Misperception and disinformation overrode the facts of the Assange case at an event organized by the Hayden Center on Monday night in Washington, reports Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
A week after five major newspapers called on the Biden administration to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security countered with an event on Monday intended to push the “intelligence community’s” disinformation about the Assange case.
After it was slammed on Twitter, the program’s initial title, “Julian Assange: Journalist or Techno-Spy?” was changed to the mundane, “The Case of Julian Assange.” It was presented as a debate in the ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington, but the panel seemed stacked against Assange lawyer Barry Pollack.
Larry Pfeiffer, the Hayden Center director and a former Central Intelligence Agency chief of staff, introduced the panelists, asking about the “line between journalism and espionage and when does the line get crossed?” Though the title was changed the purpose was the same, to present Assange as a spy, giving Assange’s U.S. lawyer a chance to respond.
Pfeiffer said the center’s “goal is to have discussions like this that talk about intelligence and the role intelligence plays in our society, in our government, how it informs policy, how it sometimes screws up policy and what do we do then if we need to fix it.”
In other words, trust the intelligence agencies because they have only the best intentions at heart and they fix their “mistakes,” “mistakes” that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, such as in Iraq, and that plotted to take Assange’s life.
On the panel were Holden Triplett, a former F.B.I. agent who was director for counterintelligence on the National Security Council in the Trump White House; Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press; Mark Zaid, billed as an attorney dealing with national security law, freedom of speech constitutional claims, and governmental accountability, and Pollack.
‘An Obvious Criminal”
The moderator was a corporate reporter, Sasha Ingber, formerly of National Public Radio, and now of Newsy, a cringe-worthy name that is changing to Scripps News.
Hayden, a former C.I.A. and National Security Agency director, sat in the front row, along with an array of former senior intelligence officials. Hayden ran the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and the C.I.A. from 2006 to 2009. He oversaw the Bush administration’s torture program for a while, as C.I.A. whistleblower John Kiriakou points out in a Consortium News column today. Hayden has been one of a bevy of former senior intelligence officials now commenting on the news on cable networks.
There is no doubt where Hayden stands on Assange, having long identified him as the enemy. In 2010, he called Assange an “obvious criminal” who is “a dangerous combination of arrogance and incompetence.”
That’s OK. We’re still waiting. Sooner or later. https://t.co/kGML40sC9A
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) July 1, 2022
Not Charged With Hacking
Assange’s lawyer Pollack answered the first question of the evening by calmly setting out the facts of the indictment against the WikiLeaks publisher. He explained that Assange was not charged with hacking a government computer, but is accused only of trying to help Chelsea Manning hide her identity to protect his source, an effort he failed at.
Pollack explained that Manning had security clearance to get every document she leaked and therefore had no need to hack a computer or seek Assange’s help to do so. “There are 103 paragraphs in the document charging Julian Assange, exactly three of them have anything to do with any kind of a supposed effort to break a password,” Pollack said. “And the password has nothing to do with getting access to any classified information.”
It can be read in black and white in the Assange indictment, which states that Manning had security clearance access to all the materials she leaked, and that Assange was not charged with hacking to get them.
And yet Triplett, the former F.B.I. official, ignored that and plowed ahead, as though Pollack were not sitting next to him on stage. He repeatedly spoke of Assange “hacking” and that he is “not someone protected under U.S. law.”
“What we have is an organization that calls itself essentially an intelligence agency that is trying to inform the people of the world and has said that they want to hack to bring that information out,” Triplett said. We can stop right there.
First, there are similarities between journalism and espionage in the information gathering phase. But that’s where the similarities end. Journalists make the information they’ve gathered known to the public, while spies keep it secret within their organizations to serve the state. So WikiLeaks cannot be an “intelligence agency that is trying to inform the people of the world.” It’s not what intelligence services do.
Second, Pollack had just explained, rather exhaustively given the event, that the U.S. government has never accused Assange of hacking to bring out information. And yet Triplett is pretending to be quoting WikiLeaks saying “they want to hack” to get information out.
It is a disinformation tactic to ignore facts that undermine one’s message and to pretend as though those facts don’t even exist. Triplett and other purveyors of disinformation are counting on the larger public not having read the 49-page indictment of Assange, which Triplett later told me he had read.
So Triplett knows Pollack was telling the truth. But he knows the target audience — the American public — doesn’t know the facts, but instead has been systematically and repeatedly inculcated with disinformation from government sources through corporate media about the Assange case, such as that he hacked government computers to steal secrets.
Triplett’s immediate deflection from Pollack’s remarks was to say, “I’m not sure what we want to do up here is to litigate the specifics of the case.” But that is precisely what a debate about someone who has been indicted under the Espionage Act would entail, examining the specifics of the case.
Is he a journalist who received and published classified material from a source who stole it, as national security reporters do routinely, or did he steal it himself?
Triplett is also explicitly uninterested in proven facts when it comes to Assange’s alleged relationship with Russia. I challenged Triplett after the event, saying that smearing legitimate dissent, or in this case legitimate journalism, as a tool of a hostile foreign power is the oldest trick in most governments’ book.
On the panel Triplett insidiously asked: “If a Russian intelligence agency wanted to create a publisher, what would that look like?”
Speaking with Triplett afterward left no doubt that he and his colleagues are obsessed with Russia. It explains away too much for them. On the panel he said of WikiLeaks:
“I don’t know the specifics but I know what it smells like. It smells like an intelligence operation. This is a typical tactic of how Russian intelligence works. They use proxies… [Assange] had substantial interaction with the GRU. … Is this the kind of person — he’s not an American — that we want to give this power to?”
A major theme of the event, and of the prosecution of Assange, is that he harmed informants by leaking their names in the documents he published. Pollack cogently laid out the story how Assange had indeed redacted names in what he published and that it was only after two Guardian reporters published the password to the un-redacted files, and after Cryptome.org published the un-redacted cables themselves, that WikiLeaks also published them to help informants get away. (Assange gave the password only to The Guardian’s David Leigh under duress, according to testimony at Assange’s extradition hearing.)
Triplett again ignored Pollack and talked about informants and undercover U.S. agents who were in “substantial danger” because WikiLeaks was happy to publish the un-redacted files. He had no use for Pollack’s explanation of how the un-redacted cables came to be published.
After the event a retired Naval intelligence officer tried to tell me that even though he acknowledged that Assange worked to redact the names, and even though the un-redacted files were made possible by Guardian reporters publishing the password, none of this would have happened had Assange never published any of these documents at all.
It was clear: intelligences agencies, who collectively are probably the most powerful group in U.S. society, have a very good game going and they don’t want it ruined by some “arrogant” and “incompetent” Australian with a conscience.
During questioning, I asked Triplett if he was aware that Gen. Robert Carr had testified at Manning’s court martial (for leaking defense information to WikiLeaks) that there was zero evidence the leaks had harmed a single U.S. informant.
I also asked Triplett if he was aware that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote in a section of his Russiagate report (which was un-redacted after a FOIA request) that he could not charge Assange because he could not prove that Assange was aware that he was dealing with Russian GRU intelligence agents, who Mueller alleges, but has never proven in court, were posing as Gufficer 2.0 to peddle “hacked” DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
In other words, the government admitted that Assange was not guilty of knowingly working with Russian intelligence and have not yet proven that Russia was involved at all. Triplett astonishingly responded, “Yes and yes” to my two questions.
That elicited laughter from the audience and the panel but by admitting that he knew a U.S. Army general testified under oath that WikiLeaks had caused no informants to be harmed and by admitting that the government couldn’t prove Assange was a witting Russian agent, he was admitting that his arguments on stage had essentially collapsed.
Triplett had earlier asked why the U.S. government was concerned about Assange. So I proposed to him in the question period that it just might be because Assange had exposed U.S. government crimes and corruption.
Triplett’s response was that government wrongdoing needed to be exposed, but asked whether Julian Assange was the right person to do it. Before I could answer, “Yes, because major media is too close to government,” the moderator shut down the program.
During the event I was sitting in the front row and when Triplett asked why the U.S. was concerned about Assange, I said under my breath, “Because he revealed their crimes.”
I was startled when a man sitting next to me in a section reserved for retired senior intelligence executives turned to me and angrily growled: “Will you keep your comments to yourself!” After the event I went back to the seat to identify him but his name tag had been removed.
Okay to Kill Rescuers
Zaid, the so-called whistleblower attorney about whom Kiriakou, the C.I.A. whistleblower, wrote in Consortium News in 2019: “Zaid is literally the worst possible choice for any whistleblower in national security,” made two extraordinarily erroneous statements on stage.
First he said that it was “legal” for U.S. government officials to leak classified information to the press. While this is a routine occurrence used to push the U.S. agenda, and while U.S. officials are almost never punished for it, it is not because it is “legal.”
The second astonishing thing Zaid said was that the unarmed private family that stopped to help wounded Iraqis in the Collateral Murder video leaked by Manning were “legally” killed because it is okay to murder rescuers during combat since they are rightfully seen as “the enemy.”
Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention protects “[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause” against “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds.”
A 1977 protocol to the Convention “provides that civilians shall enjoy protection against the dangers arising from military operations ‘unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.’” An unarmed civilian family stopping their van after the firing had apparently stopped to collect a wounded man is hardly taking a “direct part in hostilities.”
That the U.S. pilots in the Collateral Murder video were well aware of the rules of war was shown when we hear a pilot pleading for a wounded man to pick up a weapon near him on the street so he would become a combatant. He does not pick up the weapon and is fired upon anyway.
The entire Hayden Center program can be viewed here:
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe
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Unfortunately, I fear these moral mutants have succeeded! A lot of people in the Church of Hillary still blame Assange for their messiah’s loss in 2016, not the obvious fact that she was just another Republican in light disguise. I didn’t vote for either R or D and I’ll bet a lot of others didn’t either.
Joe. You are too polite! “Misperception?” “Disinformation?” Say it as it is man! Deliberate shallow bloody lies.
Did anyone explain how US “law” applies in other continents?
Many people ask how can Julian Assange, an Australian who’s never operated in the U.S., be prosecuted under the U.S. Espionage Act. Here is the answer.
Territorial Reach—The 1961
Amendment That Imperils Assange
Since the Vault7 leaks were mentioned multiple times at this forum while panelists simultaneously attempted to smear Assange as the agent of a foreign government, I feel it important to remind people what exactly was exposed in those leaks. By far the most damaging piece of software that was exposed was something known as the Marble Framework. It is a multibillion-dollar piece of software with more lines of source code (+700 million according to Bill Binney) than some of the largest programs in existence. The tool inserts bits of Russian, Chinese, Persian, Korean, and Arabic into hacking activity to attempt to attribute the behavior of CIA hackers to a country of origin that the US doesn’t like. In other words, it is a gigantic tool dedicated to false flagging hacks. It’s important to remember that this tool exists every time a national-security-state official makes an assertion about other governments doing nefarious things in cyberspace.
Good ol’ Roger Waters was quoted yesterday in London:
“Julian, you are not alone! … We are many, and we have a message for Vanessa Baraitser, that apology for a magistrate that set you down in that kangaroo court in London,” Waters said, referring to a judge who signed the extradition order. “Ms. Baraitser, you are a disgrace to the legal profession. F**k you.”
That sums it up in plain English.
Sorry, in NYC, not London. Made my day…
I was prosecuted (State’s attempt failed) and persecuted (attempt worked) as a whistleblower and later led a State chapter of a whistleblower protection organization. We would protect whistleblowers’ (legally and career she) but publicly disclosure their information of wrongdoing and thereby inform the public and hold the bad guys accountable – and sometimes fix the problem. In fact, our mere presence as an organization emboldened and empowered employees, while it tended to curb abuses or retaliation – sort of deterrence, a little know value of the mere possibility of leaks and accountability. Sadly, most journalists were reluctant or refused to do this kind of accountability journalism. They felt it was somehow underhanded or ethically suspect.
What Zaid said is absurd – his procedure would only get the whistleblower fired, jailed, or worse in this case, possibly killed. His procedure would not result in publication of the material that revealed government wrongdoing. His procedure would not result in holding the bad guys accountable publicly (or even privately). His procedure would no result in corrective action. It could and likely would only result in government coverup and whistleblower attack.
Who, as a whistleblower, would possibly rely on this man?
It’s quite funny, in a perverse way. Here are all those spooks who have ‘responsibility’ for protecting democracy and the freedoms of the American people, but it is obvious (?) that they are the biggest enemies of democracy and freedoms and will ultimately be responsible for the demise of the USA. Assange is protecting those rights, the spooks certainly aren’t.
This “Debate” is f/chilling!!!!
“Ya might go to church; and, sit down in a pew. Those humans who ain’t human will be sittin’ right next to you.” (John Prine)
…i.e., “During the event JOE LAURIA was sitting in the front row. Triplett asked, “WHY the U.S. was concerned about Assange?!?” —the quiet part loud—“Because he revealed their crimes.” JOE LAURIA
– “I was startled when a man sitting next to me in a section reserved for retired senior intelligence executives turned to me and angrily growled: “Will you keep your comments to yourself!” (After the event I went back to the seat to identify him but his name tag had been removed.)
NO doubt about it! “Those humans who ain’t human, be sittin’ right next to you,” JOE LAURIA. No doubt, he is One (1) of the 50 SENIOR Intelligence Officials who penned “The Letter” re: Emails, the Bidens, & Russia, i.e., “Emails allegedly belonging to HUNTER BIDEN “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
Yapp’n about their National $ecurity Experience & DEEP suspicions about the RUSSIAN Govt’s., “role” in the 2020 Selection-Election, is their qualifying bull$h*t. REPEAT The LINE, “IT’S the Kremlin’s hand at work.”
However, it’s NOT, The Kremlin who’s got their dirty, grubby, bloody claws in Julian Assange. BUT, Don’t Go There. Get into The PRESS Club’s Reception. Enjoy copious cups of the M.I.C.’s COOL-AIDE, “National Security Strategy;” (The Divided $tates of Corporate America makes the rules; the rest of the world must do as it is told); AND, Appetizers, “human rights & democracy.” Slow-Boiled or Pan-Fried?!?
The Take-Away, the Divided $tates of Corporate America’s killers in high places are out for blood. They’re fattenin’ up the Sheep for the kill. They’re coming in “hot” w/Extradition. “BEWARE the TRIO, the facilitator, the Triplett, the Zaid, two wolves & a fox, GETTIN’ TO KNOW whom they’re flocking. “DON’T Drink the Water. There’s Blood in the Water.”
BTW, a big, fat “Shout-Out” to the Gray Zone’s MAX B., CN’s JOE LAURIA, JULIAN’s lawyer, BARRY POLLACK for “Raising Your Voice!!!” Inphkndeed, “The best favour is to rescue the one in most need,” SAVE, JULIAN ASSANGE. “Keep it Lit. “
Simple Logic for those who will not see:
Surely, in today’s highly secretive “Techno-Spy” world; in a truly free society, the gathering of ‘intelligence’ for ‘self-protection’ must be a two-way street; between the unilateral, hegemonic power of the state, and peoples democratic right to know what is being done in their name.
Espionage may be the practice of spying or of using spies, typically by governments to obtain political and military information. The ‘typical’ in this sentence is the maintaining of status-quo deceiving of the population by its so-called democratic government.
Therefore, what the authentic, investigative journalist and publisher of Wikileaks is doing on behalf of all of the people of the world is entirely legitimate, and in no way qualifies as espionage, as defined.
If the simple proverb “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” carries any real merit in the clandestine adult world of politics, then “if something is good for one person, it should be equally as good for another person; someone who treats another in a certain way should not complain if the same is done to them.
America, arbitrarily regarding itself as the global exception, has never seen its international practices proverbially.
What the US regime is attempting is an illegitimate indictment of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The sham is being carried forward in order to camouflage the secrecy of its own espionage, against the entire global populace.
Think only of its malfeasance, and malpractices against the entire island nation of Cuba – 10-11 million independence seeking, sovereign souls, for the last almost 64 years.
And we are expecting them to ease up on Julian Assange who, they know, is more immediately dangerous to them than Cuba ever was.
We need to keep in mind we are dealing with full on fascists. They may not even believe that’s what they are, but their words and refusal to consider contradicting factual information reveal that is indeed what they are.
I believe they are the “walking dead”. They have no compassion, no anchor, no imagination, no “joie de vivre”. And there’s so many of them about. It’s scary.
And we need to keep in mind that these people will blatantly, even right to your face, ignore and dismiss the verifiable hard facts and persist with their accusations and lies. They simply refuse to deal with reality.
The most dangerous part of this refusal is that it has permeated into the highest levels of government and judicial systems. Rational evidence-based thinking is being shoved aside on favour of fact-free disinformation (the intent being to deceive).
It is, of course, important, Joe, for you to go to events such as this and fly in the face of god and his emissaries for whom the answer is already known and does not rely on truth, honesty, or reality. But this is a moment to ask again, finally, sir, have you no decency?
Apologies for adding to the quotation (in case a reader is unaware of the origin).
Attorney for the army, Joseph Welch (1954), after McCarthy smeared one of his assistants as connected to communism (from senate records, easily found by internet search):
“Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
Not confused, not a mistake, not unaware. Knowingly, purposely evil.
So much for integrity. America doesn’t even understand what the word ‘shame’ means.
Thanks Joe. Lord Acton: “All power corrupts, absolute power
So it goes, with the American deep state.
Rhetorical question of our age:
Who among us trusts anyone speaking for the US State Department, CIA, Pentagon, NSA, DOJ, or FBI more or as much today than they did even six or seven years ago?
[Same question: Only for all of bi-partisan Washington DC, the MSM, Silicon Valley, or Hollywood.]
Torture me too.
Come on, Joe – what the heck do you think you were you doing? Think you’re some sort of journalist or something?
Seriously, great that you were there, Joe, doing what a good journalist does. Gee, that reminds me of someone!
And I suppose you met many “journalists” from The Times, WAPO, all the cable news stations there. Right?
I hope you were watching your back on your way home, and will continue to be watching. Pretty said that that isn’t even funny.
I think that “watching your back…” is quite a serious point. Whatever happens to Assange in the future, are jounalists going to have to keep looking over their shoulders? The future for them is bleak indeed.
Of course the forthcoming trial of Assange and its outcome is already predetermined; the powers-that-be have already decided this. Nice one chaps. I always wonder if these people possess a certain mental ability to blank-out any troubling thoughts, or are just paid cynics/hacks doing the dirty work. Perhaps both?
But this is just another day at the office for these people. The imperial behemoth of the Anglo-Zionist empire must be appeased and have its measure in blood: Assange will, of course, be the slow, ritual sacrifice.
Of course this process is nothing new; it can involve any similar political situation anywhere, and harks back to the Soviet times during the 1930s and the show-trials where once the leading communists of the day – Zionoviev, Kamenev, were ‘liquidated’ and Trotsky (who managed to escape to Mexico, but who was hunted down and assassinated by a KGB hitman in 1940).
The methods used by the Stalinist bureaucracy were pretty much quick and definitive, but the Americans have hunted down Assange and are slowly, bit by bit, destroying their quarry. Is there any difference one wonders!?
What could be more fair than a Washington DC trial using FBI/CIA/US State Department gathered evidence, presided over by a Washington DC judge, prosecuted by a Washington DC US district attorney, and heard by a Washington DC appointed jury? Right.
Better to have been an innocent Black man accused of raping a White woman in 1933 Mississippi than to get the sort of peculiar justice that now awaits Julian Assange in Washington, DC.
Your point doesn’t change, but the federal court will be in Alexandria, VA.
Thanks for mentioning the shows trials. The U.S. government has become as corrupt and desperate to falsify events as Stalin was in eh 1930s. They seem to believe that if they liquidate Julian Assange we will forget what he exposed. Maybe some people will. BUT NOT ALL OF US.
The United States of America shall observe no law, no convention, no treaty, no article, no agreement, no court, no restraint, no fact and no reality other than its limitless power to act as it wishes; and you scum can’t stop us.
Barry Pollack, Joe Lauria, Max Blumenthal, and Chip Gibbons (and around 2,669,391 out of 3,316,014, or 80.5 percent, of respondents to Elon Musk’s Twitter poll on the merits of Assange/Snowden pardons – see “Elon Musk’s Twitter Poll on Assange, Snowden: ‘Not Expressing an Opinion, But…’,” Hindustan Times, December 4, 2022) versus the twenty-first century obscurantist gatekeepers acting as a vanguard for panoptical, anti-sousveillance totalitarianism in the United States and beyond
Tnx Casey 4 mention of Max B Elon M part of Julian’s story.
So this commenter avoids Macy’s/ Gimbelling… J Dore w/ Max Explaining Specifics of Mark Zaid’s Govt Duties.
* Note: Don’t know Ethics of Above… Run @ Ur Standards
These people from the “intelligence agencies,” who are busy with hunting and persecuting honest reports Julian Assange, have a shared aspect: they all are moral eunuchs. The opportunistic set of mind has devoured whatever decency they could have in the past. What the US ‘justice system’ is doing towards Assange looks like a rerun of trials during Red Terror in the USSR under Stalin.
You are correct. Exactly like Stalin.
Or: Exactly like the USA, we don’t even have to compare to other countries. Recall what happened to Eugene Debs and many others. The Palmer Raids, the Red Scare, McCarthy Witch Hunts, COINTELPRO etc. etc. And then there are the revelations of Snowden, Assange, Kiriakou, Manning, and others.
The Rule of Law? Yeah right