I’m fairly certain EVERYONE in Foz interviewed Kristinn at some point during his time there. Here’s another interview that appeared over the weekend. There’s an abbreviated version from Público.es [Spanish, English trans.] and the full version on Pascual Serrano’s website [Spanish, English trans.]
Mara Grabert (CNM / CUT) and Kristinn Hrafnsson
OMG! Pabbi, börn og Ingi! Svo sætur!
Three short videos of Kristinn being interviewed/talking to folks outside the Royal Courts on 5 December:
Two new interviews from Bratislava, both unfortunately Google Translated from the original Slovak:
(Photo: SME - Vladimir Šimíček)
A couple of short interviews:
One from Foz and so originally in Portuguese.
And this, which I find beyond irritating. The photo they used, the way the questions were asked… it’s just all wrong! But he’s a grown man so I guess I don’t really need to… but my vanity… Nevermind. :-)
“I hope someone asks me about Brazilian music on this trip.” (photo by rogeriotomazjr)
(Translation half FYKH - half Google Translate)
(Photo: Macarena Pérez )
White hair, black clothes and steady gaze, like Julian Assange, his boss.
This is Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks second man, who was visiting Chile on an invitation to a seminar of the Grupo de Diarios America. He spoke with ”Sábado” about the future, lessons and controversial changes in the organization and about its founder.
It’s Wednesday in Santiago. Not just any Wednesday: There are marches and strikes, pots and pans and tear gas on the streets of the city, it’s four in the afternoon and Kristinn Hrafnsson, Icelandic journalist, is drinking a café cortado and mineral water at a hotel in Providencia. Very tall, pale, with white hair and blue eyes, he was a prominent investigative journalist in Iceland until he came to WikiLeaks, where he has now partially taken the reins and responsibility after the house arrest of Assange outside of London, awaiting the outcome of his appeal for extradition in Sweden and will be waiting to see if charged with conspiracy to commit espionage in the United States.
Of nearly 50 years, a hardened man in the field of journalism, he had a popular TV show where he denounced the corruption of the largest bank in Iceland. Afterwards, he was censored and terminated.
Hrafnsson has a reputation as hard and his image accompanies it. He is friendly, but goes straight to the point in defending WikiLeaks, where he has been since 2010.
- What does a man like you -a serious investigative journalist- do in a place like that?
Well, I think I saw in WikiLeaks a very interesting tool to revitalize journalism. An answer to what I felt was missing in journalism, a profession in many ways flawed, and that I was not allowed to get what I set when I started.
- What, exactly?
Basically what journalism should do is to increase information transparency, and the end result should be, indeed, increase justice in a society. But what you see over time is obsequious journalists with power, who accept lies without digging deeper.Probably the worst case were the lies they told and published by journalists, before the invasion of Iraq … In general, no one had the strength or the ability to see beyond. What was necessary-and-WikiLeaks was offering was a platform for whistleblowers who want to increase the flow of information within the system for the general public and safely. This was a revival for the world of journalism. So I saw it.
- Do you think that journalism has lost momentum and now has those defects forever?
It’s something that has increased after September 11. There is much more secrecy and attacks on the privacy of individuals. It’s a trend. But looking back, I think we idealized only milestones of investigative journalism, Woodward and Bernstein and such cases. But if you really look, these cases are exceptional.
- But if WikiLeaks has this contempt for the work of traditional media, why choose to disseminate their insights and, indeed, to do the professional filter of these?
It’s very strong to say that [WL?] despises the media. I’m not saying that traditional media are all bad. There are many good people there. And we needed them. The analytical ability needed, put the news in context, to deliver content to the public, to have the greatest impact.
I’ve always been critical of my profession and myself while working there, because I think it has regressed in terms of achievement. We should be more aware and take positions and not be in this misguided notion of objectivity. This is one the problems of journalism in this moment.
- But objectivity, or its search, does not necessarily mean sterile, but fair, honest. Isn’t that important?
Of course journalism should be fair. But it must be more than that: journalism should strive for social justice.
- You’re seen as the journalistic counterpart of Julian Assange. In that sense, have you promoted news values, for example, be rigorous to protect the innocent, fair and balanced reporting, within WikiLeaks?
I hope I have brought something good to the organization. And I have promoted cooperation with mass or traditional media. But I think it is wrong to see me as a counterpart or the opposite. I think in many ways WikiLeaks has different starting points that converge to a common goal. A journalistic approach is critical, another are the ideals of the hackers, who have a certain negative charge today, but if you look 20 years ago, had strong ideals associated with the hacker community: do no harm, not benefit financially from information, the notion that information should be free and available to everyone. Approaches that meet in WikiLeaks.
- But who decides what is so significant that it deserves to be released?
I do not think we should always rely on journalists to decide what is relevant. It should also be decided by the public.
- In a broader perspective, what do you think will be the legacy and the importance of WikiLeaks in 20 years?
I hope what remains is the idea that information can be made available to the public in a comprehensive manner, as we have done in recent times. The ideal of complete transparency will hopefully be WikiLeaks’s legacy in the future.
[* * *]
Hrafnsson participated in the seminar of the Grupo de Diarios America, composed of the most important newspapers in Latin America, including El Mercurio, which took place in this newspaper last week.
LEADERS IN A GLASS HOUSE
- What right to privacy should leaders or public figures have? Should their entire lives be under the magnifying glass?
No. Individuals, even those in government have the right to privacy.
- But in the case of State Department cables, there was data that was very tasty, but they were criticized as lacking, at least in Chile, importantance or novelty. What about the notion that trespassing privacy depends on relevance?
It’s totally relevant because it is information that has been compiled by the State Department, although formulated in a gossipy way (rumor) has been used to formulate government policy.
- Do you think the cables were relevant in most cases?
Taking and making them known to the public is important.
- But the content?
Some things are more important than others, but as a whole they give an idea of the work of the diplomatic corps. If there is nothing new, that says something to those who pay taxes in the U.S. because their money is paid to diplomats who do not collect anything new …
- How do you think leaders should prepare for the challenges of the future and this new level of exposure and transparency?
I think every politician, no matter where he is, should keep in mind that all aspects of his public work may be exposed to the people. If you have this in mind, it is a good check to be honest as they should do nothing that embarrassed if publicly known.
- Do you think it is realistic that politicians be handled thus, 24/7? What type of diplomacy can be done fully exposed?
Why do you assume that the secret negotiations are always those that lead to better results? I see a trend in international relations, post WikiLeaks, that there is more interest in getting to the point. Less sugar and more conversations to the point. It may not be only due to WikiLeaks, but I have a suspicion that the interaction between politicians and governments, and internationally, has changed.
- And what about the peace negotiations? Is not it impossible to think of a scenario?
What is the likely outcome of peace negotiations after decades of doing it in secret? Are you seeing the Palestinians better? Where is the success of secret negotiations? The secret is probably an excuse to hide things. Secrecy should not be accepted in society, except under extreme circumstances.
THE CLASH WITH NYT
- What happened with [WLs] relationship with the New York Times, which did not remain in good standing?
The Times went so far as to collaborate with the U.S. government. They were offered the opportunity to comment or that certain things were jointly developed or retained. That was going too far. The second was a very negative front page profile of Julian Assange. It was basically a “hit piece”, as described. It was supported by the newspaper’s editor, in an attempt to inoculate the newspaper from the criticism of the government. But doing it by attacking the person you were working is not an honorable thing and this caused an animosity which is very understandable.
- Is that not a contradiction to what I said earlier, which contained criticisms that the press was soft on those who have power, but when it is against one of WikiLeaks that is dishonorable?
We’re talking New York Times, who is portrayed as very respectable, and before we were speaking of justice in reporting, and this was not fair. If you seek only the negative side of someone and not talk to anyone who can say something good about you … For example, they never called me, and I am one of his closest associates. I was totally shocked that the NYT could do something like this. I thought I had high ideals.
- But the cables are biased too, about what some people say?
I see your point, but I think it is valid to compare the two cases. In one case are reports compiled by the staff of the embassy, usually signed by an ambassador and is an official assessment of whatever. That’s newsworthy. But we have learned how to work with the media. If we did it again we would do more formal agreements, not open to interpretation.
- Isn’t it wrong to have excluded many media? That is, you were selective and not open to all, as is the style that you said represents WikiLeaks.
But we also began working with local media, local people with expertise. And of course we had criticism from those we left out. But one thing is necessary to keep in mind: to ensure that many people devote to a topic, you must give an incentive. And some level of exclusivity is the incentive for a way to make that effort. It’s basically the reality of contemporary media.
-There is information that there is a black market for cables WikiLeaks, which are sold without revisions. Is that so?
I’ve heard these rumors, but nobody has been able to prove them. As far as I see it, they are malicious rumors. No one has paid for access to any information we have published.
- What mechanisms has WikiLeaks used to make sure that the information is reliable and that filtering is not being used by people who want to harm others?
It depends on the material. But we have experts to evaluate information. Some are journalists, some from other fields, even people with intelligence record. There are hundreds of people. But we have that in mind. Because we have institutions or persons who planned to attack WikiLeaks using this method (to make us circulating false information). What I can say is that since it was established WikiLeaks has been no such case.
- [WL] have not felt used or as part of a plot, as former KGB Daniel Estulin said?
What plot? It’s amazing the many conspiracy theories that have been woven around WikiLeaks … CIA conspiracies, Zionists …
- What is the relationship with the organization of hackers Anonymus, who has supported WikiLeaks? Are you sharing your methods?
I have no relationship with Anonymous. I know of them, but I don’t have, nor does WikiLeaks have, any connection with them. But I do not condemn or promote their work.
- What do you think will happen with the case against Assange and WikiLeaks in the U.S.?
Today we heard of a complaint by the Department of Homeland Security to gain access to the company that hosts our domain, based on the Patriot Act. It’s a new angle. We knew months ago that there was a request from our Twitter accounts and social networks of volunteers from WikiLeaks. There is a relentless attempt to co-opt the organization and Julian, on the basis of archaic laws, trying to bring charges of espionage against the organization. It’s absurd. And I think if it continues, will have a devastating effect on traditional media. The next step would be against them. We have not done anything that the mainstream media have not done before. What we have done is no different. Where does the line get drawn?
- Are you in charge now?
I’m not in charge, as they say. Some are inflating the role I have, but Julian is the man in charge. We communicate by computers.
- Are not you afraid of interception?
No, we use very safe methods to avoid being intercepted.
- How is it funded now WikiLeaks? Who pays their salaries?
Julian Assange pays his legal costs. WikiLeaks operation is paid for by donations, which have been complicated by the financial blockade of banking companies. We have some funds to stay afloat. Now we have 15 to 20 people working. We’re not a large organization.
- Do you think Assange is innocent of charges of sexual harassment?
Well, he has not been charged with anything, these are mere allegations, which is forgotten by the media. He has been called for questioning.
- Wouldn’t it be easier if he had volunteered to testify?
If you see the timing of things, you can see that he tried to be interrogated for 5 weeks. I was motivated to return to England because we had work to do. Then he asked to be interviewed by video. And that was not accepted by the British prosecutors and at the same time we hear strong statements from people with power in the U.S. about the need to kill Julian … And in that context had doubts about the integrity of the system, because it was inexplicable why not questioned by video. The question is not why he went to Sweden, but why he was not questioned in England by video.
- But do you think women who say he sexually abused them are lying?
It is not very smart for me to be commenting on details of a case in progress, but enough material has been available to us to know that it is not a rape charge in any legal standard in any country outside Sweden …
- But they say they were abused …
But rape is a very strong accusation.
- Do you think Assange did nothing wrong?
I can only say that the statements of the women to the police were released to the press, and we know that the police received a payment …
-The filter …
…Received money, they did not do it for altruistic reasons … The only thing I will say is that having read the statements of the women I am shocked by how prosecutors pursued the case.
-In the book published this year by a former WikiLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, he does a lot of criticism, as Assange customized organization, and his style of leadership was messianic and paranoid. Is there any truth?
If the question is whether the leader was well put forward, I think so. Someone had to be at the forefront. And Julian is the founder. That said, it was pretty amazing how the media jumped on the person of Julian. They had the responsibility of transforming him into an idol. Even he was a bit uncomfortable with that. We had this material so important in Iraq, a symbol of the brutality of war and mass media were often more concerned about doing coverage of him than the revelations.
- But the NYT’s profile also alluded to these personality traits.
Yes, but we talked about that profile. He is an intelligent man with strong convictions. I have had no problems working with him. We work very well.
Well, well, well. I finally sat down to read the newest interview with Kristinn and found some interesting quotes. The man just gets more and more amusing the more he gets to talk. Did you hear the joke he told about Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Melbourne? Oh. My. God. I’ll tell you later…
This interview is from the Brazilian site, Época, and comes a few days ahead of his trip to São Paulo where he will attend the International Congress for Investigative Journalism.
It starts, of course, with the usual, “How did you get involved in WikiLeaks?” question.
He then talks about how the achievements of WikiLeaks are two-fold: 1) “the impact on governments, policies and international relations” and; 2) “imposing changes to journalism and how it is perceived.” Standard stuff.
Shit-talking the Wall Street Journal’s “Safehouse,” praising other leak-sites…
The now standard question about the submissions system being offline and the now standard “sabotage” answer, and this always, to me, disappointing answer: “it could have been repaired in a relatively short period of time. We decided not to prioritize it…” But I’m not here to editorialize today. Or am I?
Whoa, whoa, whoa! What’s up with this question: Bradley Manning was arrested by the U.S. government on charges of having leaked confidential information of the U.S. Army to WikiLeaks. This hurts the credibility of the organization, as the site should ensure total protection for their sources?
There are a few things wrong with this question. But I’m Not. Going. To. Editorialize. :-) Ruins the makeup.
But I like the short answer: “One must be careful when talking about Manning.”
The Hrafnsson next dodges the “what do you guys expect will happen at Assange’s upcoming extradition hearing?” question by saying “the idea is to continue with WikiLeaks no matter what.”
He then talks again about how the media prefers to focus on Julian Assange’s personality rather than the information WikiLeaks is releasing because this is just how the media operates these days…
Why does everyone keep asking the same questions? You know he hasn’t read Domscheit-Berg’s book, he’s said it at least 4 times before this interview! Pay attention, dammit! He’s not going to read it now, or say he’s read it, because you people keep asking him if he has! And, of course, “it adds nothing to the cause to have a small group of former employees hungry for attention.” OH, SNAP!!! The FILF is layin’ it down!
OK, OK, OK, a WikiLeaks isn’t transparent enough question. I’m FINE with the level of transparency WikiLeaks gives me. I’m fine with it. I don’t need to know it all, I don’t think they’re hoarding cash, I don’t think they’re “hoarding” “secrets,” I think they’re doing what they can and our “problem” with them stems from our new normal of “Give it to me NOW so I can scan it and then forget about it 5 minutes later” mentality. And if it turns out that they lied, so what? Like we haven’t been lied to a million times before by powers MUCH greater than WikiLeaks.
And of course Assange would be angry that details of the sexual harassment accusations in Sweden were made public! Wouldn’t you be angry if that happened to you?!?! That’s not about transparency, that’s not even about WikiLeaks! Ugh. So tired of this. Are we all children???
Oooo! More about DDB; we should get these two in a ring: “He’s not criticizing, he’s just slandering the organization.”
Hrafnsson admits that there was a discussion about selling the “Collateral Murder” video but this is not a new revelation… Is it wrong to consider all of your options? Kristinn and I don’t think so: “In essence, there is nothing wrong in discussing this subject.”
And then! And then, dear reader, KH lets it fly: “You’ve asked me four questions about Daniel’s allegations but he was not part of the organization during its most difficult periods. How is it possible that I have to answer questions again and again on WikiLeaks as if he were a member of the organization?”
Bad translation but, Fuck Yeah! You get what he’s saying.
And we’re not even done!
(Is it just me or does the number of employees/volunteers change with every interview?)
A three-sentence answer about the future of WikiLeaks.
Support from Brazil…
Oh, oh, fangirl moment: “We know in our hearts that the truth does not cause harm to the public, it frees you.” *Swoon*
“Do you feel watched?” DO YOU FEEL WATCHED?!?! I feel watched! Who doesn’t feel watched???
Well, “[we] never saw spies watching us, but we know we can be watched from a distance.”
…Even though you said you thought you were being watched in Iceland (I really need to organize these bookmarks!)?: “Hrafnsson is fairly certain there was surveillance during at least one of his meetings with Julian when they were in a small café in Reykjavik. ‘It was just a gut feeling, actually,’ he says. ‘Well, I can’t say for sure but it was an individual who was in our vicinity. He didn’t fit into the environment. If you are in Reykjavik in mid-winter we don’t have many tourists and so a foreigner will stand out in the crowd. And you know foreigners in Iceland usually have a specific profile, the way they dress and behave.’
“’It is basically small things adding together,’ he says. “But I am pretty sure that at particular moments, we were monitored.’” From “Exposing an Outrageous Act“…
Anyway. It just got all Tony Montana up in here: “The organization is not being accused of nothing.” AND THEN, the thing that blew me out of the water:
“We have a clear sympathy for the cause of Manning and financially support his defense. We promised to help with a certain amount but his defense was already paid. So we decided to wait and see if he will need help in the future.”
Edit: Really. A little birdie has informed me that what KH said about Manning’s defense was/is true. You learn something new everyday…
http://is.gd/SH15CA (Link to the original Spanish, Kristinn’s answers translate better than the questions.)
We’re going to trust the audience to be intelligent enough to be able to understand this without us fixing Google Translate’s mess line-by-line. But if you do need help, let us know and we’ll do what we can. We especially like the last question about DDB. :-p
Few news stories have raised such a stir in the world in recent months as those resulting from the famous Wikileaks leaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the living conditions in the U.S. prison inmates at Guantanamo. The democratization of information classified and hidden in dozens of key security has earned the organization led by Julian Assange prize José Couso of Press Freedom 2011, awarded by the Professional Colexio Xornal of Galicia. Kristinn Hranfnsson spokesman Wikileaks second man, collected the award yesterday in Ferrol. During his visit to the home town of Telecinco cameraman’s killed in Iraq in 2003, Hranfnsson acknowledged that his organization was instrumental in reopening the case.
[You have] come to pick up a journalism award. What role Wikileaks developed within this sector? Are your practices may be considered as such?
I think it’s part of journalism, that’s something I never doubted after I joined the movement after 20 years as a journalist. The primary role of the journalist is to unravel the mysteries and inform the public and that is what Wikileaks has been doing since its founding in 2006. Until recently we published both the raw sources such as analysis of documents, but in the last 13 months we began to work with different media, analyzing the information they provide.
That commitment to working with traditional media is the result of his interest in making that information reaches everyone. Would not it be more democratic facilitate all media leaks and not only some headers?
It is interesting because until recently we published things that had no impact. They were picked up by the media. So I became aware of how the field of journalism and is that something has an interest must have a sense of exclusivity. When I was in Baghdad last year, met various sources such as interviews with children, the widow of a man who tried to save a Reuters reporter and offered to anyone interested this information for free, but there was little media interest. At that moment I realized we had to change strategy to collect relevant, but perhaps now that Wikileaks has claimed that relevance can change tactics again and not have to work strictly with certain means to obtain information. Maybe we can put that material available to all means that everyone can give you the relevance. Under the Leak-Gate and we have reached agreements with 60 media from around the world is the promise of giving the greatest possible impact information.
Following the revelations concerning the secrets of the United States, the persecution of his organization has not stopped. Despite that fact, the line will have marked so far? Will they go further?
It’s hard to say because each situation requires us to be rectified on the spot. We have had different strategies, but depends on the material being published.
Precisely in connection with this persecution, were they aware of the commotion that would cause the filter to a document so important? ”The reactions that occurred after that match what you expected?
A year ago I was aware of the type of material we had and knew we were going to unleash a storm.I was surprised by the aggressiveness that has been the American government, which is nearing the ridiculous. For example, lawyers for the detainees at Guantanamo have been prohibited Wikileaks read the files, even those belonging to the prisoners who are defending.
Banks also turned their backs …
Yes, I was surprised more reaction from financial institutions. Visa, MasterCard and Paypal became judge and jury and we excluded, and even banks like Bank of America decided, on his own, which Wikileaks activity was illegal and prohibited any person on this planet to make financial contributions. I think this is outrageous because they restrict freedom of expression for individuals who want to contribute to the maintenance of the organization. It is outrageous and ridiculous, because the credit card you can buy weapons, drugs, pornography … And you can make donations to the Ku Klux Klan but not to Wikileaks. It shows the true face of world powers.
The revelations about U.S. soldiers led to the arrest of Bradley Manning, supposedly the source of the leaks. ”This arrest reduced the number of sources or are turned over?
Now we decided to keep the system closed and locked and controlled information management system monetary and human resources. Despite having more controlled this system, people around the world get in touch with us to provide information, so you could say it was the opposite reaction: we are getting more information. One of our mottos is that courage is contagious and people are aware of the importance of information.
What about the case of Manning?
He has been accused of the leaks and that’s something I do not know why the source was anonymous but their situation is an outrage at their treatment. We have seen acts of totalitarian regimes and torturers of North Africa are beginning to fall and this person is undergoing treatment for torture that seems unworthy of the United States.
Says that they receive more information. Is there anything to tell U.S.? Are we surprised, for example, with revelations about the assassination of Bin Laden?
This topic is interesting because yesterday [on Wednesday] I got a call from a reporter asking me what he thought of the rumors that Bin Laden’s murder was triggered by our roles in Guantanamo.It is curious that accuse us of harming people and ultimately the only damage was Bin Laden.Guantanamo On paper it is stated that the CIA knew in 2008 that an associate of Bin Laden was in Pakistan and I find it curious that they have taken two years to find a person in Abbottabad, a town smaller than my hometown in Iceland.
Wikileaks received the award José Couso of Press Freedom, a camera devoted to Galician killed in Iraq. The organization also leaked the U.S. action in this case, in which he tried to close the Spanish proceedings against the three soldiers who controlled the tank fired at the Palestine Hotel. Do you think your organization was central to reopen the case? How do you decide?
I do not know how it will end but it is important to close properly, it is important for the family of Jose Couso, for journalists working in war zones and for working around the world. When I visited Iraq seemed outrageous what happened. I am glad that the U.S. embassy documents have served to reveal the attempts by the U.S. government to close the case. It seems outrageous to me it seems like the connivance of the Spanish government and, therefore, I am pleased to have served to reopen the case, put on the table and further research.
We have reviewed several leaks. What do you consider most important? What information would you like to give in the future?
I would not value the information we have not yet published. As previously reported, on the one hand, the daily war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other cables from the State Department that show the inner workings of politics. I can hardly opt for a leak but we can say that what is happening in North Africa and Middle East is a result of the cables we have published. The revolution is only comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Wikileaks His predecessor, Daniel Smith, who left the organization faced Assange, has published a book and created the platform Openleaks. Do you think you could use data obtained in Wikileaks for their own benefit in their new business?
[I don’t think about] Daniel and I have not read his book, but I do believe that Wikileaks has been used to advertise [his] new activities, which really are not yet underway. I have no opinion about him or his book. What I can say in general terms, is that our concept has taken root in society and similar platforms are beginning to emerge in the spirit of Wikileaks. That’s positive.