Right wing politicians are using the latest mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso as an excuse to say that they need the same sweeping rights to invade privacy that they currently use to combat foreign terrorists against potential American domestic terrorist threats. It’s not hard to see how these tools would quickly be used to crack down on any form of dissent.
British goon cops acting at the request of the United States government entered Ecuador’s embassy in London, dragged out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and prepared to ship him across the pond. After this event last month most of the mainstream media reacted with spiteful glee about Assange’s predicament and relief that the Department of Justice had exercised self-restraint in its choice of charges.“Because traditional journalistic activity does not extend to helping a source break a code to gain illicit access to a classified network, the charge appeared to be an attempt by prosecutors to sidestep the potential First Amendment minefield of treating the act of publishing information as a crime,” reported a pleased The New York Times.
At the time, the feds had accused Assange of hacking conspiracy because he and Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning allegedly discussed how to break into a Pentagon computer.
Bob Garfield of NPR’s “On the Media,” a veteran reporter who should and probably does know better, was one of many establishmentarians who opined that we needn’t worry because Assange isn’t a “real” journalist.
This being the Trump Administration, self-restraint was in short supply. It turns out that the short list of Assange charges was a temporary ploy to manipulate our gullible English allies. Now Assange faces 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act and a finally-concerned Times calls it “a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues” and “a case that could open the door to criminalizing activities that are crucial to American investigative journalists who write about national security matters.”
Corporate media’s instant reversal on Assange—from rapist scum to First Amendment hero within minutes—elevates self-serving hypocrisy to high art. But that’s OK. Whatever gets Assange closer to freedom is welcome—even the jackals of corporate media.
May we linger, however, on an important point that risks getting lost?
Even if Assange were guilty of hacking into that Pentagon computer…
Even if it had been Assange’s idea…
Even if Manning had had nothing to do with it…
Even if Trump’s DOJ hadn’t larded on the Espionage Act stuff…
Assange should not have faced any charges.
Included in the material Manning stole from the military and posted to WikiLeaks were the “Afghan War Logs,” the “Iraq War Logs,” files about the concentration camp at Guantánamo and the “Collateral Murder” video of the U.S. military’s 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad.
For the sake of argument let’s assume that Assange, without Manning, had personally hacked into a Pentagon computer and in doing so discovered proof that U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were guilty of war crimes, including torture and the mass murder of civilians for fun—and put that evidence of criminal wrongdoing online. Would Assange deserve a prison term? Of course not. He would merit a medal, a ticker-tape parade, a centrally-located handsome statue or two.
Even if Assange were “guilty” of the hacking charges, so what? The “crime” of which he stands accused pales next to the wrongdoing he helped to expose.
Good Samaritan laws protect people who commit what the law calls a “crime of necessity.” If you save a child from your neighbor’s burning house the police shouldn’t charge you with trespassing. Similarly if the only way to expose government or corporate lawbreaking is to steal confidential documents and release them to the press à la Edward Snowden, you should be immune from prosecution. That principle clearly applies to the materials Manning stole and Assange released as a public service to citizens unaware of the misdeeds committed under their name and at their expense.
Even among liberals it has become fashionable to observe that people who engage in civil disobedience must be prepared to face legal punishment. This is a belief grounded in practicality: individuals who confront the state need to understand that theirs will be a difficult struggle.
Over the past few decades, however, what was common sense has become perverted into a bizarre justification for oppression: Snowden/Assange/Manning/Winner violated laws, they knew what they were doing, that’s the risk they took, and so—this is the weird part—the Left need not defend them.
Yes, these whistleblowers knew (or ought to have known) that they risked prosecution and prison time. But that’s the way things are, not the way they ought to be. The project of a Left must be to fight for society and politics as they should be, not to blandly shrug our shoulders and accept the status quo. Laws should be rewritten to protect whistleblowers like Manning and journalists like Assange who expose official criminality.
Whistleblowers should never face prosecution.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
The estimated total cost of the US war against Afghanistan is now running $13 trillion, enough to pay off all debts of all Americans. Why didn’t the CIA, which the media trusts implicitly these days, warn us that we’d lose after spending all that money and destroying hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides?
The Democrat-led anti-Trump “Resistance” and its numerous media mouthpieces have been promoting their “Russia hacked the election” narrative for two years. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fired the biggest recent salvo in this campaign after Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington.
“The notion that President Trump would invite a tyrant to Washington is beyond belief,” Pelosi said in a statement on Friday, calling Putin a “thug.” (The recurring use of “thug” to describe Russians has become so consistent as to have become a de facto ethnic slur.) “Putin’s ongoing attacks on our elections and on Western democracies and his illegal actions in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine deserve the fierce, unanimous condemnation of the international community, not a VIP ticket to our nation’s capital.”
Despite liberals’ uncharacteristically focused and sustained efforts — imagine if Obama and company had pushed as hard for a public option on healthcare! — their #RussophobiaMatters campaign is doing poorly. Fewer than one percent of voters think Russia is a major issue.
Democratic leaders are confused. They’ve got the newspapers and NPR and a passel of cable news stations all over their “Trump colluded with Russia” story. Why don’t people care? Christ, even Democratic voters don’t care!
Aside from famine and war few things are sadder than the sight of a hopelessly perplexed House and Senate Democratic leadership. So rather than let them spend a third year wondering why Russiagate keeps being greeted by a great national yawn, I’m here to explain it to them.
Everyone else can stop reading now.
Dear Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi:
First: even if the story were true, it wouldn’t make sense. You’re asking us to believe that Trump’s people met with Putin’s people, not to discuss Trump’s sleazy real estate developments in the former Soviet Union, but to encourage Russian hackers to break into the DNC, steal Hillary’s emails and funnel them to WikiLeaks with a view toward angering enough voters to change the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor.
Trump doesn’t even read one-page memos. Yet we’re being asked to believe that he supervised a ridiculously complex Machiavellian conspiracy?
WikiLeaks didn’t get the DNC documents from Russia or any other state actor. They got them from a disgruntled pro-Bernie Sanders staffer at the DNC.
Anyway, the intelligence community — you know, the friendly folks at the CIA, FBI and NSA whom Democrats worship the way Republicans revered firefighters after 9/11 — says whatever Russian hacking occurred did not affect the outcome of the election.
Then there’s this: Trump didn’t actually want to win. Why would he go to such lengths to steal something he didn’t want?
Second: everything you accuse Russia and/or Putin of doing is something the U.S. has done or is doing bigger and worse. Russia undermined Ukraine and forcibly annexed Crimea. By current international standards Russia committed a misdemeanor; as The Washington Post noted at the time: “Most people in Crimea wanted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.” Meanwhile, the U.S. was occupying both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are felonies: neither the Afghans nor the Iraqis want us around.
Third: I’m going to use small words here — where’s the evidence of Russian “meddling”?
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy went on TV to discuss the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Because he needed Americans to trust and believe that the threat he described was real, he displayed aerial surveillance photos of the missiles in his speech to the nation. This meant revealing the existence of spy technology the Soviets weren’t aware of, so it was a difficult decision for him. But providing credible evidence was more important.
At this writing, the Democrats’ Russia arguments boil down to:
- Media outlet quotes anonymous congressional official or anonymous intelligence agency employee.
- Said anonymous source says the intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the election.
- Details of how Russia accomplished said meddling are absent.
- Details of how effective said meddling was are absent.
If evidence of said meddling actually exists, Democrats should follow the JFK example and cough it up. In detail. And explain what it means — also in detail.
Until then, Russia as a political issue will continue to be a dead letter.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s independent political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
The United States tried to overthrow or directly interfere in the elections of at least 80 countries throughout the Cold War alone. How exactly is it in a position to complain if it turns out to be true that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election?
A long-time Guantanamo Bay detainee and victim of torture has credibly described torture even more extensive and brutal than the horrrors described in the Senate report on torture a few months ago. What is wrong with us, that this isn’t even news, much less actionable as a scandal?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has unleashed a ferocious debunking of the official Obama Administration narrative, dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” of the 2011 assassination by Navy SEALS of Osama bin Laden. Everything you think you know about the killing of the Al Qaeda leader accused of ordering the 9/11 attacks, Hersh asserts, is total bullshit.
For its part, the White House is kind of sort of denying Hersh’s alternative history.
“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” Hersh writes in the London Review of Books.
Here are the seven things Hersh’s piece makes one wonder about:
One: According to Hersh, the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency kept bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad between 2006 and 2011, kind of the way the Burmese junta did to hot dissident lady Aung San Suu Kyi. So when the SEALs came to kill him, it was less like bad-ass, well, SEALs, than shooting fish in a barrel. Anyway, they hid America’s most wanted man ever from us. Why are we paying the Pakistanis $1.6 billion a year? If we paid them $2.6 billion, would they be nicer to us?
Two: According to Hersh, careful intelligence gathering, torture, tracking that courier guy, none of that stuff led to bin Laden.
It was greed: ISI agent Amir Aziz walked into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad with evidence bin Laden was in ISI custody. “Aziz had been rewarded with a share of the $25 million reward the US had put up,” Hersh says. He adds: “The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA.” If you came into what we must assume is a significant share of $25 million — even if it’s just $5 million — wouldn’t you retire? Are all Pakistanis workaholics?
Three: Hersh says there was no firefight, that bin Laden never resisted, much less got off a shot. “The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme,” he says.
What about when the assassinations are executed with drones? Does the Obama Administration pretend drone victims first have to point a gun at the drone before the Hellfire missiles are loosed?
Four: After the raid, the SEALs were ordered to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) so the public wouldn’t learn that the rubout was a cowardly act of, one might say terrorism. “On 5 May, every member of the Seal hit team – they had returned to their base in southern Virginia – and some members of the Joint Special Operations Command leadership were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private,” Hersh wrote.
But two SEALs did talk, including Matt Bissonnette, who wrote the book “No Easy Day” (which was actually a walk in the park for all involved, excepting UBL and his family). Is it a violation of your NDA if you squawk, but it’s a lie, and it’s the same lie as the government’s?
Five: “Five days after the raid the Pentagon press corps was provided with a series of videotapes that were said by US officials to have been taken from a large collection the Seals had removed from the compound, along with as many as 15 computers.” Hersh says there was never a “trove of terrorist information” because bin Laden was a prisoner, no longer the tactical head of Al Qaeda.
If the tapes weren’t terror stuff, what were they? Where are the videos now? Note to Langley: if there’s a VHS version of the 1988 cult movie “Tapeheads” in the bin Laden trove, do get in touch — I’ve been looking for that one.
Six: Remember the Pakistani doctor, still in prison, accused of using his vaccination program as a ruse to collect UBL’s DNA? Hersh says he did nothing of the kind — that the CIA threw him under the bus to cover for Aziz. “A sacrificial lamb was needed, and the one chosen was Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor and sometime CIA asset, who had been arrested by the Pakistanis in late May and accused of assisting the agency. ‘We went to the Pakistanis and said go after Afridi,’ the retired official said. ‘We had to cover the whole issue of how we got the DNA.’” What did Afridi do to get picked as a scapegoat? Is this what happens when you refuse to contribute to the Abbottabad Fraternal Order of Police fundraiser?
Seven: Hersh says “the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place… there had been ‘no burial at sea.’ added that ‘the killing of bin Laden was political theatre designed to burnish Obama’s military credentials.’” There was also what Hersh terms “a complication”: “some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains – or so the Seals claimed.”
Do terrorist body parts often rain from the sky in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Were any goatherds, or goats, bonked on the head by bin Laden bits?
Among the revelations in the Senate torture report are that CIA agents used “rectal feeding” and “rectal hydration” to torture and “control” Muslim detainees, and that some agents were traumatized by the experience. Here they are, the heroes of the war on terror!