"Truth Unites"

Defending Julian Assange

Robert J Burrowes

On 11 April 2019, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by UK police and arrested for breaching a bail condition.

Following a brief court hearing in which the extraordinary prejudice of the district judge was on clear display—Julian is now imprisoned in south London's maximum security Belmarsh Prison. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court for a preliminary extradition hearing on 2 May and the US must produce its case for requesting Julian's extradition from the UK by 12 June but, as Nicholas Weaver reports, Julian could be in UK custody for years as the extradition is contested in court.

Prior to his arrest, Julian had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, having been granted citizenship of Ecuador and asylum by that country because many people were well aware of the risk he faced if he was tried in a kangaroo court in the United States. This asylum, to which Julian was entitled under long-standing provisions of international law, had been granted by previous Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who clearly understood this law (and the moral principles on which it is based).

As a result of his recent arrest however, Julian is under threat of extradition to the United States so that he can face criminal prosecution/persecution—for his role in exposing the truth about US war crimes in Afghanistan (the Afghan War Diary) and Iraq (the Iraq War Logs), as did The Guardian and The New York Times, by publishing leaked evidence of these crimes—including the 'Collateral Murder' video—as well as publishing evidence of widespread government corruption on the WikiLeaks website. It was this threat of persecution by US authorities that led Julian to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the first place.

However, since the election in Ecuador on 24 May 2017 of the criminal and cowardly president Lenín Moreno, Julian's asylum has been under threat and the conditions of his stay in the Embassy have rapidly deteriorated. This is because Moreno has been anxious to divert public attention from the spotlight of corruption currently shining directly on him.

Of course, the criminal and cowardly nature of Moreno's action is highlighted by the fact that the decision of the Ecuadorian government to terminate Julian's asylum was done in violation of article 79 of Ecuador's constitution which forbids extradition of its own citizens.

Unfortunately, as further evidence of its function as an elite agent, rather than facilitating free speech, Facebook promptly 'unpublished' Correa's Facebook page. Clearly, Moreno's corruption is not a subject that Facebook wants advertised.

Naturally enough, despite elite efforts to control the narrative, many people and organisations around the world have been outraged at the treatment of Julian (as well as other truthful journalists and whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, who has recently been imprisoned yet again, and Edward Snowden) who act courageously on the basis that the public has a right to know about the criminality of their governments as well as to know the truth generally.

As long ago as 5 February 2016, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the United Nations issued a statement in which they 'called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr Assange's deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation' noting that its opinions are 'legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)'.

Moreover, in recent days, UN officials have spoken openly of their serious concern if Julian's asylum was illegally revoked.

And just recently, on 11 April 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union issued its response to Julian's arrest, noting that 'Criminally prosecuting a publisher for the publication of truthful information would be a first in American history, and unconstitutional.' The report added that 'Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks' publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organisations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating US secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for US journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public's interest'.

So once extradited, would Julian have any chance of defending himself with the truth? As US attorney Bill Simpich explains, Julian will be prevented from presenting the essential elements of his defense because 'The [US] government doesn't want a fair fight. In a fair fight, the government will lose'.

'[T]he Justice Department is likely to move aggressively to strip Assange of his core defenses. Through what is called a motion in limine, the government will ask the court to declare that the disclosure of intelligence controversies is immaterial. This would leave Assange with only the ability to challenge whether he helped with passwords and little or no opportunity to present evidence of his motivations or the threat to privacy.

'The key to prosecuting Assange has always been to punish him without again embarrassing the powerful figures made mockeries by his disclosures. That means to keep him from discussing how the US government concealed attacks and huge civilian losses, the type of disclosures that were made in the famous Pentagon Papers case. He cannot discuss how Democratic and Republican members either were complicit or incompetent in their oversight. He cannot discuss how the public was lied to about the program'.

Hence, while the Ecuadorian, British and US governments are flagrantly violating the law in persecuting Julian, it is being left to individuals and civil society organisations to defend him and many are mobilising to do so already. As a result, people have signed petitions.

Given the importance of defending our access to accurate information about our world, rather than the propaganda marketed as 'news' by the corporate media, it is worth reflecting on how best we can do this and, in doing so, defend people like Julian and Chelsea (who play such a vital role in giving us access to the truth in particular contexts) at the same time.

Because the global elite is highly aware of the importance of the truth, it goes to enormous effort to make it difficult, if not impossible, to access the truth, particularly in certain critical contexts. And there are some classic historical examples, among many others, where not knowing the truth has allowed elites to inflict monumental atrocities in people's name while crippling efforts to strategically mobilise opposition to these atrocities.

The most obvious examples of this phenomenon include 'false flag' attacks such as those conducted by US authorities and their allies on 9/11 as the prelude to launching their 'war on terror' which has caused immeasurable damage to, if not virtually destroyed, entire countries across west Asia and north Africa. If the truth about those behind the 9/11 attacks had been immediately available, rather than still 'dribbling out' nearly 20 years later, then it would have been far easier to mobilise resistance to the US-led wars on other countries and to campaign, strategically, for the profound changes needed to ensure that the world is spared the scourge of such atrocities in future.

So if one asks the question 'Who played the primary role in deceiving people about 9/11 and moulding the desired public response?', the answer is that it was some key government, corporate, military and bureaucratic spokespeople and, particularly, the corporate media projecting the words of these official spokespeople far and wide. But if one asks the question 'Who was controlling these spokespeople and the corporate media?' the answer is 'the global elite'.

This is because a primary function of the global elite, which it has long understood, is to create (using individuals employed within its think tanks as well as compliant academics) and maintain (through education systems, the entertainment industry and the corporate media) the dominant narrative in society so that the information available to the public is the information that the elite needs to shape public perception in favour of elite interests, such as perpetual war and chronic over-consumption, which ensure perpetuation of elite power, profit and privilege.

So, people like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and organisations like WikiLeaks represent a fundamental threat to elite power, profit and privilege precisely because their truth-telling functionally undermines the elite narrative, for example, that the 'enemy' is a bunch of terrorists somewhere rather than the global elite itself.

While the false flag examples offered above highlight how suppression of the truth disempowers activists and populations thus helping to minimise any effective mobilisation in response, there are also a great many examples where the truth was critical to informing and helping to mobilise activists to resist injustice, in one form or another.

In essence then, it is individuals like Julian and Chelsea, rather than the sycophantic editors, reporters and journalists working for the corporate media, who give the world the information people need to know so that the can better understand how dysfunctional and violent world works and campaign effectively to change it.

And so they are enemies of the elite who must be silenced and discredited, legally or otherwise.

Given elite control of all political, economic, commercial, legal, social and media institutions of any consequence in this world, it will not be easy to liberate Julian (and, perhaps, even Chelsea) in the short term. UK and US elites may even conspire to secretly put Julian on a rendition flight to the US or simply be content with a protracted legal struggle which distracts many people from the issues that Julian and Chelsea so courageously put in the spotlight.

For that reason, while civil liberations struggle to liberate them we can also struggle to liberate the vast number of other people who suffer the elite's military violence and economic exploitation so that the efforts of Julian and Chelsea are not in vain.

Vol. 51, No. 44, May 5 - 11, 2019