surveillance, journalism and the situation in Ukraine.

His hour-long remote appearance was plagued by technical glitches. As the audio cut out, he sometimes asked audience members to raise their hands if they could hear him.

Benjamin Palmer, the co-founder of marketing firm The Barbarian Group who interviewed him, at one point resorted to texting his questions.

Looking well-groomed in a white shirt, scarf and a black blazer, Mr Assange blasted President Barack Obama's administration.

He accused it of not taking fellow secrets leaker Edward Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance activities seriously.

"We know what happens when the government is serious," he said.

"Someone is fired, someone is forced to resign, someone is prosecuted, an investigation (is launched), a budget is cut. None of that has happened in the last eight months since the Edward Snowden revelations."

The five-day conference will tomorrow host Mr Snowden in a similar remote interview from Russia which granted him temporary asylum.

Their appearances highlight the growing concern in the tech community around issues of online privacy, surveillance and security, even as Internet giants like Google and Facebook reap billions in advertising revenue from collecting information about their users.

"Now that the Internet has merged with human society and human society has merged with the Internet, the laws of the Internet become the laws of society," Mr Assange said.

He added that the NSA's "penetration of the Internet" has led to a "military occupation" of civilian space.

Mr Assange has taken asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault charge, which he has said would be merely a first step in efforts to move him to the US to face charges over publishing hundreds of thousands of secret government documents.

Asked if he was afraid, Mr Assange said he is, like any normal person.

"Only a fool has no fear. Courage is seeing fear," he said, and proceeding anyway.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has reported extensively about Mr Snowden and the NSA's surveillance efforts, will also appear at the festival tomorrow. Unlike Mr Assange and Mr Snowden, though, he will be there in person.

Press Association

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