Julian Assange & WikiLeaks; Reality Winner; Security clearance for America's secrets | Full Episodes

Julian Assange & WikiLeaks; Reality Winner; Security clearance for America's secrets | Full Episodes

Julian Assange & WikiLeaks (Part 1) (00:00:11)

  • Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, published classified US government information, including military secrets and diplomatic cables, sparking controversy and accusations of subversion.
  • WikiLeaks operates as an online platform for anonymous whistleblowers to upload sensitive information, protected from government interference by being stored on servers worldwide.
  • Assange faces espionage charges from the US government for publishing classified material and has been labeled a terrorist and a threat to national security, leading to concerns about his safety.
  • WikiLeaks' publications have had significant impacts, influencing elections, exposing corruption, and revealing undisclosed civilian casualties in wars.
  • Assange argues that WikiLeaks only publishes material with significant impact and does not target specific countries or organizations, emphasizing its founding values align with the US Revolution and accepting material from whistleblowers regardless of nationality.
  • The US government initiated a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act of 1917, aiming to prosecute Assange and extradite him to the US, despite Assange's surprise at the disregard for US traditions and the attempt to prosecute him as a publisher protected by the First Amendment.
  • Assange is accused of obtaining classified documents, including the Apache video, allegedly provided by Private First Class Bradley Manning, a low-level intelligence analyst in Iraq, who faces charges that could lead to a 50-year sentence and is considered a prisoner of conscience by some, including Assange.
  • Assange denies encouraging leaks and emphasizes the importance of freedom of the press, arguing that prosecuting WikiLeaks while other publishers, like the New York Times, also published the classified material could set a dangerous precedent.

Julian Assange & WikiLeaks (Part 2) (00:14:58)

  • Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, distrusts large government institutions and the mainstream media, believing that insiders are the only ones who can effectively expose abuses.
  • Assange had an unconventional childhood, moving frequently and attending 37 schools. He became involved in computers and hacking at a young age and was arrested for hacking into government and corporate systems.
  • WikiLeaks is a small nonprofit organization with limited staff, international programmers, and volunteers. Its finances are managed by the Val Holland Foundation, receiving $1.3 million in donations and spending $500,000 last year.
  • Assange defends WikiLeaks' secrecy to protect its sources from retaliation and rejects negative characterizations of him as mysterious and paranoid.
  • WikiLeaks serves as a platform for individuals to expose abuses and ensure accountability when internal and external mechanisms fail.
  • Despite criticism, Assange justifies partnering with the mainstream press to responsibly release important information to the public.
  • WikiLeaks is not an activist group seeking to sabotage the government but rather free press activists providing information for informed decision-making.
  • WikiLeaks faces financial challenges due to restrictions imposed by companies like PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and Bank of America, but Assange dismisses reports of internal dissension and mass defections.
  • Contrary to speculations, Assange denies the existence of a "poison pill" package of damaging documents but confirms the distribution of encrypted backups among individuals to ensure continuity in case of impediments to WikiLeaks' publishing capabilities.
  • Assange expresses satisfaction in causing uncertainty and discomfort among powerful entities engaged in abusive practices.
  • WikiLeaks relies on the support of its sources and donors to continue its operations and maintain its influence as a check on powerful entities.

Reality Winner (00:28:11)

  • Reality Winner, a former Air Force intelligence specialist, leaked a classified NSA report to The Intercept in 2017, revealing Russian cyber espionage targeting US local government organizations and voter registration systems in 2016.
  • Winner believed she was exposing a White House cover-up and acted out of patriotism, not as a traitor or spy.
  • Prosecutors argued that her actions caused exceptionally grave damage to US national security, while others saw her as a whistleblower who helped secure the 2018 midterm election by prompting increased election security measures.
  • Winner faced depression and suicidal thoughts during her 16-month pre-trial detention and four-year prison sentence, but maintains that she acted out of patriotism and a desire to inform the public about an attack on American democracy.
  • Winner's case highlights the government's inconsistent treatment of individuals who leak classified information, with some receiving harsher punishments than others.

Into Dangerous Hands (00:41:48)

  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for conducting security clearance investigations, but its processes have major omissions and often skip required interviews.
  • Despite red flags and suspicious activities, individuals like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were able to obtain and maintain security clearances, leading to harmful actions.
  • The current security clearance system relies heavily on self-reported information, making it vulnerable to deception and omissions.
  • The greatest insider threat stems from the lack of ongoing monitoring and oversight of individuals after they have obtained security clearances.
  • OPM's computers were hacked, resulting in the theft of sensitive security clearance information on 21 million Americans.

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