Julian Assange: NSA, FBI programs amount to "mass spying" on Americans


(CBS News) The court martial trial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is charged with handing over thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, resumes Monday in Maryland. Prosecutors at the Justice Department are reportedly trying to link Manning to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and possibly to indict Assange himself -- for publishing classified material.

Assange, who has been granted political asylum by Ecuador and has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly a year, spoke to "CBS This Morning" Friday about recent, developing stories involving similar national security leaks in the U.S., namely the revelation Thursday that the National Security Agency and the FBI tapped into the servers of nine major Internet companies to allow analysts to track an individual's communications under a program known as PRISM.

"People have a right to understand what the government is doing in their name," Assange said of the PRISM revelation and new details about NSA collection of records of millions of U.S. Verizon phone customers.

"Of course we permit the government to do all sorts of things. ... When it's done properly, there is a law [and] people are aware of what the law is ... there is open justice. It doesn't mean that every aspect, every detail must be public but at least enough parameters to understand what is really going on. There's no way that the American or international public was aware, in detail, of these mass spying programs."

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With regards to Manning's ongoing trial and three-year imprisonment, Assange that he does not feel guilty, but is "rather concerned about his fate."

"Bradley Manning is facing a capital offense. Although prosecutors have said they will only ask for life imprisonment ... that is effectively a living death," he said. Assange dismissed the notion that Manning's document leak threatened national security and endangered the lives of American soldiers.

"That's completely false, Assange said, "Despite widespread speculation and hype by the tabloid media, not even the Pentagon says that even a single person was physically harmed as a result of any of our publications ... NATO in Kabul said that they could not see anyone who needed to be protected."

"In this prosecution of Bradley Manning, the prosecution is not even going to claim that a single person was harmed. In fact, they have preemptively banned Bradley Manning from giving evidence ... to show that no one was harmed," Assange claimed.