Category Archives: Edward Snowden

Canada’s Justin Trudeau Promotes “Anglosphere” Spying

While the media has been full of news about information-gathering by Facebook and other Internet giants, other secretive organizations that are a major threat to our personal privacy and public security are seldom mentioned. And when they are, it has most often been because politicians are praising them and offering up more money for them to spy.

For example, Justin Trudeau recently promoted the “Anglosphere’s” intelligence sharing arrangement. Two weeks ago, in a rare move, the PM revealed a meeting with his “Five Eyes” counterparts. After the meeting in London Trudeau labelled the 2,000 employee Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s main contributor to the “Five Eyes” arrangement, “an extraordinary institution”. Last year Trudeau said that “collaboration and co-operation between allies, friends and partners has saved lives and keeps all of our citizens safe.”

The praise comes as the government is seeking to substantially expand CSE’s powers and two months ago put up $500 million to create a federal “cybersecurity” centre. This money is on top of CSE’s $600 million annual budget and a massive new $1.2 billion complex.

Since its creation CSE has been part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing framework. The main contributors to the accord are the US National Security Agency (NSA), Australian Defence Signals Directorate (DFS), New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and CSE. A series of post-World War II accords, beginning with the 1946 UKUSA intelligence agreement, created the “AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY” arrangement.

Writing prior to the Internet, author of Target Nation: Canada and the Western Intelligence Network James Littleton notes, “almost the entire globe is monitored by the SIGINT [signals intelligence] agencies of the UKUSA countries.” With major technological advancements in recent decades, the Five Eyes now monitor billions of private communications worldwide.

The Five Eyes accords are ultra-secretive and operate with little oversight. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden labeled it a “supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries.”

In addition to sharing information they’ve intercepted, collected, analysed and decrypted, the five SIGINT agencies exchange technologies and tactics. They also cooperate on targeting and “standardize their terminology, codewords, intercept–handling procedures, and indoctrination oaths, for efficiency as well as security.”

CSE Special Liaison Officers are embedded with Five Eyes counterparts while colleagues from the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are inserted in CSE. NSA has had many long-term guest detachments at CSE facilities. An NSA document Snowden released described how the US and Canadian agencies’ “co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and integrees.”

NSA has trained CSE cryptanalysts and in the 1960s the US agency paid part of the cost of modernizing Canadian communications interception facilities. With CSE lacking capacity, intelligence collected at interception posts set up in Canadian embassies in Cuba, Jamaica, Russia, etc. was often remitted to NSA for deciphering and analysis. In his 1986 book Littleton writes, “much of the SIGINT material collected by Canada is transmitted directly to the U.S. National Security Agency, where it is interpreted, stored, and retained. Much of it is not first processed and analyzed in Canada.”

Five Eyes agencies have helped each other skirt restrictions on spying on their own citizenry. Former Solicitor-General Wayne Easter told the Toronto Star that it was “common” for NSA “to pass on information about Canadians” to CSE. Conversely, former CSE officer Michael Frost says NSA asked the agency to spy on US citizens. In Spyworld: Inside the Canadian and American Intelligence Establishments Frost reveals that on the eve of the 1983 British election Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher asked GCHQ to spy on two cabinet ministers “to find out not what they were saying, but what they were thinking.” Reflecting the two agencies close ties, GCHQ requested CSE’s help on this highly sensitive matter. Frost notes that CSE wasn’t particularly worried about being caught because GCHQ was the agency tasked with protecting Britain from foreign spying.

In the lead-up to the US-British invasion of Iraq NSA asked Canada and the rest of the Five Eyes to spy on UN Security Council members. On January 31, 2003, NSA SIGINT Department Deputy Chief of Staff for regional targets wrote alliance counterparts: “As you’ve likely heard by now, the agency is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council (UNSC) members (minus US and GBR [Great Britain] of course) for insights as to how membership is reacting to the ongoing debate RE: Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/dependencies, etc. – the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises.”

While CSE reportedly rejected this NSA request, a number of commentators suggest CSE has shown greater allegiance to its Five Eyes partners than most Canadians would like. Littleton writes, “the agreements may not explicitly say that the United States, through its SIGINT organization, the National Security Agency (NSA) dominates and controls the SIGINT organizations of the other member nations, but that is clearly what the agreements mean.”

An NSA history of the US–Canada SIGINT relationship released by Snowden labelled Canada a “highly valued second party partner”, which offers “resources for advanced collection, processing and analysis, and has opened covert sites at the request of NSA. CSE shares with NSA their unique geographic access to areas unavailable to the US.”

The Five Eyes arrangement has made Canada complicit in belligerent US foreign policy. It’s time for a debate about Canadian participation in the “Anglosphere’s” intelligence sharing agreement.

America’s Descent Into Despotism: Finding Our Source of Power Within

The United States is in a major upheaval. Trump’s cabinet shake-up moves the country into an alarming direction. From the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran as new secretary of state, his selection exposes the White House’s dangerous kill instincts.

An ultimatum came with the president’s appointment of John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations as his 3rd national security advisor. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration is notorious for his hawkishness, with a great zeal for military action against Iran and North Korea. This rearranging of the deck chairs in the sinking empire signals the great calamity of foreign policy ahead with potential threats of war.

In this seeming free-fall toward despotism, what can ordinary people do? Tackling corruption of our political system and averting a doomed future requires us to truly understand the problems we are facing. The crisis of representation didn’t just arise with Trump, the new commander in chief. A glimpse of it was shown during the 2008 financial meltdown, which was covered up swiftly by bank bailouts and politics of ‘hope and change’. The truth is that seeds for dystopia have been inside this country all along. The roots of the issues that are now emerging in Trump’s America go back to the very beginning of this nation.

In its modern formation, the United States inspired the world with its torch of liberty and equality. At the same time, this beacon of light had its darkness within. From the onset, America contained internal contradictions manifested as the founder’s hypocrisy and the violation of its own ideals with genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and suppression of women. The Founding Fathers of the United States brought a victory of rejecting the power of the King’s monarchy and pioneered a path for one’s own self-determination. The concept of “a government of laws, not of men” was groundbreaking at that time. Yet without reconciling its own shadow, this nation of law failed to fully shield the republic from the tyranny of the Old World.

Supremacy of reason

The unredeemed darkness found in America’s troubled past was a force inside Western civilization that tries to define history, subjugating other perspectives to its single vision. Europe, with its ethos of separation and objectivity set out to conquer the world, spreading its influence across many continents. This domineering power of reason found its new front of exploration in the New World.

America, driven by the monotheistic goal of Manifest Destiny, expanded its territory with brutality. It swallowed what is edible, assimilating immigrants one by one to its conception of what is civil, while spitting out those that it considered impalatable, relegating them into three-fifths of a person or exterminating them from the earth altogether as savages.

This maddened head centricity was manifested in the structure of a new government. Sheldon Wolin, author of Democracy Inc noted how the framers of the Constitution created a so-called managed democracy, a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (2008, p. 228).

The intellectual elites regarded the democratic majority rule as an irrational force and they feared the tyranny of popular majorities. While the faculty of reason positioned itself as a supreme force, a potential to account its autocratic power was found inside America.

The sovereign power of We the People

Expressed in the preamble of the Constitution “We the People” was faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. This was an intention to shift from the model of government that acts as authority of their lives to one that places power in the hands of ordinary people. In this government established under the rule of the people, the source of legitimacy was not derived from a god or king, but was meant to come from people themselves.

This arrangement of governance was not granted from above. It was first demanded by those who opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution that lacked the guarantee of individual liberties. The proponents of the Bill of Rights articulated essential parts of the sovereign power of We the People as a freedom of expression; freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. By building upon First Amendment rights, further efforts emerged from below. From abolitionists’ defiance and the women’s suffrage movement to civil rights and free speech movements, people’s determination for individual autonomy persisted.

Assault on this power of ordinary people intensified with the rise of corporate power in the ‘60s. Manifest Destiny is now carried out with Nike’s slogan of “just do it”. With limited liability and having no human beings in charge, the abstraction of the head inside transnational corporations took flight from the communal ground, plundering their way into the globe, without ever having to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Giant corporations became a sponsor for this managed democracy, gaining control over media to manipulate public perception, keeping American voters in hostage with the lesser of the two evils charade politics.

WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action

In the political winter of the post-911 war on terror, as fear and apathy spread around the globe, a new civic force surfaced online. The waves of whistleblowers began shedding light on the collaborative secrecy of elites that deceive and manipulate the public behind a façade of democracy.

WikiLeaks, with its motto of “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”, opened a floodgate of a free flow of information. This world’s first global Fourth Estate embodies the philosophy of cypherpunks– a loosely tied group of online privacy advocates who saw the potential of cryptography to shift the balance of power between individuals and the state. With the idea that cryptography is the “ultimate form of non-violent direct action” (2012, p. 5), WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange built the system of scientific journalism that would give everyday people around the world tools to combat military might and confront the madness of fallen reason that censors free speech.

The invention of the anonymous drop box was truly revolutionary. It enabled anyone to send information securely without a trace of his or her identity. Through the robust decentralized infrastructure built around this game changing technology, WikiLeaks was able to provide unprecedented source protection in the history of journalism. Here, the organization that derived its source of inspiration in American founding ideas, freed the First Amendment that had been captured through a corporate monopoly and co-optation of the media, making it available to people all around the world.

It is through WikiLeaks’ adamant commitment to the principle of free press that former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to exercise uncompromising free speech and engage in the American tradition of civil disobedience. Manning, whom the late attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner described as the “conscience of our nation”, let the American public see the US imperialism in action in the Middle East.

In her request for a presidential pardon, Manning stated her commitment to the ideal of America, saying how she was willing to pay the price if it would make this country be “truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” Through her non-violent cryptographic direct action, she helped America find its conscience.

One individual’s act of courage brought another. Inspired by Manning, Edward Snowden came forward to inform people about the NSA’s mass surveillance. In one of the addresses he made, Snowden also described his act as a public service and connected it with Dr. King’s non-violent civil disobedience. Through his whistleblowing, the former NSA contractor defended individual privacy as fundamental civil rights for all people and tried to preserve the world where people can share creativity, love and friendship freely without every conversation and interaction being monitored and recorded.

Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people

From WikiLeaks disruptions to Snowden revelations, courageous act of truth-tellers renewed the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. Both Manning and Snowden believed in the public’s right to know and held a view that when people are informed, they can make changes and determine their own destiny.

Faith is different than mere belief. It is not about one blindly trusting or passively accepting something. Faith is an active will that requires one to choose out of themselves to believe in something. When established media and trusted institutions failed, Manning chose to put her trust in the journalistic organization that was little known at that time. When the government’s internal mechanisms of accountability were broken, combined with the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and his war on whistleblowers, Snowden turned to American journalists whom he could trust by his own judgment of the integrity of their work. They placed faith not in political leaders or authority but in fellow men and women.

It is to this faith in the ability for the wise and knowledgeable public to govern themselves that fearless journalism responded. WikiLeaks, the publisher of last resort, kept its promise to the source by publishing full archives with maximum political impact and bringing information back to the historical record. By doing so, it has become an enemy of the most powerful government in the world, being subjected to legal and extra-legal pressure. Through honoring Snowden’s wishes, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman broke the story of NSA surveillance and led the Guardian’s independent journalism, making the established media fulfill its duty. In the aftermath of Snowden’s disclosures, when this young whistleblower was stranded in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks demonstrated its extraordinary source protection with journalist Sarah Harrison risking her own liberty to help Snowden attain asylum.

With this faith given by peers, citizens around the world who have been distrusted by their own governments and made powerless began to claim their own power. By recognizing that someone believed in them and sacrificed their lives so that they can be free, they were able to believe in their own ability to protect those they love and preserve rights that they cherish. The will to respond to this faith in one another made it possible for ordinary people to carry out extraordinary acts.

Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission

Contagious courage lit by people’s faith created a fellowship that can withstand the state violence. It began to shift the balance of power, replacing the source of legitimacy from trusted institutions to ordinary people’s trust in one another. As the network of resistance grew, new attacks emerged. Following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. When this economic sanction starved the whistleblowing site, destroying 95% of their revenue, the flow of autonomy that helped the organization circumvent economic censorship came from fellow cypherpunks.

Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer electronic cash was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionlessness, Bitcoin makes free speech an app that can be distributed across borders and used by anyone regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender or economic status. Here, imagination from computer science redeemed the reason that lost its connection to the heart, by synthesizing bits of isolated knowledge that had created separation and injustice, transforming them into a higher order of unification.

Networks of equal peers emerging around this invention opened up a new avenue of dissent in a form of decentralization. Adam Back, notable cryptographer whose work was cited in the Bitcoin white paper, described cypherpunks as “a state of mind” and explained its philosophy of “writing code” as a “proactive approach to societal change by doing: building and deploying tech – rather than by lobbying politicians or asking permission.”

This path toward decentralization was first taken by the creator of this technology. The anonymity of Satoshi Nakamoto represents the power of ordinary people. Through an act of publishing the white paper under a pseudonymous name and making the protocol open source, the mysterious author gave up ownership and simultaneously gave users control of the software, making it possible for each individual to use it as a tool to govern themselves.

What is enshrined in a piece of mathematics is wisdom of ordinary people that understands that man is corruptible, as well as perfectible and recognizes the security holes inherent in the existing model of governance that requires trust in third parties. It is the wisdom of history that teaches us how the best way to secure the system is not to have levers of control in the first place through which power concentrates, leading to despotism. With a consensus algorithm placed as a foundation, laws can be built that is more immune to man’s fallen nature. With this, idea of a government of laws, not of men can be truly realized. Governance of We the People now becomes possible, where rules of law are validated by consensus of ordinary people as opposed to elected officials having power over them.

Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and one of the respected figures in Bitcoin, in his talk titled “Courage to Innovate”, captured new enthusiasm and passion ignited around this technology in a phrase “innovation without permission” and connected it with civil disobedience. He reminded the audience how “almost every important innovation in history starts out being illegal or unregulated” and interesting technology started out with people who forgot to ask permission. Describing technology’s core invention as a platform to scale trust, Antonopoulos described how this is a system that makes it possible for people to make social decisions without hierarchy, whether it is government bureaucracy, corporations or any other institution. This system Antonopoulos characterized as “rules without rulers” is being built by people around the world without central coordination.

Claiming our revolutionary spirit

Our Founding Fathers, no matter how imperfect they were, brought us ideas conceived in a revolutionary spirit. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes fundamental laws and principles of government amendable. The highest law of the land preserved space for people to not accept authority imposed on them and even to revolt against it when it is necessary, by giving ordinary people means to change rules. America indeed was founded on rebelliousness and distrust of their own government, demonstrated in the Declaration that reads “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government…”

The government brought by our forebears not only allowed dissent, but depended on our rebellion. The realization of the Constitution as the fulfillment of ideals in the Declaration required individuals with a strong and independent mind. It demanded people to develop moral courage to defend these ideals against special interests of single groups or nations and any adversarial forces that try to deny them.

From the civil rights movement to whistleblowers at the frontier of digital liberation, we have seen the awakening of revolutionary spirit in people’s courageous civic action upholding the ideals of this country. The networks from below expands, converging together to build a new global civil society. Bitcoin developers around the world put their knowledge and skills together, making improvement proposals and fixing bugs, striving to meet the demands of all users.

Innovation without permission is enlivening entrepreneurship. Instead of waiting for problems to be solved by politicians or corporate CEOs, working class began to have faith in their ability to make changes, finding strength and resources within themselves. Around this currency, a new economy is now being bootstrapped, with startups and new businesses hiring people and providing them with skills and knowledge, while many other industries are stagnating.

Solutions to the crisis of representation are within us. Ordinary people, through freely associating with one another, can now give birth to the rule of a real democracy, securing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

Getting Julian Assange

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Julian Assange has been vindicated because the Swedish case against him was corrupt. The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, obstructed justice and should be prosecuted. Her obsession with Assange not only embarrassed her colleagues and the judiciary but exposed the Swedish state’s collusion with the United States in its crimes of war and “rendition”.

Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit Chelsea Manning had to endure.

This prospect was obscured by the grim farce played out in Sweden. “It’s a laughing stock,” said James Catlin, one of Assange’s Australian lawyers. “It is as if they make it up as they go along”.

It may have seemed that way, but there was always serious purpose. In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally.

The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks‘ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.

Perhaps this was understandable. WikiLeaks has exposed the way America dominates much of human affairs, including its epic crimes, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale, often homicidal killing of civilians and the contempt for sovereignty and international law.

These disclosures are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistle blowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”.

In 2012, the Obama campaign boasted on its website that Obama had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had publicly pronounced her guilty.

Few serious observers doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, he is on a “Manhunt target list”. Threats of his kidnapping and assassination became almost political and media currency in the US following then Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”.

Hillary Clinton, the destroyer of Libya and, as WikiLeaks revealed last year, the secret supporter and personal beneficiary of forces underwriting ISIS, proposed her own expedient solution: “Can’t we just drone this guy.”

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has sought for almost seven years to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy.

The First Amendment protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers, whether it is the editor of the New York Times or the editor of WikiLeaks. The very notion of free speech is described as America’s ” founding virtue” or, as Thomas Jefferson called it, “our currency”.

Faced with this hurdle, the US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Assange’s ability to defend himself in such a Kafkaesque world has been severely limited by the US declaring his case a state secret. In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

For Assange, his trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, when the Swedish police opened a “rape investigation”, they coordinated it, unlawfully, with the Stockholm tabloids. The front pages said Assange had been accused of the “rape of two women”. The word “rape” can have a very different legal meaning in Sweden than in Britain; a pernicious false reality became the news that went round the world.

Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

Enter Claes Borgstrom, a highly contentious figure in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.

On 30 August, Assange attended a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was re-opening the case.

At a press conference, Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed. The reporter cited one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, “Ah, but she is not a lawyer.”

On the day that Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden’s military intelligence service — which has the acronym MUST — publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article entitled “WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers [under US command in Afghanistan]”.

Both the Swedish prime minister and foreign minister attacked Assange, who had been charged with no crime. Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its US counterparts that US-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.

For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the renewed “rape investigation” to take its course. The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War Logs”, based on WikiLeaks‘ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee in London.

Finally, he was allowed him to leave. As soon as he had left, Marianne Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

Assange attended a police station in London, was duly arrested and spent ten days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court.

He still had not been charged with any offence. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned in London, by video or personally, pointing out that Marianne Ny had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used by the Swedish and other European authorities for that purpose. She refused.

For almost seven years, while Sweden has questioned forty-four people in the UK in connection with police investigations, Ny refused to question Assange and so advance her case.

Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as “abnormal” and demanded she be replaced.

Assange asked the Swedish authorities for a guarantee that he would not be “rendered” to the US if he was extradited to Sweden. This was refused. In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US.

Contrary to its reputation as a bastion of liberal enlightenment, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” — including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables.

“Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England,” wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers that faced Assange, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”

The war on Assange now intensified. Marianne Ny refused to allow his Swedish lawyers, and the Swedish courts, access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police had extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the “rape” allegations.

Ny said she was not legally required to reveal this critical evidence until a formal charge was laid and she had questioned him. Then, why wouldn’t she question him? Catch-22.

When she announced last week that she was dropping the Assange case, she made no mention of the evidence that would  destroy it. One of the SMS messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, “but the police were keen on getting a hold on him”. She was “shocked” when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test”. She “did not want to accuse JA of anything” and “it was the police who made up the charges”. In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been “railroaded by police and others around her”.

Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, “I have not been raped.” The women were manipulated by police — whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they, too, are the victims of this sinister saga.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”

Assange’s choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety.

Supported by most of Latin America, the government of tiny Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington.

The Labor government of the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, had even threatened to take away his Australian passport — until it was pointed out to her that this would be unlawful.

The renowned human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd: “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.”

It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew “only what I read in the newspapers” about the details of the case.

In 2011, in Sydney, I spent several hours with a conservative Member of Australia’s Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. We discussed the threats to Assange and their wider implications for freedom of speech and justice, and why Australia was obliged to stand by him. Turnbull then had a reputation as a free speech advocate. He is now the Prime Minister of Australia.

I gave him Gareth Peirce’s letter about the threat to Assange’s rights and life. He said the situation was clearly appalling and promised to take it up with the Gillard government. Only his silence followed.

For almost seven years, this epic miscarriage of justice has been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. There are few precedents. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, and to the principle of free speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious. I would call it anti-journalism.

Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive.

The previous editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. Yet no attempt was made to protect the Guardian‘s provider and source. Instead, the “scoop” became part of a marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.

With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

Journalism students might well study this period to understand that the most ubiquitous source of “fake news” is from within a media self-ordained with a false respectability and an extension of the authority and power it claims to challenge but courts and protects.

The presumption of innocence was not a consideration in Kirsty Wark’s memorable BBC live-on-air interrogation in 2010. “Why don’t you just apologise to the women?” she demanded of Assange, followed by: “Do we have your word of honour that you won’t abscond?”

On the BBC’s Today programme, John Humphrys bellowed: “Are you a sexual predator?” Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.

“Would even Fox News have descended to that level?” wondered the American historian William Blum. “I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: ‘You mean including your mother?'”

Last week, on BBC World News, on the day Sweden announced it was dropping the case, I was interviewed by Geeta Guru-Murthy, who seemed to have little knowledge of the Assange case. She persisted in referring to the “charges” against him. She accused him of putting Trump in the White House; and she drew my attention to the “fact” that “leaders around the world” had condemned him. Among these “leaders” she included Trump’s CIA director. I asked her, “Are you a journalist?”.

The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act in 2014. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce told me, “these changes in the law mean that the UK now recognises as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.” In other words, he would have won his case in the British courts and would not have been forced to take refuge.

Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 was immensely brave. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognise the legitimacy of Ecuador’s decision.

Ecuador’s embassy in London was placed under police siege and its government abused. When William Hague’s Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down.

During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.

Since then, Assange has been confined to a small room without sunlight. He has been ill from time to time and refused safe passage to the diagnostic facilities of hospital. Yet, his resilience and dark humour remain quite remarkable in the circumstances. When asked how he put up with the confinement, he replied, “Sure beats a supermax.”

It is not over, but it is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention — the tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations — last year ruled that Assange had been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. This is international law at its apex.

Both Britain and Sweden participated in the 16-month long UN investigation and submitted evidence and defended their position before the tribunal. In previous cases ruled upon by the Working Group — Aung Sang Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian in Iran — both Britain and Sweden gave full support to the tribunal. The difference now is that Assange’s persecution endures in the heart of London.

The Metropolitan Police say they still intend to arrest Assange for bail infringement should he leave the embassy. What then? A few months in prison while the US delivers its extradition request to the British courts?

If the British Government allows this to happen it will, in the eyes of the world, be shamed comprehensively and historically as an accessory to the crime of a war waged by rampant power against justice and freedom, and all of us.

“It’s very important we hear what Putin has to say”

Director Oliver Stone © Vincent West / Reuters

The man behind three films about American presidents, Oliver Stone, says his upcoming feature about Russian President Vladimir Putin “opens up a whole viewpoint that we as Americans haven’t heard,” and could help prevent “a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.”

Academy Award-winning director and revered documentary filmmaker Stone said in interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that his new film about Putin will be released soon. “It’s not a documentary as much as a question and answer session,” he said. “Mr. Putin is one of the most important leaders in the world and in so far as the United States has declared him an enemy – a great enemy – I think it’s very important we hear what he has to say.”

The film will present Putin’s viewpoint of political events since he was first elected president of Russia in March 2000.

“It opens up a whole viewpoint that we as Americans haven’t heard,” Stone told the newspaper, adding that his crew went to see the indefatigable Russian leader four times over the course of two years.

“I talked to him originally about the Snowden affair, which is in the film. And out of that grew, I think, a trust that he knew that I would not edit it so much,” he said, adding that Putin “talks pretty straight.”

“I think we did him the justice of putting [his comments] into a Western narrative that could explain their viewpoint in the hopes that it will prevent continued misunderstanding and a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.”

The 70-year-old director also commented the accusations of Russian influence on the US presidential elections. “That’s a path that leads nowhere to my mind. That’s an internal war of politics in the US in which the Democratic Party has taken a suicide pact or something to blow him up; in other words, to completely de-legitimize him and in so doing blow up the US essentially. “What they’re doing is destroying the trust that exists between people and government. It’s a very dangerous position to make accusations you cannot prove,” he added.

Stone also said does not believe claims circulating in the mainstream media that Moscow allegedly passed some classified documents to WikiLeaks in a bid to influence the November US elections. “I hold [WikiLeaks editor Julian] Assange in high regard in many issues of state. I take very seriously his statement that he received no information from Russia or any state actors,” Stone said.

WikiLeaks published over 250,000 classified US military and diplomatic documents in 2010 in a move that amounted to the largest information leak in United States history. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State when WikiLeaks published ‘Cablegate’. Assange has been stuck inside the Ecuadorian embassy since he took refuge there in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning by the authorities regarding allegations of sexual assault against two women in 2010.

“For 10 years now he’s been a beacon of integrity and honesty,” Stone noted. “He’s been very helpful to understand the world to those who pay attention. “Unfortunately, his reports sometimes get too thick and too difficult to understand, but I don’t think the media has done him any favors really by playing along and accusing him of rape and holding him on these bogus charges. This is scary behavior but it’s also unlawful.”

Stone’s latest movie revolved around NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who became world-renown figure after leading classified documents detailing the surveillance programs of the US intelligence agencies and its allies in 2013. Stone met him in person in Russia, where Snowden was granted political asylum.

The director said Washington’s unprecedented move towards far-reaching surveillance technology is utterly wrong.

“I think we’ve had a lot of false information – fake news as they say – used for political ideological purposes. In other words, the US has been able, because of this technology, to say without any doubt Russia hacked the election. This is coming from who? From the intelligence agencies that are fighting against Russia with all their hearts and minds. They can’t be trusted. This is important to recognize. I think the Snowden movie shows why they cannot be trusted.”

Amid a US military buildup in response to the North Korean nuclear threat, Stone told the Sydney Morning Herald he is also concerned by where US attacks on Syria and Afghanistan might lead. “The United States is spending on defense and security almost a trillion dollars a year, which is more than all the countries in the world spend on security and the military. It’s inexcusable to people who examine this rationally.”

Leaks Can be for Good or Evil

Hacking and “leaking” have become major news items. Are the leaks good or bad?  The answer depends on the nature of the leak. Are the leaks exposing crimes or covering them up? Are they for or against the public good?

Following are some famous leaks or disclosures that have done good.

Beginning in 1969, Daniel Ellsberg started xeroxing the Vietnam war analysis known as the Pentagon Papers. Two years later the secret documents were finally ready and published for the first time. This disclosure of classified information allowed the public to learn about the reality of what was going on in Vietnam in contrast to the rosy government and military assessments. It was revealed that four U.S. administrations starting with Truman had misled the public and lied about their real intentions and military actions from undermining the 1954 Geneva settlement to secretly bombing Cambodia. The Pentagon Papers led many more Americans to oppose the war and hastened its end.

In 1975 former CIA agent Philip Agee published his book Inside the Company: CIA Diary. Patrick Breslin of the Washington Post described the book this way: “In this book Agee has provided the most complete description yet of what the CIA does abroad. In entry after numbing entry, U.S. foreign policy in Latin America is pictured as a web of deceit, hypocrisy and corruption.” Agee identified corrupt politicians plus American and foreign CIA operatives throughout Latin America. His expose greatly reduced CIA powers of influence and probably saved many thousands of lives.

In 1984 former CIA Director of the Angola Task Force, John Stockwell, published his book In Search of Enemies.  He documented how the CIA had trained, armed and otherwise funded a ‘rebel’ group to wage war in Angola ultimately leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Stockwell described how the CIA spread disinformation as part of the ‘information war’. Stockwell’s expose made it more difficult for the CIA to continue this kind of deceit, at least for some years.

In 2010 Chelsea Manning leaked files revealing more war crimes and government deception. He copied the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs as well as video, then passed on these files to Wikileaks.  One of the videos, named Collateral Murder, shows US soldiers in an Apache helicopter attacking and killing two Reuters cameramen along with ten other civilians in Iraq. Manning went to prison while the soldiers who carried out the murder have never been tried let alone convicted. The war logs and videos confirmed what many had suspected: in its war against Iraqi insurgents, the US was indiscriminately killing civilians.

Edward Snowden is perhaps the most well known modern “leaker”.  He copied files from the NSA computer system onto flash drives then made that public. The files confirmed that NSA was spying on foreign leaders including allies like Germany’s Angela Merkel. They showed how the NSA was collecting data on the computer and phone communications of nearly all American citizens. The revelations exposed that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had lied under oath to Congress when he testified before Congress two months earlier. The leaks by Snowden exposed NSA violations of the US Constitution regarding right to privacy. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Snowden performed a “public service”.

Finally, in July 2016, emails from the Democratic National Committee were leaked to the public. They revealed that DNC leadership was deeply biased in favor of Hillary Clinton, providing her with advantages and preventing a fair primary election race. The emails substantiated the criticisms which the Sanders campaign had been making for some time.

From a progressive perspective, all the above “leaks” and disclosures were good. They exposed lies, crimes and corruption.

But leaks can also be used for evil purposes. One example is how the CIA agent Valerie Plame was “outed” in 2003. Her identity as a clandestine CIA officer was leaked to Robert Novak who published the information in the Washington Post. The disclosure came from Scooter Libby who worked closely with Vice President Dick Cheney. Plame’s career at the CIA was publicly exposed to punish her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he went to Central Africa and disproved the Bush Administration’s claims about yellow cake uranium going to Iraq to make weapons of mass destruction. The administration leaked the information about Wilson’s wife to retaliate and send a warning to others: If you cross us, you will pay a price. In this case the “leak” came from the Vice President’s office with the intention of stopping those who might expose the Administration’s lies to justify the war on Iraq.

In the past 8 months, leaks of the DNC and John Podesta emails have been used to foster an anti-Russia hysteria. Despite the fact that Wikileaks claims they did not receive the emails from Russian sources, the Democratic leadership and their acolytes have amplified this accusation to the point that it has become one of their main themes. This has served multiple goals: deflecting attention from the content of the leaks, blaming the subsequent election loss on a foreign power and reinforcing the neoconservative goal of demonizing Russia and blocking attempts to de-escalate the Cold War or give up on U.S. unilateral supremacy.

Currently there are many leaks occurring in the Trump administration.  The leaks appear to be coming from the Security Services themselves.  President Trump’s private phone conversations with other foreign leaders quickly became public. Then, a December phone conversation between incoming National Security Director Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador was revealed …though not the actual content. This led to a storm of insinuations that ultimately led to Flynn’s resignation.  There is nothing unusual or wrong with an incoming top official meeting with the ambassador from any country to gauge the relationship and challenges. But it led to Flynn’s departure when it was revealed that he had not accurately informed the Vice President. What is going on? It’s unclear what the offense was. James Clapper lied under oath to Congress and continued without pause. The Flynn case was treated very differently.  Some believe there is a concerted effort by the CIA and other security services to undermine Trump’s goal of reducing tensions with Russia.

Former candidate for President and Ohio Congressman Denis Kucinich has said:

General Flynn has admitted misleading the Vice President but I think we need to look at this a little bit deeper. A phone call from the incoming national security director was intercepted and the contents given to the media …. at the core of this is an effort by some in the intelligence community to upend a positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia…. There are people trying to separate the U.S. and Russia so that the military industrial and intelligence axis can cash in…. The American people need to know that there’s a game going on inside the intelligence community there are those who …want to reignite the cold war. That’s what’s at the bottom of all this …Wake Up America!

Trump’s policies on education, health care, environmental protection, immigration and law enforcement are horrible from a progressive perspective.  But Trump campaigned for stopping the “regime change” foreign policy championed by neoconservatives and the CIA. He called for reducing conflict with Russia and working together to combat terrorists trying to overthrow Syrian government. This policy in favor of peace is apparently being undermined from within by elements in the secret services. They seem to be the ones doing the leaking and it’s not for the public good.