ABC News – Julian Assange Speaks to George Stephanopoulos on ‘This Week’
Below is the rush transcript of George Stephanopoulos’ interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for “This Week,” conducted on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: ... We turn live to Julian Assange, who joins us from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Thank you for joining us again, Mr. Assange. And you heard Benedict Cumberbatch there, he says that he tried to neither glorify nor vilify you. And the film celebrates many of what he calls the great things that WikiLeaks has done.
Do you accept that?
ASSANGE: Well, Mr. Cumberbatch wrote me a charming, very polite letter and with genuine concerns about the nature of the script being used in that film. He's reported to have said to "Vogue" and to "The Guardian" that he had fights with the director; he wanted to present me as a, quote, "cartoon bad guy" -- that's Mr. Cumberbatch's words.
I don't want to put words into his -- additional words into his mouth. But of course, he is under a contract and he's limited to what he can say in the film. I do know that he tried to ameliorate some of the worst elements of the script. But with limited success.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your biggest complaint?
ASSANGE: At least he tried.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your biggest complaint of the film?
ASSANGE: Well, I don't know where to begin, I mean, we released the whole script well before this happened. There was no approach to us by DreamWorks, in any formal capacity whatsoever, other than an informal approach by Benedict Cumberbatch just days before shooting began.
This is a film that is based upon my life's work, the work of my organization; we have people in extremely serious situations. Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, now effectively in exile in Russia because of the terrorism investigation here.
We have (inaudible) an alleged media source, the 25 organizations including ours up for sentencing in under a month's time, an ongoing grand jury investigation.
But what are the responsibilities for ethical filmmaking in that context? None of the suggested changes that we sent to participant media ended up even in the final text of the film. But there's been a big cashing-in that has gone on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned -- you mentioned Sarah Harrison --
ASSANGE: A rich organization that is -- yes?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned Sarah Harrison. As you said --
ASSANGE: This is a rich organization, DreamWorks. Its making a lot of money and tries -- is continuing to make a lot of money from this process. But none of -- there's no contribution to our defense fund, to the defense fund of our sources and so on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on to Sarah Harrison, as you said, she's with Edward Snowden. We saw Edward Snowden this week receive an award from four American whistleblowers who traveled over to meet with him. And it was something that was facilitated by WikiLeaks; of course Sarah Harrison, a prime member of WikiLeaks as well. She's been with Snowden throughout his time in Russia.
What can you tell about how Edward Snowden is doing right now?
What's next for him and for Sarah Harrison?
ASSANGE: Well, Edward Snowden is safe. We, through a lot of work, and particularly by Sarah Harrison, managed to gain him asylum in Russia after our attempts to gain him asylum in South America were thwarted by (inaudible) bizarre manner by the State Department, by denying -- by canceling his passport while he was in Moscow.
So, he's safe. He's working to educate people. The journalists involved in these disclosures as to what is going on, he very rightly received that award from a former NSA, CIA, FBI, and DOJ whistleblowers, an award for integrity.
It's a serious matter. It's a threat to U.S. democracy and to democracy more broadly in the West to have a surveillance apparatus on every single person that would have been the dream of East Germany.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet at the same time, those revelations from Edward Snowden came under strong attack this week from the head of Britain's domestic (inaudible) Andrew Parker, who called the leaks a gift to the terrorists. NSA chief Keith Alexander said this week that people will die because of the leaks.
ASSANGE: Well, we have seen this for 50 years, every time the press embarrasses the security establishment, shows they have been acting unlawfully, against what they have said to Congress or to the media, they trout out this old canard, that some speculative harm sometime in the future might happen, when we're discussing harm that is happening right now, as a result of these abusive programs.
The budget procedure you mentioned just recently, an interesting side effect of that, the National Security Agency has used the debate in Congress to cancel even its own internal investigation, but the people in the review panel are (inaudible). It's quite interesting to see how they in Clapper or Obama, yes, we need to have a debate. We need to have an investigation. Everything must be under Democratic control.
But at the first instance they can, as soon as there is a distraction, they try and subvert their promises to the public.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what is next for you, Mr. Assange?
Any chance you're going to leave that embassy any time soon?
ASSANGE: Well, I would leave this embassy -- it's a bit of prison in some way, but I have good people here, but where would I go to? I would end up in the outside world where you are. But what is happening to the outside world? That's a much bigger consideration, it's a big (ph) consideration for me and my staff and the 12 different legal actions we have going in different countries.
But it's a consideration for everyone what type of place is Western democracy going to be? Is it going to be a place with a collapsing rule of law, with mass surveillance of entire populations?
All the practical elements of a totalitarian regime. We don't yet have a totalitarian regime but have all the -- getting pretty close in the practical elements.
Is that going to cross over into something else? That would be a hard place for an investigative organization like WikiLeaks to work in. It is a hard place for Glenn Greenwald. He's now in effective exile in Brazil. Laura Pointress (ph), in effective exile in Germany. Sarah Harrison, U.K. citizen, in effective exile in Russia. Edward Snowden, asylum in Russia. Me, asylum here.
The West is becoming a place where the best and the brightest who keep the government -- hold the government to account in (inaudible) -- in asylum or in exile in other countries. We have seen that before with dictatorships in Latin America, with the Soviet Union. And it's time it stops.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's clear your fight is going to continue. Mr. Assange, thanks very much.
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