Video: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg at Personal Democracy Forum

Micah Sifry says,

Here's video of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange talking with Daniel Ellsberg (the first time they'd ever talked) at Personal Democracy Forum on June 3rd. Julian was supposed to attend in person, but canceled at the last minute citing warnings he had gotten not to travel to countries "that don't respect the rule of law."


  1. America is now a country that dissidents fear to travel to?

    The USA is sleepwalking down a dangerous path.

  2. I would hate for an analyst to say he “knows me from the waist down” (obviously the moderator misheard).

    1. He said “Of course, I’m naked from the waist down”

      It’s a joke for those situations in media where you have a talking head shot and the audience cant see anything but the top half. Usually it’s used with news-readers where you cant see anything but the top-half over their counter :)

  3. In fact, it’s difficult to be a dissident in the USA thanks to all the unconstitutional laws passed in the last decade in the name of anti-terrorism. Unfortunately the general population doesn’t care enough to actually be angry about it.

  4. Let’s not go overboard with the police-state rhetoric. Assange is not a “dissident.” Noam Chomsky is a dissident. Assange is a person thought to be in possession of hundreds of thousands of pages of stolen government documents. Is the US supposed to invite him over for tea? I’m not saying it’s immoral for him to do what he does, but it’s irrational to expect a positive response from any world government in this sort of situation.

  5. would have it been too difficult for the audio guy to plug the frickin’ laptop into the mixer along with the two lav mics on the speakers?
    what is it with tech people and audio? did they miss that class in AV school?

    1. But that way it would have made an important point about democracy and personal freedom! Who would want to give a forum to personal democracy?

      Yes, it may be that the leaker broke laws in leaking everything (and there are still questions as to what exactly was leaked; the 260,000 State Department notes may or may not exist), and that should be investigated. The thing is, the leakee, the one that gets the stuff, shouldn’t be in legal peril. Freedom of speech is something of primary importance (Jefferson preferred a free press to free government) and once it’s out there, there’s no way to get it back. All they can do to Assange is to punish him for free speech.

      FDR, the guy who threw Japanese-Americans in internment camps, refused to prosecute the publisher of an article that stated we had broken the top code of Imperial Japan. That publisher was guilty of breaking several laws and had attacked FDR personally in the past but FDR himself stopped the Justice Department from prosecution. A free press is damn important.

  6. My personal jury is still out on Assange. It is one thing to leak touchy info for the common good or because it exposes a corrupt government. It is quite another to leak touchy info that could endanger innocents just because you are in possession of it.

    I supported the leaking of the “Collateral Murder” video, even if I didn’t think the title was appropriate. However, these documents that Wikileaks is alleged to be in possession of should also be of the same nature in importance and exposure. If they are nothing more than operational movements that will get innocents killed, I don’t see how I can support that.

    So I guess it boils down to whether or not Assange wants to be a hero or a celebrity.

    1. There are innocent people subject to “operational movements?”

      Thing is, none of us know what (if any) memos are out there, and none of us know what the effect of their release would be. The conservative Chicken Little crap is getting old, lets let the chips fall where they may. Unless my fellow Americans have made a bed in which they can not stand to lie.

  7. I still don’t believe that those diplomatic cables exist. There are plenty of reasons Manning could have made the whole thing up. And wikileaks claims they don’t exist. So if they do exist and wikileaks releases them now, they lose all credibility.

  8. What Assange said (that the moderator misheard) was “I’m naked from the waist down.”

    It’s a treat to listen to Ellsberg as he has a strategic mind that can plot the likelihood of various trajectories. So useful in wading through the oceans of information and misinformation out there.

    Did anyone catch what he said about the sloppy Canadian crypto (“hush”?) that got someone caught?

  9. As for the alleged State Department documents which may or may not exist, it is my impression for descriptions of those documents that there is nothing there that would “harm innocents”, but in fact would expose the lying and deception being employed by the US vis-a-vis the international community. While exposure of this stuff might conceivably result in various unspecified persons being harmed in some way, the real issue as always is how much this sort of duplicity is harming EVERYONE in some way, if for no other reason than preventing serious issues from being resolved in a more rational way.

    How many of those documents are related to the spurious notion that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, which might eventually result in another war which kills a million or more people as the Iraq war has? How many of those documents are related to the Palestinian situation, which might force the Administration to take a stronger hand in pressuring Israel to stop killing innocent people? How many of those documents expose the control that Israel has over the Obama administration? How many of those documents expose the likelihood that the war in Afghanistan either cannot be “won” or that the motives for continuing that war have more to do with getting an oil pipeline than containing Al Qaeda?

    In other words, if those documents are exposed, how many people’s lives might be SAVED rather than threatened? How many lives would have been saved in Vietnam if Ellsberg had exposed the documents earlier, as he said he should have and has regretted not doing?

    The notion that “lies save lives” is spurious.

    1. @#12

      I think it is a damn shame that Wikileaks doesn’t have them, because it’s obvious that if the State Dept. is that nervous (and publicly so), then it is clearly dirty laundry that should see the light of day.

      Governments don’t really care about expendable assets being put at risk (that’s the kind of thing that ordinary people do worry about), they care about embarrassment (because that has far more impact on a country than the deaths of a few soldiers and spies does).

  10. Excuse me if I am misinformed, but it strikes me that the Assange is in possession of documents loaded with military secrets that are largely confidential. I understand the romance behind getting your hands on government material, but isn’t this crossing the line? He could be leaking data that puts innocent lives at risk…At one point its not about being a police state, it’s about being realistic…The military sometimes does have reason to keep things under the radar.

    1. @ #13 Sure, it’s crossing a line. Everything crosses one line or another. The question is, is that line a good line or a bad line? The fact that the theoretical documents are confidential documents, does not mean they must always remain confidential.

      As for your other complaint that the theoretical documents may put innocent lives at risk, there are several massive assumptions between that and mass condemnation of the idea of leaking, of Assange, or of wikileaks; which seems to be your complaint. The theoretical cables may or may not put innocent lives at risk, and even in the event that they do, they may or may not be leaked. So slow down with your condemnation and with your analysis.

      And no, no it is exactly about a police state.

  11. Hold on Richard Hack – forgive me if I misunderstood you, but are you saying if these documents are released the Palestinian situation or the Iranian situation will ameliorate? If that’s true, it strikes me it would be in the best interest of the State Dept. to release them…

  12. How sad it is to see the climate in the United States today — the majority is still lock-step in line with the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about so many decades ago. I want to make the following points:

    1) First and foremost, there needs to be more discussion about the potentially enormous ethics violations that seem to have been committed at Wired Magazine. Everyone knows Kevin Poulsen & Adrian Lamo are friends. It is obvious they worked their target, Bradley Manning, for days — in co-operation with the FBI and US Army CID. This hearkens back to COINTELPRO tactics. How likely is it that Lamo worked entirely on his own with no involvement from Poulsen, who only found out about it all after-the-fact, in time to “break the story” for Wired? There is no disclosure provided in the original article and it is written as if Poulsen wasn’t involved at all. Could it really be that, in pursuit of breaking a big story, Wired magazine staff helped set up a situation where the FBI/USACID got to use proxy interrogators, who misled a suspect into believing that he was only answering questions from someone he could trust, instead of federal/military law enforcement, without any Constitutional protections in place? This needs to be more critically examined.

    2) Would Lamo have snitched out Daniel Ellsberg in 1970, hypothetically speaking? Based on the justifications he’s publicly offered to date, it seems so. This isn’t something to be admired. The US War Machine rolls on exactly because of mass media complicity, the lack of information about US militarism around the world and the witch-hunt persecution of everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Valerie Plame to Cindy Sheehan to the millions of Americans who protested this war BEFORE it began and were subjected to scrutiny, harassment and intimidation by law enforcement (an under-reported story). In the 70s, the persecution of Daniel Ellsberg only caused support for him to increase. Somehow, it seems like the same will not be true for Bradley Manning unless thoughtful & concerned citizens do something about it.

    3) We don’t know for sure but Lamo claims that PFC Manning finally decided to be a whistleblower when he was ordered to process the arrest of Iraqi civilians who did nothing more than publish an academic paper about corruption in the Iraqi Provisional Government. He leaked the Collateral Murder video which was so shocking to so many because of how little the US public understands about the US war machine. And, he allegedly leaked diplomatic reports that demonstrate a pattern of lies and, we can only imagine what else. Possibly the details of US support for Middle East dictatorships, Israeli occupation and settlement expansion, etc. In other words, business as usual — just like the US supported dictatorships in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Iran and anywhere that corporate interests demanded market access at gunpoint. Leaking this information is the act of a hero. If only US support of Operation Condor in Latin America had been leaked in 1972 instead of years later.

    4) Now, instead of publishing important leaks and building on the momentum from the Collateral Murder release, key Wikileaks volunteer Julian Assange is on the run from the retaliatory actions of the US State Department, who have a menu of options made possible by years of “extraordinary rendition” kidnappings. Would we even KNOW if US operatives have gotten hold of Assange? Are we supposed to be proud of this global gestapo that was put in place by the Bush Administration and continued by the Obama presidency? Is Lamo proud to have made it all possible?

    5) I must reiterate what others have said here: the assertion that “innocent lives are risked” by the release of what was leaked so far is a falsehood. And, the only reason to even think that PFC Manning was “risking lives” is the unconfirmed innuendo made public by Adrian Lamo, who has every reason in the world to justify the breach of trust he committed by willfully initiating a clandestine interrogation of PFC Manning. Certainly, the Collateral Murder video doesn’t put any lives at risk. The analysis by Ellsberg on this is probably the most accurate: these alleged leaks would greatly embarrass the US Government by forcing the media to report on even further evidence that supports allegations made by opponents of US foreign policy. That doesn’t RISK lives — it does the exact opposite.

    Daniel Ellsberg is a hero. PFC Manning came to a realization about US foreign policy; it’s well-documented that thousands of enlisted soldiers have had the same realization after being on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. The difference is that PFC Manning was willing & able to actually DO something about it, beyond participating in a Winter Soldier event or going to protests. To that extent, PFC Manning is also a hero.

    Wired Magazine, Kevin Poulsen and Adrian Lamo should be viewed with skepticism, as they are potentially the proud participants in one of the most scandalous breaches of journalist ethics in recent history. Adrian Lamo is now engaged in a public campaign to discredit PFC Manning as a “dangerous spy” and Poulsen continues to report on the story for Wired.

    This is an extremely important case and I urge all citizens to do what they can to support PFC Manning and any other soldier who disobeys orders/regulations to expose war crimes and/or the truth about US foreign policy.

    “I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism […] Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. […] I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. […] Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
    – Major General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps, 1933

    1. “Everyone knows …” “How likely is it …” “It’s obvious …” “Could it really be …” “How do we know Poulsen isn’t a Communist?”

      I added the last one. Just trying help you find the next step in your principled stand against the military industrial complex.

      Our stories have been perfectly clear about my role. Here’s a hint: look at the name after “By” in the article. I’m a journalist reporting a story, and Adrian is a source and subject. I learned of Manning’s chats after Adrian reported the matter to the government, and I learned Manning’s name after his arrest. All the “everyone knows” in the world won’t change that.

      I imagine the rest of your comment is equally infantile and reactionary, but, frankly, I couldn’t keep going after COINTELPRO.

      1. I am a devoted Wired reader, but a responsible reader scrutinizes everything she reads. The answers to questions raised by defendwikileaks may indeed be in your favor but it is valid to raise those questions nonetheless, and so I found the “communist” bit you added immature. Besides, it doesn’t even fit in, and this would be obvious to you if you read the rest of the comment.

        I also question your fascination with Adrian. When I first read Wired’s profile on him, I wondered why anyone would be interested in this Adrian guy. He was unlikeable from the start. Outing Bradley Manning was a great injustice to the service of truth.

    2. Those are some heavy accusations you make. Working Manning in cooperation with FBI and CID? That’s a whole plot, a story far more complex than any the story to date. The story that emerged (the young bragging hacker type getting himself in trouble) is a common and normal story, whereas the one you propose is wildly strange and baroque. I can’t even figure out why Kevin would do what you’ve claimed he did.

      Before you try to ruin someone’s reputation, have you any proof at all beyond saying “It’s obvious”?

      I feel like this is frustration for Manning getting himself in trouble, misdirected lashing out. He as a young man, and it’s not the first time a young man has ruined his life with his big mouth. Wikileaks tells their sources to only talk to them. Had Manning listened, none of this would have ever happened.

    3. Finally someone has said it! I’ve read many of the articles on this subject and all these things have occurred to me but no one was saying them. Thank you how refreshing.
      It is quite obvious that people are going to want to discredit wikileaks, its supporters and contributors. What better way to do this than causing distrust amongst hackers, fear amongst whistleblowers and scepticism towards wikileaks. Turn the enemy against themselves ar…that ol’ chestnut.

  13. Anon:

    Don’t worry — I have a feeling that Wikileaks does have a substantial number of State Department classified docs. Look at what EXACTLY they said:

    “Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”

    So, maybe they got 250k. Maybe 200k. Maybe 300k. My point is: that denial leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In the chat transcripts, Manning already points to the Iceland classified memo that was released and that provoked the recall of the ambassador. I have a feeling there is more to come.

    Unfortunately, I believe that the shady cointelpro-style journalism and the snitching out of PFC Manning will delay the release of these documents, one of the many reasons why that shouldnt have been done.

  14. well said defendwikileaks,

    you have presented a to the point and well laid out arguement.
    I am glad that not every american is jumping on this poor soldier who’s only real crime was trusting that snake of a wannabe journalist

  15. #4 – Funny you should mention that. Daniel Ellsberg was also once in possession of several thousands of pages of stolen government documents. Those papers revealed government wrongdoing in the conduct of a war. The government had kept them secret for three years. Ellsberg gave them to the New York Times, and risked over 100 years in prison for it. Sound familiar?

    Now, consider the essential difference here. Ellsberg was in the position of Bradley Manning, the PFC who’s been accused of leaking the “Collateral Murder” video and possibly these documents. Assange is in the position of the New York Times: he’s publishing materials that someone else gave him. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Times had the legal right under the First Amendment to publish the Pentagon Papers.

    It is perfectly reasonable for Bradley Manning to fear prosecution; he broke the law and violated security. It’s just a damned shame that fucker Lamo outed him. But it is not at all reasonable for Julian Assange to fear prosecution; any publication of those papers he chooses to do should be protected by the First Amendment.

    I think there was little point in Assange refusing to come to America, other than to make a point about what America has become. They might arrest him, sure. They probably wouldn’t be able to make any charges stick; they would just cost him some time and aggravation, in exchange for a big PR loss.

    I think what Julian Assange should be worried about is not legal action. He should be worried about being snatched and sent to Syria, or just disappeared. And that can happen anywhere; it’s probably easier to do outside the US. Judging from what I’ve read of his typical traveling behavior, he seems well aware of this risk.

    In related news, I see the Supreme Court has declined review of Maher Arar’s case against the government. Yay America.

  16. It is the job of the intelligence and counterintelligence communities to adjust to changes in data, whether due to a leak or intelligence gathered by other means. Regarding the morality and ethics in play here: as members of a democratic society, it is laughable that one would think we could make responsible choices w/r/t our votes without information about what our government does in our names and with our tax money. American citizens pay for a war in which soldiers are confronted with a series of devil’s bargains (such as kill these people who might be completely harmless or be court martialed for insubordination) and we are regularly told lies about what happens in this war and why we are fighting it. The more information we have that is accurate, the better we can decide how to vote or otherwise adjust our governance.

  17. Mr. Poulsen is apparently as guilty of intellectual cowardice (not willing to expose himself to an opposing view based on his personal emotions; not exactly the hallmark of a credible journalist) as he is of misunderstanding what the word “reactionary” means. Here’s a hint, Kev: It’s the kind of cloaked right-wing propaganda you and so many other “mainstream” journalists aid and abet in spoonfeeding the population through your feckless, uncritical stenography masquerading as “reporting”.

  18. What about how Lamo got used? I read a story online that said he got pulled into a mental institute by law enforcement for hacking, given a “diagnosis” of “Asperger’s” — that was also a message being sent to hackers all over. Jedi hackers beware!

  19. @#18, The statement ‘Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.’ is a subtle way of remaining in concordance with the laws in Sweden and Belgium – ie protecting their sources.'s_guide

    The crucial bit is not the number given (it’s a red herring), but the ‘as far as we can tell’ bit.. because they are not allowed to say what material they have, by law.’ speakin’ of red herrings, I suspect Julian Assange, being the clever guy that he is, has possibly acted as a decoy on this one too. He is allegedly still in Australia at time of writing after a blaze of publicity that followed him, but Wikileaks is set up to run fairly smoothly without his day-to-day involvement. He may not have the stuff that the Pentagon wants at all.

    What I’d really want to know is whether the hot docs will be dumped on the world all at once in one big zipped up file, or let out bit by bit, Wiki-formatted of course.

  20. It’s standard practice for a journalist to disclose potential conflict of interest. Are you and Lamo friends? Yes or no?

    1. EEEYeah…but, Lamo’s no Mitnick. Neither is Poulsen, for that matter. Lamo has cultivated his “gray hat” image, but Adrian’s always been in it for the publicity Adrian can get out of it. He surrendered to the FBI in his NY Times case on The Screensavers, for heaven’s sake!

  21. “He as a young man, and it’s not the first time a young man has ruined his life with his big mouth.”

    Better he should “ruin his life” (if that’s what you call a career as an Intel functionary) by “opening his big mouth” than keep quiet and abet disaster after disaster. Because then he can live with himself for the rest of his life … like the people who ‘ratted out’ Lt. Calley … unlike the thousands of soldiers who ‘just follow orders’ and then come home and drink themselves to death.

    Secondly, who the F are you to make that kind of judgment? about a man you know *nothing* about, except what you read (presumably) from an armchair far, far from anything resembling the situation he found himself in.

    Funny how people who “keep their mouth shut” are always willing to spew vociferous opinions about things beyond their ken.

  22. Here’s another one for defendwikileaks. I too am a regular wired reader, but the poulson-Lamo association and the events of the past week or two have me seriously questioning the genesis of the whole thing. Frankly it stinks. Lamo has a weird smug look on his face too doesn’t he?

    Reminds me of Christopher Hitchens journey from Scathing Reagan critic for the Nation to arch-Neocon-Zionist apologist. He clearly spotted where the money was and to hell with morality and common human decency.

  23. Kevin, if this really is Kevin Poulsen, your comment is likewise just as childish as the one you railed against. It would have sufficed to simply reiterate your role was well disclosed and that you found out well after-the-fact. You are supposedly a professional journalist and need to allow criticism roll off your back. After all, this can’t be first time someone has criticized you on Boing Boing or other well traveled blogs. :-)

    Moreover, your childish post makes it seem that defendwikileaks may be onto something with his/her arguments.

    For a number of reasons, it is also in your personal interest to nip the argument in the bud. Lamo is in California. You personally know he is posing as a journalist. Objectively speaking, it is reasonable for Manning to expect he was speaking with a journalist. The Wired piece does say Lamo told Manning he was not a journalist for purposes of the conversation but then failed to give an excerpt or two demonstrating this. You freely used excerpts to highlight points elsewhere in the article so your failure to provide excerpts when discussing Lamo’s role does support defendwikileaks’ criticisms.

    In addition, if it does turn out that Lamo operates as a journalist in California and it was objectively reasonable for Manning to expect he was speaking with a journalist, then Lamo would have violated California law. Your involvement could easily open you up to personal and criminal liability under California law. You knew Lamo is a journalist, then reviewed and published those likely-privileged chat records. Therefore …

    Personally, I’ll withhold judgment, but defendwikileaks does have some valid points if you look beyond the childishness. Your failure to address them may haunt you in the future.

  24. @defendwikileaks, @Wikispooks, @ab5tract —

    Ryan Singel from here (note: Kevin Poulsen is one of my editors)

    It’s telling that none of you have a shred of proof that Kevin Poulsen did anything other than report this story out fairly and accurately, following journalistic principles.

    The best you all come up with is a photo of Mitnick, Poulsen and Lamo from a conference years ago (a classic photo for those who know their histories). Lamo loves attention, especially from the press — ask anyone who has covered computer security in the last 10 years.

    But despite that total lack of proof, you all *anonymously* sling mud and insinuations, including that Poulsen somehow helped the feds track Manning.

    To that, I can only say, Really?

    Have you ever read his writing? You know he edits Threat Level, right?

    You know, the blog that published the NSA/AT&T documents when the nation’s top newspapers were afraid to? A blog that critically covered the feds use of “State secrets” before it became a known phrase?

    You know that Poulsen was the first to report the FBI has a browser vulnerability it uses to trap suspects?

    That the blog he edits has published more on the FBI’s surveillance capabilities than any other source online?

    The blog that wrote about Wikileaks first? That has written dozens of articles about it?

    Nah, none of that seems to count with you cowards who post under anonymous names, making insinuations you can’t back up. Which then Wikileaks points to in fundraising letters, saying, “Hmmm, there are questions about this report.”

    That’s cowardly. Wikileaks has done some amazing things, and we’ve been there to cover them.

    But Julian Assange’s tactics in the wake of Lamo ratting out one of his sources is worthy of the corrupt corporations and governments he claims to oppose.

    Sadly, his cowardly online followers are happy to play along, at least so long as their names are hidden.

    Ryan Singel
    Staff Writer

  25. @Ryan, more reason to nip this in the bud now. Wired need only publish statements from the chat transcripts in which Lamo tells Manning he is not working as a journalist and thus is not protected as a source. I think much of the mud slinging so far, along with the accompanying skepticism, is directly related to the lack of those transcripts.

  26. when people talk about “innocents” that might get killed for leaking information, are those US soldiers?

    If that’s the case it’s a quite generous use of the word “innocent”.

  27. Ryan-

    I’ll ask my question again, without cover of anonymity.

    It is standard practice for journalists to disclose any potential conflict of interest when reporting a story. Are Poulsen and Lamo friends? Yes or no? If it’s a “no,” I’d be relieved to hear it. If it’s a “yes,” I think readers deserve to know why this fact wasn’t disclosed when the article was published.

    -Matt Cornell

  28. Glen Greenwald has a long piece on Salon specifically addressing the relationship between Poulsen and Lamo, and the effect on this case.

    “Second, one can’t help but note the irony that two hackers-turned-journalists — Poulsen and Lamo — are now the self-anointed guardians of America’s national security, the former concealing secrets he learned as a journalist on vague national security grounds and the latter turning informant by invoking the most extreme, right-wing platitudes about “traitors” and “spies” and decrees that his actions were necessary to “save American lives.”

    Third, Wired should either publish all of the chat logs, or be far more diligent about withholding only those parts which truly pertain only to Manning’s private and personal matters and/or which would reveal national security secrets. Or they should have a respected third party review the parts they have concealed to determine if there is any justification for that. At least if one believes Lamo’s claims, there are clearly relevant parts of those chats which Wired continues to conceal.

    Given Poulsen’s mutually beneficial and multi-layered relationship with Lamo, they have far more than a standard journalist-source relationship. None of Poulsen’s articles about the highly controversial Lamo is ever even remotely critical of him, in any sense of the word. From the start, there were countless bizarre aspects to Lamo’s story which Poulsen never examined or explored, at least not when writing about any of this. I see no reason to doubt Poulsen’s integrity or good faith. Still, in light of the magnitude of this story on several levels and his long relationship with Lamo, Kevin Poulsen should not be single-handedly deciding what the public is and isn’t permitted to know about the Lamo-Manning interaction.”

    BTW: Greewald is skeptical of Lamo’s claim that he told Manning he was not working as a journalist. He gives credible arguments as to why Manning said the things he did specifically because he believed Lamo to be a journalist and their conversations privileged.

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