SPIEGEL: Recently, you have been the focus of fierce criticism from a growing number of politicians and journalists who are linking WikiLeaks to Russian propaganda and disinformation.
Assange: That is all spin. After Hillary Clinton lost the election, she and her campaign manager John Podesta decided to blame it on FBI director James Comey, on Russia and on WikiLeaks.
SPIEGEL: The credibility of Wikileaks depends on it being non-partisan, on not having a hidden political agenda.
Assange: WikiLeaks’ credibility with the public depends on our proven record of accuracy. In 10 years, we have published over 10 million documents. Not a single one of them had been proven to be forged. But of course, every source has its own interest. That’s a basic law of journalism.
SPIEGEL: Do you know your sources?
Assange: We usually have very good insight into our material to authenticate it. In some cases, that means that we also develop insight into a source.
SPIEGEL: If the U.S. government were able to prove that the CIA documents WikiLeaks has published were submitted by Russian sources, that would damage the credibility of WikiLeaks severely, don’t you think?
Assange: That is a media fantasy. The official position of the U.S. government, as expressed by Barack Obama in his last press conference as president, is that the it has no evidence whatsoever of collusion between WikiLeaks and Russia. U.S. officials have said they believe that the CIA documents don’t come from a state party, but from an American private contractor.
SPIEGEL: But you can’t deny that WikiLeaks lost a lot of its popularity since it published documents about Hillary Clinton and her campaign.
Assange: What are you saying? If we hadn’t published Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches, she would have won? Or should we have censured information to favor one candidate? WikiLeaks will never do that.
SPIEGEL: Increasingly, though, secret services seem to be trying to influence the outcome of elections in foreign countries.
Assange: That may well be.
SPIEGEL: If these secret services are using WikiLeaks as a useful weapon, you can’t just lean back and say: “That may well be.”
Assange: Secret services are planting things in the media every day. And if WikiLeaks is logistically able to publish documents before an election, we will do that – and that’s also exactly what the public expects.
SPIEGEL: You don’t care if WikiLeaks influences the outcome of elections?
Assange: WikiLeaks is made up of human beings who have different political views. But we cannot undermine our publicly given commitments, our publicly stated principles.
SPIEGEL: And these principles require that you publish authentic documents as quickly as possible, regardless of who benefits or is damaged?
Assange: That’s our current policy, which might be changed under extreme circumstances.
SPIEGEL: What sort of circumstances?
Assange: If we were on the brink of a nuclear war and a WikiLeaks publication could be misinterpreted, then it would make sense to delay the publication.
SPIEGEL: You didn’t delay the publication of the material which harmed Clinton.
Assange: We are not in this business for likes. WikiLeaks publishes documents about powerful organizations. WikiLeaks always will always be the bad boy.
SPIEGEL: What do you have to say to people who accuse WikiLeaks, among others, of being responsible for Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president?
Assange: WikiLeaks revealed the dirty tactics of the Clinton campaign. Some voters took it in. It was their free choice to do so. That’s their right. That’s democracy.
SPIEGEL: As secretary of state, Clinton sought to take action against WikiLeaks. Was the publication of Democratic Party documents a kind of vendetta?
Assange: That is U.S. East Coast psychobabble. The reason that WikiLeaks follows its principles is because one man has a problem? No! But here is some historic irony behind it. Clinton was involved in putting our alleged source Chelsea Manning in prison. There seems to be some natural justice.
SPIEGEL: You derived satisfaction from her loss?
Assange: . . .
SPIEGEL: You are smiling.
Assange: On a personal level I would probably get along with her quite well. She is a charismatic person. She is a bit of wonk – like me. A little bit awkward – like me. However, there has to be a line drawn. She decided to destroy the Libyan state. As a result, she fueled the European refugee crisis. We published a lot of her emails on how this unfolded. It seems an inescapable conclusion that she is a war criminal.
May 19 Der Spiegel Interview here.