Daniel Ellsberg On Assange Arrest: The Beginning of the End For Press Freedom

Jerri-Lynn here. In this Real News network interview, Daniel Ellsberg discusses the significance of the arrest of Julian Assange: “This is the first indictment of a journalist and editor or publisher…And if it’s successful it will not be the last.”

SHARMINI PERIES It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Whistleblower associated with WikiLeaks Julian Assange appeared to be making a statement as he was shuffled out in handcuffs from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He was carrying a book, a book published by The Real News Network with Gore Vidal on the history of the national security state. We gather Assange may have been trying to send the world a message, as did the Washington Post. And you can find an interview that Paul Jay, the senior editor here at The Real News Network, had done with The Washington Post in the link below.

On to talk about Assange and the reasons for his arrest is a man that is, perhaps, the most famous whistleblower in history that has experienced this type of arrests and state threats, is Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the famous Pentagon Papers. Daniel’s new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. You will find an interview series related to Daniel’s book here on The Real News Network, and we’ll put a link to that, as well. Daniel, good to have you here.

DANIEL ELLSBERG Glad to be back with you. Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES Daniel, your reaction to what has just happened to Julian Assange in London?

DANIEL ELLSBERG It’s a very serious assault on the First Amendment. A clear attempt to rescind the freedom of the press, essentially. Up till now we’ve had a dozen or so indictments of sources, of which my prosecution is the very first prosecution of an American for disclosing information to the American public. And that was ended a couple of years later by governmental misconduct. There were two others before President Obama, and nine or so under President Obama, of sources, none of these having been tested in the Supreme Court yet as to their relation to the First Amendment. Hasn’t gone to them.

This is the first indictment of a journalist and editor or publisher, Julian Assange. And if it’s successful it will not be the last. This is clearly is a part of President Trump’s war on the press, what he calls the enemy of the state. And if he succeeds in putting Julian Assange in prison, where I think he’ll be for life, if he goes there at all, probably the first charge against him is only a few years. But that’s probably just the first of many.

In my own case, my first indictment was for three counts, felony counts. That was later expanded to 12 felony counts by the end of the year, for a possible 115-year sentence. So I think this is a warning shot across the bow of every editor and publisher in the country.

If they make the connection of the Real News Network book that he was carrying with him into prison, which I think Gore Vidal would be very pleased to see, him associated with this incident in terms of defending Julian Assange’s rights, but they may connect you. You may be in the next conspiracy trial with Julian Assange. It may not take much more than that. I see on the indictment, which I’ve just read, that one of the charges is that he encouraged Chelsea Manning and Bradley Manning to give him documents, more documents, after she had already given him hundreds of thousands of files. Well, if that’s a crime, then journalism is a crime, because just on countless occasions I have been harassed by journalists for documents, or for more documents than I had yet given them. So they–none of them have been put on trial up till now. But in this case, if that’s all it takes, then no journalist is safe. The freedom of the press is not safe. It’s over. And I think our republic is in its last days, because unauthorized disclosures of this kind are the lifeblood of a republic.

SHARMINI PERIES Daniel, thank you for connecting that Chelsea Manning is currently sitting in prison, and after 28 days in solitary confinement for not cooperating and answering the questions related to the Julian Assange case, and the grand jury investigation that is underway. Now, it is very interesting that President Moreno of Ecuador withdrew the asylum that was protecting Julian Assange until today in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which led to all of this. And Jen Robinson, who is Julian Assange’s–one of his lawyers, tweeted as he was being arrested that she wanted to confirm that Assange had been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions, but also in relation to the U.S. extradition request. Now, in your assessment of having undergone this kind of allegations and arrests, and being under this kind of scrutiny by the state, what do you think the real intentions here is of the United States in forcing this revocation of his asylum from the Ecuadorian Embassy, as well as this request for extradition?

DANIEL ELLSBERG You know, I think the word ‘forcing’ may be misleading here, because it underrates the degree of choice here that Ecuador and the British had in both these cases. And for that matter, the Department of Justice. But they couldn’t really force Ecuador to break the norm of international asylum here by handing him over. They couldn’t force Britain. Obviously both of those were induced by various incentives. My guess would be in the case of Moreno that he’s involved in debt relief. And the U.S., the great creditor nation here–although it’s actually a debtor nation altogether. But they’re able to bring the kind of pressure on Ecuador that caused essentially a lawless action here which threatens everyone in asylum. Everyone in the world. The people in this country who have been granted political asylum, people in Britain, and certainly in Ecuador.

So that’s–that’s very ominous. The British have had a long history here of servility, basically, with respect to their ally the United States, and again, are not too concerned, I think, about law. There was an earlier indication that Ecuador might find an assurance from Britain that Assange was not facing a death penalty as sufficient excuse for revoking his asylum on the grounds that they had really only given asylum because of fear of the death penalty. I think that’s absurd. I think there was no mention of that seven years ago when he got the asylum. And of course you don’t have to be facing a death penalty to be seeking and being granted political asylum. So why exactly this moment is chosen for Ecuador and Britain to truckle to the United States, I’m not sure I notice that the indictment was signed a year ago in March 2018. Maybe they’ve, the price has been haggling between Ecuador and Britain as to what the price would be for handing him over.

As I say, though, it’s a threat not only to journalists, but to people in political status and political asylum everywhere. But the immediate threat, you say the significance of is for Trump, I have no doubt that he wants to define criminally in a courtroom the press as a an enemy of the people. When I say that Assange seeking documents–something that I’ve been asked countless times by a journalist to do, to give them documents–if that’s all it takes, then the First Amendment means very little. And without freedom of the press you have no–you have very little freedom in the country. I’m afraid that’s the direction we’re going.

So journalists in general, I think, should rally around this case, whatever they think of Julian himself. There’s a lot of people who don’t like Julian personally. I am not one of those. I do like him. There’s a lot of people who are very critical of his actions in the election of 2016, on various grounds. I’m not happy with the result to the extent that it in any way aided President Trump to become president. And Trump did, of course, state his love for Julian at one point. He said “I love WikiLeaks” when it seemed to be helping him. But of course a promise of love from Donald Trump is not terribly reliable. We knew that already. So he’s willing to make him the sacrificial goat here, I think, for journalists in general.

SHARMINI PERIES Now, Daniel, you said something very interesting, which is that all those who were interested in press freedom, and of course, defending our right to freedom of expression, and access to information, and knowledge that is critical for democracy, you in this situation was also assisted by various people on the outside. What are some of the pivotal things that happened in your case that might be a lesson for us today?

DANIEL ELLSBERG Well, something that was striking to me was that a dozen or so people helped my wife and I, Patricia and I, who was my–Tricia’s my unindicted coconspirator here, now–and a number of people helped us find lodging while we were eluding the FBI, putting out 17 different parts of the Pentagon Papers to different newspapers to keep the story going after the Times and the Post had both been enjoined, for the first time in our history. And none of those people was ever questioned by the FBI, because we stayed off the phone, basically, which at that time kind of paralyzed them, in the days before computers. In those days payphones were relatively safe. I don’t think that’s true anymore, if there are still payphones, as a matter of fact.

But what struck me was that when I finally wrote an account of that many years later, in the first–about 2002, 30 years later–I had hoped to tell the story of all these other people 30 years later as part of the story that had never gotten into the news. It would be interesting to people. How they had helped us; carrying the papers to different newspapers, and communicating with them, and finding us places to stay. In those days it was quite easy to find people. They just had to be young, basically, with long hair, men or women, and said there’s something you could do here that might help shorten this war. But it might have a lot of legal risk. No one refused. However, 30 years later, not one was willing to let their name be used, because that was a time when John Ashcroft, our previous Confederate Attorney General, before Sessions was the attorney general. And they were afraid, in one case, of deportation; in other cases of indictment, even as late as that.

Now, just a couple of years ago one of–a key person in that process, Gar Alperovitz, did, after consulting his lawyers, decide to let me use his name. And that–there was a New Yorker story about that recently. But others, still cautious. And what it appears now is I think they were right to be cautious about that. I would have thought with all his time having elapsed that could be–and with it having been clear that the publication they’d aided in had served the American interest in helping end the Vietnam War and exposing a lot of lying, I would have thought that they would be not only proud of that, which I think they are, but are willing to take credit for that. Nope. That’s a credit they didn’t want, because it may come at the cost of an indictment. And I hope Gar is not caught up in that at this point.

But the conspiracy charge, I don’t know if there’s a conspiracy charge in this case yet. It’s Chelsea Manning who gave Julian the material has served seven and a half years in prison, and is in prison again right now, apparently because they want her to go beyond what she said, either falsely, which they would be happy with, to incriminate Julian Assange. After all, torture is mainly used for false confessions, to get them. And it’s usually successful at that. But not successful with Chelsea Manning. She was in solitary confinement for ten and a half months, until public pressure got her released into the general prison population years ago. And clearly she’s not a person who can be tortured into a false confession. Or they would want her to give new details of her dealings with Assange that would help them in their prosecution of Assange. And she is not cooperating with the grand jury on that. She objects to the grand jury as an undemocratic–unconstitutional, really–but an undemocratic process and its secrecy, its lack of legal defense, legal support in that process. And many people over the years have resisted that.

As a matter of fact, my codefendant, Tony Russo, refused to testify to the grand jury before–after I was indicted, but before the new indictment. And he spent about a month in jail before he himself was indicted and added to the indictment. So that’s the precedent for what Chelsea Manning is doing now. He didn’t want to be testifying against me in secret to a grand jury, no transcript of the proceedings, no publicity as to what he may have said. In fact, he offered to testify if he was given a transcript that he could publish of his testimony, and they refused to do that, and indicted him itself. I say again, that was Anthony Russo, who is no longer alive.

But Chelsea is doing that right now. She’s acting very courageously–again, I would say, which is not something I would ever demand of anyone. But I’m not at all surprised that she is doing that.

SHARMINI PERIES And Daniel, finally, while the U.S. has requested an extradition here, it is very possible that Julian Assange’s lawyers will resist this request. What are the chances of that succeeding? And if it doesn’t succeed, what awaits him at this end in the U.S. if he’s extradited?

DANIEL ELLSBERG I am doubtful that–but what do I know? My judgment is not worth much here, and it’s a fairly unprecedented case; in fact, totally unprecedented when we’re talking about extraditing him for committing journalism. They do charge him with aiding, or trying to aid Chelsea to conceal her identity on the leaks here. That’s something that the Freedom of the Press Foundation in a different way–and I’m on the board of that, along with Ed Snowden and Laura Poitras, and others. We’ve given out software to many journalist associations to enable people to give them information secretly, and cipher, to encipher it. That’s a little different from what he’s charged with here, but to the same effect, of concealing the source.

Incidentally, Chelsea told me that she intended to reveal herself eventually here to prevent other people from being wrongly accused. That was true of me, and true of Ed Snowden, as well, that we didn’t want other people to be accused of doing what we alone had done here.

So I do think that having induced the British to arrest him forcibly, as just happened, indicates that they will go the extra mile in violating, as I say, international norms by violating his immunity, and his asylum, and then shipping off to the U.S. In my day, his case would have been almost sure to be upheld by this–that is, the case dismissed by the Supreme Court on grounds of violating the First Amendment. But that was a different Supreme Court, 40 years ago. And this court I don’t think at all he could count on to defend the Supreme Court, or much else, in the Bill of Rights. I think a great deal is at risk nowadays, especially with the last couple of appointments that Trump has made. But before that, as well.

So it’s a very ominous situation, not only for Julian Assange, who’s been in one room for almost seven years now, something I suspect, by the way, has affected his judgment in some respects. I don’t endorse every choice he’s made in the last couple of years, in particular. I don’t know what kind of judgment I’d be showing after six years in one room. I think he has ahead of him, for having taken on the world’s mightiest empire and exposed its criminal secrets, in many cases, having to do with torture and assassination, he’s not going to get any breaks from them. I think he’ll be in one room, possibly in solitary confinement, on the excuse that he has further secrets that he might reveal; just as Ed Snowden would face that, I think, possibly for the rest of his life. And that will certainly be far, far more onerous than the room he’s had in the Ecuadorian Embassy, which already amounted to inhumane treatment and wrongful imprisonment. Well, the solitary he’s heading for now is much more serious.

I did notice, by the way, that he was being dragged down the steps. I’ve been arrested many times, and I have a bad back myself. I always walk when I get arrested to spare the backs of the police arresting me. But I think if I were being arrested under these circumstances, with the Constitution at stake here, being absolutely wrongfully arrested, I wouldn’t worry about their backs. I would do what Julian was apparently doing. And that was you’re going to have to drag me into prison.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Daniel. Any last thoughts you have on this case? And particularly, if Julian Assange gets charged with espionage on top of all of this?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: It’s a day for journalists in general, especially, and everybody who values a free press, and not only in this country, to join ranks here now to expose and resist the wrongful–and in this country unconstitutional–abuse of our laws to silence journalists. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is further indicted under the Espionage Act, as I was, the first person to do that. I suspect that will be added to his charges. And again, that’s a great danger to journalists in general. They have to inform themselves on it and begin to demand that the Espionage Act not be used against the free press as it has been under the last two presidents. Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: Daniel Ellsberg, I thank you so much for joining us on this very significant day that exposes the hand of the state that threatens our freedom of expression. Thank you so much.


SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.

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  1. John

    The elites were never going to let Asssange go free. They’ve been intent on having him and Wikileaks shut down from his first leak for exposing their secrets and crimes.

    Pompeo the Rabid (WikiLeaks is a “non-state, hostile intelligence service”) is leading the charge with the CIA and the DOD behind him for sure. And with him and for many of the exposed elites it’s personal.

    Trump “I know nothing about Wikileaks” who cited Wikileaks over 140 times is playing his tried and true role: aggressor and user, then when caught or no longer advantageous to him; liar and dunce.

    Both sides of the aisle share a intense hated of Assange and a desire for revenge as he exposed them both seemingly without prejudice until the 2016 election when his desire to keep Clinton “can’t we drone him”, whom he no doubt saw as a threat to his life, from the presidency seems to have pushed him to choose Trump. A very, very bad mistake on his part. Most likely a fatal mistake that will lead to his imprisonment and torture.

    1. Yves Smith

      There is no evidence that Assange “chose Trump”. Wikileaks got material that he republished. Are you seriously suggesting the reverse, that Wikileaks should have sat on the DNC e-mails to help Clinton? No one thought she could possibly lose as of the time of that Wikileaks dump, and no academic election analyst has attributed any significance in terms of election impact to the Wikileaks release. The Wikileaks business model was to get as much exposure for the material that leakers sent them as possible.

      This is yet another effort to sell the idea that the Dems cling to, that Hillary didn’t lose that election on her own. Sorry, she did. Her “deplorables” remark, her failure to visit swing states after Labor Day, her making 50% fewer campaign stops after Labor Day all played into her loss. And another factor was that Trump did very effective large scale campaign spending after Labor Day:

      Trump prevailed because his campaign carefully targeted key states with late infusions of big money from private equity, casinos, and other far right contributors, a remarkable wave of donations from small donors, and substantial infusions from the candidate himself.


      And see also:

      A new research paper from the Institute for New Economic Thinking released today makes the case that Trump artfully exploited long-term economic distress to clinch the 2016 presidential election.

      The paper challenges the popular conventional wisdom embraced by many pundits that the 62.9 million Americans who cast a vote for Trump were simply one-dimensional “deplorables” — troglodytes motivated narrowly by racist, sexist, and xenophobic rhetoric and little else.

      The authors of this new study — Thomas Ferguson, Benjamin Page, Jacob Rothschild, Arturo Chang, and Jie Chen — use a combination of figures from the American National Election Studies data set, along with aggregate data from congressional districts, to paint a far more complicated picture.

      Trump eschewed traditional Republican orthodoxy, promising to protect Medicare and Social Security, while training his fire at the bipartisan consensus around free trade. Many voters conflate trade deals that have hollowed out the country’s manufacturing base and decades of stagnant wages with increased immigration, seeing the issues as inextricably linked. Trump spoke to this view, blaming immigrants and refugees for crime and terrorism, but also for economic hardship and national decline, a message that appeared to resonate with voters.

      “Not only were several major economic factors important; our analyses make clear that the social and the economic were intertwined, both in Trump’s rhetoric and in the minds of many voters,” the study notes.

      The study is careful not to claim that race and gender played no role in the election, and notes that Trump absolutely mobilized anger over identity, gender, religion, and national origin. But the effects were limited. Explicit gender and ethnic insults used by Trump appeared to help the real estate tycoon prevail largely in the primary election but may have harmed him among many swing voters in the general election.

      Previous attempts to use ANES data to discern the connection between economic anxiety and Trump support have found little correlation.

      Previous papers rely almost entirely on ANES’s short-term economic attitude questions, which the authors argue are “known to be error-ridden, subject to partisan and other biases.” What’s more, these questions only provide a limited range of fill-in-the-bubble answers that do not reflect the full range of sometimes conflicting views of voters.

      The authors of the Institute for New Economic Thinking study incorporate open-ended responses to ANES questions, which allow voters to write out their own spontaneous responses to broad questions, rather than selecting a canned response.

      The open-ended answers, they argue, show that social and economic factors were deeply connected for many voters, including crucial voters who swung from voting for Barack Obama to Trump, voters who went from supporting Obama to not voting, and voters who went from not voting in 2012 to backing Trump in 2016.

      Voters expressed concerns about immigration and trade in ways that alluded to a complex mixture of both social and economic anxieties. Many worried that immigrants speak foreign languages, but conveyed such anxieties in tandem with (perhaps exaggerated) concerns about competition over jobs.

      The authors also found that a drop over four years in the number of business establishments in a congressional district led to substantially more votes for Trump than for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, as well as voters expressing a sense of being left behind in the economic recovery tied closely to support for Trump.

      For many voters, the very real impact of globalization, outsourcing, wage stagnation, increasing student loan debt, and an uneven economic recovery since 2008 financial crisis has been caused by largely invisible forces. The economic decisions that influence manufacturing, trade, or salaries are made miles away, behind closed doors and with little media coverage. The communities that are most affected are left wondering who’s to blame. Traditional politicians promise solutions but fail to deliver. That disparity means that voters feeling the short end of the economic order might easily fall prey to efforts to scapegoat much more visible trends in society, such as increasing diversity, immigration, and advances by women and minorities.

      The authors suggest that economic stagnation for entire regions of the country, particularly in rural communities and once thriving manufacturing hubs, meant voters were most susceptible to the belief that America was on the “wrong track” and were likely to gravitate toward Trump. In response to open-ended questions, they expressed a desire for a tough-talking strong leader who could protect social safety net programs while taking a sledge hammer to trade and immigration.

      The answers to the surveys show many individuals with a preference for Trump also asserted that there is no major difference between the parties, that health costs are too high, that moneyed interests control the political system, that increased imports into the country have destroyed local jobs, critiques that are often associated with left-wing economic concerns.


      1. John

        I’m not saying Asssange is a Russian agent. I don’t at all believe he is.

        What I am saying is that based on the timing of his release of the DNC emails, one hour after the Access Hollywood tape release, certainly helped to take the focus in the media off of that, or at least to have another election scandal to cover so as to push it out of the spotlight. I think he gambled on Trump as the better option for himself with the timing of that move.

        That doesn’t mean I think he should be indicted by the USA for his Wikileaks releases.

        And btw I hold Clinton accountable for her failures as a candidate in appealing to the Left and the working class since how could she really: she was Hampton/Goldman Sachs candidate. (so was Trump but just in a more buried way than her).

        1. urblintz

          So it was his publishing of damning information, and the timing involved, that mattered most, as opposed to the damning information in what he published?

            1. urblintz

              True enough, if the emails had been published after the election we might have another Clinton in the WH. Which compels me to say that whatever horror I may have about Trump’s success does not mitigate the joy I felt that Clinton lost. An impossible conundrum that…

              1. Plenue

                I think so far Trump is still better simply because he’s so inept. He’s doing a fine job accelerating the decline of the American Empire.

                And I also find something refreshing about his ripping the band-aid off on issues like Israel, ending decades of farcical pretence.

                1. urblintz

                  Pleased to agree w/you after our showdown over Marxism the other day, heh…

                  I’ve been saying to any still listneing that the best thing Trump can accomplish is to reveal, through his stupidity, the true and pernicious nature of this “exceptional/indispensable” nation (cough) and indeed “accelerate the decline” of empire. Well said.

                  1. workingclasshero

                    Trump,will prove to be at the end of his probanle 2nd term to have delivered most of the neo-con/neo-liberal agenda he half assed proclaimed he was against.anyone who can still believe he ripped the blinders off this or that systemic hypocrisy is clueless.i voted reluctantly for a color in 2016 by the way.

                    1. Plenue

                      If nothing else people are taking some notice of bad things when Trump does them that they weren’t before. And I think he’s already pushed other countries to accelerate their plans to set up alternatives to American dominated arrangements.

              2. Stephen V.

                In Assange’s own words, iIRC,
                Our 2016 Election was a choice between syphilis and gonorrhea. ..

          1. erichwwk


            i am more than a bit astonished that you seem to be the only commenter for whom the damning information (the specifics of the WAR CRIMES being commited) mattered most. Sad.

            Are folks really that nonchalant about using (or should I say DISCARDING) the damning information?

        2. lyman alpha blob

          The media lost focus on the Access Hollywood tape? Granted I don’t watch the MSM much, but from what I saw they absolutely hammered on the Access Hollywood tape and if they mentioned the DNC leaks at all it was in an attempt to discredit them.

          1. John

            The DNC email leak gave the Right (FOX etc) their ammunition to deflect the Hollywood Accesss tapes and go on the attack.

            1. lyman alpha blob

              I see. So better that we all remained ignorant of the truth if there was any possibility some partisan media outlet might pick up on it?

              Both major parties are the Right and anything that discredits either of them is fine by me.

              1. John

                Stop putting words in my mouth.

                I’m for transparency.

                I’m trying to point out some the effects of what was leaked.

            2. Pat

              You do realize that Fox News averages between 2 and 4 million viewers for their entire prime time vs 24 million viewers for the broadcast evening news. And yes Fox News does best both MSNBC and CNN but they also have viewers.

              No much as the leak of the DNC emails should have dominated news and been a huge factor most people knew diddly about it. the Access Hollywood tape didn’t have the effect the Democratic brain trust thought it would because nobody really was shocked and evangelicals are as tribalistic as any other group of voters.

        3. Monty

          Wikileaks announced their intention to publish well in advance of that day. My understanding of the events is that the tape may have released at that moment to distract from Wikileaks, not vice versa.

          Also, as far as media play goes, the trump tape got wide reporting to the general public. In contrast, CNN told viewers it would be illegal to read the leaked emails, and certainly didnt do much, if any, reporting on the misdeeds held within. They were mentioned only to cast aspersions.

          1. ggm

            I think that is correct. I’ve read reports of sources in the Clinton campaign who say they wanted to sit on the tape until closer to the election and releasing it so early allowed Trump too much time to recover. So why was it released earlier than planned? Maybe someone was going to scoop them or maybe they wanted a distraction from Wikileaks.

        1. Expat2uruguay

          Indeed. I wanted to say the same. that was fascinating material presented here from The Intercept article. Thanks for posting such a large portion of that article. Illuminating.

      2. Kevin Carhart

        I wonder if the architects of precarity from around 2008-2016 will ponder this study. I’d like to hand a copy to the signatories of the tech industry’s “Never Again” pledge. (With company affiliations after their names like Uber, Lyft, Walmart Labs, Google…)

        Ferguson is great. I hope they spread it as wide as possible.

      3. Steve H.

        Lest anyone think differently, for NC this is most likely an existential threat. Expect no quarter.

        Ref: PropOrNot.

      4. Watt4Bob


        Your comment is worthy of its own post.

        It describes an important reality surrounding the issue of the economic hardships endured by the working class, their righteous anger as a result, and their confusion as concerns the causes.

        Many people focus that anger on immigrants, while ignoring the employers role in using immigrant labor to drive down wages, off shoring manufacturing to the same end, and refusing to engage in comprehensive immigration reform.

        Immigrants didn’t come to steal our jobs, and democrats didn’t push open boarders in order to increase their voting base, instead, both parties passively allowed the influx of immigrant labor, the natural result of the economic misery in their home countries, all the result of our governments dedication to putting the interests of big business ahead of the interests of the American people.

        While NC in a broad sense educates readers to these realities, your comment illuminates the particular issue of the manufactured confusion surrounding the forces relentlessly driving the downward pressure experienced by the working class.

        Our greatest impediment to progress is the fact that the two political parties are so successful at maintaining the myth that they stand in opposition to each other, and as a result, we the people are unaware that they are cooperating in destroying our lives in order to make themselves rich.

    2. G-

      “A very, very bad mistake on his part.”

      How do you know “drone him” Clinton wouldn’t have been even worse?

      1. Annieb

        Indeed. I believe that Madame Clinton would have surely pulled the blinds on our totalitarian regime wide open, just as Trump has done. Trump or Clinton, it’s a wash as to which would have done the most damage to our ailing republic.

  2. Isotope_C14

    “from the presidency seems to have pushed him to choose Trump.”

    Assange was a keynote speaker at the Green Party convention.

    This was the only party at the time calling for his immediate release.

    I hardly think that Assange was naive enough to think that Trump wasn’t paid by Bill to throw the election to Hillary, as such, he didn’t have a duck in the race, since the ballots aren’t paper, hand-counted-in-public.

    Regardless, the pro-HRC media has essentially turned MSM into laughing-stocks, trusted less than congress I’d wager, but I wouldn’t believe their polls on it. They may have won this battle, but they’ve lost the war. The MSM credibility is essentially gone.

    1. Monty

      “The MSM credibility is essentially gone” … Among people like us.

      Many (most?) people are not “newshounds” and just DGAF about things like this. Too busy living life, and trying to make ends meet, to put 2 and 2 together to see what’s going on in their name.

      1. Ignacio

        That sounds truthful. I agree. From time to time one needs “reality checks” to see what other neighbours are thinking.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Well, when you have spent so much on first-class tickets for the SS Russiagate while looking forward to spending time in the Collusion Lounge listening to such entertainers as Rachel Maddow, it come as a bit of a shock when you discover that the MSM gangway has actually led you onboard a garbage scow.

        1. norm de plume

          Myself and several fellow travellers are engaged in a bit of informal friend and family polling, in our living rooms, at work, down at the pub. It is dispiriting, depressing, demoralising… and it is dangerous.

          When nudged, people pop out the most outrageous slurs, generally half-remembered from a shock jock on the radio or an op-ediot in the paper or from something someone else said. They have no remotely accurate frame of reference in which to place Assange, other than the venom-soaked, establishment-directed media environment we all swim in.

          For example, I was looking at the New Zealand Herald website yesterday and was struck by the absence of Assange – finding only one anodyne ‘what’s next’ story in a sidebar. So I used the site search for him and found an array of stories, every one of which was offensive or misleading, often both. Contempt and ridicule, with not one iota of reflection upon the issues this raises, the dangers it flags. Nothing.

          So when we hear hitherto apolitical aunts and drinking buddies – who only get their info and opinion from ‘approved’ sources – expressing satisfaction that ‘that rapist’ had been arrested, or that ‘he smeared shit on the walls’ or simply that he was just a ‘smart-arse’ or ‘wanker’ who had it coming… it is not a surprise. But it is still a shock.

          As I said to a (fellow NC reading) mate: The ignorance that surrounds us has been weaponised. It is state-sanctioned, indeed almost state-coerced ignorance. Two Minutes Hate. These indignant but profoundly ignorant expressions of approved untruths are our ‘Heil Hitlers’.

  3. Carolinian

    I’m not sure that Trump himself is on board with a full bore persecution of Assange. His evading the question the other day could be a good sign.

    And when it comes to freedom of the press they have, by and large, already surrendered freedom when it comes to certain topics or disagreement with what might be called the “elite consensus”–aka The Blob. Freedom may not mean much to people who are too cowardly to use it.

    Contra Ellsberg this is far from a done deal, IMO.

    1. philnc

      Carolinian makes an important point. The mainstream media surrendered our freedom of the press a very long while ago, voluntarily becoming mere stenographers to power. This betrayal is compounded by the fact that we, the ordinary people, are not seen as having any standing in the matter.

    2. The Rev Kev

      If I was Trump, I would let the British legal procedures spin out for the next coupla years and not be in such a hurry to bring him to the US. If he is shipped over before November 2020, Assange could be “encouraged” to say that he cooperated with the Russians in helping Trump win over Hillary in 2016. Is this something that Trump would want to happen as he goes into election mode for next year? To have charges floated that he is an illegitimate President in fact? That sort of thing would undercut his whole campaign and make him a one-term wonder and I am fairly certain that he wants that second term.

    3. Monty

      Remember when the MAGA #qAnon followers were duped into believing they were living in a Tom Clancy novel, and that Assange had been secretly set free by Trump after the election?

      The story was that Wikileaks had been compromised by the deep state. Wikileaks (and Julian’s mother) were lying about him being in the Ecuadorian embassy. qAnon claimed Assange was in fact free, and helping Trump behind the scenes. I thought at the time it seemed to be a craven attempt to inoculate Trump from future wikileaks publications.

      I wonder how this latest turn of events is being made to fit into that epic delusion. Are the extreme levels of cognitive dissonance causing a spike in apoplexy related deaths?

  4. YY

    Bit off topic, but it is frustrating to see Chelsea Manning incarcerated again and possibly (speculatively) not receiving the best legal representation. Indulging her stance on the unreasonableness of the grand jury system is allowing tilting at windmills. Her lawyers should be addressing the unconstitutionality of double jeapardy where she is being jailed for something that she’s previously been charged, convicted and served time for. It can not be that the question of conspiring with others in the leak to wikileaks did not come up in her military trial vs the United States. Not having dobbed in Assange is an issue over and done with and paid for.

    1. John

      Manning was charged with 22 offenses which I can’t find the complete list of so it’s possible it was one of the charges.

      The charge now is a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.

      Since Obama didn’t pardon Manning maybe there isn’t double jeopardy if it wasn’t one of the charges in 2010 and 2011.

      1. Raulb

        This seems irrelevant. What the point of making references to rule of law and some process in this naive fashion when nothing about what is happening to Assange, Snowden or Manning have anything to do with rule of law. It provides a cover and distracts from the transparent abuse of law to harass, intimidate and silence dissent.

        What the point of having whistle blower protection if you are going to prosecute whiste blowers anyway? And Manning is being persecuted for years now in public with very little protest and pushback and the people involved in the abuse are treated with kid gloves and even promoted.

        Same thing with the Snowden revelations. How can illegal activity be classified and be the premise to go after whistleblowers? This is not only illogical but illegal and absurd. Not a single person has been held accountable for all the revelations made while Assange, Snowden and Manning themselves are being hounded incessantly? This is breakdown of rule of law. There is no rule of law, just the motion and pretense.

        There is some dissonance in western populations who are skeptical when rule of law and process is used in other countries to suppress dissent – in those cases no one talks about rule of law as if its operational – and when it comes to us inspite of brazen and blatant abuse we see this sad and naive clinging on as it these events are not happening.

        1. John

          It’s not irrelevant.

          Maybe you should reread Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

          4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

          Until the laws are repealed or the Constitution is torn up Rule 4 applies.

          1. Raulb

            This is getting absurder. Assange has been in the embassy for 7 years now, Snowden couldn’t get asylum in Europe – that great bastion of freedom, dissent and rule of law – and is stranded in Russia for 5 years now and Manning in and out of prison so it appears rule 4 is not working. The UN passing a resolution against the UK on Assange had zero effect.

            Entire countries have been destroyed, millions killed and populations put in disarray. Iraq, Libya – the most advanced country in Africa has been reduced to a medieval joke, and the exact same playbook is in operation in Syria and Venezuela putting millions of lives at risk right now and yet no democracy, ‘values’ or ‘rule of law’ is able to stop this for 2 decades now.

            This kind of devastation, suffering and the complete mockery of the most basic human values cannot be addressed by pretensions because the pretensions themselves are propaganda as Assange, Snowden and Manning have learnt at a high cost to themselves. After the treatment of Assange, Snowden and Manning in the west how many people do you think are going to be following their footsteps? There goes your much valued ‘dissent’.

        2. rob

          the real truth is that THIS IS “bizzarro-world”… up is down. We are in an asylum for the insane. In a mad world ,only the mad are sane.

          But , I agree ….. the pretense of normalcy,of legitimacy…… WTF!

  5. Susan the other`

    Ellsberg said that Chelsea had recently told him she planned to make it clear that her actions were her own and not induced by Assange. She could see this coming. Assange is being used to get to her it looks like. The entirety of the free press is behind Assange. When it comes to Snowden and Chelsea Manning, they are in limbo because whistleblowers are not protected by the constitution. The point at which state security and/or privacy rights is damaged by whistleblowing, free speech and freedom of information is the question that is going to go to the Supremes. And this drags in all sorts of other stuff, like the recent decision to allow 9/11 survivors to sue the Saudis, not to mention war crimes jurisdiction. The ICC has just been told (by Bolton) that it is a rogue tribunal and the US would never sacrifice its erstwhile leaders to ICC examination. Kinda looks to be an historical confrontation.

    1. Susan the other`

      And further, Trump’s Supreme Court appointments serve the purposes of George Bush as much as anybody. There is a clear connection of loyalty to Bush by Kavanaugh. And if Bolton hadn’t told the ICC to F-off Bush himself would be on very thin ice. I don’t think the solution to this jeopardy is to become even more fascist and criminal. To become less so would be a better choice. If we only had a decent Congress.

      1. polecat

        What ? .. A decent CONgress you ask ?? Surely you jest !

        ‘$’ In Ferengi We Thrust ‘$’

  6. DHG

    Assange is no journalist, he is a thug who deals in stolen materials. He will be dealt with severely for it.

    1. curlydan

      What would charge him with? Being a thug or publishing stolen materials? Should the NYT and Washington Post–which also publish “stolen materials”–be prosecuted as well?

    2. urblintz

      You might want to bone up on the law as it relates to publishers, journalism and their contacts. If you understood anything about it, you’d know not to pen such a ridiculous comment. Or perhaps you thought you were at dailykos, where no such knowledge is required, only irrational vitriol, at which you seem to excel.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Is that you Pompeo? Haven’t you got a country to threaten on your hit list instead?

    4. rob

      oh really?
      So what “materials” were stolen? and how does one exactly,”deal in them”
      And just what is a “thug” in your experience?….. what do you live in mr rogers neighborhood ,or something?

  7. barrisj

    Let us remember that Ellsberg and co-defendant Anthony Russo had their trial (on multiple and far more severe charges than Assange would face) thrown out because of gross government misconduct, including the famous “Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist” office break-in by Nixon’s “plumbers”. And, therefore, any and all of the potential constitutional issues raised by the government’s charges – including violation of the Espionage Act – had the trial been free of the taint of governmental misconduct AND Ellsberg and Russo found guilty, could not be resolved upon appeal. Now it’s entirely possible that Barr’s DOJ will lay more serious charges in a superceding indictment against Assange, and then force a guilty plea on lesser “offenses”, but my sense is that Assange would turn down a plea bargain and go to court in order to get a full airing of First Amendment issues raised by his indictment and trial. At any rate, the man is going to need a first-class legal team, and deep-pocket financial support to see it all through.

  8. jonf

    Yves, excellent commentary, no major quarrels from me at all. I would emphasize she lost it all on her on own.

    I do want to comment on Assange. I know many think he is a journalist and therefore should not be held to account for his leaks. He is indicted now for assisting Manning hack a password to classified material. That is illegal and a conspiracy. He faces jail time for that. (I don’t know but I suspect DOJ wants to talk to him about other matters as well.) I suspect Manning is also in some jeopardy now. BTW I understand some of that material allegedly had to do with troop movements.

    1. Yves Smith

      If you read the thread on Lambert’s Assange wrap-up post, Assange did not “assist Manning in hacking a password.” There’s no evidence that Assange and Manning did more than discuss an idea. Even though Assange did some serious hacking in the 1990s, it’s not even clear he’s kept up with the state of the art. On top of that, cracking encryption would seem to be an impossible task:

      April 12, 2019 at 5:32 pm
      Thanks Lambert. Greenwald says that Assange got Manning to use a Linux live cd to get the encrypted password file from his shared military Windows computer and they puzzled over it trying to decrypt someone else’s password. All this was to disguise Manning’s access (he lacked administrative privileges).

      In other words it was a version of attempted “hacking” so lame that even I could do it (and also fail). Surely this weak sounding indictment is just an excuse to get him on that rendition plane and off to a Guantanamo dog cage. Given our USG history who can prove this isn’t true?

      There is nothing so far that suggests that Assange gave Manning any concrete instruction or attempted himself to manipulate the CD. This reads as on the order of Manning saying to Assange “I want to rob a bank and I have everything worked out except how to open the vault. Here’s all the stuff I have. Got any ideas?” It also does not appear that any bank robbery actually occurred. Please tell me how this is a crime. Unsuccessful plotting to commit a crime is not (yet) a crime. The complaint apparently does NOT allege that the “hack” actually took place.

      1. Alex V

        I believe there was a bit more exchange of information alleged in the indictment. Manning allegedly used the Live CD to successfully retrieve the password file from the Windows machine, which she then sent to Assange, who was unable to decrypt it. I think this strengthens the allegation of conspiracy to hack somewhat if one applies the law as literally as possible, since Assange was trying to actively assist in compromising a system. It should however be noted that this information was known by the Obama DoJ, which did not prosecute on allegedly First Amendment grounds. In any case, it’s painfully obvious this prosecution is not being done in the public interest in any shape or form.

  9. Expat2uruguay

    I have some ideas as to why this is happening now. First off Julian Assange is in very bad health, and they were worried he would die before they could create this spectacle for the education of journalists. Secondly, they needed to line up the replacement of Ted Kennedy on the Supreme Court in order to lock down any Appeals. Then there was the required negotiating time with the leader of Ecuador. Under this Theory, this whole thing is about destroying freedom of the press. Legally.
    It’s odd to me that no one makes the point in the interview, that freedom of the press is a prerequisite for democracy, since it relies on the votes of informed citizens

    1. norm de plume

      I dunno, I think given the choice they would have preferred him to die before they got their mitts on him. Yes they’d miss the chance for a warning, but they’d also avoid the dangers inherent in exposing the nakedly repressive nature of our ‘democracy’ and provide less catnip for activists.

      As to why it’s happening now, well Brexit’s cleavage of parties and the potential of a change of leader if not govt provides a good window of opportunity, as does the election campaign now under way here in his home country Australia. Small target strategies rule right now, even more than is usual.

      Here is an alternative view of Assange as journalist from someone whose bona fides will make his arguments resonate with many:

      ‘As someone who has been imprisoned by a foreign government for publishing material that it didn’t like, I have a certain sympathy with Assange. But my support stops there.

      To be clear, Julian Assange is not a journalist, and WikiLeaks is not a news organisation. There is an argument to be had about the libertarian ideal of radical transparency that underpins its ethos, but that is a separate issue altogether from press freedom.

      Instead of sorting through the hundreds of thousands of files to seek out the most important or relevant and protect the innocent, he dumped them all onto his website, free for anybody to go through, regardless of their contents or the impact they might have had. Some exposed the names of Afghans who had been giving information on the Taliban to US forces.

      Journalism demands more than simply acquiring confidential information and releasing it unfiltered onto the internet for punters to sort through. It comes with responsibility.

      To effectively fulfil the role of journalism in a democracy, there is an obligation to seek out what is genuinely in the public interest and a responsibility to remove anything that may compromise the privacy of individuals not directly involved in a story or that might put them at risk’

      1. The Rev Kev

        Not sure if I can agree with your definition of journalism. As an example about document dumping which you complain about – remember the Panama papers? That made a big hit when they came out and a team of journalist were organized to go through them for release. Well that was several years ago and they seemed to have dropped down a memory hole. When they came out, they took care the splash the photo of a man that was never in that list at all, that of Putin. Modern journalism isn’t a source. It’s a bottleneck.
        I seem to recall that Wikileaks offered to consult with Washington to go through any files released to redact any sensitive information. They not only refused Wikileaks but doubled down on them to hunt them down. And I remember Peter Greste. He actually had support from the Australian government to help him. But for him to claim that Wikileaks is not a news organization is only special pleading. Is the Washington Post a news organization? The New York Times? The Australian? Whatever those papers are doing it is not journalism. They are not your friend. And do not accept any journalistic chocolate sandwiches from them. It will not be chocolate.

        1. norm de plume

          It’s not my definition Rev, I was quoting Greste. I agree with you; in fact I just said to my mother (who put me on to the Greste piece):

          Greste comes from a journalistic tradition that we are old enough to remember with affection (Cronkite with Vietnam, Woodward and Bernstein at the Post exposing Watergate, etc), but those news organisations back then were comparitively independent entities, virtually free of government control given the ‘rivers of gold’ of pre-internet classified advertising. If they wanted to go after the government on this or that, they did. There was a concept of public service in the media, the press particularly and it is on that nostalgic conception that Greste leans.

          But that was then and this is now. Mainstream media the world over is no longer a separate and potentially oppositional pole to the power of the establishment, it is a major part of it, a weapon of rather than a danger to the powers that be. The behaviour of the even the erstwhile progressive champion Guardian in recent years is a pretty fair index of that, but it is a general phenomenon, not surprising when almost all major media platforms in the West are owned by billionaires or hedge funds.

          The sort of parsing of raw information by members of the press corps that Greste refers to would I think strike fear or at least suspicion into the hearts of informed people everywhere. We would want to see what was on the cuttting room floor, thanks very much. Given the track record of the press since the turn of the millennium in particular, why in God’s name would you trust them to ‘parse’ with the public in mind? Perhaps we could trust Peter Greste himself to ‘do the right thing’ but how much company does he have in the ranks of mainstream journalism nowadays? It boils down to trust, or rather the lack of it. No-one with an operating brain cell trusts the mainstream media any more. The counter-examples Greste provides are impressive, but the thing is they are the exception nowadays, not the rule.

  10. The Rev Kev

    Meanwhile, Ecuador’s Embassy in London are trying not to sound like complete and total idiots but are not doing a very good job of it. They were suspicious of Assange’s cat that it might have been bubged as it was roaming through the embassy and that maybe Assange had bugged the phones. Maybe they were thinking of the CIA’s ‘Acoustic Kitty’ program-


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