Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

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 https://www.newsweek.com/2023/02/10/julian-assanges-biggest-fight-notorious-prison-isnt-over-extradition-1774197.html

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  https://www.democracynow.org/2023/1/26/the_belmarsh_tribunals_demand_justice_for

“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

 https://michaelwest.com.au/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.


TRANSCRIPT

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. …………………………………………………………  https://therealnews.com/julian-assange-and-the-us-governments-war-on-whistleblowers

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

Guilty of Journalism

The Political Prosecution of Julian Assange

by Kevin Gosztola https://www.sevenstories.com/books/4493-guilty-of-journalism?fbclid=IwAR2np9Ku9WHMKuJ7xTPkrrolJRvbkxdWcmyac0FnEZqKSduuhH2g2M-zPaM 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  https://thedissenter.org/us-allies-collaborate-to-write-new-espionage-laws/

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

Will USA take any notice at all, as Australia’s Prime Minister and world media call for Julian Assange’s release?

The telling question here is whether Albanese will get any purchase with the Washington set. While enjoying a reputation as a pragmatic negotiator able to reach agreements in tight circumstances, the pull of the US national security establishment may prove too strong. “We now get to see Australia’s standing in Washington, valued ally or not,” was the guarded response of Assange’s father John Shipton.

Julian Assange and Albanese’s Intervention https://theaimn.com/julian-assange-and-albaneses-intervention/ December 1, 2022, by: Dr Binoy Kampmark

The unflinching US effort to extradite and prosecute Julian Assange for 18 charges, 17 of which are chillingly based upon the Espionage Act of 1917, has not always stirred much interest in the publisher’s home country. Previous governments have been lukewarm at best, preferring to mention little in terms of what was being done to convince Washington to change course in dealing with Assange.

Before coming to power, Australia’s current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had made mention of wishing to conclude the Assange affair. In December 2019, before a gathering at the Chifley Research Centre, he described the publisher as a journalist, accepting that such figures should not be prosecuted for “doing their job”. The following year, he also expressed the view that the “ongoing pursuit of Mr Assange” served no evident “purpose” – “enough is enough”.

The same point has been reiterated by a number of crossbenchers in Australia’s parliament, represented with much distinction by the independent MP from Tasmania, Andrew Wilkie. In a speech given earlier this year to a gathering outside Parliament House, the Member for Clark wondered if the UK and Australia had placed their relations with Washington at a premium so high as to doom Assange. “The US wants to get even and for so long the UK and Australia have been happy to go along for the ride because they’ve put bilateral relationships with Washington ahead of the rights of a decent man.”

The new Australian government initially gave troubling indications that a tardy, wait-and-see approach had been adopted. “My position,” Albanese told journalists soon after assuming office, “is that not all foreign affairs is best done with the loudhailer.”

Documents obtained under freedom of information also showed an acknowledgment by the Albanese government of assurances made by the United States that the WikiLeaks founder would have the chance to serve the balance of any prison sentence in Australia. But anybody half-versed in the wiles and ways of realpolitik should know that the international prisoner transfer scheme is subordinate to the wishes of the relevant department granting it. The US Department of Justice can receive the request from Assange, but there is nothing to say, as history shows, that the request will be agreed to.

Amidst all this, the campaign favouring Assange would not stall. Human rights and press organisations globally have persistently urged his release from captivity and the cessation of the prosecution. On November 28, The New York Times, the GuardianLe MondeEl País and Der Spiegel published a joint open letter titled, “Publishing is not a Crime.”

The five outlets who initially worked closely with WikiLeaks in publishing US State Department cables 12 years ago have not always been sympathetic to Assange. Indeed, they admit to having criticised him for releasing the unredacted trove in 2011 and even expressed concern about his “attempt to aid in computer intrusion of a classified database.”

Had the editors bothered to follow daily trial proceedings of the extradition case in 2020, they would have noted that the Guardian’s own journalists muddied matters by publishing the key to the encrypted files in a book on WikiLeaks. A mortified Assange warned the State Department of this fact. Cryptome duly uploaded the cables before WikiLeaks did. The computer intrusion charge also withers before scrutiny, given that Chelsea Manning already had prior authorisation to access military servers without the need to hack the system.

But on this occasion, the publishers and editors were clear. “Cablegate”, with its 251,000 State Department cables, “disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale.” They had “come together now to express [their] grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials.”

Very mindful of their own circumstances, the media outlets expressed their grave concerns about the use of the Espionage Act “which has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.” Such an indictment set “a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”

The same day of the letter’s publication, Brazil’s President-elect Lula da Silva also added his voice to the encouraging chorus. He did so on the occasion of meeting the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell, an associate of the organisation, and expressed wishes that “Assange will be freed from his unjust imprisonment.”

The stage was now set for Albanese to make his intervention. In addressing parliament on November 30 in response to a question from independent MP Monique Ryan, Albanese publicly revealed that he had, in fact, been lobbying the Biden administration for a cessation of proceedings against Assange. “I have raised this personally with the representatives of the US government.”

The Australian PM was hardly going to muck in on the issue of the WikiLeaks agenda. Australia remains one of the most secretive of liberal democracies, and agents of radical transparency are hardly appreciated. (Witness, at present, a number of venal prosecutions against whistleblowers that have not been abandoned even with a change of government in May.)

Albanese drew a parallel with Chelsea Manning, the key figure who furnished WikiLeaks with classified military documents, received a stiff sentence for doing so, but had her sentence commuted by President Barack Obama. “She is now able to participate freely in society.” He openly questioned “the point of continuing this legal action, which could be caught up now for many years, into the future.”

For some years now, the plight of Assange could only be resolved politically. In her address to the National Press Club in Canberra delivered in October this year, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson acknowledged as much. “This case needs an urgent political solution. Julian does not have another decade to wait for a legal fix.” This point was reiterated by Ryan in her remarks addressed to the prime minister.

The telling question here is whether Albanese will get any purchase with the Washington set. While enjoying a reputation as a pragmatic negotiator able to reach agreements in tight circumstances, the pull of the US national security establishment may prove too strong. “We now get to see Australia’s standing in Washington, valued ally or not,” was the guarded response of Assange’s father John Shipton.

December 2, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

UK GOVERNMENT DEPLOYED 15 STAFF ON SECRET OPERATION TO SEIZE JULIAN ASSANGE

New information raises further concerns about the politicisation of the WikiLeaks founder’s legal case.

 https://declassifieduk.org/uk-government-deployed-15-staff-on-secret-operation-to-seize-julian-assange/ MATT KENNARD, 28 NOVEMBER 2022

  • Assange had been granted asylum by a friendly country to avoid persecution by the US government for his journalistic activities
  • But Home Office had eight staff, and the Cabinet Office had seven, working on secret police operation to arrest Assange
  • Ministry of Justice, which controls England’s courts and prisons, refuses to say if its staff were involved in operation
  • Foreign Office refuses to say if its premises were used

The British government assigned at least 15 people to the secret operation to seize Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, new information shows. 

The WikiLeaks founder was given political asylum by Ecuador in 2012, but was never allowed safe passage out of Britain to avoid persecution by the US government. 

The Australian journalist has been in Belmarsh maximum security prison for the past three and a half years and faces a potential 175-year sentence after the UK High Court greenlighted his extradition to the US in December 2021. 

‘Pelican’ was the secret Metropolitan Police operation to seize Assange from his asylum, which eventually occurred in April 2019. Asylum is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The operation’s existence was only revealed in the memoirs of former foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan which were published last year. The UK government routinely blocks, or obfuscates its answers to, information requests about the Assange case. 

But the Cabinet Office recently told parliament it had seven officials working on Operation Pelican. The department’s role is to “support the Prime Minister and ensure the effective running of government”, but it also has national security and intelligence functions

It is not immediately clear why the Cabinet Office would have so many personnel working on a police operation of this kind. Asked about their role, the Cabinet Office said these seven officials “liaised” with the Metropolitan Police on the operation. 

The Home Office, meanwhile, told parliament it had eight officials working on Pelican. The Home Office oversees MI5 and the head of the department has to sign off extraditions to most foreign countries. Then home secretary Priti Patel ordered Assange’s extradition to the US in June.  

‘Disproportionate cost’

Other government ministries refused to say if they had staff working on Pelican, including the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The MoJ is in charge of courts in England and Wales, where Assange’s extradition case is currently deciding whether to hear an appeal. It is also in control of its prisons, including Belmarsh maximum security jail where Assange is incarcerated.

When asked if any of its staff were assigned to Pelican, the MoJ claimed: “The information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.”

It is unclear why the Home Office, a bigger department with more staff, could answer such a question, but the MoJ could not. There is no obvious reason why the MoJ would have staff assigned to Pelican, so revelations that it did would cause embarrassment for the government. 

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office told parliament it had no staff “directly assigned” to Pelican, but refused to say if people working on the operation were located on its premises. 

‘Julian Assange’s Special Brexit Team’

Sir Alan Duncan, foreign minister for the Americas from 2016-19, was the key UK official in the diplomatic negotiations between the UK and Ecuador to get Assange out of the embassy. In his memoirs he wrote that he watched a live-feed of Assange’s arrest from the Operations Room at the top of the Foreign Office alongside Pelican personnel. 

After Assange had been imprisoned in Belmarsh, Duncan had a drinks party at his office for the Pelican team. “I gave them each a signed photo which we took in the Ops Room on the day, with a caption saying ‘Julian Assange’s Special Brexit Team 11th April 2019’”, he wrote. 

Ecuador’s president from 2007-17, Rafael Correa, recently told Declassified he granted Assange asylum because the Australian journalist “didn’t have any possibility of a fair legal process in the United States.” 

He added that the UK government “tried to deal with us like a subordinate country.”

In September 2021, 30 former US officials went on the record to reveal a CIA plot to “kill or kidnap” Assange in London. In case of Assange leaving the embassy, the article noted, “US officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.” 

These assurances most likely came from the Home Office. 

November 29, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

‘Publishing is not a crime’: media groups urge US to drop Julian Assange charges

First outlets to publish WikiLeaks material, including the Guardian, come together to oppose prosecution

Guardian, Jim Waterson Media editor, 28 Nov 22

The US government must drop its prosecution of the WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange because it is undermining press freedom, according to the media organisations that first helped him publish leaked diplomatic cables.

Twelve years ago today, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País collaborated to release excerpts from 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the “Cablegate” leak. The material, leaked to WikiLeaks by the then American soldier Chelsea Manning, exposed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the world.

The editors and publishers of the media organisations that first published those revelations have come together to publicly oppose plans to charge Assange under a law designed to prosecute first world war spies.

“Publishing is not a crime,” they said, saying the prosecution is a direct attack on media freedom.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in south London since his arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019. He had spent the previous seven years living inside the diplomatic premises to avoid arrest after failing to surrender to a UK court on matters relating to a separate case.

The then UK home secretary, Priti Patel, approved Assange’s extradition to the US in June but his lawyers are appealing against this decision.

Under Barack Obama’s leadership, the US government indicated it would not prosecute Assange for the leak in 2010 because of the precedent it would set. The media outlets are now appealing to the administration of President Joe Biden – who was vice-president at that time – to drop the charges.

The full letter sent by the media organisations

Publishing is not a crime: The US government should end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.……………………………………………………………….. more https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/nov/28/media-groups-urge-us-drop-julian-assange-charges?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

November 29, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

A Father Fights for His Son & What’s Left of Democracy

The film Ithaka, about the quest of Julian Assange’s father to save his son, makes its U.S. premiere on Sunday in New York City. It is reviewed by Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

To the extent that the media has covered the tragedy of Julian Assange at all, the focus has been on politics and the law.

Consortium News, which has provided perhaps the most comprehensive coverage of the prosecution under the Espionage Act of the WikiLeaks publisher, has also focused more on the case and less on the man.

The great issues involved transcend the individual: war, diplomacy, official deception, high crimes, an assault on press freedom and on the core of what little democracy is left in a militarized and money-corrupted system.

Assange supporters sometimes also overlook the person and concentrate instead on the larger issues at stake. Ironically, it has been Assange’s enemies and detractors who’ve long focused on the person in the worst tradition of ad hominem assaults.

He has been attacked to deflect public attention from what WikiLeaks has revealed, from what the state is doing to him and to hide the impact on freedom in the media and standards in the courtroom.

There has been a steady and organized stream of smears against Assange, from ridiculous stories about him smearing feces on Ecuadoran Embassy walls to the widely reported falsehood that he was charged with rape. That case was dropped three times before any charges were filed, but the “rape” smear persists.

These personal attacks were planned as far back as March 8, 2008 when a secret, 32-page document from the Cyber Counterintelligence Assessment branch of the Pentagon described in detail the importance of destroying the “feeling of trust that is WikiLeaks’ center of gravity.” The leaked document, which was published by WikiLeaks itself, said: “This would be achieved with threats of exposure and criminal prosecution and an unrelenting assault on reputation.”

An answer to these slurs and the missing focus on Assange as a man is Ithaka. The film, which makes its U.S. premiere Sunday night in New York, focuses on the struggle of Assange’s father, John Shipton, and his wife, Stella Assange, to free him.

f you are looking for a film more fully explaining the legal and political complexities of the case and its background, this is not the movie to see. The Spanish film, Hacking Justice, will give you that, as well as the more concise exposition in the brilliant documentary, The War on Journalism, by Juan Passarelli.

Ithaka, directed by Ben Lawrence and produced by Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, humanizes Assange and reveals the impact his ordeal has had on the people closest to him.

The title comes from the poem of that name by C.P. Cavafy (read here by Sean Connery) about the pathos of an uncertain journey. It reflects Shipton’s travels throughout Europe and the U.S. in defense of his son, arguably the most consequential journalist of his generation.

The story begins with Shipton arriving in London to see his son for the first time behind bars after the publisher’s rights of asylum were lifted by a new Ecuadoran government leading to him being carried out of the embassy by London police in April 2019.

“The story is that I am attempting in my own … modest way to get Julian out of the shit,” Shipton says. “What does it involve? Traipsing around Europe, building up coalitions of friendship.” He meets with parliamentarians, the media and supporters across the continent. Shipton describes the journey as the “difficulty of destiny over the ease of narrative.”……………………………

We learn that Julian Assange’s frustration with the inability to stop the 2003 Iraq invasion, despite the largest, worldwide anti-war protests in history, motivated him to start WikiLeaks.

The releases he published about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, leaked by Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, were published not only by WikiLeaks but by its partners at The New York Times, Die Spiegel and The Guardian, yet only Assange has been prosecuted.

The main focus of the film is the extradition hearing in Westminster Magistrate’s Court that began in February 2020 and ended in September of that year…………………………

One of several scenes that drives home the personal side of the story is audio of Assange speaking from Belmarsh Prison to Stella about what children’s books to read to their two sons. The toll it is taking on her is seen as she breaks down emotionally during the recording of a BBC interview that has to be paused.

“Extraditions are 99 percent politics and one percent law,” Stella says. “It is entirely the political climate around the case that decides the outcome. And that is shaped by the media. For many years there was a climate that was deliberately created through false stories, smears; through a kind of relentless character attack on Julian to reduce that support and make it more likely to successfully extradite him to the United States.”

“This is the public narrative that has been spread in the media for ten years,’ Nils Melzer, the now former U.N. Special rapporteur on torture, says in the film.


“No one has been able to see how much deception there is. Why is this being done? For ten years all of us were focused only on Julian Assange, when he never wanted it to be about him. It never was about him. It was about the States and their war crimes and their corruption. That’s what he wanted to put a spotlight on – and he did. And that’s what made them angry. So they put the spotlight on him.”

“He just needs to be treated like a human being,” says Stella, “and be allowed to be a human being and not denied his dignity and his humanity, which is what has been done to him.”

Ithaka makes its first theatrical showing in the U.S. at the SVA Cinema, 333 W. 23rd St, New York, N.Y., on Sunday, Nov. 13, at 7:45 pm. There will be a Q&A following the first screening with Ben Lawrence, Gabriel Shipton, Adrian Devant, cinematographer Niels Ladefoged, and John Shipton.

For ticket information: https://docnyc.net/film/ithaka/  https://consortiumnews.com/2022/11/11/a-father-fights-for-his-son-whats-left-of-democracy/

November 12, 2022 Posted by | civil liberties, legal, media, politics international | Leave a comment

A Political Solution for Assange: Jennifer Robinson at the National Press Club

The teeth in Robinson’s address lay in the urgency of political action. Assange is suffering a form of legal and bureaucratic assassination, his life gradually quashed by briefs, reviews, bureaucrats and protocols. “This case needs an urgent political solution. Julian does not have another decade to wait for a legal fix.”

 https://theaimn.com/a-political-solution-for-assange-jennifer-robinson-at-the-national-press-club/ October 23, 2022, by: Dr Binoy Kampmark

It was telling. Of the mainstream Australian press gallery, only David Crowe of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age turned up to listen to Jennifer Robinson, lawyer extraordinaire who has spent years representing Julian Assange. Since 2019, that representation has taken an even more urgent note: to prevent the WikiLeaks founder from being extradited to the United States, where he faces 18 charges, 17 confected from the archaic Espionage Act of 1917.

In addressing the Australian National Press Club, Robinson’s address, titled “Julian Assange, Free Speech and Democracy,” was a grand recapitulation of the political case against the WikiLeaks founder. Followers of this ever darkening situation would not have found anything new. The shock, rather, was how ignorant many remain about the chapters in this scandalous episode of persecution.

Robinson’s address noted those blackening statements from media organisations and governments that Assange was paranoid and could leave the Ecuadorian embassy, his abode for seven years, at his own leisure. Many were subsequently “surprised when Julian was served with a US extradition request.” But this was exactly what WikiLeaks had been warning about for some ten years.

In the Belmarsh maximum security prison, where he has resided for 3.5 years, Assange’s health has declined further. “Then last year, during a stressful court appeal hearing, Julian had a mini stroke.” His ailing state did not convince a venal prosecution, tasked with “deriding the medical evidence of Julian’s severe depression and suicidal ideation.”

The matter of health plays into the issue of lengthy proceedings. Should the High Court not grant leave to hear an appeal against the June decision by Home Secretary Priti Patel to order his extradition, processes through the UK Supreme Court and possibly the European Court of Human Rights could be activated.

The latter appeal, should it be required, would depend on the government of the day keeping Britain within the court’s jurisdiction. “If our appeal fails, Julian will be extradited to the US – where his prison conditions will be at the whim of intelligence agencies which plotted to kill him.” An unfair trial would follow, and any legal process citing the First Amendment culminating in a hearing before the US Supreme Court would take years.

The teeth in Robinson’s address lay in the urgency of political action. Assange is suffering a form of legal and bureaucratic assassination, his life gradually quashed by briefs, reviews, bureaucrats and protocols. “This case needs an urgent political solution. Julian does not have another decade to wait for a legal fix.”

Acknowledging that her reference to the political avenue was unusual for a lawyer, Robinson noted how the language of due process and the rule of law had become ghoulish caricatures in what amounts to a form of punishment. The law has been fashioned in an abusive way that sees a person being prosecuted for journalism in a hideously pioneering way. Despite the UK-US Extradition Treaty’s prohibition of extradition for political offences, the US prosecution was making much of the Espionage Act. “Espionage,” stated Robinson, “is a political offence.”

The list of abuses in the prosecution is biblically lengthy. Robinson gave her audience a summary of them: the fabrication of evidence via the Icelandic informant and convicted embezzler and paedophile Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson; the deliberate distortion of facts; the unlawful surveillance of Assange and his legal team and matters of medical treatment; “and the seizure of legally privileged material.”

Much ignorance about Assange and the implications of his persecution is no doubt willed. Robinson’s reference to Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, was apt. Here was a man initially sceptical about the torture complaint made by Assange and his team. He had been convinced by the libel against the publisher’s reputation. “But in 2019, he agreed to read our complaint. And what he read shocked him and forced him to confront his own prejudice.”

Melzer would subsequently observe that, in the course of two decades working “with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

The concern these days among the press darlings is not press freedoms closer to home, whether they be in Australia itself, or among its allies. The egregious misconduct by Russian forces in the Ukraine War or China’s human rights record in Xinjiang are what counts. Villainy lies elsewhere.

The obscene conduct by US authorities, whose officials contemplated abducting and murdering a publisher, is an inconvenient smudge of history best ignored for consumers of news down under. The Albanese government, which has continued to extol the glory of the AUKUS security pact and swoon at prospects of a globalised NATO, has shelved any “political solution” regarding Assange, at least in any public context. The US-Australian alliance is a shrine to worship at with reverential delusion, rather than question with informed scepticism. The WikiLeaks founder did, after all, spoil the party.

On a cheerier note, those listening to Robinson’s address reflected a healthy political awareness about the tribulations facing a fellow Australian citizen. The federal member for the seat of Kooyong, Dr. Monique Ryan, was present, as were Senators Peter Whish Wilson and David Shoebridge. As Ryan subsequently tweeted, “An Australian punished by foreign states for acts of journalism? Time for our government to act.”

Others were those who have been or continue to be targets of the national security state. The long-suffering figure and target of the Australian security establishment, Bernard Collaery, put in an appearance, as did David McBride, who awaits trial for having exposed alleged atrocities of Australian special service personnel in Afghanistan.

Such individuals have made vital, oxygenating contributions to democratic accountability, of which WikiLeaks stands proud. But any journalism that, as Robinson puts it, subjects “power to scrutiny, and holding it accountable,” is bound to incite the fury of the national security state. Regarding Assange, will that fury win out?

October 24, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

7,000 form human chain in London to protest treatment of Assange

WSWS 9 Oct 22, Around 7,000 people formed a human chain around the Houses of Parliament in the UK Saturday, protesting the British government’s persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The chain ran continuously from Parliament Square along the Palace of Westminster, across Lambeth Bridge, along South Bank to Westminster bridge, then back over the Thames river to Parliament Square—roughly two miles. The event was organised by the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign.

Assange is currently held in Belmarsh maximum security prison in London. The United States government is seeking his extradition under the Espionage Act for exposing the war crimes and human rights abuses of US imperialism and its allies. It has plotted his assassination and levelled charges which carry a life sentence in solitary confinement. The WikiLeaks founder is seeking to overturn orders by the British judiciary and the home secretary approving his extradition. His legal team filed an appeal with the High Court in August.

Stella Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher’s wife, told protestors on Saturday, “Julian is suffering and part of the point of making this human chain was to show that what is happening here is not a legal process, it’s not a legitimate process. It is the instrumentalisation of the law in order to persecute a person, a journalist, in order to keep him in prison indefinitely.

“People around the world are witnessing this atrocity and that is what compels them to come here to show their solidarity, to show that they care about Julian. That they believe in justice, that they see what is happening here is a state that has committed crimes against innocent, that is now committing crimes against a journalist who exposed those crimes they committed.

“Let’s not forget that the US planned to assassinate Julian in the UK, while he was in the embassy and now they’ve put him in the harshest prison in the UK for almost four years.”

WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said proceedings against Assange were “not a legal case,” because of the way the legal system has “bent itself to the demands and requests of the government… it’s appalling.”

He continued, “Julian is a political prisoner. He’s being politically persecuted. The chain around Parliament is sending a message to those inside. They are there to serve the people on the outside. And those are Julian’s supporters. Thousands of them here today, and millions around the world who know that this is a travesty.”

Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell had the brass neck to announce, “As we go into the 18 months up to a general election, this will become a general election issue. Every MP will be asked: do you stand up for journalism, do you stand up for the rights of journalist to report freely, do you stand up for his basic human rights, do you stand up for justice?”……………………..

Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site spoke with some of the protestors……………………………………………

A number of those protesting travelled to London from other countries to do so. Mantas, who traveled from Lithuania that day to support Assange as part of the chain, told our reporters, “Assange told the truth about war crimes, and he fought for human rights and freedom of the press.”

The US and UK governments “want to make a clear and obvious example of Assange so that no-one attempts what he did. The powers that be are trying to impose their own world view, control how people think, to seduce them into thinking nothing can be done or that the world is as it’s supposed to be, when we are actually entering into wholesale madness in the world.”

He said of the war in Ukraine that the weapons manufacturers and businesses “want to promote a new war, and they don’t care about the consequences for the Ukrainian people or the Russian people. I don’t agree with Putin’s actions, but I think there was another option, but Zelensky was encouraged to take a hard line and oppose any deals from the Russian Federation.”

Listing the crimes exposed by WikiLeaks he said, “Where do you start? You can look at the video of an Apache helicopter shooting civilians. The Afghan and Iraq war logs and so on. People should look into it. There’s too much to go into herethat many crimes have been uncovered. People should look into what WikiLeaks has done what its expose and be objective about the matter.”

Assange’s case “shows that if anyone finds out something like this and tries to tell the public then they can be prosecuted for it. So obviously that can threaten everyone.”  https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/10/08/chai-o08.html?fbclid=IwAR0oU-kS9VcRD34qsOcy2SC2BTcKB2CmeY6IwAoPfyc-MniCzPt3xsgXEu4

October 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Chris Hedges: the corporate state, the CIA, and the lynching of Julian Assange

Chris Hedges: The Puppets and the Puppet Masters

The judicial proceedings against Julian Assange give a faux legality to the state persecution of the most important and courageous journalist of our generation.

This is the talk given by Chris Hedges outside the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. on Saturday October 8 at a rally that called on the U.S. to revoke its extradition request for Julian Assange.

https://scheerpost.com/2022/10/09/chris-hedges-the-puppets-and-the-puppet-masters/ By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost, 9 Oct 22,


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Merrick Garland and those who work in the Department of Justice are the puppets, not the puppet masters. They are the façade, the fiction, that the longstanding persecution of Julian Assange has something to do with justice. Like the High Court in London, they carry out an elaborate judicial pantomime. They debate arcane legal nuances to distract from the Dickensian farce where a man who has not committed a crime, who is not a U.S. citizen, can be extradited under the Espionage Act and sentenced to life in prison for the most courageous and consequential journalism of our generation.

The engine driving the lynching of Julian is not here on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is in Langley, Virginia, located at a complex we will never be allowed to surround – the Central Intelligence Agency. It is driven by a secretive inner state, one where we do not count in the mad pursuit of empire and ruthless exploitation. Because the machine of this modern leviathan was exposed by Julian and WikiLeaks, the machine demands revenge. 

The United States has undergone a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. It is no longer a functioning democracy. The real centers of power, in the corporate, military and national security sectors, were humiliated and embarrassed by WikiLeaks. Their war crimes, lies, conspiracies to crush the democratic aspirations of the vulnerable and the poor, and rampant corruption, here and around the globe, were laid bare in troves of leaked documents.  

We cannot fight on behalf of Julian unless we are clear about whom we are fighting against. It is far worse than a corrupt judiciary. The global billionaire class, who have orchestrated a social inequality rivaled by pharaonic Egypt, has internally seized all of the levers of power and made us the most spied upon, monitored, watched and photographed population in human history. When the government watches you 24-hours a day, you cannot use the word liberty. This is the relationship between a master and a slave. Julian was long a target, of course, but when WikiLeaks published the documents known as Vault 7, which exposed the hacking tools the CIA uses to monitor our phones, televisions and even cars, he — and journalism itself — was condemned to crucifixion. The object is to shut down any investigations into the inner workings of power that might hold the ruling class accountable for its crimes, eradicate public opinion and replace it with the cant fed to the mob.

I spent two decades as a foreign correspondent on the outer reaches of empire in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. I am acutely aware of the savagery of empire, how the brutal tools of repression are first tested on those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” Wholesale surveillance. Torture. Coups. Black sites. Black propaganda. Militarized police. Militarized drones. Assassinations. Wars. Once perfected on people of color overseas, these tools migrate back to the homeland. By hollowing out our country from the inside through deindustrialization, austerity, deregulation, wage stagnation, the abolition of unions, massive expenditures on war and intelligence, a refusal to address the climate emergency and a virtual tax boycott for the richest individuals and corporations, these predators intend to keep us in bondage, victims of a corporate neo-feudalism. And they have perfected their instruments of Orwellian control. The tyranny imposed on others is imposed on us.

From its inception, the CIA carried out assassinations, coups, torture, and illegal spying and abuse, including that of U.S. citizens, activities exposed in 1975 by the Church Committee hearings in the Senate and the Pike Committee hearings in the House. All these crimes, especially after the attacks of 9/11, have returned with a vengeance. The CIA is a rogue and unaccountable paramilitary organization with its own armed units and drone program, death squads and a vast archipelago of global black sites where kidnapped victims are tortured and disappeared. 

The U.S. allocates a secret black budget of about $50 billion a year to hide multiple types of clandestine projects carried out by the National Security Agency, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, usually beyond the scrutiny of Congress. The CIA has a well-oiled apparatus to kidnap, torture and assassinate targets around the globe, which is why, since it had already set up a system of 24-hour video surveillance of Julian in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, it quite naturally discussed kidnapping and assassinating him. That is its business. Senator Frank Church — after examining the heavily redacted CIA documents released to his committee — defined the CIA’s “covert activity” as “a semantic disguise for murder, coercion, blackmail, bribery, the spreading of lies and consorting with known torturers and international terrorists.”

All despotisms mask state persecution with sham court proceedings. The show trials and troikas in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The raving Nazi judges in fascist Germany. The Denunciation rallies in Mao’s China. State crime is cloaked in a faux legality, a judicial farce.

If Julian is extradited and sentenced and, given the Lubyanka-like proclivities of the Eastern District of Virginia, this is a near certainty, it means that those of us who have published classified material, as I did when I worked for The New York Times, will become criminals. It means that an iron curtain will be pulled down to mask abuses of power. It means that the state, which, through Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, anti-terrorism laws and the Espionage Act that have created our homegrown version of Stalin’s Article 58, can imprison anyone anywhere in the world who dares commit the crime of telling the truth.

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to fight against powerful subterranean forces that, in demanding Julian’s extradition and life imprisonment, have declared war on journalism. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to fight for the restoration of the rule of law and democracy. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to dismantle the wholesale Stasi-like state surveillance erected across the West. 

We are here to fight for Julian. But we are also here to overthrow — and let me repeat that word for the benefit of those in the FBI and Homeland Security who have come here to monitor us — overthrow the corporate state and create a government of the people, by the people and for the people, that will cherish, rather than persecute, the best among us.

You can see my interview with Julian’s father, John Shipton, here.

NOTE TO SCHEERPOST READERS FROM CHRIS HEDGES: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at chrishedges.substack.com so I can continue to post my now weekly Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, The Chris Hedges Report.

October 10, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Rotting in jail’: Thousands march for Julian Assange’s release as his brother urges Anthony Albanese to act.

 https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/rotting-in-jail-thousands-march-for-julian-assanges-release-as-his-brother-urges-anthony-albanese-to-act/g3mo7a9zs8 Oct 22,

Supporters of jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have formed a human chain in Melbourne’s city centre to protest his detention.

Thousands have marched through Melbourne’s city centre calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The 51-year-old Australian has been in London’s Belmarsh prison since he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019.

Mr Assange is fighting  a long-running legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States, 

Melbourne protesters marched through the city streets and formed a human chain across a Southbank bridge on Saturday morning as they called on the Australian government to intervene.

“There’s an expectation in the electorate that the prime minister and this government is going to get Julian out of jail,” Mr Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton told AAP.

“The prime minister’s statements before the election – enough is enough, he doesn’t see what purpose is served by Julian being kept in prison – those were seen as a commitment.

“It’s been so many days of this government and Julian is still rotting in that prison.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese should contact the United States president directly and plead Mr Assange’s case, Mr Shipton said.

“They can pick up the phone, call Joe Biden and say, hasn’t Julian suffered enough? Drop the charges and extradition,” he said.

“Julian would walk free.”

What’s the latest on Julian Assange’s case?

In June, then-United Kingdom home secretary Priti Patel  approved Mr Assange’s extradition to the US

.Then, in August, lawyers for Mr Assange filed an appeal , arguing he is being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions.

Mr Assange was charged by the US with 17 counts of espionage and one charge of computer misuse after WikiLeaks published thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents.

Melbourne’s demonstration against Mr Assange’s detention was one of many being held across the world on Saturday.

It was heartening to see such global solidarity for Mr Assange’s cause, Mr Shipton said.

“The movement is growing around the world as evidenced by these protests,” he said.

“We’re not going to stop. We are not going to be quiet.”

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October 8, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Climate protesters criminalised as climate crisis escalates

Long-term environmental activist Bob BrownHuman Rights Watch and a network of grassroots campaigners have condemned the recent raids and police repression against climate protesters, joining in solidarity with a collective warning from 40 civil society organisations.

However, by criminalising protest, governments expose their allegiance to profit before the people. Rather than generate fear amongst us, this may just mobilise more people in defence of systems that threaten life on Earth.

Independent Australia. By Claire Burgess | 18 July 2022.

With anti-protest laws on the rise as our climate crisis worsens, activists are fighting back to raise awareness, writes Claire Burgess.

CLIMATE ACTIVISTS are increasingly using protest tactics that cannot be ignored. They are targeting Australia’s economic and political centres, contending that these systems built from colonial dispossession are responsible for climate destruction and inaction. Does this approach to bringing about change hold up empirically?

Is Australia a colonial and extractive-based climate pariah?

The extraction of “natural resources” is the backbone of colonial relations to the Earth — climate change is a symptom of this way of operating. The sixth International Panel on Climate Change (IPCCreport points to how marginalised communities, particularly Indigenous, disproportionately bear the burden and harm from climate change though they are the least responsible. Scholars now argue that climate action requires addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism.

Australia’s current extractive regime has its roots in colonial systems of violence and dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The political and economic system sits proudly upon scarred and damaged land that was never ceded. Mining giants continue to be prioritised by governments, such as coal mining company Adani over the land rights of Traditional Owners.

Politics and economics have been identified by the IPCC as major impediments to climate action. This is particularly evident in the contradiction of Australian mining companies becoming both global leaders in “green” economies while expanding coal and gas production. The plunder for capitalising on the economic opportunities of new green economies is the latest threat to the planet.

Despite all the talk about “green” growth, energy-related emissions have accelerated, reaching record highs in 2021. The only slowdown of emissions occurred during the COVID lockdown. Degrowth scholars highlight how the myth of progress continues to underpin market approaches to climate change. They remind us of the hard limits on the number of natural resources left that we can use.

Every ecosystem is under pressure. First Nations elders and scholars have also long called for designing systems based on ecological relationality with the Earth.

The signs of both planetary collapse and the knowledge of regenerative ways of being have long been available. It is the dominating, extractive-based system that is maladaptive to our planet — not us.

How has people-power shaped this country?

The goal of non-violent direct action (NVDA) is to draw attention to contentious practices and in doing so, exert pressure on targeted actors. In lutruwita/Tasmania during the Franklin Dam blockade, a total of 1,400 people were arrested and gaoled including federal and state parliament members.

This campaign led to a large area of wilderness being saved from development. Grassroots, direct action galvanised the environmental movement in Australia and these tactics continue to be used to defend wild places.

NVDA can encompass open or covert tactics from blockades, sit-ins and occupations to street protests. In gaining land rights, the occupation of land outside Parliament House for establishing the “Aboriginal Tent Embassy” sent a message to the public about the impacts of landlessness and dispossession. Resistance in the form of land defence continues today, in blockading extractive industries on Traditional Lands.

Perhaps because of this history, governments are responding to climate activists with nationwide legislative crackdowns in the form of anti-protest laws. The link between the protection of extractive industries, political power and government repression of protesters should concern all of us.

Long-term environmental activist Bob BrownHuman Rights Watch and a network of grassroots campaigners have condemned the recent raids and police repression against climate protesters, joining in solidarity with a collective warning from 40 civil society organisations.

However, by criminalising protest, governments expose their allegiance to profit before the people. Rather than generate fear amongst us, this may just mobilise more people in defence of systems that threaten life on Earth.

Is collective action commensurate to co-creating  a sustainable future?.

…………………………………………………. Reclaiming our humanity in the face of planetary collapse is tapping into the one autonomous vehicle we have — our collective bodies. Speaking truth to power by drawing upon strategies that have worked in the past is an integral part of reimagining and bringing to life the regenerative future, one that we desperately need.

All we have is the Earth and each other  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/climate-protesters-criminalised-as-climate-crisis-escalates,16572

July 19, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment