Julian Assange was on 60 Minutes last night, in what was the first half of two 40-minute segments on Wikileaks. His accent was crisp, his intention to fight for freedom of press was clear, his allegiance to America's founding values was explicit. But old genial uncle Steve Kroft, the program's host, wasn't about to be schooled on American values by an Australian scoundrel, let alone one who, Kroft suggested, is identified by the American people as “mysterious, weird, and paranoid”. When Assange expressed concern over Vice President Biden calling him a terrorist, and the voice of the generation, Sarah Palin, putting him on the same hit list as the Taliban, Kroft reminded the handsome rogue that we have freedom of speech in America, you see, and that applies to members of the government as well.
It was like old uncle pulled a chair up to riotous nephew over Christmas dinner and embarked upon the honorable journey of understanding. When Assange explained that despite his necessary move to a managerial role, he knows enough about computing and hacking to estimate what can be done by others—”Just like Bill Gates can”—Kroft jotted in his diary, “But Julian Assange is not Bill Gates, and Wikileaks is not Microsoft.”
But Kroft got down to it plenty of times. How can Wikileaks play outside the rules, for instance, and expect to be protected by the rules? Assange explained that Wikileaks does play by the rules:
There’s a special set of rules for soldiers. For members of the State
Department, who are disclosing classified information. There’s not a
special set of rules for publishers to disclose classified information.
There is the First Amendment. It covers the case. And there’s been no
precedent that I’m aware of in the past 50 years of prosecuting a
publisher for espionage.
Wikileaks isn't quite a traditional member of the press, though, to which Assange said that his organization is redefining what it means to be a publisher, and what it means to be an activist.
It’s not about saving the whales. It’s about giving people the
information they need to support whaling or not support whaling. Why?
That is the raw ingredients that is needed to make a just and civil
society. And without that you’re just sailing in the dark.
Everyone knew the Pope would be against Turkey's membership to EU, but everyone is all the more righter once there's a memo to confirm that suspicion. So who keeps Assange and crew in check? The public and the leakers, the paranoid, pale Australian says. Wikileaks, he claims, will last only a few months without continued donations; and leakers will continue to leak to them only if the organization is deemed worthy.
Part 1 of the interview that aired last night:
The second 40-minute segment is expected to air next Sunday.