Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Assange unwell, stuck in solitary confinement while court hearing delayed till September

In his fight against extradition to the US, where he faces 175 years in prison and being subjected to harsh conditions under “Special Administrative Measures”, Assange is rendered defenseless. He is in effective solitary confinement, being psychologically tortured inside London’s maximum-security prison. With the British government’s refusal to release him temporarily into home detention, despite his deteriorating health and weak lung condition developed as consequences of long detention, Assange is now put at risk of contracting coronavirus. This threatens his life.

Now, as the world stands still and becomes silent in our collective self-quarantine, Assange’s words spoken years ago in defense of a free internet call for our attention from behind the walls of Belmarsh prison:

“Nuclear war, climate change or global pandemics are existential threats that we can work through with discussion and thought. Discourse is humanity’s immune system for existential threats. Diseases that infect the immune system are usually fatal. In this case, at a planetary scale.”

Assange’s US extradition, Threat to Future of Internet and Democracy, CounterPunch by NOZOMI HAYASE 8 May 20 On Monday May 4, the British Court decided that the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, scheduled for May 18, would be moved to September. This four month delay was made after Assange’s defense lawyer argued the difficulty of his receiving a fair hearing due to restrictions posed by the Covid-19 lockdown. Monday’s hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court proceeded without enabling the phone link for press and observers waiting on the line, and without Assange who was not well enough to appear via videolink.

Sunday May 3rd marked World Press Freedom Day. As people around the globe celebrated with online debates and workshops, Assange was being held on remand in London’s Belmarsh prison for publishing classified documents which exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. On this day, annually observed by the United Nations to remind the governments of the importance of free press, Amnesty International renewed its call for the US to drop the charges against this imprisoned journalist.

The US case to extradite Assange is one of the most important press freedom cases of this century. The indictment against him under the Espionage Act is an unprecedented attack on journalism. This is a war on free speech that has escalated in recent years turning the Internet into a battleground.

Privatized censorship

While he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after being granted asylum in 2012, Assange alerted the public about the oppressive force that is now threatening press freedom around the world. In a statement that was read during the “Organizing Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar in January 2018, Assange noted how multinational tech companies like Google and Facebook have evolved into powerful “digital superstates”. He warned that “undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity”.

Most who care about digital rights are well aware that tech giants like Google and Facebook have long been embroiled with Washington’ halls of power. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook has been candid about his pro-censorship stance. In his 2019 Washington Post op-ed Zuckerberg shared his belief that Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site with more than 800 million users, should take an active role to control content – for governments. 

In “When Google Met WikiLeaks”, published in 2014, Assange exposed the way Google executives used ‘revolving doors’ within the US State Department, and highlighted their close ties to US intelligence agencies like the NSA. Google’s internal research presentation, leaked to Breitbart News from the company’s employees in 2018, revealed government requests for censorship have tripled since 2016. An 85-page briefing entitled “The Good Censor” concluded that the multinational search giant needs to move toward censorship if it wishes to continue to receive the support of national governments and continue its global expansion. ………

Through his work with WikiLeaks, Assange aimed to hold people who run the machine to account. As a project of free software, he created an exemplar of scientific journalism on the platform of the Internet. It provided ordinary people with a formidable tool that can help them take back their power to control the machine and end its hostile takeover of society…….

Existential threat to democracy

For these efforts to end the military occupation of cyberspace, Assange is now being aggressively pursued by the Trump administration. At the time when WikiLeaks released a massive trove of documents that detailed the CIA hacking tools, Vice President Mike Pence vowed to “use the full force of the law” to hunt down those who released the Intelligence Agency’s secret material. Calling WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” that needs to be shut down, Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo has taken on and expanded Obama’s war on whistleblowers to attack the publisher.

John Kiriakou, who became the first CIA officer to give evidence of the use of torture, repeatedly said that if Assange were extradited, he would receive no fair trial. The CIA whistleblower, who was jailed for calling this torture unconstitutional, noted that in the Eastern District of Virginia where Assange was charged, “juries are made up of people from the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, the department of Homeland security and intelligence community contractors or their family members” and that “no national security defendant has ever won a case there.”

In his fight against extradition to the US, where he faces 175 years in prison and being subjected to harsh conditions under “Special Administrative Measures”, Assange is rendered defenseless. He is in effective solitary confinement, being psychologically tortured inside London’s maximum-security prison. With the British government’s refusal to release him temporarily into home detention, despite his deteriorating health and weak lung condition developed as consequences of long detention, Assange is now put at risk of contracting coronavirus. This threatens his life.

Now, as the world stands still and becomes silent in our collective self-quarantine, Assange’s words spoken years ago in defense of a free internet call for our attention from behind the walls of Belmarsh prison:

“Nuclear war, climate change or global pandemics are existential threats that we can work through with discussion and thought. Discourse is humanity’s immune system for existential threats. Diseases that infect the immune system are usually fatal. In this case, at a planetary scale.”

Prosecution of WikiLeaks is an attack on the free press that is supposed to promote the discourse necessary to maintain the health of our society. A potential US extradition of Assange poses existential threats to democracy. We must fight to stop it, for without each individual’s ability to speak freely, the tyranny of the authoritarian technocracy will become inevitable. It will be the extinction of free human beings everywhere in the world.

Join the debate on Facebook  https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/05/08/assanges-us-extradition-threat-to-future-of-internet-and-democracy/

May 9, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, secrets and lies

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