Julian Assange Labels NSA As A ‘Rogue Agency’ During SXSW Speech
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Speaking via Skype to the attendees of the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had become a “rogue agency” and hinted that his document-sharing website could soon be publishing additional unidentified documents.
Assange, who has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012, said that a grassroots effort would be the catalyst in rolling back the powers of the NSA and similar governmental surveillance agencies.
“We have to do something about it. All of us have to do something about it,” he said during an hour-long interview at the conferences, reports Stuart Dredge of The Guardian. “How can individuals do something about it? Well, we’ve got no choice.”
Assange also ripped President Barack Obama for his administration’s lack of response to the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is scheduled to participate in a remote teleconference on Monday.
“We know what happens when the government is serious,” he said, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP). “Someone is fired, someone is forced to resign, someone is prosecuted, an investigation (is launched), a budget is cut. None of that has happened in the last eight months since the Edward Snowden revelations.”
CNN’s Doug Gross also noted that Assange said the NSA would be able to fire back politically against the American president if he ever came after them. Assange said that the agency would “come up with all of this dirt (on Obama)” and that “a criminal act would come to light” if the president ever attempted to disband the agency.
As for Snowden and other reporters and activists who have traveled internationally in order to continue their whistleblowing and national security reporting efforts, Assange referred to them as “a new kind of refugee,” according to Russell Brandom of The Verge. He went on to single out the work of Glenn Greenwald (who has reported extensively on Snowden’s allegations), Laura Poitras, Wikileaks’ own Sarah Harrison, and Tor researcher Jacob Appelbaum.
Assange, who was granted asylum by Ecuador and remains in their embassy in order to avoid extradition to Sweden on charges of rape and molestation, called the continued ability of those individuals to continue their work “a positive phenomenon” that is part of an expanding political awareness spurred on by the Internet. Just a few years ago, he said, the online community was “a politically apathetic space,” but that culture has rapidly changed.
He also took aim at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who, according to Mashable, recently said in an interview that we all live in a “post privacy” world. Assange said that those comments were merely a distraction that helps the social network’s revenue model and called them a distraction from the “unprecedented theft of wealth from the majority of the population to the people that already have power.”
Assange was interviewed by Benjamin Palmer, co-founder of the marketing agency the Barbarian Group, during a session that the AP described as marred by technical issues. Those issues included instances in which the audio cut out, forcing Assange to ask audience members to raise their hands if they could hear him. At one point, Palmer reportedly had to resort to texting questions to the 42-year-old Queensland, Australia native.