Wikileaks Releases Secret Chat Between Assange And Google CEO Schmidt
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Google´s executive chairman Eric Schmidt is about to release a new book entitled “The New Digital Age” with geopolitical advisor and former Secretary of State staffer Jared Cohen. The book is said to offer an in-depth examination of the role technology will play in the coming decades.
Of course one can´t write a book about the coming era without engaging a few leaders and forward thinkers in the ongoing digital revolution. In conducting research, Cohen and Schmidt set up a meeting with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange while he was under house arrest in 2011. In true Google and Wikileaks fashion, the entire interview was transcribed and has now been released online. The conversation spanned five hours and covered topics like the role of technology in today´s society, the distribution of information and where the world is heading in terms of security and the government´s role in providing it.
There´s a lot to read in the five-hour transcript, complete with small talk, lunch orders and even a mishap with a glass of water and a laptop.
Eric Schmidt dives into the conversation early, asking Assange about the technical aspects of Wikileaks and Assange´s reasons for distributing such sensitive information.
“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,” replied Assange. The Wikileaks founder then describes the current state of the distribution of information between those who have first-hand information, those who receive the information, and those stuck in the middle trying to relay said information between both parties.
“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,” explained Assange.
Speaking of troubles keeping the website active in China, Assange tells a story about the Chinese government filtering any domain with “WikiLeaks” attached. In order to skirt these filters, the WikiLeaks team engaged in a game of cat and mouse.
“[T]he 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.”
Later in the conversation, Schmidt asked Assange about the technical specifics of running a site like WikiLeaks. Schmidt assumes there´s a staff for keeping WikiLeaks running and asks if Assange communicates with them via email.
“I don´t use email,” replied Assange. “Too dangerous. And encrypted email is possibly even worse, because it is such a flag for end point attacks.”
He then describes the communication flow at Wikileaks, saying he normally speaks with his staff of 20+ employees either via an SMS or a phone call.
Elsewhere in the conversation Assange and Schmidt discuss a potential leak from Google, the legality of such a leak, and the Patriot Act.
“We wouldn’t mind a leak from Google, which would be, I think probably all the PATRIOT Act requests,” Assange told the Google CEO.
When Schmidt replied by whispering that such a leak would be illegal, Assange responded, “There’s higher laws. There’s higher laws. First Amendment and you know.”
Schmidt replied, “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.”