A webinar/press conference organized by the late Kevin Zeese for PopularResistance.org streamed live on Sept. 9, 2020. The attempt to extradite Julian Assange to the United States for prosecution is a war against freedom of the press and our right to know. If the prosecution of Assange under the Espionage Act occurs, it will define journalism for the 21st Century. No journalist or publisher who exposes war crimes or corruption will be safe.
Freedom of Press
Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, took the stand by video link to testify about Julian Assange’s political views and how they factor into the Trump administration’s prosecution of Assange for publishing. Rogers reviewed Assange’s speeches, including an anti-war speech in 2011 in London and a speech to the UN following the release of Iraq and Afghan war logs, as well as Mairead Maguire’s nomination of Assange for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. LINKs. Rogers concluded that Assange’s views don’t fall into traditional liberal or conservative belief systems but are rather more libertarian, anti-war, and based on values of transparency and accountability.
When I first met Julian Assange more than ten years ago, I asked him why he had started WikiLeaks. He replied: “Transparency and accountability are moral issues that must be the essence of public life and journalism.” I had never heard a publisher or an editor invoke morality in this way. Assange believes that journalists are the agents of people, not power: that we, the people, have a right to know about the darkest secrets of those who claim to act in our name. If the powerful lie to us, we have the right to know.
The FBI has publicly justified its suppression of dissenting online views about US foreign policy if a media outlet can be somehow linked to one of its adversaries. The Bureau’s justification followed a series of instances in which Silicon Valley social media platforms banned accounts following consultations with the FBI. In a particularly notable case in 2018, the FBI encouraged Facebook, Instagram and Google to remove or restrict ads on the American Herald Tribune (AHT), an online journal that published critical opinion articles on US policy toward Iran and the Middle East. The bureau has never offered a clear rationale, however, despite its private discussions with Facebook on the ban. The FBI’s first step toward intervening against dissenting views on social media took place in October 2017 with the creation of a Foreign Influence Task Force in the bureau’s Counterintelligence Division.
Washington, DC - Max Blumenthal, the editor of independent media outlet The Grayzone, was secretly arrested on October 25 in a “SWAT-style” morning raid on his Washington D.C. home. He was held in D.C. Central Detention Facility for two days incommunicado, without the ability to communicate to the outside world, having been refused a phone call. He claims to have been shackled by his hands and ankles for some time and kept in a series of cages and cells. Blumenthal was arrested on a five-month-old assault charge stemming from an incident that took place during the D.C. Venezuelan Embassy siege. A Venezuelan opposition supporter, Naylet Pacheco, claims that Blumenthal kicked her in the stomach several times during a conflict between the embassy protectors and supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaído, who proclaimed himself President of Venezuela in January.
A large crowd rallied outside Belmarsh Prison in London on Saturday as jailed WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange received the Gavin MacFadyen Award 2019—the only journalism prize given by whistle-blowers. Assange’s father John Shipton accepted the award on his son’s behalf. Saturday’s rally was the first outside Belmarsh Prison since District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled September 13 that Assange would not be released despite the end of his sentence on a trumped-up bail infringement. He is now being held in remand over a US extradition request and faces Espionage Act charges carrying a 175-year prison term. Emmy Butlin from the Julian Assange Defence Committee opened Saturday’s award ceremony just metres from the prison’s maximum-security walls and razor-wire fences.
Thursday marked three months since WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy and into London’s Belmarsh Prison, where he is being held pending extradition to the United States and a drumhead trial on Espionage Act charges that carry a prison sentence of 175 years. Assange’s only “crime” is exposing war crimes, subversion and corruption by the US and British governments. Chelsea Manning, the courageous whistleblower who leaked the information to WikiLeaks, has been sent back to jail for refusing to give false testimony against Assange before a US grand jury.
There are two sets of laws in the United States today. One is inscribed in law books and applies to the majority of Americans. The other is a canon of privileges enjoyed by an establishment under the umbrella of an intelligence bureaucracy that has arrogated to itself the rights and protections of what was once a free press. The media is now openly entwined with the national security establishment in a manner that would have been unimaginable before the advent of the age of the dossier—the literary forgery the FBI used as evidence to spy on the Trump team.
Trump’s Charges Against Assange Are Historic Attack On Press Freedoms. Media And Obama Helped Set The Stage
WikiLeaks publisher and political prisoner Julian Assange is facing 17 charges under the United States Espionage Act — a draconian law that was written during World War I to imprison leftists who spoke out against the mass slaughter. How fitting, then, that 100 years later, this same ruthless statute is being used to muzzle the man who has done more than any other person alive to expose the misdeeds of the US national security state. In its relentless assault on civil liberties, the Donald Trump administration has the dubious distinction of breaking two records at once: Indicting a journalist under the Espionage Act for the first time, and indicting a non-US citizen.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that the number of slain and detained journalists increased worldwide in 2018. For the first time in history the United States is among the top five deadliest countries for murdered journalists, with six members of the media unfortunately meeting their end in the U.S. The U.S. was fourth on the list because of the June 2018 mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. Jarrod Ramos allegedly attacked the newspaper’s offices with a shotgun and smoke grenades.
For the past few weeks, mainstream American television news networks, led by CNN, have been criticizing the current U.S. President in regards to his obvious disdain for anyone in the press who questions him. While the dispute has gone on since the 2016 campaign, with the President often making the dangerous statement that media that cover him critically are, “an enemy of the people”, the conflict intensified on live TV after Trump held a press conference the day after the November 6th Midterm elections. In what was likely intended as a victory lap after early returns suggested that, despite losing the lower house of Congress, Republicans had done better than expected, the President went on to list those Republican candidates who’d lost and blamed their defeats on their failure to “embrace” him.
Some 300 newspapers, large and small, joined today in publishing, often on their front pages, editorials defending the First Amendment’s freedom of the press, often making note of their own efforts to combat current threats to that freedom posed by President Trump’s attacks on journalists and the entire Fourth Estate, which Trump routinely denounces in tweets and at rallies as “enemies of the people.” However, missing from most of these full-throated editorials is any real defense of those who are in the trenches doing the hardest job of a free press, which is exposing the worst offenses of government: the war crimes, the craven systemic corruption of the political system, and the purveying of propaganda and disinformation in the furtherance of anti-democratic policies.
At the big “Treason Summit” “Russopocalypse” “Catastrovent” on Monday, journalist Sam Husseini tried to ask a question about banning nuclear weapons, and was physically hauled out of the room by officials from the “Land of Press Freedom,” Finland. Meanwhile, an Associated Press reporter was permitted to ask a perfectly respectable question pushing a blatant lie that risks nuclear war. Yay for press freedom! The AP reporter claimed that “every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that” the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election of 2016. In fact, the report that this common lie always refers to was concocted by a group of “hand-picked” (James Clapper’s description) people from three agencies out of 18 or so. The three were the NSA, FBI, and CIA — none of which ever, ever lie or get things wrong, ever. The INR and DIA were excluded along with all the others.
The failure on the part of establishment media to defend Julian Assange, who has been trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, has been denied communication with the outside world since March and appears to be facing imminent expulsion and arrest, is astonishing. The extradition of the publisher—the maniacal goal of the U.S. government—would set a legal precedent that would criminalize any journalistic oversight or investigation of the corporate state. It would turn leaks and whistleblowing into treason. It would shroud in total secrecy the actions of the ruling global elites. If Assange is extradited to the United States and sentenced, The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other media organization, no matter how tepid their coverage of the corporate state, would be subject to the same draconian censorship.