Then the Afghanistan War Logs, now, these came at a very important moment in 2010, where Michael Hastings had just—the late Michael Hastings had just released a report on McChrystal, and these publications came not long after that.
It’s about 3,000 volumes of material. As a sort of history of how the modern world behaves in practice, it’s extremely important, and it fed into the Tunisian revolution quite directly. In fact, Ben Ali’s propaganda minister, after the government fell, said that the WikiLeaks releases about Tunisia is what broke the back of the Ben Ali system.AMY GOODMAN: This is the Rolling Stone journalist who died in a car crash. [a "car crash"!!]...
JULIAN ASSANGE: ... in December of that year , we started the release of Cablegate, the more than 251,000 U.S. diplomatic cables from all around the world from 1966 to 2010. And that is the largest compendium of diplomacy that has ever been released.
AMY GOODMAN: Because?JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, because it exposed the corruption that many Tunisians knew about, but in a much more flagrant form of what money had gone where and people keeping pet tigers and so on, but also that there was various kinds of debates about it, and within the United States and from others, and that when push came to shove the U.S. would probably back the military and not Ben Ali. And it was undeniable.
...JULIAN ASSANGE: ...And those cables are really quite incredibly important. They have gone into literally dozens of court cases. They have released people from prison. People have been released from prison holding these cables above their head as the reason that they had been released from prison. The El-Masri case, where the CIA kidnapped a German citizen unlawfully, renditioned him and kept him in a CIA black site for four months...Similar cases in Spain, and an important precedent was set about the use of our materials in court cases generally, specifically cables. So, this relates to Chagos islands. So there’s an island group called Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. It’s owned by the British. It is very important strategically because it’s sort of on the way between things. Now, the British handed over, rent-free, one of these islands, Chagos, to the United States military.
AMY GOODMAN: C-H-A-G-O-S.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, to the United States military. And it has been now turned into a base, and rendition flights go through there and so on. But there was original inhabitants. At the time it was handed over to the United States in the '60s, the original inhabitants were pushed off. And they were all pushed off to Mauritius and Madagascar, and they had been trying to fight a court case to come back. And some cables revealed that in fact the British government had told the U.S. it was setting up a secret plan to make it very difficult or impossible for them to come back. It was going to declare—you know, it was going to suck in the Liberal Left. And here's how it was going to do it. Create a marine park. It’s a coral atoll, the Chagos islands. Going to create a marine park. Well, what was the economy of the Chagos islands? It was fishing. So this is explicitly that they’re going to prevent the Chagos islanders having any meaningful economic return to the island by creating this marine park, which all the Liberals will love. And that way, you know, these islanders won’t be able to interfere or spy on the U.S. base.
Anyway, that provoked new litigation by the Chagos islanders in the British courts. And ultimately, the lower courts found that the cables were inadmissible, because they had come from embassies, and there’s a Vienna Convention, the same thing that is protecting me here that protects diplomatic correspondence. But in a higher court, it was appealed, and it was found that’s not true. Actually, diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks are not protected by the Vienna Convention. They’re already public. It’s the first instance of getting them out that’s protected, not what happens to them subsequently. So that’s quite an important precedent within the common law world, because it means these cables can be used in many more court cases.
fyi: Stealing a Nation
'Stealing A Nation' (2004) is an extraordinary film about the plight of the Chagos Islands, whose indigenous population was secretly and brutally expelled by British Governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s to make way for an American military base. The tragedy, which falls within the remit of the International Criminal Court as "a crime against humanity", is told by Islanders who were dumped in the slums of Mauritius and by British officials who left behind a damning trail of Foreign Office documents.
Before the Americans came, more than 2,000 people lived on the islands in the Indian Ocean, many with roots back to the late 18th century. There were thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a railway and an undisturbed way of life."