Category Archives: WikiLeaks

Tortured Solutions: Ecuador, the UK and Julian Assange’s Fate

The pulse of negotiations, a flurry of communications, and the person central to this is one who threatens to go nowhere – for the moment.  But go somewhere these parties would wish Julian Assange to do.  For six years, cramped within a space in London a stone’s throw away from Harrods, one he has made his tenuous home, a citadel of sporadic publishing and exposes; for six years, an unruly, disobedient tenant whose celebrity shine has lost its gloss for certain followers and those who did, at one point, tolerate him.

The landlords have lost patience, and Lenín Moreno is willing to call in the arrears.  He has made it clear that, whilst Assange has been subjected to an unacceptable state of affairs (“Being five or six years in an embassy already violates his human rights”), he should also be moved on in some form with the British authorities.  How that moving takes place is producing a host of large, ballooning questions.

Ultimately, the current Ecuadorean leadership finds little to merit Assange’s effort.  He intrudes into the political affairs of other countries with audacity; he disturbs and interrupts the order of things with relish and, for those reasons, ought to be regarded with suspicion.  “I don’t agree with what he does,” Moreno is on record as saying.  “It is somewhat disgusting to see someone violating people’s right to communicate privately.”

Moreno, despite being classed as a protégé of his predecessor Rafael Correa, has done his level best to spruce up the country’s image for the United States whose Vice President, Mike Pence, duly acknowledged on a visit in June this year. He has moved on former figures within the previous administration, including Correa, claiming instances of corruption and crime.  Previous contracts made with Chinese companies are also being scrutinised for their value.

Moreno is prudish and inaccurate on the issue of private communications and the WikiLeaks experiment. What he ignores is the driving rationale for the spicy vigilantism of the publishing outfit, an attempt to subvert a certain order of power that was crying out for a revision. This revision, applied through the lens of transparency, would arm the weak and powerless with knowledge while defending their privacy.  The powerful and brutish, on the other hand, must be kept exposed, under a form of public surveillance and permanent review.  Transparency for the powerful; privacy for the powerless.

The asymmetrical order of information, however, lauds the reverse of this. States are patriarchs beyond scrutiny; they dispense, with occasional bad grace, the odd favour that entitles the public to see its activities.  Freedom of information statutes and regulations give the impression that the public are, somehow, entitled to see material that is supposedly their resource. (How condescending to tell citizens that they have a resource that can only be accessed carefully, via suspicious gatekeepers obsessed with national security.)

In return, these gorged bureaucracies conduct surveillance upon their citizens with a sneering conviction, and ensure that a fictional public interest is deployed against those who would dare air the cupboard of skeletons.

The current state of negotiations are blurry.  On Wednesday, Moreno claimed that Ecuadorean and British officials were nattering over permitting Assange to leave the embassy “in the medium term”.  His lawyers have been notified of the process, but nothing else is forthcoming.

What tends to be written about Assange is itself a product of the dissimulation that he has attempted to banish from political conservation.  His variant of the Midas touch is less turning things to gold than simulacrums of truth.  A piece on the Australian SBS site notes how, “Previous sexual assault charges filed against him in Sweden have been dropped.”  The stopper here is that he was never charged, being merely a subject of interest who needed to be questioned.  The rest is an awkward, concocted silence.

Assange, more significantly for the geopolitical boffins, took a dump in the imperium’s gold water closet, and now faces the consequences.  It has come in drips and drabs: cutting off internet access on March 27; restricting visitors and the access of journalists.  Moreno himself has suggested that Assange stop what he does best: express unsavoury opinions.  Should Assange promise “to stop emitting opinions on the politics of friendly nations like Spain or the United States then we have no problem with him going online.”  Turning Assange into a eunuch of public affairs is a top priority.

Moreno’s predecessors have shaken their heads in disbelief at the treatment being dished out to the Australian publisher.  To ban visitors, argued Correa, was “a clear violation of his rights.  Once we give asylum to someone, we are responsible for his safety, for ensuring humane living conditions.” (It should be noted that Correa himself authorised a temporary suspension of internet access to Assange in 2016, a brief measure taken to stem the publisher’s zeal in attacking Hillary Clinton during the US presidential elections.)

This will be a slow torture, a cruel process of breaking down resistance.  The issue in such cases is to avoid going potty and losing all sense of bearing.  Should Assange even maintain a sense of psychic composure after this relentless attempt to dissolve his will, history should record it as one of those infrequent secular miracles that the human spirit can provide.

Guest Media Alert by John Pilger: “Hold the Front Page. The Reporters are Missing”

Note From Media Lens

This is a slightly amended version of the foreword to the new Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz – How The Corporate Media Distort Reality, published today by Pluto Press. Warm thanks to John Pilger for contributing this superb piece to our book.

*****

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House. In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism. Sites such as wikileaks.org, consortiumnews.com, wsws.org, truthdig.com, globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.com are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 News.

Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards was a teacher, David Cromwell is a former scientist. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity — is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings” (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the willful destruction of the premises of civilised life in modern Britain).

“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but does it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy”, the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.

There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by Cardiff University, Wales, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing.

Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to the Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse”. Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronising.”

Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive”. What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox news, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom the Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism”.

“How did this man ….,” brayed the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?” A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.

Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the US Agency of International Aid, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency, Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defence” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organisations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria, from Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government”.

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception”.

When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media”. What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

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.

Prosecution of Julian Assange Is Persecution of American Ideals

Over 50 years ago, in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, addressing a struggle of the civil right era, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” His message is now more prevalent than ever in the current political climate surrounding WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks stepped onto a global stage with release of a huge trove of classified documents revealing government secrecy. After the publication of war logs that exposed the atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reaction of the Pentagon quickly escalated into a war against the First Amendment. WikiLeaks was subjected to unlawful financial blockades and there has been an ongoing secret grand jury against the organization and its associates since 2010.

These efforts to destroy WikiLeaks brought a long dreadful persecution of Assange. He has been detained for 8 years, first in prison, then under house arrest and now as a refugee living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In 2012 he was granted political asylum against the threat of extradition to the U.S., relating to his publishing activities with WikiLeaks. The UK government, in violation of UN rulings that indicated the situation of Assange as arbitrary detention, kept him in confinement, depriving him of medical care and sunlight.

In late March, this already untenable situation got worse. Pressured by the U.S., Ecuador’s new President Lenin Moreno put Assange in isolation by cutting off his access to the Internet, denying him phone calls and visitors, including Human Rights Watch. The latest news about him indicates that the Ecuadorian government is close to finalizing an agreement with British officials to evict Assange from the embassy. How did this all happen? Here we have a Western journalist, who has not been charged with any crime, being punished for providing information that shed light on crimes and corruption of governments. This plight of Assange has been largely ignored by American mainstream press and there has been an appalling silence on this issue even among political activists.

Villain, hero or useful idiot?

WikiLeaks has been consistently vilified by U.S. officials across two major political parties. After the publication of U.S. diplomatic cables, Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, designated the whistleblowing site as a terrorist organization, calling for aggressive prosecution. Similar reactions were made by Democrats. Former Vice President Joe Biden compared Assange to a “high-tech terrorist”, while senator and chairman of the Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein urged him to be prosecuted for espionage.

As officials jumped to condemn this new media organization, the public responded differently. WikiLeaks, with the release of the collateral murder video in 2010, that provided an everyday scenery of the War on Terror in the Middle East instantly became a hero among liberals. This was contrasted with Republicans who tended to view the release of U.S. Diplomatic Cables as harmful, with conservative leaders calling Assange a traitor.

This attitude toward WikiLeaks flipped during the election season in 2016. WikiLeaks’ publication of damaging information from the Hillary Clinton campaign during the final weeks leading up to the election was met with Democrats’ hostile criticism. In their minds, WikiLeaks has changed. It no longer represented a champion of free speech that they once saw. To them, WikiLeaks appeared to have been taken over, being weaponized for the agenda of their political opponent.

As mainstream media hype of Russiagate came full on, demonization of WikiLeaks increased, depicting the transparency group as Putin’s puppet for meddling with the U.S. election. Contrary to progressives’ suspicion and animosity toward the organization, support for WikiLeaks grew among conservatives during the most recent presidential race. Right-wing commentators on Fox News and politicians like Sarah Palin cheered WikiLeaks. Trump repeatedly praised the organization during his campaign. Ever since it attained public notoriety, WikiLeaks has become many things for different people. Assange has been called a villain, a hero or a useful idiot. But what is WikiLeaks, who is Assange and what is his agenda?

Crushing bastards

Julian Paul Assange is a computer programmer and journalist with an independent mind and deep knowledge of the workings of hidden forces of control. Raffi Khatchadourian, a staff writer at the New Yorker, who profiled Assange in his article in 2010, described how this Australian citizen who recently obtained citizenship in Ecuador, came to “understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution”.

In his 2006 seminal writing “Conspiracy as Governance”, Assange identified authoritarian regimes as patronage networks of political elites. He analyzed how this network maintains its power through the use of secrecy, restriction, and the control of national and global communication and information. Assange conceived WikiLeaks upon this understanding of the structure of power. With its innovative technical infrastructure and the method of transparency, the organization revolutionized the function of the press.

As a transnational journalistic entity that is entirely funded by public donations, WikiLeaks places no allegiance to any nations, corporations or political ideology. Its sole loyalty lies in the principle of democracy, using a leak as a tool for information warfare to perform a function of watchdog, restricting the power of institutions and protecting the rights of individuals. This fidelity to checks and balances is demonstrated in Assange’s ability to speak truth, no matter who is in power.

In Obama’s second term of presidency, while many who voted for him were still mesmerized under the spell of “hope and change”, Assange was able to penetrate the deception and see lies and hypocrisies of this president who received a Nobel Peace Prize, while simultaneously engaging in multiple wars. In the statement after one year in the embassy where he called for global support for the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was charged with espionage, Assange fiercely denounced Obama’s war on whistleblowers.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, WikiLeaks released documents concerning one of the major candidates that would inherit the throne of this global imperial power. With the publication of documents that revealed internal workings of the Clinton campaign, WikiLeaks brought vital information that could help American people carefully scrutinize their political system and crush bastards that try to attack and undermine democracy.

If the organization had documents concerning Trump, WikiLeaks indicated that they would have published it. In responding to accusations of WikiLeaks favoring the Trump campaign with the DNC leaks, Assange made it clear that the role of the organization is to publish whatever is given to them, and they will not censor their publications for any political reasons.

The recent article written by an Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who worked with WikiLeaks for nine years, backs this claim. In sharing her insider view of the organization, she described how the decision of the timing of Podesta leaks was made and how Assange and his team were preparing to release material on Trump, which didn’t materialize, as it was already published before.

Defense of American ideals

This revolutionary journalism that Assange created through WikiLeaks resonates with the ideals that founded the United States. In fact, Assange pointed out how WikiLeaks derives its inspiration from the American revolutionary ideas and that it aligns its mission with these ideals.

Similar to the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves, expressed in the preamble of the Constitution with its first words “We the People”, Assange believed in the significance of ordinary people and their ability to engage in history. Thomas Jefferson recognized how, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press…” Just as founders of this country did not trust their own government and created a safeguard for individual liberty, Assange believed in the importance of an informed public in the functioning of democracy.

From its inception in 2006, WikiLeaks has been working to defend these American values. When the laws that protect whistleblowers were gutted, it is through Assange and WikiLeaks staff’s adamant commitment to the principle of free press that made it possible for former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to exercise her uncompromising free speech. Also, it is because of WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, with her courage in demonstrating extraordinary source protection that Snowden is now able to enjoy his rights that were denied by his own country.

WikiLeaks, as the world’s first global Fourth Estate, extended the freedom of speech, not only for Americans, but for people all around the world. As of late 2016, it published 10 million documents with a pristine record of authentication. The organization, by making full archives available in a searchable format, brought back information that belongs to the public, directly into their own hands. From the election in Kenya to the Icelandic revolution, WikiLeaks publications empowered people in many countries, creating greater social change and sparks for global uprisings. Information made available has been used to bring justice in courts and address numerous human rights abuses.

Until the moment he was cut out from the outside world, this editor in chief of the world’s most prosecuted publisher defended ordinary people’s right to self-determination. From a tiny sanctum in the Ecuadorian Embassy of London, Assange followed Catalans’ struggle for independence and continuously spoke out against Spanish Central government’s abuse of their democratic rights.

Self-righteous betrayal of democracy

So, did WikiLeaks change? Has this organization that once cracked our heart open with uncensored images of modern war lost its ideals? WikiLeaks illuminated our minds with a large cache of documents detailing dirty secrets of powerful figures, including over 650,000 critical documents concerning Putin’s Russia. Are they now really compromised?

WikiLeaks has not changed. It has not abandoned American ideals that have fueled the engine for this organization. WikiLeaks accepts information that is of public interest. It verifies and publishes authentic documents that fit the criteria of having “diplomatic, political, ethical, or historical significance, which has not been published before, and which is being suppressed”. It does this, no matter who is in office and which nation-state rises to global dominance, and even if doing so makes it a target of massive political retaliation.

WikiLeaks’ influence on U.S. politics in 2016 with the publication of documents that belong to Clinton campaign manager can be likened to efforts of consumer advocate Ralph Nader in the electoral arena. Nader, through his third party presidential run aimed to awaken in American people a fire in the belly that could challenge the corporate two-party duopoly. Similarly, WikiLeaks, by revealing the corruption of the American political system, tried to awaken moral courage for voters to take back their democracy that has long been stolen.

The publication of Podesta files exposed WikiLeaks to the same bigotry and bullying that Nader had faced back then, where the Democratic Party with their ardent middle class devotees blamed him for George W. Bush’s presidency and called him a spoiler. Now, the Democratic establishment, with MSNBC cable news stations and commentators, recycles the old tactics of defamation. They branded Assange as a Trump supporter and Russia’s intelligence asset. By even filing the lawsuit against the organization, they directed their vengeance to this whistleblowing site about the loss of Clinton’s campaign.

Yet, just as Nader’s third party presidential efforts could not spoil the election that was already so rotted, WikiLeaks could not ruin the political campaign that was so corrupted to the core. It is not WikiLeaks, but Americans who have been compromised. It is we who have fallen for a manufactured national politics that is designed to divide and conquer us every four years with new packaged candidates of the same product.

We have lost the revolutionary spirit that founded this nation, its vigilance toward government and have settled for the lesser of two evils. By engaging in our self-righteous crusade for defending our allegiance to leaders, parties and to the flag we plead to, we have betrayed our own interests and ideals.

Claiming our sacred heart

With the publication of Vault 7, a series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, fury against WikiLeaks now intensifies. The Trump cabinet continues the war on the First Amendment that began under the Obama administration. In recent months, Trump’s Justice Department Jeff Sessions stated that Assange’s arrest is a priority. Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and the current U.S. Secretary of State, referred to the whistleblowing site as “a non-state hostile intelligence service” and indicated WikiLeaks as a force that subverts the U.S. Constitution.

From a traitor and a Kremlin puppet to a spoiler of American democracy, words are thrown around to create distortion. Bombarded by loud media sound bites, in this illusion of democracy, many can no longer hear a voice of conscience that knows what is right and they now remain silent. As Ecuador now prepares to hand over Assange to British authorities for a financial reward, by breaking its own Constitution of the Republic, our democracy’s last line of defense is about to be severed. Cruel treatment of Assange is no longer a character assassination and imprisonment of one innocent man. What is at stake is the death of the sacred heart of democracy that remembers our inherent obligation to one another. In his earlier blog, Assange wrote about the moral courage required in our age:

Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.

He reminded us that what drives our will to crush bastards is a gentle love that inspires us to nurture the vulnerable. In a world where there is WikiLeaks, the veil of secrecy can no longer be maintained. The released information revealed the abuse of the powerful on the most vulnerable amongst us—those that are voiceless, ailing and impoverished. Calamity happening in Knightsbridge under the heightened security at the heart of London represents the injustice of the world that this fearless journalist and his courageous sources brought to us all to bear witness. It is now laid out for those who are willing and ready to see the truth.

Prosecution of Julian Assange is a persecution of American ideals. Criminalizing the act of publishing through the Espionage Act destroys the First Amendment as the guardian of democracy. This not only sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom, but it could allow the beginning of a new totalitarianism. We must break our silence and refuse to participate in the destruction of values that founded this country. It is time for us all to put aside ideological differences and unite in solidarity with people around the world who are engaging in non-violent resistance against this assault on WikiLeaks and our right to free speech.

Only through sincere efforts to keep our eyes open to the truth before us, can we have a chance to end the tyranny of the past that casts its shadow ever more into the present. If our silence has led to this great tragedy that we face now, the victory of democracy can be brought through each of us claiming the center of our heart to stand up for this fellow man who sacrificed his liberty so that all can be free.

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.

Ecuador’s Agenda: Squeezing and Surrendering Assange

It is perhaps typical in a time where a star of the fleshy celluloid wonder Baywatch, heavy in bust and known for her sexual adventures, should feature as a political voice.  Pamela Anderson’s views are treated with judicious seriousness – at least in some quarters.  Her association with Julian Assange has given needless room for columns on what, exactly, their relationship constitutes.

Having such defenders as Anderson has added to his conspicuous support base, but it will not move those bureaucrats who are chewing pens in anticipation and pondering options as to how best to eject him from the Ecuadorean embassy (compound would be more fitting) in London.  Easily missed amidst the titter of celebrity gossip is the plight of an ailing Assange, who is facing the next critical stage of his stay at the Ecuadorean embassy.

Since the changing of the guard in Ecuador, President Lenín Moreno has shown a warmer feeling towards the United States, and a desire to raise the issue of Assange’s stay in the embassy with US Vice President Mike Pence with the urgency of man desiring to be rid of a problem.  The UK government has also been brought into the mix.  The forces against Assange are marshalling themselves with a renewed impatience.

A squeeze evidently designed to break the will of WikiLeaks’ publisher-in-chief was commenced in March, with a change of the embassy’s Wi-Fi password effectively blocking his use of the Internet.  Phone calls and visitations have also been curtailed.  The bill of Ecuadorean hospitality, if it can be termed that, also became a subject of discussion – some $5 million expended on security and Assange’s various activities.  Attitudes to a troublesome guest have hardened.

The press circuit has increasingly thickened in recent days with speculation about a round of high-tier discussions being conducted by Ecuador and the UK government on Assange.  The Ecuadorean paper El Comercio has remarked upon the talks.  It was a turn that was unsurprising, with Moreno unimpressed by Assange’s feats and credentials, the Australian being viewed back in January as an “inherited problem” who had created “more than a nuisance” for his government.

According to Glenn Greenwald, the report that those discussions did more than touch on the matter of handing Assange over to UK authorities “appears to be true”. This might trigger an indictment from US authorities and possible extradition proceedings, a point made acute by the promise of US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions back in April to “seek to put some people in jail”, with Assange’s “arrest” being a priority.  “Can’t wait to see,” quipped Greenwald, “how many fake press freedom defenders support that.”

RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan smells that something nasty is brewing.  “My sources tell [Julian] Assange will be handed over to Britain in the coming weeks or even days.  Like never before, I wish my sources were wrong.”

That particular process, it would seem, is being headed by Sir Alan Duncan of the Foreign Office, the same individual who had an impulse back in March to call Assange that “miserable little worm” before fellow parliamentarians.

The line that Assange has been in arbitrary detention has never quite cut it in Duncan’s circles and he has been dangling a carrot with spectacular condescension. “It is our wish,” he told Parliament last month, “that this can be brought to an end and we’d like to make the assurance that if [Assange] were to step out of the embassy, he would be treated humanely and properly and that the first priority would be to look after his health, which we think is deteriorating.”

Such comments are always rounded up by that fanciful notion that Assange is “in the embassy of his own choice”.  That line on inventive volition was reiterated by Britain’s new foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who issued a statement of praise for Britain as “a country of due process” keen to see that Assange “face justice for those [serious] charges”: “At any time he wants to he is free to walk out onto the street of Knightsbridge and the British police will have a warm welcome for him.”

Such grotesquely insincere concerns about health, fashioned as a weapon and an incentive by Duncan, would be academic should Assange find himself on the dismal road to US custody, where promises of a firm and icy welcome have been made.  He would be merely nourished and fattened for a notoriously cruel prison system, analogous to the doctor healing a person on death row.

Anderson herself makes the relevant point about her urgent advocacy for Assange. “My role is to let people know that he’s a human being and not just a robot or a computer, and that he’s really sacrificing a lot for all of us.  He hasn’t seen sunlight in six years.  His skin is transparent.”

In what is nothing less than a war about what we can see, know and interpret, those who wish to preserve the traditional models of power and the clandestine state remain adamant: Assange is a trouble maker who must disappear.

Democrats Against Assange: Influencing US-Ecuador Relations

Such a historical twist, but one that deserves its iniquitous slot in the history books.  No secret has been made about US policy towards Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, which continues its trajectory to seek his apprehension and shutter the organisation.  Despite its cables being used for political effect by interested parties; despite the exposures of corruption within the ranks of US politics, Assange is to be thanked with punishment.

This is the sentiment expressed by Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with nine other Democratic senators, in a letter to US Vice President Mike Pence.  The senators had been losing sleep after getting wind of what was said, or rather not said, in a June 4 phone call between Pence and Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno. One glaring omission troubled them: the absence of any discussion about Assange’s asylum status and stay in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Ahead of Pence’s meeting with Moreno this week, the senators wished to press the matter:

As the United States is still seeking clarity about the full extent of Russian intervention in our elections and Russian interference in elections across the world, it is imperative that you raise US concerns with President Moreno about Ecuador’s continued support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.

This is a fine take, if dizzyingly inaccurate: WikiLeaks as the great undermining force of democratic states, worrying politicians in the United States who have enthusiastically backed the imperial project of overthrowing democratically elected governments. But slotting Assange, Putin and electoral interference in the same line is bound to have its emotive effect on politicians obsessed with government secrecy.

The charges tend to muddle the broader political landscape, but the intention in the letter is to paint Assange as an architect of discord, comfortably wading in the politics of other states.  That such muck racking is often no more than releasing documents casting a different light on traditional politics is beside the point; Assange interfered in revealing the hidden whispers and clandestine reflections.  Other scenes of engagement are also noted: the French presidential election, and the Spanish referendum on Catalan independence.

What the letter omits to say is that the current US president has expressed his delight at various nuggets he has received from the WikiLeaks trove.

I simply state what he states, it is for the people… to make up their own minds as to the truth.  The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!

The specific reading advanced by the Democrats builds upon the stance that Assange as a radical transparency vigilante must be potted.  It regurgitates, in uncritical form, the designation by former CIA director Mike Pompeo that WikiLeaks was a “non-hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”  It makes the facile link between WikiLeaks and Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) in suggesting that the publishing outfit was used “to release hacked information in order to influence… the 2016 US Presidential election.” (Use here is conflated with manipulation, collusion, and conspiracy.)

The content, and veracity of such material, is deemed irrelevant.  And rather than being content with his arbitrary detention in Ecuador’s embassy compound in London, as found by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, there is a desire to take the next step.

As for the meeting with Ecuador’s Moreno, the White House was short if vaguely ominous:

The Vice President raised the issue of Mr Assange.  It was a constructive conversation. They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.

The Senators’ letter also made the observation that US-Ecuador relations for the last decade had been “marked by unfortunate tensions.  However, under President Lenín Moreno’s leadership, there is a unique opportunity to reverse this trend.”  A change presented itself now to “forge a new chapter in longstanding relations with the United States and Ecuador built on shared values, and address remaining challenges between our countries.”

Too much bad blood exists within the Democratic camp about Assange, who has become a proxy hate figure for a party that bungled the US presidential elections in 2016.  A steadfast refusal to accept the result, not to mention the inadequacies of their candidate where it most mattered permeates through the Mueller investigation and Russia Gate, all tied together by a bow of grievance.

A note from Harry Cheadle writing for Vice in the lead up to the 2016 election is instructive in painting the picture that emerged from the DNC-Podesta trove released by WikiLeaks. The emails portrayed an “organization that is contemptuous of opposition, often obsessed with how an issue is perceived, and yet sometimes prone to decisions that seem self-defeating and dance on the knife edge of political disaster.”  The chickens, notably of the socialist variety, are vengefully coming back to roost.

Scratching for ideas and options in ambushing President Donald Trump, it is clear that the senators have latched on to the next best thing: revoking the political status of a man with no internet access who will be arrested the moment he steps out of the embassy door. How fittingly democratic of them.