Julian Assange's Tepid Relationship With Reporters

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 24 2013 6:04 PM

Julian Assange Has a Cold

A police officer stands guard in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 17, 2013, in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for the past year.

Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

That headline is misleading—we don't know if the founder of WikiLeaks has a cold (and apologies to Gay Talese). But Julian Assange's delivery during his call with reporters Monday about Edward Snowden was slow and methodical bordering on lethargic; he stopped himself midsentence multiple times, pausing at length before rephrasing an answer. Whose question produced the only hard news of the call? Matthew Mosk of ABC, who asked about Snowden's laptops.

For a man whose life goal is to promote freedom of information, Assange is hesitant, though not uncomfortable, around reporters. During the WikiLeaks call, Assange chatted about the semantics of "rendition" versus "extradition" with Jane Mayer of the New Yorker and swatted a question posed by Andrea Mitchell asking what other routes Snowden could have taken aside from leaking the NSA documents directly to the press. Scott Shane of the New York Times asked Assange what aspect of the NSA's surveillance program he objected to. Did he disagree with the U.S. intercepting terrorist communications?


"There are not multiple types of human beings—American human beings and other human beings," Assange answered cryptically. "To my way of thinking, there is a larger, more significant political problem. When an organization like the NSA has intercepted nearly the entire world's communications on such a scale ... it leads to a concentration of power which is so dangerous that it must not be tolerated."

BBC Washington correspondent Paul Adams asked Assange if he found it ironic that Snowden is seeking protection from countries—China, Russia—that are notorious for privacy violations within their own borders.

Their exchange is worth posting in full:

Assange: I simply do not see the irony. Mr. Snowden has revealed information about mass unlawful spying, which has affected every single one of us. The U.S. administration has issued a series of bellicose, unilateral threats against him and against others who are attempting to support his rights. That is a very serious situation, and any country which assists in upholding his rights must be applauded for doing so.
Adams: Even when they don't uphold those rights for their own citizens?
Assange: That's another matter. In these cases, we do not criticize people for seeking refugee status in the United States despite its use of torture, drone strikes, secret bases, kill lists, and so on.

All this is a media ouroboros—as reporters keep pushing the "Where in the World Is Edward Snowden?" narrative, the public outrage Snowden tried so hard to invoke will slide off the map.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?