Unfortunately we don’t always practice what we preach. The US Constitution is the world’s model for press freedom for the last 300 years, when the First Amendment was born. But after almost a century of refinement in the processes of information management, challenges to what the state declared as truth were rare, and usually dismissed as “conspiracy theories” (a term weaponised by the CIA in the late 1960s to quarantine certain events as off limits to inquiry or debate).
The internet, and specifically citizen-generated media has now made the flow of information impossible to control, and official narratives are being ruptured at the seams by “insider threat” whistle-blowing and fearless independent investigative journalism. Pressure has come down on career journalists to ‘parrot or perish’, and as the ABC has somewhat ironically pointed out, China has been hammering journalists who report truthfully in a way that criticises the state, by attributing hundreds of negative social credits to them, and ruining lives…
We have recently learned that Microsoft and News Guard plan to silence the voice of independent media in the run-up to the 2020 elections, but is this what we want? We have indeed fallen into a schizoid and pervasively adversarial state, due to the contradictory information being delivered to us (even by POTUS), but faith in official narratives will not survive another generation if consistency and lawfulness are not restored.
President-elect Donald Trump took 141 distinct stances on 23 major issues during his bid for the White House.
Executive Order 13526, Section 1.7 states that it is illegal to classify information that would conceal a crime, or simply embarrass an administration.
In any case, the world needs the truth, and it will have it.
Years later we would realise, with a bang, the purpose of the new great game.
Spying—>Analysis—>Persuasion. The Mi(6)ssion was not just to collect information about the inner core of our lives, but using big data AI analysis, to learn how we as a society and as individuals, would be most vulnerable to misinformation, and apt to consent. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Chris Wylie, held a mirror to our nakedness in the face of such power, and to his company’s for-profit information operations, within the context of elections.
As they appear, the Integrity Initiative revelations, as well documented here by Robert Stevens on the WSWS,> are steadily revealing that the same ‘national security’ bodies, who amended or ignored constitutional laws and collected everyone’s confidential information, are behind years of misinformation, with a view to a war. WW3 it seems. Stevens enlightens us on II’s involvement in the Skripal reporting, and the licence it gave Teresa May to lash out at Russia.
Former British Ambassador, Craig Murray has written extensively on the Skripal story
The pro-war ring of govt depts in the UK (Mod, FCO), the intelligence community, mainstream journalists, broadcasters & politicians, has been identified as state-sponsored propaganda, on the back of the public purse. To compound the scandal, the Integrity Initiative has been exposed as partisan, with the smearing of a party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, listed on its agenda.
We have also discovered that II is an international network, with “Clusters” of misinformation assets & outlets in other countries, including the US & Spain. That the Spanish Cluster misled the UK Parliament regarding links between Julian Assange and Russia; and that Guardian journalist, Luke Harding, misleads the world, with his “sources say” articles about Assange, Russia and Manafort, consistently void of evidence. Two other prominent Guardian journalists, including the 2018 Orwell Prize winner, Carole Cadwalladr, have been named in relation to II, as well as journalists from the BBC.
Most of the money comes from the UK govt.
Quite a lot from NATO.
Thanks Anonymous for giving peace a chance, even among friends. We didn’t know what to believe. The game is on again to move beyond Post-Truth.
In 2014, the Hawaii Democrat & presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, advocated> for ending warrantless NSA data collection on millions of innocent people, as a way to keep them safe. I can imagine that as the cynicism of an oppressed people, heavily subjected to information operations.
The NSA’s Thin-Thread architect, William Binney, has been saying the same thing for 17 years. As the name suggests, his program narrowed down surveillance to highly probable criminals, and by default, guaranteed everyone else’s privacy. [Unfortunately it was replaced by the dragnet program, Trailblazer, 3 weeks before 9/11, and the Saudis got lost in a haystack...]
James Clapper, the former director of US national intelligence, is still frequently called upon for commentary on Russian hacking. We saw his testimony strongly featured in Australia’s high profile, 3-part series by ABC’s Four Corners, ‘Trump/Russia’.
For those who recall, James Clapper is the man who ‘confirmed’ there were WMDs in Iraq (as did Rumsfeld, Cheney/Bush, Robert Mueller and others). He is also the man who claimed under oath that the US did not “wittingly” spy on all its citizens, which Edward Snowden later proved to be another lie.
Now former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern (off-camera), challenges Clapper with the forensic evidence – released a year ago – by a technical team from VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity), a group that includes William Binney, a former official & technical director at the NSA. Binney was the original architect of the US’s national security surveillance system.
VIPS’ hard evidence – of which we have seen none from the intelligence community to refute it – shows that the so-called ‘hacked’ emails were transferred at a speed that is impossible across the internet, and corresponds exactly with the rate of transfer to a USB stick. In other words, it was a local copy, which could only indicate an insider leak, not a remote hack. We must rely on the word of James Clapper, to believe otherwise.
VIPs also proved that the self-proclaimed hacker, Guccifer 2, was a fraud, while the Wikileaks Vault 7 release revealed that the CIA have a tool called Marble, which enables the insertion of a fake ‘digital footprint’ in a choice of foreign languages, including Chinese, Korean, Russian and Farsi.
What the VIPS forensic evidence implies is that Clapper lied again about Russian hacking. Yet their evidence goes unmentioned to this day by mainstream news outlets around the world. On the contrary, the MSN consistently refers to the DNC’s hacking narrative as fact, and the loyal bleat: “It’s Mueller’s time!” – unaware perhaps that he too lied, alongside Clapper, about the WMDs in Iraq.
Given that the DNC emails (which were not state secrets) weren’t hacked but leaked; both Binney and McGovern are wondering who the anonymous Russian hacker, ‘Guccifer 2′, really was. Technically, it is possible that this entity is a fabrication by the CIA, using the Marble framework.
We were warned that the Trump administration’s investigation, led by Robert Mueller, would be “disappointing”. Ray McGovern suggests he might end up telling us no more than Obama did, two days before leaving the Whitehouse; that the intelligence community’s evidence against Wikileaks collusion with Russian hackers was “inconclusive”.
“The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”
Did things begin to unravel a few days ago, when Trump’s attorney, Rudi Guiliani said that as editor-in-chief, Julian Assange had committed no crime in publishing this material? Daniel Ellsberg opined that it was a very good sign, since Guiliani cited the First Amendment as the protector of press freedom, and made it clear that Wikileaks was a media outlet, just like the New York Times & Washington Post.
We know not yet, if Rudi has heralded back-tracking by Trump’s administration on the arguably stinky Russian hacking investigation. But if they do, and decide to stop pulverising Assange, there will still be an elephant in the room regarding the role of the media in all of the above.
If the press really is free, why does it unquestioningly echo the word of mouth from proven liars? Why doesn’t it print VIPS’ credible forensic evidence that refutes Clapper’s claims? Will it be happy to close the matter with he “made a mistake” again? Or will he eventually be held to account as “James Clap-Trapper”, whose lies started a war that killed many young Americans and hundreds of thousands of civilians? Whose lies denied that the privacy of every citizen in the world was breached, and abused? Whose lies fuelled another Cold War with Russia, and the beating of drums for a hot one?
Will the penny drop for journalists in the echo chamber, that throwing a journalist into the middle of the Russiagate narrative has the potential to threaten their very own freedoms, if ever they care to use them.
Julian Assange’s pending charge, the one that was accidentally revealed but as yet remains sealed, relates to the Chelsea Manning leaks.
That’s the Cables, Iraq War Logs & Guantanamo publications, back in 2010, around which most of the left side of US politics passionately defended Wikileaks, and Republicans wanted the head of its editor-in-chief on a platter. Are the latter just as hungry now to devour journalists? Here’s their chance, but will they make a move? Unsurprisingly, that looks like a negative. Today @AssangeLegal reported that the Department of Justice filed its opposition to the motion by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (@rcfp) to unseal the Assange Indictment.
Why the charge is about the Manning era is because it was filed in the Eastern District Court of Virginia, and bears the signature of the officer associated with the Grand Jury investigation into that case, G. Zachary Terwilliger. We’ve known about it since February 2011, when the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age reported that in one internal email sent in January 2011 a senior Stratfor exec writes: “We have a sealed indictment on Assange”. In response, the Australian QC, Julian Burnside sent the following request for information and assistance to the Australian Attorney General.
As for the Mueller indictments relating to the 2016 elections & ‘Russiagate’, as Charlie Savage in the New York Times advises, they were issued from the District of Columbia. Nothing related would be filed in a different jurisdiction, least of all collusion with those parties already indicted.
The strategy of Hillary Clinton and the DNC has been to portray Wikileaks as a partisan organisation, stirring up a lot of anger in Trump haters around the world. The democrats are no doubt happy to have their supporters think the charges relate to the Mueller investigation or the DNC lawsuit. And equally so, when Trump supporters suggest he owes Assange one for helping him win the election, since that supports their case against both. It is most unlikely charges will be brought in relation to the publication of DNC or Clinton emails. The most significant obstacle is the First Amendment. Behind that, the fact that this material was never classified as state secrets.
President Trump has no reason to celebrate or be grateful to Julian Assange in respect of Manning’s revelations through Wikileaks. In fact he called for Julian’s assassination when in 2010, their publications exposed war crimes during the Bush administration. Interestingly for both sides of politics, is that Colin Powell was not the only one to lie to the American people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So did Robert Mueller.
As they come to realise that this is a First Amendment issue, the Fourth Estate in the US is getting nervous. The records from the Eastern District Court of Virginia show that the line of investigation in relation to Assange, was into conspiracy to commit espionage. To convict Assange, the conspiracy had to be with someone charged with espionage, as Manning was. However, as Joe Lauria points out to Chris Hedges in a recent assessment of the situation, there is legislation in the Espionage Act of 1917 to charge any unauthorised person of state secrets, such as an investigative journalist.
That clause has never been used to date to convict a journalist. Indeed conflating the notion of conspiracy with a journalist’s process of gathering information would cripple the Fourth Estate’s freedom to publish truthful information in the public interest. It would deny the rights of the First Amendment. Daniel Ellsberg and James Goodale (the First Amendment lawyer for the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case) have both warned, if Assange goes down on this charge, the First Amendment goes with him.
Will either the Trump or Clinton camps protect the First Amendment? I think not. On December 31st 2011, the long-term Propaganda Act was repealed by President Obama in the amendments made to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), making propaganda permitted again under law. This was an expedient and sweeping move to control the narrative,; initiated by the Democrats, but cozy for all. As long as the government of the day owned the MSN, it would work. That is, if Wikileaks could be effectively silenced.
The climate today is such that the President of the United States (POTUS) is even attacking MSN journalists and calling them the enemy of the people. He advises that they ignore the brutal murder of one of their own, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The most reliable left-wing media that is critical of the DNC narrative and hosts CIA veteran officials like William Binney – whose forensic team proved there was no hacking of DNC servers – that media is being disappeared down Google search lists by Silicon Valley, who are largely in the pocket of the DNC. That is why the hacking scenario is still being taken as a given by the MSN and consequently, most of the public.
But let’s not forget the tactics of Trump’s campaign team, Cambridge Analytica, to identify and target the most vulnerable citizens (in multiple countries) with mendacious propaganda in order to get their vote. Let’s remember how fair comment between friends about John McCain was being deleted before our very eyes on social media. The battle for control of the narrative is deeply pervasive. Their ‘givens’ can become our givens, when repeated often enough. Sound familiar?
Trump could intervene, and be considered by many a hero for protecting the Constitution, but that seems as unlikely as the pig flying. What both sides of politics have been conducting over the last 8 years is a bipartisan war on whistle-blowers (in the case of Assange, across multiple countries) and intensifying surveillance on public servants (insider threats). This amounts to taking back control of the historical record.
The worst response ‘we the people’ can have, is to help either camp chip away at the freedom and safety of the Fourth Estate, or journalism’s fundamental ethic of impartiality. If a precedent is set with one journalist for the handling of state secrets – and in the case of Assange, a foreign national who has never worked or published in the US – every journalist in the world who handles (never mind publishes) US state secrets becomes vulnerable to the same prosecution.
The US should be very careful about making such a move against a foreign journalist. Not that the Australian government has any concerns in the case of Assange, where bipartisan smear and lies have been consistent across six administrations. The point is that if other ‘civilised’ countries follow suit and start hunting down journalists, whatever their nationality or jurisdiction of publication, trouble may soon arise for US foreign correspondents who regularly violate foreign secrecy laws, with the greatest threat to their freedom and safety coming from abroad. Such was the case for Khashoggi. If President Trump wants to avoid going down that dangerous road, he must protect the First Amendment; not any journalist in particular. All of them.
On August 9th, Sydney beamed out strong support for Julian Assange with a live-to-air event: ‘THE GAGGING OF JULIAN ASSANGE’. The venue, with live audience, was Politics in the Pubat the Sydney Gaelic Club. Thanks goes to the #Unity4J movement and particularly its ‘Stream Team’, for their invaluable technical support.
The remote guest speakers were Julian’s mother, Christine Assange, and the President of the New Zealand Internet Party, Suzie Dawson, who spoke to the audience live from Moscow.
In Sydney, the speakers were Cathy Vogan, Professor Stuart Rees and Mike Head. Christine was interviewed two days earlier by Cathy Vogan, and this was pre-loaded to the stream. There had been ‘mysterious problems’, in getting her connected to the live monthly VIGILS that #Unity4J have been running, so no risks were taken…
Here is the entire show, as broadcast on August 9th, with a direct link to Suzie Dawson’s talk. As viewers will see from the opening remarks by Vogan, there was a power failure (and internet lockout) while Christine’s interview was playing. Dawson focuses on the #Unity4J movement to save Julian – now 2700 people strong, and comprised of artists, writers, techs and speakers. She addresses the idea of bringing together people with different political opinions, who have one common aim, and how that’s been panning out.
Big shout-out to Gard Lord, @Jarraparilla, for this list of the main points made by Christine Assange:
*** “UK extradition does not require a prima facie case… There is absolutely no proper legal process for my son. The US Grand Jury is in secret… it has no defence allowed and it has no judge…”
*** “If UK get him on the [bail] warrant, which should be defunct, they can then drop that [and] serve the Grand Jury indictment with no proper legal process. Then they can extradite Julian to the US, again without legal process because you don’t have to present a prima facie case…”
*** “And then, when he gets to USA, under the National Defence Authorisation Act, he can be detained indefinitely without trial and face the death penalty, or 45 years in jail, if we see him at all for trial. It’s horrific.”
*** “And the Australian government has done NOTHING. Julian has tried to renew his passport but the computer won’t allow him to do that, which means that the government is not allowing him to do it.”
*** Christine suggests that UK govt did not extradite Gary McKinnon or @FreeLauriLove because they were UK citizens and the groundswell of outrage would have made it harder for them to extradite her son @JulianAssange.
*** Christine believes the #Russiavape collusion narrative is designed to make it easier to charge Julian with espionage and avoid First Amendment protections. She notes how @SamAdamsAward US intel veterans have defended @JulianAssange and don’t believe Russia was @wikileaks source.
*** Christine notes a former CIA officer claiming infiltration of international state media. She says @abcnews “are the worst” & wonders if they are infiltrated. “I have had to pull them up on calling Julian a hacker. Constantly. They will not refer to him as a journalist.”
*** “Australia has to stand up. Why do we want to be a Republic? Because we want to be a sovereign nation. But if you are not going to stand up for your citizen when a big bully superpower is threatening & torturing them, then you are not a sovereign nation.”
*** “Julian is dying. He is being slowly murdered. And this is the really disgusting thing: they’ve got nothing to charge him with. Because he’s done nothing wrong.”
*** “So they have chosen deliberately not to go to court, to keep him detained, to refuse him the normal requirements of life – fresh air, exercise, sunshine, medical care – so that he will gradually die.”
*** “His doctors are saying that if he is not gotten out of there, that’s exactly what will happen: he will die. He has irreversible damage to his mind and body now. He has been in chronic pain for 2 years. And UK refuses safe passage to go to a hospital.”
*** “I could never be as brave as Julian. Most people couldn’t. But what we can do for people in his situation is stand up for them. We can stand up to our governments and say No! Evil is not going to flourish because good men are going to do something.”
“Don’t we tell our children to stand up to bullying? Well I’m asking the Australian people to stand up & say NO. We’re better than this. We’re not gonna let this happen. If you don’t have the guts to do it, Malcolm Turnbull, we’re going to make you do it.”
*** “I want to say thank you to everyone who has stood up and is standing up. It does make a difference. You mightn’t think anything is being stopped but I think it is.. It’s not only boosting @JulianAssange’s morale but also his family’s morale, for us to keep going.”
*** “My son hasn’t felt the grass on his feet for six years. His eyesight is failing because he can’t look into the distance. If this was going on in a Third World country, or Russia, they would all be screaming at the top of their lungs.”
*** “They did more for one of the worst pedophiles the world has ever seen, Peter Scully, who was raping & killing babies. The Australian govt offered Consular Support and $500K! They go & bail out people who have been CHARGED with smuggling drugs!”
*** Christine notes @wikileaks revealed Hillary’s cynical plot to overthrow Gaddafi as a prelude to her run for President. Libya’s collapse has now triggered waves of refugees. “I see a lot of people protesting… Where are they for my son? He is a political refugee!”
*** “Liberty isn’t something that we just attain. We’ve got to continually fight for it. Because there are always people trying to take it away. Never has liberty been more under threat than right now, because of the technology [that Julian helped expose].”
*** “Both Left and Right can abuse power. Within the #Unity4J movement I am working with all sorts of people. What they all have in common is support for democracy and free speech, a free press, fair legal process and human rights. We can all come together on that.”
Christine Assange speaks out for her son Julian. Sydney, August 9 2018
I was honoured to take part in the third online vigil for Julian Assange. He’s been shut off from the world since March 22nd. No internet, no phone calls, no visitors. Not even family or friends. It’s torture.
Much thanks Kim Dotcom and the tech team, and congratulations to Suzie Dawson @Suzi3D and Elizabeth Lea Vos @ElizabethleaVos from disobedientmedia.com for organising these outstanding events. HT to their knowledge of the subject matter, insight and passion. They brought out the best in their guests, as well as the best of expert opinion. Likewise cheers, to Cassandra Fairbanks and Tim Foley, who held the fort while the girls were getting a bit of shut-eye.
There may have been other helpers. I haven’t got through it all yet. The first vigil was 10 hours; the second 25; and the third 35, so a few more binge-viewings to go. The plan is to continue the series until Julian’s human rights are restored; once a month and they keep getting longer. This is what I had to say as a citizen journalist.
But what a line-up of distinguished guests! Daniel Ellsberg, Slavoj Zizek, John Kiriakou, William Binney and Ray Mcgovern have all come forward to share their perspective on this development, and plead the case for Assange and Wikileaks. Likewise, comedian-journalists Jimmy Dore and Lee Camp; Australian political advisor Felicity Ruby, Australian citizen-journalist Caitlin Johnstone, former British Ambassador Craig Murray, British politician George Galloway, legendary activist Cairon O’Reilly… and the unforgettable, former US congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney.
We’ve also heard from former workers in the intelligence community; journalists; historians and academics, including a professor of propaganda! The series of one-hour interviews has been as emotionally charged as it has been enlightening. As one viewer aptly commented:
“So many astute observations and political nouse”
The next #Unity4J vigil is on August 4th. It will be followed on August 9th by a live and online event coming from Sydney Australia. I’m organising that one. I’ll be joined by Suzie Dawson and if all goes well, Cynthia McKinney. Stay tuned.
Legendary Australian writer and film-maker, John Pilger, has returned to Australia to seek urgent help, both government and public, for the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pilger’s speech at Sydney Town Hall yesterday was informative and painfully moving. He asks quite simply of the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to bring Julian home. Mr Turnbull, he says, has been “sympathetic” in the past to Assange’s situation, and certainly has the power to negotiate his return to Australia. It’s really a matter of choice.
Assange, Pilger says, has not only been a victim of persecution from the US and other states, from which he was granted political asylum – or, a place to remain arbitrarily ‘holed-up’ for 6 years, according to two UN rulings… What troubles Pilger more is the “Vichy journalism”, of which he gives numerous examples, that has served to aggregate lies and smear that would demolish public support for Wikileaks, and deflect us from reading the content of their publications. If we would only read them now, we might be skeptical about journalists describing a war hawk as “the icon of our generation”…
Even more disturbingly, Pilger reminds us that it was two Guardian journalists, David Leigh and Luke Harding, who recklessly published the password to the trove of USG cables while Wikileaks was in the process of redacting them. That instantly gave criminals and intelligence agencies around the world, including those of repressive states, the information they needed to pursue whistleblowers and dissidents. Like Madelene Albright, they may have said: “It was worth it”, to place Wikileaks in such a terrible situation.
Pilger read statements from Assange’s family, concerning his deteriorating state of health, and from ‘Women Against Rape’, who are appalled at being manipulated by bogus claims that undermined the credibility of Assange and Wikileaks.
We have been quick to forget that Julian Assange received many international awards for “outstanding contribution to journalism”; including here in Australia, where he won a Walkley and the Sydney Peace Foundation medal. What’s fresh in our minds though, is that in the last few years, we have been spied upon and profiled; then flooded and manipulated by fake news. We know that our grass roots communications were poisoned by military-grade Information Operations.
Cambridge Analytica wasn’t “Vichy journalism”. They, and their hidden, offshore affiliates were paid by the likes of Trump and the British alt-right to “inject [damned lies]into the bloodstream of the internet”, that would terrify and divide us. And ironically, via the very platforms we had brilliantly used to make truthful information from organisations like Wikileaks ‘go viral’. That had united us like never before. What was different, and equally unprecedented in the turn-around, was that we weren’t all being delivered the same information or political offer. It varied, according to what was known about our personalities, religious affiliations, ‘likes’ and any other information we had shared, or could be obtained.
The inventor of the world-wide-web, Sir Tim Berners Lee, a CERN scientist at the time, offered a remarkable service to humanity. He gave it away for free, so that every citizen could eventually have an equal voice, and the same, unlimited access to information – and of course what Wikileaks did was very consistent with this vision. I’m not sure that Berners Lee’s immediate intention was to foster true democracy, but almost 30 years down the track, he is deeply concerned about that now. He says: ““Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?”. Noting that his dream of ‘net neutrality’ has also become a thing of the past, Berners Lee has recently called for a Magna Carta for the web.
“You can be prosecuted for viewing, sharing and republishing Wikileaks-style leaked governments documents unless you can prove you believed the information would not “cause harm to Australia’s interests”.
And coming soon before parliament:
“an expansion of the government’s powers to plant malware on phones and computers to undermine encryption.”
End of an era? I am stepping it up again to defend Wikileaks; and my advice, whatever you believe about its founder, is that you should too. It’s not only Assange that needs saving, but let’s not forget that he too offered humanity a remarkable, free public service. The truth of Wikileaks was solid evidence that governments lie. The truth of subsequent whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and Chris Wylie was that they not only lie, but spy on us all, and employ AI professionals to tailor their lies to our individual weaknesses. We’re in deep (state) shit now. Everyone of us is in the firing line of ‘Weaponised AI Propaganda’, and our right to know is being bombarded by prohibitive legislation.
Information still wants to be free – especially when it is being hidden for the wrong reasons – and we couldn’t be in more need than now, of that ‘herd inoculation’ Wikileaks provided against disinformation. Let’s encourage each other to get a booster shot, by sharing John Pilger’s important message.
For ordinary citizens, there has always been a restriction on America’s First Amendment regarding freedom of speech. That freedom is limited by what people are permitted to know, by those who have the superior privilege to withhold information from public debate, or under parliamentary privilege, deliver false or misleading information to the public. Perhaps the greatest lie of all is that such a privilege serves the public interest, or ‘national security’.
Daniel Ellsberg was the first person with this level of privilege to expose (via the Pentagon Papers) the catastrophic public harm his government’s lies were causing. Shortly thereafter, the Vietnam War ended, President Nixon was impeached and the extraordinary charge of espionage laid on Ellsberg, along with theft and conspiracy (a total maximum sentence of 115 years) were dismissed.
I recall Julian Assange saying some years back, that his mother Christine had told him about Daniel Ellsberg when he was a little boy. Wow. I’ve met a lot of adults recently who haven’t heard of him – nor of Sir Tim Berner’s Lee for that matter, who gave us the world wide web, for free, and enabled one and all to take that quantum leap in human communication we call the digital age.
The point of Wikileaks, which Assange would go on to create as a young adult, was to offer whistleblowers like Ellsberg a safe way to continue exposing facts that were in the public interest, but which were being misrepresented or withheld from public debate.
Assange got a lot of support and participation in that endeavour: from citizens, who most crucially disseminated the facts; from many academics; from journalists and politicians; and from the legal community. For the latter, I suppose it sounded very much like “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. We should applaud the organisation’s outstanding diligence in fact-checking the information it received. After 10 years, its reliability still stands at 100% and despite the 2011 claims by US politicians, of Wikileaks having “blood on their hands”, no blood has been sacrificed for the delivery of this free public service.
I have no doubt that Wikileaks will survive, but it’s really looking like curtains for the founder and editor-in-chief. Assange has not been charged with any crime in relation to his work with Wikileaks, but it seems an espionage charge is pending, should he walk out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, and straight into a British prison, for the minor offence of breaching bail when he sought, and obtained political asylum.
Assange’s departure from the embassy is unlikely to happen by choice, even though all communications and contact with friends and family have been terminated for the last 10 weeks. There would be no point, if it were to be taken from this solitary confinement to another, where he would not be able to resume his work. What seems more likely now is that he will be evicted, for breach of an agreement he signed last year, when (only) his internet was cut off, to not say anything of a political nature on Twitter that “put at risk the good relations [Ecuador] has with the UK, the rest of the states of the EU, and other countries”.
Indeed, we the people have the right to do that, and truth protects that right, but not Assange. He knows too much, and he won’t keep his mouth shut. What was once political asylum has now has become solitary confinement. It is a flagrant example of the enforcement of public ignorance.
Berners Lee, Assange and Ellsberg: friends of democracy
Berners Lee, Assange and Ellsberg monumentally facilitated our access to information, for no personal gain and in two of the three cases, at great personal risk. Berners Lee appeared to be politically neutral, and was knighted, but he too is a believer in true democracy. In recent times, he has been explicitly warning us about another quantum leap: in mass surveillance.
We are all being watched, listened to and recorded; both in our homes and workplaces. It chills our free speech, jams our moral compass and – latest phase – is being used in a very targeted way to manipulate our political opinion with false information. Berners Lee is particularly concerned about how AI is being used to analyse our data and profile us for specific messaging that may or may not be truthful. He states:
“Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?”
Sir Tim Berners Lee
If you recall, the dissemination of false information, that would in turn be relayed by the people, was the modus operandi described by the Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower, Chris Wylie, in relation to their management of the Trump campaign and involvement in Brexit. Even the heads of “the firm”, Alexander Nix and Mark Turnbull, smugly admitted this in the Channel 4 sting video. Nix described how his company injects information “into the bloodstream of the internet”, disguises its origin and then sits back, to watch their ‘virus’ infect the minds of the populace.
What we’re seeing now is the use of military-grade information operations that were previously used to manipulate other populations, deployed on a country’s own citizens. What they know, it has been realised, can either make of them an ‘enemy’ (speaking truth to power), or an army of unwittingly mendacious sock-puppets.
The problem with Wikileaks was that it was not just a small organisation; its life’s blood was the long chains of citizens, “passing along buckets to put out the fire”, as Assange once put it. That couldn’t be stopped, but it could be perverted. The model could be used even more effectively to spread lies, with the right team of data scientists, spooks, marketing experts, creatives and ‘recruits’. Add to that a comparatively massive budget of a political party, to offer the gate-keepers of social media, and it was only too easy to poison the grass roots.
Moving forward through the 21st century, we need to protect truth like never before. That starts with opposing the fragmentation of the political message via our social networks. There can be no public scrutiny if there is no consensus on what is real in the political offer, and some would argue that the behavioural micro-targeting of voters has already “high-jacked” two democracies.
Hell, we didn’t see that coming, but we must realise now that the facilitator of this dystopian manipulation in the digital-age is mass surveillance, which is largely being used to limit free speech, democracy and even human rights. We must therefore respect and protect whistleblowers, who provide us with a much-needed ‘herd inoculation’ against the lies and deceit that divide us. And finally, we must applaud the generosity and vigilance of Wikileaks, for “keeping the bastards honest”, and all who struggled against corruption alongside them.
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I fully endorse the rally on June 17th to protect Julian Assange, and call on our government to negotiate his home-coming to Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as the lawyer Greg Barnes said: “There is an opportunity…”, and since he is an award-winning journalist, the US must abide by the First Amendment of their Constitution.