For all the rhetoric about the United States' right to freedom of the press, the best reporting on the governmental secrets revealed by WikiLeaks, and the deeper issues they raise, has been done by media outlets in other nations. And the best and most in-depth interview with Julian Assange has been done by a British journalist for Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite news channel.
David Frost, who famously interviewed President Nixon a few years after his resignation following the Watergate scandal, now has a program on Al Jazeera, entitled Frost Over the World.
In the latest episode, Frost interviews Assange. In the 24-minute interview, several topics are discussed including Assange's views on secrecy and the proper role of media.
Here are some noteworthy excerpts.
** On why WikiLeaks isn't anarchic or anti-authoritarian: "We're an organization that goes about and has a long track record of, all over the world, of exposing abuses by exposing concrete documentation -- proof -- of bad behavior," Assange said. "That's not anarchy. That's what people do when they're civil. They engage in organized activity that promotes justice."
** On why the United States, although never intended to be the prime target of WikiLeaks, has become such a focus in recent months: "The United States is not the most closed or the most corrupt (government)," Assange said. "On the other hand, what we've found in practice was the United States, as the dominant empire, is connected to all the other countries and has a tendril in them. And being the largest security state, spending approximately the same amount as all the rest of the world combined on its military-intelligence sector, it generates a tremendous amount of secrets."
** On how WikiLeaks is source-driven: "We can only publish what people are giving us," Assange said. "And, in the United States, they are giving us a lot of material."
** On why WikiLeaks, although it's never paid a source to date, isn't opposed to the concept: "We have no philosophical objection to paying, actually. Why should journalists and lawyers be the only ones to be compensated for their risks, when it actually is the source who are the ones taking the greatest risk?"
WikiLeaks is designed as an outlet for "dissenters" and "courageous whistleblowers," Assange told Frost. Its goal is to hold institutions accountable and work toward a more just society. Some secrets are needed, but it's not the role of the media to keep them for governments or others.
The organization's motto is "courage is contagious." It's meant to encourage dissent through successful examples, and empower the average person to speak out against governments, corporations and other institutions that wield great power when they believe it's necessary to do so.