Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Renata Avila and Andy Müller-Maguhn

We are Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Renata Avila and Andy Müller-Maguhn of the Courage Foundation AUA

We are Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Renata Avila and Andy Müller-Maguhn of the Courage Foundation which runs the official defense fund and websites for Edward Snowden, Jeremy Hammond and others.

We started with the Edward Snowden case where our founders extracted Edward Snowden from Hong Kong and found him asylum.

We promote courage that involves the liberation of knowledge. Our goal is to expand to thousands of cases using economies of scale.

We’re here to talk about the Courage Foundation, ready to answer anything, including on the recent spike in bitcoin donations to Edward Snowden’s defense fund since the Obama Administration’s latest Executive Order for sanctions against “hackers” and those who help them. https://edwardsnowden.com/2015/04/06/obama-executive-order-prompts-surge-in-bitcoin-donations-to-the-snowden-defence-fund/

Julian is a founding Trustee of the Courage Foundation (https://couragefound.org) and the publisher of WikiLeaks (https://wikileaks.org/).

Sarah Harrison, Acting Director of the Courage Foundation who led Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong and safe guarded him for four months in Moscow (http://www.vogue.com/11122973/sarah-harrison-edward-snowden-wikileaks-nsa/)

Renata Avila, Courage Advisory Board member, is an internet rights lawyer from Guatemala, who is also on the Creative Commons Board of Directors and a director of the Web Foundation’s Web We Want.

Andy Müller-Maguhn, Courage Advisory Board member, is on board of the Wau Holland Foundation, previously the board of ICANN and is a co-founder of the CCC.

Proof: https://twitter.com/couragefound/status/585215129425412096

Proof: https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/585216213720178688

What did you think of the Edward Snowden/John Oliver interview? Has that effort to make the mass surveillance talk colloquial and simple been lacking so far in the debate?

[Julian Assange] Great to see Oliver making it real — though I felt great sympathy for Edward having to go through that. Public commentators are obsessed with influencing the public, but the reality is the US public isn’t going to solve this. A powerful, invisible, intangible, complex, global system, with a scale only the deeply numerate can appreciate has been erected. Until we see the bulk release of individual’s emails or SMS messages, the average person isn’t going to believe its real. Until then, the pushback is going to come from technical organisations and other state’s counter intelligence units.

On a related note, how do you feel about so many Americans thinking of Edward Snowden as the “WikiLeaks guy” when he had no affiliation with the organization whatsoever?

[Julian Assange] Oliver selected for the gag, but the press and the public memory are brutal in their complexity reduction. There isn’t the conceptual space for two “leaking” avatars and WikiLeaks is already over-associated with that conceptual space. There’s no significant figure in the “Mr. privacy” space other than Edward, so this seems like a good place for him to pitch his flag and less devisive anyway than the leaking space.

If “the public” can’t solve surveillance, then what is the point of publishing information about it? Did you read the recent “Hackers can’t solve surveillance” thread on the Cypherpunks mailing list? If we imagine both these are true, then who can solve surveillance? Doesn’t believing we can’t solve surveillance just promote inaction?

[Julian Assange]  I have read HCSS. The public includes many people who are not “joe average”. I don’t believe the problem will be solved in any direct manner. But direct attacks can buy us a few more years. Indirect time-geometric attacks are more promising and may change the landscape at a rate faster than mass surveillance can adapt.

The purpose of mass surveillance is to make control possible through mass knowledge of the population, in time to formulate and activate control measures. But the time factors are rapidly changing as populations interact at speed. Essentially, the sigularity may eat mass surveillance by limiting prediction periods (hopefully not shortly before it grinds us up for atoms).

What would you say to people like my parents, who believe that leakers and whistleblowers are dangerous traitors who are supporting “the enemy?”

[Sarah Harrison] This propaganda happens a lot. What is very important here is to explain that throughout the whole of the Manning trial the US government was desperate to prove that some “harm” had come. In fact if could prove none. What did happen, is that the US troops began to withdraw from Iraq. What has happened since Snowden’s revelations is that citizens around the world began to protect their communications. And still not one reported “harm”. In fact we still get bombs by known person’s of suspect. It is a matter of US interests the government is protecting, not US security.

What can the public do to help whistleblowers other than donate to their defense fund? Whistleblowers are being prosecuted at an alarming rate under recent governments, is there something that can be done to reverse this policy at the governmental level?

[Julian Assange] If you’re a good system admin, programmer, writer or lawyer, you can volunteer (if you’re serious and dedicated). Otherwise you can encourage others to donate and spread the word either in a systematic fashion or at moments of opportunity (push these issues to influential people). We are starting to get some traction at the UN and EU level, although the 5-eyes countries are a wasteland.

How can a lawyer help?

[Renata Avila] You can offer pro bono legal services, some hours a month, for instance. You can learn more about the regulations in your country and try to challenge those not protecting whistleblowers, you can analyse the current policies and publish about those. There are plenty of ways to help!

What is it about the Matthew DeHart case that makes him worthwhile of the Courage Foundation’s support?

[Julian Assange] Matt DeHart has been the subject of significant abuse by the FBI, but the case is very important legally as it involves an interplay between asylum, crypto-extradition, deportation, anonymous, WikiLeaks, espionage and pariah charges. You can read more about Matt’s case here: https://couragefound.org/2015/03/matt-dehart-named-as-third-courage-beneficiary/

Many whistleblowers and anti-surveillance folks (ex.Snowden), even though they disagree with the extent of the policing that goes on by the state nowadays, still believe in “the system” ie. colonial capitalism and think that our governments just need to be more responsible with what secrets they keep, as secrecy is essential for “the system” to work the way it does. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with the idea of certain things being kept secret by governments, military & the like? Or should there be 100% transparency, which would probably result in a complete overhaul of everything because everyone would realize how fucked up it all really is? Also, regardless of differences in opinion, those of us who are in this fight need to be able to work together so do you have any tips for how to bridge these gaps that doesn’t involve self-censorship?

[Andy Müller-Maguhn]  Thank you for reminding us about the elephant in the room; the question of the system. From my observation, Whistleblowers have taken a rather long journey into it, as they have been part of the system and the process of personal dissociation takes time. While they bring the details, the question of the system stays often in the room for the moment.

While not everything was bad in capitalism and not all governments concepts are wrong, the security and surveillance discussion tends to cover the fact that from a human point of view, governments and borders and the view and language they create are not always part of the solution.

Essential is freedom of information and a human and technical infrastructure to question authority, also the very existence of institutions and mechanisms based on reasons thought to be reasonable decades ago. In this sense it is vital to support those who support the public discussion with facts and documents but also to ensure that we can discuss the implications openly.

In an ideal world, governments act in a transparent way for the people and balance the interests out that exist. In the real world, governments consists of individuals and groups that also have their own interests and human factors. Those in the intelligence agencies are most likely to misunderstand justified secrecy with the ability to act without accountability.

The whole wording of the “Cyber-Enabled Activities” is dangerously near to a potential limitation to freedom of information and communication. I don´t think the human race can afford limitations in this area.

[Julian Assange] Most whistleblowers concentrate on their issue and their own legal cases, which can absord a lot of time and attention as it’s their life or liberty on the line. Some also want to stick to one issue or another inorder to not generate additional opposition or muddy their messages. It’s hard to fault them on this–if only we could fault the rest of the population for such intellectual provincialism!

We shouldn’t expect specialists to be wise generalists, in say the manner Chomsky has become. That said, many of them do take on an more geopolitical or systemic view after 10 years of so of exposure. Look for example at the development of Thomas Drake.

Particular government departments have the responsibility to keep some information secret for a limited period of time inorder to forfil their public mission, for example, the massive FBI investigation of legal violations at the NSA (ha). However the primary responsibility of international publishers of last resort (i.e WikiLeaks) is publish fearlessly and not to cover up for the incompetancies or malign behavior of other actors in international society.

What’s the easiest way to change the “I’ve got nothing to hide” mentality, and how can one best demonstrate the potential for abuse that mass surveillance has to the average person?

[Julian Assange] There is no killer answer yet. Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror) has a clever response, asking people who say this to then hand him their phone unlocked and pull down their pants. My version of that is to say, “well, you’re so boring then we shouldn’t be talking to you, and neither should anyone else”, but philosophically, the real answer is this:

Mass surveillance is a mass structural change. When society goes goes bad, its going to take you with it, even if you are the blandest person on earth.

[Andy Müller-Maguhn] As a suggestion: You might have nothing to hide, but certainly something to protect. And that is not only yourself, but also your family, friends and relationships next to your assets. It is natural to protect your privacy and vital relationships and so is encryption and operational security measures not a sign of paranoia but an indicator of sanity. On top, it would be pretty unwise to trust third parties to “protect you” through surveillance without seeing the threads, the methods create.

Security and Surveillance are not the same things. Mass Surveillance creates data that can be abused, and it will. So avoiding (unencrypted) data and surveillance are security measures. Think about “data out of context”..

Mr Assange. Do you think that the work you have done will lead to a radical shift slowly in the government and society as we know it, or do you think the instruments of the government are enough to throttle any such efforts (based on your personal experiences)?

[Julian Assange] These are cascading effects with geometric amplifiers in both directions. It’s hard to say, but at least we can say we fought and gave people a choice to know themselves and their civilization.

As an average American citizen, what specifically can I do to influence our government to stop the illegal breaches of individual privacy by the US government?

[Julian Assange] Nothing. There’s nothing you can do. As soon as you do something you’ll no-longer be average. Do that. Don’t be average. There’s a few really effecient organizations working in this area or projects that promise vast economies of scale. So small contributions can make a big difference. Support them financially, or with your skills. Other than the ones I’m involved in, there’s a lot of promising crypto-projects starting. Some are here: https://www.wauland.de/en/projects.html

How do you perceive Internet rights awareness in latinamerica?

[Renata Avila] It varies. Latin America is not as uniform as many picture it. In South America, in the Southern cone, especially in Chile, Argentina, to some extend Uruguay and the main cities of Brazil there is a broad understanding of the issues, and a very progressive approach: remember that Chile was the first country with a Net Neutrality law, that Brazil passed the Internet Bill of Rights, Uruguay is a model country in matters of access… But other countries, especially the Caribbean, Central America are still catching up, dealing with more urgent issues. What is really valuable is the network. All organisations working in internet rights support each other, they are limited in resources but big in solidarity, with a broad network of young volunteers and activists. That makes it inspiring. With small victories from now and then and constructive conversations going on all the time.

I recently donated to Courage through a PayPal account linked to my bank account. Am I on some sort of ‘watch list’ for supporting whistleblowing/activist organizations?

[Julian Assange] There’s a variety of means (including bitcoin) through which you can donate to Courage. Mass surveillance combined with mass storage means everyone on the planet with a phone or internet connection is on the “watch list” now. Rather than a categorization problem, it’s a ranking problem.

What do you think the long term affects of Snowden’s actions will be? What do you think the rest of his life will be like?

[Sarah Harrison]  The long term effects of Snowden’s actions remain to be seen. What I hope is that the public around the world will stand up for their rights and demand change, and their governments will listen to them. I think a lot rests with users understanding the threats and protecting themselves against them.

I think the rest of Edward’s life will forever be complex, as it will for all that have stood up to the most powerful and speak the truth: Jeremy Hammond, Chelsea Manning, Barrett Brown, Julian Assange and many others. However, he has been granted asylum which offers immediate protection. I hope that in the future more countries stand up to protect him, and all those that have worked for the public’s right to know.

[Julian Assange] As long as there is an NSA and it is a significant part of the US deep state, Edward is not going to be safe in the US or in the territories of its allies.

I’m from Pakistan. Recently, there have been cases which proved that our govt.’s been tapping phone calls and using them for political purposes. Now, my question is, how do u think we (ppl of an under-developed country, who are still struggling to find solutions of drought and malaria etc) can raise awareness for the whistleblowers and privacy cause on the level of our country?

[Renata Avila] Coming from a similar country, I will say that those are precisely the countries where advocates for the right to truth and access to information in hands of the powerful are crucial. You need to directly connect it as follows: the less the people know about their governments, the more opaque they are, the more they colude with corporations and divert their actions and increase the problems distracting funds to their pockets.

[Julian Assange] I’ve been writing and warning people about the NSA since the 1990s, so it’s no surprise to me that people don’t understand scale and complexity when state power is also pushing against the story. The surprise is that people, for a moment, took notice as a result of the very public and dramatic manhunt against Edward Snowden.

Here’s what I wrote in 2012:

Excerpted from Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, by Julian Assange with Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann. OR Books, New York, 2012, 186 pages, Paper. Buy online. Cryptome review of the book.

Pages 1-7.


This book is not a manifesto. There is not time for that. This book is a warning.

The world is not sliding, but galloping into a new transnational dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of national security circles. It has been hidden by secrecy, complexity and scale. The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.

These transformations have come about silently, because those who know what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no incentives to speak out. Left to its own trajectory, within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.

While many writers have considered what the internet means for global civilization, they are wrong. They are wrong because they do not have the sense of perspective that direct experience brings. They are wrong because they have never met the enemy.

No description of the world survives first contact with the enemy.

We have met the enemy.

Over the last six years WikiLeaks has had conflicts with nearly every powerful state. We know the new surveillance state from an insider’s perspective, because we have plumbed its secrets. We know it from a combatant’s perspective, because we have had to protect our people, our finances and our sources from it. We know it from a global perspective, because we have people, assets and information in nearly every country. We know it from the perspective of time, because we have been fighting this phenomenon for years and have seen it double and spread, again and again. It is an invasive parasite, growing fat off societies that merge with the internet. It is rolling over the planet, infecting all states and peoples before it. [..]

Does it even make sense to ask this question? In this otherworldly space, this seemingly platonic realm of ideas and information flow, could there be a notion of coercive force? A force that could modify historical records, tap phones, separate people, transform complexity into rubble, and erect walls, like an occupying army?

The platonic nature of the internet, ideas and information flows, is debased by its physical origins. Its foundations are fiber optic cable lines stretching across the ocean floors, satellites spinning above our heads, computer servers housed in buildings in cities from New York to Nairobi. Like the soldier who slew Archimedes with a mere sword, so too could an armed militia take control of the peak development of Western civilization, our platonic realm.

The new world of the internet, abstracted from the old world of brute atoms, longed for independence. But states and their friends moved to control our new world — by controlling its physical underpinnings. The state, like an army around an oil well, or a customs agent extracting bribes at the border, would soon learn to leverage its control of physical space to gain control over our platonic realm. It would prevent the independence we had dreamed of, and then, squatting on fiber optic lines and around satellite ground stations, it would go on to mass intercept the information flow of our new world — its very essence even as every human, economic, and political relationship embraced it. The state would leech into the veins and arteries of our new societies, gobbling up every relationship expressed or communicated, every web page read, every message sent and every thought googled, and then store this knowledge, billions of interceptions a day, undreamed of power, in vast top secret warehouses, forever. It would go on to mine and mine again this treasure, the collective private intellectual output of humanity, with ever more sophisticated search and pattern finding algorithms, enriching the treasure and maximizing the power imbalance between interceptors and the world of interceptees. And then the state would reflect what it had learned back into the physical world, to start wars, to target drones, to manipulate UN committees and trade deals, and to do favors for its vast connected network of industries, insiders and cronies.

But we discovered something. Our one hope against total domination. A hope that with courage, insight and solidarity we could use to resist. A strange property of the physical universe that we live in.

The universe believes in encryption.

It is easier to encrypt information than it is to decrypt it.

We saw we could use this strange property to create the laws of a new world. To abstract away our new platonic realm from its base underpinnings of satellites, undersea cables and their controllers. To fortify our space behind a cryptographic veil. To create new lands barred to those who control physical reality, because to follow us into them would require infinite resources.

And in this manner to declare independence.

Scientists in the Manhattan Project discovered that the universe permitted the construction of a nuclear bomb. This was not an obvious conclusion. Perhaps nuclear weapons were not within the laws of physics. However, the universe believes in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors. They are a phenomenon the universe blesses, like salt, sea or stars.

Similarly, the universe, our physical universe, has that property that makes it possible for an individual or a group of individuals to reliably, automatically, even without knowing, encipher something, so that all the resources and all the political will of the strongest superpower on earth may not decipher it. And the paths of encipherment between people can mesh together to create regions free from the coercive force of the outer state. Free from mass interception. Free from state control.

In this way, people can oppose their will to that of a fully mobilized superpower and win. Encryption is an embodiment of the laws of physics, and it does not listen to the bluster of states, even transnational surveillance dystopias.

It isn’t obvious that the world had to work this way. But somehow the universe smiles on encryption.

Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action. While nuclear weapons states can exert unlimited violence over even millions of individuals, strong cryptography means that a state, even by exercising unlimited violence, cannot violate the intent of individuals to keep secrets from them.

Strong cryptography can resist an unlimited application of violence. No amount of coercive force will ever solve a math problem.

But could we take this strange fact about the world and build it up to be a basic emancipatory building block for the independence of mankind in the platonic realm of the internet? And as societies merged with the internet could that liberty then be reflected back into physical reality to redefine the state?

Recall that states are the systems which determine where and how coercive force is consistently applied.

The question of how much coercive force can seep into the platonic realm of the internet from the physical world is answered by cryptography and the cypherpunks’ ideals.

As states merge with the internet and the future of our civilization becomes the future of the internet, we must redefine force relations.

If we do not, the universality of the internet will merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.

We must raise an alarm. This book is a watchman’s shout in the night.

On March 20, 2012, while under house arrest in the United Kingdom awaiting extradition, I met with three friends and fellow watchmen on the principle that perhaps in unison our voices can wake up the town. We must communicate what we have learned while there is still a chance for you, the reader, to understand and act on what is happening.

It is time to take up the arms of our new world, to fight for ourselves and for those we love.

Our task is to secure self-determination where we can, to hold back the coming dystopia where we cannot, and if all else fails, to accelerate its self-destruction.

— Julian Assange, London, October 2012


How has Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning’s whistleblowing affected other potential whistleblowers? Do you get a sense that they are emboldened by their efforts, or more apprehensive after seeing the response to it?

[Julian Assange] Edward Snowden has said that he was inspired by Chelsea Manning. The US government wanted to publically destroy Manning, in a grotesque way, as a warning. They did not succeed but I realised we can do even better! This is part of the reason why we put a lot of resources and risk into getting Edward Snowden asylum. He is now mostly free, living a forfilling life of respect, an inspirational symbol for whistleblowers world wide and not a general deterrant suffering in a US prison unable to defend himself or promote his cause in public.

As I type these lines, on June 3, 2013, Private First Class Bradley Edward Manning is being tried in a sequestered room at Fort Meade, Maryland, for the alleged crime of telling the truth. The court martial of the most prominent political prisoner in modern US history has now, finally, begun.

It has been three years. Bradley Manning, then 22 years old, was arrested in Baghdad on May 26, 2010. He was shipped to Kuwait, placed into a cage, and kept in the sweltering heat of Camp Arifjan.

“For me, I stopped keeping track,” he told the court last November. “I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages… I remember thinking I’m going to die.”

After protests from his lawyers, Bradley Manning was then transferred to a brig at a US Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, where – infamously – he was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of his captors – a formal finding by the UN. Isolated in a tiny cell for twenty-three out of twenty-four hours a day, he was deprived of his glasses, sleep, blankets and clothes, and prevented from exercising. All of this – it has been determined by a military judge – “punished” him before he had even stood trial.

“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched, I believe, in our nation’s history, as a disgraceful moment in time” said his lawyer, David Coombs. “Not only was it stupid and counterproductive, it was criminal.”

The United States was, in theory, a nation of laws. But it is no longer a nation of laws for Bradley Manning.

When the abuse of Bradley Manning became a scandal reaching all the way to the President of the United States and Hillary Clinton’s spokesman resigned to register his dissent over Mr. Manning’s treatment, an attempt was made to make the problem less visible. Bradley Manning was transferred to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

He has waited in prison for three years for a trial – 986 days longer than the legal maximum – because for three years the prosecution has dragged its feet and obstructed the court, denied the defense access to evidence and abused official secrecy. This is simply illegal – all defendants are constitutionally entitled to a speedy trial – but the transgression has been acknowledged and then overlooked.

Against all of this, it would be tempting to look on the eventual commencement of his trial as a mercy. But that is hard to do.

We no longer need to comprehend the “Kafkaesque” through the lens of fiction or allegory. It has left the pages and lives among us, stalking our best and brightest. It is fair to call what is happening to Bradley Manning a “show trial”. Those invested in what is called the “US military justice system” feel obliged to defend what is going on, but the rest of us are free to describe this travesty for what it is. No serious commentator has any confidence in a benign outcome. The pretrial hearings have comprehensively eliminated any meaningful uncertainty, inflicting pre-emptive bans on every defense argument that had any chance of success.

Bradley Manning may not give evidence as to his stated intent (exposing war crimes and their context), nor may he present any witness or document that shows that no harm resulted from his actions. Imagine you were put on trial for murder. In Bradley Manning’s court, you would be banned from showing that it was a matter of self-defence, because any argument or evidence as to intent is banned. You would not be able to show that the ’victim’ is, in fact, still alive, because that would be evidence as to the lack of harm.

But of course. Did you forget whose show it is?

The government has prepared for a good show. The trial is to proceed for twelve straight weeks: a fully choreographed extravaganza, with a 141-strong cast of prosecution witnesses. The defense was denied permission to call all but a handful of witnesses. Three weeks ago, in closed session, the court actually held a rehearsal. Even experts on military law have called this unprecedented.

Bradley Manning’s conviction is already written into the script. The commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces, Barack Obama, spoiled the plot for all of us when he pronounced Bradley Manning guilty two years ago. “He broke the law,” President Obama stated, when asked on camera at a fundraiser about his position on Mr. Manning. In a civilized society, such a prejudicial statement alone would have resulted in a mistrial.

To convict Bradley Manning, it will be necessary for the US government to conceal crucial parts of his trial. Key portions of the trial are to be conducted in secrecy: 24 prosecution witnesses will give secret testimony in closed session, permitting the judge to claim that secret evidence justifies her decision. But closed justice is no justice at all.

What cannot be shrouded in secrecy will be hidden through obfuscation. The remote situation of the courtroom, the arbitrary and discretionary restrictions on access for journalists, and the deliberate complexity and scale of the case are all designed to drive fact-hungry reporters into the arms of official military PR men, who mill around the Fort Meade press room like over-eager sales assistants. The management of Bradley Manning’s case will not stop at the limits of the courtroom. It has already been revealed that the Pentagon is closely monitoring press coverage and social media discussions on the case.

This is not justice; never could this be justice. The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.

The alleged act in respect of which Bradley Manning is charged is an act of great conscience – the single most important disclosure of subjugated history, ever. There is not a political system anywhere on the earth that has not seen light as a result. In court, in February, Bradley Manning said that he wanted to expose injustice, and to provoke worldwide debate and reform. Bradley Manning is accused of being a whistleblower, a good man, who cared for others and who followed higher orders. Bradley Manning is effectively accused of conspiracy to commit journalism.

But this is not the language the prosecution uses. The most serious charge against Bradley Manning is that he “aided the enemy” – a capital offence that should require the greatest gravity, but here the US government laughs at the world, to breathe life into a phantom. The government argues that Bradley Manning communicated with a media organisation, WikiLeaks, who communicated to the public. It also argues that al-Qaeda (who else) is a member of the public. Hence, it argues that Bradley Manning communicated “indirectly” with al-Qaeda, a formally declared US “enemy”, and therefore that Bradley Manning communicated with “the enemy”.

But what about “aiding” in that most serious charge, “aiding the enemy”? Don’t forget that this is a show trial. The court has banned any evidence of intent. The court has banned any evidence of the outcome, the lack of harm, the lack of any victim. It has ruled that the government doesn’t need to show that any “aiding” occurred and the prosecution doesn’t claim it did. The judge has stated that it is enough for the prosecution to show that al-Qaeda, like the rest of the world, reads WikiLeaks.

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people,” wrote John Adams, “who have a right and a desire to know.”

When communicating with the press is “aiding the enemy” it is the “general knowledge among the people” itself which has become criminal. Just as Bradley Manning is condemned, so too is that spirit of liberty in which America was founded.

In the end it is not Bradley Manning who is on trial. His trial ended long ago. The defendent now, and for the next 12 weeks, is the United States. A runaway military, whose misdeeds have been laid bare, and a secretive government at war with the public. They sit in the docks. We are called to serve as jurists. We must not turn away.

[Sarah Harrison] Obama and the US government generally have tried to offer each truthteller as an deterrent. Manning was sentenced to 35 years, Hammond to 10 years, Brown to 5 years, WikiLeaks secret Grand Jury is ongoing in its 5th year. Yet, their deterrent method is clearly failing. Snowden came forward.

I was always very aware, and driven whilst we worked to get Snowden asylum to the fact that this could be another potential example, counter to that of the US government. Granted Snowden isnt as protected globally as he should be, but he is not in prison.

I look forward to when the next truthteller comes forward. Courage is building the safetynets for when they do.

[Renata Avila] My perception is that their acts of courage are not only encouraging others to scrutinise their government secrecy, inspiring others to reveal information in the public interest but also highlighting the importance and urgency of an international frame to protect whistleblowers.

What legal protections would you recommend for intelligence whistleblowers?

[Sarah Harrison] This is a complex question. The reality of the situation is that alleged journalistic sources like Snowden and Manning will rarely, if ever, be fully protected regardless of domestic laws. At the very least all cases of whistleblowing, publishing and journalistic sources should have the ability to have a public interest defence. I think the real solutions in such cases will always rely on international measures though. However, these will always also still rely on the reality of international politics – few countries have the balls to stand up to the US.

Julian, why ‘dump’ data and files without releasing the full extent of the repercussions, unlike say Snowden, whom handed his files over to journalists to make that decision?

[Sarah Harrison] To be clear, Julian Assange is a publisher – he is the editor if chief of the award winning media organisation WikiLeaks. The comparison you are attempting to make is between WikiLeaks and The Intercept. WikiLeaks has an ethic of publishing full archives. We believe our historical archive belongs in the public domain. We publish without conferring to seek permission with governments about redactions. We have published millions of classified and suppressed documents, many of which originate from the US government, and yet not even they can give one single actual example of harm done.

WikiLeaks specialises in strategic global publishing. For example in publishing Cablegate originally WikiLeaks worked for months with over 100 media from all over the world, causing many concrete reactions globally. We eventually published the full archive, with its own dedicated search engine: https://wikileaks.org/plusd which is added to with all available US diplomatic cables, making it the largest online publicly accessible database of US history in the world.

Is there really no legal recourse to fight the 10 year sentencing of Jeremy Hammond?

[Sarah Harrison] Very sadly (and unjustly) there is no legal recourse for his conviction. However, we are working to ensure his situation is monitored, preventing further retaliation and seeking accountability for the retaliation (including solitary confinement) that he’s endured. You can read more about Jeremy’s case at our site: (https://freejeremy.net/) –

Jeremy Hammond is a member of the hacktivist network Anonymous and a gifted computer programmer whose case has attracted the attention of activists, civil libertarians and those concerned about the rights of whistleblowers. He is currently spending a decade in prison for allegedly disclosing information about the private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), revealing that they had been spying on human rights defenders at the behest of corporations and governments. WikiLeaks published these files in partnership with 29 media organisations worldwide as the Global Intelligence Files.

After being threatened with 40 years to life in prison for his brave actions and suffering numerous injustices at the hands of the legal system, Jeremy accepted a non-cooperating plea deal to one count of violating the arcane and draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Despite lodging nearly 265 letters of support calling for leniency, Jeremy was sentenced to the maximum allowed under his plea agreement and is currently serving his ten-year sentence at a medium-security federal prison in Manchester, Kentucky.

Julian, I cant help but feel that your public persona and troubles have interfered with the wikileaks mission. What has been the impact of your public image and portrayal by the media on wikileaks?

[Julian Assange] There are always counter attacks. If your attack is on a powergroup’s reputation, you can expect to receive similar treatment. I’ve learned the hardway how to handle these attacks and we built up a network of people to deal with it, part of which has now been absorbed by Courage, part of which is represented by its large advisory board. We deployed it with good effect with Edward Snowden, but also WikiLeaks broader support network, especially Glenn Greenwald and Ben Wizner, who had seen the PR attacks on me and Manning, knew what to do when the attacks on Edward Snowen (and Glenn himself) started. Edward himself is also no slouch and learned quickly. Our network was “surprised” in 2010, but not by 2013.

Obviously, the optimal end-goal of this is to free whistleblowers through legal representation. However, other than that, what sorts of less tangible goals would you wish to get out of these campaigns — in terms of justice systems, whistleblower support, public awareness, and otherwise?

[Renata Avila] Courage Foundation is also an organisation advocating for legal reforms through the world. We believe that whistleblowers are human rights defenders and, as such, they should be protected instead of criminalised.

[Julian Assange] When cases are high profile they are always political. All the legal cases we are fighting are also political cases so influencing the politics is vital. There is no justice in the “justice” system, but you can bring justice to it. At the international level we’re having some success. Only last week the UN created a special Rapporteur for Privacy.

Going forward, how can the NSA do it’s job, while maintaining secrecy, not violating constitutional rights AND gaining the trust of the American people and its allies?

[Julian Assange] It’s important to understand what the NSA’s actual “job” is. The NSA is a piratical organization, that specializes in stealing information from accross the world and selling it to its “customers”, in exchange for money and political support. That’s it.

I believe that Potus new EO puts crowdfunding of free press in real danger. What can readers like me do in order to help you?

[Sarah Harrison] What I like the most about the public reaction to the EO is that people defied its potential repercussions and donated regardless of the press reports. The implications of this are yet to be seen and we shall watch closely how the Treasury Department interpret and execute this order. However, I think one of the best things the public can do in all these scenarios is stay strong and show their will. No revolution was ever founded without some defiance!

What do you think of Snowden on a personal level?

[Sarah Harrison]  Snowden clearly did a brave and heroic action for the public’s right to know about the mass surveillance against them. He is very patriotic and it saddens me he is not properly celebrated in his homeland. I talk about Snowden and that time in a long interview I did in, of all places – Vogue! its a bit embarrassing in its vogue-ness, but if you read down though it has a lot of the details – “Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport is, like so many international airports, a sprawling and bland place. It has six terminals, four Burger Kings, a sweep of shops selling duty-free caviar, and a rivering flow of anonymous travelers—all of them headed out or headed in or, in any event, never planning to stay long. But for nearly six weeks in the summer of 2013, the airport also housed two fugitives: Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who had just off-loaded an explosive trove of top-secret U.S. government documents to journalists, and a 31-year-old British woman named Sarah Harrison, described as a legal researcher who worked for the online organization WikiLeaks.

It was a tableau sprung from a spy novel—a turncoat intelligence contractor on the lam with an enigmatic blonde by his side. Snowden had based himself in Hong Kong for several weeks as his disclosures about government surveillance ripped across the global media. When the U.S. charged him under the Espionage Act on June 14, an extradition order was sent to Hong Kong. But it came too late: Before anybody made a move to capture him, Edward Snowden—led by Sarah Harrison—had quietly boarded a flight to Moscow and basically vanished.” (http://www.vogue.com/11122973/sarah-harrison-edward-snowden-wikileaks-nsa/)

We also talk about it in a documentary – Snowden’s Great Escape.

With regards to Julian, I found something when I was in the airport, just for one month, that when I stepped out it physically hurt my eyes to see further than one wall infront of me. And that was just for one month. I can not even imagine what it feels like for Julian, and will feel like when he is free, after so long. He has been in the small Ecuadorian embassy in London, a legal asylee, for 1022 days now.

Obviously there has been a lot of ridiculous attacks on Wikileaks (the search warrant on Google data , the secret Wikileaks U.S. Grand Jury), but I was wondering what your respective experiences have been like in terms of personal privacy in relations to your careers. Have there been any major changes that you have had to make to protect your personal privacy as well as the privacy of those close to you?

[Renata Avila] I started using encryption (really hard to use back then) in 2006 when I started working as human rights lawyer for Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala. We also encrypted our central server and our hard drives were dumb terminals. I did it because we were fearing a raid of the human rights office and because we were filing cases against powerful members of the military. When communications moved from desktops to mobiles, the threat model changed and all lawyers involved became less careful, unaware of the risks of mobile communications.

Do you four have any advice for young people who want to go into your field of work? If so, what?

[Renata Avila] On my field, there is not enough public interest lawyers willing to challenge the powerful and help without fear those who are courageous enough to make sacrifices to expose the corrupt. You do not need to start dedicating fully to that, but organizations like Courage Foundation can benefit a lot from your knowledge and spare time. Volunteer legal advice, research, analysis of policies can make a huge difference for individual cases and for policy reform.