WikiLeaks

Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/07/2017 - 5:51am in

by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, via Consortium News In a memo to President Trump, a group of former U.S. intelligence officers, including NSA specialists, cite new forensic studies to challenge the claim of the key Jan. 6 “assessment” that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails last year.  MEMORANDUM FOR: The President FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) SUBJECT: Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job? Executive Summary Forensic studies of “Russian hacking” into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia. After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016 intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device, and that “telltale signs” implicating Russia were then inserted. Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal …

Online Freedom: Are We Past the Point of No Return?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/07/2017 - 1:00am in

by Carla, therightsideoftruth.com, via The Sleuth Journal Internet freedom is on the decline. It has been ever since companies began centralizing control over where users congregate, and things have only gotten worse with ever increasing government intervention. Some might see said claims as alarmist and will say things aren’t “that bad,” citing dictatorships such as North Korea as examples of true restriction of internet freedom. But this comparison doesn’t do justice to the extent to which online freedom is being limited. Truly, the enemy is among us, and it has been for quite some time. Self-interested organizations including big record companies, movie studios and even the government have been slowing chipping away at individual freedom as they fear losing control over the economy and the people. Beyond that, government organizations continue to tighten their grip as internet freedom threatens the status quo. The real question we need to be asking, though, is this: Are we past the point of no return? The Patriot Act In the West, specifically in the US, the first serious threat …

CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/06/2017 - 11:03pm in

Three prominent CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under congressional investigation. That article — like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media — was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims.

In announcing the resignation of the three journalists — Thomas Frank, who wrote the story (not the same Thomas Frank who wrote “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”); Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eric Lichtblau, recently hired away from the New York Times; and Lex Haris, head of a new investigative unit — CNN said that “standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.” The resignations follow CNN’s Friday night retraction of the story, in which it apologized to Scaramucci:

Several factors compound CNN’s embarrassment here. To begin with, CNN’s story was first debunked by an article in Sputnik News, which explained that the investment fund documented several “factual inaccuracies” in the report (including that the fund is not even part of the Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, that is under investigation), and by Breitbart, which cited numerous other factual inaccuracies.

And this episode follows an embarrassing correction CNN was forced to issue earlier this month when several of its highest-profile on-air personalities asserted — based on anonymous sources — that James Comey, in his congressional testimony, was going to deny Trump’s claim that the FBI director assured him he was not the target of any investigation.

When Comey confirmed Trump’s story, CNN was forced to correct its story. “An earlier version of this story said that Comey would dispute Trump’s interpretation of their conversations. But based on his prepared remarks, Comey outlines three conversations with the president in which he told Trump he was not personally under investigation,” said the network.

 

But CNN is hardly alone when it comes to embarrassing retractions regarding Russia. Over and over, major U.S. media outlets have published claims about the Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false — always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle. In virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources that these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.

Several of the most humiliating of these episodes have come from the Washington Post. On December 30, the paper published a blockbuster, frightening scoop that immediately and predictably went viral and generated massive traffic. Russian hackers, the paper claimed based on anonymous sources, had hacked into the “U.S. electricity grid” through a Vermont utility.

That, in turn, led MSNBC journalists, and various Democratic officials, to instantly sound the alarm that Putin was trying to deny Americans heat during the winter:

Literally every facet of that story turned out to be false. First, the utility company — which the Post had not bothered to contact — issued a denial, pointing out that malware was found on one laptop that was not connected either to the Vermont grid or the broader U.S. electricity grid. That forced the Post to change the story to hype the still-alarmist claim that this malware “showed the risk” posed by Russia to the U.S. electric grid, along with a correction at the top repudiating the story’s central claim:

But then it turned out that even this limited malware was not connected to Russian hackers at all and, indeed, may not have been malicious code of any kind. Those revelations forced the Post to publish a new article days later entirely repudiating the original story.

Embarrassments of this sort are literally too numerous to count when it comes to hyped, viral U.S. media stories over the last year about the Russia Threat. Less than a month before its electric grid farce, the Post published a blockbuster story — largely based on a blacklist issued by a brand new, entirely anonymous group — featuring the shocking assertion that stories planted or promoted by Russia’s “disinformation campaign” were viewed more than 213 million times.

That story fell apart almost immediately. The McCarthyite blacklist of Russia disinformation outlets on which it relied contained numerous mainstream sites. The article was widely denounced. And the Post, two weeks later, appended a lengthy editor’s note at the top:

Weeks earlier, Slate published another article that went viral on Trump and Russia, claiming that a secret server had been discovered that the Trump Organization used to communicate with a Russian bank. After that story was hyped by Hillary Clinton herself, multiple news outlets (including The Intercept) debunked it, noting that the story had been shopped around for months but found no takers. Ultimately, the Washington Post made clear how reckless the claims were:

A few weeks later, C-SPAN made big news when it announced that its network had been “interrupted by RT programming”:

That led numerous media outlets, such as Fortune, to claim that this occurred due to Russian hacking – yet that, too, turned out to be totally baseless, and Fortune was forced to renounce the claim:

In the same time period — December 2016 — The Guardian published a story by reporter Ben Jacobs claiming that WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, had “long had a close relationship with the Putin regime.” That claim, along with several others in the story, was fabricated, and The Guardian was forced to append a retraction to the story:

Perhaps the most significant Russia falsehood came from CrowdStrike, the firm hired by the DNC to investigate the hack of its email servers. Again in the same time period — December 2016 — the firm issued a new report accusing Russian hackers of nefarious activities involving the Ukrainian army, which numerous outlets, including (of course) the Washington Post, uncritically hyped.

“A cybersecurity firm has uncovered strong proof of the tie between the group that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Russia’s military intelligence arm — the primary agency behind the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election,” the Post claimed. “The firm CrowdStrike linked malware used in the DNC intrusion to malware used to hack and track an Android phone app used by the Ukrainian army in its battle against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine from late 2014 through 2016.”

Yet that story also fell apart. In March, the firm “revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign” after several experts questioned its claims, and “CrowdStrike walked back key parts of its Ukraine report.”

 

What is most notable about these episodes is that they all go in the same direction: hyping and exaggerating the threat posed by the Kremlin. All media outlets will make mistakes; that is to be expected. But when all of the “mistakes” are devoted to the same rhetorical theme, and when they all end up advancing the same narrative goal, it seems clear that they are not the byproduct of mere garden-variety journalistic mistakes.

There are great benefits to be reaped by publishing alarmist claims about the Russian Threat and Trump’s connection to it. Stories that depict the Kremlin and Putin as villains and grave menaces are the ones that go most viral, produce the most traffic, generate the most professional benefits such as TV offers, along with online praise and commercial profit for those who disseminate them. That’s why blatantly inane anti-Trump conspiracists and Russia conspiracies now command such a large audience: because there is a voracious appetite among anti-Trump internet and cable news viewers for stories, no matter how false, that they want to believe are true (and, conversely, expressing any skepticism about such stories results in widespread accusations that one is a Kremlin sympathizer or outright agent).

One can, if one wishes, view the convergence of those ample benefits and this long line of reckless stories on Russia as a coincidence, but that seems awfully generous, if not willfully gullible. There are substantial professional and commercial rewards for those who do this and — at least until the resignation of these CNN journalists last night — very few consequences even when they are caught.

A related, and perhaps more significant, dynamic is that journalistic standards are often dispensed with when it comes to exaggerating the threat posed by countries deemed to be the official enemy du jour. That is a journalistic principle that has repeatedly asserted itself, with Iraq being the most memorable but by no means only example.

In sum, anything is fair game when it comes to circulating accusations about official U.S. adversaries, no matter how baseless, and Russia currently occupies that role. (More generally: The less standing and power one has in official Washington, the more acceptable it is in U.S. media circles to publish false claims about them, as this recent, shockingly falsehood-ridden New York Times article about RT host Lee Camp illustrates; it, too, now contains multiple corrections.)

And then there is the fact that the vast majority of reporting about Russia, as well as Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin, has been based exclusively on evidence-free assertions of anonymous officials, many, if not most, of whom have concealed agendas. That means that they are free to issue completely false claims without the slightest concern of repercussions.

That there is now a fundamental problem with reporting on Russia appears to be a fact accepted even by CNN executives. In the wake of this latest debacle, a CNN editor issued a memo, leaked to BuzzFeed, imposing new editorial safeguards on “any content involving Russia.” That is a rather remarkable indictment on media behavior when it comes to Moscow.

The importance of this journalistic malfeasance when it comes to Russia, a nuclear-armed power, cannot be overstated. This is the story that has dominated U.S. politics for more than a year. Ratcheting up tensions between these two historically hostile powers is incredibly inflammatory and dangerous. All kinds of claims, no matter how little evidence there is to support them, have flooded U.S. political discourse and have been treated as proven fact.

And that’s all independent of how journalistic recklessness fuels, and gives credence to, the Trump administration’s campaign to discredit journalism generally. The president wasted no time exploiting this latest failure to attack the media:

Given the stakes, reporting on these matters should be done with the greatest care. As this long line of embarrassments, retractions, and falsehoods demonstrates, the exact opposite mentality has driven media behavior over the last year.

Correction: June 27, 2017, 1:03 p.m.
An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that Slate is owned by the Washington Post company. It’s owned by Graham Holdings, which owned the Washington Post until Jeff Bezos bought it in 2013. Graham Holdings held onto Slate during the sale.

Clarification: June 28, 2017, 9:03 a.m.

The article was edited to clarify that it was media outlets such as Fortune (and not C-SPAN) that falsely claimed that C-SPAN was hacked by RT, causing C-SPAN to make clear it did not know the cause of the interruption.

Top photo: CNN headquarters in downtown Atlanta.

The post CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat appeared first on The Intercept.

Counterpunch: Manchester Terror Attack Blowback from Western Imperialist Recruitment of Salafi Terrorists

I’ve mentioned several times over the past week or so the hypocritical smears the Tory press – the Torygraph, Scum and Heil – have published claiming that Jeremy Corbyn was a supporter of IRA terrorism, and, by implication, of the Manchester terror attack last Monday. Corbyn wasn’t. He did support attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Troubles through negotiation, something Thatcher and the Tories loudly denied they were doing, but did anyway. Both the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Times have hailed the Labour leader as a man, who strove for the best for the people of Ireland and Ulster. Ian Paisley’s wife even said that Corbyn was courteous and polite.

So, not quite the fanatical supporter of Irish nationalist terrorism these papers wanted to smear him as.

And the Tories, under Thatcher, did their own supporting of terrorist violence in Ulster. Peter Taylor’s 1999 documentary, Loyalists, featured interviews with leading Ulster Loyalist politicos and terrorists, one of whom admitted that they were getting information from British intelligence in the late 1980s allowing them to kill members of the IRA and other Republicans.

And that hasn’t been the only incident, where terrorists supported by the British state have committed atrocities. The last one was just a week ago. In Manchester.

Jim Kavanagh writing in Counterpunch has a piece pointing out that the family of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, were members of a Libyan Islamist terrorist group, who were given sanctuary in Britain as part of NATO’s recruitment of such terrorists in their campaign to overthrow Colonel Qaddafy. He attacks the racist double standards of the western media, for giving massive attention to attacks like this in the West, while paying much less attention to the other victims of Islamist violence in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Such as Mali, where 100 people, mostly Russians, Chinese and Africans, were butchered by two Islamist terrorists at the Bamako hotel a few years ago.

He reminds his readers that, despite Qaddafy’s own political posturing, Libya was a secular state with the highest standard of living in Africa. And Qaddafy himself hated and persecuted the Islamists. The late ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and his son, Saif, even tried to warn Blair, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that if he was killed, the terrorists would move on to attack Europe and there would be a massive influx of refugees into the continent.

Kavanagh also reproaches American liberals for believing that you can be politically liberal, and still support western imperialism. He states that Barack Obama and Killary, whose gloating over the death of the Libyan dictator was particularly repulsive, have so far presided over more carnage than Donald Trump. American liberals are deluded if they believe that they can unleash and then contain the Islamist terrorists they have recruited, armed and trained at will. He compares terrorist atrocities like that committed in Manchester to the film ‘Groundhog Day’, whose hero is doomed to go through the same day again and again. And this, he feels, will continue until something immeasurably more horrific finally wakes Americans up to the horrific reality.

He states

Last Monday, jihadi suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people. Salman grew up in an anit-Qaddafi Libyan immigrant family. In 2011, his father, Ramadan Abedi, along with other British Libyans (including one who was under house arrest), “was allowed to go [to Libya], no questions asked,” to join the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al-Qaeda-affiliate, to help overthrow Qaddafi. In Manchester, as Max Blumenthal puts it, in his excellent Alternet piece, it was all “part of the rat line operated by the MI5, which hustled anti-Qaddafi Libyan exiles to the front lines of the war.” In Manchester, Salman lived near a number of LIFG militants, including an expert bomb maker. This was a tough bunch, and everybody—including the cops and Salman’s Muslim neighbors—knew they weren’t the Jets and the Sharks. As Middle East Eye reports, he “was known to security services,” and some of his acquaintances “had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.”

Could it be any clearer? The Abedi family was part of a protected cohort of Salafist proxy soldiers that have been used by “the West” to destroy the Libyan state. There are a number of such cohorts around the world that have been used for decades to overthrow relatively prosperous and secular, but insufficiently compliant, governments in the Arab and Muslim world—and members of those groups have perpetrated several blowback attacks in Western countries, via various winding roads. In this case, the direct line from Libya to Mali to Manchester is particularly easy to trace.‘

‘The jihadi attackers in Mali and the jihadi bomber in Manchester were direct products—not accidental by-products, but deliberately incubated protégés—of American-British-French-NATO regime change in Libya, a project that was executed by the Obama administration and spearheaded by Hillary Clinton.

Before the glorious revolution, Libya under Ghaddafi had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa, according to the UN Human Development Index. Before the jihadi onslaught backed by NATO bombing campaign, Ghaddafi’s Libya was an anchor of stability in North Africa, as even the U.S. and British governments knew and acknowledged, per a 2008 cable from American foreign service officer Christopher Stevens, published by Wikileaks:

Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism and cooperation in liaison channels is excellent…Muammar al-Qadhafi’s criticism of Saudi Arabia for perceived support of Wahabi extremism, a source of continuing Libya-Saudi tension, reflects broader Libyan concern about the threat of extremism. Worried that fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could destabilize the regime, the [government of Libya] has aggressive pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam.

The US-British-French-NATO humanitarian intervention put an end to that by overthrowing the Libyan government under entirely phony pretexts, in contravention of fundamental international law, and in violation of the UN resolution they claimed as a justification. The executioners and beneficiaries of that aggression where the jihadis who have been rampaging from Mali to Manchester. It’s a bright, clear line.

Ghaddafi himself warned Tony Blair that “an organization [the LIFG].has laid down sleeper cells in North Africa called the Al Qaeda organization in North Africa.” Ghaddafi’s son, Saif, warned that overthrowing Libya’s would make the country “the Somalia of North Africa, of the Mediterranean” and “You will see millions of illegal immigrants. The terror will be next door.”’

Manchester is the latest iteration of a scenario we’ve gone through so many times now, like some groundhog-day dream. At the end of my post two years ago, I was urging and hoping that Americans would wake up. But a lot of American liberals and lefties, including Berniebots, still like to imagine there’s a political space they can inhabit called Progressive Except Imperialism. There isn’t. Imperialism with Social Security and Medicare and Obamacare—even single-payer healthcare—is imperialism, and it’s reactionary and supremacist. Equal-opportunity imperialism is imperialism. African-American, women, Latinx, or LGBTQ presidents, generals, and drone operators do not make it any less criminal, or dangerous, or any less inevitably erosive of all those cherished progressive domestic programs.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/29/no-laughing-matter-the-manchester-bomber-is-the-spawn-of-hillary-and-baracks-excellent-libyan-adventure/

The recruitment of Islamist terrorists goes back further than Blair, Bush, and Obama and Killary, right back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher gave sanctuary in this country to Islamist terrorists as part of the proxy war against the Russians in Afghanistan. She and Ronnie celebrated them, because they were anti-Communists fighting against ‘the Evil Empire’. And the Russian ambassador told the Americans that once the Salafists had finished with them, they would come for America.

And this came horribly true on 9/11. Having defeated the Soviet Union, the Saudi-backed terrorists believed they could bring down the other superpower, America.

As for Thatcher, one of the terrorists she gave asylum to in Britain was a monster, who blew up a plane-load of schoolchildren flying to Moscow in order to kill the Soviet officers also on board.

And the same Islamists she settled in Britain became part of the wider underground of radicalised Islamist discontent.

Corbyn never supported terrorism. But Thatcher, and her New Labour protégé, Tony Blair, certainly did. And the results were Loyalist terrorists acting as Thatcher’s death squads in Ulster, and Islamist terrorism in Britain.

And Theresa May made it all easier for the Manchester bomber and those like him by cutting the numbers of the police force, armed forces and border guards. And when members of Her Majesty’s finest tried to warn of her of this danger, she sneered at them.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to reverse all this. Which, despite all the Tory screaming and posturing, trying to portray them as the party of great war leaders since Churchill, Corbyn and the Labour party represent this country’s best hope of peace and security.

Vote Labour on June 8th.

Sweden Withdraws Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, but He Still Faces Serious Legal Jeopardy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/05/2017 - 10:02pm in

Swedish prosecutors announced this morning that they were terminating their 7-year-old sex crimes investigation into Julian Assange and withdrawing their August 20, 2010, arrest warrant for him. The chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, said at a news conference this morning (pictured below) that investigators had reached no conclusion about his guilt or innocence, but instead were withdrawing the warrant because “all prospects of pursuing the investigation under present circumstances are exhausted” and it is therefore “no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence.”

Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny speaks during a press conference in Stockholm on Friday May 19, 2017.  Sweden's top prosecutor said Friday she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years. (Maja Suslin/TT News Agency via AP)

Chief prosecutor Marianne Ny speaks during a press conference in Stockholm on Friday, May 19, 2017. Sweden’s top prosecutor said Friday she is dropping an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years.

Photo: Maja Suslin/TT News Agency/AP

Almost five years ago — in June 2012 — the U.K. Supreme Court rejected Assange’s last legal challenge to Sweden’s extradition request. Days later, Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and two weeks later formally received asylum from the government of Ecuador. He has been in that small embassy ever since, under threat of immediate arrest from British police if he were to leave. For years, British police expended enormous sums to maintain a 24-hour presence outside the embassy, and though they reduced their presence in 2015, continued to make clear that he would be immediately arrested if he tried to leave.

In February of last year, a UN human rights panel formally concluded that the British government was violating Assange’s rights by “arbitrarily detaining” him, and it called for his release. But the U.K. government immediately rejected the UN finding and vowed to ignore it.

Ecuador’s rationale for granting asylum to Assange has often been overlooked. Ecuadorian officials, along with Assange’s supporters, have always insisted that they wanted the investigation in Sweden to proceed, and vowed that Assange would board the next plane to Stockholm if Sweden gave assurances that it would not extradite him to the U.S. to face charges relating to WikiLeaks’s publication of documents. It was Sweden’s refusal to issue such guarantees — and Ecuador’s fears that Assange would end up being persecuted by the U.S. — that has been the basis for its asylum protections.

After years of refusing Assange’s offers to interview him in the embassy, Swedish prosecutors finally agreed to do so last November. But the Swedes’ last hope for advancing the case seemed to evaporate last month, when the candidate of the ruling party in Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, won a narrow victory over his right-wing opponent, who had vowed to terminate Assange’s asylum.

With the new president signaling that Assange’s asylum would continue indefinitely, there was virtually nothing else for prosecutors to do. Upon hearing the news, Assange, on his Twitter account this morning, posted a smiling photograph of himself.

 

But that celebration obscures several ironies. The most glaring of which is that the legal jeopardy Assange now faces is likely greater than ever.

Almost immediately after the decision by Swedish prosecutors, British police announced that they would nonetheless arrest Assange if he tried to leave the embassy. Police said Assange was still wanted for the crime of “failing to surrender” — meaning that instead of turning himself in upon issuance of his 2012 arrest warrant, he obtained refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. The British police also, however, noted that this alleged crime is “a much less serious offence” than the one that served as the basis for the original warrant, and that the police would therefore only “provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.”

That could perhaps imply that with a seriously reduced police presence, Assange could manage to leave the embassy without detection and apprehension. All relevant evidence, however, negates that assumption.

Just weeks ago, Donald Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, delivered an angry, threatening speech about WikiLeaks in which he argued, “We have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” The CIA director vowed to make good on this threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

Days later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly suggested that the Trump DOJ would seek to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks on espionage charges in connection with the group’s publication of classified documents. Trump officials then began leaking to news outlets such as CNN that “U.S. authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.”

For years, the Obama DOJ had extensively considered the possibility of prosecuting WikiLeaks and Assange, even convening a grand jury that subpoenaed multiple witnesses. Though the Obama DOJ refused to say they had terminated that investigation — which is what caused Ecuador to continue to fear persecution — Obama officials strongly signaled that there was no way to prosecute WikiLeaks without also prosecuting news organizations that published the same documents, or at least creating a precedent that would endanger First Amendment press freedoms. As the Washington Post reported in 2013:

The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials.

That same article noted that “officials stressed that a formal decision has not been made, and a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks remains impaneled.” But it seemed that, under Obama, prosecution was highly unlikely. Indeed, last month, in response to my denunciation of Pompeo’s threat as endangering press freedoms, former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller tweeted this:

But the Trump administration — at least if one believes its multiple statements and threats — appears unconstrained by those concerns. They appear determined to prosecute WikiLeaks, which has published numerous secret CIA hacking documents this year.

Press freedom groups, along with the ACLU and some journalists, such as the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan, have warned of the grave dangers such a prosecution would pose to media outlets around the world. But that seems an unlikely impediment to an administration that has made clear that they regard the press as an enemy.

Indeed, Sessions himself refused to rule out the possibility that the prosecution of Assange could lead to the criminal prosecution of other news organizations that publish classified documents. Trump’s leading candidate to replace James Comey as FBI director, Joe Lieberman, has long called for the prosecution not only of WikiLeaks but also possibly media outlets such as the New York Times that publish the same classified information. And anonymous sources recently claimed to the New York Times that when Trump met with Comey early on in his administration, the new U.S. president expressly inquired about the possibility of prosecuting news outlets.

The termination of the Swedish investigation is, in one sense, good news for Assange. But it is unlikely to change his inability to leave the embassy any time soon. If anything, given the apparent determination of the Trump administration to put him in a U.S. prison cell for the “crime” of publishing documents, his freedom appears further away than it has since 2010, when the Swedish case began.

Top photo: Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on May 2, 2016.

The post Sweden Withdraws Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, but He Still Faces Serious Legal Jeopardy appeared first on The Intercept.

Chelsea Manning Is a Free Woman: Her Heroism Has Expanded Beyond Her Initial Whistleblowing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/05/2017 - 11:52pm in

Ever since Chelsea Manning was revealed as the whistleblower responsible for one of the most important journalistic archives in history, her heroism has been manifest. She was the classic leaker of conscience, someone who went at the age of 20 to fight in the Iraq War believing it was noble, only to discover the dark reality not only of that war but of the U.S. government’s actions in the world generally: war crimes, indiscriminate slaughter, complicity with high-level official corruption, and systematic deceit of the public.

In the face of those discoveries, she knowingly risked her own liberty to disclose documents to the world that would reveal the truth, with no expectation of benefit to herself. As someone who has spent years touting the nobility of her actions, my defenses of her always early on centered on the vital nature of the material she revealed and the right of the public to know about it.

It is genuinely hard to overstate the significance of those revelations: Aside from exposing some of the most visceral footage of indiscriminate slaughter by the U.S. military seen in decades, the leaks were credited — even by harsh WikiLeaks skeptics such as New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller — with helping to spark the Arab Spring. Even more significantly, revelations about how the U.S. military executed Iraqi civilians, then called in a bombing raid to cover up what they did, prevented the Iraqi government from granting the Obama administration the troop immunity it was seeking in order to extend the war in Iraq.

Though Manning’s case has been somewhat colored by the changing perceptions over time of WikiLeaks, she actually first attempted to contact traditional media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Politico with her revelations, only to be thwarted by a failure to get their attention. In the online chats that she had with a deceitful individual who thereafter became a government informant and turned her in, she said her motive in leaking was solely to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” adding: “I want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

In the wake of these disclosures, the U.S government — as it reflexively does — claimed that the release of the documents would endanger lives, and that those responsible for publishing the leaks had “blood on their hands.” But subsequent investigations by the AP and McClatchy found those accusations utterly unfounded, and ultimately, even Defense Secretary Robert Gates ridiculed the hysteria driving the government’s claims about the leak’s harms as “significantly overwrought.”

In sum, though Manning was largely scorned and rejected in most mainstream Washington circles, she did everything one wants a whistleblower to do: tried to ensure that the public learns of concealed corruption and criminality, with the intent of fostering debate and empowering the citizenry with knowledge that should never have been concealed from them. And she did it all knowing that she was risking prison to do so, but followed the dictates of her conscience rather than her self-interest.

 

But as courageous as that original whistleblowing was, Manning’s heroism has only multiplied since then, become more multifaceted and consequential. As a result, she has inspired countless people around the world. At this point, one could almost say that her 2010 leaking to WikiLeaks has faded into the background when assessing her true impact as a human being. Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: It was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity, and inspiration.

The overarching fact of Manning’s imprisonment was its enduring harshness. In 2010, during the first months of her detention in a U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, I began hearing reports from her handful of approved visitors about the vindictive and abusive conditions of her confinement: prolonged solitary confinement, being kept in her cell alone for virtually the entire day, gratuitous, ubiquitous surveillance, and worse. When I called the brig to investigate these claims, I was startled when a brig official confirmed to me, in the most blasé tones, their accuracy.

That enabled me to report for the first time that Manning was being imprisoned “under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.” That report sparked a major controversy, ultimately culminating in the resignation of President Obama’s State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, after he denounced the treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the Department of Defense.”

But that turned out to be only the beginning of the abuse she endured. Several months after my report, the New York Times reported that Manning was being subjected to deliberately humiliating rituals in which she “was stripped and left naked” in her cell “for seven hours,” and “required to stand naked” outside her cell during inspection. It was back then, in 2011, that the first report of Manning’s suicidal thoughts surfaced. Amnesty International denounced her detention conditions as a “breach of the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties,” and ultimately called for protests to demand a cessation of the abuse.

It was nonetheless difficult to generate large amounts of public or journalistic support for Manning: Many on the right long viewed leakers as traitors and thus took glee in her suffering, while many liberals loyal to Obama literally mocked the abuse Manning endured. But ultimately, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture investigated the conditions of Manning’s imprisonment and concluded in 2012 “that the U.S. military was at least culpable of cruel and inhumane treatment,” and “that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.”

All of the controversy generated by those reports ultimately compelled the Obama administration to transfer her from Quantico to a more professionalized but still harrowing prison, in the middle of Kansas, on a military base at Fort Leavenworth, as she awaited her trial. While her imprisonment then became more normalized, her heroism multiplied to entirely new levels.

 

In July 2013, Manning was convicted of multiple counts of “espionage” for her whistleblowing (though she was acquitted of the most serious charge she faced: the treason-equivalent of “aiding the enemy”). On August 21, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. On August 22 — the very next day — she issued her statement identifying herself as Chelsea Manning, a trans woman, and demanded that she receive from military authorities the medical therapy she needed to complete her transition:

Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).

It is hard to describe the courage and determination that required. Less than 24 hours after she learned that she had been consigned to spend the next 35 years in the custody of a military prison, she publicly identified as the trans woman she is and demanded the medical therapy to which she was legally and ethically entitled.

To truly grasp the bravery that required, it’s necessary to understand her situation at the time. In 2015, I visited her at Fort Leavenworth. To get there, one must fly to Kansas City, then drive more than an hour into the woods of Kansas, in the proverbial middle of nowhere. One arrives at a sprawling, completely militarized base, Fort Leavenworth, where it was quite difficult to gain access. Upon entering, one drives another 15 to 20 minutes deep into the military base to arrive at the military brig, which itself is a labyrinth of cages and security measures that must be navigated in order to finally meet her somewhere in the bowels of that prison.

In sum, it’s almost impossible to be more isolated, more cut off from society, than Chelsea Manning was. Coming out as a trans person, and embarking on the transition process, is extraordinarily difficult even under the best of conditions. Trans people still face incomparable societal hurdles — including an epidemic of violence — even when they enjoy networks of support in the middle of progressive cities. But to do that while in a military brig, in the middle of Kansas, where your daily life depends exclusively upon your military jailers, is both incomprehensibly difficult and incomprehensibly courageous.

Manning’s struggles in prison, including her suicide attempts and grotesquely cruel punishments for them, were publicly reported. Although the military prison begrudgingly gave her some of the therapy she sought, authorities also imposed petty restrictions, including a refusal even to let her grow her hair and a failure to provide much of the support that was needed.

As one of the few people on the list of approved visitors, I spent many hours on the phone with her during this period. Her experience both in prison generally and transitioning specifically was filled with completely gratuitous challenges and difficulties caused by malicious or ignorant prison authorities.

But what is ultimately most striking about Chelsea Manning is her unyielding persistence. In the most humble yet determined tones, she insists on following what she knows is the right path regardless of the risks and costs to her. And in doing so, far beyond the initial acts of whistleblowing, she became a hero to LGBTs around the world, and so many other people, by demanding the right to be who she is, and to live freely, even under the most oppressive conditions.

 

This is not a case where I feign journalistic objectivity or neutrality. I regard Chelsea Manning as one of this generation’s greatest heroes, as well as a valued friend. While her release today is somewhat bittersweet — How can one forget the grave injustice that she spent almost all of her 20s in prison for having done something that merited our collective gratitude, and the abuse she continually endured? — I am thrilled that she will finally live as a free woman, and incredibly excited about what she can achieve, how she can inspire people, now that she is finally released.

Ultimately, what makes Chelsea Manning unique is not so much her political heroism but rather the way she has personally navigated her life after that. As I recounted in the letter I wrote in support of her clemency petition, she is the single most empathetic and compassionate person I have ever met. When I would speak to her, it was difficult for me to contain my anger and resentment over the abuse she had suffered and continued to suffer. Yet she never displayed or even seemed to share any of that anger, instead often defending even those who wronged her by empathizing with their own predicaments and mitigating their behavior.

To be sure, her transition back into freedom is not going to be easy. She’s been imprisoned since she was 22 years old. She knows that she is a controversial and polarizing figure and is unsure what life outside of Fort Leavenworth has in store for her. It will naturally be a huge adjustment in all sorts of ways.

But Manning is one of the most intelligent, engaging, and inspiring people one could ever hope to meet. There is a massive amount of admiration and support for her all over the world, as evidenced by the incredibly successful fundraising campaign to ease her transition out of prison. No matter where I have spoken in the world, the mere mention of her name prompts sustained standing ovations for her. All of that — her seeing how much love and gratitude there is for her — will undoubtedly strengthen her in whatever she chooses to do.

It is rare, especially lately, to find inspiration in any political stories. But the last decade of Chelsea Manning’s life, and the potential it now holds for the future, is one of those cases. One shouldn’t idealize what happened to her: There is a lot of injustice, harm, and outrage in her story. But the way she has inspired so many, and the fact that today she is truly free, is a cause for real celebration, and a valuable reminder of how human beings, through pure acts of conscience and determination, can singlehandedly change the world for the better.

Top photo: A poster depicting Chelsea Manning at the San Francisco pride parade on June 29, 2014.

The post Chelsea Manning Is a Free Woman: Her Heroism Has Expanded Beyond Her Initial Whistleblowing appeared first on The Intercept.

Despite the Jokes, HIGNFY Is Fake News

Okay, the BBC have started running trailers for the new series of Have I Got News For You that’s due to begin on Friday. The trailer jokes about how the programme won’t be dominated by fake news, before going into a series of clips in which the panellists are dubbed over by a voice with a Russian accent, going on about how wonderful Putin’s Russia is.

Ho ho! We all know how corrupt the Russian media is, ever since the days of the Soviet Union, if not the Tsar. So all good fun and fair comment, eh?

Well, no. I stopped watching the show last year, because I got sick and tired of the way it retailed fake news, cleverly masked as fair comment on the news stories of the week, and wrote a post about it. Jokes like that are dangerous, because they promote a very false image of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, as well as ramping up international tensions, which could all too easily lead to war. Remember, last year a NATO general wrote a whole book about how, by next month, we would be at war with Russia. Considering the stupid actions of Trump and the American military-industrial complex and its poodles in the media, I don’t know if that was a genuine prediction or a prepared script that has been laid down for NATO to follow.

But let’s take the connection between Russia and ‘fake news’. This has been heavily promoted by the Democrats to excuse their defeat in the American presidential elections. They lost, not because they had no policies that would really benefit the poor, not because Hillary Clinton is a corporatist hawk, who has been paid obscene amounts by the Wall Street banks for making sure they can get away with wrecking the economy and impoverishing the country’s working people. Or the way she sneered at implementing single-payer healthcare, and has worked for companies like Wallmart, which stamped on trade unions. No! It was all because the Russians hacked into the Democrats’ computer and handed all the incriminating evidence of their crooked deals with industry and to rig the nominations to keep Bernie Sanders out, and then gave it to WikiLeaks. Except that there’s no evidence of this, and WikiLeaks itself has denied this, saying instead that they were given the material in a Chicago park by a Democratic insider, who was annoyed at the way the party was being run.

And there’s more, much more. Since then the Democrats and their corporate shills, like Rachel Maddow, have been not only banging on about this, but also about how they supposedly hacked into Trump, and have some kind of hold over him, blackmailing him to support their interests. There’s no evidence for that, but nevertheless, that’s what’s being sold the American public. There are two videos from the Jimmy Dore show where he reports on the finding by an American media monitoring organisation that stories about Russian hacking now comprise over 50 per cent of the stories covered by Maddow on her show. Despite the fact that figures from the FBI and CIA have said that it’s all rubbish.

Dore points out how McCarthyite this all is, and how it is dangerously ratcheting up tensions with Putin in a new ‘Red Scare’.

Added to this already volatile situation is the current war in Ukraine. If you believe the media, including Private Eye, Putin doing the same thing as Hitler did to Czechoslovakia. He using the supposed persecution of his people in that country to invade and overthrow its democratically elected government and annex the entire nation.

Except that Putin isn’t. He is in Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking Ukrainian population, who are genuinely being persecuted by the Ukrainian government. However, Crimea was never historically part of Ukraine, is overwhelmingly Russian, and was only given to Ukraine in 1950 or so. And its people voted, perfectly constitutionally, to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

As for the current Ukrainian government, they are anything but nice, western-style democrats. The Orange Revolution was not a spontaneous revolution at all, but a carefully funded astroturf coup staged by George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the American government’s quango in charge of fomenting coups against governments the American state doesn’t like. Which means, in practice, those countries that try to stop American corporations exploiting them and treating their people as slaves.

The Ukrainian government also contains genuine Nazis from the Pravy – ‘Right’ – Sektor. These organisations dress in the costume and use the regalia – the flags, signs and insignia – of the Ukrainian SS auxiliaries during the Second World War. These organisations, and the leaders they revere, where responsible for some of the pogroms and actively aided the Holocaust during the Nazi invasion. And they are still bitterly anti-Semitic today.

But from Reagan onwards, the American government has supported elements of the Ukrainian far right, and its leaders, like Vladimir Stetso, as freedom fighters.

None of this is being reported in Private Eye, or mentioned on the BBC, not even on Have I Got News For You. Indeed, Private Eye, in their ‘Letter from Ukraine’, actively retailed the narrative that democratic Ukraine is under attack from Putin’s Russia. This is all to serve British, and indeed, western, corporate and military interests.

And so Have I Got News For You, and its hosts, are actively feeding us fake news, all the while pretending to be acting as a kind of humorous check, holding politicians accountable through satire and humour. But there are limits to the joking, beyond which they clearly don’t want to go. And the jolly irreverence then becomes actively dangerous, as it adds an entirely spurious verisimilitude to the lies they are telling about Russia, Ukraine and the former eastern bloc.

I had enough of this a couple of years ago, and have stopped watching it. I am not saying it doesn’t do some good, and that the team and panellists don’t genuinely hold some politicos to account. I’m just saying that it’s also peddling fake news, and that, if you watch it, you need to be very careful about what Hislop, Merton and the guest presenter for that week say.

Exclusive: Julian Assange Strikes Back at CIA Director and Talks Trump, Russia, and Hillary Clinton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/04/2017 - 10:00pm in

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is hitting back at Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo following a speech last week in which Pompeo accused WikiLeaks of being a “hostile nonstate intelligence agency” operating outside of the protections of the First Amendment. “We can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for,” Pompeo declared, adding an ominous assertion: “It ends now.”

Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living since June 2012, Assange said Pompeo appeared to be issuing a threat. “So how does he propose to conduct this ending? He didn’t say. But the CIA is only in the business of collecting information, kidnapping people, and assassinating people. So, it’s quite a menacing statement that he does need to clarify,” said Assange.

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Assange made the remarks during an exclusive interview for the Intercepted podcast. “The reason why Director Pompeo is launching this attack, is because he knows we’re in this series exposing all sorts of illegal actions by the CIA,” Assange said, referring to WikiLeaks ongoing publication of secret CIA hacking documents as part of its “Vault 7” project. Pompeo, he said, is “trying to get ahead of the publicity curve and create a preemptive defense.”

When he watched Pompeo’s speech, Assange said he was struck by what he perceived as a lack of gravitas. “We thought it was quite a weak speech in that it put Director Pompeo, it put the CIA, in a position where they looked like they were frightened and worried that we were the better intelligence service,” Assange said.

Regarding Pompeo’s declaration that WikiLeaks was not entitled to First Amendment rights, Assange said: “For the head of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries are, of reporting or not reporting — is a very disturbing precedent. The head of the CIA determining who is a publisher, who’s not a publisher, who’s a journalist, who’s not a journalist, is totally out of line.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Assange discussed the allegations that WikiLeaks was abetted by Russian intelligence in its publication of DNC emails, his alleged relationship with Roger Stone and his newfound admirers on the right, from FOX News to Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

Assange said that if WikiLeaks had obtained a cache of RNC emails, it would have published those as well. “Just imagine if WikiLeaks had obtained information that it knew was true about the Democratic party and corruption of the primary process, and it decided that it was not going to publish that information, but suppress it — it would be completely unconscionable,” he said. “We specialize in really big scoops. You can’t go, ‘Oh, we have this massive scoop about corruption in the DNC. Now we need to balance this with a massive scoop about corruption in the RNC.’ These things come along once every few years.”

Questioned about WikiLeaks’s aggressive targeting of Hillary Clinton, Assange rejected the notion that he went after her for personal reasons. “I’ve never met Hillary Clinton,” he said. “I think I’d probably like her in person. Most good politicians are quite charismatic in person. In some ways she’s a bit like me, She’s a bit wonkish and a bit awkward. So maybe we’d get along.”

The entire conversation with Assange can be heard on the latest episode of Intercepted.

The post Exclusive: Julian Assange Strikes Back at CIA Director and Talks Trump, Russia, and Hillary Clinton appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Vault 7 Tools Used by Private Contractors Shows US Intel Needs a Ground-Up Rebuild Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/04/2017 - 11:30pm in

So, let's begin at the end. The fastest way to get things done on a geopolitical level has become hiring the private Intel and policy making professionals and letting them loose as experts to the mainstream media. Who is using chemical weapons on the Syrians? Who was involved in the Russian election interference and fake news during the 2016 elections? Who shot down MH-17 in 2014? Someone, somewhere had to be doing something, right?

Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/04/2017 - 11:43pm in

In February, after Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. media were the “enemy of the people,” the targets of his insult exploded with indignation, devoting wall-to-wall media coverage to what they depicted as a grave assault on press freedoms more befitting of a tyranny. By stark and disturbing contrast, the media reaction yesterday was far more muted, even welcoming, when Trump’s CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, actually and explicitly vowed to target freedoms of speech and press in a blistering, threatening speech he delivered to the D.C. think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

What made Pompeo’s overt threats of repression so palatable to many was that they were not directed at CNN, the New York Times or other beloved-in-D.C. outlets, but rather at WikiLeaks, more marginalized publishers of information, and various leakers and whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Trump’s CIA Director stood up in public and explicitly threatened to target free speech rights and press freedoms, and it was almost impossible to find even a single U.S. mainstream journalist expressing objections or alarm, because the targets Pompeo chose in this instance are ones they dislike – much the way that many are willing to overlook or even sanction free speech repression if the targeted ideas or speakers are sufficiently unpopular.

Decreeing (with no evidence) that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”  a belief that has become gospel in establishment Democratic Party circles – Pompeo proclaimed that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He also argued that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice,” but: “they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”

He then issued this remarkable threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.” At no point did Pompeo specify what steps the CIA intended to take to ensure that the “space” to publish secrets “ends now.”

 

Before delving into the chilling implications of the CIA Director’s threats, let’s take note of an incredibly revealing irony in what he said. This episode is worth examining because it perfectly illustrates the core fraud of U.S. propaganda.

In vilifying WikiLeaks, Pompeo pronounced himself “quite confident that had Assange been around in the 1930s and 40s and 50s, he would have found himself on the wrong side of history.” His rationale: “Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today.”

But the Mike Pompeo who accused Assange of “making common cause with dictators” is the very same Mike Pompeo who – just eight weeks ago – placed one of the CIA’s most cherished awards in the hands of one of the world’s most savage tyrants, who also happens to be one of the U.S. Government’s closest allies. Pompeo traveled to Riyadh and literally embraced and honored the Saudi royal next-in-line to the throne.

This nauseating event – widely covered by the international press yet almost entirely ignored by the U.S. media – was celebrated by the Saudi-owned outlet Al Arabiya: “The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA . . . . The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by CIA Director Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh on Friday in the presence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.”

The description of this Pompeo/Saudi award ceremony was first reported by the official Saudi Press Agency, which published the above photographs. It gushed: “In a press statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), following the reception, the Crown Prince expressed appreciation of the CIA for bestowing on him such a grace, laying assertion that this medal is a fruit of endeavors and instructions of the leaders of the kingdom, notably the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, bravery of security men and cooperation of all walks of the community to combat terrorism.”

Then there’s the venue Pompeo chose: the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). As the New York Times reported in 2014, the CSIS – like so many of D.C.’s most prestigious think tanks – is itself funded by dictators.

In particular, the United Arab Emirates has become “a major supporter” of the group, having “quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House.” Other CISIS donors include the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan.In return, UAE officials are treated like great statesmen at CSIS.

uaecsis-1492170608

UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, with CSIS President John J. Harme

Photo: UAE Embassy

This is all independent of the fact that Pompeo’s boss, President Trump, just hosted at the White House and lavished praise on one of the world’s most repressive tyrants (and closest allies of the U.S. Government), Egyptian leader Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.  And the government of which Pompeo is a part sends arms, money and all kinds of other support to dictators across the planet.

So how could Mike Pompeo – fresh off embracing and honoring Saudi tyrants, standing in a building funded by the world’s most repressive regimes, headed by an agency that for decades supported despots and death squads – possibly maintain a straight face as he accuses otherof “making common cause with dictators”? How does this oozing, glaring, obvious act of projection not immediately trigger fits of scornful laughter from U.S. journalists and policy makers?

Pompeo in Riyadh with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Prince Muhammed bin Nayef

Photo: ABNA

The reason is because this is a central and long-standing propaganda tactic of the U.S. Government, aided by a media that largely ignores it. They predicate their foreign policy and projection of power on hugging, supporting and propping up the world’s worst tyrants, all while heralding themselves as defenders of freedom and democracy and castigating their enemies as the real supporters of dictators.

Try to find mainstream media accounts in the U.S. of Pompeo’s trip to Riyadh and bestowing a top CIA honor on a Saudi despot. It’s easy to find accounts of this episode in international outlets, but very difficult to find ones from CNN or the Washington Post. Or try to find instances where mainstream media figures point out what should be the unbearable irony of listening to the same U.S. Government officials accuse others of supporting dictators while nobody does more to prop up tyrants than themselves.

This is the dictatorship-embracing reality of the U.S. Government that remains largely hidden from its population. That’s why Donald Trump’s CIA Director – of all people – can stand in a dictator-funded think tank in the middle of Washington, having just recovered from his jet lag in flying to pay homage to Saudi tyrants, and vilify WikiLeaks and “its ilk” of “making common cause with dictators” – all without the U.S. media taking note of the intense inanity of it.

 

But it is Pompeo’s threatening language about free speech and press freedoms that ought to be causing serious alarm for journalists, regardless of what one thinks of WikiLeaks. Even more extreme than the explicit attacks in his prepared remarks is what the CIA Director said in the question-and-answer session that followed. He was asked about WikiLeaks by the unidentified questioner, who queried of “the need to limit the lateral movements such as by using our First Amendment rights. How do you plan to accomplish that?” This was Pompeo’s answer:

A little less Constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen. What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters doing good work to try to keep the American Government on us. These are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life.

That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity as I understand them. This is what I was getting to. We have had administrations before that have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish. Nobody has the right to actively engage in the theft of secrets from American without the intent to do harm to it.

Given how menacing and extreme this statement is, it is remarkable – and genuinely frightening – that it received so little notice, let alone condemnation, from the U.S. press corps, most of which covered Pomepo’s speech by trumpeting his claim that WikiLeaks is an agent of an enemy power, or noting the irony that Trump had praised WikiLeaks and Pompeo himself had positively tweeted about their revelations.

Pompeo’s remarks deserve far greater scrutiny than this. To begin with, the notion that WikiLeaks has no free press rights because Assange is a foreigner is both wrong and dangerous. When I worked at the Guardian, my editors were all non-Americans. Would it therefore have been constitutionally permissible for the U.S. Government to shut down that paper and imprison its editors on the ground that they enjoy no constitutional protections? Obviously not. Moreover, what rational person would possibly be comfortable with having this determination – who is and is not a “real journalist” – made by the CIA?

But the most menacing aspect is the attempt to criminalize the publication of classified information. For years, mainstream U.S. media outlets – including ones that despise WikiLeaks – nonetheless understood that prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing secrets would pose a grave threat to press freedoms for themselves. Even the Washington Post Editorial Page – at the height of the controversy over WikiLeaks’ publishing of diplomatic cables in 2010 – published an editorial headlined “Don’t Charge WikiLeaks”:

Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered.

The Obama administration, in 2010, explored theories for how it could prosecute WikiLeaks, and even convened a Grand Jury to investigate. But it ultimately concluded that doing so would be impossible without directly threatening First Amendment press freedoms for everyone. As former Obama DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller yesterday said of Pompeo’s threats:

But back in 2010, the Obama DOJ briefly flirted with, but then abandoned, the possibility that it could get around this problem by alleging that WikiLeaks did more than merely publish secrets, that it actively collaborated with its source (Chelsea Manning) on what documents to take. As the New York Times’ Charlie Savage reported then: “a government official familiar with the investigation said that treating WikiLeaks different from newspapers might be facilitated if investigators found any evidence that Mr. Assange aided the leaker, who is believed to be a low-level Army intelligence analyst — for example, by directing him to look for certain things and providing technological assistance.”

Ultimately, though, no evidence was found that this happened. And, beyond that, many in the DOJ concluded – rightly so – that even this “collaboration” theory of criminalization would endanger press freedoms because most investigative journalists collaborate with their sources. As Northwestern Journalism Professor Dan Kennedy explained in the Guardian:

The problem is that there is no meaningful distinction to be made. How did the Guardian, equally, not “collude” with WikiLeaks in obtaining the cables? How did the New York Times not “collude” with the Guardian when the Guardian gave the Times a copy following Assange’s decision to cut the Times out of the latest document dump?

For that matter, I don’t see how any news organisation can be said not to have colluded with a source when it receives leaked documents. Didn’t the Times collude with Daniel Ellsberg when it received the Pentagon Papers from him? Yes, there are differences. Ellsberg had finished making copies long before he began working with the Times, whereas Assange may have goaded Manning. But does that really matter?

The dangers to all media outlets from this theory should have been crystal clear when Joe Lieberman and former Bush Attorney General Mike Mukasey argued that the New York Times itself should be prosecuted for publishing and reporting on WikiLeaks’ secret documents – on the ground that no meaningful distinction could be made between the NYT and WikiLeaks.

But criminalizing WikiLeaks’ publication of documents is clearly part of what Pompeo is now planning. That’s what he meant when he argued that “administrations before have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish”: he was criticizing the Obama DOJ for not prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing secrets. And this is why Pompeo yesterday claimed – with no evidence – that WikiLeaks “directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information.” He clearly intends to pursue prosecution of WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing classified information.

It has long been a dream of the far right, as well as hawkish Obama followers, to prosecute journalists and outlets that publish secret information based on this theory. As Newsweek noted in 2011: “Sarah Palin urged that Assange be ‘pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders,’ and The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol wants the U.S. to ‘use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators.'”

This same “collaboration” theory that Pompeo is advocating is what various Obama loyalists, such as MSNBC’s Joy Reid, spent months hyping in order to justify the prosecution of the journalists (such as myself) who reported the Snowden materials: that we did not merely report them but “collaborated” with our source. Her theory then became the basis for her NBC colleague David Gregory asking if I should be prosecuted on the ground that I “aided and abetted” Snowden.

This – the “collaboration” theory propounded back then by Bill Kristol and Joe Lieberman and Joy Reid, and now by Mike Pompeo – is the mentality of people who do not understand, who do not practice, and who hate journalism, at least when it exposes the bad acts of the leaders they revere. Just as is true of free speech abridgments, if you cheer for it and endorse it because the people targeted in the first instance are ones you dislike, then you are institutionalizing these abridgments and will be unable to resist them when they begin to be applied to people you do like (or to yourselves).

WikiLeaks now has few friends in Washington: the right has long hated it for publishing secrets about Bush-era war crimes, while Democrats now despise them for its perceived role in helping defeat Hillary Clinton by exposing the secret corruption of the DNC. But the level of affection for WikiLeaks should have no bearing on how one responds to these press freedom threats from Donald Trump’s CIA Director. Criminalizing the publication of classified documents is wrong in itself, and has the obvious potential to spread far beyond their initial target.

People who depict themselves as part of an anti-authoritarian #Resistance — let alone those who practice journalism — should be the first ones standing up to object to these creepy threats. The implications of Pompeo’s threats are far more consequential than the question of who one likes or does not like.

Top photo: CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, on April 13, 2017.

The post Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms appeared first on The Intercept.

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