By Jeff Mackler
[Introductory note: The weekend of October 23-25, in anticipation of a UK court convening to re-consider a previous lower court decision to refuse Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S., Assange supporters will be mobilizing across the U.S. and worldwide demanding:
Free Julian Assange! Drop the Charges! No to Extradition! Free Speech! Free Press! Free Journalists! No to Endless U.S. Wars! See assangedefense.org for details.]
Of the estimated 1.4 million top security clearance U.S. personnel employed by one or another of the government’s 18 branches of its $81 billion annually budgeted “U.S. Intelligence Community,” perhaps one or two individuals each year are designated as “whistleblowers” and persecuted to the high heavens. These include heroes like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning today and Daniel Ellsberg, the renowned Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers defendant of yesteryear, whose revelations educated millions about the U.S. horrors committed against the Vietnamese people. Four million Vietnamese were murdered in this ten-year genocide, begun with the CIA’s lie that a U.S. destroyer was attacked in Vietnam’s Tonkin Bay by the equivalent of a Vietnamese sampan or small fishing boat.
Another handful of heroes, like WikiLeaks founder and journalist/publisher Julian Assange, are similarly persecuted when they exercise their right to publish what the whistleblowers have revealed about U.S. war crimes around the world. In addition to the 1.4 million top secret U.S. government spies, another 4.25 million “Intelligence Community” employees have some type of special clearance but don’t necessarily work in secure and undisclosed locations. That’s a total approaching some six million people in the U.S. spy business, not to mention the tiny proportion in the business of directly ordering and planning assassinations, kidnappings, death squad wars, covert and overt wars, drone wars, regime change military coups, cyber wars, media disinformation wars, industrial spying wars and all the rest.
Jim Lafferty’s October 5 Los Angeles Progressive article entitled, “With Military Actions in 159 Countries, America is Now the World’s Police Force,” adds yet another dimension to the U.S. national and international war crimes horrors. (See socialistaction.org). Lafferty is the recently retired 30+ year Los Angeles director of the National Lawyers Guild, a present board member of the LA area ACLU and a founder/steering committee member of Assangedefense.org.
The recent article by Yahoo News journalists, Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff entitled, “Kidnapping, Assassination and a London Shoot-Out: Inside the CIA’s Secret War Plans Against WikiLeaks” similarly reveals the deadly deeds routinely practiced in the U.S. spy system. (See: Inside the CIA’s secret war plans against WikiLeaks)
The National Security State
The government’s six million usually well-paid spies, along with it’s annual $1 trillion war budget – including the CIA’s estimated secret, or non-reported expenditures and its admitted cyber surveillance of literally everyone in the U.S. – as Edward Snowden definitively revealed – are justified in the name of defending U.S. “national security interests.” Citing the sanctity of these “interests” U.S. courts imprison with impunity and as a warning to all – no matter how monstrous the government’s crimes – all truthtellers. In the case of Julian Assange CIA spies and government officials contemplated assassination but settled for bringing charges that would incarcerate him for 175 years.
Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Daniel Ellsberg are a rare breed indeed. They are among a precious few who appear, perhaps once in every generation, to reveal in microcosm, the abject horror of the daily functioning of the U.S. national security state. President Obama broke all records in prosecuting whistleblowers but their numbers were still limited to a handful. Fear takes a terrible toll in a society that aims at instilling conformity and obedience. Constituted to defend and advance U.S. imperialism’s interests in all its national and international manifestations, the state power rarely recognizes any “right to dissent” to expose its war crimes, unless, that is, the dissent is backed by millions in the streets who increasingly understand that the U.S. government does not represent their interests and who set out to seriously explore political alternatives to the “two-party” system of rule. The ruling elite fear nothing more than organized mass movements that fight for the interests of the vast majority and are led by deeply-rooted conscious working class fighters intent on challenging “the system” itself.
CIA’s Assange Kidnapping and Assassination Discussions
“Julian Assange,” according to the Yahoo News exposé, “had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for years,” but “their plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks’ongoing publication of extraordinarily sensitive CIA hacking tools, known collectively as ‘Vault 7,’ which the agency ultimately concluded represented ‘the largest data loss in CIA history.’”
“Hacking tools” refers to the CIA’s capacity to use cyber war against any perceived enemy anywhere in the world. Indeed, as Edward Snowden revealed, the “tools” were used against enemies and allies alike, including surveillance in place against the entire U.S. population as well as heads of state like Germany’s former Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The CIA’s spying on WikiLeaks, according to Yahoo News, aimed at “sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.” Then President Trump’s CIA Director, Mike Pompeo in 2017 had designated WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
Yahoo News’ investigations were based on “conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials — eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange.” The CIA’s campaign “spearheaded by Pompeo… bent important legal strictures, potentially jeopardize[ing] the Justice Department’s work toward prosecuting Assange, and risk[ing] a damaging episode in the United Kingdom, the United States’ closest ally.” The Yahoo reporters did not generally reveal the names of their sources and took pains to add codicils that many of the internal CIA discussions were mere proposals to be considered rather than implemented.
CIA Targets WikiLeaks for Disruption
Assange’s revelations of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, including some 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world, were particularly vexing to U.S. imperialism’s hierarchy while winning wide acclaim from social justice and antiwar activists everywhere who aimed to contest the “right” of the U.S. imperialist behemoth to wage war against poor and oppressed people and nations.
Yahoo News reported that “The CIA now considered people affiliated with WikiLeaks valid targets for various types of spying, including close-in technical collection — such as bugs — sometimes enabled by in-person espionage, and ‘remote operations,’ meaning, among other things, the hacking of WikiLeaks members’ devices from afar.”
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service and has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence,” said Director Pompeo. Imagine that! A news agency infiltrating the CIA! In truth, isn’t it the other way around? The record demonstrates that CIA operatives, as a matter of course, regularly provide stories and/or other material to the nation’s corporate media to promote the government’s views. That was no doubt the case with regard to the 2003 Iraq War, when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was charged in headline “news” reports across the U.S. with possessing “weapons of mass destruction” – nuclear, biological and chemical weapons – intended for use against the U.S. None were ever found! Years later in the run up to the 2020 elections candidate Joe Biden stated that his vote for war against Iraq was a “mistake.” Said Biden, “I didn’t believe [Hussein] had those nuclear weapons. I didn’t believe he had weapons of mass destruction.”
Yet Iraq was bombed to smithereens via an essentially bi-partisan vote; 1.5 million Iraqis were murdered and cities leveled with real U.S. weapons of mass destruction and subsequently from deadly sanctions. Indeed, in most every instance when a major media outlet receives “classified” material from a rare whistleblower, they invariably submit this material to the government for pre-publication “editing,” if it is published at all.
Pompeo’s designation “non-state hostile intelligence service” allowed the CIA’s work to proceed against WikiLeaks from “a target of collection to a target of disruption” according to the Yahoo News reporters’ sources. [Emphasis added]. One might ask, operating on the naïve presumption that we live in a free society with a free press with journalists free to pursue the truth about government functioning, why anymedia, WikiLeaks included, should ever be any “target.”
In the case of WikiLeaks, the core “offensive counterintelligence” actions considered against it included “paralyzing its digital infrastructure, disrupting its communications, provoking internal disputes within the organization by planting damaging information, and stealing WikiLeaks members’ electronic devices.”
Yahoo News added: “Agency executives requested and received ‘sketches’ of plans for killing Assange and other Europe-based WikiLeaks members who had access to Vault 7 materials, said a former intelligence official. There were discussions ‘on whether killing Assange was possible and whether it was legal,’ a former official said.”
Yahoo News asked Trump directly if his government had contemplated assassinating Assange. Needless to say, Trump emphatically said No. Presidents are not in the business of publicly admitting to government atrocities! Indeed, since WikiLeaks was central to revealing the Democratic Party’s internal emails exposing how the Hillary Clinton team manipulated the party’s finances to promote her presidential campaign against Bernie Sanders, Trump is assessed by the Yahoo News reporters as perhaps having a favorable attitude to WikiLeaks. Honor among thieves is indeed a rarity in capitalist politics.
Truman Show or Potemkin Village World
Time and space do not allow a thorough accounting of the government’s voluminous efforts, actual or contemplated, to punish Assange and WikiLeaks for revealing the truth about the government’s modus operandi in the U.S. and around the world.
In truth, however, the government’s assault on WikiLeaks notwithstanding, we increasingly live in a “Truman Show” [Jim Carrey movie. Editor] or Potemkin Village world – an Orwellian-like society saturated every minute by a kept corporate media in all its manifestations that manufactures and perpetuates the myth of an egalitarian democracy where the people rule and truth is forever prized. Tragically, the truth lies elsewhere. The U.S. is ruled by an elite few billionaires and their corporate entities whose twin parties periodically spend countless $billions in rigged elections between themselves, from which working people are excluded.
The U.S. war machine rains death and destruction everywhere its economic and political interests are challenged. Its corporate media monopoly operates to burnish or prettify and deflect capitalism’s horrors, or to ignore or justify them outright.
Capitalism’s endless wars are inseparable from its fossil fuel-induced climate catastrophes and its inherent racism, sexism and LGBTQI discrimination; all exist and are promoted to divide its natural working class opponents, who have zero interest in aligning with their oppressors.
Defend Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are among the precious and special few who have exposed in incredible detail the daily operations of the imperialist war machine and its major corporate party players. That the U.S. today seeks his extradition from the UK to stand trial on spurious charges under the reactionary witch hunting wartime Espionage Act of 1917* is a legal and political atrocity. Assange’s defense and freedom today must stand before us as a priority issue.
*The Espionage Act of 1917 prohibited obtaining information, recording pictures, or copying descriptions of any information relating to the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information may be used for the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.