Media dead silent as Wikileaks insider explodes the myths around Julian Assange


It is the journalists from The Guardian and New York Times who should be in jail, not Julian Assange, said Mark Davis last week. The veteran Australian investigative journalist, who has been intimately involved in the Wikileaks drama, has turned the Assange narrative on its head. The smears are falling away. The mainstream media, which has so ruthlessly made Julian Assange a scapegoat, is silent in response.

Greg Bean likens the revolutionary work of Julian Assange to that of Johannes Gutenberg who invented the printing press. Government reaction, 580 years later, is similarly savage.

Five hundred and eighty years ago, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press to the world. That single act created a free press which gave birth to the concept of freedom of speech. The two are inextricably linked; printing is a form of speech.

Gutenberg’s invention started the Printing Revolution, a milestone of the 2ndmillennium that initiated the modern period of human history including the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution, and began the knowledge-based economy that spread learning to the masses.

Such mass communication permanently altered the structure of society. Removing control of information from the hands of the powerful and delivering it into the hands of the disempowered.

The broad circulation of information, including revolutionary ideas, in many languages, undermined Latin’s dominant status and the authority previously held by those trained in Latin, it transcended borders, threatened the power of political and religious authorities, increased literacy breaking the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning, and bolstered the emerging middle class. It increased cultural self-awareness and cultural cohesion and undermined the authority of distant rulers and high priests.

His major work, the Gutenberg Bible was the first printed version of the Bible.

A global game-changer

Until 1439, Bibles were hand-scribed by rooms full of monks. There were virtually no mass produced books. Only an organisation able to fund these scribe factories could generate information that could be shared with others, in Latin. The Catholic Church was not impressed that Gutenberg made these scribe factories redundant.

But that’s just one enemy Gutenberg created. As well as destroying religious control he destroyed political control, which was largely aligned with the Church across Europe.

And then he destroyed the monopoly of the literate elite, creating educated populations where previously, powerful nobles had unchallenged control. Then, by supporting the local languages, all of which could be printed, he destroyed the dominance of Latin as the only language worth knowing.

Gutenberg was a game changer. He undermined the control of monarchs and the ruling class, the church, the political establishment, the Latin speaking elite, the educated upper-class, and probably also the authority and reliance on masters in every field of human endeavour as their previously spoken instructions, to a limited set of apprentices, could now be shared to the world in print.

Gutenberg destroyed the masters in virtually every realm by providing the means to expose knowledge to everyone. The genie was out of the bottle.

Imagine the masters’ anger.

Though anger could not save them from what Gutenberg had done.

From paper revolution to digital revolution

Today in 2019, 580 years since Gutenberg unleashed his printing press, the powerful are still trying to put the free press and freedom of speech genie back in the bottle.

Their present strategy is to make their knowledge, the element that is the key to retaining authority, as it was in Gutenberg’s day, secret, even Top Secret, and criminalising any action that reveals these secrets to anyone outside their circle of authority.

One of the ways this has been achieved is by enlisting the very core of what should be the free press, granting them almost monopoly rights to information dissemination and transmission and in exchange attaining for themselves the guarantee that their secrets will not be revealed.

Media concentration and control

In the US today, it is estimated that five dominant media organisations have almost total control of information transmission to the entire 325 million Americans. While the Internet was meant to democratise the transmission of information we see a few giant technology companies, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, have near total control of what is seen and shared.

The situation is even worse in Australia with two or three media companies and the same technology giants having control. And the Government of Australia has granted them ever wider market access to extend their monopolies. As an aside, it’s both funny and ironic that the Turnbull Government last increased the capacity for Australian media to further consolidate and then Malcolm Turnbull was deposed by that same media for being insufficiently sycophantic to their wishes.

But in 2006, something akin to the arrival of Gutenberg’s press appeared that would threaten the tightly held master’s control as surely as Gutenberg’s press threatened autocratic control in 1439.

That something was a technology suite, from WikiLeaks, that protected the anonymity of individuals who leaked the secrets of corruption that powerful governments preferred to keep hidden.

The strategy was quite elegant in its simplicity. WikiLeaks recognised that organisations and governments can only succeed if they can communicate their instructions to the operational workforce. If the instructions are legal and legitimate, this can be done publicly and with no need to hide any of these instructions.

What have they got to hide?

If however, the instructions entail illegal or illegitimate actions, then the only way these can be communicated to the entire workforce is as secrets. And to ensure they remain secret the organisation or government must impose a penalty on anyone who breaks that secrecy and divulges the information to person not authorised to see it.

The very act of defining something as secret and restricting its dissemination is a clear indicator that the actions or events are very likely illegal or illegitimate. Imposing penalties on those who disseminate these secrets outside authorised channels is another indicator of illegal or illegitimate actions or events.

Authoritarian regimes, murderous military organisations, human rights breaching spy agencies, polluting or corrupt organisation, mind control religious cults, and many more examples are available where their ability to continue with the illegal or illegitimate actions or to hide past events all must utilise secrecy and impose punishment on leakers to ensure that secrecy.

WikiLeaks destroyed that ability. Anonymous leaking of illegal or illegitimate actions or events destroys the ability of corrupt organisations to continue being corrupt.

That undermines their authority and control. And that’s what WikiLeaks introduced to the world — a mechanism and technology that was as pivotal to educating, enlightening, and promoting corrective action as was previously achieved by the creation of Gutenberg’s printing press.

WikiLeaks destroyed the masters in virtually every realm by providing the means to expose knowledge worldwide. The genie was out of the bottle.

Imagine the master’s anger.

A drastic response

WikiLeaks’ threat to the powerful was recognised and every effort was, and is, being made to criminalise anonymous leaking, which would be akin to criminalising Gutenberg’s printing press, but there is not much chance this criminalisation will succeed.

Their strategy however, as exposed in a document leaked by WikiLeaks, outlined how WikiLeaks uses trust by protecting the anonymity and identity of leakers and concluded that damaging or destroying this trust would deter leaking; defame Assange and WikiLeaks to kill the threat posed by anonymous leaking.

For 12 years, since 2008, that is exactly what powerful organisations, powerful media and government, powerful military and corrupt corporations have been doing. They are trying to destroy the public’s trust in Julian Assange and, by so doing, destroying the trust in WikiLeaks and ensuring this mechanism of educating the world fails.

Slowly, instance by instance, the malicious and deceitful smears of Julian Assange’s character have been exposed for what they are; an effort to destroy trust in a system of anonymous leaking that will educate everyone. As an example, on Thursday, August 8, 2019, at an event in a pub in Sydney, Mark Davis, a multi-Walkley award winning video journalist destroyed the smear that Assange was cavalier; cavalier that is about the risk of death of informants whose names appeared in documents in one of the sets of releases.

Davis said that, not only was Assange quite worried about the risk, but that The Guardian and New York Times journalists showed little if any worry. The video is here. It is quite remarkable.

As well as these smears, numerous torturous actions were visited on Assange, aimed at achieving not just his discrediting but also to break him mentally and physically.

Assault on human dignity

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently wrote a damning articlepublished on the United Nations Human Rights website describing the situation in detail and comments, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”.

Sydney based Clinical Psychologist Lissa Johnson has also written about the treatment of Julian Assange ( link ) and the complicit actions of many who turn a blind eye.

“At this democratic crossroads, although establishment media have signalled their reluctance to support Espionage Act charges, in the knowledge they could be next, many nevertheless appear willing to act as instigators of torture, inciting publics to morally disengage, so that states can continue persecuting Julian Assange,” wrote Johnson. “Every act of ‘journalism’ that buries crucial information, and every utterance that vilifies or dehumanises Julian Assange, or sanitises his abuse, is complicit.. “.

Bring Julian Assange home

It’s time to bring Julian Assange home. Torturing and punishing him has never been legitimate and serves absolutely no purpose.

It’s time to recognise that anonymous leaking is here to stay and promote the world changing benefits that this system of mass education will deliver.

How can I be sure anonymous leaking is here to stay? Like Gutenberg’s printing press, WikiLeaks is not a one-off unit, it is a model for how to approach and overcome an issue. Many printing presses were built after Gutenberg revealed the concept and they were soon powered, automated and churning out printed material in huge volumes.

The same has happened with Julian Assange’s concept of a mechanism and technologies that can support anonymous leaking. A group called The Freedom of The Press Foundation, founded among others by Daniel Ellsberg, the man famous for leaking the Pentagon Papers that exposed the lies about the War in Vietnam, created a freely available WikiLeaks-like system called SecureDrop that is now in use by many news organisations.

And a number of these SecureDrop implementations are multi-national and so shield the recipient from AFP-style raids as they exist out there … somewhere … out of AFP and Australian authority reach … out of the reach of any other nation attempting to clamp down on anonymous leaking.

The WikiLeaks style anonymous leaking genie is out of the bottle and is not going back in.

Vive la revolution!


ALISON BROINOWSKI. Julian Assange One case dismissed: one to go


From the Australian mainstream media most readers won’t know it, but on 29 July a Federal Court in New York dismissed the Democratic National Committee’s case against Julian Assange for publishing leaked internal emails in 2016.

The Australian media usually overcome their mutual antipathy and band together to defend journalistic freedom and the rights of whistle-blowers, as we can expect to see in the case of Witness K. But Julian Assange is different. Denying that what he does is journalism is the excuse given by many in the media for taking no interest in the truth of his case or in finding out what is happening to him in Belmarsh supermax prison.

If Australian journalists were doing their job they would pursue Assange’s case with at least as much enthusiasm as they and the government brought to those of Peter Greste jailed in Cairo, Hakeem al-Araibi arrested in Bangkok, and Alek Sigley detained in Pyongyang.

The New York Times and Washington Post buried the highly significant story of WikiLeaks’ recent exculpation (Oscar Grenfell, ‘Media silent on dismissal of DNC suit against Julian Assange‘).To do otherwise would have brought down the house of negative cards about Assange which they have built ever since 2010. The New York Timespublished the war-log documents Assange passed to them before he, working through the night, had finished redacting 10 000 names. David Leigh at the Guardian published the very password for the cables database over which Assange is now facing prosecution.

All the media beneficiaries, and leaders of several governments, claimed repeatedly that Assange recklessly endangered the lives of people mentioned in the classified reports. They ignored that fact that in 2013 the Pentagon’s Brigadier-General Robert Carrconceded that no-one had been killed as a result of the leaked cables. The US and other governments were greatly embarrassed, but no-one died, while their killing of un-numbered civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria continues to this day.

Australia’s dearth of public interest journalism on the Assange case was somewhat relieved by Nick Miller’s coverage for Fairfax of statements by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (SMH, 28 July 2019). Nils Melzer visited Assange in Belmarsh in May, but his written concerns about the effects on Assange of anxiety and long incarceration have since been rejected by Sweden and the US.

Then came ABC Four Corners, with episodes on 22 and 29 July about Assange’s prosecution, ‘Hero or Villain’ Part 1 and Part 2. Telling viewers little that they haven’t already seen in Linda Poitras’ documentary Risk and Alex Gibney’s feature We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (a deliberately misleading title), the two ABC programs recalled that only after the US papers ignored Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning’s offer did she seek out WikiLeaks, and that Assange told her what he could and couldn’t do to help with encryption. Concerned about balance, Four Corners gave Assange’s enemies a lot of air-time for personal allegations and familiar smears like ‘vanity’ and ‘megalomania’. But about his present condition it said nothing.

Dr Lissa Johnson brought to the story her expertise as a clinical psychologist. She observed on 8 August that Four Corners ignored Melzer’s statements, and accused the mainstream media of contributing to Assange’s torture by cultivating the established narrative ( Melbourne-based blogger Caitlin Johnstone has countered 27 smears against Assange, providing quotable ripostes, in ‘Debunking All The Assange Smears’. And lest Australians not forget, by April this year, more than 100 000 had signed Philip Adams’ petition to the government to act ( In the UK, that petition would trigger a debate in Parliament.

While public support for Assange builds through social media, Australian ministers have consistently refused to seek assurances that he will not be extradited to the US, which imposes the death penalty, and threatens him with its equivalent, more than 170 years imprisonment. Although his Australian lawyer Jennifer Robinson met politicians in Canberra in late July and informed them about Assange’s case, the Prime Minister made it known that he would not raise it with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Australian, 2 August 2019: 4). If Marise Payne mentioned it to the British Foreign Secretary at a Global Conference for Media Freedom (sic) in July, she didn’t say so.

Lissa Johnson was joined on 8 August by Mark Davis, a veteran of ABC and SBS, whose talk in a Sydney pub was screened on Consortium News. Davis was in the Guardian‘bunker’ in July 2010 when Assange decided to get the leaked documents published by mainstream media in the UK, US, and Europe. Exasperated that the ‘complete lie’ about Assange’s ‘lack of integrity’ has widely been accepted as truth, Davis blames the Guardian’s then editor, the plausible and urbane Alan Rusbridger, his brother-in-law David Leigh, and Leigh’s co-author, the ardent Russo-phobe Luke Harding. Davis says they claimed that the Guardian was only reporting about what Assange had published, thus avoiding blame for publishing it themselves while still claiming credit for the scoop. The Guardian decided that as Leigh had already published the password to the cache of documents it was ‘best to publish the whole thing’, Davis says. By December Julian Assange was under arrest. ‘Julian’s in jail now because of that subterfuge’, Davis told his Sydney audience (Mark Davis, ‘Julian Assange and the Culture of Revenge’

The recent dismissal by the Federal Court relates not only to allegations about Wikileaks, but also Donald Trump jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort over ‘Russiagate’. But the political establishment hasn’t dropped it, says a former UK ambassador ( That establishment still controls what is happening to Assange, and his coming extradition to the US, charged with espionage.

John Pilger, who visited him in Belmarsh last week, has expressed serious concern about his health. More worrying, given what has happened to other public enemies – Seth Rich and Jeffrey Epstein in the US and Sergei Skripal in the UK – is that someone may rid the world of this troublesome truth-teller.

Dr Alison Broinowski was a Senate candidate for the WikiLeaks Party.

Media silent on dismissal of DNC suit against Julian Assange


A federal court ruling last Tuesday dismissing a Democratic National Committee (DNC) civil suit against Julian Assange “with prejudice” was a devastating indictment of the US ruling elite’s campaign to destroy the WikiLeaks founder. It exposed as a fraud the entire “Russiagate” conspiracy theory peddled by the Democratic Party, the corporate media and the intelligence agencies for the past three years.

The decision, by Judge John Koeltl of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, rejected the smears that Assange “colluded” with Russia. It upheld his status as a journalist and publisher and dismissed claims that WikiLeaks’ 2016 publication of leaked emails from the DNC was “illegal.”

Despite the significance of the ruling, and its clear newsworthiness, it has been subjected to an almost complete blackout by the entire media in the US and internationally.

The universal silence on the court decision—extending from the New York Times (which buried a six-paragraph report on the ruling on page 25) and the Washington Post, to “alternative” outlets such as the Intercept, the television evening news programs and the publications of the pseudo-left—can be described only as a coordinated political conspiracy.

Its aim is to suppress any discussion of the court’s exposure of the slanders used to malign and isolate Assange, and to justify the unprecedented international pursuit of him over WikiLeaks’ exposure of US war crimes, surveillance operations and diplomatic conspiracies.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and other corporate outlets have relentlessly smeared Assange as a “Russian agent” and depicted him as the linchpin of a conspiracy hatched in Moscow to deprive Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton of the presidency in the 2016 US elections.

Now that their claims have been subjected to judicial review and exposed as a tissue of lies and fabrications, they have adopted a policy of radio silence. There is no question that if the court ruling had been in favour of the DNC, it would have been greeted with banner headlines and wall-to-wall coverage.

The response exposes these publications as state propagandists and active participants in the campaign by the Democratic Party, the Trump administration and the entire ruling elite to condemn Assange for the rest of his life to an American prison for the “crime” of publishing the truth.

The editors and senior writers at these outlets, such as New York Timeseditorial page editor James Bennet, are in constant contact with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Behind the scenes, they work out an editorial line that will advance the interests of the Wall Street banks and the military-intelligence apparatus. At the same time, they decide what news and information they will hide from the American and world population.

The efforts by the mainstream news outlets to bury the ruling presents a clear example of the type of media manipulation that has led millions of people to seek alternative sources of news on the internet, of which WikiLeaks is itself an example.

Judge Koeltl’s decision made plain the anti-democratic and dictatorial logic of the DNC case against Assange. He warned: “If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political, financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.” This, he stated, would “override the First Amendment” protection to freedom of the press mandated by the US Constitution.

Koeltl’s finding was an absolute vindication of Assange and WikiLeaks’ 2016 publications exposing the attempts by the DNC to rig the Democratic Party primaries against self-declared “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders in favour of Hillary Clinton.

The judge found these releases, together with the publication of Clinton’s secret speeches to Wall Street banks, in which she pledged to be their representative, were “matters of the highest public concern.” They “allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election.”

Koeltl, moreover, found there was no evidence to justify the DNC’s assertion that WikiLeaks had colluded with the Russian state to obtain the material. Assange and WikiLeaks have always maintained that the documents were not provided to them by the Putin regime.

The ruling demonstrated the flagrant illegality of the US vendetta against Assange. The slander that he was operating as a “Russian agent” to “interfere” in US politics was used by the American government and its intelligence agencies to pressure the Ecuadorian regime to sever Assange’s internet access in 2016, and again in 2018. It served as a central pretext for its illegal termination in April of his political asylum in the embassy building.

The judgment was also an implicit exposure of the lawlessness of the attempts by the Trump administration, with the full support of the Democrats, to extradite Assange from Britain, so that he can be prosecuted on 18 US charges, including 17 espionage counts, carrying a maximum sentence of 175 years’ imprisonment.

The Trump administration and the Justice Department are claiming that it was illegal for WikiLeaks and Assange to publish US army war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and other documents exposing US war crimes and intrigues, provided by the courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Koeltl’s ruling, however, reasserted the fundamental democratic principle that WikiLeaks had a right to publish the 2016 DNC documents, even if they had been obtained by the Russian government, or any other entity, illegally.

The clear implication is that even if Manning’s decision to leak US military and diplomatic documents was a violation of the law, WikiLeaks’ publication of them was not. The publication of both the 2010 and the 2016 leaks was constitutionally protected journalistic activity.

Koeltl further undermined the claims of the Trump administration, the Democrats and the media that Assange is a “hacker,” undeserving of First Amendment protections. The judge repeatedly referred to Assange as a “journalist” and WikiLeaks as a “publisher.”

In other words, the attempt to extradite Assange to the US and prosecute him is a frontal assault on the US Constitution and press freedom. In its disregard for domestic and international law, it can be described only as an extraordinary rendition operation, similar to the kidnappings and torture operations conducted by the CIA.

The hostile response to Koeltl’s ruling on the part of the entire political and media establishment, in the US and internationally, demonstrates that this conspiracy will not be defeated by plaintive appeals to the governments, political parties and media corporations that have spearheaded the assault on Assange’s legal and democratic rights.

All of them are using the persecution of Assange as a test case for the imposition of ever-more authoritarian measures, aimed at suppressing mounting popular hostility to war, social inequality and an assault on democratic rights.

What is required is the development of a mass movement from below, to mobilise the immense social and political power of the working class internationally to secure Assange’s liberty and to defend all democratic rights.

To take forward this critical struggle, the WSWS and the International Committee of the Fourth International last month called for the formation of a Global Defence Committee to free Assange and the courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning. All workers, young people and supporters of democratic rights should contact the WSWS today to take up the fight to free Assange and Manning!

Oscar Grenfell

FOIA litigation appeal hearing, activists filled up the Court in support of Stefania Maurizi


The appeal hearing for the full access to the documents related to Julian Assange’s case has been held today at the Upper Tribunal, decision is expected on Friday

The Court officers said they were not expecting such a public for the FOIA litigation hearing where the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi appealed in order to obtain the full access to Julian Assange’s case documents, denied in the previous hearing.

The jam packed Court lasted from 10:30 am to around 4pm with a 45 min break and it was an experience worth remembering as it seeks to make history in the FOIA litigation in this country. Will the court’s decision become a catalyst in unlocking the Julian Assange’s case as we know it today? Judge Mitchell promised to reach his decision by Friday this week.

Here is a short video from outside the court.

This litigation is extremely important for the UK FOIA law and practice.  Here is 


Ο Ασάνζ είναι ένα διεθνές σύμβολο του αγώνα για πολιτική διαφάνεια, λένε 37 ευρωβουλευτές

Μια επιστολή έχει σταλεί από μια ομάδα βουλευτών διαφόρων πολιτικών πεποιθήσεων στον αντιπρόεδρο της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής Φρανς Τίμμερμανς  για να τον προτρέψει να υποστηρίξει τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα του Ασάνζ βάσει των διεθνών και των Ευρωπαϊκών νόμων

Σημεία ζωής έφθασαν από τα Ευρωπαϊκά θεσμικά όργανα, όσον αφορά την υπόθεση του Ασάνζ. Μια επιστολή που υπογράφηκε από τριάντα επτά βουλευτές του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου διαβιβάστηκε στον αντιπρόεδρο της Επιτροπής κ. Φρανς Τίμμερμανς, προκειμένου να εκφράσει σοβαρή ανησυχία για τον εκδότη του Wikileaks μετά την επικύρωση του αιτήματος έκδοσης που υπέβαλαν οι ΗΠΑ από τον Βρετανό Υπουργό Εσωτερικών Σαχίντ Τζαβίντ.

“Λυπούμαστε για την απόφαση αυτή”, έγραψαν οι Ευρωβουλευτές, προσδιορίζοντας τον Τζούλιαν Ασάνζ ως «διεθνές σύμβολο του αγώνα για πολιτική διαφάνεια» και επισημαίνοντας ότι η κράτησή του είναι «μόνο μια επίθεση στο δικαίωμα της πληροφόρησης, που αποτελεί θεμελιώδη πυλώνα της δημοκρατίας . ”

Είναι πραγματικά μια σημαντική στιγμή για τα μέλη του Σώματος να το τονίσουν αυτό, δεδομένου ότι μόλις τον περασμένο Απρίλιο εγκρίθηκε από την ΕΕ μια νέα οδηγία για τους μάρτυρες δημοσίου συμφέροντος. Όπως εξήγησε τότε ο εκπρόσωπος της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής κ. Κρίστιαν Γουίκαντ, ο νέος νόμος είναι μια ευρεία συμφωνία που καθορίζει τα ελάχιστα πρότυπα προκειμένου να «διασφαλιστεί ότι οι μάρτυρες δημόσιου συμφέροντος προστατεύονται καλύτερα και για να τους προστατεύσουμε από αντίποινα».


Ευρωπαϊκό κοινοβούλιο


Στην πραγματικότητα, οι 37 υπογράφοντες ανέφεραν ότι η έκδοση του Τζούλιαν Ασάνζ στις ΗΠΑ θα ήταν αντίθετη τόσο στο Ευρωπαϊκό όσο και στο Διεθνές Δίκαιο. Όχι μόνο υπενθύμισαν στον Αντιπρόεδρο ότι η Διαμερικανική Επιτροπή για τα Ανθρώπινα Δικαιώματα και τα Ηνωμένα Έθνη ζήτησαν να γίνει σεβαστό το δικαίωμα του ιδρυτή του Wikileaks να διατηρήσει καθεστώς ασύλου, αλλά επίσης επεσήμαναν ότι ο Ισημερινός, επιτρέποντας στις Βρετανικές αρχές να τον συλλάβουν, εξέθεσε τον Ασάνζ σε πραγματικό κίνδυνο παραβίασης των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων.

Ενστερνιζόμενοι το ειδικό πόρισμα του Ειδικού Εισηγητή των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για τα Βασανιστήρια Νιλς Μέλτζερ, οι Ευρωβουλευτές εξέφρασαν σοβαρή ανησυχία ότι η έκδοση θα έθετε τον Ασάνζ σε κίνδυνο σκληρής, απάνθρωπης ή εξευτελιστικής μεταχείρισης ή τιμωρίας. Συγκεκριμένα, δήλωσαν ότι “η έκδοση είναι ιδιαίτερα προβληματική όταν το κράτος προορισμού εφαρμόζει τη θανατική ποινή”. Αυτή είναι μία από τις περιπτώσεις όπου το δικαίωμα μη επαναπροώθησης είναι απόλυτο. Με άλλα λόγια, όταν ισχύει η θανατική ποινή στη χώρα έκδοσης, πρέπει να διασφαλίζεται πάντοτε το δικαίωμα της μη επιστροφής σε συνθήκες στις οποίες τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα δεν διατηρούνται σε ένα αποδεκτό ελάχιστο επίπεδο, ανεξάρτητα από απόψεις εθνικής ασφάλειας, πολιτικές σκοπιμότητες και άλλα παρόμοια .

Οι κοινοβουλευτικοί που υπέγραψαν την επιστολή τόνισαν επίσης ότι η υπόθεση του Ασάνζ εμπίπτει αναμφισβήτητα σε εκείνες που προστατεύονται από το νέο Ευρωπαϊκό νόμο για τους μάρτυρες δημοσίου συμφέροντος και υπενθύμισαν ότι ο εκδότης του Wikileaks στο παρελθόν είχε τιμηθεί από το Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο με το βραβείο για τους Δημοσιογράφους, τους Μάρτυρες δημοσίου συμφέροντος και τους Υπερασπιστές του Δικαιώματος στην Ενημέρωση.

Έκλεισαν την επιστολή ζητώντας από τον Αντιπρόεδρο να αναλάβει δράση και ειδικότερα να διασφαλίσει ότι ο Ασάνζ θα λάβει την προστασία που προβλέπεται από την ίδια την Ευρωπαϊκή Οδηγία για τους μάρτυρες δημόσιου συμφέροντος, δεδομένου ότι η δημοσιοποίηση των Κρατικών μυστικών που πραγματοποίησε πραγματοποιήθηκε πράγματι για το δημόσιο συμφέρον.

Julian Assange and the Real War on the Free Press

(By  Katherin Da Silva/Shutterstock)

Source: The American Conservative

Trump administration officials were enthusiastic when Ecuador decided to expel Julian Assange from its embassy in London, where he had received sanctuary for nearly seven years. British authorities promptly jailed him for jumping bail on sexual assault charges in Sweden, and U.S. officials began plans to have Assange extradited to face espionage charges in this country. He just turned 48 in prison on July 3.

Last month, the Department of Justice added 17 counts to the one-count indictment that it had filed years earlier. His current imprisonment in Britain and the probability of a lengthy extradition battle have delayed the prospect of a high-profile trial in the United States, but that outcome remains Washington’s goal. The United States reportedly submitted a formal extradition request on June 6.

The issues at stake go far beyond whether Assange is an admirable (or even a reasonably likeable) person. He symbolizes a crucial fight over freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to expose government misconduct without fear of criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, a disturbing number of “establishment” journalists in the United States seem willing—indeed, eager—to throw him to the government wolves.

Official Washington’s hatred of Assange borders on rabid. The website WikiLeaks, which he and his colleagues founded in 2006, has published voluminous quantities of leaked documents—in some cases highly classified documents. Those revelations have embarrassed, even discredited, powerful government officials and political factions in the United States and other countries. Among WikiLeaks’s revelations were specifics about the torture of terrorist suspects at CIA “black sites” in the United States and allied countries, and evidence of U.S. war crimes, notably brazen killings of civilians, including two Reuters reporters, in Iraq. Some of the most spectacular news accounts emerged because of leaked documents that a young Army private, Bradley (later Chelsea) Manning had given to WikiLeaks.

U.S. officials were furious about such information becoming public. They not only prosecuted Manning for espionage—eventually imposing a draconian 35-year prison sentence—but they filed an espionage charge against Assange. The ongoing attacks on him are a bid for censorship powers not seen since the Nixon administration sought to prevent The New York Times and The Washington Postfrom publishing the Pentagon Papers. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the government’s bid for prior restraint. The ruling did not explicitly address the question of whether authorities could prosecute journalists once a story using classified documents was published. However, a succession of administrations have refrained from pursuing that option, and the prevailing assumption was that post-publication attempts at prosecution might run afoul of the courts as well. Individuals who leak items to the press remained as vulnerable as ever to prosecution for espionage, but members of the press have enjoyed de facto immunity. With the Assange case, that situation threatens to change.

U.S. foreign policy mandarins have sought to overturn or at least dilute the Pentagon Papers precedent from the outset. Their preferred alternative is Britain’s Official Secrets Act. Passed in 1911, that statute prohibits news outlets from publishing any information that the government deems confidential. Following the Supreme Court decision, Dean Acheson, one of the key architects of Washington’s post-World War II foreign policy, called for “a severe Official Secrets Act to prevent irresponsible or corrupt transfer of secret papers from the government to publishers.” During the 1980s and 1990s, hawkish types expressed similar attitudes. Michael A. Ledeen, a special adviser to the secretary of state, enthusiastically endorsed the British model. Ledeen was especially upset by the publication of Bob Woodward’s 1987 book Veil, an exposé of CIA dirty tricks. Ledeen stated that “such a book ought not to have been published,” adding that with an American Official Secrets Act, it would not have been.

Since the 9/11 attacks, such attitudes have grown. An especially outspoken proponent is Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. As an Army lieutenant in Iraq in 2006, Cotton became incensed at a New York Times story disclosing the Bush administration’s secret program to disrupt the financing of alleged terrorist organizations. In an open letter, he accused the Times of having “gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here.” Cotton asserted that as a Harvard Law School graduate and practicing attorney, he was “well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others—laws you have plainly violated.” He closed with a chilling wish. “I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.”

There is no indication that Cotton has changed his views since entering Congress. Nor was he alone at the time in wanting to prosecute journalists for disclosing information that might undercut U.S. policy. Republican Representative Peter King of New York blasted the Times for being “treasonous,” as did Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

The United States and other Western leaders became increasingly alarmed about the surge of WikiLeaks disclosures. They worried that whistleblowers were becoming emboldened and might leak information to more respectable media outlets. Their fears were realized in 2013 when Edward Snowden, a contract employee for the National Security Agency, transferred a trove of classified documents to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras at The Guardian. Those documents confirmed that, among other abuses, the NSA undermined private computer encryption programs and collected bulk data on Americans’ emails and other correspondence without obtaining a warrant. Equally appalling, NSA Director James Clapper had lied to Congress and the American people about the program.

The Department of Justice moved quickly to indict Snowden for espionage, but attempting to do the same with Greenwald and Poitras was more difficult. Greenwald especially was a prominent, if controversial, journalist, and going after him risked creating a media firestorm. It seemed more than coincidental, though, that authorities in countries closely allied with the United States (especially Britain) harassed the journalists—and in one case, Greenwald’s romantic partner—with lengthy, menacing interrogations when they traveled internationally.

U.S. leaders have focused their efforts on apprehending and prosecuting Assange, considered a more “fringe” player. But the Obama administration did increase attempts to harass or intimidate journalists who utilized leaked material. Officials conducted electronic surveillance of both journalist James Risen and Fox News correspondent James Rosen in an effort to identify their sources. The government named Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in an espionage case against his source. Similarly, the administration asserted that it had the right to prosecute Risen, even though it chose not to take that step. Those were ominous warning signals.

The government’s strategy in the Assange case is especially insidious. Federal officials argue that whatever the relevance of the Pentagon Papers precedent, it doesn’t apply in this case because Assange is not a real journalist engaged in legitimate journalism. Instead, he is allegedly a co-conspirator with Manning and other individuals who have illicitly leaked classified information. Ergo, he has committed espionage, and any legal protections that legitimate journalists might enjoy should not extend to his behavior. John Demers, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security, stated that thesis explicitly. “Julian Assange is no journalist,” Demers said. Assange engaged in “explicit solicitation of classified information.”

During the early years of his campaign, Assange had a considerable number of defenders among American progressives. Most WikiLeaks disclosures had discomfited the Bush administration, which left-wing figures loathed. But newer revelations targeted possible Obama administration misdeeds, and Assange began to lose favor with progressives.

Then in 2016, he committed an apparently unpardonable sin in the eyes of many liberals, when WikiLeaks published hacked or leaked information from the Democratic National Committee that exposed political dirty tricks by Hillary Clinton’s presidential primary campaign against Bernie Sanders. Assange and WikiLeaks were now anathema to most liberal journalists, and as allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election on behalf of Donald Trump intensified, the increasingly popular, and dubious, trope was that Assange was a tool of the Kremlin. When he was arrested in April 2019, liberal American journalists were among the biggest cheerleaders.

Theirs is a dangerously misguided stance. Successfully prosecuting Assange and WikiLeaks for espionage would be a mortal threat to a free and independent press in the United States. Some of the government’s arguments to support the theory that Assange is not a legitimate journalist are paper thin. One is that Assange urged Manning to provide more documents after the initial delivery of files. Yet investigative reporters from indisputably reputable news outlets routinely use methods similar to those Assange employed, including asking their sources to provide more information when investigating possible government misconduct. Another argument is that WikiLeaks does not edit leaked material, but merely releases it to the public. Other outlets have engaged in similar conduct, though, without being considered illegitimate members of the journalistic profession. BuzzFeed News, for example, published the salacious dossier on Trump that former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele compiled.

Yet the government has not sought to prosecute BuzzFeed News, and most mainstream media outlets defended the publication’s right to publish the material—although some criticized the actual decision. Unfortunately, many of them have taken a very different stance regarding WikiLeaks. The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and other prominent mainstream publications rejected the argument that Assange was engaging in journalism. “The case of Mr. Assange,” the Times editorial board stated, “could help draw a sharp line between legitimate journalism and dangerous cybercrime.”

Such attitudes partly reflect resentment at an upstart player that has broken several prominent stories. Legacy publications are less than thrilled about blogs and other online publications that have sprouted during the 21st century. The TimesPost, and other mainstream publications likely also exhibit special resentment toward Assange because he expressed open animosity toward U.S. foreign policy, while those publications usually backed Washington’s often blundering overseas commitments and initiatives.

Whatever their motives, such journalists are being gullible tools in the government’s attempt to plug leaks and stifle criticism, especially in the national security arena. Suppressing embarrassing revelations is clearly the intent of national security officials. Not only have the number of prosecutions against whistleblowers increased over the past decade, but federal officials have resorted to highly questionable tactics against pesky journalists from even established outlets, as the Rosen and Risen episodes confirm. The initiative against Assange is only the boldest and most recent.

We cannot allow the government to usurp the right to decide who is or is not a “legitimate” journalist. Yet that is exactly Washington’s ploy in the Assange case. If federal prosecutors prevail with that argument and eventually convict him of espionage, the implicit protections that the Pentagon Papers ruling has afforded the press will be severely diluted. Only legacy publications friendly to the national security bureaucracy could then count on government restraint—and even that expectation could become quite fragile. Obstreperous online outlets and their writers would routinely find themselves under threat of criminal prosecution if they published a story based on classified information. At a minimum, the new system would create a chilling effect on (already insufficient) foreign policy dissent in the media; at worst, the government would achieve the de facto, functional equivalent of the Official Secrets Act that officials have long sought.

It is fashionable in the journalistic community to accuse Trump of “waging war on a free press.” Yet most of his actions have consisted of little more than rude comments, combined with occasional harassment, such as suspending the White House credentials of adversaries in the press. But that type of petty conduct does not constitute a real threat to press freedoms. Prosecuting Julian Assange for publishing leaked classified information is such a real threat, and defenders of the First Amendment must unite to repel it.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor to The American Conservative, is the author of 12 books and more than 800 articles on international affairs. His book, The Captive Press: Foreign Policy Crises and the First Amendment (1995), received an “outstanding academic book” designation in Choice, the publication of the College Division of the American Library Association.