What Is An Assange? My Interview With John Cusack

turley_jonathan220px-John_Cusack_Comic-Con_2011John Cusack and I had a dialogue last year about civil liberties and other issues. John has now run a second interview (actually half of a second interview) on Huffington Post. This interview focuses on the case of Julian Assange.

For full disclosure, John and I grew up together — spending countless hours at the kitchen tables of our houses debating politics and philosophy through the years. The two families remain close and we still have the same houses where we grew up.

Huffington Post will run the second half of the interview this week.

36 thoughts on “What Is An Assange? My Interview With John Cusack”

  1. Cameron: Are you Australian? You do NOT speak for Australians and I can’t imagine what would make you think you do. You speak for only yourself. You certainly do NOT speak for me, thank you all the same. Kindly desist from doing so.

    Speaking of stealing “U.S. Government property” indicates that you have a very poor grasp indeed of the issues at hand. To reduce what is involved to the simple notion of theft of stolen property from the U.S. Government is to see a tiny crack where there is actually a massive canyon.

    Your understanding of the issues is very primitive at best.

  2. What was STOLEN wasn’t STOLEN by Assange and what it was regardless of ownership and method of procurement was evidence of crimes and lies perpetuated by the U.S. Government. He’s guilty of reporting evidence of crimes far more serious than stealing documents. Crimes that embarrassed politicians.

    He’s not a criminal. He’s a whistleblower. The people he ratted our are the ones who think they are “superior beings” and above the law.

  3. I do not have any sympathy for Julian Assange as a result of what he did with the STOLEN and, much of it, confidential and secret, US Government property. He is just as guilty of an offence as Bradley Manning (if Manning is ultimately convicted as seems inevitable) .

    It is irrelevant whether or not it was in the “public interest” to publicly release US Government property as Julian Assange seems to believe it was. Who appointed Mr Assange as judge of what is and what is not in the public interest to release in any event. Mr Assange, however, believes he is some higher being who should be the judge of what material in his possession, and obtained totally illegally, should be distributed into the public domain for viewing by both friends and enemies alike.

    The material he obtained was STOLEN, he had no right to take possession of any of this STOLEN property and he had no right to, and no business in, releasing these proceeds of theft (much of it classified and secret) into the public domain regardless of its classification. Simply – it was not his

    It is also fascinating how the few supporters of Mr Assange rally to his cause but are virtually silent when it comes to the alleged principal co-perpetrator of this theft, Bradley Manning. Yet Mr Assange is just as guilty as Bradley Manning.

    If Bradley Manning had stolen a 50 ton truck load of powerful US Army weapons and passed the load of weapons to Julian Assange, who then proceeded to distribute the weapons to whom ever he pleased, there would be an outcry. This is what Manning(allegedly) and Assange have done. But, rather than weapons, Manning stole – and Assange became receiver in this theft – of private US Government documents and video and then Assange perpetrated its free distribution.

    In effect, Mr. Assange is nothing more than a receiver in a clear case of theft. This property did not belong to Bradley Manning and certainly not to Mr. Assange. The latter now attempts to defend his illegal actions by claiming that the world had a right to know about the nature and content of this stolen material. Well it did not. It was not Assange’s property. It was stolen, he was the receiver and he had no rights in relation to it.

    Mr Assange and his equally misguided mother continue to whinge and whine about the lack of support by the Australian Government for his plight. Well I can tell you, very few Australians give a dime about Julian Assange or what happens to him as a result of his illegal actions in relation to the stolen property and no doubt very few Australian Government officials and politicians care that much. The media over there is not that interested either unless there is some juicy news to amuse and “infotain” the masses.

    I have no doubt that eventually the US Government will get their hands on this guy and he will be tried under US law and a Court can decide whether he is guilty of an offence or offences – or not. He cannot hold up indefinitely in the embassy in London. Eventually he is going to need to leave one way or the other.

    If Mr Assange had half a brain, rather than an obviously overblown ego, he would have thought twice about publicly releasing stolen private US Government material. It should have been perfectly obvious to him (as it is to everyone else with a brain) that if he distributed this stolen property he would be hunted down, prosecuted and incarcerated. In his position would YOU have taken a punt, received this stolen material and then published it for viewing by friends and enemies alike? I just bet you would not have unless of course you would enjoy making some “new friends” in jail some years hence.

    The trouble with people like Mr Assange is that they really think they are superior beings and are somehow above the law and should be protected at all costs. Well I suspect he is soon to find out – just like the poor and misguided Bradley Manning.

  4. There are a lot of threads here. One topic which needs to be singled out is Who is a criminal in the wiki leaks story? Let us start with crimes against humanity committed against an individual who has not been convicted of a crime. Manning. This person has been stripped of clothing and forced into a cell 24 hours a day without proper heat, clothing, food, water, communication. This is a war crime committed by the United States and each person in command from the top down to his jailer. May they rot in hell.

  5. Here is the Occam’s Razor in this entire affair.

    If a regular, non-controversial person had been in the same position as Julian was, that is with being wanted to questioning for the he said / she said sex issue and went into the embassay to hide out, would the British Gov’t even bother posting guards outside 24/7 to secure his arrest if he came out. They wouldn’t even waste their time, they would just throw up their hands and move on to something more pressing.

    But, one of the superpowers wants Julian and they will get him when they can.

    And what would it be if Julian actually voluntairly surrendered himself, went back to Sweden and then lawyered up (if that is available in Sweden)? The interview would get nothing from him. Just seems to me this is some smoke and mirrors to hook him up and railroad him into custody, and then the extradition to the United States.

    Time for these governments to just bite the bullet and make this entire affair go away. But it won’t and Julian is going to be the next Roman Polanski, living in a country that will not extradite to the US, a virtual exile.

    The rules of engagement with governments, from the local to the international, you can get away with just about anything except embarassing the government or whistleblowing. Then you paint a big target on your back.

    1. “The rules of engagement with governments, from the local to the international, you can get away with just about anything except embarassing the government or whistleblowing. Then you paint a big target on your back.”


      Exactly the case here.

  6. “The main purpose of this system is not to receive information and publish it. The main purpose is to stop the conspiracy before it even starts. I’ll repeat that so it sinks in: The main purpose is to stop the conspiracy before it even starts. If you divert the conspiracy before it starts, there will be do documents to receive and publish. In its ideal state, Wikileaks receives no documents.”


    Thank you for that comment. It had been my thought about the role Wikileaks was playing, but I didn’t know how to verbalize it correctly. My long held belief is that the world has become a corrupt Corporate Plutocracy trying to reimpose feudalism. give the power it represents both in money and in arms it can’t be defeated by the old means and certainly not by violence. We need new systems to effectuate a change and Wikileaks represents part of this system. OWS had some of it for awhile as it helped create an effective meme in the 98% v. 2%, but when it continued to use the old failed methods of the 60’s by using a version of the “sit in” it began to wane. What it did prove though and what Assange’s persecution has shown, is that there is a movement in the right direction, or else why the over-reaction by those with power?

    Main stream journalism has far too much corporate control to provide the service once represented by a free press. The internet has provided the same capabilities that pamphleteers like Paine had during the American Revolution. The difference is that today those “pamphleteer writers” have a far wider range of opportunity to reach a great many people.

  7. Michael
    1, January 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    he is NOT Anonymous….his work is successful and foundational to just what you say, Prevention of Conspiratory….and people are tired, I think, of being fleeced for lies…and the Bradley Manning thing is just too low for most Americans to fathom….

  8. I would like to point out some fundamental misunderstandings you all seem to have regarding Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Wikileaks.

    Wikileaks is about creating a system as a hedge to conspiracy, not a file dump. It is not about the possible journalists at Wikileaks, lead by Assange, collecting and exposing documents that are embarrassing or detrimental to governments.

    It is completely different than the Daniel Ellsburg situation with the Pentagon Papers. Daniel was a whistle blower, he smuggled out documents, he and the New York Times exposed them to the public. What Assange is trying to do is very different. Wrap your head around this simple idea: Wikileaks is not about documents. It is more like a complex hedge derivative.

    For a conspiracy to take place you have to have certain elements in place: More than one person, a secret, and agreement to keep the secret, and a general need for the secret. There are good conspiracies (The Underground Railroad) and bad conspiracies (Iran-Contra affair). Governments (and others) have created the system of secrecy that allows conspiracies to flourish. They spend billions every year on shoring up this system. They spend next to nothing on sunshine. C-Span is a private corporation, so the government doesn’t even spend a dime on showing us the floor of congress. They make you pay for your own photo-copies when you do a Freedom of Information request.

    Assange is trying to create something like an algorithm. He’s not done. He knows he is not done. He is an inventor trying to show the rest of us the way. He’s clearly stated over and over, this is not complete, step in and help to work on this. In the same way the Pentagon never brushes it’s hands and says that “the secrecy apparatus is complete, job well done, everyone go home”, Assange presents his invention as never being complete and in constant need of refinement. What is Wikileaks? It is a system to anonymously publish information. A system. Not a server in Sweden. Not a person named Assange. Not a group of hackers. Not a group of programmers. Think of the Gutenberg press as a system, not an actual piece of equipment. Once the system of the invention is presented, does it matter that it was a physical press (wikileaks servers) operated by Johannes Gutenburg (Julian Assange) in Mainz Germany (over the internet, or based in Sweden, or giving speeches from an embassy in England)?

    The main purpose of this system is not to receive information and publish it. The main purpose is to stop the conspiracy before it even starts. I’ll repeat that so it sinks in: The main purpose is to stop the conspiracy before it even starts. If you divert the conspiracy before it starts, there will be do documents to receive and publish. In its ideal state, Wikileaks receives no documents.

    Let’s get back to the conspirators. Let’s say there are 5 people in the room and they agree to a covert war against ‘East Whateverstan’. In the past they would feel protected in growing and operating this conspiracy because they had the tools of the security state working and applying incentives to their advantage. If person (2) were to divulge proof of the conspiracy to the press, he could be arrested or punished in some serious way, even retroactively (Why Feld didn’t disclose is being Deep Throat for decades after the event.) If person (3) drops the conspiracy to a foreign government, they can be tried for treason and executed. Person (4) might just be fired and cut off from access to his/her livelihood. The point is, everyone in the room knows that everyone else has shifting motivations for keeping the conspiracy alive (time changes motivations) and everyone has long term incentives for keeping the conspiracy alive. Now comes Wikileaks. Now the conspirators have to look around the room and wonder who in this small group is going to anonymously present our secret to the world. If they can truly be anonymous our incentives toward secrecy don’t work. In fact this new system changes the whole paradigm and presents a whole new set of incentives for the conspirators to deal with (think adding a whole new set of factors to a game theory dilemma). Now they have to realize their potential for secrecy has gone way down. “What is the cost benefits analysis for starting/maintaining or dropping this conspiratorial plan?” “If we can not rely on secrecy, should we move forward with our plan, and can our plan operate efficiently if it is in the open?” Apply these questions to Richard Nixon’s administration. Assume this system is in place when Regan decides to trade arms for hostages for funding the Contras. Now you see. They don’t even start these operations.

    This is the system of Wikileaks.

    Understanding this is crucial to framing your perspective on Manning, Assange, the organization known as Wikileaks, and the opponents of Wikileaks.

    By trying to determine if Assange is a journalist, or a figurehead, or a rapist, or trying to figure out if Wikileaks needs access to funds, or has a right to operate servers, or is a group of hackers hacking for the documents, or if Bradley Manning is a whistle blower or hacktavist or a scapegoat… you and other fine fellows play into the government’s (et al) framing of the new invention. “It is just a printing press, we can crush it. He is just a printer, we can imprison him. They are bibles, we can burn them. We can isolate this to a few incidents and contain this to Mainz.

    Frame your discussion with a fundamental understanding of Wikileaks the system. Apply that understanding to all that follows.

  9. When you try to publicize gross constitutional violations of people’s rights, the press will either grab onto it (if the people are right for the grab) or ignore it totally (and thus contribute to the gangbang) or punish it severely (if it hits home). Assange hit home in a big way.

  10. Kevin said at the end of this exchange that we need a movement to protect Americans constitutional rights. I disagree. We need a movement to stop the U.S. Military policing the world. Ethiopia considers Assange a hero for exposing the U.S. support of brutal military leaders. We need a movement not based on the constitution but on adherence to internal law specifically the Geneva Convention, which the U.S
    continually breaches. Assange’s revelations remind us of Dr. King’s warning that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. As long as we ignore oir nation’s increasing militarism across the worls, the more injustice we will face. See http://www.InPDUM.org and http://www.ANSWERCoalition.org

  11. The national press has ostracized Assange because he scooped it. Period. All this clamor and specious argument about Assange’s status as a journalist is more a matter of form following function. The defect implied here by Professor Turley’s analysis is that if one isn’t legally incorporated as a news organization it somehow diminishes the validity of the content provided. As though corporately supported news accounts should be privileged simply because the report is generated by a so-called news organization, for profit or not for profit. The even more monstrous implication is the true scope of the myth of objectivity exposed by Assange. For nearly a century the west chided the Soviet news agencies because of its propaganda-oriented regulation of content. And here Assange exposes the so-called western democracies for practicing the same thing, only this time on behalf the neo-plutocratics of capitalism.

  12. Shano, The UK extradition order is to remove Julian Assange to Sweden for interrogation re the alleged sexual assault. Once interrogation, charges might be forthcoming, but it’s a classic ‘he said, she said’. Assange’s presence in Sweden is allegedly a ruse for extradition to the US.

    Things aren’t quiet on the Aussie home front regarding the Australian government’s failure to help this citizen. The same has been said of now former Gitmo detainee and Australian citizen, David Hicks. http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-walls-of-guantanamo-know-a-truth-that-australia-will-not-tell-20121019-27wmu.html

    The issues surrounding Wikileaks seems to be more about retaliatory prosecution for causing the US embarssment rather than free speech. Given recent assaults on free speech, one might argue that actions against Julian Assange are a criminal SLAPP. In this case, his removal to Sweden on, at best, questionable grounds appears placatory to the US.

  13. “Because it is from the revelation of truth that all else follows.

    Our buildings can only be as tall as their bricks are strong.

    Our civilization is only as strong as its ideas are true.

    When our buildings are erected by the corrupt, when their cement is cut with dirt, when pristine steel is replaced by scrap – our buildings are not safe to live in.

    And when our media is corrupt, when our academics are timid, when our history is filled with half- truths and lies – our civilization will never be just. It will never reach to the sky.

    Our societies are intellectual shanty towns. Our beliefs about the world and each other have been created by the same system that has lied us into repeated wars that have killed millions.

    You can’t build a skyscraper out of plasticine. And you can’t build a just civilization out of ignorance and lies.” -Julian Assange


  14. I read this late last night over at Huff Po. Good stuff. To his long list of talents, I’m going to say Cusak needs to permanently add “interviewer” after reading these two outings. He’s far more engaging than most of what passes for journalism in the infotainment world.

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