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The untold story of the campaign to smear Julian Assange

This prospect prompted the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and 33 EU parliamentarians to issue strongly worded statements to both the UK and Ecuadorian governments in December last year, warning against facilitating the prosecution of a journalist, editor and publisher for “publishing the truth”. The statements demanded Assange’s “immediate release, together with his safe passage to a safe country”, and reminded the UK of its “binding” legal obligations to secure freedom for Assange.

A critical task for propagandists such as those waging a psychological war on Wilkileaks, then, is to feed audiences material that supports official narratives and exclude that which does not. Since its inception, the smear campaign against Julian Assange and Wikileaks has been remarkably concerted and consistent in that regard.

With the new year, however, news broke that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had offered Ecuador a $10 billion bailout in return for handing Julian Assange over to the United States. This bounty came on top of earlier US pressures and inducements, reportedly including increased oil exportsmilitary co-operation and another $1.1 billion in IMF loans, with the US representative of the IMF instructing Ecuador that it must “resolve” its relationship with Julian Assange in order to receive the IMF money.

Australian Barrister Greg Barns has called it the blackmailing of a nation. News website 21st Century Wirecalled it “one of the biggest international bribery (or extortion) cases in history.”

While there is “not a single shred of evidence that any of [Wikileaks’] disclosures caused anyone harm”, writes journalist and author Nozomi Hayase, what Wikileaks did do in 2010 was expose thousands of previously unreported civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. These deaths included the nonchalant gunning down of children, journalists and their rescuers, and other “indiscriminate violence… torture, lies [and]bribery”, writes Chris Hedges. According to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg, the leaks exposed “a massive cover-up over a number of years by the American authorities”.

Julian in ‘critical danger’, new rules ‘torture’ – Assange mother *AUDIO*

The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange, Part 2: The Court Of Public Opinion And The Blood-Curdling Untold Story, New Matilda, By Dr Lissa Johnson February 25, 2019  In her ongoing special investigation into the detention of Julian Assange, Dr Lissa Johnson turns to the art of smear, and how to corrupt a judicial system.

On Friday 14th February, the Editor in Chief of news website Consortium News, Joe Lauria, visited Sydney to host a ‘Politics in the Pub’ event: Whistleblowing, Wikileaks and the Future of Democracy. The event took place in anticipation of upcoming rallies to free Assange…….

. It is imperative that we pressure the Australian government to make sure its citizen, Julian Assange, is protected from the lawlessness of the American Empire.”

Opening the Politics in the Pub evening, Lauria described the fight to defend Julian Asssange as an “historic press freedom case. This is how I became more involved”.

Lauria has been hosting weekly Unity4J online vigils in support of Julian Assange since December last year, taking over from Suzie Dawson, as part of the Unity4J platform. Guests have included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg, CIA Whistleblower John KiriakouChris HedgesJohn Pilger and many others.

Joe Lauria’s career in journalism has spanned mainstream and independent media, including 25 years as a UN correspondent, where he covered every major world crisis that came before the UN. During his career, Lauria has experienced journalistic suppression and enforcement of official narratives first-hand, including leading up to the Iraq war. As a result, he is particularly well-placed to host discussions on the importance of Wikileaks and Julian Assange………

Lauria went on to describe some of the specific acts of suppression he himself had experienced during his own career. They included being fired after reporting on dissent within the UN in the lead-up to the Iraq War; burial of the fact that 130 nations at the UN recognised Palestine during a vote on Palestine’s status; and suppression of a story “on a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that predicted the rise of ISIS back in 2012 but was ignored in Washington ……..

Suppressed. For the good of the country.

“The omission of such news day after day in newspapers and on television,” said Lauria, “over the decades… gives the American people a distorted view of their country, an almost cartoonish sense of America’s supposed morality in international affairs”.

On the importance of Wikileaks in such a media landscape, during an interview with Chris Hedges, who also lost his mainstream career after critiquing the Iraq War, Lauria said, “We’ve seen over the years… the decline of American journalism… this taking of official statements and positions, and just reporting them without question.”

Hedges, formerly a foreign correspondent and Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times, added during an online vigil for Assange, “I still have colleagues that are there [at the New York Times], and they are quite blunt about the fact that investigative journalism into the inner workings of power has been frozen completely, because of wholesale surveillance. Government officials, because they know they’re monitored, journalists, because they know they’re monitored, can no longer shine a light into the inner workings of power.

“The only mechanism left by which we can understand, frankly, the crimes that are being committed by the powerful, by the elites, are through leaks… Take that mechanism away and tyranny, corruption runs rampant.”

What you don’t know can hurt you

When Lauria took over the Unity4J vigils for Assange in December last year, it was an eventful time in the fight to defend Julian Assange.

As 2018 drew to a close, fears mounted that Assange’s extradition to the US may be imminent. Increasingly strict protocols had been imposed upon his presence in the Ecuadorian embassy, possibly creating pretexts for his expulsion, the Ecuadorian ambassador and foreign minister had advised Assange to leave the embassy and hand himself over to British authorities, and six leading Democrats had written a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, recommending that he urge Ecuador to “resolve” the “situation” with Julian Assange.

Should efforts to expel Assange from the embassy succeed, he is expected to be extradited to the United States to face charges for his publishing activities.

This prospect prompted the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and 33 EU parliamentarians to issue strongly worded statements to both the UK and Ecuadorian governments in December last year, warning against facilitating the prosecution of a journalist, editor and publisher for “publishing the truth”. The statements demanded Assange’s “immediate release, together with his safe passage to a safe country”, and reminded the UK of its “binding” legal obligations to secure freedom for Assange.

With the new year, however, news broke that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had offered Ecuador a $10 billion bailout in return for handing Julian Assange over to the United States. This bounty came on top of earlier US pressures and inducements, reportedly including increased oil exportsmilitary co-operation and another $1.1 billion in IMF loans, with the US representative of the IMF instructing Ecuador that it must “resolve” its relationship with Julian Assange in order to receive the IMF money.

Australian Barrister Greg Barns has called it the blackmailing of a nation. News website 21st Century Wirecalled it “one of the biggest international bribery (or extortion) cases in history.”

The mainstream media called it no big deal. Like the facts that got in the way of the Iraq war, details such as a $10 billion IMF bounty on Julian Assange’s head have been placed out of bounds for Western publics, and omitted from the mainstream narrative on Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

In fact, from the outset, the official narrative on Assange and Wikileaks has been woven as much from omission as from smear.

On the subject of smear, speaking at the Sydney rally to free Assange last year, John Pilger said, “I know Julian well. I regard him as a close friend: a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I have watched a tsunami of lies and smear engulf him, endlessly, vindictively, perfidiously, and I know why they smear him.

“In 2008, a plan to destroy both Wikileaks and Julian was laid out in a secret document dated 8th of March 2008. The authors were the Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessment Branch of the US Defense Department (DoD). They described in detail how important it was to destroy, and I quote, ‘the feeling of trust’ that is Wikileaks’ ‘centre of gravity’”.

In the decade that followed, as discussed in Part 1, true to the modus operandi of counterintelligence, which seeks to “leverage insights” into adversary “vulnerabilities”, every major vulnerability in the human reality-processing system has been leveraged and exploited in order to smear Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

In this case, the adversary in the US crosshairs has been not only Julian Assange and Wikileaks, but the global populations that Wikileaks seeks to inform. It is our own vulnerabilities – the vulnerabilities in the information processing systems of all human beings – that have been leveraged and exploited in order to undermine and discredit Wikileaks……..

As Professor Piers Robinson, chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism at the University of Sheffield, has said in an interview on modern day propaganda, “omission – what is not spoken about – is one of the biggest parts of propaganda and manipulating people’s opinions”.

A critical task for propagandists such as those waging a psychological war on Wilkileaks, then, is to feed audiences material that supports official narratives and exclude that which does not. Since its inception, the smear campaign against Julian Assange and Wikileaks has been remarkably concerted and consistent in that regard.

The material omitted in Assange’s case has been not only that which factually undermines anointed narratives (such as narratives on the Swedish investigation and Russiagate), but material that gives Western publics cause to care what happens to Julian Assange.

Should such material be admitted to the official story, the possibility emerges that publics may identify with Assange. He may be viewed as a protagonist with a plight, worthy of our concern. Which is bad for smear campaigns. Protagonists are difficult to smear.

The fact is, however, that whether or not you care what happens to Julian Assange, there are very important reasons to care what happens to Julian Assange. Which is why mainstream narratives on Assange have worked hard to see to it that we don’t. Care, that is.

Blood-curdling

Once upon a time the official narrative was that Assange had brought his asylum upon himself, by evading Swedish questioning over sexual assault allegations. He doesn’t deserve your sympathy was the subtext. He only has himself to blame.

Once the Swedish case had been closed in 2017, the ‘evading Swedish justice’ narrative gave way to the ‘evading British Justice’ narrative. Julian Assange was now said to be ‘holed up’ in the Ecuadorian Embassy to escape a British arrest warrant over the pseudo-legal concoction of a defunct bail infringement attached to the closed Swedish investigation.

The underlying implication remained: that Julian Assange had brought his imprisonment upon himself. In this narrative he was still a fugitive from justice, not a publisher seeking asylum from US persecution.

Despite their factual inaccuracy, these tales survived in many people’s minds for years, thanks largely to the concerted campaign of omission, as I shall explain.

However, late last year the Department of Justice (DoJ) accidentally confirmed what Wikileaks had been saying since at least 2012: that secret charges await Julian Assange in the United States should he leave the Ecuadorian embassy, most likely for 2010 publications regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Accordingly, the ‘fugitive from British justice’ narrative has now been dropped. It is out in the open that the US is gunning for Julian Assange, and gunning hard. Mike Pompeo admitted as much in his first speech as CIA director last year.

For its part, Ecuador is doing its best to force Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy, having cut him off from the outside world since March 2018, imposing effective solitary confinement, in an effort to “break him psychologically” according to former Ecuadorian President Raffael Correa.

The conditions being imposed upon Assange are “basically the kind of torture techniques [used]in the black sites, Gitmo, and prisons in Iraq” says former NSA technical director William Binney. “It’s a technique that psychologists developed with the CIA as to how to treat people to make them feel very isolated, and make them psychologically turn on themselves.”

Assange’s physical as well as mental health, as reported in the British Medical Journal Opinion, is under sustained attack, amounting to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”, possibly endangering his life according to the UN.

His treatment has been denounced not only by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and EU parliamentarians , but by HRWAmnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, has called his treatment “a slow and cruel assassination”.

Still, the official narratives incite Western publics not to care. Although no-one is denying that the US is out to get Julian Assange now, something else is being omitted to keep public care and concern at bay.

Yes, there is Russiagate, causing anger over perceived ‘collusion’, which I shall examine as collective delusion in Part 4. But Russiagate itself relies on a critical omission, without which its claims to ‘defending democracy’ would unravel.

What omission? What is being kept out of the official narrative now?

An omission central to keeping publics disengaged from Julian Assange (and engaged with Russiagate) concerns the wider legal implications should Assange be extradited and prosecuted in the United States.

What wider legal implications?

If US prosecution does take place, Assange is expected to be tried either as a conspirator in procuring leaks, or under the draconian Espionage Act of 1917, passed during WWI in the context of the First Red Scare, when “people were literally being thrown in prison just for writing letters to the editor”, writes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

So although the Trump administration appears game to blaze this authoritarian legal trail, previous US administrations have stopped short, for fear of criminalising journalism.

The Obama DoJ, for instance, as keen as any to shut down Wikileaks, looked closely at prosecuting Assange for publishing classified documents in this way, but concluded that doing so was impossiblewithout opening other publishers, such as The New York Times, to the same fate. The Obama administration called this their ‘New York Times problem’.

Former chief counsel for The New York Times, James Goodale, of Pentagon Papers famenow adjunct professor at Fordham Law School, describes the legal implications of prosecuting Julian Assange as “blood-curdling”.

Goodale told the Columbia Journalism Review that “the biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening… If you go after WikiLeaks criminally, you go after the Times. That’s the criminalization of the whole process.”

The current deputy general counsel for The New York Times made much the same point when speaking to a group of judges in July last year. He said that “the prosecution of [Assange] would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers… From everything I know, he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and I think the law would have a very hard time drawing a distinction between The New York Times and WikiLeaks.”

Similarly, executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Kenneth Roth tweeted in 2018, “Deeply troubling if the Trump administration, which has shown little regard for media freedom, would charge Assange for receiving from a government official and publishing classified information — exactly what journalists do all the time.”

In short, should Assange be prosecuted in this cross-border, extra-territorial, precedent-setting way, the legal upshot would be that anyone, anywhere in the world, could be arrested for publishing material that angered US elites, no matter how accurate or factual.

n spite of this, or because of it, in 2017 as Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions declared Assange’s arrest a “priority”. When asked about the implications for journalism in general, Sessions declined to rule out prosecuting other media outlets in Wikileaks’ wake.

Former judge and attorney Bill Blum writes, “No publication would be safe from the administration’s vengeance and overreach. Small independent news organizations — think, Truthdig, The Intercept, The Nation and others on the left — would be especially vulnerable.”

Just to make US intentions crystal clear, in his first speech as CIA director, Mike Pompeo vowed to go after Wikileaks’ “free speech values”, describing the publisher as a “hostile non-state intelligence service”. Pompeo further confirmed that the US is “working to take down” Wikileaks, lumping it together with Al Qaeda.

Pompeo added that his CIA’s “enemies” included not only Wikileaks but “those who grant a platform” to (factual) leaked material. In other words, publishers: public interest journalists, independent media, websites, bloggers. The groups in Pompeo’s sights “may be small” Pompeo said, but they pose a “new threat… and I’m confident this administration will pursue them with great vigour.”

And pursue them the administration has, with the help of a bipartisan, borderless, military-intelligence-media complex. Orwellian Ministry of Truth censorship and smear-campaign cut-outs such as PropOrNothave been deployed, for instance, along with the Institute for Statecraft’s “political smear unit” Integrity Initiative and, more recently, the censorship tool NewsGuard, a browser plugin to filter out non-mainstream news.

Newsguard is working to make its ranking system involuntary for all internet use in the United States, and has partnered with Microsoft, which is reportedly planning to integrate NewsGuard into all its products.

The censorship tool’s “advisory board reads like the fellowships list of a neocon think tank”, writes self-described rogue journalist Caitlyn Johnstone. One of its board members, for instance, a former State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, can be seen here advocating the use of propaganda against domestic populations. (The video  [on original] is truly telling if you watch it to 1m 50s).

NewsGuard has emerged against a political backdrop in which top officials for Google, Facebook and Twitter appeared before a Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017, at which they were admonished to “act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions”. The tech leaders were advised to develop “mission statements” on preventing internet users from “fomenting discord” online.

US Government investigators even asked Facebook and Twitter to hand over profile information, possibly including names, phone numbers and email addresses, of social media users posting “divisive” content.

We want names.

Yes this really happened,” writes Caitlin Johnstone………….

other independent and dissenting voices and “platforms”, to use Pompeo’s words, no matter how “small” will be missing in the future should the US win its legal and psychological war on Wikileaks.

The psychological end-game of that war is not simply shutting down Wikileaks. It is gaining public consent to treat public interest journalism as public enemy number one. Russiagate, with its army of online enforcers, functions as a psychological tool in that war to brand independent voices enemy combatants.

As Chris Hedges warns, the mission is to “criminalize any journalistic oversight or investigation of the corporate state” and “turn leaks and whistleblowing into treason”. He notes that “the persecution of Assange is part of a broad assault against anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist news organizations [making]journalists, writers, dissidents and intellectuals…prime targets.”

Political observer and wordsmith CJ Hopkins of Consent Factory counsels, “strap yourself in. What is coming is going to make COINTELPRO look like the work of some amateur meme-freak. The neoliberal corporate media, psy-ops like Integrity Initiative, Internet-censoring apps like NewsGuard, ShareBlue and other David Brock outfits, and a legion of mass hysteria generators will be relentlessly barraging our brains with absurdity, disinformation, and just outright lies (as will their counterparts on the Right, of course, in case you thought that they were any alternative). It’s going to get extremely zany.”

Peaceniks, cat food, and a toilet bowl at Gitmo

If the impending criminalisation of journalism is being omitted from the mainstream narrative on Julian Assange and Wikileaks, what else has been omitted along the way? What evidence has been excluded from the court of public opinion in order to weave a guilty narrative around Julian Assange, cast him as the antagonist, prevent us from caring, and pave the psychological way for the war on independent media unfolding now?………

While there is “not a single shred of evidence that any of [Wikileaks’] disclosures caused anyone harm”, writes journalist and author Nozomi Hayase, what Wikileaks did do in 2010 was expose thousands of previously unreported civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. These deaths included the nonchalant gunning down of children, journalists and their rescuers, and other “indiscriminate violence… torture, lies [and]bribery”, writes Chris Hedges. According to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg, the leaks exposed “a massive cover-up over a number of years by the American authorities”.

Someone had to pay. And it certainly wasn’t going to be the war criminals.

After these releases the “terrorist” smears against Assange began to flow. Vice President Joe Biden called him a “high tech terrorist” despite saying a few days earlier that the Iraq and Afghanistan releases had done “no substantive damage” other than to be “embarrassing”.

Now, all these years of embarrassing releases later, the secret charges that have surfaced against Assange are in the same location as the 2010 Grand Jury: the Eastern District of Virginia. Accordingly, the charges are expected to relate to the 2010 exposures of US war crimes, not to the 2016 US election.

The Eastern District of Virginia is known as the ‘espionage court’ according to CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou. It is “the home of the CIA, of the Pentagon, and of almost every intelligence-related private contractor in the Washington area” Kirakou explains. No national security defendant has ever won a case there, he says.

Should Assange be extradited to face prosecution in the US, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that his risk of “political persecution and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” and “physical harm” is “well founded”………..

back in the court of public opinion, after a decade of narrative by omission during trial by media, Julian Assange is on the verge of ending up in US hands. Should that come to pass, “The CIA and the FBI are both going to be on that plane”, warns John Kiriakou. “They will bring him back to the United States in chains.”

The movement to free Assange, as Joe Lauria stressed during his Sydney visit, is of historic significance. At this juncture, expressing public opposition to treating public interest journalism as public enemy number one may be one of the few things standing between free speech and a toilet bowl at Gitmo.

Next, before delving in earnest into the arsenal of psychological tactics deployed in the psychological war on Wikileaks, I will explore the phenomenon whereby ostensibly progressive, liberal Russiagate #Resistance™ warriors have fallen in line behind the Trump administration as it wages its repressive crackdown on journalism via Wikileaks, an authoritarian dream notes Glenn Greenwald.

In the process, I will ask why anyone – left, right or indifferent – would place their faith in US intelligence agencies, even as some of the same individuals who led us into the Iraq war lead the way on Russiagate and Wikileaks, crying “trust us”.

READ THE WHOLE ASSANGE SERIES
PART 1: The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange: What’s Torture Got To Do With It?
PART 2: The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange: The Court Of Public Opinion And The Blood-Curdling Untold Story
PART 3: The Psychology of Getting Julian Assange – Wikileaks and Russiagate: Trust Us, We’re The CIA
PART 4: The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange: Why Even Some Lefties Want To See Him Hang
PART 5: The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange: War Propaganda 101      https://newmatilda.com/2019/02/25/psychology-getting-julian-assange-part-2-court-public-opinion-blood-curdling-untold-story/

 

 

April 12, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, politics international, UK, USA

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