Journalists are entrusted by the public to reveal truth, not serve the powerful in a witch-hunt for sources of the truth, writes Elizabeth Vos.
By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News
It was impossible to imagine four years ago when WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange was hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London and thrown in Belmarsh Prison that corporate media, which had smeared Assange, could stoop to new lows of government servitude.
But it has now happened with the arrest of Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman, for allegedly leaking top secret government documents. The leaks exposed a number of significant lies told by both the U.S. government and corporate media about the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Among many items of interest, the documents revealed that U.S. Special Forces as well as NATO forces are on the ground in Ukraine; that Ukraine is significantly unprepared for its planned spring offensive; as well as evidence of U.S. spying on its allies and António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations.
According to Al Jazeera:
“Several purported U.S. intelligence assessments paint a more pessimistic outlook for the Ukrainian military than the U.S. has provided publicly. They suggest Kyiv is heading for only ‘modest territorial gains’ in its much-anticipated spring counteroffensive.”
In other words, the content of these leaks expose lies told directly by the U.S. and NATO, as well as the corporate media that serve them.
Media on the Hunt
But how did major media react? The New York Times worked with Aric Toler, a U.S. and U.K. government-funded Bellingcat staff writer, to publicly expose accused leaker Teixeira less than a day after federal authorities had identified him.
But the Times and The Washington Post had described Texiera without naming him before the Department of Justice had, in effect doing the F.B.I.’s job for them by tracking down the leaker.
According to the affidavit supporting the prosecution of Teixeira, who held a top security clearance, the F.B.I. subpoenaed Discord, an application often used by gamers to communicate, and where the documents were alleged to have been originally leaked. The information handed over by Discord then lead to Teixeira’s arrest.
The leak itself and the arrest of the alleged source is significant enough, but what makes this story disturbing is the role of the media in actively finding and exposing Teixeira, revealing his identity instead of protecting him.
The media frenzy appeared unanimous in its focus on identifying the leaker more than reporting on the newsworthy content of the material.
The Exact Opposite of WikiLeaks
In contrast, Assange went to the absolute limits of human endurance for the sake of protecting whistleblowing sources.
In 2017, early in the Trump Administration, Trump was reportedly willing to negotiate a pardon for Assange if he would out the sources of the DNC Emails and disprove Russiagate once and for all.
In August of 2016, Assange made comments on Dutch Television that all but admitted the source of the DNC emails was the murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. So, why not admit the identity of a dead source, if it indeed was Rich, disprove Russiagate, and gain his freedom?
Because WikiLeaks’ obligation, according to Assange, was the absolute protection of sources no matter the cost. It is a principle that may prove to cost the award-winning journalist his life.
WikiLeaks went on to publish Vault 7: a trove of C.I.A. hacking secrets. The release enraged then-C.I.A. chief Mike Pompeo, and shortly afterwards then-F.B.I. Director Jim Comey reportedly ended all negotiations for Assange’s freedom.
Assange also supported whistleblowers who didn’t submit material to WikiLeaks including Edward Snowden and Reality Winner. U.K. and Ecuador talks on securing Assange’s release in 2012 were abandoned when Assange sent aid in the form of Sarah Harrison to Snowden as he was stuck in transit during his escape from Hong Kong, Stella Assange, attorney and Julian Assange’s wife, told Consortium News.
When Winner was arrested, Assange was vocal in support of her release and criticized the Intercept for bungling their protection of Winner as a source. He even went so far as to offer to turn himself in to authorities in exchange for the release of Chelsea Manning.
Now, in the complete opposite vein, The New York Times and The Washington Post have worked with so-called journalists of Bellingcat to, in their words, “hunt down” the leaker of top secret documents regarding the Ukraine War.
That papers of record would go so far as to actively work to expose a source of vitally important information to the public is astounding when compared with the lengths that serious journalists like Assange have gone to protect their sources.
Perhaps such activities are less surprising coming from members of Bellingcat, an organization funded by NATO states and intelligence-linked groups and reported by The Grayzone to be “loved” by C.I.A. officials.
Journalists are entrusted by the public to reveal truth, not serve the powerful in a witch-hunt for sources of the truth. Instead, The New York Times and its co-conspirators from Bellingcat appear to have been seeking to punish a leaker who exposed the U.S. government and the corporate media’s lies.
The legacy news media is not simply a second-rate form of journalism in comparison with WikiLeaks, but its intentional opposite.
Elizabeth Vos is a freelance journalist and contributor to Consortium News. She co-hosts CN Live!