One cyberactivist’s federal case wrapped up this week, and another’s is set to begin. While these two young men, Jeremy Hammond and Bradley Manning, are the two who were charged, it is the growing menace of government and corporate secrecy that should be on trial.
Hammond was facing more than 30 years in prison, charged with hacking into the computers of a private security and intelligence firm called Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, when he agreed to a plea agreement of one count of computer hacking. Stratfor traffics in “geopolitical intelligence, economic, political and military forecasting,” according to its website. Yet, after Hammond and others released 5 million emails from Stratfor’s servers to WikiLeaks, it became clear that the firm engages in widespread spying on activists on behalf of corporations. Coca-Cola hired Stratfor to spy on the group PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Dow Chemical hired Stratfor to spy on the activists who were exposing Dow’s role in the cyanide chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, in 1984 that killed an estimated 8,000 and injured thousands more.
Hammond is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 6. His lawyers have asked for time served—15 months, some of which was in solitary confinement. He faces 10 years.
Bradley Manning, meanwhile, will finally have his day in military court at Fort Meade, Md. He faces a slew of charges related to the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Manning pled guilty to mishandling the information, and acknowledged uploading hundreds of thousands of documents to the WikiLeaks website. But he denies the most serious charge, still pending, of “aiding the enemy.” Prosecutors are seeking life in prison; however, if Manning is found guilty, the judge could still impose the death penalty.
Bradley Manning and Jeremy Hammond are among the highest profile in a series of cases that the Obama administration has been pursuing against whistle-blowers and journalists. Attorney Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and an attorney for WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, said in front of the courthouse after Hammond’s court appearance, “This is part of the sledgehammer of what the government is doing to people who expose corporate secrets, government secrets, and really the secrets of an empire.”
Manning explained his actions and his motivation in a detailed statement in his pretrial proceedings. He said, “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … it could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.” The first public release by WikiLeaks of the material provided by Manning was the video (titled by WikiLeaks) “Collateral Murder.” The grainy video, taken from an attack helicopter, shows the cold killing of a dozen men on the ground in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. Two of those killed by the U.S. Apache helicopter gunship were employees of the Reuters news agency, cameraman Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, a father of four.
After their violent, senseless deaths, Reuters sought answers and filed Freedom of Information requests for material relating to the attack, which were denied. Manning saw the video when stationed in Iraq, and researched the background of the attack. He saved the video file. He explained in court, “I planned on providing this to the Reuters office in London to assist them in preventing events such as this in the future.”
Hammond and Manning, facing years in prison, have in common their connection to WikiLeaks and its founder, Assange. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden about allegations of sexual misconduct—he has not been charged. After losing a fight against extradition in Britain, he was granted political asylum by the government of Ecuador, and has remained in Ecuador’s embassy in London since last June. It was a leaked Stratfor email that referenced a U.S. indictment against Assange, reading: “Not for Pub—We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”
This all happens amidst recent revelations about the Obama administration’s extraordinary invasion of journalists’ privacy and the right to protect sources. The Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had secretly obtained two months of telephone records of its reporters and editors in an effort to discover the source of a leak about a foiled bomb plot. Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen, may actually be charged in a criminal conspiracy for allegedly receiving classified information from a source about North Korea.
President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have used the Espionage Act six times to prosecute whistle-blowers—more than all previous presidents combined. Obama’s assault on journalism and his relentless war on whistle-blowers are serious threats to fundamental democratic principles on which this nation was founded.
The job of journalists is to hold those in power accountable. Our job is to be the fourth estate, not “for the state.” Let us be.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cited unclassified messages exchanged inside a UK intelligence agency to back his refusal to be extradited to Sweden. One of the messages calls sex-related allegations against Assange “a fit-up”.
The Australian, who has been stranded at Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost 12 months, cited instant messages he received from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signal intelligence body.
One message from September 2012, which Assange read out in a Sunday night interview with Spanish TV program Salvados, says: “They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ … It is definitely a fit-up… Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate.”
Another conversation he cited goes: “He reckons he will stay in the Ecuadorian embassy for six to 12 months when the charges against him will be dropped, but that is not really how it works now is it? He’s a fool… Yeah… A highly optimistic fool.”
Assange did not explain who the people exchanging the messages were, but said he managed to obtain them because they were not classified.
“[GCHQ] won’t hand over any of the classified information,” he said. “But, much to its surprise, it has some unclassified information on us.”
GCHQ confirmed to RT that it released the info to Assange under the Data Protection Act. It can be used by individuals to obtain personal information that UK bodies have about them. The agency is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the usual mechanism for getting information of interest released by officials.
It stressed that the comments Assange received do not reflect GCHQ’s official stance in any way.
“As was made clear to Mr. Assange when the information was disclosed to him, the comments that he refers to in his recent interview were a small number of casual observations on a current affairs issue made by a handful of staff on GCHQ’s internal informal communication channels. The comments were entirely unrelated to the individuals’ official duties,” a spokesman for the agency said in an email.
A British court ordered that Assange be extradited to Sweden, where authorities want to question him on sex-related allegations. He refuses to go to there unless it guarantees that it won’t extradite him to the US, where he faces espionage charges over data released by WikiLeaks.
Ecuador has given Assange asylum and houses him in a small basement room in its London embassy. UK law enforcement keeps a close eye on the embassy, ready to arrest Assange should he leave the diplomatically-protected building.
The cost of the surveillance, which is believed to involve two police vehicles and eight officers on duty at all times, is now over $16,500 a day, Scotland Yard recently reported. The operation cost British taxpayers over $5 million since Assange got his refuge on June 19, 2012. By the time the anniversary falls, the sum is expected to have gone over $6.3 million.
A Conspiracy To Commit Journalism: The Justice Dept’s Dangerous New Argument Threatens Basic Reporting
I fear for Julian Assange. I fear for Bradley Manning. I fear for us all.
LONDON—A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June. British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy. Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), or Scotland Yard, said the estimated cost of surrounding the Ecuadorean Embassy from June 19, 2012, when Assange entered the building, until Jan. 31, 2013, is the equivalent of $4.5 million.
Britain has rejected an Ecuadorean request that Assange be granted safe passage to an airport. He is in limbo. It is, he said, like living in a “space station.”
“The status quo, for them, is a loss,” Assange said of the U.S.-led campaign against him as we sat in his small workroom, cluttered with cables and computer equipment. He had a full head of gray hair and gray stubble on his face and was wearing a traditional white embroidered Ecuadorean shirt. “The Pentagon threatened WikiLeaks and me personally, threatened us before the whole world, demanded that we destroy everything we had published, demanded we cease ‘soliciting’ new information from U.S. government whistle-blowers, demanded, in other words, the total annihilation of a publisher. It stated that if we did not self-destruct in this way that we would be ‘compelled’ to do so.”
“But they have failed,” he went on. “They set the rules about what a win was. They lost in every battle they defined. Their loss is total. We’ve won the big stuff. The loss of face is hard to overstate. The Pentagon reissued its threats on Sept. 28 last year. This time we laughed. Threats inflate quickly. Now the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department intend to show the world what vindictive losers they are through the persecution of Bradley Manning, myself and the organization more generally.”
Assange, Manning and WikiLeaks, by making public in 2010 half a million internal documents from the Pentagon and the State Department, along with the 2007 video of U.S. helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down Iraqi civilians, including children, and two Reuters journalists, effectively exposed the empire’s hypocrisy, indiscriminate violence and its use of torture, lies, bribery and crude tactics of intimidation. WikiLeaks shone a spotlight into the inner workings of empire—the most important role of a press—and for this it has become empire’s prey. Those around the globe with the computer skills to search out the secrets of empire are now those whom empire fears most. If we lose this battle, if these rebels are defeated, it means the dark night of corporate totalitarianism. If we win, if the corporate state is unmasked, it can be destroyed.
U.S. government officials quoted in Australian diplomatic cables obtained by The Saturday Age described the campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks as “unprecedented both in its scale and nature.” The scope of the operation has also been gleaned from statements made during Manning’s pretrial hearing. The U.S. Department of Justice will apparently pay the contractor ManTech of Fairfax, Va., more than $2 million this year alone for a computer system that, from the tender, appears designed to handle the prosecution documents. The government line item refers only to “WikiLeaks Software and Hardware Maintenance.”
The lead government prosecutor in the Manning case, Maj. Ashden Fein, has told the court that the FBI file that deals with the leak of government documents through WikiLeaks has “42,135 pages or 3,475 documents.” This does not include a huge volume of material accumulated by a grand jury investigation. Manning, Fein has said, represents only 8,741 pages or 636 different documents in that classified FBI file.
There are no divisions among government departments or the two major political parties over what should be Assange’s fate. “I think we should be clear here. WikiLeaks and people that disseminate information to people like this are criminals, first and foremost,” then-press secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking for the Obama administration, said during a 2010 press briefing.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and then-Sen. Christopher S. Bond, a Republican, said in a joint letter to the U.S. attorney general calling for Assange’s prosecution: “If Mr. Assange and his possible accomplices cannot be charged under the Espionage Act (or any other applicable statute), please know that we stand ready and willing to support your efforts to ‘close those gaps’ in the law, as you also mentioned. …”
Republican Candice S. Miller, a U.S. representative from Michigan, said in the House: “It is time that the Obama administration treats WikiLeaks for what it is—a terrorist organization, whose continued operation threatens our security. Shut it down. Shut it down. It is time to shut down this terrorist, this terrorist Web site, WikiLeaks. Shut it down, Attorney General [Eric] Holder.”
At least a dozen American governmental agencies, including the Pentagon, the FBI, the Army’s Criminal Investigative Department, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Diplomatic Security Service, are assigned to the WikiLeaks case, while the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are assigned to track down WikiLeaks’ supposed breaches of security. The global assault—which saw Australia threaten to revoke Assange’s passport—is part of the terrifying metamorphosis of the “war on terror” into a wider war on civil liberties. It has become a hunt not for actual terrorists but a hunt for all those with the ability to expose the mounting crimes of the power elite.
The dragnet has swept up any person or organization that fits the profile of those with the technical skills and inclination to burrow into the archives of power and disseminate it to the public. It no longer matters if they have committed a crime. The group Anonymous, which has mounted cyberattacks on government agencies at the local and federal levels, saw Barrett Brown—a journalist associated with Anonymous and who specializes in military and intelligence contractors—arrested along with Jeremy Hammond, a political activist alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with 5.5 million emails between the security firm Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) and its clients. Brown and Hammond were apparently seized because of allegations made by an informant named Hector Xavier Monsegur—known as Sabu—who appears to have attempted to entrap WikiLeaks while under FBI supervision.
To entrap and spy on activists, Washington has used an array of informants, including Adrian Lamo, who sold Bradley Manning out to the U.S. government.
WikiLeaks collaborators or supporters are routinely stopped—often at international airports—and attempts are made to recruit them as informants. Jérémie Zimmerman, Smári McCarthy, Jacob Appelbaum, David House and one of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, all have been approached or interrogated. The tactics are often heavy-handed. McCarthy, an Icelander and WikiLeaks activist, was detained and extensively questioned when he entered the United States. Soon afterward, three men who identified themselves as being from the FBI approached McCarthy in Washington. The men attempted to recruit him as an informant and gave him instructions on how to spy on WikiLeaks.
On Aug. 24, 2011, six FBI agents and two prosecutors landed in Iceland on a private jet. The team told the Icelandic government that it had discovered a plan by Anonymous to hack into Icelandic government computers. But it was soon clear the team had come with a very different agenda. The Americans spent the next few days, in flagrant violation of Icelandic sovereignty, interrogating Sigurdur Thordarson, a young WikiLeaks activist, in various Reykjavik hotel rooms. Thordarson, after the U.S. team was discovered by the Icelandic Ministry of the Interior and expelled from the country, was taken to Washington, D.C., for four days of further interrogation. Thordarson appears to have decided to cooperate with the FBI. It was reported in the Icelandic press that he went to Denmark in 2012 and sold the FBI stolen WikiLeaks computer hard drives for about $5,000.
There have been secret search orders for information from Internet service providers, including Twitter, Google and Sonic, as well as seizure of information about Assange and WikiLeaks from the company Dynadot, a domain name registrar and Web host.
Assange’s suitcase and computer were stolen on a flight from Sweden to Germany on Sept. 27, 2010. His bankcards were blocked. WikiLeaks’ Moneybookers primary donation account was shut down after being placed on a blacklist in Australia and a “watch list” in the United States. Financial service companies including Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, Western Union and American Express, following denunciations of WikiLeaks by the U.S. government, blacklisted the organization. Last month the Supreme Court of Iceland found the blacklisting to be unlawful and ordered it lifted in Iceland by May 8. There have been frequent massive denial-of-service attacks on WikiLeak’s infrastructure.
And there is a well-orchestrated campaign of character assassination against Assange, including mischaracterizations of the sexual misconduct case brought against him by Swedish police. Assange has not formally been charged with a crime. The two women involved have not accused him of rape.
Bradley Manning’s heroism extends to his steadfast refusal, despite what appears to be tremendous pressure, to implicate Assange in espionage. If Manning alleges that Assange had instructed him on how to ferret out classified documents, the U.S. might try to charge Assange with espionage.
Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy after exhausting his fight to avoid extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden. He and his lawyers say that an extradition to Sweden would mean an extradition to the U.S. If Sweden refused to comply with U.S demands for Assange, kidnapping, or “extraordinary rendition,” would remain an option for Washington.
Kidnapping was given legal cover by a 1989 memorandum issued by the Justice Department stating that “the FBI may use its statutory authority to investigate and arrest individuals for violating United States law, even if the FBI’s actions contravene customary international law” and that an “arrest that is inconsistent with international or foreign law does not violate the Fourth Amendment.” This is a stunning example of the security and surveillance state’s Orwellian doublespeak. The persecution of Assange and WikiLeaks and the practice of extraordinary rendition embody the shredding of the Fourth Amendment, which was designed to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
Two Swedes and a Briton were seized by the United States last August somewhere in Africa—it is assumed to have been in Somalia—and held in one of our black sites. They suddenly reappeared—with the Briton stripped of his citizenship—in a Brooklyn courtroom in December facing terrorism charges. Sweden, rather than object to the extradition of its two citizens, dropped the Swedish charges against the prisoners to permit the rendition to occur. The prisoners, The Washington Post reported, were secretly indicted by a federal grand jury two months after being taken.
The persistence of WikiLeaks, despite the onslaught, has been remarkable. In 2012 it released some of the 5.5 million documents sent from or to the private security firm Stratfor. The documents, known as “the Global Intelligence Files,” included an email dated Jan. 26, 2011, from Fred Burton, a Stratfor vice president, who wrote: “Text Not for Pub. We [the U.S. government] have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”
WikiLeaks’ most recent foray into full disclosure includes the Kissinger files, or the WikiLeaks Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy. The files, which have built into them a remarkable search engine, provide access to 1.7 million diplomatic communications, once confidential but now in the public record, that were sent between 1973 and 1976. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state from September 1973 to January 1977, authored many of the 205,901 cables that deal with his activities.
In the files it appears that the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may have been hired by the Swedish group Saab-Scania to help sell its Viggen fighter jet to India while his mother, Indira Gandhi, was prime minister.
In 1975 Kissinger during a conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and two Turkish and Cypriot diplomats assured his hosts that he could work around an official arms embargo then in effect. He is quoted in the documents as saying: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
The documents, along with detailing collaborations with the military dictatorships in Spain and Greece, show that Washington created a torture exemption to allow the military government in Brazil to receive U.S. aid.
The documents were obtained from the National Archives and Record Administration and took a year to be prepared in an accessible digital format. “It is essentially what Aaron Swartz was doing, making available documents that until now were hard to access or only obtainable through an intermediary,” Assange said in the interview.
Swartz was the Internet activist arrested in January 2011 for downloading more than 5 million academic articles from JSTOR, an online clearinghouse for scholarly journals. Swartz was charged by federal prosecutors with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The charges carried the threat of $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. Swartz committed suicide last Jan. 11.
Assange, 41, works through most of the night and sleeps into the late afternoon. Even though he uses an ultraviolet light device, he was pale, not surprising for someone who has not been out in sunlight for nearly a year. He rarely gives interviews. A treadmill was tilted up against a wall of his quarters; he said he sets it up and tries to run three to five miles on it every day. He has visits from a personal trainer, with whom he practices calisthenics and boxing. He is lanky at 6 feet 2 inches tall and exudes a raw, nervous energy. He leaps, sometimes disconcertingly, from topic to topic, idea to idea, his words rushing to keep up with his cascading thoughts. He works with a small staff and has a steady stream of visitors, including celebrities such as Lady Gaga. When the Ecuadorean Ambassador Ana Alban Mora and Bianca Jagger showed up late one afternoon, Assange pulled down glasses and poured everyone whiskey from a stock of liquor he keeps in a cabinet. His visitors chatted at a small round table, seated in leatherette chairs. Jagger wanted to know how to protect her website from hackers. Assange told her to “make a lot of backup copies.”
It is from this room that Assange and his supporters have mounted an election campaign for a seat in Australia’s upper house of Parliament. Public surveys from the state of Victoria, where Assange is a candidate, indicate he has a good chance of winning.
Assange communicates with his global network of associates and supporters up to 17 hours a day through numerous cellphones and a collection of laptop computers. He encrypts his communications and religiously shreds anything put down on paper. The frequent movements of the police cordon outside his window make sleep difficult. And he misses his son, whom he raised as a single father. He may also have a daughter, but he does not speak publicly about his children, refusing to disclose their ages or where they live. His family, he said, has received death threats. He has not seen his children since his legal troubles started. The emotional cost is as heavy as the physical one.
Assange said he sees WikiLeaks’ primary role as giving a voice to the victims of U.S. wars and proxy wars by using leaked documents to tell their stories. The release of the Afghan and Iraq War Logs, he said, disclosed the extent of civilian death and suffering, and the plethora of lies told by the Pentagon and the state to conceal the human toll. The logs, Assange said, also unmasked the bankruptcy of the traditional press and its obsequious service as war propagandists.
“There were 90,000 records in the Afghan War Logs,” Assange said. “We had to look at different angles in the material to add up the number of civilians who have been killed. We studied the records. We ranked events different ways. I wondered if we could find out the largest number of civilians killed in a single event. It turned out that this occurred during Operation Medusa, led by Canadian forces in September 2006. The U.S.-backed local government was quite corrupt. The Taliban was, in effect, the political opposition and had a lot of support. The locals rose up against the government. Most of the young men in the area, from a political perspective, were Taliban. There was a government crackdown that encountered strong resistance. ISAF [the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] carried out a big sweep. It went house to house. Then an American soldier was killed. They called in an AC-130 gunship. This is a C-130 cargo plane refitted with cannons on the side. It circled overhead and rained down shells. The War Logs say 181 ‘enemy’ were killed. The logs also say there were no wounded or captured. It was a significant massacre. This event, the day when the largest number of people were killed in Afghanistan, has never been properly investigated by the old media.”
Operation Medusa, which occurred 20 miles west of Kandahar, took the lives of four Canadian soldiers and involved some 2,000 NATO and Afghan troops. It was one of the largest military operations by the ISAF in the Kandahar region.
Assange searched for accounts of reporters who were on the scene. What he discovered appalled him. He watched an embedded Canadian reporter, Graeme Smith of the Toronto Globe and Mail, use these words on a Canadian military website to describe his experiences during Operation Medusa:
In September 2006 I had one of the most intense experiences of my life. I was on the front lines of something called Operation Medusa. It was a big Canadian offensive against the Taliban who were massed outside of Kandahar City. The Taliban were digging trenches and intimidating locals, and the Canadians decided to sweep in there in big numbers and force them out. And I was travelling with a platoon that called themselves the “Nomads”. These were guys who had been sent all over, you know, sort of, a 50,000 square kilometer box out to the very edges of Kandahar City, and so they were moving around all the time; they were never sleeping in the same place twice and they’d even made up these little patches for their uniforms that said “Nomads” on them. The Nomads took me in and they sort of made me one of them. I spent what was originally supposed to be just a two or three day embed with them, stretched out into two weeks. I didn’t have a change of underwear. I didn’t have a change of shirt. I remember showering in my clothes, washing first the clothes on my body, then stripping the clothes off and washing my body, and that was just using a bucket as a shower. It was an intense experience. I slept in my flak jacket a lot of nights. We were under fire together, you know, we had RPGs whistling in. One time I was standing around behind a troop carrier and we were just sort of relaxing—we were in a down moment—and I think some guys had coffee out and were standing around and I heard a loud clap beside my right ear. It was like someone had sort of snuck up behind me and sort of played a prank by clapping beside my ear. I turned around to say hey that’s not really funny, that’s kind of loud, and all of the soldiers were lying on the ground because they know what to do when an incoming sniper round comes in, and I didn’t because [laughs] it was my first time under fire. So I threw myself to the ground as well. They had sort of made me one of them and so they gave me a little “Nomads” patch that I attached to my flak jacket and you know as a journalist you try to avoid drinking the Kool-Aid, but I did feel a sense of belonging with those guys.
“The physical demeanor of this man, the way he describes life in the great outdoors, led me to understand that here was someone who had never boxed, been mountain climbing, played rugby, been involved in any of these classically masculine activities,” Assange said. “Now, for the first time, he feels like a man. He has gone to battle. It was one of many examples of the failure by the embedded reporters to report the truth. They were part of the team.”
Assange is correct. The press of a nation at war, in every conflict I covered, is an enthusiastic part of the machine, cheerleaders for slaughter and tireless mythmakers for war and the military. The few renegades within the press who refuse to wave the flag and slavishly lionize the troops, who will not endow them with a host of virtues including heroism, patriotism and courage, find themselves pariahs in newsrooms and viciously attacked—like Assange and Manning—by the state.
As a reporter at The New York Times, I was among those expected to prod sources inside the organs of power to provide information, including top-secret information. The Pentagon Papers, released to the Times in 1971, and the Times’ Pulitzer-winning 2005 exposure of the warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens by the National Security Council used “top secret” documents—a classification more restricted than the lower-level “secret” designation of the documents released by WikiLeaks. But as the traditional press atrophies with dizzying speed—effectively emasculated by Barack Obama’s use of the Espionage Act half a dozen times since 2009 to target whistle-blowers like Thomas Drake—it is left to the renegades, people like Assange and Manning, to break down walls and inform the public.
The cables that WikiLeaks released, as disturbing as they were, invariably put a pro-unit or pro-U.S. spin on events. The reality in war is usually much worse. Those counted as dead enemy combatants are often civilians. Military units write their own after-action reports and therefore attempt to justify or hide their behavior. Despite the heated rhetoric of the state, no one has provided evidence that anything released by WikiLeaks cost lives. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a 2010 letter to Sen. Carl Levin conceded this point. He wrote Levin: “The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security. However, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure.”
The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel giddily printed redacted copies of some of the WikiLeaks files and then promptly threw Assange and Manning to the sharks. It was not only morally repugnant, but also stunningly shortsighted. Do these news organizations believe that if the state shuts down organizations such as WikiLeaks and imprisons Manning and Assange, traditional news outlets will be left alone? Can’t they connect the dots between the prosecutions of government whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act, warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of communications and the persecution of Manning and Assange? Don’t they worry that when the state finishes with Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks, these atrophied news outlets will be next? Haven’t they realized that this is a war by a global corporate elite not against an organization or an individual but against the freedom of the press and democracy?
And yet Assange is surprisingly hopeful—at least for the short and medium term. He believes that the system cannot protect itself completely from those who chip away at its digital walls.
“The national security state can try to reduce our activity,” he said. “It can close the neck a little tighter. But there are three forces working against it. The first is the massive surveillance required to protect its communication, including the nature of its cryptology. In the military everyone now has an ID card with a little chip on it so you know who is logged into what. A system this vast is prone to deterioration and breakdown. Secondly, there is widespread knowledge not only of how to leak, but how to leak and not be caught, how to even avoid suspicion that you are leaking. The military and intelligence systems collect a vast amount of information and move it around quickly. This means you can also get it out quickly. There will always be people within the system that have an agenda to defy authority. Yes, there are general deterrents, such as when the DOJ [Department of Justice] prosecutes and indicts someone. They can discourage people from engaging in this behavior. But the opposite is also true. When that behavior is successful it is an example. It encourages others. This is why they want to eliminate all who provide this encouragement.”
“The medium-term perspective is very good,” he said. “The education of young people takes place on the Internet. You cannot hire anyone who is skilled in any field without them having been educated on the Internet. The military, the CIA, the FBI, all have no choice but to hire from a pool of people that have been educated on the Internet. This means they are hiring our moles in vast numbers. And this means that these organizations will see their capacity to control information diminish as more and more people with our values are hired.”
The long term, however, may not be as sanguine. Assange recently completed a book with three co-authors—Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann—called “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.” It warns that we are “galloping into a new transnational dystopia.” The Internet has become not only a tool to educate, they write, but the mechanism to cement into place a “Postmodern Surveillance Dystopia” that is supranational and dominated by global corporate power. This new system of global control will “merge global humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.” It is only through encryption that we can protect ourselves, they argue, and only by breaking through the digital walls of secrecy erected by the power elite can we blunt state secrecy. “The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation,” Assange writes, “has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen.”
The U.S., according to one of Assange’s lawyers, Michael Ratner, appears poised to seize Assange the moment he steps out of the embassy. Washington does not want to become a party in two competing extradition requests to Britain. But Washington, with a sealed grand jury indictment prepared against Assange, can take him once the Swedish imbroglio is resolved, or can take him should Britain make a decision not to extradite. Neil MacBride, who has been mentioned as a potential head of the FBI, is U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, which led the grand jury investigation, and he appears to have completed his work.
Assange said, “The grand jury was very active in late 2011, pulling in witnesses, forcing them to testify, pulling in documents. It’s been much less active during 2012 and 2013. The DOJ appears ready to proceed with the prosecution proper immediately following the Manning trial.”
Assange spoke repeatedly about Manning, with evident concern. He sees in the young Army private a reflection of his own situation, as well as the draconian consequences of refusing to cooperate with the security and surveillance state.
Manning’s 12-week military trial is scheduled to begin in June. The prosecution is calling 141 witnesses, including an anonymous Navy SEAL who was part of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Assange called the Navy SEAL the “star diva” of the state’s “12-week Broadway musical.” Manning is as bereft of establishment support as Assange.
“The old media attempted to remove his alleged heroic qualities,” Assange said of Manning. “An act of heroism requires that you make a conscious act. It is not an unreasoned expression of madness or sexual frustration. It requires making a choice—a choice that others can follow. If you do something solely because you are a mad homosexual there is no choice. No one can choose to be a mad homosexual. So they stripped him, or attempted to strip him, of all his refinements.”
“His alleged actions are a rare event,” Assange went on. “And why does a rare event happen? What do we know about him? What do we know about Bradley Manning? We know that he won three science fairs. We know the guy is bright. We know that he was interested in politics early on. We know he’s very articulate and outspoken. We know he didn’t like lies. … We know he was skilled at his job of being an intelligence analyst. If the media was looking for an explanation they could point to this combination of his abilities and motivations. They could point to his talents and virtues. They should not point to him being gay, or from a broken home, except perhaps in passing. Ten percent of the U.S. military is gay. Well over 50 percent are from broken homes. Take those two factors together. That gets you down to, say, 5 percent—5 percent on the outside. There are 5 million people with active security clearances, so now you’re down to 250,000 people. You still have to get from 250,000 to one. You can only explain Bradley Manning by his virtues. Virtues others can learn from.”
I walked for a long time down Sloane Street after leaving the embassy. The red double-decker buses and the automobiles inched along the thoroughfare. I passed boutiques with window displays devoted to Prada, Giorgio Armani and Gucci. I was jostled by shoppers with bags stuffed full of high-end purchases. They, these consumers, seemed blissfully unaware of the tragedy unfolding a few blocks away. “In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences,” Albert Camus wrote in “The Plague.” “A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions.”
I stopped in front of the four white columns that led into the brick-turreted Cadogan Hotel. The hotel is where Oscar Wilde was arrested in Room 118 on April 6, 1895, before being charged with “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons.” John Betjeman imagined the shock of that arrest, which ruined Wilde’s life, in his poem “The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel.” Here’s a fragment:
A thump, and a murmur of voices—
(“Oh why must they make such a din?”)
As the door of the bedroom swung open
And TWO PLAIN CLOTHES POLICEMEN came in:
“Mr. Woilde, we ’ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.”
The world has been turned upside down. The pestilence of corporate totalitarianism is spreading rapidly over the earth. The criminals have seized power. It is not, in the end, simply Assange or Manning they want. It is all who dare to defy the official narrative, to expose the big lie of the global corporate state. The persecution of Assange and Manning is the harbinger of what is to come, the rise of a bitter world where criminals in Brooks Brothers suits and gangsters in beribboned military uniforms—propped up by a vast internal and external security apparatus, a compliant press and a morally bankrupt political elite—monitor and crush those who dissent. Writers, artists, actors, journalists, scientists, intellectuals and workers will be forced to obey or thrown into bondage. I fear for Julian Assange. I fear for Bradley Manning. I fear for us all.
Milestone Supreme Court Decision for WikiLeaks Case in Iceland
The decision marked the most important victory to date against the unlawful and arbitrary economic blockade erected by US companies against WikiLeaks. Iceland’s Supreme Court upheld the decision that Valitor (formerly VISA Iceland and current Visa subcontractor) had unlawfully terminated its contract with WikiLeaks donations processor DataCell. This strong judgement is an important milestone for WikiLeaks’ legal battle to end the economic blockade that has besieged the organisation since early December 2010. Despite the effects of the blockade having crippled WikiLeaks resources, the organisation is fighting the blockade on many fronts. It is a battle that concerns free speech and the future of the free press; it concerns fundamental civil rights; and it is a struggle for the rights of individuals to vote with their wallet and donate to the cause they believe in.
If the gateway to WikiLeaks donations is not re-opened within 15 days Visa’s Valitor will be fined 800,000 ISK ($6,830) per day.
WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange, said:
“This is a victory for free speech. This is a victory against the rise of economic censorship to crack down against journalists and publishers”
“We thank the Icelandic people for showing that they will not be bullied by powerful Washington backed financial services companies like Visa. And we send out a warning to the other companies involved in this blockade: you’re next.”
“We hope that the that the European Commission also acknowledges that the economic blockade against WikiLeaks is an unlawful and arbitrary censorship mechanism that threatens freedom of the press across Europe. If it fails to do so, the Commission must be regarded as failing to live up to the founding European principles of economic and political freedom.”
Today’s verdict strengthens other fronts in this battle. There is an active legal action in Denmark against a Danish sub-contractor for VISA, equivalent to Valitor. The decision will also buttress the pre-litigation work already under way in various jurisdictions against the international card companies and financial services companies – VISA and MasterCard, Western Union, PayPal and Bank of America, and other payment facilitators that teamed with these giants to form a concerted, and equally unlawful economic blockade against the organisation.
In November the European Parliament passed a resolution which included a clause drafted specifically in relation to the economic blockade against Wikileaks. The resolution called on the European Commission to draft regulations that will prevent online payment facilitators from arbitrarily denying services to companies or organisations, such as WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has also launched a formal complaint to the European Commission on the basis that VISA and MasterCard, which together take up 95% of the European market, have unlawfully abused their dominant market position. The European Commission is still evaluating whether it will open a formal investigation but documents already submitted by the companies reveal that the credit card companies were in talks with powerful figures in the US Congress and Senate (Senator Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King). http://wikileaks.org/European-Commission-enabling.html
Although it is still not possible to donate directly to WikiLeaks via credit card, freedom of press campaigners including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg, the actor John Cusack, and the Founder of the California-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) John Perry Barlow, have set up the Freedom of the Press Foundation to collect money for WikiLeaks. It allows donors to make anonymous, tax-deductable donations. http://t.co/qpW57qquOf
This and similar mechanisms for Europeans are available on http://shop.wikileaks.org/donate
Freedom of the Press Foundation:
Julian Assange asylum (one year, June 19, 2013)
Bradley Manning (trial June 2)
Julian Assange: Wikileaks Has the Goods on the Deaths of Innocent Iraqis Killed by the US | Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle
I had an opportunity to interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been granted political asylum since June 2012. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex allegations, although he has never been charged. Assange believes that if sent to Sweden, he would be put into prison and then sent to the United States, where he is already being investigated for espionage for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military memos on the WikiLeaks website. –Medea Benjamin
George W. Bush’s new presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Texas has opened with great fanfare, including the attendance of Presidents Obama and former Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Clinton. George Bush has said that the library is “a place to lay out facts.” What facts would you like to see displayed at his library?
A good place to start would be laying out the number of deaths caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. At Wikileaks, we documented that from 2004-2009, the US had records of over 100,000 individual deaths of Iraqis due to violence unleashed by that invasion, roughly 80% of them civilians. These are the recorded deaths, but many more died. And in Afghanistan, the US recorded about 20,000 deaths from 2004-2010. These would be good facts to include in the presidential library.
And perhaps the library could document how people around the world protested against the invasion of Iraq, including the historic February 15, 2003 mobilization of millions of people around the globe.
Many people worked hard during the Bush years to protest the wars, but the Bush administration refused to listen. It was very demoralizing for people to think that their efforts were for naught.
They should not be demoralized. I believe that the opposition to the Iraq war was very important, and that it actually altered the behavior of US forces during the initial invasion of Iraq. Compare it to the 1991 Gulf War, when massive numbers of Iraqis, both soldiers and civilians, were killed. In the 2003 invasion there was a lot more concern about casualties. The protests rattled their cage.
We released a memo that showed that if the prospective military operation might kill over 30 people, it had to be approved all the way up the chain of command. So while the protests did not stop the war, they did have an impact on the way the war was initially conducted, and that’s important.
While George Bush is feted in Dallas, Bradley Manning languishes in jail. His trial will begin on June 2. Bradley already pleaded guilty in February to ten charges, including possessing classified information and transferring it to an unauthorized person. Those pleas alone could subject him to 20 years in prison. On top of that, the government has added espionage charges that could put him in prison for life. What do you think the trial will be like?
It will be a show trial where the government tries to prove that by leaking the documents, Bradley “aided and abetted the enemy” or “communicated with the enemy.” The government will bring in a member of the Navy Seal team that killed bin Laden to say that he found some of the leaked information in bin Laden’s house.
But it’s ridiculous to use that as evidence that Bradley Manning “aided the enemy”. Bin Laden could have gotten the material from The New York Times! Bin Laden also had a Bob Woodword book, and no doubt had copies of articles from The New York Times.
The government doesn’t even claim that Bradley passed information directly to “the enemy” or that he had any intent to do so. But they are nonetheless making the absurd claim that merely informing the public about classified government activities makes someone a traitor because it “indirectly informs the enemy”.
With that reasoning, since bin Laden recommended that Americans read Bob Woodward book Obama’s War, should Woodward be charged with communicating with the enemy? Should The New York Times be accused of aiding the enemy if bin Laden possessed a copy of the newspaper that included the WikiLeaks material?
What are some things that Bradley Manning supporters can do to help?
They should pressure the media to speak out against the espionage charges. The Los Angeles Times put out a good editorial but other newspapers have been poor. A Wall Street Journal column by Gordon Crovitz said that Bradley should be tried for espionage, and that I should be charged with that as well because I’m a “self-proclaimed enemy of the state.”
If Manning is charged with espionage, this criminalizes national security reporting. Any leak of classified information to any media organization could be interpreted as an act of treason. People need to convince the media that it is clearly in their self-interest to take a principled stand.
What are other ways people can help Bradley Manning’s case?
People could put pressure on Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These groups briefly protested the horrible conditions under which Bradley was detained when he was held in Quantico, but not the fact that he’s being charged with crimes that could put him in prison for life.
It’s embarrassing that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—Amnesty International headquartered in London and Human Rights Watch headquartered in New York—have refused to refer to Bradley Manning as a political prisoner or a prisoner of conscience.
To name someone a political prisoner means that the case is political in nature. It can be that the prisoner committed a political act or was politically motivated or there was a politization of the legal investigation or the trial.
Any one of these is sufficient, according to Amnesty’s own definition, to name someone a political prisoner. But Bradley Manning’s case fulfills all of these criteria. Despite this, Amnesty International has said that it’s not going to make a decision until after the sentence. But what good is that?
What is Amnesty’s rationale for waiting?
Their excuse is that they don’t know what might come out in the trial and they want to be sure that Bradley released the information in a “responsible manner.”
I find their position grotesque. Bradley Manning is the most famous political prisoner the United States has. He has been detained without trial for over 1,000 days. Not even the US government denies his alleged acts were political.
Human Rights Watch doesn’t refer to Bradley Manning as a political prisoner either. These groups should be pushed by the public to change their stand. And they should be boycotted if they continue to shirk acting in their own backyard.
Another way for people to support Bradley Manning is to attend his trial in Ft. Meade, Maryland, which begins on June 2, and the rally on June 1. They can learn more by contacting the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Thank you for your time, Julian.
If Bahrain really wants to improve its human rights record, then it should free Nabeel Rajab, says Julian Assange. In an interview with RT, the WikiLeaks founder called Rajab the most prominent voice in the Bahraini Spring.
Anti-government protests have been breaking in Bahrain since February 2011, resulting in dozens arrested and over 80 people killed. The protests have again intensified ahead of the Formula 1 racing event, resulting in violent clashes, arrests, and police using teargas on demonstrators including schoolchildren.
Amnesty International has accused authorities of using the event as a platform to “show progress, with claims that the human rights situation has improved, whilst stepping up repression in order to ensure nothing disturbs their public image.” Nabeel Rajab’s tweets against the government and its bureaucracy, as well as the king, the PM and other top figures, back in 2012 were seen as an attempt to incite a revolution by organizing protests, and that was with what Rajab had been charged.
Julian Assange recalls that while Rajab was on his program The World Tomorrow, he already knew that a prison cell was waiting for him back home. He was detained at Bahrain’s international airport on his return. Yet he told Assange:
“Well, I’ve got to go back. I’ve got to face these people. I’ve got to go back.” During the interview, the activist told Assange he had already been detained, kidnapped and beaten in front of his family due to his sharp criticism of the regime.
While in prison, Rajab was subjected to inhuman treatment and degrading conditions, as he was thrown into solitary confinement on the first day of his imprisonment, according to his wife. He’s is solitary confinement, although he was supposed to be there for three months.
RT: You interviewed Nabeel Rajab for your show the World Tomorrow on RT. Why did you invite him?
Julian Assange: Bahrain has 900,000 people. Nabeel Rajab has 150,000 Twitter followers comprised predominantly of the population of Bahrain. Since the arrest of a number of other activists in the Bahraini Spring in 2011, Nabeel Rajab became the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and was the most prominent voice for the Bahraini spring.
RT: What were your impressions of him?
JA: Nabeel… a very courageous forthright man. On the show I asked him… Nabeel explained to me that as he was driving to the location in London – the secret location where I was under house arrest where we were going to film his interview – that he’d received a call saying that his house was surrounded by the police, from his wife. I said: “What are you going to do?” And he said: “Well, I’ve got to go back. I’ve got to face these people. I’ve got to go back.” And I thought to myself: “Um… doesn’t sound like such a good idea to me.” But he’s very much of the view that that is his homeland. That’s where his family is. That’s where his community is and his life is. Even though he was facing a risk – he would go back and face it.
I mean as time goes by, his calculation may well be right. I mean what has happened to him, it’s a cartoonish form of despotism where he’s been sentenced to three years of imprisonment for a number of tweets in relation to bureaucrats and authorities, the king, the prime minister and so on – as well as organizing protests. It’s not like you see in more sophisticated regimes where you find a convenient excuse to put someone in prison. Here they wanted to make sure – very nakedly – what it was that the Bahraini regime didn’t want people to do. And what they didn’t want people to do is to criticize the regime. So they directly charged him for criticizing the regime. What they didn’t want people to do is organize protests and so they charged him directly for organizing protests.
RT: What do you think Rajab’s prospects are now?
JA: I think his long-term prospects are quite good. He has stood by the courage of his convictions. Even when he was imprisoned and then briefly released, he did not [give up] …. He kept the same stand of criticizing the authority. It’s hard to find people with that much courage, who can’t be a coward. So I think his long-term prospects are quite good, provided the international pressure keeps up.
RT: In terms of international pressure… Why do you think the response from the US in relation to the human rights abuses in Bahrain has…
JA: Has been quite muted? It’s disgraceful and the British involvement is even worse. You had the former organizational chief of Scotland Yard coming over to Bahrain to help them control Bahrain in the same way that London is controlled in relation to police and control of demonstrations. The muted behavior by the United States has to do with the US naval base that’s in Bahrain. And geopolitically Bahrain is very close to Iran, it’s close to the straight where a lot of oil shipping is done. The US wants to keep its naval base in order to control this area. And that’s all.
RT: You mentioned that it was almost a cartoonish imprisonment, which happened to Nabeel Rajab. Can you give an assessment of the regime in Bahrain altogether?
JA: I was born in 1971. The prime minister of Bahrain [Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah] was put in power in 1971.
RT: So, is there absolutely no democracy in Bahrain?
JA: That’s the answer to your question. There’s 42 years this man has been in power in Bahrain. There’s no significant democracy. The Shia group is very significant, people argue – slight minority or a slight majority of the population, kept out of political life. The relationship between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – the two countries face each other and they share a border with each other. And the Saudis are economically dominant to Bahrain, and are worried about any sort of resistance gaining power in Bahrain because the political movements in Bahrain have a habit of seeping over into the Saudi Arabia and into the Shia populations in Saudi Arabia. That’s why you saw during the uprising a desperate measure by the Bahraini regime of pulling in Saudi troops, to crack down on their own population. The Bahraini regime sold its sovereignty in order to crack down on its own domestic population.
RT: You mentioned: “provided if the international pressure keeps up” in relation to Rajab. Do you think there’s been enough international pressure on the Bahraini regime?
JA: There’s obviously hasn’t been enough in the West. I mean look at the example of the US and the UK. There has been some, and it’s interesting to look at what Bahrain has done in response. Well, it’s flown in Kim Kardashian and these other people, who will sell their soul to promote the Bahraini regime. You see Kim Kardashian putting tweet after tweet about how wonderful it is thanks to the sheik and so on. It’s disgusting. These people are disgusting. Everyone should know that their loyalties are for sale, similarly, with the Formula 1, exactly, the same thing.
Bahrain has just bought that in order to cover up its human rights abuses and its bad reputation. There’s another way of dealing with things, which is – you can improve your reputation by actually stopping what you’re doing. Instead, Bahrain if it really wanted to improve its reputation it could release Nabeel Rajab. Until it releases Nabeel Rajab, no serious organization should have any involvement with the Bahraini regime. No organization who’s involved with Bahrain can be seen to be credible when Nabeel Rajab is in prison.
WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7 million U.S. State Department cables dating from 1973-1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables,” after Henry Kissinger, who in those years served as secretary of state and assistant to the president for national security affairs.
One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, who turns 90 next month, it is deadly serious for Pvt. Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, at least eight months of which in conditions described by U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez as “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade: “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
These words of Manning’s were released anonymously, in the form of an audio recording made clandestinely, that we broadcast on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. This was Bradley Manning, in his own voice, in his own words, explaining his actions.
He testified about the helicopter gunship video that he released to WikiLeaks, which was later made public under the title “Collateral Murder.” In stark, grainy black-and-white, it shows the gunship kill 12 men in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, with audio of the helicopter crew mocking the victims, celebrating the senseless murder of the people below, two of whom were employees of the Reuters news agency.
Manning said: “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust of the aerial weapons team. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards,’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”
Reuters had sought the video through a Freedom of Information request, but had been denied. So Manning delivered the video, along with hundreds of thousands of other classified electronic documents, through the anonymous, secure online submission procedure developed by WikiLeaks. Manning made the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, and changed the world.
The WikiLeaks team gathered at a rented house in Reykjavik, Iceland, to prepare the video for public release. Among those working was Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament. She told me: “When I saw the video in February 2010, I was profoundly moved. I was moved to tears, like many people that watch it. But at the same time, I understood its significance and how it might be able to change our world and make it better.”
Jonsdottir co-founded the Icelandic Pirate Party, a genuine political party springing up in many, mostly European countries. A lifelong activist, she calls herself a “pixel pirate.”
The “Collateral Murder” video created a firestorm of press attention when it was first released. One of the soldiers on the ground was Ethan McCord, who rushed to the scene of the slaughter and helped save two children who had been injured in the attack. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He recently penned a letter of support for Bradley Manning, writing: “The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.”
In the three years since “Collateral Murder” was released in April 2010, WikiLeaks has come under tremendous pressure. Manning faces life in prison or possibly even the death penalty. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent a year and a half under house arrest in Britain, until he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has remained since June 2012, fighting extradition to Sweden. He fears Sweden could then extradite him to the United States, where a secret grand jury may have already issued a sealed indictment against him. Private details from Jonsdottir’s Twitter and four other online accounts have been handed over to U.S. authorities.
WikiLeaks’ latest release, which includes documents already declassified but very difficult to search and obtain, is a testament to the ongoing need for WikiLeaks and similar groups. The revealed documents have sparked controversies around the world, even though they relate to the 1970s. If we had a uniform standard of justice, Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger would be the one on trial, and Bradley Manning would win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.
The Center for Constitutional Rights along with several journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, asked the court to ensure members of the press and public have access to court documents and transcripts in Manning’s case.
With Manning facing a possible life sentence for the charges against him, about a third of the upcoming trial is expected to be held behind closed doors. The trail is set to begin on June 3, 2013.
Manning, a 25-year-old private first class, admitted in late February to having sent the secret-busting website the largest intelligence trove in U.S. history.
The leaked filed included hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantanamo detainee profiles, and, most famously, footage of a Baghdad airstrike.
Last year, Col. Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over Manning’s trial, declined to grant media outlets open access to government records and judicial opinions in the case. The case went to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces after the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Lind’s decision in June.
At a hearing to have the military appeals court widen public access to these proceedings, the five-judge panel questioned whether they had jurisdiction to grant such relief.
Though the judges seemed to see the merit in ordering transparent proceedings, they killed the appeal, 3-2, Wednesday on jurisdictional grounds.
“Here, the accused has steadfastly refused to join in the litigation, or, despite the Court’s invitation, to file a brief on the questions presented,” Judge Scott Stucky wrote for the majority. “We thus are asked to adjudicate what amounts to a civil action, maintained by persons who are strangers to the court-martial, asking for relief expedited access to certain documents that has no bearing on any findings and sentence that may eventually be adjudged by the court-martial.”
The majority distinguished Manning’s court-martial from that of the 1997 case ABC Inc. v. Powell, where the accused “joined the media as party in seeking a writ of mandamus to vindicate his constitutional right to a public trial something which had immediate relevance to the potential findings and sentence of his court-martial.”
In the Manning case, “we are not foreclosing the accused from testing the scope of public access, but he has not done so here,” the ruling continues.
The two dissenting judges insisted, however, that “the general public has a qualified constitutional right of access to criminal trials,” and this includes access to filings.
“Congress did not intend for military judges to operate without review when applying the Rules for Courts-Martial or the Military Rules of Evidence,” Chief Judge James Baker wrote, joined by Judge William Cox. “Neither did Congress intend that review to come in the form of collateral appeal to Article III courts in the context of ongoing courts-martial. That would not provide for a uniform application of the law between services and between courts-martial. It would also be unworkable.”
Appellate jurisdiction is certainly available to review a military judge’s application of Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 806, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which explains the right to public trial, according to the dissent.
They said the majority opinion will have the unintended consequence of barring “this court from exercising jurisdiction in an appeal arising from an accused’s assertion of his R.C.M. 806 right to a public trial.”
“The majority’s interpretation leaves collateral appeal to Article III courts as the sole mechanism to vindicate the right to a public trial found in R.C.M. 806 beyond the initial good judgment of the military judge,” Baker wrote. “This is unworkable and cannot reflect congressional design or presidential intent. Among other things, such a reading would result in the uneven application of the law depending, as it would, on the fortuity of the geographic locale where a court-martial is convened. In the case of overseas courts-martial it is not clear how this would work at all.”
Judge Cox wrote a separate dissent, joined by Baker, where he highlighted the “responsibility” of military judges “to insure that a military court-martial is conducted so that the military accused and the public enjoy the same rights to a fair and public hearing.”
The military judge’s confusion as to what authority she possesses over trial documents is evident from the record. In the same Article 39(a), UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 839(a) (2006), session, the military judge approved the publication of defense motions, pursuant to an agreement with the government, on a defense website, yet then stated she does not possess the authority to authorize release of court documents in response to appellants’ original request before the court, a request which included documents filed with the court such as defense motions. ”
Along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Assange, the plaintiffs in the case are Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald, Democracy Now writer Amy Goodman; The Nation writer Jeremy Scahill; Kevin Gosztola of The Dissenter; and attorney Chase Madar.
With Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and whistleblower Bradley Manning facing a full-blown military prosecution, it is tempting to regard the WikiLeaks saga as in its final chapter.
It’s not just the “incredible act of institutional vengeance” upon WikiLeaks source Manning, who faces charges including aiding the enemy and “could, theoretically receive a death sentence”.
There’s also “the horrific case of Aaron Swartz, a genius who helped create the technology behind Reddit at the age of 14, who earlier this year hanged himself after the government threatened him with 35 years in jail for downloading a bunch of academic documents from an MIT server”.
Taibbi notes a number of other examples of “fervent, desperate prosecutions” by US authorities in the cause of secret-keeping.
These prosecutions reflected an obvious institutional terror of letting the public see the sausage-factory locked behind the closed doors not only of the state, but of banks and universities and other such institutional pillars of society.
The WikiLeaks episode, therefore, “was just an early preview of the inevitable confrontation between the citizens of the industrialised world and the giant, increasingly secretive bureaucracies that support them”.
And, writes Taibbi, “the secret-keepers got lucky with WikiLeaks”, with the story playing out as “one about Assange and his personal failings”.
The main event, he reckons, is to come.
Sooner or later, there’s going to be a pitched battle, one where the state won’t be able to peel off one lone Julian Assange or Bradley Manning and batter him into nothingness. Next time around, it’ll be a Pentagon Papers-style constitutional crisis, where the public’s legitimate right to know will be pitted head-to-head with presidents, generals and CEOs.
Taibbi’s piece was prompted by seeing a preview of Alex Gibney’s new documentary film We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. He loved it (“brilliant … beautiful and profound”) but many of Assange’s supporters have been ferociously attacking the film, as Greg Mitchell notes in his Nation column. Even before going on release, the documentary has become “a media sensation”.
In America truth is offensive. If you tell the truth, you are offensive.
“Look for example at Bradley Manning, held for two years in prison without bail and without a trial in violation of the US Constitution, tortured for one year of his illegal confinement in violation of US and international law, and now put on trial by corrupt prosecutors for aiding “enemies of the US” by revealing the truth, as required of him by the US military code. US soldiers are required to report war crimes”.
I am offensive. Michael Hudson is offensive. Gerald Celente is offensive. Herman Daly is offensive. Nomi Prins is offensive. Pam Martens is offensive. Chris Hedges is offensive. Chris Floyd is offensive. John Pilger is offensive. Norm Chomsky is offensive. Harvey Silverglate is offensive. Naomi Wolf is offensive. Stephen Lendman is offensive. David Ray Griffin is offensive. Ellen Brown is offensive.
Fortunately, many others are offensive. But how long before being offensive becomes being “an enemy of the state”?
Throughout history truth tellers have suffered and court historians have prospered. It is the same today. Gerald Celente illustrates this brilliantly in the next issue of the Trends Journal.
Over the past 35 years I have learned this lesson as a columnist. If you tell readers what is really going on, they want to know why you can’t be positive. Why are you telling us that there are bad happenings that can’t be remedied? Don’t you know that God gave Americans the power to fix all wrongs? What are you? Some kind of idiot, an anti-American, a pinko-liberal-commie? If you hate America so much, why don’t you move to Cuba, Iran or China (or to wherever the current bogyman is located)?
The ancient Greeks understood this well. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the prophetess who no one believed despite her 100 percent record of being right. Telling the truth to Americans or to Europeans is just as expensive as telling the truth to the Greeks in ancient mythology.
In America and everywhere in the Western world or the entire world, telling the truth is unpopular. Indeed, in the USA telling the truth has been criminalized. Look for example at Bradley Manning, held for two years in prison without bail and without a trial in violation of the US Constitution, tortured for one year of his illegal confinement in violation of US and international law, and now put on trial by corrupt prosecutors for aiding “enemies of the US” by revealing the truth, as required of him by the US military code. US soldiers are required to report war crimes. When Bradley Manning’s superiors showed themselves to be indifferent to war crimes, Manning reported the crimes via WikiLeaks. What else does a soldier with a sense of duty and a moral conscience do when the chain of command is corrupt?
Julian Assange is another example. WikiLeaks has taken up the reporting function that the Western media has abandoned. Remember, the New York Times did publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, which undermined the lies Washington had told both to the public and to Congress to justify the costly Vietnam War. But today no newspaper or TV channel any longer accepts the responsibility to truthfully inform the public. Julian Assange stepped into the vacuum and was immediately demonized, not merely by Washington but also by left-wing and right-wing media, including Internet. It was a combination of jealousy, ignorance, and doing Washington’s bidding.
Without WikiLeaks and Assange, the world would know essentially nothing. Spin from Washington, the presstitute media, and the puppet state medias would prevail. So the word went out to destroy Julian Assange.
It is amazing how many people and Internet sites obeyed Washington’s command. Assange has been so demonized that even though he has been granted political asylum by Ecuador, the British government, obeying its Washington master, refuses to allow him safe passage out of the London Ecuador Embassy. Is Assange destined to live out his life inside the Ecuador Embassy in London?
Will Assange be a replay of Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty who on November 4, 1956, sought asylum in the US embassy in Budapest as Soviet tanks poured into Hungary to put down the anti-communist revolution? Cardinal Mindszenty lived for 15 years in the US embassy. Today it is “freedom and democracy” amerika that is copying Soviet practices during the cold war.
In contrast with “freedom and democracy” US and UK, the “authoritarian,” “communist,” “oppressive” Chinese government when confronted with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng’s defection to the US embassy in Beijing, let him go.
It is an upside-down world when America and the British refuse to obey international law, but the Chinese communists uphold international law.
Insouciant americans are undisturbed that alleged terrorists are tortured, held indefinitely in prison without due process, and executed on the whim of some executive branch official without due process of law.
Most americans go along with unaccountable murder, torture, and detention without evidence, which proclaims their gullibility to the entire world. There has never in history been a population as unaware as americans. The world is amazed that an insouciant people became, if only for a short time, a superpower.
The world needs intelligence and leadership in order to avoid catastrophe, but america can provide neither intelligence nor leadership. America is a lost land where nuclear weapons are in the hands of those who are concerned only with their own power. Washington is the enemy of the entire world and encompasses the largest concentration of evil on the planet.
Where is the good to rise up against the evil?
Information warfare is the 21st Century equivalent of class warfare, with people like Aaron Swartz (threatened with decades of imprisonment, then bullied by prosecutors into taking his own life), Barrett Brown (imprisoned, awaiting trial and threatened with life imprisonment), Jeremy Hammond (same), Julian Assange (under investigation by Grand Jury) and Bradley Manning (facing life sentence in upcoming trial) as its most notable victims whom the US Government has decided to make an example of so as to deter others from following suit. Some have described leakers, whistleblowers, hackers and those that publish the information subsequently released by them as modern-day Robin Hoods, engaged in liberating information from the oligarchs of politicians, banker barons and their ilk. Today we focus on what is happening with Barrett Brown (and, in doing so, expand upon some of his investigations).
Glenn Greenwald…”Brown – who has been imprisoned since September on a 17-count indictment that could result in many years in prison – is a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.”
Here is a link to all the charges raised against Brown.
Barrett Brown’s journalism was centred largely around Project-PM see below – a website that provided a focus for investigations on surveillance systems, including TrapWire . Brown was one of several investigators that looked into and exposed TrapWire and the company behind it (others included Asher Wolf, Justin Ferguson, yours truly and more). Project-PM was “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance”. Brown also set himself the task of sifting through and analysing information obtained by Anonymous hacking of HBGary and Stratfor , both private companies engaged in intelligence gathering for the business community. Brown is now charged with basically helping to disseminate the information from Stratfor (which Jeremy Hammond is accused of hacking). Note: Barrett Brown learned about Cubic by visiting Telecomix IRC Bluecabinet chan.
Christian Storm (WhoWhatWhere)…”ProjectPM is a crowd-sourced research effort with several aims. First, to study 75,000+ e-mails pilfered by Anonymous from military and intelligence contractor, HBGary Federal, and its parent company HBGary. Second, to post these raw, primary-source documents to a website where readers can edit and contribute further information. Third, to use these documents to map out the relationships between private contractors and the federal government that form our current national security state… The Obama administration’s assault on accountability is dual-pronged: attack the messenger (as in the case of Brown, WikiLeaks, even New York Times reporters) and attack the source (Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, Thomas Drake, etc.).”
Much of ProjectPM’s work is now being continued by Project Blue Cabinet . The content on Blue Cabinet about Ntrepid (which manages Tartan surveillance software) and Abraxas and Anonymiser (proxy email system to entrap activists) is found here .
Persona Management is another technology Blue Cabinet is investigating, particularly the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online “personas” managed by the military. Such technology would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals. According to Raw Story (see link below) the US Air Force recently awarded a contract for this technology to Ntrepid . Another source states that Central Command (Centcom) has a similar contract with Ntrepid. (A video about Persona Management is displayed above.)
Back in July 2012 Darker Net connected Cubic, Abraxas, Trapwire, Tartan, Ntrepid, as follows…
1. Cubic Corporation (which runs defense systems and transport smart card systems) owns a number of companies, including Abraxas Dauntless and Abraxas Corporation.
2. TrapWire (which runs global surveillance systems using CCTV linked to its database, TrapWire Net) was previously owned by Abraxas Applications (which in turn was owned by Abraxas Corporation but sold off when Cubic Corporation merged with Abraxas).
3. Ntrepid (which runs ‘sock puppet’ fake Twitter accounts to spread disinformation) was assigned to the shareholders of Abraxas Corporation as part of the merger between Cubic Corporation and Abraxas.
4. Some of the expertise relating to Anonymizer (a so-called anonymous email system) was migrated to Ntrepid as part of the deal in 2010 when Cubic Corporation took over Abraxas Corporation, though many of the staff working on Anonymizer stayed on with Abraxas.
5. Tartan (which specialises in targeting protesters, including Occupy and anarchists) is a subsidiary of Ntrepid.
Christian Storm again…”Brown was never indicted for the infiltration, per se. Instead, he was charged with “trafficking” in stolen material and “access device fraud”—as mentioned, for posting, in a chat room, a link to the e-mail cache. Apparently, buried in the thousands of e-mails was the private credit card information of a number of Stratfor employees. It was not clear how Brown’s act was singular. That same link had been previously posted innumerable times across the Internet. All of this raises suspicions about some larger agenda in the government’s Javert-like pursuit of this young man.”
It will get worse unless – unless the information war is turned on its head and a major offensive, aimed at liberating information in a continuous stream from as many sources as possible to expose the corruption of government, its lackeys, business etc, is engaged.
Note: Barrett Brown’s mother has been forced to plead guilty to charges relating to hiding her son’s laptop from FBI and now could face $100,000 fine and up to one year in jail or six months probation.