Category Archives: US Media

Julian Assange’s Victory

Throughout history, dark and reactionary forces have always attempted to control the world; by violence, by deceit, by kidnapping and perverting the mainstream narrative, or by spreading fear among the masses.

Consistently, brave and honest individuals have been standing up, exposing lies, confronting the brutality and depravity. Some have fought against insane and corrupt rulers by using swords or guns; others have chosen words as their weapons.

Many were cut down; most of them were. New comrades rose up; new banners of resistance were unveiled.

To resist is to dream of a better world. And to dream is to live.

The bravest of the brave never fought for just their own countries and cultures; they fought for the entire humanity. They were and they are what one could easily define as “intuitive internationalists”.

Julian Assange, an Australian computer expert, thinker and humanist, had chosen a new and mostly untested form of combat: he unleashed an entire battalion of letters and words, hundreds of thousands of documents, against the Western empire. He penetrated databases which have been storing the evidence of the most atrocious crimes the West has been committing for years and decades. Toxic secrets were exposed; truths revealed. To those who have been suffering in silence, both face and dignity were finally returned.

Julian Assange was a ‘commander’ of a small team of dedicated experts and activists. I met some of them, and was tremendously impressed. But no matter how small in numbers, this team has been managing to change the world, or at least to give the Western public an opportunity to know, and consequently to act.

After WikiLeaks, no one in New York, Berlin, London or Paris has any right to say “we did not know”. If they do not know now, it is because they have decided not to know, opportunistically and cynically.

Julian Assange and his comrades published all that the West was doing to the Afghan people, as well as to those suffering from neo-colonialism and imperialism all over the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

What is it that the critics of Wikileaks are holding against Mr. Assange? That the snitches and the agents of the Western empire got ‘exposed’? Is the world expected to feel pity for them? Are tens of millions of victims supposed to be forgotten just so that the members of the Western intelligence services and their lackeys could feel safe and protected?

*****

A few days before this essay went to print, Julian Assange was cynically betrayed by a country which used to be governed by a socialist administration, and which gave him political asylum and citizenship, both. Its current ruler, Lenin Moreno, will be judged extremely harshly by history: he’ll be remembered as a man who began dismantling the socialist structure of Ecuador, and who then literally sold (to the twisted British and US judiciary systems) a man who has already sacrificed more than his life for the truth as well as for survival of our planet.

As the Metropolitan Police dragged Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London into a van, the entire world could catch a glimpse of the naked essence of the Western regime; the regime in action — oppressive, gangrenous, murderous and vindictive.

But we should not forget: the regime is not doing it because it is confident and strong. It is actually terrified. It is in panic. It is losing. And it is murdering, wherever it feels ‘vulnerable’, which is, all over the world.

Why? Because the millions, on all continents, are waking up, ready to face Western terror, ready to fight it, if there is no other way.

It is because they now know the truth. It is because the reality cannot be hidden; the brutality of Western global dictates is something that no one can deny any longer. Thanks to the new media in countries that have managed to free themselves from Western influence. And, of course, thanks to heroes like Julian Assange, and his comrades.

*****

Julian Assange has not fallen. He was stabbed, betrayed. But he is here, he is alive, with us; with the millions of those who support him, admire him, and are grateful to him for his honesty, courage and integrity.

He confronted the entire Empire; the most powerful, evil, destructive and brutal force on earth. And he managed to damage its secret organizations, consequently spoiling some of the plans, therefore saving lives.

All this can be considered a victory. Not the final victory, but a victory nevertheless.

By arresting Assange, the empire showed its weakness. By dragging him from the embassy into a police van, it has admitted that it already has begun sewing its own funeral gown.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Assange Arrest is a Warning from History

The glimpse of Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London is an emblem of the times. Might against right. Muscle against the law. Indecency against courage. Six policemen manhandled a sick journalist, his eyes wincing against his first natural light in  almost seven years.

That this outrage happened in the heart of London, in the land of Magna Carta, ought to shame and anger all who fear for “democratic” societies. Assange is a political refugee protected by international law, the recipient of asylum under a strict covenant to which Britain is a signatory. The United Nations made this clear in the legal ruling of its Working Party on Arbitrary Detention.

But to hell with that. Let the thugs go in. Directed by the quasi fascists in Trump’s Washington, in league with Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno, a Latin American Judas and liar seeking to disguise his rancid regime, the British elite abandoned its last imperial myth: that of fairness and justice.

Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs, for onward dispatch to the dock in The Hague. By the standard of Nuremberg, Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s crime is journalism: holding the rapacious to account, exposing their lies and empowering people all over the world with truth.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation”. The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast.

Assange’s principal media tormentor, The Guardian, a collaborator with the secret state, displayed its nervousness this week with an editorial that scaled new weasel heights. The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years”. The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

With not a penny going to Julian Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, turned on their source, abused him and disclosed the secret password Assange had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing leaked US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding joined the police outside and gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”. The Guardian has since published a series of falsehoods about Assange, not least a discredited claim that a group of Russians and Trump’s man, Paul Manafort, had visited Assange in the embassy. The meetings never happened; it was fake.

But the tone has now changed. “The Assange case is a morally tangled web,” the paper opined. “He (Assange) believes in publishing things that should not be published…. But he has always shone a light on things that should never have been hidden.”

These “things” are the truth about the homicidal way America conducts its colonial wars, the lies of the British Foreign Office in its denial of rights to vulnerable people, such as the Chagos Islanders, the expose of Hillary Clinton as a backer and beneficiary of jihadism in the Middle East, the detailed description of American ambassadors of how the governments in Syria and Venezuela might be overthrown, and much more. It all available on the WikiLeaks site.

The Guardian is understandably nervous. Secret policemen have already visited the newspaper and demanded and got the ritual destruction of a hard drive.  On this, the paper has form. In 1983, a Foreign Office clerk, Sarah Tisdall, leaked British Government documents showing when American cruise nuclear weapons would arrive in Europe. The Guardian was showered with praise.

When a court order demanded to know the source, instead of the editor going to prison on a fundamental principle of protecting a source, Tisdall was betrayed, prosecuted and served six months.

If Assange is extradited to America for publishing what the Guardian calls truthful “things”, what is to stop the current editor, Katherine Viner, following him, or the previous editor, Alan Rusbridger, or the prolific propagandist Luke Harding?

What is to stop the editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post, who also published morsels of the truth that originated with WikiLeaks, and the editor of El Pais in Spain, and Der Spiegel in Germany and the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia. The list is long.

David McCraw, lead lawyer of the New York Times, wrote: “I think the prosecution [of Assange] would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers… from everything I know, he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and the law would have a very hard time distinguishing between the New York Times and WilLeaks.”

Even if journalists who published WikiLeaks’ leaks are not summoned by an American grand jury, the intimidation of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning will be enough. Real journalism is being criminalised by thugs in plain sight. Dissent has become an indulgence.

In Australia, the current America-besotted government is prosecuting two whistle-blowers who revealed that Canberra’s spooks bugged the cabinet meetings of the new government of East Timor for the express purpose of cheating the tiny, impoverished nation out of its proper share of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea. Their trial will be held in secret. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, is infamous for his part in setting up concentration camps for refugees on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus, where children self harm and suicide. In 2014, Morrison proposed mass detention camps for 30,000 people.

Real journalism is the enemy of these disgraces. A decade ago, the Ministry of Defence in London produced a secret document which described the “principal threats” to public order as threefold: terrorists, Russian spies and investigative journalists. The latter was designated the major threat.

The document was duly leaked to WikiLeaks, which published it. “We had no choice,” Assange told me. “It’s very simple. People have a right to know and a right to question and challenge power. That’s true democracy.”

What if Assange and Manning and others in their wake – if there are others – are silenced and “the right to know and question and challenge” is taken away?

In the 1970s, I met Leni Reifenstahl, close friend of Adolf Hitler, whose films helped cast the Nazi spell over Germany.

She told me that the message in her films, the propaganda, was dependent not on “orders from above” but on what she called the “submissive void” of the public.

“Did this submissive void include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked her.

“Of course,” she said, “especially the intelligentsia…. When people no longer ask serious questions, they are submissive and malleable. Anything can happen.”

And did.

The rest, she might have added, is history.

The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere

Supporters of Julian Assange gather outside Westminster Court after Assange’s arrest (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz for AFP-NurPhoto)

Take action to protect Julian AssangeClick here to read about what you can do.

Support the Embassy Protection Collective. The United States is recognizing its fake coup president, Juan Guaido, in Venezuela and we understand that his people will try to take over the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC when the current diplomats leave. We and others are staying at the embassy to protect it from the opposition. Follow us on Facebook here. And please donate if you can to purchase food and supplies for people staying at the embassy.

The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote

Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.

The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.

There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange.  The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen after was arrested by British police outside Westminster in a police van on his way to Magistrates Court in London, Britain April 11, 2019 (Photo by Peter Nicholls for Reuters)

Next Steps, Next Opportunities

Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but, in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it; it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.

In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

While we should not limit our mobilizations to legal filings, hearings, appeals and administrative decisions, those are all opportunities to educate and mobilize people. The next court date on the extradition will be a preliminary hearing on May 2 where Assange will appear by video link.  Next, the United States must produce its case for requesting the extradition of Julian Assange from Britain by June 12.

These are just initial steps. Lawfare reports, “It may be years before Assange sees the inside of a U.S. courtroom. The initial Swedish request to extradite Assange from the U.K. came in November 2010. Assange successfully slowed the process until June 2012.”

Lawfare also points to the case of Lauri Love, who faced extradition for hacking US government computers. It took three years for the extradition case, and then Love raised health issues that would be impacted by a long sentence and  two years later, he won on appeal with the court ruling it would be “oppressive to his physical and mental condition.” Assange has also developed health issues over the last seven years of living in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Then, there is the case of another British hacker, Gary McKinnon, who was indicted in 2002. The extradition proceedings dragged on for a decade. In the end, then-Home Secretary Theresa May, withdrew the extradition order because of McKinnon’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and depression: “Mr. McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights.”

That’s right, in one case the court ruled against extradition due to health issues, and the other, Theresa May (yes, the current prime minister) withdrew the extradition due to health reasons. Beyond health, there are other issues that could be persuasive in Assange’s case.

Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.

The U.S. prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The U.S .uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. The US holds political prisoners in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the U.S. from the U.K .in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.

The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.

Assange on steps of High Court in London, December 2010 (Photo by Stefan Wermuth for Reuters)

The Politics of the Assange Prosecution

The reality of the Assange prosecution being about his journalism is obvious to all. Those in the media making the claim that this is about hacking, know they are stretching the truth in order to side with the U.S. government. People should know media that make this claim cannot be trusted to report the truth.

The editor of White House Watch, Dan Froomkin, pulls the thin veil off of this lie writing: “Julian #Assange has been charged with conspiracy to commit journalism. The free press has not ducked a bullet here; it’s taken one to the chest.” The Assange prosecution is about the criminalization of journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists writes, the indictment would “criminalize normal journalistic activities.” This obvious truth will become more evident as the case proceeds and the movement educates the public and mobilizes support to free Assange.

Already, in USA Today, Jonathan Turley clarified what the prosecution is really about: “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be punished for embarrassing the DC establishment.” The “embarrassment” really is complicity against crimes that in an effective international judicial system would result in prosecution of US officials and members of the US military who committed them. And in a US justice system that sought justice, there would have been prosecutions of members of the military for torture and of lawyers providing legal cover for these actions.

The US election season is upon us and this presents opportunities for mobilization and making Assange’s case an election issue. One presidential candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, Tulsi Gabbard, has already come out against extradition. More candidates need to be urged to oppose extradition.

Candidates can be pressured from the outside as well. Green candidate, Howie Hawkins already wrote that he opposes extradition and urges people to defend Freedom of the Press. Hawkins is in the exploratory phase of a potential campaign. The Green Party has also published a statement that “unequivocally condemns the arrest of Julian Assange and calls for his immediate release.”

President Trump has kept his options open. Trump said in the Oval Office, that he “knows nothing” about the prosecution and “It’s not my thing.” Sean Hannity, a Trump media cheerleader has offered to let Assange host his show and reach his 15 million viewers. Assange is a wedge issue that divides Trump loyalists.

If the movement does its job and builds a national consensus against the prosecution of a publisher for reporting the truth, Trump may side with those in his voting base that is against extradition; and the leading Democratic candidates may also come out against prosecution and to protect a free press that reports crimes of the US government.

In the United Kingdom, things are in flux as well. While the next election is scheduled for 2022, the government is ever closer to being forced to hold an election as it is trapped in a Brexit quandary and showing its inability to govern. Jeremy Corbyn has already said, “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.” Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, said Assange should not be extradited: “It is this whistleblowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale, that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration.” In the end, a new government could end the extradition as the Home Secretary can choose to reject the extradition.

There are also international politics impacted by the Assange prosecution. Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson said “extradition will set a very dangerous precedent for all media organizations and journalists around the world.” This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States,

The US is seeking to prosecute a foreign reporter, working from a foreign country about US war crimes. What would happen if a US reporter wrote about crimes in a foreign country? Could that country prosecute a US journalist? That is the precedent the US is setting. And, how hypocritical for the US to seek to prosecute a foreign journalist in the same week that the US celebrated evading an investigation by the International Criminal Court of alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Free Assange protest outside of British Embassy in Washington DC from News2Share.com

Free Assange Campaign Will Be A Global Campaign For The Right To Know

At least five times, the UN, through various committees and special rapporteurs, has called on Assange not to be prosecuted or extradited to the United States. A campaign to stop the prosecution of Assange will build into a global movement because the US has created chaos and havoc around the world, and has killed more than a million people this century and made many millions into refugees.

The people of the world are impacted by the actions of the United States and they have a right to know what the United States is doing. The people of the US are told we live in a democracy, but there can be no democracy when the people are not allowed to know what the government is doing in our name.

Protests occurred immediately on the day Assange was arrested and continued this weekend. We have started a campaign to Free Assange. As people understand the dramatic implications of this prosecution, protests will grow. Daniel Ellsberg described this unprecedented prosecution as a threat to the future of the republic and said it was time “to join ranks here now to expose and resist the wrongful–and in this country unconstitutional–abuse of our laws to silence journalists.”

In court, Assange showed his defiance of the national security state, which seeks to destroy him, by sitting calmly in the dock, reading Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State and holding it up obviously to give everyone in court a view.  We must be in solidarity with that defiance and build the campaign that is needed to free Julian Assange.

A Marriage of Conscience: Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning

“About suffering they were never wrong,” wrote W. H. Auden in the poem “Musée Des Beaux Arts.”

These lines occurred to me last week when all eyes were focused on the brutal British seizure of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

No one should have been surprised by this despicable spectacle carried out in the noonday light for all to see, for the British government has not served as America’s jailer for the past seven years for no reason.  It doesn’t take x-ray eyes to see that the British and the Moreno government in Ecuador are twin poodles on the American leash.  After a phony display of judicial fairness, the British, as required by their American bosses, will dispatch Assange to the United States so he can be further punished for the crime of doing journalism and exposing war crimes.

Assange has suffered mightily for American sins.  The Anglo-American torturers know how to squeeze their victims to make old men out of the young.  Abu Ghraib was no aberration.  The overt is often covert; just a thin skin separates the sadists’ varied methods, but their message is obvious.  No one who saw Assange dragged to prison could fail to see what the war-mongers, who hate freedom of the press when it exposes their criminal activities, can do to a man.  Nor, however, could one fail to see the spirit of defiance that animates Assange, a man of courageous conscience cowards can’t begin to comprehend.

Bought and sold, compromised and corrupted to their depths, the American, British, and Ecuadorian governments and their media sycophants have no shame or allegiance to law or God, and have never learned that you can imprison, torture, and even kill a person of conscience, but that doing so is a risky business.  For even the corpses of those who say “No” keep whispering “No” forevermore.

While the media spotlight was on central London, Auden’s lines kept running through my mind:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters, how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
Walking dully along

His words transported me from London to a lonely jail cell in Virginia where Chelsea Manning sat brooding.  Chelsea hearing the news about Assange.  Chelsea realizing that now the screws would be further tightened and her ordeal as a prisoner of conscience would be extended indefinitely.  Chelsea summoning all her extraordinary courage to go on saying “No,” “No,” “No.”  Chelsea refusing the 30 pieces of silver that will be continually offered to her, as they have been for almost a decade, and that she has refused in her emphatic refusal to give the Judas kiss to Julian, to whom she is wed in this non-violent campaign to expose the truth about the war criminals.

Auden’s words reminded me not to turn away, to pay attention, to not walk dully along and ignore the lonely suffering of truth-tellers.  How can anyone who claims to oppose the American wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc., turn away from defending Manning and Assange, two brave souls who have already spent nearly 15 years combined imprisoned for exposing the war crimes of the American and British governments, crimes committed in our name and therefore our crimes.

Who will have the bad faith to buy the torrent of lies that the propagandists will spew forth about Assange as they wage a media blitz to kill his reputation on the way to disposing of him?

The jackals in government and media, so-called liberals and conservatives, will be sadistically calling for blood as they count their blood money and wipe their lips.  Only cowards will join this bleating crowd and refuse to go to that lonely, empty place – that cell of conscience – where the truth resides.

All should remember that Chelsea Manning spent more than seven years in prison under the Obama administration for revealing a video about George W. Bush’s war crimes in Iraq; that Assange had to escape the Obama administration’s clutches by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy; and that now that Trump is in office, the reimprisonment of Manning and arrest of Assange are perfectly in accord with the evil deeds of his predecessors.  These men are titular heads of the warfare state.  They follow orders.

Who can sail calmly on and pretend they don’t see the gift of truth and hear the forsaken cries of two lonely caged heroes falling into the sea?  Who can fail to defend such voices of freedom?

Why Julian Assange Matters for the Freedom of the Press

There is no one issue that unites those of us on the left so firmly with the right as the topic of freedom of the press. And the case of Julian Assange, Wikileaks co-founder, encapsulates perfectly this dilemma that seems to have many drinking the Kool-Aid of Russiagate which seems to have an endless season renewal. Like so many current events, the case of Julian Assange divides many within political camps as the feminists are shouting “believe the women” and those analyzing the meta-narrative in all its intricacies see no crime has been committed by Assange whom they view as being demonized for bringing to light the crimes of the U.S. government. Worse, mainstream media is acting as the mouthpiece for the government efforts to shut down Wikileaks, or as Craig Murray writes, that the collaboration of the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post in the hunt for Assange “is clear evidence that the idea of the “liberal media” no longer exists in the new plutocratic age. The press are not on the side of the people, they are an instrument of elite control.”

Yet, the media continues its onslaught of information through inundation. And, of course, sharing anything on social media by RT will land you with comments like, “He works for the Russians.” For those confused about what to do or think related to the Assange affair, here are some items we need to put on our ethical to-do list. First, read articles from a wide array of political spectrums. Don’t take my word for it that this is a stitch-up. Basic human rights have been denied Julian Assange that even Isis fighters under interrogation have from the barring of Julian Assange’s lawyer, Per Samuelson, when questioned at the Ecuadorian Embassy by the Swedish prosecutor in 2016 to the evidence that suggests that the so-called “accusations” made against Assange for sexual assault and rape seem to be highly contested. Reading the history of this case and there is a yo-yo effect from the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office in 2010, regarding the veracity of the allegations where Eva Finne, the chief prosecutor, states that the rape accusation was without merit to when Swedish Director of Prosecution, Marianne Nye, later re-opened the case issuing an international arrest warrant for Assange when he offered to answer questions at the Swedish Embassy in London.

Reading news reports of this initial stage of the investigation, however, and the major media tells a different story to include the elision of basic facts such as the two “accusers” stating in text messages to each other that the police started the accusations, that the “police made up the charges”, and that “the police were keen on getting their hands on him.” It is even hard to call these two women “accusers” since even this part of the story is entirely muddled by what seems to be an usurpation of basic legal protocol as both women, known as AA and SW, went to the police to see if Assange could be obliged to get a test for STIs since they had unprotected sex with him.

As many gleefully scream on social media “Got him!”, these individuals are oblivious to the dangers of Assange’s arrest. And most of the Americans in favor of Assange’s capture are perfectly molded sycophants—in true cookie-cutter fashion—of the Obama administration. You know, the kinds of liberals who saw Obama as a leftist (he wasn’t) and believed the lie that Obama perpetuated about Assange: that publishing classified documents on Wikileaks amounted to espionage. Of course, this was during an administration where a record number of reporters’ sources were imprisoned. Still, the Obama administration, while critical of Assange, weighed on the side of the First Amendment as it realized that charging Assange with a crime would call up the central issue of freedom of the press. As Paul Waldman writes in The Washington Post, “That’s because, whatever you think of WikiLeaks, if we criminalize receiving classified information, some of the most important works of journalism in American history would be transformed into crimes, and every reporter who works on national security would be a potential criminal.”

So, if you notice among the crimes Assange was charged with yesterday, both the previous espionage and 2016 hacking claims are nowhere to be found. Why? This goes back to the Obama administration’s reason for not pursuing this line of attack: where does the freedom of the press end and a journalist instructing an informant how to hack information to later hand over to him. This seems to be the crux of the issue at heart. Even former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, has weighed in on this, stating that despite the impetus on the UK government to extradite Assange, the federal government must “prove a criminal conspiracy between Manning and Assange, and Manning does not appear to be cooperative.” Even Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian intelligence officers for crimes related to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta where batches of the hacked emails were released by Wikileaks excluded Assange for this very reason. Did Assange conspire in the hacking? This is the question that needs to be answered.

Given that Mueller hasn’t pressed for this investigation to be re-opened ought to be a clue as to how much evidence is lacking to make such a link. From Guccifer 2.0 to the Russian military intelligence to the 2016 presidential election, Mueller’s probe has not confirmed that Assange is key to unlocking this enigma. As for the sexual assault probe in Sweden, it was long ago dropped with chief prosecutor Marianne Ny officially revoking Assange’s arrest warrant. Given his arrest yesterday, however, the investigation may possibly be reopened given that the statute of limitation does not expire until August 2020.

As for those banging on about Assange’s guilt, I can only recommend to revisit the basic civics lessons that most of us had in high school. In the United States, not only is due process sort of part of the deal when assessing someone’s guilt, but the history of the world is replete with false allegations made to frame journalists and whistleblowers. Using accusations of rape to ensnare or entrap innocent men is hardly new—from the use of the rape myth as a political tool during the antebellum and postbellum American South used to keep black men under control, false accusations of rape are astonishingly effective in reframing who is oppressed by whom. Even sex has long been a tool of intelligence agencies with the Israeli government catching Mordechai Vanunu through a “honey trap” operation and the recent revelation of British spying operations using  GCHQ’s SIGINT (signal-intelligence) program which monitors diplomats’ hotel bookings.

The recent EU Copyright Directive is part of the greater assault on independent journalism which views digital media as a huge threat to the monolithic powers of government and major media. As both state and media agencies are buttressing each other in order to tighten their hegemonic grip on information and democratic expression, it is time for people to check their knee-jerk reactions of glee in reaction to Assange’s arrest. Instead, we should seriously reflect upon how supporting his arrest only feeds to legitimate yet another chapter of state-sponsored censorship.

Phoenix in Knightsbridge

(Photo: Screengrab)

If the circumstances surrounding the seizure of Mr Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London are correctly viewed, that is compared to appropriately comparable phenomena, then what we have is an audacious daylight act of state terrorism, comparable to the routines developed in Vietnam during the war the US waged against that country. Special forces of the State were deployed to “snatch” a person in violation of any due process or other conventions we are told restrict and regulate the exercise of police and judicial power. The fact that he was seized by people in uniform in broad daylight, does not alter the fact that the chain of events which led Mr Assange to seek asylum from the government of Ecuador and its systematic violation by the British government, is consistent with the lawlessness which now prevails when the State attacks its civilian opponents—the organised lawlessness that was called Phoenix.1 Many readers may well have forgotten how HM Government reacted to an extradition request by the government of Spain, when Augusto Pinochet was whiling on that blessed isle. It has always been unstated policy that asylum is only respected when it serves the designs of the regime. Pinochet was a friend of the regime. Mr Assange is not.

Julian Assange’s case, all nine years of it, can also be seen as a barometer for the policing atmosphere in the Empire. Culminating last year with the election of an army reservist and a general to the Brazilian Executive, the steady suppression of political reform in South America continued unabated while no effort was spared to isolate the Australian heretic. Philip Agee was assigned to Ecuador early in his career. He reported in CIA Diary how long it took then to change the Ecuadorian government, but how it was successful through a combination of bribery and other deceits.2 Getting an Ecuadorian president, who would agree to rescind Mr Assange’s asylum status long enough for Phoenix to fly into the Knightsbridge embassy, was no uncommon feat even if it took time.

Mere mortals are fortunate to plan in days or months, a year at the most. However “the privileged few” know that they are part of an immortal institution for which time is just another resource. It is a serious mistake to measure institutional time and individual time with the same watch.  What was presented as an almost accidental or fortuitous event was, in fact, the result of careful planning and coordination—of organisational intelligence. Organisational intelligence means that the institution created is capable of controlling the behaviour of all involved in a process even without conscious or deliberate commands. Mr Assange was declared an enemy and everyone involved knows how his or her particular work is directed to support the attack on the “enemy”. Those managing the Ecuadorian elections do not need to be told that a president who will revoke the London asylum is needed. Those who are charged with seizing Mr Assange know what they need and can see the opportunities. This is also a key purpose of intelligence coordination and exploitation—to assure that local operations benefit from those conceived globally or executed elsewhere.

Julian Assange was seized openly and in broad daylight to permit the regime to present his seizure as an arrest, rather than a kidnapping. The Press—which flatters its participation in state power by calling itself the Fourth Estate—has an important function. Despite some whining about violation of “freedom of speech” or “of the Press” from all the compatible corners of the Mass Media, the actual reporting serves to distract from the key issue which made Mr Assange’s Wikileaks revolutionary (as opposed to some other apparent disclosures): namely, that unlike Edward Snowden, and more like Philip Agee, Mr Assange rejected the premise that the State has any right to secrecy at all.

This is not only treasonous (if one accepts any duty of allegiance to the sovereign) but also, heretical. It helps to recall that until the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the reading of the canonical texts it called the Holy Bible by anyone not ordained. The Reformation is often trivialised as a few doctrinal changes and the establishment of national churches. However, it took considerable revolt and much violence before ordinary people were allowed to read the works, which ostensibly formed the bedrock of Christendom and Roman Catholic imperial ideology. Wikileaks is fairly compared with the first publications of the canonical texts in the vernacular and their open dissemination without clerical approval or control.

The public performance at the Ecuadorian embassy was designed to give the Press an event—always marketable in itself. There were, no doubt, some of the “privileged few” who would have preferred to send a SEAL Team. However, there is probably a consensus that the executive action against Mr bin Laden was not as successful as intended.3 Staging the invasion of Ecuadorian sovereign territory (by diplomatic convention) with people dressed as police officers and paramilitary forces (none of whose actual organisational affiliation can be stated with certainty) gave the viewers a treat to “reality TV” version of their favourite vigilante/cop show.

However, it was also staged to give the kidnapping the colour of law—although clearly an illegal act. Moreover, it shapes the issue around whether Mr Assange will be treated fairly as a criminal—his criminal status already established by the measures taken to seize him. (Again, recall that Augusto Pinochet was allowed to leave Britain despite a valid British extradition order and he had never requested asylum.) The performance also creates the “legal” position from which the Fourth Estate can reassert itself ritually by claiming that Assange’s seizure was potentially a violation of Press freedom.

First of all, there is no such “freedom”. Moreover, what is commonly understood as that “freedom” has rarely ever been exercised by nine-tenths of those who claim to be the “Press”. The Press is only free by Western definition4 to the extent that it can be and is owned (by private capital or agents thereof). Free Press is like “free trade” (a concept originating to defend the free trade in African slaves).

Julian Assange — by refusing to recognize State claims to secrecy — performed a revolutionary act. This is what made his work significant and why he ought to be praised and where possible defended. However, he cannot be defended by people who are not, in some serious sense, revolutionaries or sincere sympathisers. (That may even mean that Mr Assange’s defenders too become targets, if only in the “C” category.) The so-called Press or as the truly vain and vacuous are fond of calling it– the Fourth Estate– are merely calling attention to their role in upholding the regime they ostensibly would criticise. In the West the “journalist” has been marketed as a kind of holy person, when, in fact, the publishing journalist is often a “cleric”, or an advertising hack, or maybe someone who has to produce the “news product” with which the Fourth Estate (the propaganda industry) maintains the Establishment and its control over the system.5

Gerald Horne’s suggestion that the Enlightenment “freedoms” were essentially articulated to create an ideology for white supremacy and private ownership of non-whites goes far toward explaining the contradiction in which these “lefties” find themselves.6 If one really treats information as public domain and denies the State’s right to secrecy (secrecy claimed to protect “interests”) then one strikes at one of the main pillars that supports the ideology of “freedom” for whites and slavery for the rest. The “interests” that the State ostensibly protects are the desire to retain and expand the private property owned by those who own the State. Today one State on this planet claims and defends its national sovereignty, denying all others, as an exclusive and globally enforceable prerogative—it is the sovereignty over the entire “owned” world and no one else has a right to property beyond the white elite by and for whom that State was constituted.

That State includes most of what is called the Press, concentrated as it is in some five global media corporations.

The fact that the Press is a business that trades in data, variously called information, advertising, etc., means that to publish beyond the Press — as Assange did — is to challenge the ownership of information, the propaganda of property, and the privilege of those who serve these institutions calling themselves “journalists”.

There are workers in the Mass Media, in the Press as a whole. Like most of the nuns and monks in the Middle Ages, they are often exploited labour for the benefit of the higher clergy. They are essentially workers. Workers cannot be faulted for defending their livelihood. Like any peasant or factory worker, they earn wages but do not own their product (a relationship protected by the modern intellectual property regime). It may be a tragedy when a strike is defeated and workers are forced to return to labour just to feed themselves and their families. However, it is quite different when one watches out the top floor office window at the strikebreakers in action, waxing sentimentally that one is also a “worker”.

Julian Assange’s seizure, his kidnapping by forces of the State, is not an assault on the Press. The Press is owned and managed by those who comprise that very State. The “freedom” of which Mr Assange is being deprived is his humanity. By suggesting that this is an attack on supposed “freedom of the Press” attention is being distracted (one of the jobs of the Press and its functionaries) from the crimes against humanity upon which the regime has always been based. Wikileaks breached the wall which had allowed “media courtiers” to hide their knowledge of State crimes. It validated the practice of viewing “state secrets” and deciding for oneself what the State was doing. The Press was created to praise and protect those crimes — crimes committed by Business and the State: by the ruling elite, both individually and collectively — through the manipulation of public consciousness.

The significance of Assange’s Wikileaks was that it opposed the prevailing control of information by the PRESS– through its cadres, often also known as “journalists”. Mr Assange’s release of documents and data produced by the State and the corporations for which it works has been an attempt to prove that there is evidence to discredit and condemn State/corporate action — that there is malice aforethought. The principle is not just of one but a preponderance of smoking guns that need not be ignored. Unlike the stars of “investigative journalism” who call their selection and censorship “analysis” and deceive the public with celebrity and confidential sources, Wikileak’s sheer volume of documents can be examined without clerical mediation. This could be called a “Reformation” but not the reformation of Luther or Calvin– instead it has the calibre of Thomas Muentzer. No priests, or “stars” are needed at all. Certainly none are needed to establish the facts of a criminal conspiracy so large as US capitalism.

Unfortunately, Thomas Muentzer was murdered and the Peasant Revolt violently suppressed with the enthusiastic support of Martin Luther — the Great Reformer.7   Luther’s Reformation survived and a new form of state church emerged to compete with Roman Catholicism.

Muentzer’s death did not put an end to peasant revolts. Whatever happens to Julian Assange will surely not end the state of revolt in which the world finds itself now — a revolt against the New Rome on the Potomac. Surely Mr Assange knows that, too. He has given his life in a struggle in which many millions before him have suffered and died. He is not a “journalist” but a revolutionary and a true human being.

  1. Douglas Valentine, The CIA as Organised Crime and The Phoenix Program.
  2. Philip Agee, CIA Diary: Inside the Company.
  3. If one believes the cumulative lies in the official US account of Mr Osama bin Laden, then in May 2011 a group of specially trained killers called Seal Team Six performed an extrajudicial execution (assassination) but failed to recover or retain the corpse- of one Osama bin Laden. The US Navy Sea Air Land (hence SEAL) organisation was created in 1962. Thus the US Navy could deploy “special warfare” assets along with the Army’s “Green Berets” in support of US political and psychological warfare objectives in Southeast Asia. The mystique attached to “special warfare” relies on the deliberate cultivation of America’s supposed “victim” status combined with the regime’s history of terrorising slaves and indigenous using small unit terror tactics. The doctrine of the US regime’s postwar special operations was also heavily influenced by Nazi SS officers recovered from Europe and employed as advisors and trainers with their “Einsatzgruppe” model.
  4. For a discussion of suppressed global debate about the actual content of “press freedom”, see the UNESCO report on the New International Information Order, the so-called McBride Report. Many Voices One World, Report of the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems (1980). Although initiated by the US delegation, it was condemned by the US and UK because its findings about global media ownership and control highlighted the conflict between Anglo-American media monopolies and the demands of developing countries for a fair treatment of their communication and information needs.
  5. The use of the term “journalist” by persons associated with the Mass Media/Press is problematic to say the least. Not only was professional journalism organised in the late 19th century to establish commercial and ideological control over the writers and investigators (one reason Upton Sinclair considered his The Jungle literature and not “journalism”), but news agencies have long functioned as quasi-espionage organisations; e.g., since its founding in 1851 Reuters provided advance “business” information to various interests among the British elite during European wars. Moreover, the status of journalist has often been given as cover for members of the secret services in the performance of their espionage work. There are obviously writers and broadcasters who pursue their craft for an honest living. They are generally subject to all of the restrictions and prohibitions—explicit and implicit—that any employer imposes on its employees.
  6. Gerald Horne, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy and Capitalism in Seventeenth Century North America and the Caribbean, 2018.
  7. Thomas Muentzer (1489 – 1525) was ordained a secular priest. The Peasant’s Revolt (1524 -25) occurred in Thuringia, Germany. After its bloody suppression, supported by the Augustinian Luther, Muentzer, one of its leaders, was captured, tortured, beheaded, his body impaled and his head mounted on a pole for public display.

UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception

In my last blog post, I warned that the media and political class would continue with their long-running deceptions about Julian Assange now that he has been dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy. They have wasted no time in proving me right.

The first thrust in their campaign of deceit was set out on the Guardian’s front page today.

There should have been wall-to-wall outrage from public figures in the UK at the United States creating a new crime of “doing journalism” and a new means of arrest for those committing this “crime” overseas, what I have termed “media rendition”.

Remember that all of the information contained in the US charge sheet against Assange – the supposed grounds for his extradition – were known to the previous Obama administration as far back as 2010. But Barack Obama never dared approve the current charges against Assange because legally there was no way to stop them being turned against “respectable” journalists, like those at the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian.

This was the same Obama administration that had the worst record ever for prosecuting whistleblowers. Obama was no friend to investigative journalism but he understood that it would be unwise to so overtly subvert the notion of a free western press.

That the Trump administration has cast all this aside to get Assange behind bars should have every journalist in the world quaking in their boots, and loudly decrying what the US is seeking to do.

And yet the reaction has been either quiet acceptance of the US extradition request as a simple law enforcement measure or gentle mockery of Assange – that the scruffy outlaw dragged from the embassy was looking even scruffier after seven years of extreme house arrest and “arbitrary detention”. What a laugh!

Now we can see how the media is going to collude in a narrative crafted by the political class to legitimise what the Trump administration is doing.

Rather than focus on the gross violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights, the wider assault on press freedoms and the attack on Americans’ First Amendment Rights, UK politicians are “debating” whether the US extradition claim on Assange should take priority over earlier Swedish extradition proceedings for a sexual assault investigation that were publicly dropped back in 2017.

In other words, the public conversation in the UK, sympathetically reported by the Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange.

Here’s the first paragraph of the Guardian front-page article:

Political pressure is mounting on [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid to prioritise action that would allow Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, amid concerns that US charges relating to Wikileaks’ activities risked overshadowing longstanding allegations of rape.

So the concern is not that Assange is facing rendition to the US, it is that the US claim might “overshadow” an outstanding legal case in Sweden.

The 70 MPs who signed the letter to Javid hope to kill two birds with one stone.

First, they are legitimising the discourse of the Trump administration. This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first.

It weighs a woman’s sexual assault allegation against Assange and Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that both are in the same category, that they are similar potential crimes.

But there should only be one response to the US extradition claim on Assange. That it is entirely illegitimate. No debate. Anything less, any equivocation is to collude in the Trump administration’s narrative.

The Swedish claim, if it is revived, is an entirely separate matter.

That the Guardian and the MPs are connecting the two should come as no surprise.

In another article on Assange on Friday, the Guardian – echoing a common media refrain – reported as fact a demonstrably false claim: “Assange initially took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.”

There could be no possible reason for its reporters to make this elementary mistake other than that the Guardian is still waging its long-running campaign against Assange, the information revolution he represents and the challenge he poses to the corporate media of which the Guardian is a key part.

Assange and Wikileaks always said that he entered the embassy to claim political asylum so as to avoid extradition on to the US.

For seven years the political and media establishments have been deriding the suggestion that Assange faced any threat from the US, despite the mounting private and public evidence that he did. Assange again has been proved conclusively right by current events, and they decisively wrong.

The Guardian knows that Assange did not need political asylum to avoid a sex case. So reporting this not as a claim by his detractors but as an indisputable fact is simple, Trump-supporting propaganda meant to discredit Assange – propaganda that happily treats any damage to the cause of journalism as collateral damage.

Second, the only major politicians prepared to highlight the threats to Assange’s personal rights and wider press freedoms posed by the US extradition request are opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his ally, Diane Abbott, the Labour shadow home secretary.

They have rightly noted that the US is using the extradition demand to silence Assange and intimidate any other journalists who might think about digging up evidence of the crimes committed by the US national security state.

Abbott commented on Friday that Assange’s current arrest was not about “the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public.”

Abbott has faced a storm of criticism for her statement, accused of not giving enough weight to the Swedish case. In fact, her only mistake was to give it more weight than it currently deserves. She spoke of “rape charges”, but there are, in fact, no such charges. (Additionally, although the case is classed broadly as a rape allegation in Sweden, in the UK it would be classed at most as sexual assault. Forgotten too is that the evidence was considered too weak by the original prosecutor to bring any charges, Assange was allowed to leave Sweden and the investigation was dropped.)

Rather, Assange was previously wanted for questioning, and has never been charged with anything. If the Swedish extradition request is revived, it will be so that he can be questioned about those allegations. I should also point out, as almost no one else is, that Assange did not “flee” questioning. He offered Swedish prosecutors to question him at the embassy.

Even though questioning overseas in extradition cases is common – Sweden has done it dozens of times – Sweden repeatedly refused in Assange’s case, leading the Swedish appeal court to criticise the prosecutors. When he was finally questioned after four years of delays, Swedish prosecutors violated his rights by refusing access to his Swedish lawyer.

Further, the MPs and media getting exercised that Assange “took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden” are forgetting that he did not object to extradition as long as he received a promise that he would not then be extradited on to the US. Sweden refused to offer such assurances. We can now see only too clearly that Assange had every reason to insist on such assurances.

I don’t have space here to analyse the Swedish case on this occasion (that’s maybe for another time), though it is worth briefly noting that most of the problematic details of the case have been disappeared down the memory hole.

Given that the political and media class are still speaking in terms of “charges”, rather than questions about allegations, we should recall that there were glaring problems with the evidence in the Swedish case. Not least, the key piece of evidence against Assange – a torn condom produced by the woman – was found to contain not a trace of DNA from either Assange or from her.

Those at the forefront of the attacks on Abbott and Corbyn, echoed by the Guardian, are the same Blairite Labour MPs who have been trying to oust Corbyn as Labour party leader, despite his twice being elected overwhelmingly by the membership.

These MPs, who dominate the Labour parliamentary party, have spent the past four years focusing on smears that Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic” in an obvious effort to terminally wound Corbyn. Now they have found another possible route to achieve the same end.

They are suggesting that Corbyn and Abbott are disregarding the Swedish woman’s right to justice. The clear subtext of their arguments is that the pair are rape apologists.

As I have pointed out, Abbott has actually overstated the current status of the Swedish case, not sidelined it at all.

But what Corbyn and Abbott have done is to make a clear political, legal and moral demarcation between the Swedish case, which must be resolved according to accepted legal principles, and the US extradition, which has no legal or moral merit whatsoever.

What these UK MPs and the Guardian have done in this front-page story is muddy the waters yet further, with enthusiastic disregard for the damage it might do to Assange’s rights, to Corbyn’s leadership and to the future of truth-telling journalism.

Shredding Asylum: The Arrest of Julian Assange

The man seemed like a bearded emissary, a holy figure nabbed in his sleep. He looked similarly pale as to how he did in 2013, but he cut a more shocking figure.  Most prisoners would have had room to move in a compound.  The Ecuadorean embassy in London only offered modest space and access to sun light.  Hospitality of late was in short supply.

Julian Assange had been ill.  His advocates had bravely insisted that he needed treatment.  “As a journalist who has worked as media partner of @Wikileaks since 2009,” reflected a near grieving Stefania Maurizi, “it has been so painful to watch Julian Assange’s health completely declining in the last 9 years as a result of confinement with no end in sight, tremendous stress, threats.”  Sir Alan Duncan of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was happy to offer it, provided Assange step out of the embassy.

But Assange’s time had finally come.  The embroiling of the Moreno administration in the INA Papers affair suggested that the president needed an out.  Images of Moreno’s family skirting around the internet in various fora during days of plenty, and the suggestion that he had been profiting from a Panama offshore account, put Assange back in the picture. Who better to blame than a man in confinement, whose communications had been restricted, whose health was failing?  WikiLeaks duly received a tipoff from a “high level source within the Ecuadorean state” that the offshore scandal would be used “as a pretext” to remove difficult tenant.

The writ and run of asylum has been shredded, and the conduct of Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is worth noting. In his address explaining the abrupt termination of Assange’s stay, Moreno was a dissembling picture.  Assange, he had been assured by UK authorities, would come to no harm.  He would not be facing torture or the death penalty (a reassuring red herring, given that the death penalty is off the table in extradition matters dealing with the UK in any case).

He had been “discourteous” and “aggressive”, WikiLeaks “hostile and threatening” to Ecuador.  Ecuador had been “generous” and “respectful of the principles of international law, and of the institutions of the right of asylum.”  Self-praise tends to increase in volume the more guilt is assumed, and Moreno made it clear that the law of asylum was a “sovereign right of the Ecuadorean state”.  It was Assange who was the violator of diplomatic protocols, refusing to abide by “the norm of not intervening in the internal affairs of other states.”

Specific reference was made to the leaking of Vatican documents in January 2019; Assange was still “linked” to WikiLeaks. He blocked security cameras; he used “distorting” equipment. He even “confronted and mistreated guards”.  He communicated via a mobile phone “with the outside world.” And he dared taking his case through Ecuadorean legal channels.

Moreno’s justification received much steam from UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who claimed that Assange was “no hero and no one is above the law.  He has hidden from the truth for years.”  (Psychological slip, perhaps?  Is it Assange who is allergic to the truth, or the security establishments he wishes to prize open?). Both Moreno and Ecuador were to be thanked for their cooperation with the Foreign Office “to ensure Assange faces justice.”

President Donald Trump has been even more brazen on the subject of Assange’s arrest, feigning an attack of amnesia.  “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.”  During the 2016 campaign, WikiLeaks had been very much Trump’s “thing”, praised some 140 times for revealing email correspondence from the Democratic National Committee.  “Oh, we love WikiLeaks,” he cheered at a North Carolina rally.  No longer.

Critics of WikiLeaks and Assange have always presumed exaggeration.  The narcissist had nothing to fear accept model British justice, the same justice that has gone to extraordinary lengths over the years to affect various, high profile miscarriages.  Skipping bail was tantamount to a parking offence; face the music.  Instead, WikiLeaks was shown to be correct: Assange is facing the full force of an extensive investigation against a publisher by the self-touted leader of the free world.

Ever since the publication of Cablegate, WikiLeaks has been the subject of a multi-organisational investigation by US prosecutors and defence personnel keen to sketch a legal basis for targeting the organisation.  Assange has figured prominently.  Despite the niggling problems associated with the Free speech amendment, legal personnel have been stretching the grounds on how to circumvent it.

Some few hours after Assange was bundled out of the embassy and into a van by the London Metropolitan Police, a US extradition request was revealed.  He would not be prosecuted as a journalist, which would bring up press freedom issues, but as a hacker under the single charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.  “Assange, who did not possess a security clearance or need to know, was not authorized to receive classified material from the United States.”

The golden thread in the argument is Chelsea Manning, and four databases “from departments and agencies of the United States.” Both Manning and Assange had entered into an agreement to crack “a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network”.  The alleged conspiracy “was to facilitate Manning’s acquisition and transmission of classified information related to the national defense of the United States so that WikiLeaks could publicly disseminate the information on its website.”

Stripped bare, the issue for Assange is this.  Dislike him, loathe him, and feel your skin crawl before him.  Fantasise about what he might or might not have done in Sweden.  Sanctify and scribble hagiography about him.  Speculate about how he might have been as a tenant of asylum.  He remains a publisher and a journalist, unconventional, daring, a vigilante of sorts who sought to etch himself into history while giving the world a very cogent, thrilling idea: opening the darkened corridors of corrupting power and holding them accountable.

As the Centre for Investigate Journalism states, “Whatever your view of its philosophy of radical transparency, WikiLeaks is a publisher.  Any charges now brought in connection with that material, or any attempt to extradite Mr Assange to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917 is an attack on all of us.”  Edward Snowden added a concurring voice: Ecuador’s invitation for the UK secret police “to drag a publisher of – like it or not – award winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books.  Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.”

Even if he has never been fully accepted within the fraternity of the press, he has, in many ways, led its change. His forensic style of journalism, with its techniques of placing original documentation upon sites for readers to consult, has brought greater scrutiny of sources.  His embrace of secure systems for sending classified material, and his pioneering of international cross-border collaborative reporting, transformed the nature of modern journalism. But pioneers tend to find themselves in the colessum facing the hungry lions of state.

The pursuit of Assange, as British Labour’s Diane Abbott quite accurately assessed, was not done “to protect US national security” but “because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces.”  Former Greek finance minister and rabble rousing economist Yanis Varoufakis saw the clouds lift on the sham.  “The game is up.  Years of lies exposed. It was never about Sweden, Putin, Trump or Hillary.  Assange was persecuted for exposing war crimes.”  Punish Assange, punish the press.  Punish Assange and condemn the Fourth Estate.

An Open Letter to Chelsea Manning: A Free Woman in An American Prison

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.

— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam.” Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

Dear Chelsea,

Do not lose heart, for as a prisoner of conscience, your inspirational witness sustains so many of your less free brothers and sisters on the outside.  Our hearts and hands reach out to you with love and thanksgiving.  Your courage is contagious, or so I hope, for it resonates in the soul of every person who senses the meaning of the power of individual conscience to oppose state violence and the beauty of those who will not betray a comrade, who will not deliver the Judas kiss demanded by the killers, as you will not betray your brave brother, Julian Assange, also held under lock and key for the “crime” of revealing the truth.

You remind me of another young woman from long ago and far away whose bravery in the face of radical evil is celebrated today as a sign of hope in dark times.  She is Sophie Scholl, the young German college student who, like you, was arrested for releasing documents exposing state atrocities, who, like you, was prompted by a higher power, by her conscience, who, like you, was arrested for releasing documents exposing such crimes against humanity, in her case those of Hitler.

Little seems to change over the years, doesn’t it?  The killers go on killing, from Golgotha in ancient Jerusalem to Hitler’s Germany to Vietnam and Iraq and on to Palestine and Syria today.  Why bother with the list.  History is a litany of bloodbaths.  Where does it all go, this blood?  Does the good earth soak it up?

But in all the darkness, certain lonely voices of resistance have kept the lighted chain of faith alive.  You stand in that line, a living embodiment of a faithful non-violent warrior.  So does Julian.

I am writing this epistle to you on 4 April, the day in 1967 that our brother Dr. Martin Luther King stood tall in the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City and followed his conscience by breaking with those who urged him to ignore the truth eating at his soul.  The truth that he must not remain silent about the U.S. obscene war against Vietnam.  “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” he said.  Then he added:

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world… This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers…. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring…. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

Chelsea, you have heeded Dr. King’s message and you have put to shame those of us who profess faith in “the living God” that informed Martin’s call for a non-violent revolution.

You, like Sophie and Julian, have released documents that tell the truth about the savage actions of our government.

You have suffered for us many times over.  You have stood strong and tall, like Jesus in front of Pilate, and you have shown the road we must all travel out of the darkness that threatens to consume us.

You have shown us by your actions “that silence is betrayal” when it comes to one’s government’s immoral and illegal actions.

And you have shown us by your sacred silence in Caesar’s court that is a U.S. grand jury, that your conscience will never allow you to betray another truth-teller.

You are, Chelsea, the embodiment of faith, hope, and courage.

You are America’s conscience.

While you are in prison, none of us is free.

We demand your freedom and that of brother Assange.

Here is a song of love to boost your spirits.  I hope you can hear it.  Maybe I send it to boost my own,  to help me carry on as you have done.  Maybe it will help us all.

You keep teaching us what it means to be free and walk in faith.

Blessings for carrying it on.

Who Orchestrated the Breakup of Yugoslavia and How?

Twenty-five years ago, on 24 March 1999, Operation Allied Force began – the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that led to the country’s dismemberment – and the independent state of Kosovo was proclaimed. Yet these events were far from historically contingent, as some people claim. So who orchestrated the breakup of Yugoslavia and how?

These days, few remember that the Bulgarians were at the start of it all. Even the Bulgarians themselves don’t like to think about it.

In early March 1999, Bulgaria’s National Intelligence Service told Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) that it had information about a secret plan by the Yugoslav General Staff, codenamed Operation Horseshoe, to destroy/expel the entire Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohija by 1 April. The BND passed the information on to the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer, who took it extremely seriously and immediately called for a military intervention in Yugoslavia, something that went against the pacifist position of the Green party from which he had been appointed foreign minister.

In reality, however, what the Bulgarians had was a map of Kosovo and Metohija that showed the positions of the 52nd Pristina Corps of the Third Army of the Yugoslav Military and police units. Visually, the position of these forces did actually resemble a horseshoe. No one stopped to think that the name of the document contained the word “potkova“, however, which is specific to the Bulgarian and Croatian languages and would be “potkovica” in Serbian. Since the main advocate for aggression against Yugoslavia was Germany, the Germans cited this plan as the primary reason for a bombing campaign, and the name of the “document” thereafter used the German word Hufeisenplan.

Map of Kosovo

It was only some ten years later that MEP Nadezhda Neynsky (Mihaylova), Bulgaria’s foreign minister in 1999, clarified that the Bulgarian intelligence services had warned the Germans that the information in the “plan” had not been fully confirmed.

But NATO had been present in Kosovo long before the spring of 1999. A NATO-facilitated ceasefire in the region had been signed on 15 October 1998, under which Yugoslav troops returned to their places of permanent deployment. Monitoring of the ceasefire was entrusted to NATO. As part of Operation Eagle Eye, NATO diplomats and military experts were present in Kosovo to observe the situation. Thus, NATO was well aware of all the Yugoslav army’s positions in Kosovo and Metohija and did not need the Bulgarian intelligence services’ “confirmed information”.

Towards the end of 1998, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a Kosovo Albanian terrorist group, was on the verge of defeat, but the Albanians felt protected by NATO and continued fighting. The ceasefire collapsed and Albanian militants attacked police patrols and Serbian villages. By the beginning of 1999, the KLA had increased its terrorist activities and the situation in the region had become extremely difficult. The Yugoslav army was forced to resume its anti-terrorist operations knowing full well that NATO was not going to be happy.

In January 1999, a battle took place for the village of Račak, which the KLA had turned into a stronghold with trenches, underground bunkers and machine-gun nests. The exact number of Albanians killed in Račak is still not clear. The KLA and its supporters in Washington maintain that there were casualties among the local population. Yet a forensic examination showed that all of those killed had gunpowder traces on their hands, and the state of the civilian clothes they were wearing was not consistent with the wounds and injuries received.

After talking with KLA field commanders, however, American diplomat William Walker and his military advisor, British General John Drewienkiewicz, insisted that Serbian soldiers had massacred women and children in Račak. Even the Hague Tribunal was subsequently forced to exclude the “incident in Račak” from the list of charges against Slobodan Milošević due to a lack of evidence. In 1999, however, Walker and Drewienkiewicz were adamant.

US diplomat William Walker visits Racak on 19th anniversary of the massacre.

Veteran US diplomat William Walker, whose declaration of a massacre in Racak paved the way for the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, visits the village today on the 19th anniversary of the massacre. In Kosovo, he is revered as a hero.

In the end, William Walker played a key role in shaping public opinion in English-speaking countries. He maintained to the last that he had seen the headless corpses of women, children and “older men, with gray hair” with his own eyes, even when it had been completely refuted, including by Western experts. In fact, it was William Walker’s vocal position that ultimately made NATO and especially the US favour military action against Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria’s “Potkova” plan showed up at just the right time.

In February 1999, talks were held at the ancient Château de Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris between the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanians under the auspices of the Contact Group (NATO+Russia). They were a complete failure.

NATO representatives recognised Kosovo as an autonomous province within Serbia, but called for the following: all Yugoslav army units to withdraw from Kosovo; a force of 30,000 NATO troops to be deployed in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law.

These were controversial conditions for the occupation of Yugoslavia and the complete loss of state sovereignty. Yugoslavia and Russia refused to sign the “agreement”.

On 23 March 1999, Belgrade agreed to recognise the political part of NATO’s proposals (the autonomy of Kosovo), but once again refused categorically to allow NATO troops access to its territory, as well as withdraw its own troops from Kosovo.

On 24 March 1999, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered the commander of NATO troops in Europe, US General Wesley Clark, to begin the assault against Yugoslavia. That evening, the whole of Yugoslavia, including its key cities (Belgrade, Pristina, Podgorica, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, and Pančevo), was subjected to air strikes. Overnight, the American warship USS Gonzalez fired 18 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the city of Niš.

From the very beginning of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia, there was a clear discrepancy between the stated objectives and the operation being carried out. Initially, NATO had estimated that it would take two to three days to “end the genocide of the Albanian population of Kosovo” by attacking Yugoslav military facilities south of the 44th parallel. Should the country’s leaders continue to resist, then the attacks on targets south of the 44th parallel would be expanded and last up to a week. If Belgrade still refused to make concessions, then the whole country would be targeted, including the capital.

In reality, however, the whole of Yugoslavia, including Belgrade, Novi Sad and Podgorica, was attacked just hours after the operation began. Instead of the original two to three days, the air strikes continued for two and a half months.

The plan categorically ruled out a ground operation. A direct confrontation with the Yugoslav army on the ground was viewed as unacceptable given the predicted losses and the possible escalation of the conflict into a prolonged war due to the nature of the Serbian and Montenegrin mentalities and the resistance of these peoples to external aggression.

Throughout April and May 1999, the air strikes were relentless. Every bridge over the Danube River was demolished, up to 80 per cent of Yugoslavia’s industrial potential was wiped out, and every television and telecommunication tower was purposefully and totally destroyed. At the same time, the first strike on the General Staff building in Belgrade only took place on 30 April (three officers were killed and around 40 injured). The Americans bombed the Chinese Embassy building in Belgrade, believing that it contained radar equipment the Chinese were using to share information with the Serbian Air Defence. Chinese diplomats and embassy staff were killed in the attack.

 

A Serbian civil train, bombarded by NATO aviation at Grdelica bridge on April 12, 1999. At least 15 passengers were burnt alive.

On 12 April, an American F-15 fighter jet attacked a railway bridge over the South Morava river in the Grdelica gorge, destroying a Belgrade–Athens passenger train. Dozens of people were killed, some of whom were reduced to unidentifiable body fragments. General Wesley Clark and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana tried to defend the pilot. The British attacked the city of Niš with cluster bombs – a prohibited weapon designed to destroy enemy personnel. The bombs hit a hospital and a busy market.

On 4 June 1999, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević agreed to a peace agreement. On 12 June, NATO forces moved into Kosovo from Macedonia. On 20 June, the 52nd Pristina Corps of the Yugoslav Army left Kosovo.

Several thousand missile and bombing raids were carried out over Yugoslavia during the NATO aggression. Several tens of thousands of bombs and missiles were dropped with a total weight of more than 22,000 tons. Hundreds of industrial plants, oil depots, power plants, and infrastructure including hundreds of road and railway bridges were destroyed or seriously damaged. A large number of historical and architectural sites and monuments were destroyed, along with hundreds of schools, universities, libraries, and more than 20 hospitals. Nearly 40,000 homes were completely destroyed or damaged.

Several thousand people died as a result of the bombing, including hundreds of children. The total material damage was $103 billion.

Why did a “humanitarian intervention” aimed at “preventing the genocide of Kosovo Albanians” result in the complete collapse and breakup of Yugoslavia?

Monument to the children killed during NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Belgrade, Serbia

The NATO aggression in 1999 was actually the final stage of the West’s solution to a crucial geopolitical task – the destruction of Yugoslavia. Following the fall of the Soviet bloc, it was not a viable option for Washington and its allies to have a country in Europe capable of pursuing independent policies and defending its own interests.

The cruel, cold-blooded and truly inhuman nature of the operation was meant to show everyone what awaits should they be brave enough to stand in the way of “Western democracy”. The political and military leaders of Yugoslavia and then of Serbia were among the first to experience hybrid warfare techniques and what is now commonly referred to as “fake news”.