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Julian Assange: The Rolling Stone Interview

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One of the more interesting books is from Heather Brooke, a writer for The Guardian. She sounds almost like a scorned lover – she says she "swooned madly" when you first looked at her, then later concluded that you're an asshole. That seems to be a recurring narrative of these stories about you.
[Long pause] I don't think Heather Brooke is particularly interesting. The general phenomenon is interesting. Someone has an involvement to some extent in our work, which they then overstate tremendously to gain authority. They get something from the involvement – a reputation by proximity, information we've collected or some other item of value. Then we're not able to continue the relationship with them at the same degree of involvement, so they feel rejected. When you become a celebrity – at various times, within the English language, I have been the most famous person being discussed in the news – people's behavior shifts. What they lose through the lack of an ongoing relationship seems to be so incredibly valuable to them, so their desire to keep it, or their feeling of loss when they are not able to preserve the interaction, is so extreme that it drives them to do things you would not normally expect people to do. I always thought that A-level celebrities and their complaints about the difficulties of being a celebrity were rather self-indulgent.

But now, being a celebrity yourself, you feel differently?
I've subsequently changed my opinion. Brad Pitt doesn't have a superpower at his back. He just has some crazed fans and paparazzi. But now, having had all three, I must say, I'm not terribly impressed with the experience.

There were stalkers at your previous location. That must have frightened you.
Yes, despite the remoteness of the location – being three hours out of London by fast train, plus another 40 minutes in a car through country roads, and then through a long private driveway into the country house. We had many people try to turn up at the front door or to ambush me at the police station. It coincided with many U.S. politicians, such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, calling for my assassination or kidnapping. Fortunately, nearly everyone who attempted to ambush me was supportive in one way or another. They were mostly women who thought they were my fiancee.

Women wanting to marry you? How many over the past year?
Hundreds.

Hundreds of women would show up?
Sometimes also men. We had one, Captain Morgan, who claimed to work for Intel, and was a sea captain. He sold his boat to turn up at the front door, saying we were the only organization on Earth worth working for. One woman from Catalonia took a black cab from London and turned up at our house on the edge of the estate with a £450 taxi bill, which she'd convinced the driver I would pay once our romantic dispute was sorted out. She and the taxi driver convinced one of the neighbors to let them stay the night – the taxi driver refused to leave until he got his money.

There have been groupies. No, I won't call them groupies. Young women who have flown from Norway and Sweden and turned up at the front door. When I was in prison, absurdly, the only people to get any mail through in the first week were six women who wanted to give me cakes and blankets, which I rejected. But apparently there are women who try and visit any famous prisoner of a certain age, and know how to get through the system. Whereas not a single journalist from around the world was able to do so.

Have you been in any serious or significant relationships over the past year?
For security reasons, I can't talk about my intimate private life. I want to make that clear. My children have received death threats and are in hiding. Many people I am close to in a familial way, I have to be extremely cautious about exposing.

What happened in Sweden with the two women who have accused you?
It's before the court, so I can't discuss the case. It is very difficult, being in the position where you can't tell your version of events. It's clear that the matter is absurd, and you can read all about what the prosecution says its case is on the Internet.

By calling it absurd, aren't you implying that these women are making it up?
That's not what I said. I've never criticized the women. I'm saying the allegations are absurd. People can read the allegations for themselves. They're not correct, but even as stated, they are absurd. What the prosecution successfully managed to do is use the word "rape." Although I've not been charged – and technically what they are investigating is called "minor rape," a Swedish concept – that hasn't stopped our opponents from constantly referring to "rape charges," which is false. Back when we last did a survey, in February, there were a total of 33 million references on the Internet to the word "rape" in any context, from Helen of Troy to the Congo. If you search for "rape" and my name, there were just over 20 million. In other words, perceptively, two-thirds of all rapes that have ever happened anywhere in the world, ever, have something to do with me.

So why not say, "Look, I did nothing wrong, but I'm sorry if I upset these people. These are very serious things, and I'm taking it seriously, and I'll come to Sweden and face these allegations." People who support you wonder why you haven't done that.
I have no faith in the Swedish justice system being just. The International Prison Chaplains Association says that Swedish prisons are the worst prisons in Europe. That covers even Romania, Estonia and so on. That's because in 47 percent of cases, prisoners in Sweden are held incommunicado. So to the degree that my ability to act would be severely if not completely eliminated by entering into a Swedish prison, I am concerned about it. In addition, if you criticize matters, such as that Swedes have the worst prison system in all of Europe, then it would be the worse for you, because the Swedish justice system will take its revenge.

If you knew that governments were looking to find a way to pull dirty tricks on you, didn't you feel like you were putting yourself at risk in Sweden when you were with the women? Weren't you pushing the envelope?
It's been falsely reported that I have said that the Swedish allegations are a result of a CIA trap. That's false. What I have said is that the case was instantly politicized by opportunists – instantly, within hours. That day, we did receive, from an intelligence source, a list of priorities that the U.S. government had in relation to me. Those included finding out what information we had, what we were going to publish, evidence in relation to the prosecution of Bradley Manning. It also included a view that the U.S. would find the legal case against me very difficult, and that therefore I should be very cautious about extralegal means. Those extralegal means not being assassination, but rather the planting of drugs, child pornography or being otherwise embroiled in disgraceful conduct. So it was on my mind and everyone else's mind when the allegations arose.

Do you wish you'd done anything different?
In general? Of course. Many. I can't stand these people who say they would never do anything different. That simply means that they have not learned a single thing from their experiences.

I mean specifically, in terms of dealing with the two women.
I had never gone through a sex scandal before. There are certain ways, depending on culture, which one should handle a politicized sex scandal. I also didn't take it very seriously to begin with. I thought that it would disappear immediately.

Why didn't you hire a PR guy?
We tried. We hired someone in the U.K. to cope with the volume of media inquiries. He accepted at a very substantially reduced rate because we're activists, a cause célèbre. His largest clients were Virgin and Sony. After one week, it was clear that it was either us or them. His board, according to him, insisted that we be dropped, so we were. There have been about a dozen similar instances of pressure being applied to companies who we've been working with. When people say, "Why didn't Julian do this, why didn't Julian do that, why didn't WikiLeaks do this," in many cases we have actually tried. It's not so easy when you're fighting a superpower.

What forms has the pressure taken?
My personal bank account was shut down, and some of our people have also had their personal bank accounts closed. Many people have lost their jobs – even those who were quite indirectly connected. The person who registered our Swiss domain name lost their job when Bloomberg reported their name on the record. One of the board members of the German charity that collects donations for us lost their security contract with the Swiss stock exchange. The stock exchange even put in writing that the cause was his affiliation with us. The Tor Project, which protects people around the world from being spied on or censored, lost some $600,000 to the U.S. government, as a result of one of their people, Jacob Appelbaum, having filled in for me once at a conference in New York. This type of indirect pressure has been applied to a great many people.

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