Category Archives: Whistleblowing

Banning Chelsea Manning: The Dubious Tests of Character

National security advocates have been crotchety ever since the release of Chelsea Manning for a sentence they hoped would go the full, crushing 35 years.  Her sins were intimately tied up with making WikiLeaks the publisher of fame, less than fortune: the disclosure of 750,000 classified diplomatic and military documents which revealed, to various degrees, the inner workings of the US military industrial complex.  But a moment of enlightenment prevailed, and President Barack Obama deemed her case suitable for commutation in one of his last executive acts.

While the idea of a celebrity whistleblower is rife with problems (the stereotype is usually that of an insecure, inconspicuous figure, a persecuted shrinking violet), Manning has managed to become one since her release in May 2017.  Identity politics has been grafted upon the political necessaries of exposing injustices and atrocities.  Data security has been paired with transgender politics.

In Australia, joined (even chained?) to the hip of the US imperium, not all are revelling in Manning, the spiller of secrets big and small.  The simple conclusion they reach is that she should be barred from entering the country.  She was a military intelligence analyst gone bad, and for those reasons, should be treated as such.  “Despite the media breathlessly describing Manning as a whistleblower,” penned a sceptical Rodger Shanahan of the Lowy Institute, “she is far from that.  In fact, if she thought she was a whistleblower she could have availed herself of the 1988 Military Whistleblowers Act.”

For Shanahan, being a whistleblower requires you to be an ascetic person of scrupulous credentials, and free of confusion.  Most of all, you must be bureaucratically minded, a team player who uses internal channels laid out by the managers.  Manning was not aggrieved by US military practice, he surmises, merely “downloading material from the classified system for onforwarding to WikiLeaks” within two weeks of her first deployment. (How unprincipled!)

Shanahan’s attempt to demolish Manning’s credentials are typical of an individual who believes in the constipated restrictions imposed on the meaning of whistleblower.  The first is a charmingly naïve assumption that the Military Whistleblowers Act somehow immunises the discloser from prosecution, casting a cordon of iron clad protection from venal employers.  Even more importantly, there is an assumption that internal disclosures made by the morally worried and concerned work, a cynic’s ploy to pretend to be an idealist.

What matters in that approach is to keep abuses within the corrupt family, to exclude prying eyes and, most importantly of all, to let matters of redress and reform drift into splendid inertia.  Actual changes and means to hold agents responsible for abuse tend to happen from the outside, the shock of the new.  Little wonder, then, that such catalysts – in this case Manning, and then her provision to WikiLeaks – are treated as such crass and vulgar acts, disruptive and therefore in need of containment.

What is problematic for Manning is that certain records speak volumes to immigration officials.  They are not to be considered in context; what matters is the fact of a conviction, not the extenuating circumstances that could excuse, or at least mitigate, the reasons for it. Good character, to that end, is ever slippery, but officialdom demands certitude.

Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) permits the minister power to refuse a person a visa on grounds of character if they have been sentenced to prison for one year or longer.  The bar is low, with a visa refusal possible if the minister “reasonably suspects that the person does not pass the character test; and the person does not satisfy the Minister that the person passes the character test.”

The notice from the Department of Home Affairs to Manning notes how it “holds information about your criminal history listed at the end of this notice, which indicates that you have a substantial criminal record within the meaning of that term as defined in s. 501(7) of the Migration Act”.  The character test, for that reason, was not satisfied.

Digital Rights Watch chairman Tim Singleton Norton, on peering into the crystal ball of decision making in the home ministry, smells the intrusive hand of power.  The ban was “nothing more than a political stunt designed to appease the current US administration, and an unnecessary imposition on the movement of a world-renowned civil rights activist.”

Not all in the Australian political classes are comatose to Manning’s broader contributions.  The Australian Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale and Labor equality spokeswoman Louise Pratt have lobbied the Morrison government on the subject of providing Manning a visa. The organiser of her speaking tour, Think Inc., has been particularly keen that immigration minister David Coleman and home affairs minister Peter Dutton apply their “ministerial discretion to allow Ms Manning entry into Australia.”

Think Inc.’s application seeking re-evaluation of Manning’s visa application argues that, “she poses no threat to members of the Australian community.  Think Inc. believes Ms Manning is entitled to freedom of expression and political opinion which are the foundations of a free and democratic society and fundamental human rights.”

The organisation is attempting to win the argument on the ideas front, wonderful if those listening care for them. “Ms Manning,” claims the director Suzi Jamil, “offers formidable ideas and an insightful perspective which we are hoping to bring to the forefront of Australian dialogue.”  These include “data privacy, artificial intelligence and transgender rights.” Hugh de Kretser of the Human Rights Law Centre has been blunter: “She’s generating vital debate around issues like mass surveillance of citizens by governments.  The visa should be granted.”

Jamil, perhaps prudently, avoided those other ideas that have stuck in the craw of establishment toadies: that Manning represents the oft needed instability caused by openness and transparent shocks of information to those fanatical about secrecy.

Americans Are as Spacey as Ever

The white race – and I mean Israeli, Iberian, Slovak, Anglo-Saxon, Caucasian, and the lot of us – is crazy. We do not need Susan Sontag to declare the white race as cancer on the world to ramify the point, since it’s been more than 50 years since she declared:

If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far. … The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

The zenith of this insanity, of course, encompasses the world leaders of all those European nations, the UK, Australia, that demented cabal in Tel Aviv, the amazing daft of Americanos, and the entire lot who works the wormhole of destruction and continuing hollowing out with that soft shoe power of money, might and ethos that states “we don’t need no stinking ethics . . . and we kill the world at will.”

I’m working daily with homeless veterans, and the reality of what it means to have Trump or Clinton or Bernie or any of them in the leeching single party of Demons-RepubliRats running the show is that it’s a prostitute’s game of the highest order: homeless with property debts, evictions, miles and miles of contracts to pay back worthless schooling (degrees), mental health not being treated, crimes invented and prosecuted against them, endless toil in lines of bureaucracy, the trauma of substance abuse and then sobriety, the end game of just wanting to get a cheap house to call home to fortify against the constant chatter of the money launderers and repo men.

Reality is Americans in large part are broken, man, and their progeny are a hop, skip and a jump from disability classification, as each new birth is a crap-shoot of this or that physiological, genetic and mental impingement. Debilitating and lifelong scarlet letters of Double D-B-C-E at birth stitched on their Triple X sleeveless Budweiser T-shirts.

Disabled/Debt-ridden, Broken/Blank-Bankrupted, and Crippled/Corrupted, Epigenetic/ER-prone, at birth, as the psychological torturers bring to us more and more hormone-disrupting, DNA-warping, mental-draining and spiritual-tapping goods and services that have shackled us to a system of obsolescence, delusion, propaganda, and penury. We are not a united nation of anything but belief in the cartoonish ideology we are Number One and Ever-Conquering, yet the Chinese-made bombs bursting in air, hormone-drenched spare ribs, and GMO/pesticide-infused high fructose corn syrup Everything Goes Better with CocaCola on that one static day, July 4, push us to believe the lies, the big lie and the impending extinction of our own history.

Pondering the universe of delusional thinking, I am only 61, yet I feel like Rip Van Winkle, or worse, living my last third of life (if I get that lucky) inside the slipstream of human depravity on every level – from the bowels of the belly of the beast, to the syphilitic thinking of the star chamber levelers with their billions, their bots, their vision of a world tied to their modified DNA strains, existing someplace floating on ten thousand tethered space stations, near the reflection of their apple of their Dystopian eye, Mars.

A world colluding with the masters of consumption, addiction to fossil fuels, chemicals, wars, brain-barrier hacking entertainment, and the concomitant insanity of carving away species after species, while polluting precious fresh water, razing coral reefs, over-harvesting oceans, and living lifestyles where the cracked calories of cooked HomoConsumpithectus’ food and the endless pitching withdrawals of HomoRetailopithectus’ proclivity to sex, drugs, gambling, shopping, stupidity will forever shape the death of Earth’s ecosystems as we have known them up close and personal and through the bio-paleo-chemical microscopic records we have set as marching orders for our scientists and ecologists who are inevitably ignored at every turn of the Point Zero One Percent’s gluttony and narcissism.

The dream and the hope are now a requiem, lost on the flow of sperm through the epididymis, as we further unlock the barriers to a healthy society: how even the lumbering, pigsty physiology of the progenitor sperm donator HomoConsumopithectus can express the further quickening of the zygote’s snowball’s chance in hell gestating into anything but a cancer-seeded, on-the-spectrum, continual chronic fatigue syndrome child.

The number of people on planet earth – not just in the Chronic Exceptional Diseased America – with chronic illness and dripping concentration and retrograde humanity – is huge, largely tied to the superstition of  fascist religion and unending exploitation of each square acre of god’s green earth. This new normal of fear-at-birth and flagging-constitutions whereby the human race is racing away from the solutions to the disease of the mind and the pollution of land-atmosphere-air-water is not only unholy and denuding of spirit, but exactly what the Captains of Industry and Masters of the Gigabytes and Algorithms desire.

Choices, man: flipping burgers or humping backpacks in the US Military; lifetime debt for meaningless college degrees or the drudgery of working two or three jobs in the service and precarious economy; dealing into the game of American Castes or isolating in a world of addiction, pollution and surveillance?

Choices turning Americans into spies and enemies, suckers and marks, a deployed army of tens of millions ball-and-chained to the disease of fearing a worthy death in order to overthrow the powers, the militaries, and the mad men and women crafting the biggest lies since a resurrection and second coming.

Oddly, working with homeless veterans battling meth, opioids, booze, PTSD, disabilities from military service, and a cart-load of criminal convictions, I still come out daily with a sense of purpose and confidence that one man, one woman, can do something revolutionary, even in this I-Spy Sicko World of Plastic Futures. It’s the forest, not the single tree, that is diseased. The unending stupidity of the collective, whereby we allow the mighty dollar to hold sway over everything – trillions spent on the military’s implements of welfare/warfare while our collective mouths rot; the millions upon millions of babies born with birth defects and learning disabilities because we can’t muster up a collective” Hell No We Aren’t Going to Take These” chemicals sprayed on and in everything.

A study in mice conducted by researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) suggests that a woman’s risk of anxiety and dysfunctional social behavior may depend on the experiences of her parents, particularly fathers, when they were young. The study, published online in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that stress caused by chronic social instability during youth contributes to epigenetic changes in sperm cells that can lead to psychiatric disorders in female offspring across multiple generations.

Obese male mice and normal weight female mice produce female pups that are overweight at birth through childhood, and have delayed development of their breast tissue as well as increased rates of breast cancer.

The findings, published online June 24 in Scientific Reports by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers, come from one of the first animal studies to examine the impact of paternal obesity on future generations’ cancer risk.

The researchers say they’ve found evidence that obesity changes the microRNA (miRNA) signature—epigenetic regulators of gene expression—in both the dad’s sperm and the daughter’s breast tissue, suggesting that miRNAs may carry the epigenetic information from obese dads to their daughters.

We are looking at a globe that navel gazes at these cretins – Multimillionaire Obamas, Clintons, Bush, and the deadly misanthropic billionaires club of the Gates-Bezos-Trump-Adelson- et al, and the dirty dealings of Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Holly-Dirt and the like. The attention span is square on the Tweet or the argumentative average American who will question a thousand PhDs working on climate change with his or her community college education.

So, no matter how homogenized the elites’ churned-out mush is, for instance, proclaiming how the world is so much less violent now than fifty years ago (another troll, Stephen Pinker), the reality is the white race is bent on hobbling the rest of the world with the pollution, indentured servant status, and disease creation to feed the most violent time in history of constant structural violence, mass incarceration, mass delusion, mass toxin-creating, hyper-caste generating. We are here, in a process of withering away, slowly, as this Tinhorn Country pokes holes in any common fabric the world holds sacred.

Stephen Pinker is wrong about the World of Enlightened Peoples Is Less Violent, easily beaten down here by a splendid writer:

There is something repellently absurd in the notion that war is a vice of “backward” peoples. Destroying some of the most refined civilizations that have ever existed, the wars that ravaged south-east Asia in the second world war and the decades that followed were the work of colonial powers. One of the causes of the genocide in Rwanda was the segregation of the population by German and Belgian imperialism. Unending war in the Congo has been fueled by western demand for the country’s natural resources. If violence has dwindled in advanced societies, one reason may be that they have exported it.

Then again, the idea that violence is declining in the most highly developed countries is questionable. Judged by accepted standards, the United States is the most advanced society in the world. According to many estimates the US also has the highest rate of incarceration, some way ahead of China and Russia, for example. Around a quarter of all the world’s prisoners are held in American jails, many for exceptionally long periods. Black people are disproportionately represented, many prisoners are mentally ill and growing numbers are aged and infirm. Imprisonment in America involves continuous risk of assault by other prisoners. There is the threat of long periods spent in solitary confinement, sometimes (as in “supermax” facilities, where something like Bentham’s Panopticon has been constructed) for indefinite periods – a type of treatment that has been reasonably classified as torture. Cruel and unusual punishments involving flogging and mutilation may have been abolished in many countries, but, along with unprecedented levels of mass incarceration, the practice of torture seems to be integral to the functioning of the world’s most advanced state.

Funny stuff, that which precipitates my noggin: Was reading this writer’s (Karl Schroeder) take on what it means to Escape the Default Future When Writing Science Fiction:

There’s a term that futurists use: “the default future.” The default future is what we assume is going to happen, as a matter of obvious fact. Its assumptions are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even know they’re there. For instance, current popular culture typically imagines one of just three possible future Earths: an Orwellian dystopia, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, or a space-faring urban hypercivilization.

But should we? Sharing the wealth among nine billion will be hard. In many nations, birth-rates are on the decline. Shouldn’t we encourage that trend?

Here’s a proposal: let’s get smaller. Imagine a future where the economy is increasingly automated and taps into the infinite resources of outer space; and where humanity shares a core of common goods such as Universal Basic Income, Universal Healthcare, and free education. These aren’t fantasies, they’re trends. Now add to this mix a naturally declining population that retains its genetic diversity. The formula for our future becomes: more and more wealth, divided among fewer and fewer people.

In material terms alone, the results are staggering. Imagine if your family owned Paris? Or was responsible for tending the Catskill Mountains? What does wealth mean when robotics, automation and AI mean that each person can have, not money or an income, but his or her own economy? When kids learn history by reenacting the Battle of the Somme with real robot armies? When you don’t watch movies, you have the entire story including sets, car chases and crowd scenes, played out for you by troops of android players?

And here we are, these elitists and thought experimenters, sticking their intellectual tongues out at us, the majority of us, 6 billion-plus, pontificating about a world that is less violent or one that can be depopulated for a cool million, or how better the world is with a point-zero-zero-one Percent controlling us with their flimflam ideas, their products, their tools of oppression, their war is peace simulated psycho-babble. We are subject to their whims, their marketing, and their disease-generating ideologies — arrogance, chauvinism, immorality, all things filtered through the American lens/ White Race’s Lens, that is.

So I come to the end of this screed, precipitated by the daily sin of living and working in America as my fellow Americans (sic) become more and more punch drunk crazy on their own self-admiration. But also catalyzed by some insipid article,

New archaeological research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that Homo erectus, an extinct species of primitive humans, went extinct in part because they were ‘lazy’.

The premise is that Homo erectus failed to mine better materials to be more efficient (killers) and more widely spread-out hunters. Ironically, the fool’s errand is we as a society/ dominator civilization are absolutely lazy when it comes to our daftness around this collapsing planet, dying ecosystems and soon-to-be-extinct millions of species. Climate change and mitigating that existential crisis, which we have failed tremendously at, we have proven our Homo Sapiens ilk as both lazy and lazier than any Homo erectus that may have been eliminated by more warring and consumptive species, now,  HomoConsumpithectus.

Terms like least effort strategies and they did not have that sense of wonder we have come from this Australian anthropologist’s mouth in his dusting off of Homo erectus gathering sites.

The arrogance of this thinking, that they — Homo erectus — knew the better stone was there but decided against it because they felt they had enough adequate raw materials and decided against rarefied tool making. He goes on to say that the stone tool makers of later periods, including early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, “who were climbing mountains to find good quality stone and transporting it over long distances,” outstripped our progenitor clan Homo erectus as survivors.

Shipton (the Aussie) states this is a failure to progress technologically, and as their environment dried out into a desert, the Homo erectus species’ population’s demise was inevitable.

Ironic, really, now as we Homo/Retail/Consumo-Sapiens have worked so hard to rape the planet and chug out toxins and greenhouse gases that we are failing more than any other past species in our line to grapple with this greenhouse gas inevitability —

The study, “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As for what to do to prevent a hothouse Earth, it’s easier said than done: Decarbonize the world economy, end deforestation, improve farming techniques and promote carbon-capture technologies, among other recommendations.

This can “only be achieved and maintained by a coordinated, deliberate effort by human societies to manage our relationship with the rest of the Earth system, recognizing that humanity is an integral, interacting component of the system,” according to the study. “Humanity is now facing the need for critical decisions and actions that could influence our future for centuries, if not millennia.”

This is August 2018, and yet, my slipstream life intersects daily sometimes dozens of times with the chauvinism of partial truths, counter-intuitive stasis, collective unknowing, and frequent mistruths.

I have new ways to teach and work with this blind thinking, but in one sense, I find the white race in America log-jammed, and even around sincere and fairly robustly interested folk, there are blind sides.

Imagine, we eat apples year round. Sometimes apples in the store are 14 months old, meaning we are tricked into eating foods out of season, out of our own bio-region. Apples are picked, then warehoused away in a place where oxygen is cut back to a low percentage, the temperature is just a touch above 32 degrees, and the skins sprayed on with fungicides. The problem is that these apples lose their antioxidant power quickly —  polyphenols.

The apple is a microcosm of the entire broken system of addiction to oil, embedded energy out the roof, bad choices, and what that Australian anthropologist might want to look at sociologically by seeing his own species, and his own brethren — science and technology —  as the perpetrators of humanity’s demise. But, oh, we are a busy-busy species, making those Homo erectus die-offs look like the ultimate slackers!

Corporate Media Join in Editorializing for Press Freedom

Some 300 newspapers, large and small, joined today in publishing, often on their front pages, editorials defending the First Amendment’s freedom of the press, often making note of their own efforts to combat current threats to that freedom posed by President Trump’s attacks on journalists and the entire Fourth Estate, which Trump routinely denounces in tweets and at rallies as “enemies of the people.”

However, missing from most of these full-throated editorials is any real defense of those who are in the trenches doing the hardest job of a free press, which is exposing the worst offenses of government: the war crimes, the craven systemic corruption of the political system, and the purveying of propaganda and disinformation in the furtherance of anti-democratic policies. (A good example would be the employment by most major news organizations of retired generals and colonels as war commentators without noting their roles on corporate boards of arms merchants that profit form war — a scandal that not one major news organization will expose.)

Nowhere does one read, in these coordinated impassioned editorial paens to press freedom, a condemnation of the five-year torture and pursuit of journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the London embassy of Ecuador, hiding from a secret sealed indictment that since the days of the virulently anti-free-press Obama administration has been sitting in the Attorney General’s office waiting for his capture.

Assange is trapped in the cramped Ecuadoran embassy by a complicit British government that has threatened to arrest him if he exits the building, claiming he is wanted for jumping bail in a court case that was already long-ago mooted by the expiration of Swedish arrest warrant that itself was based upon trumped-up charges of “rape” made against Assange by women who say they had not wanted those charges made in the first place. His real crime, and the thing the US wants to extradite him from Britain for, is publishing leaked Pentagon documents and videotapes proving a policy in the Iraq war of massive and deliberate war crimes.

Although news organizations like the New York Times and Washington Post made the most of those Wikileaks documents, publishing their horrific evidence of war crimes, such as the helicopter gun-ship machine-gun slaughter of a group of innocent Iraqis, including two journalists, shown in graphic detail in a leaked gun-sight video, and profited handsomely from the circulation and attention they derived from those stories, both those papers have slammed Assange, shamelessly questioning his status as a “journalist,” impugning his integrity.

They have ignored the reality that any prosecution of him for the work done by Wikileaks in exposing war crimes opens the door to prosecutions in the future of other more “traditional” journalists.

These hundreds of supposedly outraged defenders of press freedom are also strangely silent about the federal prosecution of the very leakers who make it possible for them to publish stories about government crimes and abuse. Take for example the 26-year-old NSA contract worker Reality Winner, currently facing sentencing after being convicted of leaking a classified National Security Agency document, still unidentified publicly, with reports saying she may be handed a sentence longer than any prior government leaker. Even the news organization that she reportedly leaked the document to has not had the intestinal fortitude to go public with its own role in this event. It is not known whether that news organization even had the decency to pay for her defense, and there has been no hue and cry from the media against her prosecution, or even against her sentencing, for doing something — whistleblowing — that is fundamental to the working of a real free press.

It’s the same thing that happened to Bradley Manning, the courageous young soldier, now known as Chelsea Manning following a sex change operation, who provided Assange and Wikileaks with the evidence of systemic war crimes by US forces in Iraq. Manning spent 7 years in Leavenworth for her/his heroic act. Little outrage was expended in print by America’s supposed defenders of press freedom over Manning’s uniquely brutal persecution, which included pretrial torture in a Navy brig — only over the crimes that Bradley’s courage and determination brought to public attention.

There is also something else missing from the high dudgeon expressed in this spate of page-one editorials lionizing the role of the nation’s corporate news media, and that is any defense of the alternative media. The Washington Post is particularly hypocritical in this regard.

It was, after all, only two years ago that Amazon gezillionaire Jeff Bezos’ private newspaper playground published a page-one McCarthyite hit on over 200 alternative news sites, mostly online, which it said a completely anonymous and unresearched or vetted organization called PropOrNot was alleging were either agents of or “ignorant dupes” of Russia, publishing purportedly pro-Russian propaganda. The paper ultimately published a retraction and apology of sorts for this libelous and scurrilous piece of yellow journalism, but has not come to the defense of those organizations, which include Truthdig, CommonDreams, Counterpunch and numerous other journalistic organizations, including this one, that have long done the kind of real investigative journalism that the corporate media typically avoid: systemic corruption and criminality by the government. The NY Times also ran with this sordid Washington Post “scoop,” as did the Philadelphia Inquirer and others but none of them has ever stood up for the free press rights of the alternative media, preferring to compare their supposedly “higher-standard” articles to those of the unwashed alternative press.

The reality is that a nation either has a free press or it does not. And if journalists from the alternative media can be arrested and jailed with no editorial defense from the mainstream press, as happened repeatedly, for example, during the long Standing Rock native people’s resistance to the controversial XL Pipeline project running through Sioux traditional lands (a struggle that the corporate media studiously ignored until the number of non-indians involved in the protests grew so large, and the violence of police and military forces arrayed against them grew so violent that it could no longer be blacked out and left to the alternative media to cover), then there is no real press freedom of consequence in the US.

It was not the corporate media that broke the My Lai story, after all. It was the US alternative media. It was not the corporate media that exposed the US role in the Korean War, it was IF Stone in his little weekly by the same name. It was not the corporate media that exposed the fact that the FBI knew of a plot to assassinate the leaders of the Houston Occupy Movement, and did nothing to prevent it. It was…oh year, that was me in this publication — a story that was picked up by much of the alternative media, but never covered by the corporate media.

A black-out situation that is all too typical of the mainstream media, which is fond of deciding what news is, as the NY Times puts it, “fit to print.”

Just as it is critical to the guarantee of a fair trial that even the most heinous of criminals receive a vigorous qualified defense, it is also critical that all threats to press freedom, even against the smallest and seemingly most inconsequential of news organizations, be collectively challenged and defended against.

So yes, let’s defend what’s left of this country’s supposedly Constitutionally protected Free Press right, but let’s defend all of it, not just the tame corporate version of it.

Because a press freedom is under serious attack these days, certainly by President Trump, but also by a corporate media itself that supports a censored internet and a two-tiered access to high-speed internet — both of which measures threaten alternative news media — and that fail to firmly support and defend the whistleblowers who often are critically important in bringing urgent stories of government and corporate wrongdoing to light.

What Should “We” Do about Julian Assange?

Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is reportedly close to reneging on asylum granted to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by Ecuador. Assange, who holds Ecuadorian citizenship and is entitled to protection as such by his country of citizenship, is expected to be turned over to the UK very soon.

And for what? WikiLeaks dared to expose the perfidy of the United States to the world’s public. The pro-transparency organization enraged the US military-industrial complex by publishing a slew of classified documents, emails, and graphic accounts like the “Collateral Murder” video that adduced US war crimes in Iraq.

In other words, Assange is being painted as a criminal for revealing the crimes of US empire. War is peace. And revealing crimes is criminal.

In mid-July, during president Donald Trump’s visit to England, one press headline reported: “Trump UK visit:’100,000′ take to London’s streets in astonishing show of opposition to ‘horrible’ president.”

And prior to the US-UK attack on Iraq (based on fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy), police estimated “at least 750,000” people turned out demonstrate against partaking in the war against Iraq.

Julian Assange, as a publisher, performed a massive service to humanity in allowing those who want to be informed about what acts their governments are involved in, support, or are silent about. WikiLeaks respects “our” right to know.

Clearly, Assange must be protected. Now is a moment that calls for people power, and its seems this time a people’s movement stands a good shot at a moral victory. Imagine, for a moment, if a million people showed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London ready to form a swarm around Assange when he emerges, thereby barring police access to a man charged with no crime.

Imagine if the day of Assange’s exit were co-ordinated worldwide by an organized resistance to empire and its cronies, and another million people plus from around the world joined the Brits at the Ecuadorian embassy. Imagine if they all of them wore Guy Fawkes masks and black hoodies and Assange were provided with the same by the crowd. Then the massive crowd raises umbrellas and plays a shell game such that Assange’s whereabouts in the crowd becomes nigh impossible to ascertain.

The feasibility or probability of success of such a proposal is unknown to this writer.

What is palpable is that a man, in service of the wider humanity, has courageously put himself in the crosshairs of the 1%-ers. This poses a challenge to the 99%-ers. What are “we” going to do about it? It surely is incumbent to protect one of “our” own, gain a victory for social justice and humanity in the process, and — at the same time — slap back at the 1%-ers.

If someone co-ordinates this, I pledge to buy my ticket to London.

What Should “We” Do about Julian Assange?

Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is reportedly close to reneging on asylum granted to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by Ecuador. Assange, who holds Ecuadorian citizenship and is entitled to protection as such by his country of citizenship, is expected to be turned over to the UK very soon.

And for what? WikiLeaks dared to expose the perfidy of the United States to the world’s public. The pro-transparency organization enraged the US military-industrial complex by publishing a slew of classified documents, emails, and graphic accounts like the “Collateral Murder” video that adduced US war crimes in Iraq.

In other words, Assange is being painted as a criminal for revealing the crimes of US empire. War is peace. And revealing crimes is criminal.

In mid-July, during president Donald Trump’s visit to England, one press headline reported: “Trump UK visit:’100,000′ take to London’s streets in astonishing show of opposition to ‘horrible’ president.”

And prior to the US-UK attack on Iraq (based on fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy), police estimated “at least 750,000” people turned out demonstrate against partaking in the war against Iraq.

Julian Assange, as a publisher, performed a massive service to humanity in allowing those who want to be informed about what acts their governments are involved in, support, or are silent about. WikiLeaks respects “our” right to know.

Clearly, Assange must be protected. Now is a moment that calls for people power, and its seems this time a people’s movement stands a good shot at a moral victory. Imagine, for a moment, if a million people showed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London ready to form a swarm around Assange when he emerges, thereby barring police access to a man charged with no crime.

Imagine if the day of Assange’s exit were co-ordinated worldwide by an organized resistance to empire and its cronies, and another million people plus from around the world joined the Brits at the Ecuadorian embassy. Imagine if they all of them wore Guy Fawkes masks and black hoodies and Assange were provided with the same by the crowd. Then the massive crowd raises umbrellas and plays a shell game such that Assange’s whereabouts in the crowd becomes nigh impossible to ascertain.

The feasibility or probability of success of such a proposal is unknown to this writer.

What is palpable is that a man, in service of the wider humanity, has courageously put himself in the crosshairs of the 1%-ers. This poses a challenge to the 99%-ers. What are “we” going to do about it? It surely is incumbent to protect one of “our” own, gain a victory for social justice and humanity in the process, and — at the same time — slap back at the 1%-ers.

If someone co-ordinates this, I pledge to buy my ticket to London.

Assange Is A Journalist, Should Not Be Persecuted For Publishing The Truth

Last week, rallies in support of Julian Assange were held around the world. We participated in two #AssangeUnity events seeking to #FreeAssange in Washington, DC.

This is the beginning of a new phase of the campaign to stop the persecution of Julian Assange and allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without the threat of being arrested in the UK or facing prosecution by the United States.

On April 10 2017 people gathered outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to celebrate the 11th Birthday of WikiLeaks. From Wise-Up Action: A Solidarity Network for Manning and Assange.

The Assange Case is a Linchpin For Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Information in the 21st Century

The threat of prosecution against Julian Assange for his work as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks will be a key to defining what Freedom of the Press means in the 21st Century. Should people be allowed to know the truth if their government is corrupt, violating the law or committing war crimes? Democracy cannot exist when people are misled by a concentrated corporate media that puts forth a narrative on behalf of the government and big business.

This is not the first time that prosecution of a journalist will define Freedom of the Press. Indeed, the roots of Freedom of the Press in the United States go back to the prosecution of John Peter Zenger, a publisher who was accused of libel in 1734 for publishing articles critical of the British royal governor, William Cosby. Zenger was held in prison for eight months awaiting trial. In the trial, his defense took its case directly to the jury.

For five hundred years, Britain had made it illegal to publish “any any slanderous News” that may cause “discord” between the king and his people. Zenger’s defense argued that he had published the truth about Cosby and therefore did not commit a crime. His lawyer “argued that telling the truth did not cause governments to fall. Rather, he argued, ‘abuse of power’ caused governments to fall.” The jury heard the argument, recessed and in ten minutes returned with a not guilty verdict.

The same issue is presented by Julian Assange — publishing the truth is not a crime. Wikileaks, with Assange as its editor and publisher, redefined reporting in the 21st Century by giving people the ability to be whistleblowers to reveal the abuses of government and big business. People anonymously send documents to Wikileaks via the Internet and then after reviewing and authenticating them, Wikileaks publishes them.  The documents sometimes reveal serious crimes, which has resulted in Assange being threatened with a secret indictment for espionage that could keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life.

This puts the Assange case at the forefront of 21st Century journalism as he is democratizing the media by giving people the power to know the truth not reported, or falsely reported, by the corporate media. Breaking elite control over the media narrative is a serious threat to their power because information is power. And, with the internet and the ability of every person to act as a media outlet through social and independent media, control of the narrative is moving toward the people.

WikiLeaks is filling a void with trust in the corporate media at record lows. A recent Gallup Poll found only 32% trust the media. There has been a significant drop in newspaper circulation and revenue, an ongoing decline since 1980. Also, fewer people rely on television for news.

In this environment, the internet-based news is becoming more dominant and WikiLeaks is a particular threat to media monopolization by the elites. Research is showing that independent and social media are having an impact on people’s opinions.

The threats to Julian Assange are occurring when dissent is under attack, particularly media dissent; the FBI has a task force to monitor social media. The attack on net neutrality, Google using algorithms to prevent searches for alternative media and Facebook controlling what people see are all part of the attack on the democratized media..

Free Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger. (Jack Taylor for Getty Images)

The Astounding Impact of WikiLeaks’ Reporting

The list of WikiLeaks’ revelations has become astounding. The release of emails from Hillary Clinton, her presidential campaign, and the Democratic National Committee had a major impact on the election. People saw the truth of Clinton’s connections to Wall Street, her two-faced politics of having a public view and a private view as well as the DNC’s efforts to undermine the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. People saw the truth and the truth hurt Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Among the most famous documents published were those provided by Chelsea Manning on Iraq, Afghanistan, the Guantanamo Prison and the US State Department. The Collateral Murder video among the Manning Iraq war documents shows US soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of innocent men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist, and his driver, killing 16 and wounding two children. Millions have viewed the video showing that when a van pulled up to evacuate the wounded, the soldiers again opened fire. A soldier says, “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards.”

Another massive leak came from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who exposed massive NSA spying in the United States and around the world. This was followed by Vault 7, a series of leaks on the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities, and Vault 8, which included source code on CIA malware activities.

WikiLeaks has also published documents on other countries; e.g., WikiLeaks published a series of documents on Russian spying.  WikiLeaks has been credited by many with helping to spark the Tunisian Revolution which led to the Arab Spring; e.g., showing the widespread corruption of the 23-year rule of the Ben Ali. Foreign Policy reported that “the candor of the cables released by WikiLeaks did more for Arab democracy than decades of backstage U.S. diplomacy.” WikiLeaks’ publications provided democracy activists in Egypt with information needed to spark protests and provided background that explained the Egyptian uprising. Traditional media publications like the New York Times relied on WikiLeaks to analyze the causes of the uprising.

WikiLeaks informed the Bahrain public about their government’s cozy relationship with the US, describing a $5 billion joint-venture with Occidental Petroleum and $300 million in U.S. military sales and how the U.S. Navy is the foundation of Bahrain’s national security.

John Pilger describes WikiLeaks’ documents, writing, “No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account.”

Free Assange rally at the White House, June 19, 2018. From Gateway Pundit.

Assange Character Assassination And Embassy Imprisonment

Julian Assange made powerful enemies in governments around the world, corporate media, and big business because he burst false narratives with the truth. As a result, governments fought back, including the United States,  Great Britain, and Sweden, which has led to Assange being trapped in the embassy of Ecuador in London for six years.

The root of the incarceration were allegations in Sweden. Sweden’s charges against Assange were initially dropped by the chief prosecutor, two weeks later they found a prosecutor to pursue a rape investigation. One of the women had CIA connections and bragged about her relationship with Assange in tweets she tried to erase. She even published a 7-step program for legal revenge against lovers. The actions of the women do not seem to show rape or any kind of abuse. One woman held a party with him after the encounter and another went out to eat with him.  In November 2016, Assange was interviewed by Swedish prosecutors for four hours at the Ecuadorian embassy. In December 2016, Assange published tweets showing his innocence and the sex was consensual. Without making a statement on Assange’s guilt, the Swedish investigators dropped the charges in May 2017. The statute of limitations for Swedish charges will be up in 2020.

As John Pilger pointed out:

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape summed it up when they wrote, ‘The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder, and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will.’

Assange is still trapped in the embassy as he would be arrested for violating his bail six years ago. But, the real threat to Assange is the possibility of a secret indictment against him in the United States for espionage. US and British officials have refused to tell Assange’s lawyers whether there was a sealed indictment or a sealed extradition order against him. Former CIA Director, now Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has described WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service and described his actions as not protected by the First Amendment. In April 2017, CNN reported, “US authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.” The Obama Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn’t alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning but the Trump DOJ believes he could be charged as an accomplice with Edward Snowden.

When the president campaigned, Trump said he loved WikiLeaks and regularly touted their disclosures. But, in April 2017, Attorney General Jeff Session said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Time To Stop The Persecution Of Julian Assange

The smearing of Assange sought to discredit him and undermine the important journalism of WikiLeaks. Caitlin Johnstone writes that they smear him because “they can kill all sympathy for him and his outlet, it’s as good for their agendas as actually killing him.”

Even with this character assassination many people still support Assange. This was seen during the #Unity4J online vigil, which saw the participation of activists, journalists, whistleblowers and filmmakers calling for the end of Assange’s solitary confinement and his release. This was followed a week later by 20 protests around the world calling for Assange’s release.

Julian Assange has opened journalism’s democracy door; the power to report is being redistributed, government employees and corporate whistleblowers have been empowered and greater transparency is becoming a reality. The people of the United States should demand that Assange not face prosecution and embrace a 21st Century democratized media that provides greater transparency and accurate information about what government and business interests are doing. Prosecuting a news organization for publishing the truth, should be rejected and Assange should be freed.

You can support Julian Assange by spreading the word in your communities about what is happening to him and why. You can also show support for him on social media. We will continue to let you know when there are actions planned. And you can support the WikiLeaks Legal Defense Fund, run by the Courage Foundation*, at IAmWikiLeaks.org.

* Kevin Zeese is on the advisory board of the Courage Foundation.

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

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

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

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

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

Supremacy of reason

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

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

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

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

The sovereign power of We the People

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

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

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

WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people

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

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

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

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

Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claiming our revolutionary spirit

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

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

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

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

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

The Isolation of Julian Assange is the Silencing of Us All

In this letter, twenty-seven writers, journalists, film-makers, artists, academics, former intelligence officers and democrats call on the government of Ecuador to allow Julian Assange his right of freedom of speech.

If it was ever clear that the case of Julian Assange was never just a legal case, but a struggle for the protection of basic human rights, it is now.

Citing his critical tweets about the recent detention of Catalan president Carles Puidgemont in Germany, and following pressure from the US, Spanish and UK governments, the Ecuadorian government has installed an electronic jammer to stop Assange communicating with the outside world via the internet and phone.

As if ensuring his total isolation, the Ecuadorian government is also refusing to allow him to receive visitors. Despite two UN rulings describing his detention as unlawful and mandating his immediate release, Assange has been effectively imprisoned since he was first placed in isolation in Wandsworth prison in London in December 2010. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish case against him collapsed and was withdrawn, while the United States has stepped up efforts to prosecute him. His only “crime” is that of a true journalist — telling the world the truths that people have a right to know.

Under its previous president, the Ecuadorian government bravely stood against the bullying might of the United States and granted Assange political asylum as a political refugee. International law and the morality of human rights was on its side.

Today, under extreme pressure from Washington and its collaborators, another government in Ecuador justifies its gagging of Assange by stating that “Assange’s behaviour, through his messages on social media, put at risk good relations which this country has with the UK, the rest of the EU and other nations.”

This censorious attack on free speech is not happening in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or China; it is right in the heart of London. If the Ecuadorian government does not cease its unworthy action, it, too, will become an agent of persecution rather than the valiant nation that stood up for freedom and for free speech. If the EU and the UK continue to participate in the scandalous silencing of a true dissident in their midst, it will mean that free speech is indeed dying in Europe. This is not just a matter of showing support and solidarity. We are appealing to all who care about basic human rights to call on the government of Ecuador to continue defending the rights of a courageous free speech activist, journalist and whistleblower.

We ask that his basic human rights be respected as an Ecuadorian citizen and internationally protected person and that he not be silenced or expelled.

If there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us — regardless of the disparate opinions we hold.

We call on President Moreno to end the isolation of Julian Assange now.

List of signatories (in alphabetic order):

Pamela Anderson, actress and activist
Jacob Appelbaum, freelance journalist
Renata Avila, International Human Rights Lawyer
Sally Burch, British/Ecuadorian journalist
Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the United Kingdom 2012-16
Naomi Colvin, Courage Foundation
Noam Chomsky, linguist and political theorist
Brian Eno, musician
Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks Ambassador and board member of The Centre for Investigative Journalism
Teresa Forcades, Benedictine nun, Montserrat Monastery
Charles Glass, American-British author, journalist, broadcaster
Chris Hedges, journalist
Srecko Horvat, philosopher, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25)
Jean Michel Jarre, musician
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Lauri Love, computer scientist and activist
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, Presidential advisor
John Pilger, journalist and film-maker
Angela Richter, theater director, Germany
Saskia Sassen, sociologist, Columbia University
Oliver Stone, film-maker
Vaughan Smith, English journalist
Yanis Varoufakis, economist, former Greek finance minister
Natalia Viana, investigative journalist and co-director of Agencia publica, Brazil
Ai Weiwei, artist
Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer and activist
Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, Birkbeck Institute for Humanities

Inglorious Snitching: Adrián Lamo, Chelsea Manning, and Patriotism

The hacking community, like poets, tend to be irritable tribesmen and women. Their modus operandi functions on the stab, the enthusiastic penetration of insecure computer systems and mockery. Their role is as much to instruct as it is to disrupt.

To that end, such figures cut different forms. There is the lonesome soul finding solace in being a nuisance, or the idealist intent on revealing a compromised state of affairs (those working for Anonymous, by way of example). It was questionable whether Adrián Lamo was of the latter breed. According to his father, Mario, he lacked malice though not initiative. “Everything he did was out of curiosity.” Lamo’s views of his own activities suggested less a case of hacking than finding “different ways of seeing.”

Dead at 37 at his Kansas apartment on Wednesday in circumstances that barely struck an interest for most scribblers of the monopoly press, Lamo established his initial claim as one who hacked the Old Gray Lady. In breaking into the New York Times network in 2003, Lamo proceeded to run up $300,000 in data research fees by means of fake usernames, essentially adding himself to the paper’s payroll.

Cingular Wireless, Microsoft and Yahoo! were also accessed, the latter being notable for receiving touch-ups and satirical readjustments to news articles. After an 18 month investigation by the FBI, he was subsequently arrested and convicted for computer fraud, spending time in house arrest.

The now notorious James B. Comey, who was then the US attorney in Manhattan, was less than impressed. “It’s like someone kicking in your front door while you’re on vacation and running up a $300,000 bill on your phone, and then telling you when you arrive home that he had performed a useful service by demonstrating that your deadbolt wasn’t secure enough.”

It was with Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley, with whom he struck historical, if tainted gold. Lamo’s name had ventured far enough to reach the troubled army private who had, over time, amassed a sizeable trove of classified documents noting everything from brutal military engagements to diplomatic gossip in State Department cables. Lamo assumed the role of compromised confessor, drawing upon what he regarded as boasts by Manning.

Lamo, it seemed, had undergone a Damascene conversion. During the course of messaging Manning, a patriotic instinct had taken a gripping hold, though when exactly is unclear. This, from an individual who had shown little sign of it prior. Chat logs obtained via AOL Instant Messenger were thereby surrendered to the FBI, forever marking Lamo as an informant. Manning was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking some 700,000 government records, a term which was commuted by President Barack Obama in January 2017.

An explanation for his motives was quick to come. In a 2011 interview that ran in the film WikiSecrets, Lamo claimed a belief that Manning “couldn’t possibly have vetted over a quarter of a million documents”. She had merely assured herself “that they didn’t contain anything that would cause human harm.”

This criticism on vetting – or its absence – which has varying degrees of plausibility in the scope of information warfare, has also been levelled at WikiLeaks. Such is the distribution, and in some cases relocation, of power when it comes to revealing classified materials. Detractors prefer the deference to paternalism: only the traditional state and its operatives are fit to assess the quality of those secrets.

That aspect of harm, claims Lamo, was understood after his conviction. He was, on reflection, not merely dealing with computer systems, “just ones and zeros” but flesh and blood individuals who might be effected. He had not taken into account the “human cost”. But in becoming an informant, Lamo had decided to inflict another variant of harm – that of terrorising whistleblowers, notably to WikiLeaks, into revealing the dirty laundry of state entities.

This conformed rather neatly with the strategy outlined by the US Army Counterintelligence Center in 2008, whose own classified, and leaked report to WikiLeaks, proclaimed the organisation “a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army.”

A vital strategy here entailed outing, targeting and ruining confidential sources and informants. “Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment, and exposure of persons leaking the information by the governments and businesses affected by information posted by Wikileaks.org would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others form taking similar actions.”

In life, Lamo remained itinerant. He moved repeatedly, and remained homeless for long stretches. “He was a believer,” claimed self-professed colleague and friend Lorraine Murphy, “in the Geographic Cure. Whatever goes wrong in your life, moving will make it better.”

He certainly engendered, if postings on his Facebook profile are anything to go by, strong impressions amongst those who knew him. “He was gifted with a brilliant curious mind that sprouted on a compassionate and loving heart,” goes a note from Saulo.

His name in the battlefield of public engagement was something else. For Julian Assange, he was no less an FBI snitch and poseur. “Lamo, a fake journalist, petty conman & betrayer of basic human decency, promised alleged source [Chelsea Manning] journalistic protection, friendship and support, then sold him to the FBI.”

Lamo’s mother responded with typical maternal distress. Being in the Ecuadorean embassy, speculated Mary Atwood Lamo, had denatured the publisher. “Perhaps if you dealt with what you need to personally, you might feel less mean-spirited and more able to exhibit the ‘basic human decency’ you endorse in your own words and behaviour, Mr. Assange.”

As for Lamo’s death, few eyebrows have been raised, though the conspiratorial wilderness may well dredge up something in due course. “There’s nothing suspicious about his death,” claimed Wichita police officer Charley Davidson. Toxicology tests will only yield results after some weeks, and the Regional Forensic Science Center is still numb on the cause of death.

Lamo’s underreported passing suggests one object lesson: no plaques are made to the tattler, the squealer, the snitch. To them is only owed suspicion, the sense that you might well turn at any given moment. The counterfeit currency that is patriotism only goes so far. The rest is less history than a concerted forgetting.

How “Operation Merlin” Poisoned U.S. Intelligence on Iran

The CIA’s “Operation Merlin,” which involved providing Iran with a flawed design for a nuclear weapon and resulted in an alleged whistleblower going to prison, was the perfect example of creating intelligence in order to justify operations, reports Gareth Porter.

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Jeffrey Sterling, the case officer for the CIA’s covert “Operation Merlin,” who was convicted in May 2015 for allegedly revealing details of that operation to James Risen of the New York Times, was released from prison in January after serving more than two years of a 42-month sentence. He had been tried and convicted on the premise that the revelation of the operation had harmed U.S. security.

The entire case against him assumed a solid intelligence case that Iran had indeed been working on a nuclear weapon that justified that covert operation.

But the accumulate evidence shows that the intelligence not only did not support the need for Operation Merlin, but that the existence of the CIA’s planned covert operation itself had a profound distorting impact on intelligence assessment of the issue. The very first U.S. national intelligence estimate on the subject in 2001 that Iran had a nuclear weapons program was the result of a heavy-handed intervention by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt that was arguably more serious than the efforts by Vice-President Dick Cheney to influence the CIA’s 2002 estimate on WMD in Iraq.

The full story the interaction between the CIA operation and intelligence analysis, shows, moreover, that Pavitt had previously fabricated an alarmist intelligence analysis for the Clinton White House on Iran’s nuclear program in late 1999 in order to get Clinton’s approval for Operation Merlin.

Pavitt Plans Operation Merlin

The story of Operation Merlin and the suppression of crucial intelligence on Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be understood apart from the close friendship between T Pavitt and CIA Director George Tenet. Pavitt’s rise in the Operations Directorate had been so closely linked to his friendship with Tenet that the day after Tenet announced his retirement from the CIA on June 3, 2004, Pavitt announced his own retirement.

Soon after he was assigned to the CIA’s Non-Proliferation Center (NPC) in 1993 Pavitt got the idea of creating a new component within the Directorate of Operations to work solely on proliferation, as former CIA officials recounted for Valerie Plame Wilson’s memoir, Fair Game.  Pavitt proposed that the new proliferation division would have the authority not only to collect intelligence but also to carry out covert operations related to proliferation, using its own clandestine case officers working under non-official cover.

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on January 26, 2016 with his wife Holly, center, and attorney Barry Pollack, after being convicted on all nine counts he faced of leaking classified information to a reporter. (Photo: Kevin Wolf/AP)

Immediately after Tenet was named Deputy Director of the CIA in 1995, Pavitt got the new organization within the operations directorate called the Counter-Proliferation Division, or CPD. Pavitt immediately began the planning for a major operation targeting Iran. According to a CIA cable declassified for the Sterling trial, as early as March 1996 CPD’s “Office of Special Projects” had already devised a scheme to convey to the Iranians a copy of the Russian TBA-486 “fireset” – a system for multiple simultaneous high explosive detonations to set off a nuclear explosion.  The trick was that it had built-in flaws that would make it unworkable.

A January 1997 declassified cable described a plan for using a Russian émigré’ former Soviet nuclear weapons engineer recruited in 1996 to gain “operational access” to an Iranian “target.”  The cable suggested that it would be for the purpose of intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program, in the light of the fact that the agency had not issued a finding that Iran was working on nuclear weapons.

But in mid-March 1997 the language used by CPD to describe its proposed covert operation suddenly changed.  Another declassified CPD cable from May 1997 said the ultimate goal was “to plant this substantial piece of deception information on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”  That shift in language apparently reflected Tenet’s realization that the CIA would need to justify the proposed covert operation to the White House, as required by legislation.

With his ambitious plan for a covert operation against Iran in his pocket, Pavitt was promoted to Associate Deputy Director of Operations in July 1997.  On February 2, 1998, CPD announced to other CIA offices, according to the declassified cable, to announce that a technical team from one of the national laboratories had finished building the detonation device that would include “multiple nested flaws,” including a “final fatal flaw” ensuring “that it will not detonate a nuclear weapon.”

An official statement from the national lab certifying that fact was a legal requirement for the CIA to obtain the official Presidential “finding” for any covert operation required by legislation passed in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.

Pavitt obtained the letter from the national laboratory in mid-1999 a few weeks after it was announced he would be named Deputy Director of the CIA for Operations.

But that left a final political obstacle to a presidential finding: the official position of the CIA’ s Intelligence Directorate remained that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program.  The language of the CIA’s report to Congress for the first half of 1999, which was delivered to Congress in early 2000, contained formulations that showed signs of having been negotiated between those who believed Iran just have a nuclear weapons program and those who did not.

The report referred to nuclear-related projects that “will help Iran augment its nuclear technology infrastructure, which in turn would be useful in supporting nuclear weapons research and development.” The shift from “will” to “would” clearly suggested that nuclear weapons work was not yet an established fact.

A second sentence said, “expertise and technology gained, along with the commercial channels and contacts established-even from cooperation that appears strictly civilian in nature-could be used to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons research and developmental program.” That seemed to hint that maybe Iran already had such a nuclear weapons program.

That was not sufficient for Tenet and Pavitt to justify a covert nuclear weapons program involving handing over a fake nuclear detonation device.  So the dynamic duo came up with another way around that obstacle. A new intelligence assessment, reported in a front page article by James Risen and Judith Miller in the New York Times on January 17, 2000, said the CIA could no longer rule out the possibility that Iran now had the capability to build a bomb – or even that it may have actually succeeded in building one.

Risen and Miller reported that Tenet had begun briefings for Clinton administration officials on the new CIA assessment in December 1999 shortly after the document was completed, citing “several U.S. officials” familiar with it.  The Tenet briefings made no mention of any evidence of a bomb-making program, according to the sources cited by the Times.  It was based instead on the alleged inability of U.S. intelligence to track adequately Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology and materials from the black market.

But the new assessment had evidently not come from the Intelligence Directorate. John McLaughlin, then Deputy Director for Intelligence, said in e-mail response to a query that he did not recall the assessment.  And when this writer asked him whether it was possible that he would not remember or would not have known about an intelligence assessment on such a high profile issue, McLaughlin did not respond. Pavitt and Tenet had obviously gone outside the normal procedure for an intelligence assessment in order to get around the problem of lack of support for their thesis from the analysts.

A declassified CIA cable dated November 18, 1999 instructed the Russian émigré to prepare for a possible trip to Vienna in early 2000, indicating that Tenet hoped to get the finding within a few weeks. Clinton apparently did give the necessary finding in early 2000; in the first days of March 2000 the Russian émigré dropped the falsified fireset plans into the mail chute of the Iranian mission to the United Nations in Vienna.

Pavitt Suppresses Unwelcome Iran Nuclear Intelligence

Pavitt’s CPD was also managing a group of covert operatives who recruited spies to provide information on weapons of mass destruction in Iran and Iraq.  CPD not only controlled the targeting of the operatives working on those accounts but the distribution of their reports.  CPD’s dual role thus represented a serious conflict of interest, because the CPD had a vested interest in an intelligence estimate that showed Iran had an active nuclear weapons program, and it could prevent intelligence analysts from getting information that conflicted with that interest.

That is exactly what happened in 2001. One especially valuable CPD operative, who was fluent in both Farsi and Arabic, had begun recruiting agents to provide intelligence on both Iran and Iraq since 1995. His talents had been recognized by the CPD and by higher levels of the Operations Directorate:  by 2001 he had been promised an intelligence medal and a promotion to GS14 – the second highest grade level in the civil service.

But that same year the operative reported very important intelligence on the Iran nuclear issue that would have caused serious problems for Pavitt and CPD and led ultimately to his being taken out of the field and being fired.

In a November 2005 court filing in a lawsuit against Pavitt, the unnamed head of CPD and then CIA Director Porter Goss, the operative, identified only as “Doe” in court records, said that one of his most highly valued “human assets” – the CIA term for recruited spies – had given him very important intelligence in 2001. That information was the subject of three crucial lines of the key paragraph in the operative’s complaint that were redacted at the demand of the CIA. For years “Doe” sought to declassify the language that had been redacted, but the CIA had fought it.

It was assumed in press accounts at the time that the redacted lines were related to Iraq.  But the lawyer who handled the lawsuit for “Doe,” Roy Krieger, revealed to this writer in interviews that the redacted lines revealed that the CIA “human asset” in question was an Iranian, and that he had told “Doe” that the Iranian government had no intention of “weaponizing” the uranium that it was planning to enrich.

It was the first intelligence from a “highly-valued” U.S. spy – one who was known to be in a position to know he claimed to know – on Iran’s intentions regarding nuclear weapons to become available to the U.S. intelligence community. “Doe” reported what the spy had said to his supervisor at CPD, according to the court filing, and the supervisor immediately met with Pavitt and the head of CPD. After that meeting the CPD supervisor ordered “Doe” not to prepare any written report on the matter and assured him that Pavitt and the head of the CPD would personally brief President Bush on the intelligence.

But “Doe” soon learned from his own contacts at CIA headquarters that no such briefing ever took place. And “Doe” was soon instructed to terminate his relationship with the asset.  After another incident involving intelligence he had reported on WMD in Iraq that had also conflicted with the line desired by the Bush administration, CIA management took “Doe” out of the field, put him in a headquarters job and denied him the intelligence medal and promotion to GS-14 that he had been promised, according to his court filing. The CIA fired “Doe” without specifying a reason in 2005.

Pavitt did not respond to requests for an interview for this story both at the Scowcroft Group and, after he retired, at his home in McLean, Virginia.

The intervention by Pavitt to prevent the intelligence from Doe’s Iranian asset from circulating within the U.S. government came as the intelligence community was working on the 2001 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear program. That NIE concluded that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon, but the finding was far from being clear-cut. Paul Pillar, the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, who was involved in the 2001 NIE, recalled that the intelligence community had no direct evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. “We’re talking about things that are a matter of inference, not direct evidence,” Pillar said in an interview with this writer.

Furthermore he recalls that there was a deep divide in the intelligence community between the technical analysts, who tended to believe that evidence of uranium enrichment was evidence of a weapons program, and the Iran specialists, including Pillar himself, who believed Iran had adopted a “hedging strategy” and had made no decision in favor or a nuclear weapon. The technical analysts at the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC), were given the advantage of writing the first draft not only on Iranian technical capabilities but on Iranian intentions – a subject on which it had no real expertise – as well, according to Pillar.

The introduction of the intelligence from a highly credible Iranian intelligence asset indicating no intention to convert its enriched uranium into nuclear weapons would arguably have changed the dynamic of the estimate dramatically.  It would have meant that one side could cite hard intelligence from a valued source in support of its position, while the other side could cite only their own predisposition.

Pillar confirmed that no such intelligence report was made available to the analysts for the 2001 NIE. He noted just how rarely the kind of intelligence that had been obtained by “Doe” was available for an intelligence estimate. “Analysts deal with a range of stuff,” he said, “from a tidbit from technical intelligence to the goldmine well-placed source with an absolutely credible account,“ but the latter kind of intelligence “almost never comes up.”

After reading this account of the intelligence obtained by the CPD operative, Pillar said he is not in a position to judge the value of the intelligence from the Iranian asset, but that the information from the CPD Iranian asset “should have been considered by the NIE team in conjunction with other sources of information.”

That lead to a series of estimates that assumed Iran had a nuclear weapons program.

In 2004, a large cache of purported Iranian documents showing alleged Iranian research related to nuclear weapons was turned over to German intelligence, which the Bush administration claimed came from the laptop of an Iranian scientist or engineer. But former senior German Foreign Official Karsten Voigt later revealed to this writer that the whole story was a fabrication, because the documents had been given those documents by the Mujahedin-E Khalq, the Iranian opposition group that was known to have publicized anti-Iran information fed to it by Israel’s Mossad.

Those documents led directly to another CIA estimate in 2005 asserting the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, which in turn paved the way for all the subsequent estimates – all of which were adopted despite the absence of new evidence of such a program.  The CIA swallowed the ruse repeatedly, because it had already been manipulated by Pavitt.

Operation Merlin is the perfect example of powerful bureaucratic interests running amok and creating the intelligence necessary to justify their operations. The net result is that Jeffrey Sterling was unjustly imprisoned and that the United States has gone down a path of Iran policy that poses serious – and unnecessary – threats to American security.

• First published at Consortium News