Neal Rauhauser: Transcript of Meeting Between Julian Assange and Eric Schmidt with Department of State Staff

Commercial Intelligence, Cultural Intelligence
Neal Rauhauser
Neal Rauhauser

All sort of stuff popping up today.  Worth a complete and careful reading.

Transcript of secret meeting between Julian Assange and Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Friday April 19, 2013

On the 23 of June, 2011 a secret five hour meeting took place between WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who was under house arrest in rural UK at the time and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Also in attendance was Jared Cohen, a former Secretary of State advisor to Hillary Clinton, Scott Malcomson, Director of Speechwriting for Ambassador Susan Rice at the US State Department and current Communications Director of the International Crisis Group, and Lisa Shields, Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Schmidt and Cohen requested the meeting, they said, to discuss ideas for “The New Digital World”, their forthcoming book to be published on April 23, 2013.

We provide here a verbatim transcript of the majority of the meeting; a close reading, particularly of the latter half, is revealing.

You can download the recording here (ogg)

 

[beginning of tape]

Complete Transcript Below the Line

ES

Well do you want us to start eating?

JA

Well, we can do both.

ES

Yeah, is that ok?

JA

So this is… what’s the date?

LS

June 23rd

JA

…June 23rd. This is a recording between Julian Assange, Eric Schmidt and…?

LS

Lisa Shields

JA

…Lisa Shields. To be used in a book by Eric Schmidt, due to be published by Knopf in October 2012. I have been given a guarantee that I will see the transcript and will be able to adjust it for accuracy and clarity.

ES

Can we start… I want to talk a little about Thor. Right. The sort of, the whole Navy network and…

JA

Tor or Thor?

ES

Yeah, actually I mean Tor. Uh…

JA

And Odin as well.

ES

That’s right, sorry. Tor, uh, and the Navy network, and I don’t actually understand how all of that worked. And the reason I’m mentioning this is I’m…I’m fundamentally interested in what happens with that technology as it evolves. Right. And so, the problem I would assert, is that if you’re trying to receive data you need to have a guarantee of anonymity to the sender, you need to have a secure channel to the recipient, the recipient needs to be replicated, you know… What I’d like you to do is if you could just talk a bit about that architecture, what you did in WikiLeaks technically, you know, with the sort of the technical innovations that were needed and maybe also what happens. You know, how does it evolve? Technology always evolves.

JA

Let me first frame this. I looked at something that I had seen going on with the world. Which is that I thought there were too many unjust acts.

ES

OK

JA

And I wanted there to be more just acts, and fewer unjust acts. And one can sort of say, well what are your philosophical axioms for this? And I say I do not need to consider them. This is simply my temperament. And it is an axiom because it is that way. And so that avoids, then, getting into further unhelpful discussions about why you want to do something. It is enough that I do. So in considering how unjust acts are caused and what tends to promote them and what promotes just acts I saw that human beings are basically invariant. That is that their inclinations and biological temperament haven’t changed much over thousands of years and so therefore the only playing field left is: what do they have? And what do they know? And “have” is something that is fairly hard to influence, so that is what resources do they have at their disposal? And how much energy they can harness, and what are the supplies and so on. But what they know can be affected in a nonlnear way because when one person conveys information to another they can convey on to another and another and so on in a way that nonlinear and so you can affect a lot of people with a small amount of information. And therefore you can change the behaviour of many people with a small amount of information. So the question then arises as to what kinds of information will produce behaviour which is just? And disincentivise behaviour which is unjust? So all around the world there are people observing different parts of what is happening to them locally. And there are other people that are receiving information that they haven’t observed first hand. And in the middle there are people who are involved in moving information from the observers to the people who will act on information. These are three separate problems that are all coupled together. I felt that there was a difficulty in taking observations and putting them in an efficient way into a distribution system which could then get this information to people who could act upon it. And so you can argue that companies like Google are involved, for example, in this “middle” business of taking… of moving information from people who have it to people who want it. The problem I saw was that this first step was crippled. And often the last step as well when it came to information that governments were inclined to censor. We can look at this whole process as the Fourth Estate. Or just as produced by the Fourth Estate. And so you have some kind of… pipeline… and… So I have this description which is… which is partly derived from my experiences in quantum mechanics about looking at the flow of particular types of information which will effect some change in the end. The bottleneck to me appeared to me to be primarily in the acquisition of information that would go on to produce changes that were just. In a Fourth Estate context the people who acquire information are sources. People who work information and distribute it are journalists and publishers. And people who act on it… is everyone. So that’s a high level construct, but of course it then comes down to practically how do you engineer a system that solves that problem? And not just a technical system, but a total system. So WikiLeaks was and is an attempt – although still very young – at a total system.

ES

For all three phases?

JA

To deal with… not for all three phases but for the political component, the philosophical component and the engineering component in pushing out first component. Politically that means anonymizing and protecting… Sorry. Technically that means anonymizing and protecting sources in a wide variety of ways. Politically that also means protecting them politically, and incentivizing them in a political manner. Saying that their work is valuable, and encouraging people to take it up. And then there is also a legal aspect. What are the best laws that can be created in the best jurisdictions to operate this sort of stuff from? And practical everyday legal defense. On the technical front, our first prototype was engineered for a very adverse situation where publishing would be extremely difficult and our only effective defense in publishing would be anonymity. Where sourcing is difficult. As it still currently is for the national security sector. And where internally we had a very small and completely trusted team.

ES

So publishing means the question of the site itself? And making the material public?

JA

Yeah. Making the primary source material public. That is what I mean by publishing.

ES

So the first step was to make that correctly.

JA

It was clear to me that all over the world publishing is a problem. And… Whether that is through self censorship or overt censorship.

ES

Sorry, just you’re gonna have to… is that because of fear of retribution by the governments, you know? Or all…

JA

It’s mostly self censorship. In fact I would say it’s probably the most significant one, historically, has been economic censorship. Where it is simply not profitable to publish something. There is no market for it. That is I describe as a censorship pyramid. It’s quite interesting. So, on the top of the pyramid there are the murders of journalists and publishers. And the next level there is political attacks on journalists and publishers. So you think, what is a legal attack? A legal attack is simply a delayed use of coercive force.

ES

Sure.

JA

Which doesn’t necessarily result in murder but may result in incarceration or asset seizure. So the next level down, and remember the volume… the area of the pyramid…. volume of the pyramid! The volume of the pyramid increases significantly as you go down from the peak. And in this example that means that the number of acts of censorship also increases as you go down. So there are very few people who are murdered, there are a few people who suffer legal… there is a few number of public legal attacks on individuals and corporations, and then at the next level there is a tremendous amount of self censorship, and this self censorship occurs in part because people don’t want to move up into the upper parts of the pyramid. They don’t want to come to legal attacks or uses of coercive force. But they also don’t want to be killed.

ES

Right. I see.

JA

So that discourages people from behaving… and then there are other forms of self censorship that are concerned about missing out on business deals, missing out on promotions and those are even more significant because they are lower down the pyramid. At the very bottom – which is the largest volume – is all those people who cannot read, do not have access to print, do not have access to fast communications or where there is no profitable industry in providing that. Okay. So we decided to deal with the top of this censorship pyramid. The top two sections: the threats of violence, and the delayed threats of violence that are represented by the legal system. In some ways that is the hardest case. In some ways it is the easiest case. It is the easiest case because it is clear cut when things are being censored there, or not. It is also the easiest because the volume of censorship is relatively small, even if the per event significance is very high. So in… Before WikiLeaks had… although of course I had some previous political connections of my own from other activities, we didn’t have that many friends. We didn’t have significant political allies. And we didn’t have a worldwide audience that was looking to see how we were doing. So we took the position that we would need to have a publishing system whose only defense was anonymity. That is it had no financial defense, it had no legal defense, and it had no political defense. Its defenses were purely technical. So that meant a system that was distributed at its front with many domain names and a fast ability to change those domain names. A caching system, and at the back tunnelling through the Tor network to hidden servers…

ES

So… if I could talk just a little bit about this, so… You could switch DNS… your website names very quickly, you use the tunnelling to get back… to communicate among these replicas? Or this is for distribution?

JA

We had sacrificial front nodes, that were very fast to set up, very quick to set up, that we nonetheless did place in relatively hospitable jurisdictions like Sweden. And those fast front nodes were fast because there was no… very few hops between them and the people reading them. That’s… an important lesson that I had learned from things that I did before, that being a Sherman tank is not always an advantage, because you are not manouevrable and you are slow. A lot of the protection for publishers is publishing quickly. You get the information out quickly it is very well read, the incentive for people to go after you in relation to that specific piece of information is actually zero. There may be incentives for them to go after you to teach a lesson to other people who might defy their authority or teach a future lesson to your organization about defiance of authority.

ES

So, again, in constructing the argument you were concerned that governments or whatever would attack the front ends of this thing through whatever… denial of service attacks or blocking, basically filtering them out, which is essentially is commonly done. So an important aspect of this was to always be available.

JA

Always be available in one particular way or another. Now that’s not a.. it’s a battle that we have mostly won but we haven’t completely won it. Within a few weeks the Chinese government had handed us to their ban list. We had hundreds of domain names, of various sorts, the domain names that were registered with very very large DNS providers, so if there was IP level based filtering it would whack out another five hundred thousand domains and that would create a political back pressure that would undo it. However DNS based filtering still hits us in China because the most common names – the ones that are closest to “WikiLeaks” – the name that people can communicate easily – they are all filtered by the Chinese government.

ES

Of course they are.

JA

And any domain with “WikiLeaks” anywhere in it, no matter where it is, is filtered. So that means there has to be a variant that they haven’t yet discovered. But people… the variant has to be known widely enough for people to go there. So there is a catch 22.

ES

That’s a structural problem with the naming of the internet, but the Chinese would simply do content filtering on you.

JA

Well, HTTPS worked for about a year and a half.

ES

Okay.

[background noise. JC entering]

JA

Worked quite well actually. And then changing up IPs, because they were… the Chinese internet filtering system is quite baroque, and they have evolved it… sometimes they do things manually and sometimes they do it in an automated way, in terms of adding IPs to the list based on domain names, and then we did… we had a quite interesting battle where we saw that they were looking up our IPs, and we see that these requests came from a certain DNS block range in China. Whenever we saw that we just then returned…

ES

Ha ha ha ha ha. That’s clever. Ha ha ha ha ha.

JA

…different IPs. I was actually thinking we could return Public Security Bureau IPs!

ES

This is Jared Cohen, by the way.

JC

Hi, I’m so sorry we’re late. Flight delay and…

JA

Pleased to meet you.

ES

Was it United or was it?

JC

Uh, Delta. Never flying again!

ES

Yeah, that’s Delta.

LS

Hi!

JA

Larry?

JC

Jared.

JA

Jared! Jared.

ES

And this is Scott.

SM

Nice to meet you!

ES

Scott is our editor.

SM

Sorry, we’re an hour and a half late.

JA

That’s alright!

ES

We’re actually, we could use…

JA

It’s a useful day to drive!

ES

We’ve actually been having a perfectly wonderful time.

SM

I’m sure. I’m sure. I’m sure.

[Chatter]

LS

Why don’t you just. Scott sit there, and then you sit here, next to me…

SM

Are you joining us?

[chatter]

LS

Julian was kind enough… we… did not bring a tape recorder!

ES

Ha ha ha ha ha…

LS

Quite embarrassing that you’re you ask to interview someone and you have to borrow a tape recorder.

JC

Um!

JA

A friend of mine did an interview…

LS

Hi!

JA

…in Fiji, the staff of… during General Rabuka’s coup. Where he had General Rabuka’s second in command admit, on tape, that the CIA had paid him off…

JC

Wow.

JA

… and he got back. And he was like, yes! This is the story of the decade! And the tape had failed. I have a few of these. You should always…

[laughter]

JC

Always always have your own…

ES

For Scott and Jared, we spent a fair amount of time just sort of chatting about Google, and I went up to introduce Lisa… I failed to properly articulate what a brilliant book we are working on.

LS

Ha ha ha!

ES

And Lisa assisted me. And we seem to be ok with her assist. What we agreed was that we would talk about the technology directions and maybe the implications of all of this, and the deal was that it would be on the record for the book. We would have a transcript prepared, which he would have an opportunity to modify and improve its clarity, which all seemed incredible reasonable to me. So we just started talking a little bit about… we talked a little bit about sort of the general principles he’s articulated and I was just starting to talk a little bit about the structure, why WikiLeaks is architected the way it is. And the rough summary there is that, the concern that he had in architecting this was that if you look at the governments you know the sort of the stuff that they do, murder journalists, imprison journalists and that kind of stuff, his view was that we want to attack that problem by making a system that was very very hard to block. So the non technical explanation of what he did is that if you built a system where if they do the obvious things to block them it can essentially show up in another way. Change its name and replicate…

JA

We developed an internal system to do some of these fast replicas. Not quite unsophisticated, but worked quickly. But I think this is… I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I think there is… The naming of things is very important. The naming of human intellectual work and our entire intellectual record is possibly the most important thing. So we all have words for different objects, like “tomato.” But we use a simple word, “tomato,” instead of actually describing every little aspect of this god damn tomato…

JA playing with Tomato on table],

JA

…because it takes too long. And because it takes too long to describe this tomato precisely we use an abstraction so we can think about it so we can talk about it. And we do that also when we use URLs. Those are frequently used as a short name for some human intellectual content. And we build all of our civilization, other than on bricks, on human intellectual content. And so we currently have system with URLs where the structure we are building our civilization out of is the worst kind of melting plasticine imaginable. And that is a big problem.

ES

And you would argue a different name-space structure, involving… properly…

JA

I think there is a fundamental confusion, an overloading of the current URL.

ES

Yep. Absolutely.

JA

So, on the one hand we have live dynamic services and organizations… well there’s three things. Live dynamic services. Organizations that run those services, so that you are referring to a hierarchy. You are referring to a system of control. An organization, a government, that represents an organized evolving group. And on the other hand you have artefacts. You have human intellectual artefacts that have the ability to be completely independent from any system of human control. They are out there in the Platonic realm somehow. And shouldn’t in fact be referred to by an organization. They should be referred to in a way that is intrinsic to the intellectual content, that arises out of the intellectual content! I think that is an inevitable and very important way forward, and where this… where I saw that this was a problem was dealing with a man by the name of Nahdmi Auchi. A few years ago was listed by one of the big business magazines in the UK as the fifth richest man in the UK. In 1980 left Iraq. He’d grown rich under Saddam Hussein’s oil industry. And is alleged by the Italian press to be involved in a load of arms trading there, he has over two hundred companies run out of his Luxembourg holding unit. And several that we discovered in Panama. He had infiltrated the British Labour political establishment to the degree that the 20th business birthday in London he was given a painting signed by 146 members Commons including Tony Blair. He’s the same guy who was the principal financier of Tony Rezko. Tony Rezko was the financier and fundraiser of Rod Blagoyevich, from Chicago. Convicted of corruption. Tony Rezko has been convicted of corruption. And Barack Obama. He was the intermediary who helped Barack Obama buy one of his houses and then the money not directly for the house but it bouyed up Tony Rezko’s finances came from that… [indistinct]. So during the – this is detail, but it will get to a point. During the 2008 presidential primaries a lot of attention was turned to Barack Obama by the US press, unsurprisingly. And so it started to look into his fundraisers, and discovered Tony Rezko, and then they just started to turn their eyes towards Nadhmi Auchi. Auchi then hired Carter Ruck, a rather notorious firm of London libel solicitors, whose founder, Carter Ruck, has been described as doing for freedom of speech what the Boston strangler did for door to door salesmen.

[laughter]

JA

And he started writing letters to all of the London papers who had records of his 2003 extradition to France and conviction for corruption in France over the Elf-Acquitaine scandal. Where he had been involved in taking kickbacks on selling the invaded Kuwaiti governments’ oil refineries in order to fund their operations while Iraq had occupied it. So the Guardian pulled three articles from 2003. So they were five years old. They had been in the Guardian’s archive for 5 years. Without saying anything. If you go to those URLs you will not see “removed due to legal threats.” You will see “page not found.” And one from the Telegraph. And a bunch from some American publications. And bloggers, and so on. Important bits of history, recent history, that were relevant to an ongoing presidential campaign in the United States were pulled out of the intellectal record. They were also pulled out of the Guardian’s index of articles. So why? The Guardian’s published in print, and you can go to the library and look up those articles. They are still there in the library. How would you know that they were there in the library? To look up, because they are not there in the Guardian’s index. Not only have they ceased to exist, they have ceased to have ever existed. Which is the modern implementation of Orwell’s dictum that he controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future. Because the past is stored physically in the present. All records of the past. This issue of preserving politically salient intellectual content while it is under attack is central to what WikiLeaks does — because that is what we are after! We are after those bits that people are trying to suppress, because we suspect, usually rightly, that they’re expending economic work on suppressing those bits because they perceive that they are going to induce some change.

JC

So it’s the evidence of the suppression that you look for in order to determine value?

JA

Yeah, that is a very good – not precisely – but it is a very good…

JC

Well, tell me precisely. Ha ha.

JA

Well, it’s not precise… it’s not always right. It’s a very suggestive…

ES

It’s not perfect!

JA

It’s not perfect. It is a very suggestive signal that the people who know the information best – ie. the people who wrote it – are spending economic work in preventing it going into the historical record, preventing it going into the public. Why spend so much work doing that? It’s more efficient to just let everyone have it. You don’t have to spend time guarding it, but also you are more efficient in terms of your organization because all the positive unintended consequences of the information going around can come out. So…

JC

No no no, I wanted water, but Eric took mine. Ha ha.

JA

So we selectively go after the information, and that information is selectively suppressed inside organizations and very frequently if it is a powerful group as soon as someone tries to publish it it is also suppressed.

ES

So, just, I want to know a bit more about the technology. So in this structure, you basically have a, you basically can put up a new front very quickly and you have stored replicas that are distributed. One of the questions I have is how do you decide which ISPs…

JA

OK. That’s a very good question.

ES

Yeah, it is a pretty complicated question.

JA

Yeah, so I will give you an example of how not to choose them. So we dealt with a case in the Cacos islands where there was a great little group called the TCI journal. The Turks and Cacos Islands Journal, which is sort of a best use case of the internet. So who are they? Well they are a bunch of legal reformers, logically minded people in the Turks and Cacos islands, who lived there, who saw that overseas property developers were coming in and somehow getting crowned land, very cheaply and building big high rises on it and so on. They were campaigning for good governance and trying to expose these people. It’s a classic best use case for the internet. Cheap publication means that we can have many more types of publishers. Which means that you can have self subsidizing publishers. So you can have people that are able to publish purely for ideological reasons or for altruistic reasons, because the costs of altruism in relation to publishing are not so high that you cannot do it. They were hounded out of the Turks and Caicos islands pretty quickly. And they moved their servers to India. The Turkish property developer they had been busy exposing then hired correspondent lawyers in London who hired correspondent lawyers in India who hounded them out of their ISP there, they then moved to Malaysia, they got hounded out same deal there. The ISP, they became non profitable to the ISP as soon as the legal letters started coming in. They went to the US, and once they were in the US their US ISP didn’t fold – they picked one of the better ones – and it didn’t collapse as fast. However it was noticed that they were using a Gmail address. The editors were anonymous because of the threats. Who was the responsible party? It was anonymous, although their columnists often were not. And so a suit was filed in California, and as part of filing suit they started issuing subpoenas. They issued a subpoena for Gmail. And the result was that Gmail… Google told them that they had to come to California to defend, otherwise it would be handed over. These are little guys in the Turks and Caicos Islands trying to stop corruption in their country against property developer with hundreds of millions. How can they go to California to fight off a libel suit, to fight off a subpoena which is part of a bogus libel suit? Well, of course they can’t go. We managed to arrange some lawyers for them and there just happened to be a nice little bit of the California statute code that addressed this precise situation which is when someone publishes something and then a subpoena is issued to try and get their identity–you can’t do it and you’ve got to pay costs. That was a nice little legal hook that someone had introduced.

ES

The problem is..

JA

And Google didn’t send any lawyers to help them either!

JC

Yeah, we guessed… [indistinct] entertainment industry in California.

JA

That’s an example of what happens if you have pretty bright guys; they had a good Indian technical guy. They had bright political guys. You have a decent technical guy, you have decent political guys, you come together to try and fix corruption in your country using the internet as a publishing mechanism, what happens? You are hounded, from one end of the earth to the other! These guys were lucky enough that they had enough resources that they could survive this hounding, and they ended up finding some friends and settling into a position where they are alright. For us this was a matter of looking at what ISPs had survived pressure, also because I was connected to this role of politics and technology and anticensorship for a long time and I knew some of the players. So we had friends at ISPs, within the ISPs, that if you like we had already ideologically infiltrated so we knew that they would fight in our corner if there was a request come in and we knew if there was a decent chance that subpoenas were served, even with a gag order, we’d soon find out about it. So how can someone do it who is not in that world. Well the answer is, not easily. You can look at ISPs that WikiLeaks has used or is currently using, or that the Pirate Bay has used, or other groups that are tremendously under attack. In the case of this little ISP, and it is often a little ISP that is fighting, take the little ISP PRQ in Sweden that was founded by Gottfried, whose nickname is Anakata, he is one of the technical brains behind the Pirate Bay, so they had developed a niche industry, also Bahnhof an ISP in Sweden of dealing with refugee publishers, and that is the correct word for it, the correct phrase for it, that they are publishing refugees. They had at that time other than us Malaysia Today, which had to flee, the American Homeowner’s Association, which had to flee — from property developers in the United States, the Cavatz Centre, a Caucasian, a Caucus news center which is constantly under attack by the Russians. In fact PRQ was raided several times by the Swedish government under pressure from the Russian government. The Rick Ross institute on destructive cults, an American based outfit had been sued out of America by Scientology and so on.

JC

Huh huh, huh huh huh

ES

Hhm hm hm

JC

Huh huh. Wow

JA

Malaysia Today, run by a wonderful guy by the name of Raja Petra who, he has two arrest warrants out for him in Malaysia, he is based in London, but his servers can’t survive in London, they are in Singapore and the United States.

ES

But again, I get the, the, that’s [indistinct] there are sites that participate in this?

JA

Yes, we have some fourteen hundred, but those are… we have mirrors that are voluntary as well as

ES

So they basically opt-in mirror sites.

JA

They determine their own risks, we don’t know anything about them, we can’t guarantee that they are all trustworthy, etc, but they do increase the numbers.

ES

You have been quoted in the press as saying that there is a much larger store of information that is encrypted and distributed. Is it distributed in those sorts of places?

JA

No, that’s an open… we openly distribute backups of… encrypted backups of materials that we view are highly sensitive that we are to publish in the coming year.

ES

Got it.

JA

Not as some people have said so that we have a “thermonuclear device” to use on our opponents. But rather so that there is very little possibility that that material, even if we are completely wiped out, will be taken from the historical record.

ES

So, so and eventually you will reveal the key that is necessary to decrypt it.

JA

No, ideally, we will never reveal the key.

ES

I see.

JA

Because there is things, like, so redactions sometimes need to be done on this material.

ES

Sure.

JA

So it’s… our view is that the material is so significant that even if we released it as is, with no redactions, that the benefits would outweight the harms. But through redacting things we can get the harm down even more.

ES

And I understand that. One more sort of tactical question for now. So, my simple explanation is that the tools will get better for an anonymous sender send to a distrustful recipient, and then this anonymous [noise] your describing. We will get to the point where the… a very large amount of people using such services for all sorts of reasons: truthful, lying, manipulation, what have you. The current technology used… basically, like FTP [indistinct] runners sent to you. Basically people will FTP something and then just sort of ship it to you.

JA

No we have… we have lots of different paths. And that’s quite deliberate. And we don’t say which one is used more than which other one, because that means that investigative resources have to be spread across all possible paths. But they are from in-person, in the mail. Postal mail is still actually pretty good if you want to send anonymous stuff. Encrypt something to a key, if you think it might be intercepted on the way, send it from somewhere, it’s still pretty good. Straight HTTPS uploads, although they are not actually sort of straight. But to the user it looks like they are straight. Behind the scenes all sorts of other stuff is going on. The biggest problem with computer security is not communication. It’s end points.

ES

Right.

JA

And so dealing with end point attacks both on someone trying to send us information and more importantly if someone tries to send us information is themselves compromised, that’s one compromise of one person. If our engine that receives information is compromised, that is a potential compromise of every person that is trying to send us material.

ES

I guess I… I didn’t ask my question quite right. If the… Is there some new technology which in your view would kind of materially change this simple model that I have about, of the vast increase of…

JA

Yes! So I’ve…

ES

So what are those technologies?

JA

The most important one is naming things properly. If we are able to name some… a video file or a piece of text in a way that is intrinsically coupled to the information there, so that there is no ambiguity– a hash is an example of this–but then there’s variations, maybe you want one that human beings can actually remember. Then it permits this information to be spread in such a way where you don’t have to trust the underlying networks. And you can flood it.

ES

Why don’t you have to trust the underlying networks?

JA

Well because you can sign… you can sign the hashes.

ES

You can sign the name as well as the content.

JA

You can sign the hash.

ES

You can sign the hash.

JA

And that’s the hash. If a name is like a hash.

ES

So it’s… it’s unambiguous as to whether…

JA

Yes.

ES

You’re basically saying you have a provable name…

JA

Yeah.

ES

As opposed to an alterable name.

JA

And those sorts of mechanisms are evolving now. We have been using something like this internally, I’ve been writing a paper on it to try and make this a standard for everyone. But you can see they are actually evolving. If we look at magnet links… have you seen these? There is an enhancement of BitTorrent, which is a magnet link, and a magnet link is actually a hash.

ES

Right right.

JA

So it is hash addressing. It doesn’t point to any particular server, rather there is a big hash tree.. a distributed hash, three over… I don’t know how technical I should get… There is a big distributed hash tree over many millions of computers involved in thee hashtree, and many many entry points into this hashtree so it is very hard to censor. And the addressing for content is on the hash of the content.

ES

Right so you are basically doing the hash as the address, and you do the addressing within the namespace to provide… so as long as you have a signed…

JA

As long as you get the hash…

ES

…you can’t hide it.

JA

Well, there’s a question as to you’ve got a name of something, you’ve got a hash, but what does that tell you. Nothing really, because it is not really human readable. So you need another mechanism to get the fact that that’s important to you.

ES

Sure.

JA

And that is something like WikiLeaks signs that, and says that that is…

ES

An interesting piece of information

JA

…an interesting piece of information, and we have verified that it is true. But that, once you feed that information into the system then it becomes very unclear how it got into the system. Well how do you get rid of it from the system? And if you do get rid of it, if someone does manage to get rid of it, you know for sure that it’s been gotten rid of, because the hash doesn’t resolve to anything anymore. Similarly, if someone were to modify it, the hash changes…

JC

I was just gonna say, why wouldn’t they just rename it, rather than…

JA

They can’t because the name is intrinsically coupled to the intellectual content.

ES

I think the way to explain this… To summarise the technical idea is… take all the content in a document, come up with a number, so if the content is gone, the number doesn’t match, show anything. And if the content has changed, the number doesn’t compute right anymore. So it is an interesting property.

JC

Mm hm. So…

JA

So…

ES

So how far are we from this type of system?

JA

On the publishing end, the magnet links and so on are starting to come up. There’s also a very nice little paper that I’ve seen in relation to Bitcoin, that… you know about Bitcoin?

ES

No.

JA

Okay, Bitcoin is something that evolved out of the cypherpunks a couple of years ago, and it is an alternative… it is a stateless currency.

JC

Yeah, I was reading about this just yesterday.

JA

And very important, actually. It has a few problems. But its innovations exceed its problems. Now there has been innovations along these lines in many different paths of digital currencies, anonymous, untraceable etc. People have been experimenting with over the past 20 years. The Bitcoin actually has the balance and incentives right, and that is why it is starting to take off. The different combination of these things. No central nodes. It is all point to point. One does not need to trust any central mint. If we look at traditional currencies such as gold, we can see that they have sort of interesting properties that make them valuable as a medium of exchange. Gold is divisible, it is easy to chop up, actually out of all metals it is the easiest to chop up into fine segments. You can test relatively easily whether it is true or whether it is fake. You can take chopped up segments and you can put them back together by melting the gold. So that is what makes it a good medium of exchange and it is also a good medium of value store, because you can take it and put it in the ground and it is not going to decay like apples or steaks. The problems with traditional digital currencies on the internet is that you have to trust the mint not to print too much of it.

[laughter]

JA

And the incentives for the mint to keep printing are pretty high actually, because you can print free money. That means you need some kind of regulation. And if you’re gonna have regulation then who is going to enforce the regulation, now all of a sudden you have sucked in the whole problem of the state into this issue, and political pushes here and there, and who can get control of the mint, push it one way or another, for particular purposes. Bitcoin instead has an algorithm where the anyone can create, anyone can be their own mint. They’re basically just searching for collisions with hashes.. A simple way is… they are searching for a sequence of zero bits on the beginning of the thing. And you have to randomly search for, in order to do this. So there is a lot of computational work in order to do this. And each Bitcoin software that is distributed.. That work algorithmically increases as time goes by. So the difficulty in producing Bitcoins becomes harder and harder and harder as time goes by and it is built into the system.

ES

Right, right. That’s interesting.

JA

Just like the difficulty in mining gold becomes harder and harder and harder and that is what makes people predict that there is not going to be a sudden amount of gold in the market, rather…

ES

To enforce the scarcity…

JA

Yeah, to enforce scarcity, and scarcity will go up as time goes by, and what does that mean for incentives in going into the Bitcoin system. That means that you should get into the Bitcoin system now. Early. You should be an early adopter. Because your Bitcoins are going to be worth a lot of money one day. So once you have a… and the Bitcoins are just… a Bitcoin address is just a big hash. It’s a hash of a public key that you generate. So once you have this hash you can just advertise it to everyone, and people can send you Bitcoins, and there is people who have set up exchanges to convert from Bitcoin to US dollars and so on. And it solves a very interesting technical problem, which is how do you stop double spending?

All digital material can be cloned, almost zero costs, so if you have currency as a digital string of numbers, how do you stop me… I want to buy this piece of pasta.

[JA using lunch table objects]

JA

Here is my digital currency and, now I take a copy of it. And now I want to buy your bit of egg. And then you go… and now I want to buy your radish! And you go, what? I’ve already got that! What’s going on here? There’s been some fraud! So there’s a synchronization problem. Who now has the coin? So there is a point to point.. a spread network with all these problems, some points of the network being faster, some points of the network being slower, multiple paths of communication, how do you solve this synchronization issue about who has the currency? And so this is to mind actually the real technical innovation for Bitcoin, it has done this using some hashtrees and then a delay time, and then CPU work has to be done in order to move one thing to another so information can’t spread too fast etc. OK, so, once you have a system of currency that is easy to use like that, then you can start to use it for things that you want to be scarce. What is the example of some things that we want to be scarce? Well, domain names. Names. We want names to be scarce. We want short names to be scarce, otherwise if they are not scarce, if it doesn’t take work to get them, as soon as you have a nice naming system, some arsehole is going to come along and register every short name themselves.

ES

Right. That’s very interesting.

JA

So this Bitcoin replacement for DNS is precisely what I wanted and what I was theorizing about, which is not a DNS system, but rather short names… short bit of text to long bit of text tuple registering service. Cause that is the abstraction of domain names and all these problems solved. Yes, you have some something that you want to register that is short, and you want to couple that to something that is unmemorable and longer. So for example, the first amendment, that phrase, the “US first amendment”, is a very short phrase, but it expands to a longer bit of text. So you take the hash of this text, and now you have got something that is intrinsically coupled to that which is unmemorable. But then you can register “US First Amendment” coupled to the hash. And that then means you have a structure where you can tell whether something has been published or unpublished, you can… one piece of human intellectual information can cite another one in a way that… can’t be manipulated, and if it is censored the censorship can be found out. And if one place is censored, well you can scour the entire world for this hash, and no matter where you find you know it is what you wanted precisely!

ES

Right

JA

So that, in theory, then permits human beings to build up an intellectual scaffold where every citation, every reference to some other part of human intellectual content, is precise, and can be discovered if it exists out there anywhere at all, and is not dependent on any particular organization. So as a way of publishing this seems to be the most censorship resistant manner of publishing possible, because it is not dependent on any particular mechanism of publishing. You can be publishing through the post, you can be publishing on conventional websites, you can be publishing using Bittorrent, whatever, but the naming is consistent. And same is for… publishing is also a matter of transferring, you can… all you then have to do is, if you want to transfer something anonymously to someone else, one particular person, you encrypt the information with their key, and you publish it.

ES

Are you worried.. basically this entire system depends on basically irrevocable key structures. Are you worried that the key structures would fall apart?

JA

Well the hashing, in terms of the naming part, going to patterns–it doesn’t depend on the key structure at all. In terms of Bitcoin has its own key structure and that’s an independent thing, there is all sorts of problems with it. Hackers can come in and steal keys etc. And the same problems that you have with cash. Armored vans are needed to protect the cash etc. And there are some enhancements you can use to try and remove the incentives one way or another. You can introduce a subcurrency with fixed periods of expense. So you retract for one week or one day and a merchant will accept or not accept.

ES

The average person does not understand that RSA was broken into an awful lot of private keys involving commerce were taken,

JA

Yes

ES

so…

JA

The public key structure is a tremendous problem, so in the same way that domain name structures are a tremendous problem. The browser based public key system that we have for authenticating what websites you are going to, it is awful. It is truly awful. The number of people that have been licensed to mint keys is so tremendous.. there’s one got bankrupted and got bought up cheaply by Russian companies, you can assume, I have been told actually that VeriSign, by people who are in the know, although I am not yet willing to go on the public record, cause I only have one source, just between you and me, one source that says that VeriSign has actually given keys to the US government. Not all, but a particular key. That’s a big problem with the way things are authenticated presently. There are some traditional alternative approaches, like PGP has a web of trust. I don’t think those things really work. What I think does work is something close to what SSH does, and that’s probably the way forward. Which is it is opportunistic key registration. So there is part of your interaction, the first time you interact, you register your key, and then if you have a few points of keying or some kind of flood network, then you can see that well lots of people have seen that key many times in the past.

ES

And one more technical question, and I think we should probably, Scott you were sort of…

SM

I’m ready! Ha ha ha.

ES

When we were sort of chatting initially we talked about my idea that powering, mobile phones being powered, is sort of changing society. A rough summary of your answer for everybody else is that people are very much the same and something big has to change their behaviour, and this might be one of them, and you said, you were very interested in someone building phone to phone encryption. Can you talk a little bit about, roughly, the architecture where you would have a broad open network and you have person to person encryption. What does that mean technically, how would it work, why is it important. That kind of stuff. I mean, I think people don’t understand any of this area in my view.

JA

When we were dealing with Egypt we saw the Mubarak government cut off the internet and we saw only one – there was one ISP that quite few of us were involved in trying to keep its connections open, it had maybe 6% of the market. Eventually they cut.. eventually the Mubarak government also cut off the mobile phone system. And why is it that that can be done? People with mobile phones have a device that can communicate in a radio spectrum. In a city there is a high density… there is always, if you like, a path between one person and another person. That is there is always a continuous path of mobile phones, each one can in theory hear the radio of the other.

ES

You could form a peer to peer network.

JA

So in theory you could form a peer to peer network. Now the way most GSM phones are being constructed and others is that they receive on a different frequency to that which they transmit…

ES

Yes.

JA

…and that means that they cannot form peer to peer networks. They have to go through base stations. But we’re seeing now that mobile phones are becoming more flexible in terms of base station programming. And they need to do this because they operate in different markets that have different frequencies. They have different forms of wireless output, and so … and also, even if there is not sufficiently flexible mobile phones, we are seeing that in the mobile phone aspect, maybe WiMax is coming along which will give them greater radius for two way communications. But also it is getting very cheap to make your own base station. There is software now which will run a base station.

ES

Right, right.

JA

For you. So you can throw these things up and make your own networks with conventional mobile phones pretty quickly. In fact this is what is done to spy, to keep spying on mobile phones. You set up a fake base station. And there’s vans now, you can buy these in bulk on the commercial spy market, to set up a van and intercept mobile phone calls. During these revolutionary periods the people involved in the revolution need to be able to communicate. They need to be able to communicate in order to plan quickly and also to communicate information about what is happening in their environment quickly so that they can dynamically adapt to it and produce the next strategy. Where you only have the security services being able to do this, and you turn the mobile phone system off, the security services have such an tremendous advantage compared to people that are trying to oppose them. If you have a system where individuals are able to communicate securely and robustly despite what security services are doing, then security services have to give more ground. It’s not that the government is necessarily going to be overthrown, but rather they have to make more concessions.

ES

They have their networks. So your argument that even with these existing phones they modify them to have peer to peer encrypted tunnels for voice and data, presumably.

JA

Voice is a bit harder. What we did internally in this prototype I designed was a — which only works for medium sized groups – so a peer to peer flood UDP-encrypted network — UDP permits you to put lots and lots of cover traffic in cause you can send stuff to random internet hosts.

ES

Oh, so, oh, so that’s clever, so that way you can’t be blocked, right?

JA

Yeah.

ES

Because UDP is a single packet, right? So…

JA

Right, so you send it to random internet hosts and a random internet host doesn’t respond, which is exactly the same thing as a host that is receiving stuff. And even structured… and using this you can do hole punching through firewalls and it means that normal at home people can use this. They don’t need to have a server. And it is very light bandwidth, so you can put it on mobile phones as well. The killer application is not lots of voice. Rather it is chat rooms. Small chatrooms of thirty to a hundred people — that is what revolution movements need. They need it to be secure and they need it to be robust. The system I did was protocol independent. So yes, you’ve got your encapsulating thing, UDP or whatever, and in theory you could be pushing it over SMS you could be putting it over TCP, you could be pushing it over whatever. You could be using a mobile phone, you could be using a desktop or whatever. You can put that into one big mesh, so that all you need, even when the whole country is shut off you just need one satellite connection out and your internal network connects to the rest of the world.

ES

Yeah, yeah.

JA

And if you’ve got a good routing system. If it is a small network you can use flood, and thereby — flood network takes every possible path therefore it must take the fastest possible path. Right? So a flood network always finds a way but doesn’t scale to large quantities. But if you’ve got a good routing system you just need this one link out. And in Cairo, we had people who hacked Toyota in Cairo, and took over their satellite uplink, and used that to connect to this ISP that fed 6% of the market, and so that sort of thing was going on all this time. There was a hacker war in Egypt to try and keep this — I don’t like to call it radical, but this more independent ISP — that provided 6% of the market, up and going. But it shouldn’t have been so hard. It should have been the case that all you need to do is have one connection and then the most important information could get out. And if you look at, if this is equivalent to SMSs, I mean look how important Twitter is and how important SMS is. Actually, human beings are pretty good at encoding the most important thing that is happening into a short amount of data. There’s not that many human beings. There just aren’t that many. So with one pipe you can…

ES

It’s not a bandwidth problem.

JA

It’s not a bandwidth problem. So all you need is one pipe. And you can connect a country that is in a revolutionary state to the rest of the world. And points within that country just as important. Cities within that country. And it’s not that hard a thing to do quite frankly.

ES

Scott, do you wanna?

SM

It’s hard to stop! It’s so interesting!

ES

I actually, I have like five hours more…

SM

I know! Because it’s like one thing and then there’s like more and…

ES

How would you architect this how would you architect that… I think my summary would be that this notion of a hash idea of the name is a very interesting one, because I had not linked it to Bitcoin, or that kind of approach, with scarcity. That’s a new idea for me. Have you published that idea?

JA

I’ve published… not the link to Bitcoin, that paper that came out about coupling something to Bitcoin was just trying to address the DNS issue. But fortunately the guy who did it understood that… why just have quadtets? You know, why limit it to IP addresses? It’s sort of natural in a way to make the thing so that it could go to any sort of expansion. But the idea for… that there should be this naming system and the importance of this naming system, the importance of preserving history and doing these scaffolds, and mapping out everything. Yeah, so that’s on the site, under… I think it is part of one of the Hans Ulrich interview.

ES

I think we should study this quite a bit more so we generally understand it… so we might have a few more questions about it… The other comment I would make is that on the assumption that what you are describing is going to happen someday is probable given that the incentive structure is…

JA

Well I’ve had these ideas several years but now I see other people are also getting into…

ES

Well there is enough people who are interested in solving the problem you are trying to solve. On the internet you see a lot of experiences. What I am thinking of is how would I attack it. How would I attack your idea. And I still think I would go after the signing and the key infrastructure. So if I can break the keys…

JA

There are different parts of the idea. So, if you publish some information or if you spread some information… this publishing thing is quite interesting as to whether when something has gone from not being published to being published its quite… interesting. So if you spread some information and you’ve got it well labeled, using a hash.

[chatter about food]

JA

That hash is important. It is something that has to spread in another way. So that is say by WikiLeaks signing the hash. But there is many ways for it to spread. I mean people could be swapping that hash in email. They could be telling each other on the telephone etcetera.

ES

You are saying that all of these systems are do not have a single point of attack, I can break down your HTTPS but you can still use the US postal service to send it, for example.

JA

Exactly, and you would know that you were getting the right thing, because of its naming it is completely accurate.

JC

I am just wondering, on the human side of this, you have such experience of the world you described earlier. I mean I had three hours sleep, so forgive me if I don’t remember exactly what you said, but some combination of technical and altruistic people and what amounts to a kind of subculture that you’ve been in for some 15 years now.. So you know about how the subculture works. And that subculture needs to either I guess stay the same or expand in order to do the work that you are describing, and so since our book is about ten years away…

JA

It’s dramatically expanded…

JC

What are the patterns there in terms of the people part, rather than the…?

JA

That’s the most optimistic thing that is happening. The radicalization of internet educated youth. People who are receiving their values from the internet… and then as they find them to be compatible echoing them back. The echo back is now so strong that it drowns the original statements. Completely. The people I’ve dealt with from the 1960s radicals who helped liberate Greece and.. Salazar. They are saying that this moment in time is the most similar to what happened in this period of liberation movements in the 1960s, that they have seen.

JC

Do you see it scaling differently than it did in the 60s?

JA

And as far as what has entered into the West, because there are certain regions of the world I am not aware of, but as far as I am aware that — and of course I wasn’t alive in the 1960s — but as far as I can tell, that statement is true. This is the political education of apolitical technical people. It is extraordinary, in the same way that the young…

LS

A-political? Do you mean one word?

JA

One word. People are going from… young people are going from apolitical to political. It is a very very interesting transition to see.

JC

How do you think… I mean this is your world why do you think that took place? I mean, why do you think it took place?

JA

Fast communication. Critical mass of young people. Newer generation. And then some catalyzing events. The attack on us was a catalyzing event. And our defense… our success in defending was a catalyzing event. I don’t know, do you remember the PGP case, and that grand jury with Zimmermann and so on?

ES

He had a lot of fun that with that.

JA

I wrote half a book on that. It was never published, because my cowriter went and had children.

[LS spills water all over her note taking laptop]
[JA quickly grabs her laptop and turns it upside down]

LS

Ha ha ha ha

ES

Ha ha ha!

JC

Ha ha ha! Why do I feel that has happened before?

SM

So much for the historical record!

JA

As I said–multiple copies!

[laughter]

SM

Why don’t you save whatever you were doing… get it into the name tree before… Someone: everything goes wrong…

[chatter]

LS

Did you see how fast he was? It was like an impulse.

JC

Yeah, I feel you were almost there before the computer…

SM

Computers are important…

[laughter]

LS

That was sweet, thank you. Go ahead.

SM

So you were saying. But young people aren’t inherently good. And I say that as a father and with regret.

[laughter]

JA

Oh no I think that actually… well, I’ve read the Lord of the Flies…

[Laughter]

JA

and I went to thirty different schools, so I’ve seen plenty of Lord of the Flies situations…

[laughter]

JA

…But no, I think that the instincts human beings have are actually much better than the societies that we have.

JC

Then the governments, basically.

JA

I am not going to say governments. The whole structure of the society. The economic structure. And that people learn that simple altruistic acts don’t pay off and they see that some people who act in non altruistic ways end up getting Porsches and fast cars, and it tends to pull people in that direction. I thought about this a while ago when I saw there was this fantastic video that came out of Stanford in about ’69 on nuclear synthesis of DNA. Have you seen it?

SM

No.

JC

No.

ES

No.

JA

It’s on youtube. It’s great. A wonderful thing. So it is explaining nuclear synthesis through interpretive dance. And so there are like a hundred and thirty Stanford students out there pretending to be DNA, a whole bunch pretending to be a ribosomal subunit and da da da. And all wearing the hippy clothes of the day. But they were all actually very bright people. And I looked at that and thought, could Stanford.. and it was a very good bit of education, so it is not that it was cool and unusual, rather that it was extremely instructive, and before computer animation was the best representation of how a ribosomal unit behaves. Could you see Stanford doing that now? Absolutely impossible. It is far too conservative for it to do that now, even though that was an extremely effective education… you can bet everyone who was in that dance remembers exactly how nuclear synthesis occurs, because they all had to remember their parts. And I remember it having seen it. No, rather that period of peak earnings for the average wage in the United States was, what, like ’77? That certain things simply happened. That those people who were altruistic and not too concerned about finances and fiscalization simply lost power relative to those people who were more concerned about finances and fiscalization and worked their way up in the system. So certain behaviours were disincentivized and others were potentiated. And that is primarily I believe as a result of technology that enables fiscalization. So fast bank transfers. The IRS being able to account for lots of people, it sucks people into a very rigid fiscalized structure. So you can have a lot of political change in the United States. But will it really change that much? Will it change the amount of money in someone’s bank account? Will it change contracts? Will it void contracts that already exist? And contracts on contracts, and contracts on contracts on contracts? Not really. So I say that free speech in many places – in many Western places – is free not as a result of liberal circumstances in the West but rather as a result of such intense fiscalization that it doesn’t matter what you say. ie. the dominant elite doesn’t have to be scared of what people think, because a change in political view is not going to change whether they own their company or not. It is not going to change whether they own a piece of land or not. But China is still a political society. Although it is radically heading towards a fiscalized society. And other societies, like Egypt was, are still heavily politicized. And so their rulers really do need to be concerned about what people think, and so they spend a portion of efforts on controlling freedom of speech.

JC

So if you were…

JA

But I think young people have fairly good values. Of course it’s a spectrum and so on. But they have fairly good values most of the time. And they want to demonstrate them to other people and you can see this when people first go to university and so on. And they become hardened as a result of certain things having a pay off and other things not having a payoff. Studying for an exam, constantly, even though in some cases the work is completely mindless, and pointless, has a payoff at the end of the year, but going and talking to someone and doing a favour doesn’t have a payoff at the end of the year. And so this disincentivizes some behaviours and incentivizes other ones.

JC

But let me tease out some of this, I mean it sounds like you have got a view of the globe with certain societies where the impact of technology is relatively slight, certain societies where politically the impact of technology can be quite great, and certain societies where it would be at a sort of middling way. And you would put China into I guess the middling category.

JA

Well, it’s starting to…

JC

Since our book is all about technology and social transformation ten years down the line… what’s the globe that you see given the structure that you are describing?

JA

I am not sure about the impact on China. It is still a political society, so the impact could be very great. I mean I often say that censorship is always cause for celebration. It is always an opportunity, because it reveals fear of reform. It means that the power position is so weak that you have got to care about what people think.

JC

Right. It’s like you find the sensitive documents by watching them hunt.

JA

Exactly.

ES

This is a very interesting argument.

JC

Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.

JA

So when the Chinese express all this energy on censoring in all these novel ways, do we say that it is a complete waste of time and energy, or do they have a whole bunch of experience managing the country and understand that it matters what people think? I say it is much more reasonable to interpret it as the different groups different actors within China who are able to control that censorship system understand correctly that their power position is weak and they need to be careful what people think. So they have to censor.

JC

So the state is rational, at least in its repression.

JA

I am always worried in talking about the state, because it’s all individuals acting in their own perceived interest. Some, this group or that group.

JC

Fair enough.

JA

Even the censors in China of the Public Security Bureau, people who work there. Why do they censor stuff and what do they censor first? I’ll tell you what they censor first? They censor first the thing that someone in the Politburo might see. That’s what they censor first. They are not actually concerned about darknets.

JC

Sorry, about?

JA

They are not concerned about darknets. Because their bosses can’t see what is on the darknet, and so they can’t be blamed for not censoring it. We had this fantastic case here in the UK, we had a whole bunch of classified documents from the UK military, and published a bunch. And then later on we did a sort of preemptive FOI which we do occasionally on various governments when we can. So we did it on the UK ministry of defense, just to see whether they were doing some investigation, sort of a source protection to understand what is going on. So we got back… first they pretended they were missing documents and we appealed and we got back a bunch of documents. And so it showed that someone in there had spotted that there was a bunch of UK military documents on our website. About their surveillance programme. Another two thousand page document about how to stop things leaking, and that the number one threat to the UK ministry was investigative journalists. So that had gone into some counterintelligence da da da da, and they had like, oh my good, it has hundreds of thousands of pages, and it is about all sorts of companies and it just keeps going, and it’s endless, it’s endless! Exclamation marks, you know, five exclamation marks. And that was like, okay, that is the discovery phase, now the what is to be done phase. What is to be done? BT has the contracts for the MoD. They told BT to censor us from them. So everyone in the UK MoD could no longer read what was on WikiLeaks. Problem solved!

ES

Interesting.

JA

It’s like all the generals and their bosses and all these people could no longer see that we had MoD stuff on there. And so now there is no more complaints and their problem is solved. So understandings like this might be quite advantageous to use in some of these systems. So it means that darknets for example, if you understand the bureaucratic structures that employ people and give them tasks always have that sort of thing going on then that means that darknets are gonna have a pretty easy time of it, until they are so big that they are not darknets anymore.

JC

Hm. That’s really… that’s really really interesting. You mentioned investigative journalism, do you… you’ve had a lot of experience with journalism by now, in many different respects, i mean, how do you see the kind of freedom of information that you are describing, that you were describing earlier, as fitting into journalistic processes, if at all, or is it replacing it?

JA

No it is, I mean it’s more how these journalistic processes fit into something that is much bigger, and the much bigger thing is that we as human beings shepherd and create our intellectual history as a civilization. And it is that intellectual history on the shelf that we can pull off to do stuff, and not do the dumb thing again. Someone already said said it was done and wrote about their experience and we don’t do it again. And so there are several different processes that are creating that record and other processes where people are trying to destroy pieces of that record and others that are trying to prevent people putting things into the record. We all live off that intellectual record, so what we want to do is get as much into the record, prevent as much as possible being deleted from the record, and then, and then have the record as searchable as possible.

ES

But one consequence of this view is that actors will find the generation of very large amounts of misinformation strategic for them.

JA

Yeah. So this is another type of censorship that I have thought about but don’t speak so much about. Which is censorship through complexity.

ES

Hide it. Too complicated.

JA

And that is basically the offshore financial sector. Censorship through complexity. Censorship of what? Censorship of political outrage. With enough political outrage there is law reform and enough law reform you can’t do it anymore. So why is it that all these careful tax structuring arrangements are so complex? I mean, they may be perfectly legal, but why are they so god damn complex? Well, because the ones that weren’t complex were understood and the ones that were understood were regulated, so you’re only left with the things that are incredibly complex.

ES

More noise less signal, kind of…

JA

Yeah, exactly, exactly…

SM

But how in the future will people deal with the fact that the incentive to publish information that is misleading, wrong, manipulative, is very high. Furthermore you can’t figure out who the bad publisher was as well as the good…because there’s anonymity in the system.

JA

Yeah, so I suggested. Well, the way it is right now is there is very… first we must understand that the way it is right now is very bad. Friend of mine Greg Mitchell wrote a book about the mainstream media, So Wrong For So Long. And that’s basically it. That yes we have these heroic moments with Watergate and Bernstein and so on, but, come on, actually, it’s never been very good it’s always been very bad. And these fine journalists are an exception to the rule. And especially when you are involved in something yourself and you know every facet of it and you look to see what is reported by it in the mainstream press, and you can see naked lies after naked lies. You know that the journalist knows it’s a lie, it is not a simple mistake, and then simple mistakes, and then people repeating lies, and so on, that actually the condition of the mainstream press nowadays is so appalling I don’t think it can be reformed. I don’t think that is possible. I think it has to be eliminated, and replaced with something that is better.

JC

Which does seem to be happening!

[Laughter]

JA

Yes, and I think things like, you know I have been pushing this idea of scientific journalism that things must be precisely cited the original source or as much of it as possibly available should be put in the public domain so that people can look at it, just like in science so that you can test to see whether the conclusion comes from the experimental data. Otherwise you probably just made it up. You could have just made it up. And in fact that is what happens all the time people just make it up. And they make it up to such a degree that we are led to war. I mean most… Most wars in the 20th century have started as a result of lies. Amplified and spread by the mainstream press. And you go, well that is a horrible circumstance, that is terrible that all these wars start with lies. And I say no, this is a tremendous opportunity, because it means that populations basically don’t like wars and they have to be lied into it. And that means we can be truthed into peace. And so that is the extremely optimistic thing. But this, how do you distinguish publishers, truthful publishers, untruthful publishers, this is a reputation business. And so what I would like is that part of that repetitional business, like in science, where is your data? You’re not providing your data, why the hell should I take this seriously? Is that now that we can publish on the internet, now that there is physically room for the data, newspapers don’t have physical room for the primary source, now that there is physical room for the primary source, it should be there and we should create a standard that it should be there. And sure people can deviate from this standard, but well you deviate from the standard, if you can’t be bothered providing us with the primary source data why should we pay any attention to what you are writing? You’re not treating the reader with respect. It’s not falsifiable therefore, therefore we can pay no attention to it. But the issue of reputation, this is an important issue. How do things have reputation? Well, part of the way that they have reputation is by this coupling of something happens, someone else says something about it, someone else says something about that, etc. And this is a series of citations as information flows from one person to another and they augment it and so on. For that to be strong you need this naming system. Where what you are relying on is not some startup website that just appears tomorrow, or some company that didn’t like it and has modified it or is being sued out of existence. So that, I think, would help with reputation. Complexity is harder. I think that is a big problem. So when things become open things tend to become more complex, because people start hiding what they are doing, their bad behaviour, through complexity. And so that will be bureaucratic double speak is an example. When things get bureaucratized and so on, and everything becomes mealy mouthed, and so that’s a cost of openness. Is that kind of bureaucratization, and in the offshore sector you see incredible complexity in the layers of things happening to one another so they become impenetrable. And of course cryptography is an intellectual system that has specialized in making things as complex as possible. Those things are hard to attack. On the other hand complex systems are also hard to use. So bureaucracies and internal communications systems which have this, which are full of weasel words and arse covering, are inefficient internal communications systems. And similarly, those tremendously complex offshore structuring arrangements are actually inefficient. But maybe you’re ahead when the tax regime is high, but if the tax regime is zero you’re not going to be ahead at all. Sorry, if the tax regime is 3%, you’re not going to be ahead at all, you’re going to be choked by the complexity.

JC

Well, if they weren’t inefficient then everybody would have their money offshore Julian.

JA

Yeah, that’s right.

JC

I mean that as a joke, but it’s probably true, heh.

JA

No, that’s true.

JC

Let me just add that uh…

JA

There is a battle between all of these things going on. With different people, economic different… see I don’t see a different between government and big corporations and small corporations, actually this is all one continuum, these are all systems that are trying to get as much power as possible. So that’s what they are. A general is trying to get as much power for his section of the army, and so on. They advertise, they produce something that they claim is a product, people buy it, people don’t buy it, they complexify in order to hide the flaws in their product and they spin, so I don’t see a big difference between government and non government actors in that way. There is one difference about the deployment of coercive force but even there we see that well connected corporations are able to tap into the governmental system and the court system and are able to deploy… effectively deploy coercive force, by sending police to do debt requisition or kicking employees out of the office.

JC

Can I just ask you about the same thing but sort of in reverse which is the ways in which the sources of information as individuals can and can’t be protected, in other words how can their information be anonymous, so that they don’t pay a price for circulating it. and you know maybe with one example from North Korea or Iran for example from the US, and the differences between those scenarios.

JA

There is many ways for people to transmit anonymously. One of the greatest difficulties for sources is their proximity to the material. So if they have high proximity to it and it’s a limited number of people know it. It actually doesn’t matter what technical mechanism you then apply at the top. It would be quite difficult for them to evade scrutiny. And it doesn’t matter what country or regime you are in. But systematic injustice by definition is going to have to involve many people. And so while the inner sanctum of cabinet, maybe you cannot safely get records out of this, but as those decisions start spreading down to lower levels if they are to affect many people many people must have either the high level planning that produces some unjust consequence or the shadow of it. So maybe the whole plan isn’t visible by the time it gets down to the grunts but some component of it is visible. And this struck me when we got hold of the two main manuals for Guantanamo Bay. The 2003 manual was the first one we got hold of, written by Major… by General Jeffrey Miller, who subsequently went over to Abu Ghraib, to GTMO-ize it, as Donald Rumsfeld called it, so that manual had all sorts of abuses in it and one of the ones that I was surprised to see was explicit instructions to falsify records for the Red Cross. And how many people have read this manual? Well all the prison captains at Guantanamo Bay had read this. Why would you risk telling the grunts this sort of information? It wasn’t even classified. They made it unclassified — For Official Use Only — why? Because it’s more expensive to get people who have classification clearance. If you want to hire contractors without classification clearance it is cheaper. You can’t whisper to the coal face. You can’t have the president whispering to the coal face. Because the coal face, because the coal face is too big. You can’t have the president whispering to the intermediaries, because then you end up with Chinese whispers – that means your instructions are not carried out. So if you take information off the paper, if you take it outside of the electronic or physical paper trail, the instructions decay. And that’s why all organizations of any scale have rigorous paper trails for the instructions from the leadership. But by definition if you try… if you want people to do something, you are going to have to have those form of instructions. Which means there is always going to be a paper trail, except for small group decisions. Small group decisions that don’t end up going to the coal face. And instructing hundreds of people… are they so important in the scheme of things?

ES

We went to Berlin, there is a place where they signed the final order, what’s it called?

LS

Final solution. Wannsee.

ES

Wannsee, and these are Germans. So they documented everything.

LS

Fascinating.

ES

So it’s exactly your point, so that in order to kill six million Jews, you actually have to write it down.

JA

It’s a big logistical process.

JC

Absolutely, and many many many people had to be implicated, what the procedures were and so on. And here are the pictures of people and their signatures and so forth.

LS

Minutes of the meeting…

ES

It was like, seriously [inaudible]. This is the banality of evil.

LS

Indeed.

JA

Yes, but this is one of the first things… internal arguments I had with other people in 2006. While okay, you have a good get, you expose some organization and show it has been abusing something in some way, and it just takes something off paper. Well next thing it does, well they just take it, and everything will go to oral form and so on. No, that’s not going to happen, because, if it does go that way, fine, they take everything off paper, if they internally balkanize, so that information can’t be leaked, what is the cost? There is a tremendous cost to the organizational efficiency, of doing that. So that means this abusive organization simply becomes less powerful in its struggle for economic equilibrium and political equilibrium with all other organizations.

ES

This is the inverse of your argument about empowering the dissidents in Egypt. They needed SMS to communicate. In your argument, by stopping the inability to coordinate at this level, the inverse of your argument. Literally the inverse of the first…

JA

Yeah, so …

ES

Well, your argument would be if you take those tools away…

JA

Yeah, well, I say they take them away themselves in a way. Once things can become public. So why is it that people engage… why is it that powerful organizations – there is all sorts of reasons why non-powerful organizations engage in secrecy, which to my view is legitimate, they need it, because they are powerless. But why do powerful organizations engage in secrecy? Well, usually because the plans that they have if made public would be opposed by the public. And plans that are opposed before implementation often don’t get implemented. So you want to wait as long as possible. And then implementation eventually makes them public by the very fact that they are being implemented but it is too late by then to alter the course effectively. So an organization on the other hand that is engaged in planning behaviour that if revealed is not opposed by the public doesn’t have that burden. It doesn’t have that planning burden where it is forced to take things off paper. So this will be an efficient organization, this will not be an efficient organization, and in the mix as they do economic and political battle, it will equilibriate out, these guys will shrink and these guys will grow.

ES

Is that your fundamental justification, do you think… for this, for the work that you’re in?

JA

Fundamental justification is that, there is really two. First of all, the human civilization, its good part, is based upon our full intellectual record, and our intellectual record should be as large as possible if humanity is to be as advanced as possible. The second is that in practice releasing information is positive to those engaged in acts that the public support and negative to those engaged in acts that the public does not support.

ES

[inaudible]

JA

Yeah

ES

…[inaudible] general restraint.

JA

Well, it can create a redress for an act of injustice that is revealed and that’s nice. But the larger effect is that it creates disincentives for organizations that are to create unjust plans or engage in unjust acts.

ES

One more… In 10 years, what does this world look like? In other words if you extrapolate this argument…

JA

Well, we are at a bit of a crossroads, no? It could go either way.

JC

An optimistic scenario. What is the best scenario? Ha ha ha.

JA

So remember Philip Zimmermann’s PGP case?

ES

Yes

JA

That was just a grand jury investigation. It was moderately serious. But he wasn’t convicted. No one at that time was being convicted, they were being investigated. It changed the behaviour of tens of thousands of people who were involved in choosing to put cryptography into programs or not. All sorts of tortured copyright assignments and inter software company structuring arrangements, and how code was deployed, were engaged in, just from that negative signal of a grand jury investigation. So what that means is that signals about what behaviour is acceptable, what behaviour you can get away with and what behaviour is beneficial to individuals engaging in it and what behaviour is not, changes how many people behave. So we are at a crossroads now where those organizations that are fighting against those people who want to be able to publish freely and disclose important information to the public… I can’t remember the beginning of this sentence now.

JC

You said we are at a crossroads now where those organizations that are fighting against those people who want to be able to publish freely and disclose important information to the public.

JA

It was pretty long wasn’t it? Okay, hah. …Could produce if successful a signal which discourages everyone or almost everyone from engaging in those activities, or we and people who share our values could be successful and that will then become the new norm of accepted behaviour.

ES

And what are the necessary conditions for that to occur for the latter? I can easily imagine the necessary conditions for the former.

JA

Everyone gives money to WikiLeaks. That is the main…

[laughter]

JC

I didn’t even hear that!

ES

Everyone gives money to WikiLeaks.

LS

Ha ha ha.

[laughter]

JC

Are you taking Bitcoin?

[laughter]

JA

Yes. Yes. Um. So it is quite interesting to know whether, if people read this and then act will they actually be enough to change the result. That is why we are at a very interesting period and I think we are literally at this crossroads and a little bit more push to one direction or another could change the outcome a lot. So people should, if they want to see the values that we promote succeed, promote those organizations and individuals that represent those values and start taking on doing it themselves.

JC

I was going to say, or become it.

JA

Yeah, become it. Become representations of those values themselves. I am always hesitant in saying that everyone should go out and be a martyr. Because i don’t believe that. I believe the most effective activists are those that fight and run away. Not those who fight and martyr themselves, but those who fight and run away to fight another day. So that’s about judgement, when to engage in the fight and when to withdraw so as to preserve your resources for the next fight.

JC

Would you make the argument that fighting and running away is not that not different, like physically fighting and running away is not that different from fighting anonymously so long as you are sufficiently competent that your anonymity…

JA

If you have perfect anonymity you can fight forever, yeah. You don’t have to run away.

SM

Pre-run away.

[laughter]

JC

That’s it in essence. Pre-run away.

JA

Well, you can lower the courage threshold, I mean that is one of the nice things anonymity does. But maybe it is not the right way to put it. I mean, people often say, you are tremendously courageous in doing what you are doing, and I say, no no you misunderstand what courage is. Courage is not the absence of fear. Only fools have no fear. Rather courage is the intellectual mastery of fear by understanding the true risks and opportunities of the situation. And in keeping these things in balance. And not simply having prejudice about what the risks are. But actually testing them. There are all sorts of myths that go around about what can be done and what cannot be done. It is important to test. You don’t test by jumping off a bridge. You test by jumping off a footstool, and then jumping off something a bit higher and a bit higher.

JC

Actually, to follow up to that, it goes back to what Scott was asking about the relationship between the person providing information and the person receiving it. If we look at all the different societies around the world, presumably not everyone is starting on the same level playing field. There are some people who just have a greater education of the risks associated with using these tools. There are some people who are going to provide information in societies where the governments aren’t as vigilant, and some where they are very vigilant. It would seem that in a place, now don’t get me wrong, like North Korea, where the combination of very vigilant regimes, with populations that are still relatively new to these tools and the risks associated with them may not be able to have that understanding of the true risks of the situation, and the opportunities that might be available that you are mentioning.

JA

I think they are capable of learning. Like everyone else. These societies are much more political than the West. People like to talk about politics over dinner every night. So I am not sure it is right to take a Western perspective and think that these people don’t understand the lot that they are in. Also, the extrinsic risks might be higher. The other risks associated with conducting a political life may already be quite high. So one has to keep these risks in proportion. Also the potential rewards are much greater. One might be involved in a very grand historic moment, and become swept up in it. And because we all only live once, we all suffer the continuous risk of not having lived our life well. Every year. Every year that is not used is 100% wasted, it’s not a risk of that, it is a dead bet.

ES

Here’s an aside for you. A few weeks ago I was with Warren Buffett… who’s 78. And I said What are you up to? And he said ‘This next year will be the best year of my life. And I thought ok…

[chuckles]

SM

I need to go the rest room. Upstairs?

ES

So I thought ok. He’s obviously playing with me, and then I figured it out that if you’re 76, then the next year is going to be the best year of the rest of your life. Because at some point there is going to be a year where it’s not going to be so good. And then you are going to be dead. And so, I love that, right. This next is going to be the best year.

[laughter]

LS

Julian how do you feel about photographs for the book? Do you mind if I take snapshots of you guys just working? How do you? You can see them? Up to you. I would just take shots this way, and then that way.

JA

Of who doing what, exactly?

LS

Of you guys talking. Just conversation.

JA

Oh that’s alright.

ES

Using my S95 camera

LS

[inaudible] Yes. Exactly, it’s a very high tech operation going on here

[chatter]

JA

Just don’t say anything antisemitic for the next few months.

[laughter]

ES

We would never say anything anti-semitic.

JA

No no, it’s just the last the last this Russian journalist came over and took a photo of me and then he is a, he is a sort of, his name is Israel Shamir, he is as Jewish as could possibly be, but he is very, he converted to Russian Orthodox, and is anti-Judaistic, and so he then put this out in Russian Reporter or something with this photo of me, and I started to cop it, in the most unbelievable way.

ES

Interesting.

You and I both understand the costs of negative publicity.

JA

It’s just a joke, but, you know. I know you have been well tested.

ES

I am very well tested, I am very well behaved.

[chatter, laughing]

ES

One of the more, the criticism that is constant, is that damage has occurred because of WikiLeaks. I can’t find it yet. Do you have a reasoned…

JA

Well there is, it’s a rhetorical trick. So…

ES

You understand the question and why I ask it?

JA

Yeah yeah.

ES

I understand the case it gets… your version… Which obviously we are sympathetic to, so…

JA

Up until Collateral Murder we were a cause celebre in the United States, actually we are still a cause celebre, but it is in a smaller libertarian or left wing or libertarian right wing community now. But, and across, according to Reuters across 24 countries we have over three quarters support of the general population. 24 countries. It’s the worst in the United States. So we have support of over 40% of the population, which is pretty good actually, considering what has been happening. So, as a result of embarrassing the US military and diplomatic class we have had a counterattack. And that counterattack is significant. This is a very significant power group. And it is a power group that is not just at the top of the White House. It is not just a few generals. Rather it is all the people connected to and profiting from that system. And that’s about a third of the US population. So all the way from Chelsea Clinton down to the someone in the gutters of San Antonio whose brother is deployed in Iraq. There are 900,000 people in the US with Top Secret security clearances at this moment. There are 2 and a half million that have classified security clearances. If we go back over the past 20 years and ask how many people had security clearances, maybe it is 15 million. If you then go and look at all their spouses and business partners and children we are looking at something like 30% of the population of the United States. It is one degree removed from that way of living and that ideological structure and that patronage system. So it is quite different in the United States to say something that is against that system. And the New York Times has found to its peril when it tries to speak out against it, so in its relationships with us when it published material had to react very defensively. In a way to someone outside the United… no, I think that even traditional US journalists think this. It is sickening to see a newspaper of any strength saying literally how pleased those words the White House was with its behaviour. So if we look at the attacks on us, they always talk about the words “placed people at risk.” But risk relative to what? Right now we are at risk of a meteorite passing through the roof of this house and killing us all. That is a risk that is true. But is it a proportionate risk? Is it a risk that is significant enough that it is even worth speaking about? Well, the answer is no. Similarly with the word possibility. There is a possibility that a meterorite could descend on us all in this moment, but it is not a probability. So these rhetorical tricks are often used by people who are making their argument in relation to security. There is a risk of something there is a possibility of something. What has to be done is people need to engage in an intellectual defense against manipulation by rhetoric by understanding that if someone mentions that there is a risk without saying the risk is higher than crossing the road, or the risk is twice that of being stung by a bee, then you must ignore it. Similarly with possibility versus probability.

JC

Yeah, I can do all this in my head too. Are there examples where a positive outcome could be directly traced to WikiLeaks in the political sphere that you would want to highlight? Something that is a specific tangible positive outcome?

JA

The most significant one seems to be the Arab Spring.

JC

You would argue that WikiLeaks was out there…

JA

Well Amnesty International did in its latest report and Tunisian professors did, because my direct involvement it would be unseemly for me to argue that directly, and I am not certain about directly. I am certain that we affected it. And we were deeply involved in it.

ES

Influenced it.

JA

I am certain that we influenced it. And that’s… that is really something, a great moment. Something I am certain about is that we changed the outcome of the Kenyan election in 2007. There has been many ministers whose scalps were taken and people being forced to resign and so on. Those are concrete and clear actions and one might argue that they are positive if you didn’t like the guy, and you would argue that they were negative if you did like the guy, so I don’t really want to mention those ones.

ES

Yes, if I go back to your earlier argument that the effect on a single individual is not your actual goal. The actual effect is to change the system in some fundamental way. Because you make the argument that these systems become fiscalized, you know, they are static, independent of any pressure, so an example of a truly large influence would be a revolution. Right?

JA

Yeah, well it is something that… you can make many of these sort of large influences without these dichotomatic events. But the dichotomatic events are easy to – binary events – are very easy to talk about and also are provable.

ES

It’s also a marketing prop. You want to have a marketing story.

JA

Yeah, so one party or another party wins the election and it changed. That is a very clear outcome. There is a revolution. One group is in power, and then another group is in power, it is a very clear change. I suspect that the other changes we have had such as liberalization of the publishing environment I suspect is the most significant one that we have been involved in, and something we have pushed for many years. There is no way that what we did last year we could have done four years ago. It would not have been possible.

ES

How come? Technologically? or in terms of?

JA

Technologically it was all perfectly possible. The difference is a shift in the status quo. WikiLeaks became the status quo. So that wasn’t always so. During the first two years we were battling for whether we were something that was acceptable to be on the internet or not. After two years, and specially after the Bank Julius Baer case, where we were involved in a big legal case in San Francisco… on the one hand us, and on the other hand the largest private Swiss banking concern bank Julius Baer, that was trying to shut us down. Which we conclusively won. And cost them their US IPO as a result. That sort of sent out a signal that there is a place in the world for a publisher like WikiLeaks. And then we started to cement that place as time went by. And now we have really cemented it because we had a case where the Pentagon stood up in public, back in October 2010 and gave a 40 minute press conference with their spokesperson Geoff Morrell, saying that WikiLeaks must – and me personally – must destroy everything we previously published that had been derived from the Pentagon. That we must destroy everything we were going to publish. And cease dealing with US military whistleblowers. The precise terminology used was to return everything that we had ever published, return everything that we were going to publish, and cease soliciting information of US military personnel, or US government personnel. Or, the Pentagon would “compel” us to do so. And when asked by a journalist at the press conference what mechanisms do you have to compel them, the response was, well, look this is the Pentagon, we are not concerned about the law.

[sniggering]

JA

That’s perhaps a matter for the Department of Justice, or the attorney general or something.

JC

When you watched that, did you get the impression that they were just an unbelievable amount of naivete or lack of understanding about the actual technology or technical aspects of this that would make that impossible.

JA

I did, but then later on I developed a sophisticated understanding of what was going on in that press conference.

JC

I actually started out very unsophisticated. Ha ha ha.

JA

So what was actually going on. This was a carefully… I mean, it seems ridiculous. Why would the Pentagon act like a victim? Why would they look so ridiculous and powerless? Why would they utter… give a demand that they were not capable of fulfilling, it would make them look weak? It was a carefully constructed legal message, designed to embroil us in the US Espionage Act. It was the notification, like you see in the newspapers.

ES

Yeah.

JA

We demand that you do this. This is the type of information that will cause grave harm to US national security. We make a press conference so that we can argue that all those WikiLeaks people have seen it. Then the next thing they publish they will demonstrate intent. So despite the fact that they have been informed that this is amiss, they did it anyway, therefore they have intent, because you can’t accidentally commit espionage.

SM

That’s why they are concerned with the past and not just the present. Because there has to be a pattern of practice and and as long as its instances of fresh instance then there is no pattern.

JA

Yeah, but in saying, no, we did quickly, actually, before we had understood what the legal trap was. But in saying no and then in relatively short order producing the Iraqi War Diaries, which is one of the best things we’ve ever done…

[chatter]

JA

Okay. We can go into the other room.

[chatter, moving]

JC

…increasingly using WikiLeaks information as a source and done sometimes done without even mentioning that it was a source sometimes… it’s a sociology of information which is fascinating.

JA

Well, in the beginning they wouldn’t, now they do. It gives them more prestige now to say that it came from us than to…

JC

I know, I know, I know. It is, it is.

JA

I’ll just show you something funny. I’ll just show you something… Do you like our… slogan?

ES

Keep calm and carry.. ha ha ha. The second world war! Ha ha ha.

JC

That’s looks like an original one though…

SM

We were admiring the pictures of all the… of all the…

[chatter]

JA

So these are Vaughan’s ancestors. That’s Vaughan there, my friend. That’s from Afghanistan earlier this year.

SM

He’s some sort of reporter type, right?

JA

A war reporter.

JC

I’m sorry, who is this?

JA

This is the owner of the house, my friend, Vaughan Smith.

JC

Oh, right, right. I’ve been to his club!

JA

Yeah, so he’s a war reporter. Although he was in the Grenadier Guards originally, and then he, I think he understood, you could go to the other side. He went to the other side, but also, you could go to more wars as a war reporter, than as a…

JC

Ha ha ha. And different ones. It’s better that way. This is his family?

JA

These are all family. That’s his father and mother. And they both live here. In a house, on the edge of the village.

JC

So it’s a military family from a little ways…

JA

The other interesting guy is that guy right there, Tiger Smith, there’s rakish looking one with the collar up, who is famous for killing 99 tigers back when that sort of thing was approved of. Saving Indians.

JC

So he was a raj figure of some kind?

JA

Yeah, but, so here is the comedy. This medal–Vaughan’s father was the Queen’s messenger, so that means he would go on aeroplanes and deliver messages. Now, see this bag in his hand there. So you know what’s in this bag.

JC

State secrets.

JA

Diplomatic cables!

ES

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

[laughter]

ES

That’s great.

JA

So he would go on the Concorde, and have a seat to the left and and a seat to the right which was filled with cable bags and deliveries, sometimes they would take computers as well, people come into the bay of the airplane and guide it in and make sure it’s not stolen. And another guy is waiting at the other end to take it.

LS

And what does he say about it?

JA

Well he’s sort of, horrified on the one hand and deeply pleased on the other, because if they’d just used him none of this would have happened!

JC

Ha ha ha ha ha!

ES

And before we ask, let me just ask you’ve been here for about 6 months?

JA

Eight months.

SM

Eight months. So this is your home.

JC

Well, it’s a lovely place.

JA

We got these this morning, because I have to go to the police station every day, unfortunately I get crazed fans turning up there.

JC

Oh really? They then do things? [indistinct]

JA

This was a French girl who drove up from France.

LS

Really?

JA

I’ve had girls who drive from France, Catalonia, Norway, she didn’t drive from Norway, she flew from Norway, Amsterdam, we had a guy from the US sold his boat and came over here. Captain Morgan.

ES

How far is it to the police station?

JA

About 15 minutes. 20 minutes.

JA

The woman from Catalonia was the most amusing, so she turned up at the Frontline Club and tried to convince them that she was WikiLeaks staff, Wikileaks star Spanish programmer.

ES

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

JA

And she didn’t know anything about programming, she just gave some technobabble, and they assumed it was true. And then after a while they were like uh, well you can’t really go and see Julian, he’s in seclusion, but ok, so, they put her up for free for one night. And she had this habit of listening in on a bit of conversation and then sort of reincorporating it into her story. And the next day: Oh I know this person, oh look there’s so and so!

ES

Ha ha ha ha

JA

So within two days this had all come undone and she had been sent along. And then two weeks later there is a phone call saying oh! Sorry, two weeks later I am here, and the police come to the door, and they are saying, do you know… [XXXX]? [XXXX]? [XXXX] who?–Your fiancee!

[laughter]

JA

No! no!–Well she stayed at this property all night! And she says that you are going to pay the taxi bill!

LS

[gasps]

JA

And I’m like what taxi bill? So it turns out that she had come from Catalonia, to London, got a black cab from London to here, five hundred pounds, she had fifty pounds, convinced the taxi driver that her rich famous fiancee would pay for it, it’s just a bit of a dispute at the moment but it will all sort out in the morning. Then she had gone to the edge of the property, and convinced them that she was my fiancee. And the taxi driver wouldn’t go because he wanted his money. The people at the edge of the property put them both up for the night.

[laughter]

JC

At what point do you just pay her for the creativity… for the entertainment… I mean it’s so creative, it’s almost impressive.

JA

Then she was eventually arrested for fare evasion. Because no one would pay the bill. Failed to appear on February 14, Valentine’s Day…

[laughter]

JA

…with bail conditions that she couldn’t appear in Norfolk, so she flew back to Catalonia, so then we see on her Facebook page that she is still going on about how in love she is, and there is these terrible women that live here..

JC

The harpies!

JA

prevented her – the harpies – prevented her from coming in contact with me.

SM

Proving that everything on the internet is absolutely true. Every single fact.

JC

Especially Facebook!

SM

Especially Facebook.

LS

Wow. Interesting.

ES

Would you like…

JC

No I’m good. I’m good actually.

ES

I want to be sensitive to your energy and time. I think, it would be interesting to talk a bit about…

JA

Maybe we should go for a walk, then.

ES

It would be interesting to talk about the various what-if scenarios. That’s what we’re interested in, because Jared and I do this all the time. You know what are some scenarios that could play out. You know, try to actually think about it. You’ve all these different actors and players, and you obviously think about it, you’re basically a physicist, right. You think about it that way. So…

[walking on stones]

JC

In thinking about what if scenarios. It can actually be useful to think, what if, in the past. Like what if we’re sitting there, one of our chapters looks at intervention, in the context of the Rwandan genocide, but I think it is actually a more useful conversation from understanding the role of WikiLeaks to ask, you know, in 1994, at the technological stage of the world today, technological state of the world now had been the technological state of the world then, and WikiLeaks was around during the Rwandan genocide what might have changed? How might things have been different?

JA

Just wondering if the weather will change.

JC

Yeah, British weather. Ha ha.

JA

The Rwandan genocide. Yes, I think it would have been. I think it would have been a bit different. If they had internet and a number of phones in Rwanda, I think the message would have come out more, although maybe not that much. I mean, in the Congo, all the bad things happening in Congo aren’t really getting much traction in the West.

SM

This is a fantastic tree. It keeps us totally dry.

JC

I guess, I mean that sort of there is a larger ‘what if’ questions here. It is part what if, and part why. Like why haven’t there been people in places like Iran or North Korea or Congo, releasing documents in the same way as there have been in say in Western democracies.

JA

Well, we have actually, we have gotten a material from Iran. I think, it’s not that easy to do a WikiLeaks, in combination of technicalities and reputation and funding and so on. It’s not that easy to do. And we… so that’s keeping a reputation.

ES

Okay, let us just ask the question bluntly. Why are you not getting enormous numbers of anonymous USB drives about the bad documents in African countries that are run by these evil dictator types?

JA

We have, we actually…

ES

Don’t you think that everyone would be incentivized to use you? Shouldn’t they?

JA

We have gotten some decent African stuff. Decent East Timorese stuff. Lots of decent Latin American stuff.

ES

Is it because these governments don’t write down as much of this stuff?

JA

They are not as networked. Some of them, like the Tanzanian government use kisswahili,they don’t use English as their governmental language. A lot of it is to do just whether they perceive whether WikiLeaks is a political actor within their country. So for East Timor once we started doing a little bit of East Timor, we got a lot more of East Timor. And then a sort of flood opened up. And it just became routine for them to give us material. But they need to perceive that we are part of the community. For Russia I think our… the small amount of material that we have released about Russia, although now we have this RUleaks, that has been doing pretty well, but historically a small amount of material that we have been releasing from Russia is actually a positive sign, in that the Russian internet sphere is very vibrant.

ES

Yeah I was just there, it’s amazing.

JA

So it feels that… you know, it doesn’t look outside so much. Why would it look at an English language website like WikiLeaks. It has its sort of non-profit activist journalists and opposition and so on are all in that internet sphere, which is relatively free, compared to Russian TV, so they don’t see that they really need this other avenue.

JC

It just seems like…

JA

There was a site that… there was a publication of a whole load of FSB documents, on an American server, which was then immediately hacked and then taken down, and they were never seen again. It is not so easy to publish against powerful state actors, actually.

JC

You’ve talked a lot about the importance of the name, it’s been sort of I think an important theme in this conversation and so it makes me wonder how much the kind of… there’s the debut, when the site goes live, then there’s the major debut where it becomes a household term or a household name, and one of the things that we are playing around with in the book…

JA

We haven’t properly used that yet though… I mean, we haven’t been able to grow as fast as the name has been able to grow.

JC

People know what WikiLeaks is, and I wonder had the first batch of documents that you received been from a say Iran or from a North Korea and released if we would have, if the world would have looked at it as a whistleblowing platform…

JA

It did! The world did! Did up until we started producing a high volume of US military stuff. We were producing maybe thousands of pages of US military stuff back in 2007…

ES

And nobody noticed.

JC

That’s interesting.

ES

Because of the collateral damage video…

JA

Well nobody… people noticed the Guantanamo stuff, but not to the household name. We were a journalistic name pretty quickly. And in the techno part of the human rights community we were a name pretty quickly. And we were in the internet educated German and English speaking publics, especially towards the crypto-security end we were a name pretty quickly. So for example when we did a fundraising effort in the beginning of 2010 to May 2010, before Collateral Murder, we raised a million bucks. So you know for a new sort of, new in terms of concept, non profit journalism group to raise a million bucks in 20 dollar donations — that’s almost completely unheard of And we were doing that before Collateral Murder. So Collateral Murder made us into a worldwide… no not even collateral murder didy. Made us into a US household name. All these things start to stack up. By the end of the year, and really it was the Pentagon’s attack against us, and the Swedish sex case funnily enough, that then made us into a worldwide household name with 84% name recognition worldwide.

JC

Wow.

ES

That’s interesting. So, on the assumption that the current legal stuff is all resolved, the next few years are… what happens with WikiLeaks, it becomes… Again, we want to talk about for us t=0 is a year from now, so we’re thinking about a year from now, next year the next year. Does WikiLeaks just become bigger, more donors, more technology, you going to change it in some way?

JA

There is lots of changes. I think this idea I had about how to structure intellectual information is important. So we will overlay that…

ES

So that’s… that’s actually a part of your plan, that you’re talking about.

JA

When you do have a presence… When you have such public recognition, you have the luxury of being able to take fairly complex intellectual ideas and push them up. That would normally take a long time to sort of organically get traction, like Sun did with Java, for example, they take a long time to organically get traction, but you can put your weight behind them and push them up so we have some of those moves we can make. But also I’ve seen that it’s very difficult for us to be a command and control organization. You spoke about the difficulties that you had to learn with Novell, but for us as an organization, like a command and control organization with a leadership and people who carry out tasks, we are in a position where we have the full force of a superpower and its investigative organs, and the rest of NATO, operating against us, bribing people, monitoring communications, etc, so that means that for us any little psychological weakness in our people, any friction between our people, can lead to those forces plucking them off.

ES

You could be infiltrated you mean. In theory.

JA

Yeah. Infiltrated. The plucking off I think is a bigger problem.

ES

No I mean… But the forces opposed to you…

JA

But you are right about the infiltration…

ES

But the forces opposed to you, they will think, okay, this is a foreign actor, let’s send our agent in, become a member, discover all their secrets.

JA

Right, and we are aware of that problem and we investigate people, and so on. But what that means is that it has tremendously slowed down our growth. Because you can’t just put an ad out and say we want you to have these skills and come into the office, it is absolutely impossible. So growth is constrained in that way. But there is another way of leading, and that is leading through values instead of command and control. And when you lead through values you don’t need to trust people, and values and the number of people who can adopt the value, there is no limit on the speed of adoption. It all happens very quickly. It’s not, supply, in terms of employer supply limited, rather it’s demand limited, as soon as people demand a value they adopt it.

ES

I see that, the way I express that, is that the power of an idea is under-appreciated. That you can get the idea inserted correctly then millions of people… My comment would be that the deeper ideas that you are talking about they are either not understood or they are being fought by misinformation. You know as you said it’s a clever use of words, turned against you, what have you. So you have I think a challenge to get the deeper arguments that you have made to us, heard over all these other forces.

JA

Saying it… well, if you say lies for long enough people start to believe it as well, but so this, the “Afghan release was a terrible thing.” This has now spread so fast that we are basically given up trying to knock it down. The energy is better off spent doing something else. But we do see that we are educating a whole range of people about us and about our values and about things that we believe in. And now what is happening is that these people are finding each other across the world and across states. And we are creating our own computational network of human beings that can think in the same way, that on a point to point basis can trust each other. We started out last year in a position where we had this big confrontation with the State Department, and the Pentagon at the same time. One of our few claims to success is that we’ve managed to get the Pentagon and the State Department to cooperate.

[laughter]

JA

Where they internally were highly organized, they have their contact sheets, they have an internal mail system, and they have their command and control structure where they can task people and recruit resources and pour them into things, and they have people available to spend on us. Maybe there is ten thousand. So, that’s, in that particular case, the people who are pushing against us. On the other hand, on our side, we have millions of people around the world who support us and support our values, who are on the other hand traditionally completely atomized. There is no command and control structure, they are not able to effectively coordinate with each other, and so on. So that’s the starting condition, but of course, an organization starts to form with these people as they find each other locally. And as they discover each other they become optimized, that network of nodes starts linking up and becoming more and more efficient at comprehending its environment, planning for action and then acting. So in some ways… we have plans to potentiate that. They are probably out by then. So we are going to take these graphs of several million supporters, and, do you know what simulated annealing is?

ES

No

JC

No.

JA

So when you have an alloy, or rather when you are trying to have an alloy, you have two different metals, and the idea is that you put these metals together, you put these metals together and you mix them together, and they settle. The molecules of the two different respective metals settle into an arrangement with each other where they are in the tightest attraction to each other. So the lowest energy state. And to get them into this state can be quite hard, because one molecule might be buddied up with another to its left, but the most, the strongest arrangement, might be if it joins the one to its right, but it’s already coupled with the one to its left, so it has to sort of, it needs a kick to get out of the position and into this new position… and so this is called annealing. And you’ll see that when people are making these alloys they will knock the metals together and then let them cool and then heat them up a bit, and then cool a bit, heat them up a bit, and cool, and not so much each time. And they might even do things like smack them and hit them, so they might actually physically smash them. So we have this system we’re developing where we will put all these people into a network which we will anneal, using a simulated annealing method. So that there is the tightest possible human arrangement between these million people.

ES

Around the set of principles.

JA

Around a set of principles. That’s the unifier.

ES

I see.

JA

And then we have an efficient computational… in terms of human computation… an efficient computational network which can observe, plan and act.

ES

Another criticism, I think, with respect to WikiLeaks, you were careful, according to the reports, to work to redact sensitive information, as I understand that there was an editing process, someone had to build a specialized search engine because the documents were so complicated, there was a fairly lengthy review period with the mainstream media, you know, etc, etc, that’s all fairly well documented… now imagine another person, not you, who does not have the same values but has the same technology, because the technology is obviously copiable, what happens when there is more of them than there are of you? Or one of them and one of you?

JA

Well, sources… so who holds WikiLeaks accountable? We have our values. How do people see whether we are sticking to our values, or whether we betray our values? How do people.. maybe they don’t like our values… Maybe they do. How can the human economic ecosystem discipline us or encourage us in particular directions? Sources speak with their feet. If sources believe that we are going to protect them, and that we are going to have higher impact for the material, they will simply give us material instead of giving it to someone else. So that is one way in which we are disciplined by the market of sources.

ES

So it is a selection bias, basically.

JA

Yeah, so the question is well, could sources pick another group that were going to publish without any harm minimization procedure at all? Well the answer is yes, but one has to understand the primary reason we engaged in harm minimization procedures. It’s not primarily because the material we release will have a reasonable risk of producing harm as a result of disclosure. That’s very rare. Rather, there is a probable risk that if we don’t engage in that sort of behaviour, our opponents will opportunistically attempt to distract from the revelations that we have published, very important matters, by instead speaking about is there a potential for harm, and therefore, is this release hypocritical, given that we want to promote justice and is the organisation hypocritical… and so a lot of the procedures that we engage in are not merely to try to minimize risk to people who might be named in the material, rather it is to minimize risk that opportunists will reduce the impact of the material when it is released. So part of the impact maximization that we are doing is to prevent this type of attack on what we publish. So from that point of view, intelligence sources will understand that we do that in order to maximise impact. Now that said, we do not permanently redact anything. We only do delayed redactions. So we delay until the security situation has changed and we can release this, and I think that is an important difference to what…

ES

So is it fair to say that, eventually the things that you redacted will be all…

JA

Yes

ES

Will all be made available

JA

All be made available

LS

That’s a different question actually from what you were asking, which was, what if the same process and technology fell into…

JA

Yes, so I’m getting to that, so it disturbs me greatly – it is a – and we have all sorts of other projects about syndicating our submission system to third parties and so on. It disturbs me that we are redacting at all. It is a very very dangerous slippery slope. And I’ve already said that we go through this not merely to minimize harm but for political considerations, to stop people distracting from the important part of the material by instead hyping up concerns about risks.

JC

It’s a pragmatic decision. A strategic decision.

JA

It’s a pragmatic, tactical decision to keep the maximum impact there, instead of having to be distracted… But that is us already engaging in a rather dangerous compromise. Now it is not nearly to the same degree as the newspapers, because we have done this collaboration with them, and we can see that some of them are just appalling. I mean we released these results. An analysis of their redactions versus what actually needed to be redacted, and it is extremely interesting.

ES

So there was a difference of view on what needed to be redacted?

JA

Oh they had… The Guardian redacted two thirds of a cable about Bulgarian crime, removed all the names of the people who had infiltrated – the mafioso – who had infiltrated the Bulgarian government. Removed a description of the Kazakstan elite, which said that the Kazakstan elite in general were corrupt, not even a particular name, just in general! Removed a description that a an energy company out of Italy operating in Kazakhstan was corrupt, so they have redacted for naming of individual names of people who might be unfairly put at risk, just like we do–that is what we require of them. They have redacted the names of mafioso, individual mafioso because they are worried that they might get sued for libel in London by this mafioso. They have redacted the names… they have redacted the description of a class of Kazakhstan elite, a class has been corrupt, and they have redacted descriptions of individual companies being corrupt because they don’t want to expose themselves to any risk at all. And that’s true of the Irish Independent, even though very good journalists, totally onside legally, they do this. Incredible self-censorship across the board and they don’t admit doing it or reveal the fact that they are doing it. So we don’t want to go down that path. I’m sure all these groups started out as just no we will just do these little redactions and then economics comes into play and then why take the risk and so on. And so you end up with a system of self-censorship and it is embarrassing to do it and so why tell the public that you are doing it, but you are not telling the public you are doing it so it gets easier and easier to do every time. If we look at email. Who censors email? No one censors email! Look at a telephone call to your grandmother, is there a censor sitting there on the line determining whether you are about to say something bad to your grandmother and cutting it out? Of course not. The postal system. Are other people opening envelopes to see whether you are sending something bad? No. Youtube, apriori, is anyone sitting there reviewing every video before it is posted?

ES

Let me give you the technical answer, just so you know it. We can’t review every submission, so basically the crowd marks it if it is a problem.

JA

Yeah, post publication.

ES

Post publication.

JA

So once it is out, people can take copies and it could be spreading everywhere.

ES

And what happens is the takedown of… we get into trouble because various players want us to do pre-publication review. But with 48 hours of youtube video coming in every minute, we can’t mechanically do it. So there is a.. so if someone posts something wrong or evil or violating a law, whatever, there is a gap, hopefully short, between the time that it is published, and marked for further review against our policies. And the policies are well specified in a document.

JA

Yeah.

LS

It’s a pretty high bar though, to take stuff down. It’s not just wrong as in factually wrong.

ES

But under the way that these things work, commercial websites have a, you know, we can decide what we want to allow that we don’t, we have a set of criteria, you can see them, you can read them. We’ve got some kinds of videos and not other kinds of videos. And you can’t violate copyright and all that kind of stuff.

JA

Well, I rather like what happened with Collateral Murder. Collateral Murder instantly got flagged up by our opponents as rated over 18, so nobody could see it on Youtube without logging in. But with an embed they could see it just fine. And so my interpretation of this is that when there is an embed someone else’s brand is on the damn thing. And when it is not an embed, your brand is on it!

[laughter]

ES

Without knowing the specifics all I can tell you is the system is responsive to the post publication feedback. We’ve had a couple of cases in youtube where there have been ratings scams where they publish a document and people will decide they want to demote him and so they will give him a lot of negatives because he is being attacked and if he becomes unfairly lower rank than he should be, so these systems are manipulable by pressure groups, and I would think that would be a constant in this case.

JC

Sometimes by regimes. I mean there are some autocratic regimes that will flag content posted by activists as inappropriate.

JA

We’ve had stuff, we have posted, or by antiscientologists, I think there were 5000 scientology videos were removed from youtube when some lawyer claimed that they were all, swore that they were all his copyright… because we do purely political really political – I don’t mean party political, I mean political sphere and how power is delegated – because we deal with almost purely political material there is such scrutiny on us that if we, if we, at least at this moment if we were to go to publish first pull later they would go, oh, well it’s too late! You’ve put it out there, now there is a thousand copies!

ES

You have a different model, right. You require human editors.

JA

Well, it is a problem, though, it is a severe problem, because it means that in terms of scalability things are very hard for us. That’s why we have this new syndication system where we are syndicating the editing to various non-profits and so on…

ES

But you are finally outsourcing the human judgment, because it’s not possible today to write computer algorithms to do this for you.

JA

I think that this human judgment actually is more… yes there is some cost to publishing without vetting, but actually the problems of vetting before publication are so severe that they are a much, much greater problem. And if you have to choose between these two, you would choose publication without vetting.

ES

That’s also interesting to us. That says you would fundamentally prefer… you are so concerned about this human judgment and the possibility of bias… [inaudible] then you expose yourself to…

[period of wind interference]

JA

We’d ask the source to do it. We’d put the weight if you like on the people sending us the material: you exercise your judgement about what you send us, but everything you send us we will publish… otherwise, we will be compromised and other people will also try and… once they understand that we have a lever to determine what is published and not published, people will try and get that lever by levering us.

ES

I want to make sure we’ve got Jared, other questions, Lisa?

JC

Well, actually I have a follow up question on that, I mean, again, we’re looking futuristically, in each aspect of the book, and what I wonder is I mean you have a certain volume of content that you are getting right now but at a certain point, at one point Twitter only had so much content, and as well at a certain point it does become so overwhelming that, to your point, there is no – if you publish everything that gets sent at what point is there such a mixture, is there so much content that it’s just manipulated that it essentially drowns out the legitimate…

JA

The manipulated content will never be the issue. Although there is something to be said for having a perfect record, which we do at the moment. But manipulated content will always be an insignificant quantity of material. And the reason is it that it takes economic work to manipulate content, to do it well you need someone who is even more intelligent than the person who created the original document, even more informed. And if the whole document is going public this is not like a news story where you give the journalist manipulated content. You have to fool – all the opponents and everyone else in the world with the material, so it is a lot harder. And at the same time every organization generates a mountain of paperwork, and internal records just by virtue of its activities, so all of those records are produced for free. The legitimate content will always outweigh the manipulated content.

ES

That assumes people [inaudible]…

JA

A small amount of manipulated content can devalue a large amount of unmanipulated content.

ES

Can I disagree with you on one point. I fundamentally believe that disinformation becomes so easy to generate because of, because complexity overwhelms knowledge, that it is in the people’s interest, if you will over the next decade, to build disinformation generating systems, this is true for corporations, for marketing, for governments and so on. And it makes the job for a legitimate journalist that much harder, right. Because it just… and your answer earlier was that this is fundamentally a trust problem. Which I think is roughly correct. I would argue that it is fundamentally a ranking problem. Ranking is based on trust and other algorithms. It’s the same conclusion. But I think it’s not in my view correct to say that there will always be more sort of tactically correct information than a small amount of manipulative information. It is perfectly reasonable that the actors will see that computer AI systems can generate a lot of stuff. You’re well aware of the document projects to write papers by computers…

JA

Yeah, I’ve seen those. I’ve seen those. Everyone always thought that we would get flooded with those and it never happened.

ES

But do you think [inaudible]…

JA

We have had, literally, if you include, if you exclude the nutters, going on about how over a garden party, one night, twelve years ago, speaking to his ex wife with a pot plant in between them, she told him that he was the antichrist, and he understood it was true.

[laughter]

JA

If you exclude those cases, hah, which we get a bit of, then the genuine attempted frauds, there have been about 20. It’s just, it’s extraordinary, it’s almost nothing.

ES

No, well, let’s argue, you could make the argument that that’s a statement about altruism and good, and that the steps required to actually manipulate are hard enough that you have to be pretty badly intended… the threshold for doing that is pretty high, in other words…

JA

So what is the closest? It’s the pump and dump scams in stocks, for instance. That’s the one that we see fairly frequently, and where they push things, they’ve done it as GIFs and they even have things to avail of OCR recognition on emails…

ES

In Google’s case we see lots and lots of linkfarms which are attempting to manipulate our rankings. And we detect them.

JA

What we are seeing now, we’re seeing, HBGary this um, intelligence contractor, hi-tech intelligence contractor was hired by, was asked by Bank of America to submit a tender and we got hold of their copy of the tender, we don’t know who ended up taking the tender, to take us down. And the quote was two million a month. And they would spread disinformation, and they would hack this and they would target our journalists, and they had network maps of people who supported us and they would leverage their careers and self interests versus their ideology etcetera. So that’s there, but disinformation has always been there. I’m not sure why it should increase relative to the information increase we are seeing everywhere else.

ES

This by the way is an actual… a fundamental argument against something you and I were talking about earlier. But we do need to resolve this. Does the rate of disinformation…

JC

Arm wrestling maybe?

LS

Don’t mind that [inaudible] right?

JC

I think there’s more… This is actually one of the most interesting… the whole conversation is fascinating, but this last piece is really fascinating because it plays into how Eric and I and Scott are thinking about, this is how we are thinking about these chapters, it’s like, imagine 10 years from now, or imagine 15 years so, for the purposes of argument, let’s imagine, 10 years from now it’s very easy not just for a large group of people sort of create fake documents, produce them in mass, and distribute them in mass let’s assume a single individual has that capacity through the technology platforms…

JA

You won’t have Julian Assange saying it is true. So …

JC

So assume that they…

JA

Or whoever…

ES

He’s making a more fundamental argument. He’s saying that humankind does not organize itself that way. There’s enough barriers that the moral choice if you will of me acting to do all of that tends to sort of tends to limit the amount of it, because otherwise there would have been all of that.

JC

So let’s assume a government which would have the resources, the motivation to potentially…

JA

They do all of that now. So strategic communications propaganda arm of the Pengaton costs something like six billion dollars a year.

SM

But has anyone done it through you? In other words, government versus government using WikiLeaks…

JA

We don’t care if it is true.

SM

… as a laundry.

JA

If it is true information we don’t care where it comes from. Let people fight with the truth, and when the bodies are cleared there will be bullets of truth everywhere, that’s fine.

SM

But I mean that does take your editorial capacity just back to verification…

JC

Right because it’s different than just saying we’ll publish everything…

SM

it’s a different slippery slope but it’s still a slippery slope.

JA

No, I think it’s not at all I think it is the whole intent: Let people fight with the truth. [inaudible; wind]

ES

But they have to have, the argument is that they have to, there has to be a choice algorithm, you have to have some way of knowing that you are dealing with an original source…

JC

No I understand that, but that is why the ecology is…

[chatter]

LS

And the source needs to have… and the source can choose the picture.

JC

That’s why the ecology is biased against any society where you cannot verify. Then those people are left on their own. WikiLeaks can’t help them. WikiLeaks just says when you get a good verification system, then we are good. Otherwise, it’s good luck, whatever.

JA

Well

LS

They are verifying documents, they are not verifying facts.

JA

But but you have…

JC

No they are verifying sources.

JA

No no, we don’t verify sources, we verify…

ES

[inaudible] evolution of technology generates more noise [inaudible]

[chatter]

JA

… that documents are official documents.

LS

Right, they are official documents.

JC

They are going to be faced with more noise [inaudible] the question as to whether human beings prefer truth over fiction but whether or not they can find the truth.

LS

But it’s also not verifying facts.

ES

But that’s the core question.

JA

It’s not about verifying facts.

SM

Well that’s that’s

LS

Yeah.

JC

That’s another argument.

[chatter]

JA

We have published…

SM

It’s about verifying documents not about verifying truth…

JA

We have published all the fake documents that we have received that were interesting – we published saying that they were fake. JC? Like WikiForgeries?

JA

But there’s not that many to bother with. Because actually, they are not fake: on a meta level they are true forgeries.

ES

They are very interesting in and of themselves, right?

JA

Very interesting in and of themselves. One was an attempt to influence the Kenyan election by saying that the opposition has signed a secret agreement with the Islamic minority to introduce Sharia law across Kenya. It sounds ridiculous, but actually it was carefully constructed.

JC

So how do you know if they are forgeries?

JA

Well that one was hard, that was a carefully constructed document. We checked signatures and we found the real one, and etc. That was hard work. Usually it is not hard work.

JC

But it requires human capital to do, right?

JA

Yeah, usually someone makes an elementary mistake and there is also incentives for giving us… It is pretty disincentivizing to send us a forgery, because we are perceived as being quite good at detecting them, and we make the whole document public. So why wouldn’t you just give it to a newspaper because they don’t make the document public. And you are dealing with people who don’t have expertise in that domain, so it’s a lot easier to overcome them. This bigger issue you are talking about… let’s say you don’t have authenticators like us. Authentication is hard. We can’t authenticate the amount of material we are getting in. So we have thought about ways to deal with this, of having a great big mesh of people and information flowing through and different people adding their authenticators to it as it flows through to distribute and delegate that. And that might pan out. But what if everyone was simply just publishing. Everyone was just publishing anonymously. And you had no authenticators. What would happen? Well, to begin with you would just have a flat structure. Right, a completely flat structure, information there, let’s say is addressed by a hash or something. So structure at all, there’s this document and there is a document and so on. And so then you will have people who will want to influence making robots that put a whole load of garbage everywhere. But it is not tied into any structure. So how does anyone get to anything? Do they hear it from their friends and then go and look at it? Do they link it into their webpages?

ES

It creates an influence graph of some kind..

JA

Yeah, so there is some kind of influence graph that you use to get the information. So you can flood the internet with information, that doesn’t mean you’re going to flood the influence graph with information. That is something that’s different.

ES

But that’s the modern story of ranking, right? You know, the web was full of spam, but spam gets ranked low because of influence and the link structure and so on. I think we should see if we can finish up. The sun is coming on out.

JA

Ok.

LS

How do you know if you’ve won?

JA

If I’ve won?

JC

Lisa asked the best question of the day.

ES

How do you know if you’ve won?

JA

Well it’s not possible to win this kind of thing. This is a continuous striving that people have done for a long time. Of course, there is many individual battles that we win, but it is the nature of human beings that human beings lie and cheat and deceive and organized groups of people who do not lie and cheat and deceive find each other and get together… and because they have that temperament, are more efficient. Because they are not lying and cheating and deceiving each other. And that is an old, a very old struggle between opportunists and collaborators. And so I don’t see that going away. I think we can make some significant advances and it is perhaps, it is the making of these advances and being involved in that struggle that is good for people. So the process is in part the end game. It’s not just to get somewhere in the end, rather this process of people feeling that it is worthwhile to be involved in that sort of struggle, is in fact worthwhile for people.

SM

That was… satisfyingly spiritual.

[laughter]

SM

[Laughing] You’ve obviously thought about this a lot.

JA

Ha ha ha. [inaudible] a Maoist would say, “continual revolution!”

JC

As we are walking I’d like to ask one last question that I was wondering along the way… Scott talked about the subculture that’s developed around all this which is a real interesting idea for us to explore in the book because it raises this question of, does the subculture create the demand that leads to the creation of the technology or does the technology in fact create the subculture. It’s sort of a interesting cause and effect.

JA

Well you know you can argue this on both sides. But I think the technology permits the subculture. Once you have a whole bunch of young people who can communicate their ideas and values freely then culture arises naturally. And that culture comes out of, yes, it comes out of experiences and harmonizing with other cultures, and yes, it is already in the record, but it also comes out of the temperament of young people. The desire to find allies and friends and share in a process, and to remove power from old people.

LS

[laughs]

JC

It’s remarkable how uncreative old people are.

ES

Speaking as an older person, I agree. I think part of your intellectual argument is that you start off relatively… the model you are using, the temperament model, you start off with sort of human values, and then they get coopted if you will, my words not yours, with the status model that you are sort of forced into the structure, and that the incentive system and the constraints put you into this box as you get older, and that’s sort of…

JA

Right, exactly. And with different systems that potentiate different ways of transmitting wealth or communicating values or making some types of group cognition more efficient than others…

ES

Right, right.

And your argument that if you get enough of these sort of new, this group that you identify, together, it in fact is a summary change in these complex systems…

JA

Right. It will be interesting to see whether we have a bit of a… some sort of state change as well. A revolution is a big state change, like everything was in one state and then it collapses into another state. And those transitions happen very quickly. It will be interesting to see whether we will have a broader, general, globalized cultural change that has this fast transition. It’s possible.

ES

Yeah. One thing I have learned is that things happen fast because of globalization. Cause everything is interconnected. It didn’t used to be true.

JA

So information, money, and wealth. Right. The big issue with globalization is that you can be an arsehole and move your money elsewhere. Fast EFTs, fast wealth movements, fast signing of contracts, which are a type of wealth movement–these encourage opportunism. Because if political sanction… money can move faster than political sanction, then you just keep moving the money through the system. And growing it as it moves through the system. And have it become more and more powerful, and by the time the moral outrage comes to stop it, it is too late, it’s gone. So what’s happening now on the internet is that political sanction – by political I mean – I use political the way Australians use it, by the way, which is that it’s not about party politics, it’s about…

SM

Oh is that Australian?

ES

The body politic.

JA

Yeah, the body politic. Political sanction is now able to move a lot faster than it did before. Possibly as fast as money. Not in any individual transfer, but in the complex structuring arrangements you need to make transfers, these can take a while.

ES

That’s mmm…

[chatter]

SM

Can you think of another question, Eric?

JC

Julian, you’ve been so generous with your time. Really.

LS

Do you have a bracelet?

JA

I do, on my leg. It’s not a bracelet, it’s a manacle.

LS

A manacle.

SM

These conversations do tend to go on.

ES

And just out of curiosity, so, as you get ready for the next court hearing, you have to go through… the legal team comes over and visits for the day?

JA

Well you can’t come over every day out here from London. Eight hours travelling per day. Actually I just fired my old, part of my old legal team.

ES

Yeah, I saw that, so do you end up on the phone a lot?

JA

Well, what ended up happening was that they were charging, after promising not to, seven hundred and thirty pounds an hour just to sit on that train coming out from London.

ES

I see.

JA

I am rather unhappy about it.

ES

But at the end of the day do you end up having visitors every day basically? Or is this relatively…

JA

Every… well, my staff or so on?

ES

Yeah.

JA

More interesting visitors every week or so.

ES

Well I hope we have been… At least a distraction! [Laughter]

JA

We wouldn’t mind a leak from Google, which would be, I think probably all the PATRIOT Act requests.

SM

Which would be [whispers:] illegal.

[stunned chuckles]

JA

Well, depends on the jurisdiction, da da da da.

SM

We are a US…

JA

There’s higher laws. There’s higher laws. First Amendment and you know.

ES

I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time on this question. Because I am in great trouble because I have given a series of criticisms about PATRIOT 1 and PATRIOT 2. Because I think they’re… because they’re non transparent. You know, because the judge’s orders are hidden and so on. And the answer… the answer is that the laws are quite clear about Google and the US. We couldn’t do it. It would be illegal.

JA

So we’re fighting this case now, with Twitter, we’ve done three court hearings now, trying to get the names of the other companies that fulfilled the subpoenas for the grand jury in the US. Twitter resisted and so that’s how some of us became aware. They argued that we should be told that there was a subpoena. I wasn’t told, but…

SM

And this concerning you, concerning WikiLeaks.

JA

Yeah, me personally, but three other people too. Well we know there is at least four other people.

ES

I can certainly pass on your request to our general counsel.

JA

Tell them to argue that we should be told.

ES

So your specific request is that Google argue legally…

JA

Yes

ES

…that WikiLeaks as an organization should be informed…

JA

Or any of the individuals.

ES

…or any of the individuals, if they are named in a FISA.

JA

Yeah.

ES

Okay. I’ll pass that… along.

JA

Great.

ES

And we’ll see what comes back!

JA

Tell them to bring back all the others ones as well.

[laughter]

ES

I’m going to the rest room. Why don’t we all figure out what we are going to do next in a minute, and we’ll let Julian get back to actually running the empire. The other thing is, in terms of running WikiLeaks, I keep asking, no I’m just curious, running WikiLeaks, are you able? I mean you have a staff. You have to talk to them.

JA

Yeah.

ES

Call them? I mean I assume you can do email and all that, no?

JA

I don’t use email.

ES

Why not, because it’s…?

JA

Too dangerous. And encrypted email is possibly even worse, because it is such a flag for end point attacks. It’s like, attack that end point attack that end point – that’s an encrypted [inaudible] So but we do have encrypting phones, unfortunately they don’t work in all countries, but the SMSs work in all countries.

ES

When you speak with a staff member, would it typically be on the phone or in person?

JA

Typically in person.

ES

Typically in person.

JA

I’ve kind of gotten like [inaudible] now.

JC

How big is the staff, Julian?

JA

It’s about 20.

ES

But roughly, then, if I were to describe it, people come and visit, you’re using technology carefully to manage things and you’re well aware of people watching you, and so forth, given..

JA

Yes.

ES

And that’s been true for a while, reading about…

JA

That’s been true for at least a year and a… well, there’s been various times, we… one of our people was ambushed by British intelligence in Luxembourg car park in 2008, early 2008, that was the first concrete…

ES

What did they do?

JA

They followed him there to a supermarket, and when he came out of the supermarket they were waiting by the car. And said… a man in his 40s. Nice watch. Confident. Tall. A James Bond. Very stereotyped. Good character. Good shoes. And started to ask questions about WikiLeaks and me, and told him it would be in his interest to come and have a cup of coffee, and have a chat about things, but it was a clear threat, it was a supermarket car park, he could have made that approach somewhere else, it was made in a carpark, in a supermarket.

LS

Did he identify himself as British intelligence?

JA

No.

ES

Hm.

JA

The accent. There is no one else like that who would be interested. And he was told by our guy that our guy wasn’t interested in men. See you later! [laughter] Sorry buddy! [laughter]

LS

How do we get the beginning part of what you have on tape to transcribe, how would you like us to…

JA

Well we should…

LS

How should we, because he was kind of…

JA

Maybe we should give it to you on… I might give it to you now, it might be safest…

LS

You don’t mind? And then we’ll transcribe it and send it all back to you?

JA

Yeah.

LS

Could we just FEDEX it?

JA

Yeah.

LS

Is that… safe?