Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief who was granted asylum by Ecuador, delivered a speech from a balcony on the embassy building on August 19. It was a speech where he expressed immense gratitude to Ecuador, Latin American countries, the Ecuador embassy staff, supporters who had demonstrated outside the embassy, his supporters all over the world, WikiLeaks staff and his family. The speech also called out the US government for waging a war on whistleblowers, which Assange urged the government to end now.
In the speech, Assange declared, “As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression, and the health of our societies.” The US has a choice: return to and reaffirm the “revolutionary values” it was founded upon or “lurch off” a “precipice” and drag us all into a “dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark.”
I appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live last night to discuss the speech and why Ecuador granted Assange asylum. The host was Dotun Adebayo, a Nigerian-born British radio host who hosts the show, “Up All Night.”
Here is a link to the interview. A player should open. I am on for five minutes after seven minutes of headlines. So, drag the player to about the seven minute mark to hear the interview.
Below is a transcript of the interview.
ADEBAYO: Kevin Gosztola, who joins us now, is the co-author of Truth & Consequences: The US vs. Bradley Manning. Kevin, is the most bizarre circumstance that you’ve seen Julian Assange being embroiled in?
GOSZTOLA: To speak to asylum? I mean, I believe that he’s defend himself and he’s engaged at going at a legal process of asylum because he genuinely believes he’s being politically persecuted.
ADEBAYO: I was thinking bizarre because there was this tiny makeshift balcony they had to prepare horridly and then speaking with all the echo almost an amateurish sound system in this very expensive part of London—How more bizarre do these things get involving Julian Assange?
GOSZTOLA: The whole story of Julian Assange has a bizarre quality to it and something surreal and unlike anything prior to history so I guess it just fits the whole storyline that you’d see him out there giving this speech in that way.
ADEBAYO: He’s very good at diverting attention away from the allegations against him and accusing the United States. It was proper j’accuse of Washington, wasn’t it? Would you get a reaction from the US government to what you heard today, do you think?
GOSZTOLA: I don’t think there was any reaction from the US government and they maintain that they are not involved in this and I think that there’s reason to be skeptical about that, given the fact that there is an open criminal investigation that is being pushed against him for the publication of WikiLeaks documents.
ADEBAYO: Oh, you think the US government are somehow involved in this?
GOSZTOLA: I think that they’d have to be privy to some sort of conversation—that they’ve gotten tips from the UK government or Sweden. And, actually there was The Age story yesterday from Australia showing the diplomatic communications between Australia and the United States, that in fact there is some discussion. Australia doesn’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that Assange would be extradited to the United States eventually.
ADEBAYO: So, you believe in the conspiracy theories? It’s Julian Assange vs. The Free World!
GOSZTOLA: I believe that there could be a conspiracy. I believe that perhaps the United States is upset that their national security secrets, as they might call them, have been revealed to the world. I don’t know if it as epic as you put it there but I do think that Julian Assange has taken this position of speaking on behalf of all dissidents and whistleblowers, as he did on the stage today. And, really, talking about Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, and then having Craig Murray there from the UK and other people who are whistleblowers who have expressed some sort of sympathy for whatever he might be experiencing.
ADEBAYO: Let’s leave the Free World to one side then and talk specifically about Ecuador. What’s their role in all of this? Do you have any idea what game they’re playing? And why did they get themselves embroiled in all this?
GOSZTOLA: It’s a sovereign decision that they feel they are entitled to make and they’re definitely pushing their identity as a Latin American country and I believe that this letter they received that they decided to interpret as a threat is something that gave them wide opportunity to stick to granting asylum. And I think that they aren’t going to be pushed around by any other countries and that was part of the decision but then there’s also a genuine aspect to it, that talking to Assange they believed a lot of what was being told to them.
ADEBAYO: But what benefit is there to them—to assist Julian Assange, to give asylum to him in their embassy in the way they’re doing?
GOSZTOLA: Well, if you think about it geopolitically, if you think of the Latin American countries that are rising in power who don’t want, as they would put it, the Western democracies to push them around anymore, then they are suggesting to the world that they have the ability to grant asylum to people who are seeking it and they’re not going to let the United States or the United Kingdom or any of these European countries tell them what they can and can’t do.
HOST: Kevin, I appreciate you talking to us. Thanks very much.