Jessica Yellin – Glenn Greenwald Vs Fran Townsend – Wikileaks Debate
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[Jessica Yellin – Glenn Greenwald Vs Fran Townsend – Wikileaks Debate]
[Jessica Yellin (born February 25, 1971)]
Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has been making news for doing new things lately, but now he is doing something old- fashioned, writing an ink and paper book for money. He tells London’s “Sunday Times,” quote, “I don’t want to write this book but I have to” citing his legal fees and desire to keep Wikileaks afloat.
Assange tells the paper he will make about $1.3 million off the deal. As “Time” magazine note, some people consider Assange the Robin Hood of hacking for starting Wikileaks in 2006. Now, in essays attributed to him and publish on the web, Assange explains his belief that some governments and corporations conspire to on press people and he believes exposing government secrets leads to greater freedom because it breaks up those conspiracies.
Others, of course, disagree vigorously. Joining us now discuss all this, from New York, CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend, who was President Bush’s Homeland Security adviser and joining us via Skype from Rio De Janeiro, Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional law and civil rights litigator and contributing writer for salon.com.
Thanks to both of you for being here and Glenn, I’d like to start with you. I know you have spoken to Julian Assange several times. I would like to get your reaction to his book deal today. Any qualm about the fact that he is essentially profiting from classified information and do you see any irony in the fact he is making money off of a corporate publisher?
[Glenn Greenwald (born 6 March 1967)] Source: LYBIO.net
Well, I would contest the premise of your question. He is not profiting at all off classified information. The legal fees that he is facing already amount to $200,000. It is certain that his legal fees continue to sky rocket. He is clearly the leading target of governments around the world.
The Pentagon in 2008 wrote a classified report about how he should be destroyed and how Wikileaks should be destroyed. So there is no question that even with his $1.3 million book contract, at the end of the day, his legal fees are going to be vastly more than that. What this is a way for him to survive the legal onslaught that governments are launching.
But I would add that every leading American politician, virtually, has got extremely rich off their political careers by writing books, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Sarah Palin. He is not profiting, he is just surviving by writing a book that will let him defend himself from these legal proceedings.
Well, certainly he doesn’t want to follow in the model of the very people he derides and wants to bring down. There is a contradiction there I want to ask you, you have defended Assange in your columns, can you explain for people what is his ultimate goal, beyond embarrassing and disrupting the U.S. government, what good do his supporters really hope will come from everything he is doing?
Well, I don’t think embarrassing the U.S. government is his goal. I think what he does is he looks at what has happened to the United States over the course of the last decade and what he sees is that extreme amounts of secrecy are being used by the United States government to hide the vast majority of what it is that it does from the American citizenry.
This is not only a grave threat to democratic values. It’s crucial that citizens be aware of what their government is doing, not having them hide behind walls of secrecy, but what we have seen is that it’s secrecy that allows the government to engage in all kinds of criminality and corruption.
Its secrecy that led the Bush administration mislead the American people into believing we had to go to war in Iraq to get rid of weapons that Saddam Hussein didn’t have establish a world-wide torture regimes.
The founders all recognize when people in power are able to operate in the dark, what they do is they abuse their power and they act deceitfully and corruptively what Julian Assange believes and millions of people around the world believe in is that it is necessary to shine the light on what the world’s most powerful factions are doing to prevent this level of abuse of power and corruption.
[Jessica Yellin] Source: LYBIO.net
I want to bring this to Fran in a minute, but let me press you on that again, Glenn, so we understand. Julian Assange once wrote a blog post saying, quote, “the more secretive or unjust an organization is the more leaks induce fear and paranoia.” So in other words, he should it would seem expect exactly the reaction he’s seen. He should expect the government to come after him, right?
And he should also be prepared to go to jail for what he’s done, as other revolutionaries have. No?
Well, see, you’re a journalist, so you should understand better than anybody that publishing classified information about what governments do is not actually a crime. Every day, media outlets like “The New York Times” and the “Washington Post” and CNN publish government secrets. They publish top secrets, in fact.
“The New York Times” exposed the Bush administration’s top secret eavesdropping program, the CIA program, Wikileaks has never exposed top secret this is all secret, marked secret, a lower level designation and in the United States, again, journalists should know this better than anybody and should hope that’s true —
Well there is a —
It’s not a crime to publish classified information.
[Jessica Yellin] Source: LYBIO.net
Right, we would draw distinction between publishing information that comes to you by — and then publishing information that’s stolen by somebody ostensibly stolen.
No, you’re absolutely wrong because the “New York Times” used its sources all the time and take classified information that they are not authorized to disseminate and gives it to the “New York Times” which then publishes it.
Good investigative journalists, maybe CNN doesn’t do this, but good investigative journalists work their sources all the time to convince them to give them classified information to inform the citizens of the United States about what the government is doing. That’s what journalists do.
Fran, let me bring you in here. Obviously, they are trying to draw a line between what Julian Assange is doing and what any other journalist does.
My question to you is let’s play what the Vice President Biden said on “Meet The Press” earlier this month and react to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Says this is a high-tech terrorist, others say this is akin to the Pentagon papers. What do you come —
Joseph Robinette “Joe” Biden, Jr
Joseph Robinette “Joe” Biden, Jr (November 20, 1942) Source: LYBIO.net
I would argue it is closer to being high-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers, but look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and people in other parts of the world. He’s made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Fran, you have the gist of what’s saying. Is it fair to call him a terrorist?
[Frances M. Fragos Townsend (born December 28, 1961)]
Well, look there is no question, let’s be clear, your initial question was is he profiting from the commission of a crime and the answer to that is yes. Nobody care who had Julian Assange was until the Wikileaks came out with these tens of thousands of documents, of classified documents. So what he seeks to do now is to profit from that the notion of equating him to public servants and elected officials who publish auto biographies after their government service and profit from that that is purely outrageous.
This is a guy who committed a crime. He did not do what your standard journalist do and by the way, when your other guest refers to “New York Times,” even the “New York Times,” when they have very sensitive classified information, would come to the government and redact it. David Sanger went on NPR after this and talked about instances where the “New York Times” redacted classified information from their reports because to not do so would have been irresponsible.
Glenn, I want to press you on this again, because you said what he is doing is what any responsible journalist would do journalists will go to jail to protect their sources, for example. There are things journalists will do in the line of their craft. Shouldn’t he, again, be prepared to go to jail in defense of his beliefs here?
People should go to jail if they are charged with a crime and then they are convicted of that crime in a court of law. Fran Townsend can talk all she wants about how he has committed a crime. Many people believe that her boss has committed lots of crimes, but he hasn’t been convicted of anything.
[Jessica Yellin] Source: LYBIO.net
Of course, he hasn’t been convicted of a crime.
Neither has Julian Assange. He has not been charged with a crime and he has not been convicted of a crime in connection with these leaks and that’s because you can say it all you want, but as a lawyer, I will tell you, and you ask any lawyer if this is true, it is not a crime in the United States to leak classified information if you don’t work for the government.
The “New York Times” publishes secrets far more sensitive, a far higher level of secrecy, than anything Julian Assange has ever published and in fact, the Bush administration repeatedly threatened to prosecute the “New York Times” for doing things like exposing the illegal surveillance program.
For exposing the banking program that tracked people’s banking information, classified information, publishing classified information is what journalists do and I can’t believe that anyone in the field of journalism, such as yourself would say he should go to prison for doing what reporters are supposed to do, which is inform people about what the government is doing.
Fran is there any good that can come of what Julian Assange is doing? Is there transparency motive here that is admirable, in your view?
[Frances M. Fragos Townsend]
No, there is no — look, even Julian Assange himself has not made sort of the notion, the argument that what he is doing is some sort of public service. This is somebody who absolutely — he didn’t take any steps to understand the information.
It was so vast, of what was public, whether or not it would be useful or no he made no distinctions about the harm he might be doing to foreign governments, to the U.S. government, to diplomats and soldiers around the world. He just wholesaled through this out there and so he took no steps —
That’s totally false. That’s just a lie. He has published less than 1 percent of the 250,000 diplomatic cables that he came into possession of, less than 2,000 of the 250,000.
So, for you to say that he just indiscriminately dumped these documents without assessing what they are and making decisions about what should be withheld and what should be redacted is factually false. Why are you telling that to the viewers?
[Frances M. Fragos Townsend] Source: LYBIO.net
He has threatened to publish much more than he has and there isn’t any – the notion we should be grateful he didn’t commit a larger crime than he has already committed is ridiculous.
Glenn, let me ask you about —
The newspapers —
Let me ask you about the rape charges. I’m guessing, do you agree with him that it is a smear campaign and beyond that, do you think they hurt his credibility for his larger cause?
Well, I think it would be totally irresponsible for anybody, me or anybody else to assume either that he is guilty of those charges or that he is innocent of those charges. He — let me just remind you, he hasn’t actually been charged with a crime even in connection with that case.
The Swedish government wants to interrogate him, but has not yet charged him with any crime. So, obviously, when someone is accused of crimes like that, it harms their reputation. Every time there’s somebody who reveals information about the government that is embarrassing, they get charged with all kinds of improprieties.
That’s why Richard Nixon broke into the psychiatrist’s office of Daniel Ellsberg to discredit him, but I think what we need to do is to wait and see how that plays out. If he is guilty, he should be punished in a court of law if he’s not, then he shouldn’t be. He has not yet even been charged, let alone convicted of those crimes either.
All right, Glenn Greenwald, Fran Townsend, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
[Frances M. Fragos Townsend] Source: LYBIO.net
Jessica Yellin – Glenn Greenwald Vs Fran Townsend – Wikileaks Debate. He is not profiting, he is just surviving by writing a book that will let him defend himself from these legal proceedings. Complete Full Script, Dialogue, Remarks, Saying, Quotes, Words And Text.