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With WikiLeaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
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I was in Kabul in 2010 when Julian Assange and WikiLeaks first released a vast archive of classified US government documents, revealing what Washington really knew about what was happening in the world. I was particularly interested in one of these disclosures, which came in the shape of a video that the Pentagon had refused to release despite a Freedom of Information Act request.

When WikiLeaks did release the video, it was obvious why the US generals had wanted to keep it secret. Three years earlier, I had been in Baghdad when a US helicopter machine-gunned and fired rockets at a group of civilians on the ground who its pilots claimed were armed insurgents, killing or wounding many of them.

Journalists in Iraq were disbelieving about the US military’s claims because the dead included two reporters from the Reuters news agency. Nor was it likely that insurgents would have been walking in the open with their weapons when a US Apache helicopter was overhead.

We could not prove anything until WikiLeaks made public the film from the Apache. Viewing it still has the power to shock: the pilots are cock-a-hoop as they hunt their prey, including people in a vehicle who stop to help the wounded, saying, “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” and, “Ha, ha, I hit them.” Anybody interested in why the US failed in Iraq should have a look.

The WikiLeaks revelations in 2010 and in 2016 are the present-day equivalent of the release by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers, unmasking the true history of the US engagement in the Vietnam War. They are, in fact, of even greater significance because they are more wide-ranging and provide an entry point into the world as the US government really sees it.

The disclosures were probably the greatest journalistic scoop in history, and newspapers such as The New York Times recognised this by the vast space they gave to the revelations. Corroboration of their importance has been grimly confirmed by the rage of the US security establishment and its overseas allies, and the furious determination with which they have pursued Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks.

Daniel Ellsberg is rightly treated as a hero who revealed the truth about Vietnam, but Assange, whose actions were very similar to Ellsberg’s, is held in Belmarsh high-security prison. He faces a hearing in London this week to decide whether he will be extradited from the UK to the US on spying charges. If extradited, he stands a good chance of being sentenced to 175 years in the US prison system under the Espionage Act of 1917.

Ever since Assange orchestrated the release of documents through WikiLeaks, he has been the target of repeated official attempts to discredit him or, at the very least, to muddy the waters in a case that should be all about freedom of speech.

The initial bid to demonise Assange came immediately after the first release of documents, claiming that it would cost the lives of people who were named. The US government still argues that lives were put at risk by WikiLeaks, although it has never produced evidence for this.

On the contrary, the US counter-intelligence official who was in charge of the Pentagon’s investigation into the impact of the WikiLeaks disclosures admitted in evidence in 2013 that there was not a single instance of an individual being killed by enemy forces as a result of what WikiLeaks had done.

Brigadier General Robert Carr, head of the Pentagon’s Information Review Task Force, told the sentencing hearing for Chelsea Manning that his initial claim that an individual named by WikiLeaks had been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan was incorrect. “The name of the individual was not in the disclosures,” he admitted.

On the day the WikiLeaks revelations were made public, I had a pre-arranged meeting in Kabul with a US official who asked what the coding on the top of the leaked papers was. When I read this out, he was dismissive about the extent to which the deep secrets of the US state were being revealed.

I learned later the reason for his relaxed attitude. The database Manning had accessed was called SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router), which is a US military internet system. After 9/11, it was used to make sure that confidential information available to one part of the US government was available to others. The number of people with the right security clearance who could theoretically access SIPRNet was about 3 million, although the number with the correct password, while still substantial, would have been much fewer.

The US government is not so naive as to put real secrets on a system whose purpose was to be open to so many people, including a low-ranking sergeant such as Chelsea Manning. Sensitive materials from defence attaches and the like were sent through alternative, more secure channels. Had the US security services really been using a system as insecure as SIPRNet to send the names of those whose lives would be in danger if their identity were disclosed, they soon would have run short of recruits.

The false accusation that lives had been lost, or could have been lost, because of WikiLeaks damaged Assange. More damaging by far are the allegations that he has faced of the rape and sexual molestation of two women in Sweden in 2010. He denies the allegations, but they have condemned him to permanent status as a pariah in the eyes of many. The Swedish prosecutor discontinued the rape investigation last year because of time elapsed, but this makes no difference for those who feel that anything Assange has said or done is permanently tainted and that the WikiLeaks disclosures are only a tangential issue. Likewise, much of the media views Assange’s character and alleged behaviour as the only story worth covering. Although information about SIPRNet and General Carr’s evidence was published long ago, few journalists seem to be aware of this.

ORDER IT NOW

But it is not because of anything that may have happened in Sweden that Assange is threatened with extradition to the US to face prosecution under the Espionage Act. The charges all relate to the release of government secrets, the sort of thing that all journalists should aspire to do, and many have done in Britain and the US without being subject to official sanctions.

Compare the British government’s eagerness to detain Assange with its lack of interest in pursuing whoever leaked the secret cables of the British ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, to the Mail on Sunday last year. His negative comments about Donald Trump provoked an angry reaction from the president that forced Darroch to resign.

Assange has made disclosures about the activities of the US government that are more significant than the revelations in the Pentagon Papers. That is why he has been pursued to this day, and his punishment is so much more severe than anything inflicted on Daniel Ellsberg.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. jsinton says:

    There are two things which Assange did that no self respecting journalist would ever have done. The first was to release the State Department cables unredacted. I hold him completely responsible for this breach. If anyone had bothered looking, they would find tens of thousands of names of innocent people who were compromised by this unredacted breach. He says “no one was harmed”. He lies. The other thing that bothered me to no end was the sour-grapes release of the Vault 7 tools. He was trying to negotiate an “out” from the embassy, but it failed. Vault 7 tools were like nuclear cyber weapons. No one was helped by their release, they have done untold harm which we will never know. Mr. Assange is no journalist, he’s an activist. It irritates me to no end when people try to glorify him as a journalist.

    • Agree: Lot
  2. Trump “I love Wikileaks” should give the command: FREE ASSANGE.
    & do something really interesting: Appoint Julian as Mass Media Tzar to lead the break up and partial nationalization of the conglomerates that have so failed our democracy. Meanwhile:
    -BDS Israel
    -End Judeo Lese Majeste
    -Remember the USS Liberty

    • Replies: @Paw
    , @Eileen Kuch
  3. Daniel Ellsberg is rightly treated as a hero who revealed the truth about Vietnam

    He’s heavily (and near-unanimously) promoted as a hero by the legacy media and mainstream historians, anyway. Looking at it from a cynical standpoint, when someone is universally-acknowledged as a stunning, brave, and righteous “rebel against the establishment” — by that same establishment, there’s often more to the story.

    Or so the guys at Counterpunch claim, anyway…

    But your points about Assange are well-taken. And it’s interesting to see how the media narrative with respect to Assange has changed over the years..

    • Replies: @lloyd
  4. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:
    @jsinton

    No end, eh?

    Please share a link where I can see for myself – not be told about – the lack of redaction and consequent compromise of “innocent people.” Same for the “untold harm which we will never know” re Vault 7. Finally, does being an “activist” disqualify someone from being, in your view, a “journalist”?

    Julian Assange, like Seymour Hersh, is a great reporter. But for his work, we would know far less about the lies and other bad acts of those who govern us.

  5. ” He faces a hearing in London this week to decide whether he will be extradited from the UK to the US on spying charges. If extradited, he stands a good chance of being sentenced to 175 years in the US prison system under the Espionage Act of 1917.”

    This is going to be a inhalations debate. because as a noncitizen of the US, as someone who did not violate US space by hacking in his adult life . . . . who apparently did not engage in espionage in the US , but was only the recipient of information —

    the Espionage Act simply does not apply.

    I think its a very strange understanding that people think US law to noncitizens not violating US laws is applicable. As irritating and frustrating as it may – by all accounts, Mr. Assange operated as a reporter.

    ————————–

    But more than likely the actual issue between the extradition of Mrs Scoola who accidentally killed a US citizen and under diplomatic immunity fled the UK.

    • Replies: @Brabantian
  6. I am no expert, but recall that Wikileaks always took time to redact personal damaging information.
    I am also suspicious of Ellsberg who was a career CIA officer. He was never a journalist and admitted to leaking massive classified information, but never spent a day in jail and collects a CIA pension. Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty wrote that Ellsberg only leaked info the CIA wanted leaked to upset and embarrass Nixon as part of a plot to oust him.

    The Baghdad Apache shooting video that Mr. Cockburn refers to is at the end of this video:

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @UncommonGround
  7. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    “I am no expert, but recall that Wikileaks always took time to redact personal damaging information.”

    Likewise, which is why I asked commenter jsinton for evidence of his accusation.

  8. Well, who’d have thunk it?
    A Cockburn column that shouldn’t be dismissed as clownish.

    This piece on the suppurating corruption that surrounds the whole Assange atrocity is shocking but not in the least surprising. It’s always and everywhere. No exceptions.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/chief-magistrate-assange-extradition-received-financial-benefits-shadowy-groups

  9. lloyd says: • Website
    @James Forrestal

    As I recall, the release of the Pentagon Papers showed records that the CIA leadership actually strongly opposed the deepening military involvement of the U.S.A. into Vietnam. The CIA came across as the good guys and as they turned out to be right, fulfilling their role as Government intelligence. That makes it very interesting that Ellsberg remains a pensioned CIA officer and never served a day in prison. I may be hopelessly naive but is it possible there was a time in the early Johnson Administration that the CIA were not into drug trafficking or at least not taken over by it? That they became corrupted by easy money and Watergate made them immune from prosecution?

  10. Tusk says:
    @jsinton

    I thought you were being sarcastic, because you’re right, no self respecting journaist would ever release information unredacted because the goal of any self respecting journalist is to filter the news and make sure whatever gets out isn’t the truth but instead what helps those in control of the news. But you weren’t being saracastic, you’re just delusional and misinformed.

  11. Paw says:
    @thotmonger

    Trump showed in declaring exchange of Assange for some Russian promises , his total corruption,an absence of honor and honesty, with his little shopkeeper intriques.

    • Replies: @Jeff Davis
  12. @EliteCommInc.

    Re Assange’s ‘extradition’ –

    The question is why Assange his lawyers & Wikileaks, all join in hiding files on USA Virginia federal judge bribery & extortion corruption, which they all know would instantly make Assange’s extradition impossible

    And this of course is because the pro-Israel, anti-9-11-truth etc Julian Assange, as every major government knows, is a CIA Mossad fraud, as the evidence clearly shows –

    The files that team Assange hides, are the:

    – Same files that stopped extradition from UK of hacker (Mr) Lauri Love
    – Same files that shut down the attack on Trump by Robert Mueller, who as FBI Director was a sponsor of bribery of the same Virginia federal judges who would put Assange ‘on trial’
    https://www.docdroid.net/eVAAjIq/doj-ig-memo-mueller-bribery-extortion.pdf

    – Assange lawyer John Jones of Doughty Chambers, was thrown under a train & killed in the UK, apparently about to expose Assange was CIA-Mossad fraud, never really ‘living’ at the Ecuador embassy

    – ‘Assange in UK Belmarsh prison’ now, seems a continuation of the ‘Assange in Ecuador embassy’ hoax (Assange moved in & out for his photo ops and meetings, overseen by UK MI5-MI6 for CIA-Mossad):

    – Zbigniew Brzezinski on 29 Nov 2010, USA PBS television, admitted Assange was intel
    – Bibi Netanyahu long ago admitted to Israeli media that Assange was an Israeli asset, shielding Israel
    – Assange got famous via CIA media, NY Times, UK Guardian, never interested in real dissidents
    – Assange shared lawyer with Rothschilds, Rothschild sister-in-law posted Assange bail
    – 3 people trusting Assange are dead – Peter W Smith, Seth Rich, John Jones – others jailed
    – Assange helped Rothschilds destroy rival bank Julius Baer in Switzerland, via his pro-Rothschild ‘wiki-leaking’
    – Unknown how many dissidents Assange helped silence & kill, Assange a ‘rat trap’ duping real dissidents
    – Assange as big a faker as ‘Edward Snowden’ who first ‘leaked’ to the CIA WashPost Bush VP Dick Cheney biographer, but that was patently stupid, so they switched to Rothschild employee & ex-gay-pornography-seller Glenn Greenwald, Putin hinting out loud he knows Snowden is fake
    Sources: ‘Arrest of Julian Assange is Just Theatre – Assange is a Rothschild-Israeli Operative’ – ‘Assange & Snowden are CIA ‘Rat Traps” – ‘Snowden and Greenwald are CIA frauds’
    https://www.henrymakow.com/2019/04/Julian-Assange-Arrest-is-Theatre.html
    https://www.henrymakow.com/2018/11/assange-snowden-rat-traps.html
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/09/21/russia-govt-report-snowden-greenwald-are-cia-frauds/

    • Replies: @Tusk
    , @barr
  13. @jsinton

    “…tens of thousands of names of innocent people…”

    If the empire is evil, then those people are anything but “innocent”. Get over it. The fact that war criminals run around free, are prosperous, get highly paid jobs on cable tv, go to the best parties and rub elbows with all the best people, and serve in high positions in govt, doesn’t change the fact that they are ***UNINDICTED WAR CRIMINALS*** — as in “War is the Supreme international crime”.

    Rule of law my ass!

    “…tens of thousands of names of war criminals and their accomplices…”

    There, fixed that for you.

    One final note: I suspect that various security agencies and other monitors of the information stream, monitor this and various other sites, and work to control “the narrative” with “perception management”, hasbara, etc. Consequently, I view the very first commenter with some suspicion. That top slot is arguably the most influential, so narrative managers would seek to jump in and grab it. It’s especially suspicious when the comment is supportive of the imperial position.

  14. @Paw

    You should know that story was false.

  15. @thotmonger

    I agree with you 100%, thotmonger.

  16. Tusk says:
    @Brabantian

    Assange lawyer John Jones of Doughty Chambers, was thrown under a train & killed in the UK, apparently about to expose Assange was CIA-Mossad fraud, never really ‘living’ at the Ecuador embassy

    You remind me of the people who were saying he was actually dead and not really in the embassy, then, lo and behold, he was arrested at the embassy.

  17. EWM says:
    @jsinton

    Hmmm. Where have I heard the phrase: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about”?

  18. NotSo says:
    @jsinton

    There are two things which Assange did that no self respecting journalist would ever have done. The first was to release the State Department cables unredacted. I hold him completely responsible for this breach. If anyone had bothered looking, they would find tens of thousands of names of innocent people who were compromised by this unredacted breach. He says “no one was harmed”. He lies.

    He doesn’t lie and you have it wrong. In the order of your complaints:

    Firstly, Assange did not release the unredacted State Department cables. He arranged at a meeting with the Guardian to send them the unredacted cables in securely encrypted form, so they could prepare them for responsible publication, redacting them accordingly. To protect himself against harassment he put a copy of that file, named “Insurance”, on a public website but did not provide the password except to colleagues inside Wikileaks (who had seen the file anyway) and who could use knowledge of the password as a negotiating tool with any potential harrassers.

    It was two of The Guardian staff involved, David Leigh and Luke Harding, who had been entrusted with the file, who published the password in their book, “Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, published by the Guardian. Read that if you want confirmation. That stupidity was also one of the main causes of the estrangement between The Guardian and Assange, who was outraged by the weakness of their excuse when they were confronted by it. That aspect was directly addressed by many computer security experts from around the world and the resultant universal condemnation of The Guardian’s breach of trust, for whatever reason, is still to be found in many locations across the Internet.

    Secondly, at a (pre)trial at the time (which ended with his committal to house arrest with an electronic tracking tag) the US representatives in court were challenged by Assange’s lawyers to come up with a single instance in which even the unredacted files, so stupidly put into the public domain by The Guardian, had compromised or would compromise the safety of any named individual. They could not. If there is anyone to blame for Assange’s claim for his subsequent statements to that effect it is not a lie on his own behalf, it is the fault of the US representatives in court (who could always have approached the judge in confidence with any such sensitive data) or the fact that Assange’s claim is proven by their failure, not his arrogant dismissal of others’ security. Records on this point are not only also available on many Internet sites, they are part of the English court’s (pre)trial documents.

    There remain other reasons why any US prosecutor or politician might wish to see Assange extradited for a further trial in the United States, but neither the specific points that you raise can be amongst them.

    When the adverse effects on an individual could be as severe as those already inflicted on and still further sought by legal authorities, it assists the integrity of no legal process to have the mindless baying of an extraordinarily ill-informed lynch mob disturbing the peace outside the courthouse door.

    • Replies: @NotSo
  19. NotSo says:
    @jsinton

    The other thing that bothered me to no end was the sour-grapes release of the Vault 7 tools. He was trying to negotiate an “out” from the embassy, but it failed. Vault 7 tools were like nuclear cyber weapons. No one was helped by their release, they have done untold harm which we will never know.

    My apologies; I see the other beef you have with Assange was the above release of the so-called “Vault 7” “cybertools”. When I got to your “He lies”, I erroneously assumed that that was the second. For completeness, to address your actual second point:

    No one was helped by their release,

    I have seen a considerable number of comments, on the Internet and in print, from people who could in no way be classified as anti-American, anti-NATO, etc., i.e. as “having a dog in the fight”, saying that the Vault 7 did help them gain a practical insight into the whole, nature of “cyberwar” (for many a quite opaque subject), and what their governments and its allies were doing about it on their behalf. These far outweigh comments to the contrary, such as yours, but that may for reasons not directly related to the intrinsics of the question in hand.

    they have done untold harm which we will never know.

    Exactly. As Donald Rumsfeld put it, paraphrasing others,

    Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know…

    and as you have noted, more succinctly, “harm which we will never know.” What we will never know, we just do not know. The release of the Vault 7 information might be of some value (as above), no value (as you guess), some harm, considerable harm, or “untold harm” (as you assert). Which, we do not know. Without such knowledge such assertions, in themselves, may be of some value, no value, some harm, considerable harm or untold harm. It’s anybody’s guess. You’ve made your guess, many others have made theirs, both agreeing with and contradicting yours. All are just guesses. As you, yourself, explicitly confirm, “we will never know”. Maybe time will tell, maybe not. We don’t know that either.

  20. NotSo says:
    @NotSo

    Apologies for a misstatement. While I was reading the article before getting to the comments I was interrupted by an electrician working on some rewiring. On getting back to the article I evidently skipped an important paragraph or two and, when I was replying to jsinton, I was working from memory, so I wrote that American personnel at an earlier English pre(?)trial could not identify a single person who had been compromised by the unredacted release of State Department material, and that that had formed the basis of Assange’s claim. On just now rereading the article, which I should have done before continuing, I see that the part I inadvertently skipped clarifies the point and rectifies my faulty recollection. It was at a US trial of Chelsea Manning that the salient facts emerged, as reported in three paragraphs in the article beginning from “The initial bid to demonise Assange…”. I claim the partial exoneration of the question mark in “(pre?)trial”, but it was still a slipshod post. Apologies again.

  21. barr says:

    “You work for the British government,” her interrogator said, with a sneer.
    “No,” Gun replied, steadily. “I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/22/katharine-gun-whistleblower-iraq-official-secrets-film-keira-knightley

    That was K Gun of UK’s intelligence department who exposed the dirty tricks deployed by the neocons to get the UN agree to the war against Iraq . She payed a price for her belief and action.

  22. barr says:
    @Brabantian

    “Zbigniew Brzezinski on 29 Nov 2010, USA PBS television, admitted Assange was intel
    – Bibi Netanyahu long ago admitted to Israeli media that Assange was an Israeli asset, shielding Israel
    – Assange got famous via CIA media, NY Times, UK Guardian, never interested in real dissidents
    – Assange shared lawyer with Rothschilds, Rothschild sister-in-law posted Assange bail
    – 3 people trusting Assange are dead – Peter W Smith, Seth Rich, John Jones – others jailed
    – Assange helped Rothschilds destroy rival bank Julius Baer in Switzerland, via his pro-Rothschild ‘wiki-leaking’
    – Unknown how many dissidents Assange helped silence & kill, Assange a ‘rat trap’ duping real dissidents”

    We need more like Assange who are loved by Israel Rothschild and Brzezinski.

    • Replies: @Wielgus
  23. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:
    @jsinton

    Caitlin Johnstone has just written a detailed, sourced examination of the issue: “ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Debunking the Smear About Assange Recklessly Publishing Unredacted Documents.”

    Please read her article and then:
    1) refute it,
    2) withdraw your accusation, or
    3) confirm that you are lying.*

    * silence = #3

  24. Wielgus says:
    @barr

    If he is an asset, they are hiding it really, really well with legal charges including rape allegations, him taking refuge for a long time in the Ecuador embassy, then jailed under a bogus pretext when he was put on the street and now US extradition threats. His treatment seems to me more an example of power élites fearing and hating whistleblowers and seeking to discourage imitators.
    I knew a woman of feminist disposition and rather lefty politics who wanted Assange drawn and quartered just because of the rape allegations which have now receded into the background, perhaps because there was nothing to them other than a psychological warfare move to reduce support for Assange, especially in liberal-lefty environments.

    • Replies: @Barr
  25. Barr says:
    @Wielgus

    Yes I agree
    I don’t think he is an asset of some Rothchilds or of anyone else .

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