15 April 2019 — Countercurrents
- Assange and Lula the same case to silence their voices, says Chomsky
- If Assange is criminalized & incarcerated, you’ll never be free again, says George Galloway
- Assange must face Swedish justice first: 70 UK MPs and peers
- The US case against Assange could change the future of journalism
- Journalists in the U.S. are concerned
- ‘Surreally idiotic’: CAT FOR SPYING
Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned intellectual, voiced his concerns Friday over the arrest of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, during an interview with Democracy Now.
Chomsky called the situation a “scandalous in several respects.”
The world-famous linguist and academic said that this is just a new case of “efforts to silence” dissident voices.
Chomsky compared Assange’s arrest to Lula’s political imprisonment, focusing on the fact that both said and did things that “people in power don’t like”, so therefore they “have to silence it.”
“Last September, Lula da Silva was the leading, the most popular figure in Brazil, who was almost certain to win the forthcoming election, put him in jail, solitary confinement, essentially a death sentence, 25 years in jail, banned from reading press or books, and, crucially, barred from making a public statement—unlike mass murderers on death row,” adding that “he’s the most important political prisoner in the world. Do you hear anything about it? Assange is a similar case: We’ve got to silence this voice.”
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno, who is being identified as the worst traitor, called Assange a “miserable hacker”.
Assange’s defense is strongly dismissing it – hacker, stating that he is a publisher and journalist, with more than 20 awards in the field. As Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project has explained the “prosecution by the U.S. of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told CNN that Assange is “our property”.
On this regard, Chomsky said the fact the U.S. can manipulate the policies and actions of other nations are a scandal in itself. “The extraterritorial reach of the United States is shocking. Why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it’s an outlandish situation,” he said.
If Assange is criminalized & incarcerated, you’ll never be free again
The public must raise its voice for Julian Assange if it does not want to be gagged for good, says George Galloway, who believes that the publisher’s persecution is an assault on the fundamental right of people to know the truth.
Galloway and a group of WikiLeaks supporters staged a protest rally in support of Assange on Sunday outside Belmarsh Prison, where Assange is being held, a top security jail in southeast London known as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay.”
Galloway, a film-maker, writer and former Labour MP, who calls himself a friend of Assange, said that his case affects all who cherish their right to know the truth about shady government dealings.
“You don’t have to like him, you don’t have to like everything he’s ever written or published, but if you like the fact that we have the right to speak and know the uncomfortable truths our rulers don’t want us to know, then you should be here in person, or, at least, in spirit,” Galloway said.
He said this is exactly the type of the situation in which one must take sides, and either stand with the “executioners” or oppose them.
“If Julian Assange is criminalized and incarcerated for revealing the truth about what our rulers are doing, have done, then you might as well deliver yourself behind those walls, you might as well volunteer for a prison cell yourself, because you’ll no longer be free, and you’ll never be free again,”the former MP said.
Galloway thinks the UK police should not have treated Assange like a dangerous criminal.
“The British police had to arrest Julian Assange and they had to put him in an ambulance, not in a police wagon because the man, after seven years in a single room in the Ecuadorian embassy, is obviously not a well man.”
Galloway hopes the British court would U.S. extradition request.
He argued that his trial in the US might go against the principle of double jeopardy since Manning already served time for the same offense.
“There may have been a theft of information involved,” but it was justified, Galloway believes: it was “a right of all the people of the world to know about what Chelsea Manning released.” And while publishing stolen materials in the public interest is nothing new, Assange’s case threatens to put a full stop to it.
He said: “If every publisher who publishes material that was stolen from its owners was put on trial and extradited and sent behind bars, there would be no publishing.”
Assange must face Swedish justice first: 70 UK MPs
More than 70 UK MPs and peers have signed a letter urging the UK home secretary to ensure Assange faces authorities in Sweden if they want his extradition.
Sweden is considering whether to reopen an investigation into rape and sexual assault allegations against him.
And the US is seeking his extradition in relation to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets, in 2010.
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault, which he has denied.
The Australian-born 47-year-old said the Swedish claims against him were part of a smear campaign.
In their letter to Sajid Javid, the parliamentarians, chiefly Labour MPs and peers, urged him to “stand with the victims of sexual violence” and ensure the rape claim against the Wikileaks founder could be “properly investigated”.
“We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done,” the letter said.
The same letter was also sent to shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.
But speaking on Saturday, Corbyn said he had made it “very clear all along that if there are allegations, which Julian Assange needs to answer, of sexual issues, sexual attacks that may or may not have taken place in Sweden, then it’s a matter for the courts to decide, but I do think he should answer those questions”.
He added: “My objection was to his extradition to the United States because I do believe that Wikileaks told us the truth about what was actually happening in Afghanistan and in Iraq.”
The Labour leader said it was now for Sweden to put forward proposals on the matter.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said on Friday she was “disgusted” the US allegation had been “allowed to eclipse” the sex offence case.
Stephen Kinnock, one of the letter’s signatories, told the events surrounding Assange had “become politicized”, and that the letter was intended “to underline the point that first and foremost Mr. Assange is accused of rape and sexual violence in Sweden”.
The US case against Assange could change the future of journalism
The lawyer for Assange says plans to extradite him are an assault against the rights of journalists all over the world to uncover secrets.
Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, has told Sky News it is extradition to the US that worries Assange.
“This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice. We’ve been warning since 2010 and I’ve been working on his case since the initial Swedish request came through,” she said.
“We’ve been warning since then that he would face the risk of US extradition for actions and his work associated with WikiLeaks publications. We warned for years and that is precisely what has happened. He was right all along.”
Ms Robinson said Assange has always cooperated with the Swedish investigation, even remaining in the country to answer questions about the assault case.
She said the reason he sought asylum was that there was no guarantee that Sweden would not allow his extradition to the US.
The current editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, is an Icelandic investigative journalist who was appointed by Julian Assange in September 2018.
He said the actions that Assange took were those of an investigative journalist and not a criminal cyber-hacker.
Hrafnsson said he will never be able to face a fair trial in the United States.
“He should not be extradited on the basis that he was simply doing journalism, journalistic activity and giving the political atmosphere in the (United) States, all the declarations that have been given there, make it absolutely obvious that he cannot have a fair trial there”, she says.
Journalists in the U.S. are concerned
The US case against Assange raises questions that concern journalists in America.
Professor Raju Narisetti from the Columbia University School of Journalism said many of the groups that fight for press freedoms are going to be involved in making sure that whatever happens in court does not lead to a precedent.
He said it could have a chilling effect on important investigations.
“It’s problematic because the way the Justice Department seems to be looking at it they are covering lots of things that normal journalists do. But it is also essential for press freedom which is how do you cultivate sources? How do you protect the identity of sources? How do you have secure communications with those sources? So if you prosecute him on all those issues as well then it’s clearly a problematic situation for journalists.”
But Narisetti admits that Assange’s own credentials as a journalist are not clear-cut.
“He is if you define journalism as a pursuit of truth. He is not because he has an odious behavior that disregards the standards and ethics of journalism.”
Kristinn Hrafnsson insists that WikiLeaks’ contribution – including thousands of memos, cables and other documents about US war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently the Panama Papers, have changed the world of reporting.
“There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind, the contribution to journalism that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks had in the last decade and I have been a part of that, which is multi-fold and it would take me a bit of time to go through all of that”, he said
Assange’s attorney denies ‘outrageous’ claims WikiLeaks founder was a “Terrible House Guest”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s attorney has denied “outrageous” allegations made by Ecuador that her client was an ill-mannered houseguest who was dirty and smeared feces over their London embassy’s walls.
Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson on Sunday condemned allegations that Assange behaved grossly during his time as a houseguest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and claimed they were invented to justify the decision to allow UK authorities to arrest the WikiLeaks founder on Thursday.
“The first thing to say is Ecuador has been making some outrageous allegations. It’s a difficult situation,” Robinson told Sky News. “Ecuador has made these allegations to justify the unlawful and extraordinary act of letting police come inside an embassy.”
“I’ve been visiting him for the last seven years. This man has been inside a room with no outside access. Inside the embassy, it’s become more difficult. The politics changed when Ecuador’s political situation changed with a new leader,” she added. “He stayed inside the embassy for so long because of a real and legitimate fear of U.S. extradition which, as we saw on Thursday, proved to be justifiable fears.”
“It is right and correct for Jeremy Corbyn to say what he said,” the attorney said, noting that Assange was performing acts of journalism by publishing the confidential U.S. documents.
Ecuador President Lenin Moreno, who withdrew asylum status for Assange on Thursday leading to his arrest, said the WikiLeaks founder was a “spoiled brat” and a “thorn.”
Ecuador’s Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo echoed Moreno’s statements, saying Assange was found to have been physically harassing those that looked after him in the embassy and had been smearing his feces on walls inside the building. Ecuador also claimed Assange was bad at flushing the toilet, left used underwear in the bathroom and did not clean up after he had meals, among other things.
Prior to his arrest on Thursday, Assange had been residing inside the small Ecuadorian embassy for almost seven years after first arriving in June 2012. According to the Guardian, the nation accommodated Assange by converting an office into a bedroom and allowing him access to a shared bathroom and kitchen.
‘Surreally idiotic’: CAT FOR SPYING
The “demented” stories about Assange’s spying cat and embassy antics are being spun by the top Ecuadorian officials to divert attention from his “disgraceful expulsion” from asylum, WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said.
Daily Mail spun an exclusive story, revealing spurious details about Assange’s stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Friday. The piece has since raised quite a few eyebrows with its bold but unfounded claims, including some quite outlandish statements by the Ecuadorian ambassador.
Among other things, Ecuador’s UK Ambassador Jaime Marchan brought up the pawsibility: Assange’s famous Embassy Cat might have been up to something dodgy, claiming the whole diplomatic mission was wary of the critter.
“It could go in every room – we were suspicious it may carry a device to spy on us,” the diplomat said.
Ecuador is waging a vicious smear campaign against Assange and his pet.
The cat-remark caused a storm of online mockery, with some going as far as suggesting the Ecuadorian officials should seek mental help – and keep off the pop culture.
Some said Ecuador has finally found a resolve to blame the cat for “counterpurrveillance” in the wake of the 2016 embassy intruder incident. After all, the cat’s Twitter account bragged about testing a dimeownitive infra-red camera back then.
Others took the allegations a bit more seriously, recalling unsuccessful experiments – held by CIA – to turn cats into living surveillance devices. Unfortunately, for the spooks, felines turned out to be excessively independent and unpredictable to be bothered with boring government work.
As for Embassy Cat, which Assange sent away in November, its exact whereabouts have remained unknown, sparking numerous concerns and theories. But in a pawsitive update on Saturday, WikiLeaks revealed that the “whiskerblower” was safe and sound.