More WikiLeaks data on the way, Julian Assange tells Web forum

Fugitive Julian Assange joins streaming Web forum from Ecuadorean embassy in London

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 6:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 7:34am

Fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking over Skype from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, said his living situation was a bit like prison - with a more lenient visitor policy.

He also hinted that new leaks would come from WikiLeaks, though he gave no specifics on what these might be.

Assange, who has been confined to the embassy since June 2012, discussed surveillance, journalism and the situation in Ukraine on Saturday in a streaming-video interview beamed to an audience of 3,500 attendees of the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

Assange's hour-long remote appearance was spiked with technical glitches. As the audio cut out, he sometimes asked audience members to raise their hands if they could hear him. Benjamin Palmer, the co-founder of marketing firm the Barbarian Group who interviewed Assange, at one point resorted to texting his questions.

Assange blasted US President Barack Obama's administration, saying it was not taking seriously fellow secrets leaker Edward Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance activities.

"We know what happens when the government is serious," he said. "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."

Assange's appearance at this five-day conference - which will host Snowden in a similar remote interview today from Russia, which granted him asylum - signals the growing concern in the technology community around issues of online privacy, surveillance and security, even as internet giants like Google and Facebook reap billions in advertising revenue from collecting information about their users.

"Now that the internet has merged with human society and human society has merged with the internet, the laws of the internet become the laws of society," Assange said, adding that the NSA's "penetration of the internet" had led to a "military occupation" of civilian space.

Assange has taken asylum at the embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault charge, which he has said would be a first step in efforts to move him to the US to face charges over publishing a vast trove of secret state documents.

Asked if he was afraid, Assange said he was, like any normal person. "Only a fool has no fear. Courage is seeing fear," he said, and proceeding anyway.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has reported extensively about Snowden and the NSA, will appear at the festival tomorrow. Unlike Assange and Snowden, he will be there in person.