Below is a rough transcript taken from a phone interview undertaken with Dr. Leslie Cannold. As found here.
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Transcript of Leslie Interview
0:00 LESLIE …If governments who understand that philosophy and are concerned about it, who believe it is the correct analysis and are concerned about us (regarding whistleblowers) and don’t want it to happen, and I think arguably that is what is going on at the moment, you’ve got a whole range of people who traditionally have been in command and control of what we know and if we know it and if we ever know it.
0:30 They are quite concerned that the Wiki leaks philosophy is correct, what they can do is they can say to insiders who are thinking about leaking, because they think they will get that form of anonymity, think again, and what they are doing to Julian arguably is to say this is what we’re going to do to you when we find out, and what they did to Bradley Manning is arguably what they were trying to do, and that is certainly what Julian’s view of that would have been. That they were going after Manning and the kind of vicious way they went after him,
1:00 and if you apparently look at the transcripts of the Manning trial which I have not, but I have heard reporting on them that Wiki leaks was mentioned many, many times, and certainly people know there is a grand jury out against Julian, that the intent of the US government was to say anybody who is thinking of leaking information because they are an insider, because they think they won’t get caught, they were trying to say no you will be caught and this is what we’re going to do to you.
1:34 JAMES Do you believe there should be some sort of legislation to outline the rights of a whistleblower or to protect a whistleblower.
1:44 LESLIE Absolutely, and we do have some, and there certainly have been some recent legislative changes that have made the situation slightly better, but there still needs to be some very important extensions. However people like Nick Mackenzie and Richard Baker have really come under fire, they’ve certainly been defended, they’ve got lawyers, however our defences and our legal protections for private whistleblowers so insiders who might leak, and for journalists who can be the conduit for those leaks or organisations for Wikileaks.org which might be the conduit. I think there are certainly not adequate protections, and the reason is that the case is arguably that the public still isn’t across enough with the importance of what these people are doing and the importance of public disclosures and the transparent running of democracy, the connection between transparency and democracy as well as integrity, in corporate dealings and in government and that is a huge issue and something I think is needs to be taught much more in terms of how our students grow up understanding things particularly privacy and its importance that something that needs to be taught to the current generation because they tend to, they can see the concerns the adults have in privacy and that they are paranoid. You see this for instance the way they put information through facebook and other sources of social media. When creating a new personal account you need to think about how long that might be around and who might actually look at it other than the people you are intending it for and I have kids who ar e young people in my house who are 17/19 and it is only the 19 year old who is going ‘hmm.. maybe I should have been a bit more careful about what I put on facebook’ but up to now when I suggested that maybe they should think a little more carefully and he’s like ‘who cares?’ because what is often felt is that it’s hard to heard and what is going in social media is a lot of people talking including them and very few people listening so the idea that somebody could be listening is so much so that many years after they’ve said things that could come back to bite them because they have become important enough for someone to care about what they say that seems very far fetched.
5:07 JAMES Particularly as you don’t think about the consequences until you’ve seen them.
5:12 LESLIE And you tend to think you’re not important enough to ever have those consequences because you’re generally experienced with doing a lot of talking and nobody listening.
5:21 JAMES On the note of consequences, one of the major accusations against the whistle blowing is that 2000 informants have been compromised due of the leaks (warzones Iraq and Afghanistan). What are your thoughts on the accusations?
6:15 LESLIE I haven’t seen any evidence to date of that so I think there are two arguments to be had here, one is the kind of empirical argument which is where there is a claim that… often the kind of argument made against transparency is the argument made around national security so we need to be so needs to be evident surveillance is invading your privacy. Also at the cost these leaks are compromising national security. There’s two ways you can look at that argument, one way you can look at it is to say ‘Okay, show me who is being put at risk’ while that is a valid argument you can’t substantiate it without giving evidence. You were saying one of the claims made is that this number of people have been in fact harmed and then I guess you have to look at the evidence of that and look at how serious or otherwise the harms were and then you have to try and weigh it up against the benefits that have come from the leaks and then you have try do a balancing act to say in this particular instance probably it was worth the harm that was done, that’s how you can proceed retrospectively to analyse whether in any particular instance the leak was or wasn’t beneficial, you use that kind of balancing act and well, sometimes people will disagree or agree, some people will say it wasn’t worth it. I think those are really interesting arguments to have and I believe the claims that can be made that national security or harms isn’t really the reason why competitions don’t really want to see the information put into the public domain or leaked, is often not really the reason for their concern. So for instance this is one way you can really cash out that claim that what they’re concerned about is people being harmed and in fact there is very little evidence that any one every really does get harmed. In fact what they’re really worried about is being embarrassed or losing power because information is power. So when things are revealed you can lose your power and control over them because now everybody knows that you don’t have them (secrets). Certain things you are trying to keep secret not because you are trying to protect people but you are trying to keep secrets because you are trying to hurt them. So you know there are all sorts of reasons why these things remain secret. And I think it would be silly to suggest that transparency in every instance empirically cashes out to benefit.
9:46 JAMES On the notion of power what did the party hoped to achieve if you or one of the other member was elected to the senate?
9:56 LESLIE The aspiration was or at least what was conveyed to something that could have worked is that if people who had of view about the importance of transparency or the issue were put in an insider position to try to fight the fight, to get for instance whistle blowing protection and protection for journalists from the inside. Certainly in terms of trying to achieve changed you’ll need wind from the outside, you’ll need activism sort of thing. And that is what I was saying before, you’ll need the community aware enough of the issue that they are agitated from the outside. What they are trying to do is agitate them so they can actually influence the people on the inside who have the power to change things. Some of the things that need changing are legislative change so you need people on the inside who will be receptive to community agitation from the outside. So if you look at somebody like Scott Rudlum who arguably has been active in the Senate in exactly the sort of way that Wikileaks would have hoped. Rudlum has been one of the few people who certainly has been creating awareness about what’s happening to Julian and why he thinks that sort of thing is happening but also he is agitating in the Senate around the kind of issue that a Wikileaks kind of person would have been concerned about, he was trying to get whistle blower protection, he was trying to raise awareness about the cost of the range of surveillance that has been going on by the Australian government.
12:00 JAMES With the movie ‘The Fifth Estate’ coming out, after reading letters from Julian to Benedict with his thoughts on the movie it seems like it’s certainly going to give a negative portrayal of both Julian and the party. Do you believe that is going to really hamper the efforts of the party in general?
12:43 LESLIE Look, I think there’s something going on here that is a confusion between Wikileaks.org and the Wikileaks party and the are in fact two completely different organisations. The Wikileaks party was something I was involved in here in Australia and that had a very specific agenda trying to get people elected to the Australia parliament to actually do some of the things we were talking about like Scott Rudlum and the Greens. Wikileaks.org is completely different organisation, there were connections between the two because the founder of Wikileaks.org was Julian and Julian was also the first Senate candidate in Victoria for the Wikileaks party, but they were in fact separate organisations and they remain separate organisations so while the Wikileaks party may not survive Wikileaks.org is still running. I think a lot of the questions you’re asking are about Wikileaks.org and what the founder of Wikileaks.org and the CEO arguably has to say. So because I have resigned from the party I’m not even connected to the party anymore, I was never a part of wikileaks.org.
14:01 JAMES I still believe to the public that the distinction between the party and the actual organisation.
14:16 LESLIE I think the intent was originally to draw that connection by naming the party the Wikileaks party
14:24 LAURA Do you think the association between the two hindered or helped the party’s progress?
14:42 LESLIE I think as it turns out, it’s my personal view that it would be a problem because I think the face of the party is now forever bound with wikileaks.org and I think there are some significant concerns about their fates and futures, successes will ride together. I think that is probably unfortunate but I think that is probably the fact. So going back to the question about the movie isn’t about the party as far as I’m aware of, I don’t really know a lot about ‘The Fifth Estate’. I did see the one that’s already out… [waffle] as an artist myself writing books and I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay, I certainly have sympathies for both the real life fictionalisations because the real life person wants their story to be told in a particular way and for obvious reason they are sensitive about that, and I think that’s completely understandable but at the same time when they’re utilising the real life person has to be sensitive to them and has to be sensitive to the fact of a real life event but they also have to be ultimately, I think people disagree about this. [waffle]
17:39 LESLIE The argument I have on fictionalising real life events what are their responsibilities to accuracy, but my view would be, as a creator… is that ultimately it’s your responsibility as a creator to the story that you have to make the story a success as a creative piece and therefore sometimes you have to supplicate the accuracy of the real life event that you are fictionalising to the creative news, to the demand of creativity and the demand of making a film that works, writing a book that works. That would be my particular point of view but I don’t know if some of the issues that have arisen around this upcoming movie or around tensions that have come out of that argument but if they are that would be my view.
18:43 LAURA What we’re looking at in regards to ‘The Fifth Estate’ despite them not being associated, we thought with mainstream media sometimes whistle blowers like Assagne are really demonised and we’re wondering do you think there is ever going to be a day where whistle blowers will be celebrated in the mainstream media and why do you think they’re not?
19:14 LESLIE Well without me seeing the actual particular film I can’t even comment as to whether or not the sensitivities that Julian has expressed around it really are true, and he would be the worst person (to ask), one argument you could make is that the person who is being fictionalised is probably the worst person to judge of whether or not it is a good piece of fiction or a good piece of art or a good piece of creative product, even if it is a doco (documentary) [waffle]
20:04 LESLIE I think in general they are not a well understood, the whole phenomenon of whistle blowing is not understood and therefore it arguably is not going to be very well portrayed by creators, but for instance… Julian had very serious and significant problems with other documentaries… I don’t have the same degree of concerns that he did. I could see what his concerns were, I read his concerns, through each one of them and I had already seen the film on some of them I thought was probably fair enough but certainly the level of indignation and outrage I did not share and I thought it was more balanced than he did, and I think it is probably a really hard call to ask the person who is the subject of the doco to weigh in on how good or poorly they were represented because it’s them and it’s their lives and they’re likely to be sensitive about it being… absolutely a one to one correlation between exactly what happened and how it’s represented, and again if I return to being an artist that is impossible. It is simply not a possibility for there to be a one to one correlation between how it actually went down in their lives and how it is creatively portrayed because the demands of whether it’s a historical novel or documentary or fictionalised account the demands of the form are such that you can’t have complete accuracy with the actual thing. So do I think there will ever be one day a representation of whistle blowers that is more sympathetic to the endeavours of whistle blowers? I think there could be some things that would be a little bit better than the film that we saw, but I don’t think that one was entirely unsympathetic…
22:52 JAMES How do you think it’s going to end for Julian, the Wikileaks organisation and/or party?
23:00 LESLIE So what is going to happen to Julian is a completely separate thing that is going to happen to Wikileaks.org, though I think those two things are tied very intimately and then what’s going to happen to Wikileaks.org and what’s going to happen to Wikileaks party are probably connected. What’s going to happen to Julian, personally I don’t know, I don’t have any inside information but am I concerned about it, I am highly concerned about it. There is a bi-partisan indifference if not a bi-partisan antagonism in the Australian government to what is going to happen to Julian as an Australian citizen and I think that’s reprehensible, and I think anytime, referring to foreign prime minister Malcolm Fraser, his comments not in reference to Julian but in reference to the two Australians caught up in the debacle in Dubai… what Malcolm Fraser said is
The key reason given for governments protecting information is often ‘in the interest of national security’ Is this always the case and if not, what steps need to be taken to change that?
What Malcolm Fraser said is that anytime he Australian government is indifferent to what happens to its citizens is a complete and total betrayal and catastrophic. (Paraphrase) And I would agree with that. And I would encourage that every Australian should be concerned about what’s happening to Julian Assange on that basis alone. And do I think its going to change? No I don’t think its going to change I think it’s a reflection of the Australian governments general attitude towards the United States. That wherever they go, we go too and that the Australian government has the view that that’s necessary because of our vulnerability to international security… I can’t comment on how closely aligned we are to the U.S. in terms of our national security… But I am satisfied that’s a motive and that I would say that as an Australian citizen I feel concerned about it and concerned about in that kind of way in which you think about what’s going to happen to other people, what’s going to happen to me, and when you look at Julian Assange I think the wiki leaks party was certainly aware of this and you know running its campaign around the senate there was an awareness about the concern of Julian’s plight because they thought to themselves if the Australian government can turns its back on this Australian citizen what happens to me if I’m found in this situation and what happens to one of my children if they’re caught in trouble.
25:59 JAMES It is concerning when you look at it in comparison to Julian the lack of support he’s been given in comparison to Schapelle Corby for example where everyone jumped on the bandwagon to support her.
26:13 LESLIE Yes, although I think there is an argument that has been made that Schapelle Corby was in fact abandoned by the Australian government… there was certainly an argument out there and I have not checked its validity or otherwise there’s an argument out there a knowledge in the Australian government that there was tampering and problems that didn’t get pushed in terms of what happened at Sydney airport, as a result of a whistleblower. And I’m gonna forget his name too, but there was a man who blew his whistle that there were already security problems at Sydney airport, that he would be persecuted mercilessly, the law report did a story on him … he was a very well known whistleblower … the argument was that when Schapelle Corby’s case was going down, the Australian government were aware that there were the sort of problems that she claimed, such as things being put in her bag and validated that she had been tampered with. But did that actually happen to Schapelle Corby? I don’t know that report really leaves anything in the wind in regard to did the Australian government know anything about it and were thinking about agitating around her case, but that’s certainly one claim, and I think you’re right that the public were concerned about schappelle corby, biut whether the government was actually doing its bit around Schapelle Corby, and whether it was actually doing its bit about Julian Assange, yes, the government did at least on the surface did make a bigger deal about Schapelle Corby but probably there’s a connection between those two things, and there’s a connection between what the government does, and how much pressure it’s feeling from the outside community. Because the Australian government has a lot of stuff on its plate, and ultimately if its driven to the top of the agenda, is what the community is concerned about f we don’t care, then the Australian government is just going to put stuff on the backburner. I don’t think there has been enough concern expressed, and there is enough knowledge in the community about Julian’s plight and about the more general issue around whistleblowing that persecution represents.
28:49 JAMES Do you think that awareness and knowledge has been suppressed intentionally?
28:58 LESLIE I think like I said, there’s no question that there’s a bipartisan view and a bipartisan antagonism towards Julian because of the American alliance and I know that I would feel pretty confident that that is the view on the surface and I also know that from some background knowledge that there’s just not that level of concern.
29:26 LAURA I have a question in regards to your own personal advocacies its clear that you’ve kept up your principles of democracy, transparency and accountability, and the other day you tweeted, Re tweeted actually, by ABC news intern, the decades conspiracy theorist that the U.S were storing aliens is almost more concerning than the idea that the U.S. is storing us. It was a tweet that was quite celebrated on twitter, in regards to be being quite popular. Do you think that humour is the way to go in communicating whistleblowing to people?
30:10 LESLIE Humour is very effective, in terms of my knowledge of communication and how we need to change people’s hearts and minds we know things that move peoples emotions are the only thing that puts people into action. So if you want to give people information and let them accumulate the facts, you can talk to the head, but if you actually want them to do something, if you want them to change their behaviour, you must connect with peoples hearts. Change just doesn’t happen otherwise, and humour is certainly one way to move people’s hearts, it’s not the only way. Humour and fear are the two primary things that move people. But within the categories of provoking fear, the whole … I think hope and fear are a little bit too narrow in terms of the emotions that move people. I think that category is actually broader, humour is definitely in there as something that changes our emotional state and it changes it in a positive way, and once our emotions are moved we are much more likely to care about things and that’s the key to making us do something. Humour is one way, activating hope is one way, you know raising our concerns to the climate change argument does revolve around activating fear, if you look at election campaigns you’ll see there’s that kind of agitating element to try and activate us to sway us on how we vote and actuating our emotions is imperative to how we act one way or another.
32:00 LAURA Earlier you said that now a lot of whistleblowers will be more cautious in what they give out, but what would you suggest to young journalists that they maintain transparency and accountability in their own work?
32:15 LESLIE Look, I think that the problems facing journalists are a lot more pragmatic than their concerns about not having adequate protections around what they do and you know in terms of the way the government might go after them for behaving in certain ways as journalists, you know investigative journalism essentially and those pragmatic concerns are to do with time, the 24/7 news cycle and all that and certainly what journalists need to do as citizens and what journalistic organisations need to do is that there’s so much going on that is not to do with the institutional organisations doing journalism anymore like the old estate which we are a part of that’s going on … in terms of where there are institutional structures to do that for their advocacy, we certainly need to ensure there are protections for journalists, and like I said Australia does have self protections for their journalists but they’re just not as good as they might be. One way to achieve that is certainly to get people into parliament who are primarily concerned about that, and you know I’ve had a lot of trouble with the Wikileaks party and I’m very concerned about the way it operates, and I cannot advocate for people to vote for it which is why I had to resign. But do we need a wikileaks like party? Yes we absolutely do. We need a party that is advocating around these issues about global surveillance and advocating around certain issues that are trying to undermine that and the ways you try to undermine it is to ensure protections for those that seek to bring things to the light of day so that the public can see and get that transparency.
34:19 LAURA Thankyou and finish.