The indecency of power and the manipulation of the collective imagination add up to the ignominious decision of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who authorised the extradition to the US of Australian whistleblower Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, accused by Washington of 17 counts of espionage and one count of alleged cybercrime.
By Aram Aharonian
The curious thing about all this is that the United States has never denied the facts revealed in the 700,000 White House and Pentagon documents, mostly about the barbarities committed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaked by Wikileaks: torture, assassinations, massacres, espionage, manipulation. In other words, they want to punish the whistleblower, not the perpetrators, with 175 years in prison (which hardly anyone will be able to serve). The truth has been murdered. So has journalism.
A British Home Office statement asserts, in supposedly humanitarian tones, that extradition cannot be oppressive, unfair or a procedural abuse, nor has it been determined to be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. Assange was arrested in 2019, afterwards spending more than seven years as a refugee in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
He will remain in prison, because it is far better for Western and Christian power to criminalise him than to accept the blame for genocide, torture and all the misery of the military and government actions not only of the United States, but also of its allies, especially the United Kingdom. Those who judge him are the ones who should be imprisoned and condemned by the International Court of Justice, for all the serious allegations that have never been rejected.
The hypocrisy and falsity of Patel’s statements is evident in view of the revelations about the US Central Intelligence Agency’s illegal spying on Assange, in the course of which it intercepted conversations between him and his lawyers with the aim of undermining the defendant’s legal defence strategies.
For the umpteenth time, the media is publicising what the United Nations described as torture: Assange’s treatment in the British Guantanamo Bay where he is being held, afterwards more than a decade of house confinement and solitary confinement. The “news” about Assange are hardly judicial notes. They tell of the havoc that has been wreaked on him. He is an alienated pariah, a depressed asperger on the verge of suicide, says Victor Sampedro.
Assange is being executed in a loop. The media that profited from his leaks publicise his punishment and cover up his deeds. They barely act as notaries and lapdogs of the torturers. Assange would be free if even one of the editors who published his leaks – say in El País, Le Monde, The New York Times or The Guardian – would have cleared themselves of the charges against the Australian hacker, he adds.
Taking the crime of investigating and revealing truths as one’s own enables one to practice journalism. By incriminating themselves, feminists won the right to abortion and the insubordinate people put an end to military service, the Spaniard recalls.
“Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the interior minister has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the US, the country that planned his assassination,” the Wikileaks statement said. Amnesty International was outraged. Its secretary general, Agnès Callamard, warned that “allowing Julian Assange to be extradited to the US “sends a chilling message to journalists around the world”.
Silencing Assange at any cost
Successive US governments have persisted in fabricating imaginary crimes against him. A person who did not serve any power but worked to inform international public opinion cannot be accused of being a spy.
And, moreover, the determination imposes an intolerable limitation on societies’ right to information. Today, Julian Assange has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since April 2019 and has been subject to judicial harassment by the US, Swedish and British governments since 2010.
It is clear that the manoeuvres between Washington and London to consummate the judicial farce constitute an unequivocal message of chastisement for the entire journalistic guild of the world: the public power of these nations does not tolerate being exposed in its criminal acts, in its corruption and indecency, and will take revenge on those who dare to expose it, says an editorial in the Mexican daily La Jornada.
Assange provided a transcendent service to transparency and information by handing over to La Jornada (as to other media around the world) thousands of diplomatic cables sent to the State Department by the US embassy and consulates in that country, in which the decomposition of Felipe Calderón’s government and its submission to Washington, in the context of the Merida Initiative, were recorded.
Dozens of international organisations denounced the outrages, arbitrariness and violations of fundamental rights in the trial against the founder of WikiLeaks, including the United Nations Office of the Rapporteur on Torture and Amnesty International, but the decision had been taken at the highest levels of US and British “intelligence”: the messenger must be silenced, annihilated.
You can still find on the web the video Collateral Murder, which recorded from a military helicopter the killing of 12 civilians – including two Reuters journalists – in US-occupied Baghdad in July 2007. The video shows the moment when the group of citizens was strafed by the crew, who seconds later carried out another attack on an Iraqi family who came to the aid of the wounded.
The material, intellectual and political perpetrators of that crime – and all the others – were never called to account, but those who told the world about it – former US soldier Chelsea Manning and Assange himself – have since been subjected to relentless judicial harassment which, in the case of the Australian, is now leading to approval for his extradition to the United States.
If anything, it is surprising that successive US governments have never denied any of the Wikileaks leaks and reports, and all those responsible remain free and… campaigning against Assange.
The US government demanded the Australian’s imprisonment while prosecuting Assange’s main whistleblower, Private Chelsea Manning, buying time to frame him for 18 felony charges. This is not an act of justice, but an act of revenge against those who expose the many dirty laundry of the US and a chastisement aimed at informers and journalists so that they dare not expose the internal miseries of US power.
Wilkipedia reproduced his findings in a number of major newspapers around the world, which “justice” in Washington and London did not dare to attack.
Could it be that Assange was the one who commanded US soldiers mowing down unarmed people in a Baghdad suburb in April 2010, as evidenced in the video Collateral Murder?
Is Assange responsible for the human rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan? Wikileaks published (July 2010) more than 90,000 declassified documents proving the grave violations in Iraq and another 400,000 documents (October 2010) uncovering the hidden atrocities in Iraq.
Is it Assange who sent the emails of CIA director John Brennan, in which he speaks of torture in the interrogation of terrorist suspects? Is it Assange who wrote the communications of the US government with its diplomatic delegations, including the one that reported on the passage of CIA flights through Spanish territory, with prisoners bound for Guantanamo?
Could it be the man who detained hundreds of Afghans and Iranians without cause and tortured them savagely in the concentration camps of Bucca, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib? Or perhaps the man who wrote the US Army manual for the soldiers in Guantánamo?
Was it Assange who ran the National Security Agency (NSA) when he secretly eavesdropped on the meeting between Angela Merkel and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, or when he spied on the private meeting between Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Merkel and recorded eavesdropping on a conversation between Berlusconi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?
Is it Assange who redacted Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 compromising emails in March 2016 or the 27,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) communications and 50,000 emails from John Podesta, head of Clinton’s presidential campaign, in which he accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting the terrorist Islamic State (Daesh)?
Or is he involved in the human trafficking and sexual abuse network of high-ranking Democratic Party officials that sparked the Pizzagate scandal? Or perhaps it was he who financed the ultra-right-wing Vox in Spain and not who revealed the large fortunes and top Spanish executives who financed its birth.
Could it have been Assange who wrote the secret guide used by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents to infiltrate Europe under false identities and revealed that US spies were handling the EU border control manual, leaking the CIA’s Checkpoint reports?
No, obviously not. The criminals are and will remain free, defended by establishment, lawfare and hegemonic media paraphernalia. Assange’s crime was to report what was going on, based solely and exclusively on the reports of US (in)security agencies.
In an open letter, Christine Ann Assange, Julian Assange’s mother, notes “the pain of watching a healthy son slowly deteriorate because he was denied proper medical and health care in years and years of imprisonment; the anguish of seeing my son subjected to cruel psychological torture in an attempt to break his immense spirit; the constant nightmare that he will be extradited to the US and then spend the rest of his days buried alive in total isolation”.
He adds, “the constant fear that the CIA might carry out their plans to assassinate him; the wave of sadness as I watched his frail body collapse exhausted from a mini-stroke at the last hearing, due to chronic stress” and notes that “many people were traumatised to see a vengeful superpower using its unlimited resources to intimidate and destroy a defenceless individual”.
Farewell to journalism
Rara avis Wikileaks, because fewer and fewer journalists are activists for transparency and are replaced by those concerned with the public relaraations of power. Newsrooms no longer do journalism, but corporate advertising and political propaganda disguised as news.
It is not easy to bury the incontrovertible denunciation, without any possible reply, of the Pentagon’s war crimes, of the neo-imperialism of the most powerful diplomatic network in the world. Imagine if Wikileaks could report on Ukraine: surely there would be no war.
The silence of the media is cowardly, it is that of the accomplice. Perhaps we expected too much: at least that when the leaks became known there would be acts of indignation, that journalism – that endangered species – would migrate to information based on real data, while there are those who hoped that globalisation would at least serve to defend human rights from the onslaught of networked power.
There are optimists who believe that the British judiciary has more sense and decency than the London government headed by Boris Johnson, and there are those who dream that Assange will be released as soon as possible.
It is no coincidence that Donald Trump’s mandate laid the foundations for the legal massacre of Assange, nor that it is the government of Boris Johnson (perhaps the most warmongering leader along with Vladimir Putin) that gives the green light to his extradition. To vindicate Assange is to strip them naked, says Sampedro.
When he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriel García Márquez said that journalism is the best profession in the world. In Maceió, and in the midst of the election campaign, former Brazilian president Lula de Silva said Assange “should be receiving an Oscar for decency and courage because he denounced the planet, a country spying on another country. What crime did Assange commit? It is the crime you all committed: he told the truth”.