Concerning Julian Assange

March 2, 2020

I posted to Facebook yesterday a link to an article by Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian political blogger who enjoys a deservedly large and devoted following; her article bears the title, This Assange “Trial” is a Self-Contradictory Kafkaesque Nightmare. Yesterday, a friend of mine posted the following questions:

why, peter? with whom does the buck stop?

This afternoon, I replied to these questions as follows:

Why: Because Assange, through his organization WikiLeaks, exposed the crimes of empire, and empires commonly act viciously against those who expose their illegal actions and attempt to crush them by all means at their disposal.

With whom does the buck stop? If by this you mean, who bears final responsibility, we all, in some sense, bear a responsibility since, theoretically at least, we live under a government of laws that is supposed to be answerable to the governed; if the governed, through sloth, ignorance, apathy, and cowardice, don’t hold their governments to account, they bear a share of the guilt for what their governments do. But, more specifically, both the Obama and the Trump administrations have pursued Assange with a vengeance; many past and present members of the US government have publicly expressed a wish to see Julian Assange dead, and the UK government seems to be doing everything it can to oblige them; the Australian government bears a great share of the blame for doing nothing to secure the legal rights of its citizen; the Swedish government bears a share of the blame for having (doubtless in obedience to directives from Washington) set up the false rape charges that provided the initial legal pretext for Assange’s arrest; the current President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, is culpable for having rescinded Assange’s political asylum that had been granted under Ecuador’s previous administration; and the media, and in particular the UK paper The Guardian, which published and profited from Wikileaks’ exposures of crime, is grossly culpable; it is journalism that is supposed to keep citizens informed of what their governments are doing so that society can function freely; Assange admirably fulfilled that function of a true journalist, and the media in general, having been shown up by Assange to be largely a tribe of shills and lackeys, are now quite happy to throw Assange to the wolves, even if it means that investigative journalism is henceforth to be legally proscribed: you can now be sent to a gulag for life for exposing crimes committed by the American or British governments, and, clearly, the brutal treatment accorded to Assange by the British prison system and by Judge Vanessa Baraitser is intended to send a message to any prospective whistleblower: any publication of government secrets will henceforth be treated as a crime against the State. That is what this Assange case is all about; it is the most important legal case on freedom of the press in our lifetimes.

If most of my friends, many of whom cherish a devotion to liberal causes, take no personal interest in this case, and some of them regard the government’s position as justified, I must assume that it is due to their acceptance of the claim that Assange was somehow acting as a tool of the Russian government, or of Donald Trump, when in the summer of 2016 he published an internal e-mail trove of the Democratic National Committee. These e-mails made it clear that the party had essentially rigged the nomination process in favor of Mrs. Clinton from the outset. So far as I know, no one disputes the authenticity of the e-mails; rather, to distract from their content, critics, starting with Mrs. Clinton herself, began to claim that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC’s servers and provided this information to Assange, to throw the American election into disarray. This claim, that the e-mails published by Assange were illegally obtained from the Russian government, which hacked the DNC’s servers, became the source of a massive controversy that commonly goes by the name of “Russiagate” and has obsessed the political classes of America for much of the past three and a half years; yet, despite the publication of an Intelligence Assessment in 2017 and the Mueller Report a year ago, no tangible proof of Russian hacking has ever been presented to the public, and the only substantive finding of Mueller’s investigation is that a Russian troll farm spent about $100,000 during the 2016 election, publishing memes in favor of various candidates, including Mrs. Clinton; given the billions spent these days on American political campaigns, that amount is negligible, and the idea that it had a significant effect upon the election is absurd. As for the claim that Russia “hacked” the DNC, many knowledgeable Americans in the field of intelligence dispute it; one of them is William Binney, who wrote for the NSA much of its software; in late 2016 and early 2017, he and others calling themselves “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” argued publicly that the electronic signatures on the DNC e-mail trove were inconsistent with its having been hacked from halfway across the world in Russia, and indicated instead that the information was downloaded by someone locally onto a storage device: probably, a pen drive. In other words, they maintain that, in all probability, the information was leaked from someone within the DNC, not hacked from Russia.

Assange has always denied having received the e-mails from the Russians, although, in keeping with WikiLeaks’ protocols, he has refused positively to identify the leaker; an associate of his, Craig Murray (a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan), has categorically stated that he in fact knows that it was a leak, because, on a summer’s evening in 2016, he personally received the DNC e-mail cache on Assange’s behalf from someone working for the DNC in a Washington, DC park; then, having stored the transportable device in his luggage, he flew back to Britain and delivered it to WikiLeaks. It should also be pointed out that, after a DNC worker named Seth Rich was murdered on a DC street corner in late July 2016, shortly after the e-mail leak, Mr. Assange issued a $10,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest; many people have inferred from this that Rich, who favored the Sanders campaign, was in fact the leaker of the e-mails, and, for my part, I still think that that is the likeliest explanation, although the merest suggestion that Seth Rich was killed for leaking the DNC e-mails tends to set some people into a frenzy of righteous indignation.

Anyway, I hope that this answers your questions. I think that, if Julian Assange were not dangerous to those in power, the governments of the Western world would not be focusing so much coordinated effort on having him locked away for life. Information is power, and governments want to keep information about their own doings secret. Given the furiousness of their response, there must be some exceedingly ugly skeletons in some government closets. Assange has tried to restore some of the balance to popular government, by encouraging greater governmental transparency. I expect that Assange’s extradition to the United States is, sadly, a foregone conclusion. And when Assange is locked away in some high-security prison and, as far as the media is concerned, forgotten, we will know that our political freedoms have also been locked away and forgotten, and Assange’s critics can have the pleasure of knowing that they themselves are partly responsible.

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