Julian Assange and his lawyer Michael Ratner joined Al Jazeera's The Stream today, to field questions from journalist pundits and members of the media organization's online social community. The white-haired punk rock persona of open information has spent nearly a year living at Ecuador's embassy in London, where he Skyped in from, with Ratner present in the studio.
One of my favorite parts was when he answered my question, which I pre-recorded on Al Jazeera's site: "If you had to choose, which leak has been your favorite? And/or which leak do you believe has done the most good?"
Assange answered, "Well that's a very interesting question, I mean I can't really choose between them all. Somewhere between the US diplomatic cables...that I suppose had the widest impacts, and then the Iraq war logs also document the history of that nation over six years, 109,000 people killed, nearly 200,000 casualties and in minute details, geographic incidents and so on."
Behind him, a screenshot from "Collateral Murder," the WikiLeaks-released video of a 2007 US helicopter attack that killed two journalists and a handful of other innocent people, projected in the background. In pleading guilty to ten charges against him earlier this year, Manning admitted that he sent the video to WikiLeaks, along with over 250,000 classified cables.
Assange made sure to distance himself from Manning, with whom, the Obama administration could someday charge, he co-conspired to leak government secrets. Responding to a clip from Alex Gibney's new film We Steal Secrets, of the journalist James Ball discussing Manning's relationship with Assange, the WikiLeaks founder calmly noted that Ball—a former volunteer for Assange—was an "adversary" of WikiLeaks, whose coverage of the organization has been "slanderous."
Of his own journalistic credentials, he noted earlier in the segment that WikiLeaks "has the best record in the business," with "not one false allegation"—better than the New York Times, he said.
When asked about running for senate in Australia, Assange said that "between 25%-28% of the Australian people intend to vote for me."
Al Jazeera promoted the show heavily, asking site visitors "What would you ask Julian Assange?" While pieces like We Steal Secrets cast less than heroic portraits of Assange, Jeremy Hammond's case and Bradley Manning's trial (which commences next week) meant many questions, most without easy answers.
Today, Manning has spent 1,106 days in pre-trial confinement, and on day 1,111, or Monday next week, the trial to decide his fate will finally kick off at Fort Meade. A mass rally in his support will take place at the fort on Saturday. Echoing elements and implications of the Dreyfus affair, a group of journalists have filed suit to open up the court martial case; the government has suggested that a third of the trial will be secret. Among the group of journalists is of course, Assange.
Yes, the block is hot. And I'm on the edge of my seat, anxious to read through the proceedings of the trial through independent journalists Alexa O'Brien and Kevin Gosztola. As they and many believe, this could be the case of a generation.