Julian Assange’s address to the United Nations, Sept 27th 2012

Despite having been detained for 659 days without charge, I am free in the most basic and important sense: I am free to speak my mind.

This freedom exists because the nation of Ecuador has granted me political asylum and other nations have rallied to support its decision. And it is because of article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights that WikiLeaks has been able to receive and impart information through any media and any medium regardless of frontiers.

And its is because of article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to seek asylum from persecution, and the 1951 Refugee Convention and other conventions produced by the United Nations, that I am able to be protected, along with others, from political persecution.

It is thanks to the United Nations that I am able to exercise in this case my inalienable right to seek protection from this arbitrary and excessive action taken by governments against me and the staff and supporters of my organisation.

It is because of the absolute prohibition on torture, enshrined in customary international law and the UN convention against torture that we stand firmly to denounce torture and war crimes as an organisation, regardless of who the perpetrators are.

I would like to thank the courtesy afforded to me by the government of Ecuador in providing me the space here today to speak once again at the UN in circumstances very different to my intervention in the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva in 2010. Almost two years ago there, I spoke about our work uncovering the torture and killing of over 100,000 Iraqi citizens.

But today I want to tell you an American story. I want to tell you the story of a young American soldier in Iraq. The solider was born in Crescent, Oklahoma, to a Welsh mother and a US Navy father. His parents fell in love. His father was stationed at the UN military base in Wales.

The soldier showed early promise as a boy, winning top prizes at science fairs three years in a row. He believed in the truth and like all of us he hated hypocrisy. He believed in liberty and the right of all of us to pursue it and happiness. He believed in the values that founded an independent United States.

He believed in Madison. He believed in Jefferson. And he believed in Payne. Like many teenagers he was unsure what to do with his life, but he knew he wanted to defend his country and he knew he wanted to learn about the world.

He entered the US military and, like his father, trained as an intelligence analyst. In late 2009, aged 21, he was deployed to Iraq. There, it is alleged, he saw a UN military that did not often follow the rule of law, and in fact engaged in murder and supported political corruption.

It is alleged it was there, in Baghdad in 2010, that he gave to WikiLeaks, he gave to me, and it is alleged, he gave to the world, details that exposed the torture of Iraqis, the murder of journalists, and the detailed killings of over 120,000 killings of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is also alleged to have given WikiLeaks 251,000 US diplomatic cables, which then went on to help trigger the Arab Spring.

This young soldier’s name is Bradley Manning. Allegedly betrayed by an informer, he was imprisoned in Baghdad, imprisoned in Kuwait and imprisoned in Virginia, where he was kept for nine months in isolation and subject to severe abuse.

The UN’s special rapporteur for torture, Juan Mendez, investigated and formally found against the United States.

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman resigned. Bradley Manning – science fair all-star, soldier and patriot – was degraded, abused and psychologically tortured by his own government. He was charged with a death penalty offense. These things happened to him as the US government tried to break him, to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and me.

As of today, Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for 856 days. The legal maximum in the US military is 120 days.

The US administration is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy, a national regime of obfuscation, a regime where any government employee revealing sensitive information to a media organisation can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or espionage, and journalists from the media organisation with them.

We should not underestimate the scale of the investigation which has happened into WikiLeaks. I only wish I could say that Bradley Manning was the only victim of this situation.

But the assault on WikiLeaks in relation to that matter, and others, has produced an investigation that Australian diplomats say is without precedence in scale and nature. The US government called a whole-of-government investigation.

Those government agencies identified so far, as a matter of public record, as having been involved in this investigation include: the Department of Defense, Centacom, Southcom, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the US Army Criminal Investigation Division, the United States forces in Iraq, the 1st Armoured Division, the US Army Computer Crimes Investigative Unit (the CCIU), the Second Army Cyber Command, and within that three separate intelligence investigations, the Department of Justice most significantly, and its US Grand Jury in Alexandria, Virigina.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which now has according to court testimony earlier this year, produced a file of 42,135 pages into WikiLeaks, of which less than 8000 concerned Bradley Manning.

The Department of State, the Department of State’s diplomatic security services. In addition, we have been investigated by the Director-General of National Intelligence (the ODNI), the office of the National Counter Intelligence executive, the Central Intelligence Agency, the House Oversight Committee, the National Security Staff Interagency Committee and the PIAB – the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

The Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd confirmed in July 2012 that the Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing.

So for all Barack Obama’s fine words yesterday [to the United Nations], and there were many of them – fine words, it is his administration that boasts on his campaign website of criminalising more speech than all previous presidents combined.

I am reminded of the phrase, The Audacity of Hope. Who can say that the President of the United States is not audacious? Was is not audacity for the United States government to take credit for the last two years of progress?

Was it not audacious for him to say on Tuesday that the United States supported the forces of change in the Arab Spring?

Tunisian history did not begin in December 2010. And Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so Barack Obama could be relelected. His death was an emblem of the despair he had to endure under the Ben Ali regime.

The world knew after reading WikiLeaks publications that Ben Ali and his government had long enjoyed the indifference, if not the support, of the United States in full knowledge of its excesses and its crimes.

So it should come as a surprise to Tunisians that the United States supported the forces of change in their country. And it must come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American tear gas out of their eyes that the US administration supported change in Egypt.

It must come as a surprise to those who have heard Hillary Clinton insist that Mubarak’s regime was stable. And whether it was clear to everyone that it was not, it must come as a surprise that the US backed [Egypt’s] hated intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who we proved the US knew was a torturer, to take the realm.

It must come as a surprise to all those Egyptians who heard US president Joe Biden declare that Hosni Mubarak was a democrat and that Julian Assange was “a hi-tech terrorist”.

It is disrespectful to the dead and the incarcerated in Bahrain’s uprising to claim that the United States supported the forces for change. That is indeed audacity. Who can say that it is not audacious for the [US] president concerned to appear to look legally, look back on this change – the people’s change – and tries to call it his own.

But we can take heart here too, because it means the White House has seen that this progress is inevitable. In this season of progress, the president has seen which way the wind is blowing and he has to pretend that it is his administration that made it blow.

Very well. This is better than the alternative, to drift into irrelevance as the world moves on.

We must be clear here. The United States is not the enemy. It’s government is not uniform. In some cases, good people in the United States supported the forces of change and perhaps Barack Obama personally was one of them. But in others and en masse, early on, it actively opposed them.

This is a matter of historical record. And it is not fair, it is not appropriate, for the president to distort that record for political gain or for the sake of uttering fine words.

Credit should be given where it is due, but it should be withheld where it is not. And as for these fine words, they are fine words, and we commend and agree when President Obama said yesterday that people can resolve their differences peacefully. We agree that diplomacy can take the place of war. And we agree that this is an interdependent world that all of us have a stake in.

We agree that freedom and self-determination are not merely American or Western values, but universal values. And we agree with the president that we must act honestly if we are serious about these principles.

But fine word languish without commensurate action. President Obama spoke out strongly in favour of the freedom of expression. Those in power, he said, have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent.

There are times for words and there are times for action. The time for words has run out. It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people and it cease its persecution of our alleged sources.

It is time for President Obama to do the right thing and join the forces of change: not in fine words but in fine deeds.

Thank you.

About CaTⓋ

Artist, musician, nerd
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