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Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Ellsberg’

Patrick Cockburn · Julian Assange in Limbo · LRB 18 June 2020

Posted by M. C. on June 17, 2020

The creeping suppression of press freedom in Hungary and India is frequently criticised by the Western commentariat. But, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out in the Intercept, Western media have ‘largely ignored what is, by far, the single greatest attack on press freedoms by the US government in the last decade at least: the prosecution and attempted extradition of Julian Assange for alleged crimes arising out of WikiLeaks’s ... publication – in conjunction with the world’s largest newspapers – of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and US diplomatic cables’. They couldn’t jail the editor of the New York Times so they pursued Assange instead.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n12/patrick-cockburn/julian-assange-in-limbo

Patrick Cockburn

Julian Assange​ was running WikiLeaks in 2010 when it released a vast hoard of US government documents revealing details of American political, military and diplomatic operations. With extracts published by the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País, the archive provided deeper insight into the international workings of the US state than anything seen since Daniel Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the media in 1971. But today Ellsberg is celebrated as the patron saint of whistleblowers while Assange is locked in a cell in London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison for 23 and a half hours a day. In this latest phase of the American authorities’ ten-year pursuit of Assange, he is fighting extradition to the US. Court hearings to determine whether the extradition request will be granted have been delayed until September by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the US he faces one charge of computer hacking and 17 counts under the Espionage Act of 1917. If he is convicted, the result could be a prison sentence of 175 years.

I was in Kabul when I first heard about the WikiLeaks revelations, which confirmed much of what I and other reporters suspected, or knew but could not prove, about US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The trove was immense: some 251,287 diplomatic cables, more than 400,000 classified army reports from the Iraq War and 90,000 from the war in Afghanistan. Rereading these documents now I’m struck again by the constipated military-bureaucratic prose, with its sinister, dehumanising acronyms. Killing people is referred to as an EOF (‘Escalation of Force’), something that happened frequently at US military checkpoints when nervous US soldiers directed Iraqi drivers to stop or go with complex hand signals that nobody understood. What this could mean for Iraqis is illustrated by brief military reports such as the one headed ‘Escalation of Force by 3/8 NE Fallujah: I CIV KIA, 4 CIV WIA’. Decoded, it describes the moment when a woman in a car was killed and her husband and three daughters wounded at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Fallujah, forty miles west of Baghdad. The US marine on duty opened fire because he was ‘unable to determine the occupants of the vehicle due to the reflection of the sun coming off the windshield’. Another report marks the moment when US soldiers shot dead a man who was ‘creeping up behind their sniper position’, only to learn later that he was their own unit’s interpreter.

These reports are the small change of war. But collectively they convey its reality far better than even the most well-informed journalistic accounts. Those two shootings were a thousand times repeated, though the reports were rare in admitting that the victims were civilians. More usually, the dead were automatically identified as ‘terrorists’ caught in the act, regardless of evidence to the contrary. The most famous of the WikiLeaks discoveries concerned an event in Baghdad on 12 July 2007 during which the US military claimed to have killed a dozen terrorists. But the incident had been filmed by the gun camera of the US Apache helicopter that had carried out the shootings, and the people it targeted were all civilians. Much was known about the killings because among the dead were two local journalists working for Reuters. It was known, too, that such a video existed, but the Pentagon refused to release it despite a Freedom of Information Act request. Appalled by what the video revealed about the way the US was conducting its war on terror, and appalled by the contents of the thousands of reports and cables it was stored alongside, a junior US intelligence analyst called Bradley Manning, who later changed her legal gender and became Chelsea Manning, released the entire archive to WikiLeaks.

The video still has the power to shock. The two helicopter pilots exchange banter about the slaughter in the street below: ‘Ha, ha, I hit them,’ one says. ‘Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,’ the other says. They have mistaken the camera held by one of the journalists for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, unlikely though it was that armed insurgents would stand in the open in Baghdad with a US helicopter hovering overhead. They shoot again at the wounded as one of them, probably the Reuters assistant Saeed Chmagh, crawls towards a van that has stopped to rescue them. When the pilots are told over the radio that they have killed a number of Iraqi civilians and wounded two children, one of them says: ‘Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into the battle.’

The WikiLeaks documents exposed the way the US, as the world’s sole superpower, really conducted its wars – something that the military and political establishments saw as a blow to their credibility and legitimacy. There were some devastating revelations, the helicopter video among them, but many of the secrets uncovered weren’t particularly significant or indeed very secret. In themselves they don’t explain the degree of rage WikiLeaks provoked in the US government and its allies. This was a response to Assange’s assault on their monopoly control of sensitive state information, which they saw as an essential prop to their authority. Making such information public, as Assange and WikiLeaks had done, weaponised freedom of expression: if disclosures of this kind went unpunished and became the norm, it would radically shift the balance of power between government and society – and especially the media – in favour of the latter. It is the US government’s determination to defend its ongoing monopoly, rather than the supposed damage done by the release of the secrets themselves, that has motivated it to pursue Assange and to seek to discredit both him and WikiLeaks.

This campaign has been unrelenting and has had a fair measure of success, despite the fact that most of the charges made against Assange are demonstrably untrue. Regarding the release of documents, there were two lines of attack. First, Assange and WikiLeaks were accused of revealing information that endangered or led to the deaths of Americans or their allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, they were accused of having injured the US state in general through activities amounting to espionage, which should be punished as such. Much more damaging to Assange, however, and to the whole WikiLeaks project, were the allegations of rape made against him in Sweden, also in 2010. This led to a prosecutorial investigation lasting nearly ten years, which was dropped three times and three times restarted before finally being abandoned last November as the statute of limitations approached, beyond which no charges could be brought.

The result is that Assange has become a pariah. Lost is the fact that he and WikiLeaks did what all journalists should do, which is to make important information available to the public, enabling people to make evidence-based judgments about the world around them and, in particular, about the actions of their governments. Given the constant drum beat of attacks on Assange from so many directions it can be hard to remember that in 2010 WikiLeaks won a great victory for freedom of expression and against state secrecy, and that the US government and its allies have made every effort to reverse it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will alleged CIA misbehavior set Julian Assange free?

Posted by M. C. on January 13, 2020

There is Hope!

https://thehill.com/opinion/criminal-justice/477939-will-cia-misbehavior-set-julian-assange-free

A few days before Christmas, Julian Assange testified to a Spanish court that a Spanish security company, UC Global S.L., acting in coordination with the CIA, illegally recorded all his actions and conversations, including with his lawyers, and streamed them back in real time to the CIA. He will, at the end of February, make a similar complaint to a British extradition court about the CIA’s alleged misbehavior.

Will such misbehavior, if proven, set Assange free?

The Daniel Ellsberg case may be instructive. You may recall that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the “Pentagon Papers” case, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act for leaking Pentagon documents to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

After the trial commenced in San Francisco, it was brought to the judge’s attention that the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Based on that information and other complaints of government misbehavior, including the FBI’s interception of Ellsberg’s telephone conversations with a government official, Judge William Matthew Byrne decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because the government acted outrageously.

For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.

The “plumbers” were a covert group formed by the Nixon White House to stop leaks of information from the government, such as the Pentagon Papers. They are notorious for their burglary at the Watergate Complex, which led to President Richard Nixon’s downfall. Approximately nine months before the Watergate break-in, the plumbers, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to find information that could discredit Ellsberg.

The CIA also was involved with the break-in. It prepared a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg as well as an ID kit for the plumbers, including drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, and disguises consisting of red wigs, glasses and speech alteration devices.

Additionally, the CIA allowed Hunt and his sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, to use two CIA safe houses in the D.C. area for meetings and storage purposes. Clearly, the CIA knew the plumbers were up to no good. It is unclear whether the CIA knew Ellsberg was the target, but it would not have taken much to figure it out.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently live-streamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life.

After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange.

When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried…

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Will alleged CIA misbehavior set Julian Assange free?

 

 

 

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Why the Media Is Ignoring the Afghanistan Papers

Posted by M. C. on December 18, 2019

https://newrepublic.com/amp/article/155977/media-ignoring-afghanistan-papers

…As Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told CNN earlier this week, the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers revealed the same dynamic: “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”

The documents are an indictment not only of one aspect of American foreign policy, but also of the U.S.’s entire policymaking apparatus. They reveal a bipartisan consensus to lie about what was actually happening in Afghanistan: chronic waste and chronic corruption, one ill-conceived development scheme after another, resulting in a near-unmitigated failure to bring peace and prosperity to the country. Both parties had reason to engage in the cover-up. For the Bush administration, Afghanistan was a key component in the war on terror. For the Obama administration, Afghanistan was the “good war” that stood in contrast to the nightmare in Iraq.

The Afghanistan Papers are, in other words, a bombshell. Yet the report has received scant attention from the broader press. Neither NBC nor ABC covered the investigation in their nightly broadcasts this week. In other outlets, it has been buried beneath breathless reporting on the latest developments in the impeachment saga, Joe Biden’s purported pledge to serve only one term, and world leaders’ pathological envy of a 16-year-old girl.

The relentless news cycle that characterizes Donald Trump’s America surely deserves some blame: This isn’t the first time that a consequential news story has been buried under an avalanche of other news stories. But one major reason that the Afghanistan Papers have received so comparatively little coverage is that everyone is to blame, which means no one has much of an interest in keeping the story alive. There are no hearings, few press gaggles…

The result is that this massive controversy receives disproportionately little coverage. Despite wasting thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, everyone in the U.S. government gets off scot-free. The very people who have kept us in Afghanistan since 2001 remain empowered, thanks to a combination of cynicism and apathy. And as a result, the Afghanistan Papers have ended up working in favor of Trump’s Republican Party, which exists to channel voters’ contempt of elite lawmakers and the institutions they represent.

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The Most Significant Afghanistan Papers Revelation Is How Difficult They Were To Make Public ...

 

 

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Telling the Truth Has Become an Anti-American Act – PaulCraigRoberts.org

Posted by M. C. on October 31, 2019

https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2019/10/30/telling-the-truth-has-become-an-anti-american-act/

Paul Craig Roberts

Stephen Cohen and I emphasize that the state of tension today between the United States and Russia is more dangerous than during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. For calling needed attention to the risk of nuclear war heightened by the current state of tension, both Cohen and I have been called “Russian dupes/agents” by PropOrNot, a website suspected of being funded by an element of the US military/security complex.

Cohen and I emphasize that during the Cold War both sides were working to reduce tensions and to build trust. President John F. Kennedy worked with Khruschev to defuse the dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis. President Richard Nixon made arms control agreements with the Soviet leaders, as did President Jimmy Carter. President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev worked together to end the Cold War. President George H.W. Bush’s administration gave assurances to Gorbachev that if the Soviets agreed to the renunification of Germany, the US would not move NATO one inch to the East.

These accomplishments were all destroyed by the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama neoconized regimes. President Donald Trump’s intention to normalize US/Russian relations has been blocked by the US military/security complex, presstitute media, and Democratic Party.
The Russiagate hoax and currently the illegitimate impeachment process have succeeded in preventing any reduction in the dangerous state of tensions between the two nuclear powers.

Those of us who lived and fought the Cold War are acutely aware of the numerous occasions when false warnings of incoming ICBMs and other moments of high tension could have resulted in nuclear Armageddon.

Former CIA official Ray McGovern reminds us that on October 27, 1962, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a single Soviet Navy submarine captain, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, prevented the outbreak of nuclear war. Arkhipov was one of two captains on Soviet submarine B-59. After hours of B-59 being battered by depth charges from US warships, the other captain, Valentin Grigorievich Savitsky readied a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon capable of wiping out the entire USS Randolph carrier task force, to be readied for launch. It didn’t happen only because Arkhipov was present and countermanded the order and brought the Soviet submarine to the surface. Ray McGovern tells the story here: https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/most-dangerous-moment-human-history and you can read it in Daniel Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine. The really scary part of the story is that US intelligence was so incompetent that Washington had no idea that Soviet nuclear weapons were in the combat area on a submarine undergoing debt-charging by the US Navy. The brass thought they could teach the Soviets a lesson by sinking a submarine and came close to getting the United States destroyed.

Another Soviet hero who prevented nuclear war was Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov who disobeyed Soviet military protocol and did not pass on reports of incoming US ICBMs. He did not believe that there was a military/political basis for such an attack and concluded it was a malfunction of the Soviet satellite warning system, which it was.

Many times both Americans and Soviets overrode warnings on the basis of judgment. My colleague, Zbigniew Brezezinski told me the story of being awakened at 2AM with reports of incoming Soviet ICBMs. It turned out that a simulation of an attack had in some way gotten into the warning system and was reported as real. It was a very close call. Someone doubted it enough to detect the error before Brezezinski woke the president.

Today with tensions so high and neither side trusting the other, the probability of human judgment prevailing over official warning systems is much lower.

Over the years I have tried to correct the widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation of President Reagan’s military buildup/starwars hype and hostility toward Marxist, or perhaps merely leftwing reform movements, in Granada and Nicaragua. With his economic program in place and stagflation on the way out, Reagan’s plan was to bring the Soviets to the bargaining table by threatening their broke economy with the expense of an arms race. The plan also depended on preventing any Marxist advances in Central America or offshore islands. The Soviets had to see that there were no prospects for communist expansion and that they needed to get down to peace in order to free resources for their broken economy.

Reading Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and The Traitor, the story of KBG colonel Oleg Gordievsky, an asset of Britain’s MI6, made me aware for the first time how dangerous Reagan’s plan was. American intelligence was so far off-track that Washington did not realize that a plan designed to scare the Soviets into peace was instead convincing them that the US was readying an all-out nuclear attack.

At the time the Soviet leader was the former KGB chief, Yuri Andropov. The ABLE ARCHER NATO war game during the first part of November 1983 simulated an escalating conflict culminating in a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The Soviets did not see it as a war game and regarded it as American preparation for a real attack. What prevented Soviet preemptive action was Gordievsky’s report to MI6 that the Americans were raising Soviet anxiety to the breaking point. This woke up Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to the threat they were creating with their bellicose words and deeds. The CIA later confessed: “Gordievsky’s information was an epiphany for President Reagan . . . only Gordievsky’s timely warning to Washington via MI6 kept things from going too far.”

In my seasoned opinion and in that of Stephen Cohen, with Hillary almost elected president branding the president of Russia as “the New Hitler,” with constant provocations and demonizations of Russia and her leaders, with the accumulation of nuclear-capable missiles on Russia’s borders, with an orchestrated Russiagate by US security agencies blocking President Trump from normalizing relations, things have already gone too far. The kinds of false alarms and miscalculations described above are more likely to have deadly consequences than ever before.

Indeed, this seems to be the intention. Why else are people such as Stephen Cohen and myself branded “Russian agents” for telling the truth and giving accurate heartfelt warnings about the danger of such high tensions when neither side trusts the other?

It is reckless and irresponsible to demonize people of integrity such as Stephen Cohen and myself as “Russian agents.” When telling the truth becomes the mark of being a disloyal American, what hope is there?

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Yes, You Should Fear the Arrest of Julian Assange | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on April 12, 2019

Undoubtedly, if the Washington Blob has its way, this will not be a case on which the First Amendment is on trial, but a pasty Aussie lawbreaker and Russian dupe who put U.S. personnel and troops at risk in the field for publishing classified documents. Don’t be surprised if they say people were actually killed because of Assange. Just remember, this was all hashed out in the Manning trial, and the government was forced to admit there was no evidence that anyone was harmed by being named in any of the classified documents.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/yes-you-should-fear-the-arrest-of-julian-assange/

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Why we should fear today’s developments, however, is his arrest could ultimately lead to his prosecution in the U.S. under the Espionage Act—a charge that lawmakers and officials on both sides of the aisle have been calling for publicly for years. Remember, then-CIA chief Mike Pompeo called Assange a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” And, if he is convicted under the Espionage Act, it would be the first time for a member of the media, setting a most dangerous precedent for the safety of journalists to pursue government corruption and secrecy, and a mighty blow to the ability of the First Amendment to protect free speech and a free press.

[UPDATE: The Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Federal Court released an unsealed indictment Thursday after Assange was arrested. It accuses Assange of offering to help Manning break a DoD password to help access military data anonymously. It does not say whether they did it or succeeded. This would suggest the government is trying to prove Assange and Wikileaks shifted from mere “publisher” with First Amendment rights to “hacker” or “thief.”

The government tried, and failed, to convict Daniel Ellsberg, for leaking  The Pentagon Papers to the press. Wikileaks has never been accused of stealing classified information. Then-Pfc. Bradley Manning  (now Chelsea) was already charged and convicted with stealing and leaking thousands of military and U.S. government documents to Wikileaks. Documents, by the way, that exposed the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, and the Guantanamo files. Without them, we would never know the extent of the secrecy involved in the wars that were being fought in our name—the torture, the civilian deaths, how innocent people were being arrested in the War on Terror and detained en masse at GTMO, and much more.

To think any of this is happening this morning in a vacuum would be folly. As TAC reported earlier this week, Chelsea Manning willingly went back to jail (and a month of solitary confinement) at the beginning of March for refusing to testify in the grand jury. She had already served seven years for her crimes, much of that in solitary confinement. Something was clearly coming to a head.

And Wikileaks reported just yesterday that they were being extorted by a group that has reams of evidence, including documents and videotape, that there was a massive surveillance operation going on against Assange in the embassy, at which he had been a virtual prisoner. Don’t for a minute doubt that the U.S. was putting pressure on the Ecuadorians to make a move. The Ecuadoran government had cut off his internet access last year and had been readying to kick him out, supposedly because he had broken rules; Assange has responded by saying the embassy was violating his rights of asylum. By all reports, his physical and mental health has deteriorated.

Whatever comes of that, the more critical point here is that the U.S. is likely to take over from here. Given the corporate mainstream media’s sneering contempt for Wikileaks and Assange—so much more acute now that he is under suspicion for working with the Russians to publish the stolen Hillary Clinton/DNC emails (which Assange has vehemently denied—expect the hive to believe and promote any propaganda that the Trump Administration wields to turn the American public opinion over to its side…

Just be prepared for the PR blitz and the accompanying media complicity in making Assange the villain. Don’t be surprised if they throw him in jail and give him the Manning or Maria Butina treatment…

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It’s Always About Control

 

 

 

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Hollywood hoopla ignores media’s history of servility | TheHill

Posted by M. C. on March 5, 2018

McNamara’s disastrous deceits did not deter the Washington Post from appointing him to its Board of Directors

http://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/376399-hollywood-hoopla-ignores-medias-history-of-servility

BY JAMES BOVARD

Much of the media nowadays is portraying itself as heroes of the #Resist Trump movement. To exploit that meme, Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg rushed out “The Post,” a movie depicting an epic press battle with the Nixon administration. But regardless of whether Spielberg’s latest wins the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night, Americans should never forget the media’s long history of pandering to presidents and the Pentagon. Read the rest of this entry »

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