To Redact The Truth Or Not To Redact The Truth: Is That The Question?

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By Jeff Mackler

Correction and author’s note: My article below aimed at exposing the U.S. war machine in its multiple manifestation while correcting a mistake I made in a previous article wherein I wrote incorrectly that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks did not redact anything when they published the Iraq, and Afghanistan war logs and material on U.S. torture at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Unfortunately, my redaction included an error when I wrote with regard to the Vietnam War, “That horror was largely kept from the American people until a lone CIA-associated rebel, Daniel Ellsberg, released the voluminous Pentagon Papers that exposed the lie perpetrated by the kept corporate media.” My assertion that Dan Ellsberg, who I hold in the highest esteem and with whom I have proudly collaborated with over the past decades, was “CIA-associated” is false. Below is Dan Ellsberg’s email to me yesterday, Jan. 7, explaining the facts of the matter. 

Dear Jeff: Your article today, ‘To Redact the Truth Or Not to Redact The Truth: Is That the Question?,’ is excellent, truly outstanding!  I agree with virtually all of it, with one exception. Your description of me as “CIA-associated” is seriously misleading (whereas statements by Fletcher Prouty and Doug Valentine, and a guy named Ronald West, that I was employed by or worked for CIA, at any time, are flatly false).“My work for RAND and my consulting with the USG [US Government] were entirely for the DOD [Department of Defense]. My direct employment as an official in 1965-67 was for the DOD (Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense, ISA). In 1965-67 I was an official, FSR-1, of State, on an interagency team in Saigon under Edward Lansdale (Brig. Gen. (Ret).  That Lansdale was famously a career CIA officer (though “retired,” so far as I know and so far as that is meaningful, when I worked for him)–as head of this interagency team which included members from JCS, USAID, USIA and (myself) State– is so far as I know the only basis for the false inference that I myself worked for the CIA.  I was “CIA-associated” only in the indirect sense that everyone in the “national security apparatus” of the USG was “associated” with CIA.  Statements to the contrary are false.

“(Incidentally, I press this only because I have always said, truthfully, that I never worked for or within CIA, and I don’t like to be called a liar. To say or think that the DOD I did work for–or for that matter, the State Department or White House, both of which I also worked for–is “less bad,” less involved in criminal and murderous activities, than the CIA is ridiculous.) With this small correction, congratulations on your excellent article!  Dan


My Dec. 22, 2021 article titled “Free Julian Assange!” contained one error.

My article recounted at great length the war crimes revealed in a major New York Times two-part article headlined “Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure in Deadly Airstrikes.” But in a section of my article with the called “Assange and the New York Times on collateral damage,” I wrote:

“Unlike Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks revelations, The Times relied on thousands of pages of highly-redacted material obtained via lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but supplemented by some 100 Timesassigned investigators sent to the locations that the U.S. bombed with impunity.

“In contrast,” I asserted, incorrectly, “Assange’s revelations, received from U.S. soldier whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, were not redacted.” [Emphasis added].

Here’s a detailed account of the WikiLeaks redaction process provided to me by Assange Defense Committee director, Nathan Fuller.

“WikiLeaks did redact the War Logs….The Afghan War Diaries first, after which they sought to redact more so they created a redaction software program to remove all names for the Iraq War Logs, and then went back and un-redacted the names that they could, publicly known figures, etc.

“WikiLeaks also redacted the State Department cables when they [WikiLeaks] began releasing them in Nov. 2010. It was in Sept. 2011 that WikiLeaks became aware that unredacted cables were posted on the internet by others, who’d gotten them through a combination of an ex-WikiLeaker posting encrypted folders online and Guardian journalists publishing the password to decrypt those files in a book in Feb. 2011. WikiLeaks called the State Department to warn them to notify those who could be named. Then WikiLeaks published the unredacted files, to confirm an authentic set of the documents — otherwise, with the unredacted files already online and out of their control, people could be framed by inserting false documents into those datasets. Here’s all the hearing testimony on redactions, from journalists who worked with WikiLeaks at the time: https://assangedefense.org/hearing-coverage/wikileaks-redaction-process-and-the-unredacted-cables/

U.S. daily worldwide war crimes

In point of fact, Assange’s WikiLeaks revelations, redactions notwithstanding, gave proof, yet again, that the government of the United States engages in war crimes of historic proportions on a daily basis around the world. That Assange redacted a list of the specific government officials and U.S.-allied on-the-ground individuals who ordered and/or oversaw these war crimes is subordinate to his revelation of the crimes themselves.

Today, serious antiwar and social justice activists are keenly aware that the U.S. imperialist state maintains troops and conducts military operations in some 158 countries, most of which are kept secret, other than perhaps an obscure data entry, as when President Biden recently provided his list of 158 countries to Congress. An endless series of lies and pretexts are employed to justify this self-appointed U.S. role as the world’s cop: fighting “terrorism,” the Islamic State and “Russian and Chinese aggression” and, above all, defending U.S. “national security interests.” The latter encompasses virtually everything that the billionaire corporate elite defines as in their exclusive purview. Tesla multi-billionaire Elon Musk is currently in negotiations with the French neo-colonial government of the South Pacific island New Caledonia over its vast nickel resources that are critical to Tesla’s contemplated battery production to power its planned one million electric cars. No doubt the U.S. military will be on hand should New Caledonia’s oppressed indigenous Kanucks object to the despoliation of their country.   

The U.S. imperial war machine includes in its arsenal, as Edward Snowden revealed, the near-limitless secret surveillance of the world’s people. It includes the stealing of competitor’s scientific discoveries, cyberwar attacks that disable a nation’s infrastructure and the worldwide imposition of economic sanctions—today imposed on some 40 nations deemed to be threatening the claimed U.S. “national security.”

The U.S. warfare state’s deadly operations included open wars of saturation bombing against Iraq in past years, on a scale that exceeded in sheer intensity the genocidal ten-year bombing of Vietnam that killed some four million Vietnamese, mostly civilians. That horror was largely kept from the American people until a lone rebel, Daniel Ellsberg, released the voluminous Pentagon Papers that exposed the lie perpetrated by the kept corporate media.

Truthteller Assange’s name redactions

That Julian Assange redacted a few names of the “war criminals” assigned to oversee U.S. policy matters little in comparison to the truths he revealed from the government’s own files. That a single courageous truth-telling individual is threatened with life imprisonment informs us of the nature of the twisted times we live in. The Times noted that their FOIA files were “highly redacted,” thus requiring the assignment of some 100 on-the-ground researchers to present a semblance of accuracy. My own FBI files, that I sent for and received via my FOIA request some five decades ago were so heavily redacted as to be worthless in informing me as to the FBI’s secret and illegal surveillance during my activities in the labor, civil rights, civil liberties and antiwar war movements of those times.   

CIA contemplates Assange’s assassination

Recent documents made available by the CIA’s own official witnesses against Assange not only reveal the frame-up nature of his case, but the lengths the imperial beast considered to rid itself of a single individual, including Assange’s contemplated assassination by the CIA. Assange’s handful of name redactions – no doubt naively employed by WikiLeaks to protect itself from government persecution by citing supposedly inviolable free press and free speech precedents – proved useless in the face of the government’s unleashing its might against a single individual. That might included plans to send CIA disruption spies into WikiLeaks, illegally breaking into the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to kidnap him, organizing military forces to orchestrate his kidnapping, including London street battles with imagined Russian forces protecting Assange, to major battles at the London Airport to prevent hypothetical Russian aircraft from absconding with Assange. Fantasy? Absolutely not! All this, including Assange’s possible assassination, were on the table as U.S. imperialism considered its options in dealing with a single rogue journalist, indeed an Australian journalist over whom the U.S. had zero jurisdiction!

The nature of the U.S. warfare state

But there are other U.S. government operations on a qualitatively larger and historic scale that threaten the lives of millions, indeed billions of the world’s people. These include:

•  An annual trillion dollar military and CIA-associated budget that wages systematic wars in 158 countries around the world, from open wars of intervention, conquest and plunder, to drone wars, economic sanction wars, death squad assassination wars, “CIA Special Operation” wars, to cyber wars and more. The secretly U.S.-funded jihadist war against Syria took the lives of 500,000 Syrians and came close to accomplishing the Obama administration’s openly declared “regime change” objective.

• The monopolized trillion dollar U.S. fossil fuel corporations that operate with impunity, daily belching out increasing megatons of greenhouse gases that raise the earth’s temperature to deadly levels that threaten all humanity. This operation requires the parallel and endless fossil fuel wars in the Middle East where U.S. troops are assigned to remove “unfriendly” governments whose leaders dare to resist the imperial theft of their resources. It is no coincidence that Iran and Venezuela, the countries with the world’s largest oil reserves, are perpetually in the U.S. gunsights – ever subjected to U.S.-orchestrated coups, embargos and sanctions. 

• The ravaging of the planet with endless destruction of forests, oceans, lakes and streams that increasingly place humans in contact with previously isolated species that carry deadly diseases that threaten worldwide pandemics that kill millions. Five-plus million have perished worldwide to date from COVID-19, with the U.S., the richest nation on earth, ranking first in the number of daily cases and total deaths. Workers are expendable commodities in capitalist America. 

• The maintenance of a society marked by systemic racism and police brutality, sexism, anti-immigrant scapegoating/mass deportation and discrimination imposed against LGBTQI people. The U.S. ranks first in the world in the number and percentage of its population incarcerated in the racist increasingly privatized for-profit near slave labor prison-industrial complex. Every democratic right conquered in struggle over the past decades increasingly face erasure – from the right to abortion to the right to vote, not to mention the right to a decent job, education and health care.

These basic facts of life in U.S. society are daily redacted by the corporate media, owned and controlled by the elite billionaire ruling few, who periodically orchestrate elections between their twin parties to decide which wing of the ruling rich shall steal the lion’s share of the wealth created by working people here and around the world.

The emerging fightback

Today, the meticulously crafted fantasy world of capitalist stability has been exposed as never before, with young people in the lead, as with the tens of millions who championed Black Lives Matter protests in thousands of cities and towns across the country. Today’s important trade union strike wave is bringing new confidence to working people, who increasingly understand that the boss’s past imposition of two and three tier, if not four or five tier wages scales and pension erosion have resulted in ever-increasing millions of workers relegated to poverty level wage scales, unpayable debts, evictions and home foreclosures that portent misery for ever-increasing millions.

That working people are breaking from illusions that their future is secure in capitalist America informs us that big battles are on the horizon. While a small minority have been influenced by rightwing racist bigots and would-be fascist demagogues who pose reactionary solutions, the vast majority have no interest in positioning themselves against other workers and the most oppressed while lending credibility to the twin parties that are increasingly seen as inimical to their interests.

Orwellian state requires absolute loyalty

Julian Assange’s revelations of U.S. war crimes in distant countries were certainly key factors in his persecution. Both Obama and Trump likely grimaced that among the millions of employees with top-level security clearances, a mere handful – literally five or so precious individuals – subordinated their freedom to truthtelling. The ruling rich’s conception of the Orwellian world they seek to impose and preside over requires absolute loyalty, although Obama, who prosecuted more whistleblowers than any previous president, nevertheless cited the Pentagon Papers “New York Times problem” in deciding to give Assange a pass, perhaps the “great deporter” and “endless war” president’s last pang of conscience. 

Biden’s refusal to follow suit might have been a reflection of the Democratic Party’s rage over WikiLeaks’ Hillary Clinton email revelations exposing her absconding with much of her party’s campaign war chest – funds that were supposedly earmarked for all Democrats, including Bernie Sanders. That and other exposures of Clinton’s corporate culture character no doubt contributed to her failed presidential bid. The billionaire elite, who largely favored Clinton over Trump in 2016, never take kindly to rebel journalists, or anyone else who exposes their crimes, not to mention who dare to meddle in their monopolization of the electoral arena.

Winning Julian Assange’s freedom undoubtedly requires the massive and united efforts of all social justice and working class fighters. A victory for Assange and his freedom will represent a victory for all who cherish basic democratic rights and who aim to challenge the U.S. warfare state and its daily redactions of its monstrous deeds.

Contact Assange’s defense team at: assangedefense.org

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