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Assange’s Arrest: And the War on Whistleblowers…

Julian Assange

So Julian Assange has finally been dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by UK police.

Soon to be extradited to the United States, this development – as dramatic as the scenes were – was hardly surprising: and has been on the horizon for a very long time. If anything, I’m shocked at how long it’s taken: I expected the Ecuadorian government to be coerced into compliance years ago.

According to his lawyer, Assange was arrested based on a current US extradition request. It is highly unlikely he is going to be pardoned by the Trump administration or the US authorities – though this is the claim that most Trump die-hards and MAGA enthusiasts appear to be clinging to in their attempt to square the extradition request with the president’s previous expressions of gratitude to Wikileaks. According to official statements, Assange is being charged with a specific instance of computer hacking in 2010, involving whistleblower Chelsea Manning: as opposed to any specific leaks Wikileaks has been involved in the last several years. But it is probable that further charges will be pursued down the line.

We could talk all day about the stark contrast between President Trump’s “I love Wikileaks” statements during the 2016 election and his oddly delivered statement today that he doesn’t really know what Wikileaks is. But to be fair to Trump (who’s presidential bid was massively aided by Assange’s and Wikileaks’ disclosures about the DNC and Hillary Clinton), this probably has very little to do with him and is more a case of the US security state going over his head.

 

 

But I’m interested in the UK’s position here: aside from the obviousness of the UK accomodating the United States’ wishes (or, as Assange supporter Pamela Anderson put it, being “America’s bitch”), there’s a lot to be said about the UK’s general position regarding whistleblowers and freedom of information.

In 2016, after an in-depth investigation, the United Nations ruled that Assange’s legal and human rights had been violated and that the Wikileaks founder was being illegally detained since 2010. They requested his immediate release, safe passage and compensation. The UK government rejected the UN’s statements and refused to take any action in accordance with their findings.

Two years ago, not long after the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill (or ‘Snoopers’ Charter’) was passed into law, the British goverment was also  said to have been preparing a potentially Draconian operation against journalists and whisteblowers.

Draft legislation reportedly aimed, among other things, to raise the jail terms for leakers and whistleblowers from 2 years all the way up to 14 years. The plans seemed blatantly designed to cripple journalists, intimidate whistleblowers and prevent any exposure of bad behaviour, corruption or activities that are contrary to the public interest or any activities whose exposure is in the public interests.

In short, the plans sought – arguably – to criminalise real journalism. Now we could argue back and forth about whether Julian Assange qualifies as a ‘journalist’ or not: but ‘journalist’, ‘whistleblower’, ‘leaker’, etc, all seem to be increasingly treated as one and the same: certainly this was the impression created by the UK’s overhaul of the Official Secrets Act and the new Data Protection Act.

The result, arguably, is that the media is no longer able to challenge the conduct of powerful people or of political or financial elites. In the new state of affairs, things like the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers would never have been allowed to come to the attention of the general public. With Wikileaks in mind, so too would such things as war crimes committed in Iraq have been kept from ever being made public knowledge.


Essentially any journalists or whistleblowers involved in those disclosures would be classed as foreign spies and locked up for up to 14 years.


In other words, it’s not just ‘leakers’ or ‘whistleblowers’ at the source who are regarded as criminals, but also any journalists who publish or use any of the information provided by said leakers or whistleblowers.

As an Open Democracy piece in 2017 pointed out, ‘Whistleblowers who leak official information could be prosecuted and jailed regardless of the public merit of the information they revealed, or whether any damage to national interests was actually caused…’

Or as a 2017 article at The Verge pointed out, ‘Under these suggested laws, The Guardian’s former editor Alan Rusbridger could have faced criminal charges for the paper’s part in publishing the Snowden leaks in 2013. These revealed the existence of secretive (and illegal) surveillance apparatus in the UK and the US. Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group told The Verge that the proposed legislation is an attempt to “make sure that the public never hears about any wrongdoing or lawbreaking by the security agencies…’

Taking care of Julian Assange would appear to be a massive part of that at the propaganda level, as he is by far the highest-profile ‘leaker’ out there: and Assange remaining untouched, safe in the Ecuadorian embassy, for all this time has been an unacceptable source of defiance and embarassment.

What is happening now – with Julian Assange’s case being a central part of it – might be a final assault on real journalism and real freedom of information, to try to bring even those last vestiges of genuine, honest journalists into line. That is, in part, what these new whistleblower laws are about.

Where the Snooper’s Charter is aimed more at policing the public, the Law Commission proposals are aimed squarely at the sources of information for the public: specifically, journalists and whistleblowers.

Liberal Democrat peer and civil liberties campaigner Paul Strasburger remarked at the time the British government was discussing new whistleblower laws, “These proposals might be appropriate for a banana-republic dictatorship. They are completely out of the question in our democracy which depends on brave whistleblowers and a free press to hold the government to account when they let us down through incompetence or corruption.

Likewise, Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists told The Guardian, “We need to protect the public from a government which seems intent on threatening journalists from finding information the government finds inconvenient to be exposed.”

If there’s already a major lack of journalists in mainstream publications willing to go against the tide when concerted propaganda operations are in swing (take Syria as a chief example), this is going to be even more the case in the future, when journalistic conformity is not simply a case of peer pressure or careerism but the fear of penalisation or even jail time.

This is no exaggeration: in France, there were calls for anyone who published the leaked emails on Emmanuel Macron to face jail.

What’s going on with Julian Assange isn’t just about data protection, the vulnerability of governments’ secrets or about hackers or ‘leakers’ breaking the law: it’s about policing the general population’s right to information and trying to put an end to all of the inconvenient exposures and embarassment.

 


Read more:Assange Lawyer Assassinated in London‘, ‘The Murder of Serena Shim and the ‘Suicide’ of the BBC’s Jackie Sutton‘, ‘Seymour Hersh, My Lai & the Decline of Real Journalism‘, ‘Did We Just See an Asasssination Attempt on Julian Assange‘, ‘The Skripal Poisoning & a Massive Rabbit-Hole‘, ‘The Death-Squads & the Murder of the Environmentalist‘…


S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.

21 Comments

  1. I agree about internet freedom etc being one aspect. But I disagree about your characterisation of WL. It never was a genuine whistleblowing entity but instead a cognitive infiltrator, cheered by Cass Sunstein when it was founded.
    You are surprised by the long duration. One reason may he that Assange the intel op could be employed some more after his erudite critics had already convincingly exposed WL as a psyop and limited hangout operation. By making a martyr out of him people would remain believers yet a while.
    But WLs real function was to assist the imperial regime change operations with selected leaks.
    Never harming the imperial stooges Us/Uk/Israel.
    The wellknown video from Iraq was already on other altmedia websites when WL came into the picture and unlike real opposition WL got the full backing by msm.
    Just like Daniel Ellsberg WL is a Usg accomplice protecting more vital elite interests and sacrificing some minor military with limited hangouts.

    • I’m open to that perspective: I believe we’ve discussed this before too. I’m on the fence as to what I ultimately believe. It would, as you say, account for the length of his stay in London: but I struggle to understand why, in that case, the ‘elites’ would be ok with something like the Panama Papers being exposed?

      • Burning Blogger, I happened to be taking a stroll in the South Ken/Knightsbridge area one Sunday afternoon/evening after having been with friends. I came round a corner near the back of Harrods and I saw an impressive sight. A phalanx of photographers all crowded together on a pavement opposite a red brick building. There were some cameras and reporters and possibly some police around. There were a number of people milling about in groups and it was clear that some media event was about to take place.

        I waited around and looked at the red brick building. I noticed an interesting architectural quirk of the building, which was a small corner balcony from a ground floor window. After a little time there appeared to be someone behind the window pulling the curtains or fiddling with something behind the window (it was difficult to see). However, it seemed to indicate that something news worthy was about to take place so I waited some more. After a few minutes a small group of policemen came along the road escorting a man with white/grey hair who was wearing a suit. He wasn’t handcuffed or anything and was walking freely with the police not holding onto him or anything, but he stood out because he wasn’t in police uniform. I didn’t recognise him and the police went with him into the main entrance of the red brick building.

        I can’t remember how long I waited, but nothing more happened, so I left thinking that it was all interesting and I would turn on the news later to see what it was all about. When I did so I learned that the man I had seen walking along the street was called Julian Assange and had been holed up in the Embassy for two months! Or at least that would be what they would have us believe. I wouldn’t have remembered the date, but it was, of course Sunday 19th August 2012. This was the event that lead me to think about whether what we sometimes see on the BBC etc. are ever staged.

        I used to read some of the blogs and websites of Assange’s high profile supporters (some of whom are listed below) and I have made allusions to the above on one of them. I was immediately rounded upon and attacked for daring to suggest that things aren’t perhaps what they seem when it comes to Assange. I was then asked to change my handle and soon banned from commenting. I have no idea who Assange is and I’m not going to speculate about that, but it seems clear that he isn’t who we have been told he is.

        • That’s all a fair position: and that’s an interesting personal perspective you have based on experience. I’m not refuting you on your point. I’m indecisive on this subject: the article was more about how they’re cracking down on whistleblowers in general. You’re not alone in being suspicious of Assange: petergrafstrm, who comments here often, also believes Assage and Wikileaks are elite-controlled. It’s very possible. Your story raises questions, for sure.

      • My comments today are eaten by an internet monster. I tried to post several links about the subject both here and several times on a swedish blog but it didnt get through.
        It seems this is concidered an improper time to bring it up.

        • No problem, petergrafstrm. I will look into it more myself. And you have presented your view on the matter here before very strongly.

  2. This is an illuminating article; especially for the ones like me who don’t know the laws that enacted or are being prepared in the UK.
    “The result, arguably, is no longer able to challenge the conduct of the political or financial elites.” This sentence is perhaps a summary, my earthling friend. Also, this is a stage of the system that is somehow implemented on the whole planet.

    On the other hand, when we look at the new world order, the intelligence level of those elites who hold the system is very low. At this moment, Idiocracy, 2006 movie is coming to my mind unavoidably.:) If it goes like that, the planet earth will remain in the hands of these idiots; this is the saddest point.

    • Yeah, I’ve referenced that movie here before too: it’s where we are now, I think.

  3. So i’ve read the Asge/WL psy op on various websites. I can’t believe Pam Anderson would stoop so low.. Baywatch, motley cru sex tape and now disinfo agent! No!! Next you’ll be telling me
    This breasts are real!

    9/11seems to be the litmus test for these so called genuine truth tellers! Where does Pilger, Chomsky and Chris hedges stand on this- all debt any conspiracy. Do you think they perceive its better to fight power without being hounded by 9/11 baggage. Have they been Bernie ‘ warned’ Saunders? Keep away or else, as they have a big following? Or are they psy op, gate keepers or…?

    • That’s a good point, B. I remember listening to George Galloway doing a whole tirade against the US, the UK and the West and condemning the War on Terror: then someone asked him about 9/11 being a false-flag – and he immediately backtracked and insisted 9/11 wasn’t an inside job. I do find things like that odd.

  4. You are quite right to point up how the arrest of Assange comes right on the back of renewed attacks on free speech. But the timing is interesting in another way too. So I’m wondering whether this might be the first phase of a relaunch of #Russiagate (after all Assange is a Russian agent, right…?!!!)

    • But do they need to ‘relaunch’ Russia-gate? I mean it’s been running continuously anyway, hasn’t it? Or do you mean as a response to the Trump/Russia collusion narrative collapsing?

      • Well the only aspect of the story that hasn’t substantially collapsed are those initial allegations of hacking – the part Mueller didn’t actually investigate – which implicate Wikileaks. To hold up the narrative that Russia meddled in the election it makes sense to haul Assange in for a show trial in which he is prosecuted for “hacking” (perhaps assisting Chelsea Manning) and further accused of having ties to Moscow. All of which would keep the story going and ‘relaunch’ Russiagate in the sense that the deep state maintains leverage over Trump. I’m partly thinking aloud so apologies if it’s not making sense.

        • No, it kind of makes sense. That could defintely be a driving motivation.

  5. Reinforces for me the doesn’t-matter who/what and Julian. More about, what’s happening because of all this? To suggest theatre is all it’s about stretches plausibility to bursting point. If they’re that clever and fooling all his connected with supporters — comes back to motive? Unless of course, all his comrades are in on it? Seems too elaborate and too much hard work for negligible value. Otherwise, go back to more religious ritual ideas and what it is. The intent on doing all the censorship flooding in needs some drivers but not that much. One cyber-terror attack and we’re all shut-down as a “precaution”. Not sure where am going with this comment? Would that Assange decides to answer certain questions? Or able? Until he does, the suspicions he’s compromised right through, to all-an-act, will increase. In spite of all the Julian a joke talk, am going on a hunch and hope he’ll somehow show some right colours. Show some locked up for life, or killed, and conclude time to risk all and speak out about. That into-him are getting right riled up at their fellow Leftie-ish one’s responses. Finding this intriguing and shows an ever severe split emerging among progressives. Almost seeing some alliance-ing with the not all-about-Islam Righties/Conservatives. Watching here at BBB for coverage. Thanks.

    • The answer to your thoughts is already there in Michel Chosoudovsky’s analysis from 2010.
      This is a republished version from 2017
      Quote
      ..What this examination of the Wikileaks project also suggests is that the mechanics of New World Order propaganda, particularly with regard to its military agenda, has become increasingly sophisticated.
      It no longer relies on the outright suppression of the facts regarding US-NATO war crimes. Nor does it require that the reputation of government officials at the highest levels, including the Secretary of State, be protected. New World Order politicians are in a sense “disposable”. They can be replaced. What must be protected and sustained are the interests of the economic elites, which control the political apparatus from behind the scenes.”
      Unquote
      https://www.globalresearch.ca/who-is-behind-wikileaks-2/22389

      What makes the cognitive infiltration operation WL so dangerous is that it has successfully cognitively infiltrated the minds of the alternate media and their readers.
      The effect is of course to keep us divided and confused. That is why the elites still want Assange to play his role. He is smart enough to know that they have use for him. If he sought to officially blow the ‘secret’ to a wider public they might save the project by eliminating him and feed the guillible admirers with a fake story of him having been under coercion.
      WL is like a cancer metastasing within the community of genuine opposition to bring it down.

      • In espionage, there are three basic means of penetrating and/or using a hostile organization to one’s advantage:

        1) Turning an employee through some means such as blackmail, sex, bribery or appeal to a psychological weakness such as working on someone’s conscience or ideology and convince them to become your organization’s asset (agent/traitor)

        2) Placing your own officer within the organization as an employee (spy)

        3) Using psychology and disinformation to convince the organization’s staff to work to your advantage and/or commit acts against its own interests (false flag/sale)

        Typically there would be each of these approaches assessed individually and in various combinations and/or variants when planning an operation. WikiLeaks would be vulnerable to this on several counts.

        https://ronaldthomaswest.com/2013/04/17/wikileaks-spy-agencies/

        • Sure, but Wikileaks was an elite project from the very beginning. They had signed deals with New York Times Washington Post and the Economist already before WL was formally founded.
          Cass Sunstein, the usg ‘tsar’ of cognitive infiltration was enthusiastic at its founding.
          Assange spoke about the importance of WL becoming trusted. Knowing full well that he was collaborating with the major propaganda outlets.
          WL according to John Young was business oriented and would sell info (and I might add also sell silence…)
          The wealthy can afford to pay protection money to WL, thus it wouldnt bite its masters.
          WL soon attacked a range of imperial rivals, but the guillible admirers didnt notice anything more than some leaks hurting lower level military. As Chossodovsky’s quote earlier illustrates, the latter type of leaks arent decisive for judging who really runs WL.

          • Thanks petergrafstrm, I’m not disagreeing with you. Just posting an ex special forces ( reputedly now in exile) investigation into WL. I believe he too has come to the same conclusion.

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