Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kristinn Hrafnsson answers questions on Reddit

Below is all the questions which were answered by WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson during his 27 September 2012 AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. The questions are posted in the order they were answered.

Original link: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/10l8ct/i_am_kristinn_hrafnsson_official_spokesman_of/
 

I am Kristinn Hrafnsson, official spokesman of Wikileaks. I'm here to answer any question you have to the best of my ability.

I am an Icelandic investigative journalist and spokesperson for Wikileaks. I am not fully familiar with reddit but hear it is a great place for sharing information.

Proof: https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/251402937635577856

Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristinn_Hrafnsson

This is the best proof we can give right now. Hope the picture is workable for you. http://imgur.com/lFWZy



When will the next leak be released?

As a general policy I never discuss releases before hand. This is a general policy of Wikileaks. Mr. Assange has made one or two exceptions to that. Under the circumstances and the threat we are currently facing, I believe it's more important right now to keep our cards close to the vest. We're still receiving information despite the fact that we have not been able to reopen our electronic "drop box."

Can you be more specific about what leaks were in the package that Daniel Domscheit-Berg deleted the keys for?

It is hard for me to be specific, but the sabotage was serious and information was lost there. It could have revealed serious war crimes.

What is the status of the new submission system and when will it be up? Will it be Tor-based (I heard that, but that was last December).

Work on the new submission system is very complicated. As it entails a constant race to provide 100% security. As was apparent in our spy files release December, the ability to infiltrate secure communication is growing and is now a billion dollar industry. On top of that we are a small organizations with limited resources dealing with threats on many fronts. Not just the relentless persecution by the Obama administration, but also the banking blockade by the financial giants, which have stripped us of 95% of our revenues. In do course we WILL open the submission system when we have resources to process what can be expected to be a massive flow of information. I'm not willing to discus details of our technical approach, as I do not want to reveal even the smallest detail of the way we will approach a solution.

What happened to the data given to WikiLeaks by Rudolf Elmer in January 2011? Will it be released?

This is a difficult question, and my answer (or lack thereof) has to be viewed in the context of Mr. Elmer's legal challenges in his own country. All I can say is we have been in contact with Mr. Elmer, and view him as an important whistleblower who has provided insightful information about the use and abuse of offshore banking by major financial players. I am not trying be evasive but ask for your understanding about the complexity of the situation we are operating under. 

Do you know any more than we do what will happen to Julian Assange?  

As we revealed yesterday, we have further information about how U.S. is viewing Wikileaks and Julian Assange. A U.S. service woman was investigated because of her sympathy towards Wikileaks and Bradley Manning. In the documents pertaining to the investigation obtain through FOA there was reference to suspicion that the person involved had provided Wikileaks with information. In the document the suspected crime was labeled "communicating with the enemy." That is extremely worrying, because if this is the official position of the U.S. military, Wikileaks has been place in the same category as Al Queda, and one can expect the organization and its founder and editor will be treated accordingly. This has elevated our concerns that a possible extradition to the U.S. of Mr. Assange could have dire consequences. This document was presented to the Ecuadorean government and was weighted strongly on the decision to grant Julian Assange diplomatic asylum.

What is the biggest mistake Wikileaks and Julian Assange have made in the site's existence?

In my view, and I have only been with the organization for two and a half years, our biggest mistake was to have too much confidence in the main stream media and not understanding, fully, the limitations of even established media powerhouses as the New York Times are operating under. For me as a jounalist for 25 years, it was a shock and a surprise to witness first hand how a prominent media house as the NYT had become subservient to the administration. We've come a long way from the Pentagon Papers and taking on Nixon.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the NYT end up publishing previously classified cables for two weeks straight? How is this "subservient"? 

    In total contrast to our policy, they crawled to the administration before publishing and revealed the stories they had prepared and asked for permission to publish. They did spike stories of major importance, for example pertaining to the assasination squad operating in Afghanistan. The flavor of the reporting by the NYT was in total contrast to the reporting by our European media partners. This is on the record and you can look it up and compare.

Please provide a real proof.

Sorry about the picture, we are moving as quickly as we can.  [Note: At this point Mr Hrafnsson added this photo of himself to the top description.] 

Now that the U.S. government is calling Wikileaks an "enemy of the state", will you do anything differently than before? They're putting Wikileaks in the same legal classification as Al-Qaeda, which I feel is an insult to the families of everyone that Al-Qaeda has killed.

No we won't do anything any differently. If true, this categorization does not come as a surprise and is a reflection of the hate speech and vitriol expressed by prominent politicians here in the U.S. However this should be a strong signal to all dedicated journalists, if a media organization can be categorized as the enemy, any journalist worth his name can expect to be branded with that label. 

Has there ever been information you turned down because you felt it was too sensitive or would cause too much damage?

Wikileaks weighs all submissions by a strong criteria that can be found on our website. To my knowledge Wikileaks has not withheld any information that has met the criteria. It is worth taking note of that despite the publication of Wikileaks, the most important leaks of recent times, there is not a single incident reported of this publication leading to harm to any individual. Even U.S. agencies have acknowledged that, even though they are reluctant to hand over that evaluation in the Bradley Manning hearing. Having said that, one must understand that no information is neutral and publications can have effect, but what we have witnessed with the publication of the explosive leaks in the last few years are positive revelations and contributions to social and political change as we have seen in the middle east. 

How has Julian Assange being at the Ecuadorian Embassy affected the work of WikiLeaks?

We are getting accustomed to operating under difficult circumstances, and keep in mind that Julian was under house arrest in the UK for almost 2 years before he entered the Ecuadorean embassy. His position has obviously effected our operations but keep in mind we have still continued publishing, even when he was held in isolation in prison in the UK. There are ways and means to circumvent all obstacles, and even though we are small in numbers and starved of funds because of the banking blockade, we are dedicated to continue the mission.

How did you become a part of WikiLeaks? What influenced you in your decision to join the organisation?

My first knowledge of Wikileaks was 2009 when it provided an explosive leak, it was the major news story of 2009, casting a light on how my county, Iceland, went through an economic meltdown in 2008. Soon after, Julian spent months in Iceland and we met and befriended. After two decades of doing journalism in the mainstream field, I was seeing more clearly how the mainstream media, which I was a part of, was ill equipped to deal with the regressive sides of western societies in the post 9/11 era, with increased secrecy by those who held power and the erosion of basic human rights. What Wikileaks offered in my mind is the most important addition to journalism that we've had in decades. If was for me refreshing and inspiring. This is pure journalism. Dedication to provide essential information to the public in order for them to make an informed decision in a healthy democracy. Mainstream media has failed miserably and solutions are to be found on the internet. The venue that power holders now are eager to curtail, because it is the true threat to corruption. The fight for freedom of expression, the most important and basic civil right or liberty has a new fronteir, and that is the fight for the freedom of the internet. It will take time for mainstream journalism to understand that, but slowly and gradually they will grasp the importance of the contributions and ideals that Wikileaks is representing.

How close are you to Julian, What are your college majors?

Julian is a friend and colleague. I studied political science and mass communication theory in Iceland and in Florida. I never graduated. I got a job in journalism and never saw the real meaning of having a diploma to hang on my wall. I was already on the track of what I decided to do, and it has been my mission ever since.

doesn't it make you (as wikileaks) angry sometimes, that mainstream media seems to focus more on Julians appearal (e.g. hair or whatever) or assumed (or copied from Domscheit-Bergs "book") flaws than on the leaks and the truth you publish?

I am beyond being frustrated with the mainstream media. Where under conservative estimates, 90% of journalists are useless or counterproductive. To be fair, of course this can be explained in part by corporate structure of mainstream media, decline of revenues, and the environment in general. This is nothing new. All major jounalistic achievements in the last decade have been produced by journalists that had to swim upstream and even had to fight internal battles against their own organizations. When it comes to media coverage of Wikileaks it is revealing to see that there is ten fold coverage of the persona of Julian Assange than in actually what Wikileaks has published and produced, and it is ludicrous to see reporting and criticism by media saying that Julian Assange is putting all the limelight on himself, the same media that had no interest in Wikileaks revelations about war crimes, about torture, but were all to eager tp report relentlessly about Mr. Assange's demeanor, how he dressed, what he had for breakfast, and whether he looked tired or refreshed.

I remember how frustrated I was in April 2010 when I had traveled to Baghdad and met people who had lost their relatives in the attack of the collateral murder video, and we produced their testimony and evidence of fatherless children and widows, but when the video was published the major concern of the U.S. media was A: the leak itself and B: the persona of Julian Assange. I had traveled to the war zone to gather evidence of what I saw as a clear indication of a war crime, but the U.S. mainstream was totally disinterested and still is to this day. For the record, for you as journalists, you have a duty to doha and said, the children of Matasher Tomal, to explain to them why nobody was held accountable for killing their father who's only crime was to stop his minivan to help a wounded Reuters employee, bleeding to death. THe evidence is there in the collateral murder video for everyone to see, the questions have not been answered. I met those children, and their mother, and they have still been deprived of justice.

Which journalistic partnerships have been most positive?

We have established cooperation with more than 100 media intities around the world. Some are large media houses, others are small online publications or even individual journalists. The gratifying thing is in all this has been identifying that despite all the shortcomings of the mainstream media we do have, in this world, dedicated journalists that understand the pressing meaning of their mission. I will not name names, but the most gratifying response to our mission and our cooperation has been with smaller and robust online organizations and individuals who are truly dedicated and are even prepared to take on the obstacles put forth by their own employees. It is great that to see there are so many journalsits out there that despite everything are prepared to go to great links in getting the story out. Mainstream media is in transition, it even feels sometimes threatened by media organization like Wikileaks, but there are so many individuals that are dedicated towards the important goal of journalism, that one attempts not to lose despair. We are witnessing historical change, and we are on the right side of history. 

I was pleasantly suprised to see you present at the UN yesterday during the Ecuadorian Special Panel meeting on Diplomatic Asylum. Considering the US hostile behaviour and several serious investigations against WL, does your current visit there pose a risk to your person, were there any effors to prevent you from attending? with best wishes to you and your endeavours :-) 

I've been a journalist for 25 years and worked under difficult circumstances. I am in the U.S. on a diplomatic invite from the Ecuadorean authorities to take part in an event at the U.N. It was important to attend. A journalist cannot be controlled by fear. I have been to warzones in Afghanistan and Iraq and I have to admit that I took similar precautions before I travelled to the U.S.. 

Out of all of the leaks which do you think was the most important?

It is very hard to deem one leak more important than the other, but of course in terms of scope and effect, the cablegate, the Iraq war diary, and the collateral murder video have been explosive, but looking back prior to that time Wikileaks did produce leaks that were not noticed internationally, but had great regional, social, and political impact. Those were leaks pertaining to money laudering by the Kenyan government, toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast, corrupt practices by Swiss and Icelandic banks. Wikileaks does not pick a target, it is not anti-american. It is a mutual recipient of information, that whistleblowers deem are essential to be made public. The anti-american sentiment that has been proposed is not based on the actions of Wikileaks, but the reaction by the U.S. mainstream media.

Why are you an organization for truth and delay releasing information yourselves?

Delaying releasing information can sometimes be easily explained by the most prominent way that our adversaries have outlined in discrediting the organization, i.e. by providing fabricating information that they can later claim are false publications. This strategy to attack Wikileaks has been outlined in U.S. military documents that were leaked to Wikileaks and we have published in the Spring of 2010, and in a strategy to take down Wikileaks, outlined by an IT security company (HB Gary) prepared for the law firm representing Bank of America also obtained and leaked to Wikileaks and published by us. A delay can be explained by the importance of verifying the authenticity that is being given to us in the light of this strategy. Also, if I may add, we make a promise to our sources to maximize the impact of our releases, and obviously, sometimes, careful timing comes into play when considering that promise.

Is there anything that wikileaks would voluntarily censor even while knowing it was accurate? I say this because sometimes I think "Wow, Wikileaks is doing a huge service by leaking this abuse of power / neglect" and other times I think "man wikileaks are kind of assholes for leaking that". In other words, do ALL classified reports belong to the public or just some?

Wikileaks has never maintained that all information should be made public. Without siting examples it's easy to see that certain classified information should not be disclosed. No information that Wikileaks has published meets that criteria. In it's most simplistic form, and I can only answer this as a practicing journalist, this is a dilemma that has to be confronted on a case by case basis. In the life of every investigative journalist he has been confronted with this question on weighing the public interests of disclosing towards the merit of keeping of information secret. Even though a broad line criteria exists within Wikileaks, it is instructive for people who want to study this organization to reflect on the disclosures and publications since the websites foundation 6 years ago and determine if there is anything there that should not have been revealed to the general public we are serving. In my opinion, there is nothing there to be found that should not have been disclosed. As with all media organization our credibility and our integrity is defined by our track record. You have to weight each individual disclosure and come to a decision. 

Apart from donating money, what IRL things can people do to help Wikileaks?

The best way to support Wikileaks is supporting the constant battle to avoid governments putting restraints on the internet. The fight for freedom of expression, which is the most fundamental of human rights, is now being waged on the electronic frontier. Every individual that cares about civil liberties has to be vigilant in fighting any attempt by regimes labeled "democratic" or otherwise, to suppress this very important venue. We are already seeing that it can be a powerful tool for social and political change. As well as seeing the corrupt powers see the internet as an adversary. Western nations and especially the good people of the U.S. need to understand that the equivalent of the Arab awakening has to happen on their own turf. 

3 comments:

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