Australian news, and some related international items

Stella Assange at Sydney rally: “It’s not just Julian who has lost his freedom, but all of us”

The whistleblower noted the comments of Australian Labor Party Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has made extremely tepid statements expressing “concern” over Assange’s plight. Albanese has said that “enough is enough” in relation to the Assange case. He claims to have made private representations to the US and British governments on behalf of Assange, but has stopped far short of any public demand for the Australian journalist’s freedom.

Albanese has recently hinted at the prospect of a plea deal in the Assange case. Kenny forcefully rejected this course. “Is there a Hicks solution? Why should there be? He has not committed any crime. He should not be forced to plead to anything. We need our prime minister to stand up, not just say ‘enough is enough.’”

Oscar Grenfell@Oscar_Grenfell, 24 May 2023

Some 800 people attended a protest in Sydney yesterday morning demanding the immediate freedom of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. People came from across New South Wales and from around the country to attend the rally, which was one of the largest demanding Assange’s freedom yet, despite being held on a weekday.

Speaking at the demonstration, Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, declared that the protesters were “at the forefront of a global movement for justice. A global movement that converges on one man, but the meaning of which goes far beyond Julian’s freedom. It’s not just Julian who has lost his freedom, but all of us. Because in order to keep Julian in prison, they have had to corrupt their own rules and their own principles.”

Stella, visiting Australia for the first time, noted that her tour had initially been planned to coincide with a scheduled visit of US President Joe Biden. He had been set down to attend a summit of the warmongering and anti-China Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue this week in Sydney.

Biden cancelled, however Stella proceeded with the visit. She explained the crucial importance of the fight within Australia to securing her husband’s freedom. Assange is detained in Britain and faces extradition to the US, where he would be tried on Espionage Act charges carrying 175 years imprisonment for exposing American war crimes.

Assange is an Australian citizen. Stella explained: “Julian’s case is a case of global importance. But you guys are at the centre of it because Julian is an Australian, he’s a country boy, and he’s from this country. That means that the key to securing Julian’s release lies with you.”

Assange’s supporters in Australia were part of a “global movement” involving millions of people all over the world, she said. There is a growing recognition, internationally, that “he’s in prison because he exposed the crimes of others. No decent human being will ever tolerate that. The only people whose interest remains Julian’s imprisonment, are the ones who are guilty and implicated in those crimes.”

Within Australia, there had been a “sea change.” Only a few years ago, there had been “radio silence” on Assange’s case. But increasingly it was being discussed in the media, as well as by official politicians. This, Stella stressed, was a consequence of the demands made by ordinary people and a protracted grassroots campaign.

This fight had to be deepened, she said. “You guys need to shout louder, fight harder, put the pressure on each of your representatives, make Julian’s situation visible everywhere, every day, on your cars, on your shirts. Every day you tell all your friends, you talk about it with your family… Make sure Julian remains top priority until he steps out of that prison. I think we’re near, we can achieve this together.”

Stella noted that it was her first time in Australia, but it would not be her last. “I will come back here, home with Julian, and our kids who are Australian citizens will come home too.”

John Shipton, Assange’s father, placed the persecution of Assange within a broader context. Brown University, in the United States, had recently published a report showing that there had been 4.5 million deaths in the Middle East following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. An earlier document, from the same institution, estimated that the predatory US-led wars in the region had displaced 38 million people.

Speaking of those US interventions Shipton condemned a “hegemon standing in a river of blood.” He emphasised the striving of ordinary people for “justice” and “humanity,” which would ultimately be victorious. Assange’s case and the fight for his freedom were integral to this broader struggle.

Gabriel Shipton, Assange’s brother, said: “If anything is to be taken from Julian’s persecution, it is that it has mobilised people all around the world… The fight gives meaning to Julian’s work. It has brought us all together here to fight for something that is so important to our Western democracies and that’s a free press. How can we make decisions about what our governments do in our name if we don’t know? It’s not possible.”

David McBride addressed the protest. A former Australian army lawyer, he faces life behind bars for blowing the whistle on Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. They included verified murders of civilians and prisoners and other violations of international law. For these offenses, McBride, the man who exposed them, is the first to face court proceedings.

“There’s a good chance that even though I reported murders and cover-ups, that I’m going to go to jail for the rest of my life… It’s not something I hang my head about. It’s something I’m proud of… We need to stand up, the future of the planet depends on it.”

The whistleblower noted the comments of Australian Labor Party Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has made extremely tepid statements expressing “concern” over Assange’s plight. Albanese has said that “enough is enough” in relation to the Assange case. He claims to have made private representations to the US and British governments on behalf of Assange, but has stopped far short of any public demand for the Australian journalist’s freedom.

McBride responded: “I say this to Anthony Albanese. Enough of you saying ‘enough is enough.’ It means nothing. Imagine if I had witnessed war crimes in Afghanistan, witnessed murder and cover-up… and all I said to them is ‘enough is enough.’ It’s not enough.” McBride called for Albanese to “step up to the plate” and secure Assange’s unconditional freedom.

Stephen Kenny, Assange’s Australian lawyer, issued the same demand. Kenny represented Australian citizen David Hicks, who was rendered to the American military prison in Guantánamo Bay as part of the “war on terror.” Hicks was eventually freed and returned to Australia, as the result of a powerful campaign led by his father Terry Hicks. David Hicks had been compelled to sign a plea deal, despite having committed no crime.

Kenny noted the parallels. “Like David Hicks, Julian Assange has not committed any crime at all. So why is he in jail?” The editors of other major publications, who were involved in WikiLeaks’ 2010 and 2011 releases, for which Assange is being prosecuted, remain at liberty. This, Kenny explained, made clear that the case against Assange was political and required a political solution.

He outlined some of the abuses of the British judiciary. This included placing Assange in a glass box at the back of his courtroom during the first extradition proceedings, denying him the right to participate in his own case. Assange’s lawyers, moreover, had filed their latest appeal in November. The British judges merely need to determine whether he has an arguable case, a process which Kenny said should take several days or at most a week. But six months on and this task has not been completed.

Albanese has recently hinted at the prospect of a plea deal in the Assange case. Kenny forcefully rejected this course. “Is there a Hicks solution? Why should there be? He has not committed any crime. He should not be forced to plead to anything. We need our prime minister to stand up, not just say ‘enough is enough.’”

The rally raised several political issues. Many of the speakers, importantly, emphasised the decisive role of mobilising ordinary people in the fight to free Assange.

Inevitably, the statements of Albanese and other Labor representatives have generated some hope within the Assange camp. But there is no indication, whatsoever, that Albanese is fighting for Assange’s freedom, behind closed doors or anywhere else. This week he refused to even meet with Stella Assange. Albanese was part of the Gillard Labor government, which in 2010 and 2011, played a central role in the initial stages of the persecution of Assange……..

May 27, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Hundreds rally against state government’s proposed increases to penalties for protesting

About 500 people have marched through the Adelaide CBD rallying against proposed changes to the state’s protest laws. 

The state government proposed changes to laws that would strengthen penalties for obstructing public places in response to Extinction Rebellion protests last week.

A climate change protester was charged with obstructing a public place after she abseiled down Morphett Street bridge with a rope and was suspended over North Terrace, causing traffic delays.

Another four protesters were charged with offences, including property damage, after allegedly throwing paint at the Santos building.

The proposed changes to the Summary Offences Act — backed by the state opposition — would mean anyone who “intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct that obstructs the free passage of a public place” would face possible three months jail or a $50,000 fine.

Currently, there is no option for jail time and the maximum fine is $750.

“One of the amendments that I’m moving will be to add in a sunset clause to this bill so that it expires in 12 months time. 

“We are also adding in a clause requiring a review after a 12-month period and I’ll also be introducing a reasonableness test so that people who are caught under this bill will have a possible defence.” 

About 80 community groups, including Amnesty International Australia, have signed a letter calling on the government to withdraw the bill. 

The organisations listed their support in a full-page advertisement taken out in Friday’s edition of The Advertiser titled Protect Our Right to Protest — Before It’s Too Late, which was authorised by the South Australian Council of Social Service. 

‘Almost wartime measure’

The Law Society of South Australia and the South Australian Bar Association have also jointly written a strongly worded letter to the Attorney-General outlining a long list of concerns about the proposed new laws.

………………………………………. The legal bodies raised concerns about the legal wording of the proposed reforms which would significantly shift the onus of proof for the offence of obstructing a public place.

“The effect is that a person only has to turn their mind to the possibility that an obstruction will occur, even though the consequence is entirely unintended, to be found guilty of the offence,” the letter states………………………….. more

May 27, 2023 Posted by | civil liberties, South Australia | Leave a comment

Assange and the Australian government’s persecution of alleged Afghan war crimes whistleblower

McBride will be the first person to face court over the war crimes of the Australian military in Afghanistan, i.e., for allegedly revealing them, not perpetrating them.

Ominously, Albanese stated: “A solution needs to be found… and Mr Assange needs to be a part of that of course.” The only way that Assange could be “part of a solution” to his case, is if he were to concede guilt as part of some sort of plea deal arrangement. If the US were to drop the charges, Assange’s “part” would simply be to walk out of prison a free man.

WSWS, Oscar Grenfell @Oscar_Grenfell, 10 May 2023

Over the past week, several prominent members of the Australian Labor government have feigned sympathy for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. The most notable of these interventions was a statement made by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, while he was in Britain for the coronation of King Charles.

Albanese and other Labor representatives have reiterated the vague comment that “enough is enough” in relation to the Assange case, and it has “gone on for too long.” Assange has been detained in a British prison for more than four years, and faces extradition to the US where he could be jailed for 175 years for exposing American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The essential position of Albanese is that he has made comments to the British and US governments along these lines and that is all he can do. As the WSWS has previously noted, this is the antithesis of an aggressive diplomatic and legal campaign aimed at securing the freedom of a persecuted Australian citizen.

The refusal to take any concrete measures to ensure Assange’s release is bound up with Labor’s complete commitment to the US alliance, including Washington’s escalating preparations for war with China.

But that is not the sole issue. A key component of this program of war, with Labor overseeing the country’s largest militarisation in 80 years, is the suppression of anti-war opposition. That is evident in the persecution of Assange, but it is also apparent in several draconian “national security” cases that the Labor government is directly presiding over in Australia.

The most significant is the prosecution of David McBride. A former army lawyer, he is accused of leaking information exposing Australian war crimes in Afghanistan and other violations of international law in that protracted neo-colonial occupation.

The documents that the state claims McBride leaked included details of the potentially unlawful killings of ten Afghan men and boys by Australian Special Forces soldiers.

In one instance, a man and his son were shot dead by Special Air Service Regiment in September, 2013. Official reports indicated that the man had pointed a weapon at the Australian personnel. The leaked documents said that the man and the boy were found shot dead in their beds, indicating that they may have been executed in their sleep.

Other cases also involved children. Some of the documents indicated that prisoners were being killed, execution style, and then posthumously being accused of attempting to seize a weapon.

Most explosively, the files indicated awareness in the military command of a “warrior culture” among special forces that had gotten out of control and threatened breaches of the laws of war.

The publication of details from the files, by the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), triggered a series of inquiries into the actions of the defence forces in Afghanistan. This culminated in the 2020 release of an official Brereton Report, confirming “credible information” that the Special Forces had murdered 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.

In other words, whoever leaked the documents in the years earlier provided the public with true information about war crimes that were being hidden from the population.

In June, 2019, the Australian Federal Police carried out an unprecedented raid on the Sydney office of the ABC, over its publication of the Afghan files. It was later revealed that one of the journalists involved in the story, Dan Oakes, had been threatened with national security charges, in what would have been an exact parallel to the Assange case.

That prosecution did not eventuate. But last month, a hearing of the Australian Capital Territory’s Supreme Court confirmed that McBride will stand trial in November. He is charged with “national security” offenses, including unauthorised disclosure of information, theft of commonwealth property and breaching the Defence Act. McBride has pleaded not guilty.

Confirmation that the case will proceed means that McBride will be the first person to face court over the war crimes of the Australian military in Afghanistan, i.e., for allegedly revealing them, not perpetrating them.

Only one soldier has been charged over the documented killings of civilians. He allegedly shot an unarmed Afghan boy at point blank range. That killing occurred in 2012. Footage of it was broadcast in early 2020 on national television, but the soldier was only charged last month. He will not be tried until next year and is out on bail.

Because McBride is charged with federal offenses, the Labor government and specifically its Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus can order an end to the prosecution.

McBride is an alleged whistleblower, whereas Assange is a publisher. But the essence of the case against both is that they should be imprisoned for decades for exposing war crimes. Labor claims it cannot free Assange, because he is subject to British “legal processes,” and is facing extradition to the US. Australia is “not a party” to those proceedings, they assert.

The McBride case gives the lie to these assertions. Labor could drop this prosecution whenever it wanted to. But, like the Biden administration with its pursuit of Assange, the Albanese government is intent on setting new precedents for the suppression of anti-war sentiment, amid an explosion of militarism and war.

There are other cases that Labor is presiding over……………………………………….

 Labor is deepening an anti-democratic offensive targeting the civil liberties of the population, of which the US prosecution of Assange is an international focal point.

That underscores the fraud of claims that Labor is conducting “quiet diplomacy” on Assange’s behalf.

In the latest stage of this charade, members of a cross-party federal parliamentary grouping visited US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy to discuss the Assange case. There is no indication that they came away with anything…….

Labor backbencher Julian Hill wrote on Twitter: “I thanked the Ambassador for her willingness to engage. Aside from the issues at stake in Julian Assange’s case, the delay in resolving it is an unwelcome distraction from AUKUS & our work with the US to confront the strategic challenges we face.”

Describing the 12-year state persecution of a journalist, which has brought him to the brink of death, as an “unwelcome distraction” is obscene. The reference to AUKUS is notable. Hill was speaking of the trilateral pact between Britain, the US and Australia, directed against China. The “strategic challenge,” is a veiled reference to the US confrontation with China.

In other words, Hill is arguing that the prosecution of Assange, an anti-war publisher, is a distraction from the US preparations for a new war. In reality, the two go hand-in-hand. One could not conceive of a more right-wing, warmongering argument, nominally in Assange’s defence.

In an interview with the ABC yesterday, Albanese restated his line of “enough is enough” in relation to Assange. He refused to indicate if the Labor government is even asking the Biden administration to end its prosecution of Assange.

Ominously, Albanese stated: “A solution needs to be found… and Mr Assange needs to be a part of that of course.” The only way that Assange could be “part of a solution” to his case, is if he were to concede guilt as part of some sort of plea deal arrangement. If the US were to drop the charges, Assange’s “part” would simply be to walk out of prison a free man.

The statements of Albanese and other Labor leaders are a transparent attempt by a government that has done nothing for his freedom to blunt the widespread public support for Assange. Most immediately, Assange’s plight is viewed as a “distraction,” to use Hill’s words, from the Quadrilateral Dialogue summit, to be held in Sydney later this month. Biden, together with the Indian and Japanese leaders, and Albanese, will gather to discuss the next stage of their preparation for war with China.

Only the naive and the credulous would believe that this warmongering cabal is about to extend a benevolent hand to someone who exposed their past crimes when they are preparing even greater ones.

May 13, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian prime minister feigns concern for Assange but defends “national security” secrecy

Oscar Grenfell@Oscar_Grenfell 5 May 2023

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) this week, Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gave his most extensive comments on the plight of Julian Assange since coming to office in May 2022. Albanese feigned concern for the WikiLeaks publisher, but defended the entire anti-democratic framework of “national security” secrecy under which he is being persecuted.

Albanese is in London for the coronation of King Charles. He is also holding discussions with the British government, centring on AUKUS, the aggressive militarist pact between the two countries and the US, aimed at preparing for war against China.

In the same city, Assange has been incarcerated in the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison for more than four years, most of that time on remand. The sole purpose of his detention is to facilitate a US extradition request. The American government is seeking to imprison Assange for up to 175 years for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and its global diplomatic conspiracies.

Albanese’s comments have been presented widely as his “strongest” in defence of Assange. Throughout his prime ministership, Albanese has sought to avoid even mentioning the WikiLeaks publisher, even though Assange is an Australian citizen and the world’s most significant political prisoner.

Albanese’s long silence, which included his tenure as opposition leader, was clearly a product of political hostility to Assange and WikiLeaks. But as demands for the Labor government to defend Assange grew, Albanese and his colleagues changed tack. They could not speak openly about Assange, supposedly because that would compromise unspecified “quiet diplomacy” they were conducting on his behalf.

Documents obtained via freedom of information requests by lawyer Kellie Tranter have not turned up a single trace of this “quiet diplomacy.” That includes correspondence between the relevant Australian government bodies and its counterparts in the US and Britain.

In the ABC interview, Albanese repeated his refrain that “enough is enough” in relation to the Assange case and “this matter needs to be brought to a close.” These formulations are deliberately ambiguous. They do not even indicate how the case should be “brought to a close,” much less demand that the Biden administration drop the prosecution.

Albanese added: “It needs to be worked through, we’re working through diplomatic channels, we’re making very clear what our position is on Mr Assange’s case.” But again, it is not at all “clear” what the Labor government’s position actually is. Moreover, almost a year of purported “quiet diplomacy” has not altered the course of Assange’s persecution by one iota.

Asked about this, Albanese replied: “I know it’s frustrating. I share the frustration. I can’t do more than make very clear what my position is.” He claimed that the US government was “clear” on Labor’s position, but would not even commit to raising Assange when Biden visits Australia later this month.

Albanese expressed “concern” for Assange’s health, but did not indicate he would do anything about it. It is over three years since hundreds of doctors first warned that the deterioration of Assange’s medical condition could result in his death behind bars, and demanded he be released from Belmarsh Prison.

In the comments that some Assange supporters have presented as most hopeful, Albanese stated: “I think that when Australians look at the circumstances, look at the fact that the person who released the information [Chelsea Manning] is walking freely now, having served some time in incarceration but is now released for a long period of time, then they’ll see that there is a disconnect there.”

Again, this is miles away from a demand that the Biden administration end its prosecution, or a defence of a persecuted Australian journalist. It is more in the manner of, “it is unfortunate that this is occurring, but what can one do?”

That was, in fact, the entire thrust of Albanese’s remarks. Labor had raised the issue, he claimed, made its “position clear” and Assange’s fate was in the hands of Britain and the US. That is diametrically opposed to the repeated aggressive diplomatic and legal interventions Australian governments have previously mounted to free citizens imprisoned abroad.

The fraudulent character of Albanese’s purported defence of Assange was underscored by the fact that his comments were immediately endorsed by opposition Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton. Dutton, a former policeman, is an extreme right-wing figure, who speaks most openly for the repressive state forces that are seeking Assange’s destruction.

Above all, Albanese’s remarks were aimed at placating the growing public support for the WikiLeaks founder and subordinating it to a “quiet diplomacy” that could not be any quieter. Among some prominent Assange supporters, Albanese’s remarks have had their desired effect. They have proclaimed that the Labor government has now demonstrated its commitment to Assange’s freedom, presenting this as a fact to be celebrated.

Such positions, it must be stated, are a self-deluding fantasy that obstructs a genuine fight for Assange’s freedom, lets those involved in his persecution off the hook and creates favourable conditions for a US extradition. Unfortunately, it is not hard to envisage such individuals proclaiming one “victory” after another, right up until Assange is dispatched to his US persecutors.

Several questions must be posed: If Albanese were waging a determined struggle for Assange’s freedom, would he be fawning over King Charles and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the figures who hold the key to Assange’s cell? Would he be preparing to roll out the red carpet for Biden when the US president visits Australia in several weeks? Would he not make demands of the British and US governments, as Australian administrations have when defending other persecuted citizens?

Those who promote the illusion that Assange’s freedom will be granted by one or another benevolent faction of the establishment, without any genuine political struggle, invariably detach the attempted US extradition from its broader political context.

As the WSWS has explained, the US is pursuing Assange, not only as an act of retribution. It is seeking to establish a precedent for the suppression of social and political opposition, especially opposition to war. This forms part of a broader turn to authoritarianism by governments around the world, amid the deepest crisis of the capitalist system since the 1930s.

The imperialist powers are preparing for another catastrophic world war. That is the significance of the US-NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, along with Washington’s confrontation with China, which is viewed as the chief threat to American imperialist hegemony.

Australia, under Albanese, is on the frontlines of these war preparations. Last month, Labor endorsed a Defence Strategic Review, calling for Australia’s largest military build-up since World War II. The review is explicit that this is in preparation for a US-led war against China.

As in the last century, war is incompatible with democratic rights. It requires the suppression of anti-war opposition, because governments are aware that workers and young people are hostile to militarism, and that the program of war will intensify a resurgence of the class struggle that is already well underway.

This basic point was essentially made by Albanese himself.

Continue reading

May 10, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Multiple US Officials Confronted About US Assange Hypocrisy On World Press Freedom Day


Wednesday was World Press Freedom Day, and it saw US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and Deputy State Department Spokesman Vedant Patel confronted about the glaring hypocrisy of the Biden administration’s persecution of Julian Assange for the crime of good journalism.

During an appearance at a World Press Freedom event hosted by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius on Wednesday morning, Blinken was confronted by Code Pink activists Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry demanding justice for Assange before being swiftly dragged off stage.

“Excuse us, we can’t use this day without calling for the freedom of Julian Assange,” said Benjamin, holding a sign saying “FREE JULIAN ASSANGE”.

The two were immediately rushed by many security staffers, and the audio from the stage was temporarily cut.

“Stop the extradition request of Julian Assange,” Benjamin can be heard saying.

“Two hours and not one word about journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh, who was murdered by the Israeli occupation forces in Palestine, not one word about Julian Assange,” said Barry. 

“We’re here to celebrate freedom of expression, and we just experienced it,” said Ignatius without a trace of irony once the dissent had been silenced. He then returned to the subject of how bad and awful the Russian government is for imprisoning American journalist Evan Gershkovich. 

Then during a White House press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Karine Jean-Pierre was asked a question by CBS News’ Steven Portnoy that was so inconvenient the press secretary flat-out said she wouldn’t answer it.

“Advocates on Twitter today have been talking a great deal about how the United States has engaged in hypocrisy by talking about how Evan Gershkovich is held in Russia on espionage charges but the United States has Espionage Act charges pending against Julian Assange.  Can you respond to that criticism?” asked Portnoy.

“What is the criticism?” asked Jean-Pierre. 

“Well, the criticism is that — the argument is that Julian Assange is a journalist who engaged in the publication of government documents,” Portnoy replied. “The United States is accusing him of a crime under the Espionage Act, and that, therefore, the United States is losing the moral high ground when it comes to the question of whether a reporter engages in espionage as a function of his work. So can you respond to that?”

“Look, I’m not going to speak to Julian Assange and that case from here,” said Jean-Pierre.

And then she didn’t. She just dismissed Portnoy’s question without explanation, then babbled for a while about things Biden has said that are supportive of press freedoms, then again said “I’m not going to weigh in on comments about Julian Assange.”

This type of “I’m not answering that, screw you” dodge is a rare move for a White House press secretary. They don’t normally just come right out and say they refuse to answer the highly relevant and easily answerable question a reporter just asked; typically when the question is too inconvenient they’ll either word-salad a bewildering non-response, say the answer is the jurisdiction of another department, or say they’ll get back to them when they have more information. It’s not the norm for them to just wave away the question without even pretending to provide a reason for doing so.

But really, what choice did she have? As Wall Street Journal White House correspondent Sabrina Siddiqi recently acknowledged on MSNBC, the job of the White House press secretary is not to tell the truth, but to “stay on message and control the narrative.” There is nothing about the Assange case that is on-message with the White House narrative; just the other day Biden said at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that “journalism is not a crime,” yet his persecution of Assange is deliberately designed to criminalize journalism

There’s simply no way to reconcile the US government’s story about itself with its efforts to normalize the extradition and persecution of journalists around the world under the Espionage Act. If your job is to make the White House look good, the only way to respond to questions of US hypocrisy regarding the Assange case is not to respond at all.

Later in the press conference, Jean-Pierre responded to another reporter’s questions about press freedoms in China with an assurance that the Biden administration will “hold accountable the autocrats and their enablers who continue to repress a free, independent media.”

Also on Wednesday afternoon, AP’s Matt Lee cited the aforementioned Code Pink protest earlier that day to question Deputy State Department Spokesman Vedant Patel about Assange, and was met with a similar amount of evasiveness.

“So then can I ask you, as was raised perhaps a bit abruptly at the very beginning of his comments this morning, whether or not the State Department regards Julian Assange as a journalist who would be covered by the ideas embodied in World Press Freedom Day?” asked Lee.

“The State Department thinks that Mr. Assange has been charged with serious criminal conduct in the United States, in connection with his alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in our nation’s history,” Patel replied. “His actions risked serious harm to US national security to the benefit of our adversaries. It put named human sources to grave and imminent risk and risk of serious physical harm and arbitrary detention. So, it does not matter how we categorize any person, but this is – we view this as a – as something he’s been charged with serious criminal conduct.”

“Well, but it does matter actually, and that’s my question. Do you believe that he is a journalist or not?” asked Lee.

“Our view on Mr. Assange is that he’s been charged with serious criminal conduct in the United States,” said Patel………………………………………………..

Okay. So, basically, the bottom line is that you don’t have an answer. You won’t say whether you think he is a journalist or not,” Lee replied.

Again, Patel was left with no safe answers to Lee’s questions, because of course Assange is indisputably a journalist. Publishing information and reporting that is in the public interest is precisely the thing that journalism is; that’s why Assange has won so many awards for journalism. Trying to contend that Assange is not a journalist is an unwinnable argument.

Later in that same press conference Patel was challenged on his claim that Assange damaged US national security by journalist Sam Husseini. 

“You refer to WikiLeaks allegedly damaging US national security,” said Husseini. “People might remember that WikiLeaks came to prominence because they released the Collateral Murder video. And what that showed was US military mowing down Reuters reporters – workers in Iraq. Reuters repeatedly asked the US Government to disclose such information about those killings, and the US government repeatedly refused to do so. Only then did we know what happened, that the US helicopter gunship mowed down these Reuters workers, through the Collateral Murder video? Are you saying that disclosure of such criminality by the US government impinges US national security?”

“I’m not going to parse or get into specifics,” Patel said, before again repeating his line that Assange stands accused of serious crimes in a way that harmed US national security.

Journalist Max Blumenthal tweeted about Patel’s remarks, “According to this State Dept flack, Julian Assange’s jailing is justified because he ‘harmed US national security.’ But Assange is not an American citizen. By this logic, the US can kidnap and indefinitely detain any foreign journalist who offends the US national security state.”

It is good that activists and journalists have been doing so much to highlight the US empire’s hypocrisy as it crows self-righteously about its love of press freedoms while persecuting the world’s most famous journalist for doing great journalism. Highlighting this hypocrisy shows that the US empire does not in fact care about press freedoms at all, save only to the extent that it can pretend to care about them to wag its finger at governments it doesn’t like.

Assange exposed many things about our rulers during his work with WikiLeaks, but none of those revelations have been as significant as what he’s forced them to reveal about themselves in the lengths that they will go to to silence a journalist who tells inconvenient truths.

May 6, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Free Julian Assange, member of our organisations – European Federation of Journalists Our Italian FNSI affiliates were visited today in Rome by Julian Assange‘s wife, Stella Morris. The Italian journalists’ union, at the initiative of its Campania branch, presented Julian Assange with an FNSI membership card. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) passed on the initiative to its affiliates in Europe: 18 of them decided to follow the Italian example and grant Julian Assange membership (or honorary membership) of their organisations. The EFJ and its affiliates once again call on the UK authorities to release Julian Assange.

Here is the joint appeal delivered to Stella Morris in Rome this morning:

We, the undersigned European unions and associations of journalists, join the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in calling on the US government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and allow him to return home to his wife and children.

We are gravely concerned about the impact of Assange’s continued detention on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally. We urge European governments to actively work to secure Julian Assange’s release.

To show our solidarity, we declare Julian Assange a full member, an honorary member or a free member of our organisations.


  • Maja Sever, EFJ President and TUCJ President, Croatia
  • Fabrizio Cappella, SUGC-FNSI Secretary, Italy
  • Satik Seyranyan, UJA President, Armenia
  • Borka Rudić, BHJA General Secretary, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Hrvoje Zovko, HND President, Croatia
  • Emmanuel Poupard, SNJ First General Secretary, France
  • Emmanuel Vire, General secretary SNJ-CGT, France
  • Tina Groll, dju in ver.di President, Germany
  • Maria Antoniadou, JUADN President, Greece
  • Laszlo M. Lengyel, HPU Executive President, Hungary
  • Pavle Belovski, SSNM President, North Macedonia
  • Luís Filipe Simões, SJ President, Portugal
  • Darko Šper, GS Kum President, Serbia
  • Dragana Čabarkapa, Sinos President, Serbia
  • Zeljko Bodrozic, IJAS President, Serbia
  • Petra Lesjak Tušek, DNS President, Slovenia
  • Miguel Angel Noceda, FAPE President, Spain
  • Urs Thalmann, impressum Director, Switzerland
  • Tim Dawson, NUJ, United Kingdom

April 29, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Washington Says “Journalism Is Not A Crime” While Working To Criminalize Journalism

There is no greater threat posed to world press freedoms than the one the US is presenting with its persecution of Julian Assange

Caitlin Johnstone 9 Apr 23

After a certain point criticizing the hypocrisy and contradictions of the US-centralized empire starts to feel too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. But hell let’s do it anyway; the barrel’s right here, and I really hate these particular fish.

Russian security services have formally filed espionage charges against Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since his arrest last month. Gershkovich reportedly denies the spying allegations and says he was engaged in journalistic activity in Russia.

This news came out at the same time as a joint statement was published by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemning Gershkovich’s detention as a violation of press freedoms.

“Let there be no mistake: journalism is not a crime,” the senators write. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released and reiterate our condemnation of the Russian government’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.”

The use of the phrase “journalism is not a crime” is an interesting choice since the most common individual case you’ll hear it used in reference to is surely that of Julian Assange, who has been locked in a maximum security prison for four years while the US government works to extradite him for the crime of good journalism. Every pro-Assange demonstration I’ve ever been to has featured signs with some variation of the phrase “journalism is not a crime,” and any Assange supporter will be intimately familiar with that refrain.

So as an Assange supporter it sounds a bit odd to hear that slogan rolled out by two DC swamp monsters who have both enthusiastically supported the persecution of the world’s most famous journalist.

“He has done enormous damage to our country and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law,” McConnell said of Assange after WikiLeaks published thousands of diplomatic cables in 2010.

“Neither WikiLeaks, nor its original source for these materials, should be spared in any way from the fullest prosecution possible under the law,” Schumer said in 2010.

“Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government,” Schumer tweeted when Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London almost exactly four years ago. (Assange has not been charged with anything related to Russia or the 2016 election, and allegations of collusion with Russia remain completely unsubstantiated to this day.)

These are two of the most powerful elected officials in the world, puffing and posing as brave defenders of press freedoms after having actively facilitated their government’s attempts to destroy those very press freedoms. Their government is working to extradite and imprison Assange under the Espionage Act for engaging in what experts say is standard journalistic activity, which will allow them to set a legal precedent in which any journalist anywhere in the world can be extradited and prosecuted for exposing US war crimes like Assange did.

There is no greater threat posed to world press freedoms than the one the US is presenting with its persecution of Julian Assange, a persecution which has been fervently endorsed by Schumer and McConnell and all the other Washington swamp creatures who are melodramatically rending their garments about Evan Gershkovich today.

Which is of course ridiculous. You don’t get to say “journalism is not a crime” while literally working to criminalize journalism. Those positions are mutually exclusive. Pick one.

It’s worthwhile to point out the hypocrisy of US empire managers, not because hypocrisy in and of itself is some uniquely grave evil but because it shows that these people do not stand for what they pretend to stand for. The US empire does not care about press freedoms, it cares about power and domination, and the noises it makes in support of journalism are only ever made as a cynical ploy with which to bludgeon disobedient foreign governments on the world stage.

Assange exposed many inconvenient facts about the US empire in his work with WikiLeaks, but none have been so inconvenient as what he’s exposed by forcing them to come after him and reveal their true face in their brazen persecution of the world’s greatest journalist.

April 10, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Julian Assange – when “quiet diplomacy” means diddly squat

How could a conversation between President Biden, PM Albanese and PM Sunak, which he was in just two weeks ago, not be the most important kind of quiet diplomacy to use to free Julian Assange? And why wasn’t it used?

by Rex Patrick | Mar 31, 2023 | What’s the scam?

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong has all but confirmed in Parliament the government is doing nothing to bring the world’s foremost political prisoner home. What’s the scam with “quiet diplomacy”?

Despite claiming the government is deploying “quiet diplomacy” to urge the US to free Julian Assange, and despite the government committing to a $368b spend on submarines – the biggest transfer of public money in Australia’s history – to US and UK weapons makers, there is no evidence whatsoever that our elected representatives have even muttered one word on the matter.

Thursday at 2:14 pm, Senator Shoebridge stood up in question time and asked Senator Wong a question about Julian Assange. He asked whether Prime Minster Anthony Albanese had used the opportunity created by the March 14, AUKUS ‘Kabuki Show’ to lobby for the release of Assange.

Senator Wong did all things possible to avoid having to say “no.”

Shoebridge acknowledged the implied “no” when he asked further:

How could a conversation between President Biden, PM Albanese and PM Sunak, which he was in just two weeks ago, not be the most important kind of quiet diplomacy to use to free Julian Assange? And why wasn’t it used?

Wong again ducked and weaved and then said, “We are doing what we can between government and government, but there are limits to what that diplomacy can achieve.”

wo and half hours later, in the last working minute of the day that Parliament was set to rise until May, the Department of Foreign Affairs sent me the response to an FOI request for “all cablegrams sent between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Embassy of Australia, Washington DC, since 24 November 2022 that relate to Julian Paul Assange”. They advised:

“Thorough searches conducted by the Consular Operations Branch and the United States, United Kingdom & Canada Branch found no documents.”

The scam is, that while the government purports to be working quietly in background on the release of Julian Assange, the reality is that they are doing nothing.

It’s disgraceful deceit.

April 2, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Conversation with John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father.

February 11, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s Biggest Fight in Notorious Prison Isn’t Over Extradition

NewsWeek, BY SHAUN WATERMAN ON 01/27/23 “…………………………………………….. Assange’s physical and mental health have declined severely during more than a decade in confinement — first sheltering from U.S. authorities in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012-2019, where he lived in two rooms and never left the building, and for the last almost four years, since he was dragged from the embassy by British police in April 2019, in Belmarsh fighting extradition.

…………………… The proceedings in London continue to drag on. It has been more than a year since the High Court cleared the way for his extradition and his appeal was filed in August. But the court continues to weigh it, with no deadline to reach a decision. Even if he loses, there remains the possibility of an appeal to the British Supreme Court, or to the European Court of Human Rights. Assange could be in the U.S. within months, but he might remain in Britain for years.

His family says that with uncertainty about his extradition hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, he has lost weight and become depressed and anxious.

A confinement of uncertain duration

The worst part about the confinement is having no idea when or how he would be able to leave, Stella Assange said. “It is the uncertain duration that makes it so hard to bear … It’s a kind of torture.”…………..

The uncertainty has exacerbated Assange’s physical and mental deterioration, his wife said. In October 2021, during a High Court hearing about his extradition, Assange, attending via video link from Belmarsh, suffered a “transient ischaemic attack” — a mini-stroke. He has been diagnosed with nerve damage and memory problems and prescribed blood thinners.

“He might not survive this,” she said.

As a remand prisoner, not convicted or sentenced, and facing extradition, not prosecution, Assange is an anomaly in Britain’s most secure prison — designed to hold “Category A” inmates such as IRA militants, jihadis and murderers. One of a tiny handful of unconvicted prisoners, prison regulations require him to be treated differently, his wife said.

“He’s supposed to be able to get visits every day, he’s supposed to be able to work on his case,” she said, “But that’s only on paper. The way the prison system works, it is more efficient to treat everyone like a Cat A prisoner rather than to try to adapt the rules for individuals. In reality, that just doesn’t translate at all.” She said Assange is allowed one or two legal visits, and one or two social visits each week.

In between visits, time can stretch. And the isolation has been hard on him……………………………..

Phone calls, his half-brother Gabriel Shipton told Newsweek from Assange’s native Australia, are limited to 10 minutes. “You’ll just be getting into it and click, it’s over.”

Neither the governor’s office at Belmarsh, nor the press office for the British Prison Service, responded to emails requesting responses to detailed questions.

A source of inspiration and power

Assange gets thousands of letters and parcels from all over the world, Stella Assange said, but the authorities interdict banned items, such as books about national security, paintings and other forbidden objects.

His father, John Shipton, told Newsweek from Australia that Assange draws a lot of inspiration and power from the letters that people write to him. During their phone conversations, he will often read snippets or recall memorable letters, Shipton said. “He loves getting them … You can hear him light up a bit” when he talks about them………………………………………… more

January 30, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, health, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

The Belmarsh Tribunals Demand Justice for Julian Assange

Never before has a publisher been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. The Assange prosecution poses a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and a free press.

President Biden, currently embroiled in his own classified document scandal, knows this, and should immediately drop the charges against Julian Assange

JANUARY 26, 2023, By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

“The first casualty when war comes is truth,” U.S. Senator Hiram W. Johnson of California said in 1929, debating ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a noble but ultimately failed attempt to ban war. Reflecting on World War I, which ended a decade earlier, he continued, “it begins what we were so familiar with only a brief period ago, this mode of propaganda whereby…people become war hungry in their patriotism and are lied into a desire to fight. We have seen it in the past; it will happen again in the future.”

Time and again, Hiram Johnson has been proven right. Our government’s impulse to control information and manipulate public opinion to support war is deeply ingrained. The past twenty years, dominated by the so-called War on Terror, are no exception. Sophisticated PR campaigns, a compliant mass media and the Pentagon’s pervasive propaganda machine all work together, as public intellectual Noam Chomsky and the late Prof. Ed Herman defined it in the title of their groundbreaking book, “Manufacturing Consent,” borrowing a phrase from Walter Lippman, considered the father of public relations.

One publisher consistently challenging the pro-war narrative pushed by the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has been the whistleblower website Wikileaks. Wikileaks gained international attention in 2010 after publishing a trove of classified documents leaked from the U.S. military. Included were numerous accounts of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of civilians, and shocking footage of a helicopter gunship in Baghdad slaughtering a dozen civilians, including a Reuters journalist and his driver, on the ground below. Wikileaks titled that video, “Collateral Murder.”

The New York Times and other newspapers partnered with Wikileaks to publish stories based on the leaks. This brought increased attention to the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. In December, 2010, two months after release of the Collateral Murder video, then-Vice President Joe Biden, appearing on NBC, said Assange was “closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers.” Biden was referring to the 1971 classified document release by Daniel Ellsberg, which revealed years of Pentagon lies about U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

With a secret grand jury empanelled in Virginia, Assange, then in London, feared being arrested and extradited to the United States. Ecuador granted Assange political asylum. Unable to make it to Latin America, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He lived inside the small, apartment-sized embassy for almost seven years. In April 2019, after a new Ecuadorian president revoked Assange’s asylum, British authorities arrested him and locked him up in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, often called “Britain’s Guantánamo.” He has been held there, in harsh conditions and in failing health, for almost four years, as the U.S. government seeks his extradition to face espionage and other charges. If extradited and convicted in the U.S., Assange faces 175 years in a maximum-security prison.

While the Conservative-led UK government seems poised to extradite Assange, a global movement has grown demanding his release. The Progressive International, a global pro-democracy umbrella group, has convened four assemblies since 2020 called The Belmarsh Tribunals. Named after the 1966 Russell-Sartre Tribunal on the Vietnam War, convened by philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sarte, The Belmarsh Tribunal has assembled some of the world’s most prominent, progressive activists, artists, politicians, dissidents, human rights attorneys and whistleblowers, all speaking in defense of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

We are bearing witness to a travesty of justice,” Jeremy Corbyn, a British Member of Parliament and a former leader of the Labour Party, said at the tribunal. “To an abuse of human rights, to a denial of freedom of somebody who bravely put himself on the line that we all might know that the innocent died in Abu Ghraib, the innocent died in Afghanistan, the innocent are dying in the Mediterranean, and innocents die all over the world, where unwatched, unaccountable powers decide it’s expedient and convenient to kill people who get in the way of whatever grand scheme they’ve got. We say no. That’s why we are demanding justice for Julian Assange.”

Corbyn is joined in his call by The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel–major newspapers that published articles based on the leaked documents. “Publishing is not a crime,” the newspapers declared.

Never before has a publisher been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. The Assange prosecution poses a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and a free press. President Biden, currently embroiled in his own classified document scandal, knows this, and should immediately drop the charges against Julian Assange.

January 30, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Documents show no sign Albanese government lobbied the US to bring Julian Assange home, by Rex Patrick | Jan 24, 2023

The government is hosting a media freedom roundtable yet Freedom of Information inquiries show no evidence of entreaties to the Biden administration to free Australia’s number one victim of political and media persecution, Julian Assange. Actions speak louder than words, writes Rex Patrick.

When Independent MP Monique Ryan stood up in the Parliament in late November and asked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese if his Government would intervene to bring Australian journalist Julian Assange home, those in the community that care about freedom of the press were provided with a glimmer of hope.

The PM answered: “I, some time ago, made my point that enough is enough. It is time for this matter to be brought to a conclusion. In that, I don’t express any personal sympathy with some of the actions of Mr Assange. I do say though that this issue has gone on for many years now, and when you look at the issue of Mr Assange and compare that with the person responsible for leaking the information, Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning, she is now able to participate freely in US society.”

He went on to say:

The government will continue to act in a diplomatic way, but can I assure the member for Kooyong that I have raised this personally with representatives of the United States government. My position is clear and has been made clear to the US administration that it is time that this matter be brought to a close.

Press protections or press protection?

When the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus MP, KC announced on the 19th of this month that he was calling together media organisations to discuss improved protections for press freedom, Assange supporters could also reasonably crack a smile. Dreyfus pronounced:

“The Albanese Government believes a strong and independent media is vital to democracy and holding governments to account. Journalists should never face the prospect of being charged or even jailed just for doing their jobs.”

But it’s now clear there’s a big difference between saying, and doing. A set of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests has bought the Government’s Assange façade crumbling to the ground.

In response to a Freedom of Information request to the Prime Minister for all correspondence or other records of communication sent after 23 May 2022 by or on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, to United States President Joe Biden that related to Julian Paul Assange, his office has come up with nothing.  

In response to a Freedom of Information request to the Attorney General for correspondence or records of communication between him and his US counterpart Merrick Garland that relates to Assange his office also came up bare.

FOI Response from Houston Ash, Senior Adviser to the Attorney-General

It’s a response that’s left independent MP Monique Ryan disturbed. 

“The US Government’s prosecution of Australian journalist and publisher Julian Assange poses a major threat to press freedom around the world. Unfortunately, the evidence now available shows that, contrary to their statements, Prime Minister Albanese and his Ministers have done little to secure Mr Assange’s freedom. None of them has written to their US counterparts to press for the espionage prosecution to be dropped”said Ms Ryan.

She’s now rightly called on the government to disclose exactly what they have done, and will do, to secure Assange’s release.

In media statements she referred also to a further request made to Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s office for Assange related correspondence between her and United States Secretary of State Antony J Blinken. It also drew a blank.

Ms Ryan observed:

If the Albanese Government was serious about working to secure an end to the US prosecution and Mr Assange’s release, then he and his Ministers would have raised the matter formally, in writing, with their counterparts at the top levels of the US Government”, It is now confirmed that they have not done so via any formal means.”

Ms Ryan went on to highlight the Attorney’s duplicitous stand. “Last week, in announcing a forthcoming national media roundtable, Attorney-General Dreyfus declared that ‘Journalists should never face the prospect of being charged or even jailed just for doing their jobs‘.” Julian Assange is an Australian journalist who faces lifelong imprisonment for doing his job.

The Independent MP for Kooyong has signalled her intent to take the matter further. “When the Federal Parliament reconvenes in February, the Government will need to explain – in much more detail – when we can expect to see Mr Assange return to Australia”

The Albanese Government has been caught out saying something but not meaning it. They just want to appear that they’re doing something, when behind the scenes they’re doing very little, if anything much at all.  

Nothing is to be gained by the continuing prosecution of Julian Assange. The US espionage prosecution sends precisely the wrong message at a time when freedom of the press is under threat in many countries worldwide. 

The Albanese Government serve the United States better, and promotes a solid position itself, in pressing for the attack on Assange and media freedom to stop.

January 26, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange and the US government’s war on whistleblowers

Chris Hedges, The Real News Network, Fri, 20 Jan 2023 

Thirteen years ago, WikiLeaks published extensive leaked US government documents detailing a range of criminal and unethical acts, from the slaughter of civilians in the “War on Terror” to acts of espionage against foreign heads of state. Since then, the persecution of Julian Assange has not ceased. This year, Assange is expected to stand trial in the US for violations of the Espionage Act. Journalist Kevin Gosztola joins The Chris Hedges Report to review the cases of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, and discuss Washington’s wider war against whistleblowers and the truth itself.

Kevin Gosztola is the managing editor of Shadowproof, where he writes The Dissenter. He is the author of Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case Against Julian Assange.


Chris Hedges:  The long persecution of Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks, is set to culminate in its final act: a trial in the United States, probably this year. Kevin Gosztola has spent the last decade reporting on Assange, WikiLeaks, and the wider war on whistleblowers. His new book, Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case against Julian Assange, methodically lays out the complex issues surrounding the case, the gross distortions to the legal system used to facilitate the extradition of Julian, now in a high security prison in London, the abuses of power by the FBI and the CIA, including spying on Julian’s meetings when he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London with his family, doctors, and attorneys, and the dire consequences, should Julian be convicted, for the press.

Joining me to discuss his new book is Kevin Gosztola. So Kevin, you do a very… I think your book and Nils Melzer are the two books I would recommend for people who don’t understand the case. I use this show in this interview to really lay out for people who are unfamiliar with the long persecution of Julian and the legal anomalies that have been used against him. You know, what those are. So let’s just start with what are the charges, what are the allegations, which is where you begin your book.

Kevin Gosztola:  Yeah. And the intention was to look ahead and say, Julian Assange is likely to be brought to the US by the end of 2023, maybe 2024. We need something out there for the general public so they can wrap their head around the unprecedented nature of what’s unfolding. And so the charges against Julian Assange, he was first indicted back in April of 2019. Or sorry, that was when it was unveiled. He was charged first with a computer crime offense. They alleged, essentially, a password cracking conspiracy. And that was of intrusion, of essentially agreeing to help Chelsea Manning anonymously access military computers.

And then the other charges were 17 espionage act offenses. …………………………………………………………

January 26, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Guilty of Journalism

The Political Prosecution of Julian Assange

by Kevin Gosztola 7 Jan 23

From an acclaimed independent journalist, this carefully-documented analysis of the government’s case against Julian Assange and its implications for press freedom acts as a crucial, compelling guidebook to Assange’s upcoming trial.

The legal action against Julian Assange is poised to culminate in a trial in the United States in 2023, and this book will help the public understand the proceedings. The establishment media’s coverage of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition case has focused on his deteriorating health and what CBS News called his “secret family,” but most of this coverage failed to detail the complex issues at stake against Assange.

Guilty of Journalism outlines how WikiLeaks exposed the reality of American wars, the United States government’s unprecedented indictment against Assange as a publisher, and the media’s role in persuading the public to “shoot the messenger.” This new book by Kevin Gosztola, who has spent the last decade covering Assange, WikiLeaks, and the wider war on whistleblowers, tells the full story based on testimony from dozens of witnesses.

It examines abuses of power by the CIA and the FBI, including a spying operation that targeted Assange’s family, lawyers, and doctors. Guilty of Journalism offers a balanced and comprehensive perspective on all the events leading up to what press freedom advocates have called the trial of the century.

January 9, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

The Australian government joined enthusiastically into America’s espionage law attack on whistle blowers and journalists

Key US Allies Collaborate On Espionage Laws Considered Harmful To Whistleblowers And Journalists

 Since the legislation was passed, Australian Federal Police have raided the homes and offices of journalists who reported on war crimes in Afghanistan and the monitoring of Australian citizens’ communications.

Groups, such as Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists, wrote to lawmakers and warned that the bill conflated journalism with spying, expanded the definition of classified information, and disproportionately increased the penalty of espionage to life imprisonment.

Many of these new elements align existing laws with the United States Espionage Act, an antiquated law that was adopted over a century ago.

Richard Spence, Jan 5, 2023

Ministers and security officials in Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have coordinated with the United States to develop new espionage laws.

Each of the countries have faced criticism from news media and civil society organizations for proposing laws that will harm journalists and whistleblowers’ ability to report on abuse and corruption in their own and each other’s countries.

These states have close intelligence ties to each other and the United States, and they have played some role in the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose prosecution is widely recognized as a threat to global press freedom. In fact, disclosures of the kind that Assange published have been cited as what the laws aim to make illegal.

FBI Director Christopher Wray had several days of meetings with “law enforcement partners in the United Kingdom” during July 2022. After these meetings, MI5 chief Ken McCallum promoted the “National Security Bill,” the first change to UK espionage laws since 1989.

The law would purportedly address the perceived threats Wray and McCallum discussed.

McCallum and other intelligence officials’ warnings and suggestions were frequently referenced by parliament members and government ministers who supported the bill when it was debated in the UK Parliament in November 2022.

Priti Patel, when she was UK Home Secretary, said the bill “was designed in close consultation with security services.”

In Sweden, the 2022 Foreign Espionage Act, which was adopted last November, specifically criminalized disclosures that cause “substantial damage” to Sweden’s relations with other countries or organizations. That led reporters to warn that journalists revealing war crimes committed by the US government could be prosecuted.

The Australian espionage bill also defined information that “harm[s] or prejudice[s] Australia’s international relations” as illegal to disclose.

Australia Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) Director Duncan Lewis, who advised the country’s premier on their legislation, was asked at a parliamentary committee hearing, “Is there a connection, in your view, between our diplomatic and economic relations and our national security? In other words, if someone causes harm to our diplomatic relations with a foreign country, like the United States, can that harm our national security?”

“Absolutely,” Lewis responded. “You would need [to] go no further than perhaps the case of [Edward] Snowden to think about that—the enormous damage that was done to various diplomatic relations as a result of the leaks that came out of Snowden.”

The Espionage and Foreign Interference Act of 2018 introduced a range of measures the Australia government claimed were meant to combat Chinese interference.

A collection of media outlets, including The Guardian and News Corp, opposed the law, saying that “journalists and their support staff continue to risk jail time for simply doing their jobs” due to the possibility of being prosecuted for dealing with classified information.  

Since the legislation was passed, Australian Federal Police have raided the homes and offices of journalists who reported on war crimes in Afghanistan and the monitoring of Australian citizens’ communications.

The ASIO gave “extensive operational briefings” on foreign interference to Malcolm Turnbull, when he was Australia’s prime minister, and Turnbull noted their input as he introduced the legislation in Parliament.

ASIO Director Duncan Lewis explained what in part motivated the push to expand the country’s espionage law. “Our international allies and partners with whom we share threat information tell us resoundingly that Australia is not alone in confronting a new threat environment, one that’s different from what we’ve seen before. In ASIO’s view, we must now adjust to this harsh reality.”

Lewis pointed to UK Prime Minister Theresa May who had urged allied powers to do more to “clamp down on the hostile activity of foreign agents.”

During parliamentary debate in the UK, Patel referred to these discussions.

“Let me say something about the legislation we want to introduce. We are learning from other countries, such as Australia—indeed, I had a bilateral meeting just last week. This is also part of the work of Five Eyes,” Patel shared. “A lot of work is being done to look at the institutional impacts of hostile state activity, alongside issues such as foreign agent registration. We want to get this right through future legislation, and that is what we are working on.”

Groups, such as Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists, wrote to lawmakers and warned that the bill conflated journalism with spying, expanded the definition of classified information, and disproportionately increased the penalty of espionage to life imprisonment.

Many of these new elements align existing laws with the United States Espionage Act, an antiquated law that was adopted over a century ago.

During a Novembr 2021 speech for the right-wing Heritage Foundation on the US-UK alliance, Patel acknowledged this fact.

“We will modernize existing counter-espionage laws to better reflect the contemporary threat; and we will improve our ability to protect official data and strengthen the associated offenses,” Patel declared “Our strategic partnership must continue to address all this activity – which is uninhibited and growing along with all the other threats we see day in, day out.”

The UK’s proposed legislation updates the current espionage laws to now be applicable to non-UK citizens. Press organizations have complained, “The lack of geographic limits and the overly broad definition of the safety and interests of the United Kingdom can extend the reach of the bill across the globe.”

Australia’s new laws also apply outside of the country and like the UK include assisting (or benefiting in the UKs case) foreign entities, leading to criticism that officials are criminalizing those who work with foreign press outlets.

According to the Australian chair of the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Committee, the organization will arrest those who have committed espionage “no matter where those criminals are in the world.”

Swedish military and intelligence officials studied changes to espionage legislation at the behest of the Swedish government and used WikiLeaks’ release of US diplomatic cables in 2010 as an example of a kind of leak that would harm Sweden’s relationship with other countries if it happened today.

Officials also singled out the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US as powers that were important to protect from damaging leaks.

In June 2022, Conservative Party parliamentary member Sir John Hayes asked Damian Hinds, who was the UK minister of state for prisons, parole, and probation, if “a WikiLeaks-type disclosure dressed up as being by a guardian of liberty or some such other nonsense” would be illegal.

“The defenses in part one of the bill provide law enforcement with several options for prosecuting disclosures, where the person is acting for or on behalf of a foreign power or where the disclosure would materially assist a foreign intelligence service,” Hinds responded. “That can include bulk disclosures.”

“To be clear, with this bill, the maximum sentence for an indiscriminate disclosure—a bulk data dump—will be higher than it is today if that act is done for a foreign power or the disclosure would materially assist a foreign intelligence service, even if not procured by that foreign intelligence service itself,” Hinds further stated.

Canada, which is a Five Eyes country like Australia and the United Kingdom, has also followed their lead.  Canadian security officials briefed the press and politicians, claiming that China aims to influence Canadian democracy.

Security officials in Canada have submitted reports to their government requesting new security laws to prevent Canada from becoming a “weak link” amongst its allies.

January 8, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment