John Pilger: The Global War on Assange, Journalism & Dissent

John Pilger talks about the persecution of the WikiLeaks publisher and the rapid crackdown on investigative journalism in a wide-ranging interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico.

By Dennis J Bernstein and Randy Credico
KPFA Flashpoints 

The muckraking work of Oscar- and Emmy-award-winning filmmaker John Pilger is revered and celebrated by journalists and publishers all over the world. While still in his twenties, Pilger became the youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, “Journalist of the Year,” and was the first to win it twice. Moving to the United States, he reported on the upheavals there in the late 1960s and 1970s. Pilger was in the same room when Robert Kennedy, the presidential candidate, was assassinated in June 1968.

His reporting in South East Asia and his subsequent documentary, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” raised almost $50 million for the people of that stricken country. Similarly, his 1994 documentary and dispatches report from East Timor, where he travelled under cover, helped galvanize support for the East Timorese, then occupied by Indonesia. In Britain, his four-year investigation on behalf of a group of children damaged at birth by the drug Thalidomide, and left out of the settlement with the drugs company, resulted in a special settlement. In 2009, he was awarded Australia’s human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in the U.K. and abroad. In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work.

In this interview with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico, Pilger talks about what is happening to his friend and colleague Julian Assange, founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, and how his persecution could be the beginning of the end of modern investigative reporting as we know it. Since Assange’s high-profile arrest and maximum-security imprisonment on a bail-jumping charge, journalists and whistleblowers have been pursued, arrested and have their documents and hard drives seized in the U.S., France, Great Britain and Australia.

Bernstein: Good to speak with you again, John.  Thanks for talking with us. What’s happening — not only with Julian Assange — but the future of journalism is extremely disturbing. Now we have seen high-profile raids of journalists in Australia, France, and here in the U.S. in San Francisco, where police put a reporter in handcuffs, while they searched his house and seized his hard drive. We know Julian Assange is in maximum security and Chelsea Manning is also locked down. These are terrible times for the open flow of information.

Pilger: Well, it’s happening all over the world now and certainly all over that part of the world that regards itself as the enlightened. We are seeing the victimization of whistleblowers and journalists who tell the truth. There is a global war on journalism. More than that, there’s a global war on dissent. The speed with which these events has happened is quite remarkable since April 11th when Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police. Since then, police have moved against journalists in the United States, in Australia, spectacularly, in Latin America. It’s as if somebody has waved a green flag.

Credico: I was thinking by now that Assange would be out. Didn’t you think at this point that he would be out of the dire situation that he was in when I last saw him two years ago?

Pilger: I’m reluctant to be a futurist. I did think a political deal might have been done. Now looking back, that was naive in the extreme because the very opposite was planned for Julian Assange. There is an “Assange Precedent” at work all over the world. In Australia there was a raid on the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where the federal police marched in with warrants, one of which gave them the authority to delete, change and appropriate the material of journalists. It was one of the most blatant attacks on journalistic freedom and indeed on freedom of speech that I can remember. We saw even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation attacked.

The political editor of one of Murdoch’s papers, The Sunday Telegraph, watched as her house was ransacked and her personal belongings, intimate belongings, rifled. She had reported on the extent of official spying on Australians by the Australian government. Something similar has happened in France where [President Emmanuel] Macron’s police have moved against journalists on the magazine, Disclose.

Assange predicted this while he was being smeared and abused. He was saying that the world was changing and that so-called liberal democracies were becoming autocracies. A democracy that sends its police against journalists and carries away their notes and hard drives simply because those journalists have revealed what governments have not wanted people to know is not a democracy.

CredicoYou know, John, some of the mainstream media here in the U.S. and I guess in the U.K., now that their ox is possibly being gored, have suddenly come out in defense of Assange particularly on the use of the Espionage Act and the gathering of information. I don’t want to denounce them for waiting so long but why did they wait so long and what kind of help can they offer at this point and what should they do since they are in the crosshairs, as well?

Pilger: Let’s look at who is actually in the crosshairs. WikiLeaks co-published the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs in 2010, in collaboration with a range of media organizations: Der Spiegel in Germany, The New York Times, the Guardian and Espresso. The co-publishers of the Iraq material were also Al Jazeera, Le Monde, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, Channel 4’s “Dispatches” in London, the Iraq Body Count project in the U.K., RUV (Iceland), SVT (Sweden) and so it goes on.

There’s a list of individual journalists who reported this and worked with Assange. They echoed his work; they were collaborators in the literal sense. I’m looking at a list right now: On The New York Times there is Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt, Andrew W. Lehren, C. J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Jacob Harris, Alan McLean. On The Guardian there is Nick Davies, David Leigh, Declan Walsh, Simon Tisdall … and so it goes on. All these journalists are in the crosshairs. I don’t believe that many will find themselves in the dire straits in which Julian Assange finds himself because they don’t present a danger to the system that has reacted against Assange and Chelsea Manning; but they have, prima facie, committed the same “crime,” that is, publishing documents that the U.S. government did not want made public. In other words, they are as “guilty” as Assange of journalism.

That applies to hundreds of journalists if not thousands all over the world. The WikiLeaks disclosures were, if not co-published, were picked up by newspapers and journals and investigative programs on television all over the world. That makes all the journalists involved, all the producers, all the presenters, all of them complicit. And, of course, the hounding of Assange and the intimidation of others make a mockery of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that you have every right to publish; you have every right to “publish and be damned.” It’s one of the demonstrably noble principles of the U.S. Constitution that has been thrown away completely. And what’s ironic is that the journalists who looked down on Assange, even maintained he was not a journalist, are now running for cover because not only is he a journalist of the highest order he is a far more conscientious journalist than most of them. He — and they in his shadow — were doing a basic job of journalism. That’s why I call it a global war on journalism and the precedent of Julian Assange is unlike anything we have seen.

Bernstein: John I want to sort of pick up where you left off with Randy and I want to unpack more and deepen peoples’ understanding of exactly who Julian Assange is and the, if you will, the beat that he chose for his work. How would you describe Julian Assange’s beat and the people he chose to work with?

Pilger: When I first met Julian Assange, I asked him, “What’s WikiLeaks all about, what are you doing here?” He described very clearly the principle of transparency. In fact, he was describing the principle of free speech: that we have a right to know. We have a right to know what our governments are doing in our name. He wasn’t saying that there is a right to endanger people. He was saying that in the normal business of liberal democracies, we have a right to know what our governments are doing for us, at times conspiring against us, in our name. We have the right to know the truth that they tell in private which are so often translated into untruths in public. That transparency, he said, was a moral principle.  That is the “why” of WikiLeaks. He believes it passionately and, of course, that should strike a chord with every authentic journalist, because that’s what we all should believe.

What the Assange case has shown us is that this war on journalism, this war on dissent, has yet to enter the political bloodstream. None of the candidates now running for the presidency of the United States has mentioned it. None of the Democrats have uttered it. We don’t expect the Trump gang to talk about principles like this but there is some naive hope that maybe some of the Democrats might. None of them has.

Bernstein: [What does it say when] Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning; a publisher and one of the most significant military whistleblowers of our time, are in jail and locked down?

PilgerThey want to get their hands on Julian Assange because he protected his source and they want to get their hands on Chelsea Manning because she, being the source, has refused to lie about Julian Assange. She’s refused to implicate him. She’s refuses to say there is a conspiracy between them. These two exemplify the very best of truth telling in the modern era. We’ve been bereft of the likes of Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Yes, there’s been some fine investigative reporting and disclosures but we have to reach back to the caliber of Daniel Ellsberg to appreciate what Chelsea and Julian, these two heroic figures, what they’ve given us and why they’re being persecuted. 

If we allow their persecution, so much is lost. The intimidation and suppression will work on all our lives. In the media that once abused Assange, I detect fear. You read some of these editorials by those who once attacked Julian Assange and smeared him, such as in The Guardian, and you see their fear that they may be next. You read famous columnists like Katie Benner in The New York Times, who attacked Assange and now sees a threat from his tormentors to all journalists. The same is true of David Corn [at Mother Jones] who now sees a threat to all of journalism. They are justified in being frightened.

CredicoWhat was the fear of Assange? That he would have continued to work on new avenues of exposure? Why are they so afraid of Assange?

PilgerWell, I think they were worried – are worried – that among the 2 million people in the U.S. who have a national security clearance are those whom Assange has called “conscientious objectors.”  I once asked him to characterize the people who were using WikiLeaks to release important information. He likened them to the conscientious objectors in wartime, people of principle and peace, and I think that’s quite an apt description. The authorities are worried that there are quite a few Chelseas out there. Perhaps not quite as brave or as bold as Chelsea, but who may start releasing information that undermines the whole war-making system.

CredicoYeah I spoke to Julian about this about a year and a half ago when I was in London, about trying to make a comparison to mid-19th century Antebellum South and journalists like Elijah Lovejoy and David Walker who were murdered for exposing the brutality and destinism of slavery and I said, “You know, we gotta’ start packaging you in that kind of light,” and he’s says, “You know, there’s a big difference, Randy.” He said that, “See those guys only had one, one side to deal with, that’s it; the people in the South and some of the collaborators in New York that were part of the cotton shipping business. But the rest of the North pretty much was on the side of the abolitionists. I exposed the war crimes and got the conservatives upset with me. And then I exposed misbehavior, malfeasance by the Democratic Party. So, I target everybody, I don’t exempt anybody so it doesn’t apply to me.”

And that’s what’s happened here. [You see it in the small size of the protests on his behalf.] I was at a demonstration the other day, a small little protest for Assange in front of the British embassy,  and only half a dozen people were there, a few more the previous week. He’s not generating that kind of interest thus far. And you had people walking by saying, “Assange is a traitor.” I mean, they are so disinformed and I want to go to this quote that you quoted, Vandana Shiva, in your book “Freedom Next Time,” she talked about the “insurrection of subjugated knowledge,” can you talk about that?

PilgerVandana Shiva is the great Indian environmentalist and political activist whose books on the threat of monoculture are landmarks, especially the threat of the multinational agri-power companies that impose themselves on vulnerable, rural societies like India. She described an “insurrection of subjugated knowledge.” It is a fine truism. I have long believed that the truth resides in a metaphorically subterranean world and above that is all the noise: the noise of the accredited politicians, the noise of the accredited media, those who appear to be speaking for those below. Now and then, truth tellers emerge from below. Take the Australian war correspondent, Wilfred Burchett, who was the first to reach Hiroshima after the atomic bombing. His report appeared on the front of his newspaper The Daily Express in London, which said, “I write this as a warning to the world.”  He was warning about nuclear weapons. Everything was thrown at Burchett to smear and discredit him. The New York Times correspondent was leading this: the same New York Times correspondent who denied that people were suffering effects of radioactivity: that people had died only from the blast. He was later found to be in bed with the U.S. authorities. Wilfred Burchett suffered smears over most of his career. As all whistleblowers do — those who are affronted by the indecency of something they discovered perhaps in a corporation they work for, or within a government — they believe that the public has a right to know the truth.

The Guardian, which turned on Julian Assange with such viciousness having been one of WikiLeaks’ media partners, back in the ‘80s published the disclosures of a Foreign Office official who had sent them the plans of the U.S. to install medium-range Cruise missiles throughout Europe. The Guardian published this and was duly praised as a paper of disclosure and principle. But when the government went to the courts and a judge demanded the paper hand over the documents that would reveal who the whistleblower was — instead of the editor doing as editors are meant to do, standing up for principle and saying, “No, I will not reveal my source” — the paper betrayed its source. Her name is Sarah Tisdall and she went to prison as a result. So, whistleblowers have to be extraordinarily brave, heroic people. When you look at the likes of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, it’s as if the full force of the American national security state backed by its so-called allies has been imposed on them. Julian represents an example that they must make because if they don’t make an example of Julian Assange, journalists might even be encouraged to do their job and that job means telling the public what they have a right to know.

CredicoVery well said. In your preface or introduction in your book, “Freedom Next Time,” you also quote Harold Pinter and his Nobel Prize speech in which he talked about the vast tapestry of lies that we feed on and he goes on and says that American crimes were superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged. This is something that Julian Assange has broken out of that mode, big time, and he has exposed war crimes by the U.S. and whatever kind of shenanigans the State Department has perpetrated. You talk about Harold Pinter, what a great influence he’s been.

PilgerYes, I recommend to your listeners Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, I believe it was 2005. It was a superb and eloquent testament of how and why the truth should be told and why we should no longer tolerate political double standards.

Harold Pinter was comparing our view of the Soviet Union and of Stalin’s crimes with America’s crimes; he was saying the main difference was that we know about the scale of Stalin’s crimes and know little about Washington’s. He was saying that the vast silence that enveloped our crimes — when I say, “our crimes,” I mean those of the United State — meant, as he said, memorably, “These crimes didn’t happen, they didn’t even happen when they were happening, they were of no interest, they didn’t matter.”

We have to rid ourselves of these double standards, surely. We have just had a unctuous celebration of June the 6th, D-Day. That was an extraordinary invasion in which many soldiers took part and laid down their lives but it didn’t win the war. The Soviet Union actually won the war but the Russians weren’t even represented, weren’t even invited or spoken of. It didn’t happen, as Pinter would say. It didn’t matter. But Donald Trump was there, lecturing the world on war and peace. It is truly gruesome satire.  This silence, these omissions, run right across our newspaper — right across the BB — as if it’s even a semblance of the truth, and it’s not. 

Bernstein: I want to pick it up with Wilfred Burchett and the implications, and the enormous responsibility that these big-time journalists have for allowing terrible things to go on unnoticed, based on issues of patriotism and claims of national security. I’m thinking, they had to shut down Willfred Burchett because that could have opened the whole door about how dangerous nuclear weapons and nuclear power is, exploding the myth of the peaceful atom.

Pilger:  That’s very true, Dennis, and it also undermined the moral plans of the “Good War,” the Second World War which ended with these two great crimes — the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after Japan posed no threat. Credible historians now don’t tell us the fairytales that these atomic bombs were needed to end the war. So, it’s destroyed in many respects the great moral mission of the war. 

It not only did that, it declared, the atomic bombing, that a new war was beginning, a “Cold War,” although it could very well have turned very quickly into a “hot war” with the Soviet Union. And it was saying “we”— that is the United States and its allies like Britain — had nuclear weapons and we’re prepared to use them. That’s the key: We’re prepared to use them. And the United States is the only country that has ever used them against another country.

Of course it then went on to test them throughout the United Nations’ Trust territory, which was meant to be held in trust by the United Nations in the Marshall Islands, setting off many Hiroshimas over a period of 12 years. We didn’t know anything about that at the time. And how much do we know about the development of nuclear warheads that President Obama got underway and committed something like a trillion dollars that President Trump has certainly carried on.  

And those treaties that offered some fragile defense against a nuclear holocaust, treaties with the Soviet Union such as the intermediate-range weapons treaty torn up by this administration. One thing leads to another. This is truth telling.

Bernstein: I want to come back to remind people of the kind of structure that Julian Assange created at WikiLeaks to protect whistleblowers. This is crucial because we’ve seen now other journalists being a little more careless and we see sources being tracked down, arrested, and facing major jail time. And I think this is the way that Julian Assange honored whistleblowers by protecting them is a crucial part of who he is and what he did.

PilgerHe invented a system whereby it was impossible to tell who the source was and it allowed people to use a letterbox drop to leak material without their identity being disclosed. The WikiLeaks system gives them that protection. It’s probably that that has so enraged those who are pursuing him. It means that people of conscience within governments, within systems, who are troubled like Chelsea Manning who was deeply troubled by what she saw, have the opportunity to tell the world without fearing that their identity will be exposed. Unfortunately, Chelsea revealed her identity to somebody who betrayed her. It is an unprecedented means of getting the truth out.  

Bernstein: John, please tell us about your recent visit with Assange at Belmarsh maximum security prison in Great Britain. How is he holding up?

Pilger:  I would like to say one thing about Julian personally. I saw Julian in Belmarsh prison and I got a vivid sense of what he has had to endure. I saw the resilience and courage that I’ve known for many years; but now he is unwell. The pressure on him is unimaginable; most of us would have bent beneath it.  So, there is an issue here of justice for this man and what he has had to take; not only the lies that were told about him in the embassy and the lies that sought a full-scale character assassination of him. The so-called respectable media from The New York Times to The Guardian, all of them have reached into the mud and thrown it at him; and today he is a very vulnerable, and I would say to your listeners:  He needs your support and solidarity. More than that, he deserves it.

Bernstein: Say a little more about the conditions there and why it’s so significant that they would treat him to a year in this kind of prison.

Pilger:  Well, I suppose because of what a threat he is. Even with Julian locked away, WikiLeaks carries on. This is a maximum-security prison. Anyone in for just bail infringement — first of all, they wouldn’t have been sentenced to 50 weeks as he was. They might have been given a fine and at best a month but of course this has now morphed into an extradition, a case with all these ludicrous charges coming from the indictment in Virginia. But Julian, as a person, what’s always struck me he’s the diametric opposite portrayed by so many of his detractors. He has a sharp intellect so he’s clever, of course. He’s also gracious and he’s very funny. He and I often laugh. We even managed to laugh the last time I saw him at the embassy when there were cameras all over the room, you could tell as we swapped notes and we had to cover up what we were actually writing on the pad. He managed to laugh about this. So, there’s a dry, almost black humor and he’s a very passionate person but his resilience has always astonished me. I’ve tried to put myself in his position and I couldn’t imagine it. And when I saw him in prison and we had to sit across from each other, I was with a couple of other people, when one of us went around the table just to be close to him she was told to go back by one of the guards. This is what somebody who has committed no crime, yes, he’s committed the crime of journalism, and this is what he has to endure.

Listen to the interview.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.” You can access the audio archives at Flashpoint.  You can get in touch with the author at dbernstein@igc.org.

Randy Credico is an American perennial political candidate, comedian, radio host, activist and the former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.




Assange to Face 5-Day Extradition Hearing in February 2020

Decision on Assange’s fate will not come for at least another eight months.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

A decision on whether Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act will not come until the end of February 2020 at the earliest, the Westminster Magistrate’s Court ruled on Friday.

Tristan Kirk, the London Evening Standard‘s courts reporter, tweeted:

Kirk said he argued his way into the court room after he and the rest of the media had been barred by a security guard from entering the public hearing that lasted under 30 minutes.

Reuters reported:

As Ben Brandon, the lawyer representing the United States, ran through a summary of the accusations against him including that he had cracked a U.S. defence network password, Assange said: “I didn’t break any password whatsoever.”

The WikiLeaks publisher told the court that “175 years of my life is effectively at stake,” according to Sky News. He addressed the judge as Lady Arbuthnot, saying: “WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher.”  Mark Summers, a lawyer representing Assange, told the court there are a “multiplicity of profound issues” with the extradition case, Sky News reported. 

“We say it represents an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights,” he said.

Assange spoke to the court via video link from Belmarsh prison where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail on a Swedish sexual assault investigation.  Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid onward extradition from Sweden to the United States. He was arrested on April 11 when Ecuador allowed British police to enter the embassy.

The British home secretary signed the extradition request from the U.S. on Wednesday. Sajiid Javid said Thursday: “I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”

Both sides in the extradition battle will now have about eight months to prepare their case.

Assange’s Belmarsh sentence will end at the end of March 2020, meaning he will remain in the maximum security prison until the extradition hearing. 




Propaganda Prospering Far and Wide

Human minds are very hackable, writes Caitlin Johnstone, and that causes a major problem for democracy.  

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Forbes reports that the CEO of Crowdstrike, the extremely shady cybersecurity corporation which was foundational in the construction of the official CIA/CNN Russian hacking narrative, is now a billionaire.

George Kurtz ascended to the billionaire rankings on the back of soaring stocks immediately after the company went public, carried no doubt on the winds of the international fame it gained from its role as a central protagonist in the most well-known hacking news story of all time. A loyal servant of empire well-rewarded.

Never mind that U.S. insiders such as Hillary Clinton had been prepping for escalations against Russia well in advance of the 2016 elections, and that their preexisting agendas to shove a geostrategic obstacle off the world stage benefitted from the hacking narrative as much as George Kurtz did.

Never mind that Crowdstrike is tied to the NATO narrative management firm known as the Atlantic Council, which receives funding from the U.S., the EU, NATO, Gulf states and powerful international oligarchs. Never mind, either, that Crowdstrike was financed with a whopping $100 million from Google, which has had a cozy relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies since its very inception.

Never mind that to this day the DNC servers have not been examined by the FBI, nor indeed were they examined by the Special Counsel of Robert “Iraq has WMD” Mueller, preferring instead to go with the analyses of this extremely shady outfit with extensive and well-documented ties with the oligarchic leaders of the U.S.-centralized empire. Also never mind that the Crowdstrike analyst who led forensics on those DNC servers had in fact worked for and was promoted by Robert Mueller while the two were in the FBI.

 

The Real Currency 

As I never tire of saying, the real underlying currency in our world is not gold, nor bureaucratic fiat, nor even raw military might. The real underlying currency of our world is narrative, and the ability to control it.

As soon as you really grok this dynamic, you start noticing it everywhere. George Kurtz is one clear example today of narrative control’s central role in the maintenance and expansion of existing power structures, as well as an illustration of how the empire is wired to reward those who advance pro-empire narratives and punish those who damage them; just compare how he’s doing to how Julian Assange is doing, for example.

But you see examples pop up every day:

  • The U.S. State Department just got busted using a $1.5 million troll farm to manipulate public discourse on social media about Iran.
  • Video footage has just surfaced of the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weaponsadmitting that the OPCW did indeed deliberately omit any mention in its official findings of a report from its own investigation which contradicts the establishment narrative about a chemical strike in Douma, Syria, an admission which answers controversial questions asked by critics of western imperialism like myself, and which the mainstream media have not so much as touched.
  • Mintpress News broke a story the other day about a new narrative management operation known as “The Trust Project,” a coordinated campaign by establishment-friendly mass media outlets for “gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.”
  • In an interview with The Canary, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer explicitly named the mass media as largely responsible for Assange’s psychological torture, excoriating them for the way that they “have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr. Assange.”
  • In a new essay, Freeing Julian Assange,” journalist Suzie Dawson reports that “Countless articles appear to have been obliterated from the internet” about Assange and WikiLeaks, amounting to some 90 percent of the links Dawson examined which were shared in tweets by or about WikiLeaksand Assange since 2010.
  • I just finished reading this excellent Swiss Propaganda Research essay about the little-known fact that “most of the international news coverage in Western media is provided by only three global news agencies based in New York, London and Paris.”

I write about this stuff for a living, and even I don’t have the time or energy to write full articles about every single narrative control tool that the U.S.-centralized empire has been implementing into its arsenal. There are too damn many of them emerging too damn fast, because they’re just that damn crucial for maintaining existing power structures.

Because whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

 

Power used to be much easier to identify in our society: just look for the fellow with the sparkly hat made of gold sitting in a really big chair and bossing everyone around. As our society advanced philosophically, however, people started fighting for ideals called “freedom” and “democracy” in their respective nations. And, as far as our parents and teachers have taught us, freedom and democracy are exactly what we have now.

Except that’s all crap. Freedom and democracy only exist within the Western empire to the extent that it keeps up appearances. Because the trouble with democracy, it turns out, is that human minds are very hackable, when they are pursued with enough resources. Wealthy and powerful people do have the resources, which means that it’s very possible for wealthy and powerful people to manipulate the masses into voting in a way that consistently benefits the wealthy and powerful. This is why billionaires and narrative control consistently go hand-in-hand.

This dynamic has allowed for western power structures to operate in a way that western democracy was explicitly designed to prevent: for the benefit of the powerful instead of for the benefit of the voting populace. So now we’ve got people in so-called liberal democracies voting to maintain governments which advance wars which don’t benefit them, to advance intrusive surveillance and police state policies which oppress them, to advance austerity policies which harm them, to advance labor policies which exploit them, and to maintain eco-cidal environmental policies which threaten the very survival of our species. All because the wealthy and powerful are able to use their wealth and power to manipulate the way people think and vote.

This is why I pay far more attention to narrative control than to politics. Politics is downstream from narrative control, which is why the 2020 U.S. presidential race is already a contest to see what level of Democratic corporatist warmonger will be running against the incumbent Republican corporatist warmonger. The narrative-controlling class does its level best to hide the fact that anything’s fundamentally wrong with the system, then when people notice it’s deeply broken they encourage them to use completely impotent tools to fix it. “Don’t like how things are run? Here, vote for our other puppet!”

The root of all our problems right now is the fact that human minds are very hackable with enough resources, combined with the fact that war, oppression, exploitation and ecocide are highly profitable. This dynamic has caused human collective consciousness to generally dead-end into a kind of propagandized, zombified state in which all our knowledge and all our thinking moves in alignment with the agendas of existing power structures. It’s much easier to continue believing the official narratives than to sort through everything you’ve been told about your society, your nation and your world since grade school and work out what’s true and what’s false. Many don’t have the time. Many more don’t have the courage.

We will remain in this collective dead-end, hurtling toward either Orwellian dystopia or extinction via climate collapse or nuclear Armageddon, until we find a way out of it. It won’t come from the tools our rulers have given us, and it won’t come from repeating any of the old patterns which got us here. In order to escape from the increasingly adept narrative control matrix that is being built around our collective mind by the powerful, we’re going to have to change our relationship with narrative altogether. We will either pass this great test or we will fail it, and we absolutely have the freedom to go either way.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” This article was re-published with permission.




RAY McGOVERN: DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan

With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story, says Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

The New York Times Thursday morning has bad news for one of its favorite anonymous sources, former CIA Director John Brennan.

The Times reports that the Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officers to focus on the allegation that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump. DOJ investigators will be looking for evidence to support that remarkable claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report failed to establish.

Despite the collusion conspiracy theory having been put to rest, many Americans, including members of Congress, right and left, continue to accept the evidence-impoverished, media-cum-“former-intelligence-officer” meme that the Kremlin interfered massively in the 2016 presidential election.

One cannot escape the analogy with the fraudulent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As in 2002 and 2003, when the mania for the invasion of Iraq mounted, Establishment media have simply regurgitated what intelligence sources like Brennan told them about Russia-gate.

No one batted an eye when Brennan told a House committee in May 2017, “I don’t do evidence.”

Leak Not Hack

As we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have warned numerous times over the past two plus years, there is no reliable forensic evidence to support the story that Russia hacked into the DNC. Moreover, in a piece I wrote in May, “Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate,” I again noted that accumulating forensic evidence from metadata clearly points to an inside DNC job — a leak, not a hack, by Russia or anyone else.

So Brennan and his partners, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were making stuff up and feeding thin but explosive gruel to the hungry stenographers that pass today for Russiagate obsessed journalists.

Is the Jig Up?

With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan conclusively as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story. Evidence, real evidence in this case, abounds, since the Brennan-Comey-Clapper gang of three were sure Hillary Clinton would become president. Consequently, they did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks.

Worse still, intelligence analysts tend to hang onto instructions and terms of reference handed down to them by people like Brennan and his top lieutenants. It will not be difficult for CIA analysts to come up with documents to support the excuse: “Brennan made me do it.”

The Times article today betrays some sympathy and worry over what may be in store for Brennan, one of its favorite sons and (anonymous) sources, as well as for those he suborned into making up stuff about the Russians.

The DOJ inquiry, says the Times, “has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the C.I.A., according to former officials. Senior agency officials have questioned why the C.I.A.’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny.” Attorney General William Barr is overseeing the review but has assigned the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to conduct it.

No Holds Barred

Barr is approaching this challenge with a resoluteness and a calm candor rarely seen in Washington — particularly when it comes to challenging those who run the intelligence agencies.

The big question, once again, is whether President Donald Trump will follow his customary practice of reining in subordinates at the last minute, lest they cross the vindictive and still powerful members of the Deep State.

Happily, at least for those interested in the truth, some of the authors of the rump, misnomered “Intelligence Community Assessment” commissioned by Obama, orchestrated by Brennan-Clapper-Comey, and published on January 6, 2017 will now be interviewed. The ICA is the document still widely cited as showing that the “entire intelligence community agreed” on the Russia-gate story, but this is far from the case. As Clapper has admitted, that “assessment” was drafted by “handpicked analysts” from just three of the 17 intelligence agencies — CIA, FBI, and NSA.

U.S. Attorney Durham would do well to also check with analysts in agencies — like the Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department Intelligence, as to why they believe they were excluded. The ICA on Russian interference is as inferior an example of intelligence analysis as I have ever seen. Since virtually all of the hoi aristoi and the media swear by it, I did an assessment of the Assessment on its second anniversary. I wrote:

“Under a media drumbeat of anti-Russian hysteria, credulous Americans were led to believe that Donald Trump owed his election victory to the president of Russia, whose “influence campaign” according to theTimesquoting the intelligence report,helped “President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

Hard evidence supporting the media and political rhetoric has been as elusive as proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003. This time, though, an alarming increase in the possibility of war with nuclear-armed Russia has ensued — whether by design, hubris, or rank stupidity. The possible consequences for the world are even more dire than 16 years of war and destruction in the Middle East. …

The Defense Intelligence Agency should have been included, particularly since it has considerable expertise on the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence agency, which has been blamed for Russian hacking of the DNC emails. But DIA, too, has an independent streak and, in fact, is capable of reaching judgments Clapper would reject as anathema. Just one year before Clapper decided to do the rump “Intelligence Community Assessment,” DIA had formally blessed the following heterodox idea in its “December 2015 National Security Strategy”:

“The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine. Moscow views the United States as the critical driver behind the crisis in Ukraine and believes that the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is the latest move in a long-established pattern of U.S.-orchestrated regime change efforts.”

Any further questions as to why the Defense Intelligence Agency was kept away from the ICA drafting table?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he was Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




Cover-Ups and Truth Tellers

Lawrence Davidson finds a reversal of values — in who gets punished and who does not — when whistleblowers and publishers expose immoral behavior by governments.

By Lawrence Davidson 
Tothe PointAnalysis.com

In a May, 22, 2019 appearance in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump declared that “I don’t do cover-ups.” Various news outlets immediately started to enumerate a long list of bona fide cover-ups associated with the president.

What can one say about this bit of Trumpian nonsense? Can you accuse a person of lying who actually seems not to know the difference between truth and untruth? Trump’s inability in this regard is demonstrated daily, and The Washington Post fact checker puts the running count of presidential lies at 10,111, with no end in sight. When it comes to reality, the president appears to be a malignant version of Walter Mitty

Unfortunately, Trump’s behavior is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cover-ups. One can surmise that just by virtue of being the head of the U.S. government, the president — any president — must be directly or indirectly associated with hundreds of such evasions. That is because, it can be argued without much paranoia, that every major division of the government is hiding something —particularly when it comes to foreign activities.

Of course, being cover-ups by the government may make them appear acceptable, at least to a naive public. Many of them are rationalized as necessary for the sake of national “security.” And, of course, everyone wants to be “secure,” accepting the notion that “people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

The fact that much of this violence is done to other innocent people trying to get a peaceful night’s rest is “classified” information. So woe be it to the truth tellers who defy these rationalizations and sound off. For they shall be cast out of our democratic heaven into one of the pits of hell that pass for a U.S. prison—or, if they are fleet-footed, chased into exile.  

Melodramatic, Except … Assange and Manning

Well, that sounds a bit melodramatic — unless you happen to be Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks, or his notable informant, Chelsea Manning, or, taking one step back from the firing line, the Freedom of the Press Foundation. 

The Trump administration is now seeking, via the “Justice” Department, to destroy Assange and Manning. Both are truth tellers or, if you want, whistleblowers who, by revealing the truth about government behavior during the Iraq War, badly embarrassed Washington. The rush to punishment is being carried out with a maliciousness for which this president and his bureaucratic minions seem temperamentally well-suited. Always keep in mind that there are plenty of unethical professionals, in this case operating in the guise of government lawyers, available to serve the disreputable purposes of disreputable bosses. 

Julian Assange has been charged with an 18-count indictment alleging that he “unlawfully obtained and disclosed classified documents related to national defense.” It goes on to allege that Assange accomplished this when he “conspired with Manning and aided and abetted her in obtaining classified information … to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation.” Manning’s sentence for these “offenses” was subsequently commuted by President Barack Obama, but she is now in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Assange.

The attack on Assange and Manning has brought into question the viability of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the notion of a free press — seminally important matters. Here is how the Freedom of the Press Foundation describes the implications of the indictment against Julian Assange:

“Put simply, these unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century. The Trump administration is moving to explicitly criminalize national security journalism, and if this prosecution proceeds, dozens of reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere would also be in danger. The ability of the press to publish facts the government would prefer remain secret is both critical to an informed public and a fundamental right. … Anyone who cares about press freedom should immediately and wholeheartedly condemn these charges.” 

Given these circumstances, one might be surprised, and very disappointed as well, to know that a concerted opposition to this threat from the so-called Fourth Estate (the press and news media) has yet to materialize. 

Too Few Protecting Journalism 

The truth is that, beyond fact-checking the statements of a pathological president, too few journalists are willing to go out on a limb on the issue of a “free press,” or, if you will, for the integrity of their own profession. As it is, most of the American mass media more or less toes a government line and has done so for a very long time. They do this because their owners and editors are either in agreement with the government, see it as economically necessary to appear as traditionally loyal Americans to their readership, or have selectively hired reporters and other staff who are too passive to resist government pressure. Thus, episodes such as the 1972 reporting about the Nixon-inspired break-in at the Watergate and the revelation of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, along with the occasional local investigative expose, are exceptions rather than the rule of journalistic behavior. At best, if a newspaper or TV station wants to appear politically risqué they will confine the effort to a supposed “balanced” editorial page or segment. 

If the journalistic establishment appears hesitant, civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU readily agree with the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The ACLU Director, Ben Wisner, notes that “For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information.” The key words here are “publisher” and “truthful information.” Wisner goes on to say that “It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets.” In other words, Trump and his minions are taking a step in the direction of dictatorial censorship. 

Two Opposing Issues

Wisner’s comment suggests that there is often a real tension between what the government wishes to keep secret and issues of public morality and common decency. Indeed, Manning’s stated motive in dealing with WikiLeakswas to “remove the fog of war and reveal the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.” Hence, in 2010, Manning, after being rebuffed by The New York Times and The Washington Post, sent WikiLeaks some 750,000 classified or otherwise “sensitive” military and diplomatic documents. Much of this material showed the U.S. waging a cruel and lawless operation in Iraq that any normal American should find troubling. This is probably part of the reason why this revelation was judged by Washington to be injurious to the U.S.

We have two issues here and they are in opposition.

First, there is the formal issue of the government (actually all governments) having made it illegal to acquire and make public, in an unauthorized fashion, classified information. However, it is clear that information is often classified not only because it might be militarily or diplomatically harmful but because it is likely to be found repulsive by a government’s own citizens. This proved to be the case with at least some of Manning’s revelations.

That brings us to the second issue — what are the proper behavioral standards to which we want to hold our government, our military, and our diplomatic corps? How are we to know if they are meeting those standards when they have the advantage of legally keeping official behavior secret? 

So it is a conundrum. As libertarians like to put it, “all that which is immoral for men acting individually is equally immoral for men acting in association.”

However, no one seems to have both the legal clout and the courage to demand moral standards for the government, at least not when it comes to foreign policy. Oddly enough, there are domestic laws that make it a criminal offense to withhold incriminating information from the police. But those laws have no application here, though they really should. So the entire situation is managed for the sake of one side of the dilemma — the government. On the other side, the casualties continue to pile up. 

Most of us are told that our government is the best, most progressive one in existence — a model for all the world. And, if you go along with the likes of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. government takes a seat at the right hand of God.

However, what happens when truth tellers who notice starkly immoral U.S. government behavior reveal that fact to the public? With but rare exception, what happens is that you get a reversal of values. To name the operatives of the U.S. government as criminals, you often must reveal “classified” evidence. It is that revelation that instantly becomes the primary offense. What the revealed information might say about government wrongdoing recedes into the shadows, and it is the truth teller who becomes the primary criminal. 

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.




Why Didn’t Mueller Investigate Seth Rich?

The idea that the DNC email disclosures were produced by a hack — not a leak —makes less and less sense, writes Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

After bungling every last aspect of Russia-gate since the day the pseudo-scandal broke, the corporate press is now seizing on the Mueller report to shut down debate on one of the key questions still outstanding from the 2016 presidential election: the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

No one knows who killed Rich in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2016.  All we know is that he was found at 4:19 a.m. in the Bloomingdale neighborhood “with apparent gunshot wound(s) to the back” according to the police report.  Conscious and still breathing, he was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:57.

Police have added to the confusion by releasing information only in the tiniest dribs and drabs.  Rich’s mother, Mary, told local TV news that her son struggled with his assailants: “His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything….  They took his life for literally no reason.  They didn’t finish robbing him, they just took his life.” 

But cops said shortly after the killing that they had no immediate indication that robbery was a motive.  Despite his mother’s report of two shots in the back, all the local medical examiner would say is that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso.  According to Rich’s brother, Aaron, Seth “was very aware, very talkative,” when police found him lying on the pavement. Yet cops have refused to say if he described his assailant.  A month later, they put out a statement that “there is no indication that Seth Rich’s death is connected to his employment at the DNC,” but refused to elaborate.

The result is a scattering of disconnected facts that can be used to support just about any theory from a random killing to a political assassination.  Nonetheless, Robert Mueller is dead certain that the murder had nothing to do with the emails — just as he was dead certain in 2003 that Iraq was bristling with weapons of mass destruction pos[ing] a clear threat to our national security. 

Mueller’s Theory About Assange ‘Dissembling’ 

Mueller is equally positive that, merely by expressing concern that the murder may have had something to do with the release of thousands of DNC emails less than two weeks later, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was trying to protect the real source, which of course is Russia.

Here’s how the Mueller report puts it:

“Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016.  The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails.  On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter accounted posted: ‘ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.’ 

Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, ‘Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?’ and responded, ‘We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged WikiLeaks sources.’ The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, ‘I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.’ 

Assange replied, ‘If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious, circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected.  But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us’” (vol. 1, pp. 48-49).

This is what the Mueller report calls “dissembling.” The conclusion caused jubilation in corporate newsrooms where hostility to both Russia and WikiLeaks runs high. “The Seth Rich conspiracy theory needs to end now,” declared Vox.com.  “The special counsel’s report confirmed this week that Seth Rich … was not the source,” said The New York Times. “The Mueller report might not end the debate over what President Donald Trump did,” the Poynter Institute’s Politifact added, “but it has scuttled one conspiracy theory involving a murdered Democratic party staffer and WikiLeaks.”

One Conspiracy Theory for Another

But all the Mueller report did was replace one conspiracy theory with another involving the Kremlin and its minions that is equally unconvincing.

Remarkably, there’s nothing in the Mueller report indicating that the special counselor independently reviewed the forensic evidence or questioned family members and friends.  He certainly didn’t interview Assange, the person in the best position to know who supplied the data, even though Craig Murray, the ex-British diplomat who serves as an unofficial WikiLeaks spokesman, says the WikiLeaks founder would have been “very willing to give evidence to Mueller” while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, “which could have been done by video-link, by interview in the Embassy, or by written communication.” 

Murray says Mueller’s team made no effort to contact him either even though he has publicly stated that he met clandestinely with an associate of the leaker near the American University campus in Washington.

Why not?  Because Mueller didn’t want anything that might disturb his a priori assumption that Russia is the guilty party.  If he had bucked the intelligence community finding – set forth in a formal assessment in January 2017 – that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s candidacy — it would have been front-page news since an anti-Trump press had already accepted the assessment as gospel.  ButMueller is far too much of an establishmentarian to do anything so reckless. 

So he selected evidence in support of the official theory that “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” as the report states on its very first page.  And since Assange had consistently maintained that the data was the result of an inside leak rather than internal hack and that “[o]ur source is not the Russian government,” he cherry picked evidence to show that Assange is a liar, not only about Russia but about Seth Rich.

Cryptic Exchange

It’s a self-serving myth that corporate media have swallowed whole because it serves their interests too. One problem in exposing it, however, is Assange’s pledge – intrinsic to the WikiLeaks mission – to safeguard the identities of whistleblowers who furnish it with information.  The upshot has been a good deal of beating around the bush.  A month after the murder, the WikiLeaks founder appeared on a Dutch program called “Nieuwsuur” and took part in a cryptic exchange with journalist Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal: 

Assange: Whistle blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks.  There’s a 27-year-old – works for the DNC – who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington, so…. 

Rosenthal: That was just a robbery, I believe, wasn’t it?

Assange: No, there’s no finding, so –

Rosenthal: What are you suggesting?

Assange: I’m suggesting that our sources take risks, and they become concerned to see things occurring like that. 

Rosenthal: But was he one of your sources then?  I mean –

Assange: We don’t comment about who our sources are.

Rosenthal: But why make the suggestion about a young guy being shot in the streets of Washington?

Assange: Because we have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States and that our sources, you know, face serious risks.  That’s why they come to us – so we can protect their anonymity.

Rosenthal: But it’s quite something to suggest a murder.  That’s basically what you’re doing.

This was as close as Assange could come to confirming that Rich was tied up with the leak without actually saying it. Hours later, WikiLeaks tweeted about the $20k reward. 

Four months after that, Craig Murray told the Libertarian Institute’s Scott Horton: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that he [Rich] was the source of the leaks.  What I’m saying is that it’s probably not an unfair indication to draw that WikiLeaks believe[s] that he may have been killed by someone who thought he was the source of the leaks.”  (Quote begins at 11:20.)

Thanks to such foggy rhetoric, it was all but inevitable that conspiracy theories would ignite. Two months after the killing, an ultra-conservative talk-radio host named Jack Burkman – best known for organizing a protest campaign against the Dallas Cowboys’ hiring of an openly gay football player named Michael Sam – approached members of the Rich family and offered to launch an investigation in their behalf. 

The family said yes, but then backed off when Burkman grandly announced that the murder was a Kremlin hit.  Things turned even more bizarre a year later when Kevin Doherty, an ex-Marine whom Burkman had hired to look into the case, lured his ex-boss to a Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virgina, where he shot him twice in the buttocks and then tried to run him down with a rented SUV.  Doherty received a nine-year sentence last December. 

The rightwing Washington Times meanwhile reported thatWikiLeaks had paid Seth and Aaron Rich an undisclosed sum, a story it was forced to retract, and Fox News named Seth as the source as well.  (A sympathetic judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Rich family on technical grounds.)  But still the speculation bubbled on, with conservative nuts blaming everyone from ex-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to acting DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and Bill and Hillary themselves.

All of which plays into the hands of a corporate press happy to write off any and all suspicion as a product of alt-right paranoia. 

But if speculation refuses to die, it’s for a simple reason.  If the DNC email disclosure was a hack, then Rich clearly had nothing to do with it, which means his death was no more than a robbery gone awry.  But if it was a leak, then – based on broad hints dropped by Assange and Murray – it looks like the story could well be more complicated. This proves nothing in and of itself. But it guarantees that questions will grow as long as the Washington police make zero progress in its investigation and the Mueller report continues to fall apart.

And that’s just what’s happening.  Mueller’s account of how Russian intelligence supposedly supplied WikiLeaks with stolen data makes no sense because, according to the report’s chronology, the transfer left WikiLeaks with just four days to review some 28,000 emails and other electronic documents to make sure that they were genuine and unaltered – a clear impossibility.  (See The ‘Guccifer 2.0’ Gaps in Mueller’s Full Report,” April 18.) 

The FBI assessment that Paul Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik “has ties to Russian intelligence” – which Mueller cites (vol. 1, p. 133) in order to justify holding Manafort in solitary confinement during the Russia-gate investigation – is similarly disintegrating amid reports that Kilimnik actually served as an important State Department intelligence source.

So the idea of a hack makes less and less sense and an inside leak seems more and more plausible, which is why questions about the Rich case will not go away.  Bottom line: you don’t have to be a loony rightist to suspect that there is more to the murder than Robert Mueller would like us to believe. 

Daniel Lazare is the author of “The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy” (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.  He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique and blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.




A USS Liberty’s Hero’s Passing

On the 52nd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty, Ray McGovern focuses on Terry Halbardier, who sent the SOS that saved the ship from Israeli destruction. 

This article was written in 2014 on the occasion of Halbardier’s death. 

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Terry Halbardier, who as a 23-year old seaman in 1967 thwarted Israeli attempts to sink the USS Liberty, died on Aug. 11 in Visalia, California. It took the U.S. government 42 years after the attack to recognize Halbardier’s heroism by awarding him the Silver Star, a delay explained by Washington’s determination to downplay Israeli responsibility for the 34 Americans killed and the 174 wounded.

On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.

Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet.  The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.

First, the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war. Second, President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed, the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.

Given all they have been through, the Liberty survivors and other veterans who joined Halbardier to celebrate his belated receipt of the Silver Star on May 27, 2009 can be forgiven for having doubted that the day of the hero’s recognition would ever come.

In the award ceremony at the Visalia (California) office of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican congressman pinned the Silver Star next to the Purple Heart that Halbardier found in his home mailbox three years ago. Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.”

Nunes got that right. Despite the many indignities the Liberty crew has been subjected to, the mood in Visalia was pronouncedly a joyous one of Better (42 years) Late Than Never. And, it did take some time for the moment to sink in: Wow, a gutsy congressman not afraid to let the truth hang out on this delicate issue.

Treatment Accorded the Skipper

I was present that day and I could not get out of my head the contrast between this simple, uncomplicated event and the earlier rigmarole that senior Navy officers went through to pin a richly deserved Medal of Honor on another hero of that day, the Liberty’s skipper, Captain William McGonagle.

Although badly wounded by Israeli fire on June 8, 1967, McGonagle was able to keep the bombed, torpedoed, napalmed Liberty afloat and limping toward Malta, where what was left of the bodies of the 34 crewmen killed and the 174 wounded could be attended to. Do the math: yes, killed and wounded amounted to more than two-thirds of the Liberty crew of 294.

I remembered what a naval officer involved in McGonagle’s award ceremony told one of the Liberty crew: “The government is pretty jumpy about Israelthe State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal.”

When McGonagle received his award, the White House (the normal venue for a Medal of Honor award) was all booked up, it seems, and President Lyndon Johnson (who would have been the usual presenter) was unavailable.

So it fell to the Secretary of the Navy to sneak off to the Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River, where he presented McGonagle with the Medal of Honor and a citation that described the attack but not the identity of the attackers.

Please don’t misunderstand. The Liberty crew is not big on ceremony. They are VERY-not-big on politicians who wink when Navy comrades are killed and wounded at sea. The Liberty survivors are big on getting the truth out about what actually happened that otherwise beautiful day in June 1967.

The award of the Silver Star to Terry Halbardier marked a significant step in the direction of truth telling. Halbardier said he accepted his Silver Star on behalf of the entire 294-man crew. He and fellow survivor Don Pageler expressed particular satisfaction at the wording of the citation, which stated explicitly — with none of the usual fudging — the identity of the attackers: “The USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats in the East Mediterranean Sea.”

In the past, official citations, like Captain McGonagle’s, had avoided mentioning Israel by name when alluding to the attack. I think former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck put it best in condemning this kind of approach as “obsequious, unctuous subservience to the peripheral interests of a foreign nation at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.”  Strong words for a diplomat. But right on.

Just a Guy From Texas

Were it not for Halbardier’s bravery, ingenuity, and technical expertise, the USS Liberty would surely have sunk, taking down much if not all of the crew.

You see, the first thing the Israeli aircraft bombed and strafed were the Liberty’s communications antennae and other equipment. They succeeded in destroying all the antennae that were functional. One antenna on the port side, though, had been out of commission and had escaped damage.

In receiving the Silver Star, Halbardier made light of his heroism, claiming that he was just a guy from Texas who could do a whole lot with simple stuff like baling wire. (In the infantry we called this kind of thing a “field expedient.”)

In any case, with his can-do attitude and his technical training, he figured he might be able to get that particular antenna working again. But first he would have to repair a cable that had been destroyed on deck and then connect the antenna to a transmitter.

The deck was still being strafed, but Halbardier grabbed a reel of cable, ran out onto the deck, and attached new cable to the antenna so a radioman could get an SOS out to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

Voila. “Mayday” went out; almost immediately the Israeli aircraft and torpedo ships broke off the attack and went back to base; the Israeli government sent a quick apology to Washington for its unfortunate “mistake;” and President Johnson issued orders to everyone to make believe the Israelis were telling the truth, or at least to remain silent.

To their discredit, top Navy brass went along, and the Liberty survivors were threatened with court martial and prison if they so much as mentioned to their wives what had actually happened. They were enjoined as well from discussing it with one another.

As Liberty crewman Don Pageler put it, “We all headed out after that, and we didn’t talk to each other.” The circumstances were ready-made for serious Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The stories shared by Liberty survivors after the award ceremony, including descriptions of the macabre but necessary effort to reassemble torpedoed body parts, and the plague of survivor’s guilt, were as heart-rending as any I have heard. They are stories that should be shared more widely for those muzzled far too long.

These were the deep emotional scars to supplement the ones all over Halbardier’s body, some of which he uncovered when asked by the local press gathered there in Visalia. Typically, Halbardier made light of the shrapnel that had to be plucked out of his flesh, emphasizing that he was lucky compared to some of the other crew.

No Mistake

Despite Israeli protestations, the accumulated evidence, including intercepted voice communications, is such that no serious observer believes Israel’s “Oops” excuse of a terrible mistake. The following exchanges are excerpts of testimony from U.S. military and diplomatic officials given to Alison Weir, founder of “If Americans Knew” and author of American Media Miss the Boat:

Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”

Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.”

“But sir, it’s an American ship, I can see the flag!”

Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”

Haviland Smith, a CIA officer stationed in Beirut during the Six-Day War, says he was told that the transcripts were “deep-sixed,” because the U.S. government did not want to embarrass Israel.

Equally telling is the fact that the National Security Agency (NSA) destroyed voice tapes seen by many intelligence analysts, showing that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing. I asked a former CIA colleague, who was also an analyst at that time, what he remembered of those circumstances. Here is his e-mail reply:

“The chief of the analysts studying the Arab-Israeli region at the time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and repeated their requests of confirmation of the attack order. Whole platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed.”

One need hardly add at this point that the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open invitation to repetition in the future. Think the more recent torture-interrogation videotapes.

As for the legal side: the late Captain Ward Boston, unburdened himself on his accomplice role as the Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Adm. Isaac Kidd, who led a one-week (!) investigation and then followed orders to pronounce the attack on the Liberty a case of “mistaken identity.” Boston signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8, 2004, in which he said he was “outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’” Boston continued:

“The evidence was clear. Both Adm. Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded, a war crime

“I know from personal conversations I had with Adm. Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

W. Patrick Lang, Col., USA (ret.), who was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top analyst for the Middle East for eight years, recounted the Israeli air attacks as follows: “The flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship in view, that it was the same ship he had been briefed on, and that it was clearly marked with the U.S. flag

“The flight commander was reluctant. That was very clear. He didn’t want to do this. He asked them a couple of times, ‘Do you really want me to do this?’ I’ve remembered it ever since. It was very striking. I’ve been harboring this memory for all these years.”

Lang, of course, is not alone. So too Terry Halbardier, who told those assembled at his Silver Medal award ceremony, “I think about it [the attack on the Liberty] every day.”

Why Sink the Ship?

What we know for sure is, as the independent commission headed by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Thomas Moorer put it, the attack “was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.”

What we do not know for sure is why the Israelis wanted that done. Has no one dared ask the Israelis? One view is that the Israelis did not want the United States to find out they were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria and wanted to deprive the U.S. of the opportunity to argue against such a move.

James Bamford offers an alternative view in his excellent book, Body of Secrets. Bamford adduces evidence, including reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai.

The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware of that. But the important thing here is not to confuse what we know (the deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the ultimate purpose behind it, which remains open to speculation.

Also worth noting is the conventional wisdom prevalent in our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. An excellent, authoritative source has debunked that, none other than former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin! In an unguarded moment in 1982, when he was prime minister, he admitted publicly:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Thus, the Israeli attack admittedly amounted to starting a war of aggression, and the occupied West Bank territories and the Golan Heights gained by the Israelis in the 1967 war remain occupied to this day. The post World War II tribunal at Nuremberg distinguished a “war of aggression” from other war crimes, terming it the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Perhaps the attempt to sink the Liberty and finish off all survivors qualifies as one of those accumulated evils. Terry Halbardier summed it up this way when he was awarded his Silver Star:  “There’s lots of theories but let’s just say they didn’t want us listening in to what they wanted to do.”

Getting Away With Murder

In sum, on June 8, 1967, the Israeli government learned that it could get away with murder, literally, and the crime would be covered up, so strong is the influence of the Israel Lobby in our Congress, and indeed, in the White House. And those USS Liberty veterans who survived well enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.

Does all this have relevance today? Of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that there is little that Israel could do that would earn the opprobrium of the U.S. Congress or retaliation from the White House, whether it’s building illegal settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers.

One of the few moments when a U.S. official has had the audacity to face Israel down came from significantly a U.S. Navy admiral. In early July 2008, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was sent to Israel to read the riot act to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who seemed to be itching to start hostilities with Iran while President George W. Bush was in office.

We learned from the Israeli press that Mullen, fearing some form of Israeli provocation, went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident like the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, that the Israelis should disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if Israel somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

This is the only occasion I am aware of in which a U.S. official of such seniority braced Israel about the Liberty incident. A gutsy move, especially with Vice President Dick Cheney and national security aide Elliott Abrams then in the White House, two hawks who might well bless, or even encourage, an Israeli provocation that would make it very difficult for Washington to avoid springing to the defense of its “ally.”

The Israelis know that Mullen knows that the attack on the Liberty was deliberate.  Mullen could have raised no more neuralgic an issue to take a shot across an Israeli bow than to cite the attack on the Liberty. The Jerusalem Post reported that Mullen cautioned that a Liberty-type incident must be avoided in any future military actions in the Middle East.

Perhaps Mullen had learned something from the heroism of Terry Halbardier

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. After serving as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, he spent a 27-year career as a CIA analyst. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




Congress Angered by ‘Escalated’ Ballistic Missile Program Amid Concern of a Saudi Nuke

Rather than preventing ballistic missile proliferation in the region, the U.S. seems more intent on seeing Saudi Arabia strengthen its military muscle against Iran, explains Giorgio Cafiero.

By Giorgio Cafiero
Special to Consortium News

The U.S. has obtained intelligence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia “significantly escalated” its ballistic missile program with Chinese help, CNN reported on Wednesday. Beijing has enabled the Saudis to expand their missile infrastructure and technology at a time of escalating tension in the Persian Gulf, CNN said, with both the Saudis and Iranians perceiving a growing threat from each other.

The previously unreported classified intelligence has led U.S. lawmakers to express concern about undermining decades-old efforts to limit the proliferation of missiles in the Middle East.

The CNN report cited two former senior U.S. intelligence officials who said it is “likely” that President Trump received this intelligence in a Presidential Daily Briefing, given the close monitoring of ballistic missile developments and flows of material worldwide by U.S. intelligence.

Yet the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only acquired this intelligence from a committee staff member who learned about the ballistic missile activity in Saudi Arabia from a “foreign counterpart” while on “an unrelated trip to the Middle East.”

The news increased anger in Washington about a perceived lack of congressional oversight on foreign policy matters in the Trump era.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez, (D-NJ)  reprimanded Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and blamed the administration for its “unacceptable” failure to initially provide the committee with the classified information. Menendez declared that the State Department must “do a better job of engaging with us.”

Such outcry comes against the backdrop of mounting bipartisan criticism over the administration’s support for the Saudi/Emirati-led campaign in Yemen and the cover that Trump provided Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) following the CIA’s conclusion that he ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

Most recently, the administration’s decision to sell  $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while overriding congressional opposition by citing a national security emergency, highlighted how Saudi-related issues are creating partisan flashpoints between lawmakers, and conflict between Congress and the White House.

The Trump administration likely avoided disclosing the intelligence because of its tacit approval of the Kingdom’s ballistic missile activity. Based on the logic that if Saudi Arabia strengthens militarily Iran will come under greater pressure, the Trump administration may view China providing ballistic missile technology to the Saudis as a positive. The 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime restricts the U.S. and other countries from providing Saudi Arabia with such technology. Notably, China is not a party to this multi-country pact.

Next Step: A Nuclear Warhead?

News of this recent intelligence must also be read within the context of U.S. -Saudi nuclear cooperation, which is another Saudi-related flashpoint pitting lawmakers against the White House. Members of Congress have been accusing the administration of recklessly authorizing U.S. firms to provide sensitive nuclear power information to Riyadh, and in an insufficiently transparent manner in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s killing.

Some analysts worry that such information transfers could help the Kingdom develop a nuclear weapon at a later point if the Saudi government makes that decision.

Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile production thus raises important questions about a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East. As MbS articulated in March 2018, Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if Iran pursues that path. 

China’s Foreign Ministry responded defensively, maintaining that such cooperation between “comprehensive strategic partners” is no violation of international law, nor a threat to efforts to thwart the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Not everyone was soothed by Beijing’s words.

There are concerns that the technology that China has provided Saudi Arabia could enable the Kingdom to possess ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the future if the Saudis become a nuclear weapons state.

Such a move would indicate Riyadh’s declining trust in Washington’s ability and willingness to continue serving as Saudi Arabia’s security guarantor. Apparently, Saudi Arabia believes it most prudent to hedge against a perceived Iranian threat by investing in the missile program with help from Beijing. It is not clear, of course, what the Saudi end-game is.

With the U.S. no longer a signatory to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and Iran in reaction scaling back on its commitments under the nuclear accord, there are sharp increases in tensions between the U.S. , Saudi Arabia, and the UAE on one side and Iran on the other. Concerns about a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East are valid.

To prevent such an escalation, the U.S. and China could use their leverage to pressure Riyadh and Tehran to hold talks and engage directly in bilateral discussions. It appears instead that China is keener to exploit the lack of Saudi trust in the U.S. and Riyadh’s perceptions of a rising Iranian threat to capitalize on a new client, while making Beijing of greater strategic value to the Kingdom.

Rather than preventing ballistic missile proliferation in the Middle East, the Trump administration meanwhile seems more interested in seeing Saudi Arabia strengthen its military muscle as Tehran refuses to capitulate to U.S. demands under “maximum pressure.”

Giorgio Cafiero (@GiorgioCafiero) is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics (@GulfStateAnalyt), a Washington-based geopolitical risk consultancy.

 

 




More Police Raids as War on Journalism Escalates Worldwide

A centrally-planned conspiracy is not necessarily behind this trend, writes Caitlin Johnstone. It may simply be the reflex of an ailing empire. 

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

The Australian Federal Police have conducted two raids on journalists and seized documents in purportedly unrelated incidents in the span of just two days.

Yesterday, the AFP raided the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst, seeking information related to her investigative report last year that exposed Australia’s discussions of giving itself unprecedented powers to spy on its own citizens. Today, they raided the Sydney headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, seizing information related to a 2017 investigative report on possible war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan.

In a third, also ostensibly unrelated incident, another Australian reporter disclosed that the Department of Home Affairs has initiated an investigation of his reporting on a story about asylum seeker boats which could lead to an AFP criminal case, saying he’s being pressured to disclose his source.

“Why has AFP suddenly decided to carry out these two raids after the election?” tweeted Australian Sky News political editor David Speers during the Sydney raid. “Did new evidence really just emerge in both the Annika Smethurst and ABC stories?!”

Why indeed?

“If these raids unconnected, as AFP reportedly said, it’s an extraordinary coincidence,” tweeted The Conversation’s Chief Political Correspondent Michelle Grattan. “AFP needs to explain ASAP the timing so long after the stories. It can’t be that inefficient! Must be some explanation – which makes the ‘unconnected’ claim even more odd.”

Odd indeed.

It is true that the AFP has formally denied that there was any connection between the two raids, and it is in fact difficult to imagine how the two could be connected apart from their sharing a common theme of exposing malfeasance that the government wanted kept secret. If it is true that they are unconnected, then what changed? What in the world could have changed to spark this sudden escalation of the Australian government’s assault on the free press?

Well, if as I suggested recently you don’t think in terms of separate, individual nations, it’s not hard to think of at least one thing that’s changed.

“The criminalization and crack down on national security journalism is spreading like a virus,” WikiLeaks tweeted today in response to the ABC raid. “The Assange precedent is already having effect. Journalists must unite and remember that courage is also contagious.”

“The arrest and espionage charges against Assange was just the beginning, as many in the media, even those who hate Assange, feared,”  tweeted Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria in response to the News Corp raid. “The home of a mainstream Australian journalist was raided Wed. morning by police because of a story she worked on.”

“Shameful news from Australia as the police raid journalists’ offices and homes,” tweeted legendary Australian journalist John Pilger. “One warrant allows them to ‘add, copy, delete or alter’ computer files at the ABC. The assault on Julian Assange was a clear warning to all of us: it was only the beginning.”

If you think about it, it would have been far less disturbing than the alternative if there were a connection between the two raids, because the alternative is vastly more sinister: that Australia’s attitude toward the free press has changed. And that it has perhaps done so, as Australia has been doing for decades, in alignment with the behavior of the rest of the U.S.-centralized empire.

In an article for Consortium News, titled “After Assange’s Espionage Act Indictment, Police Move Against More Journalists for Publishing Classified Material,” Joe Lauria reminds us that Australia is not the first nation within the Western power alliance to see such an escalation since the paradigm-shifting imprisonment of Julian Assange in the U.K.

“Police in Paris arrested two journalists who were covering Yellow Vest protests on April 20,” Lauria writes.  “One of the journalists, Alexis Kraland, said he was taken into custody after refusing to be searched and to turn his camera over to police at Gare du Nord train station. The largest journalism union in France demanded an explanation from police.”

“And on May 10 in San Francisco, police using sledgehammers to break down the door, raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist, to get him, while handcuffed, to reveal the source who leaked him a police report into the sudden death of the city’s elected public defender,” Lauria added. “Police took away computers, cameras, mobile phones and notes.”

So we’re seeing a pattern already. You can choose to ignore it or dismiss it with a pleasant story, or you can acknowledge that we appear to be in the midst of a rapidly escalating shutdown of the free press in the western world.

There does not necessarily have to be any centrally-planned conspiracy behind this trend; it can simply be the natural result of an ailing empire seeing that it’s going to need a lot more war, lies and deception in order to keep from collapsing, and responding accordingly. Once the Assange line was crossed, it could simply have served as a precedent for the other governments within the empire to begin doing things they’d already wanted to do anyway.

Julian Assange is the dot of a question mark at the end of a historically important question which we are all being asked right now. That question reads as follows: Does humanity wish to create a society that is based on truth and holds power to account, or does it want the exact opposite?

So far, the general consensus answer to that question has been going somewhere along the lines of “We’re actually fine with a headlong plunge into Orwellian dystopia, thanks.” But as the implications of that answer become clearer and clearer, we may yet see some stirrings in the other direction before it is too late.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.




After Assange’s Espionage Act Indictment, Police Move Against More Journalists for Publishing Classified Material

Less than two months after the arrest of journalist Julian Assange, and two weeks after his indictment under the Espionage Act, emboldened governments have sent the police after journalists who’ve challenged the state.  Joe Lauria reports.

By Joe Lauria
in Sydney, Australia

Special to Consortium News

Following the arrest and Espionage Act indictment of Julian Assange a number of police actions against journalists for publishing classified information and other journalistic activity  has heightened fears among mainstream journalists  that they could be next.  

Police in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday raided the offices of the taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, copying thousands of files related to a 2017 ABC broadcast that revealed allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.  

Three Australian Federal Police officers and three police technicians entered ABC’s Sydney headquarters with a search warrant that named two ABC investigative journalists and the network’s news director.  The police demanded to look through the journalists’ emails, ABC reported.

David Anderson, the ABC managing director, said it was “highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way”.

“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defence matters,” he said. “The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”  John Lyons, ABC’s executive editor and head of investigative journalism, tweeted:

Lyons said the federal police were going through dozens of emails with the authority to delete or even change their content. Protagonist Winston Smith’s job in Orwell’s 1984 was to rewrite news archives.

“I recall writing ages ago about Australian legislation giving the Australian govt power to ‘add, alter or delete’ targeted material,” Australian psychologist and social critic Lissa Johnson told Consortium News. “The msm barely batted an eyelid at the time. Now that power is being wielded against the ABC.”

Gaven Morris, ABC’s news director, said: “Journalism is not a crime.”

“Our journalists do a really difficult job, I’m proud of what they do, they do it in the public’s interest,” he said. “I’d say to all the journalists at the ABC and all the journalists across Australia, don’t be afraid of the job you do.”

Marcus Strom, president of Australia’s journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, called the raid  “disturbing.”

“It should chill the public as well as journalists,” he said.”These raids are all about intimidating journalists and intimidating whistle blowers so that mistakes made by the Government, including potential crimes, by the military, remain covered up, remain secret, and don’t fall in to the public domain.”

Political Editor’s Home Raided

On Tuesday morning in an unrelated case, Canberra police entered the home of the political editor of the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph “Journalist Annika Smethurst opened her front door to find seven AFP officers waiting for her. All because she dared to do her job and keep the nation informed on what its government was doing,” the Telegraph said in an editorial.

Ironically, the Smethhurst article in April 2018 that raised the ire of the government “revealed the departments of Defence and Home Affairs were considering new powers allowing Australians to be monitored for the first time,” The  Telegraph reported. “Her original article included images of top secret letters between Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty.”

French Journalists Arrested 

Assange was arrested in London on April 11. Police in Paris arrested two journalists who were covering Yellow Vest protests on April 20.  One of the journalists, Alexis Kraland, said he was taken into custody after refusing to be searched and to turn his camera over to police at Gare du Nord train station. The largest journalism union in France demanded an explanation from police.

SF Police Raid Journalists’ Home

And on May 10 in San Francisco, police using sledgehammers to break down the door, raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist, to get him, while handcuffed, to reveal the source who leaked him a police report into the sudden death of the city’s elected public defender. Police took away computers, cameras, mobile phones and notes.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said initially that Carmody had “crossed a line” with his report.  After a public outcry and demands that Scott resign, the police chief issued an apology.

Fears Justified

While there is no direct connection between Assange’s arrest and indictment for possessing and disseminating classified material and these subsequent police actions, a Western taboo on arresting or prosecuting the press for its work has clearly been weakened. One must ask why Australian police acted on a broadcast produced in 2017 and an article published in April only after Assange’s arrest and prosecution.

Within hours of Assange’s Espionage Act indictment on May 23, major publications and media figures, who have harshly treated Assange, began lining up in his defense out of self-interested concern that the government could apply the same prosecutions to them for also routinely publishing classified information.

Their fears are beginning to be realized.

 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .