Here’s a recent interview on UK’s Sky News:
Assange was also interviewed on ABC TV’s Lateline last night.
Here’s a recent interview on UK’s Sky News:
Assange was also interviewed on ABC TV’s Lateline last night.
This is a classic show trial by an embarrassed and vindictive US government that doesn’t like the world seeing how it rules the world with impunity.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange released a statement on 3 June:
As I type these lines, on June 3, 2013, Private First Class Bradley Edward Manning is being tried in a sequestered room at Fort Meade, Maryland, for the alleged crime of telling the truth. The court martial of the most prominent political prisoner in modern US history has now, finally, begun.
It has been three years. Bradley Manning, then 22 years old, was arrested in Baghdad on May 26, 2010. He was shipped to Kuwait, placed into a cage, and kept in the sweltering heat of Camp Arifjan.
“For me, I stopped keeping track,” he told the court last November. “I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages… I remember thinking I’m going to die.”
After protests from his lawyers, Bradley Manning was then transferred to a brig at a US Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, where – infamously – he was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of his captors – a formal finding by the UN. Isolated in a tiny cell for twenty-three out of twenty-four hours a day, he was deprived of his glasses, sleep, blankets and clothes, and prevented from exercising. All of this – it has been determined by a military judge – “punished” him before he had even stood trial.
“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched, I believe, in our nation’s history, as a disgraceful moment in time” said his lawyer, David Coombs. “Not only was it stupid and counterproductive, it was criminal.”
The United States was, in theory, a nation of laws. But it is no longer a nation of laws for Bradley Manning.
When the abuse of Bradley Manning became a scandal reaching all the way to the President of the United States and Hillary Clinton’s spokesman resigned to register his dissent over Mr. Manning’s treatment, an attempt was made to make the problem less visible. Bradley Manning was transferred to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
He has waited in prison for three years for a trial – 986 days longer than the legal maximum – because for three years the prosecution has dragged its feet and obstructed the court, denied the defense access to evidence and abused official secrecy. This is simply illegal – all defendants are constitutionally entitled to a speedy trial – but the transgression has been acknowledged and then overlooked.
Against all of this, it would be tempting to look on the eventual commencement of his trial as a mercy. But that is hard to do.
We no longer need to comprehend the “Kafkaesque” through the lens of fiction or allegory. It has left the pages and lives among us, stalking our best and brightest. It is fair to call what is happening to Bradley Manning a “show trial”. Those invested in what is called the “US military justice system” feel obliged to defend what is going on, but the rest of us are free to describe this travesty for what it is. No serious commentator has any confidence in a benign outcome. The pretrial hearings have comprehensively eliminated any meaningful uncertainty, inflicting pre-emptive bans on every defense argument that had any chance of success.
Bradley Manning may not give evidence as to his stated intent (exposing war crimes and their context), nor may he present any witness or document that shows that no harm resulted from his actions. Imagine you were put on trial for murder. In Bradley Manning’s court, you would be banned from showing that it was a matter of self-defence, because any argument or evidence as to intent is banned. You would not be able to show that the ’victim’ is, in fact, still alive, because that would be evidence as to the lack of harm.
But of course. Did you forget whose show it is?
The government has prepared for a good show. The trial is to proceed for twelve straight weeks: a fully choreographed extravaganza, with a 141-strong cast of prosecution witnesses. The defense was denied permission to call all but a handful of witnesses. Three weeks ago, in closed session, the court actually held a rehearsal. Even experts on military law have called this unprecedented.
Bradley Manning’s conviction is already written into the script. The commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces, Barack Obama, spoiled the plot for all of us when he pronounced Bradley Manning guilty two years ago. “He broke the law,” President Obama stated, when asked on camera at a fundraiser about his position on Mr. Manning. In a civilized society, such a prejudicial statement alone would have resulted in a mistrial.
To convict Bradley Manning, it will be necessary for the US government to conceal crucial parts of his trial. Key portions of the trial are to be conducted in secrecy: 24 prosecution witnesses will give secret testimony in closed session, permitting the judge to claim that secret evidence justifies her decision. But closed justice is no justice at all.
What a stunning piece. Julian Assange writes the following review in the New York Times on the kind of mundane yet dangerous “debates” sucked up by many in the mainstream media when it comes to the supposedly liberating nature of the internet. When the corporation becomes far more powerful than the state (and they work together):
“The New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.
The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy.
The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.
“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book.
In the book the authors happily take up the white geek’s burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.
The authors offer an expertly banalized version of tomorrow’s world: the gadgetry of decades hence is predicted to be much like what we have right now — only cooler. “Progress” is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated. Google will interpose itself, and hence the United States government, between the communications of every human being not in China (naughty China). Commodities just become more marvelous; young, urban professionals sleep, work and shop with greater ease and comfort; democracy is insidiously subverted by technologies of surveillance, and control is enthusiastically rebranded as “participation”; and our present world order of systematized domination, intimidation and oppression continues, unmentioned, unafflicted or only faintly perturbed.
The authors are sour about the Egyptian triumph of 2011. They dismiss the Egyptian youth witheringly, claiming that “the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal.” Digitally inspired mobs mean revolutions will be “easier to start” but “harder to finish.” Because of the absence of strong leaders, the result, or so Mr. Kissinger tells the authors, will be coalition governments that descend into autocracies. They say there will be “no more springs” (but China is on the ropes).
The authors fantasize about the future of “well resourced” revolutionary groups. A new “crop of consultants” will “use data to build and fine-tune a political figure.”
“His” speeches (the future isn’t all that different) and writing will be fed “through complex feature-extraction and trend-analysis software suites” while “mapping his brain function,” and other “sophisticated diagnostics” will be used to “assess the weak parts of his political repertoire.”
The book mirrors State Department institutional taboos and obsessions. It avoids meaningful criticism of Israel and Saudi Arabia. It pretends, quite extraordinarily, that the Latin American sovereignty movement, which has liberated so many from United States-backed plutocracies and dictatorships over the last 30 years, never happened. Referring instead to the region’s “aging leaders,” the book can’t see Latin America for Cuba. And, of course, the book frets theatrically over Washington’s favorite boogeymen: North Korea and Iran.
I have a very different perspective. The advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism. This is the principal thesis in my book, “Cypherpunks.” But while Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Cohen tell us that the death of privacy will aid governments in “repressive autocracies” in “targeting their citizens,” they also say governments in “open” democracies will see it as “a gift” enabling them to “better respond to citizen and customer concerns.” In reality, the erosion of individual privacy in the West and the attendant centralization of power make abuses inevitable, moving the “good” societies closer to the “bad” ones.
The section on “repressive autocracies” describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations. All of these are already in widespread use in the United States. In fact, some of those measures — like the push to require every social-network profile to be linked to a real name — were spearheaded by Google itself.
THE writing is on the wall, but the authors cannot see it. They borrow from William Dobson the idea that the media, in an autocracy, “allows for an opposition press as long as regime opponents understand where the unspoken limits are.” But these trends are beginning to emerge in the United States. No one doubts the chilling effects of the investigations into The Associated Press and Fox’s James Rosen. But there has been little analysis of Google’s role in complying with the Rosen subpoena. I have personal experience of these trends.
The Department of Justice admitted in March that it was in its third year of a continuing criminal investigation of WikiLeaks. Court testimony states that its targets include “the founders, owners, or managers of WikiLeaks.” One alleged source, Bradley Manning, faces a 12-week trial beginning tomorrow, with 24 prosecution witnesses expected to testify in secret.
This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing. “What Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century,” they tell us, “technology and cybersecurity companies will be to the 21st.” Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell’s prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces — forever. Zealots of the cult of consumer technology will find little to inspire them here, not that they ever seem to need it. But this is essential reading for anyone caught up in the struggle for the future, in view of one simple imperative: Know your enemy.
Australian publication New Matilda published my interview with journalist and author Jeremy Scahill yesterday.
Our recent conversation covered many areas so I’m publishing below a full transcript of the interview conducted by phone on 15th May:
Where are the main places US is using armed drones outside Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia?
One area that has received far too little coverage in the role that it’s playing in the broader US wars around the globe is Africa. In Djibouti, the US several years ago took over this old French army outpost called Camp Lemonier and began building up a capacity to do covert actions throughout Africa but also have used it to strike in the Arabian Peninsula. Teams from the CIA and JSOC and the broader conventional US military and they use Djibouti as a jump off point not only to strike in Somalia but also Western Africa. There’s definitely a drone base in Djibouti. In Ethiopia, the US has been training these Agazi commando units, special operations forces of Ethiopia, to use them as a proxy force. It’s not confirmed that the US has a drone base in Ethiopia. US likely has a drone base in Mali for the targeting of the Al Qaeda of the Islamic Magreb and other militant groups in northern and western Africa will become a serious focal point for US special forces and the CIA. Drone base in Saudi. The drones used to kill Anwar al-Awlaki and Samar Khan seemed to have flown out of Saudi Arabia. Also reports that US has staging ground in Oman, not sure if drones fly from here. Just yesterday I was talking to somebody who was connected to Yemeni intelligence who told me that there’s a base inside Yemen that the US uses sometimes to launch drones and other attacks. In East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, over the past 5 years, the Obama admin has both intensified operations and expanding the archipelago in Africa for US actions and intelligence.
- Would it make any difference in your opinion if the US Army (as opposed to CIA/JSOC) were solely responsible for the drones?
The ascent of John Brennan to CIA director has been a dog and pony show, a farce. It’s staged theatre. The fact is that the US military essentially runs the drone program. The CIA doesn’t have pilots, these are mostly US army personnel from the airforce that are piloting the drones. The US military already has a drone program that it’s running. JSOC has operated drones in Pakistan, Yemen and probably elsewhere. The idea that you can simply tweak the program, move it from the CIA over to the Pentagon, and that’s going to result in any greater transparency is not based in reality. The military can conduct covert operations. People tend to think that the CIA is conducting covert operations and the military is more public. There’s a difference between a clandestine and covert operation. Clandestine operation means that the US military is engaged in an operation where the planning of the mission and the mission itself is kept secret until it’s done but eventually the US will own that it did it. Covert action means that the entire mission itself needs to be deniable so the raid on Bin Laden, although it involved US military forces, was a covert action is because if something went wrong, there was a disaster, if US troops got killed, if Bin Laden escaped, the US would never have to publicly own it and the US would say their soldiers died in a training exercise. At the end of the day, whether it’s CIA or military, the issue is not the technology, it’s not who is in operational control, it’s not even the weapon itself, it’s what do we believe about this program where the US is asserting its authority to assassinate people in countries without any permission from the home government in some cases or without any effective oversight from its own body of law makers. When people talk about drones or cruise missiles or night raids, the more central question is why is the program continuing unabated with very little scrutiny from the very people who are supposed to overseeing US government activities.
- Have you ever been given an explanation (formal or informal) as to why Pakistan govt has consistently refused to give you a visa?
I recently received communication from the Pakistani Ambassador to the US, I’ve tried repeatedly over the last years to get a visa to Pakistan and have been denied, and I was told by a senior Pakistani official that I would not be getting a visa. So I said, are you saying I’m banned and he said you can read into that what you want. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik made all of these ludicrous statements how Blackwater has never been operating in Pakistan. He said at one point that if anybody shows proof that Blackwater is in Pakistan I’ll resign. Shortly after he made that statement I did an expose about Blackwater in Pakistan. Blackwater’s relationship with Pakistan involved very powerful and wealthy Pakistanis, the Pakistani equivalent of Halliburton. I wrote about what Blackwater was doing with the Pakistani Frontier Corp, how they were doing actual operations. I don’t think my banning has anything to do with my reporting on drones but a private company that has caused death and destruction across the Muslim world but about a company that is working with the Pakistani government. They don’t want me poking around powerful Pakistani families and US mercenary companies. One of the problems with reporting on Pakistan is that there’s such hysterics about the role of the US, the CIA and military and you often have exaggeration. The truth is bad enough but there’s a need to take it five steps further and it makes it very difficult to offer a credible argument to what the US is doing in Pakistan because there’s a lot of conspiracy theories. There are some fantastic journalists in Pakistan and some insane conspiracy theories. My reporting has been misused by people who are trying to exaggerate the situation in Pakistan. I don’t know if Blackwater still operates in Pakistan but many US private military companies are there.
- Who are the main corporations that build drones and drones ordinance like Hellfires? Any campaigns going on at the moment to bring legal cases against these companies? What else can citizens do to address the US assassinations program?
One company that has escaped public scrutiny for its role in all of these wars is Lockheed Martin. It’s a parallel US military. Blackwater is a parallel CIA/special operations force. LH is like a government unto itself. Their commercials celebrate that they’re involved in every possible aspect of the US war machine. It’s involved from the production of weapons to intelligence to logistics.
- Thoughts on Obama’s attitude towards the secret war he is prosecuting?
I don’t think Obama is all that conflicted about these secret wars. Obama had no military experience, very little foreign policy experience outside of his short stint in the US Senate, he comes into office after campaigning on a pledge to reverse the Bush era excesses but he’d refined his message to the point where he was going to escalate the war in Afghanistan and taking the fight to the terrorists, which means waging offensive/pre-emptive war. He comes into office and the people he’s surrounded with are the people who ran the most covert aspect of Bush’s wars. Stanley McCrystal, who ran JSOC, Admiral William McRiven, original member of Seal Team 6, who helped the Bush admin formulate its kill/capture program in the early days after 9/11 and then the head of JSOC under Obama and David Petraeus, Cheney’s general and somebody who had pushed for a policy to strike in countries around the world not just in declared battlefields. Those three men pitched to Obama that if we don’t give authority to US military forces to strike at will in countries around the world there’s going to be another attack, that there are people plotting to blow up airliners or poison the US water supply or attack public transportation systems or attack US embassies, if we don’t take the fight to them, and take them out, then this is going to be a one-term President who’s going to be responsible for another terror attack on US soil and he would have been eaten alive by the Republicans. So Obama said he would draw down from Iraq, surge in Afghanistan, and decapitate these terror networks, then once we get into that game, of whack-a-mole, a war of attrition. I think they believed that by killing the heads of various militant groups around the world that they’re actually keeping America safe. I think Obama and Cheney are very different people. Cheney is a caricature sitting in his lair plotting the destruction of the world but Obama has bought into this idea that America needs to wage pre-emptive war to keep itself safe. The result will a state of perpetual war for many years to come.
- Implications of future electronic warfare? US dominance won’t last so what does this mean for the wars of the future?
It’s important to not just fight drone program. We’re living in a country in America right now where Sarah Palin has come out against drones. Why? Because the scary black man is president. They’ve created this theory that Obama will kill US citizens who are members of the Tea Party for publishing their little web zine in the mountains of Montana. A lot of this mood from the right-wing is that this Kenyan, socialist, black president is going to hunt them down with a drone strike in whatever strip mall they’re hanging out in. When a Republican is back in office they’ll become the most enthusiastic backer of the kill program. However, because the Tea Party is a significant feature in US politics the issue has come more into the public light. Senator Rand Paul, when he filibusted the nomination of John Brennan, broke the discussion wide open. His filibuster caused big, corporate media outlets to actually talk about the kill program, some for the first time ever.
On Capitol Hill they don’t even ask the right questions. It was wonderful seeing this young Yemeni guy, Farea al-Muslimi, who I know and spent time with in Yemen, came over to testimony in front of the US Senate. 6 days before he testifies his family’s village had been hit by a drone strike and he was live tweeting text messages from his relatives who were at the scene. He described who the target was of the strike and explained how he could have been handed over to the US if they’d wanted to extradite or charge him. Do we have a kill/capture program or just a kill program? As an American, I want people stopped who want to blow up the subway system. Terrorism is a crime. This isn’t a war. I don’t want our response to a relatively minor threat, a real threat, to put us in greater danger. At the US Senate, this Yemeni guy sat next to 3 professors, most of whom could walk to the capitol on any given day and give testimony, and instead asking him about his views nearly the entire hearing is spent talking about theoretical war philosophy by the blowhard professors.
Al Franken and other Democrats are saying we should have drone courts, a judiciary who decides who lives and dies. If that’s the level of discussion in official Washington, it’s probably better not to have hearings on this. If you’re just looking for a more efficient way to kill people or we’ll give it the veneer of legitimacy by involving the courts. Obama admin’s war on whistleblowers is causing a chill through the military and intelligence communities and speaking out.
Anyone who is doing this work is subjected to some degree of surveillance. I try and be careful in protecting sources. My computer was hacked a few years ago. A message was left on my desk top that revealed the actual name of a source of mine that I’d only referred to with code names in my digital life. I think it was a warning. I’m not sure who did it but it suggested that we know who you’re talking to. After that I changed my behaviour online and protected my information. But short of becoming a Luddite, those of us involved in international journalism need to use a computer and have to find a way to use it in the safest way possible. My biggest concern is not somebody snooping into my life but protecting the people I talk to. We’re up against powerful forces.
- Failures of MSM post 9/11, too many journalists embedded physically and psychologically. Importance of alternative/indy media? Have you ever been tempted to take a bigger salary and work for the big media players? Personal philosophy towards journalism?
I started off in community media being a coffee runner for Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! I’d never taken a journalism class, I begged my way into a job with Goodman and learned journalism as a trade, like you’d learn to be a carpenter or plumber rather than a course of academic study or viewing it as a career. I don’t view journalism as my job, it’s my life. It’s a way of life I believe in independent media to the core of my being. When I’m at an event and a young person comes up to me and asks how do I get involved, I’ll always stop and encourage them to get involved because we need fiercely independent people serving as reporters around the world. Part of my bigger mission in life is to built independent media. I’m not interested in going to a bigger publication because it will bring fame or a bigger pay cheque. I stick with an independent publisher when I write a book, I work with independent media outlets because I believe in building them up. I support independent media that has truth and justice at its core. We’re all trying to figure out how to sustain independent media with the economic situation in the world with the consolidation of corporate media outlets, infotainment media culture, pictures of cute cats, we need to create a culture where citizen journalists, the ones you see on Twitter doing a fantastic job, often better than corporate journalists, how do you take the energy of citizen journalist movement and combine it with the necessary components of good journalism; fact-checking, peer review, editing, old school muckraking techniques, document diving.
How do we merge the energy of new, creative media folks with the proven old school tactics? To fund it, unless you want to sell out to click bait with cute cat pics, we have to look at alternative ways to funding our media. My advice to young journalists, if you don’t have obligations or have to look after a sick parent, is to find a job that doesn’t drain your brain, like picking apples or working the night shift somewhere, and spend 6 or 8 months saving up money, with the goal of trying to go somewhere for 3 months that you’re interested in reporting on, whether it’s Palestine, Egypt or somewhere in Africa. And even if you don’t have an employer and nobody is sending you there, act like you do have an assignment and develop a discipline. Even if all you’re doing is starting a newsletter to send back to your friends or your community, you treat yourself like you are working for a real media outlet and you get that experience. The best journalists I’ve met in the world almost never have degrees in journalism. They’re united in one thing, a passion for the truth. We need to mainstream that kind of program, where we develop apprenticeships for young people. Journalism isn’t rocket science. It should be a working class course of work where you are getting your hands dirty and not the [New York Times’] Thomas Friedmans of the world about what taxi drivers he’s met. If I hear about one more taxi driver or concierge he’s met I want to shave off his mustache.
- Significance of Wikileaks/Bradley Manning connection?
It would be impossible to quantify the significance of Wikileaks not just to my or your work but to the world’s understanding of US covert and overt operations. It was the most significant document dump in modern history. It altered history. It was like an earthquake. It was the most real confrontation of American empire certainly since the Pentagon Papers but it may prove to be more significant. The idea that you had a democratisation of classified documents and access to them, you can go in and search any country and figure out what the US relationship is with various political forces or factions. I dug deep into the relationship between the US and Somalian warlords. I found individuals who were on the CIA payroll because of Wikileaks and went and found them and got them on record. I would never have known that these people even existed but for Wikileaks.
The smear campaign against Wikileaks is clearly politically motivated, it’s retaliatory, there’s an attempt to portray Wikileaks as responsible for putting America in jeopardy. I would argue that Wikileaks has done a tremendous public service, not only to the American public but to the world. We have a right to understand as Americans what is being done in our name. But the rest of the world has a right to understand how they’ve being targeted economically or militarily by the most powerful nation on earth.
I had hesitated to praise Bradley Manning or discuss Manning’s actions until I heard the leaked recording of him at his court martial owning responsibility. What we’ve become very good at in the American media is litigating cases against people through leaks and we don’t allow evidence to be presented against them. I get asked all the time what I think of the Boston marathon bombers and I say that we don’t know the facts yet. There has to be a judicial process that plays out and evidence. We can’t have a state of justice where for certain kinds of people or crimes you call out the mob with their pitchforks and deliver citizen’s justice. You’re either governed by the rule of law or you’re not.
Once Manning came out and owned that he did it. Every one should listen to that young man’s testimony that he offered at his court martial because there has been a smear campaign against him to portray him as a moral degenerate or to constantly focus on his sexual orientation. This was a guy who calmly stood up, facing potentially the death penalty, and owned his actions as an act of conscience. Once he said that I felt comfortable telling my own small story involving Manning which was that before the Collateral Murder video was published, he had emailed me and I didn’t know it was him. I get emails all the time tipping me off to something. Another journalist had contacted me about a project on Bradley Manning and I’m reaching out to people who have been in touch with him. I said I’ve never been in touch with him and he said that he must have been mistaken because I was told that you were. I said no and that I think I would remember that. He calls me back a few days later and asks me to search my email with this address. So I search it pulls up an email very clearly from Bradley Manning. What’s remarkable about the email is that Manning did not offer me any classified information, he didn’t say he was in the US military, he told me he had a personal connection to someone that had information about the movements of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater.
Through Bradley Manning I discovered that Prince was leaving the US at a time when Blackwater was falling apart and they were multiple investigations against them and 5 people under Prince got indicted. Manning when he wrote to me was concerned with the idea that if Prince was trying to flee the US to avoid accountability for the activities of his company, Manning found this deeply offensive and he was writing to me just as an ordinary person saying I have this tiny piece of information and I want to offer it to you. It wasn’t a short email and clearly motivated by someone with a conscience. It was very well-written. The point of it was that I don’t want people to get away with potential crimes. I felt stupid later when I realised it was Bradley Manning and reminded me how many people stick their neck out for journalists and we maybe don’t even know their names. When I spoke to that journalist who called me about Manning I didn’t confirm or deny that I got an email from Manning because I considered him to be a source. I didn’t realise who he was. He wasn’t writing to me to interview me.
The reason I feel comfortable talking about that initial communication with him is that because it’s relevant to how Bradley Manning is. My motivation for talking about it is that Manning should be treated as a serious prisoner of conscience. There’s a pattern that’s borne out in his history of believing what he was doing was moral and necessary and he probably was terrified of what it would mean for him but ultimately felt that the greater good being served by him going to prison was so important that he couldn’t not blow the whistle. Manning will face the consequences of his actions, he knew what he was doing was against his oath as a soldier but he felt what he was did served a greater good and I certainly admire this young man’s courage and it’s shameful that only three journalists, none of whom worked for big corporate media outlets in the US, are covering that trial with any regularity. The New York Times should be ashamed of itself. They sold newspapers based on the documents Manning provided to Wikileaks and they had it splashed across its front pages for days on end and when Manning goes down they ignore his situation.
Julian Assange is living in a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. I would like to see Assange be able to respond to the allegations against him in Sweden. I don’t know the facts of what happened there but I believe that he should be able to respond to those allegations. The issue here is if I was Assange I’d be concerned about my life. You have prominent political commentators in the US going on TV to call for his assassination on the most powerful media outlets in America. There have been rumblings about grand juries. Perhaps there’s a sealed indictment against Assange. Whatever you think about him as a person, and I want to hear his explanation for what happened in Sweden, but this is a guy who has been threatened by the most powerful nation on earth for having been responsible for the significant exposure of secret, covert US activities around the globe in history. The idea that the New York Times has tried to turn this into a twisted tale of sex and ego misses the entire point of it. This man was responsible for an epic exposure of the empire and of course he has reason to be concerned. But for the New York Times, when Assange was convenient to their agenda to scoop other US media outlets and to break this incredibly significant story, then he was a legitimate partner. But then the pile on begins against Assange and [New York Times’] Bill Keller and others throw him under the bus and act as though they don’t owe him some debt for what he did for them, it’s shameful.
My following interview appears in today’s New Matilda:
Journalist Jeremy Scahill has spent his life exposing the dark recesses of US foreign policy. He talks independent media, drones and terror in this exclusive interview with Antony Loewenstein
The Weekly Standard is the neo-conservative bible that backed the US wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and today advocates military intervention in Syria, Iran and any country deemed an enemy of Washington. In its latest edition, Bruce Bawer reviewed journalist Jeremy Scahill’s new book and documentary, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield”. Scahill, a New York Times best-selling author, is “a radical ideologue out to discredit America and debilitate its defences”, Bawer writes:
“What Scahill has given us here is, in short, an indictment of the West’s entire post-9/11 struggle against jihad. To offer serious criticism of American strategy is, of course, thoroughly legitimate. But Scahill isn’t a patriot who wants to see America triumph. On the contrary, it seems clear that the only thing he would hate more than a mismanaged war on jihad would be a successful one. Indeed, it’s hard to avoid feeling that this book’s definitive goal, like that of [Anwar] Awlaki’s sermons, is to swell the jihadist ranks—anything to bring down the Evil Empire with which Scahill has been at war all his professional life.”
Bawer believes journalists should be propagandists. In an exclusive interview with New Matilda, Scahill challenges this understanding of his profession: “I don’t view journalism as my job. It’s a way of life. I believe in independent media to the core of my being.”
Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation, contributor to Democracy Now! and author of best-selling book Blackwater, gives a devastating account of how, under America’s foreign policy post 9/11, targeted killings, covert wars and “kill lists” are the new norm. Although he slams former US president George W. Bush for an escalation in these policies, he’s equally damning of Barack Obama and his partisan followers. He argues that Obama “isn’t conflicted about these secret wars” and came into office in 2009 with a coterie of advisors who all believed in pre-emptive war.
He cites three individuals as the key influences on the militarily inexperienced president. “Stanley McCrystal, who ran JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] and Admiral William McRiven, an original member of Seal Team 6 who helped the Bush administration formulate its kill/capture program in the early days after 9/11 and is today the head of JSOC under Obama. Finally, David Petraeus, Dick Cheney’s general and somebody who pushed for a policy to strike in countries around the world and not just in declared battlefields.”
Scahill, through his research in America, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond — he’s currently banned by Pakistan for revealing the connections between the Pakistani elites and American mercenary company Blackwater — says that, “those three men pitched to Obama that if we don’t give authority to US military forces to strike at will in countries around the world, there’s going to be another attack. That there are people plotting to blow up airliners, poison the US water supply, attack public transportation systems or attack US embassies and if we don’t take the fight to them and take them out, then this is going to be a one-term President who’s going to be responsible for another terror attack on US soil.”
Obama bought this narrative and the result, Scahill tells NM, is “a state of perpetual war for many years to come”. The legality and morality of the missions are rarely discussed in the US mainstream.
This posture has brought a massive expansion in America’s footprint across the world, especially in Africa. Scahill says that the US now has bases, some allowing the launch of drones, in Mali, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. “Just yesterday I was talking to somebody who was connected to Yemeni intelligence who told me that there’s a base inside Yemen that the US uses sometimes to launch drones and other attacks. In East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, over the past five years, Obama has both intensified operations and expanded the archipelago in Africa for US actions and intelligence.” This territory will be a key battleground in the coming decade in America’s war against what it perceives to be terrorism.
But Scahill argues along with Noam Chomsky and many others, that Washington’s actions are creating new enemies across the globe. As Chomsky said in the wake of 9/11, “If you want to stop terrorism, stop participating in it”. Scahill meets local communities in Yemen and Afghanistan who tell of horrific stories of US-led violence against them and their desire to inflict revenge.
When a Yemeni, Farea al-Muslimi, appeared recently at a US Senate hearing to demand the end of US drone attacks in his country, politicians expressed little interest in hearing his perspective. Scahill says that days before he testified, al-Muslimi’s family’s village had been hit by a drone strike and he was live-tweeting text messages from his relatives who were at the scene. Despite this, Scahill says, “nearly the entire hearing was spent talking about theoretical war philosophy with blowhard professors.” The political and media class prefer to question how Obama is selling his message and not the effect on people under American bombs.
Scahill is a rare independent journalist who refuses to embed with American troops in conflict zones. While researching Dirty Wars, Wikileaks documents were essential in understanding the scope of Washington’s reach. “It would be impossible to quantify the significance of Wikileaks not just to my or your work but to the world’s understanding of US covert and overt operations. I dug deep into the relationship between the US and Somalian warlords. I found individuals who were on the CIA payroll because of Wikileaks and went and found and got them on record. I would never have known that these people even existed but for Wikileaks.” Scahill criticises the smear campaign against Wikileaks as “politically motivated” and designed to protect the cosy arrangements between insider reporters and the state.
The author reveals that he had contact with Bradley Manning, the US army private currently facing life in prison for leaking US cables to Wikileaks, before the 2010 Collateral Murder video. Scahill only recently spoke publicly about his communication with Manning, believing that the whistleblower’s role as a source should be protected (he had told the journalist that Blackwater head Erik Prince was planning on leaving the US and feared he would never face justice for his company’s crimes).
“My motivation for talking about it”, he told NM, “is that Manning should be treated as a serious prisoner of conscience. There’s a pattern that’s borne out in his history of believing what he was doing was moral and necessary and he probably was terrified of what it would mean for him. But ultimately he felt that the greater good was being served by him going to prison was so important that he couldn’t not blow the whistle.”
Scahill has spent a career working with independent media. “[P]art of my bigger mission in life is to build independent media. I’m not interested in going to a bigger publication because it will bring fame or a bigger pay cheque. I stick with an independent publisher when I write a book, I work with independent media outlets because I believe in building them up. How do we merge the energy of new, creative media folks with the proven old school tactics?”
A recent study by American anthropologist David Vine discovered that at least $385 billion has been spent since 9/11 by private companies hired by Washington to establish global US bases. Scahill’s investigations remain essential to understanding the historical unprecedented nature of the American war machine and how it affects us all.
Reporters Without Borders hails an important legal decision:
Reporters Without Borders hails a ruling by Iceland’s supreme court on 24 April ordering Valitor — Visa’s local partner in Iceland — and formerly called Visa Iceland — to resume processing online donations to WikiLeaks within two weeks or thereafter pay a daily fine of 6,830 dollars until its complies.
“This is a victory for WikiLeaks and freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The arbitrary blocking of payments put in place by financial service companies was completely illegal and has now been condemned as such by a country’s highest court.
“We hope that this ruling will put a stop to the controversial decisions that Visa has been taking until now in connection with WikiLeaks and that Visa will instruct all of its partners and subcontractors around the world to comply. It would be strange, and unacceptable, if only Valitor were obliged to provide a service to WikiLeaks in Iceland while all the other subcontractors, including those in the rest of Europe and the United States, were not.
“We urge all the other the financial service companies that that have been directly or indirectly involved in blocking payments to WikiLeaks to comply with the logic of Iceland’s supreme court ruling without waiting to be legally forced to do so. The financial censorship resulting from these unilateral decisions must be lifted.”
The case dates back to 2010, when several leading financial institutions including Visa and MasterCard stopped processing donations and other payments to WikiLeaks, depriving the whistleblowing website of its main source of income and threatening its financial survival.
DataCell, a company that collects donations for WikiLeaks, meanwhile filed a complaint with the European Commission accusing Visa Europe, MasterCard Europe and American Express of violating European Union competition rules when they stopped processing payments to WikiLeaks.
In a preliminary decision in November 2012, the commission said the block on processing donations was unlikely to have violated EU anti-trust rules. Reporters Without Borders urges the commission to reconsider this position in its final decision.
On 19 November 2012, the European parliament passed a resolution asking the European Commission to take the necessary steps to prevent credit card companies from refusing to process payments to companies and NGOs.
This position was shared by the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression and the US treasury department. The European Commission did not however act on the parliament’s request, thereby allowing the block on payments to remain in place.
A huge day for journalists, archivists and citizens (via the Guardian):
WikiLeaks has published more than 1.7m US records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.
The data, which has not been leaked, comprises diplomatic records from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976, covering a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.
Julian Assange said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the US national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.
WikiLeaks has called the collection the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), describing it as the world’s largest searchable collection of US confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.
Assange told Press Association the information showed the vast range and scope of US diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.
Henry Kissinger was US secretary of state and national security adviser during the period covered by the collection, and many of the reports were written by him or were sent to him. Thousands of the documents are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, as well as cables originally classed as secret or confidential.
Assange said WikiLeaks had undertaken a detailed analysis of the communications, adding that the information eclipsed Cablegate, a set of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks from November 2010 and over the following year. He said WikiLeaks had developed sophisticated technical systems to deal with complex and voluminous data.
Top secret documents were not available, while some others were lost or irreversibly corrupted for periods including December 1975 and March and June 1976, said Assange.
The importance of honestly assessing the inner workings of government is vital and ignored at our peril.
Closer to home (via Philip Dorling at Fairfax Media):
Bob Carr may have been foreign minister for only a year, but he’s been a confidential source of information for United States diplomats, talking about internal Labor politics, for nearly 40 years.
Previously secret US embassy and consulate reports incorporated into a new searchable database unveiled by WikiLeaks on Monday reveal that Senator Carr was among Labor political figures who briefed US diplomats on the Whitlam government and the broader Labor movement in the mid-1970s.
Then a rising star in NSW Labor, Carr was quick to join in criticism of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as the federal Labor Government encountered growing political and economic difficulties after the May 1974 federal election.
In August 1974, the US Embassy in Canberra reported at length on what it described as “a pervasive sense of gloom and anxiety” as the Whitlam government “struggle[d] in [a] disorganised fashion to stem growing inflation”.
Together with NSW Labor president John Ducker, Carr candidly told the US consul-general in Sydney that “economic policy has never been Whitlam’s bag” and criticised the prime minister’s “tendency to delegate practically everything”.
A former Australian Young Labor president and then education officer with the NSW Labor Council, Carr later “expressed deep concern to [the US] consul general over [the] impact of Labor disputes on the prospects of [the] Labor Government”.
The once confidential cables also suggest that US diplomats turned to Carr as a source of background information on Labor political figures: for example Carr explained that a speaker at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in 1975 – left-wing Labor parliamentarian George Petersen – was “a NSW equivalent of Victoria’s [Bill] Hartley”.
Senator Carr has long been a very strong supporter of Australia’s alliance with the United States and has a keen interest in US politics and history.
In his early conversations with US officials, he appears to have followed the lead of Ducker, his NSW Labor right faction mentor, who advised the US on industrial relations issues and internal Labor politics, and dismissed critics of the US alliance as being engaged in “emotional, silly expression lacking in substance and characteristic of the silly left-wing fringe of the ALP”.
US embassy cables leaked to WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that another senior NSW Labor right faction leader, former Senator Mark Arbib, was a more recent “protected” US embassy source providing inside information and commentary on Labor politics.
I’ve started going through the documents. Some highlights include a fascinating archive on American and Israeli relations (little has changed since 1973), the criminality of Henry Kissinger (still treated with respect in polite society when he should be in The Hague) and the collusion of America and Australia with Indonesia against East Timor in the 1970s.
It’s like watching history in the making.
Last night in New York the following event was held with Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, Alexa O’Brien, FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola, FAIR media critic Peter Hart, moderated by Sam Seder:
The role of the US hegemony is over. Washington no longer controls the world by charm and force. It’s a multipolar planet with countless centres of power. Wouldn’t this be something to celebrate?
In theory, yes. But then, all of a sudden, in a long session of the United Nations Security Council, an Australian from Sydney is appointed to the new position of head chief to manage an unruly earth. Unlike the Secretary General, this individual wields real power to bring change.
That person is me. After thanking my parents and atheist deities, I give the following speech:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your belief in me. It is an honor to assume this position and I pledge to use it responsibly.
At this time in world history, it’s vital to speak truths that many of you will find unpalatable. The vision for a better world is easy to convey. Who doesn’t want a cleaner and safer planet for our children? But getting there is the challenge and, from today onwards, the following policies will be implemented with your generous consent.
The last centuries have seen countless countries commit genocide and gross human rights abuses. Without serious reparations for the crimes committed, from Britain in the Congo in the late 1800s, America through slavery and Australia’s treatment of its indigenous population, we will continue living in the shadow of these outrages. Without proper compensation for today’s generations, it is impossible to properly progress as a community.
All too often, our leaders talk about human rights as an abstract notion, without realising their populations recognise the hypocrisy at the heart of the pledge. Sales of deadly weapons to the world’s most despotic regimes have never been higher and this will stop. Today. Israel, America, Europe and other leading arms manufacturers will have to find new ways of making money, while nations such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will no longer be able to repress their own people with guns assembled in the United States.
We have a responsibility as a connected world to not tolerate and enable injustice in one state while opposing it elsewhere. Applying international law and holding power to account, whether these officials or governments are sitting in Washington, London, Canberra, Tel Aviv, Kigali or Beijing, must be central in the 21st century. Accountability will be served if Syria’s Bashar al-Assad appears in the Hague alongside George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
A just planet also means a sustainable earth. Climate change is real and worsening. Renewable energy sources will be used in all nations as soon as is humanely position. This will, once and for all, reduce the reliance on dirty fossil fuels that are already causing severe health problems in China and extreme weather patterns in Australia, Antarctica, Africa and South America.
Closer to home, Australia’s two-party system is crumbling under its own internal contradictions. With minor differences between Labor and Liberal, and the Greens struggling to assume a larger political role, we should encourage smaller groups, such as the Wikileaks Party and Pirate Party, to oppose the growing surveillance state.
Tackling the world’s most serious issues requires a robust and diverse media. No one media owner will be allowed to own more than 50 per cent of newspapers, television, online or other sources. Tax breaks will be given to assist new ventures get heard above the often toxic and belligerent mainstream press.
I have only touched on some subjects that I believe must be addressed for the 21st century to avoid the human catastrophes that befall the 20th century. Undoubtedly, you will all have other ideas. My door is always open.
As an atheist Jew, I wish you all the best in your endeavours.”
Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based independent freelance journalist, author, documentarian, photographer and blogger. He is the author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.
A remarkable documentary, by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, on the role of US-funded death squads in Iraq via torture skills honed in Latin America during the “dirty wars“. Powerful, explicit and brutal (though there are critics), such films are essential to challenge the spurious argument that the war was anything to do with freedom (as Australia’s former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer shamefully claims today) and all about installing a US-friendly puppet in Baghdad, whatever the cost. One of the key journalists on the story, the Guardian’s Maggie O’Kane, talks to Democracy Now! about the investigation and the complete lack of accountability by the US government.
Wikileaks documents were vital in leading this story: