Assange: Pilger, Chomsky and extraordinary rendition

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John Pilger, well-known and respected filmmaker and investigative journalist, issued the following statement on the arrest of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11.

13 April 2019 |John Pilger | WSWS

The glimpse of Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London is an emblem of the times. Might against right. Muscle against the law. Indecency against courage. Six policemen manhandled a sick journalist, his eyes wincing against his first natural light in almost seven years.

That this outrage happened in the heart of London, in the land of Magna Carta, ought to shame and anger all who fear for “democratic” societies.

Assange is a political refugee protected by international law, the recipient of asylum under a strict covenant to which Britain is a signatory. The United Nations made this clear in the legal ruling of its Working Party on Arbitrary Detention.

But to hell with that. Let the thugs go in. Directed by the quasi fascists in Trump’s Washington, in league with Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno, a Latin American Judas and liar seeking to disguise his rancid regime, the British elite abandoned its last imperial myth: that of fairness and justice.

Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs, for onward dispatch to the dock in The Hague. By the standard of Nuremberg, Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s crime is journalism: holding the rapacious to account, exposing their lies and empowering people all over the world with truth.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation”.

The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast.

Assange’s principal media tormentor, the Guardian, a collaborator with the secret state, displayed its nervousness this week with an editorial that scaled new weasel heights.

The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years”. The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

With not a penny going to Julian Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, turned on their source, abused him and disclosed the secret password Assange had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing leaked US embassy cables.

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

The Guardian has since published a series of falsehoods about Assange, not least a discredited claim that a group of Russians and Trump’s man, Paul Manafort, had visited Assange in the embassy. The meetings never happened; it was fake.

But the tone has now changed. “The Assange case is a morally tangled web,” the paper opined. “He (Assange) believes in publishing things that should not be published …. But he has always shone a light on things that should never have been hidden.”

These “things” are the truth about the homicidal way America conducts its colonial wars, the lies of the British Foreign Office in its denial of rights to vulnerable people, such as the Chagos Islanders, the expose of Hillary Clinton as a backer and beneficiary of jihadism in the Middle East, the detailed description of American ambassadors of how the governments in Syria and Venezuela might be overthrown, and much more. It is all available on the WikiLeaks site.

The Guardian is understandably nervous. Secret policemen have already visited the newspaper and demanded and got the ritual destruction of a hard drive. On this, the paper has form. In 1983, a Foreign Office clerk, Sarah Tisdall, leaked British Government documents showing when American cruise nuclear weapons would arrive in Europe. The Guardian was showered with praise.

When a court order demanded to know the source, instead of the editor going to prison on a fundamental principle of protecting a source, Tisdall was betrayed, prosecuted and served six months.

If Assange is extradited to America for publishing what the Guardian calls truthful “things”, what is to stop the current editor, Katherine Viner, following him, or the previous editor, Alan Rusbridger, or the prolific propagandist Luke Harding?

What is to stop the editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post, who also published morsels of the truth that originated with WikiLeaks, and the editor of El Pais in Spain, and Der Spiegel in Germany and the Sydney Morning Heraldin Australia. The list is long.

David McCraw, lead lawyer of the New York Times, wrote: “I think the prosecution [of Assange] would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers … from everything I know, he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and the law would have a very hard time distinguishing between the New York Times and WikiLeaks.”

Even if journalists who published WikiLeaks’ leaks are not summoned by an American grand jury, the intimidation of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning will be enough. Real journalism is being criminalised by thugs in plain sight. Dissent has become an indulgence.

In Australia, the current America-besotted government is prosecuting two whistle-blowers who revealed that Canberra’s spooks bugged the cabinet meetings of the new government of East Timor for the express purpose of cheating the tiny, impoverished nation out of its proper share of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

Their trial will be held in secret. The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is infamous for his part in setting up concentration camps for refugees on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus, where children self-harm and suicide. In 2014, Morrison proposed mass detention camps for 30,000 people.

Real journalism is the enemy of these disgraces. A decade ago, the Ministry of Defence in London produced a secret document which described the “principal threats” to public order as threefold: terrorists, Russian spies and investigative journalists. The latter was designated the major threat.

The document was duly leaked to WikiLeaks, which published it. “We had no choice,” Assange told me. “It’s very simple. People have a right to know and a right to question and challenge power. That’s true democracy.”

What if Assange and Manning and others in their wake—if there are others—are silenced and “the right to know and question and challenge” is taken away?

In the 1970s, I met Leni Reifenstahl, close friend of Adolf Hitler, whose films helped cast the Nazi spell over Germany.

She told me that the message in her films, the propaganda, was dependent not on “orders from above” but on what she called the “submissive void” of the public.

“Did this submissive void include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked her.

“Of course,” she said, “especially the intelligentsia …. When people no longer ask serious questions, they are submissive and malleable. Anything can happen.”

And did.

The rest, she might have added, is history.

Original Link: The Assange arrest is a warning from history

Stop the extraordinary rendition of Julian Assange

15 April | Eric London | WSWS

The attempt by the British, Ecuadorian and US governments to force the removal of journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States is an antidemocratic conspiracy and a brazen violation of international law.

While the US government presents the process against Assange as an extradition, the difference between an extradition and an extraordinary rendition—in which a state carries out an extrajudicial abduction for the purpose of arbitrary detention, torture, and summary punishment—is being effectively obliterated.

The US government is, in effect, applying a similar method to Assange as it used against those it has subjected to extraordinary rendition during the “war on terror.” Since 2001, the CIA has abducted hundreds of people, bound them up, flown them across the world to secret CIA “black site” dungeons and subjected them to harsh interrogation and torture. Once the government gets its hands on Assange, it is questionable whether he will ever be seen again.

The process has been accompanied by a campaign of media vilification that seems to have no restraint. Its aim is to transform Assange into a monster so that his rights can be deprived.

What the endless media reports ignore is that Assange has exposed imperialist crimes in wars that killed millions of civilians and thousands of US soldiers. He has brought to light horrific crimes that the government and corporate media conspired to keep secret.

While watching the news personalities slander the persecuted journalist and late-night show subject him to degraded and scatological mockery, one wishes to stick a bar of soap in each of their mouths.

The US, British and Ecuadorian government claim that Assange’s extradition is proper because the US is only indicting the whistleblower on a single charge of attempting to help Chelsea Manning bypass a password. But in the aftermath of Assange’s arrest, the corporate press and politicians have contradicted the official explanation, letting slip the real reason the US wants custody over Assange.

The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote: “Mr. Assange’s transfer to US custody, followed possibly by additional Russia-related charges or his conversion into a cooperating witness, could be the key to learning more about Russian intelligence’s efforts to undermine democracy in the West. Certainly he is long overdue for personal accountability.”

The New York Times said, “Once in the United States, moreover, he could become a useful source on how Russia orchestrated its attacks on the Clinton campaign.”

After British police dragged Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer tweeted, “Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government.” Democratic Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel tweeted that Assange “time after time compromised the national security of the United States and our allies by publicly releasing classified government documents and confidential materials related to our 2016 presidential election.”

These statements show the extradition proceedings are being conducted under a false pretense. The single public charge is a cover. The government is planning to interrogate Assange, compel him to provide testimony and further prosecute him for exposing US war crimes. In the words of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin: “He is our property and we can get the facts and the truth from him.”

Assange has no obligation to provide the government with any testimony because he has the Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself. The media and politicians’ statements beg the question: how does the government plan to “get the facts” from him? What harsh measures, practiced in the prisons of Abu Gharaib and Bagram Air Force Base, will be brought to bear?

The proceedings in the days since Assange’s arrest show the type of treatment he will receive in any legal proceeding.

The British government, on the invite of Ecuadorian President and imperialist lackey Lenin Moreno, blatantly violated the principle of consular sanctuary by dragging Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. This exposes the statements of the US and British governments admonishing the Saudi government for murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey last year as thoroughly hypocritical.

On Thursday, the British district judge who heard Assange’s bail request mocked him and laughed when Assange’s lawyers requested a fair hearing. “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable,” said judge Michael Snow. “And his behavior is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.” Assange has been sent to Belmarsh, a maximum security prison for terrorists and other high-risk detainees, where half of all prisoners are only allowed to leave their cells for two hours a week.

There is no question that Assange will be denied the right to a fair trial in the US, where the entire political and media establishment has already pronounced his guilt. In whatever “trial” takes place, Assange’s lawyers will be regularly denied the right to review evidence against their client on the grounds that it is “classified” for “national security” purposes.

The conspiracy against Assange confirms the absence of any constituency for the defense of democratic rights in the ruling class.

To the leaders of the democratic revolutions of the 18th century, the practices now called extraordinary rendition recalled the dark and crowded dungeons of Charles II and Louis XIV, filled with political prisoners. The bourgeois revolutions in France and the United States abolished arbitrary detention and torture as the hated method of political reaction, upholding the right of due process, habeas corpus, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Under international law today, extraordinary rendition is a crime against humanity under the Nuremberg principles.

If the ruling class can conduct this operation against Assange without any opposition from the political or media establishment, then any crime is possible. All the while, “left” figures like Jeremy Corbyn go along with the lie, absolving themselves of any responsibility.

As for the British government, its brutal handling of Assange contrasts with its response to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who fought an extradition request after Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon attempted to prosecute Pinochet in Spain for mass murder. In 2000, the Labour government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to extradite Pinochet and ordered his release from house arrest at his mansion in Surrey.

“The attempted trial of an accused in the condition diagnosed in Senator Pinochet on the charges which have been made against him in this case, could not be a fair trial in any country and would violate Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Home Office wrote at the time.

While the dictator Pinochet murdered and tortured thousands of workers and socialists after taking power in the September 11, 1973 coup, Julian Assange published evidence of US war crimes. He is hated by the international ruling class because he has done significant damage to the interests of imperialism.

The seven years since Assange was forced to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy have seen the reemergence of the class struggle on an international scale. It is this powerful social force—the working class—that must be mobilized to defend democratic rights and secure the liberation of class-war prisoners like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.



Noam Chomsky takes apart the ‘scandalous’ arrest of Julian Assange

13 April 2019 | James Wright | The Canary

Renowned author Noam Chomsky took apart the arrest of Julian Assange on 12 April.


Speaking to Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman, Chomsky said:

Well, the Assange arrest is scandalous in several respects. One of them is just the effort of governments—and it’s not just the U.S. government.

The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated.

The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about – OK? – that’s basically what happened… This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.

The author of over 100 books continued:

The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States – why should any – no other state could possibly do it.

But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it’s an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there’s no comment on it.

A flawed indictment

Aside from an alleged breach of bail – see a timeline of his case here – Assange was arrested in relation to an extradition request from the US. The now unsealed indictment alleges that Assange is guilty of ‘conspiring to commit computer intrusion’.

It claims that Assange helped whistleblower Chelsea Manning crack a password in order to make it more difficult to identify her as the source of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. The Canary, meanwhile, has identified fundamental flaws in the indictment that threaten journalism worldwide.

The Iraq war logs show that US and UK officials lied about having no official statistics on deaths. The leaks identified over 66,000 civilian deaths from 2004 to the end of 2009. They also revealed that the US military indiscriminately gunned down over a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters media staff.

Featured image via Democracy Now




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