The WikiLeaks publisher is only guilty of one thing, writes James Bovard — violating the U.S. government’s divine right to blindfold the American people.
By James Bovard
The Future of Freedom Foundation
“A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press,” proclaimed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. But he was referring only to the Chinese government crackdown on Hong Kong journalists early last year. Unfortunately, the Biden administration continues rushing to destroy one of the most important truth tellers of our times.
Julian Assange has been locked away for four years in a maximum-security prison in Britain. Assange was initially charged in 2019 with “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” for allegedly giving advice to Army Corporal Bradley (later Chelsea) Manning on dealing with government files. But all the National Security Agency officials who have conspired to illegally intrude into Americans’ personal computers face no indictments, and likewise for the presidents who approved their crimes.
It Began with WikiLeaks
Assange was targeted by the U.S. government after his organization, WikiLeaks, disclosed hundreds of thousands of U.S. documents, including exposés of crimes committed by the U.S. military against Afghan and Iraqi civilians.
A 2010 Christian Science Monitor report on the leak noted that it was “unclear how Americans might react to revelations about apparent indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians” by American forces. But the Monitor headline captured the verdict in Washington: “Congress’s response to WikiLeaks: shoot the messenger.” Vice President Joe Biden denounced Assange as a “high-tech terrorist.”
The Obama administration examined the case against Assange and concluded that he could not be prosecuted without setting precedents that imperiled freedom of the press. But that concern didn’t hobble the Trump administration. In 2019, as the Justice Department prepared to drop the hammer on Assange, several organizations protested.
The ACLU warned that prosecuting him for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations would be “unconstitutional” and sets a “dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.”
Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation declared: “Any charges brought against WikiLeaks for their publishing activities pose a profound and incredibly dangerous threat to press freedom.”
After Assange was indicted, a New York Times editorial declared that the charges were “aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment” and would have a “chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations.”
Trump & Clinton Unite Against Assange
After filing the initial charge, Trump’s Justice Department added 17 charges against Assange for allegedly violating the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information.
The Espionage Act is a World War One relic that presidents are increasingly using to suppress exposure of U.S. government crimes at home and abroad. Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if he is convicted, but his lawyers are fighting extradition from Britain. If the Brits deliver Assange to the U.S. government, he has almost no chance of a fair trial because of how Espionage Act prosecutions are rigged in federal court.
[Related: How America’s Official Secrets Act Ensnared Julian Assange]
After Britain acceded to U.S. government demands to arrest Assange, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt boasted that the arrest showed “no one is above the law.” Except for the governments whose crimes WikiLeaks and Assange exposed.
Former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declared that the charges prove that Assange “must answer for what he has done.” But Assange’s arrest did nothing to prevent legions of conniving politicians and bureaucrats from continuing to deceive the American public. In reality, the Assange indictment only proved that no government critic “is above the law.”
The Washington establishment pilloried Assange for leaking classified information. Inside the Beltway, classified information is viewed as a holy relic that cannot be exposed without damning the nation. How much classified information are the feds certifying nowadays? Trillions of pages per year. Yet, any information which is classified becomes sacrosanct – at least to the bureaucrats hiding their actions from citizens. The status quo amounts to trillions of asterisk exemptions to Americans’ self-government.
Washington policymakers ignored WikiLeaks’ revelations and expanded the role of the U.S. military in the Afghan conflict. Atrocities continued, helping turn the Afghan people against the U.S. military and a Kabul government that was seen as a Washington puppet. When the Afghan military collapsed like a house of cards in 2021, Washington policymakers were stunned at the Taliban’s lightning triumph. But they were shocked only because they had ignored the truths that WikiLeaks revealed.
Federal agencies have not proven that any of the information that WikiLeaks released was false. At the court martial of Corporal Manning, who leaked the documents, prosecutors failed to show that any information WikiLeaks disclosed had led to the death of a single person in Afghanistan or Iraq. That conclusion was reconfirmed by a 2017 investigation by PolitiFact. Even Biden admitted in 2010 that “I don’t think there’s any substantive damage” from the WikiLeaks revelations. But Assange was guilty of violating the U.S. government’s divine right to blindfold the American people.
After Britain arrested Assange, Sen. Joe Manchin whooped that Assange “is our property and we can get the facts and the truth from him.” But Manchin had no recommendations on how Americans can “get the facts and the truth” from the federal government.
Biden has ramped up U.S. bombings in Somalia. Who exactly is being killed there? It is a secret (and maybe nobody in Washington cares).
Why is the United States continuing to assist Saudi atrocities against Yemen civilians?
It’s a secret.
The Long History of Govt Secrecy
Few Americans are aware of the Iron Curtain shrouding U.S. foreign policy. Consider the U.S. military intervention in Syria. Beginning in 2013, the Obama administration began covertly providing money and weapons to Syrian rebels fighting the government of Bashar Assad.
Much of the U.S. aid ended up in the hands of terrorist groups, some of whom were allied with Al-Qaeda. After Trump tweeted derisively about the program in 2018, a journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents on C.I.A. payments to rebel groups. A 2020 federal appeals court declared that the records must be kept secret because the court owed “appropriate deference” to the C.I.A. The judges neglected to cite the provision in the Constitution that obliged them to kowtow.
Syrians know that C.I.A.-backed rebels have wreaked havoc, killing women and children. But federal judges insist on blindfolding Americans to the crimes they are helping finance. The selective censorship is reminiscent of the perpetual falsehoods about the Vietnam War that were exposed in the Pentagon Papers. As philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote, “The policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy but chiefly if not exclusively destined for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress.”
And then there’s the biggest and most dangerous secret operation on the horizon right now — the U.S. intervention in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Do Washington policymakers deserve a blank check to potentially drag America into a nuclear war? Are C.I.A. analysts or Pentagon officials issuing warnings about how U.S. government actions in this conflict could lead to a spiral that ends in catastrophe?
Unfortunately, Americans won’t learn of any such memos until the damage has been done. Biden promised last February that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “we will bring an end to” the Nord Stream pipeline delivering natural gas from Russia to Europe. That pipeline was blown up last September.
Short afterwards, Secretary of State Blinken declared that the explosion “offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come” to reduce European reliance on Russian energy. Unfortunately, Team Biden and their allies in Congress believe that American citizens have no right to know whether their government blew up the Russian pipeline.
Democrats in Congress blocked proposals to appoint an inspector general to audit the tens of billions of dollars of aid the United States has already delivered to Ukraine (one of the most corrupt nations in the world). If U.S. intervention ends again in disaster, then we’ll see the same sham that occurred after the Iraq War. Some Senate committee blathering that no one is to blame because everyone in Washington was a victim of “group think.”
According to Politico, the Biden White House is launching a “new war on secrecy” and is especially concerned about “potentially illegal [government] activities that have been shielded from the public for decades.”
A Biden administration official, speaking anonymously, declared that it is in the “nation’s best interest to be as transparent as possible with the American public.” (Explicitly attaching one’s name to such a dangerous notion could ruin one’s D.C. career.)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently commented, “We spend $18 billion protecting the classification system and only about $102 million … on declassification efforts. … That ratio feels off in a democracy.” But inside the Beltway, rigging the game 176-to-1 is “close enough for government work” for transparency.
Growing Support for Assange’s Release
Assange’s cause may not be hopeless, as more people in America and abroad are speaking up on his behalf. Protests supporting Assange erupted around the world in October. In London, 7,000 protestors linked hands to surround the Parliament building, demanding that the United Kingdom not extradite Assange. Protests occurred in several U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., where Assange supporters ceremonially circled the Justice Department headquarters. That protest drew support from both libertarians and leftists and featured prominent former military and C.I.A. officers championing Assange’s cause.
Media outlets are also belatedly taking a firm stand against the suppression of truth. On Nov. 28, The New York Times — along with its British, French, Spanish, and German partners who published WikiLeaks revelations — published a joint open letter on the danger of the Assange prosecution: “Holding governments accountable is part of the core mission of a free press in a democracy.”
The publications also declared: “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalised, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.” (The Washington Post, which used many of Assange’s leaks in its articles, did not associate itself with the open letter.)
Dropping the charges against Assange is the best way for the Biden administration to prove it is serious about ending excessive secrecy. Assange declared years ago, “If wars can be started by lies, they can be stopped by truth.” Organizations like WikiLeaks are among the best hopes for rescuing democracy from Leviathan.
Pervasive secrecy helps explain the collapse of trust in Washington. Americans today are more likely to believe in witches, ghosts and astrology than to trust the federal government. There’s an old saying: If exposing a crime is a crime, then you’re being ruled by criminals. Attorney General Ramsey Clark warned in 1967, “Nothing so diminishes democracy as secrecy.”
At this point, America is an Impunity Democracy in which government officials pay no price for their abuses. Adding Assange’s scalp to the Justice Department’s trophy wall will do nothing to end the mistrust of the political ruling class that has dragged America into so many debacles.
This article is from Future of Freedom.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books, including 2012’s Public Policy Hooligan, and 2006’s Attention Deficit Democracy. He is also a USA Today columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard, read his blog and send him email.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
The propaganda surrounding the Assange is SO thick I wonder how many/few can distinguish what constitutes lawful and unlawful publishing.
…… It is perfectly legal to publish material that has been obtained passively – as in, freely submitted by someone or some entity. …..even if that material was obtained illegally.
…….. it is NOT legal for a publisher to conspire with someone/some entity to illegally obtain/steal said material.
Some other facts lost on the general public—–> VIPS (Ray McGovern, et al) did a deep forensic analysis and concluded it was impossible for so much info to have been obtained via hacking. The voluminous files were most certainly uploaded on to a thumb drive by a person on the inside. …..Voila! …..Wikilleaks obtained the files legally and can publish.
———> Many in the general public still exclaim, “Assange? …..oh, that rapist?” Assange was never charged with rape. Sweden had dropped their investigation – no there there – but, the US persuaded them to reopen the “case” to build a smear campaign. (even the woman involved said it was not about rape, just about whether a condom had failed, or not)
———-> The general public probably has no idea of how Assange’s civil/human rights have been violated every step of the way through this ten year persecution. ……from the UK judge with huge conflict of interests……..from the Icelandic ‘hacking expert’ and convicted pedophile who gave “expert testimony’ in exchange for a reduced sentence,……………from the many violations of attorney/client privilege – Assange’s cell was illegally surveilled by a Spanish co. ………… from the PRE-TRIAL! inhumane conditions of his incarceration.
The USA is a rapidly declining hegemon. Having lost much of its diplomatic and economic influence globally, it tries to shore up its decline through increased militarism. The state’s clamping down on the free flow of info, with special emphasis on leftist alternative media/journos is essential for the state to control the narrative and keep the public in the dark as to its ongoing criminal behavior.
The persecution/prosecution of Assange is a testament to the empire’s desperate attempt to remove any impediments to its “Full Spectrum Dominance” agenda. ……..It is also meant as a warning/threat to journos worldwide to NEVER look too closely at WHATEVER the the empire does ANYWHERE.
No Secret Treaties!
Once upon a time a government of the people said such a thing. And no, I did not say that it was America’s early oligarchs.
Why on earth would anyone believe that “Biden is waging a war on secrecy?”
The man has been in Washington for almost 50 years, and at no point has he ever taken any action against ‘secrecy’. He was a Senator during the era of the Church Committee, and while the House Committee on Assassinations was meeting. Can’t remember Biden saying a dang thing. Biden later went on to become powerful Chair of the Judiciary Committee. And, while in that powerful seat, I can’t remember a single instance where he ‘waged a war on secrecy’ even though he had the power to do so. For instance, Biden’s famous “Biden Crime Bill” did not make any effort to repeal The Espionage Act. Biden brought the death penalty to the federal government, but did not touch the Espionage Act while crafting and passing that bill. While Biden was a big proponent of the growing American police state and giving the Bankers more power in bankruptcy proceedings, I can’t remember the Judiciary Committee under Biden’s leadership ever working to reduce ‘secrecy’. I can’t remember Biden ever even leading one of those silly VP task forces to try to eliminate secrecy.
So, I repeat the question … given Biden’s provable 50 year track record, why on earth would anyone believe that Biden is ‘waging a war on secrecy?’ Because Biden says so? Seriously? ….. that’s another thing that the 50 year old track record teaches us quite clearly … that a citizen should never, ever under any circumstances believe Joe Biden.
“If the Brits deliver Assange to the U.S. government, he has almost no chance of a fair trial because of how Espionage Act prosecutions are rigged in federal court.”
He might not even get a trial at all as was the case when James Earl Ray was extradited to the USA thus resulting in him being framed for the assassination of Martin Luther King.
When Ray did apply for a proper trial, the judge, Preston Battle, very conveniently died of a heart attack.
“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union—–”
OH—- the irony!
“A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press,” proclaimed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Having to spout this monstrous patently hypocritical crap day after day is the principal cause of Hvana Syndrome for State dept employees
He would say that when he is totally incapable of recognising the truth – even if it hit him hard in the face. Of course he is unafraid of something he cannot comprehend.
To him, ‘free’ press means a press that is free to report his version of the alternate reality he lives in, not the reality the rest of us inhabit.
He’s ‘confident’ in his delusion, ignorance and stupidity – because it protects him from reality!
A hallmark of a professional con artist is the brazen lie. Biden and Blinken have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to lie brazenly. I therefore conclude that is their job. Which is to say, they are intentionally deceiving the American public. Therefore they must be dealt with by force of law. But it’s a challenging situation when the presidency itself has been captured by criminals.
A chesty review. Direct, bitter pilled, no punches pulled. Makes me mad as hell again, and after a hard day of outdoor work and just now sitting down to wind down. But am in agreement here 100%. I wish there was more than I could do than send emails to my congress person round file.
The author writes that “Inside the Beltway, classified information is viewed as a holy relic that cannot be exposed without damning the nation.” That only seems to be a shocking and farfetched conclusion. If it’s true that the government knowingly engages in shameful acts that would be condemned by the American people if they came to light (and the quotations from Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton suggest that it is true), that kind of conduct hardly deserves to be protected and kept secret.
Outstanding article. The truth is always the way forward as there is this little provision in our Constitution regarding Freedom of The Press. The press is not an enemy but a check on a runaway government which thinks it can do what it wants without an consequences. I voted for Biden in the last election but he has now lost my support. He closed one back hole (Afghanistan) and opened another in Ukraine. I really don’t like liars and corrupt government officials no matter who they are and they seem pervasive in this current Administration.
Joe biden is the highest public official doing the bidding and will of the Satanic Cult of Perversion that rules the West.
Of course they don’t want their evil exposed, because they FEAR THE PEOPLE.
That said, most of the western world is so fractured, divided, atomised, that its hard to imagine a movement forming to rid the world of the parasitic bastards who rule it.
Speaking of secrecy and lawless American villainy, there is an article on BBC, right now, about “Russian ships at the site of the Nord Stream pipeline”…
Yes, I saw this yesterday. What an amazing piece of misleading propaganda it is. Presented as the lead story on the BBC news website. Truly truly outrageous.
Western oligarchs have the US and its vassals in a death grip. They refuse to give an inch of the power they’ve captured back to the public sphere. They need to be overthrown with extreme prejudice. No time like the present. Free Assange!
All we have running this country are nefarious felons and I doubt we will ever rid ourselves of their heinous crimes – My hope tank is empty…
“My hope tank is empty…”
“Hope” has facilitated nefarious felons through their encouragement of hope and your and others immersions there-in: the greatest self-indulgence and weakness
Time to put away childish things and follow the observation of Mr. W.C.Fields through practical implementations :
There comes a time in the affairs of men dear friends when we must grab the bull by the tail and face the situation, that Mr. Biden and others are waging a war on you and others.
And better a harsh reality than a false hope.