In This Episode
This week Co-Founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange discusses the War of Leaks in DC, who has the best secret security forces around the world, and how the public largely benefits from transparency and sharing of information. Porter and Buck have a debate on what constitutes a whistleblower and the motivations behind those who come forward.
Announcer:Broadcasting from Baltimore, Maryland, and New York City, you're listening to the Stansberry Investor Hour.
Tune in each Thursday on iTunes for the latest episode of Stansberry Investor Hour. Sign up for the free show archive at InvestorHour.com. Here are the hosts of your show, Buck Sexton and Porter Stansberry.
Buck Sexton:Welcome, everybody, to the Stansberry Investor Hour. We've got Porter Stansberry and of course me, Buck Sexton, with you now. Our guest in this episode is Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, coming to us from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Porter Stansberry:Julian, thank you very much for joining us today. First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on the progress your legal team has made in resolving your current difficulties. And I understand if you don't wanna speak about any of that, but I was very glad to see that the substantial charges against you have been dropped. And I wondered if you would comment, before we get to other questions, about your personal outlook. When will you have your freedom back?
Julian Assange:Thanks. It's interesting. I just – correct to a little bit: I have never been charged at any time. So, it's something you see commonly in the media, but it's not true. So, what has been dropped now is the Swedish investigation in which there never was charges, which has been one of the technical excuses used to keep me here for the last seven years. That's fallen away. But of course now we're dealing directly with the US DOJ case and the UK says they have a arrest warrant for me as well.
Porter Stansberry:And do you mind if I ask: what would they arrest you for? I don't understand what crime they allege you've committed.
Julian Assange:Well, the US DOJ, if you listen to the anonymous sources speaking to CNN and to The New York Times, Washington Post, say that it's in relation to the publication of the Iraq War Logs, embassy cables, and so on. That's dating back to 2010. Potentially also in relation to our recent publications about the CIA. But the First Amendment means you don't prosecute publishers. Maybe you prosecute their sources, but you don't prosecute publishers, so that would be something new. But of course the government would like very much, both under Obama, and now under Trump, to set that precedent. In the UK –
Buck Sexton:How does the fact that you're not a US citizen affect that, Julian? It would seem strange that – well, in uncharted territory, I should say.
Julian Assange:Whether I'm a citizen or not I think is not particularly important. It's where one is doing the publishing, which is not within the United States. So there is a bit of a jurisdictional issue, which is: should a country apply its claimed laws, or a government apply its claimed laws, to every other country in the world, and interfere in how they proceed in terms of freedom of expression? The locus that the US government tries to grab in on, which is it says that if it's something involving the US government itself as opposed to US private industry or an individual's property or something like that, then they claim worldwide jurisdiction. So, because WikiLeaks published information that was from the US government, that's how they claim jurisdiction in this case.
Buck Sexton:Well, The New York Times, The Washington Post published stuff, and they obviously don't get prosecuted. So what's the legal differentiation? What do your lawyers say about that? Between –
Julian Assange:I mean, there's no legal differentiation. There's basically a political differentiation. Which is _____ _____ _____ –
Porter Stansberry:Yeah. There's a who-the-law-will-be-applied-to difference.
Julian Assange:Yeah. Exactly. New York Times and Washington Post – they have giant slander cannons is the way to think about it. They're like really beefed up destroyers with slander cannons all over the deck. And when someone irritates them or threatens them, they can point those slander cannons and blast. And so that causes the government to keep its distance. On the other hand, they also are involved in ingratiating themselves constantly. So also they have giant flattery cannons. And they deploy this combination of slander and flattery, and occasionally even telling the truth, to maximize their institutional power, and, at a social level, the power interests of the journalists who work there, and then of course to tie in with the interests of the proprietor. Washington Post now of course is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon.
Porter Stansberry:Julian, I wanna ask a question about the media. This is the first time I've seen a president that didn't have either side of the political divide working on his behalf in some capacity. It's very odd to see both The New York Times and The Washington Post, which are typically left-leaning publications, as well as The Wall Street Journal, which is typically a right-leaning publication, all hammering Trump's administration day after day after day. And I wondered if there's more to it than I as an outsider understand.
What I see is that Trump threatens the political establishment as a whole, both sides of the aisle, and the newspapers are fighting back on behalf of their friends and contacts in the political establishment. Am I reading that the right way, or is there something deeper going on with Murdoch and Trump that I don't understand?
Julian Assange:No. I think it's a lot along the lines that you say. But it's shifting as time has gone by. A very interesting experiment: what happens when you've got a populist candidate – this case, populist-right candidate. You imagine the same thing would've happened to Sanders if he had been chosen by Democratic Party. You've got a populist candidate not connected to existing establishments in a substantive way. Trump, during the election – the only establishment that he had was the evangelicals via Pence. And that's it. He had no one else. He didn't have the military. He didn't have the security services, didn't have the banks, etcetera. I guess he had the coal industries, but they're so small as to be just not a factor in – okay.
So he gets into government. And then of course there's been a kind of push and shove, where the president, through his ability to hire and fire, has been showing his power, and also the bully pulpit. But the intelligence agencies and Saudi Arabia and the other serious players in the United States and out have also been demonstrating their power. And so you see a give and take – more give by Trump than take – between the White House and those other players. And so if you look at, for example, his shift in some security policy – how long did that take? Well, they kept beating him up, and it took about 70 days. So you have a kinda untrained, undisciplined president – it takes about 70 days for the security sector to whip them into position.
Porter Stansberry:The revenge of the deep state.
Julian Assange:Yeah. I mean, it's not completely there. It's not just Trump. There's people like Bannon and others around him. And I think Trump is kinda hard to keep him in a box, even if you get him in a box for a while. So, just speaking as a journalist, it's a fascinating thing to see play out. With Obama and other presidencies, usually that's already played out in the Senate. In their career before they become a president, they've gotten into position, and most of – they're not straying too much from what the correct, if you like, position is. Whereas Trump was all over the place as soon as he got into office and now he's being shoved and pushed into line.
Porter Stansberry:Right. Julian, can I ask another question about the –
Sorry, Buck. About the specific question about the Kushner and the FBI investigation into the senior people in Trump's group. What I can't figure out – and I figure this is probably something that just simply hasn't been reported yet, and you may know: where is the smoking gun behind all of these Russian allegations? Because the only thing that I have read so far from unnamed sources is that there were attempts from people in Trump's administration to talk to Russian officials and to set up private lines of communication.
And, again, I'm not the world's greatest constitutional scholar, but it seems like the purview of the executive branch is to manage foreign policy. So isn't that what they're supposed to be doing in terms of talking to one of our major global adversaries? And if they were just talking to them, what has the FBI so exercised? What hasn't been said yet to the public? Do you know?
Julian Assange:I'm not aware of anything. I think that there's probably nothing. I mean, there's a whole host of reasons to believe that. For example, if you look at what the claim reportage in The Washington Post, it's claimed that there was a intercept of communications from the Russian ambassador, Kislyak, back to Moscow. Interesting that that's coming out in the press at all. It would normally be very sensitive. But, anyway, they claim that Kislyak said that Jared Kushner wants to set up a backchannel, during December I think, with Moscow, to discuss – it's not revealed publicly, but presumably to discuss what the US/Russian relationship would look like once they got into government. And that Kislyak was a bit worried by this and unhappy with it. So that's not what you say if there's already an existing conspiracy. You already have a backchannel, and you're _____.
But Kislyak's concern actually perfectly mirrors concern from Khrushchev's lot back in the early '60s, that basically Kislyak is a bureaucrat within the foreign service of Russia. And what bureaucats hate more than anything else is leadership not going through them. Because they're cut out of the equation. They basically get their power, or at least a substantial part of their power, by arbitraging the interaction between leaders. So they always try and glom on and intersperse themselves between the leaders of countries or leaders of organizations.
Porter Stansberry:So, in other words, this is all just a bunch of accusations. Doesn't it seem like this is the modern playbook? That the government opposition, whether it's led by Democrats or led by Republicans, or in this case, perhaps both elements – but the government opposition attacks the president with a special prosecutor and with allegations of wrongdoing that then just dog that presidency until he leaves office, or even after? So I'm sure you remember all the special investigations of Clinton, and before that, Ronald Reagan? Is this just the new political playbook in America? Is this the new dynamic? Is this something we're gonna see continually as wars are fought in Washington, D.C.?
Julian Assange:I think from the Democratic perspective, yeah, they're trying a standard playbook of trying to harass the administration any way they can that they think will lead to its downfall, and, very importantly, distract from an epic loss by the existing Democratic leadership, which really shouldn't have happened, given how experienced Clinton was and how unexperienced Trump was. So that's kind of a terrible failure that would normally result in a post-election purge of all those people involved in it. But I think none of that is that surprising or that interesting. What is interesting is how the security state has joined the fight. I think that's very interesting. And how people who would call themselves liberals or neo-liberals now joining into bed and celebrating the FBI and CIA. And even a fair chunk of US mainstream media palling up to that project. And I think that is quite worrying.
Porter Stansberry:I agree. Julian, I've got one more question for you, and then I know Buck has a couple things he wanted to ask you as well. My question – my last one is: outside the United States, who has the best secret security forces around the world? Who's out there that scares you? And I say that as a journalist and as someone who's a proponent of liberal freedoms. Who are the other bad guys out there besides our spooks?
Julian Assange:I mean, it depends on how you measure them. About four years when I looked at budgetary figures, the United States spend 60 percent of all the world's intelligence resources. So, to some degree, it's not that the rest of the world is irrelevant, but it's a huge sector. So then you need to look at things like how skilled and careful a particular intelligence organization is versus how numerous or how aggressive. So it varies. China of course, to some degree, is the only other game in town. Even though they're not that good yet, the economy is growing at over six percent per year, and its intelligence and defense expenditure is growing slightly faster than that.
I think all these other players are, to a degree, irrelevant. If you look at Russia, for example, its GDP is between Argentina and South Korea. Sorry: smaller than South Korea, just larger than Argentina. Russians are basically – in the kind of diplomatic, maybe intelligence sphere, they're trolls. They're certainly something for Eastern European states that border them, like Ukraine, to be concerned about. But for the rest of the world, I don't think that they're of serious strategic significance.
Porter Stansberry:Very interesting answer. Thank you very much.
Julian Assange:Except they have nukes. I mean, that's still something to be concerned about.
Buck Sexton:Julian, I wanted to ask what your response was – I'm sure you've been asked this a bunch, but what was your response to the CIA director saying that you – or rather WikiLeaks operates as a non-state hostile intelligence service?
Julian Assange:Just about two weeks after that, James Comey, maybe four days before he was fired, said that WikiLeaks is intelligence porn. As an institution, we're all a bit delighted with these statements. Because what is a non-state intelligence service? It's obviously completely ridiculous. We like it because people connected to Democrats go around falsely claiming that we're a state intelligence service, namely the Russian intelligence service, even though the official position of the FBI and the CIA and the ODNI is that we're not. So we kinda like those statements.
But let's put it in context. Mike Pompeo, the new Trump director of the CIA: in his first speech, the topic that took up the most amount of time was WikiLeaks and me. And it went for over an hour. So that's a bit concerning, just in relation to the type of signal that it sends out to CIA employees and to allied intelligence agencies like MI6. That signal about what the head of the CIA wants – he said, for example, that "This ends now," meaning WikiLeaks. Yeah: that can be problematic because people can choose to interpret that signal in different ways and try and curry favor with the new director by engaging in projects that wouldn't necessarily be signed off on.
Buck Sexton:And what do you say to those who claim that you are too close or too close or too favorable to Russia specifically? I mean, obviously in this country right now, the conversations about Trump and Russia dominate the news cycle every day. Russia didn't realize how much attention it would be getting until this year. But people have also claimed that about you. What do you say to them?
Julian Assange:Well, I'm quite annoyed about Russia stealing the credit for our publications. Because if you look at – yeah, there's this Gusava 2.0 and DCLeaks that have nothing to do with us, but published e-mails about the Democrats – not e-mails, sorry; published PDFs in the case of Gusava 2.0, and e-mails in the case of DCLeaks and several – Politico, The Hill, etcetera, also says that they published material from those guys. All that, everyone accepts, had no political impact. The only publication that had any political impact during the US election in relation to leaks, other than the Trump sex tape, was WikiLeaks. But the Kremlin rather likes, I think, to be seen of as a player in world affairs. And that is normal if you think about funzoo: if you're not strong, you have to project that you are strong. And they're not that strong because they have a GDP less than that of South Korea.
In terms of WikiLeaks' publications, we published over 650,000 documents, most of them critical, on Russia, on Putin, over 2.3 million from the Syrian government, Russia's close ally. So we publish a lotta critical stuff on Russia.
Buck Sexton:I wanted to know what you think about, just as a general proposition, Julian – and this is more of an ethical question. And I know that what you're dealing with right now is being in a place where – I don't know if this has ever happened before where somebody has done what you've done, and the charges that are allegedly, what I've read in the press, being leveled against you. I think it would be a first for the government, although I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not sure. But I think it's interesting that there's, in America for sure, an understanding that – or a belief that the one who publishes the leaks is a good guy, but the one who leaks the information to the publisher is not just somebody who should be punished, but is a bad guy.
And I think that's a more complicated ethical question than people allow it to be. Because they believe that there should be information that's out there that the government doesn't want them to know, but they also realize that if it just became a free-for-all and anyone could say anything to anything they wanted, then the government would not have any ability to keep secrets, which is does need. But I always do think it's interesting that we're never told: "Well, not only should you believe that there's such a thing as a good leak, but there is such a thing in this country as a good leaker, even if the leaker violates the law."
Julian Assange:Yeah. I'm kind of – I just look at the endpoints really. In my view, what allows us as individuals as a civilization to not do stupid things and to do the humane thing or the intelligent thing is that we know something about the world. We're not kind of drifting through it blind. And therefore, processes which result in human beings knowing more about the world I support. It doesn't mean that in every single instance that I necessarily agree, but I think that principle is very important. It's so important I think it is probably the most important thing that human beings do. Because if human beings aren't communicating with each other, teaching each other about how the world really works, we're like rabbits or stones or something, and everything fails.
So, in so far as an individual, for whatever their motivation, helps contribute to the advancement of human civilization by providing it information that allows all of us to understand what's really going on, then I think we should encourage that. And we should encourage it by applauding those people for helping us. We should encourage it by offering them financial rewards in some cases. We should encourage it by defending them from prosecution. We should encourage it by changing the law to make it easier for them.
Porter Stansberry:Hear, hear. Julian, when you are allowed to leave the Ecuadorian embassy, do you have any idea where you will end up? Is there a place in the world today that is strong enough to serve as a refuge and a bastion for people like yourself who are working actively to suborn the power of governments and secret agencies?
Julian Assange:It just varies from publication to publication, from year to year. You know, we annoy one group; then another group – we've annoyed – Ecuador who's very generously given me asylum and stuck up for me; it's only a small country – we even annoyed them when we basically accidentally broke something like the Watergate of Ecuador where the domestic intelligence service looks like – it's a bit hard and there's various arguments, but it looks like it was spying on people that it shouldn't've been domestically. So: yeah, it's tough to have principles, because the principle that you will publish information of diplomatic, political, ethical, or historical significance if people bring it to you and it hasn't been published before, kind of randomly offends different groups. So it just varies from year to year.
Porter Stansberry:So there's no one particular place that you think is the logical home for WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange:It would have to be a place that we didn't publish anything about. But if you have a universalist principle, then that doesn't hold. Now, you could say: "Okay, what about a small state? The chances are that you publish something about that are low." For example: Ecuador. We hadn't published anything about Ecuador before I took asylum. But the world is very global. And when you're publishing at scale, because everything is connected, then these big databases tend to have information on every state.
Porter Stansberry:And then one follow-up question, Julian. You've been so gracious with your time with us today. We really appreciate it. You mentioned almost in passing something about a sex tape has impacted the news coverage of the election. I'm sorry: that's news to me. I don't know anything about a –
Julian Assange:I just mean Trumps "Grab them by the [bleeped word]."
Porter Stansberry:Oh. Right. Not a sex tape, but –
Julian Assange:A talking-about-sex tape.
Porter Stansberry:Yes. Trump's unfortunate locker room talk.
Buck Sexton:Oh, I thought he was talking about the dossier. See, there's all kinds of things.
Julian Assange:Conceptually, it's a sex tape, right? It's a kind of scandalous tape about sex.
Porter Stansberry:It's certainly in very poor taste. And there was a rumor – Buck, you were just referencing it – about the idea that maybe Putin had filmed Trump in a delicate position and was using that to blackmail him. But I never saw anything about that reported in the press.
Julian Assange:Yeah. It's a interesting question. I suppose, in theory, such things are possible. But looking at all the – before the election, what was it? A dozen women claimed to have been molested by Trump? And he managed to survive all that. And those are people that were willing to at least put their name to something. So I don't think that actually even such a tape could take Trump down. I mean, it'd cause him some problems, but I don't think it could take him down.
Porter Stansberry:I agree. I think you're right. I think Slick Willy has somehow –
Julian Assange:I think it could take someone like Sanders down. Because he has a clean –
Buck Sexton:His image is clean. I think this is an important point.
Julian Assange:_____ _____ _____ _____ _____.
Buck Sexton:Because people keep saying the Russians have something on Trump. What could they possibly have on Trump of a moral nature that would make him –
Julian Assange:If your shirt is already covered in mud, another mud pie doesn't really surprise that _____.
Porter Stansberry:And, Julian, when I was visiting with you in London six months ago or thereabouts – it was last fall – you said the same thing. I said, "Why hasn't WikiLeaks gone more after the Trump campaign?" and you said, "What is it about Trump that we could tell the public that they don't already know?" And I thought that was a very telling comment.
Julian Assange:Yeah. I mean, it's mostly to do with what people provide us. But of course we try and encourage sources as well. So if people give us material that's of a particular nature, we promise to publish it. But yeah: we can encourage, through various means, through talking about it or awards or etcetera. In the Hillary case, we had kinda become the main experts by already publishing so much of her stuff and analyzing it: her cables from her time in office, her e-mails, and so on. So I think that's kind of attracted sources to us because they knew that we understood Hillary Clinton's role in government and out in relatively recent times.
Buck Sexton:Julian, can I ask you a question, again at the macro level, about something? I'm an American who loves this country very much and understands it has a lotta flaws. In fact, probably understands it better than most Americans do in different ways, having worked for the government, and understanding how government functions. The line that you will hear from most people about you and about WikiLeaks is that, irrespective of your mission of transparency and holding governments accountable, as you say, you were involved in what is a massive violation of US federal law in one way or another, and therefore undermined US national security.
And so if someone believes that America is a force for good in the world, hamstringing it in that way, making it more difficult for America to do what it does around the world is, on net, a bad thing. Essentially: by hurting America, which is the best and still greatest hope for this country, if one believes that – I'm not saying you do, but for someone who believes that, how do you respond to – why would you wanna hurt the country that does more good in the world than any other country? Why would you wanna undermine its national security? Or do you reject that you even undermined its national security?
Julian Assange:I think America probably does do more good in the world than any other country. I think that's probably true. I think it's also probably true that it does more bad in the world than any other country. It's such a big economy with more military expenditure than external countries combined. It does a lot. It does a lotta good things and it does a lotta bad things. And what you find is that those people who profit from the military security sector – either personally or because of investments – what they try and do is they try and conflate the notion of America and America's interests with the interests of their industrial sector.
So of course when WikiLeaks reveals really quite immoral slayings happening Iraq, cavalier slayings of people and journalists as a result of the Iraq War or similar things, does it make it a bit harder to do that in future? Yeah, it does. Does that mean it becomes a little more expensive to invade and occupy a country? Yeah, it probably does. Is that a good or a bad thing? I think that's probably a good thing.
Buck Sexton:But is it possible to weaken the US posture in the world without – I mean, this is also a common discussion that happens with people along foreign policy lines. The fallacy is that if America wasn't there then it would just be that country operating in this blissful state of self-determination, when in reality, every country has – well, I'm sorry: every major country has military interests, intelligence interests all over the world, and whether we're talking on a regional or a global basis, there are many different players involved, whether: Iran, Russia, China – name a country; there's a lot of different regional and global players. And so: is it possible to hurt America without empowering other countries that are worse on human rights, do make the world a more dangerous place?
At some point, isn't it necessary, on an ethical level, to distinguish between transparency in the case of America and transparency in the case of North Korea?
Julian Assange:Yeah, I don't think you can sensor whistleblowers. I think it would be terribly immoral for us and our place in the world that if some US military whistleblower comes to us to say, "You know what? We're not going to defend your right to present what you've found to the public." I don't think we could do that. I don't think we could do that for any country.
If you wanna talk about, as I said, this hurting America, it just gets instrumentalized to defend the interests of particular sectors and their power. If we're talking about a shift from committing fewer human rights abuses during invasions or occupations or perhaps thinking a little more before invading a country, that seems like a good thing.
I do accept that there is an argument about Paxim Americana and that if you look at, for example, what's happening to the Middle East now: is that happening because the US installed and propped up a bunch of these dictators and dictatorships because they were allied to the US? Or is the current tensions with Iran, which arise from the CIA overthrowing Mosaddegh in 1953 – is it because of that? Is it because of the enormous quantities of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, etcetera, that caused them to feel like they can attack Yemen and destabilize Syria, etcetera? Or is what we are seeing now partly as a result of the relative decline of the dominance of the United States in the Middle East?
I think it's both. I think that, as the UAE and Saudi and Qatar and Turkey have become more powerful, relatively, to the United States – all groups have advanced economically and become more powerful, but relatively –
Buck Sexton:It's interesting. Would you concede as well, Julian, that all those different countries are also showing their own little signs of imperialism and interventionism?
Julian Assange:Exactly. And I think –
Buck Sexton:The more the US maybe steps back, the more you see: "Oh, the Saudis will bomb people; the Iranians will run factions."
Julian Assange:I think the US used to be so dominant that they weren't willing to do that without US permission. And now that they have increased their relative ability to act, they're acting according to what they perceive as their – you know, creating internal unity by creating external conflicts, or trying to get hold of new land and so on. So I think there's a mixture of things going on, and it's not purely the US that is at fault.
But Iraq was a complete disaster. The US is almost completely to blame. The destruction of the Libyan state, which was Hillary Clinton's pet project – she was the number one pusher of that in the US government, trying to create a kind of tough-woman history for her run for the presidency. That's my analysis. But was the US the only player in Libya? No. France was also involved. Qatar was also involved. UAE was also involved. Muslim Brotherhood. So: yeah, it's –
Buck Sexton:Yeah. Everybody meddles. I think that's often overlooked. And maybe US meddles in a more profound way than others because it can in different places. But everyone's meddling in everybody else's stuff.
But I wanna ask you about whistleblowers. 'Cause you keep using the term, and I get the sense, Julian, that your definition of "whistleblower" is perhaps a bit broader than what would be in common parlance. Some of the incidents that WikiLeaks has been involved in, it would seem that it was just information that the public might be interested in, but also might have a damaging effect on the security interests of either the United States or, depending on some of the other revelations, of those other countries. What makes someone a whistleblower versus: "Hey, I know this secret interesting stuff"?
For example, what happened just now in Manchester: you had the stories coming out about information about a counterterrorism investigation. The public's interest to know that within 24 hours should be outweighed by the need to find somebody or their network before they can engage in another suicide bombing and blow up a buncha young girls at a concert, right? So that was a leak without any – that's just people, from what we know, showing off information. That's not a transparency issue. That's just stupidity. Where do you draw the line with who's a whistleblower and who's just somebody who's sharing secret information that could be very harmful?
Julian Assange:Well, let's sort of take stock. WikiLeaks has an 11-year publishing history. They've published more than ten million documents during that time. There is no official allegation that the publications of WikiLeaks have led to the death of even a single person. And that's pretty remarkable. Because WikiLeaks publishes at scale. And nearly any process at scale – like let's say manufacturing of motorcars or installation of 100,000 bathtubs, etcetera – does actually lead to people accidentally getting killed. There's no official allegation in relation to WikiLeaks.
If you wanna talk about the Manchester case, well, I think that different organizations have different responsibilities to society. Intelligence services, counterterrorism police, for the moment that they're actively involved in investigation, they do have responsibility to be competent and to preserve their investigative secrecy when it is necessary to do so for the purpose of the investigation. But publishers, on the other hand, have another responsibility. Their responsibility is to convey information that they discover to the public and not try and act as some kind of stopgap to conceal the incompetence of intelligence agencies.
And in relation to the particular documents that were released, who knows? Maybe Theresa May planted them in US papers because she wanted to talk up terrorism during the middle of an election. I'm not saying that's true, but there can be many different possibilities as to why something ends up in the public.
Buck Sexton:But it does seem like right now DC is a war of leaks. I mean, the main stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post _____ _____.
Julian Assange:I think that's great. I mean, I understand that there's kind of some bad motivations behind some of it, which is the CIA and so on – it's kind of rattling its chains. It's showing its power. And the FBI. Like it always has. It has the power of information to reduce someone's reputation, and therefore their political power. And it's engaged in a kind of negotiation with the White House, which has given it concessions; presumably will give it more concessions in order to stay afloat. That said, I think that we as the public largely benefit from this clash of interests airing their respective dirty laundry.
Buck Sexton:But what do you think of the calls for prosecutions, and in some cases, people even calling these different acts treason? I think it's interesting: so many people throw out the term "treason" and have never even read the – this is particularly true of media talking heads – have never even read what would classify and what the statute is. But this is often being said. It seems that that leads to a place of polarization that's dangerous, where now I don't just wanna have information out there so the public can decide, but I wanna go and hunt down enemies and find means to lock them up because they disagree with me politically, and they may or may not have been involved in a discussion that, depending on which leak we're talking about, could be in a gray area.
People refer to this as leaks. Well, is it classified? Is it not classified? If it's not, well, then it's just somebody talking to somebody, and maybe they can get fired, but it's certainly not just treason just 'cause it hurts the president.
Julian Assange:Yeah. It's interesting question. I have to wrap up with this last question. Look, the word "treason" is thrown around all the time. It has a legal meaning, which is adherence to enemies during a time of war. There's no time of war. No one's really suggesting that the leakers involved, regardless of the side of politics, are adhering to an enemy. So it's not, in law, treason. Is it something that is harming the capacities of US intelligence in different ways? Maybe a little bit. Does that benefit the public in other ways? Yes. It largely does. Is it tremendously hypocritical when the CIA and FBI and intelligence officials who pontificate all the time that the public has no right to know anything because it could be so damaging themselves are very happy to spray out officially classified information in order to gain an advantage? Yes of course. It is tremendously hypocritical.
Porter Stansberry:There you have it, folks. That's the latest: people in Washington are two-faced and hypocritical.
Julian Assange:I'm afraid I haven't told you anything new.
Porter Stansberry:Julian, you told us a lot new, and it was great to speak with you. And we're certainly rooting for you to regain your full civil rights and to travel the world freely. So, all the best, and I'm sure we'll be in touch.
Julian Assange:Okay. Thanks, guys. Bye-bye.
Buck Sexton:Thank you for your time.
Julian Assange:You're welcome.
Porter Stansberry:So, Buck, as a former member of the US intelligence apparatus, or at least allegedly a former member – we don't really know. We can't know if Buck is still actually an officer or not. But what's it like for you to talk with your former team's number one enemy?
Buck Sexton:[Laughs]. He's kind of intel community public enemy number one. You know, I had a lotta thoughts, a lotta feelings coming into this to sit down and chat. I have one rule, as you know, and I adhere to this rule even on radio, which is that people who engage with respect are treated with respect. So I would never have a guest on my radio, show, nor would of course on the Stansberry Investor Hour, and be hostile or disrespectful towards them. And I have to say: Julian was very polite and engaged in good faith I think in terms of his answers on all these different issues.
You know, it's incredibly complicated. The places where I think he runs into trouble have to do with – I don't think that what Chelsea Manning did is whistleblowing. I don't think that what Snowden did – I don't think that what some of these people that have been involved in these massive disclosures qualifies as whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is a very specific act of: "This thing is happening – is wrong; I know it's wrong. It's ethical." And, oh, by the way, a true whistleblowing should be willing to stand up and take the heat for it. In a sense, if I thought that there was some terrible government program going on – let's say I believed in –
Porter Stansberry:Hang on. Buck, you're way off the reservation on this stuff, man. Just think for a second about what you're saying. So: Chelsea Manning – or what's her name now?
Buck Sexton:It's Chelsea Manning.
Porter Stansberry:What did it used to be?
Buck Sexton:Formerly Bradley Manning.
Porter Stansberry:Sorry. Bradley. So: Bradley/Chelsea –
Buck Sexton:No. We call her Chelsea now. She changed her name. Go ahead.
Porter Stansberry:With respect, Chelsea, then, okay. Sorry. I don't know –
Buck Sexton:No, I'm just saying: that's _____ _____.
Porter Stansberry:When it was Bradley Manning, this is what happened. So I wanted to go back in time. So, when she was Bradley, she was horrified at the conduct of the Army in Iraq. And I'm sure you've seen the video. It's gruesome. The video where the Apache helicopters are shooting the unarmed journalists.
Buck Sexton:Yeah, I know. Terrible things do happen in war, for sure. But –
Porter Stansberry:Got it. I understand that. I totally understand that. So why can't the Army come out and say, when that happens, "Yeah, hey, we made a terrible mistake today. Condolences to the families," all that stuff. When they didn't, that's when Bradley Manning said, "Oh yeah? You guys should fess up to this." And so I think that's a classic case of a whistleblower in my mind. There was no national security at stake. This was going to embarrass a whole bunch of senior members of the Armed Forces.
Buck Sexton:But, Porter, you're talking about one document out of hundreds of thousands of documents that were leaked, most of which showed no wrongdoing at all, but strained US diplomatic relationships, and dealt with granular military day-to-day activities.
Porter Stansberry:Right. And in fairness, I don't care –
Buck Sexton:That's reckless.
Porter Stansberry:– anything about that. And maybe it is reckless. But I wanna press you on one point. You're saying that if you're a whistleblower, you should stand up and whatever – what would you say? Listen to the music or face the music.
Buck Sexton:Face the music. If you really believe something is wrong, yeah.
Porter Stansberry:So hold on. When you know that the US military and CIA are engaged in torturing people, you still think whistleblowers should stand up and face the music? When you know that –
Buck Sexton:There have been people. There have been people who have leaked to the press, most famously, obviously –
Porter Stansberry:But hold on. Aren't you interested in a open and fair society that's ruled by laws, not men, as much as you're interested in security? Aren't those two values –
Buck Sexton:Yeah. But if you're gonna talk about a society of rules and laws, Chelsea Manning swore and oath, and also –
Porter Stansberry:Hold on. I know she did.
Buck Sexton:– signed documents about disclosure. Yes she did.
Porter Stansberry:Hold on though. I know. I'm not arguing with that. I'm saying: what's more important: her oath to the Constitution or her obeying orders?
Buck Sexton:I mean, yeah, of course: the oath to the Constitution is supreme. But you don't support your oath to the Constitution by putting in jeopardy fellow soldiers by sharing information.
Porter Stansberry:I think that you do. When you in good conscience and good faith believe that the establishment of the Department of Defense is acting in a way that's unlawful.
Buck Sexton:I mean, there were hundreds of thousands of documents that had nothing to do with that, and each one of those documents – releasing it brings its own problems and can –
Buck Sexton:_____ Julian's point about how there's no – we don't know about any source –
Porter Stansberry:I got it, but I'm not –
Buck Sexton:Hold on. This is important, Porter. Julian's point about how there's no source that has lost their life? Well, we don't know who their sources – there's no way to gauge that, right? Especially when you're talking about in a war zone, a place like Iraq, Afghanistan –
Porter Stansberry:I got that. But I'm not arguing that point either. I'm not –
Buck Sexton:But that's important. You're skipping over it. That's important though.
Porter Stansberry:No, but you're missing the bigger point. Are people going to lose their careers because of what Chelsea Manning did? Sure. Is America's place in the world injured by that because of some of our relationships are disclosed? Absolutely. Could agents of the CIA be murdered because they were in these cables? Yeah. Of course. But the question is –
Buck Sexton:That's all pretty terrible stuff you're talking about.
Porter Stansberry:Yeah. But in my mind, it's not nearly as terrible stuff as what happens when our elected officials and our government is involved in illegal violence and the coverup of illegal violence. And both things, to me, are important: our national security and standing in the world is important, and so is our dedication to a fair and open society.
Buck Sexton:So here's what I would say, and I would apply this to Snowden, and we don't have time to go over all that stuff now. Because we've got – they've released so much in so many different cases with WikiLeaks. If Chelsea Manning had come forward and just said, "This is a video; journalists were killed; people need to know about this" – that's whistleblowing. "I'm gonna take everything that I have access to and scrape classified databases and share as much information as possible" –
Porter Stansberry:I agree.
Buck Sexton:– that's recklessness and that puts your fellow diplomats and soldiers – thank God it wasn't access – in that case, at least, wasn't access into other agencies. But the information that was put out there was done so in a reckless fashion. And we didn't even talk about Snowden. With Snowden's stuff, why that is information that should be out there all over the world – I mean, on a very basic level, what the US government is doing to collect information around the world, as long as it's not hurting people, is none of my business, none of the public's business. There's no constitutional right to privacy outside of US borders for non-citizens. So I think they run into problems there too.
Look, Julian answered the questions in good faith, like I said, and I thought he had a lot of interesting points. I do think it's really interesting that The New York Times and Washington Post can publish classified information, which I should note, and I was gonna say this to Julian, is not – they have no special exception under federal law. That's just the Department of Justice deciding not to prosecute them.
Porter Stansberry:Right. 'Cause –
Buck Sexton:There's not actually any – _____ you're a journalist –
Porter Stansberry:You'd see a real constitutional crisis if the majority of the American people felt well-served by The New York Times and the government tried to go after them for treason. That would be –
Buck Sexton:Of course.
Porter Stansberry:That would lead to something we haven't seen in our country ever before. That would be real civil unrest.
Buck Sexton:Well, you know, what's interesting is: in the earliest days of the Republic – and everyone always forgets about this. If you go and read about the Alien and Sedition Acts – this is 1801, 1802 I think. The Founding Fathers, or early on in the days of the Founding Fathers, were trying to outlaw what would clearly be considered political speech. In fact, when people talk about yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater – and that's always the way they think they're going to win the First Amendment debate – what they don't realize is that that had to do – and the person was found guilty by the Supreme Court because I think they made the wrong decision – that had to do with a socialist handing out pamphlets against war. And the judges said, "That's the equivalent of yelling 'Fire' in a crowded theater."
So the government has actually made many attempts in the past, and has passed laws in the past, including the Espionage Act, I should say, that dramatically crack down on speech. We live in this uneasy place of: "Well, we'll allow publishers to get away with it," but you'll notice they don't push any federal law forward that says that news organizations have a right to publish – go ahead.
Porter Stansberry:And journalists get thrown in jail all the time for contempt of court 'cause they won't reveal their sources.
Buck Sexton:Yeah. But what's really changed the game there is they just pull people's records and it's really easy – the FBI – unfortunately now what people don't realize is that –
Porter Stansberry:But there's no large-scale observation of US citizens within US borders. Surely there's not.
Buck Sexton:[Laughs]. Well –
Buck Sexton:– what you're gonna see –
Porter Stansberry:What I think Snowden showed us was not what they were doing to foreign people. I think what Snowden's release was all about was what they were doing, and what US companies were doing to track every single person's phone book.
Buck Sexton:But, see, that's a perfect dichotomy between whistleblower and reckless leaking of classified information.
Porter Stansberry:All right. And I wanna –
Buck Sexton:If it's stuff that you're doing in the US that's illegal that the American people need to know about, that's whistleblowing.
Porter Stansberry:All right. And I wanna go on the record about that.
Buck Sexton:If it's something that's happening overseas that you don't like – what's that?
Porter Stansberry:I wanna go on the record about that with you. 'Cause I agree with you that both Bradley/Chelsea and Snowden – I think they did it in the wrong way. Now, if I were either of those folks, what I would've done was, like you said, take a carefully extracted snippet of something and send it to WikiLeaks and The New York Times and The Washington Post. And you could also do so completely anonymously. The only reason why they ended up getting caught and getting in so much trouble is because something about them wanted the limelight. They wanted the credit for this. Don't you think that –
Buck Sexton:There was an NSA whistleblower that's not as well-known these days a while back – or is not talked about as much these days. But the government went in all-in against him. I mean, this was all public. It was written about in the papers. And he did go through – he was going through channels. And in the end they had to drop the whole thing because he hadn't done anything wrong and he was right [laughs]. And they, from what I understand – I think I read this in The Washington Post actually. I think they pulled him out of the shower with MP5s drawn on him. I mean, it was crazy.
Porter Stansberry:Jesus. Well, don't you think –
Buck Sexton:And he hadn't done anything wrong.
Porter Stansberry:Don't you think with technology, don't you think it's possible to have anonymity? I don't know technically how you would do this stuff, but it just seems like there's enough of this technology out there – you know what I'm talking about? The servers that you can go through that can scrub where your e-mail's coming from, that kinda stuff?
Buck Sexton:You're getting beyond my knowledge base, man. I'm not the guy you want to even try to work the DVR. Once you get into the options and the settings, I'm – I'm a counterterrorism analyst.
Porter Stansberry:Buck, some secret agent you are. You don't even know how to scrub e-mails?
Buck Sexton:I know [laughs].
Porter Stansberry:All right.
Buck Sexton:I'm old-school. _____ _____ the pass the paper bag in the park.
Porter Stansberry:I think you and I are closer to being on the same page than we realize. I think I would probably err more on the side of transparency, even if it weakens our defense, because I do recognize that we still have over 5,000 fully operational nuclear warheads. So I'm still resting pretty easily at night. I think a lot of what's defined now as a threat to our national security is really more about a threat to embarrassing our leaders.
Buck Sexton:That is true. That is a very important point, by the way.
Porter Stansberry:And I think that when you're sitting in the most awesome citadel of military power the world has ever seen by a factor of what? You look at the explosive potential of our armed forces today compared to any other time in history – I don't even know if math can do that. We spend virtually as much on national defense every year as the rest of the world combined. Our security is not threatened anywhere in the world. And yet we can't risk somebody spilling some diplomatic cables or showing a video of our helicopters doing something they shouldn't've? I think there's a gross overreaction to that.
And I think the fact that we are so afraid of WikiLeaks that Julian Assange hasn't been able to leave the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years – I think that makes us the bad guy.
Buck Sexton:Well, there's some stuff that WikiLeaks has allegedly put out there that, if it were authentic, it would be really bad.
Porter Stansberry:Hang on. But don't you remember –
Buck Sexton:Stuff that should not be out there.
Porter Stansberry:But don't you remember when America used to be the place where political dissidents would run to? Isn't there something wrong now when political dissidents are running to our enemies? Doesn't this say something about us?
Buck Sexton:Well, you're making the assumption – or at least for the purposes of our discussion, you're saying that they're political dissidents. And I'm not – there are people that say that Julian, for example, is really just a pawn of the Russians and doing the work of foreign intelligence services against the United States. That's a widespread –
Porter Stansberry:Those people – that is absolute nonsense, Buck. You cannot talk to that guy for an hour and come away thinking that anyone's gonna fool him about anything. He is a very intelligent and principled guy. He even's releasing information on the Ecuadorians who are sheltering him. I mean, that takes a crazy person to do that.
Buck Sexton:I wanna see what he has released on Russia. He claimed that – and I know he worked for the RT for a while. I'd wanna see what information's come out about Russia specifically that he's released.
But, look, this is all very – we're gonna see where this goes in the months ahead. Because the leaks right now – this is the main way that the war of politics is playing out in DC right now. It's about leaks.
Porter Stansberry:I know.
Buck Sexton:And you get into a very interesting place of: why is there no – and I've been saying this –
Porter Stansberry:Why are there no sources?
Buck Sexton:Why is there no transparency with regard to this information that apparently _____ says the – go ahead.
Porter Stansberry:Buck, don't you wish that the politicians in DC would act a little bit more like the politicians in Texas? Did you see that this weekend where they had a fistfight?
Buck Sexton:Oh, I did see some – but that's kinda like: in the parliament in Taiwan, don't they sometimes – you'll see some stuff like that happen other places too.
Porter Stansberry:I like that. Because I think Americans should be deeply embarrassed of our politicians. And I think this veneer that they operate under where they're wearing nice clothes and they're acting with nice manners – I think that protects them. And I think that if they got down and dirty like that, then people would really know what they've got in DC.
Buck Sexton:Well, you know that this isn't a new thing, right? I mean, in the British Parliament, they're separated from each other by two sword lengths for a reason [laughs]. _____ _____ opposition –
Porter Stansberry:And, you know, of course before the Civil War, that poor guy got caned.
Buck Sexton:Caned, yeah.
Porter Stansberry:It was a Senator or a Rep from Massachusetts. I can't remember which. And the guy from South Carolina I believe caned him and crippled him for life.
Buck Sexton:Yeah. No, it was – and people draw a line from that to some of the hostilities that followed. You know, the grave national hostilities that followed that in a few years.
No, but look: I found Julian very interesting to talk to. I know you had had a chance to talk to him before. I'll be curious to know when I hear from some of my friends from within the government side of things – when they hear this podcast, they will probably say that I was way too polite to him. But I tend to be too polite as a matter of course, just 'cause, I don't know, I'm not – unless someone's rude to me, I'm not rude back.
Porter Stansberry:Well, I'm begging to be audited [laughs]. Because –
Buck Sexton:I don't even know, man. We've got our systems here. For the people listening, I'm in New York City and Porter is down in Maryland. And I'm gonna be one of these guys now who takes like black tape and puts it on his laptop. I'm totally freaked out.
Porter Stansberry:Well, it's pretty funny: when I went to go see him in London, I had a bunch of – I can't say really well-connected people, but I had some former government officials contact me through backchannels and urge me not to go. And I thought, "Man, they don't know me at all." If you want me to give him a lot more press, keep telling me to stop. 'Cause that's sure to put me on the path.
But, Buck, I was actually surprised that you were even willing to do this interview with me. So I appreciate that. And I know you have –
Buck Sexton:Thanks [laughing]. That makes me feel good.
Porter Stansberry:I know you have well-thought-out and considered views. And I tell you: I also know that you acted on your views, right? You did join the CIA and you went into war zones for our country. And you have a whole different perspective about the importance of secrecy and the defense establishment than I do. And, likewise, I've spent my whole life as a publisher and a journalist. So, for me, information and free access to information has a different meaning and connotation than it does for most people. But I really did think that it was great for both of us to be able to talk civilly about these issues and represent our views well, and get to talk to Julian about them. So thanks very much.
Buck Sexton:Absolutely. And I would say you're a patriot who loves this country and so am I. Sometimes you have people that are very pro-Assange who really just view him as a tool or as a cudgel to undermine the United States. I know that's not where you come from. It's certainly not where I come from. So I thought –
Porter Stansberry:And I don't think that's where he comes from. His view about –
Buck Sexton:Well, on that we may disagree. But that's okay.
Porter Stansberry:But his view about what America is and what makes it strong is nuanced. And it's not the kind of view that you're gonna get from – and all respect – from someone like yourself who has a much more defined view about why America is great and what makes us so strong. But I do not –
Buck Sexton:I hear you, man.
Porter Stansberry:I do not believe that Julian Assange wishes ill for America. I do think that he wishes ill for a lotta people in government. And I think that's a very important distinction.
Buck Sexton:All right. Do you wanna give any kind of a preview – anything in your mind for next week when we do the Stansberry Investor Hour episode three?
Porter Stansberry:I don't have any idea where I'm gonna be next week [laughs]. I can't tease about the show 'cause I don't even know what we're gonna talk about. I would like to talk about oil at some point soon, and I wanna have – I have a very good oil source to have as a guest. So we'll put that together.
Buck Sexton:All right. Rock and roll.
Porter Stansberry:That's as much teasing as I can get right now.
Buck Sexton:It sounds good to me, my friend. Well, as always, Mr. Porter, great to be with you, sir.
Porter Stansberry:Yeah. Thanks, Buck. That was a lotta fun.
Buck Sexton:Thank you.
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