Category Archives: Whistleblowing

Assange Arrest: “A Definite Creep, a Probable Rapist”

In December 2010, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore commented on Julian Assange in the Mail on Sunday:

‘Indeed it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the complaints by two women he had sex with in Sweden in August… The sex appears to have been consensual, though his refusal to use condoms was not. His behaviour looks bad rather than illegal but who really knows? The Swedish prosecutors themselves say they believe these women’s stories but don’t believe these are crimes.’

‘Who really knows?’ The answer, of course, was and is that, in the absence of a trial, nobody except the people directly involved knows what really happened.

If Moore was somewhat reasonable in 2010, her stance had changed by June 2012, when Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy – a time when, still, nobody really knew what had happened. She tweeted:

‘Seems like Assange’s supporters did not expect him to skip bail? Really? Who has this guy not let down?’

She added: ‘I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.’

As discussed in Part 1, the nub of this ‘mainstream’ scorn was the belief that Assange’s concerns about extradition were a cowardly excuse for fleeing possible sex crimes – fears of extradition were a nerdish, paranoid fantasy. Moore wrote in 2011:

‘The extradition hearing last week involved massive showboating on both sides. Assange supporters were gathered outside the courts dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Does anyone seriously believe this is what will happen to Assange?’

It is a bitter irony, then, that Assange is currently trapped in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, which has been described as ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’.

The fact that Assange has now been arrested at the request of the US seeking his extradition over allegations that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, means that Assange’s claimed motive for seeking political asylum now appears very credible indeed – he was right about US intentions.

Assange can now be depicted as a cowardly fugitive from Swedish justice only by someone finding it outrageous that he should resist extradition by the Trump regime to spend the rest of his life in jail, or worse.

In other words, if corporate journalists are responding to the facts, rather than power-serving prejudice, recent events should have moderated their stance towards Assange. It is easy to check.

‘Everyone’s Least Favourite Squatter’

Suzanne Moore commented in the New Statesman after the arrest:

O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met” as normal people call them.

In other words, Assange remains the same wretched, risible figure he was before Moore came to know he had been arrested on charges relating to US extradition. She added bizarrely on Twitter:

‘Assange supporters. Cunt soup babbling about on press freedom.’

In an article for the Sunday Times on April 14, James Ball claimed that:

‘Julian Assange is the architect of his own downfall. Bullish and grandiose yet plagued by paranoia, the WikiLeaks boss is his own worst enemy.’

Ball briefly worked for WikiLeaks, with Assange as his boss, between late 2010 and early 2011. His departure from the organisation was acrimonious. As we mentioned in Part 1, the Guardian has a shameful record in its treatment of Assange. Ball was always happy to act as chief attack dog for the paper. A piece in January 2018 was titled, ‘The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride’. Below it were the words, ‘The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US’; an assertion that has clearly not aged well. Ball even made the poisonous assertion that:

most of those who still support Assange are hard-right nationalists – with many seeing him as a supporter of the style of politics of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.

John Pilger described Ball as a ‘despicable journalist’; a ‘collaborator’ with those in power who have been attacking WikiLeaks and Assange. Ball has repeatedly stated that he opposes Assange’s extradition to the US. But for years he depicted him extremely unfavourably, and continues to disparage Assange as ‘a dangerous and duplicitous asshole’ after his arrest.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, ‘centrist’ Labour MP, Jess Phillips, commented:

‘Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy and into custody on charges of skipping bail after accusations of sexual violence in Sweden.

‘I am sure we will all miss his speeches from the balcony of the embassy as if he were about to launch into Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

‘Assange, once beloved for leaking the secrets of global governments, has essentially been reduced to a grumpy, stroppy teenager.

‘He never left his room, thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and had his internet taken away when he was naughty.’

Phillips offered one serious assertion:

‘His arrest ended a seven-year stint in the embassy, which he chose. He didn’t have to stay there…’

The obvious fact that the US superpower really was, all the time, out to get him, strongly suggests he did have to stay there and wasn’t motivated to avoid facing the far less threatening Swedish accusations.

In 2015, Phillips told the Guardian:

The difference between me and some of my colleagues – not all of them – is that I protect myself by shooting things out. So if I see something that I don’t like I will say it. I won’t sit in some little cabal and whisper about it … I will go up to Seumas Milne and say: “Why on earth are you friends with George Galloway? Your personal friendships are fine but if I see you are moving in any way to get Galloway nearer to this party, I’m going to go for you.” I’ll just say that to him.

Phillips has certainly gone for Assange.

Other ‘mainstream’ reaction was a close copy of comments made when Assange first entered the embassy in 2012 (see our media alert, ‘Incinerating Assange’). Despite reports of an alarming decline in his health after seven years trapped in the embassy, journalists mercilessly mocked Assange’s appearance. Ashley Cowburn, political correspondent for the Independent tweeted (and then deleted after we noted them) two pictures before and after Assange entered the embassy, commenting:

‘Political journalists pre and post-Brexit.’

David Aaronovitch of the The Times‘ 101st Chairborne ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ Division, tweeted with the same compassion that guides his relentless warmongering:

‘I see Tolstoy has just been arrested in central London.’

Jessica Elgot, political editor of the Guardian, joined the fun:

‘Apparently Julian Assange’s internet access has been cut off since March so he probably thinks we’ve left the EU’

Journalist Chris Cook, formerly of BBC’s Newsnight and the Financial Times, referenced an elderly, bearded character from the BBC sitcom, Only Fools and Horses:

‘Justice for Uncle Albert.’

ITV Political Editor, Robert Peston, formerly BBC Business Editor, retweeted an image of Christ with his hand raised in blessing paired with a photograph of Assange making a ‘victory sign’ from inside a prison van. Side-on, Assange’s gesture bore a vague resemblance, but Christ was assuredly not signalling ‘V’ for victory. Like so much ‘mainstream’ humour, the tweet was embarrassingly unfunny, strangely callous.

The Daily Express devoted a whole article to comedy takes of this kind:

‘HILARIOUS Julian Assange memes have swept Twitter in the wake of the Wikileaks founder’s arrest including one he tried to pass himself off as Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses – here are the best ones.’

As noted in Part 1, in the real world beyond the media crèche, a medical doctor who examined Assange in the embassy, commented:

‘Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable.’

The Scotsman supplied more evidence that journalists perceive enemies targeted for destruction by the state as the same ‘Bad Guy’ regenerating over and over again, like Doctor Who. Dani Garavelli wrote of Assange’s arrest:

‘For me, however, the scene brought back memories of Saddam Hussein emerging from his spider hole in Operation Red Dawn…’

No doubt based on impeccable sources, Garavelli added:

‘His dishevelment had more to do with his questionable personal hygiene than his living conditions.’

The Daily Mail published a deeply totalitarian article titled:

‘Assange inside his fetid lair: Revealed, the full squalid horror that drove embassy staff to finally kick him out

‘EXCLUSIVE: Photos of Julian Assange’s “dirty protests” have been revealed’

The ‘Exclusive’ featured pictures of a single unwashed plate, several mugs in a sink and a squeaky-clean toilet.

The BBC’s Jon Sopel North America Correspondent tweeted:

‘#Ecuador president #LeninMoreno tells me #JulianAssange smeared the walls of the embassy with feces and that is why they revoked his asylum. The #WikiLeaks leader exhausted their tolerance, the president told me @BBCBreaking’

Among others, the claim has also been reported by CNN, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vox, ABC News, Reuters, the Associated Press, Daily Mail, Fox News, NBC News,the Independent, the Daily Beast, the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider. Reporter Charles Glass described the surveillance he witnessed in the embassy:

‘He [Assange] made coffee, glancing up at surveillance cameras in the tiny kitchen and every other room in the embassy that recorded his every movement.’

Alexander Rubinstein of Mint Press News concluded:

‘Assange was under total surveillance while in the embassy. They didn’t release the footage of him smearing his poop on the walls because it simply doesn’t exist. It’s a crock of shit.’

Ostensibly ‘alternative’ Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar – who has published numerous opinion pieces in the Guardian and Independent, and who is a favoured guest on flagship BBC shows like Daily Politics, Question Time, the Andrew Marr Show and Newsnighttweeted:

‘Just sayin’ it’s possible to think that Julian Assange is a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob *and* that his arrest has incredibly worrying implications for the treatment of those who blow the whistle on gross abuses of state power.’

Sarkar revealed the depth of her knowledge when she wrote:

‘His arrest today came *after* the investigations into rape and the Swedish arrest warrant were dropped.

‘That doesn’t mean he’s innocent of those charges.’

Anyone who knows anything about Assange knows that he has never been charged. But Sarkar’s damning comments on a leading truth-teller facing the wrath of the US state, play extremely well with the ‘mainstream’ gatekeepers selecting BBC guests and Guardian contributors. Sarkar deleted the tweet smearing Assange, not because she regretted her appalling comments, but because ‘ugly stuff defending sexual assault itself has been turning up in my work inbox’ from ‘men’.

On April 11, we tweeted:

‘”Whatever you think of [Assange]…” means, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of *them*. I’m not rejecting the respectable, mainstream narrative.”‘

Synchronistically, one day later, Owen Jones wrote in the Guardian under the title:

‘Whatever you think of Julian Assange, his extradition to the US must be opposed’

The Guardian‘s George Monbiot tweeted:

‘Whether or not you like Assange’s politics (I don’t), or his character (ditto)…’

At the risk of being annoying, we responded:

‘George, how much time have you spent with Assange and his unpleasant character?’

We received no reply.

Before the arrest, Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson commented on WikiLeaks’ complaints about police spying on Assange inside the embassy:

‘WikiLeaks – it all adds up to WikiLeaks whining about their privacy being invaded. Can’t quite see how this deserves airtime on @Channel4News Am I wrong?’

One day later, when Thomson found himself reporting Assange’s arrest, we asked: ‘Was he “whining”, Alex?’

Thomson replied:

‘Yes – clearly’

In fact, Assange was making a political protest, calling on the UK to resist Trump’s attempt at extradition that might see him spending the rest of his life in jail.

A select few journalists managed to retain their dignity in the face of this callous corporate herdthink. To his credit, Andrew Buncombe of the Independent tweeted:

‘There’s been an oddly mocking tone to much of the reporting about Assange, whose organisation has revealed more US state crimes than most journalists. Arrest sets an appalling precedent.’

Odd is the word. Buncombe’s tweet brought to mind a comment made by the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Cody Fidler-Simpson CBE, about ‘mainstream’ journalism:

‘There’s something slightly wrong with most of us, don’t you feel? We’re damaged goods, usually with slightly rumpled private lives and unconventional backgrounds. Outsiders, looking in at others from outside.’ (‘Travels with Auntie’, Lynn Barber interviewing John Simpson, Observer, 24 February 2002)

The Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill commented:‏

‘US did not waste any time putting in extradition request for Assange. Terrible precedent if journalist/publisher ends up in US jail for Iraq war logs and state department cables.’

Remarkably, some supposedly independent, neutral corporate media openly identified with the state. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal:

‘Julian Assange has done much harm to American interests over the last decade, and on Thursday the WikiLeaks founder moved a large step closer to accountability in a U.S. court.’

Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times:

‘Assange’s publishing of confidential data gravely harmed our interests. In the US he is seen as a terrorist. But a tranche of protesters still believe he is a guardian of truth — and that any wickedness in the world always emanates from the West.’

As Glenn Greenwald commented:

‘If you’re cheering Assange’s arrest based on a US extradition request, your allies in your celebration are the most extremist elements of the Trump administration, whose primary and explicit goal is to criminalize reporting on classified docs & punish WL for exposing war crimes.’

To add weight to the media campaign, more than 70 MPs and peers wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, urging them to focus attention on the Swedish investigations that Assange would face should the case be resumed at the alleged victim’s request. The letter was ‘coordinated’ by ‘centrist’, anti-Corbyn Labour MP Stella Creasy who, appropriately enough, ‘Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.’ Jonathan Cook commented astutely:

‘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.’

As we have documented, Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to a similarly relentless, cross-‘spectrum’ political and media campaign attacking him for leading Labour towards electoral disaster, for being a serious threat to UK national security, for conspiring with Putin, and above all, of course, for being a menacing anti-semite.

And yet the facts speak for themselves: Corbyn has been a tremendous electoral success; the idea that Trump, let alone Corbyn, ‘colluded’ with Putin has proved laughable; and the idea that Corbyn and Labour have an anti-semite ‘crisis’ simply defies the known facts of racist prejudice in the leading political parties and wider society.

If the smears are fake, what is driving them? A clue is provided in a tweet by The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald:

‘The only 2 times I can remember establishment liberals like @HillaryClinton… uniting with and cheering Trump Admin is when (a) he bombed Syria and (b) they indicted Assange… That says a lot about their values.’

It does indeed. Beyond the relentless fake news, these same ‘values’ are driving the attempts to destroy both Corbyn and Assange.

If I Had a Hacker

After Julian Assange’s arrest and the resulting explosion of the internet last weekend, I attempt to pick up some of the pieces.

This past week has been one of those weeks when the internet seemed to explode, as it does every so often. Analyzing the patterns in which the rubble hit the ground after the blast, there is an overwhelming sense of mass confusion. Questions and condemnations are everywhere. Who does he really work for? What are his real interests? Who wants to extradite him, and why?

In one moldy crevice of the internet we have people convinced that he couldn’t possibly be a rapist, he was set up, the women are crisis actors. In another fetid corner are those loudly proclaiming that because he may be guilty of these accusations, who cares if he’s extradited to the US for entirely other reasons?

And then, in still another myopic little hole, the loyal Democrats, convinced that anyone who calls out Hillary Clinton as an imperialist stooge of Goldman Sachs must therefore be working for both Putin and Trump. And, therefore, so what if Julian Assange is thrown to the wolves in Alexandria, Virginia, along with Chelsea Manning?

I get the powerful sense that people don’t know what to believe. When faced with a situation where there are many different interests involved, putting forward different perspectives for their own particular reasons, there is a tendency for people to retreat into irrational little corners and shout obscenities at anyone who tries to talk to them.

It is, however, through the opposite of this kind of retreat and shout mentality where we can begin to understand the world around us. It’s imperative that you first turn off your TV. With talk radio or talk TV like Fox or MSNBC, all you get is repetition of positions, rather than analysis of real information. But repetitive propaganda of a liberal, conservative, fascist, socialist, or other nature is not what we need. To understand the world, you need more information, not less — a broader array of angles from which to view the same situation, not more ways to beat a dead horse.

Cutting to the chase, Julian Assange is wanted by the forces of empire in Washington, DC, both Democratic and Republican, because he helped expose US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This is no longer a suspicion, but we can now say since his arrest in London it is a fact. Whatever he thinks of the relative pros and cons of the two ruling parties in the US, however he has treated people on an interpersonal basis, whether or not his organization has accepted donations from the right or wrong people now or historically — while all of these questions are certainly relevant broadly, they are not relevant to the basic reason why the US has been trying to resuscitate the moribund Espionage Act of 1920 to go after whistle-blowers and journalists — or, in the case of Julian Assange, whistle-blower/journalists.

Chelsea Manning got 35 years. Her future at this point is very uncertain. There is no reason to suspect that the Justice Department will be seeking any less of a punishment in their case against Assange, which is being pursued for the exact same so-called crimes — the crime of exposing war crimes. This is why Julian Assange should be defended.

Julian Assange and the Agenda for Global War

For almost a decade Washington has sought to silence, jail and eliminate the world’s most prominent investigative journalist, Julian Assange (JA) and his team of co-workers at WikiLeaks (WL).

Never has the mass media been so thoroughly discredited by official documents which directly contradict the official propaganda, mouthed by political leaders and parroted by ‘leading’ journalists.

Washington is particularly intent on capturing JA because his revelations have had a particularly powerful impact on the US public, political critics, the alternative media and human rights groups in turning them against US wars in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and Latin America.

We will proceed by discussing what JA and WL accomplished and why the particular ‘cutting edge’ of their reportage disturbed the government.

We will then discus the ‘ongoing’ conflicts and the failure of the White House to score a decisive victory, as factors which has led Washington to intensify its efforts to make JA an ‘example’ to other journalists – demanding that they should ‘shape up’ or pay the consequences including imprisonment.

Context for Whistleblowing

By the end of a decade of war, opposition to the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan had spread to sectors of the military and civilian establishment. Documents were leaked and critics were encouraged to hand over reports revealing war crimes and the toll in human lives. WL, under Assange’s leadership, were the recipients of hundreds of thousands of documents which poured in from military analysts, contractors and civilian office holders disgusted by official and mass media lies which perpetrated and covered up war crimes.

As the wars dragged on, and new ones were launched in Libya and Syria and liberal Congress-members were impotent and unwilling to expose the Obama/Clinton regimes’ lies and the falsifications accompanying the murder of President Gaddafi, WikiLeaks and JA publicized documents which revealed how the US planned , implemented and fabricated Humanitarian Wars to ‘save people’ …by bombing them!

The major networks and prestigious press, following the official line, but WL documents discredited them.

The Pentagon, the CIA, the Presidency and their Congressional supporters panicked – as their covert activities came to light.

They resorted to several desperate moves all directed to silence free speech. They accused the investigative journalists of ‘espionage’ – working for Russia or Islamic terrorists or simply being ‘traitors for cash’.

As WL message gained legitimacy, Washington turned to the judiciary in search of rulings to muzzle their critics. Free speech was criminalized. But WL continued. New and more critical whistleblowers came on the scene; Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, William Binney and others provided new devastating evidence of Washington’s gross distortions and fabrications regarding civilian deaths.

In the Pentagon’s eyes, Julian Assange was The Enemy because he refused to be bought or intimidated. WL successfully aroused distrust of the mass media and distrust of the official war news’ spread among the public.

The Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence apparatus sought the ‘internal’ spies feeding documents to WL. Julian Assange was targeted for arrest in the belief that ‘beheading’ the leader would intimidate other investigative journalists. JA fled for his life, and sought and received asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK.

After seven years of pressure the US succeeded in having the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno violate his own country’s constitution and allow the British police to seize JS, jail and prepare him for extradition to Washington where the regime will find the appropriate judicial setting to condemn him to life imprisonment or… worse.

Conclusion

The war crimes committed by Washington are of such dimension that they have eroded the passive and submissive ethos of their public servants; having lost the trust, the government relies on threats, expulsions and criminal trials.

Investigative journalists are under pressure from the chorus of press prostitutes and face criminal trials.

Today Free speech means ‘free’ to follow the State.

Julian Assange’s upcoming trial is about more than free speech. It is about Washington’s ability to pursue global wars, to apply illegal sanctions against independent countries and to recruit vassal states without opposition. Washington, without public awareness, will be able to launch trade wars, and slander competitors with impunity. Once whistleblowers are silenced and/or jailed anything goes.

In the present period many journalists have lost their ability to speak truth to power, and young writers who seek outlets and role models, face the threat of censorship enforced by egregious punishment. The White House seeks to convert the country into an echo chamber of lies for ‘humanitarian’ wars and ‘democratic’ coups.

Today the US government pursues a war against Venezuela. Treasury seizes its resources and wealth and State appoints its president in the name of ‘democratic values’. The Trump regime is starving the Venezuelan people into submission in the name of a humanitarian mission, a ploy which is only contested by few journalists in the alternative media.

Washington is jailing JA to ensure that the crimes against Venezuela will continue with impunity.

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?

Assange and the Cowardice of Power

Donald Trump has never heard of WikiLeaks, the publishing organization whose work he repeatedly and unequivocally touted during the 2016 election campaign. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” he told reporters after Julian Assange was illegally arrested, after being illegally detained for seven years, in London. “It’s not my thing and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange.”

Moving past the Trumpian paradox (he knows both “nothing” and “something” about WikiLeaks”), here’s a question for our dear leader: is your own Justice Department “your thing”? Because it was your Justice Department that filed the charges against a man who risked his liberty, and his life, to tell the truth about the most powerful criminal syndicate in the world—the American empire.

Is Trump’s cabinet “his thing”? Was he out golfing when his erstwhile attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, told the press that arresting Assange was “a priority”? How about when his secretary of state called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service”? Trump’s regime appears to have a remarkable level of interest in an organization about which he knows nothing.

“The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking.” That was Edward Snowden’s reaction to the Justice Department’s indictment against Assange. He adds that one of the government’s principal allegations—that Assange attempted to help Manning crack a password in the interest of protecting her identity—has been public knowledge for nearly ten years. Also that Obama, no friend to whistle-blowers, refused to act on it, citing dangers to press freedom.

For those who haven’t read the indictment, please do. It won’t take ten minutes, and it will give you an idea of how far the US government is willing to go to punish those brave enough to expose its sins.

The case against Assange (for now) boils down to this: he allegedly took measures to protect the identity of his source and allegedly encouraged his source to find and pass along more information about American criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, as various journalists have pointed out, is standard journalistic practice. Would Nixon have been nailed by Watergate if Woodward and Bernstein hadn’t repeatedly gone back to their source for further evidence of the president’s malfeasance?

Speaking of Woodward, Snowden reminds us that he (Woodward) “stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.” If only Assange had done that—maybe the indictment would carry a little more drama. But all he allegedly did was say, in response to Manning’s claim that she didn’t have any more documents to share, that “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” The horror!

The allegation that Assange conspired with Manning to gain unauthorized access to a government computer is equally underwhelming and misleading. Manning had authorized access to the secret documents she leaked: what Assange did was try to help her access them from a different username. If successful (it apparently wasn’t), this effort would not have given Manning access to any additional files—it merely would have ensured, or at least enhanced, her anonymity.

FYI: Manning has been locked up in Alexandria, Virginia for more than a month now, spending most of that time in solitary confinement, for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and Assange in front of a secret grand jury.

Chiming in from her ivory tower, Hillary Clinton joined Democratic and Republican lawmakers in gloating about Assange’s unlawful arrest: “The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.”

We know what he’s been charged with; now let’s recall what he has actually done. Using time-honored journalistic methods, he shone a hard light on crimes routinely committed by the American empire in the name of the American people—crimes that would otherwise have remained concealed behind an iron curtain of government deception and media complicity.

“On the morning of July 12, 2007, two Apache helicopters using 30mm cannon fire killed about a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded. Although some of the men appear to have been armed, the behavior of nearly everyone was relaxed. The US military initially claimed that all the dead were ‘anti-Iraqi forces’ or ‘insurgents.’”

That’s the preface to Collateral Murder, the notorious video published by WikiLeaks showing American troops firing on a group of people standing around in the street. Two of them were Reuters journalists; both of them were killed. “Ha ha ha, I hit ‘em,” one soldier chuckles after the first round of fire. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” another says, to which another responds, “Nice. Good shootin’.”

The video, more disturbing to your average person than a sterile civilian casualties report, illustrates why the Military Tribunal at Nuremberg named “military aggression,” not genocide, as the “supreme international crime”: because it establishes a context in which murder becomes not only commonplace, but banal. At the end of that road lies Auschwitz.

Crimes like the one depicted in Collateral Murder are facilitated and rendered acceptable by crimes of a much greater magnitude, like Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Julian Assange did—what Hillary Clinton says “he has to answer for”—is show people the consequences of their governments’ actions, so that maybe one day individuals like Hillary Clinton will be stripped of their impunity and made to answer for what they have done. That is the quintessence of journalism and, according to the United States, an intolerable crime. Behold the cowardice of power.

As for the UK’s role in this charade, while it has long been clear that London is a faithful servant of the American empire, extraditing Assange to the US—whereupon new and more serious charges will almost certainly be leveled against him—would mark a new depth of national disgrace.

At the time of his arrest Assange was reportedly clutching in his hand a book by Gore Vidal. In a 2009 interview with The Independent, an octogenarian Vidal was asked for his thoughts on modern England. “This isn’t a country,” he said, “it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Indeed.

What Now Should People of Conscience Do to Protect Julian Assange?

Several headlines have blared “Julian Assange Arrested.” This is misleading because Assange has been under de facto arrest ever since the Swedish authorities sought his extradition regarding sex-related allegations. Assange always stated that he was amenable to going to Sweden with a guarantee of no-further extradition to the United States. Sweden refused to accede to such a guarantee. Assange was also open to being interviewed in England. Finally, after having interviewed Assange in England, half-a-year later Sweden dropped its case against the man who has never been charged with any crimes.

Nonetheless, the United Kingdom behaved as any obedient lapdog would to its master, it stated that it would arrest Assange. Why? Because of the relatively benign charge of having breached bail. Note that this a breach of bail for something that he was never charged. That should put to rest any patina of legitimacy to the UK’s legal posturing. Will Assange get a fair trial in the UK, something he has said he did not receive previously. The remarks of the district judge Michael Snow foreshadow blatant partiality. Snow said of Assange: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behavior is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.”

So what is the Assange case really about? It’s about power: the power to wage wars, the power to kill, the power to commit war crimes, and the power to silence or control narratives. The video “Collateral Murder” exposed the US power structure’s killing, warring, and monstrous criminality. Is it not a morbid hypocrisy that the people (Assange and Chelsea Manning) who expose the grotesquerie of killing are targeted for retribution through the so-called justice system while the killers go unpunished.1

WikiLeaks, however, is a publisher not controlled or cowed by the power structure.

Now that Assange has had his asylum revoked by Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno (something that is held to be illegal, including by former Ecuadorian foreign minister Guillaume Long) that casts great shame on himself and his nation. Former president Rafael Correa called Moreno corrupt and “a traitor.”

So the question is what now? What do people who care about the right-to-know do? What do people who care about exposing war crimes and government corruption do? What do people who care about protecting whistleblowers do?

This is not just about protecting Julian Assange, the person. There are many political prisoners and persons unjustly persecuted in the world. Assange is one of too many victims of the Establishment. But Assange has garnered prominence, and this is because he and WikiLeaks had the skill, courage, and audacity to bring to light the nefarious deeds of the power structure that it intended to keep in the dark.

Protecting Julian Assange means not just preventing the extradition of the Australian citizen (shame also to Australia) to the US, but freeing Assange. As a strict elementary principle, people should not be arrested, persecuted, or denigrated for having the moral integrity to expose criminality. Instead they deserve plaudits and should be regarded as great role models for others.

What can be done?

1. Western state/corporate media needs to reverse its path and step to the forefront of protecting the public’s right-to-know. It seems highly unlikely, as it would be a massive reversal for a media that has thoroughly discredited itself. It is in the self-interest of the monopoly media. It would be self-preservation of its publishers and journalists who would now be subject to legal reproach when the power structure is dissatisfied with the news.2 Although the monopoly media would be coming extremely late to the game, protecting the right-to-publish (and the First Amendment in the US) would be pure self-interest.

Expecting a new tune in the monopoly media, however, is not about to happen because the monopoly media is part of the power structure seeking to make an example through Assange of the maltreatment that other potential whistleblowers would face.

Abusing law to prosecute Assange, even in secret (as would be expected given the power structure’s aversion to transparency) should cast an even brighter spotlight on what Assange and WikiLeaks are about, and why the US is seeking to silence the publisher.

2. Award Assange and WikiLeaks the Nobel Peace Prize. While the Nobel Peace Prize may still hold luster for some people, given its questionable awards to dubious recipients, its image has become quite tarnished. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a whistleblower who exposed the malignancy of war would be right in line with the sentiments and intention of Alfred Nobel. People should make their views known to the Nobel Committee. It would be much more difficult to extradite a current Nobel peace laureate, wouldn’t it? It would be a reversal for the Nobel Committee in Norway.

3. The United Nations. Given that UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Assange’s detention was arbitrary and called on the UK to allow Assange to leave the Ecuadorian embassy without fear of arrest or extradition, the latest arrest in the UK is the UK further thumbing its nose at the world. What if the UN panel along with other diplomats and dignitaries were to hold vigils outside the British Gitmo where Assange is being held?

4. People power. The force to challenge the establishment power structure is people power — the power of the masses. This should take on many forms. The obvious one is masses taking to the streets. Unless this is of enormous size and sustained, it will only be a resistance blip on the radar. Depending on how much people value their right-to-know; how much they are opposed to killing people living far away who have never lifted a finger against them, their family, their neighbors, their countrymen and women; how much they are dedicated to justice for all humans … they will be willing to engage in further sacrifice: general strike. This will hurt corporations and send a signal to politicians who fear losing political influence. And as an additional measure, people should consider abandoning reader- and viewer-ship of monopoly media, hurting the bottom line and spooking investors.

This is another fight people must not lose. The protection of Assange would be a victory for all those who are unjustly incarcerated everywhere; a victory for people’s right-to-know and empowerment of the people (knowledge, they say, is power); a victory for the anti-war crowd; a victory for freedom of the press; and, of course, a victory-of-sorts for Assange and WikiLeaks.

Most importantly, it would be a victory for humanity.

  1. Indeed, they were exculpated in a book as The Good Soldiers by Washington Post writer David Finkel. As interpreted in The New Yorker: “The soldiers are callous, as you would expect young men caught up in a particularly ugly and confusing kind of war to be. Callous and angry—and also, in other moments, hopeful, generous, capable of friendliness toward Iraqis.” The New Yorker article proffers as excuse, “bad judgement” and that such acts are “absolutely inevitable in wars”: “Does it reveal a war crime? I don’t think so. This isn’t Abu Ghraib, or the rape atrocity in the Triangle of Death, or the Haditha massacre. The Apache crews make a series of bad judgments—some of them understandable, like mistaking the photographer’s long lens as it pokes around the corner of a building for an RPG; others much less defensible, like firing repeatedly at a van that has stopped to pick up a wounded man—but they aren’t shooting indiscriminately like in a free-fire zone. The video is important because it shows the kind of tragedy that is absolutely inevitable in wars likes the ones America has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan…”
  2. As an aside, the attempt to belittle Assange’s credentials as a journalist or publisher are risible given the flawless publication record of WikiLeaks, which stands as the envy of every publishing entity.

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.

Defense for Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange

For so long, we have been pushed out from democracy. Our elected officials and political parties, both Republicans and Democrats, have been undermining the will of ordinary people. Monopoly media, bought by corporate money has turned against public interests, distorting information and manipulating public perception.

For too long, American people have been kept in the dark. We have been made to live in an insulated “reality” of the American dream and engage in mindless consumption. We didn’t know what our government is doing overseas under the pretext of fighting terrorism or humanitarian intervention. We didn’t know about these illegal wars in the Middle East and the tortures at Guantanamo. We didn’t know what intelligence agencies are doing in the name of national security here at home or abroad.

But now, we know. Julian Assange in his work with WikiLeaks courageously came forward to fulfill the role of the free press. Through the method of transparency, WikiLeaks challenged government secrecy. The whistleblowing site gave American people information that those in power worked so hard to conceal.

Through WikiLeaks’ release of the collateral murder video and the publication of documents concerning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we came to know the military rule of engagement was broken and how we became complicit in killing innocent civilians, including journalists. With their publication of files on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, we know innocent men are detained and prisoners are exploited in interrogation.

In 2013, revelations of Edward Snowden sent a shock wave to the world. WikiLeaks, not only helped the NSA whistleblower attain asylum, but also alerted us the extent to which the NSA conducts its mass surveillance at a global scale, even targeting political leaders of its ally countries for US geopolitical interests. WikiLeaks publication of Vault 7, the largest publication of confidential documents that belong to CIA revealed the agency’s excessive power, with its hacking tools to spy on people through smartphones and TVs.

As a consequence of shining a light on government war crimes and corruption, WikiLeaks has become a target of political retaliation. The Obama administration’s persecution led Julian Assange to seek political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. For the last 6 years, Assange has been unlawfully held by the UK government without charge, being denied access to medical treatment, fresh air, sunlight and adequate space to exercise. Now, the Trump administration carries on this Obama’s war on truth-tellers, trying to extradite this Western journalist to the US.

What does this assault on press freedom reveal? It is a battle concerning who controls a narrative of history. For too long, we have been told to shut up. We were made irrelevant in our own history. We became an observer who is not participating in the unfolding story.

Monopoly media functions as a gatekeeper of power that censors information to protect elites who seek to control the narratives of history. We are shut out from democracy. We become an object, being tossed around and made to passively carry out scripts handed down to us.

But this is no more. The days of the government oppression, their silencing and bullying of ordinary people are now over. WikiLeaks, through engaging in scientific journalism, awakened creative forces inside history. By giving the public full achieves of authentic documents, the organization provided means for us to directly connect with events and find our own place in history.

This all started with a person with a tremendous conscience. Former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning demonstrated extraordinary courage to defend the public’s right to know. Manning, through releasing vital information that belongs to the public, invited ordinary people, like you and me to claim our own power and actively participate in changing the trajectory of history.

For this brave act of conscience, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. She served seven years until President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017. Now, she is back to jail for refusing to answer questions at a secret grand jury, targeting WikiLeaks and Assange. She is to remain confined until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work.

Throughout history, we have seen individuals, who refused to accept the oppressive narratives imposed on them and instead acted for self-determination. At the beginning of the American republic, 13 colonies fought to declare independence from King George who imposed unfair taxation without representation. The proponents of the Bill of Rights opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution and fought to restrict governmental power in order to safeguard individual liberties.

From the women’s suffrage movement to the civil rights movement, history has awakened. In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, by refusing to give up her seat, defied unjust laws that perpetuate a story of racism in violation of ideals in the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X carried on this spark in history to liberate Black people. In their act of civil disobedience, they all became a subject who determines their own destiny.

In 1964, in the Bay Area, we have seen a new momentum of this awakening of history. Mario Savio, a young student of the University of California at Berkeley, inspired by the courage of black people fighting for their freedom, exercised speech that had consequences. Young people’s rebellion against bureaucracy and the university’s crackdown on students who were participating in the civil rights struggle gave birth to the free speech movement.

Now, over 50 years later, WikiLeaks began pushing boundaries of free speech, making it possible for a young whistleblower to carry on the American tradition of civil disobedience. Both Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, with their courage, tenacity, and integrity, reminded us all of our own significance as authors of history.

We are agents for change in the history that we all belong to. We write and define the course of its story with our heart’s imagining. Our story is based on truth in the founding document of this country that said, “all men are created equal.” Our narrative ensures Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness for all people. Our value is transparency for the powerful and privacy for the individual. We create a democracy, where We the People are in charge of making decisions that affect every aspect of our society.

This is a society governed by a rule of law that protects the rights of the vulnerable and guarantees that no person, whether it is a president or a billionaire can act above laws. This is a story that honors the conscience of ordinary people and rewards journalists who protect their source and publish information in the public interest.

We condemn the US government’s prosecution of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and the Justice Department’s attempt to force the alleged source to testify against the journalist for publishing government’s wrongdoing. These draconian actions of the state pose a great threat to our democracy, free press, and our fundamental human rights.

Our efforts to free Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange must become a movement. Our solidarity to defend the whistleblower and WikiLeaks is our non-violent civil disobedience against those in power who seek to control us behind a façade of democracy. This is our civil rights movement. This is the free speech movement of our time. We must use our right to free speech to speak out, associate with one another to mobilize and end this secret grand jury and this prosecution of free press.

Free Chelsea Manning. Free Julian Assange.

Authors Note: This is a transcript of a speech I delivered in San Francisco for a rally to defend freedom of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange on March 18. The event was organized by Bay Area Free Julian Assange Action Committee and endorsed by United Public Workers For Action.