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 .

 




King Coal Rules in Australian Vote

It was one of the most shocking results in decades. Labor appeared poised for victory but a coal mine in Queensland played an outsized role in the Liberals maintaining power in Canberra, reports Catherine Vogan.

By Catherine Vogan
in Sydney, Australia
Special to Consortium News

Not unlike the 2016 U.S. presidential vote, there’s been another surprise election result, this time in Australia. One week down the track the post-mortems are numerous on “what happened”; or rather why it happened. Every pollster and book-maker in the country had predicted an easy win for the left-wing Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Instead it was a Blessed Day for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his incumbent conservative Liberal National Party (LNP), which has won a predicted 77 seats to Labor’s 68 after 86.5 percent of the votes have been counted. The Liberals will form a majority government by one seat.

It was one of the most shocking results in decades. Labor appeared poised for victory because it had pledged to increase health and education spending, improve welfare services and act on climate change and renewable energy.

On top of what seemed good for most Australians, confidence in a Labor victory rested on years of Liberal Party losses in public opinion polls, including 30 straight defeats in polls that asked who the nation’s favourite leaders were.

The Liberals were also wracked by factional in-fighting between its bitterly divided moderate and conservative elements, the latter of which continued to champion the fossil fuel industry.

Many Australians perceived the Liberals’ policies in government as detestable and dangerous policy.

                         (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

‘ScoMo’

Led by a devoutly religious Morrison, the “Coal-fondler in Chief”, the Liberal government appeared to be in ruins after the demise of its two previous prime ministers, Malcolm “Political Mistake” Turnbull and Tony “Coal is Good for Humanity” Abbott.

There had also been an exodus of senior members from the party – including three of the few females– so Morrison had to campaign alone. He did so as the barely credible, chummy “ScoMo”, wearing, like Trump, the mantle of a baseball cap, and a grin, while uttering his true blue, albeit de-braining, one-liner: “If you have a go you’ll get a go.” Surely not, many said, but elections move in mysterious ways.

“His only promise to reform is to cut tax for the wealthy,” said retired Australian diplomat Tony Kevin. “His rhetoric is windy and empty, an Australian mimicry of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogans of the United States. A professed evangelical Christian, his surprise victory will inspire right wing activists on causes like abortion and free speech for religious fanatics.”

Liberal’s Record

The Liberals pursued what appeared to be a widely unpopular conservative agenda. That included much of the party campaigning against marriage equality. Its former attorney general, George Brandis, declared that “people have the right to be bigots” in an attempt to remove sections of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Morrison’s relentlessly harsh treatment of refugees had contributed to former Prime Minister Turnbull losing his seat altogether in a 2018 by-election to Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps, who had promised more humane treatment of refugees and action on climate change.

The Liberals had reduced welfare spending on the Medicare health system, social security and unemployment benefits and heavily stigmatised welfare recipients, at a time when there was only one full-time job available for every 12 job-seekers.

They had introduced an “Earn or Learn” system and raised the age of eligibility for unemployment benefits from 18 to 22, forcing many young people to live with their parents and take on government loans for ‘work-ready’ courses.

The Liberals had implemented “Work for the Dole”, which forced the unemployed of all ages into unpaid labour, up to 30 hours per week. The “Newstart” allowance they received in return has been deemed seriously insufficient for assuring basic needs. University of New South Wales researchers point out that the dole hasn’t risen in two decades to match the soaring cost of housing.

As the gap has widened between rich and poor, the Liberal Government was soft on multinational tax evaders, but harsh on welfare recipients, and misleading with employment figures. During the six years of Liberal rule, 60 percent of Australians joined the “precariat,” as part of a “gig economy” workforce that lacked predictability and security.

As the neo-liberal blueprint predicts, these workers were obliged to undertake extensive unremunerated activities to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings. The Australian economy grew, but the average Joe’s slice of the pie shrunk…

                          (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

Climate Change and Big Coal

Climate change and the opening of a massive new coal mine in the state of Queensland were the pivotal issues in the election.

What worried young Australians and concerned their parents was the government’s denial of climate change. Greta Thunberg’s message at the UN Climate Change COP24 Conference had a big impact in the country as Australian children left their classrooms en masse to plead for a future they could grow up in.

The Liberal government in 2014 had repealed Labor’s carbon tax policy, instituted two years earlier when Labor was last in power. The repeal led to a rise in greenhouse emissions, despite the Liberal government’s inadequate incentive payment to polluters to pollute less.

A month before the May 18 election, the Liberal government approved a new coal and a new uranium mine in Queensland, the large state that takes in the top half of Eastern Australia and lies between Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, and the Great Artesian Basin, an unpolluted aquifer which provides water for central Australia’s desert. The assumption of environmental groups was that the coal mines and fracking will pollute and destroy both the reef and the artesian basin.

The controversial new coal mine, approved two days before the 30-day caretaker period leading into this month’s election, is the massive Adani mine in the deposits of Queensland’s Carmichael Basin, which is larger than all of Great Britain. The Adani mine alone stretches over territory comparable to either New York City or London.

The Indian multinational company Adani said it expects its Carmichael mine to produce 2.3 billion tons of coal over 60 years, which, according to the Joint Report to the Land Court of Queensland on ‘Climate Change Emissions‘” would be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.  

Although the Labor Party proposed taking strong action on climate change, its leader, Bill Shorten, would not say whether he would review this decision if elected, possibly fearing lost coal mining jobs and lost votes in conservative Queensland. 

A Far-Right Surge

A leading Australian political journalist, Bernard Keane, reported on an unexpected far-right surge in Queensland, where the election was ultimately lost for Labor. There one in eight voters chose either the openly racist party, One Nation, or the United Australia Party, led by billionaire Clive Palmer, a man who once robbed Queensland workers of AU$7 million. (People do seem to have short memories).

Keane resisted, however, blaming the shocking results entirely on targeted scare campaigns about job losses, especially at the Adani coalmine, (despite there being more jobs available in the renewable energy sector.)

He also did not blame Labor’s defeat on fake rent increase notices, fictitious mortgage revaluation notices,a false “Death Tax, Death Tax, Death Tax” alert about a non-existent Labor policy, nor on the rest of a long list of the-biggest-fibs-of-the-election-so-far.

Doing so would be too simple to explain the Australian story, says Keane:

… like U.S. progressives insisting that Trump won because of the Russians, fake news and Cambridge Analytica, attributing too much to this role obscures deeper problems with what Labor offered, even if Labor was far more engaged with the discontent of working Australians than Hillary Clinton ever was. When one in 11 Queenslanders, even now, thinks it’s OK to vote for a racist, treacherous rabble like One Nation, there’s something very crook in the political and economic system.”

Some of the deceptions and smears about Labor were initiated by Liberal candidates, but others were funded by Palmer on behalf of his party to destroy Labor’s chances in the election, win his own votes and then pass them on as party preferences to the Liberals.

“Our Shifty Shorten ads across Australia … I think have been very successful in shifting the Labor vote,” Palmer said.

There is no doubt that Morrison received the blessing of the far right parties, but to understand how that won him the election, preferential voting in Australia needs to be explained.

                          (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

Didn’t Tap Concerns

Stuart Rees, an emeritus professor of political economy at Sydney University, pointed to false advertising campaigns creating a culture of fear that prompted people to look after what they perceived to be their own interests. He also criticised Labor for too much detail about their policies, and not enough detail about how they would pay for them. That mistake may very well have opened the way for the Death Tax canard.

Shorten’s lack of charisma bothered Rees, who said the party was over-confident because of the opinion polls. Labor failed to tap into voters’ deep concerns about jobs, global warming, budget surpluses and taxes, he said.

“My verdict on this surprising and so disappointing result is that reforms, in particular regarding policies to address global warming, are unlikely to be addressed by a conservative Coalition,” he told Consortium News. “This spells significant dangers for the planet and for the lives of future generations.”

Julian Burnside, the 2019 Australian Green Party candidate for Kooyong in the State of Victoria, echoed Rees.

“At this critical time in our history, it is vital that the whole world rises to the challenge. The threat to our climate is far too great and too real to lose hope,” he tweeted. “I encourage you all to do what you can while you can… march with your kids in the climate rallies; talk to your doubtful friends about climate change; speak to your representative in the Parliament and ask them to act for the planet, for your kids, and for their kids.”

                          (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

“Despite being in the middle of the 6th Mass Extinction, neither one of the major parties is ready to truly defy the coal lobbyists or their corporate sponsors and accept Extinction Rebellion’s 1st demand: that being to tell the public the truth of their impending extinction and declare a National Climate Emergency,” Tristan Sykes, the Extinction Rebellion state coordinator in Tasmania, told Consortium News.

“An ill-informed electorate cannot possibly vote in its own interest. Extinction Rebellion will not wait another four years hoping for a better result. We must act now to save ourselves and future generations. The only choice now is extinction or rebellion,” Sykes said.

Ultimately Labor’s Own Fault

Brenda the Disobedient Penguin, a bitter cartoon character, blamed Labor for its loss.  She declared:

“A mid-level marketing manager who was as surprised as anyone that he won! Morrison had no front bench, no policies, no record to stand on, a government defined by five years of cruelty, chaos and grift and he beat the Labor Party BY HIMSELF. ONE GRINNING PENTACOSTAL IN A BASEBALL CAP AND HE BEAT THE ALP AND THE UNION MOVEMENT ALL BY HIMSELF.* 

*And the Murdoch press but people keep telling me the power of Murdoch is waning.”

Indeed it is, but few understand, including heritage media pollsters, what has taken Murdoch’s place. One possibility are political ads, which in Australia are subject to no law imposing truth in advertising. And  (thanks to mass surveillance) there is the impact of behavioural micro-targeting with segmented political messaging.

In the good old days, Australia had a media blackout of 24 hours before election day to give voters time to peruse the candidates.

Today, social media never sleeps.

Catherine Vogan is an Australian film-maker and academic at Sydney Film School. She is a contributor to Consortium News.

 




Tide of Public Opinion is Turning in Assange’s Favor

Corporate media & some politicos who opposed Assange after the 2016 election have radically changed their tune, favorably influencing public opinion after the Espionage Act indictment of the WikiLeak‘s founder, reports Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
The indictment of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act has profoundly affected press coverage of the WikiLeaks founder, with much of the media turning suddenly and decisively in his favor after  years of vilifying him.

The sharp change has also come from some politicians, and significantly, from two Justice Department prosecutors who went public to express their dissent about using the Espionage Act to indict Assange.

To the extent that public opinion matters, the sea-change in coverage could have an effect on the British or Swedish governments’ decision to extradite Assange to the United States to face the charges.

Used to Be a Russian Agent

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election establishment media, fueled by the Mueller probe, has essentially branded Assange a Russian agent who worked to undermine American democracy.

Focusing on his personality rather than his work, the media mostly cheered his arrest by British police on April 11 after his political asylum was illegally revoked by Ecuador in its London embassy.

Assange’s initial indictment for conspiracy to intrude into a government computer was portrayed by corporate media as the work of a “hacker” and not a journalist, who doesn’t merit First Amendment protection.

But the superseding indictment under the Espionage Act last Thursday has changed all that. 

Rather than criminal activity, the indictment actually describes routine journalistic work, such as encouraging sources to turn over sensitive information and hiding a source’s identity.  

Since the Trump administration has crossed the red line criminalizing  what establishment journalists do all the time, establishment journalists have come full-square against the indictment and behind Assange.

Leading liberal outlets, who until Wednesday openly despised  Assange, began on Thursday to make 180 degree turns in their editorials, commentaries and news reports.

An editorial in The New York Times called the indictment “a marked escalation in the effort to prosecute Mr. Assange, one that could have a chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations. It is aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment.”

“The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time. … This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.”

The Times praised Assange’s work:

“Mr. Assange shared much of the material at issue with The New York Times and other news organizations. The resulting stories demonstrated why the protections afforded the press have served the American public so well; they shed important light on the American war effort in Iraq, revealing how the United States turned a blind eye to the torture of prisoners by Iraqi forces and how extensively Iran had meddled in the conflict.”

‘Profoundly Disturbing’

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote:

” I find the Trump administration’s use of the Espionage Act against him profoundly disturbing. … Whatever Assange got up to in 2010-11, it was not espionage. … Imagine the precedent if the Trump administration gets away with this. Israel and India have extensive nuclear weapons programmes – each protected by ferocious domestic official secrets acts. Think of the outcry if the Netanyahu or Modi governments attempted to extradite a British or US journalist to face life in jail for writing true things about their nuclear arsenals. …

Assange is accused of trying to persuade a source to disclose yet more secret information. Most reporters would do the same. Then he is charged with behaviour that, on the face of it, looks like a reporter seeking to help a source protect her identity. If that’s indeed what Assange was doing, good for him.” 

The New Yorker‘s Masha Gessen, wrote: “The use of the Espionage Act to prosecute Assange is an attack on the First Amendment. … It stands to reason that an Administration that considers the press an ‘enemy of the people’ would launch this attack. In attacking the media, it is attacking the public.’ 

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the Democratic Party booster, who probably had more influence than any commentator in drumming up the Russiagate conspiracy and Assange’s alleged role in it, on Thursday launched into an astounding defense of the imprisoned publisher.  On her program she said:

“The Justice Department today, the Trump administration today, just put every journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange’s side of the ledger. On his side of the fight. Which, I know, is unimaginable. But that is because the government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff, and newspapers and magazines and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.”

Nick Miller, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, said:

“On the face of it this indictment covers a lot of practices that are standard to investigative journalism: appealing for information, encouraging a source to provide documents that are not publicly available, reporting classified information you believe is in the public interest and the public has a right to know. …It may be that prosecutors can argue Assange was not acting as a journalist. But they would, by doing so, make the line separating journalism from espionage wafer-thin, and much more dangerous to approach, even in the public interest.”

Politicians Too

The indictment for espionage also caused a number of politicians to back Assange. Two U.S. candidates for president and another senator spoke out in his favor. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tweeted:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said in a statement: “Trump should not be using this case as a pretext to wage war on the First Amendment and go after the free press who hold the powerful accountable everyday.”

“This is not about Julian Assange,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a statement. “This is about the use of the Espionage Act to charge a recipient and publisher of classified information. I am extremely concerned about the precedent this may set and potential dangers to the work of journalists and the First Amendment.”

In Assange’s native Australia, Sen. Rex Patrick said: 

“The United States government’s decision to charge Australian citizen and publisher Julian Assange with new espionage offences relating to receiving and publishing classified US government information raises a grave threat to freedom of the press worldwide, and must be viewed so by the Australian government,” he said.

“The Australian government should be active not only in providing consular support to Mr Assange, who is an Australian citizen, but also outspoken in making representations to the British government against allowing Mr Assange to be extradited to the United States on charges that so obviously constitute a grave threat to press freedom.”

Bob Carr, a former Australian foreign minister, said:  “While it appears capital punishment does not apply in this case, the US, by seeking extradition for offences that might attract a 175 years imprisonment, could be testing the tolerance of its allies and partners. I think this changes the game almost as much as if capital punishment were the penalty.”

Carr said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, “needs to protect herself from the charge that she’s failed in her duty to protect the life of an Australian citizen.

“Therefore I would imagine that Dfat (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) will provide her with talking points to conversations with her British, Swedish and indeed American counterparts.

“Not to do so would leave the minister exposed to withering criticism that they did not take all appropriate action that might have made a difference, mainly before the British court makes a decision.”  

Extradition Made Harder

The Trump administration appears to have gone too far in its Espionage Act indictment, eliciting not only media pushback, but perhaps complicating its extradition case.  The British home secretary may now not want to been seen sending a suspect to a country that has clearly criminalized journalism.  

Miller, in the Herald, wrote:

“By bringing espionage into the picture the US have also made their extradition work much, much harder. Assange’s lawyers may try to argue that he is being extradited for his political opinions (which is not allowed), or for conduct that would not be a crime in the UK (ditto). This last is a very interesting question. The UK’s Official Secrets Act may be even harder to stretch to cover Assange’s actions then the US Espionage Act.”

The Intercept reported:

“The uproar could make it easier for Assange’s lawyers in the U.K. — where he is currently serving a 50-week jail term for violating bail — to argue that he is wanted in the United States primarily for embarrassing the Pentagon and State Department, by publishing true information obtained from a whistleblower, making the charges against him political in nature, rather than criminal.”

It is not clear why the U.S. released its superseding indictment when it did. It had until a June 12 deadline to do so. The U.S. government also had the option of a loophole in its extradition treaty with Britain, providing for a waiver to the “doctrine of speciality.”

That would have allowed the U.S. to ask Britain to waive the provision that the UK would have to know all the charges against a suspect before an extradition decision would be made, thereby not permitting the U.S. to add more charges once Assange was on U.S. soil. One possibility is that the U.S. asked Britain for the waiver and it was refused. 

Personal Attacks Continue

The liberal news outlets who are now finally defending Assange’s activity because the indictment opens themselves to legal jeopardy could not, however, refrain from taking potshots at him.

The Times, for instance, admitted its role in cooperating with WikiLeaks, and thus its potential criminal liability, given the new circumstances.  But the paper tried to wriggle out of it by calling Assange “a source” rather than “a partner.”  

If Assange were merely a “source” he would not deserve the protection the Times implies he now merits as a journalist when they compared his activity to “something journalists do all the time.”  Either he is a source or a reporter. If he’s a reporter then the Times is  just using another reporter’s work but treating him as a source. If he’s only a source then he does not merit First Amendment protection.  

Maddow said: 

“Despite anyone’s feelings about this spectacularly unsympathetic character at the center of this international drama, you are going to see every journalistic institution in this country, every First Amendment supporter in this country, left, right and center, swallow their feelings about this particular human and denounce what the Trump administration is trying to do here. Because it would fundamentally change the United States of America.”

And  Gessen added:

“Assange is a fundamentally unappealing protagonist. He keeps terrible political company. He is, apparently, terrible company himself. In his writing and interviews, he comes across as power-crazed and manipulative. Most important, when he published leaked classified documents, he shared information that exposed people to danger. He is the perfect target precisely because he is unsympathetic. One has to hold one’s nose while defending Assange—and yet one must defend Assange.”  

Senator Warren also found it necessary to blast Assange. She said, “Assange is a bad actor who has harmed U.S. national security — and he should be held accountable.” 

Unmasking Informants

Rusbridger said: “We fell out, as most people eventually do with Assange. I found him mercurial, untrustworthy and dislikable: he wasn’t keen on me, either.” Significantly, Rusbridger pointed out that, “All the collaborating editors disapproved of him releasing unredacted material from the Manning trove in September 2011.”  

First, Assange’s revelation of the names of sources and informants in its publications forms a major part of the superseding indictment.  But the indictment does not spell out any law that Assange violated by doing this. It is illegal in the U.S. to unmask a covert intelligence agent, as happened in the Valerie Plame case, but not to reveal a source or informant.

Second, there is no evidence that anyone was ever harmed by the uncovering of these names.

Third, most importantly as far as Rusbridger is concerned, is that he completely omits his newspapers’ role in the affair. Rusbridger was the Guardian editor when two of his reporters, David Leigh and Luke Harding, in their February 2011 book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, published a password to unpublished and un-redacted WikiLeaks files containing the names of informants in files that only intelligence agencies and governments could decrypt. That led Assange to publish the files with their names in September 2011 so that the sources could seek safety. 

The personal attacks on Assange and what kind of person he is has never been relevant. What is relevant is that he’s a journalist who has been persecuted and now indicted for practicing journalism, a fact that mainstream journalists have finally woken up to.

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 .




Julian Assange’s Nightmarish Future

The WikiLeaks publisher is in a maximum-security prison that has been called the UK’s Guantanamo Bay, Elizabeth Vos reports.

By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News

While Julian Assange waits for what comes next — sentencing on skipping bail in England and a U.S. extradition request — he is being held in a maximum-security prison in London that has been called the “UK’s Guantanamo Bay” and has been used to detain alleged terrorists, sometimes indefinitely

The reputation of HM Prison Belmarsh raises natural concerns about the wellbeing of the WikiLeaks publisher there.

“While many prisoners at Belmarsh say it’s difficult to see a doctor or a nurse, these services are available at the facility,” reports Bloomberg News, regarding the possibility of Assange receiving overdue medical attention. 

Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh had been used to detain high-profile national security prisoners indefinitely without charge under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001, passed six weeks after 9/11, until the House of Lords ruled it violated the British Human Rights Act.

Assange was found guilty on Thursday of skipping bail. On May 2 he is scheduled to participate in a court hearing via video link on the U.S. extradition request.

Assange’s name now tops the alphabetical roster of notables who have done time at Belmarsh or who are still there. The list includes notorious gangsters, serial killers and drug traffickers. Ronnie Biggs of the 1963 Great Train Robbery was imprisoned there.  Others are subjects of high-profile scandal, such as Richard Tomlinson, imprisoned for six months in 1997 after he gave a synopsis of a proposed book detailing his career with MI6 to an Australian publisher. Andy Coulson, a former press secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron, was imprisoned for a few months for the phone hacking scandal that engulfed News of the World while he was editor there. 

One mainstay of the inmate population are convicted terrorists. Abu Hamza al-Masri, an Egyptian cleric, was at Belmarsh until his  extradition to the United States where he is serving life in prison on 11 counts of terrorism. Rams Mohammed, Muktar Said Ibrahim and Yasin Hassan Omar were were all incarcerated there for their roles in the 2005 attempted bombings of the London underground. Anjou Choudhry completed his sentence at Belmarsh for promoting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale are identified as Islamic terrorists convicted of the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in London.  

There is legitimate concern about how Assange will fare inside Belmarsh. A 2018 survey by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons found that “91 percent of men said they had problems when they arrived at Belmarsh, which was higher than at other local prisons and more than at our last inspection,” Business Insider reported.

In 2009, the same prison authority had found extremely high amount of force used to control inmates at the prison.

Detainees were “unable to see the intelligence evidence against them and are confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day. Their solicitors say they have been ‘entombed in concrete,’ BBC reported in 2004. 

The 2018 chief inspector’s report said the prison contains a “High Security Unit (HSU) within the already-high-security premises, which the report described as a ‘prison within a prison.’” The report went on to state that:

“The role of the high security unit (HSU) remained unclear. We were told it was for high risk category A prisoners, but such men are held in main locations in other high security prisons and we did not understand why the approach was different at Belmarsh. We noted that two of the men held were only standard risk category A prisoners and that in December 2017 two men from the main prison had been held in the HSU segregation unit. The conditions and the regime in the HSU provided prisoners with an intense custodial experience in which they could exercise little self-determination, and we were concerned that prisoners could be located there without any oversight process or redress.”

Describing the use of solitary confinement, the chief inspector’s report found: “Conditions in the unit were reasonable, but some prisoners could not have a shower or exercise every day. Those who could only be unlocked in the presence of several officers were most affected.” The report repeatedly described concerns that arose due to staff shortages, and added in a separate section: “We remained concerned about this use of designated cells, where men were held in prolonged solitary confinement on an impoverished regime.”

Individual accounts from former Belmarsh inmates published by CAGE, an advocacy group against human rights abuses that occurred as a result of the “war on Terror,” described their experiences. An anonymous prisoner who was later acquitted said: “The prison system is run in such a way as to humiliate and degrade the inmate as much as possible. The process of dehumanisation starts immediately.” In the wake of Assange’s imprisonment, CAGE published a statement, saying in part: “The UK is doing the U.S.’s dirty work by persecuting a man who exposed war crimes.”

Vigils and protests in support of Assange were held outside the prison on April 14 and April 15.

The last time Assange was held in a British prison, in 2010, he says that he was given food containing metal objects that severely damaged a tooth. This was at London’s HM Prison WandsworthThe incident caused serious injury and he did not receive proper medical treatment during the six and a half years of  his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy. A medical report published by WikiLeaks in 2015 describes Assange’s version of the event:

‘This is Unlawful, I’m Not Leaving’

Uniformed British police officers, aided by what appeared to be plain-clothes secret police, had entered the embassy on Thursday morning when the Ecuadorian ambassador “indicated he was preparing to serve upon Mr Assange documentation revoking his asylum,” attorney James Hines, Queens Counsel, who represented the U.S. government, told the court during Assange’s bail-skipping hearing.  The Guardian quoted Hines as later telling the court that day: 

 “Officers tried to introduce themselves to him in order to execute the arrest warrant before he barged past them, attempting to return to his private room.

“He was eventually arrested at 10.15 am. He resisted that arrest, claiming ‘this is unlawful’ and he had to be restrained.

“Officers were struggling to handcuff him. They received assistance from other officers outside and he was handcuffed saying, ‘this is unlawful, I’m not leaving’.

“He was in fact lifted into the police van outside the embassy and taken to West End Central police station.”

Assange was likely referring to the 1951 Convention on Refugees that forbids a nation that has granted someone asylum from returning that person to a country where the asylee is likely to be persecuted.

Police were then filmed forcibly dragging the handcuffed, physically ill Assange from the steps of the embassy. During the arrest, Assange was seen holding a copy of Gore Vidal’s “The History of the National Security State,” as he shouted: “The UK must resist this….the UK must resist.”

Fears of U.S. Mistreatment 

In view of then CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s comparison of WikiLeaks (46:00 minutes into the above video) with Al Qaeda, while calling it a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” concerns are mounting in Assange’s camp about the harsh treatment he may face by British, and if he’s extradited, U.S.  authorities.

In the hours following the arrest, Reuters reported: “Lawyers for Assange said he may risk torture and his life would be in danger if he were to be extradited to the United States.”

On the same day, human-rights organizations and press-freedom advocates argued against the prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder. These groups included the ACLU, The Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Center for Investigative Journalism, Amnesty Ireland, Committee To Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Union of Journalists, the The Knight First Amendment Institute and Digital Rights Watch.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald was quick to note the widespread mischaracterization of the charge against Assange as one of “hacking,” writing that the charging document and related materials indicate Assange may have attempted to help Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army whistleblower then known as Bradley Manning, use a different username to access classified material she was legally allowed to access at the time. In other words, Greenwald says Assange is charged with helping a source preserve anonymity, a common practice by investigative reporters.

Greenwald also points out that this action has been on public record since 2011, but that U.S. authorities under the Obama administration refused to use it as a basis of prosecution due to the chill it could put on press freedom.

Honor Bob Parry’s legacy by donating  to our Spring Fund Drive.

UN Visitor

The UN independent expert on the right to privacy, Joe Cannataci, issued a statement following Assange’s arrest.  “This will not stop my efforts to assess Mr. Assange’s claims that his privacy has been violated,” he was quoted by the United Nations’ news service.  “All it means is that, instead of visiting Mr. Assange and speaking to him at the Embassy. I intend to visit him and speak to him wherever he may be detained.” 

Shortly before Assange’s expulsion, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer expressed alarm at reports that an arrest was imminent. If extradited, Melzer said Assange could be exposed to “a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Assange’s supporters likewise fear for his treatment in Belmarsh. 

Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy and a former Marine, visited Assange at the embassyHe worries about the mistreatment Assange might face in custody. He believes, “When they get their hands on him, they will do things that will be criminal, it will be immoral, it will be torture,” he said during an online Unity4J vigil held days before Assange’s expulsion. 

The online Assange vigils are co-hosted by Consortium News and have been held for over a year, to maintain public awareness about Assange after Ecuador withdrew his internet access.  

Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, during a Unity4J panel,  offered his fear of what he believes will happen to Assange if he is extradited to the United States :

“He will have a hood over his head, he will be shackled and chained, he’ll be put on a black flight, he will be taken to the U.S., put into solitary confinement — which is a form of torture, it is how people break, and often break very quickly. He will be relentlessly interrogated, there will be all sorts of psychological techniques — it will be very hot in his cell and then very cold. They will constantly wake him every few hours so he will be sleep deprived. They will maybe even put him into a dry cell, where there is no water, so he will have to ask for water to go to the bathroom or wash his hands.”

Hedges continued:

“Everyone has a breaking point, and they will attempt to psychologically destroy him, and we have seen with Guantanamo that several of these detainees, most of whom were just sold to the U.S. by warlords in Afghanistan or Pakistan, are emotionally crippled for life. It will be scientific torture. I used to cover the Stasi state in East Germany, and the joke in the Stasi state was that the Gestapo broke bones and the Stasi break minds, and that’s what they’ll do. That’s what will happen. I’ve seen it with Muslims who have been entrapped in the U.S. in so-called terrorism plots, and by the time they shuffle into court, they are a zombie.”

Hedges added: “There will be a veneer of legality:  it will be the figment of law. But he will be treated like all of the people who have been disappeared into that system from around the world.”

Micol Savia, representative of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers at the United Nations, drew on Chelsea Manning’s experience of torture in U.S. custody when raising concern that Assange may be likewise abused, writing via Twitter: 

“#Assange’s eventual extradition to the US would expose him to a substantive risk of human rights violations. The likely treatment he would receive can easily be inferred from the unjust trial and detention of [Chelsea Manning] @xychelsea, who faced life in prison and was subjected to torture.”

Elizabeth Vos is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to Consortium News. She co-hosts the #Unity4J online vigil.

If you value this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News during our Spring Fund Drive so we can bring you more stories like this one.




JOHN PILGER: Assange Arrest a Warning from History

Real journalism is being criminalized by thugs in plain sight, says John Pilger. Dissent has become an indulgence. And the British elite has abandoned its last imperial myth: that of fairness and justice.

By John Pilger

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

That this outrage happened in the heart of London, in the land of Magna Carta, ought to shame and anger all who fear for “democratic” societies. Assange is a political refugee protected by international law, the recipient of asylum under a strict covenant to which Britain is a signatory. The United Nations made this clear in the legal ruling of its Working Party on Arbitrary Detention.

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

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

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilization.” The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast.

Assange’s principal media tormentor, The Guardian, a collaborator with the secret state, displayed its nervousness this week with an editorial that scaled new weasel heights. The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years.” The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

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

Revealing Homicidal Colonial Wars

When Assange was still trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy, Harding joined police outside and gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.” The Guardian then published a series of falsehoods about Assange, not least a discredited claim that a group of Russians and Trump’s man, Paul Manafort, had visited Assange in the embassy. The meetings never happened; it was fake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Australia, the current America-besotted government is prosecuting two whistle-blowers who revealed that Canberra’s spooks bugged the cabinet meetings of the new government of East Timor for the express purpose of cheating the tiny, impoverished nation out of its proper share of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea. Their trial will be held in secret. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, is infamous for his part in setting up concentration camps for refugees on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus, where children self harm and suicide. In 2014, Morrison proposed mass detention camps for 30,000 people.

Journalism: a Major Threat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And did. The rest, she might have added, is history.

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist and filmmaker based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: www.johnpilger.com. In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work. The British Film Institute includes his 1979 film, “Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” among the 10 most important documentaries of the 20thcentury. Some of his previous contributions to Consortium News can be found here.  

Please honor the legacy of Bob Parry with a donation to our Spring Fund Drive.




Daniel Ellsberg, John Kiriakou, Lee Camp and Many More in Marathon Assange Vigil

Unity4J held an online vigil from Friday and through Monday morning after two sources in the Ecuadorian government told WikiLeaks it can expect Julian Assange to be expelled from the London Embassy within “hours or days.” 

 

Among the guests who joined the #ProtectJulian webcast to discuss the latest threat from Ecuador, were famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou; comedians Lee Camp and Ron Placone; former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel; journalists Jose Rivera, Dmitry Babich, Gareth Porter, Cassandra Fairbanks (from outside the embassy), Margaret Kimberley and Patrick Henningsen; former CIA analyst Ray McGovern; activists Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, and Niko House; academics Piers Robinson and many more. The hosts were Elizabeth Vos, Suzie Dawson, Vivian Kubrick and Joe Lauria. The vigil can be seen here: 




The Tale of a ‘Deep State Target’

Daniel Lazare reviews George Papadopoulos’s book about his misadventures with a nest of intelligence agents.

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

Now that Russian collusion is dead and buried thanks to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the big question is how and why such charges arose.  George Papadopoulos’s “Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump” doesn’t tell the whole story.  But this account by one of the crusade’s first victims pulls the covers off a few important aspects.

It describes a lengthy entrapment scheme that began when Papadopoulos told co-workers that presidential candidate Donald Trump was about to appoint him to his foreign-policy advisory team.

The time was March 2016, the place the London Centre of International Law Practice, where Papadopoulos was working as an energy consultant, a job that mainly involves meeting with diplomats and going out for a dinner and drinks.  Regarding the LCILP, he recalls it as a “strange operation” where there’s “no actual law practice going on that I can see” and which he later suspects is an intelligent front.

The reaction to his announcement was not good.  “You should not be working with Trump,” one of Papadopoulos’s bosses tells him. “He’s a threat to society.  He’s a racist.  He’s anti-Muslim.”

But the tone changes when another LCILP director insists that he join him for a three-day conference at Link Campus University, a privately-owned educational center in Rome.  There he is introduced to a well-dressed Maltese academic in his mid-fifties named Joseph Mifsud.

“He asks about my background,” Papadopoulos writes. “He asks if I have Russian contacts. I shake my head.  ‘I heard you have connections,’ I say.  ‘And that you might be able to help me with the campaign.’”

“Oh yes, absolutely,” Mifsud replies.  “Let’s talk tonight.  Let’s go to dinner.”

Into the Rabbit Hole

With that, the author enters into a rabbit hole filled with twists and turns in which he found himself in the middle of a deep-state intelligence war over Trump’s alleged Kremlin ties and by the end of which he had served a 12-day sentence in a medium-security federal prison.

 

Please make your tax-deductible donation to our Spring Fund Drive today!

In late April, Mifsud takes him to breakfast at a London hotel and informs him that he had just returned from Russia where officials say they have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.  “Emails of Clinton,” Mifsud says.  “They have thousands of emails.”  Papadopoulos writes it off as idle chitchat by a dubious diplomatic networker whom he has come to see as all talk and no action.

A friend from the Australian embassy introduces him to a top Aussie diplomat named Alexander Downer, who tells him over gin-and-tonics that his foreign-policy ideas are all wet.

A British foreign-ministry official takes him out for still more drinks and grills him about Russia.

Stefan Halper, an old CIA hand turned Cambridge academic, contacts him out of the blue and pesters him about Russia as well.

A mysterious Belorussian-American name Sergei Millian offers him a secret $30,000-a-month PR job but only if he continues working for Trump.

An Israeli-American businessman named Charles Tawil buys him lunch at a steakhouse in Skokie, Ill. Later, in Greece, they go clubbing together in Mykonos, and then Tawil flies Papadopoulos to Israel where he presents him with $10,000 in cash – money that a wary Papadopoulos leaves with a lawyer in Thessaloniki.

While flying back to the U.S. in July 2017, Papadopoulos runs into a squad of FBI agents as he is changing planes.  “And then, finally, it dawns on me as they are going through my bags,” he writes.  “Charles Tawil and the money.  They are looking for $10,000 in undeclared cash!  That fucking guy was setting me up.”

“I’ve barely slept in two days,” he goes on after appearing before a judge.  “I’m wearing the same shirt that I left Athens in.  I smell like garbage.  I look like garbage.  I’m disoriented – because while I’ve just finally heard the charges, I still don’t really understand any of it.” To his horror, he learns that he is facing 25 years in prison on charges of obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.

What was going on?  Although Papadopoulos doesn’t go into the pre-history, we know from other sources that, by late 2015, intelligence agencies were buzzing over reports that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were reaching out to one another behind the scenes.

Three Mood-Setting Events 

Spooks are paranoid by profession, but three recent events had put them particularly on edge.  One was the Euromaidan uprising in Kiev in early 2014, which, by driving out an allegedly pro-Russian president, sparked a parallel revolt among Russian speakers in the east.  Another was in Syria where U.S. backing of Islamist rebels had prompted Russia to intervene in support of President Bashar al-Assad.  The third was on the U.S. campaign trail where Trump was thoroughly shocking foreign-policy “experts” by sounding off against regime change and making friendly noises toward Putin.

“But I think that I would probably get along with him very well,” Trump said of the Russian president in October 2015.  When CNN host John Dickerson asked about Russian air assaults, he replied: “And as far as him attacking ISIS, I’m all for it. If he wants to be bombing the hell out of ISIS, which he’s starting to do, if he wants to be bombing ISIS, let him bomb them, John.  Let him bomb them.  I think we [can] probably work together much more so than right now.”

Intelligence agencies might have conceded that the U.S. was wrong to encourage far-right elements in Kiev and that it was equally mistaken in giving backhanded support to Al Qaeda and ISIS in the Middle East. They might have granted that Trump, for all his reality-TV bluster, had a point.  But western intelligence agencies don’t do self-criticism.  What they did was blame Putin for messing up their plans for a clean coup in Kiev and an equally neat ouster of Assad and then blamed Trump for arguing in his behalf. From there, it was a very short step to concluding that Trump was not only siding with Putin, but conspiring with him.

Individual intelligence assets went into action to prove this  theory correct and, if need be, to invent a conspiracy where none existed. Joseph Mifsud was apparently among them.  “Deep State Target” devotes a fair amount of space to his background.  Although Mueller’s indictment says Mifsud had “substantial connections to Russian government officials,” a wealth of data indicates the opposite. 

‘Only One Master’

Stephan Roh, a Swiss-German lawyer who employed Mifsud as a consultant, writes in a self-published book that he has “only one master: the Western Political, Diplomatic, and Intelligence World, his only home, of which he is still deeply dependent.” Mifsud has been photographed with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and veteran diplomat Claire Smith, a top British intelligence official. Indeed, Mifsud taught a course with Smith for Italian military and law-enforcement personnel at the same Link Campus where he’d met Papadopolous.

Mifsuds’s ties with western intelligence are thus multifarious and deep.  The same goes for the other people with whom ran Papadopoulos had contact.

Alexander Downer, the Aussie diplomat with whom he had drinks, turns out to be a director of a London private intelligence firm known as Hakluyt & Co., which counts among its close associates Halper, the Cambridge academic who was ex-CIA, and Sir Richard Dearlove, ex-director of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA.  These two — Dearlove and Halper — ran an intelligence seminar at Cambridge and are also partners in a private venture calling itself “The Cambridge Security Initiative.”  (See Spooks Spooking Themselves,Consortium News, May 31, 2018.) 

Millian, the man who offered Papadopoulos $30,000 a month, turns out to be a source for the notorious Steele Dossier, compiled by ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele.  Steele, in turn, sought counsel at one point from fellow Cambridge man Dearlove on how to spread his findings.  According to one of Willian’s buddies, Millian works for the FBI as well.

All of which is enough to get anyone’s conspiratorial juices flowing.

As for Charles Tawil, he arouses Papadopoulos’s fears of an intelligence link once he arrives in Mykonos by boasting of his friendship with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and then-South African President Jacob Zuma, and declaring of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, “it wasn’t our fault he got caught.”  In Israel, he brags about helping to wiretap Syrian strong man Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president.  “We could have killed him at any time,” he says.  Finally, Papadopoulos reveals a private diplomatic cable citing Tawil as a U.S. intelligence asset back in 2006.

Five intelligence assets were thus hounding Papadopoulos at every turn while a sixth was compiling the dossier that would send Russia-gate into overdrive. It added up to the greatest propaganda campaign since the furor over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and, like those nonexistent WMDs, turns out to have been manufactured out of thin air.

Full-Court Press

“Deep State Target” is vague about many details and Papadopoulos doesn’t have all the answers about Russia-gate.  No one at this point does.  But his book leaves little doubt that he was the victim of a full-court press by intelligence assets in and around the FBI, CIA, and MI6.

Like everyone, Mifsud knew about Clinton’s emails – the ones she stored on her private server, not those that Wikileaks would later release – and fed Papadopoulos tidbits about a supposed Russia connection in the hope, no doubt, that he would pass them along to the Trump campaign.  When he didn’t, Downer nonetheless reported back to Canberra that Papadopoulos had told him something along those lines. (Papadopoulos does not remember saying any such thing.) Once Canberra told Washington, the FBI investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, was on.

Halper tried to get him to admit to working with Russia: “It’s great that Russia is helping you and the campaign, right, George? George, you and your campaign are involved in hacking and working with Russia, right?  It seems like you are a middleman for Trump and Russia, right?  I know you know about the emails.”

Millian sends him an email shortly before the election telling him to “[p]lease be very cautious these last few days.  Even to the point of not leaving your food and drinks out of eye sight.”

“Obviously a Greek Orthodox guy like you has close ties to Russia,” Charles Tawil, observes, leaving it to Papadopoulos to fill in the blanks.

Diehard Russia-truthers will point out that, even though the charge that Papadopoulos obstructed justice by misleading the FBI was dropped, Papadopoulos is still a convicted liar who pled guilty to misleading the FBI about the exact timing of his meetings with Mifsud.  But he says that he was frightened and nervous and didn’t have his lawyer present and that he didn’t even remember what he had said until he read it in the indictment.

He also says he now regrets taking his then-lawyers’ advice to cop a plea: “There was never any pre-trial discovery.  We never saw – or at least I hadn’t seen – the transcript of my interview, so all we had was the prosecutor’s word regarding what I had said.  And we caved.” But he was an amateur running out of money while doing battle with a prosecutor with a $25-million budget.  He had little choice.  Russia-gate was unstoppable – until the collusion theory finally collapsed.

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 diplomatiqueand blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.

If you value this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News’s Spring Fundraising Drive so we can bring you more stories like this one. 




The Prisoner Says ‘No’ to Big Brother

The refusal by Australia’s foreign ministry to honor the UN’s declaration that Julian Assange is the victim of “arbitrary detention” is a shameful breach of the letter and spirit of international law, says John Pilger.

By John Pilger
in Sydney, Australia

Whenever I visit Julian Assange, we meet in a room he knows too well. There is a bare table and pictures of Ecuador on the walls. There is a bookcase where the books never change. The curtains are always drawn and there is no natural light. The air is still and fetid.

This is Room 101.

Before I enter Room 101, I must surrender my passport and phone. My pockets and possessions are examined. The food I bring is inspected.

The man who guards Room 101 sits in what looks like an old-fashioned telephone box. He watches a screen, watching Julian. There are others unseen, agents of the state, watching and listening.

Cameras are everywhere in Room 101. To avoid them, Julian maneuvers us both into a corner, side by side, flat up against the wall. This is how we catch up: whispering and writing to each other on a notepad, which he shields from the cameras. Sometimes we laugh.

I have my designated time slot. When that expires, the door in Room 101 bursts open and the guard says, “Time is up!” On New Year’s Eve, I was allowed an extra 30 minutes and the man in the phone box wished me a happy new year, but not Julian.

Of course, Room 101 is the room in George Orwell’s prophetic novel,1984, where the thought police watched and tormented their prisoners, and worse, until people surrendered their humanity and principles and obeyed Big Brother Julian Assange will never obey Big Brother. His resilience and courage are astonishing, even though his physical health struggles to keep up.

Julian is a distinguished Australian, who has changed the way many people think about duplicitous governments. For this, he is a political refugee subjected to what the United Nations calls “arbitrary detention”.

The UN says he has the right of free passage to freedom, but this is denied. He has the right to medical treatment without fear of arrest, but this is denied. He has the right to compensation, but this is denied.

As founder and editor of WikiLeaks, his crime has been to make sense of dark times. WikiLeaks has an impeccable record of accuracy and authenticity which no newspaper, no TV channel, no radio station, no BBC, no New York Times, no Washington Post, no Guardiancan equal. Indeed, it shames them.

That explains why he is being punished.

For example:

Last week, the International Court of Justice ruled that the British Government had no legal powers over the Chagos Islanders, who in the 1960s and 70s, were expelled in secret from their homeland on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and sent into exile and poverty. Countless children died, many of them, from sadness. It was an epic crime few knew about.

For almost 50 years, the British have denied the islanders’ the right to return to their homeland, which they had given to the Americans for a major military base.

In 2009, the British Foreign Office concocted a “marine reserve” around the Chagos archipelago.

This touching concern for the environment was exposed as a fraud when WikiLeaks published a secret cable from the British Government reassuring the Americans that “the former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not possible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.”

The truth of the conspiracy clearly influenced the momentous decision of the International Court of Justice.

WikiLeaks has also revealed how the United States spies on its allies; how the CIA can watch you through your Iphone; how Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took vast sums of money from Wall Street for secret speeches that reassured the bankers that if she was elected, she would be their friend.

In 2016, WikiLeaks revealed a direct connection between Clinton and organized jihadism in the Middle East: terrorists, in other words. One email disclosed that when Clinton was US Secretary of State, she knew that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Islamic State, yet she accepted huge donations for her foundation from both governments.

She then approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors: arms that are currently being used against the stricken people of Yemen.

That explains why he is being punished.

WikiLeaks has also published more than 800,000 secret files from Russia, including the Kremlin, telling us more about the machinations of power in that country than the specious hysterics of the Russia-gate pantomime in Washington.

This is real journalism — journalism of a kind now considered exotic: the antithesis of Vichy journalism, which speaks for the enemy of the people and takes its sobriquet from the Vichy government that occupied France on behalf of the Nazis.

Vichy journalism is censorship by omission, such as the untold scandal of the collusion between Australian governments and the United States to deny Julian Assange his rights as an Australian citizen and to silence him.

In 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard went as far as ordering the Australian Federal Police to investigate and hopefully prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks — until she was informed by the AFP that no crime had been committed.

Last weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald published a lavish supplement promoting a celebration of “Me Too” at the Sydney Opera House on 10 March. Among the leading participants is the recently retired Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

Bishop has been on show in the local media lately, lauded as a loss to politics: an “icon”, someone called her, to be admired.

The elevation to celebrity feminism of one so politically primitive as Bishop tells us how much so-called identity politics have subverted an essential, objective truth: that what matters, above all, is not your gender but the class you serve.

Before she entered politics, Julie Bishop was a lawyer who served the notorious asbestos miner James Hardie which fought claims by men and their families dying horribly from asbestos. 

Lawyer Peter Gordon recalls Bishop “rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Bishop says she “acted on instructions … professionally and ethically.”

Perhaps she was merely “acting on instructions” when she flew to London and Washington last year with her ministerial chief of staff, who had indicated that the Australian Foreign Minister would raise Julian’s case and hopefully begin the diplomatic process of bringing him home.

Julian’s father had written a moving letter to the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, asking the government to intervene diplomatically to free his son. He told Turnbull that he was worried Julian might not leave the embassy alive.

Julie Bishop had every opportunity in the UK and the U.S. to present a diplomatic solution that would bring Julian home. But this required the courage of one proud to represent a sovereign, independent state, not a vassal.

Instead, she made no attempt to contradict the British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, when he said outrageously that Julian “faced serious charges”. What charges? There were no charges.

Australia’s Foreign Minister abandoned her duty to speak up for an Australian citizen, prosecuted with nothing, charged with nothing, guilty of nothing.

Will those feminists who fawn over this false icon at the Opera House next Sunday be reminded of her role in colluding with foreign forces to punish an Australian journalist, one whose work has revealed that rapacious militarism has smashed the lives of millions of ordinary women in many countries: in Iraq alone, the US-led invasion of that country, in which Australia participated, left 700,000 widows.

So what can be done? An Australian government that was prepared to act in response to a public campaign to rescue the refugee football player, Hakeem al-Araibi, from torture and persecution in Bahrain, is capable of bringing Julian Assange home.

The refusal by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra to honor the United Nations’ declaration that Julian is the victim of “arbitrary detention” and has a fundamental right to his freedom, is a shameful breach of the letter and spirit of international law.

Why has the Australian government made no serious attempt to free Assange? Why did Julie Bishop bow to the wishes of two foreign powers? Why is this democracy traduced by its servile relationships, and integrated with lawless foreign power?

The persecution of Julian Assange is the conquest of us all: of our independence, our self respect, our intellect, our compassion, our politics, our culture.

So stop scrolling. Organize. Occupy. Insist. Persist. Make a noise. Take direct action. Be brave and stay brave. Defy the thought police.

War is not peace, freedom is not slavery, ignorance is not strength. If Julian can stand up to Big Brother , so can you: so can all of us.

John Pilger gave this speech at a rally for Julian Assange in Sydney on March 3, organized by the Socialist Equality Party. You can watch it here:

Video by Cathy Vogan

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist and filmmaker based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: www.johnpilger.com. In 2017, the British Library announced a John Pilger Archive of all his written and filmed work. The British Film Institute includes his 1979 film, “Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,” among the 10 most important documentaries of the 20thcentury. Some of his previous contributions to Consortium News can be found here.  




Media Serve the Governors, Not the Governed

Since 2006 WikiLeaks has been censuring governments with governments’ own words. It has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do, says Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
in Sydney, Australia

In his 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”

That’s what WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been doing since 2006: censuring governments with governments’ own words pried from secrecy by WikiLeak’s sources—whistleblowers. In other words, WikiLeaks has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do.

One can hardly imagine anyone sitting on today’s U.S. Supreme Court writing such an opinion. Even more troubling is the news media having turned its back on its mission. Today they almost always serve the governors—not the governed.

The question is why.

Consolidation of media ownership has increased obedience of desperate journalists; entertainment divisions have taken over news departments; and careerist reporters live vicariously through the power of those they cover, rejecting the press’ unique power to hold those officials to account.

It comes down ultimately to lifestyles. Men go to war to protect and further their lifestyles. The press cheers them on for residual material betterment and increase in status.

Millions of lives erased for lifestyles.

It used to be accepted in television that news departments would lose money and would be supported by the entertainment division. That’s because news was considered a public service. TV newsmen—they were almost all men in those days—were former wire service and newspaper reporters. But greed has put the presenters’ personalities before public service, as entertainment masquerades as news. Newspapers have sacrificed investigative units to maximize profit. Government is the winner.

The abdication of the mainstream media of their constitutional responsibility to serve the governed and not the governors has left a void filled for more than a decade by WikiLeaks.

No longer do today’s Daniel Ellsbergs need to take their chances with editors at The New York Times or The Washington Post, or with their reporters spinning the damning information they risk their freedom to get to the public—no matter how disinterested and distracted the public may be.

Now the traditional media can be bypassed. WikiLeaks deals in the raw material—that when revealed—governments hang themselves with. That’s why they want Assange’s head. They lust for revenge and to stop further leaks that threaten their grip on power. That the corporate media has turned on Assange and WikiLeaks reveals their service to the state and how much they prioritize their style of life—disregarding the carnage they help bring about.

In that Pentagon Papers’ decision, the majority of the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibited the government from exercising prior restraint—or censorship—on the media before publication of classified information. But the majority of the court also said the government could prosecute journalists after publication.

Indeed the U.S. Espionage Act, which has withstood First Amendment challenges, criminalizes a publisher’s or journalist’s mere possession, as well as dissemination, of classified material. A 1961 amendment to the Act extended U.S. jurisdiction across the world. Assange is threatened by it.

U.S. administrations have been reluctant to take the step of post-publication prosecution, however. Nixon did not prosecute Sen. Mike Gravel, who was constitutionally protected when he read the Papers, given to him by Ellsberg, into the Congressional record. But Gravel could have been prosecuted for publishing the Papers as a book. Barack Obama decided to back off Assange when it was plain The New York Times and other corporate media would be as liable as Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. The virulently anti-media Trump administration, however, may take that step if Assange is arrested.

From their point of view it’s easy to understand why the U.S. wants to crush Assange. But what is Australia’s excuse? Why is it fighting America’s battles? Why has the Australian mainstream media also turned against Assange after an election held in the U.S., not here? What has happened to Australia’s sovereignty? That’s a question that can be answered by Australians coming into the streets, like today—and staying there until their compatriot is at last free to leave that damned embassy. Free to continue to do the job the media refuses to do.

Joe Lauria gave this speech at a rally for Julian Assange organized by the Socialist Equality Party in Sydney on March 3. You can watch the video of the speech here:

                                                                                                                   Video by Cathy Vogan

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 .