Stephen Colbert: My guest tonight is one of directors of Wikileaks, which reveals corporate and government secret documents. So for the first time in any interview, we will use face pixilation and voice-altering technology. Please welcome Julian Assange! Now, sir, why does your organization publish these things online?
Julian Assange: We have rights under laws of different countries is the world. Those are laws that are mandated by nation-states and the people of those states. But we also see a longer Reich throughout history. That is that real diplomacy and real politics is something that is derived from the flow of information itself through the population.
SC: Uh, you know what, uh, Jimmy? I think you were right. I think it’s probably better to pixilate him and affect his voice rather than mine. Um, has his face already been on camera? Have they seen him?
Jimmy: Yes, they have.
SC: Oh, he’s a dead man. Go ahead and take it off, [the voice alteration] take it off. Alright, you believe—you’re a freedom absolutist, is that the case? You believe that there’s an ultimate freedom of free speech.
JA: Not an ultimate freedom. However, free speech is what regulates government and regulates law. That is why, in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights says Congress is to make no such law abridging the freedom of the press, that is, to take the rights of the press outside the rights of the law, because those rights are superior to the law, because they in fact create the law. Every constitution, every bit of legislature is derived from the flow of information. Similarly, ever government is elected as a result of people understanding things.
SC: Governments are elected based upon what people know about the politicians, or what they know about what the government does. If we don’t know what the government’s doing, we can’t be sad about it. Why are you trying to make me sad? ‘Cause you are! You’re trying to bum us out about the world, aren’t you? These terrible things happen behind closed doors, and you’ve decided that I need to know about it.
JA: That’s just an interim state, Stephen. You’ll be happier later on.
SC: I doubt it. Now, I’ll be angrier later on. Now, let’s talk about this footage that’s gotten you so much attention recently. This is footage is of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007. The Army described this as a group that gave resistance during the fight; that doesn’t seem to be happening. But there are armed men in the group. They did find a rocket-propelled grenade among the group. The Reuters photographers who were regrettably killed were not identified as photographers. And, you have edited this tape, and you have given it a title, of “Collateral Murder.” That’s not leaking, that’s a pure editorial.
JA: So, the promise we make to our sources is that not only will we defend them through every means we have available, technologically, legally, and politically, but we will try and get the maximum possible political impact for the material they give to us, and—
SC: So “Collateral Murder” is to get political impact?
JA: Yes, absolutely. And the material—our promise to the public is that we will release the full source material, so that if people have a different opinion the full material is there for them to analyze and assess.
SC: Well actually then, I admire that. I admire someone who is willing to put “Collateral Murder” on the first thing people see, knowing that they probably won’t look at the rest of it. That way you properly manipulated the audience into the emotional state you want before something goes on the air. That is an emotional manipulation. What you’re about to see is “Collateral Murder,” now look at this completely objective bit of footage that you’re about to show. That’s journalism I can get behind.
JA: That’s true. Only one in ten people actually did look at the full footage. However—
SC: So that’s 90% of the people, who accept the definition of collateral murder. Congratulations.
JA: Thank you.
SC: Do you believe it was collateral murder?
SC: You do.
SC: Do you get to make that call? Did you put the words “collateral murder” up?
SC: You did.
JA: That was our call.
SC: Really. [Pause.] I want the Pentagon to know that he is actually not in my studio right now. He’s thousands of miles away via satellite. How can you call that collateral murder? What branch of the service did you serve in, sir? Huh?
JA: Well, I’m an Australian, actually.
SC: Do you guys not fight down there? How can you call collateral murder—I watched the entire thing. I’m one of that 10%. And you did not reveal that there was a firefight that had gone on nearby.
JA: There wasn’t. That’s a lie.
SC: That’s a lie?
JA: That’s a lie. In fact, we have classified records to show that all that there was, twenty-eight minutes beforehand, was a report of small-arms fire; the person involved was not identified and the location involved was also not identified. Twenty-eight minutes later, the Apaches, after circling around the suburb of New Baghdad, came across these men, and killed them.
SC: What were these men doing in the streets carrying rifles and rocket-propelled grenades?
JA: So it appears that there are possibly two men—one carrying an AK-47 and one carrying a rocket-propelled grenade, although we’re not 100% sure of that—in the crowd. However, the permission to engage was given before the word RPG was ever used, and before the Reuters cameraman, Namir Noor Eldeen, even pulled up his camera and went around the corner.
SC: What is the purpose of letting the public know? It’s like you’re saying it is better to know than not to know. Have you not heard that ignorance is bliss?
JA: All too frequently.
SC: Aren’t you stuck in a bit of a bind? You got a lot of attention for showing death.
SC: Do you have another video showing death? I understand you have a video of a tanker being attacked in Afghanistan.
SC: And how many people die in that one?
JA: The military says ninety-seven.
SC: Don’t you sort of get caught in the 24 trap? You’ve got to make every single episode about violence and death; otherwise no one’s going to watch anymore.
JA: Just as long as we don’t have to increase the numbers every episode, I’d be happy to.
SC: Alright, Julian Assange, thank you so much for joining me.