It seems altogether fitting and proper that this year’s award be presented in London, where Edmund Burke coined the expression “Fourth Estate.” Comparing the function of the press to that of the three Houses then in Parliament, Burke said:
“…but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far then they all.”
The year was 1787—the year the U.S. Constitution was adopted. The First Amendment, approved four years later, aimed at ensuring that the press would be free of government interference. That was then.
With the Fourth Estate now on life support, there is a high premium on the fledgling Fifth Estate, which uses the ether and is not susceptible of government or corporation control. Small wonder that governments with lots to hide feel very threatened.
It has been said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” WikiLeaks is helping make that possible by publishing documents that do not lie.
Last spring, when we chose WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for this award, Julian said he would accept only “on behalf or our sources, without which WikiLeaks’ contributions are of no significance.”
We do not know if Pvt. Bradley Manning gave WikiLeaks the gun-barrel video of July 12, 2007 called “Collateral Murder.” Whoever did provide that graphic footage, showing the brutality of the celebrated “surge” in Iraq, was certainly far more a patriot than the “mainstream” journalist embedded in that same Army unit. He suppressed what happened in Baghdad that day, dismissed it as simply “one bad day in a surge that was filled with such days,” and then had the temerity to lavish praise on the unit in a book he called “The Good Soldiers.”
Julian is right to emphasize that the world is deeply indebted to patriotic truth-tellers like the sources who provided the gun-barrel footage and the many documents on Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks. We hope to have a chance to honor them in person in the future.
Today we honor WikiLeaks, and one of its leaders, Julian Assange, for their ingenuity in creating a new highway by which important documentary evidence can make its way, quickly and confidentially, through the ether and into our in-boxes. Long live the Fifth Estate!
Presented this 23rd day of October 2010 in London, England by admirers of the example set by former CIA analyst, Sam Adams.
By Jeffrey Sterling, published March 16, 2020 on Counterpunch
In 2015 I was wrongfully convicted of, and imprisoned for, violating the U.S. Espionage Act. Now, while there is no question that I stand in solidarity with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in a British court as he fights extradition, little did I know that my presence is also there as fodder to support extradition. If I am going to be used in such a way, there should at least be a modicum of truth to my inclusion. I found nothing reasonable about being persecuted and sentenced to prison under the Espionage Act.
On the first day of the recent extradition proceedings in London, James Lewis QC, representing the U.S. government, attempted to counter arguments about the potential prison sentence Assange faces if convicted of violating the Espionage Act by stating that individuals such as myself serve as “benchmarks” for what Assange is facing. To Lewis and the U.S. government, my 42-month sentence or the range of 40-60 months is “reasonable.” Such use of my experience fighting the Espionage Act in order to quell concerns about Assange’s potential sentence is misleading without providing context.
As a U.S. citizen, I was ostensibly armed with certain rights going into a Virginia courtroom to fight for my freedom. I was woefully mistaken. The court in Virginia where Assange would be tried is the same court that prevented me from suing the Central Intelligence Agency for employment discrimination, on grounds that it would pose a threat to the national security of the United States. To that court and to the U.S. government, an African American fighting for his supposedly guaranteed civil rights is a threat to national security. Going to trial in 2015 as one of an ever-growing number being charged with violating the Espionage Act, I was, therefore, facing a court and judicial system that had a history of disregarding me as a living breathing citizen with any rights. The result of that one-sided CIA show-trial was my “reasonable” 42-month prison sentence. If supposed inalienable rights were not guaranteed to me as a U.S. citizen, Assange is only guaranteed to be prosecuted.
In maximum terms, Assange is facing 175 years in prison. For the charges against me, I was also facing over 100 years maximum sentence. The fact that I was sentenced to 42 months should not be any benchmark of reasonableness when the Espionage Act and the court in Virginia where the U.S. wants Assange extradited to are involved.
In a final moment of clarity after a long delay before sentencing, Judge Leonie Brinkema commented that the sentencing guidelines were “way off” and chose 42 months as my sentence. That “reasonableness” was most likely not out of any benevolence on her part. It might have been that Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to the court requesting fairness, or maybe she was moved by the fact that I was convicted by a government-leaning jury on absolutely no evidence. The prosecutor was visibly livid as he obviously was hoping for a much, much longer sentence. His continual questioning, if not pleading of the judge to explain the sentence was finally silenced when the judge stated, “That’s it.” I fear that Assange will face a less reasonable court and sentence.
And Lewis failed to mention how conditions in U.S. prisons will be a part of that benchmark. The U.S. prison system is one of deplorable living conditions, disregard for human life, and perpetual punishment. And given Assange’s health, he will be lucky to receive adequate care. While I was in a U.S. prison, it took the intervention of a U.S. Senator for me to receive the health care that quite possibly saved my life. Should not this reality be part of Lewis’ benchmark?
Given the long history of the U.S. government’s pursuit of Assange and the obvious political nature of his potential prosecution, I fear there will be nothing reasonable with regard to any sentence to be imposed. My prosecution should serve not as a benchmark for being sentenced under the Espionage Act, but rather a warning about how the perverse use of the Espionage Act started by the Obama administration and continued by the Trump administration to quell and silence dissent is a threat to free speech, not only in my country, and as the extradition proceedings demonstrate, in the entire world.
By Edward Snowden in the Washington Post on Jan 26, 2020, excerpt:
“On Tuesday, Brazilian federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and founding editor at the Intercept Brazil, for his explosive reporting on corruption at the very highest levels of Brazil’s government.
Published on Consortiumnews.
Retaliation against Julian Assange over the past decade plus replicates a pattern of ruthless political retaliation against whistleblowers, in particular those who reveal truths hidden by illegal secrecy, VIPS says.
DATE: April 30, 2019
MEMORANDUM FOR: The governments and people of the United Kingdom and the United States
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Extradition of Julian Assange Threatens Us All
On April 11, London police forcibly removed WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange from the embassy of Ecuador after that country’s president, Lenin Moreno, abruptly revoked his predecessor’s grant of asylum. The United States government immediately requested Assange’s extradition for prosecution under a charge of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
Former U.S. Government officials promptly appeared in popular media offering soothing assurances that Assange’s arrest threatens neither constitutional rights nor the practice of journalism, and major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post fell into line.
Not So Fast
Others found reason for concern in the details of the indictment. Carie DeCel, a staff attorney for the Knight First Amendment Institute, noted that the indictment goes beyond simply stating the computer intrusion charge and “includes many more allegations that reach more broadly into typical journalistic practices, including communication with a source, encouraging a source to share information, and protecting a source.”
In an analysis of the indictment’s implications, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) observed that it includes an allegation that “Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure…including by removing usernames from the disclosed information and deleting chat logs between Assange and Manning,” and that they “used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks to transmit classified records.”
“These are not only legitimate but professionally advised journalistic practices for source protection,” notes POGO. It is worth noting that Manning had Top Secret clearance and did not need Assange’s assistance to gain access to databases, but only to hide her identity.
The indictment’s implied threat thus reaches beyond Assange and even beyond journalists. The threat to journalists and others does not vanish if they subsequently avoid practices identified in the government’s indictment. The NSA’s big bag of past communications offers abundant material from which to spin an indictment years later, and even circumstantial evidence can produce a conviction. Moreover, the secret landscape—a recent and arbitrary development—continually expands, making ever more of government off limits to public view.
When politician and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” he was describing the oft-stated duty of newspapers, “to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.”
The Devil in the Big Picture
One can look so closely at the indictment details that one misses the big picture and with it vital truths. Standing back for a broader view, a long-running campaign of harassment by U.S. authorities and former officials focused on WikiLeaks’ publication of embarrassing secrets becomes visible. The Project on Government Oversight observes:
“Even if the motives for Assange’s indictment are entirely legitimate, the litany of high-ranking government officials who called for Assange to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents have likely already irreparably harmed the freedom of the press. It will be virtually impossible to fully disentangle the government’s desire to prosecute Assange for his publishing activities from the government’s current prosecution of him, and as a result there will to some degree be an unavoidable chilling effect stemming from his prosecution.”
Standing back still further, a crowd of similar cases comes into view: other truth tellers subjected to similar persecution. These are not journalists but another species of truth teller — national security whistleblowers— who have warned for years that this day would come.
A Pattern of Reprisal
Opinions of Julian Assange’s character and methods vary wildly but what is relevant to First Amendment freedoms is how the U.S. government perceives him. The big picture reveals that Assange, a publisher of whistleblower disclosures, is viewed the same way as whistleblowers: unwelcome lights shining on official wrongdoing who must be dimmed, deflected and shut off. What government bodies are doing to Assange they routinely have done to whistleblowers— Thomas Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, Thomas Tamm, William Binney, Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and others—who disclosed for public benefit information the government finds politically troublesome.
Once the government develops animus toward a truth teller, it fishes indefinitely until it finds some means to retaliate—some pretext to punish that individual. A pattern of retaliation against high-profile national security whistleblowers includes the following tactics:
- hostile, lengthy government investigations, often for minor, never proven or circumstantial offenses;
- terrorization of the whistleblower and associates with threats (see here and here), solitary confinement and armed home invasions for non-violent, alleged offenses;
- pre-trial declarations of guilt from influential officials, such as Barack Obama’s declaration (as the military’s Commander-in-Chief) that Army Private Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning “broke the law” — potentially influencing the Army court that heard her case.
- a Balkanized judicial process that restricts most such cases to onejudicial venue cherry-picked by prosecutors for speedy deference to government, a venue sealed off from public scrutiny and, some say, justice;
- prosecution under the Espionage Act, a “vague” and “draconian” law, similar in those respects to the CFAA;
- continuing persecution—isolation, marginalization, blacklisting, and more—after time has been served (see here and here) or after charges are dropped.
Reportedly, British and U.S. intelligence are interrogating Assange, possibly employing torture tactics, without access to legal counsel at a prison reserved for terrorists. U.S. officials apparently charged Assange as “a terrorist” in order to dodge the problem of the statute of limitations for conspiracy or computer intrusion by extending (via the Patriot Act and/or other terrorism laws) the normal statute of limitations from 5 to 8 years.
Not for Insiders
Even if charges against a whistleblower are later dropped, governments still win because the tactics used damage the truth teller professionally, financially, socially and psychologically, and foreseeably chill other whistleblowers.
Importantly, virtually all of the retaliatory actions described above are carried out or instigated by the elite political establishment—current and former political appointees and elected officials. Equally important is the fact that tactics used against whistleblowers are rarely if ever applied to political insiders who fail to protect classified information. Even actual spies who give or sell secrets directly to foreign governments have fared better than some well-meaning whistleblowers. In contrast to whistleblowers, political insiders who mistreat government secrets are publicly praised by the establishment, face lesser charges (if any), are treated with dignity by investigators, receive presidential pardons and move on to prestigious and lucrative positions.
Retaliation against Julian Assange over the past decade plus replicates a pattern of ruthless political retaliationagainst whistleblowers, in particular those who reveal truths hidden by illegal secrecy. U.S. law prohibits classifying information “in order to conceal inefficiency, violations of law, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassmentto a person, organization, or agency.”
Whether U.S. authorities successfully prosecute Assange, accept a desperate plea deal or keep him tied up with endless litigation, they will succeed in sending the same chilling message to all journalists that they send to potential whistleblowers: Do not embarrass us or we’ll punish you—somehow, someday, however long it takes. In that respect, one could say damage to journalism already has been done but the battle is not over.
This extension of a whistleblower reprisal regime onto a publisher of disclosures poses an existential threat to all journalists and to the right of all people to speak and hear important truths. The U.S. indictment of Julian Assange tests our ability to perceive a direct threat to free speech, and tests our will to oppose that threat.Without freedom of press and the right and willingness to publish, whistleblowers even disclosing issues of grave, life and death public safety, will be like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.
The great American writer Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth–one to speak and one to hear.” Today, it takes three to speak the truth–one to speak, one to hear, and one to defend the first two in court. If the U.S. Government has its way, there will be no defense, no truth.
For the Steering Groups of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence:
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)
Thomas Drake, former Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service and NSA whistleblower
Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
Katherine Gun, former linguist and Iraq War whistleblower in UK’s GCHQ (affiliate VIPS)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq; former Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
Annie Machon, former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 domestic security service (affiliate VIPS)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)
Craig Murray, former British diplomat and Ambassador to Uzbekistan, human rights activist and historian (affiliate VIPS)
Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
J. Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA (ret.)
Larry Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State; Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary
Sarah Wilton, Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve (ret.) and Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)
Robert Wing, former U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer (Associate VIPS)
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War
By Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence officer and member of SAA.
While it is all too easy to become frustrated and annoyed by what passes for news in the legacy media these days, this article in the Daily Mail did arouse my particular ire early one morning – and in this instance no particular blame attaches to the newspaper, it is simply reporting some unpalatable facts.
The gist of it is that former British MI6 intelligence officer and current mercenary spy-for-hire, Christopher Steele, author of the discredited “Dirty Dossier” about Donald Trump, has been accorded First Amendment rights in a court case in the USA.
You might wonder why this article caused me so much spluttering annoyance over my breakfast? Steele’s treatment is in marked contrast to that accorded to Wikileaks publisher and editor in chief, Julian Assange, and the hypocrisy is breathtaking. Allow me to expound.
Christopher Steele is a British intelligence officer of pretty much my vintage. According to what is available publicly, he worked for MI6, the British overseas intelligence gathering agency, for 22 years, serving in Russian in the early 90s and in Paris at the end of that decade – around the time that MI5 whistleblower, David Shayler, was imprisoned in that city pending a failed extradition case to the UK. It is probable that Steele would have been monitoring us then.
After being outed as an MI6 officer in 1999 by his former colleague, Richard Tomlinson, he was pretty much desk-bound in London until he resigned in 2009 to set up, in the inimitable way of so many former spooks, a private consultancy that can provide plausibly deniable services to corporations and perhaps their former employers.
Steele established just such a mercenary spy outfit, Orbis Business Intelligence, with another ex-colleague Chris Burrows in 2009. Orbis made its name in exposing corruption at the heart of FIFA in 2015 and was thereafter approached as an out-sourced partner by Fusion GPS – the company initially hired to dig dirt on presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 by one of his Republican rivals and which then went on to dig up dirt on behalf of Hilary Clinton’s DNC.
The result is what has become known as the “Dirty Dossier”, a grubby collection of prurient gossip with no real evidence or properly sourced information. As a former MI6 intelligence officer, Steele should be hanging his head in shame at such a shoddy and embarrassingly half-baked report.
On a slightly tangential note, there has been some speculation, suppressed in the UK at least via the D Notice censorship system, that MI6 agent and Russian traitor Sergei Skripal, the victim of the alleged Novichok poisoning in the UK earlier this year, remained in contact with his handler Pablo Miller, who also is reported to work for Orbis Business Intelligence. If this were indeed the case, then it would be a logical assumption that Orbis, via Miller, might well have used Skripal as one of its “reliable sources” for the Dossier.
Despite all this, Steele has won a legal case in the USA, where he had been sued by three Russian oligarchs who claimed that the Dirty Dossier traduced their reputations. And he won on the basis that his report was protected by First Amendment rights under the constitution of the USA, which guarantees US citizens the right to freedom of expression. Despite the fact that Steele is British:
“But Judge Anthony Epstein disagreed, writing in his judgment that “advocacy on issues of public interest has the capacity to inform public debate, and thereby furthers the purposes of the First Amendment, regardless of the citizenship or residency of the speakers”.”
This is the nub of the issue: Steele, a former official UK intelligence officer and current mercenary spy-for-hire, is granted legal protection by the American courts for digging up and subsequently leaking what appears to be controversial and defamatory information about the current President as well as various Russians, all paid for by Trump’s political opponents. And Steele is given the full protection of the US legal system.
On the other hand we have an award-winning journalist and publisher, Julian Assange, whose organisation Wikileaks has never been found to report anything factually incorrect in over 10 years, being told that if he were to be extradited from his current political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to face the full wrath of a vengeful American establishment, he is not entitled to claim protection of the First Amendment because his is an Australian citizen not an American.
It has been an open secret for years that the US government has installed a secret Grand Jury in Virginia (the home of the CIA) to investigate Assange and bring him to “justice” for publishing embarrassing US government documents as well as evidence of war crimes. There have been calls from US politicians for the death sentence, life in prison without parole, and even assassination. The US has been scrabbling around for years to try to find any charge it could potentially throw at him – hell, it will probably make up a new law just for him, so desperate as it is to make an example of him.
However, the fake “Russiagate” narrative gave the US deep state an additional spur – against all evidence and Assange’s own statements – it alleges that “Russia” hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and Assange was the conduit to make them public. This is seen as a win-win for the US establishment, apparently if erroneously proving that Russia hacked the US presidential election and confirming that Assange runs an “non-state hostile intelligence agency”, according to current CIA Director, Mike Pompeo
Except he does not. He is an editor running a high-tech publishing outfit that has caused embarrassment to governments and corporations around the world, not just America. If he can be prosecuted for publishing information very much in the public interest, then all the legacy media feeding off the Wikileaks hydrant of information are equally vulnerable.
This being the case, surely he of all people requires the protection of the First Amendment in the USA? Otherwise the concept that free media can hold power to account is surely dead?
Posted on February 4, 2016 by dandelionsalad
“Don’t Shoot the Messenger” – Julian Assange, Embassy of Ecuador, Knightsbridge, London
Image by chrisjohnbeckett via Flickr
US, other nations targeted Assange & WikiLeaks – whistleblower
RT America on Feb 4, 2016
Whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be freed from his four-year refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Will he still face charges from foreign or American governments even if he’s cleared by a UN council? RT’s Lindsay France is joined by whistleblower and privacy advocate Jesselyn Radack to get a full view of what Assange still has to face.
(Full article with more links here.)