By Vivian Norris –
“Mr. Assange’s only crime is that he cared enough about people to respect their right to truth, and had the courage and bravery to print the truth. In the process, he embarrassed powerful governments.” —Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire
“As a mother, of course I wish he had never done it — because now he is being politically persecuted, risks being tortured — but as a citizen what he and WikiLeaks have done is the best of investigative journalism bringing mainstream media approved by governments and big corporations to task. This is what journalists were originally supposed to do… they are there to help hold governments accountable. If the justice system is no longer independent and the media is no longer independent and no one is holding the government accountable, we do not have a democracy anymore.” — Christine Assange, mother of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange
I responded immediately when Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, said she was available for an interview. I know that so many people have become outraged by what they have learned via WikiLeaks, not because no other country is doing these things, but because the United States of America is supposed to be better than this, is supposed to be about democracy and justice and freedom. I also do not believe that democracy is strong if it cannot resist being questioned, admit it has made serious errors, prosecute those who have made those errors and stop trying to control to such a degree that liberty is weakened.
But somehow, what Assange, WikiLeaks, Anonymous, and mass protests against the injustices perpetrated by sectors of what increasingly appears to be a corrupt financial system, fear-provoking governments and militaries which support violence and control in the name of fighting “terrorism,” have been highjacked by the overwhelmingly powerful and well-financed media. Those standing up against the “elites,” including Assange and WikiLeaks, groups such as Occupy Wall Street, and what they stand for, are being morphed into negative chaotic forces for evil. Just as the anti-globalization protests were overtaken by anarchist thugs dressed in black, people who did not come from the protest movement itself, but in fact detracted from it, and were snuffed out during the post-9/11 industry of control in the guise of security, so too is the growing voice of the 99% being marginalized, villainized and even profited from by the 1%. Recently, the journalist, David Sirota, wrote on Salon.com: “… two of this year’s most anticipated pop culture products are so important — they may signal a larger effort to go beyond even the most audacious anti-populism of the 1980s and somehow turn the mass public itself into Public Enemy No. 1.”
Reporting on the upcoming new edition of the game “Call of Duty” and the imminent release of the film The Dark Knight Rises, Gameranx.com reports:
The game’s main villain is Raul Menendez, described as the “idolized Messiah of the 99%” — a Julian Assange-like character who’s old, experienced, and hell bent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo…
Sirota goes on to assert that “when villainous motives and psychopathy is televisually ascribed to mass popular outrage against the economic status quo, it suggests to the audience that only crazy people would sympathize with such outrage.”
Knowing the teenage audience is right now forming the next generation’s vision of good and bad, it’s a message that the 1% must love.
This is not only disturbing, it is usurping the power for positive change and evolution that these kinds of movement can make. It is, once again, anti-democratic cultural propaganda in which media and entertainment come together to try to influence the minds of citizens. Entertainment is a leading export from the U.S. and if this is what is being exported, then the views of the 1% and not democracy, are what people will be seeing for years to come. This creates an unstable and dangerous situation as we have seen what happens when the 99% becomes angry, and the elites use violence against their own citizens, as well as against the citizens of other countries. I believe that people such as Julian Assange, movements such as Occupy Wall Street and those behind the Arab Spring, actually want change for a better, not worse and more chaotic, world. But their image and their hard work is being hijacked and manipulated.
To better understand the beginnings of Assange’s activism and the creation of WikiLeaks, as well as get to the heart of part of the human side of the story, I decided to listen to and ask a few questions of Assange’s mother. While speaking with Christine Assange on the phone from her home in Australia, I realized I was talking not only to a mother like myself, but also to a concerned citizen, something else to which I could deeply relate. She spoke of the kinds of conversations she had with her son as he was growing up, including those which took place just prior to the creation of WikiLeaks. They liked to discuss different philosophies, what was going on in the world, and Julian asked if his mother felt the world would continue to go the same way, with poor people being exploited. He said to her that he felt that one of two things which could cause major changes for good to take place: 1) a major environmental disaster of some kind or 2) technology. Julian Assange chose to use technology to help change the world.
Unlike her son, Christine Assange is not a technology buff and told me she was speaking to me on an inexpensive, pink Barbie cell phone. But she seemed to understand some things better than most, which is that mainstream media is best watched for its spin than for real news, and that via Twitter and the Internet (which prior to all this she did not even like), she is now aware of the Occupy movement. She feels that the Internet can help people to travel and better understand others’ perspectives as well as to get the word out. She did not support WikiLeaks, (though she supported her son) publicly until she investigated what he and WikiLeaks were doing and only then did she become a supporter. She explained that she looked at things dispassionately, objectively, always with the interest that justice be served. She is not one to jump to conclusions. The feeling I received speaking to her is that what had happened with her son and WikiLeaks had brought about a new kind of awakening, to a sixty-one year old woman who had always asked questions and had encouraged her son to do the same. Her conclusion is that we are better off having WikiLeaks than not having it. She feels quite strongly, as do many of us, that she cannot get the full truth from mainstream media, and that having a free Internet is one of the only ways to insure that we will be able to obtain real news and information and share it.
Christine Assange went on to explain that a free Internet is one which is untouched by government and corporate control, for use by world citizens and helps democracy, human rights and fostering understanding between people. If it is used as an oppressive instrument, it can lead to worldwide totalitarianism and powers which abuse it. She asserted that people around the world need to stand up for a free internet. And she added that journalists must also stand up as they have a responsibility as they are in positions of privilege, and need to carry on the tradition of exposing corruption and protect democracy for future generations. She spoke of the values from the U.S. that she associated with as a child, the values of truth and justice, compassion and fairness.
“What happened?” she asked, “We’ve lost the moral compass in the West.” She argues that the way Obama should have reacted to WikiLeaks was like Colonel Ret. Ann Wright did when she wrote that the wrongdoings exposed by WikiLeaks should have been investigated, not persecuting those who exposed them.
I think pretty much everyone who saw the horrific tapes in which Iraqi journalists and civilians were murdered feel the same way. It was because of the publicizing of the war diaries and videos that Julian Assange won, unanimously, in 2010, The Samuel Adams Prize which is awarded by senior retired military and intelligence personnel, former CIA, and retired military who can speak out and support Assange and WikiLeaks. (See a list of other prestigious awards given to Julian Assange and a WikiLeaks timeline here.) The department of Treasury would not blacklist WikiLeaks because they could not find anything the organization had done wrong. So the U.S. government told PayPal and credit card companies to stop taking donations for WikiLeaks, saying it would be illegal to do so, which was simply not true. Thank God an organization, which survives by donations alone, unfettered by advertising and corporate interests exists to publish the information that whistleblowers anonymously upload because they simply face too many dangers to do so publicly (and that is another story as both Visa and Mastercard have been challenged legally for stopping donations via their services to the site; a French nonprofit organization, the Fund for the Defence of Net Neutrality, which is based in France, has agreed to receive donations through a service called Carte Bleue).
Why Many People Support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks was not set up to try to undermine Western governments or embarrass them. WikiLeaks was originally set up so that people under repressive regimes could have an anonymous and safe way to get important information out to the public. Ironically, the United States, which claims to be the leader of the democratic world, is the same government which is going after the leader of a website which is all about democracy. Julian Assange himself never expected to start receiving anonymous uploads of information which pointed the finger at the West, and the U.S. Assange, and his mother believe in the U.S. Constitution and what it stands for and believed in a democratic United States of America. Now, in this same country, we have elected leaders calling for Assange’s death. What kind of message does that send to truth tellers, much needed whistleblowers and the media?
In fact, the words which really stay with me after conducting interviews related to WikiLeaks, and the legal case of Julian Assange are “Democracy” and “Trust.” Whom do we trust anymore when the mainstream media, the largest banks, “democratic” governments, the military, the justice system, are not telling us the Truth, are manipulating in their own best interests, not our own, and are even keeping the truth from citizens in order to abuse us? When banks manipulate financial information affecting trillions of dollars by lying about Libor rates which affect our local communities which lost money and had to fire people who serve our communities, which affect our loans, interest rates on our savings, our pensions, and pay themselves scandalous bonuses — whom do we Trust? When the Internet has gatekeepers, who are self-appointed and profiting from what citizens wish to be free and democratic, deciding for us what we can and cannot communicate, and then sell our privacy to line their own pockets — whom do we Trust? When the military knowingly targets civilians, and journalists — whom do we Trust? We have reached an ‘Us and Them’ moment and people do have to choose sides. One side is that of freedom and democracy and the other is of control and disturbing steps towards fascism. Media and the Internet can either be truly free and lead us towards peace, or it will continue down the disturbing path of not only manufacturing consent, as Chomsky has said, but becoming full-fledged propaganda machines serving the interests of elites, corporations and undemocratic entities.
This question of Trust, and whether or not we are still in the West, living in democratic societies, was at the heart of a several hour conversation I had with Christine Assange, whose son is now holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, awaiting a decision which will either allow him to find protection in Ecuador, or face what would surely be a unjust and undemocratic extradition to Sweden then on to the U.S. to face trials which would be secretive, and could make what has happened to Bradley Manning look like child’s play. The reality is that no matter how much people and the media attempt to downplay it, Julian Assange could end up in prison for life, held in isolation, and, very possibly “suicided.” The military and government would like to see Manning turn against Assange, but he has held up so far. In an interview with Assange, what struck me most was how he defended Manning, and the Anonymity of all of those whistleblowers everywhere. WikiLeaks partners included The Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegal, Le Monde, and El Pais when they published Cablegate, so why is only WikiLeaks being targeted?
Well, it now appears that The New York Times is also in the cross-hairs as it was recently announced that:
… at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on July 11th, some members of Congress made it clear they also want New York Times journalists charged under the Espionage Act for their recent stories on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ and secret US cyberattacks against Iran. During the hearing, House Republicans “pressed legal experts Wednesday on whether it was possible to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information…,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
So what does a trusted journalist do when they have information, or a whistleblower when they discover something horrific, to do with this information? The entire reason WikiLeaks was set up was to provide a safe site for people to get important information which the public has a right to know, out there. It is precisely because of attacks like these on the press and freedom of speech that we must fight for a free Internet. This is how wars are ended, or never begun, it is how corruption, abuse, murder and manipulation are exposed. People take their lives into their hands when they go public with this kind of information and they must have a forum in which they can do so and feel protected. Democracy which demands freedom of the press is now being so visibly attacked by all sides that it has become glaringly obvious why we must defend WikiLeaks, and all media from powers which could destroy this freedom and democracy.
In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a classified report (ironically leaked to and published by WikiLeaks) which — as the NYT put it — placed WikiLeaks on “the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States.” That report discussed ways to destroy WikiLeaks’ reputation and efficacy, and emphasized creating the impression that leaking to it is unsafe.
Websites such as WikiLeaks have trust as their most important center of gravity by protecting the anonymity of the identity of the insider, leaker, or whistleblower. Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment and exposure of persons leaking the information by the governments and businesses affected by information posted to WikiLeaks.org would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others from taking similar actions.
Destroying trust is pretty much the worst thing you can do to an organization, and an individual, especially when their entire reason for existing is helping those who operate in a world where they can no longer trust, get the word out about why we should not trust. In other words, WikiLeaks, which was set up to get the word out about repressive regimes, and help whistleblowers operating within those regimes to do so safely and anonymously. I appreciate the work WikiLeaks and its media partners have done because I am one of those people who turned to WikiLeaks when I did not know how else to get important information I had uncovered out there, and was not sure whom to trust. I will not use this article to go into the story now, but will summarize by writing that information I had researched over several years and sent to top editors in the U.S. and an editor at top television news program in the U.S., many of whom contacted me either asking for more of my research or helping me find a literary agent, or simply to say that although they believed the information regarding biowarfare, the first Gulf War and experimental vaccine testing on troops to be true, it would be too difficult legally and thus too costly for them to publish.
The story was confirmed several times by military vets who had served in Iraq, and by top journalists, one of whom would no longer go near the story as when he had reported on vaccine testing in another piece, he was basically attacked legally until he could no longer afford to work as a journalist and no one would hire him. When I encountered some upsetting people and events related to this story soon after FedExing materials to the U.S. from Europe, I began to make sure I hid my research well, and when I no longer felt comfortable trying to publish the material myself, and had heard about WikiLeaks, I uploaded a good amount of information and a long article on the subject, anonymously, to the WikiLeaks site. In part, I uploaded this information to WikiLeaks to make sure someone else had the information, and with hopes that it would eventually come out.
Very soon afterwards, the publishing of the Iraq and Afghanistan war diaries and diplomatic cables took place. The murder of an Iraqi journalist, his cameraman and innocent civilians shocked was shocking. Once again I had been forced to open my eyes and see what my country was doing. Now the drones are continuing this inhuman, video-game like killing. WikiLeaks, citizen journalists from around the world, those who are just as disgusted as those of us who have uploaded information to WikiLeaks, posted on our blogs, sent in our photos of horrific events, are becoming empowered… and that is seriously dangerous to the 1%
What the Passing of the NDAA-National Defense Authorization Act means for freedom:
Mr. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States. Were he charged in the United States, and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty. — Retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright
When our government and judiciary decide that NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act ) will be upheld, and that free citizens of democratically elected nations can be detained indefinitely — whom do we Trust?
A lawsuit has been brought by a group of concerned citizens, including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who claim that the NDAA will allow for indefinite military detention, and these same people also fear that it could be used against Julian Assange if he is extradited to the United States. Why did this group of four of the most influential and important defenders of democracy decide to challenge the NDAA? All four of these people are extremely outspoken about freedom of the press. Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has reported from war-torn countries, and on terrorism in the Middle East, Latin America and the U.S. and has been a strong supporter of Occupy Wall Street. Daniel Ellsberg worked as a military analyst for the RAND Corporation, and in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, toThe New York Times and other media. He is considered by many to be a hero and to have helped bring the war to an end. Noam Chomsky is an intellectual who is outspoken about injustice and who was interviewed by Julian Assange just a few weeks ago while Assange is forced to remain inside of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The fourth person who joined in protest to the NDAA, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, is also a spokesperson and activist in support of WikiLeaks. She has been focused on trying to make Iceland a center of Press Freedom. She has also had her tweets and other information turned over to the U.S. government when the DOJ allegedly hacked her Twitter account because she supports WikiLeaks. One only needs to imagine if someone such as Ellsberg, like Julian Assange today, been subjected to NDAA, his whistleblowing could have lead to being detained, thereby discouraging future whistleblowers, acting for reasons of moral integrity and to help bring wrongdoing to light, from being able to act. If the Pentagon papers had not been released, how many more would have been killed during the Vietnam War?
Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone magazine was with Julian Assange when the pretrial military hearing for accused Army Private Bradley Manning, an alleged whistleblower, was taking place in Fort Meade, Md., in Jan of 2012:
“Julian Assange’s fear is that he will be extradited to Sweden… and then there will be some kind of media campaign where the U.S. government or the Swedish government starts leaking things about ‘Oh, Assange helped the Iranians’ or ‘Assange helped the Taliban with this information,'” Hastings notes. “And then they’ll say, ‘Well, you know, we need to try him as a spy.’ And though that case might be very, very difficult to prove, it’s the threat of it that, in my mind, is so damning.”
Assange has every right to be worried about extradition as the situation became even more troublesome once the following information was obtained and published by WikiLeaks :
“On Jan. 26, 2011, Fred Burton, the vice president of Stratfor, a leading private intelligence firm which bills itself as a kind of shadow CIA, sent an excited email to his colleagues.”Text Not for Pub,” he wrote. “We” — meaning the U.S. government — “have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”
Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com has also been closely following this part of the case against WikiLeaks and Assange and reported in 2011 that the charge the federal government would be going for would be “espionage,” which carries a death penalty :
“The serving of this Subpoena strongly suggests that the DOJ criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and Assange continues in a serious way… It also appears clear that the DOJ is strongly considering an indictment under the Espionage Act — an act that would be radical indeed for non-government-employees doing nothing other than what American newspapers do on a daily basis (and have repeatedly done in partnership with WikiLeaks).”
And now we know that the DOJ will try to go against more mainstream media too. We must stop this. It is about control and who is allowed to have access to the truth, a truth which affects millions of lives. The government and the military do not own the truth. We the People do and we are taking it back.
The Strange Case of Sex in Sweden
“In the preliminary investigation minutes for the case of Julian Assange in Sweden, I read: Woman A. says about her relationship with Julian Assange: ‘I was proud as hell to get the world’s coolest man in bed and living in my apartment.’ After having sexual intercourse on numerous occasions, she goes to the police ». — Swedish Journalist and feminist Helene Bergman
After reviewing documents related to evidence given by the two Swedish women who both slept with Julian Assange when he was invited to give talks in Sweden about WikiLeaks, I believe that Assange does indeed risk being extradited to the U.S., if he goes back to Sweden. The fact that Assange attempted time and again to testify and his defense arrange for legally acceptable ways of giving his side of the story, only to be refused time and again the ability to do so, made me feel that the Swedes wanted him physically back on Swedish soil not to have him face accusations of sexual assault, but for reasons which have much more to do with politics and pressure from the U.S. to send him to be tried in the U.S.
For the most complete timeline of the Swedish allegations, readers can link to this site that provides a timeline leading up to, during and following Assange’s trip to Sweden. Needless to say the timing of WikiLeaks’ important releases and the events in Sweden are more than disturbing and have lead many to doubt Assange would be safe if he returned to Sweden.
As I spoke with Swedes, journalists, feminists, as well as Assange ‘s mother, and especially to those who could recall how they first heard about Assange’s being accused by the two women, a troubling pattern appeared. And as I better understood what the two women accusing Assange claimed, and what they had said they had experienced, as well as the political tint to both the judicial process and the way Assange and the cases were portrayed in the media, doubts remained about why the Swedes were reacting in such a way. It did appear from the two women’s’ testimonies that Assange was not at all on the same wavelength as the women and that they were hurt to find out that he had slept with both of them, and even embarrassed that they had let him into their homes, their beds, and, perhaps, stupidly, their hearts. When Assange did not use a condom with one of them, Assange and the young woman joked about raising a child together in Sweden. If a man had just disrespected me and somehow forced me to have sex with him without a condom, why would I joke with him about having his child? They even joked about naming the child, “Afghanistan”! If anything, Assange’s rock star status seemed to appeal to the women, one of them even volunteering to work at the event where he would speak, specifically to meet him. Their descriptions of his spending time on the Internet, tweeting about himself or looking for tweets about himself, seemed boorish and self-centered at best. He did not want to use condoms but the women did. Assange did end up using a condom but then later did not, at a point at which one of the young women felt it was “too late” to say no. But this is not criminal and the young women did not want to press charges and in fact did not even go to the police to press charges but to see how they could get Assange to have an HIV test. Once there, he record shows, the police convinced the women that what they had experienced was sexual assault (not rape). The media was contacted immediately and atypically for Sweden, Assange’s name and accusations were published by the tabloids in a way which did not follow the norm for celebrity scandals in Sweden. This news was picked up around the world via the Internet and Assange’s name was tarnished by the accusations. The very strange way this story had been handled by the Swedish press was what stood out for one Swedish woman, and after reading the legal transcripts of what the young women said had occurred, more questions were raised than answered.
Furthermore, the people connected to the judicial side of the case were all linked to the same political party and were about to stand for election on a platform, which included widening the definition of what, is considered to be rape. Christine Assange asserts that Julian has never had a sexual allegation in his life. Furthermore it was just after WikiLeaks published the “Afghan War Diaries,” that the Pirate Party in Sweden agreed to host the WikiLeaks site. At this time, Julian was also invited to give a talk in Sweden at a meeting organized in part by one of the two women he would end up sleeping with, the same woman who offered her apartment for him to stay in while she was away. She arrived back a day early and they ended up sleeping together that night. She and the volunteer who also ended up sleeping with Assange exchanged around one hundred text messages. Assange’s name and photos were released to the media, while the standard procedures to videotape a testimony of the accuser in such cases were not followed. Julian Assange was not given information translated into English, a language he could understand, and the cost of translating things legally from Swedish have cost Assange a small fortune. So many legal procedures seem to have been ignored that it begins to appear that it is really about getting Julian Assange. When his mother asked him about the case he responded, “Either they have to drop the case or charge me, if they charge me, they have to give the lawyer evidence. But they have no evidence.”
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the whistleblowers of all whistleblowers and they are in need of protection. The message being conveyed by the treatment of both Assange and Bradley Manning is that if you speak out about injustice and criminal acts in such a way that you embarrass an entity more powerful than yourself, you could be done away with, and silenced, forever. How many whistleblowers will come forward in the future if this is the case? How much more information does WikiLeaks have that it has not yet published? And why are those in power so frightened by freedom of the press and freedom of information and a free internet? Perhaps it is because they have done something morally unacceptable, even criminal. So they turn to tools of control. But there are more of us than them. We are the 99percent. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. That is, unless you come clean. The press is there to help expose you if you do not.
Links to Little known Facts,Issues & Players in the Extradition of Julian Assange
(1)LEGAL & DIPLOMATIC BRIEFINGS to Australian MPs on Julian Assange.Canberra x
Bench Meeting, March 2nd 2011 — Concise, factual account of the Swedish
police investigation & prosecution, the Swedish political environment, WikiLeaks exposes & the sex allegations.
(2) DATA BASE for JOURNALISTS of facts, issues, court documents & resources including a
list of experts willing to be interviewed
(3) OPEN LETTER to the AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE from CHRISTINE ASSANGE (Written as simple factual intro/overview+issues & links )
(4) DETAILED FACTUAL CHRONOLOGY of the Swedish investigation & prosecution, including intersecting political events & players.
* Vivian Norris – Ph.D. focusing on Globalization and Media Studies