The allure of Wikileaks was proven once again last night here in Sydney with a packed Opera House, at the first event in the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, hearing from Julian Assange via video-link. He spoke about the importance of uncovering government secrets, most of which should never be secret, and challenging the corporatised nature of society. He received a raptuous reception from the thousands in attendance.
Today’s Sydney Morning Herald report:
Wikileaks is a leaking boat, filled with torpedo holes, that is struggling to stay afloat, founder Julian Assange says.
But the organisation has only just begun its work, the under-siege Australian has promised.
Assange, 40, who is currently on bail in Britain facing extradition to Sweden, appeared via videolink at the Sydney Opera House’s annual Festival of Dangerous Ideas last night.
“At the moment, WikiLeaks is a rather big boat with a lot of torpedo holes in it that has taken water in and is drifting along and we’re doing our best to keep it afloat,” Mr Assange said.
But despite this, the organisation had not yet gone nearly far enough, he said.
“We have only just begun. We have put into that historic record less than one-thousandth of the series of information that is concealed that needs to be there,” he said.
Assange reflected on how 310 days ago he was in Wandsworth Prison in London and the Australian government was doing “everything in their power to see me…shipped off to the United States”.
“And that swift reaction from the Australian government was only stopped by the Australian population and our friends in Australia,” he said.
“It was an expression of democratic discipline.”
Assange is awaiting a decision by Britain’s High Court of Appeal as to whether he will be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault and rape against two women.
Wikileaks came under criticism earlier this month after it posted its entire archive of US State Department cables on its website, making potentially sensitive diplomatic sources available to anyone.
Mr Assange has blamed the Guardian newspaper for the leak, saying the newspaper’s negligence in publishing an encryption key to uncensored files forced his organisation’s hand in publishing the secret US diplomatic memos.
“Who is the biggest critic of all of this, who has been creating three articles a day for the past four weeks on this? The Guardian, the very newspaper that disclosed the password, that is trying to save its arse from criticism,” he said.
Assange’s other former media partner, The New York Times, was also trying to distance itself from WikiLeaks to “save its own arses”, he said.
The leak of 251,287 cables was “the greatest intellectual political treasury that has ever been put into the historic records of modern times”, Assange said.
“It can’t be called a dump – dump is what you do to garbage,” he said.
“This is a treasure.”
Wikileaks is also under severe pressure from a credit card ban on donations to the site undertaken by Visa, Mastercard and Paypal, among others.
“That has wiped out 95 per cent of our revenue. Over $US20 million ($A20.53 million) has been destroyed as a result of that completely political blockade,” Mr Assange said.
“In your wallet is an instrument of unstated US foreign policy and it’s affecting your actions right now,” he said.
Assange said he has accepted Wikileaks may not survive as an organisation.
“(But) even if WikiLeaks is destroyed, other people have been inspired by our work and they will continue to carry the flame.”