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Julian Assange’s Keynote @ ConventionCamp 2012 – The Transcript

07.Februar 2013 - Aufgesang unterwegs -

Julian Assange, Credit: Allen Clark

Julian Assange spoke to the German public for the first time on 27th November, 2012. His keynote at our conference ConventionCamp (conventioncamp.de, #cch12) was streamed via Skype videolink. About one thousand people were listening live. For them and for everybody else we had the keynote and the following interview transcribed. This document has been officially approved by Julian Assange.

Julian Assange sprach erstmals vor deutschem Publikum am 27. November 2012. Seine Keynote bei unserer (Un)Konferenz ConventionCamp (conventioncamp.de, #cch12) haben wir live via Skype-Videokonferenz gestreamt. Etwa tausend Besucher haben sie verfolgt. Für sie und für alle anderen haben wir die gesamte Keynote und das anschließende Interview transkribiert. Dieses Dokument wurde von Julian Assange offiziell freigegeben.

Frank Sonder, ConventionCamp:
Okay, here you are, good morning Julian.

Julian Assange:
Good morning, hallo!
Where we saw the internet and the internet youth become politicized. And they themselves, running to the national security state. So I want to talk a little bit about the reality of how our civilization works. The organizers of this conference wanted me to talk about Utopia. But actually I see that it is much easier to talk about a Dystopia. And if we go back in fact looking say at grand Utopian documents like the American Declaration of Independence, we see there not pages and pages about the Utopian visions of the new United States but rather 23 pages of discussion about the abuses of King George. So we really are motivated to look forward to something different by the problems that we have right how. Now I know that authors reading their books is fantastically boring to people but I’m going to make an exception in this case because this book has not been read from anywhere in the world yet and it is not even out yet. So it is due to come out in about three days.

So I do hope you all forgive me in reading something that puts it better that I can normally. The world in not sliding, but galloping into a new transitional Dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of national security circles. It is being 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. And those people who work with it are either part of facilitating the threat or they are working to oppose it. These transformations have come about silently because those who know what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no in sync […] rather than the darkness below. In the new space of the internet, what will be the mediator of coercive force? Does it even make sense to ask this question? In this other world we space this seemingly platonic realm of ideas and information flow, can it be a notion coercive force? A force that can modify historical records, tap phones, separate people, transform our complexity into rubble, wrecked walls like an occupying army?

The platonic nature of our internet, ideas and information flow is debased by its physical origins. It’s foundations as we all know are fiber optic cable lines stretching across the ocean floor, satellites spinning above our heads, computer servers housed in buildings from New York to Nairobi. Like the soldier who slew Archimedes with a mere sword, though too couldn’t armed militia, take control of the peak development of our western civilization – our plutonic realm: the internet. Our new world of the internet obstructed from our old world of brute Adams long for independence. But states and their friends have moved to control our new world. By controlling it’s physical underpinnings. The state like an army around an oil well, or a customs agent extraction bribes at the border, will soon learn to leverage its control of physical space to gain control over our plutonic realm. It would prevent the independence we have dreamed of. And then squatting on fiber optic cable lines and around satellite ground stations it would go on to mass intercept information flow of our new world, it’s every essence.

And even as every human economic and political relationship embrace it, the state would leech into the veins or arteries of our new societies, gobbling up every relationship, express or communicated, every web page where it read, every message sent and every thought searched for. This knowledge, billions of interceptions per day undreamed of power is now source stored in top secret data warehouses from Utah to [bad sound – indecipherable]. The state would go on to mine and mine again this intercepted treasure, the collected private intellectual output of human civilization with ever more sophisticated search and pattern finding algorithms, enriching the treasure and maximizing the power and balance between the world of interceptors and the world of interceptees. And the state would then reflect what they had learned, back into our physical world to start wars, to target drones, to manipulate UN committees and trade deals and to do favors for it’s vast connected network with industries, insiders and cronies.

But when we [bad sound – indecipherable] they are phenomenon physic places like salt, steel or stars. Similarly, universe – our physical universe – has the property, it is possible for a group or an individual to reliably, automatically, even without knowing encrypt something. So that all the resources and all the political will of the strongest super power on earth may not decipher it. And the paths of incitement between people can mash together to create regions free from the coercive force of traditional states, free from mass interception. Free from arbitrary boldest state control. In this way people can oppose their will that fully mobilize super power and win. Encryption is an embodiment of the laws of physics and it does not listen to the blaster of states even transnational surveillance disturbance. It even isn’t obvious that the world had reference by it, that somehow the universe smiles on encrypt.

Cryptography is the ultimate form of nonviolent direct action. While nuclear weapon states can exert unlimited violence of even millions of individuals, strong cryptography means that the states even by exercising unlimited violence, cannot violate the intent of individuals that keep secrets from them. Strong cryptography can resist the unlimited application of violence. No amount of coercive force will ever solve a mass problem. But can we take advantage of the strange fact about the pole, we’ll get off the basic immersive territory, building block of independence of mankind in the plutonic realm of the internet. And as societies merge with the internet, can that liberty be reflected back into the physical reality to pre define states that we have to deal with.

All that states and systems which determine where and how coercive force is consistently applied. The question of how much coercive force seep into plutonic realm of the internet and the physical world, is answered by cryptography, is answered by Macropan’s ideals. As states merge with the internet and the future of our civilization becomes the future of the internet, we must redefine state relations or succumb in our independence. If we do not, the universality of the internet will merge global humanity in one giant rib, mass surveillance and mass control. It is time to take up the arms of the new world, fight for ourselves and for those we love.

A task of those before us is to secure self-determination where we can, to hold back becoming Dystopia where we cannot, all else fails we accelerate with self destruction. Now, I’m gratified to see in the Petreaus scandal we may have reached the situation where the burgeoning surveillance Dystopia is starting now even to feed upon itself. Is starting even to even to eat its own young. So there is a possibility that the overstatements oversteps of this transnational phenomenon that we are facing, are the cause of the seeds of its own demise. And I do hope that is true. But I think that from majority of us, we truly must recognize this phenomenon. We must not become in anyway a new form of being involved in internet by being involved in pushing things in sync new technologies. Into some form of people’s brain executions for the new transnational surveillance Dystopia to come, thank you.


Frank Sonder: So thank you Julian for the statement. I like that you mentioned hope in the end.  I would now like to hand over to Ingo to introduce the second part with the interview.

Ingo Stoll:
Yeah, thank you from me as well and Julian may I introduce you now to Richard Gutjahr. He is a German journalist. Blogger working for the ARD in Munich and in other states as well and he will now enter the stage for doing a slight interview, a short one so… I just have to mention one thing. You [speaking to Richard Gutjahr] wouldn’t be here if you wouldn’t have some generous people letting you go. Because you would have held a key note in the Vienna, right at the same time here and the Forum for Jounalistik und Medien, released you for today. So thanks to Vienna and welcome Richard Gutjahr. Thank you. [applause]

Richard Gutjahr interviewing Julian Assange

Richard Gutjahr interviewing Julian Assange

Richard Gutjahr:
First of all we appreciate you taking the time for this interview here at the ConventionCamp 2012. I’m sure that all the people in the audience would like to hear more and learn more about your vision of the Utopia and Dystopia that you are just talking about. You were just referring to the web as the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism you have ever seen. In your opinion how long are we still speaking about a free internet, are we in other words, the last generation of truly free people?

Well not truly free, we are gone past that. There’s a question as to whether in fact as a matter of sort of an empirical fact whether we have already gone over the edge or not. It’s not entirely saying, we are past the point of no return. But the reality is, even declared US Congress, The National Security Agency for example intercepts 1.7 billion communications today as of last year. Companies from South Africa can read all about this in the release of [bad sound – indecipherable] files. There are all over the world, sell nationwide interception systems to intercept the entire telecommunication, that could have entire countries and store it permanently. The new game in the international mass surveillance industry, is to intercept everything and store it permanently because it’s cheaper. It is cheaper in selecting targets to simply record all people all the time.

You said the internet can be used against us to enslave us. I still don’t get who is actually the enemy we are talking about. Who is the one who is fighting us, is it the state, is it a state within a state?

It is … I used the state in my speech as a sort of convenient description. But the states now are extremely complex. So we are not talking about the classical definition of government. What we are speaking about in practice how things actually occur, is a merger between the traditional cohesive powers of government, large corporations that fill parts if the contracting industry like North [bad sound – indecipherable] CSIC, these corporations, transparently interact, in the case United States and most of NATO with government, people go smoothly from within government to within these corporations. Most of the work is carried out by these corporations, they have vast cronyistic networks and across shareholdings. There is people amongst the establishment cashed up with shareholdings and [indecipherable], there’s family involved. So this is rather fluid transnational establishment and is developed in the last ten years in west that doesn’t comply itself with anyone particular group, in anyone particular center.

Your simple statements are that Facebook, I quote: “Facebook is a CIA spying machine”. What do you mean by that?

It is interesting to look at the penetration of East Germany by the Stasi. In the biggest it’s saying that up to one in ten people in East Germany was an informer. While countries like Iceland which had 88% Facebook penetration; 88% of people are informers. Now they are not paid in cash. Instead they are paid in social credits. They find out information about their friends and they are paid by, well you know, getting laid.

I am sorry what was that, by getting laid?

By getting laid.

You mean like sexual –

They find out who is single, who is available etcetera and that’s how….


And their probable exclusion from being… from getting laid is what has pushed most people to Facebook and turn them all into informers on their friends. So all that information travels in the United States and is stored in vast warehouses. Where US Intelligence has access to it. It’s a reality. Not just US intelligence but US law enforcement.

You are referring to the Patriot Act?

Not just the Patriot.. there is many of these acts. There is about sixteen that are used. Facebook even discloses occasionally. I mean orders and requests it has had directly. But it’s a great burden on these companies to constantly fulfill these sort of lawful interception requirements. So they automate the process as much as possible. By automating it the number of requests pulling information goes up and up and up and up. There is never a requirement for judges in nearly every case of any sort of court over sight. That is gag orders on the requests automatically. So you can’t even – most people can’t even discuss that they receive fund, including Facebook but I mean – within WikiLeaks and our circle of friends we have been fighting many of these requests in US courts. We can look up Twitter cases and similar cases in the Federal Court where records about us have been pulled in this manner from Google. From we leaked also to Facebook. There’s… the records have been sealed in a court and ongoing court battle together from our ISPs, from Twitter, etcetera.

So you are saying we are permanently spied on and people are basically able to read whatever we do online. You were referring to CIA direct, former CIA Director David Petraeus in your key note just a minute ago. He himself got into trouble by using Gmail?


Right. So I didn’t get that part where as you said the systems starts to eat itself? Like if they are spying against each other and so at the end become their own worst enemy?

Yeah, it has become so out of control now and the ability for it to spy is that viable factions within this system are using the systems itself against different parts of it, so it is  self-triggering. It is not the first time we have seen that. For example another, example in the Pentagon case against us. The Pentagon with its brand new [bad sound – indecipherable: copyism?] about WikiLeaks introduced a mail filter where an email containing the word WikiLeaks is banned from coming in and out of the pentagon automatically. So if you mention WikiLeaks, the emails don’t go through. And then in the Pentagon’s case against Bradley Manning who is alleged to be one of our sources. It was emailed in people outside the Pentagon in preparing for this case. And of course people responding to those emails would occasionally mention the word WikiLeaks and those emails didn’t even come back into the Pentagon. So the Pentagon’s attempt to prosecute us was self-sabotaged by its surveillance. And since it was Dystopia, where it was censoring any email with the word WikiLeaks.

So am I in danger now talking to you?

That’s an interesting question actually. Of course you are not in danger that way. You are all been spied upon all the time, when you use the internet and it’s been permanently recorded. But yeah a large number of our associates have been detained or have their email, had their Gmail pulled out of the records pulled. One shouldn’t go too far. The way sort of cohesive pressure has been working predominantly against us is in yes there is a criminal process a very significant one involving sixteen different US agencies. There is 42,000 pages beginning of this year in our FBI file against us.

It’s some serious business, but it’s more interesting to move away from that classical description and add for example the economic concave against WikiLeaks. Which has cut off 95% of our income. We’ve been fighting this for two years now. Some very positive recent developments including in Germany yesterday. You can read an article in which people asking transparency from this month where it’s revealed that the CDUnion the Interior Minister politically interfered with our tax deductibility in Germany by the Wau Holland Foundation. Which was started in memory of the Germans that lost out a row on to remove charitable status from us in Germany in response to our publication of diplomatic cables. We have been fighting that two years and have won finally the fights. We are tax deductible again in Germany. And we’ve also found a loophole that means that we are now tax deductible EU-wide. But that’s an example on the way modern censorship works in the west is to target people economically and also other people are hired and sort of extended patronage. In our case things have become rather clear because we are also tied of this very unconventional manner. In the United States we join FBI investigations and publicly declare the CIA task forces and so on.

Let’s stay in Germany a little bit. For us in Germany privacy is a big issue for obvious reasons. For the young people like the digital natives not only in Germany but all around the world, they don’t seem to have a problem sharing stuff and putting everything in their life online. Could it be that they are actually right and we are wrong with our look at towards privacy?

Well, if it was the case that everyone had everything. Then I would say that would be interesting. It might be right. So it’s hard to say exactly. But that’s not how it works, there are some key players that are taking literally billions of the interceptions per day and storing it forever and applying ever more sophisticated search algorithms to it. This is a massive unparalleled transfer of power. Because information is power. From the majority of all of us to a particularly nasty warmongering group and their extended greed. So that is the problem and young people don’t see that. For example if you speak about your brother on Facebook and some party that you had when you went to see him, you are not just speaking about yourself, in fact you are speaking about your extended network of people.

And all that information becomes… goes into algorithms that are used to spot particular people. Spot particular conspiracies. Predict people to feed into social media campaigns. And we are only at the very beginning of this merger now. This is really the place of the most intense development. It’s not interception. Bulk interception is here. Most of what we do on the internet if it goes across national boundaries is intercepted. The really important development is what is done with the information there. So how do you scan, how do you search? And how do you automatically go from knowing a lot about everyone in theory, to turning that into particular actions?

So this is where there is rapid, rapid development. And we saw for example in say the Bahrainian revolution that started out with Twitter being a mechanism. A great mechanism for people to in real time have a local debate and an international debate about what was going on in their state. And then the Bahrainian government hired ten western PR agencies and decked out the whole thing with PR agents and bombs which they had been linked to with their articles in and so on. So whenever there is a new technology development it goes through periods of democratisation, adoption by the average person. And then if it actually becomes a serious challenge to various establishments. Though there is on, yes they are slower, yes, they are not really adoptable but they immense resources. So that’s the position we are at now in social media. It is starting, its ability… system application of making thousands of robots to put propaganda on it. And that’s being done by private companies who hire themselves up to the highest bidder and also research contracts that are handed up by the defense advanced research projects agency in the US. They are developing stuff the Pentagon defines programs and so on.

Let’s come back to the headline of today’s conference ConventionCamp here in Hanover, its Meta Change. It’s Meta Change and the organizers are very proud to announce that they are going to raise money in order to build a school, to help children in Africa to go online. What would you say is the best antidote. What is the remedy of what you are just describing as a Dystopia. So how can we turn a Dystopia into a Utopia?

Always you have to start with education. We can’t remove our shackles if we can’t even see them. So we must explain what is going on and demonstrate why that is true. But if you ask: is it possible to stop this from going on, I’m not sure actually whether it is even possible to stop it. I believe that it is possible to stop it for some of us. The people who actually have been educated about it and can use on the one hand use cryptography and so on to protect themselves. And push for those standards and to have mass application, automatic mass application of cryptography build integrated programs that everyone uses to prevent mass surveillance.

But I’m not sure actually that we’ll all get there. But it has always been the case is the worst elements of society the worst tendencies in a society have been kept in check by an activist population and by political educators and by technological educators. So it’s not actually necessary perhaps to protect the bulk of people. It is necessary at the very least to protect those people who are involved in stopping society going down – you know going into Dystopia. It’s not necessarily everyone needs to do that. But there needs to be at least a core element of people, a critical mass of people, that can protect themselves and also in doing so protect others who then political or economical developments.

Talking about protecting people, final two questions regarding WikiLeaks. When can we expect WikiLeaks to be fully operational again?

Well, first of all it’s important to understand what WikiLeaks is. So WikiLeaks is a publication by Sunshine Press. Sunshine Press is an organization. It’s the organization that is behind WikiLeaks. So we operate like most journalistic organisations – or perhaps to some degree like some intelligence organisations. We have a variety of methods that we use to get information and we have a rather large variety of methods to use the public information. Which was actually the harder thing to do is to safely robust and publish information. But in terms of full operation, well it’s getting there. You have noticed, later on today we have another press conference in Belgium and also here in London, I hope you pay attention to that. But no we have been in a position where I have had exhibition case objects exhibition case, other people have been detained at airports, the FBI has attempted to bribe them, force people into being informers, offering plea deals, coercively putting people into the grand jury and the jury over the last two years.

Finally over the last five months and especially since three months ago I was granted formally political asylum by Ecuador. We have a moment to breath and to go from being defensive to back to our normal state. Which is to be offensive with the things that concern us. So I’m quite pleased about that transition.

Well, I think our time is up. On behalf of the organisational team and of people here in Hanover the ConventionCamp I once again want to thank you for taking the time for participate today in our conference here, and to give us an opportunity to share your views. Meine Damen und Herren: Julian Assange. [applause]
So, thanks Julian. Bye-bye.

Thank you, bye.


At Julian Assange’s request this text must not be copied and released on other websites. Please respect the copyright. Thank you!

Auf Wunsch von Julian Assange soll dieser Text nicht kopiert und an anderen Stellen veröffentlicht werden. Bitte beachtet dieses Copyright. Danke!


Offizielle Recap des ConventionCamp 2012 (in German)

Picture gallery/Bildergalerie

Social media impact (infographics)

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