I never forgot Julian Assange pointing out that men who go to the greatest lengths to posture themselves as pro-feminist, often turn out to be raging misogynists.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal had erupted into the mainstream that month and ‘feminist superstar’ Hillary Clinton, for whom Weinstein had been a major benefactor, was sitting silent in the face of the global outrage.
Julian was among the first to call out her hypocrisy and went on to compose a series of tweets sharing links to a string of despicable male ‘feminist’ activists who had gone on to be exposed for horrific crimes against women, including stalking, sexual crimes and murder.
Julian’s warnings about duplicitous men in activism movements are ringing in my ears. Seemingly unrelated events, with the benefit of hindsight, soon can be seen to contain common threads.
Even in the silence of his unjust and brutal incarceration, his foresight echoes through the years.
As an at-risk journalist and activist, I’m pretty conscious about my security. I keep a very tight circle of long-time colleagues and friends, and am hyperaware regarding the communications I have with people and how they can be (and have been) grossly misrepresented by malignant parties.
So it’s not often I find myself on the phone chatting to someone who is a total stranger to me. But back in February of this year, I found myself in precisely that position.
The reason I didn’t hang up immediately was because I thought I was on speakerphone, talking to a group of activists I’d been trying to support, as I have done for many others before them. Unbeknownst to me, the stranger had taken me off speakerphone, and walked away from the group, physically removing my voice from them.
At no point in the conversation was I informed that I was no longer audible to the group, or that I was now engaged in a one-on-one exchange with the stranger. So I continued to speak in full expectation that all could hear what I was saying.
The particulars of what I said would later become a bone of contention, when the stranger returned to the group and made ludicrous allegations of me having said things to him that I never did. He invented phrases out of whole cloth and ascribed them to me. It was a set-up, plain and simple.
How did this all come about? The method was both sinister and yet oddly transparent: The stranger had a clear obsession with excluding one person from the group – a founding member – and was hell bent on doing so. At the point at which he commandeered the phone and eradicated any possibility of witnesses being in earshot, I had already earned his ire by trying to reason with the group, warning them that mountains were being made out of molehills, and urging them to stay focused on their activism and not fall victim to petty infighting.
But the stranger was adamant. His nemesis had to go.
The focus of his obsession? Independent journalist Taylor Hudak.
The stranger’s name is Dack Rouleau.
The Plot Thickens
In subsequent weeks and months, the group in question – known as Action4Assange, a US-based grassroots team of street and online activists in support of WikiLeaks – began highlighting further concerns with Dack Rouleau’s behavior, including myriad activity that was clearly methodical and consistent with the types of sabotage operations inflicted upon countless other issue-motivated groups.
I counseled them not to rise to the provocations, for the key metric of effective sabotage is the ability of the provocateur to successfully garner attention and divert it; to usurp resources; to make chaos of organising spaces. To respond is only to invite a counter response, and a counter response, and a counter response.
I warned them that outing individual saboteurs is rarely worth the time invested. Such bottom feeders are too easily replaced by their puppet masters and usually operating as part of a team, be it seen or unseen. Directly confronting them can easily become whack-a-mole.
Ironically, no one is more willing to hang a saboteur out to dry than their employer. To the agencies, informants are expendable, cheap and often short-lived. Their handlers are called such, because they consider themselves to be herding animals. Infiltrators usually have a 5-year max before their usefulness expires or they are reassigned, and that’s the ones that aren’t burned sooner. For the agencies, the mantra of ‘deniability’ is all-important. Any informant that compromises their cover, or turns out to be a bull in a china shop, is swiftly dispensed with and another simply assigned to their place. It’s the hydra heads. Chop one off and two more show up.
So time and time again I cautioned Action4Asssange to just keep their eyes on the prize and off their detractors.
There was however, one caveat to my advice, and it was only to be enacted upon the supremely rare occasion when a group obtains overwhelming, irrefutable evidence of the nefarious activities of infiltrators. In that event, if the group can present the facts in a linear fashion within a workable timeframe and in such a way that the preponderance of evidence is simply undeniable by even the fiercest skeptic, a sliver of hope does emerge for the group to substantively emancipate themselves from the weary chains of a continued and aggressive campaign by a clearly hostile force.
To my great surprise, this week that opportunity arrived.
It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for independent journalist Taylor Hudak. On the ground in London, England for a full month to cover the extradition hearings of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, she has been working every minute of the day producing her best live broadcast coverage to date and being deservedly lauded for it.
Unfortunately, she is also being cyberstalked and smeared, while she does it. The nature of the cyberstalking grows progressively more menacing on a daily basis, demonstrating a clear intent to both damage her reputation and to simultaneously terrify her, while drawing other friends of hers into a web of digital abuse, myself included.
The latest episode started with a few anomalous DM’s I received, featuring a couple of pictures of killer clowns, some ominous text, and a few broken clocks.
The account’s profile page showed it was newly created, was following 30 people and had 0 followers.
Seems almost innocuous really, juvenile even. Like someone who possessed a vague concept of how to scare someone lacked the intelligence or finesse to really pull it off, but was doing their best despite their shortcomings.
As I always do when I receive threatening material or harassment, I immediately made it public.
Taylor Hudak soon realized she was receiving the very same DM’s as I was, and tweeted about it.
Having made public that we were receiving the messages, I didn’t think any further action was required as it initially didn’t occur to me to dig any deeper. I’m so conditioned to receiving threats in various forms, that I’ve got to the point where I literally yawn when I receive them.
These particular messages came across as very, very low grade, low rent efforts. But the ineptitude of the mosaic they created extends beyond stylistic deficiencies. Touching base the next day, Taylor, myself, Kitty Hundal and others unearthed information that has led to the complete unravelling of the year-long scorched earth campaign against not only Taylor Hudak, but Action4Assange.
For whether subconscious or not, the architect of the account left traceable tells as to their true identity.
The disassembling of the cyberstalking started off with one small crack in the facade.
“That’s the clown from the IT movie”, Taylor said.
“Oh, really?” I said, passingly interested but still not realizing there was any greater significance. I detest horror movies and never watch them. I find them vapid wastes of time. Once you’ve been exposed to enough real trauma, projected fantasies of theoretic trauma seem intellectually vacant, pointless, vicarious exercises by the emotionally underdeveloped.
To me, the murderous clown pictures were just twisted fascinations of a broken mind, and nothing more.
I was wrong. They were a signature.
“Dack always has ‘Stephen King’s IT’ prominently displayed on his bookshelf behind him whenever he appears on video” Taylor said.
She soon provided screenshots to verify this.
Sure enough, positioned directly over his right shoulder, is ‘IT’.
Kitty, Taylor and I decided to give Dack the benefit of the doubt. It could, after all, have simply been a coincidence or there could have been a reasonable explanation.
We checked his tweet history, to see if there was any further context.
We hit the motherlode. According to Dack, he idolized Stephen King.
He also has a penchant for horror films. He has even written blogposts about them.
He refers to his “adolescent fascination with violence.”
He lauds ‘The Shining’ – a Kubrick film based on a book by Stephen King. The plot surrounds a man going crazy in an isolated environment, stalking, terrorizing and repeatedly attempting to kill his wife and child.
Speaking of terrorizing women, at the exact same time as we were performing this research, Taylor and myself were receiving new images from the cyberstalker account.
I suppose it is debatable whether the above image – of a ghost straddling a girl in bed – is in itself strictly misogynistic (although unquestionably perverted). However, sending such images to women, with cruel intent, is clearly a misogynistic act.
I started to get the sense that I was missing something significant. I went back to the profile page of the cyberstalker account, and took a close look at the quote displayed in the banner.
I’ve never trusted anyone who promotes Ayn Rand. The ultimate misogynist, her treatises on the importance of placing self over others and her dogma of ends-justifies-means are innately repellant to me.
Her texts serve as ideological cover for the selfish and the intellectually inferior. It is no surprise that she has been cited as guru to many in the executive of agencies and institutions who perpetrate grand larceny and wage war across the globe.
We checked Dack’s tweet history again, looking for any references to Rand.
Not only does Dack express regret that Rand and of all people the Marquis de Sade (another prolific and abject misogynist) aren’t remembered more favorably, but he advocates that “everyone should read at least one of Sade’s books and one of Rand’s” then specifically names none other than ‘The Fountainhead.’
Well versed in just how complex and convoluted agency-backed targeting operations can be, I briefly entertained the notion that perhaps this all was too obvious. Knowing that there was beef between Dack, myself and various members of Action4Assange, perhaps an agency could seek to capitalize on that by creating harassment accounts that would trace back to him.
Had everything which I’ve discussed so far been the sum total of our concerns, I would put more stock in that option.
However, Dack’s problematic activities haven’t just been restricted to online harassment of female activists via creepy anonymous accounts.
He has in fact, been engaged in even more risky behaviors that constitute a clear and present danger to activists who come into contact with him.
Taking back the information we found to members of Action4Assange who had previously expressed concern about Dack, they each prepared a short statement outlining the following:
How they first came into contact with Dack
What they personally witnessed
The effects upon themselves and their group
Dack Rouleau’s Victims Speak
1. Andrew’s Statement
Andrew Smith is the co-Founder of Action4Assange, alongside Taylor Hudak. The following is his testimony about his experiences with Dack Rouleau:
“I first became highly suspicious of Dack and his intentions, when we met in person for the first time before the taping of my interview on Lee Camp’s ‘Redacted Tonight VIP’. Dack spent a lot of time insulting and belittling Taylor Hudak’s work and specifically trying to make a point of drama centered around her reporting of statements by political candidates in the 2019-2020 Democratic primary. After the taping, Dack began acting in a way which could only be described as artificially angry about not having his name mentioned on the television interview. His anger was short lived that day, but the same theme of ‘Taylor took credit for my work’ repeated often, including in the first round of DC protests in February 2020 where he was fueling constant internal drama to try to create rifts among the Action4Assange crew and hosts.
There was much that transpired in between the January interview and our February actions in Washington DC. Most notably, this included trying to smear the Action4Assange #FreeAssangeVigil. He would often send out nasty tweets about the hosts and program while we were live on the air – and even while he himself was appearing as a guest.
My two most major points of concern, and truly the only reason I am writing this statement at all, is because of commentary made while in DC during the February 2020 round of protests. Firstly, Dack repeatedly tried to get me to say that I would support doxxing/public disclosure of information about political figures involved in Julian Assange’s trial. As a matter of solid principle I view doxxing as an overt form of violence and have had loved ones (in the past) personally attacked via the same tactic.
Secondly, during that same week of actions in Washington DC, Dack initiated a semi-private conversation with me (in the vicinity of two credible others) about specifically using violence to target the Judge ruling over Julian’s case to “make a political statement for the next judge”. This conversation became extended and he reframed the question multiple times in an attempt to entrap me into saying I would commit, condone or assist in the assassination of a Judge for political gain. I do not and will never see, use, facilitate, perpetuate or condone violence as a means to an end. Violence begets violence, and I exist to make peace.
Having personal knowledge and experience in situations in which infiltrating agents have moved individuals within groups to violent ends in order to facilitate arrests [Editor’s note: Andrew is referring to the #NoNATO Chicago activists who were entrapped by FBI informants and jailed as a result] I was able to identify and call out in real time, while he was asking these questions, where this line of questioning was coming from and the goals an individual would have in asking such questions to the leader of a group of political activists.
While other events do exist separate from this time which continued to raise alarms for me, such as: a smear video Dack made against me; Dack repeatedly saying Taylor Hudak was engaged in ‘enemy action’; attacking us at the launch of the GoFundMe for round 2 of our Washington DC actions; Dack’s claims that the FBI was called on him; his comments about violence specifically being worded as a ‘political statement’; are just to name a few. Together, these incidents sealed for me that he is not just an idiot, but also a provocateur with the goal of ending Action4Assange.” – Andrew Zigemund
2. Steve’s Statement
Steve Poikonen is a co-host of Action4Assange. The following is his testimony about his experiences with Dack Rouleau:
“I was introduced to Dack on a Free Assange Vigil in October of 2019. He turned a political disagreement with another guest into a personal attack that carried over onto both his and her (the other guest’s) social media and his blog. I met him in person during a week of demonstrations and events after a successful crowdfunding effort. Action4Assange went to Washington DC and London during the first week of Julian Assange’s rendition hearing. Midway through the week, Dack asked both Andrew and myself how we felt about doxxing key figures in the prosecution of Julian Assange. He spent an inordinate amount of time encouraging conflict between the group in DC and Taylor Hudak, who had flown to London to cover the hearing on the ground there. Later in the week I overheard him ask Andrew if he thought it was justifiable to “blow up the judge to make a political statement”. Andrew made it clear that he didn’t condone violence, and that what he had just been asked was the kind of thing that gets people thrown in prison. Dack pressed on. “But, what if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?”. Andrew reiterated that he didn’t condone violence. I chimed in at that point in agreement with Andrew. The subject was dropped and raised again in a post-DC meeting, resulting in a series of smear articles and videos made by Dack. The social media attacks have continued throughout the year and are ongoing- despite no one from Action4Assange engaging with him or discussing any of these events in public. Dack’s presence took hours upon hours of time away from our activism, threatened friendships, ended a couple, and has caused much undue stress on the original founders of Action4Assange, Andrew Smith and Taylor Hudak, as well as our key organizing team for on-the-ground activism.” – Steve Poikonen
3. Kimber’s Statement
Kimber Maddox is a co-producer of Action4Assange. The following is her testimony about her experiences with Dack Rouleau:
“I first became aware of Dack Rouleau during the Democratic primaries when he was pressing candidates to vocalize their position on Julian Assange. I believed the work he was doing was incredibly important and admirable, so I started following him. I formally met him in the days leading up to our A4A protests in DC. It wasnt until a few days into our trip that I started picking up on a lot of tension surrounding Dack. particularly with one of the Action4Assange cohosts, Taylor Hudak. He would accuse her of stealing his work for her own gain and insult her character. Unfortunately while we were in DC and Taylor was in London, some conflict and misunderstandings arose and it left Taylor playing defensive against our entire group. Andrew was not on board with the talk of replacing Taylor and wanted all of us to have a meeting to hash out our grievances. Dack was not agreeable, and was looking to push Taylor out so that Dack could subsequently take over her role as cohost on the A4A vigils. During this time Dack would repeatedly refer to Taylor as “the enemy” and would add fuel to the fire whenever conflict resolution would be brought up. I had arranged a phone call with Suzie Dawson to help us navigate our internal drama with our friend, and only realized much later that the phone call had been hijacked by Dack. He took Suzie off speaker phone and walked away from the group, something Suzie was unware of, and came back in a very hostile mood. He was shaking in anger and slamming his fist on the bar claiming Suzie had said he was jealous of Taylor. Suzie denies ever saying such things, but the damage had already been done. I felt terrible for thinking I had made things worse.
Several days later, I overheard a conversation taking place where Dack was repeatedly asking Andrew how he would feel about enacting violence on Julian Assange’s judge. Andrew was very clearly uncomfortable and verbalized that he didn’t want to talk about such matters. Dack continued to press him while saying things like “But what if you knew you wouldn’t be caught?” Andrew was very taken aback by the discussion and waited until everyone was back home to bring up his concerns in a private chat with Dack and A4A.
That evening, I received a message from Dack claiming Andrew called him a terrorist and that he was contemplating taking his own life over it. He claimed Andrew was the enemy. I told him that Andrew doesn’t think he’s a terrorist, but activists need to be incredibly careful with the conversations we engage in because of how the things we say could have consequences and take on a life of their own. At the time, I wasnt at all suspicious of Dack and was genuinely trying to get him to understand why Andrew had to have that tough conversation. Dack immediately stopped replying to my messages. I didnt hear from him again until a few days later when he was re-added to our group chat. He started cursing out Andrew and claimed “we had a great future planned without Taylor, but then Andrew had to go fuck it up for some unfathomable reason”. After several minutes of the hostile attack, I asked Dack to leave.
This caused a fracture in the A4A group. There was a bit of an argument that took place in the wake of these events, and this is one of the very few times I have ever witnessed Andrew getting upset or angry. Its quite unfortunate that this one time, after Andrew being worked up by two separate individuals, would later be used against Andrew in a smear video uploaded to Dack’s channel called “Misogyny in Activism”.
There was an article that Dack wrote after these events where he claimed the conversation was about “Black Panther tactics” and that it was misconstrued to make him look bad. Firstly, the Black Panthers were never brought up. Second, Dack has a clear misunderstanding of who the Black Panthers were if he considers bombing judges to be one of their tactics.
The day after A4A put out our GoFundMe to raise money to protest on Julian’s behalf in DC for the second set of extradition hearings, Dack started publicly attacking the group for using group photos that had him in it. There was multiple people he could have reached out to privately, to resolve the issue, but instead used it as a springboard to start leveraging unrelenting attacks on A4A, Unity4J, and our members. While Dack was continously smearing us, both privately and publicly, we decided it would be better for the movement to just ignore him. That didn’t stop him from constantly tagging us in his tweets or from tweeting smears on our fundraising posts, nor would he move on in any capacity. He would make asinine claims about us calling the FBI on him or suggest that we would use our donor money to buy drugs. Most of the time he would go back to delete the posts, but I made a habit of screenshotting them so we could document his activities. He was using a petty dispute he had with a member to attack the entire movement. On multiple occasions he would create faux history about how A4A was created by Unity4J to try to make our movements indistinguishable and then go on to smear us both. I’ve had private messages leaked to the public and have been personally insulted in several posts he’s written about us. After the brief amount of time spent with Dack, and having to deal with the constant anxiety and stress he has caused to me and others, I highly advise against working with him. I find him to be extremely toxic and manipulative to those around him. He’s lied on multiple occasions and internal issues only seemed to bubble up when he was involved.” – Kimber Maddox
4. Paula’s Statement
Paula Iasella is a key supporter of Action4Assange, Unity4J and WikiLeaks. The following is her testimony about her experiences with Dack Rouleau:
“During the past few years, supporting Julian Assange online and on-the-ground, I have tried to use Unity4J guidelines of amplifying all voices supporting Assange. I promoted and amplified the work of Dack Rouleau. At the time, it seemed to be good, solid work – getting 2020 presidential candidates’ thoughts about Assange on public record by video taping them. My ‘doubt sensors’ on Rouleau’s intentions surfaced when he began claiming that people who had amplified his work (and who also gave due credit to Rouleau) were now ‘stealing’ his work. He started publicly misrepresenting the facts of how his work was shared. Also, after Action4Assange’s successful week-long February Washington DC actions it appeared he had orchestrated a disruptive, divisive scenario the last day in DC – seemingly imploding the good work of a group of hard-working activists. I soon reached a point where I discontinued amplifying his work.
For months thereafter, Rouleau proceeded to attack A4A- tweeting repeatedly that A4A called him an FBI informant; tagging the @FBI in his tweets; claiming that ‘someone’ called the FBI on him when an agent supposedly showed up at his door. He repeatedly called the A4A team ‘scumbags’ [Editor’s Note: see below] and his unopposed attacks (because none of us engaged with him) ramped up when A4A started fundraising for their September actions in DC – ordering A4A not to use any photos containing his image – which made it difficult for A4A since he had inserted himself into most of the group photos.
Having received no response from us he did the unthinkable – he tweeted screenshots of private conversations between myself and two others – totally out of context, to stir more trouble. Rouleau paints himself as a victim of A4A and U4J, but his actions say otherwise: saboteur.” – Paula Iasella
5. Taylor’s Statement
Taylor Hudak is the co-Founder of Action4Assange, alongside Andrew Smith. The following is her testimony about her experiences with Dack Rouleau:
“I came across Dack Rouleau in July 2019 when he contacted me personally and thanked me for referencing one of his videos in my work. He was very kind and appeared to care about issues related to free speech and free press. We then began communicating and working together more closely. He was questioning the presidential candidates on their stances on Julian Assange. He would then send me his videos to include in my work. He voluntarily did this and privately expressed that he was pleased and even grateful that I cited his work. I have screenshots of him saying this. [Editor’s note: see below]
In fact, he was someone I enjoyed working with. It was not long after we became acquainted with one another that he began hitting on me via Twitter DMs. [Editor’s Note: see below] I was not interested and was dating someone at the time so I did not react to his flirtations. To be clear, I was not at all offended by this, and simply brushed it off and continued working with him. A few months later in October, I learned that he was romantically involved with my colleague and friend at Action4Assange (A4A). Around this time he started to become more involved with A4A by participating in livestreams. However, his flirtatious DM’s continued.
A few months later he stated in a live chat during an A4A stream that he was done with A4A and severing ties with us. His change in attitude was rude and abrupt. Apparently, he was angry that I cited his work in my article and felt that I was not giving him enough credit. Once again, I found myself shocked considering I properly cited him in my piece and we worked on it together. He then reached out to me to on Twitter, and we had a nice conversation over the phone about this issue.
I told him that I was sorry he felt that he was not given enough credit and that I was willing to cite him more frequently and include him in more tweets (per his request). After we had this discussion, he then proceeded to tell me that when he met up with A4A activists in DC a few weeks earlier, he addressed this issue with Andrew and Andrew had agreed with him.
Dack decided to continue working with A4A but from that point onward he was causing several problems. He was publicly attacking Steve Poikonen and picking fights with him on Twitter. Dack would complain to me about Steve and Andrew as well and attempted to pin me against my colleagues in the weeks leading up to Julian Assange’s extradition hearings in February. In the below screenshot, ‘the dope brothers’ he refers to are Andrew and Steve.
During the extradition hearings in February, things were very hostile between my colleagues, who were in DC and myself, who was in London. Once I returned back to the United States in March, Dack began attacking me on Twitter. He was making claims that I was an opportunist and that my significant other at the time and I were using his work for our own personal gain. I ignored Dack.
Over the next several months Dack would make the occasional comment about me on his twitter or in one of his videos but he was not confronting me directly. Last week clone social media accounts in my name and using images of me showed up on Facebook and Twitter making strange tweets about me. The accounts were nearly identical to mine but used a CIA logo for an account banner to smear me by association and used very similar handles to mine, in addition to an identical profile picture and almost identical content.
The Twitter profile included messages with quotes like “Knock Knock,” which is used in the movie IT. I felt very upset and violated to have my face and name used on an account which I had no control over. Days later, my friend and mentor, Suzie Dawson posted unusual DMs she received on Twitter. After checking my own twitter profile I noticed I was sent the same messages that she was sent. Each of these messages were threatening and suggested we were running out of time. I then searched for tweets Dack made in the past and he seems to have an obsession with horror movies, serial killers, murder and especially Stephen King is often mentioned by him. Dack’s continued unwanted attention towards me has made me feel very uneasy. His Machiavellian behavior is at best diabolical and needs to stop. I want to be left alone to do my work trying to help save the life of Julian Assange.” – Taylor Hudak
6. Kitty’s Statement
Kitty Hundal is a supporter of Action4Assange, and a coordinator for Unity4J. The following is her testimony about her experiences regarding Dack Rouleau:
“Dack Rouleau has chosen to include me in his campaign against Action4Assange, which is a mystery to me given that I have never had any direct contact with him. I have however, provided material support to Action4Assange and have appeared as a guest, and there are multiple obvious and common sense reasons why Action4Assange might be targeted by saboteurs. Their DC actions have included holding events outside embassies, which are the jurisdiction of the Secret Service, but they are also the most active boots-on-the-ground support for Julian Assange in the United States. Should Julian be extradited to the US, they will have a critical role to play in raising awareness of his plight.
I’m looking at the current situation with Dack from two angles. What I’ve directly observed on Twitter with regard to his conduct and his tweets, and what I’ve heard generally from my close proximity to A4A.
In particular, attention-seeking behaviors such as Dack posting photos of himself holding a gun to his head as well as tweets appearing to demonstrate emotional instability raise red flags for me.
I consider A4A very important to Team Assange. I have a deep concern about the wellbeing of those around Dack and those who are being affected by him.
Within A4A, the conflicts, the fracturing and the divisions are additionally worrisome. Everybody was getting along fine, the group was doing very well, they are doing an awesome job. And then suddenly, there were all of these problems that were coming up. While I didn’t know the complete details, I was really concerned. So I decided to investigate Dack because he was the change in the situation and was at the center of most of the conflicts. There was an A4A before Dack, and a different A4A after Dack. My research indicated that he was exhibiting behavior that is consistent with infiltrators.
One of the problems with infiltrators is that a lot of what they do is behind the scenes. They can cause a lot of disruptions because of that. It’s really important when you have solid information that indicates an infiltrator is attempting to disrupt an organisation or discredit activists, that information be shared and exposed so that damage control can occur and activists and their organizations be protected.” – Kitty Hundal
Adherence To Methodology
In the absence of clear parallels to the known methodologies of state actors and their subcontractors, witness statements such as the above could be easy to dismiss as simply personality conflicts, personal grievances, coincidences or differences of opinion.
However, those who are experienced targets – or have worked on the inside of the military industrial complex – recognize the patterns as those of established targeting doctrine.
Australian military whistleblower David McBride happened across some of what Taylor was reporting experiencing and immediately called it out for what it is: a ‘sophisticated’ modern day information operation:
In my July 2019 article ‘Freeing Julian Assange – Part Three‘ I authored an 11,000 word ‘Activist Survival Guide’ based on practical experience gained in the course of my activism and journalism career. I wrote that sharing the knowledge I gained with others had “the potential to save other activists a huge amount of grief, pain, confusion and disgrace, or even strengthen and empower them in ways that could be the difference between the make or break of their social movements… Demystifying the targeting of activists greatly empowers us to better deal with it. Dispelling the illusions constantly planted by those who target us, shifts the power balance from the hunter to the hunted.”
In my ‘Activist’s Survival Guide’, I listed dozens of key methods employed by infiltrators. I have taken the time to map the methods Dack employed against A4A and Taylor in 2019-2020, against that list.
Underneath the below chart, is direct quotes from the guide, as relates to each parallel.
They will use the language of your movement against you “They invoke language that they have assessed will ideologically resonate with the intended audience, while their footprints run completely counter to the principles they are espousing.” Example: Dack’s allegations of misogyny in A4A & the WikiLeaks support movement
Movement Policing “to internalise the group’s focus inwards towards each other instead of outwards towards the goals of the movement or organisation.” Example: Dack’s clearly stated goal of wanting to remove key members from the movement
Hiding behind others “Agents will frequently have off-siders… who they will suck in to fronting activities which produce disturbances or damage the movement/group. You see this both IRL and in the online format… They manipulate and provoke other human beings into doing things, to create an insulation layer for themselves.” Example: Dack’s video alleging misogyny in the movement
Constant distractions with trivialities “Trivial nonsense, drama, back-stabbing, he-said-she-said, rumour-mongering and gossip, politics and group dynamics, character assassination and diversions are the staple diet an agent wants to feed you.” Example: Dack’s false allegations against Taylor; his attempts to turn various members against other members
Turning outward focus inwards “They need you looking everywhere else except at the goals that you, your movement or organisation is trying to achieve… They might pay the goals lip service, but they’ll never empower you or advance sane, tangible steps to achieve them.” Example: Dack’s ignoring movement goals and advancing dangerous, insane (and illegal) ideas for actions
Fair-weather friends “They will establish themselves as a supporter to make their inevitable attacks on you more effective… only to then turn on you while saying “I supported [x] BUT THEN I REALISED [insert smear]…” Example: Dack’s posturing as an Assange/WikiLeaks/A4A supporter then ‘whistleblowing’ on the movement
Negative synergy “Anyone who has any beef with you whatsoever will be miraculously connected with each other, with their assorted or purported grievances against you being the common denominator. While your focus is on taking down vast, corrupt power structures and exposing mass injustice, their petty focus will be solely on you, you, you.” Example: Dack’s emails and tweets frequently cross-pollinate parties with historical beef in an attempt to agitate them
As if there weren’t already enough ‘tells’ regarding Dack Rouleau – incredibly, there are more.
The below anonymous email packed full of lies about yours truly, Taylor Hudak, Kitty Hundal, Trevor Fitzgibbon, Action4Assange and more was sent to another activist behind our backs.
The text packs in lie after lie after lie. Just some of the falsehoods squeezed into it include the following erroneous claims:
1. to be whistleblowing on the conversations of a private chat group that it says I am the owner of. I am not, and I have never been in the group.
2. that Kitty Hundal is the admin of all my projects. She is not. Internet Party Tech Director Jo Booth is. This is widely known.
3. that Taylor was a participant in the group. She is not. It also calls her one of my Discord admins – she is not. It suggests she is part of the Unity4J Twitter team – she is not.
4. that “All people appearing in the screen below are admins at Protect Suzie” – they are not.
5. that I got Taylor her job at Activism Munich. I did not. I didn’t even know she was with them until after she was already shooting and producing video for them.
6. that we are “conspiring against Pirate Party and want to damage it.” That is completely ludicrous. I spend zero seconds of my time thinking about the Pirate Party, let alone conspiring against it.
What does this have to do with Dack? Well, there are 4 links at the bottom of the anonymous email. Those links lead to screenshots.
Those screenshots are of private conversations from a Discord channel. Private conversations which Dack had access to by proxy.
The above tweet is interesting because it was sent on August 11th, 2020 and suggests that there would be no conceivable reason why “feds” would be interested in A4A.
Three days prior, on August 8th, Dack had written a tweet saying:
According to Dack, two months prior, feds had interrogated him in his home.
Dack’s claim to fame is having asked questions of candidates about Julian Assange at public campaign events in 2019. It defies logic that any FBI interest in him would be centered around something as banal as that, rather than his close involvement with (and aspirations to become a co-host of) A4A.
Three times in the last two weeks, I have been ‘nudged’ in tweets by Dack Rouleau, in responses he posted on threads on my timeline. The tweets he replied to had not mentioned and did not pertain to him, yet he imposed himself regardless.
Each of the three threads were me raising concerns about fake social media profiles defaming Taylor Hudak:
When I authored each thread, I had no inkling of Dack’s potential involvement in current events. Yet there he appeared, each time.
In light of all the revelations in this article about his activities, I now view Dack’s very public and very scathing impositions on my timeline as dogwhistles. I cannot believe it is a coincidence that me calling out the cyberstalking of Taylor Hudak, draws Dack Rouleau to my timeline like a bee to honey.
After tiring of his toxic and unprovoked appearances, I blocked him. This resulted in him immediately screenshotting my block, then tagging in someone who he knew I’d once been critical of on one issue years prior, to try to create spectacle and draw them in to his drama, all while falsely accusing me of calling him an “FBI agent”.
In long form, and with so many interconnecting experiences and viewpoints of those with a stake in A4A, the issue of Dack Rouleau’s involvement in Free Assange groups could seem convoluted and complex.
But when Rouleau’s activities are analyzed in the below format, the pattern becomes undeniable.
Based on screenshots supplied by members of A4A, the following graphic depicts Dack’s attempts to turn them against one another.
When presented in graphic form on a timeline, the chronology of Dack’s disruptions paint a very clear picture.
I find writing this article to be distasteful. I resent having to spend any of my time on such a dirty topic. It reeks of bad karma, of the stain of unethical and callous behaviors, taught to the impressionable, and perpetuated to all our detriment.
I’m well used to copping flak for being the messenger for things people don’t want to hear and I never aspired to spend my life tackling the Dack’s of this world (or any other of this ilk that I have happened across in the last decade of my activism and journalism.)
Just as I didn’t want to spend any of my time thinking or writing about the Ben Rachinger’s, the Rob Gilchrist’s, the Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur’s, or the Siggi Thordarsen’s.
I’d rather spend my time building new systems than confronting the rot in our current paradigm.
However, when I see genuine, right-motivated, sincere young activists working with minimal resources, facing maximum risk and being terrorized by a Dack Rouleau, I feel compelled to speak.
If I have one wish for an outcome of this article, it isn’t actually for the pain or disgrace or ridicule of Dack Rouleau or his inevitable slinking off into the social media shadows.
It is for the protection from harm of Taylor Hudak, the A4A activists, and for everyone who is truly, avidly, working to free the greatest publisher in living memory: Julian Assange.
Today I read a few surrounding passages in ‘The Fountainhead’ and looked into some of Ayn Rand’s most famous quotes. I don’t believe in book burning, or in preventing people from digesting whatever content they wish to, no matter how deplorable I personally find it.
And perhaps even buried in the theology of the deeply disturbed, there is some nugget of value, for I did happen across a single sentence, which reminds me very much of the lesson Dack Rouleau (who in an amusingly impotent projection calls me a “quasi-journalist”) will now learn about the way I construct an article.
“There is no substitute for competence.”
– Ayn Rand
By Suzie Dawson with Taylor Hudak and Kitty Hundal
They say a good magician never gives away their tricks, but I’m breaking that rule today. Because my hard-learned tricks (derived from practical experience gained in the course of my activism career) have the potential to save other activists a huge amount of grief, pain, confusion and disgrace, or even strengthen and empower them in ways that could be the difference between the make or break of their social movements. So it’s imperative that they are shared, savoured, bookmarked, and shared again.
Information Cuts Both Ways
To our governments, information is the most powerful weapon. They steal it, they hoard it for themselves, they jealously guard it, they limit access to it, they taint it, they monopolise it, they misuse it, they commercialise it and they censor it.
To WikiLeaks, information is a tool of emancipation. They verify it, then they gift it to the public.
In authentic, meticulously executed journalism such as theirs, information is gleaned from deep research and careful study – unearthed clues, puzzle pieces, accumulated over extended periods of time that when compiled, cross-referenced and verified add up to something previously unimaginable, yet undeniable once that ring of truth resonates and then reverberates.
Without any doubt, this is the fundament of what any true journalist engages in, a form of information activism. The returning of information to those to whom it ultimately belongs, and who benefit most from it – you, me and all of humanity. Real journalists deliver us the truth on a platter and then staunchly defend our right to it.
When those true journalists are under threat or attack, it is then our obligation to staunchly defend them in turn.
Passing The Baton
The movement to free Julian has already been a long battle but is likely to continue for many years to come. The movement to free Nelson Mandela was eight years to fruition, but some thirteen years of prior groundwork before that. Mandela was in prison for over a quarter century before being celebrated as a Nobel laureate or ascending to the Presidency of South Africa. These emancipation struggles are intergenerational. Nor are they guaranteed victories. There are no easy wins – they are hard. They are meaningful. And that’s why each win is so precious.
Sometimes the same battle has to be won over and over again.
At every stage, we individually and collectively have been, are and will be opposed by monied, institutional powers vastly greater than ourselves. To outmanoeuvre them takes great savvy. It takes staunch, unmoving, determined activists willing to sacrifice the comforts of a conventional existence in service to greater principles.
To be an activist like that, takes 50% natural talent and personal efficacy and 50% skill learned through experience, modelling and nurturing by other activists.
I’m very lucky to have had both, and in this article I will attempt to pass on as much as I can of what I have learned, just as others did for me.
In my nearly eight years of activism, I have traversed a rocky road fraught with peril and packed full of hard-learned lessons. I’ve gone from green, idealistic and largely oblivious, to jaded, seasoned and discerning. To varying extents, every other activist is somewhere along that path as well. Some are far, far more advanced than myself. (Julian would be a great example of this.) Others are at a similar point to me. Many more are further back. And as the movement to free Julian grows, there are more every day who are starting out at the very beginning.
At key points in my journey, when I was thoroughly bewildered, disturbed or even mortified by what I was witnessing occur around me or what I was being subjected to, advice shared with me by more seasoned activists helped to make sense of what was happening to me and thus helped me to cope with it. I wish now to do this for others, preferably preemptively. Demystifying the targeting of activists greatly empowers us to better deal with it. Dispelling the illusions constantly planted by those who target us, shifts the power balance from the hunter to the hunted.
This article will contain only things that I have not already discussed in my 2016 documentary Diary of a Person of Interest. I highly suggest you watch that if you are interested in a narrative retelling of what it is like to be subjected to targeted state-sponsored and private surveillance, and as a complementary work to this article. Likewise, if you are interested in the emotional impacts of being targeted by the state, my original 2014 article that my documentary was named after, can be found here. It lays out hour by hour across a single calendar day, what it is like to be a targeted activist.
What this article will instead do, is:
a) share advice and information that greatly benefited me in my activism
b) discuss tactical responses and strategies that will assist in your activism, and
c) further analyse the methods of those who will oppose your activism, so that you can better identify and respond to their attempts to limit the impact of your work, and ultimately to control you
ACTIVISM AND ORGANISING: SUZIE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE
1. Know your enemy
You shouldn’t obsess over the opposition but you should study them so that you can be one step ahead of their methods, well in advance. No matter how good their cover, the bad guys are easily identifiable and ultimately can be countered because:
1A) They all get the same training
You know how Agent Smith and the other agents in the Matrix all look the same? They have the same tools, the same training, the same methods, the same abilities. This is exactly how it is with saboteurs, infiltrators, state and private agents. It doesn’t matter whether their name is Tom, Dick or Harry, Sally or Jessica. You will know your enemy because they operate exactly the same way as all the others do. The sum total of their involvement is the same: shit, shit and more shit.
1B) They will use the language of your movement against you
Their attacks are the most effective if they appear to come from your side. Expect to be primarily attacked by those who appear on the surface as if they would be natural allies.
They will use language like ‘democracy’, ‘transparency’, ‘equality’, ‘tolerance’ or ‘inclusiveness’ as a cover to divert you from your activism goals, consume your attention and destabilise your organisation. We saw this time and again at Occupy, where these words were used by saboteurs as a smoke screen to mask insane propositions and diversionary endeavours.
They invoke language that they have assessed will ideologically resonate with the intended audience, while their footprints run completely counter to the principles they are espousing.
1C) They work in teams
It may seem like you have a lone saboteur working in isolation but this is never the case. They always have a support network, both visible and invisible. Pairs of visible saboteurs may work in tandem, sometimes playing good-cop bad-cop, sometimes one drawing attention in order to mask what another is doing. They consider themselves ‘surveillance role players’ because they devise and play roles, as if it is some kind of theatre production. They invent characters and then attempt to flesh them out. They also devise scripts – they plot and plan their interactions with key figures, sometimes well in advance.
If they know you are naturally wary of strangers or new people because you are aware you are a target, they may invest weeks or months befriending third parties who you trust, just so they can engineer an introduction to you or to get you into a situation where you will have your guard down, or be more likely to be receptive to their approach.
1D) They will fight with each other to create disturbances
Drama is their lifeblood. Often saboteurs will give the appearance of being at odds with each other, or having personal beef, just to draw and capture the attention of the group. It is a time-wasting exercise. Every minute that your attention or the group’s attention is on the drama of the saboteurs, is a minute that you aren’t producing work to advance your cause or achieving your goals. Time is the most precious commodity to an activist and that must remain forefront in your mind. A saboteur measures their success by their ability to command your attention, and waste your time and resources.
1E) They will seek to centralise all channels
Agents and their proxies have their resources stretched thin when movements and organisations are architecturally disparate. Therefore saboteurs always seek to centralise control. They will attempt to go after the following channels one by one and then merge or centralise control of them at singular chokepoints (staffed by them): a) finances, b) communications, c) media presence or representation, d) legal, e) political representation or negotiation teams, f) group facilitation or any other key wings or assets of your movement or group.
Whenever I see a previously large group or organisation where all channels have fallen under the control of a singular faction, it is a flashing red sign for me that the targeting of that organisation has advanced significantly in the favour of those seeking to destabilise it.
Once they have centralised the channels, they usually systematically shut them down, or allow them to fall dormant, as they push out, marginalise or exclude the original champions of the roles.
1F) They will institute policy, then claim violations – movement policing
“Safer Spaces” policies, or any type of internal group rules and regulations, are the dream tool of saboteurs. They will seek to institute and expand these policies infinitely then use perceived or proclaimed violations of those policies as an excuse to internalise the group’s focus inwards towards each other instead of outwards towards the goals of the movement or organisation.
“Conflict Resolution” is another time-sink that they love to trick people into. At Occupy, months of ‘Conflict Resolution’ meetings sucked air out of the movement, buying time for police and state agencies to advance their destabilisation efforts, while we sat in endless meetings debating whose feelings were hurt by whatever petty social infraction and what we should do about it.
Refuse to police your movement. Refuse to emulate the state by assuming state functions like criminal justice and punishment. Keep your rules up front and really, really simple, stick to them like glue, and avoid fine-grained internal policies or policy discussion like the plague.
1G) Wolves in sheep’s clothing
Part of saboteur’s cover, or ‘clothing’, is their claims to membership of perceived vulnerable groups or marginalised factions. Agents are completely immoral and have no compunction whatsoever about imitating LGBTQ activists, claiming racial or religious affiliations which they don’t have, or making outlandish and insane claims about their personal lives and relationships.
At Occupy we had a saboteur that claimed to be transitioning – he used to make a huge show of taking pre-op trans medication, assembling an audience to watch him swallow the pills, which turned out to be placebos. Years later he was still very much a man and showing zero signs of transitioning, but pulling the very same tricks with new activist groups. These provocateurs love to do outlandish things to captivate attention while systematically attacking key pillars of the movement and leaving a trail of dysfunction in their wake.
1H) They hide behind stooges
Agents will frequently have off-siders, friends (who are well-meaning but gullible activists) or other bystanders who they will suck in to fronting activities which produce disturbances or damage the movement/group. You see this both IRL and in the online format. Agents far prefer to have someone else attack you than to do it themselves. They manipulate and provoke other human beings into doing things, to create an insulation layer for themselves.
In the vast majority of instances where you are being overtly attacked or smeared by someone, it isn’t actually them that is the provocateur, but someone behind them pushing the buttons. Agents then sell the stooges down the river in five minutes flat if there is any danger of them being exposed. They have no loyalty to those whom they push around like pawns, though they may feign it when it suits.
We saw this repeatedly at Occupy, where saboteurs would devise damaging motions and resolutions, but then push forward others to actually table and pass them, while the saboteur maintained a pretence of disinterest or ambivalence.
1I) They prioritise preventing you networking with legit people
They will go to great, even shocking lengths, to keep you away from those you should most be working with. I once had a saboteur bodily throw themselves between Kim Dotcom and I, screaming like a banshee at the top of their lungs, to prevent us from meeting and talking to each other at a public event. I likewise had saboteurs approaching key figures in the New Zealand activism community, including the then-Head of the NZ Law Society at a GCSB action meeting, to point me out and implore him not to ever talk or work with me.
Agents consider it a failure to allow you to form relationships with those with whom you are likely to work well, achieve gains, or whom you would have a natural affinity with. They will go to great pains to identify who those potential allies are, and poison the connections in many cases before they even occur, or to derail a productive relationship when it is in its fledgling or even advanced stages. They will do everything they can to break the connections.
From inside it, and at a micro level, there will always seem to be logical “reasons” for the breakdowns of these connections or relationships. But when you stand back and look from a distance, across the span of your activism, the pattern is clear.
In my experience, it is only top-tier fellow targets who are impervious to these tactics. They’ve seen it happen to themselves so many times before that they spot the engineering of these situations a mile off. However, the vast majority of normal people are entirely susceptible to this, as to them, it just comes across as if someone is trying to warn them off someone else in their own best interests, or from goodwill, rather than in a deliberate attempt to prevent them forming or advancing a relationship.
1J) They constantly distract you with bullshit if you let them
Trivial nonsense, drama, back-stabbing, he-said-she-said, rumour-mongering and gossip, politics and group dynamics, character assassination and diversions are the staple diet an agent wants to feed you.
They will try to work out what your pet peeves are then capitalise on them by drip feeding you related content. They will work out what presses your buttons then press them over and over again. They’ll work out who you don’t like, then try to keep your focus on that person. They’ll waste your time, exploit and play to the least admirable aspects of your personality/psychological profile, at every opportunity. They also love to send people on wild goose chases – which is yet another manifestation of their broader time-wasting agenda.
1K) They try to turn your outward focus inwards
They need you looking everywhere else except at the goals that you, your movement or organisation is trying to achieve. They’ll play to your ego and get you to talk about yourself, or about other people. But their eyes will never be on achieving the goal for which you were drawn into activism in the first place. They might pay the goals lip service, but they’ll never empower you or advance sane, tangible steps to achieve them.
1L) They fall on the wrong side of every issue
Devil’s advocacy is another best friend of the saboteur. They’ll always advance an opposing idea or agenda to each suggestion you make. They’ll try to lobby or convince you or your group to look at things a different way than you do, a way which conveniently aligns with the best interests of those you oppose or that would suit them to a T.
They’ll also rally to the defence of the indefensible. For example, on the internet, you see the same “activist” personalities rallying to the defence of, or attempting to publicly legitimise, FBI informant Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur as you do New Zealand Police informant Ben Rachinger, or the FBI informant Siggi Thordarsen.
They’re the type that’ll proclaim allegiance to Anonymous, while praising US intervention in Syria, smearing CIA targets like WikiLeaks and writing tweets defending James Comey. Total frauds.
1M) They manufacture history
They will engineer outcomes then launder them into the historical record. Then they’ll cite that historical record to reinforce the fiction they created.
Almost the entire mainstream history of the Internet Party of New Zealand is a manufactured history engineered by spooks. I can tell you this for certain because I have experienced it firsthand in real time since its inception. What is said about it by agents of the state (and by this I’m absolutely including corporate media) bears no resemblance to what was actually going on. This is the same for countless targeted organisations including WikiLeaks.
The real history gets censored, ignored, or algorithmically buried, while the manufactured falsehoods are in the first paragraphs of Wikipedia pages and at the top of Google searches.
To this day, an obscure astro-turf blog packed full of deranged defamatory rants about me by an ex-Police Prosecutor in New Zealand turned Private Investigator, who stalked myself and my family, appear on the first page of Google results for my name. This is not an accident.
Think infamous Wikipedia mass-defamatory editor Philip Cross. These tactics are applied globally, because these tactics aren’t the doings of random actors. They’re the doings of state agencies.
1N) They are fair-weather friends
They will establish themselves as a supporter to make their inevitable attacks on you more effective. They will promote you incessantly from low-follower sock puppet accounts/personalities, or write ostensibly favourable blogposts about you, only to then turn on you while saying “I supported [x] BUT THEN I REALISED [insert smear]…”
This has happened to me, but it’s happened to Julian Assange so many times I can’t count. In fact, almost everything I describe in this article that I’ve personally experienced, Julian has experienced the on-steroids version. He is the ultimate target, and therefore cops it exponentially worse than everyone else.
The degree to which you as an activist experience what I’m describing on this page, will be in proportion with your effectiveness and thus your perceived threat level to the state.
Julian was the most effective of our generation, so he is the most targeted.
1O) They give themselves away through their language
Agents do their best to impersonate us but they suck at it. They’ll try to use our language, posture themselves as true believers, adopting our ideology, but because they don’t actually believe it they inevitably say stupid, “off” things that give themselves away.
I never forgot one of the saboteurs at Occupy trying to convince a group of activists to move one of the marches we were planning, from the beautiful green spaces outside the Council buildings (which the Council absolutely hated us holding events at) to a concrete square that is literally the most surveilled area in Auckland City – right outside the main transport hub downtown, where nests of surveillance cameras are located.
His argument for us moving our march there was hilarious. He kept saying “I can feel the energy down there is just so great. The concrete there has such great energy.”
Concrete doesn’t have any energy. It’s an inert, engineered, man-made substance, that literally paves an energy dead-zone over the earth buried beneath it. But in the minds of agents, we activists are all airy fairy new age spiritualistsand therefore using the concept of ‘positive energy’ to try to get us to take an action that served the purposes of the state, seemed a sound bet.
Similarly, beware of agents using team-building exercises, or icebreaker exercises, to profile your group. “Let’s all say our names, our ages, where we are from and something about ourselves so we can get to know each other better” is a classic line I’ve seen used many times. Likewise, agents (or gullible activists imitating others they’ve seen do it) will try to get people at actions to declare in advance whether or not they are willing to get arrested. They’ll claim to be doing so to protect those who are unable to be arrested, but in reality it is yet again a profiling exercise in order to profile participants and aid in assigning threat levels to them.
1P) Negative synergy
Agents love nothing more than to create as many beefs for you as possible then connect all the hostile parties together with you being their perceived common ground, and unite them against you. Anyone who has any beef with you whatsoever will be miraculously connected with each other, with their assorted or purported grievances against you being the common denominator. While your focus is on taking down vast, corrupt power structures and exposing mass injustice, their petty focus will be solely on you, you, you.
1Q) Fake ‘official’ websites, communications, social media accounts
I’ve managed to dig out a pastebin file I wrote in 2012 about some of the nefarious activities of one of the saboteurs. He would take the official Occupy Auckland logo, and create astro-turf social media accounts, business cards, and flyers with content damaging to the movement, and substitute his own personal contact details for the official Occupy comms channels. Interestingly, the file has been removed by Pastebin for unknown reasons. However, the Archive.org version remains available to this day and can be viewed here.
1R) They clean up their tracks – or their tracks get cleaned up for them
When the ex-Police Prosecutor I mentioned earlier doxed myself and my children and published all of our personal details on the internet, it remained online for years. Even when I complained to Police that it endangered myself and my children, no action was taken and it was still not removed. Yet somehow, any evidence that you publish of nefarious police or covert agent activity, will be scrubbed from internet history. Case in point: my 2012 article “COINTELPRO & Occupy: The War Within” contained umpteen source links including to photos of armed DHS agents, and DHS vehicles on site at Occupies in the US, as well as FBI and other agencies (something that for the longest time officials tried to deny was occurring, and people like Naomi Wolf who were calling it out were voraciously attacked for doing so).
Yet nearly every source link in my article is now broken. Link after link after link, the evidence has all been sanitised out of existence. This is no accident. Just as I proved in ‘Being Julian Assange‘ and again in ‘Freeing Julian Assange: Part One‘ – the true history of WikiLeaks, of Julian, of the original campaign to free Chelsea Manning, of Occupy… is systematically eradicated.
All the historical record is left with is manufactured Wikipedia pages and the perennial and ever-present smear blogs, media psy-ops and false narratives.
Only those of us who remember what really happened, or who can show the empty shells of what was once there but no longer is, have any hope at countering the lies with truth.
1S) Fake revelations
Generally speaking, it’s useless expending months of your time trying to expose known saboteurs or agents because even if you do finally get rid of the leeches, they are just replaced with another one and you have to begin the whole process again.
However, on occasion, when their goose is well and truly overcooked, and they are either exposed or self-identify as an agent (which happens more frequently than one may think), they tend to put out an official statement about how and why they became agents of the state. Except this too is usually false. They simply lie about when and how they were turned, to cover their tracks.
In the cases I have looked into (and I’ve written on this topic before) there is no doubt that the self-professed agents in question became agents, infiltrated movements and targeted activists, years before they claimed they did.
2. How to beat them
2A) Always pick the timing of your response
The agent’s timing is never incidental – it is always intended to cause maximum disruption – so always pick the timing of your response. Like clockwork, smears against Unity4J would be published and circulated immediately prior to major events. Ditto with smears on me personally – they have always manifested at precise times of significance in my journalism or activism. Ditto with smears against the Occupy Auckland media team. They would manifest precisely as we were executing some major piece of work (for example, when we were supporting the critically important Occupy Sandy). This isn’t coincidental – it’s because the smears are a form of sabotage – a sleight of hand produced as a direct result of intelligence gathered via surveillance.
The bad guys will know what you’re up to from spying on you – and attempt to intervene to stall or derail you. Never fall for it. Always, always, always – respond at a time and in a manner of your choosing. (Once you get really good at this, you’ll learn to turn the tables by picking response times that are the least convenient for them!)
Saboteurs are all about provocation. Do not be provoked.
2B) Deny them what they want
Whenever you’re feeling miserable, ask yourself, how does your FBI handler want you to feel today?
This is the single most important question you can ask yourself. The FBI expends countless resources and man-hours analysing its targets and then attempting to manipulate them, their surroundings, and their emotions. So put yourself in their shoes. Then look at yourself.
How do they want you to feel? They want you to feel isolated. Disheartened. Weak. Impotent. Like you don’t matter, your work doesn’t matter, and you’ll never achieve anything. They want you to be terrified. They want you to give up.
Once you’ve looked at things from their perspective: deny them that victory. Feel the opposite to how they want you to feel.Do the opposite of what they want you to do. That is resistance.
2C) Be agile and unpredictable
The Matrix moves slowly. Because it’s owners and operators function under a traditional hierarchical structure.
Which means every time the shit hits the fan for The Empire, such as the spontaneous manifestation of over 2,000 cities participating in the Occupy movement within a very short timeframe – they can’t simply act. They have to wait for orders. This creates a vacuum.
Agents on the ground have to get orders from their managers. Who have to in turn wait for the say-so of middle managers. Who have to wait for the say-so of senior managers. Who have to wait for the say-so of Assistant Directors. Who have to wait for the say-so of Directors. Who have to wait for the say-so of the Executive. And then the instructions have to pass back down the chain again, before the chumps on the ground can act on any significant strategic or tactical directions.
By constantly innovating and moving faster than they do; by always engaging in actions which they could not have foreseen, had no forewarning of and don’t have the mandate to immediately or easily respond to – we can (and many times do) catch them in their reporting-and-awaiting-orders cycle, and run circles around them.
They are slow. We can be fast. Use it to our advantage.
2D) Lie to the Matrix
One of the best pieces of advice I got in New Zealand was to fill your (spied on) mobile phone with bad people’s numbers. Saboteurs giving you trouble? Causing your movement grief? Into the digital contact list they go.
Good people? Trustworthy people? Record their details with pen and paper.
In New Zealand, my media team members and I would constantly make and break plans, change plans. It’s part of being agile – fill the Matrix with junk, and it’s a lot harder for the Matrix to have the sense of security of knowing you’ll do what you say you’ll do and them being able to react accordingly.
Keep them on their toes. Maximise the resource requirement for monitoring you effectively.
2E) Play Whack-a-Mole
Know when to pop your head up and when to put it down – whack-a-mole can work. Especially in a large group or movement. It’s preferable for one person to front something for a while, build a profile… then step back while others rise in their place. You can trade off with key trusted people, and whenever one is taking too much heat, tag out and trade spots with the next person. This forces the opposition to constantly refocus their attacks, and ultimately shows up their malicious intentions, when they’re forced to smear one person and then the next and then the next.
2F) Decentralisation is key
Keep key areas and responsibilities really narrow and disparate. Give people something they’re really good at doing, let them be in charge of that and nothing else. Have as many mini-leaders on board as possible. Doing this makes it virtually impossible for agents to forcefully centralise your movement channels. The more you spread the areas of responsibility, the harder it is to sabotage and control them.
2G) Don’t become a useful idiot
Agents love to trade on fears, doubts and most of all, activists natural inclination towards skepticism. Don’t fall for the “but x hasn’t said anything about y” ploy, so often employed to break trust. “[X] is great on [Y] topic but never talks about [Z] so I don’t trust them” is something you’ll hear over and over again. But you know what? It’s actually OK for people to have areas of expertise that they stick to because that’s what they know. It’s OK for X to be amazing at Y and nothing else. Never judge someone by what they haven’t done or haven’t said – just them by what they do do and what they do say, only.
2H) When in doubt, do it yourself
Similarly, don’t place expectation on others or rely on them above and beyond what you yourself are prepared to do. If you want something done fast, you want it done right, you want it prioritised – only you can do that. Only you can satisfy what you want. Don’t place the burden of your expectations upon any other person. Be prepared to do it all solo, then be grateful for any work that is taken off your shoulders by other participants.
2I) Know the value of your work
Your work is your calling card. no matter what is said about you. It is what gives you your efficacy as an activist. No matter how many times I am smeared, and I am smeared constantly, both to my face and behind my back, it never really gets traction because my work is legit.
Those who work with me are constantly fed streams of bullshit about me, but no matter what doubts are planted, or what underhanded tactics employed to discredit me, my next article, or activism campaign, or interview, is so undeniably on point and legit that by comparison, the smears are shown up for being the needless and hollow crap that they are.
In activism, your output is what defines you and nothing else. It doesn’t matter what you are called or what anyone says about you.The quality of your work will be the ultimate arbiter of your reputation. Smart activists will always judge you by that and that alone. Your work is what they will remember. Not what hateful people say about you.
Learn from everything you do and make the next thing bigger and better because of it. Be really conscious and really honest with yourself about what worked and what didn’t, in any endeavour you undertake. Then employ those lessons in the next one.
Each movement I have participated in or built, has informed the next movement I have participated in or built. Each effort gets better, more potent, more poignant and stronger than the last, because each is the sum total of my experiences and the lessons I have learned.
Never look at anything as the be-all or end-all. Know that this year you’re working on something amazing, next year you’ll be doing something even more amazing, and the next year you’ll be doing something even greater.
Activism brings massive hardships and massive rewards. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. And no I’m not talking money. You’ll be broke. Expect to have your resources sapped in every way imaginable. But you’ll be happy. Happier than you ever have been. More tired and harried than you’ve ever felt, but more deeply and intrinsically satisfied as well.
One of my best friends, a very very old-school Kiwi activist from the anti-Apartheid, anti-nuclear and Free Mandela movements of the 80s quotes Alice Walker: “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”
2K) Understand how you have been categorised
All targets of the state are sorted into categories, and those categories determine how you are dealt with, how seriously you are targeted and by what means.
They divide us into:
If they judge you to be an idealist, they will go to great lengths to disillusion you. If they feel your ideology and belief system is your point of weakness, that’s how you’ll be attacked and turned away from the movement. Professional feminists who supported Assange being convinced that he is a serial rapist and therefore not to support him? Classic example. They’ll use ideologically-based attacks to divorce you from the Idealists in your target audience, or to make you want to quit activism yourself.
Realists are inundated with negativity until they become convinced there is no hope of success or achievement and step back. They are led to believe that the situation is unsalvageable, that their efforts won’t make any difference, or that their fellow activists are too naive, incompetent, compromised to ever be successful.
Opportunists are precisely what the agents themselves are – people willing to abandon morals, ideology, ethics, responsibilities or promises in order to achieve personal reputational or financial gain. These are the activists taught that if they conform or alter their positions or actions, that they will be rewarded for doing so. Whether it’s tenure, whether it’s PhD candidacy, whether it’s working for an NGO, or having nice things written about them in the media, or any other of a hundred material benefits in return for personal compromises – they’re up for it. Goodbye humanity, hello ka-ching!
Radicals are Julian Assange. They are Edward Snowden. They are Lauri Love. They are Chelsea Manning. Even if they wouldn’t describe themselves as radicals, the system does. I too have been called a radical more times than I can count. All it really means is that we can’t be manipulated by any of the aforementioned tactics. We’re immovable. We’re what ioerror would call the cast iron club. We’ve seen too much to ever go back, we’ve had goddamn near everything thrown at us and we still stubbornly refuse to budge. We’re crapped on time and again and we stand here shaking our fists at the Empire and saying “go on, crap on me again, I dare you!” Many people think radicalism is something to fear, or something extreme. Personally I think it is the only choice with which you can truly look yourself in the mirror and feel proud, no matter what the price of that ultimately is.
As a radical, you’re the master of your own ideology so can’t be ideologically vulnerable. You’re a realist because you know full well what will happen to you, that the odds are stacked against you, but you do it anyway, so that isn’t a viable attack vector either. And you understand that no radical will ever be allowed to prosper, not truly prosper, so exploitation or institutionalisation via opportunism is out the window too.
The radicals are what deep, deep down, the agents wish they had the guts to be. We model a hope and a vision and a determination for a better world, while the agents contribute to the devastation of it. We achieve great things with very little, while they achieve disgusting things with a lot.
And that’s why our faces and quotes are on memes and posters, and not theirs. That’s why we are remembered, and they are forgotten.
That’s why we are loved by the people, and they are loathed.
3. How to know who to trust
3A. People who are actively and concertedly undertaking ACTIONS, and imploring others to
These are the people I listen to. Everything else is just noise.
The agencies grade us into tiers:
a) who is accessing inconvenient or forbidden information
b) who is sharing that information
c) who is taking action as a result of that information
d) who is imploring or instructing others to take action
The state apportions it’s interest in you based on the above, as well as the aforementioned categorisations. If you are an a) you’re going to get put on a list. If you are a b) you’re going to get put on a different list. If you are a c) you’re going to have someone assigned to you IRL one way or another. And if you are a d) that targeting will be further pronounced/a higher priority.
Agents will only implore people to take actions if they are actions that undermine the good, or reinforce the state, or are illegal actions and therefore entrapment efforts.
Whenever you deal with anyone in the activism realm, keep in mind for yourself – is this person an a), b), c) or d)?
3B) Accept the rarity of true allies
Know that very few people will be able to grasp your reality let alone to share it and particularly for long periods of time. Everyone has their own limit for how much crap they’re prepared to put up with for continuing to know you, and as a target, the better they know you, the more likely they are to be put to that test.
People have blinders on about other’s situations – particularly the situation of severe targets – they tend to judge everything by what they see as possible or doable for themselves and then superimpose that expectation on you. Its a rational imposition on their part – be okay with that and seek out those few who can see beyond their own reality and into yours, or better yet, those who share it.
It’s fine to be friends with and interact with all different types of people be they targets or not – just tailor your interactions accordingly and don’t expect more from them psychologically, than they can give.
3C) Understand your own and other’s limitations
Some people are perfectly trustworthy, but will just never be mentally capable of taking the risks you can or paying the price you do. Everyone has their breaking point. Sometimes that breaking point changes, with time and experience. It can lengthen or retract.
When you’re an activist it’s easy to feel like you have superpowers. You do superhero things. You throw yourself into impossible situations and achieve profound and amazing feats, even if no one ever really knows that you do or have. (Many including myself, go long periods of time without disclosing to anyone the full extent of their work or involvement, be that to retain anonymity, or out of respect for third parties in our lives.)
But ultimately, everything we do takes a toll on ourselves, targeting or no targeting. Respect the boundaries of your body and your mind. Self-care is a must. Self-care is the key to sustaining long-term activism. Burnout happens to everyone. Be sensitive and kind to others experiencing it, and also to yourself. Take breaks, whenever you need to. Ask for help, whenever you need to. Solidarity is the lifeblood of an activist. It is out there. We give and take. This is what “mutual aid” is all about. Give whenever you can, to those who need it. Take, when you need it. Each according to their own needs.
3D) Emulate your heroes
It’s so easy to tell who is legit. They get smeared the crap out of, they get jailed, killed or exiled. It’s not rocket science. Love them? Love what they do? Be them. Even if you can only do that in small ways, in small ponds, that no one ever knows about. Make those choices that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Every person who steps up to that plate, lessens the danger and increases the survival chances of all of us.
3E) Be someone that you yourself can trust
I don’t know if I can trust myself to do Pilates today. I don’t know if I can trust myself to clean my room. I don’t know if I can trust myself not to sit here writing this article until my ankles swell and I realise the sun has been up for 3 hours.
But you know what? I know if a good person is at risk, I can trust myself to intervene. To intervene fiercely, and definitively. I know if someone risks their lives to get documents out, that I’m going to study those documents obsessively, and report on them for the sake of everyone. I know I’m going to tell the truth even if it costs me my life.
Trust yourself on the big stuff. Respect and love yourself for being trustworthy on the big stuff. Then work on the little stuff.
4. Understanding Mainstream Media
4A) Containment strategy
When it comes to covering any contentious or politically consequential events, mainstream media exist for the following reasons:
a) to silence you
b) to smear you
c) to co-opt you
d) to incentivise you
e) to steal from you
f) to keep a lid on you, a ceiling over you
Never ever trust them. They can be made to do your bidding and serve your purpose but the only way that can happen is by them being existentially frightened into it. In my experience it takes about 8 months of constant campaigning to get from ignored-by-MSM to covered-by-MSM. You have to build from the ground up. They will only, only, only cover a movement that threatens the establishment interests, when they no longer have any choice. Then once they cover it, they will attempt to corral the conversation. Or they’ll attempt to say “look, we’ve already covered that! Conversation over!”
At the end of the day, they’ll try to get away with whatever you let them get away with. It is they that have to be contained. They hate being named and shamed for their corruption – so it is often a useful tool to call them out openly.
4B) Smears are scaled against saturation
Never allow yourself to become seduced by mainstream media or their coverage. They are like sirens calling you to the rocks. They raise you up so they can smack you down.
Do you think Julian Assange got put on the cover of Time Magazine so he could be loved? Do you think Kim Dotcom had positive press splashed about him all over the NZ press when he first came to New Zealand, just because they really liked him? No. Both were built up in the public mind so that when they were ripped to shreds, the smears would have maximum effectiveness.
Positive press is like a foghorn as a cruise ship nears an iceberg. Unless you are engaged in something either completely non-threatening or beneficial to the status quo, there is always, always an ulterior motive for positive press about a target. Sometimes a paper will assign one reporter to consistently cover you or your issue with an 80% track record of accuracy/competency just so that it can have three others periodically write opinion pieces smashing it/you to shit.
The editorial control mechanisms of major state broadcasters and corporate media are agents of the state. There is simply no difference whatsoever in their conduct, their priorities, their methods or their execution.
4C) Rival Their Platforms
Your job is not to build effective media relationships. By all means, try, but never forget the rise and decline of WikiLeaks’ professional media relationships as case in point. Expect betrayal.
Your job is not to covet mass platforms but to build your own platforms which will rival theirs. Clocking 400 million social media impressions (likely more actually) in 2018, Unity4J just as one example, had a pull and a reach that eclipsed mass media.
Both the GCSB and #TPPANoWay campaigns in New Zealand, similarly eclipsed mass media.
If you can build saturation of messaging with the public, corporate media can’t stop you. Whether they ignore or smear or betray you, you will make mincemeat out of them with your numbers.
Always focus on and build your base. To hell with the gatekeepers.
4C) Narrative control
The question in any narrative battle is this: who is being proactive and who is being responsive?
Never, ever allow your movement narratives to be responsive. They must be proactive. If your narratives are proactive, your opposition will be chasing your narratives, trying to counter them. They will always be on the back foot. Never ever take the back foot yourself. Don’t allow them that victory or that satisfaction. Front-foot absolutely everything.
Classic example: today for the umpteenth time, CNN is reporting that they have slam dunk evidence of WikiLeaks collusion with Russia. As usual, it’s total bullshit pseudo-science junk. But the response shouldn’t be simply “You’re wrong!” There’s no point getting into a “No we’re not!” “Yes you are!” “No we’re not!” exchange. Instead, dig out the nuggets between the lines of their article: in the course of falsely accusing WikiLeaks of colluding with a state, they let slip that they have been in contact with Ecuadorean, Spanish and US intelligence services. So the correct counter narrative is “CNN is working with the intelligence services of 3 countries to smear a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.”
To hell with defensive posture. Hold their feet to the fire.
4D) Media will always aim to exonerate the public of any responsibility to do anything
It is so easy to convince people to believe something that results in them not having to do anything about it. So difficult to get people to believe something that will result in hardship for themselves in order to seek meaningful redress for. Which is why we must always convince people not only of the facts – but to act on them.
Don’t just school people – inspire them.
4E) Media trade in simple terms, repetitive terms
When I stood for Prime Minister of New Zealand from exile in 2017, media delegitimised the situation of a Kiwi journalist being harassed into leaving the country by simply describing me in the first sentence of every article about me as a “self-imposed exile”. In doing so, they immediately took the focus off those who had persecuted me, and placed the onus onto me, the persecuted.
This type of victim blaming is a key strategy of media. If they can exonerate themselves of any responsibility to discomfort themselves by holding great power to account, they will do so.
When I web searched the term “self-imposed exile” I discovered that the precise same term had been used to describe both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, in countless articles.
It wasn’t an accident that that tactic was used on me. It was a playbook.
Therefore, in combatting media narratives, we need to devise similarly simple, repetitive terms in order for them to be effective. “Fake news” is a great example of a term that was originally weaponised against one sector of society, but then turned around upon the originators. (No, Trump didn’t invent it. It was actually first asserted by Hillary Clinton, but spectacularly backfired on her nearly immediately.)
The #TPPANoWay campaign went viral internationally as soon as we invented that hashtag. Prior to that, despite years of campaigning under various other hashtags that didn’t in any way describe what the TPPA actually was or why it was problematic, there had been little to no traction. But whenever anyone heard #TPPANoWay they instantly understood – hey! We don’t like this TPPA! It’s a problem! We don’t want the TPPA, no way!
These are the types of rallying cries we must create. Things that are easily understood by anyone, with very little explanation. Things that create indelible imprints on the brain, that are virtually impossible to forget once heard. Ditto with Unity4J. The name explained exactly what it was. Who was J? Click on the hashtag and Julian’s face was all over it. Simple concept, simple words, highly effective messaging.
4F) Broken agreements
Media will lie to you about things being off the record or on the record. They will lie to you about what they are going to write, when they are going to write it, who is going to write it or why they are writing it.
They do not stand by sources. WikiLeaks stands by sources. WikiLeaks saves source’s lives. Media will not.
Always understand when dealing with media that not only will they consistently violate professional and ethical standards, but that even if you complain to Press Councils or Ethics Committees, those boards are stacked with the very same industry “professionals” that you’re complaining about. Complaining about press ethics is about as useful as complaining to the NZ Police about the NZ Police. They’ll say they’re going to investigate, and then either do absolutely nothing, or declare themselves exonerated.
The only real way to hold media to account is to outperform them and thus put their very business models and viability at risk.
4G) Pincer Movements
When smears are laundered, they will be planted in both left and right publications. This is something I consistently witnessed being done in New Zealand. Smears against Internet Party would be laundered through both Kiwiblog and Public Address, even though they are ostensibly at opposite ends of the political spectrum. When intelligence agencies or state actors want to inflict maximum damage, they will not limit themselves to a specific ideology. They’ll utilise the entire spectrum.
This is yet another reason Unity4J was so powerful of a platform. Because for the first time in recent memory, activists were able to talk and plant key messages across the entire spectrum. That was a province and ability only of the state until that point. Unity scares the shit out of our opposition. Unity is an inoculating force to their Divide and Conquer agenda. Unity may ultimately be the thing they fear the most.
Therefore whether you openly state that you are doing so or not – seek access across the spectrum. It is the easiest way to maximise the effectiveness of your messaging.
4H) Exceptions to the above rules:
There are a few – very few – exceptions to the comments above. They are usually individual journalists, or sometimes platforms, that have effectively gone rogue. They are journalists or platforms who have themselves been targeted, or seriously threatened by the state, and are therefore indignant about it. In that rare – very, very rare – circumstance, it may be possible to find allies.
However, be aware that those formerly of the establishment that find themselves pushed to the outside, often want nothing more to be allowed back into the comforts of the fold again. So use your discernment to assess accordingly.
5. Understanding Movements
5A) The movements come in waves
Maturing movements are fluid and have motion. At the beginning, you have to form that first snowball then roll it and roll it and roll it, and lovingly guide and sculpt it as it begins to grow. At times you will wonder if it is ever going to graduate into anything bigger than its current form. The hardest work is always at the inception and in its earliest days. But eventually its course will be set, inertia will kick in and it will take on its own life. Then you get to sit back and watch the beauty unfold before you.
But every movement has a shelf life, and there will always be the next thing, and the next, and the next. And you’ll learn to love that pattern, because with each wave, more people wake up, and less pressure is on you to drive and maintain it. After Occupy, we had Idle No More. Then we have the anti-privatisation/anti-asset sales movement. Then we had the GCSB movement. Then the NZ4Gaza movement. And so on and so forth.
Each movement was ultimately set against the same control structure, the same concentrated forces. Even though each movement had its own identity and specific aims. Never getting fixated on a particular undertaking, comes back to adaptability and agility. Your movement is not a be-all or end-all: it is a vehicle to the next, better, more well-oiled attempt to tackle the same powers, albeit in whatever form the movement takes.
5B) Always keep your field of vision bigger than a single movement
Always, always keep an eye on the bigger picture – see the natural lifespan and multiple waves of multiple movements, across years.
Never fight for – or fear the loss of – control over your own creations; just create and create again. If you are the architect, no one can take this from you. While the vultures are left scrabbling over the scraps you’ve left in your dust, you are already moving forward and building the next thing.
Leave the haters and the fakers in your wake, while you ford new streams.
5C) How to build a viral hashtag
If you are particularly interested in how to do this, I once wrote a whole guide to building a campaign/movement media team from scratch and creating and viralling an associated hashtag. Any activists particularly interested in obtaining a copy of that are welcome to DM me and I’ll dig it out of archive for you.
6) Make peace with the danger
6A) Understand the time-linear targeting process
First they will come after your reputation, then your relationships, then your assets, then eventually, your body.
Each step in that process can take years to fully manifest, as they test your responses and decide whether to escalate the targeting of you. Much in how this progresses, is dependent upon how you react to it.
Being consciously aware of the pathway can allow you to plan and make decisions in advance, as to how you wish to react.
6B) Surveillance is not passive
It is acted upon even if you can’t see it. They aren’t just listening, or just watching, or just recording. They absolutely intend to, and do, act on every scrap of meaningful information they can obtain about your intentions, your activities, your communications and relationships, your fears, your hopes and your dreams. They psychoanalyse you and then they act to your detriment. The surveillance is what facilitates the cycle of state-citizen abuse.
7) Take heart
7A) Darkest before the dawn
Time and again, when there’s periodically been some blow so absolutely devastating, that everything looked doomed, and I didn’t think we could collectively sink any lower or be in any worse a position, something fantastic and unforeseen has occurred which has broken the trend, and reset us on a path to a better place.
It really is true that it is darkest before the dawn, and you will experience this time and again in activism. Have faith in it. Nothing remains stagnant, either the good or the bad – everything is constantly in flux.
7B) Serendipity wins
Despite their resource advantage, the best and most intricately laid plans of the bad guys often go awry at the last minute. They can spend months or even years planning for an outcome, only to be robbed of the win at the 11th hour.
Some people call this divine intervention, some call it karma, some call it serendipity, some call it blowback. Whatever it is, I have seen it happen time and time again, and it is always both a welcome relief and a wonder to behold. The irony is rich, watching those with malevolent intentions fall flat on their face despite having every material advantage.
Trust in this, it is great.
An example: at Occupy Auckland, saboteurs spent months engineering the demise of the occupation. They wanted it shut down by Christmas Day, so all the agents could go on Christmas and New Year’s holidays with job done.
So by Christmas Eve, they had forcefully and secretly decamped the media team tent without telling any of us, hauled all our equipment off to a storage unit they controlled, held a fake General Assembly with just them and their cohorts. to formally ‘agree’ to the dissolution of the occupation, and held a psy-op mainstream media conference without telling us, to announce the end of the occupation. But we were having none of it, and instead went and created two more occupations, in other locations, as well as maintaining the original one regardless of their sabotage.
So by the dawn of Boxing Day the saboteurs had to relay to their bosses that not only was the occupation they’d spent months planning to destroy still up and running – but there was now three occupations, in three separate locations throughout the city. Not only had we survived their subterfuge, but we had expanded.
7C) Time tells all truths
This is beyond just a lesson that applies to activism – it is a life lesson, and one of the best I have ever learned.
Whenever a person or a group of people has been convinced by malignant parties that YOU are the problem – and you know that you are not – simply accept it and withdraw.
Inevitably, the problems persist and often even worsen in your absence, at which point those good people involved realise for themselves, that with you gone, and the problems remaining – you were never the problem in the first place.
People coming to realisations for themselves is far more powerful an object lesson than you fighting to convince them of it. Take the path of least resistance, and trust that the day will come where they put two and two together, and realise they were duped or misled.
I’ve seen this happen so many times in my life, and it’s always a beautiful outcome. Far better that you demonstrate a truth in a profound and unmissable way through your absence, than try to fruitlessly fight against the scapegoating with your presence, thus getting tarred with the brush of a combatant or participant in the drama.
7D) Apply game theory
Always assess outcomes, both for yourselves and others, via “if, then” theorising. Don’t just look at what’s in front of you – look three, four, ten steps down the road and then act accordingly.
Build your house – your movement – your campaign – on rock and not on sand. The foundation stones are always the most important to get right. The culture and parameters you establish from the outset, will determine the outcomes.
Steer clear of taking diametric positions. There is always a third or fourth option, the out-of-the-box options, and these are always the best to take. Your opposition will always try to trap you in damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenarios. Escape these by electing to pick options that run contrary to those on offer.
Someone offering you steak or potatoes and telling you there is no other choice? Say no thanks to both, and go catch yourself a fish.
2018 was the year that changed everything, in terms of building cohesive public support for WikiLeaks and its arbitrarily detained founder Julian Assange.
The launch of the #Unity4J movement in solidarity with Julian – and the formation of a groundbreaking ‘online non-violent digital army’ working collaboratively to free him – was a key turning point. Clocking over 400 million social media impressions in 2018 alone, the movement is one of the largest of its kind in the digital era.
#Unity4J brought together thousands of supporters from across geographic and political divides. Their collective efforts have produced dozens of online vigil events, hundreds of images of graphic art, videos and short films, musical soundtracks, podcasts, pamphlets and research materials, a Pinterest digital archive of some 2,000 pieces of WikiLeaks-related material, and a series of real-world protest actions across four continents including marches, overpass banner drops, chalk actions, candlelight actions, poster, sticker and flyer distribution, car decal actions and bookmark distribution in public libraries.
The movement attracted the support and participation of a who’s-who of our most treasured whistleblower, journalistic and academic heroes – Ellsberg, Hedges, Galloway, McGovern, Binney, McKinney, Johnstone, Kiriakou, Swanson, Kubrick, Žižek – more than 80 public figures joined the participants list of this movement in support of Julian.
Most importantly, the movement was endorsed by the Assange family, and the content we produced was routinely shared by the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange accounts. And to my mind, the greatest achievement of the movement was that it has spawned a number of spin-off campaigns and splinter groups, building their own actions and networks to pursue freedom and liberty for Julian Assange. Long may that trend continue.
Having enjoyed such a bumper year, some people were shocked by my December 2018 on-stream announcement that I was stepping back from #Unity4J which I had spear-headed to that point. My departure may have seemed sudden, but in fact I had been planning it for some time.
As far back as August of 2018, I was foreshadowing my abdication and pledging to pass on all that I’d learned from my involvement in various mass movements over the last eight years, to those willing to take the reins and progress the campaign to free Julian.
I promised my swan song would be the authoring of a new article called “Freeing Julian Assange”, sequel to my seminal 2018 work “Being Julian Assange”.
“Being Julian Assange” was a definitive people’s history of WikiLeaks – the result of my many years of keen observation of their evolution, activities and reception in the public arena. Edited by Elizabeth Lea Vos, Editor in Chief of Disobedient Media, and promoted by Julian’s friend, internet entrepreneur and Internet Party of New Zealand founder Kim Dotcom, as well as by Julian himself, the finished product presented many unique revelations, dissected common narratives and separated fact from fiction. It shone new light upon WikiLeaks’ history and relationships with key figures and organisations in internet activism such as Aaron Swartz, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and many more.
I promised that “Freeing Julian Assange” would be “a narrative collection of wisdoms and hard lessons I learned covering mass actions on the ground & promoting them online, and a road map and a blueprint for #Unity4J.”
On Twitter, I explained:
“I don’t want this movement to be dependent on me; I accept that it somewhat is in the short term but I have already been taking steps to ensure that it is not in the medium term or long term. Very positive seeds have been sown, but it is only by thousands and then millions adopting this cause of their own volition that can deliver humanity this win, and we really can win this.”
One of the steps I took to solidify the future of the movement (and emancipate myself from it) was my recruitment of Consortium News Editor in Chief Joe Lauria to run the online vigils throughout 2019. If I was to pat myself on the back for anything related to #Unity4J, it would be that decision. Joe’s experience, professionalism and authority brought much to the table, and I have total faith in the longevity of his and Consortium’s staunch solidarity with Julian. I likewise deeply respect Consortium as an organisation for consistently taking principled and public stands for press freedom and human rights.
The backbone of the organising side of Unity4J has been a very talented team of moderators doing a fantastic job of keeping all the moving parts in motion, via our public server. The accessibility of that digital space is part of what attracted such large numbers to the movement.
I credit our founding commitment that anyone could join #Unity4J regardless of their personal politics to be one of the reasons the movement has been so appealing, to so many. Rule number one on our organising platform reads: “This server exists to fight for and/or help preserve the life, liberty, human rights and press freedoms of Julian Assange, and to support WikiLeaks… All personal politics are to be left at the door. Participants in this movement are from across the entire political spectrum and it’s frankly none of our business what you believe or who you voted for. The only thing that counts is that you support the aforementioned core aims of this project.”
This protocol had several profoundly positive impacts. Firstly, it completely rendered impotent Western intelligence agencies doctrine of splintering groups along ideological lines. While there has been some ideological fussing in the public arena by external parties attempting to proclaim political ownership of Julian’s struggle, there has never been any ideological issues within our platform or movement itself.
Even when high-profile movement supporters were directly targeted with unsolicited ideologically-based complaints about #Unity4J, to their credit they did not allow themselves to be swayed by such pressures, instead responding by doubling down their participation and openly endorsing the need for diverse groups to work together to achieve important aims.
Secondly, the creation of a judgement-free space where the rights of all to their own private opinions and political positions were paramount and avidly defended, gave our supporters a sense of freedom, cohesion and belonging that is difficult to find elsewhere in real world environments.
Unity itself is an innoculating force, and since we broke that ground in 2018 the unity narrative is manifesting elsewhere in mainstream political narrative, as it is wont to do. (Wherever powerful messaging emanates from the grassroots it is co-opted and then warped by the establishment to their own ends.)
Leaving aside Nancy Pelosi’s November 2018 campaign for partisan Unity, as recently as this year we have seen Jeremy Corbyn releasing campaign videos seeking to bridge the highly contentious divide between those who voted for and against the UK leaving the European Union – acknowledging the core similarities of their struggles and making clear that his Labour movement is accessible to both camps.
This is how far our voices have carried. We have told the world that it is okay to operate outside of the silos created for us by our puppet masters and now others are following suit.
The movement to free Julian is in reality, now a slew of movements to free Julian, and this fact pleases me greatly. The more vast and complex our networks, the greater burden for the state in trying to oppose us, and the more dramatically our chances of success increase.
One of the most significant developments in recent months has been the least talked about: in Britain, in the United States and in Australia, protesters have been performing acts of civil disobedience in support of Julian; there have been arrests in Washington DC and in Melbourne as a result.
This natural escalation reflects the seriousness of Julian’s persecutors ignoring the voices of the public they claim to represent. The more they refuse to accede to public demands that Julian be freed, the more the public will continue to engage in ever-increasing acts of civil disobedience.
I have no doubt that just as I’ve said since 2015: Julian’s fight is this generation’s Free Mandela movement. The trajectory will be the same. He will be freed. Get out there and do it people. We’ve got this.
The system isolates its targets, that is counterinsurgency 101 but since 2016 in particular, and more broadly throughout history, we have too-often participated in isolating each other.
Nothing feels better or is more inviting than acceptance and empathy, and that is a beautiful foundation for any undertaking. The foundation of Unity4J is empathy for Julian and his plight. Acceptance of each other, and our differences, has been a powerful vehicle to collectively express our empathy for Julian.
Tools and knowledge like those I’ve shared in this article, will help others to now pick up where I have left off. As foreshadowed in Part Two of this series, I am now moving on to another major campaign that I can no longer keep on the back-burner, and will be handing over my social media accounts to that campaign team.
This means I get to take a much-needed, and I think many will agree thoroughly-earned break from activism and journalism, while I advance a personal promise to prioritise my loved ones, our future and my health, so that I can rejoin the fight at a later date, stronger than ever before.
I recorded my last public appearance for the foreseeable future this week, for AntiWar.com, being interviewed by Scott Horton. That 77-minute interview, about Julian, WikiLeaks, Kim Dotcom, Chelsea Manning, press freedom, sexual assault advocacy and many other issues, is titled “Suzie Dawson on Julian Assange’s Heroism On Behalf Of Journalists” and can be found here.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all my readers. The hits on my recent articles, posted on this humble website with no advertising or marketing, and no mainstream pick-up, have performed at a level befitting the biggest blogsites in my home country of New Zealand.
I am so proud to have built such an authentic audience, and to have earned your attention and your support.
I might be gone for a little while but I won’t be far away, and it certainly won’t be the last you see or hear of me.
I am a survivor of rape, gang rape and the abusive police process I was subjected to when I reported it and I am fed up with watching sexual violence being used as a cover for political attacks on Julian Assange, his colleagues and his supporters.
I am not alone. Numerous other survivors have reached out to me tonight expressing the same sentiment and we deserve to be heard.
Melzer has recently transformed the debate around 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Julian Assange’s situation by formally finding that Assange is a victim of state-sponsored (and publicly perpetuated) psychological torture.
Yes, the very women who should have been most sincere about unpacking the experiences and feelings of a survivor of sexual assault could not muster a single shred of empathy for me, nor did they express even the mildest concern for my wellbeing or safety, despite my clearly having been triggered by the conversation.
The very women who complained in their open letter against Melzer, of “insensitivity to victims of sexual assault” and “..a profound lack of understanding…” were themselves apparently incapable of demonstrating any sensitivity or understanding when dealing directly with a survivor.
And it is thus, the issue. Too often the theory that is advanced that “we must support victims!” and “we must centre the voices of women and survivors!” doesn’t match the practice. Despite being self-styled advocates, academics and lawyers, they were simply too wrapped up in themselves to have the time of day for a lowly survivor of sexual assault who was outside of their clique. They weren’t considerate of my right to my own opinions and weren’t prepared to consider them.
The reactions of those same women to my (and others) inquiries couldn’t have been any different from Melzer’s reaction. Instead of welcoming our input or engaging in constructive dialogue, they defaulted to posturing themselves as the victims, proclaiming on social media that they were being attacked. While continually boasting of having added further signatories to their attempt to undermine Melzer’s career.
Sadly, Melzer is not a lone target of the tactic of organised mass signings of an open letter being employed against him. WikiLeaks PR Consultant Trevor Fitzgibbon was the subject of an open letter signed by 72 progressive organisations decrying him as a serial abuser of women. Their lobbying efforts against him brought down his successful business and destroyed his career and his marriage, prior to him being cleared of all charges after lengthy investigations by authorities. Fitzgibbon subsequently won a defamation case against his primary accuser, after revelations of her private text message communications with him (available on the court record) made it clear that he had never raped her. His accuser has now retracted her accusations.
Likewise the activism career of WikiLeaks advocate Jacob Appelbaum was destroyed by similar tactics. Open letters were used to de-platform him at major tech conferences and hackerspaces, including one he co-founded. The public shaming campaign against him eventually boiled down to a sole complainant of sexual assault – by a person who has since gone on to make extremely dubious allegations against two other high profile members of the tech industry and is likewise now facing defamation proceedings as a result.
As a survivor of rape, it is gutting to have to continually watch people who profess to act in defence of women attack and destroy good men in the name of protecting survivors. I can not simply sit by and allow rape to continue to be weaponised for political gain.
Therefore I am writing my own open letter in response to that penned by Melzer’s critics, both in direct response to the substance (or lack thereof) of their claims, and to draw a line. A line that says, if you take this man down, it will not be in our name.
If academics read this response and are principled and brave enough to co-sign it, that is great. However I am most interested in platforming and amplifying the voices of regular people, many of whom will also inevitably be fellow survivors, who too often are the forgotten or silent majority, while the circus of these tar-and-feather public shaming campaigns continues unabated.
It is only by speaking out that we can stop them. And it is way past time.
Not In My Name: Open letter in response to the open letter by purported women’s advocates attacking the credibility of UN Special Rapporteur for Torture Nils Melzer
To: Ms Michelle Bachelet Jeria, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ms Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Coordination Committee of UN Special Procedures (chair Ms Anita Ramasastry, Mr Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Mr Javaid Rehman, Ms Leigh Toomey, Mr Clément Voulé and Mr Dainius Puras)
On 1st July 2019 an open letter was penned to your excellencies that has so far been co-signed by 150+ people who identify themselves as “practitioners and scholars in international law and human rights”.
The authors of the article assert:
They “are deeply disturbed by the way [Melzer] approaches the allegations of sexual assault in this case.”
that Melzer’s “tone is unbecoming of a UN mandate holder“
that Melzer “dismisses the allegations on the basis that they do not “have the ring of rape in any language other than Swedish”. Mr Melzer’s statement is incorrect.”
that Melzer “grossly misunderstands the realities and legalities of sexual assault when he dismisses the allegations against Mr Assange on the basis that they “do not involve any violence”.“
that “Allegations against powerful or high-profile men such as Julian Assange are routinely dismissed as attention-seeking or part of a conspiracy to bring them down. Mr Melzer’s “op ed” perpetuates this dangerous narrative“
that Melzer’s “overarching argument may merit attention“
that in their arguments, they will be “leaving aside whether this is an accurate summary of the events of the case”
that “Mr Assange has fundamental rights to freedom from torture, a presumption of innocence, and a fair trial.“
“I think it is also important to point out what is called a “rape” allegation is not by any stretch what would be called “rape” in English or any other language other than Swedish, and I know what I’m talking about because I do speak Swedish. What this “rape” allegation refers to is an offence that doesn’t involve any violence (…) [Assange] is being accused of having ripped a condom during consensual intercourse (…) this is something no one will ever be able to prove.”
But here is what Melzer actually said word for word:
“I think it is important also to point out that what is called a rape allegation is not by any stretch what would be called rape in English or any other language than Swedish in the world and I know what I’m talking about because I do speak Swedish. So, what this rape allegation refers to, an offence, that doesn’t involve any violence.”
In the interview, Melzer stresses the words “an offence”. This can be heard precisely at 10:57 in the interview. It is the offence itself, stipulated in the Swedish law books, that was specifically designed for when violence was not used in the course of the action.
The English translation of the law is insufficient to explain the precise wording of the definition of the charge. The original Swedish law text makes implicitly clear that it applies only to instances of lessened violence than a forced penetration. That is why it is usually reported in English-language media as “lesser rape”. In the Swedish language, the implied lessening of the level of violence is even more pronounced. Which is why Melzer was explaining that he is fluent in Swedish. Because of that, he was able to interpret the full meaning of the wording of the laws, and therefore the nature of the allegations, in a way in which English speakers cannot.
Therefore the accusation that Melzer was trying to depict rape as a non-violent act is completely false. This invalidates the core premise of the original Open Letter of complaint against Melzer.
Melzer was simply describing an offence as it existed in 2010 on the Swedish law books. That law has since been changed in 2018. The 2018 interpretation appears to be closer to what the authors of the Open Letter wish to ascribe; however it simply was not relevant to Melzer’s credible and learned assessment of the original 2010 offence invoked against Assange.
The signatories to the Open Letter are signing it on the understanding that it contains an accurate depiction of Melzer’s actions. However, as evidenced above, the letter does not. Therefore it is a fundamentally flawed document, a misuse of the network being employed to amass signatures, a potential risk to the academic reputations of the signatories and a disservice to those on whose behalf it seeks to advocate.
Although the above sufficiently nullifies the allegations of professional impropriety falsely levelled at Melzer there is another issue which I wish to briefly cover off.
The open letter seeks to posture itself as being unbiased and objective, as well as to distance itself from any potential debate about the specifics of Assange’s case. Despite the fact that Melzer’s cited commentary was entirely specific to Assange’s case.
Unfortunately, even the most rudimentary research has unearthed that the primary organisers of the open letter have, in public, been far from unbiased towards Assange.
Out of respect, I will not name names at this point, as the purpose of this letter is not to engage in public shaming, however I am in possession of screenshots of multiple past statements published by the top proponents, organisers and signatories of the open letter making false, defamatory and biased statements about Julian Assange from their professional social media profiles and platforms.
Those statements echo some of the precise wording exhibited by state actors who have ultimately been responsible for the psychological torture of Assange that Melzer exposed.
Likewise, there is evidence of direct ties between the authors of the letter and some of the most voracious and defamatory critics of Assange that exist in the mainstream media sphere. The biases are deep and the relationships clear for all to see, with a few simple keyword searches.
It needs to be recognised and understood, that when Melzer exposed the public “mobbing” and psychological torture of Assange, that many professional human rights and legal advocates who had failed to act on Assange’s behalf or in solidarity with his plight across a number of years, themselves became tacitly implicated in his persecution. Whether it be because they had fallen victim to malicious mainstream reporting about his case, or whether it was due to their own ties to the states that have been and are actively persecuting him, they have been shown in action to have not lived up to their professed principles. That hypocrisy is publicly embarrassing. There are many professionals who would project themselves as being against torture, who have one way or another in this case, become complicit in it. Whether deliberately, or by their silence.
The correct action would be of course for them to acknowledge their error, atone for it and pick up the baton that Melzer has bravely carried thus far. Not to attack Melzer, undermine him, shame him, use social media to “mob” him as Assange was subjected to for so many years, or seek to distract from the severity of the implications of Melzer’s findings.
It was bad enough that a publisher went most of a decade being tortured in the heart of a major Western capital city with so few in the professional class daring to speak against it. Let us not see those same tactics now be allowed to be wielded against a UN Special Rapporteur too. We cannot allow those who, be it purposefully or inadvertently, contributed to the torture of a publisher, become the public prosecutors of the Special Rapporteur who exposed the torture.
What Melzer has done, in thoroughly researching in minute detail the case of Julian Assange, is historic and lends great credence and weight to the reputation of the United Nations as a whole. I know of many who had frankly lost faith in the organisation, only to have it restored by Melzer’s courage, tenacity and attention to detail. His is a significant achievement, undertaken in good conscience and in the face of overwhelmingly powerful and hostile forces, and for that he should be rewarded and not punished.
My 2018, 24,000-word research tome about the Assange case, called ‘Being Julian Assange‘ was read by over 140,000 people on this website alone, not including the multiple other locations and countries in which it was republished. In that piece, which was tweeted by Julian Assange shortly before he was silenced, as well as by WikiLeaks, Christine Assange and countless others, I wrote an important piece of testimony, about what it feels like as a survivor to watch the allegations against Julian Assange bandied about as “rape” all these years. I feel compelled to quote it in full:
“The apparent inability of self-styled defenders of women to differentiate between the physical and deliberate violence of actual rape, such as Bill Clinton’s rape of Juanita Broderick, compared to disagreements over condoms or in the case of Appelbaum, non-consensual back-washing, kissing someone in a bar, propositioning someone or making bad jokes, undermines and is frankly depressing to, those of us who are survivors.
Sexually harmful behaviours and other aspects of rape culture can and should be denounced and deplored, without having to equate it to rape. The proclivity of the liberal set for doing so waters down and diminishes the experience of rape victims, and the seriousness of it. It seems to be yet another function of privilege, to bandy about terms such as “rape”, “rapist”, and “serial rapist” without understanding the repercussions of doing so.
Rape is an assault on all five senses. For a protracted period of time thereafter, it renders you almost unable to live inside your body, to live inside your life. Unable to preserve your sensory perceptions or restore them to how they functioned before the rape.
To falsely describe sexually problematic behaviour common amongst the entire population as “rape” belittles and undermines survivors, as does unfairly expanding the definition of what constitutes a rapist, or branding every man a rapist by affiliation. Doing so causes many men who are not rapists to recoil from confronting what does need to change. It dissuades them from meaningfully engaging on legitimate issues. It encourages an inevitable and counterproductive backlash, that needn’t have occurred.”
This reflects a broad societal trend to blur the lines of what rape is, to expand its definition by using terms like “rapey“, a term often invoked in relation to Assange. I addressed the use of that term also.
“The term “rapey” is itself, offensive. With its use, the definition of rape is being willfully expanded into borderline meaninglessness and obscurity. As if there can be “racisty” or “sexisty” or “homophobicy”. There cannot. Rape is an absolute, and a serious crime against humanity. The term should not be callously invoked; watered down for the social convenience of he or she exercising the privilege inherently wielded when bastardising the language of the violated.”
Given that the eyes of many who believe themselves to be defenders of women are likely to read this letter, I felt it important to highlight those passages. Because foremost in the minds of those who advocate for survivors must be a concerted effort to understand how we feel, our wish to preserve the words which describe our experiences, and to retain ownership of them much as any marginalised or vulnerable group does with language used to describe them. Rape is a word that should be used with respect for the price those of us who have experienced it paid. It should never be callously bandied about, its definition should never be allowed to become meaningless, and the accusation of it should never, ever be used as a political weapon.
It is possible that in his research, Melzer read the above quoted passages and was affected by them. If so, I am grateful, and if not, I know that others were and will be.
But if Melzer is to now have rotten fruit thrown at him in the town square for breaking taboos to defend a victim of torture who others did not, then it will not be in my name.
Authored by: Suzie Dawson
SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT WHO CLAIM THEIR RIGHT TO BE RECOGNISED AS SUCH AND HAVE THEIR VOICES HEARD:
Suzie Dawson, Journalist and activist
Ariyana Love, Journalist and Human Rights defender
The myth that became Russiagate was seven years in the making. In this article we examine just how far back the real conspiracy stretches.
A Lie Too Big To Fail
The public has been led to believe that the 2016 election and the resulting Mueller Report is the definitive evidence that WikiLeaks was somehow in cahoots with Russia, reinforcing the premise that they were in a political alliance with, or favoured, Donald Trump and his Presidential election campaign.
Prominent Russiagate-skeptics have long pointed out the multitude of gaping holes inherent in those theories, including the advocacy group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) who have produced credible forensic work analysing the 2016 WikiLeaks releases, that resoundingly debunks officials claims.
In the course of researching this article, I stumbled across a major discovery that augments that: the false notion of WikiLeaks being a front for Russian intelligence isn’t new – it has been pushed by media since 2009.
It turns out the circulation of the WikiLeaks-Russia myth was a tried and true diversionary, smear tactic that was simply regurgitated in 2016.
Julian Assange believed that UK intelligence agencies were behind the pushing of that narrative, and he was publicly stating so at the end of last decade.
He wouldn’t make such claims lightly, and other emerging facts support his suspicion.
By December 2010, only the (fired) WikiLeaks defector Daniel Domscheit-Berg appeared, ostensibly to promote IMMI, the Icelandic media initiative on which WikiLeaks had collaborated with then-Icelandic Pirate Party’s Birgitta Jonsdottir and others. However he used his appearance to make blithe disparagements of Julian, pushing the message that support for WikiLeaks and support for Julian shouldn’t be one and the same thing, and to promote his own WikiLeaks-competitor initiative OpenLeaks, (which spectacularly imploded, failing to ever get off the ground).
One of the most interesting pieces of viewing I stumbled across, was a short clip from the Q+A at the end of Julian’s 2009 CCC appearance. In it, he was asked about the WikiLeaks releases that spiralled into the famous UK scandal known as Climategate. His answer stunned me, and made concrete something I’ve known for years, but which is the opposite of the narrative advanced about WikiLeaks in media.
Russiagate started in 2009 and was cooked up by the same malignant intelligence agencies whose activities Julian has consistently exposed.
Initial reporting on its contents contained claims of scientists manipulating research findings and methodologies, conspiring together to alter conclusions and generally behaving unethically.
While disputed by the scientists involved, who said their communications were being taken out of context, and by the findings of myriad official investigations into the matter, the release was largely viewed by the climate change skeptic community as validating their skepticism and their own existence. By critics, WikiLeaks was depicted as having taken an anti-climate change position by publishing the cache at all.
This is the earliest case in which I’m aware of the fact of WikiLeaks having published leaked documents, being extrapolated by observers into the assumption that WikiLeaks was taking a political position on one side or the other, of an issue.
In an attempt to quell what was becoming a global uproar, corporate media around the world, led by UK media, turned ClimateGate into an opportunity to advance their own geopolitical interests: in chorus, they depicted the WikiLeaks release as being both perpetrated by, and for the benefit of, Russia.
“The UK papers, which have close involvement with British intelligence – lots of journalists have come out and said that they have secret briefings from British intelligence and that they do each other favours etcetera etcetera – said that we received this stuff from the FSB. Just 3 days before the Copenhagen conference they said this – so my opinion is that probably, not certainly, maybe the papers did it by themselves, but probably UK intelligence tried to frame us as being a conduit for the FSB because they didn’t like the truth of what was in those emails.” – Julian Assange, 2009 [emphasis added]
The only ‘evidence’ cited by UK media to support the Russia-did-it theory was that the files had been uploaded to a Russian server in the city of Tomsk.
“Russian hackers were blamed by dozens of outlets for the Climategate hack, because that was consistent with global media coverage of cyber crime incidents which portrayed Russians as highly powerful hackers responsible for many hacking incidents. This narrative also was congruent with the new Cold War rhetoric that consistently takes issue with Russia acting on its geopolitical interests… [Climategate] was consistently attributed to Russia by the global media. This attribution be- came particularly clear after several key figures, such as Professor Jean-Pascal Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, supported the Russian hackers scenario. Here are some typical examples of the narratives that followed: ‘Russian hackers illegally obtained 10 years of e-mails between the world’s top climate change scientists’ (Kolasinski 4 December 2009); ‘The British media and some U.N. scientists have suggested that the Russian secret service, the FSB, was complicit in the theft’ (Snapple 7 Janu- ary 2010); ‘The guiding hand behind the leaks, the allegation went, was that of the Russian secret services’ (Walker 7 December 2009); ‘Russia, a major oil exporter, may be trying to undermine calls to reduce carbon emissions’ (Telegraph 6 December 2009); ‘This is not the first time Russian hackers have created global Internet disarray’ (MacNicol 7 December 2009); ‘Russian computer hackers are suspected of being behind the stolen e-mails’ (McCarthy and Owen 6 December 2009). A typical coverage in the Times by Tony Halpin sums all the reasons why Russian hackers and Russia were immediately implicated: Russia’s desire to discredit the summit, poor talented but unemployed hackers, the RBN and the use of patriotic hackers by the FSB. All these were connected together, fitting the overall move to blame Russian hackers – a move already built up by the global media (Halpin 7 December 2009).” – Dr Athina Karatgozianni
According to Dr Karatgozianni, “In fact, the files were originally uploaded in Turkish and Saudi Arabian servers before Tomsk.”
Sure enough, Saudi Arabia came down on the side of the climate change skeptics, in the debate over the release, raising it as an issue at the Copenhagen climate science summit days after the publishing. Yet their interests often escaped the notice of UK and global media’s reporting on the issue. As far as media were concerned, it was Russia’s fault, and WikiLeaks had been used as the tool by which to advance Russian interests.
Dr Karatgozianni argues that the Tomsk server upload was not evidence of Russian involvement at all. In her paper, she writes:
“Since hackers used open proxies to mask their identities, they could have originated from anywhere in the world. And if Russian hackers where indeed involved, leaving the files at Tomsk would be too obvious… Even if there are indeed individuals from Russia or elsewhere in the post-Soviet space who are engaged in cyber crime, the assumption of Russian guilt in all cases reinforces the older Cold War portrayal of Russians in the Western world… There is a demonstrated tendency for the global media to look for a Russian hand and geopolitical implications in stories relating to former Soviet countries or countries under Soviet influence in the past.”
The obviousness of the ruse is reminiscent of my own debunking of the 2018 Dutch-Russia hacking scandal. I mercilessly dissected a mainstream story about American intelligence officials who had invoked the supposed existence of security operations by their counterparts from the Netherlands in order to claim slam-dunk evidence of Russian involvement in the hacking of the DNC in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
The claims laundered by media were utterly preposterous – that the hacking of the DNC had occurred in a Moscow University building next door to the Kremlin; that the hackers had coordinated via cellphone text messages; that they had been filmed on security cameras. Proponents of the hoax (unnamed, anonymous intelligence officials cited in Western corporate media reporting) claimed to be in possession of pictures and video footage of the hacking – yet none of this evidence was ever released to the public.
Climate Change-focused news and opinion websites (yes, there is a bunch of them) such as the above, picked up straight away on the significance of the spying.
“Documents from whistleblower reveal extensive intelligence operation at 2009 COP15 meeting in Danish capital”read Climate Change News. Reporter Ed King quoted Meena Raman, “a negotiations expert from the Malaysian based Third World Network“: ““The UN climate talks are supposed to be about building trust – that’s been under threat for years because of the US’s backward position on climate action,” she said.”
As is so often the case with spying, it wasn’t just passive electronic surveillance – it included the use of human intelligence spies. The article references documents from WikiLeaks’ 2010 CableGate release:
“A few diplomats have told RTCC they believed most rooms at the 2010 Tianjin talks in China were bugged. Another talked of ‘honey traps’ laid for influential envoys, with one delegate reportedly losing their official phone as a consequence. The Snowden documents are not the first to identify UN climate summits as a bed of intrigue and dirty tricks. In 2010 US diplomatic cables released by the Wikileaks site detailed how the US launched a secret diplomatic offensive to ensure the Copenhagen Accord was agreed. This included financial assistance to developing countries in return for support, as well as threats to those who were pushing for a stronger and more comprehensive agreement.”
Honey pots. For climate scientists and tariff negotiators. Takes the shine off the whole James Bond image doesn’t it.
Their version of events can be summarised as follows:
That WikiLeaks release wasn’t an exclusive, as the documents had already been available on the web for 4 days prior
That WikiLeaks downplayed the UK media Russia-Russia-Russia plot: “there was brief interest by the UK tabloids in the Russian angle, and an article appeared in the Daily Mail speculating that Russian intelligence officials had hacked the UEA and stolen the emails. But nobody took that line seriously and the story died within 48 hours.”
WikiLeaks had political motivations: “They evidently like leaks that embarrass their political opponents, but in this case they found themselves tagged with a leak that had damaged the side they like; and since it seems to be more about political warfare against governments they dislike than some impartial ideal of transparency and freedom of information, they were stuck scrambling to make up a story about how it really served some nobler purpose.”
WikiLeaks had never claimed the Climategate files were an exclusive (nor were they packaged on its website as an exclusive release, as their exclusives are) and that the files had been available on the web prior was widely reflected in Climategate reporting.
As for it being politically motivated by being on one side or the other – a claim that is consistently and baselessly made against WikiLeaks – well the proof is in the pudding isn’t it.
Well, Well, Well, What Do We Have Here
Examining what WikiLeaks does is so much more telling than examining what people say that it does.
Five days after the inauguration of President Trump, guess what WikiLeaks was doing?
Soliciting leaks of data from the Trump administration, in an attempt to preserve endangered information about climate change.
This act was a strong indication that far from sucking up to the Trump administration, WikiLeaks was already agitating it. It also lays waste to those who ten years earlier, had been trying to posture WikiLeaks as being in the climate change-denier camp, publishing documents with an agenda to bolster that narrative.
In fact, what WikiLeaks was doing in 2009 was preserving documents it deemed to be important to the public record. In 2017, it was likewise trying to procure and preserve documents it believed were important for the public record. Even though the document sets were on opposing sides of the same debate.
WikiLeaks’ ClimateGate publication wasn’t about politics: it was about providing a digital safe haven to documents of historical importance.
“[WikiLeaks] founder, Julian Assange, told PBS [in 2009] that the university had been trying “to suppress information from the Freedom of Information Act.”
Unfortunately, the rest of that Mother Jones article tries to paint the ClimateGate publication as being a precursor to Russiagate, but for the wrong reasons. It quotes a former NSA analyst: “If you were a Russian operative [and] pitching influence ops for the DNC, and somebody’s like, ‘Eh, I don’t know about that,’ literally you just turn around and go, ‘Look at how well it worked [with Climategate],’” says Jake Williams, a cybersecurity expert and former analyst at the National Security Agency. “I wouldn’t necessarily say one influenced the other, but certainly it’s good proof that that’s a technique that works.”
It then goes on to repeat an oft-made claim that WikiLeaks had tailored its publication schedule of the Podesta emails, to run interference for bad publicity faced by the Trump campaign: “And when the Trump campaign was thrown into chaos after the Washington Post unearthed a 2005 video of Trump boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy,” WikiLeaks began publishing the Podesta emails less than an hour later. WikiLeaks then rolled out new batches of emails on a near-daily basis in the month leading up to the election. Once again, the timing was clearly designed for maximum impact.”
The timing wasn’t a scheme to help Trump at all; it was coincidental.
Maurizi writes: “Many media outlets continue to report that the Podesta emails were released only minutes after the Access Hollywood video aired, hinting at some sort of coordination between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign… As I worked on the Podesta emails, I do know that their publication was not a last-second decision. I had been alerted the day before, and their staggered release was a choice WikiLeaks made after the organization was harshly criticized by mainstream media for publishing the DNC documents all at once. This time the emails would trickle out to make them easier for the public to digest. But that was criticized too by the U.S. media and the Democrats as an attempt to leave Clinton bleeding a few weeks before the elections.”
The Truth Is One Keyword Search Away
Lies depend on laziness in order to thrive. Think of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of posts written about WikiLeaks, Trump and Russia since 2016. How many of them told you that WikiLeaks had published 14,531 documents about Donald Trump? Or told you that WikiLeaks have published 660,179 documents about Russia? Not many, if any. Instead you were told “WikiLeaks never published anything about Trump! WikiLeaks never publishes anything about Russia!”
Members of the public are only one keyword search away on wikileaks.org from finding the truth for themselves: that not only have they been actively deceived, but they’ve been deceived by journalists who didn’t bother to do even the most rudimentary fact-checking on their own claims.
What people often forget in all the Russiagate reporting, is that the DNC leaks contained all the opposition research on Trump. That included mountains of information detrimental to his campaign. Far from being spared – he was actually quite exposed by the releases – it’s just that too few, especially mainstream reporters, cared to look.
That’s just a few of the tasty morsels in WikiLeaks files about Donald Trump, and I’ve previously written extensively about the damning information on Russia contained within WikiLeaks publications. WikiLeaks repeatedly cited my work on the topic, so did other great journalists like Caitlin Johnstone, but it has been completely ignored by the mainstream. Why?
Because they don’t actually want to investigate Russia. Russia is just a scapegoat. They don’t actually want to investigate Trump either. He is just a means of distraction, a spectacle – by which they divide and conquer the American public, and increasingly the global public.
Their real agenda has been to smear WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, the only publication to meaningfully challenge the supremacy of the intelligence agencies. The powers that be see not Trump, or Russia, but WikiLeaks as their real enemy, and their ultimate target.
Because it is the education of the public and the public’s access to true, verified, unvarnished information about the misdeeds and criminal enterprises of the powerful, that scares the elite more than any 8-year Presidential term or foreign adversary, ever will.
Getting Back To The Roots
“All Russiagate Roads Lead Back To London As Evidence Emerges Of Joseph Mifsud’s Links To UK Intelligence” wrote Elizabeth Lea Vos in a groundbreaking April 2018 scoop that exposed more wholly the involvement of UK intelligence operatives in Russiagate.
“Did the entire narrative originate with UK intelligence groups in an effort to create the appearance of Russian collusion with the Trump Presidential campaign, much as the Guccifer 2.0 persona was used in the US to discredit WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC emails?” Vos asked, going on to lay out a multitude of reasons why that appears to be the case.
But it was one line in her reporting that really made my jaw drop. One compelling line, that ties Russiagate to Climategate, and the agenda to depict WikiLeaks as being a Russian front, spanning 2009 to 2016.
Because if Assange was correct as he is wont to be, that UK intelligence was behind the 2009 frame-up of Russia for Climategate, and if Vos is correct as she is now widely accepted to be, that UK intelligence was behind the frame-up of Russia in 2016, there is one name that connects both those events.
Guess who was head of the Russia desk for MI6, the United Kingdom’s foreign intelligence service, in 2009?
There will be one more part to this article. In the third, I’m going to talk about the movement to free Julian past, present and future, and provide my very own survival guide for activists and organisers jumping into the fray on this; the most important emancipation movement of our generation.
At the end of the first part of this series, I disclosed what appeared to have been an effort to interfere with my journalism. After the article was published, I was again approached. I was told that their pre-publication regurgitation of whole lines in my article was sourced from “my document” – a PDF – and suggested that it was leaked by someone from WL. Except no such PDF existed. I hadn’t saved my article in a document. And I have since confirmed that no, it wasn’t leaked by someone from WL. This entire week I have been subjected to continued technical interference which seemed to be aimed at slowing me down in the release of this second part of my series. No amount of sabotage is going to stop me publishing. Just as I stated previously, no matter what is thrown at me, I will continue to speak and I will continue to write.
We’ve been so busy sifting through the ashes that too few of us have noticed what’s been staring us in the face all along.
Let’s change that.
The Big Picture
With millions of words written about Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and its associates, swirling all around us daily, it’s easy not to see the wood for the trees.
The first port of call for those defending the world’s most at-risk publishing organisation and its staff has been tackling the individual narratives of its oppressors. Focusing on Sweden, or Ecuador, or the US Department Of Justice, the Grand Juries or the United Kingdom and debunking their spin seems a necessary task. But we have to face the reality: Years of arguing til we’re blue in the face about the intricacies of all the various aspects of the aforementioned – plenty of which I’ve engaged in myself – hasn’t achieved victory. We aren’t better off, or stronger for it. Things are slipping, and slipping fast.
A decade into this battle, it’s time to reflect upon the sum total of the parts. We need to acknowledge what has happened not just to Julian – but to his organisation as a whole. We need to examine WikiLeaks at an architectural level, just as its opponents have. In doing so, we see that the desecration of Julian’s reputation and the attacks against his work, relationships and his physical person were actually never about him – it was always about his organisation, what it is and what it does, all along.
Sweden and the cases against Julian were only ever a distraction, a red herring. To get a crystal clear picture of the situation we must zoom out to an eagle eye’s view.
What that lofty vantage point reveals is an obvious and protracted systematic destabilisation of the key pillars of the organisation. The social decapitation of its most effective members. The undermining of their ability to continue to serve and add value to it.
These are the rotten fruits of the transnational agenda to eradicate WikiLeaks. A state-level, international conspiracy which long pre-dates then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s declaration of war against WikiLeaks in 2017. His overt threats were merely a cover for covert operations that track back at least as far as 2009.
Those who oppose WikiLeaks are closer to their goal of destroying it than ever before. If we’re to turn that tide, we must examine what made WikiLeaks good at its best, find the missing pieces between then and now, and reinstitute them with haste.
What A Strong WikiLeaks Looks Like
The organisation Julian engineered was robust. This is self-evident: it has been able to withstand 10 years of unceasing attacks by state intelligence agencies across multiple jurisdictions. That it has so far survived them is a historic accomplishment.
This is what WikiLeaks in its prime looked like: a publishing wing, an activism wing, and a media/PR wing.
Each of these three pillars were championed by individuals with very public facing roles. Specialists in their field. Taking huge powers head on, and huge risks.
In their competent hands, WikiLeaks was the world’s premiere publisher; the pearl of the tech activism sphere; and platformed on major cable news networks, with opinion pieces in major MSM publications. WikiLeaks controlled the narrative; WikiLeaks was always on the front foot; WikiLeaks critics were forced into a defensive posture, always having to respond to whatever WikiLeaks was doing next.
WikiLeaks pulled rabbits out of hats. We always knew to expect the unexpected. Whenever it appeared that the chips were down, they bounced back better than ever before.
It was a golden age and I refer to the three major components of it as the dream team. Quite frankly, they rocked this shit.
The Dream Team
Julian Assange controlled policy, process, publishing and protected sources. He established satellite organisations and was the managing director of the WikiLeaks empire. Jacob Appelbaum went on stages around the world, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people about the value and importance of utilising and supporting WikiLeaks. He was a major conduit to the tech crowd and a constant presence at developer, privacy and journalism conferences. Trevor Fitzgibbon liaised with media bigwigs, musicians and celebrities, recruiting them to the cause and utilising them to enhance WikiLeaks public profile. He managed media relationships, engineered and pushed proactive narratives.
These three men relentlessly championed WikiLeaks.
These three men built the original campaign to save Chelsea Manning.
These three men helped to save Edward Snowden.
These three men all had their public reputations destroyed.
What is the likelihood of all three public figures representing the key pillars of WikiLeaks, conveniently being serial rapists?
In retrospect, it defies logic.
In aggregate, the subterfuge is so obvious as to be ludicrous.
But when the CIA is targeting you there’s always more in store.
One rapist, two rapists, three rapists, four.
Rapists! Rapists Everywhere!
When celebrated Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson was appointed Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks in October 2018, the announcement was lauded across the aisles.
The accolades would be short-lived however, as within a week of his accepting the mantle, he was being smeared as “a hostile and abusive person toward women“, and a “violent drunk with a history of being physically and emotionally abusive of women”.
The wording of the smear article is as limp as the accusations – “An air of allegations… He may now face allegations… unable to independently confirm the veracity of these allegations…”
No victims came forward. No charges were filed. No investigation launched. They just threw their mud at the new head of the WikiLeaks publishing pillar and hoped it would stick, as it had with the others.
This is a tactic often applied in social media as well as in print. Other towering figures in activism and whistleblowing have been tarred with the same brush. Matt DeHart had highly questionable child pornography charges manufactured against him. So did the alleged Vault7 whistleblower. Even Edward Snowden has trolls online baselessly attacking him along the same lines, despite there being zero suggestion whatsoever of such thing ever having occurred.
One commenter with a dark sense of humour nailed it perfectly:
Why is this tactic utilised time and time again? Because it works. Because we continue to let it work.
Our failure to protect those who put themselves in the firing line on our behalf, sharpens the sword used to cull us.
That Sinking Feeling
In 2016 I wrote a series of articles about Jacob Appelbaum. The more I dug into the rabbit hole, the deeper it went. Linguistic anomalies, smear websites, false accusations, retracted allegations, censorship, collusion, professional malice, jealousy, spurious claims, career and social ladder climbing – it was an ugly picture. Eventually my series totalled five pieces and over 20,000 words.
But I stumbled across something huge, when I was researching the Jake case. I read about someone called Trevor Fitzgibbon from Fitzgibbon Media. While I’d seen the results of his P.R. and advocacy work many times, I’d never known it was him behind it all. It turns out he owned the firm that ran US media and P.R. for WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning, for Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept, and multiple nation states including Venezuela and Ecuador.
In my reading, I learned that six months prior to the branding of Jacob Appelbaum as a serial rapist, Trevor Fitzgibbon had gone through the same thing. It destroyed his P.R. firm, his career, his marriage, his finances and his life. Just as the JakeGate scandal had robbed WikiLeaks of one of its most outspoken and powerful public advocates and organisers, the Fitzgibbon scandal before it had robbed WikiLeaks and the whistleblowers it represents, of their most capable media and P.R. liaison.
Because I didn’t know Fitzgibbon and had no contact with him, I filed away what I learned about his case in the back of my mind. But I couldn’t escape the eerie, disquieting feeling that this was all an echo. An echo of what had been done to Julian.
These last few months I have been investigating the three cases in tandem, overlaying and analysing them. The patterns are impossible to ignore.
A target engaged in activity that was highly threatening to the global intelligence complex
Multiple accusers of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct
Spurious claims that don’t qualify as any of the aforementioned
Lack of criminal charges
Target publicly branded and smeared as a “serial rapist”
Massive reputational damage
Severe impact on the productivity of the target and their ability to perform in their professional capacity
This is a table of my findings:
(Click on the above picture to see an enlarged version of it.)
In each of the three cases, there is material evidence that suggests no rape ever took place.
In Julian’s case, one of the women involved submitted a condom that was found to have contained no trace of DNA – either his or hers. She then went on to state publicly that she was not raped. The other complainant told friends she had been “railroaded by police” and did “not wish to charge him with anything”.
In Jacob Appelbaum’s situation, what turned out to be the sole rape complainant (despite promises by his detractors of the existence of dozens of victims) emailed him after the fact to tell him what a wonderful time she’d had and how she looked forward to coming back to Berlin to visit again. Another supposed victim said that the story told by Appelbaum’s accusers about her was factually incorrect and had been used against him without her consent.
In Trevor Fitzgibbon’s case, the sole accusation of rape came from a woman who it eventuated had sent him a slew of nude and semi-nude photos before the alleged incident, and then another text message afterwards to congratulate and praise him for his sexual performance. She then immediately thereafter asked him to do a number of professional favours for her and her clients. Her rape claim was investigated by authorities – who after a year-long inquiry, struck them down as baseless and declined to charge him. He subsequently took the evidence of her duplicity to a court, and successfully sued her for defamation. She has now publicly retracted her allegations against him.
Despite all of the above, the mantra of “there are multiple accusers” continues to be used against all three men. Julian was seen explaining in the Laura Poitras documentary ‘Risk’ why there being multiple accusers is problematic, and was promptly deemed a ‘misogynist’ for having dared to utter such a basic observation. He was portrayed as a guilty man plotting counter-narratives against victims to evade justice, instead of an innocent man marvelling at the intricacy of the chains being used to bind him.
In all three cases, spurious claims were made that either barely meet the standard of a sexual crime or simply don’t at all. Despite nine years worth of invocations of the word “rape”, and the term “serial rapist”, the accusations against Julian don’t amount to rape at all. They are what the Swedish law books describe as “a lesser rape” and describe activities which are not crimes in most Western countries. In Jacob’s case, his accusers saw fit to drag in career disputes, jokes made in bars, a third-party allegation about a simple kiss, and the back-washing of an accuser who failed to disclose when writing about the incident, that after said back-washing, she had in fact decided to have consensual sex with Appelbaum. In Trevor Fitzgibbon’s case, the retracted-rape complainant was accompanied to the police station by two other complainants. One claimed that Fitzgibbon had “hugged her inappropriately.” The other claimed that his hand had brushed her backside during a hug. These complaints were also struck down by the investigating agency.
I’ve written at length elsewhere about how such spurious claims effectively water down the seriousness of rape. I’ll save myself the discomfort of doing so again, other than to say: to those of us who have experienced the violence and trauma of rape, gang rape and serious sexual abuse, it is an unforgivable affront to see such pitiful, shallow complaints, conflated as rape. Those engaging in this behaviour damage the credibility of, and in fact endanger, all genuine rape complainants, and should be deeply ashamed of themselves.
None of the three men – Julian, Jacob or Trevor – have ever been charged with a crime. Nor have they had any civil suits filed against them, even though the evidential barrier is lower. Yet all three continue to be abused by their political opponents, who brand them “serial rapists”.
This has caused irreparable harm to them and to those close to them. It also materially damaged their careers.
And that’s really what this is all about. It was never about them. It was about their professional pursuits: what they are good at doing, what they love doing, who was inconvenienced by them doing it, and who stood to benefit from inhibiting their ability to continue doing it.
The playbook of the intelligence agencies, is to divert, control and consume the attention of their targets. Once they can direct your attention, they can control your entire life.
Julian’s attention and resources were diverted to trying to defend himself. The Swedish accusations against him were used as a cover to detain him in the UK while secret US grand jury indictments for his publishing activities were prepared. A Swedish researcher I spoke with told me that NGO’s that had dared to show support for Julian in 2010 such as Amnesty Sweden, were hounded by state-affiliated detractors who decried them for daring to support a “rapist”, compelling them to alter their positions.
Jacob was made persona non grata within his own community – outcast. Denied his places of refuge, expelled from organisations. I wrote previously of how certain tech activism figures took it upon themselves to lobby conference organisers and hacker organisations around the world to issue public bans of Appelbaum from their events, their member lists and their premises. Many, many organisations caved in to the pressure. In “Orwell’s Swan Song: Free Speech Activists Whitewashing Wikipedia To Silence Dissent” I wrote of Jake’s “almost wholesale removal from the stages on which he shared pleas for people to leak sensitive intelligence information, to take direct action at NSA sites, his revelations about the dystopian surveillance complex affecting us all and of the tactics being employed against persons of interest.” Prior to Jake’s smearing, he had been doing all of that, as well as studying, writing about and making presentations on the NSA drone kill list from the Snowden files.
Trevor had the same experience. Seventy progressive and media organisations signed an open letter declaring that they would never work with him again. This was not a spontaneous synchronicity at work – it was a coordinated effort driven by malignant figures to prevent him from ever being able to work in his sector again. Ultimately, to prevent him from working for WikiLeaks, for Manning, for Snowden, for Ecuador, for Venezuela. To prevent him working for active, high-priority, political targets of the US government. To prevent him working on endeavours like The Snowden Treaty, on which he was collaborating with Glenn Greenwald’s husband, Brazilian Senator David Miranda, in negotiation with multiple countries to create a network of states willing to be safe havens for whistleblowers.
“They took me out of the  election cycle, that’s what they did” Fitzgibbon told me. The timing of the smears of Appelbaum similarly occurred in the lead-up to the 2016 US Presidential election.
The timing of the rape smears against Julian Assange was similarly suspicious. Events immediately prior to the accusations against him have been all but memory holed. In all the talk about Sweden, it is never mentioned that Julian was already on a Pentagon manhunt list when he traveled to the country.
The truth about the months prior to Julian being targeted with the “serial rapist” smear are meticulously detailed in his affidavit on the matter, which is available online.
Below, I paraphrase relevant portions from subsection 3: “Known intelligence operations prior to travelling to Sweden“.
March 2010: Collateral Murder publishing team subjected to intense physical surveillance
May 2010: Manning arrested
June 2010: * Pentagon “conducting an aggressive investigation” * Prosecutor joining “Terrorism and National Security Unit” of Eastern District Court of Virginia is involved with the WikiLeaks grand jury * Pentagon investigators reported to be “desperately trying to track [Julian] down… would not discuss the methods being used to find Assange, nor would they say if they had information to suggest where he is now” * Department of Defence spokesperson confirms an ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks involving the Army Criminal Investigation Division and other agencies
July 2010: * Department of Homeland Security agencies gatecrash the HOPE Conference in New York City trying to find Julian, in whose stead Jacob Appelbaum appeared * White House Press Secretary calls WikiLeaks “a very real and potential threat“ * Australians confirmed to be assisting US “counter-espionage investigation” * Then-FBI Director Mueller engaged in WikiLeaks investigation * Ex CIA and NSA Director Hayden pens an op-ed denouncing WikiLeaks * Justice Department investigators “exploring whether Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks could be charged with inducing, or conspiring in, violations of the Espionage Act.” * While Assange still in the UK prior to visiting Sweden, “FBI was carrying out operations on UK soil in relation to its investigation into WikiLeaks publishing activities” * “Prominent commentators and former White House officials championed extraterritorial measures and the violation of international law ‘if necessary'”
Early August, pre-accusations:
* “Former speech writer for President George W. Bush, Marc Thiessen, published a Washington Post article entitled ‘WikiLeaks Must Be Stopped.'” * Announcement of an “anti-WikiLeaks Task Force at the Department of Defence”, operating 24 hours a day with 80 staff. * Brig. General Robert A. Carr “who runs “the Pentagon’s equivalent to the CIA”, the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was “handpicked” by Defense Secretary Robert Gates” to run the Task Force. * US pressuring allies to prosecute WikiLeaks under their own counter-terrorism laws and to refuse Julian entry into their territories * Australian government “publicly entertained the possibility of cancelling [Julian’s] passport”, again confirmed to be assisting US authorities * US pressured Switzerland not to grant Julian asylum
11 August 2010: Julian travels to Sweden
13 August 2010: Julian’s personal bank cards blocked. Left without any access to funds.
19 August 2010: “Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) requested information about [Julian] from an Australian intelligence organisation”
20 August 2010: Sweden launches a “preliminary investigation” into Julian for “lesser rape”.
In researching this article, I read literally every tweet that had been sent by or about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange for the year of 2010 (no small task). I found that 90% of source links are broken. Countless articles appear to have been obliterated from the internet. Just as I showed in “Being Julian Assange” that much of the history of the original WikiLeaks-led support campaign for Chelsea Manning had been disappeared, it appears that much of WikiLeaks early history has been as well.
Julian once said: “George Orwell said that he who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future. This is never more true than with electronic archives… the electronic archive of most major newspapers is not trustable and the same goes with every other organisation. We have seen many, many examples of major newspapers such as The Guardian or The Telegraph pull material from their archive permanently, material that had been published… if you go to the URLs for those stories, you won’t see ‘this story has been removed’… you will see ‘Not found’ and if you search for the indexes of the newspapers you will see ‘Not found’. Those stories not only have ceased to exist, they have ceased to have ever existed. So the centralisation that is occurring in archive repository means that the censorship is very easy.”
In my research, I also reviewed mountains of related media. A collection of the most pertinent examples are below:
AJ Anchor: “Have you spoken to [Julian]?” Swedish Spokesperson: “No” AJ Anchor: “Any idea where he is?” Swedish Spokesperson: “No” AJ Anchor: “Are you looking for him?” Swedish Spokesperson: “Not at the moment and the prosecutor in question doesn’t know yet whether she wants to interview him or not. She’ll be deciding that matter later.” AJ Anchor: “Well surely that would be the first step – to try to contact the person at the centre of such an allegation, whether it turns out to be baseless or whether it has some basic in fact – surely the first step is to contact the person who has been accused?” Swedish Spokesperson: “I can’t give you any details cos it’s under investigation.” AJ Anchor: “Wouldn’t it be logical to try and talk to him?” Swedish Spokesperson: “I can’t comment on that unfortunately.” AJ Anchor: “Do you feel a bit embarrassed by all of this?” Swedish Spokesperson: “No not at all, it’s not embarrassing.” AJ Anchor: “Why not?” Swedish Spokesperson: “Because this is normal procedure.” AJ Anchor: “It’s quite normal to accuse somebody of rape then 2 hours later say, no, it’s not the case?” Swedish Spokesperson: “Yeah it’s quite common that new information gets into a case and we have to revise earlier positions.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Sweden revised their position. Some days later, the case they opened then closed would be opened again, by a new prosecutor. Then closed again seven years later, only to recently be opened again. What a farce.
The desperation of the powers that be to separate the accusations against Julian from his publishing work with WikiLeaks was palpable and is evidenced in the wording used by major US news sources when reporting on the situation. A reporter for CBS News, on 1st December 2010 said “Well, in fact, he’s been put on a Wanted List in connection with a case of alleged sexual assault in Sweden. The prosecutors simply want to question him, no charges have been laid. And it has nothing at all to do with the thousands of documents leaked by WikiLeaks over the last few days.” [Emphasis added]
In stark contrast to this, Mark Stephens, Julian’s UK lawyer told the ABC on December 7th 2010: “I think there’s an attempt to criminalise Julian Assange and I think that’s what we’re seeing here. And it’s a traditional method of the black arts and the dark operatives – to criminalise somebody. And obviously when they’re fighting it they’re distracted from their main activities.”
On December 11th, 2010 Julian appears on Larry King Live alongside Daniel Ellsberg. Julian wants to talk about the tens of thousands of civilian deaths uncovered by WikiLeaks, but Larry just wants to talk about the rape accusations. Ellsberg says: “The so-called plumbers were looking for information with which to blackmail me into silence and I’m sure that kind of operation is going on now to try to – quote – neutralise – to use the Pentagon or the White House word, for the bearer of these messages…”
To Ellsberg and other seasoned targets of the US government, what was being done to Julian was plain as day. Yet all too soon, the allegations against him would be wielded not just as a tool to smear him, but as a wedge to attempt to divide him from his own organisation – WikiLeaks.
The Double-Edged Sword
It’s a refrain we’ve heard often from Julian’s critics – that the allegations against him, and he himself, should be separated from the support base for WikiLeaks.
http://bit.ly/g9JVXN Lets separate support for wikileaks from support for Assange – and his rape trial.
This agenda has three effects: firstly, it upholds the fantasy that Julian wasn’t targeted for his work with WikiLeaks when he clearly was. Secondly, it pressures WikiLeaks to divorce itself from Julian, it’s founder, thereby agitating internal conflicts within the organisation itself, splitting it between those who understand that Julian was being scapegoated and were loyal to him, and those who would rather put their heads in the sand in the hopes of somehow salvaging the organisation from being tarnished by the association with something as hideous and provocative as the words “serial rape”.
But thirdly, and as I have no doubt the engineers of this narrative were fully aware – it is no more possible to divorce Julian from WikiLeaks in the public mind, than it was possible to divorce Kim Dotcom from the Internet Party in 2014, when this precise same tactic was used against him and it. Kim Dotcom is the founder, visionary and creative genius behind the Internet Party. Yet his 2014 election campaign staff were infected with this exact same insidious narrative: “We have to separate Kim Dotcom from Internet Party in the public mind in order not to associate ourselves with the charges against him.” They then spent half a year trying to do so and failing miserably, because in the public’s mind, Kim Dotcom was the Internet Party, just as the public quite rightly will never be able to be convinced that WikiLeaks isn’t Julian Assange.
The correct tack to take would have been for WikiLeaks to come out off the bat and say strongly: “Our publisher is being persecuted because of his work with us. We stand by him unequivocally.” Eventually, they did exactly that, but it took a lot of drama, and the departure of a few either gullible, faint-hearted or malignant people, to get there.
Take Back The Tried And True And Never Let Go
Jacob Appelbaum used to say that he was a proud member of the cast-iron club – an NSA term William Binney and he once had a public discussion about. It means those who have raised their head above the parapet sufficiently that they are going to be targeted and spied on by the intelligence agencies forever more, unceasingly.
I think of the cast-iron club a little differently. I think of it as those who have had everything that can be thrown at them, thrown at them; who have paid massive prices, and yet still continue to sacrifice, still continue to speak, still remain active. Still remain spiritually alive.
One of the few differences in Julian, Jacob and Trevor’s cases, was the way they responded to what happened to them.
Indomitable, Julian refused to let being smeared worldwide as a “serial rapist”, stop him doing what he did best. Although what he’s had to endure commandeered his attention, sapped his resources, and has ultimately come at a severe physical and mental price, so long as he was and is able to speak, to whatever extent he could or can, he never stopped speaking.
For Jacob it was harder. His social circle, his community, and much of what he held dear, were ripped asunder in 2016, pre-election, (and then likely again post-election). Tor was ripped in half, Chaos Communications Club was ripped in half, using tactics that I will touch upon in more detail at a later date. Berlin was ripped in half. De-platformed, shunned and scorned, he had little choice but to fade from the public eye. Although it is the most common advice to men who find themselves in that situation – apologise, step back, seek therapeutic remedy, take some time out – I personally believe it is the wrong approach.
Because it rewards the agencies who are behind the smears. The snuffing out of voices is why they keep using these tactics time and again. They benefit from it, we lose.
Likewise with Trevor Fitzgibbon. The entire infrastructure he had built with his P.R. company lay in ruins – even rendered into non-existence – the colossal damage to his professional and family life must have seemed insurmountable. It is a miracle that we did not lose any of these men to permanent despondency, mental illness or suicide. But I thank God for it. Because we need them.
We need their voices, their skills, their drive, their commitment, their experience, their loyalty to WikiLeaks and Julian and their advocacy work now more than ever before.
The vacuum left by their absence is undeniable. The damage to WikiLeaks as an organisation is undeniable. Now, at the time of greatest peril to Julian and to his life’s work, we need the cast-iron club back in action. We need them redeemed and we need them active.
Only we, the support base, can create the environment for that to occur. We need the truth about what happened to these men, and why, to be spread far and wide. We need to let them know that despite everything they have gone through, they are still loved, welcome and appreciated.
It is my personal hope that if enough voices are brave enough to stop worrying about their own social capital and set aside the implanted fear of being associated with “serial rapists”, embrace the truth of what really occurred, and lend our vocal support to restoring the ability of these men to again publicly pursue their life’s work, that they will feel comforted enough to return to their public advocacy.
We need Kristinn Hrafnsson to publish. Publishing is the strongest and most vital thing WikiLeaks could do right now. We need Jacob out there talking to his 100k followers about WikiLeaks again. We need Trevor writing and issuing press releases, responding to media inquiries, devising and pushing narratives and hooking up press opportunities again.
I believe WikiLeaks will be stronger as a result. Further – I believe it would greatly enhance the chance that the organisation will ultimately survive what has befallen it. You don’t have to look far to see that sources, whistleblowers, activists and journalists need WikiLeaks not to die. We need it active and strong. We must protect it, as it has protected so many others before.
WikiLeaks saves lives. It has saved the lives of at-risk journalists and whistleblowers. It has revolutionised journalism and source protection. It can only have a hope of continuing to do so, with our unrelenting support.
Sabotage, Threats and Defiance
As I was diligently working to complete this article and prepare it for publishing, I had a long-term close friend come to me in desperation, with what they said were critically important messages to me.
They wanted to talk to me about the content of this article, which I had shared with no one other than a trusted member of the WikiLeaks team and my own self.
They warned me against writing about Trevor Fitzgibbon. They referenced historical tweets from figures in his PR organisation, trying to convince me that Trevor Fitzgibbon was in fact a serial abuser (tweets I had long since examined). They threatened me that if I dared to publish the above content about him, that there would be massive backlash and attacks on me “in a few weeks” that they wouldn’t be able to protect me from.
They said they were coming as an emissary on behalf of someone who was close to Julian and to Jacob. They claimed that Julian wouldn’t approve, and that Jacob explicitly did not want to be mentioned in any article about Trevor Fitzgibbon. They said I would be attacked by “Anons”. They then cited word for word lines from my article to me, even though it was password protected and not available to the public.
I care about this person a lot, but I smelled the rat instantly. The RAT in fact. Yes, the Remote Access Tunnel. Throughout my crafting of this article, I had watched the familiar screen blink of a Remote Access link being established on my computer. For those that don’t know what that means, it means that someone was watching my screen in real time, or recording it, as I wrote this piece.
The funny thing about all this modern day spyware is that some of the basic functions are dependent on 90’s technology. Remote Access being one of them. To experienced targets who know what they’re looking for, it is recognisable, it has its own distinct fingerprint.
Being spied on, and certainly while I craft important and long-awaited articles, is nothing new to me. Nor is having people attempt to hoodwink me, distract me, or sabotage my work.
I reached out to Jacob to see if it was true that he had said he didn’t want to be written about in this article alongside my reporting on Trevor Fitzgibbon. He stated that he had never said any such thing, and suggested that it was important that I make note of what had occurred.
I asked my friend to divulge who it was that had compelled them to approach me with this lie about Jacob. He refused to disclose the source. Out of respect, I will not name my friend. But nor will I alter my reporting to suit unknown watchers and spies, or liars who feed me misinformation in an attempt to influence my writing.
So I told my friend that, in explicit terms. That he was being played, and that my reporting was MY reporting, and I sent the following tweet:
To the people obsessing over the idea that they're exposed by my article / named in my article – you aren't. Get over yourselves.
To those sending me proxy threats through my friends – if you want to smear or attack me, you can take a number and get in line. It's a long one.
I have no doubt that I will suffer major attacks on my reputation and perhaps even my person, this year. I have pending campaigns and actions that I have not announced publicly yet, which will put me on the shit list even worse than I already am from everything I’ve done to date, or from writing articles like this.
Those who threaten me are messing with the wrong Kiwi.
I fully anticipate pending tabloid exposes and slanted depictions of my past or present relationships; dumpings of the contents of my social media accounts, or the Unity4J Discord channels, of my DM’s, audio or video files of my personal life, exposures of my relationships with my children or family, my phone calls, Zoom chats or any other miserable, underhanded, lowlife, intelligence agency-backed smear operation that comes my way. They operate with deniability, so it will appear to be a personal betrayal rather than a state-level attack, but we aren’t stupid, and we know full well who will ultimately be behind it, no matter how good their cover or their coordination is.
I fully expect to be meted out in part or in whole, exactly the type of treatment that Trevor, Jacob or Julian have been dished up. I expect more smear articles about me, Wikipedia pages with surreptitious negative edits, accusations that I am a terrible person/friend/mother/activist/political party President, take your pick, or all of the above.
And despite it all I will continue to work. And I will continue to speak. Even if they depict me as the greatest monster known to humankind: I will continue to work, and I will continue to speak.
It is only when we remain impervious to their attacks and prove our resilience to them, that we will undermine their effectiveness.
When we, as viewers, readers and supporters, cease to be hooked in by tabloid narratives, bottom-feeding trolls and Reality TV-style salaciousness, we can finally transcend these methods of the destruction of activists and movements, and start to achieve some real change.
Bob Marley said “How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?” In this day and age – “How long shall they call our prophets serial rapists while we stand aside and look?”
When I think of Julian, I think of his work and his contribution, and the significance of it. When I think of Jacob, I think of his work and his contribution, and the significance of it. When I think of Trevor, I think of his work and his contribution, and the significance of it.
That is why they were and are attacked. That is why I have been and will continue to be attacked. Their courageous endeavours are what we all must mimic, or at the very least stubbornly support, so that it’s not just a few pariahs brave enough to stand up to Empire. So that it can be all of us.
I have watched every whistleblower and journalist of worth before me be relentlessly persecuted and attacked. Indeed, I’ve spent many years defending them, debunking the smears at length. I’ve seen them attacked from every direction and desecrated in every way. Any time that it happens to me, no matter how scurrilous, vicious or humiliating, it is a badge of honour.
I am not scared and I will not be cowed.
To Be Continued…
There will be two more parts to this article. In the second, we are going to talk extensively about WikiLeaks in the context of Trump and Russia. In the third part, I’m going to talk about the movement to free Julian past, present and future, and provide my very own survival guide for activists and organisers jumping into the fray on this; the most important emancipation movement of our generation.
Christine Assange said that she doesn’t go to sleep and have nightmares, she wakes up to one every day.
Mother to Julian Assange, this generation’s most significant publisher – now a political prisoner – Christine lives with the daily terror of foreboding anticipation. Only ever moments away from the next piece of terrible news, as she watches her son, born of her body, raised by her hand, die in slow motion from afar.
This week was full of nightmares for Christine.
Ink or blood?
I had intended to write a news bulletin and deliver important and timely tidings. Revelations unbroken by the mainstream, and exclusive to Consortium News. But to Christine, and to anyone with both an empathetic bone in their body and the ability to see through the haze of mainstream lies, Julian Assange is not just news. He is a human being. A human being who felt so strongly for other human beings, that he has laid his head on the chopping block time and again for us. It will likely cost him his life.
Given the irreversible damage his doctors warned is being inflicted upon him, it may have already.
His liberty is long gone. His public reputation, excoriated. A twisted caricature crafted by his persecutors, raised in its place. For peasants in the town square to throw rotten tomatoes at, while the puppet-masters who alternately starve them and send them to die in pointless wars, scoff and self-congratulate. Just as the well-to-do toasted themselves with champagne, high above Wall Street, as the Occupy movement marched below.
The Occupy movement who we were told needed showers. Lacked good hygiene. Smelled bad. Behold the language of the ignorant and the complicit: truth-tellers are unclean. The courageous should spend more time on domestic chores, and less on trying to save the lives of the masses exploited by a system that chews humans up and spits them out daily.
Julian who brought the world truthful information on a scale never before seen in human history, is the metaphorical newspaper that circling seagulls from corporate media platforms swoop to deliver their droppings on.
Their screeching crap etched in ink is the dripping of blood in our hourglass. “#EndImpunity!” they declare annually in commemoration of persecuted colleagues, while assassinating the character of a detained journalist on every other day of the year.
Each truth-teller snuffed out is like a droplet depicted in the WikiLeaks logo: with every drip, our collective clock ticks one minute closer to midnight.
This week the clock isn’t just ticking. It is sounding an urgent alarm.
On the 29th of October, at 4:31am Julian Assange awoke to yet another nightmare of his own: a second attempted break-in at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
As his legal team confirmed to me:
The timing of the attempted breach was not insignificant. It was the early hours of the very day he was due to testify in Court in Ecuador by teleconference. A testimony that then was then plagued by constant technical interference, preventing Julian from fully imparting to the judge the extent of the human rights violations that he is being subjected to.
This confirmation by Julian’s legal team that a break-in occurred is a very big deal. But not the last alarming development to be revealed this week.
One would think, that after such an event as an attempted break-in, the Ecuadorian Embassy would have gone on high alert. Extra security might be called in. Every possible consideration would be made to secure the premises, surely.
To the contrary, as Yale University’s Sean O’Brien discovered, and thoroughly documented, that very same day – the Embassy was left quite literally wide open.
Julian Assange has been made a sitting duck.
A Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, Sean O’Brien is a cybersecurity, privacy and forensics expert. He is the Assistant Director for Technology at Yale Office of International Students & Scholars and founded the Yale Privacy Lab.
I asked him to record his experiences himself, in first person, so that we can retrospectively walk with him through his visit to the Embassy last Monday. Sean’s story is below.
Sean’s Testimony – by Sean O’Brien
I arrived in London last week for Mozilla Festival, to present Yale Privacy Lab’s work on profiles of mobile app trackers. Mozfest was an amazing conference, but I didn’t get a chance to see the famous buildings and monuments in the city until Monday, Oct. 29, the day I was leaving Britain. I decided to walk toward the Thames from my hotel room in Soho.
In front of Parliament were a group of activists singing “We’re not gonna Brexit!” to the tune of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. I walked up to a member of the group and asked for directions to the Ecuadorean embassy. “Going to visit Julian are ya?” she said, as she directed me to Knightsbridge and the famous Harrod’s department store. “I probably won’t be able to get past the sidewalk,” I replied back. I was quite wrong.
Prior to my visit, I couldn’t find any information online about visiting the Ecuadorean embassy. I had read that a strict new protocol had been put in place, so I expected high security and police. When I arrived at No. 3 Hans Crescent, however, I was met with absolutely no security.
There were no vehicles parked outside, no people on the sidewalk out front; nothing that would give a hint that a political prisoner, the world-famous Julian Assange of Wikileaks, was inside. I actually walked past the embassy more than once, thinking that perhaps my eyes were deceiving me and I had the wrong building.
Even more shocking: the door was wide open.
There was scaffolding around three quarters of the embassy and the flats above, and men in uniforms with bright yellow vests were walking across, seemingly washing the windows. The scaffolding stopped about halfway across the balcony I’d seen Julian standing on at press conferences, before he was banned from facing the public, sunlight, and the open air.
Near the crest in these photos, you can see what looks like a microphone bolted to a pipe, attached to the scaffolding and with a white wire running across. I didn’t think much of it until later, worried instead about entering the embassy building as politely and professionally as possible.
As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry. I walked up the steps, past the “Wet Floor” sign, into the open door, pulled the next door open, and entered a completely empty lobby. On the left was the door to the Ecuadorean embassy, and on my right was the Colombian embassy with a desk in front and no one manning it.
I stood and waited for someone to come and greet me, seeing that I was on camera in what should be a high-security area, before I realized no one was coming. I pressed an intercom button at the Ecuadorean door, and spoke to a man briefly who did, eventually, open the embassy door and step out.
The man advised me that there was a strict protocol for visiting Mr. Assange and grabbed a piece of scrap paper, writing a long e-mail address on the back. I needed to e-mail and request an appointment, I was told, and Mr. Assange would of course have to approve. Taking the paper, I hurried across the street to Harrod’s, where I knew there would be open wifi, e-mailing as soon as I could.
Almost immediately, I received a bounce-back message that the e-mail address didn’t exist. I tried another spelling. Another bounceback. I entered the open door of No. 3 Hans Crescent again, ringing the bell. This time, a woman answered, opened the embassy door, and gave me another scrap paper with an address. This one I could read correctly: email@example.com
Once again, I hurried over to Harrod’s wifi and e-mailed. No bounceback. I waited a few minutes, walked back into the embassy, rang the bell again, and asked the same woman if the embassy had received my e-mail. She could not check, she said. Now I was getting on their nerves.
I decided to wait for a few hours and see if the e-mail came in, grabbing dinner around the corner. No reply came in.
I walked back into the open embassy building, and there were now two men and the Colombian embassy desk. I rang the Ecuadorean bell, spoke to the woman one last time, who repeated that they couldn’t check for receipt of my e-mail. Obviously, I wouldn’t be visiting Julian.
I stepped outside once more. There were men walking back and forth who seemed to take notice of me. One man , dressed like a stereotypical “man in black”, tried to look intimidating. He leaned on a black car and glared at me.
On each walk to and from the building that afternoon, I had begun to notice more and more scaffolding going up and more and more devices tied to the structure. Now that I knew I wasn’t going to get an audience at the embassy, I didn’t need to be polite. With what looked like plainclothes officer watching me, I walked around and took these photos.
This is the scaffolding where it ended on the Colombian side of the embassy, to the right of the Ecuadorean embassy. Notice what looks like a speaker/microphone on the right-hand side.
More photos of the same area. Notice the black devices, affixed to pipes, with wires coming from them. I’ve never seen devices quite like this, and I take photos of surveillance equipment often.
There were curious plastic tubes with yellow-orange caps, zip-tied to the front. I have no idea what these are but they seem to have equipment inside them; see the black shadow under the caps.
Another shot of the Ecuadorean side of the building, where the scaffolding stops abruptly at the balcony. Notice the embassy security is actually obstructed by the scaffolding: a camera dome affixed to the embassy is completely blocked.
Just outside the Ecuadorean windows, a hexagonal device that appears to be a wireless router. All cables lead to this, and an LED light was blinking green in the center of the black cap on the bottom.
Photos of devices outside the Ecuadorean windows. The devices are clearly pointing inward, not out toward the sidewalk, with wires neatly taped to the piping and leading toward the central, hexagonal device.
After these final shots, I walked back and forth across the sidewalk and peered into the Ecuadorean embassy. With the sun going down, it was obvious all the lights inside were on and the blinds were wide open. To say the whole experience was strange is a severe understatement, in light of Julian’s recent treatment.
Sean’s above testimony is vital, as is his expertise and the information he gathered at the Embassy.
Close study of the surveillance devices in the photos reveals no manufacturer branding, serial numbers or visible device information. The metal piping used to secure them appears to have been cut by hand.
The combination of the obscuring of the street-facing surveillance cameras and the installation of surveillance equipment pointed into instead of away from the Embassy, is alarming. Whoever placed the equipment there appears to be focused on gaining the ability to hear and see what happens inside the open blinds, rather than monitoring the foot and street traffic outside the Embassy.
It would be impossible for such surveillance equipment to be installed against the wall of the Embassy without the knowledge of the Ecuadorian government. Ergo, it must have been done, or allowed to remain, with their cooperation.
WikiLeaks has confirmed that Assange has had no visitors, and his legal team have been publicly calling for anyone who has been turned away to step forward.
The long-time WikiLeaks media partner Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi complained of repeated denials of entry.
Until late 2015 there were uniformed officers from Scotland Yard at the door at all times.Previous visitors to the Embassy have told me of their experiences. They describe closed and locked doors. Security guards manning the desk at all times.
Privacy drapes, dark rooms with shuttered blinds.
For such a reversal of position to have occurred, there is only one conclusion: the Ecuadorian Embassy is open for business. Wide open.
But not to Julian Assange’s legal team.
Perhaps the most alarming development of all came on Thursday: even the only people who had been able to visit Julian Assange, have now also been barred.
Once again, I am reminded of Occupy. Immediately prior to the simultaneous raids of the four Occupations in my home city of Auckland, and the mass arrests of media and protesters, malicious actors intervened to deny us access to warnings and advice from our legal counsel.
Is the Embassy being staged for an overt – or covert – raid on Julian? Is this why access to his closest advisors has been stripped from him?
Do Ecuador, the US and the UK hope to use the cover of the midterms, or of the Christmas season, to expedite the illegal handover of Assange?
An update from the Ecuadorian side is expected on Monday. Though you could probably put more stock in a chicken soup than in what they have to say, given the double play at hand.
For as Julian is isolated even further than before, the world’s media are being fed lies.
Establishment media across the world are leading people to believe that Julian has had his right to communication restored and that he is able to receive visitors. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
While Ecuador stated in court that their oppressive new protocols for reestablishing Julian’s rights to communication and visitation were effective as of the 5th of October, I have been unable to confirm that anyone close to Julian has heard from him at all, with the exception of his lawyers.
The protocols Ecuador was referring to, which establishment media are hyping as being about cat food and personal hygiene, in fact outrageously include the collection of IMEI/serial numbers for the devices of visitors and social media account information.
The conditions state outright that Ecuador reserves the right to supply UK security agencies with that information. This makes any visitor to Julian not only an intelligence target of those supposedly providing him safe harbour, but of those whom he was granted asylum to protect him from.
It is astounding to think Ecuador may be collaborating with Julian’s persecutors to surveil both the outside and the inside of the Embassy. Especially the UK is in breach of multiple UN decisions that it must allow Julian Assange safe passage to Ecuador, and compensate him.
Christine Assange will today wake to the same terrifying nightmare as she did yesterday, and several thousand days before. Except today she has some solace in knowing that people of conscience are rallying to intervene on her son’s behalf, and to protect him.
At 3pm Eastern Time on Saturday November 3rd (Midday Pacific) a group of Julian’s most high profile supporters will gather to discuss these issues and detail an immediate action plan, at an emergency online web conference to be broadcast by livestream. The meeting will include an exclusive statement from Christine Assange, as well as live testimony from Sean O’Brien about his visit to the Embassy and his findings.
The Unity4J movement started by internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, ex CIA analyst Ray McGovern, CIA Torture whistleblower John Kiriakou, journalists like Elizabeth Lea Vos, myself and many others has now blossomed to over 3,000 members. We are in a much better position to respond to these urgent developments than the last time Julian was reported to be moments from being seized. Together we can and will work to rebalance the scales of justice in his favour.
For as Newton discovered – every force has an equal and opposite reaction. If the US, UK and/or Ecuador think they can continue to mistreat Julian without experiencing blowback of epic proportions, they are mistaken.
Certain journalists would consult an almanac for Washington DC on the night of the 2016 election, and begin this article with a few picturesque, scene-setting words about the chill winds whipping the capital as it lay poised, awaiting the results with bated breath.
But I have more respect for my readers than that.
So I’ll cut to the chase.
In 2016 an accused serial sexual predator ran for the US presidency against the notoriously corrupt wife of a previously impeached President – who is also an accused serial sexual predator.
That these facts alone were insufficient to invalidate the entire race is testament to the audacity with which corrupt power operates in the West, and how conditioned the public is to consuming the warped byproducts of its naked machinations.
Arguably the most contentious election in recent history, the accused serial sexual predator won.
During the race, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange aptly described the two candidates as “cholera vs gonorrhoea.” Edward Snowden ran a Twitter poll asking his followers whether they would rather vote for a “calculating villain”, an “unthinking monster” or “literally anyone else”. 67% chose the latter. Yet those who didn’t want to be forced into a false choice between Clinton or Trump became the forgotten voices, the silent majority; largely excluded from the endless, vapid mainstream media debates about the outcome.
Julian and Edward’s descriptors were flawless metaphors for the Presidential contestants; cartoon-like characters that when paired together and portrayed as a legitimate democratic choice, made a mockery of the entire concept of political representation.
Unfortunately, this sham wasn’t as anomalous as it may appear when viewed in such a simplistic light. The moral failings were business as usual in a modern “democracy”. No matter who had won, the global public was going to be subjected to a continuation of Barack Obama’s blatant lies and populist betrayals of his ‘Hope and Change’ platform.
The contenders for leadership are the reality TV stars (now, quite literally) of an intergenerational revolving political theatre: A four-yearly exercise in mass re-enfranchisement of the public, where two-dimensional aspiring figureheads promise to fulfil the dreams of their populace. You are told that with your vote, your candidate of choice will begin ending wars and bringing transparency to government, investing in infrastructure or asserting human rights and equality for all – yet once elected, the victor turns to the camera, sotto voce, like Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, and says “You didn’t really think I’d do that, did you?”
Meanwhile, the media and the money-power that pull their strings ignore the blatantly obvious and work feverishly to emboss the proceedings with a veneer of credibility. In tandem, government-aligned big data and social media companies are employing ever more loathsome technologies to remodel human history in real time.
This industrialised historical revisionism requires the excoriating of the public reputation of the virtuous, the sanitising of the compromised, and the constant manipulation of the living memory of both.
These are the core tenets of manufacturing consent. They aren’t just lying to us; they are already preparing the lies they will tell our unborn great-grandchildren.
It is some of those layers of contrived, mainstream bullshit that this article intends to peel back.
At the crux of the issue is a battle of authenticity versus falsehood, on a spectrum. With most of us sandwiched somewhere in between and WikiLeaks front and centre. Because WikiLeaks is the last available vestige of verifiable, unadulterated public truth.
That is why they are hated by those who fear the revelations WikiLeaks facilitates and why WikiLeaks’ public reputation is desecrated every day. It is why their every pillar of support is systematically undermined and why Julian Assange is being ever so slowly murdered in front of our eyes.
We, the people, are the last line of their defence. Part of protecting WikiLeaks – and ultimately ourselves – is to understand the relentless nature of the psyops employed against them; that the hardships inflicted upon them by the enemies of human progress are not just reputational or financial but physical; that for those waging this thankless war of truth on our behalf, this is a matter of life or death.
And that is why we must push back.
That is why we must tell the truth about them.
Talking A Man To Death
There is something morbidly voyeuristic about the vast majority of the conversations about Julian Assange that are occurring in the activism and journalism worlds of late.
While many of their harshest critics hypocritically profess ideological support for the world’s foremost publisher, too few of us are meaningfully acting to free him. More are tricked, provoked or incentivised into endlessly debating among our social circles what I can only describe as relative frivolities – what Assange said about such and such, or to who; what Assange thinks about this or that, what Assange did or didn’t do – while his body slowly decays in front of the entire world.
By design, these debates create social fissures and fracture points. They amount to both a distraction from the obvious urgency of addressing the larger circumstance of his seemingly inevitable decline and a delaying tactic, creating a pretext that prevents us from acting, and serves to justify our inaction.
Because doing nothing is a tantalisingly easy option. Taking action, requires guts. Blood, sweat and tears.
The lack of cohesive effort to pressure the great powers persecuting Julian coalesce with the absence of meaningful movement-building to achieve it. The lack of unity of purpose to save the life of someone who has himself saved the lives of many others, including some we hold most dear, has us all staring into the abyss of the greatest moral failure of this generation.
What we are collectively playing out is the personification of Bob Marley’s “how long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” Except even more perversely, we aren’t just looking. We are, as a community and a society, already dissecting Assange like a cadaver. We are picking over his bones like vultures, while he is still clinging to life.
It is despicable and disgusting to witness.
Stripping The Target
Assange’s story has gone beyond the stuff of books, movies or legend: one man altering the course of media, politics, technology, society, forever.
Yes, the agency infamous for destroying the lives of millions of people by engaging in every kind of malignant behaviour evidenced in human history, including countless assassinations and the active destabilisation of dozens of countries, now uses its press conferences to announce that the target they are after is not a despot, not an arms dealer, a war criminal or a drug trafficker – but a publisher.
While the sanctity of the Embassy in which Julian resides remains intact, this is only due to the thin hanging threads of the few remaining respected international laws that govern its existence. In a geopolitical climate in which almost every international covenant has been violated, even this sanctuary provided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Ecuadorian people, cannot be taken for granted.
Unable to directly abscond with his physical body in the near term, the powers that have been, for years, overtly threatening Assange’s life have instead turned their attentions to undermining other aspects of his existence: his relationships, his finances, his organisational affiliations, his achievements, his reputation, his ability to communicate and even the internal affairs of the country which has granted him refuge.
Part of the Divide and Conquer playbook is to fracture natural allies. We see this in the determination to sever the relationships between our most significant whistleblowers so that they can never become a united force.
Manning, encouraged to distance herself from Snowden because Snowden didn’t stick around to face charges and/or torture and/or death. Brown, egged on to hate on Assange. On and on it goes.
Bleaching The Record
Part of undermining Assange and WikiLeaks (and indeed, any target) is to deny them any achievement. Narratives are developed and circulated to retrospectively strip them of their accomplishments, to reduce their significance.
We can see this in consistent attempts to diminish WikiLeaks’ efforts to defend and organise in support of Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers.
But there are some smart exceptions who do not hesitate to give props where it is due.
Lauri’s homage to those who dedicated years of their life to supporting him is laudable and the effort to emancipate him from the extradition threat has established an important legal precedent.
By contrast, much of the digital history detailing the genesis of the campaign to free Chelsea Manning has vanished. Many of the key contributions of her original supporters have been bleached from the record.
Chelsea Manning’s current official support network website has news archives only dating back to 2016. All prior updates have either disappeared or were never copied over to this new site in the first place. A loss of six years of supporter activities, bulletins, actions and updates.
And that’s not all that has vanished. Short links to critically important information like the below, have also been broken. (Some are available through archive services; many are not)
The true story is on WikiLeaks’ Twitter timeline. Starting from the very day that Manning, having been mercilessly betrayed by FBI-snitch Adrian Lamo, was arrested:
Sunshine Press is WikiLeaks’ publishing organisation. Proof that from the very moment Manning was detained, WikiLeaks was already mobilising in support of her.
The Bradley Manning Support Network was soon established:
Within days of her arrest, WikiLeaks had launched the first letter-writing campaign in support of Manning – while she was still in a cage in Kuwait:
Within less than a week of her arrest, WikiLeaks was already debunking mainstream smears of Manning:
WikiLeaks exceeded what could be expected of any publisher, in its support for its beleaguered alleged source:
Something I’ve yet to see anyone else piece together: even in the same week in late August 2010 that Julian Assange was in the midst of enduring his own lawfare attacks and ensuing public vilification, WikiLeaks was still relentlessly tweeting out support announcements for Manning:
Corporate censorship of the Support Network kicked off early with WikiLeaks reporting in September of 2010 that the 10,300-strong Facebook group for Manning supporters had been blocked by the social media company.
Despite this, a mere three months after WikiLeaks’ establishment of the Support Network, 20 cities were marching in solidarity with the whistleblower:
WikiLeaks’ exemplary legal team spoke publicly in defence of Manning:
If you thought Paypal and/or Pierre Omidyar were evil for cutting off WikiLeaks’ funding, you will likely be even more enraged to discover that they also subsequently cut funding to Manning’s Support Network:
…three weeks after WikiLeaks had been coordinating calls to the White House to free Manning:
Manning’s lawyer complained that she was not being treated like other prisoners.
The “special treatment” of Manning by the authorities, eerily foreshadows the case of Julian Assange. Years later, it would be revealed in emails of UK prosecutors obtained by the FOIA requests of Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, that they told their Swedish counterparts “please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian was busy incriminating Manning, long before the trial. Their justification for doing so was the prior betrayal of Manning’s confidence by FBI-informant Adrian Lamo.
Once WikiLeaks began pushing the #freebrad hashtag, it soon spiralled into countless thousands of tweets. It took me several hours just to read through the 2011-2013 history of the hashtag. The sheer volume of content is overwhelming.
Shortly thereafter, Manning was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. WikiLeaks ingeniously kept her in the public consciousness by tallying every single day that she was spending in pre-trial detention.
WikiLeaks never misses a chance to achieve an ironic victory: by the end of 2012, they were encouraging people to vote for Manning to become the Guardian’s Person of the Year. Sure enough, they were able to raise enough support for her, and she won:
By mid 2012, the Support Network was petitioning Obama directly:
Many of the citizen heroes, journalists, and NGO’s who provided critical support to Manning in these early days have been conveniently forgotten. But in particular, the Twitter history shows that FireDogLake editor Jane Hamsher, reporter Kevin Gozstola, and a host of WikiLeaks satellite volunteers and supporters went above and beyond year in and year out in support of Manning.
Additionally of note was a continual flow of slick infographics and memes from pro-WikiLeaks designer SomersetBean, right up to the present day.
By January 2013, things were taking a sinister turn. While the Support Network was collectively investing themselves in this noble cause, the FBI were predictably undermining them at every opportunity:
However by February, the rising cacophony of support for Manning, directly attributable to the efforts of the network originally coordinated by WikiLeaks, had grown too loud to be ignored:
In April of the same year, Manning was again up for the Nobel Peace Prize, this time nominated by 36,000 supporters:
Devastatingly, on July 30th, 2013 Manning was convicted on 20 counts, regardless.
In total, the WikiLeaks main Twitter account sent over 800 tweets in support of Chelsea Manning between the date of her arrest in 2010 and the date of her conviction in 2013. The count only includes tweets containing the search term of the name by which she was known at that time, and only until the conclusion of her trial. References to her as Pfc, or similar, were not included in the search, and thus the calculation of the total. There have been countless hundreds of further supportive tweets by WikiLeaks since.
From what mainstream publication could we expect such a level of dedicated and consistent support for its sources? WikiLeaks’ efforts to free Manning – a source it had not burned – are unprecedented in modern media history, yet this is seldom, if ever, recognised.
In the quasi conclusion to his recent hit piece on WikiLeaks, The Intercept’s Micah Lee (ex-Electronic Frontier Foundation, currently with the Freedom of the Press Foundation) endeavoured to further distance Manning from WikiLeaks’ by hammering home the oft-touted quote that Manning had preferred to leak to the New York Times or the Washington Post, rather than to WikiLeaks. Neither mainstream outlet had responded to her attempts to make contact with them.
However, it is highly dubious as to whether either of those organisations, even had they replied, would have achieved the level of reach and global impact for Manning’s leaks that WikiLeaks did. It is equally doubtful that they would have gone out on such a limb to try to limit the damage wreaked upon Manning by the traitorous Lamo. Nor is it likely mainstream media outlets would have committed themselves and their financial resources to a multi-year campaign to build public support for the whistleblower. Likely as not, she would have been left to rot in that cage in Kuwait.
But WikiLeaks’ relationship with Manning and her supporters is not the only legacy to be actively suppressed by Lee, and affiliates.
The Mic Drop
The attempts to posthumously divorce the highly-skilled developer Aaron Swartz and his (now known as) SecureDrop project from Assange, has been an extremely public one.
Backtrack a few years before Micah Lee’s above assertion, and you’ll find Freedom of the Press Foundation’s own marketing materials promoted SecureDrop as – wait for it – “A WikiLeaks In Every Newsroom” – titling the launch video for the technology as precisely that.
The opening salvo from the host at their launch event reiterated the point: “This is SecureDrop – a Wikileaks in every newsroom… Freedom of the Press Foundation is a non-profit that was founded in December of 2012. It was originally created as a fancy way of laundering money for WikiLeaks but now it has expanded its scope…”
There was originally no bone of contention about it: WikiLeaks was the inspiration behind the invention of SecureDrop and was the primary beneficiary of the Foundation.
Right up until December 2016, the default tweet generated when donating to the Freedom of the Press Foundation read “I’m supporting uncompromising journalism like @WikiLeaks. Join me and @FreedomofPress in changing the world! Freedom.press”
Even the surviving beneficiaries of SecureDrop, namely Lamo-confidante Kevin Poulsen, and by association, developer Micah Lee (now so keen to sever the concept from its WikiLeaks roots) were originally candid about its genesis.
“When I first heard about DeadDrop, it seemed like a really fine, exciting project. WikiLeaks was really big in the news then and it seemed like it was kind of democratising that.” Micah Lee
This is consistent with Kevin Poulsen’s statement that he wanted to standardise the secure drop box technology across all newsrooms:
“There was no standard way for sources to contribute securely tips and documents to a reporter so I wanted to develop a solution and I went to approach Aaron…”Kevin Poulsen
In the wake of the Wall Street Journal’s 2011 attempt to create a secure dropbox, Aaron Swartz was asked on live television “Do you think that WikiLeaks has really changed the playing field over the last year, now we’re seeing this journalism arms race as to who can set up their own leaking site, or I guess alternative, faster?”
He answered: “Oh, clearly, I mean this is a huge vindication for WikiLeaks. We’ve gone from everybody saying that they should be locked up in prison, to the point where every newspaper and news outlet wants to have their own WikiLeaks site.” (emphasis added)
The facts of the matter couldn’t be any more clear: just as Aaron says, WikiLeaks was the reason that news rooms wanted access to the same technology. Just as Micah said, SecureDrop would bring WikiLeaks technology to the world. Just as Kevin Poulsen described in the New Yorker, he needed Aaron to do it, and accessed him via James Dolan.
Unfortunately, the two main developers of SecureDrop, Aaron Swartz and James Dolan, are no longer with us. Both are said to have committed suicide. Aaron Swartz was memorialised in an obituary by Kevin Poulsen.
Poulsen is also an ex-Wired reporter and one-time Freedom of the Press Foundation technologist. The circumstances of his brief tenure at the organisation, or the reasons for his departure are unknown. His participation is memorialised only by a now-defunct Freedom of the Press staff listing.
More significantly, Poulsen is also the very reporter to whom FBI-snitch Adrian Lamo leaked the private chat logs of Chelsea Manning, leading to her capture and torture.
Lamo had presented himself to Manning as being both a journalist and of all things, a priest, and stated that Manning could therefore be doubly assured of the confidentiality of their communications. An unconscionable betrayal of trust.
Given these circumstances, one must marvel at the way Poulsen became a self-appointed gatekeeper of Aaron Swartz’s legacy. Especially when he fails to acknowledge the most basic of facts about him: that Aaron was a very public advocate for WikiLeaks up until his death, and a WikiLeaks volunteer.
Like Poulsen, others who have survived Aaron Swartz make zero mention of WikiLeaks in their tributes to him.
Some actively deny the affiliation had any impact on Aaron’s work at all: for example, Anil Dash.
Those who put two and two together are swiftly directed towards Poulsen’s “beautiful” obituary on Aaron, which irregardless of merit has come to serve as an official history.
All of the aforementioned placed the blame for Aaron’s death solely on the stress arising from the DOJ investigation into Swartz’s penetration of the JSTOR database at MIT. There is no mention whatsoever of any preceding status as a person of interest to the intelligence agencies targeting WikiLeaks.
Aaron appeared 13 times on RT, often engaging in outspoken public praise for WikiLeaks. Throughout the time period that the publisher was the subject of a worldwide manhunt and an “all of Government” investigation of “unprecedented scale and nature.” This continually goes unmentioned.
Only Rolling Stone names WikiLeaks at all – and very briefly. “WikiLeaks claimed him as an ally”, they wrote of Swartz. Yet it was Swartz who had repeatedly and profusely pronounced himself to be an ally of WikiLeaks, long prior to the JSTOR penetration that became the official reasoning for the relentless persecution of him by law enforcement authorities.
The net effect is not merely to render WikiLeaks irrelevant to the narrative retelling of Aaron’s life – but to divert the spotlight from being shone upon the intelligence agencies that were hunting WikiLeaks staff and supporters around the world. The public is instead schooled to believe that the FBI’s interest in him was all about the MIT case.
Public rage at Aaron Swartz’s untimely passing was therefore directed at the university and the Department of Justice prosecutors, rather than the US intelligence community as a whole. The mainstream obliteration of Swartz’s WikiLeaks connections conceals an important contributing factor in the circumstances leading up to his death.
I have confirmed with WikiLeaks that Aaron wasn’t just a fan, a supporter, or a public advocate.
He was working directly with them.
But I already knew this, because of insights gained from yet another WikiLeaks volunteer, the significance of whose work and legacy is also being expunged from the public record. In this instance, while he is still alive.
The Forgotten History
At the Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon in 2015, Jacob Applebaum gave vital testimony about his contact with Aaron, and their relationship with WikiLeaks. He spoke of a history that has been all but erased; the real reasons Aaron Swartz was an enemy of the State. Sure enough, it wasn’t because he downloaded documents from JSTOR.
“Aaron and I worked on a few different overlapping projects and I very much respected him. Some of the topics that came up were light but some were very heavy and very serious. The topic of WikiLeaks was important to both of us. In November of 2009, long before I was public about my work with WikiLeaks, I introduced Aaron to someone at WikiLeaks who shall remain unnamed. If we had a secure, easy way to communicate, if some sort of communication system had existed that reduced or eliminated metadata, I probably could have done so without a trace. But we didn’t. You’re not the first to know – the FBI and the NSA already know. Less than a year later, Aaron sent me an email that made it clear how he felt. That email in its entirety is straightforward and his lack of encryption was intentional. On July 10th, 2010, he wrote “Just FYI – let me know if there’s anything ever that I can do for WikiLeaks.” Did that email cast Aaron as an enemy of the state? Did Aaron worry? 2010 was an extremely rough year. The US government against everyone – the investigation of everyone associated with WikiLeaks – stepped up. So many people in Boston were targeted that it was effectively impossible to find a lawyer without a conflict. Everyone was scared. A cold wave passed over everything and it was followed by hardened hearts for many… the sense of paranoia was overwhelming but prudent. The overbearing feeling of coming oppression was crushing… all of us felt that our days were numbered in some sense. Grand juries, looming indictments, threats, political blacklisting. None of us felt free to speak to one another about anything…
Shortly after Aaron was found WikiLeaks disclosed three facts: Aaron assisted WikiLeaks. Aaron communicated with Julian and others during 2010 and 2011. And Aaron may have even been a source. I do not believe that these issues are unrelated to Aaron’s persecution and it is clear that the heavy-handed US prosecution pushed Aaron to take his own life. How sad that he was abandoned by so many in his time of need. Is it really the case that there was no link? Is it really the case that the US prosecutors went after Aaron so harshly because of a couple of Python scripts and some PDFs? No, clearly not…
When we learned more details about the US prosecutors, we learned that they considered Aaron a dangerous radical for unspecified reasons…” – Jacob Applebaum
As well as the key revelation that Aaron offered his services to WikiLeaks, a mere one month prior to the commencement of the DoD manhunt, Jacob makes some other very important points.
Firstly: When considering all of this forgotten history, be it the Manning support, Aaron’s work for WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks being the inspiration for SecureDrop, Julian Assange having been involved in founding the Freedom of the Press Foundation, (another fact denied by Micah Lee) or other related factors, one must understand that the FBI, the CIA and the NSA know full well the significance of WikiLeaks, their true legacy and their very real accomplishments.
That’s why WikiLeaks and anyone associated with them are targeted. That is why the truth is obscured or outright expunged.
The public are subjected to this whitewashed historical record, to prevent them from discovering the full extent to which WikiLeaks deserves our praise and support. The true historical record exists within the databases of the intelligence agencies and is hoarded by the elite, who then seek to manufacture a new public reality.
Fast forward to the same Aaron Swartz Day event in 2017 and confirmed NSA XKeyscore and FBI target Jacob Appelbaum does not appear. He is now persona non grata, excommunicated from the activism community after being the subject of a sexual assault scandal that is eerily reminiscent of the accusations made against Julian Assange.
Subverting The Legacy
It is only once the target is neutralised, be it via institutionalisation, capitulation, character assassination or death (whichever comes soonest) that their legacy may be allowed to be partly acknowledged and restored. Albeit only so it can be co-opted and massaged to suit the agenda of the neutralising force.
The revolutionary rock-rap act Rage Against The Machine voiced fragments of FBI texts from the Cointelpro files in their hit song ‘Wake Up’ in 1991. This later became the theme track to the Matrix movies.
The recording features a looped voice mimicking an FBI agent stating: “Through counter-intelligence, it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralise them.”
This was the doctrine employed against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela, among countless others.
By acknowledging only one component of his work and instituting a national holiday to “celebrate” that limited aspect, his memory has been both sanitised and co-opted by the establishment.
Rather than recognise that King stood against absolutely everything that the status quo is, they are able to pretend he just took issue with one facet of society and argue that the US has progressed as a direct result. In reality, the overwhelming majority of the problems King dedicated his life to addressing have not been bettered, but in fact worsened in the passage of time since the State who now celebrates his memory, killed him. Such as systemic economic inequality, mass incarceration, the rise of the military-industrial complex, and Washington’s bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy.
If we do not recognise these tactics, this is what we can expect to see play out again, and again, with the memories of our present day heroes. We have already seen this with Swartz; if we do not identify the process of sanitisation as it is occurring and intervene accordingly, the day will come when we will see it with Snowden, and with Julian Assange.
The Black Widow
It didn’t take much digging to find the connections between the self-appointed gatekeepers of Aaron Swartz’s legacy and the agenda to divorce it from WikiLeaks.
That agenda aligns with their priority task of denying WikiLeaks was the inspiration for SecureDrop.
Quinn has tweeted about WikiLeaks approximately 140 times, about 65 of which were derogatory in nature. She has named Julian Assange 40 times in her tweets, about 22 of which were also derogatory.
Despite the secretive nature of Aaron and WikiLeaks work, Quinn has long postured herself as an eye-witness due to her proximity to Aaron.
Even when directly called on the obvious, Norton was insistent that the mainstream media’s adoption of secure whistleblowing platforms was not derived from WikiLeaks’ famously having implemented their own secure whistleblowing platform first.
One might assume that she was simply guarding the legacy of Swartz, not wanting to detract from his memory or deny him full credit for his work on SecureDrop.
But to the contrary, she has frequently described the posthumous coverage of Swartz as unduly favourable.
It is not often that you see a loved one of the dearly departed complain that the public memory of them makes them look too good.
She complained bitterly of Aaron having been raised up as an icon by the infosec community.
As quoted earlier in this article, Jacob Appelbaum suggested that Aaron Swartz was not only a WikiLeaks volunteer and advocate, but a source. Others have also suggested this in the past, and the possibility has been acknowledged by WikiLeaks themselves: that his submissions were done in such a way that he could not be identified as the source, but given the nature of what was leaked and his closeness to the organisation, it cannot be ruled out.
Quinn, however, is adamant that despite Aaron’s life work being in support of the public’s right to know, that he was not a whistleblower.
In the heat of WikiLeaks’ organising efforts for the Manning Support Network, Quinn was being utilised in the effort to rehabilitate FBI-snitch Adrian Lamo’s image within the activism community.
The core of her interview with the informant Adrian Lamo contained a claim by Lamo that Poulsen cherry-picked the Manning chat logs in order to protect Manning. Ironically, the interview was conducted while Manning was being tortured in a cage in Kuwait as a direct result of Lamo’s actions.
Lamo additionally claims to have supplied WikiLeaks with a portion of the chat logs which then showed up at Aaron Swartz’s friend Cory Doctorow’s publication Boing Boing, in an article published by Boing Boing co-Founder and ex-board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Xeni Jardin. Norton writes that Jardin would not confirm her source, but I have confirmed with WikiLeaks that this never happened: Lamo did not, as he claims, submit WikiLeaks the logs, and they did not pass any to Jardin or Boing Boing.
While Norton became a conduit for circulation of Lamo’s disinformation, by contrast Aaron Swartz’s activism organisation Demand Progress was running a campaign to support WikiLeaks in the same year.
This is another incredible reference point in the excision of Swartz’s devotion to WikiLeaks from his public image.
Norton’s acidic commentary about Swartz, Assange and Manning, in the direct wake of Aaron’s passing, was raising eyebrows in the community.
But the real reason for the widespread scorn of Norton had been the revelation that she had cooperated with authorities and signed an immunity deal to inform on her then-partner Aaron Swartz.
Aaron’s family, who “never liked [Norton]“, were livid.
Aaron’s father, Robert Swartz told Larissa MacFarquhar from the New Yorker that Quinn’s betrayal had been devastating for Aaron, who tried to defend her to his family, regardless.
While Swartz’s family were told that Norton’s grand jury testimony hadn’t been of help to the prosecution, and Norton recounts that part of the story in great detail in this article, she also admits how damaging her prior cooperation with the prosecutor had been to Swartz.
Quinn, for her part, blames her lawyer for her caving to the pressure from authorities. Despite the fact that she was never charged with anything, and cooperated voluntarily.
Norton repeatedly describes herself as a technology journalist guarding sensitive sources that she was eager to protect.
Norton doesn’t adequately explain why if that were the case, she did not know to never ever talk to the authorities without lawyers present, let alone allow them in to her apartment for an informal chat, as she did with the Secret Service. Despite claiming to have already come to “expect raids, surveillance, and threats from powerful men who couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad in my world” she states only that she was “shocked and unsure”:
Ultimately, her relationship with Swartz didn’t survive the egregious breaches of trust and the two parted ways.
After Aaron’s death, Norton shared this statement by Aaron’s subsequent partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman.
Where self-interest and lack of empathy converge, ignorance abounds. Aaron is not the only truth-teller that Norton views unsympathetically:
Norton clearly made a positive impression on Lamo, whose Medium account shows him “clapping” on her work as recently as October 2017. Indeed, to this day, Norton still advocates on behalf of Kevin Poulsen over his Lamo collaboration. In a recent, bizarre Twitter diatribe Norton states her belief that Glenn Greenwald should apologise to Poulsen. Glenn had publicly sought to hold Wired to account over the filleted Manning chat logs.
But why would Poulsen be owed an apology? Greenwald’s sleuthing had long since confirmed that “substantial portions” of the logs withheld by Poulsen and Wired contained “vital context and information about what actually happened.”
The long-winded premise for Norton’s ire is beyond strange: she accuses Greenwald of being like a “respectable gay from the 80s and 90s…” who she claims were biased against bisexual and transgender people.
This despite Greenwald having in reality, been salubrious in print over Manning’s epic display of courage in coming out as a transgender woman the day after her sentencing in 2013.
Since the day it was announced, Greenwald has displayed unwavering support of Manning’s transition. Norton’s attacks on him are illogical and unsound.
This type of hysteria is common amongst WikiLeaks’ most high-profile detractors. The thread that binds them is a combination of betrayal and benefit.
A period of initial ideological support is required in order to make the betrayal effective. The benefit can be measured both economically, and in the ultimate currency of the energy vampire: attention.
A Beginners Guide To E-Drama
More than ever before we are not only schooled but actively incentivised to loathe Julian Assange. To mock him, malign him, judge him. In certain circles, you can gain significant amounts of social credit simply by being willing to engage in a giant circle jerk of anti-Assange mud-slinging.
The lack of empathy for the seriousness of Julian’s condition is jarring, but particularly when it comes from other known targets who have also suffered immensely.
In December 2017, I had a rather public stoush with Barrett Brown on Twitter. This resulted in him plus cohorts utilising their Pursuance Project platform to generate a small amount of negative media about me, specifically several You Tube & Facebook videos, a blogpost and a radio show appearance to pitch their side of the story.
I made a point of choosing to keep my own organisations and publishing platforms out of the fray, on principle and in the hope that doing so might encourage some self-reflection on Barrett’s part.
I refused media requests, didn’t discuss the issue on other social media platforms outside of Twitter, and to this day have not even watched Barrett’s You Tube or Facebook video diatribes about me or read the Pursuance Project blogpost.
The titles and descriptions contained so many inaccuracies that I felt no need to subject myself to the content and didn’t believe any good could come from doing so.
I decided to wait to address it in my own time and in the larger context which had led to the disagreement in the first place: Barrett’s constant attacks on Julian Assange. That is why I am now finally broaching the topic.
Courage Foundation beneficiary Barrett Brown’s obsession with skewering Julian at every opportunity is self-evident: In the period September 18th, 2017 to February 2018, there are 81 tweets by Brown referencing Assange. 80 of them are critical of him. (Tweets that do not directly reference Assange’s name are not included in the total.)
The first tweet of the 80 is this:
By contrast, WikiLeaks has 47 tweets about Barrett, all of which are promoting his work and urging support for him.
In many cases, including the above, Brown’s criticisms of Assange are provably without merit.
As I pointed out to Barrett at the time, the long-known practice of “two-hops” surveillance makes it impossible for a member of Trump’s administration to be targeted without Trump being caught in the dragnet by default.
It is genuinely bemusing to see Barrett, who I’ve always considered to be at the very least an advanced student in the field of surveillance practices, being unable to acknowledge the obviousness of the two-hops implication.
In November, The Atlanticpublished Twitter correspondence from 2016 in which a WikiLeaks representative gave Donald Trump Jr. campaign advice. Greenwald pooh-poohed the coordination, implying that Julian Assange was just playing his usual 4-D chess. Barrett Brown — a pro-transparency autodidact who served more than four years in federal prison for spreading hacked data and won a National Magazine Award for Intercept essays he wrote while incarcerated — was livid. “He doesn’t seem to be engaging on the actual revelations that keep coming out on Russia and Trump’s people,” Brown says. “My best guess is he’s just ignoring these things in favor of the less difficult argument that some people who are backing the Trump-Russia narrative are full of shit.”
It doesn’t seem to occur to Brown that he inadvertently may be one of them.
Significantly, Brown had earlier asserted the belief that his own targeting by the authorities was not due to his activities around the Stratfor hack, but were a result of his “active defence of WikiLeaks..”
Brown’s description of being targeted for supporting WikiLeaks strengthens our prior argument that Swartz’s involvement with WikiLeaks (rather than the JSTOR hack) was the true cause of his persecution by authorities.
Unfortunately, Assange wasn’t the only target of Brown’s ire.
The radio show host in question was of course, Randy Credico, and the platform was Randy’s ‘Countdown to Freedom’ series interviewing key WikiLeaks supporters (including myself and Barrett) for his “Live on the Fly” show at WBAI.
However, that too was soon debunked, and the same day, Barrett retracted his statement.
Amusingly, Roger Stone had originally made the claims on, of all places, InfoWars.
Barrett’s tweets were accompanied by multiple video monologues about Assange (a pattern that he would later follow in his derision of me) posted to Barrett’s Facebook account. It is notable that Assange never replied in kind to Brown on either platform, or returned his hostility.
The only instance of Assange mentioning anything even vaguely critical of Barrett at all, was the below tweet about my unceremonious exclusion from the Pursuance project for defending Julian.
For this single tweeted question about the situation, Julian was pronounced by Brown to have “libelled” the Pursuance Project. A further Facebook video rant by Barrett ensued, and some more angry tweets.
Ironically, in the video description, Brown claims the root of the issue was me “calling our lead developer ‘menacing’ for having asked her a question on Twitter.”
What was left out by Brown in his diminutive description of the scenario was that the “question” (falsely implied as a singular occurrence) was asked at the tail end of a slew of tweets from said developer, Steve Phillips. In reality, the berating of me came on the back of months worth of character assassination of Assange, stemming from both Brown and Phillips, and seeded within the embryonic Pursuance Project.
Julian’s inquiry about the e-drama was restrained and moderate: a single question on Twitter.
But it set others a-flurry, as the Pursuance coordinator, Raymond Johansen, appealed to me to calm things down.
To unravel the full story, we must go behind the scenes of Barrett’s 80 negative tweets about Assange.
The degrading and discrediting of Julian, the systematic stripping of his achievements and the undermining of his legacy was being promoted by Barrett’s offsider Phillips, under the guise of a new catchphrase: “intellectual honesty.”
Eventually this Newspeak bled through into the public realm.
For months, this specific phrase was repeatedly slung about in the back-channels of the organising platform for Barrett Brown’s Pursuance Project: an unencrypted MatterMost instance where a who’s-who of seasoned activists from around the world were assembled.
The space was supposed to be for coordinating the sharing of our work and the building of Pursuance (and initially was). However, the conversation was soon diluted by periodic, malignant pile-ons critiquing Julian (a political refugee) to death.
The lines were quickly drawn between the few actors intent on diverting the space to indulge in derision of WikiLeaks, and the few staunch and vocal supporters unwilling to sit by quietly while the back-stabbing was playing out.
The majority of the members – experienced and accomplished activists, all – just rolled their eyes at the drama and kept out of it until it snowballed into the public spectacle that it inevitably became.
The server administrator, lead Pursuance developer Steve Phillips, was one of the key antagonists. Proximity to Barrett, or the desire to cement standing with him, appeared to be a motivating factor for participation in the anti-WikiLeaks “intellectual honesty” rituals.
Those of us who were reluctant to relentlessly armchair psychoanalyse someone who had been in arbitrary detention for six years with no end in sight, became increasingly disillusioned with the environment. As I was countering Barrett and Steve’s anti-Assange narratives both publicly on Twitter and privately in Pursuance, it was abundantly clear that my presence was less and less welcomed by them.
Indeed it was confirmed to me after my eventual expulsion that they had been discussing between themselves whether they could get rid of me (and thus my inconvenient counter-narratives) well before finally manufacturing a pretext under which to actually do it.
This was the context in which Steve sent me his “for the third and final time” tweet, which was a clear warning shot implying that he would have me banned if I didn’t capitulate to his demands for critical analysis of Assange. But if the US government with all its might and resources can’t bully me into turning my back on WikiLeaks, like hell was it going to happen because Steve wanted it to. So I called his behaviour out for precisely what it was: menacing, and authoritarian.
While Barrett took credit for “ordering” the banning, Anna Burkhart, Pursuance’s “Director of Operations”, who seemed to me to be a fringe figure as I’d never had any contact with her before, swiftly portrayed my excommunication as an exercise in policing… yup, you guess it… “intellectual honesty“.
Being excluded from a platform that risked becoming a cross between a cult of personality and a tinpot dictatorship, didn’t bother me at all. But having my access to direct messages of a personal nature between myself and other activists revoked without notice or consultation certainly did.
The restriction of an exiled activist’s ability to access their own communications raised legitimate questions as to Steve’s monopoly over the governance of user data, as sole server administrator.
Steve refused to allow me to retrieve my data, instead offering bizarre and inappropriate solutions such as him fetching the plain text from the database and handing it to me through third parties – an obvious breach of privacy. I declined.
The use of Pursuance’s publishing platforms to smear me to their public audiences was a significant abuse of organisational power. Steve refused to admit this, and yet again invoked their mantra of “intellectual honesty.”
By contrast, I made a point of not dragging my own organisational affiliations into the drama. Instead of racing off to the Internet Party’s board, or to Kim Dotcom, and decrying the poor treatment, I confined my opinions to my personal Twitter account.
Adding offence to injury, the smear published on the Pursuance Project blog was accompanied by a social media share card displaying an image of CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who apparently had no knowledge that his image was being misused to endorse an attack on an exiled activist, by association.
My only public statement was this:
It is not possible to meaningfully undermine Assange without also taking ideological aim at his support base, so it was inevitable that I would be targeted one way or another.
Unfortunately, I am far from the only one.
A housewife and a librarian who attend periodic vigils for Julian in London, were recently shocked to find themselves among a group of WikiLeaks supporters being singled out by journalists with The Intercept.
Smelling a rat, one of the ladies wanted to keep all correspondence with Intercept reporter Cora Currier in the public arena and stated so in no uncertain terms, publishing their exchange on her blog:
Although the first public contact seems innocuous, screenshots of Cora’s ensuing DM’s felt intimidating to the other individual involved, who was keenly aware of the power imbalance between herself and mainstream journalists wielding a huge audience:
The member of the public replied to Currier:
a) that she is not a public figure
b) that the messages were “private, chatting between friends”
c) that she hadn’t said anything that didn’t already appear on her regular Twitter timeline
She told me that she doesn’t know why Currier thought the EFF was ever mentioned by anyone: “Some of this is misrepresented, some out of context, and a few things are ideas, gripes, jokes, etc. Tossed around.”
Most importantly, she verified what many others had posited: “I never knew who was behind @wikileaks except that it varied. We all knew different people handled it at various times, no one ever identified themselves and we didn’t care.” [emphasis added]
Julian Assange is named 70 times in the article; 33 of which are explicit attributions of WikiLeaks’ private messages as being authored by him. The Intercept reporters use terms like “Assange decried“, “Assange called“, “Assange posted“, “Assange believed“, “Assange found“, “Assange emphasized“, “Assange maintained“, “Assange explicitly encouraged“, “Assange philosophized“, “Assange responded“, “Assange asked“, “Assange suggested”, “Assange wrote”, “Assange theorized”, “Assange instructed”, “Assange added” and “Assange joked”without ever having verified that the messages were sent by Julian Assange.
Incredibly, their own copy admits the lack of proof, stating: “Throughout this article, The Intercept assumes that the WikiLeaks account is controlled by Julian Assange himself.” [emphasis added]
A fundamental flaw, so problematic that it is almost comical.
The assumption undermines the core premise for the entire text. This factor should not have been overlooked by The Intercept’s editors.
Some of the messages attributed to Assange were sent at dates and times that it was physically impossible for him to have been the author.
Had Currier asked the supporters involved whether they believed they were speaking to Julian Assange, this misrepresentation could have been avoided. But she didn’t. Instead, the framing of her questions attempted to elicit inflammatory commentary under the cover of offering a right of reply. When what she should have been doing was fact-checking the foundations of her story.
I took issue with The Intercept journalists putting ordinary citizens on the spot like this, just because they were supporters of WikiLeaks.
It appears my sabre-rattling may have had some effect: To their credit, by the time the article eventuated, The Intercept had redacted the names of the members of the public caught up in the dragnet.
Unfortunately, it didn’t prevent hurt feelings. The supporters felt that the framing of the article was without merit and were particularly aggrieved to be depicted by Lee and Currier as having been party to misogyny, anti-feminism and anti-semitism.
One of the women told me:
“It was a clear attack to undermine the solidarity and other work WL supporters do. The article smears us by its outlandish claims presenting us as participating in a cabal of misogyny/fascism/anti-semitism which I find extremely offensive as I know every single person in that chat supports humanistic progressive ideals of a great variety, most are women, many with Jewish heritage. The article’s claims are so outlandish and negative, so dismissive and morally reprehensible.”
The article’s attribution of anti-semitism to WikiLeaks is weakly evidenced. Lee and Currier rely on a comment where WikiLeaks stated that they found a journalist’s work distasteful, “but” that he was Jewish. Whoever was at the helm of the WikiLeaks account that day was clearly implying that they were wary of calling the reporter in question out, lest any criticism be deflected as being anti-semitic. It is the greatest of irony that their suspicion has borne true, not by the reporter they mentioned, but by Micah Lee in his stead.
Another of the women targeted by Lee and Currier told me:
“I was offended by being labelled as transphobic and as attacking feminists, among the other smears. I tried to make it clear in my own tweets I am only disturbed by the fanatical version of feminism that acts as though any disagreement with them on anything makes you misogynistic and that any accusation they make against any man, regardless of truth, evidence, or simple reality, must be accepted as gospel… I’ve always considered myself a humanist and an individualist, focusing on equal justice, equal treatment before the law, irrespective of all those things people try to use to divide one group of homo sapiens from another.”
The female supporters damaged by Lee and Currier’s article are not the only ones close to WikiLeaks who are incensed at the constant and unfair accusations levelled against them.
Widely respected investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi has also spoken out about her own extensive experiences with WikiLeaks. When Micah Lee thread-jumped one of her tweets, she responded in no uncertain terms:
Currier hadn’t mentioned to the supporters in her original direct messages who the “we” in her enquiries referred to. Although it was more likely than not, that this latest attempt to undermine support for WikiLeaks originated with none other than Micah Lee.
Two days prior to the article dropping, I had alluded to such:
Here are the WikiLeaks DM’s on which they were editorialising:
Had Lee and Currier been more conscientious in their methodology, they would have discovered that the tweet amplified by the Scottish MP Paul Monaghan was part of a campaign to raise support for the whistleblower McNeilly. McNeilly’s revelations were about dangerous misconduct aboard the Trident nuclear ship, parked in Scotland.
Lee, Currier and their editors neglected to locate or source the actual tweet which had been retweeted by the MP:
It was the above that was being celebrated by the WikiLeaks supporter, and to which WikiLeaks was saying “be the troll you want to see in the world.”They were not encouraging people to be trolls, but rather suggesting that the type of troll a good person would want to see in the world is one that acts in support of whistleblowers, rather than one that derides, smears or endangers them.
The supporter whose appeal had caught the attention of the MP told me she was extremely upset by Lee and Currier’s malpractice as the decontextualisation has produced material harm:
My very modest campaign supporting raising funds for whistleblower William McNeilly by promoting his Courage Foundation Emergency legal defence fund was never mentioned. De- contextualising my agency as a transparency campaigner, the implication is that sharing my modest joy of a re-tweet by someone within the political establishment who is followed by many of his constituents that might be moved to assist McNeilly’s Legal Defence Fund, is nothing more than a manipulative attack without merit. Political campaigning is perfectly legitimate. Spreading the word for the cause you support is consistent with participatory democracy.
Unfortunately, the damage wreaked by Lee and Currier goes far beyond upsetting the women. Their misreporting directly led to open calls on MP’s to no longer retweet WikiLeaks supporters – striking a blow to future attempts to provide urgent assistance to at-risk whistleblowers.
The butterfly effect of Lee and Currier’s effort to add another cheap shot at WikiLeaks to their pile, is that their article was immediately sourced for a Tory talking point to deride anti-nuclear support in the Scottish National Parliament – a direct violation of the progressive ideals that Lee and Currier claim to be motivated by.
Otherwise known as an own-goal.
Currier and Lee’s assertion that WikiLeaks supporters were targeting the MP on social media implied impropriety, and has undermined one of the most basic tenets of activism: appealing to democratic representatives. The very tactic that has recently freed Courage Foundation beneficiary Lauri Love from the threat of being extradited to the US.
This scandal is indicative of the whole: WikiLeaks’ DM’s with their supporters were taken at face value by Lee and Currier, who employed little care to ascertain what was truly going on behind the messaging. The pair failed to measure any potential negative impacts of their framing, beyond surface damage to WikiLeaks reputation.
Only entities likely to further the discrediting of WikiLeaks were given meaningful portions of the word count. In Currier’s DM’s to the WikiLeaks supporters, they were asked only about their statements on contentious topics such as EFF, Jacob Appelbaum or the lawyer of an Assange-accuser. No attempt was made to offer the ladies a chance to contextualise conversations such as the above – with disastrous results.
No consideration was given as to the ethics or dangers of undermining the future work of pro-human rights campaigners.
Lee and Currier’s negligence is to all of our detriment – The Intercept, WikiLeaks, whistleblowers, MP’s, progressive causes and the public at large.
When deception causes actual damage to the ability of good people to effect positive change in this world, it becomes an act of sabotage. In my opinion Lee and Currier have crossed that line.
The Freedom To Impress
In the last 5 years, Micah Lee has sent one tweet educating people about the TPP. Nevertheless, the diabolical trade agreement has become yet another reference point for his attacks on WikiLeaks. In what will become a running theme, Micah accused WikiLeaks of “taking credit” for the “people’s movement against the TPP“.
WikiLeaks tweet did no such thing. As Micah would know, if he a) had actually clicked on the link in it, or b) knew anything about the history of the movement.
The WikiLeaks link contained expert analysis of the leaked chapters by none other than Dr. Jane Kelsey – the New Zealand academic who spearheaded the movement against the TPP since 2008/2009. Kelsey worked relentlessly alongside international counterparts in Japan, South Korea, the United States, and other countries to build the coordinated effort against the TPP that finally resulted in the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement.
Additionally, WikiLeaks directly engaged Kelsey and other academics around the world to analyse the leaked documents and published their findings alongside the releases. An invaluable service to humanity.
I genuinely wish that I was just reporting on Micah making a clown of himself over the TPP. Unfortunately his penchant for uninformed diminishment of the extremely significant work of those he smears has had a splash effect on other organisations with which he is affiliated.
In particular, the reputation of the Freedom of the Press Foundation has been dragged through the mud in recent times. This is due to even more accusations made against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks by Micah Lee, that I can now confirm are false.
The proof is in Micah’s own Twitter timeline. To get to the bottom of the debacle, all we have to do is take a walk down history lane.
Micah has been tweeting about WikiLeaks since July 2010, nearly two months after Manning’s arrest.
Here is the first of his 230 tweets about WikiLeaks:
Initially supportive of the whistleblowing organisation, Micah has sent at least 62 highly critical and/or defamatory tweets about WikiLeaks. The turning point was December 2016. Immediately post election. By contrast, WikiLeaks has sent 2 about Micah.
62 separate tweets by Micah dating back to December 2010 explicitly name Julian Assange. Somewhere between 36 and 45 are highly critical and/or defamatory, depending on your tolerance for Micah’s acidity levels. Julian Assange has addressed Micah once.
The first major falsehood asserted by Micah Lee was over a year ago. He claimed that Julian Assange was lying about his involvement with the creation of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The accusation was widely circulated:
The key to debunking Micah with his own tweets is in April 2012:
Sure enough, when you read the above article, you discover the evidence that Micah’s allegation against Julian is false:
The Guardian quote bears repeating:
“Supporters based in the US are now in talks with Assange to establish a US-based foundation…”
Lee’s first lie now dispensed with, something else that he had repeatedly stated kept echoing in my head, and led me to an even more consequential discovery.
According to the Guardian article, the first onboard with Freedom of the Press was John Perry Barlow (co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Grateful Dead lyricist) who then reached out to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
Helpfully, in 2012 Micah had also tweeted a link to this Forbes piece, quoting Daniel Ellsberg on why the Foundation was started.
What that article reveals should send shockwaves among both the WikiLeaks and FPF communities, as well as that of related organisations.
FPF’s justification for the severance: that it had only provided a conduit for donations due to the infamous Visa, Mastercard and PayPal ‘banking blockade’ against WikiLeaks.
FPF board members claimed that because there was no recent evidence of the blockade continuing, that the funding channel could be closed down, and then did so.
But the Forbes quote of Ellsberg back in 2012 reveals a completely different motivation for setting up the funding channel: it was not just to aid WikiLeaks, but to protect the public.
“A lot of people would rightly be hesitant to go on record sending money to WikiLeaks because they think they could be questioned, blacklisted or prosecuted,” says Ellsberg, citing politicians like Joe Biden and Sarah Palin that have compared WikiLeaks at times to a terrorist organization. “With this the individual will have his or her anonymity preserved. It’s like WikiLeaks itself. WikiLeaks facilitated anonymous leaking. This is to facilitate anonymous donations.” [emphasis added]
This is an earth-shattering reminder of the true reasons for establishing FPF itself – it was not just to help media organisations like WikiLeaks. It was to safeguard those who wished to support them but were afraid to do so, by shielding donors from potential legal ramifications.
Micah appears to have been well aware of this in 2012. As he tweeted the ArsTechnica headline that FPF would act as a “financially-shielded middleman for WikiLeaks“:
But by 2017 he was singing a very different tune. In a slew of tweets, he continues to encapsulate the issue as being about the banking blockade, implying that there is no other reason to maintain the service.
Just as we showed earlier that the Manning Support Network was monitored by the FBI, donors to Barrett Brown’s legal fund were also monitored. Kim Dotcom’s assets were seized and his funds frozen. Julian Assange’s accounts were likewise frozen while he was in Sweden. All whistleblowers, many dissident journalists (including myself) and their supporters have been interfered with financially.
The number one tactic of intelligence agencies is to go after the resources of their targets. To impoverish them by any and all means.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo announced at his first press conference of 2017 that WikiLeaks is a priority target. Subsequently, the very survival of the organisation, to this day, hangs in the balance, as do the lives of those who cast their lot in with them.
At this point, we must ask cui bono? Who would benefit from stripping WikiLeaks donors of their anonymity and potentially exposing them to liability?
Cutting off the anonymous donation channel has the potential to put supporters of free press around the world at risk.
Sacrifice (and Love)
Shortly after “Risk”, Laura Poitras’ documentary on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, came out, I read every review of it that I could find, before finally watching the film myself.
Most reviews parroted each other; the tabloid narrative of conflict between producer and subject was too tasty a morsel to pass up.
At the original 2016 Cannes screening of “Risk”, Poitras appeared alongside Jacob Appelbaum and Sarah Harrison, playing down any suggestion of conflict between herself and Julian Assange.
Question: “We believe through media that while making this documentary you had a kind of a series of differences of opinion with Mr. Assange and that you were not on great terms while you were making the film. Is it true?”
Laura Poitras: “I’m actually curious what your source is. I mean I’m very supportive of the work that WikiLeaks does and I think the work that I’ve done and the work that WikiLeaks has done, that we’re concerned about similar things and very concerned about what the US government is doing internationally. When we first started doing the reporting on Edward Snowden’s documents, one of the first things that the mainstream media did was this comparison model and I think that this is a really kind of move of the mainstream media to try to separate people and I actually think that, you know, Edward Snowden came forward after, I mean what he did came after, very much after Chelsea Manning and its not about comparing the two, it’s actually about looking at what they’re revealing, and so I think that, you’re taking a narrative and um, sort of following what the mainstream media is saying so I actually disagree with it.”
Also at Cannes, Jacob revealed that some of the most significant reporting on the Snowden documents had been undertaken in collaboration with WikiLeaks and had the full support of Julian Assange:
Jacob Appelbaum: “All of the reporting that is not shown in this film such as for example the Merkel phone story where we revealed that the NSA was spying on Chancellor Merkel as well as lots of other reporting including other media relationships, all of the time that I have worked with Laura in Berlin in the last three years was directly supported as WikiLeaks, these things that we were doing were supported directly by Julian with the understanding that sometimes the best thing to do is to partner up and not put WikiLeaks on the by-line because the most important thing is to get the news out and the facts. And the fact is Julian is a political prisoner who is being demonised in the press.”
This is extremely interesting because WikiLeaks’ detractors accuse them of taking credit for other people’s work. On the contrary, the above reveals WikiLeaks not taking credit for major achievements that they helped to bring about.
Poitras re-cut the film into a significantly different beast, alienating many of its participants. She then reversed her Cannes denials and admitted to her personal conflicts with Julian. (She also revealed her personal relationship with Jacob Appelbaum.)
The revised version of the film leaves a lot of questions unanswered. I was able to fill some of the gaps by watching countless shorts of interviews with Poitras and other characters, but the most gaping holes that may never be filled are the untold hours of footage Poitras shot and never released.
Poitras has left major pieces of the puzzle on the cutting room floor.
There were two very subtle revelatory moments that moved me deeply. Each were simple yet poignant and emotive: The first, Sarah Harrison’s hand rubbing Julian’s back, displaying a tenderness that transformed my view of his experience inside the embassy all these years.
There is nothing more perfect in this world than genuine love, and for Julian to have been party to it is a priceless gift.
This insight into Sarah and Julian’s relationship redefines the sacrifice and risk involved when Sarah went to Hong Kong to help Edward Snowden.
In the Grand Master Chessboard, this was Julian’s Queen being sent out onto the playing field. It was a high stakes move for a high stakes win. It denotes a willingness to make personal sacrifice where principles demand it. The legal ramifications of saving Ed physically parted Sarah and Julian from each other and elevated their target status in the eyes of the governments who have been persecuting them.
The price of their victory was three long years without that tender touch. Never once did they acknowledge the sacrifice, or complain.
This historic relationship is seldom given its full due by the press.
While Julian is depicted as the primary representative of WikiLeaks, he has had an intelligent, brave, accomplished and beautiful woman working with him every step of the way.
Sarah, alone in Berlin. Photo by Jacob Appelbaum
The second moment in “Risk” that stood out for me, was extremely brief but enough: the look on Christine Assange’s face when she turns to the camera as Julian is departing the hotel room in disguise, to travel to the Ecuadorean Embassy and seek asylum.
Julian’s courage is at a minimum, second-generation. But more shows through: there is an element of disdain. It is as if Christine knows too well that the camera is a tool both of benefit and betrayal.
There is a lack of self-consciousness in “Risk”. Just as it condemns Julian, at times it unwittingly exonerates him as well.
“It looks almost certain now that it’s going to be Hillary versus Trump. Basically it will be Hillary versus Trump unless one of them has a stroke or is assassinated. So that’s quite a bad outcome in both directions. We have a definite warmonger in the case of Hillary, who’s gunning for us, and in the case of Trump we have someone who is extremely unpredictable.” – Julian Assange, in ‘Risk’
Laura Poitras: “Julian is somebody who, I think he understood that there was a new era in journalism, and that there would be a need for tools to protect sources, to use encryption, creating this anonymous submission platform, we didn’t know that in 2006 right? That the government was going to be able to monitor what your phone is and if a source calls you, right? So that its not enough for a journalist to say I will protect my sources if the government is able to understand who you met and where.”
A screen in ‘Risk’ reads:
The much-touted displays of sexism in the film, are a double-edged sword. In portraying Julian as a chauvinist, the film stripped out the significance and the accomplishments of the many women working alongside him, diminishing their relevance and downplaying their contributions to the events depicted.
“The content was selectively edited and taken out of context and it shows persons who never agreed to be in the film… if you’re showing a documentary about WikiLeaks, you should be talking about source protection, you should be talking about government surveillance, which was the real purpose of the film, or what they were led to believe the film would be about… WikiLeaks is the star of the documentary yet its been edited in such a way that you would think that Assange is WikiLeaks and there’s no one else. The women have been completely edited out of their process, they’ve been denuded of all agency, they’ve been shown as slavish minions…”
Risk‘s hypocrisy in claiming to denounce chauvinism while simultaneously reducing the women in its scenes to irrelevancy, led to a wonderfully karmic direct result: in its wake, the world got to learn much, much more about the women of WikiLeaks.
To better the interests of women, one must be prepared to celebrate them. Poitras’s very male-centric filmmaking, totally missed this opportunity.
But the beef wasn’t just about attitudes to women or feminism. It seems that at the time of re-cutting the film into its second incarnation, Poitras very much believed in Russiagate, and in the specific allegation (now extensively debunked) that Roger Stone was the key to proving a back-channel to WikiLeaks. On the promotional circuit and sharing a stage with Jeremy Scahill, Poitras stated of the #DNCLeaks:
Laura Poitras: “It was clear that it was going to be significant, [WikiLeaks] were on the world stage in a way that they hadn’t been I think since 2010, right, at that same level, that was obvious. I guess I needed to have a little bit of an understanding about what had happened. Jeremy and I just had a talk about this before, he just did an interview with Julian for The Intercepted, Jeremy’s podcast. Where things stand, or what we believe to be accurate, is that there was a hack that was conducted by Russia that a certain amount was submitted through an intermediary or cutout to WikiLeaks and that Julian denies that his source is a state actor.”
In response to a question by another audience member, Jeremy Scahill said “I think that the lives that have been impacted for the positive by WikiLeaks – it’s too many to count.”
This was a welcome acknowledgement, coming after Scahill had earlier denounced Julian as “sexist“, and inappropriately quipped that Assange could be compared to Bill Clinton.
“It would be very interesting to see a film that compared the lives of Julian Assange and Bill Clinton in this way…“
When no one laughed, Scahill quickly backed out of his poor attempt at humour with “…no, I’m sorry” and swiftly moved on.
The apparent inability of self-styled defenders of women to differentiate between the physical and deliberate violence of actual rape, such as Bill Clinton’s rape of Juanita Broderick, compared to disagreements over condoms or in the case of Appelbaum, non-consensual back-washing, kissing someone in a bar, propositioning someone or making bad jokes, undermines and is frankly depressing to, those of us who are survivors.
Sexually harmful behaviours and other aspects of rape culture can and should be denounced and deplored, without having to equate it to rape. The proclivity of the liberal set for doing so waters down and diminishes the experience of rape victims, and the seriousness of it. It seems to be yet another function of privilege, to bandy about terms such as “rape”, “rapist”, and “serial rapist” without understanding the repercussions of doing so.
Rape is an assault on all five senses. For a protracted period of time thereafter, it renders you almost unable to live inside your body, to live inside your life. Unable to preserve your sensory perceptions or restore them to how they functioned before the rape.
To falsely describe sexually problematic behaviour common amongst the entire population as “rape” belittles and undermines survivors, as does unfairly expanding the definition of what constitutes a rapist, or branding every man a rapist by affiliation. Doing so causes many men who are not rapists to recoil from confronting what does need to change. It dissuades them from meaningfully engaging on legitimate issues. It encourages an inevitable and counterproductive backlash, that needn’t have occurred.
I was the first to meaningfully investigate JakeGate, at a time when it was anathema to do so, well before the European press followed suit. I did so because I instantly recognised that what the smear website presented as victim accounts, contained stark differences to the common attributes of survivor testimony.
As I dug deep down that rabbit hole, I found dozens more alarming implications behind what was going on with the activists and organisations involved, than merely what they were presenting on the surface.
Some aspects of which tie back to the extremely important work Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum were doing together, before their relationship imploded.
Critics of Appelbaum decry the idea that he should still be remembered for doing “good work”. The truth is, he didn’t just do good work. He did vital, critical, essential work that very few if any have stepped up into his place to continue.
He worked with Guantanamo victims. He exposed surveillance technology that no one else had. He travelled around the world, helping at-risk activists and journalists to evade the targeting they were being subjected to by their governments.
In the above video, Poitras and Appelbaum are studying names from the NSA Kill List sourced from the Snowden files.
During those final years of his public advocacy, Appelbaum periodically jokes that if he is killed, that it was murder. While he smiles and laughs as he says it, there was a dark truth underlying his sardonic humour. For if he hadn’t been neutralised, socially neutered, in the way that he eventually was – if he hadn’t been made persona non grata by the very communities who he worked to insulate from governmental targeting – he may well have eventually been killed.
The ease with which the US empire can add a name to the list for assassination is evidenced in that very presentation by Poitras and Appelbaum. While the bar for inclusion is far lower in a warzone, only the naive believe that state-sanctioned killings of certain journalists and dissidents doesn’t also occur in the West.
We are hurtling towards a future where weaponised drones will be deployed above the heads of all Western citizens. Where it is not inconceivable that extrajudicial execution of “threats to national security” will occur on our own soil with little fanfare, just as they already do in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and god knows how many other countries.
It is this level of threat to human rights that we are up against. Being honest about the risks of activism is part of helping people to understand why they must join the fight to prevent those risks from worsening and spreading.
Most dissidents in the West will never rise to the target level of a Julian Assange or a Jacob Appelbaum. Acknowledging the threats that do exist for some of us, empowers people to better empathise with and support us.
Part of our duty of care to other activists is to share with them the full extent of the knowledge we have about the systems and methods employed against us, just as Appelbaum consistently did.
Why “Risk” is so titled is self-evident. The risks are real.
Everyone involved in the Snowden reporting was at risk – none more so than Snowden himself. Likewise, everyone involved in WikiLeaks – none more so than Julian. Just as everyone who was involved with Kim Dotcom, or anyone else who is being targeted by the upper echelons of the US Empire.
To openly state so shouldn’t be shied away from. It is a simple fact of our existence.
But there are different types of risk, too.
“I can’t believe what he allows me to film..” Laura says of Julian, in ‘Risk’.
But Assange wasn’t just letting her film it. He was intending to leak the true history of WikiLeaks to the public: Poitras was only meant to be the conduit.
Laura acknowledges this in a Showtime promo: “I actually think he wanted there to be a record of what was happening.”
The movie covers momentous events of enormous historical value: Julian living under house arrest, working on massive publications, attending court, adopting a disguise and making the mad dash to the Ecuadorian Embassy, engaging in conversations with lawyers, diplomats, celebrities, his mother.
This was supposed to be the focus of the movie. This was the grounds under which WikiLeaks staff gave consent.
At 1:53 in the Showtime video Laura says of her conflicts with Julian over the final cut: “I do find it somewhat ironic that he’s trying to censor the content of the film given the ideological mission of what WikiLeaks does.”
After many hours of pondering this, I realised Poitras’ movie is the personification of the curation debate.
Sitting in her editing suite, Poitras was the curator. By refusing to allow the affected parties to have any input in that, she was retaining control over which pieces of their lives and relationships would be allowed to shine through, and in what light.
The WikiLeaks model would be to simply release all of the footage. The curated model of film making, is to take the footage captured, then edit it into a narrative, package it and release it. They refer to film making as a craft.
Thus events are vulnerable to the creative decision-making of the filmmaker, long before they are subject to the interpretations of the audience. Assange’s very acerbic, very outlandish, very Aussie sense of humour, becomes impropriety in the view of an American liberal filmmaker’s lens. Even though I as a viewer recognise his acerbic wit for what it is at its core, it has been presented to me as something else. The editing has made it third-hand information. Less witnessing, and more Chinese whispers. It has become a script.
These contrasting viewpoints, are at least very human. Two ways to image any single whole. Refracted light, which Poitras loves to fill her frames with; sunbeams and shadow… become representations of the difference of opinion.
These can be forgiven. They come down to the beholder.
Less forgivable, are blatant lies and untruths.
Blatant Lies and Untruths
For reasons unknown, FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds has a long track record of criticising other whistleblowers and those who promote their work. Her target list includes Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, and in particular, Edward Snowden.
Her publishing organisation Newsbud posts articles and videos deriding all of the aforementioned and many more.
The articles are postured as being a defence of WikiLeaks, but do so by attacking all of the aforementioned.
Edmonds introduces Webb’s work as being “solid investigative journalism” although it is little more than an aggregation of circumstantial facts from the public record, strung together into a derogatory narrative.
The Edmonds/Webb interview contains a number of falsehoods.
At 3:20 in the video, Webb kicks off by suggesting that The Intercept was only launched to report on the Snowden documents: “its come out over the years their whole basis with the Snowden leaks and whatnot ended up not really becoming true, they’ve had a lot of other stories that have come out that don’t really have anything to do with those documents…”
The Intercept’s launch announcement from 2014 contradicts Webb: “Our central mission is to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions to account and to do so, we will report on a wide range of issues.”
Webb continues, speaking of the Snowden documents: “there was a document that came out at the end of last year and it was one of the first Snowden releases that The Intercept had had come out in a really long time.”
In one of her many attacks against Glenn Greenwald on Twitter, Webb stated:
In 2017 The Intercept released up to 600 Snowden documents, with nearly a dozen individual reports based on them.
Edmonds and Webb follow this up with multiple assertions (also commonly circulated on social media) that The Intercept deliberately withheld the file Webb referenced.
“The document that came out was an NSA document… The Intercept had sat on that document for about four and a half years at the time.”
Webb has no basis for making this claim: It is impossible to substantiate any intent on behalf of The Intercept to suppress the release of an individual document.
Julian Assange contextualised the issue of the founding rationale for The Intercept and pointed out that no intent can be ascribed, re withholding a specific document:
Edmonds and Webb’s focus on Omidyar and PayPal (which I think is entirely valid) swiftly expands to outright slander of Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden.
By 4:40 in the video, Sibel is calling the veracity of the Snowden leaks as a whole into question while Whitney cackles throughout.
Sibel states “the birth of The Intercept was based on the so-called Snowden case, the supposed Snowden leaks, let’s put it that way. And Glenn Greenwald. Supposedly there is this whistleblower who leaks supposedly over 500,000 pages and he doesn’t leak it. He gives and he hands this information over to this supposed investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald…” [emphasis added]
Sibel’s repetitive language is a common manipulation tactic reminiscent of neuro-linguistic programming: She has no hard evidence that Snowden’s leaks weren’t leaks, no evidence that Snowden isn’t a whistleblower, no evidence that he leaked 500,000 pages (Greenwald & Snowden themselves have quantified the archive as being substantially less than that) and she sure as hell has no evidence that Glenn Greenwald isn’t an investigative journalist. Especially given his many years of investigative journalism pre-dating the Snowden releases.
By 9:00 Webb is stretching herself thin, trying to depict Booz Allen Hamilton’s tacit connections to the Omidyar Network as being somehow related to the Snowden leaks. She says “the Snowden-Omidyar Booz Allen Hamilton connections… they’ve been called the most profitable spy agency, James Clapper was an ex-Director… if you remember back to the Snowden story years ago, Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton… even though the pace of the leaks has been truly glacial, Snowden hasn’t complained at all..”
The implication is that Booz Allen Hamilton has somehow benefited from the leaks, as if it was a positive development for them to be globally humiliated for having one of their employees compromise their systems, extracting thousands of top secret documents and transporting them across international borders.
Meanwhile back in reality, Booz Allen Hamilton’s stocks plummeted in the immediate wake of Snowden disclosures. There was open musing as to whether the company would survive the scandal.
This, for what Webb described as “the most profitable spy agency” was not a boon at all. It was a looming fiscal armageddon.
Incredibly, Webb and Edmonds repeatedly reference a #GIFiles release that revealed intelligence contractor HB Gary’s efforts to discredit WikiLeaks, by targeting Glenn Greenwald because of his support for them. Within minutes of presenting this as evidence of the threats WikiLeaks faces, Edmonds is ripping into Greenwald, suggesting that he was some kind of gay porn king on the lam from the US Government, in hiding in Brazil. Malicious rumours spread by none other than the FBI in the immediate wake of Greenwald’s Snowden reporting.
Webb tried to weasel out of the outlandish claims after the fact, by blaming them all on Edmonds. It went down like a sinking ship.
Julian Assange called Edmonds’ attacks on Glenn “scurrilous“. I couldn’t agree more.
The inanity of referencing the HB Gary plot to undermine Greenwald’s support of WikiLeaks, before attacking Greenwald mercilessly, seems lost on both Edmonds and Webb.
Fortunately, Julian and Glenn have a ton of well-earned mutual respect and have been around way too long to fall for Edmonds’ Divide and Conquer scam.
Webb’s litany of falsehoods about Glenn and The Intercept seems endless. She has essentially taken legitimate critiques about Pierre Omidyar – a member of the billionaire club – and stretched it to tar anyone vaguely connected, with the same brush.
Glenn was having none of it, and ripped it apart in two seconds flat.
At 7.20 in the interview she almost nails a key point, but still hadn’t done enough homework to get it right. Webb states, of the Freedom of the Press Foundation: “its board of directors are almost all writers for The Intercept or people like Edward Snowden.”
There is a very key common thread between the majority of members of the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) board. But it is not The Intercept. It is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Of the nine members of the board of FPF, five (at a minimum) have direct ties to the EFF.
John Perry Barlow, of course, was a co-founder of EFF. Rainey Reitman is the current Activism Director at EFF. Micah Lee was a staff technologist for the EFF. Trevor Timm, the Executive Director of the FPF (essentially the operational manager) is also ex EFF. Laura Poitras has worked with the EFF’s legal team. There are further direct ties to the EFF on the FPF staff and on their Technical Advisory Board.
This is the real smoking gun that contextualises the FPF board decision to cease funding WikiLeaks – not connections to The Intercept, as Webb claims. (More critical info about the EFF appears later in this article)
By 12:45 in the Stranahan interview, Webb is making more erroneous claims about The Intercept’s Snowden reporting. She now states that “three stories a year have come out on these documents.” As has already been demonstrated, this is patently untrue.
By 13:00 Webb is claiming “as the FBI whistleblower mentioned in my story, Sibel Edmonds, she exposed in 2013 that a lot of the Snowden leaks factually contained information that is very damning for Paypal, and Paypal’s connection to the US government, the NSA, the CIA and the Treasury Department so it seems like Greenwald has changed his stance on leaks since being employed by The Intercept.”
This slur by Edmonds tracks back to 2014.
When taking aim at Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept, Edmonds and Webb are attacking the only remaining media organisation still publishing the documents, and the only organisation to have engaged in bulk releases of Snowden files.
Edmonds and Webb don’t just produce work attacking Greenwald and The Intercept, they also rake the Freedom of the Press Foundation over the coals.
But to what end?
Just as with the post-election conversation, the prevailing narratives about the FPF decision to cut off WikiLeaks have fallen along two strictly diametric lines:
Freedom of the Press Foundation is good and WikiLeaks is bad (promoted by Micah Lee/EFF people)
WikiLeaks is good and the Freedom of the Press Foundation is bad (promoted by Whitney Webb/Sibel Edmonds)
Whichever of the above you have so far believed to be true, serves the same agenda.
The truth can only be discovered by taking a much closer look at how the decision to cut off WikiLeaks was reached.
In doing so, we will discover that there is a third way to view the situation. A middle way.
Game Theory and the Middle Way
Just as Greenwald recently said of RussiaGate: proponents should take it to its logical conclusion and ask themselves what that is?
The same applies to this situation with the FPF. What is the net result if we assume Micah Lee’s position? What is the net result if we adopt Sibel Edmonds and Whitney Webb’s?
Both outcomes serve the intelligence agencies.
In Micah Lee’s version of what happened, the Freedom of the Press Foundation made a unanimous decision to cut off funding to WikiLeaks as there was no evidence that the banking blockade remained in place.
Edmonds and Webb allege corruption, claiming the Freedom of the Press Foundation cut off WikiLeaks because they receive funding from billionaire Pierre Omidyar.
Both narratives neglect to mention that the issue was actually a bone of contention resulting in a long running debate within the FPF. An internal conflict that included the resignation of a board member and may have presented an existential predicament for the organisation.
The article attempts to justify FPF’s impending action by making a number of claims about WikiLeaks that have been disproven. Including outlandish statements like “WikiLeaks has made common cause with extreme right-wing forces, principally Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin” and poses a dangerous, reckless question: asking if WikiLeaks has “become something else, something less journalistic, during the election?”
WikiLeaks has earned its journalistic status more than arguably any other media organisation on earth, having endured personal risk and hardships at a level unmatched in its generation. The tacit attempt by these reporters to strip WikiLeaks of journalistic protections retrospectively is cowardly and underhanded.
Poulsen and Ackerman also drastically downplay the significance of FPF’s cutting funding to WikiLeaks, writing: “The practical effect of the move is minimal—WikiLeaks donors in America may no longer be able to claim a tax write-off.”
As demonstrated earlier in this piece by way of Daniel Ellsberg’s original statements about the purpose for the donation channel, the implications for WikiLeaks supporters go well beyond that simplification.
Poulsen and Ackerman attribute direct messages to Julian Assange, without sufficient evidence. Their only ‘proof’: the same tweet later linked to by Lee and Currier, of Assange suggesting that Donald Trump consider “our offer to… open a hotel-style embassy in DC with luxury suites for whistleblowers.”
An obvious joke that many reporters have disingenuously taken at face value.
It is frankly idiotic that the use of the word “our” in the above tweet is the basis for Poulsen, Ackerman, Lee and Currier’s conclusion that all WikiLeaks account messages are sent by Julian Assange.
The recipient of the messages, Xeni Jardin, shared them with the FPF Board in the wake of the 2016 election. Jardin resigned as a Board member in December 2016, and told Poulsen and Ackerman that she had felt “unsupported“. Their article states that “Micah Lee was the only board member at the meeting to agree the time had come to cut ties” (with WikiLeaks).
It took “a year-long debate among the directors at the Freedom of the Press Foundation” before a statement by FPF Executive Director Trevor Timm confirmed that consensus on the question of funding WikiLeaks was finally reached in October 2017.
Multiple other figures sourced in the article confirmed that the issue had divided the Board. It took the reframing of making it about whether the banking blockade was still in existence, in order to justify the decision to sever WikiLeaks.
This blows apart the notion that the decision was in any way related to FPF’s funding, connections to The Intercept or to Pierre Omidyar. Else why would it have taken a year to achieve, after the loss of the Board member who originally raised the issue?
Laughably, Micah Lee told Poulsen and Ackerman “Protecting free press rights for publishers we disagree with is important… but that doesn’t mean WikiLeaks should be able to harass our board members without consequences.”
It is highly debatable whether the few direct messages received by Jardin could be considered harassment; predictably Micah Lee’s far more protracted and public harassment of WikiLeaks and of Julian Assange goes completely unmentioned.
Snowden himself is subtly targeted by the article, which twice alludes to having unnamed sources that are leaking Snowden’s alleged opinion to them:
“Snowden, sources close to him tell The Daily Beast, has felt for a long time that Assange has taken WikiLeaks far from a positive, constructive vision of what Snowden believes WikiLeaks could or should be.” – Poulsen/Ackerman
“Several members of the board, including Snowden, have grown disenchanted with WikiLeaks. Snowden has for some time considered it to have strayed far from its laudatory transparency and accountability missions, sources familiar with his thinking have told The Daily Beast.” – Poulsen/Ackerman
Those who are close to Snowden or Assange are known to fiercely guard their privacy, by necessity and out of respect.
This means others involved with FPF are referencing Snowden to try to shore up their own positions, and Poulsen/Ackerman are masking the identities of those people.
The subtext of their article is “You might not comment directly to us but others will, Snowden. You have a leaky ship.”
Edward Snowden is a man smart enough to swipe the NSA’s most closely guarded secrets from under their nose, ensure it becomes global news and live to tell the tale. He is the last person on earth who would need to be told to keep his friends close, and his enemies closer.
As President of the Board, Snowden’s role is to preserve the ability of the executive to function smoothly, in service to the integrity of the organisation. Having dragged out over the course of a year and already suffering the loss of a Board member, the drama is likely to have caused him more than one headache.
Interpersonal issues and ideological conflicts between Board members may have become the first serious existential threat to the organisation.
If it came down to maintaining their ability to move forward as a group or risking implosion, the eventual unanimous vote to sever WikiLeaks may have been less about WikiLeaks and more about protecting the viability of FPF as a going concern.
This is the third way – the middle way – to view the situation. It is not a case of FPF and WikiLeaks respectively being ‘bad’ or being ‘good’.
It is a case of an organisation with internal conflicts and multiple forces pulling it in different directions, being pressured over a long period of time to cut ties with another beleaguered, under attack organisation.
Like most things in life, the situation is complex and nuanced.
We need to see through the too-easy narratives spun by people like Poulsen, Ackerman, Lee, Currier, Edmonds and Webb.
WikiLeaks fans must not be tricked into showing their support by attacking what are in reality, other WikiLeaks supporters.
Nor should fans of the Freedom of the Press Foundation be goaded into attacking a media organisation targeted by the State.
Picking one side or the other in this fight, is detrimental to both.
Throughout history, it has never been established institutions that have saved us or progressed our society, but average citizens banding together to support each other and achieve change.
NGO support is usually reactive, and seldom proactive. They rise for only those who it is in their own political or public relations interest to do so. (Or for those whom have independently achieved a level of public awareness of their situation that if ignored by the NGO, would materially damage their reputation.)
Furthermore, almost without exception, NGO’s accept money from the same governments and military entities that are the root cause of the problems the NGO’s profess to address.
FOIA research specialist Rachael Tackett recently described this to me as the “NGO Industrial Complex.”
Tackett sought me out after seeing me tweet about the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). She pointed me towards her October 2017 analysis of their funding, which includes money from the State Department’s ‘Internet Freedom’ fund, by way of the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Cold War project ‘Radio Free Asia’, an infamous foreign propaganda wing of the US government.
“Much heralded in the media, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is depicted as championing digital civil liberties and fighting the US government’s mass surveillance. EFF also receives money from the same government that it claims to fight.”
The EFF has explained away the funding source by stating that the contributions are not “directly” from the U.S. government but “originate” from it. The source it is directly from, Radio Free Asia, is notoriously opaque.
Tackett explains “Since Radio Free Asia has failed to file the transparency reports, the money that Radio Free Asia gave to EFF does not appear on USASpending.gov, the US government’s funding transparency website.”
EFF also argues that the Radio Free Asia money is allocated towards specific projects rather than general funds. But this argument doesn’t hold water: How the money is spent is less consequential than the fact that EFF is a State Department vendor.
Of greatest concern, is the Congressional stipulations for the funding in question:
The EFF isn’t just accepting government dollars; it is receiving funding earmarked explicitly for advancing US national security and foreign policy interests.
Although it considers itself to be an activist organisation, the EFF has been targeted by Bay Area activists for their connections to Google and other corporates.
The headquarters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, targeted by activists
Look at the bios of EFF’s current staff and you find International Relations degrees, an ex Twitter employee, multiple ex Google employees, ex Department of Commerce and multiple Obama White House employees.
“It’s a corporate think tank. It’s a corporate think tank that’s – it’s main objective is to appear as a grassroots organisation but that in reality is wholly carrying water for its corporate donors. So you’d call it an astroturf group… it represents the interests of its corporate sponsors because its completely funded by Silicon Valley so of course its going to represent its interests. But its power lies in convincing us that it cares about our interests and the interests of average Americans…”
Unfortunately Levine then goes on to make the claim that EFF never criticises Google or draws attention to surveillance implications in the private sector. This claim is contradicted by a simple search of EFF’s social media accounts.
But that is far from an exoneration of Google and EFF’s close relationship. A comment on the podcast page reads:
Julian Assange previously wrote an entire book – When Google Met WikiLeaks – on the deep ties between Google and the State Department, suggesting that they are essentially one and the same.
an ex-Obama White House Science and Technology policy developer, also ex-Department of Health and Human Sciences, and ex-CTO of the World Economic Forum, the literal hub of globalism worldwide
ex-Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon Communications, a massive telco neck deep in domestic spying programs, also an advisor to the G8
Shari Steele – EFF’s ex Executive Director for 15 years, famously married to a self-admitted NSA contractor (you can read his blog about her). Shari moved from the EFF to Tor in December 2015 and within six months oversaw the rolling of the entire board of the Tor Project. Despite having moved to Tor, she remains on the board of the EFF.
The ties to the World Economic Forum (WEF) are particularly interesting. Founded by an ex-Bilderberg steering committee member, the Forum brings a who’s-who of monied elites from industry and government together to plot out the future of humanity. They openly advocate transhumanism, corporatism and globalism.
Membership of the WEF starts at $50,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a company. Per year.
Indeed the WEF immortalised the recently deceased Barlow in this poignant obituary, which screams about openness and internet freedom until you get to the fine print.
After waxing lyrical about his ideals the narrative switches to undermine them:
“There is general consensus that the path we are on is not sustainable. But there are no silver bullets here. We want to be able to leverage large-scale intelligence to stop human trafficking, while also protecting the privacy of the vast majority.”
In the above, “large-scale intelligence” is a euphemism for mass surveillance.
Shortly thereafter, the obituary propagates the idea that user fears over the sovereignty of their own data are irrelevant in the information age:
“We can argue all day about “Who owns my data?” – but in an internet world, as data is an infinitely replicable, non-exclusive good, does the question even make sense?”
The obituary quotes:
“Cindy Cohn, the executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a long-time co-worker of Barlow’s, accepts he was “sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the internet could solve all of humanity’s problems”.”
While going on to frame the internet as being a melting pot of the collective decisions of millions of users, the article tacitly admits:
“Governments have fully understood the power such a ubiquitous medium offers – both in terms of gathering intelligence and exerting influence.”
There can no longer be any doubt as to the extent that the EFF is in bed with government. State Department programs are not the only government entities that have been receiving EFF invoices.
There is a long history of EFF employees and/or the organisation as a whole, contracting directly to the intelligence agencies that it attempts to hold to account.
Knowing that EFF founder John Perry Barlow was a treasured friend of Julian Assange, I was extremely surprised to discover just how far back EFF’s relationships with the intelligence community stretched and how deeply entrenched they were. I learned about the connections from Barlow’s own words.
I’m not going to attempt to regurgitate all the key points here as there are too many – it simply must be read in full. In it, Barlow is seen in all his complexity – admonisher of bureaucracy and secrecy, but admirer of General Michael Hayden. Critic of the intelligence agencies, yet longtime financial beneficiary of them.
I don’t presume to judge Barlow. My gut instinct says that Julian would know far more than I ever could about who John Perry really was and what merit he brought to the table, both personal and professional.
But I can say this: In the wake of SecureDrop developer James Dolan’s passing, I discussed what I’d learned about Barlow with a major WikiLeaks supporter on an unencrypted forum.
That person pointed out that many of our extended friends in privacy activism had ties to or had worked for intelligence agencies. I responded that the litmus test for Barlow’s legitimacy, would be whether or not he had become a target. For one is not able to act against the interests of the intelligence agencies, without falling into their crosshairs.
In all my years of activism I’d never heard a single bad word said about the EFF. Nor was I aware of any discernable smear campaign against them, such as has been employed countless times against other activists and organisations. I surmised that the lack of institutional attacks against EFF suggest that the organisation is not a target. I pointed out that I didn’t know Barlow personally, but that those who did would be able to quickly determine whether he was made to pay a price for his criticism of the agencies and his support of Snowden, Julian and WikiLeaks.
That was in January. By February 9th, the Freedom of the Press Foundation and others, were announcing that Barlow – who it was widely known had been very ill for an extended period of time – had passed away. On the 22nd anniversary of his authorship of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.
Given its ex Legal Director Shari Steele is literally in bed with an NSA contractor, it’s hard to ignore the nagging possibility that, by proxy through the EFF, these lawsuits might effectively be the NSA suing the NSA.
The EFF has also compiled a comprehensive timeline of NSA spying revelations, with zero mention of EFF’s own involvement with and ties to the NSA. Of particular note is their extensive commentary of events in the year 2002 – the year in which Barlow was most closely rubbing shoulders with Hayden. The relationship is not disclosed.
Regardless of what is going on at the top of the organisation, it is abundantly clear to me that at the bottom of it, talented privacy activists are recruited to work on legitimate projects, and to lend the EFF street cred.
FOIA researcher Rachael Tackett also discussed this with me, stating:
“I also wanted to reiterate that some of the people at EFF might believe that they are doing good and trying to do the right thing. Criticism of nonprofits in the US is still a very rare viewpoint to have, especially outside of the more radical anarchist scene. If you engage with some people in the US who work for nonprofits (especially middle and lower employees), some of them may just have zero awareness of who their funders are. They may also not understand the criticisms of nonprofit culture. They could be very confused about why anyone would criticise their organisation.”
It is not long ago that I would have shared their confusion.
The defining moments in my own awakening to the dual-purposes of nonprofits lay within a combination of Chelsea Manning’s testimony at her court martial hearing, and within the Snowden docs.
From the former, I learned that a network anonymity tool heavily promoted to activists worldwide on the pretext of protecting them, is in fact a part of the US military software kill chain.
To be fair, the Tor Project discloses this fact on its website, but uses vastly different language to do it.
Military targeting practices are described as being aimed at “insurgents“, and Tor is framed as protecting the military, rather than aiding them in killing people.
The Global War on Terror by definition, as spelled out by George W. Bush and many intelligence agency executives since, dramatically expands both the definition of who can be defined as an enemy and where. The whole world is a battlefield, we were told post 9/11 and that is precisely what it has become.
In the myriad talks and discussions I have witnessed on the benefits of Tor over the years, never once have I heard frank mention of the fact that prevalent use of Tor was aiding the ability of the US military to mask their kill traffic.
At this point, it seems the NGO’s are either forced to be complicit with Empire in order to prosper, or subjected to targeting for maintaining their integrity.
With 99%’ers at the bottom and 1%’ers at the top, it’s pretty clear in which category EFF falls.
I created the following slide to encapsulate the relationships between the people mentioned in this article in the context of the EFF’s relationships to FPF and SecureDrop.
All of the key players involved in developing SecureDrop either have a hostile relationship with WikiLeaks or are deceased.
A majority of the board members of the FPF have extremely close ties with EFF.
Given all of the evidence presented in this article, it can no longer be acceptable for EFF to retain such a heavy influence on the Freedom of the Press Foundation, if the latter is to remain independent.
Being Julian Assange is named in homage to arguably my favourite movie of all time, Being John Malkovich. (Its number one placement in my affections is contended only by Leaving Las Vegas).
In the movie, self-hating celebrity-obsessed zombie fans of John Malkovich risk life and limb to enter a portal into Malkovich’s consciousness and live vicariously through him for a limited span of time, before reality strikes and they are spit out, covered in shit, onto the side of the New Jersey turnpike.
Although the plot line isn’t why I chose it as the concept for this article, I can’t help but be amused by the obvious parallels to Assange’s critics.
The fantastic custom graphic design at the header of this article, by @SomersetBean, reflects the poster design from Being John Malkovich. It parodies Assange’s detractors – often hiding behind masks, and always trying to get inside his head.
Freedom of the Press Foundation board member John Cusack’s performance in “Being John Malkovich” is in my opinion a career-best. He artfully assumes a deranged, tortured puppeteer tired of his mundane daily existence, frustrated by his unfulfilled dreams and obsessed with a work crush, who turns access into Malkovich’s inner existence into a pretty profit before his fixation consumes him utterly.
This article has monopolised my time for more than a third of a year. The research phase spanned months. The writing phase was more than two weeks straight of 12-20 hour days. The article now stretches well over 15,000 words and may need to be consumed by readers in several sittings.
The hundreds of hours invested have been for one very grave reason:
I am concerned that Julian Assange is slowly dying in front of our eyes while we argue about his tweets.
While Julian has never asked for our pity – quite the opposite, he regularly shakes off any discussion about his suffering – in good conscience I refuse to be silent in the face of the obvious physical degradation that is resulting from his unjust and illegal arbitrary detention.
The Doctor’s Orders
We can’t say that we haven’t been warned.
More than four years into Julian’s arbitrary detention in the Ecuadorian Embassy, WikiLeaks published the findings of medical personnel who had examined him, to gauge the physical and psychological effects of his unprecedented confinement.
According to a ‘Trauma and Psychosocial Expert’ who assessed Assange, Julian’s situation is “tantamount to a prisoner being detained indefinitely but without a prisoner’s normal healthcare…”
The ill effects go far beyond those we have commonly heard about – the lack of sunlight and resulting Vitamin D deficiency, the undiagnosed and thus untreated shoulder injury, the lack of dental care (two and a half years ago, Julian needed a root canal and is yet to receive it), or Julian only being able to breathe recirculated air.
There are psychological effects upon Julian that we could only have guessed at, but which the medical reports lay bare.
For he who is hunted by the world’s best funded and most vicious intelligence agencies, to reveal any new avenue for personal attack can present a mortal threat. According to the report, Julian was “particularly reticent” about alluding to “any vulnerability or any concern that his cognitive or emotional faculties might be degraded… as a result of his situation..”
This inability to freely confide in medical professionals, or to admit the full extent of his own suffering to others around him, prohibits it being meaningfully addressed (if this is even feasible anyway).
The doctor reports: “Mr. Assange reiterated that he fears medical information about him will be used against him, and that he cannot appear ‘weak’ in his current circumstances.”
This exacerbates his mental isolation while contributing to the public perception of Julian as being somehow invulnerable or super-human. Thus he is not viewed as empathetically as he should be, and public demands for a humane resolution to his situation have not yet reached the crescendo of urgency that it merits.
The medical report continues: “There is clinical evidence to suggest that Mr. Assange is suffering from significant alterations in his sense of time, space and internal perceptions of his body in relationship to the external environment. These changes are all consistent with the restrictions associated with his current living situation.”
While Julian’s self-perception is being affected by his limited personal space and its physical restrictions on his body, he is fully aware of the extent of the oppressive forces laid out around him beyond the walls of the Embassy.
Police forces, including counter-terrorism personnel, numbering up to 100 full-time positions, staff “three rings of surveillance“ around the Embassy, 24/7.
Constant death threats and calls for Julian’s assassination make last week’s pronouncement by an MI6-affiliated Municipal Court judge that Julian could merely sun himself on the first-floor balcony of the Embassy, both sickly ironic and insulting to the intelligence of the public.
The psychosocial report states: “The system of surveillance as cited by Mr Assange is a constant source of psychological pressure. It is omnipresent reminder of his fundamental vulnerability in his relationship to the authorities.”
Julian himself is fully aware of the paradoxical nature of the aggressive surveillance on his person, and is quoted on it: “My whole life’s work has been in the service of fighting for liberty and the right to privacy. Now I have none.”
The report reiterates this point in the context of its detrimental effects on Julian’s sense of identity and self; noting that the intensity of the surveillance upon a privacy activist creates additional stressor points: “The surveillance described earlier in this report can be viewed as incompatible with Mr Assange’s own ethos and identity when he himself is virtually under a microscope and as such is both traumatizing and destructive to his personality.”
The effects of indefinite detention are listed:
Physiological and cardiovascular stress
Depression and suicide risk
Loss of hope
Julian spoke about the way his perceptions are being altered.
“…the walls of the Embassy are as familiar as the interior of my eyelids. I see them, but I do not see them.” He commented on how it was increasingly hard to see how objects related to each other or to grasp the passage of time. “Nothing is before or after anything. There is a diminishing set of reference points”.
Even sleep brings no respite, as police officers throw unidentified objects at his bedroom window in the middle of the night and have accessed the apartment above the Embassy.
To be subjected to the above is severe enough, but to experience it while being viciously attacked, libelled and misrepresented by negative press worldwide; enduring every slur imaginable, called a rapist, a pedophile, a Nazi, a chauvinist, a misogynist, a narcissist, a covert agent, a fraud and an anti-Semite; having your past allies and friends stripped away and your support base eroded by incessant black propaganda campaigns, is unthinkable and on a scale that is without precedent.
Julian’s detractor’s complete irreverence to the reality of his physical condition – and in some cases, the open mockery of it – magnifies the indecency.
They have become the modern day hype men encouraging the spectators to cheer and celebrate state-sanctioned torture at the Colosseum.
Far from the narcissist he is portrayed as, insights into Julian’s self-image belies concerns for others rather than himself. The report reveals:
This, from a man who the report concludes: “lives in a chronic state of health insecurity” and warned as far back as December 2015 that “The effects of the situation on Mr. Assange’s health and well-being are serious and the risks will most certainly escalate with the potential to become life-threatening if current conditions persist.”
Stating The Obvious
The doctor’s dire warnings of those risks to Assange’s health are manifesting in full view.
In his most recent live appearance, Assange is insightful, learned and brilliant as ever. But he is visibly suffering the ever exacerbating physical effects of his 7 year confinement.
After more than half a decade without fresh air to breathe, he coughs and clears his throat constantly. He struggles to maintain cognitive flow – breaking and reforming his thoughts, soldiering on in a concerted effort to express his ideas. It is obvious to any viewer that his vision has been affected. Our eyes need regular exposure to both short and long distances, as well as natural light changes, to maintain their health. With only four close walls to look at, Assange faces partial blindness, as well as a host of other negative effects from his unjust confinement.
Although there are countless social media threads and tweets circulating about Julian and WikiLeaks every day, few if any seem to register the serious and grave possibility that, immersed in our collective complacency, we may lose them forever.
Mostly, they are instead filled with either outright conspiracy theories (Julian is dead/in CIA custody/etc) or endlessly reconstituted conjecture about his personal proclivities, opinions, quirks, or relationships.
Even among more highbrow Twitterati circles, myriad Assange imposter accounts are gifted an undeserved legitimacy through retweets from established mainstream journalists replete with blue ‘verified’ check marks.
Meanwhile, the most vitriolic of detractors overtly wish doom, death and destruction upon Assange.
Again, the calls for his assassination are coming from ‘verified’ Twitter accounts.
But those who argue that the world would be better off without WikiLeaks, may soon live to regret their ignorance if the day comes when the same systems and resources that have so avidly sought its demise, are freed from their encumberances and unleashed upon new targets.
WikiLeaks is the dam holding back the tide of intelligence agency resources used to target them. If we allow cracks in the bulwark to go unaddressed, the day will come when the dam bursts and we will find ourselves drowning in the deluge.
This is what we do, those of us who hold our humanity dear, us activists: we care. We care so much that we put our principles ahead of our wellbeing, our conscience ahead of our profitability, our compassion ahead of our personal ambitions.
Even where that entails great sacrifice and seemingly little reward.
The military, by comparison, teaches soldiers to be dispassionate. To psychologically separate themselves from their humanity. Blind obedience and conformity, which in and of themselves are tiny deaths of identity, cannot coexist with independent thought. Soldiers are taught to mentally abdicate their volition; not to think, but merely to react in an ingrained fashion. To let others – their superiors – think for them. To forfeit steering the courses of their own lives, one action at a time.
Where activists focus on healing our broken societies, and evolving them; soldiers simply focus on a mission assigned to them by shadowy, privileged bureaucrats they have never met: to undermine, disempower and defeat an enemy.
Increasingly, activists risk being socially engineered into becoming the soldiers of Empire. So much so that the lines between those who themselves were once hunted and those who hunted them are becoming blurred. And the same stalwarts of established power structures that support the military, are now aligning with activists, and calling themselves The Resistance.
As the political opinions and positions of intelligence agency executives and the thought leaders of activism merge, we are surrendering the reins of social progress to those most committed to limiting it.
There is no easier way to describe this nouveau Resistance, than by sharing the bio of one of its self-proclaimed leaders.
“I help lead #TheResistance”.
Gone are the days of freedom fighters like Mandela at the head of the people’s struggles; now we get ex-heads of intelligence agencies, Hollywood stars and the millionaire funders of notoriously corrupt politicians, as the self-described leaders of resistance.
I was mortified when a long-term (and very persecuted) activist and new media stalwart explained to me very frankly, why some activists opposing Trump were knowingly choosing to get in bed with the very same intelligence agencies who had been trying to destroy their lives in the years prior.
Paraphrasing him, he said: “we should pursue our shared goals to bring down Trump, then we can deal with them after that.”
In my opinion, as well as being morally abhorrent, this the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-temporary thinking is pure folly. It is also extremely dangerous. Yet this is what is occurring all around us: activists are legitimising and facilitating the aims of the very agencies that destroy the lives of activists, in the vain hope of achieving joint short term political objectives.
This is the slippery slope of a deal with the Devil. Should it inevitably go awry and the agencies emerge ever more powerful and entrenched in their footholds within government, it is those same activists that will be paying the ultimate price for having marched to a tune that ensured their supremacy.
For the intelligence agencies have even loftier goals than subverting activism for political gain. As we’ve learned from studying Snowden’s documents, their tentacles have already expanded into every area of our lives imaginable.
But that is not enough for these self-styled Masters of the Universe: Their “Collect it all” strategy isn’t just about our communications, our present perceptions or our collective future.
They also seek to become the curators of the past: to control our legacies.
How Wikipedia Sanitises Fake News
I have proven that the living history of Julian Assange’s involvement with Chelsea Manning’s Support Network, Aaron Swartz, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation have been altered to negatively skew his contributions.
The revisionism doesn’t end there. Examination of the Wikipedia biography of FBI-snitch Adrian Lamo shows the reverse: he is sanitised as a “threat analyst” who “indirectly reported” Manning, and you have to get halfway down the page to find further context about his informant activities.
By comparison, a cursory examination of the Wikipedia biography for WikiLeaks demonstrates how quickly fake news generated about the whistleblowing organisation is laundered into the official record.
The academic reputation of WikiLeaks as a whole is thereby subject to gross manipulation and censorship.
WikiLeaks’ historical significance is reflected in the length of their Wikipedia profile: the page is over 10,000 words. The content, however, has been feverishly micro-managed to the benefit of their persecutors.
Two classic examples of this appear in the 3rd paragraph, within the very summary of what WikiLeaks supposedly is: yup, you guessed it. Julia Ioffe’s Atlantic article and Micah Lee and Cora Currier’s Intercept article.
The core premises for both have been debunked, yet they are ranked at #20 and #21 of the 370 source links that form the backbone of the page.
There is no mention of or reference to the critical deconstructions that discredit either piece. Why? Because articles whose falsehoods have been perpetrated by monied organisations with editorial boards are acceptable to Wikipedia – an encyclopaedic tool utilised by millions of students and teachers worldwide.
But articles published by independent sources are not. Even when the latter demonstrate greater analytical merit than the former.
By this mechanism, lies are indelibly etched into the history books, while the truth is censored out of them.
The opinions of intelligence agencies are ranked even higher than the other mainstream slurs of WikiLeaks.
The Wikipedia source link at #22 goes ten steps further, attempting to depict Assange and WikiLeaks as being sympathetic to Putin and Russia.
It states “Notably absent from Mr. Assange’s analysis, however, was criticism of another world power, Russia, or its president, Vladimir V. Putin, who has hardly lived up to WikiLeaks’ ideal of transparency.”
One must then read to the 20th paragraph of the article before it begrudgingly admits that WikiLeaks has published detrimental information about Russia.
But the author contains this by limiting it to Manning’s CableGate leaks – “a cache of State Department cables” and writes off the significance as being “far more damaging to the United States’ interests than to Russia’s.”
The sad fact is that those who are genuinely interested in evidentiary truth about Russia will find exponentially more of it in the WikiLeaks releases than they ever will in reading hit pieces about Julian Assange.
In their zeal to align WikiLeaks with Russia and Putin, those same critics will likewise ignore the fact that I am highlighting this information about Russian military intelligence while living in extremely tenuous circumstances in Moscow, engaged in the process of seeking temporary asylum due to threats on my life.
That I am bringing attention to this truth at my own peril does not suit their narrative.
Julian Assange’s true legacy is a lesson in personal agency.
He did not sit and wait for the better world he hoped for to miraculously materialise. He is neither utopian nor idealist. He knew he had to create it.
Julian has done so by scrutinising the past, scrying into the future and then shaping the present.
He is extremely pragmatic in his thinking, yet intuitive to boot; a rare combination.
His past writings are the closest glimpse of his inner world we may ever be able to access, other than the manifestations of those narrated hopes and dreams that bleed through into his actions.
He has taken that action – relentlessly – both in spite of and because of the dismal outlook humankind has made for itself.
Julian is not an agent of any nation – he is an agent of change.
Stagnation is his enemy. Even stationery in the Embassy for over 2000 days, Assange never allows himself, WikiLeaks, or society to stagnate. There is always a new day. There is always progress, forward momentum. A new initiative, another release. There is always change.
To recognise this is to truly understand his actions surrounding the 2016 election. By design, the limited options produced by the electoral system provided little promise. The only “choice” was, as he warned us, between “cholera or gonorrhoea“.
In such a dichotomy, what would an agent of change do?
Regardless of her hatred for WikiLeaks and threats against Assange, enabling the continuation of the ruling elite Hillary Clinton represented, would never have appealed to Julian. He has been railing against them his whole life, because it is they that shepherded society into this mess, and most profit from it.
He could not single handedly cure the disease, but he did offer us the brief respite of a switch in malady. For change makes space. Even if what replaces the status quo is equally woeful, or worse – change does bring opportunity.
It was always up to us to grab the reins.
It still is.
When Trump was elected I said privately “We’ve bought six months.” I was talking about World War III. The sheer logistics of a change of US regime gifted the world a temporary pause in the bloodletting.
How many lives were saved in that window of time?
Had Clinton gotten in, we would have seen an immediate acceleration in death and destruction.
WikiLeaks is an anti-war organisation. I am always astonished by those who fail to recognise this simple fact. Julian is from a line of anti-war activists.
When Lady Gaga asked him how he feels, he replied “I don’t care how I feel.” When anyone gets close to touching on his personal suffering, he diverts the focus to those on this planet who may not live out the day without being shot, or having a bomb dropped on them.
I have seen him do this time and again in interviews throughout the years, whenever his hardships are raised. “What about the people in Iraq?” he asks. “What about the people in Syria?”
Detractors claim WikiLeaks puts lives at risk, to distract you from the reality: WikiLeaks saves lives. It is the true purpose for its existence. This goes beyond the many whistleblowers and journalists it has valiantly fought to save and to protect. WikiLeaks exists to end wars. To raise the political stakes so high on governments and on the military industrial complex that it has the potential to impact deployment, withdrawal and resourcing decisions. Precisely as Manning’s leaks are credited with doing.
Julian’s personal power is at its core rooted in solidarity with the suffering of others and personal agency to do something about it, rather than his often-praised fierce intellect, mastering of philosophy, or technical ability.
While you are talking smack about Julian Assange, he is saving another whistleblower. Facilitating another leak.
Handing us, on a platter, the true history hidden from us.
Cowards loathe him.
The corrupt fear him.
The heroic help him.
It Starts With This
Sometimes we hear things, we are told things, we believe things, we know things – but they still don’t sink in, until we feel them. Then the penny drops. Then we can begin to see things more clearly.
Then we can change them.
Feel the walls that you have been looking at for six years, closing in around you. Feel the days without closure bleed into months and into years.
Imagine watching your children grow up on a screen. Listen down a wire as the birthdays, weddings and funerals you can never attend pass by. Imagine being in constant fear for the safety of everyone you care about.
Now imagine knowing that despite all the degradation and hardship, the difference that you make in the world can save millions of people.
Feel the determination well within you, to fight on no matter what.
Imagine being Julian Assange.
What Next? A Call to Action!
The findings in this article have multiple grave implications. We must work together to to correct the injustices.
1. Establish an ‘Emergency Response Team’ comprised of members of the public who can come together outside the Ecuadorean Embassy en masse if required.
Sometimes to achieve justice we have to take matters into our own hands. We call for the WikiLeaks Task Force to form an action group that people who want to help Julian can register for, that can be triggered in the event of an imminent threat to Julian Assange. For example, London Police violating the sanctity of the Embassy and attempting to arrest him, or any other immediate risk to Assange’s wellbeing. If activated, an emergency alert will be sent to all members of the action group, asking that they assemble at the Embassy immediately.
2. Email Freedom of the Press Foundation and ask them to immediately act to reinstate the anonymous donations channel to WikiLeaks.
“FPF Board Member Daniel Ellsberg said in 2012 that the purpose of the FPF anonymous donation channel to WikiLeaks was to provide legal protections to members of the public who wish to donate to WikiLeaks. FPF’s cessation of the service potentially exposes private citizens to legal jeopardy. I respectfully request that you immediately act to reinstate the donation channel to WikiLeaks, in service to the public good.”
3. Email The Intercept and complain about Micah Lee and Cora Currier’s reckless journalistic practices and ask that their article be amended accordingly.
Send a polite email to firstname.lastname@example.org, Editor in Chief of The Intercept. Suggested text:
“As evidenced in the article ‘Being Julian Assange’ at Contraspin.co.nz, reckless actions by The Intercept reporters Micah Lee and Cora Currier have resulted in proven harm to the future ability of transparency campaigners to petition Members of Parliament to raise awareness and financial support for whistleblowers. This is a violation of the public good and has also materially damaged the reputation of The Intercept. I respectfully request that you take reasonable and prompt action to sanction these reporters accordingly.”
4. Share this article!
We live in an Orwellian age of suppression of information, it is up to you to seed this all across the internet if you want to help achieve change.
[Clarification 9/03/18: This article initially included a call to action for WikiLeaks to establish a publishing arm with an editorial board to publish works from independent media so that they could qualify for inclusion in Wikipedia. WikiLeaks is obviously already a fully-fledged publisher with a full editorial board. They have an unblemished, pristine, professional publishing record tracking back over a decade. The intention was only to suggest that an additional, separate publication and board be set up to review and publish works that currently only exist in the blogosphere and are thus ignored by Wikipedia. The original wording of the call to action was ambiguous and unclear and has thus been removed.]
[Retraction 12/03/18: This article originally contained a line that said “Hammond, taught to hate on Snowden for getting more press.” Upon reflection I have decided to retract that line in full and my reasons for doing so and the greater context within which it was written are explained at this link.]
Author’s note: a huge thank you to Elizabeth Lea Vos, Editor in Chief of Disobedient Media, who spent dozens and dozens of hours tirelessly editing and proofing this article for me. Her assistance and expertise was an invaluable contribution to the final copy.
The smear campaign worked so well that the lies about Dotcom’s actions surrounding Moment of Truth are being resold up to this very day – this time not just to pull the wool over the eyes of New Zealanders, but to actively deceive the entire world.
CNN is reporting that the family of the murdered DNC employee, Seth Rich, who internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has offered to testify leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, has sent a letter to Sean Hannity’s producer at Fox News.
The letter from the Rich family to the Hannity producers is emotional and heart wrenching but is laced with demonstrable falsehoods.
How do I know this? Not by internet sleuthing. Not by hearsay. But because I am a journalist from New Zealand who was personally present before, during and after the events that are being incorrectly referenced by them.
Screenshots of the letter appear below. Each demonstrable falsehood is sequentially numbered and addressed beneath.
Falsehood #1: “[Kim Dotcom] has been caught using fabricated email evidence to forward his own agenda and confuse people.”
Kim Dotcom didn’t use the email. It was leaked to the New Zealand Herald by an unknown source, prior. The Herald broke the story before the Moment of Truth event, claiming that Kim Dotcom would use the email at the event. He did not.
Falsehood #2: “In March, Kim Dotcom circulated a letter purporting to show a conspiracy against him.”
The email was not from March. The scandal surrounding the email happened nearly three years ago. Specifically, immediately prior to the September 15th, 2014 ‘Moment of Truth’ event. An event which was not about the email at all – but about mass surveillance. Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, Robert Amsterdam and Kim Dotcom, all appeared at the event.
Falsehood #3: “New Zealand law enforcement officials investigated the letter thoroughly and discovered without a shadow of a doubt that the letter was a forgery.”
According to the newspaper that published the leaked email, the “thorough internal investigation” by Warner Bros. occurred within a two-hour period: “The review would have taken place in just over two hours between the Herald asking questions of the studio and the response.”
In March 2017, New Zealand’s Serious Fraud Office said that they had concluded an investigation into the email that Dotcom didn’t use. I can find no direct link to that statement on their official website. Therefore all we know is what the NZ Herald said about it:“The SFO confirms that it carried out an investigation into this matter. As a result of that investigation, the SFO is satisfied that the email was a forgery.”
But no one seems to have any idea how the SFO went about establishing this as there are no further details about the specific investigation. The only statement that can be found is what an ex-employee of the SFO thinks might have been done:
Ironically, the allegedly standard method of gaining server access is precisely what the DNC did not allow the FBI to do in the #DNCLeaks case.
Falsehood #4: “[Dotcom’s] rush to judgment and willingness to push [the email in question] without first authenticating it shows he is all too willing to make outsized, harmful and misleading claims…”
If this statement were true, Dotcom would have gone ahead with presenting the email at the Moment of Truth event. But he simply did not.
So What About The Email?
The contents of the “forged” email made the following claims:
1. That the Warner execs had “a really good meeting with the Prime Minister.”
Prime Minister Key constantly boasted of successful outcomes at his meetings with American political and business leaders. The Leader of the Opposition publicly called for the “minutes, notes, briefings and emails” relating to the meeting to be released. As far as I can tell, they never were.
2. That the Prime Minister was “a fan” and “we’re getting what we came for.”
The long history of the Prime Minister’s willingness to accommodate Hollywood was a source of dissent in New Zealand. His government had changed labour laws to accomodate Warner’s demands, initially resulting in a boycott by the New Zealand ‘sister organisation’ of the Screen Actor’s Guild, the seriousness of which was deemed ‘ire in the Shire’, and uproar in Parliament. Business leaders lauded Prime Minister Key for giving Warner tax breaks, rebates and even government contributions to marketing costs for the movies.
3. That the Prime Minister told them “in private that they are granting Dotcom residency despite pushback from officials about his criminal past.”
That, in the wake of all of this, Kim Dotcom could be accused of paranoia or conspiracy-theorising, is not only laughable but risible.
5. That “The DOJ is against the Hong Kong option. No confidence in the Chinese.”
This just comes down to common sense. Would the Department of Justice rather have New Zealand, which is essentially a vassal state, and at that time was run by an ex-Federal Reserve Bank of New York (yes, New York) investment banker – Prime Minister John Key – or would they rather raid Dotcom in Hong Kong and hope the Chinese were OK with it?
What Does This Mean?
It means either that the email was real and there has been a colossal cover-up, or that someone(s) forged an email and filled it with things that were already known and thus easily believable, hoping to bait Kim Dotcom into releasing/promoting it, so that they could then reveal the fraud.
Either way, the target is Kim Dotcom.
Other Issues With The Rich Family Letter To Hannity
The “vast conspiracy” that the Rich family would understandably rather not believe exists, is of a size almost beyond imagining to the average citizen. This infographic maps only a small part of the players proved by world-renowned investigative journalist Nicky Hager to be involved in the New Zealand end of it – a political smear network which included a Knight of the Realm, PR consultants, lawyers, bloggers, at least four mainstream media reporters, government authorities including the then Minister of Justice and Police, businessmen and political pollsters. Not to mention, the scandal-plagued now ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key.
The Web Gets Bigger
Zoom out to the political players in the United States of America who kicked it all off with the original FBI raid on Kim Dotcom and it’s even bigger. Chris Dodd. Eric Holder. Joe Biden. And even Obama himself.
Not to mention the political figures involved in the 7-year-long persecution of WikiLeaks and its journalists and staff. Start naming that list of US bureaucrats and you have most of the US government, across multiple administrations.
What does this have to do with Seth Rich? Well if he did indeed leak the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, then that is the cabal he found himself up against. Especially if that connection was, as suggested, facilitated through Dotcom.
What Snowden Really Revealed At The Moment Of Truth In 2014
1. Multiple NSA bases on New Zealand soil that no one had any knowledge existed. We had assumed the Takapuna Southern Cross landing site, smack in the heart of the North Shore of New Zealand’s largest city, belonged to us. It doesn’t. Snowden also revealed a facility in Whangarei in Northland. This is a huge deal for a Commonwealth country that believed itself independent and sovereign.
2. That for Snowden, “sitting at [his] desk in Hawaii”, spying on New Zealanders (or not) was a matter of checking or unchecking a tick box.
3. Snowden said: “I could be looking at a system in Japan, I could be looking at a system in Germany, I could be looking at a system in New Zealand and what was incredible about it was the fact that I could see records of the communications from people around the world, comprehensively… a federated search system, the NSA, along with the Five Eyes alliance, which includes New Zealand as a significant part of it.”
4. Snowden said that this is all enabled by a vast sensor network. He clearly stated: “I know that there’s mass surveillance happening in New Zealand because.. one of those sensor networks is in New Zealand. So when John Key or anyone in the New Zealand government says that there is no mass surveillance in New Zealand… it’s collecting the communications of every man, woman and child in the country of New Zealand..”
5. When asked explicitly by Glenn Greenwald whether the GCSB, New Zealand’s spy agency, was a willing partner in this collection on New Zealand citizens, Snowden said: “yes, absolutely, there is no question about it… and specifically yes, the GCSB not only uses XKeyScore, they’ve contributed to its development…”
But what was national news the next day? The Warner email.
At the Moment of Truth press conference immediately after the event, I filmed the New Zealand mainstream media completely ignoring Glenn Greenwald’s Snowden reporting while he sat right in front of them ready to be asked questions about it, while they instead hammered him and Kim Dotcom about the Warner email.
It was a total set up. A farce.
Why They Smeared Kim In 2014
It is important to remember the timing. Snowden has done dozens of such events now, but back in 2014, it was a relatively new thing to have him appear on a big screen revealing secrets of the spy agencies in person. It was in fact, a really, really big deal.
The smear was also engineered to quell dissent. The pre-Snowden 2012 revelations that the GCSB had been illegally spying on Kim Dotcom expanded to the realisation that actually at least 88+ New Zealand citizens had been illegally spied on. This outraged the public. A nationwide movement against the corruption of our spy agencies and massive protests swept the country.
I know this, because just as with all the 2014 Internet Party events, I had covered all the 2013 GCSB movement Auckland events. And this is what they looked like.
That dissent spread nationwide. The government’s ability to pass its band-aid legislation to cover up the illegal spying looked in jeopardy.
Ultimately, the response of the powers that be was to promise that the 2014 general election would be our chance to right any wrongs, and then to smear Kim Dotcom on a daily basis all the way through it.
Why Are They Recycling The 2014 Smear In 2017?
Simple. Because it worked in 2014. And while completely debunked in alternate media, by citizen journalists and those who were witness to it, the New Zealand public at large are yet to discover how badly they were duped. That is one of many injustices that is going to be righted in New Zealand this year, regardless of the outcome of the Seth Rich case, or of what happens to me.
But Why Didn’t Kim Dotcom Answer The Rich Family Email?
Remember – in the Rich’s letter to Hannity they stated:
“Earlier this week, I was approached by someone claiming to be Kim Dotcom via email. In my reply to this person who claimed to be Mr. Dotcom, we asked to have a discussion with him about the evidence, either in person or through legal intermediaries in order to collect the evidence and verify it with law enforcement before he publicly goes on TV making claims that haven’t been substantiated. There has been no response to that email.”
I wanted to know why Kim didn’t answer them. So I asked him.
His exact and total response to me:
“They replied to a message I sent to them two days ago. They asked for my lawyers to get in touch with their lawyers. I have forwarded the email to my lawyers and asked them to get in touch with the family to arrange for a conference call with the Rich family lawyers.” — Kim Dotcom
The Rich Family
I feel terrible for what the Rich family are being put through. Those aren’t just words to me. They may well have joined the ranks of a multitude of other grief-stricken families of political targets, of journalists, activists and hacktivists whose families I know personally.
It is abundantly obvious that people close to the Rich family are lying to them for reasons of political expediency and that is simply not OK.
The truth is the truth and I take the Rich family at face value when they say that they want to know it. Families usually do. The problem is, the truth is scary as hell. It also comes with grave implications.
If the choice is take on the political establishment, the media and a vast network of corrupt elites, or blame Kim Dotcom, then it is extremely tempting to take the latter option. All too easy, in fact.
Blaming Dotcom means staying on the good side of those who wield huge powers.
Taking on the establishment means inevitably becoming one of their targets, perhaps even more so than, knowingly or unknowingly, they already have.
No one envies the Rich family their situation. Everyone would forgive them for wanting nothing more to do with it. Many other families of targets have felt exactly the same way, or still do.
But there are many people who will rise to protect the Rich family, should they decide to start loudly asking the hardest of questions.
Journalists who write truth pay a high price to do so. If you respect and value this work, please consider supporting the Courage Foundation via credit card or Bitcoin donation at this link. They are at-risk journalists themselves who despite their own targeting, spend their time and resources on advocating for and protecting other whistleblowers around the world and they deserve your assistance. You can also donate directly to the Rich family’s attempt to find justice for Seth Rich at this link. Thank you!
It seems the closer we come to people rising upen masse to demand Julian Assange’s freedom, the more desperate his detractors become.
This isn’t the first time I’ve debunked a Guardian smear piece on Julian Assange but it’s certainly the first time that I’ve been able to debunk literally every single written line – including the caption.
“Photo Caption: Assange’s position is that the charges have been trumped up, because he is viewed by the US establishment as a dangerous and powerful insurgent.”
That is not Assange’s position. Because there are no charges. As has been repeatedly pointed out to members of the mainstream press who, as demonstrated in this very instance, continue to this day to write about and report on charges that have never been laid and do not exist.
“Six years on from the leak of accounts by two women of allegations of sexual assault and rape, Julian Assange has released his own interview with Swedish prosecutors, offering an alternative narrative to that offered by one of the women.”
Actually, he is offering the same narrative that he has espoused all along. The contents of his statement entirely align with prior releases of documentation related to the case, dating back years.
Specifically, his statements in relation to his innocence, his asylum claim, the manhunt, the persecution of WikiLeaks and the grand jury, the denials of the women themselves that they had been raped and the contents of the text messages of the younger of the two women are all contained in Assange’s publically available and thoroughly annotated 2013 affidavit which can be read in full here.
It is only to journalists like Ms Orr who have clearly not done their homework on the background to this case that anything contained in the recent statement release comes as a surprise.
“Somehow he has managed to persuade himself that his testimony satisfies the questions, but all it really does is advertise that he is a man who appears to have little respect for boundaries and who, far from even beginning to recognise this in himself, casts himself wholly as a victim of the sexual machinations of others.”
a) he is being and has been persecuted for his publishing and journalistic activities, by the highest echelons of international governments
b) he is not a rapist but was smeared as such
c) he has ample grounds for asylum, as was duly granted to him, and
d) his continued arbitrary detention is in violation of human rights, international law, and common decency
The ‘sexual machinations’ Ms Orr refers to are not of the women involved but in fact that of the police officers, politicians, bureaucrats and intelligence agencies involved in branding Assange a ‘rapist’ in order to serve their own political motives.
Indeed, GCHQ staff famously bragged about (and were reprimanded for) the Assange case having been a ‘fit-up’.
“Rather in the manner of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Assange portrays himself as someone who always relies on the comfort of strangers.”
Actually, he portrayed himself as someone forced by the circumstance of persecution and pursuit by intelligence agencies wielding vast state powers, into seeking refuge wherever able.
Ms Orr’s supposition that he “always” does so is entirely disingenuous. Denied access to his own funds and with a huge target on his back, Assange had little choice but to rely on the sympathy of others.
“His argument is that during his time in Sweden he was a marked man.”
It is ridiculous to depict this as ‘his argument‘ when the Pentagon’s own releases announced that there was a manhunt for him. Yet again Ms Orr attempts to lay the responsibility for the persecution at the feet of the persecuted. The correct way to frame the statement would simply be to state the undeniable: he was a marked man.
“He had to be careful where he stayed, in case his cohort of known supporters was being monitored, in order that they would lead the spies to Assange. I don’t dispute that this worry might have been real and important for Assange.”
Gracious of her to depict this as real and important, but Ms Orr still personifies this to Assange, intimating that there were alternative approaches when there clearly weren’t any available.
“Nevertheless, quite why the perfect answer was to stay at the homes of women who wanted to have sex with him is completely glossed over.”
In fact it is Ms Orr doing the glossing over, as it is clear from Assange’s statement that the arrangements were made on his behalf.
His release clearly states in point 70:
“My contacts in Sweden had arranged for me to stay in two safe houses during the few days I had intended to stay in Sweden. One of the safe houses belonged to a journalist who I knew and another to a Social Democrat party figure unknown to me who had lent her apartment while she was away, or so I had been told. However, because these two original safe houses arranged prior to my arrival became known very soon, I stayed in three additional safe houses between 11 and 20 August 2010.” – Julian Assange
A far cry from Ms Orr’s depiction, which continues:
“In fact, he said one of the women was so “very clear” that she wanted to have intercourse that he “felt concerned about the intensity of her interest”.”
This quote has been partially selected for convenience. The full context is that the woman:
“…made it very clear that she wanted to have sexual intercourse with me. I felt concerned about the intensity of [her] interest and I also deeply loved another woman, which played on my mind and left me emotionally distracted. [She] knew an unusual amount of detail about me and appeared annoyed with me when I was on my phone searching for news related to the US official government statements about me. I perceived she was irritated when I wasn’t giving her my full attention. I felt there was a risk my location would be revealed and that she might act unpredictably if she believed I was rejecting her.” – Julian Assange
What Assange is saying is that the situation was a double-edged sword. While much-needed temporary sanctuary and companionship was being offered, he also felt threatened by his physical safety being dependent upon the goodwill of his host.
“Now, plenty of people ignore “red flags” in the undertaking of sexual dalliances, as Assange apparently did.”
As above, his situation was more than merely the “undertaking” of a “sexual dalliance”, such as people who are not being hunted by the US Empire might indulge in or undertake. His overarching situation was downright precarious and dangerous.
What Assange is illustrating is that he felt that neither rejecting her nor staying with her guaranteed his personal safety. Both were fraught with risk.
“An emotionally healthy person would understand that this concern was something to be heeded, and that it was a situation to be avoided.”
This is a further display of blaming the persecuted rather than examining the circumstances of the persecution. Exactly how “emotionally healthy” is one supposed to be when one is being man-hunted by billion dollar international intelligence agencies? Would Ms Orr be “emotionally healthy” in such a position? Holding Assange’s decisions and mental state up against that of any random member of the public is disingenuous and misleading. It was an extreme situation and thus the status quo test constantly being applied by Ms Orr is irrelevant and a distraction.
“Assange did not choose to take that course.”
Assange chose to take the course that he felt was most likely to increase his physical safety at the time. God knows he was not looking ahead six years to what Ms Orr and her kind would think about it after the fact – he was too busy trying to stay alive in that week.
“This in itself suggests a man who does not shrink from entering into situations that some may view as exploitative.”
What it suggests is a man travelling a path with no map, that few have ever walked before him, surrounded by strangers and tenuous plans and promises that too often fell through, doing the best he could under the most direst of circumstance.
“Assange’s position is that the charges have been trumped up, because he is viewed by the US establishment as a dangerous and powerful insurgent.”
As per my response to the misleading caption; once again, this is not Assange’s position. Because, to this day, no charges have been laid.
“Yet even his own supposedly vindicatory evidence reflects wider sexually exploitative attitudes.”
What his evidence reflects is that:
a) he has never been charged with any crime, yet was branded a rapist, including in the very publication in which Ms Orr writes
b) he left Sweden after consulting with the prosecutor first and receiving advance permission to depart, yet was then deemed a fugitive regardless
c) the first prosecutor cancelled the investigation as it was deemed without merit, only to later on be reopened after political intervention
d) Assange has been trying to give his statement for six years but has until now been denied the opportunity to do so, and
e) a ton of other material factors, all of which are completely absent from the content of Ms Orr’s article, which instead focuses on supposition and the projection onto Assange of assumed motives imagined by Ms Orr, among various other disparagements
“It’s not a crime to be sexually exploitative, to have little regard for the emotions or the boundaries of others, or to decide to have sex with someone because you need a place to spend the night.”
There is no evidence whatsoever that Assange was any more sexually exploitative than those who complained about him; both of whom have said that they were not raped, one of whom has claimed the police manufactured the investigation in order to tarnish Assange and the other of whom supplied a broken condom which was found to contain no DNA of either party whatsoever and had discussed taking their stories to the tabloids within a matter of days. Despite this and to his credit, Assange himself still does not accuse either woman of sexual exploitation.
“Indeed, this sort of behaviour seems pretty widespread, and hardly particular to Assange. And that is the really depressing thing.”
And here is the crux. Ms Orr is now expanding the playing field beyond Assange, to the wider sexual practices of millions. Which means she is taking general attitudes that she already held about society at large which appear to have coloured her opinions relating to the Assange case.
“People in the public eye are far more likely to be exposed for indulging in this sort of behaviour.”
Absolutely. They are. Which is what infuriates rape victims and survivor advocates like myself. Where I hail from, New Zealand, 95% of rape survivors never see their rapists charged and 99% of rape survivors never see their rapists convicted. Why? Because police agencies and indeed intelligence services and the governments who fund them, only have a vested interest in pursuing ‘justice’ in the few, select cases where it is politically expedient to do so. Thus seeing a man whose ‘victims’ state empirically that they are not victims at all be persecuted for six years while the overwhelming majority of actual rapists walk free amongst us is extremely exasperating and disappointing. This is then exacerbated by callous media personalities who indulge in furthering that persecution of the innocent targets of these political machinations, in the name of protecting women. The irony is rife and it is frankly a sick, Orwellian joke.
“Of course they defend themselves – and when they do so, they tend to feel they are being held to a different standard to others, and an unfair one.”
In this case it is worse. Assange is being held to the standards of others who have never been man-hunted by the US Empire, then what scraps of his experiences filter through to the public realm are then obsessively analysed by writers like Ms Orr who have also never been man-hunted by the US Empire.
“Often, a high-profile individual who has been implicated in a sexual scandal will attract many sympathisers, who understand that the behaviour of their hero is not so very unusual, and therefore believe there is nothing wrong with it. That’s depressing too – there is something wrong with it.”
To the contrary, other than solidarity from close friends and family, these people usually end up universally loathed. In the cases of Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Bill Cosby, these men were protected for decades by the very establishment that they served. It took decades for their victims to raise awareness of what happened to them yet once they finally managed to achieve mainstream awareness, their attackers became reviled, etched in history as the monsters they are. The very speed and ferocity with which the Swedish (and other) governments targeted and persecuted Assange speaks volumes. Were he an actual everyday common rapist it is more likely than not that the police would have taken little to no action. Were he a high society predator, it would have taken decades for the public to become aware of it. But because he is neither, and is in fact a target of Empire, he was smeared internationally by the entire world’s media within 24 hours of the allegations and six years later is still fighting for the most basic acknowledgements of the facts – such as that he has still never been charged with any crime, which Ms Orr fails to mention even once in her entire piece.
“Interpersonal exploitation – emotional, sexual or physically violent – is a blight on human relations and on human psychological health, for perpetrators as well as victims. It corrupts the social bonds that are so important to a decent society or culture.”
Absolutely. Which is why it is such a powerful tool for governments and spies when wanting to destroy the reputation of an adversary, or in this case, of a journalist and publisher who is standing in ideological opposition to their corruption and war crimes.
His testimony in aggregate details gross violation after violation of his rights. It details the negligence and maliciousness of the prosecutor, Marianne Ny, up to and including her acting in violation of Swedish law. It also displays the complete disregard for international law and disrespect for the institutions of international governance such as the United Nations, which was established by the very countries who are persecuting him. None of this is mentioned in Ms Orr’s article.
“Any person who gives himself (or herself) leave to behave in such a way is unlikely to understand quite where other lines should be drawn. And in those circumstances, it might be possible for such a person to fail to comprehend his behaviour as sexual assault or rape.”
When the alleged victims themselves deny that they are victims, what else is left? Apparently, six years of hit pieces in publications like The Guardian.
“His insight into and ability to understand his behaviour, its impact on others, and the ways in which others might experience or interpret it, is severely impaired.”
It seems that in fact Ms Orr and journalists like her are struggling with understanding the impact of their constant slew of attacks on Assange. Nor do they seem to understand the way others might interpret them. If they did have insight into this as well as to the profound importance of his contributions to journalism despite all he has been put through, they might not be so mystified at why he continues to enjoy the support he does.
“Assange’s leaked document illustrates a lack of empathy for the women he slept with.”
This is purely down to the interpretation of the reader. The leak of the allegations against Assange, prior to him even having been interviewed or made any statement, or to any charges being laid, certainly illustrated a lack of empathy for him as well as a desecration of the presumption of innocence and of Assange’s legal and human rights.
“It’s understandable if not admirable that he shouldn’t be spending much time considering the feelings of two women who have brought him so much trouble.”
The use of the word ‘admirable’ is strange in this context. There are many things about Assange that are admirable, none the least the way he has coped with such extreme prejudice, malignance and persecution over the last six years.
“But his testimony shows that he most certainly wasn’t spending much time considering their feelings long before events took the course they did.”
His testimony states of the woman involved:
“During that night and again in the morning we had consensual sexual intercourse on four or five occasions. Her words, her expressions and her physical reactions made it clear to me that she encouraged and enjoyed our interactions… In the morning she went out to pick up breakfast for us. After enjoying breakfast together, I left her home on good terms.” — Julian Assange
In light of the women stating plainly that they have not been raped, it seems the media who continue to portray them as rape victims, and Assange as being charged when he has not been, are the ones not “spending much time considering their feelings.”
“This may not be a crime.”
The original prosecutor determined that no crime had been committed. The only crimes appear to be those manufactured by malicious entities and the intense and concerted pressure applied by mainstream media outlets like The Guardian.
“The courts or prosecuting authorities will pronounce on that. But it is an attitude of mind that is pretty abject, very destructive and horribly widespread.”
Unfortunately, so is the attitudes of the vast majority of the journalists who have been cashing in on this story for more than half a decade.
Not so long before the mainstream media was lying the United States into a war with Iraq, I had purchased a book called ‘What Liberal Media‘?
The book made its case exhaustively; that there was not a liberal media bias but in fact a neoconservative one.
In 2011, it became one of many books that I donated to the People’s Library at Occupy Auckland. Ill-fatedly it seems, as that library was dismantled and the books seized by private security contractors hired by the Auckland Council (the High Court in Auckland later judged the seizure and the raids to be illegal but no reparations have ever been offered to or obtained by Occupiers).
There is very little about my personal politics that would ever have indicated to anyone, let alone myself, that I could be a Trump supporter. On the surface, he stands against everything I have all but sacrificed my life fighting for.
He prides himself on his ability to throw his weight around. To effectively bully people into getting his own way. In ‘The Apprentice‘ he presided over a televisual representation of the dog-eat-dog corporate world. One where lies flow fast and freely and people are tacitly applauded for doing hatchet jobs on one another. Where only the immoral survive let alone flourish.
He is the embodiment of capitalism, a dying economic experiment that is the cause of untold misery the world over.
Yet due to the endless tirades against him in mass media, and his anti-TPP and anti-war stances, many activists including myself began to empathise with him.
Witnessing what we just have in the course of the US election, it is now impossible to deny that there is a liberal bias in the media. The obviousness of the bias, the refusal of that media to hold themselves to account and the apparent inability of anyone else to do it either, has created a massive backlash against it.
A backlash that Trump has benefited from.
In his recent CBS 60 Minutes post-election interview, Trump said that social media, particularly his massive followings on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram, had played a large part in his victory. He said he gained 100,000 followers in a day, and believed his social media footprint directly tackled, and won over, what he described as ‘a billion dollars’ spent against him by the Clinton machine.
And it wasn’t just the Clinton machine or the traditional liberal media that were out to put the knife in him. My favourite publication, The Intercept, which should be acknowledged and commended for consistently running stories critical of both candidates and of the process as a whole, in fact ran a series of dozens and dozens of hit pieces against Trump.
When The Intercept‘s reporter Robert Mackey filed his first anti-Trump piece, I barely noticed. I actually had a massive antipathy towards the electoral process, which I saw as entirely flawed and a choice between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee – or “cholera versus gonorrhea” as Assange famously described it – sympomatic of the puppet show that is modern American politics.
It had been clear to millions of us around the world in 2011 that the system was irredeemably broken and corrupt and certainly there has been no meaningful reform since that time to change our opinions.
By Mackey’s third anti-Trump piece, it seemed like more of the same. By his sixth anti-Trump piece, it was becoming abundantly clear that Mackey just plain did not like Donald Trump and did not want him elected.
By the 12th anti-Trump piece I was becoming convinced (wrongly, I hope!) that Mackey might be part of some conspiracy involving the Clinton-endorsing New York Timeswith which he was formerly employed, and utilising The Intercept for Clinton’s own ends.
As an avid The Intercept reader, by the time the 20th anti-Trump piece rolled around I had decided that I just plain did not like Mackey, that he was a pro-Clinton bully, and that this Trump guy might not be so terrible if Hillary Clinton, arguably the most corrupt candidate of all time, and her supporters, disliked him so much.
Now to be fair to Mackey, he has been openly taking on Ann Coulter so he can’t be that bad a guy after all! I also think Greenwad wouldn’t back his work if he wasn’t convinced Mackey is genuine. But Mackey’s constant filing of anti-Trump themed articles made him appear to have an unhealthy obsession, which diminished any credibility his arguments had, and they all just melded together until they were indistinguishable, into one great big serialised diatribe.
At a certain point, the anti-Trump posts became so frequent that I stopped reading them at all. Just rolled my eyes and silently said to myself ‘oh, another anti-Trump piece, what a surprise.’
For the Trump camp, Mackey’s efforts became the practical embodiment of the phrase ‘even bad press is better than no press‘.
If I had to guess, I would have said The Intercept published 20 anti-Trump pieces. But according to him, the exact number was 37. In a three-week period.
Pushing an average of nearly two per day, what effect was it thought this would have? Since when has over-saturation not made people sick of whatever it is being shoved down their throats? The backlash was inevitable.
Trump, who I had no affinity with whatsoever, was being turned into an underdog besieged by establishment journalists in my eyes and I had just spent years standing up for underdogs besieged by the establishment. In a bizarre and twisted way, this simply served to make people like me want to defend him, despite the fact that he is someone who wields massive power and would not otherwise have ever been viewed as an underdog at all, nor a figure in need of defending.
Such is the polarising effect of this election – even the career anarchists picked a side. If even people considered as ‘radical’ as I (enough so to end up on a list passed from one government to the next) ended up participating in the Coke versus Pepsi contest, the string-pullers really are clinking champagne glasses while those of us who have been fighting for a systemic rebuild tear our hair out.
More than ever before, the media have become The Band That Played On. As Glenn Greenwald brilliantly pointed out, introspection is a foreign concept to the liberal class. The post-election period has only served to compound that the liberal media bias does exist and was in no way cowed let alone dismantled by their total and abject failure in the lead-up to election night.
The handling by CBS of the seemingly traditional first-post-election-interview of the President-elect is a great example of this.
I had hoped to put the questions up against each other in sequential order, for comparison. Except that would be impossible. Because although both interviews were roughly forty minutes in duration, 60 Minutes asked Obama 47 questions, but they asked Trump 73.
There is no greater indicator of the inherent bias of the editors than the note that each interview finished on. It’s so blatant it’s comical.
The last question asked of President-elect Trump and his family? “Let me ask if any of you think the campaign has hurt the Trump brand.”
The last question asked of President-elect Obama and his wife Michelle? “As President of the United States what do you plan to do about getting a college play-off for the national championship?”
Of the 47 questions asked of Obama, somewhere between 12 and 14 of them related to policy, depending on how strictly you apply the term. 3 of the questions were about his ex-apartment in DC. 2 questions were about what he was reading. Another 2 questions related to his mother-in-law and 2 more as to whether the incoming First Family would get a dog.
Despite Obama’s election win having occured in the middle of a Global Economic Crisis that drew constant comparison to the 30’s and the Great Depression (something Obama decries in the interview), the overwhelming majority of questions asked of him were jovial if not completely superfluous in nature. Each question led to a new topic, with very little pushback on any of his answers.
Of the 73 questions asked of President-elect Trump, somewhere around 6 were on policy, or if you include questions about his Cabinet appointments, about 10. How is this possible? That he would be asked substantially less about policy than Obama was, when he was asked two-thirds more total questions?
A closer look at the language is really revealing.
A question put to Obama is: “Have there been moments when you’ve wondered what did I get myself into?”
But with Trump it becomes “Are you in any way intimidated, scared, about this enormous burden, the gravity of what you’re taking on?”
I could go on and on, and usually would, but now that I’m endeavouring to write daily, have to keep this short. The full list of questions in each interview speak for themselves. There was every attempt to keep Obama at ease, and every attempt to provoke or trip up Trump. But the public didn’t buy it before and won’t now. That ship has sailed.
How many members of the public would love to get the heads and top anchors of the six major media organisations into one room and tell them exactly what they think of them? Apparently Trump has done exactly that.
The full story is available at the NYPost – at least what parts of it were leaked by the press organisations themselves despite their commitment to the meeting being off-the-record.
Trump, of course, would have anticipated this, and will be having the last laugh, as are all who are reading it and living vicariously. Whether or not it will be the wake-up call the press needed, remains to be seen. The most intriguing aspect of all is the extent to which the narratives of the major press corporations are an extension of the express wishes of the intelligence community and its covertly implanted members and thus what this really says about what is in store for America going forward.
The voice of reason may be John Stewart. His heartfelt appeal for people to understand how intellectually deprived it is to simply decry all Trump supporters as ‘racist’ is a must-read.
Or it may be the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) who has similarly appealed to his own community, drawing attention to a famous quote that African Americans should have ‘neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, just permanent interests’.
This may be the tiny beginnings of reconciliation, though you won’t be able to tell that from today’s headlines in the New York Times, which are still scratching away at the same broken fiddle.
But funnily enough, derision doesn’t unite people and if you aren’t willing to reach out a hand to your ideological foe, you will never be able to bridge the faultlines that the elite so carefully devise and construct to divide us.
To that end, Robert Mackey, the next drink is on me.