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.
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 email@example.com, 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!
But because of where it was published, I’m taking it on.
Doing The Dirty
In a self-discrediting, tabloidesque, grasping-at-straws, thoroughly compromised “article” for Buzz Feed, ex-WikiLeaks intern James Ball once again attempts to spin his short-lived six-years-ago experience with Assange into contemporary relevance.
This isn’t a first. He’s been rehashing his story year in and year out.
In an earlier anti-Assange, anti-Ecuador piece he was editorially babysat on the by-line by a London BuzzFeed editor whose last 4 credits on the site are all aged anti-WikiLeaks articles crafted in tandem with James Ball.
A disclosure at the end of Ball’s latest WikiLeaks smear reads: “James Ball, one of the authors of this article, worked for WikiLeaks for a short period between late 2010 and early 2011.” (The disclosure does not appear on earlier articles on the same topic. Such as this one.)
What the disclosure fails to mention is that James Ball was in fact fired from WikiLeaks in early 2011.
This was revealed by notes published by WikiLeaks in response to the disputed Alex Gibney portrayal of related events in the unauthorised (and disputed) biography of WikiLeaks titled “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks”, in which James Ball was heavily featured, despite his extraordinarily brief tenure with the organisation.
While omitting to mention his firing, or that his involvement with WikiLeaks spanned at best, 23 days, Ball does allude to some controversy:
“To save readers a Google search or two, [Assange] would tell you I was in WikiLeaks as an “intern” for a period of “weeks”, during that time acted as mole for the Guardian, stole documents, and had potential ties to MI5.”
The lack of context surrounding these nefarious references is meant to come off as both humorous and self-deprecating. They serve to diminish the impact of an inevitable discovery of the reality: Ball told a friend he had interviewed for MI5.
He leads his readers to believe that the numerous denouncements of him are just outlandish rather than rooted in long-established fact, and that it is he and not Assange, who is the true victim.
That his body of anti-WikiLeaks work fits the messaging and agenda of the very intelligence agencies who oppose WikiLeaks, is of course, mere coincidence!
In this, Ball’s writing is as misrepresentative of himself as of his subject. Almost as misrepresentative as posting the same article under multiple different titles at precisely the same time and then circulating them both:
Both versions are timestamped October 23rd, 2016 at 8:11pm. Each article has its own unique URL so they are published as two seperate articles rather than just one with its headline changed. (Though by the time of writing, the former now has a redirect to the latter.)
One has a more benign title and the other an overblown, dramatic title. The former has a trending icon yet the latter earned over triple the hits and is positioned in a central position on the front page of BuzzFeed UK. Draw your own conclusions.
Going Down In History
Ball’s back catalogue of BuzzFeed work oscillates between the vacuous and the ridiculous and his WikiLeaks smears are no exception.
BuzzFeed is hardly renowned for high quality content but it did once have one of the greatest investigative journalists of all time at its disposal: Michael Hastings. Courageous, witty, bold, daring and polished, Hasting’s archive of BuzzFeed work directly confronted heads of state in a truly adversarial and critical manner.
Unfortunately, Hastings was so brilliant and supremely talented, and his writing and presentation style so infectious, inspiring and ultimately so effective, that he was killed for it.
Thus BuzzFeed, WikiLeaks and the world was robbed of a giant and historic talent, and all we are left with is… James Ball.
God help us.
Having spent all week crafting an epic about the impending World War III that Assange’s persecutors are doing their damndest to usher in, I almost appreciate the mental respite of getting to effortlessly analyse something so small-minded as the pettiness of Ball’s attacks.
Except that I also resent that these bottom-feeders are still mercilessly crapping on the few journalists who are taking the biggest and most important risks of our generation and achieving the greatest of results, despite them.
Over The Line
Ball’s opus is over 2,900 words which in the realm of click-bait is practically ‘War and Peace‘.
BuzzFeed is, of course, a website whose main navigation mechanisms are buttons that read “LOL”, “win”, “omg”, “cute”, “fail” and “wtf”.
It’s safe to say that Ball’s work could fall into at least four of those categories.
Which makes it tragically easy to dissect.
Predictably, he starts with a homage to the proclamations of power.
“On 29 November 2010, then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton stepped out in front of reporters to condemn the release of classified documents by WikiLeaks and five major news organisations the previous day.
WikiLeaks’ release, she said, “puts people’s lives in danger”, “threatens our national security”, and “undermines our efforts to work with other countries”.
“Releasing them poses real risks to real people,” she noted, adding, “We are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.” — James Ball
You could be forgiven for thinking that Hillary Clinton stating that she was taking “aggressive steps” against the leakers of CableGate might mean that she has some kind of vendetta.
Given that the law is not meant to be “aggressive“, but merely lawful.
Oblivious to this, James Ball instead uses much of the article advancing the mainstream state-mouthpiece strategy of attempting to convince us that it is in fact Julian Assange who has a vendetta against Hillary.
“Julian Assange watched that message on a television in the corner of a living room in Ellingham Hall, a stately home in rural Norfolk, around 120 miles away from London.
I was sitting around 8ft away from him as he did so, the room’s antique furniture and rugs strewn with laptops, cables, and the mess of a tiny organisation orchestrating the world’s biggest news story.” — James Ball
Having qualified himself as relevant by having been in Julian’s presence in that moment, the reader is expecting some grand revelation to be imminent. That Julian threw something at the television, perhaps? Or made some disgruntled commitment to vengeance?
No, of course he didn’t. So Ball has to fixate on a triviality instead.
“Minutes later, the roar of a military jet sounded sharply overhead. I looked around the room and could see everyone thinking the same thing, but no one wanting to say it. Surely not. Surely? Of course, the jet passed harmlessly overhead – Ellingham Hall is not far from a Royal Air Force base – but such was the pressure, the adrenaline, and the paranoia in the room around Assange at that time that nothing felt impossible.” — James Ball
So after watching Hillary Clinton on TV, Assange and others in the room… thought something.
James Ball knows they thought something because he could see it.
He doesn’t bother mentioning what that something was. Just intimates that it was thought.
What precisely is he suggesting with this anecdote? That the Air Force was going to bomb the mansion? No? Glitter-bomb it maybe?
In keeping with the rest of the piece, James never qualifies his suggestions with any actual conclusions. Just sets up tense scenes and quickly moves on, incapable of climax.
“Spending those few months at such close proximity to Assange and his confidants, and experiencing first-hand the pressures exerted on those there, have given me a particular insight into how WikiLeaks has become what it is today.
To an outsider, the WikiLeaks of 2016 looks totally unrelated to the WikiLeaks of 2010. Then it was a darling of many of the liberal left, working with some of the world’s most respected newspapers and exposing the truth behind drone killing, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, and surveillance of top UN officials.” — James Ball
Not two reading minutes earlier, Ball described WikiLeaks as “a tiny organisation orchestrating the world’s biggest news story”. Now, he is trying to drive a wholly invented ideological wedge between the ‘then’ and ‘now’.
Yet six years later, WikiLeaks is still a comparatively tiny organisation (compared to the media conglomerates that it frequently laps circles around) that is, sure enough, still orchestrating the world’s biggest news stories. Ball attempts to suggest that WikiLeaks is no longer working on exposing war crimes, despite their most recent work exposing mountains of evidence that states responsible for arming and funding ISIS are also funding Hillary Clinton’s foundation and/or election campaign.
WikiLeaks are working on the same issues they always have. The crimes of Empire. Corruption and war. But Ball needs you to believe otherwise.
“Now it is the darling of the alt-right, revealing hacked emails seemingly to influence a presidential contest, claiming the US election is “rigged”, and descending into conspiracy. Just this week on Twitter, it described the deaths by natural causes of two of its supporters as a “bloody year for WikiLeaks”, and warned of media outlets “controlled by” members of the Rothschild family – a common anti-Semitic trope.
The questions asked about the organisation and its leader are often the wrong ones: How has WikiLeaks changed so much? Is Julian Assange the catspaw of Vladimir Putin? Is WikiLeaks endorsing a president candidate who has been described as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and more?
These questions miss a broader truth: Neither Assange nor WikiLeaks (and the two are virtually one and the same thing) have changed – the world they operate in has. WikiLeaks is in many ways the same bold, reckless, paranoid creation that once it was, but how that manifests, and who cheers it on, has changed.” — James Ball
If the Democratic primaries were not rigged, why was there a slew of resignations of its top officials, not to mention lawsuits, as a direct result of the revelations?
If WikiLeaks is seeking to influence an election, why has it not openly endorsed a political candidate, as the New York Times and nearly every major U.S. publication (and many others around the world) do openly, every election cycle?
How inane and hypocritical, to accuse one of the few media organisations that does not endorse a candidate, of endorsing a candidate.
The questions Ball lists as “the wrong ones” – accusations of a change in philosophy or ideology, or of an association with Vladimir Putin – are the precise accusations being made by the candidate-endorsing mainstream publications that James Ball completely ignores the existence of in this article.
And with that, the man who has just informed us that he knew what every person in a room was thinking, without stating what that was, merely because a plane flew overhead, now tells us that WikiLeaks is “bold, reckless and paranoid”.
Having smeared WikiLeaks, Ball goes back to defending Clinton.
“Clinton’s condemnation of WikiLeaks and its partners’ release of classified cables was a simple requirement of her job. Even had she privately been an ardent admirer of the site – which seems unlikely – doing anything other than strongly condemning the leak was nonetheless never an option.
That’s not how it felt to anyone inside WikiLeaks at that moment, though. It was an anxiety-inducing time. WikiLeaks was the subject of every cable TV discussion and every newspaper front page, and press packs swarmed the gates of every address even tenuously connected to it. Commentators called for arrest, deportation, rendition, or even assassination of Assange and his associates.” — James Ball
Simply: no. It is not Clinton’s job to “aggressively” pursue anyone. There is no legal mandate for that. Any more than it is her job to aggressively pursue donations, paid-for speeches, the invasion of Libya, or any of the other crazy, corrupt nonsense she got up to while employed as Secretary of State.
Nor is it the job of commentators to be using mass media to call for illegal assassinations, but this is the effect of corruption at the very top echelons of government going unchecked for so long – it trickles down. Those beholden to power become emboldened to emulate them because they know the system will forgive and protect the corrupt. This is how corruption spreads from administration to administration and from generation to generation.
This is how a black man selling loose cigarettes on a New York street can be killed by police while a modern-day political mafia operate in the White House with immunity and a blank cheque.
Just stop and think for a minute – Bill Clinton was impeached. Impeached for lying to Congress. His wife publically ‘forgave’ him his indiscretions and now she’s going to be President. And he’s going back to the White House.
An impeached President will be moving back into the White House.
Does this not seem a little strange?
Maybe there’s a bigger problem to be addressed than a publishing organisation exposing corruption? Like, maybe the actual corruption itself, should be worthy of 2,900 words of James Ball’s attention?
Apparently not. He is too busy mud-slinging for The Empire.
“At the same time, WikiLeaks was having its payment accounts frozen by Visa and Mastercard, Amazon Web Services pulled hosting support, and Assange was jailed for a week in the UK (before being bailed) on unrelated charges relating to alleged sexual offences in Sweden.
Inside WikiLeaks, a tiny organisation with only a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank, such pressure felt immense. Most of the handful of people within came from a left-wing activist background, many were young and inexperienced, and few had much trust of the US government – especially after months of reading cables of US mistakes and overreactions in the Afghan and Iraq war logs, often with tragic consequences.”
“How might the US react, or overreact, this time? WikiLeaks was afraid of legal or extralegal consequences against Assange or other staff. WikiLeakers were angry at US corporations creating a financial blockade against the organisation with no court ruling or judgments – just a press statement from a US senator.
And the figurehead of this whole response was none other than Hillary Clinton. For Assange, to an extent, this is personal.” — James Ball
Assange has repeatedly stated that the system is broken, that the electoral process is a farce, and has described Clinton vs. Trump as Cholera vs. Gonorrhea.
By now it is pretty obvious that it is James Ball, for whom this is personal. He is yet again quite literally selling his dated, meagre WikiLeaks experience, and wants us to believe that he has a unique insight into the motivations of Julian Assange. Pffft.
“It’s unfair, or at least an oversimplification, to say Assange is anti-American. He would say he supports the American people but believes its government, its politics, and its corporations are corrupt.
A result of this is that he doesn’t see the world in the way many Americans do, and has no intrinsic aversion to Putin or other strongmen with questionable democratic credentials on the world stage.” — James Ball
What better description is there of the Clinton cabal and in fact the entire U.S. military industrial complex than “strongmen with questionable democratic credentials on the world stage“?
That is a literal definition of every single Western regime, yet it is being used to prop them up by attacking their political enemies to distract us from the obvious.
The facade of democracy lost it’s last leg in 2011 with the violent crushing of the Occupy movement.
Democracy is over. Finished. Kaput. It has been reduced to a race between a war-mongering wife of an impeached President who cheated her way to the nomination, versus a serial-groper reality TV star with a spray tan.
Democracy in 2016 is billion dollar corporations telling 400 million people that it is their civic duty to pick Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee.
No amount of burying our heads in the sand or reading James Ball articles on omg-lol-wtf-BuzzFeed is going to change that.
James Ball and the Rape Investigation
There is nothing more annoying to a survivor of rape than people who get sanctimonious on the behalf of alleged survivors, only when it is politically expedient to do so. Or worse, to cash in on it.
Of Assange’s alleged victims, Ball writes:
“Those who have faced the greatest torments are, of course, the two women who accused Assange of sexual offences in Sweden in the summer of 2010. The details of what happened over those few days remain a matter for the Swedish justice system, not speculation, but having seen and heard Assange and those around him discuss the case, having read out the court documents, and having followed the extradition case in the UK all the way to the supreme court, I know it is a real, complicated sexual assault and rape case. It is no CIA smear, and it relates to Assange’s role at WikiLeaks only in that his work there is how they met.” — James Ball
Nowhere does he mention that the women did not want Assange charged. Or that one said the police manufactured the case and that she was railroaded into it. Or that the other specifically said she was not raped.
Ball never once lets the facts get in the way of his story.
So Who Is James Ball?
In short, exactly what his article claims Julian Assange is. A bullshit artist.
By contrast, the following is what WikiLeaks had to say about James Ball, in their response to ‘We Steal Secrets’.
Ball lie number 1: That James Ball wouldn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement on ideological grounds
“James Ball is lying. James Ball signed a non-disclosure agreement with WikiLeaks on November 23, 2010.
WikiLeaks uses non-disclosure agreements to help protect the safety of its sources, its staff and its upcoming publications from informants. The FBI and rival media organizations have previously bribed or pressured persons they believe to be close to WikiLeaks. James Ball understood this, and saw no irony in being asked by WikiLeaks to sign his NDA in November 2010.
WikiLeaks staff suspected Ball was passing information from WikiLeaks onto others: rival media organisations or government agencies. WikiLeaks discovered that Ball had told a colleague he had a job interview with the UK intelligence service MI5 and had interned at the UK Home Office. WikiLeaks also discovered Ball was attending secret meetings with the Guardian journalist David Leigh – his former college professor at City University, and a vocal opponent of WikiLeaks.
While Assange was in prison it was discovered that someone had accessed the Sunshine Press press contacts account using an email client, and had mirrored its archive. Ball had briefly been given access to the account. Documents from the account subsequently appeared in the Guardian. Physical documents went missing, and Ball’s behaviour became erratic.
Therefore a second, special non-disclosure agreement was devised for Ball, to test his reaction. After being asked to sign it at WikiLeaks’ Norfolk office, Ball became anxious and asked to postpone signing it while he considered it. He then left for London.
It later became obvious to WikiLeaks staff that, showing malicious forethought, Ball had stolen what he thought was WikiLeaks’ copy of his original NDA (which would have given him both copies). However the document that James Ball stole was not WikiLeaks’ copy of the agreement. Ball had left his NDA out on a desk and it had been filed for security reasons. He had stolen his own copy of the NDA. The other copy had already been removed to a secure location, and is still in WikiLeaks’ possession.
Ball became unavailable for work, and stopped returning calls. He lied about his whereabouts, and invented reasons why he could not return, which were confirmed to be untrue by a mutual third party. After several weeks, it became clear that he had cashed in his favours to David Leigh, in return for which he was given a post at the Guardian and the first credit in David Leigh’s book.
Ball pursued career advancement at the Guardian by placing himself at the service of The Guardian’s institutional vendetta against WikiLeaks, publishing numerous deceitful attacks on WikiLeaks over the last two and a half years, all of which rely on heavily embellishing his role as a freelancer working as a junior intern at WikiLeaks.
During the short time he worked for WikiLeaks he insisted on being called “a journalist working with WikiLeaks” or “a freelancer working for them“. Some time after leaving, Ball reimagined his role at WikiLeaks for career advantage, changing his title in order to misrepresent himself to others as a “former spokesperson.” James Ball was never a spokesperson for WikiLeaks. Alex Gibney did not secure an interview with WikiLeaks’ actual spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson.
Ball has consistently maintained that he never signed the WikiLeaks NDA, and has felt secure enough to lie in print and on camera because he believed he had destroyed the evidence, having stolen the NDA.
Although he lies straight to camera in “We Steal Secrets” about the NDA, in January 2013 Ball admitted that he did sign the WikiLeaks NDA, after having been challenged about it by WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson. In admitting this, he lied again, claiming that he had never denied signing a WikiLeaks NDA. The evidence to the contrary is in the film itself.” — WikiLeaks
Ball lie number 2: re Julian’s ex-handle, ‘Mendax’
“Ball fabricates the significance of one of Julian Assange’s teenage screen names “Splendide Mendax”, this time in the mouth of an interviewee. The screen name is a joke. In Latin it means “Nobly untrue”, but as a pseudonym it describes how handles protect an author’s identity even though being inherently “untrue”. It is a phrase which describes itself, not its author, just like the word “word”.
‘Claims my teenage nickname was Mendax, “given to lying”, instead of Splendide Mendax, “nobly untruthful”, which is a teenage joke on handles being inherently untrue. It is self-referential, not a psychoanalysis 20 years ahead of its time!'” — Julian Assange, Complaint to Ofcom regarding the Guardian co-produced Secrets & Lies documentary, January 9, 2012.” — WikiLeaks
Ball lie number 3: That he was a WikiLeaks spokesperson
“The full interviews from which Gibney selects clips of James Ball talking to the media tell a different story. As James Ball makes a number of false statements in Gibney’s documentary these are worth watching in full. In one with Fox TV, for example, Ball appears alongside Kristinn Hrafnsson (as he usually did), who is introduced as “WikiLeaks spokesman” while Ball is described as “a journalist working with WikiLeaks”. James Ball never “essentially filled in” as “WikiLeaks’ principal spokesperson”.
At 2.45 mins in, Mark Stephens explains that Julian Assange is not in hiding: “the police know how to get in touch with him, the Swedish prosecutor knows how to get hold of him, so everybody knows where he is – except the media.” It is therefore false and misleading for James Ball to suggest that Julian Assange was “in hiding”.
Starting at 8.30mins, Ball refutes the suggestion that WikiLeaks has put anyone in harm’s way: “We have correspondents from all over – you know, the New York Times Chinese correspondent, the Guardian Chinese correspondent – checking those cables that are published to see what they’re like. Of course WikiLeaks takes redactions seriously. It was said on the Iraq War Logs that there were 300 names going to be in them by the Department of Defense. When they were actually published, of course, the whole things were published redacted and safe.”
Ball lie number 4: That WikiLeaks funds and fundraising were used for Julian’s defense
“This is a deliberately false statement by James Ball. Alex Gibney does not challenge Ball on it. The facts are easy to find. The Julian Assange and Wikileaks Staff Legal Defense Fund (JADF) and the various means by which Wikileaks receives donations for its running costs are kept separate.
Donors to “Dinner for Freedom of Speech” were given a choice to donate to WikiLeaks or JADF, and this was made explicitly clear. The different donation bank details were clearly set out. There is no confusion for donors about where their money is going.
By pledging a donation on this day, no matter how large or small, you can help support Julian’s defence fund, and/or contribute to WikiLeaks.
This fundraising idea was organised in February 2011. James Ball’s internship had expired by mid-January 2011 and he had no involvement in this initiative at all.
The JADF is administered and audited by Derek Rothera & Co. The terms of the trust and trustees can be found here.” — WikiLeaks
Ball lie number 5: That WikiLeaks didn’t support Pfc. Manning
“This is a now-classic anti-WikiLeaks argument created by James Ball, an attempt to allege that the blame for Manning’s arrest lies with WikiLeaks and not with Adrian Lamo, the FBI informant who turned Manning in after telling him that he would protect him.
Ball’s allegation that WikiLeaks does not adequately support its sources conflicts with the account that Manning presented before the military court regarding his alleged contacts with WikiLeaks. In a plea statement, February 28, 2013, Manning said this:
After a period of time, I developed what I felt was a friendly relationship with Nathaniel [Manning’s designation for his contact at WikiLeaks]. Our mutual interest in information technology and politics made our conversations enjoyable. We engaged in conversation often. Sometimes as long as an hour or more. I often looked forward to my conversations with Nathaniel after work.” — WikiLeaks
This ties in to the audacious claim in Ball’s latest article that WikiLeaks “botched” the rescue of Edward Snowden by “stranding him” in Sheremetyevo Airport.
This is so ironic, as James Ball worked for The Guardian, one of the newspapers who had direct access to Snowden and who financially benefited from his leaks.
Unfortunately, The Guardian’s staff abandoned Edward Snowden in Hong Kong. Had WikiLeaks not stepped in, the end result of Snowden’s actions would have been life imprisonment (under unimaginable conditions, such as those meted out to Pfc. Manning), or death.
Nevermind the small fact that the U.S. cancelled Snowden’s passport, preventing him from being able to travel beyond Moscow.
In June 2013, it was not clear at all that Snowden would even live. Very few people expected him to make it as far as July. Let alone to be granted temporary asylum (and subsequently, according to Snowden, permanent residency).
The lengths WikiLeaks went to to make this possible are unimaginable to any other media organisation. They put their own staff on the line to accompany him across borders, help to negotiate his asylum, and spend months on end with him to ensure his physical and mental wellbeing.
When was the last time The Guardian did that? When was the last time BuzzFeed did it?
This is a clear cut case of professional envy. Ball seeks to piss on the achievements of WikiLeaks in saving Snowden precisely because those actions were so significant and historic.
Ball goes on to reference the single instance of Snowden and WikiLeaks ever having a cross word in public. Ball claims “In recent weeks, Snowden has publicly clashed with Assange…”
God forbid Ball quote what Snowden has actually said about WikiLeaks, from their 10th anniversary celebration this month –
Ball’s claims become more and more ridiculous, the further you get into the article:
“While the extent of WikiLeaks’ role in the Arab Spring remains a matter for debate, Assange was at the forefront of an information revelation. His attempts to regain the spotlight in the meantime have largely failed.” — James Ball
WikiLeaks is garnering up to 40,000 – 50,000 retweets per tweet. They have the entire world’s media as a captive audience. They are the most talked about news organisation in the world. Their releases are poured over by millions of people on a daily basis. Assange is invited to appear on the most significant and wide-reaching of media platforms.
This is what Ball deems failure?
And success is, what? Writing about sheep fetuses for BuzzFeed?
WikiLeaks has achieved stratospheric levels of impact, attention, growth, political and historical impact.
But this two-bit ex-intern from six years ago needs you to believe otherwise.
The genesis of this groundbreaking series was a moral obligation to highlight obvious discrepancies in the coordinated smears against Jacob Appelbaum (IOError). That smear campaign’s self-pronounced and ostensibly achieved aim was to permanently shut down his (anti-surveillance, anti-three-letter-agency) public speaking by casting him out from the very communities he has dedicated his life to supporting.
Implemented, that aim had very little to do with protecting actual rape victims but everything to do with manipulating (by asserting social control over) the speaking circuit which is the visible face of the privacy and infosec movements, as well as dominating the critical infrastructure and the corporate structure (at board level) of the Tor Project:
Series In Review
“The Weaponising of Social” series kicked off with the first long-form article with the guts to seriously analyse the allegations against Jacob Appelbaum. This hit a lot of nerves and got a lot of exposure, with word-of-mouth more than making up for the total lack of commercial platfom, promotion or marketing of the work.
While intended to be a 3-part series, it really turned out to be 4 parts:
Performing a rudimentary linguistic analysis of the statements of the alleged victims (which range between 81 and 703 words each), the article notes that “people who are not survivors of rape cannot competently impersonate survivors of rape” and explains precisely why that is:
the inordinate brevity and apparently manufactured linguistic conformity of the JacobAppelbaum.net claims;
the profound and highly unusual absence of victim impact in those statements; and
the obvious presence of editing by third parties, giving the effect of multiple ‘voices’ within a single piece, when the norm is to respectfully allow the words of survivors to stand on their own merit without editorial manipulation.
The smear website’s initial exposure, then non-transparent retraction, of the name of a woman unrelated to the claims, is highlighted.
The article mentioned Meredith L. Patterson, the founder of a think-tank called “Weaponising Social“. One of three self-appointed “eye-witnesses” that famously went to media with a story about an incident that was promptly debunked by the alleged “victim“ herself.
The piece raised a plethora of concerns surrounding the site copy and the plagierism allegations, and pledged that a deeper look into the responses and conduct of the Tor Project and media, as well as the WikiLeaks connection, would follow.
Part Two dives headfirst into what it really means to be a Person of Interest – which there is no doubt Jacob Appelbaum is, especially given the context of the FBI and DoJ (amongst other agencies) investigations into WikiLeaks.
It discusses Appelbaum’s 30c3 revelations of spyware emitting up to a kilowatt of hardware radiation (which we dubbed #spycancer on Twitter at the time) – literally microwaving targets – and tells of my own experiences of being directly stalked and persecuted by state intelligence contractors when trying to amplify Jacob’s findings.
The near uniform anti-WikiLeaks positions of Jacob’s public critics are exposed, in their own words – including those of Leigh Honeywell, Valerie Aurora, Meredith L. Patterson, Andrea Shephard and Alison Macrina, just to name a few.
The article proved that Isis Lovecruft had (presumably unsuccessfully) attempted to gain access to the back-end of WikiLeaks’ secure whistleblowing platform, a year prior to her allegation against Jacob, and according to her own timeline, one year after he allegedly assaulted her.
While the smear website was designed by supposed privacy activists dedicated to anonymity, the article identified numerous security compromises inherent in its design.
Finally, it cautions that the desecration of Jacob Appelbaum is being actively used to hurt others associated with him including but not limited to Edward Snowden, and demonstrates that known FBI informants like Adrian Lamo (responsible for the arrest of beloved whistleblower Chelsea Manning) and Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur (whose betrayals led to the arrest of Jeremy Hammond among other whistleblowers) have been cheerleading the ostracision of Appelbaum from the outset.
This much shorter piece was initially intended to cover just a single issue – that Jacob Appelbaum’s Wikipedia page was being constantly monitored and manipulated by an editor, Kenneth Freeman, who openly espoused Tor and EFF affiliations and touted a personal friendship with one of the accusers – Alison Macrina.
However, the rabbit hole got even deeper. It emerged that some of the vociferous anti-Appelbaum troll accounts which had been, on a daily basis, lambasting anyone who questioned the narrative of the smears are allegedly operated by some of the accusers themselves.
In the interim, their associates were leaking information to, of all people, the very journalists at The Daily Dot who had worked to redeem the reputation of FBI informant Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur (but abysmally failed – he remains almost universally reviled to this day).
Meanwhile, it was revealed that Jacob Appelbaum had been incensed by the discovery of CIA infiltration at the Tor Project.
The same CIA proven to have a track record of editing Wikipedia pages.
4. The Weaponising of Social Part 3: The Resurrection of Jacob Appelbaum
This monolithic undertaking will dive deeper into some of the above issues and cover those aspects yet to be discussed – namely:
The attitudes of those involved in the smears, in their own words, and further details of the extent of their involvement
The professional conduct of the Tor Project management and the web of associated relationships
The role of mainstream media, particularly the New York Times
The wider political environment and effects on the movements
The Worm Turns? Die Zeit Investigate
In a long-awaited move, Jacob Appelbaum has spoken with the German weekly magazine Die Zeit, who performed an in-depth investigation into the allegations against him.
The results – a depiction of that particular corner of the Berlin hacker scene as being drug-fuelled and sexually promiscuous – aren’t particularly flattering to anyone, but the findings with regards to the lack of veracity of the key allegations are utterly damning.
Speaking to eight eye-witnesses who spent the days in question with River and who vehemently deny that any sexual assault took place, many further details emerge, including some hard evidence that things may not be as she initially depicted. Particularly pertinent is that River had sent Jacob affectionate email communication after the fact, and spoke publically of wanting to return to Germany for more ‘fun’.
Furthermore, it is revealed that Alison Macrina – author of the 369-word “non-consensual washing” complaint posted under the pseudonym ‘Sam’ – is alleged to have had consensual sex with Jacob after his bath, a material factor that she did not reveal in her complaint against him, or apparently since.
When questioned about this by Zeit, she became incensed, and suggested that she did not consider her alleged omission of the consensual sex to be relevant.
The encounter between Jacob and Alison is said to have occurred in the days following what is alleged to be a consensual threesome with River that occured privately in a bedroom, rather than non-consensual sex in the lounge as had been claimed. This raises the possibility that the complainants becoming aware of the close timing of each other’s sexual encounters with Jacob may have retrospectively impacted the way they viewed, portrayed and related their interactions with him.
Taking Down An NSA Target
Regardless of the women’s motives, the net effect of their action has been the utter desecration of Jacob Appelbaum’s public image.
Appelbaum’s Tor Directory Authority had been specifically listed as an XKeyscore target in leaked NSA documents.
Jacob’s work with the documents furthered his interest and involvement in trying to curb the excesses of intelligence agencies engaging in surveillance.
There is a long, long list of reasons why the National Security State and its international counterparts are extremely pissed at him.
In the below video of an event at which he appeared with WikiLeaks’ Investigations Editor, Sarah Harrison (who is also the Acting Executive Director of the Courage Foundation) Jacob openly calls for direct action to be taken against US military bases, specifically the drone operation relay center at Rammstein, suggesting that activists should target its water supply:
Fastforward to this week and Alison Macrina tweeted:
According to Zeit and others before them, after Jacob Appelbaum’s expulsion from Tor their website listed Alison Macrina in his former position:
When I had questioned Macrina about this, she replied to me via Twitter that it was not true and stated that she does not work for the Tor Project. She then promptly blocked me before I could retweet her denial or screenshot it. Her tweet then disappeared from Twitter.
Why she stated that she does not work for Tor and may have deleted the tweet, is unclear. She is published on the Tor website, directly amplified through the official @TorProject Twitter account and additionally was named by Roger Dingledine in internal communications as someone that Tor staff should speak to with regards to the accusations against Jacob Appelbaum.
The association is beyond denial. So why would she attempt to distance herself from Tor? The only distinction that can logically be drawn is that as the founder of the Library Freedom Project, she may be in fact a Tor contractor/supplier of services rather than a salaried employee. Which, for someone so visible within the organisation, is splitting hairs.
Desecrating The Heroes Who Shared Their Platforms
Alison Macrina’s rise in exposure got a giant boost via the Library Freedom Project being amplified by Edward Snowden on Twitter in October 2015. On February 8th, 2016 she officially introduced herself to the Tor community by authoring a guest post on the Tor website.
Alison’s body language during the event was in stark contrast to the others present. Nervous laughter and fits of protracted too-loud and too-long giggling, combined with, at one point, her arms folded tightly across her chest. When it was her turn to speak, she spoke eloquently and confidently; when it was others speaking, she picked at loose strands of invisible fluff on her shoulder, kicked her crossed leg back and forth and leaned back in her seat.
At 54:35 in the video, when the person sitting next to her on the panel, David Mirza Ahmad, mentions Jacob Appelbaum by name, Alison Macrina does not even blink. There is no sign whatsoever of any recognition, discomfort, negative association, suppression of emotion or even the most subtle reaction to hearing Jacob’s name.
Despite the event occurring several months after she now alleges he had sexually assaulted her and some eight to ten weeks prior to her involvement in publishing the accusations against him.
In the wake of going public with her allegations, Macrina was directly pressuring WikiLeaks for comment.
By the end of July 2016, Appelbaum dispensed with, Macrina’s constant ribbing of and ire towards WikiLeaks, who were understandably reluctant to be drawn into the maelstrom, was being ratcheted up several notches:
Her above tweet – which was in defense of Edward Snowden – seemed ignorant of the fact that as a direct result of the campaign against Appelbaum, Snowden himself was being attacked by sock puppet accounts who were accusing him of being a rapist by association.
Some of the ensuing rhetoric got really, really nasty:
Unfortunately, it is not just sock puppet accounts attempting to take chunks out of Snowden.
After some discussion about ‘gatekeepers’ and leaking methodologies, this:
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.
Macrina’s participation in the desecration of the very people who helped her rise to prominence, extends to jumping on the bandwagon of any criticism against WikiLeaks whatsoever, whether or not it was subsequently proven to be founded.
New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci’s varying accusations of WikiLeaks having published (it didn’t) a dump of private information, have been thoroughly debunked:
Yet this has gone unacknowledged by Macrina and supporters, who lambast WikiLeaks at every opportunity.
Amazingly, WikiLeaks staunch support of organisations whose staff are actively undermining it, has continued unabated. When someone tried to deny that support exists, WikiLeaks made the salient point that in fact, every single page of their website promotes the use of Tor.
Unfortunately, these days WikiLeaks’ solidarity with these organisations seems to be a one-way street.
By August 2016, Alison’s original guest post on the Tor Project website had evolved into “Alison’s blog” – a dedicated space for her voice to be amplified by Tor, where she has now championed the release of official Tor internal policy documentation.
The passage they quote is from what I think of as the ‘second voice’ in River’s testimony… and we’ll look into how that may have come about soon.
A ‘Come To Jesus’ Moment
So how did Alison get from sitting on a stage with Julian Assange mid-March, not even registering or flinching at the mention of Jacob Appelbaum’s name, to claiming to be a sexual assault victim?
“I had my ‘come to Jesus’ moment months ago when I started hearing from victims.” – Alison Macrina, 6/6/2016
Herein lies a common thread in these stories.
What Alison is saying explains why she didn’t twitch a muscle at the mention of Appelbaum’s name on March 16. Because she didn’t realise she was a “victim” until later, when she heard complaints from other women.
River also says she didn’t realise she was a victim until she was told that her experiences were rape.
Isis Lovecruft says she had tried to convince herself she wasn’t a victim.
As explored in this series previously, Leigh Honeywell said she didn’t realise she was a victim until she took exception to Jacob Appelbaum’s support for Julian Assange.
So all four of the most significant claims of sexual assault, took years/months and group-think/collaboration in order to “realise” that they had been assaulted.
The strangeness doesn’t stop there. Isis’s blogpost revealing that she is the accuser ‘Forest’, simultaneously claims that she:
had spent “six months” collecting the stories of ‘victims’
didn’t initially tell the ‘victims’ who supposedly confided in her, that she was also a ‘victim’
didn’t intend to tell the Tor Project
planned to threaten Jake that they would tell the Tor Project “and other organisations”
told the Tor Project, but didn’t initially tell them she was a ‘victim’ either
After Jake caught wind of the intervention and, Isis alleges, threatened her, she presumably shelved the plan for an intervention. Her recounting of the so-called threats is really oblique at best, although later in her piece she subjectively lists a prospective legal count of blackmail.
In fact, she lists an entire slew of prospective legal counts against Jacob, with a final count of 35 years imprisonment as per her own calculations, all under the guise of answering why she wouldn’t pursue legal remedy. But the entire exercise just comes across as, ironically, a threat.
Especially given the sheer invention of counts such as “instructing a third-party to rape”, which do not reflect the published accusations at all.
Multi-party Edits, Manipulations and Manufactured Testimony
Researcher Janine Römer, who has been instrumental in documenting the unfolding saga, found evidence that seems to point to the presence of multiple editors making changes to the copy of the accusations published on the smear website.
The following is an excerpt of a conversation I had with her:
Janine: I noticed yesterday that the text of the entries on GitHub are coloured blue in odd places, and some have more blue text than others. Daniel’s has the least amount of blue from what I can tell. I can’t be sure about this but I suspect the blue text might be editing marks. The reason I think they’re editing marks is that places where I would expect the writer to put identifiable details (like Phoenix’s, where it describes the event), are areas where the text is blue. Same with the one that mentioned Jake’s fiancee. Actually in the one with “Jake’s fiancee,” it’s the opposite. Surrounded by blue text but then black text is inside the quotations. Either way I don’t know why the text is different colors.
Suzie: Typed/edited by multiple people?
Janine: Yes, this could support that.
Suzie: Fits with everything else I’m finding. Is there any way to show that that break in [River’s] rape testimony was typed by another person? If I’m right and it was an interjection – it says a LOT about the psychological profile of the person who did the interjecting and particularly in the powerplays of their relationship to that victim.
Janine: I’m not sure [of] it, they are images and I don’t know if the metadata would show that.
Given the obvious contentiousness of non-survivors editing or interjecting their own voice into alleged rape testimony, it is past time for the administrators of the site to come clean as to whether this indeed did happen, and to what extent.
Janine also brought to my attention the following tweet by one of the authors of the Die Zeit article:
Janine says of the above tweet:
“It sums up my thoughts on it. People who use GitHub do so for transparency reasons – open-source code, open-source writing. But the way they did it was not transparent, as they tried very hard to erase evidence of mistakes by deleting repositories.” – Janine Römer
“The GitHub copies of the entries are PNG images. Initially, all the entries were marked with the same date of December 31st, 2015; since then, newer entries have not only been given different dates but the dates on earlier entries were changed (you can [compare them in the archives](https://archive.is/https://github.com/ioerrror/jacobappelbaum.net*)). It is unclear what the date signifies.” – Janine Römer
According to Die Zeit, at least one of the ‘victim’ testimonies was manufactured on their behalf without their permission:
That the creators of the site saw fit to outright concoct a testimony on the basis of hearsay and rumour, then to publish it without the consent of the so-called ‘victim’, jeopardises the integrity of all of the testimony that they published.
Of additional concern, is the 81-word testimony of ‘West’:
From the beginning, this account seemed anomalous. How could someone traumatised by an unwanted advance of a sexual nature only have 81 words to say about it? The reference to being ‘very wary of communicable disease‘ reads as if the writer needed to create a reason why the subject would be so offended by a surprise kiss. The reference to ‘others present voiced their disapproval of the surprise advance, especially given my concerns about disease‘ begs the question – how did these others know of said concerns?
Is West an actual complainant, willingly participating in JacobAppelbaum.net? Or has this account been manufactured to, yet again without consent, represent the subject of the later-debunked claims of what Shepherd, Patterson and Tan said they saw at a hacker event?
Regardless, the fact that such a benign allegation was ever included alongside a claim of rape, speaks volumes about the intentions of the editors. Their focus on quantity of allegations over quality has only served to dillute and detract from the severity of the accounts of River and Isis.
Revisiting The Linguistics
In the first part of this series, I published screenshots of linguistic analyses of each of the allegations. All of the originally published testimonies including Sam and Forest’s, with the exception of Daniel and West, resolved to a reading level of 9th-10th grade.
Daniel and West’s pieces were written at ‘College Student’ reading level.
Curious about the anomaly, I analysed multiple samples of each of Alison Macrina, Isis Lovecruft and Meredith Patterson’s published writings on other blogs. All of the test samples produced a ‘College Student’ reading level.
So who wrote Daniel’s testimony? Did that same person then write West’s? If so, logically these accounts would be written by Meredith. Only she can confirm whether that is true. And why would the ‘Sam’ and ‘Forest’ testimonies on JacobAppelbaum.net be written at a 9th-10th grade reading level, when their writings on other sites are all ‘College Student’ level?
Apparently, if you want your information to have impact, good writing is all about knowing your readers:
According to the below statistics (from the website linked directly above), the average adult reads at a 9th grade reading level. The maximum “tolerable limit” is 11th grade.
It appears that the core testimonies on JacobAppelbaum.net were carefully constructed to have impact with a wide, common audience, and thus needed to be dumbed down in order to be approachable.
Yet the editors apparently felt that Daniel’s either couldn’t or shouldn’t be altered, which speaks to the power dynamics within the “collective”.
In short – the site copy was constructed to achieve maximum saturation.
Meredith, Victims of Jake & Weaponising Social
What first gave me the idea to analyse the linguistics of the allegations was the early discovery that Meredith L. Patterson is a linguistics graduate.
Her widely circulated Twitter commentary on the scandal, along with her track record of many years of labelling Appelbaum a plagiarist, and later a rapist; the prominence of the accusations of plagiarism on the JacobAppelbaum.net website; and the early reference of the @VictimsofJake account (then called @TimeToDieJake) to her deceased husband, Len Sassaman, led to a logical conclusion that she may have a deeper significance in the campaign against him.
However, the @VictimsofJake tweet was not the only instance of Sassaman’s death being tied to Appelbaum by someone who dislikes him:
According to Janine Römer:
“The VoJ account was created on June 3rd and that’s when it first tweeted and it had relatively early knowledge of the website because it tweeted a link to an early version that wasn’t live anymore. That was also the day Steele published the first blog post…
…very few knew about the website before the 4th [of June], so anyone who did is significant.” – Janine Römer
Founder of the think-tank Weaponising Social, Meredith has, funnily enough, published a 3-part blog series about the saga. It is framed as a complex theoretical-cum-practical academic discussion about psychopathy and sociopaths.
There’s a pattern most observers of human interaction have noticed, common enough to have earned its own aphorism: “nice guys finish last.” Or, refactored, “bad actors are unusually good at winning.” – Meredith L Patterson
She soon launches into a mini-lecture about social engineering:
She sneers at the idea that federal agents might work to engineer a scenario like this, even though the Snowden revelations re JTRIG, and many other real-world examples have proven that is precisely what they are employed to do.
“As accounts of the sociopath’s misdeeds come out, the sociopath’s narrative has to become more and more convoluted in order to keep the fanboys believing. “They’re all feds!” he shrieks. “Every last one of them!” Uh-huh. Sure. Because the feds always assign multiple agents not only to target one guy who can’t even keep his dick in his pants, but to become his coworkers, don’t they? This is not exactly an inexpensive proposition. Reality check: if the feds had wanted to pull a honeytrap (which there’d be no reason to do, given his mascot-only status at Tor), everything would have been a lot more cut-and-dried.” – Meredith Patterson
Funnily enough, the extrapolation of valid, precedented, founded fears of malicious interference by state agents into “They’re all feds… Every last one of them!” is something I have not seen suggested by any of Appelbaum’s supporters, but which is constantly touted by his detractors, in defense of themselves.
The obvious reality is that it wouldn’t have to be “all”. That is simply a smokescreen. It would only have to be one.
One who for example, dressed the “collective” action up as a good cause (defending victims! Holding a serial rapist to account!) to convince a couple of others close to them that they had been wronged and should participate. Who then collectively convinced increasing numbers of people that they should side with the ’cause’, for everyone’s benefit. While, funnily enough, the end result is to almost everyone’s detriment. Except the engineer/s of the plot and their small handful of key beneficiaries.
Patterson is right however that HUMINT infiltration of activist’s lives is not an inexpensive undertaking. That is why, literally, billions of dollars are assigned to funding U.S. Counterinsurgency strategy, which has been proven to be at play against activists and is predicated upon a theory that the target’s ideology, places of refuge or sanctuary, and resources must be relentlessly attacked and ultimately denied them.
Precisely as has happened to Jacob Appelbaum.
The sanctity of his home, his established reputation, his community affiliations and organisations, his employment and income, his reputation and even his ideology, stripped from him.
“The rockstar activist plays on non-rockstars’ fears of organized state opposition to their activism, and convinces non-rockstars that any challenge to the rockstar’s status is evidence of an organized plot against the activist group.”
It defies logic that Meredith isn’t well aware of how The Empire operates. She quotes military theory in her own blogposts:
Especially in the context of her think-tank, Weaponising Social, her last sentence is really worth quoting again, as it is just so fitting to this entire situation.
“Push hard enough from enough directions, and possibly the victim even becomes overwhelmed and stops functioning – a distributed denial of service.” – Meredith Patterson
The first Twitter accounts to tweet out the ‘early version’ of the website were:
On 15 June 2016 @VictimsOfJake intimated that Wired magazine would be interviewing River.
No such interview eventuated. Wired‘s June 6th article appears to be their only published piece on the scandal.
However, the suggestion that River will be coming forward to the press reinforces information provided to me by various sources. Though the subject of that information also seems to take issue with the @VictimsofJake account.
One person suggested that @VictimsofJake is EFF Director and journalist Jillian C. York, although based on other evidence, it is unlikely to be the case.
Distancing Themselves From Themselves
On August 9th, two months after the fact, Meredith finally covered off the topic everyone had been wondering about, for so long: why she hadn’t apologised for coming forward as an ‘eye-witness’ to an alleged incident that turned out to be a misrepresentation of yet another (non)victim:
As for Andrea Shepherd, this is the closest to an (non)apology that I’ve been able to find: [note: if something more substantial exists elsewhere, I’ll happily include it here]
The full-time anti-ioerror troll account @VoodooHacks seems to think Shepherd was the instigator of the scandal:
In Meredith’s posts, she ostensibly admits to being an organiser of the events, chides accuser Leigh Honeywell and alludes to Andrea Shepherd being a survivor of rape:
“Honeywell conveniently neglects to mention that this solution has its own critical failure mode: what happens to members of marginalized groups whom the existing affinity group considers unpersons? I can tell you, since it happened here: we had to organize on our own. Honeywell’s report came as a surprise to both me and Tor developer Andrea Shepard, because we weren’t part of that whisper network. Nor would we expect to be, given how Honeywell threw Andrea under the bus when Andrea tried to reach out to her for support in the past.” – Meredith Patterson
This seems to be reinforced by the @VictimsofJake account:
[UPDATE: further information has shed light on Meredith’s comment – she was apparently not intimating that Andrea had complained of rape to Honeywell, but of harrassment re the Pando crowd]
Clearly there is no love lost between the organisers of the campaign.
“the opportunity to gloat over seeing one’s prey stumble is too difficult to resist.” – Meredith Patterson
It is a shame Shepherd, Tan and Patterson didn’t take Meredith’s own advice and just frankly and immediately publically apologise for what they did to Jill, who was needlessly dragged into this highly public mess through no fault of her own.
“An honest person will try to find out how to make it right, while a bad actor will try to make it all about them.” – Meredith Patterson
When Friends and Enemies Say The Same Thing
An anonymous Tor developer posted a text file to the internet which made a number of significant claims about who is behind the JacobAppelbaum.net site and what their involvement is.
@VictimsOfJake promptly responded in a similar format.
Meanwhile, one of Alison Macrina’s friends was inadvertently corroborating some of the claims of the anonymous Tor developer and dropping Macrina in the proverbial by bragging about the extent of her involvement, on Jacob Appelbaum’s Wikipedia Talk page.
He then recanted “for legal reasons”.
A puzzling element regarding Macrina’s involvement, is why her ‘Sam’ story was not published when the site went live. It was in fact at that time, merely a placeholder.
Looking back at her Twitter timeline, she spent the night of the release of the allegations “excited to see the morning sunlight“. Her next tweet was a retweet of the Stanford rape survivor’s statement – seemingly a deliberate attempt to prep her audience for what would come. However, as discussed in Part One of this series, at 7,200+ words chock-full of victim impact, that statement bears absolutely no resemblence whatsoever to the so-called testimonies subsequently posted on the smear website JacobAppelbaum.net:
So Macrina went from not realising she was a victim and not being one of the original statements posted, to being the first to ‘out’ herself as a victim publically, to being ‘OK’ with her face being plastered onto her alleged attacker’s Wikipedia page.
Branding The Take-Down
There was a clear agenda to brand Macrina as “the face of victims” – despite the fact that she had not been raped.
The attempt to have a non-survivor become a self-styled representative for the survivors of violent rapes is reprehensible.
But there is no doubt that the scandal was yet again raising Macrina’s profile.
When being called out by Shava Nerad, ironically the original Executive Director of the Tor Project, for decrying “rock stars” while quite obviously becoming one, none other than Macrina’s Wikipedia-editor friend jumps to her defense:
Becoming The Police
The unfortunate Tor employees and advocates who had nothing to do with either those being smeared or those doing the smearing, were inevitably feeling the strain.
As were the wider activist community. What was done to Appelbaum had a catastrophic effect on personal relationships between long-time colleagues and friends, and fractured solidarity between organisations and subgroups.
“We’ve seen peak Berlin“, a core member who had been around for more than a decade told me.
Anyone who had visibly worked closely with Appelbaum and didn’t choose to instantly abandon him became collateral damage and subject to attacks and rumourmongering.
Even if their choice was based on knowledge that what was being said about him didn’t add up.
Tor allowing months to go by with accusations of rape hovering over the heads of unnamed persons known only as “Jake’s friends” was a callous and effective smear on everyone that knew him. Their constant refusal to this day to elaborate on precisely what those friends are supposedly guilty of or alleged to have done, on what basis two of them have now been fired, and the masking of their identities, is a brush that has tarred scores of people.
Meanwhile, the over-saturation of the story, which was being rehashed by anti-ioerror sockpuppet accounts on a daily basis, who were acting as a thought police by asked leading, open-ended questions of anyone who even mentioned him on Twitter, began to wear thin.
The controversy became more than an attack on Appelbaum – it became an existential threat to the Tor Project itself:
The narrative of the so-called ‘victims collective’ was ‘codes of conduct’ and ‘(un)acceptable behaviours’ and ‘safe spaces policy’ – social contracts that have ironically been used to rip activists groups apart for decades.
The introduction of safer spaces policy at Occupy had been the turning point that marked the rise of the movement becoming the demise of the movement. As soon as your personnel and resources are spent writing social contracts that then require enforcement, your focus is no longer external but internal.
Because when you start making laws, then someone has to become the police.
And having police around doesn’t make anyone feel any safer.
The message has been very clear: if you are with the newly ruling clique, they have your back. If you question them, the bees are coming.
In this instance, the institution of safer spaces policy and codes of conduct is a reinforcement of the rule of those who have formed a new executive governance.
That the policies are being instituted by the same people who have wreaked havoc upon the community, is a signal: if you don’t bow down, then as Meredith says, either jump or be pushed.
[Note: the social contract promoted by Macrina above is not the new code of conduct and community guidelines which is supposedly, to follow.]
Selective Solidarity and Dirt Digging
Little of the conduct evinced in this article by Tor’s new police force aligns with the creation of inclusive, safe spaces.
While perceived adversaries are mocked and mobbed instead of embraced and reconciled, the hostility culture is only going to get worse.
Likewise as ideological disagreements become highly personalised.
Throughout this series I had people come foward to me with information. I also uncovered a ton of it myself. This included veritable mountains of info about people’s intimate and sexual relationships. Some of the evidence I found blatantly contradicted other public claims they have made about them. I have decided not to publish any of it, because, as Shepherd once said of Pando:
In defense of her misrepresentations about the AKP emails “dump”, Zynep Tufekci sent me a link to a New York Times piece that was supposed to reinforce her claims. Being me, I clicked on the source links and found myself at Gawker and Gizmodo, reading about Julian Assange’s children, and his ten-year-old love letters.
Any credibility the article had went straight out the window.
The state agencies come at you through your romantic relationships, whether it be past, present or future; through your children, through your family, through your work, through your identity. That is the methodology of the unscrupulous; the immoral. Of scoundrels.
It is clear without any doubt that all personal grievances aside, the ultimate target is WikiLeaks and the aggravating factor is that the U.S. Presidential election is now a matter of mere weeks away.
The corporate media are speaking in unison against Trump and for the election of Clinton. You can find a half dozen articles decrying the former and another half dozen promoting the latter on any of the vast majority of big name American media websites.
It is not a coincidence.
Even though, to (very loosely) borrow from Sebastian Mondial, the candidates are two socks on the feet of the same person.
As this series progressed, the uniformly anti-WikiLeaks positions of Appelbaum’s accusers and their supporters became increasingly evident. Which neatly lined up with larger governmental objectives of bringing down the entire WikiLeaks publishing organisation rather than just some individuals associated with it.
But just as with the very protracted desecration of Julian Assange’s reputation, despite all the furore and spectacle the public dismemberment of Jacob Appelbaum did not stop WikiLeaks publishing, nor has it visibly hindered their work.
In the wake of the #DNCLeak, arguably WikiLeaks most successful release to date, it has become clear that yes, WikiLeaks remains the meta target, and more – that the catastrophic divisions created within the privacy and infosec community in the wake of the Appelbaum smears are falling squarely along ideological political lines.
The Circus In Full Swing
Election year madness has kicked in full-throttle, exposing the true colours of organisations and individuals alike and throwing a bunch of unlikely bedfellows together.
Wholly embracing the stage-managed divide-and-conquer dichotomy of (in Assange’s words) “Cholera versus Gonorrhea“, countless major players have thrown their full weight behind their preferred candidate.
The military industrial complex has stamped their seal of approval on Hillary Clinton. They fully intend her to be the next President of the United States of America.
So have the major New York magazines and newspapers – in particular, the New York Times, and more broadly, the vast majority of the media networks and the monopolies that own them.
In the case of the New York Times – denouncing WikiLeaks is not only ideological but a desperate attempt to distance themselves from any perceived culpability for having partnered with them, co-publishing their leaks, in the past.
It is the mass media equivalent of obtaining immunity by publically testifying against your co-accused. A corporate’s version of “turning state witness” – before the trial, in the court of public opinion.
The same New York Times that told America in 2002 that Iraq had WMD’s, has published at least three hit pieces on WikiLeaks this month alone, and incredibly, yet somehow fittingly, became the “exclusive” publication of choice for the Tor Project’s “independent investigation” findings.
The ties between the Tor Project and the New York Times run deep. It is well known, and was publically celebrated by those close to the individual involved, that an ex Tor Project employee took up a significant position at the NYT.
Nicole Perlroth, the author involved failed to answer as to how or why they had gained access to the ‘exclusive’ from the Tor Project, and the Tor Project refused to answer to why the findings of a rape investigation was an ‘exclusive’ at all.
Perlroth has a history of propagating anti-WikiLeaks sentiment in the paper.
In her June 4th statement, published the same day that JacobAppelbaum.net began widespread public circulation, Shari Steele wrote:
“We expect that this will be our only public statement.” – Shari Steele, Executive Director of The Tor Project
Less than two months later, Steele is exclusively interviewed by the New York Times. What happened in between, to prompt such a radical change in strategy?
Tor’s choice of mass-media outlet was almost as strange as the packaging of rape-investigation findings as an “exclusive” at all. Not to mention that, without any apparent request for retraction or correction by the Tor Project, the New York Times had recently reported that the Tor Project’s board “was pushed out“:
…a claim that directly contradicted Executive Director Shari Steele’s statement that the board had “elected” their replacements in “a bold and selfless decision” to effectively resign en masse.
For such a claim to go unchallenged, and answered by the granting of an “exclusive”, reads as if the messaging of what had really occurred was being tacitly approved if not outright pushed through the NYT, from behind closed doors at Tor.
Selecting The New Board Members
Ideological alignment with the actions of Shari Steele and “the company” regarding Appelbaum’s exit, and/or those behind the JacobAppelbaum.net site, may have been an assumptive prerequisite of qualification for placement on the new Tor Project board.
Coleman begins with praise for the aforementioned:
20 days later, she was officially announced as a member of the new board.
Also announced as a new board member, was Associate Professor Matt Blaze:
Shari Steele’s NYT Exclusive
It is in the wake of this appointment of the new board that Shari Steele was ‘exclusively’ interviewed by the New York Times, over the outcome of the Tor Project investigation into the rape claims.
The crux of the exclusive interview with Steele isn’t even mentioned until the 15th of the 18 paragraphs in the article.
The two sparse quotes from Shari appear at the very bottom and comprise less than 10% of the total word count.
Why did the New York Times feel the need to minimise their exclusive access?
They state that their interview with Steele was undertaken “late Tuesday” – that is the day before the Tor Project announced the findings of the investigation. So there is no doubt that they indeed had exclusive access regarding the outcome. Gizmodo had knowledge of the exclusivity of the interview at least several days beforehand. Yet that fact is as downplayed as the verbiage of the original allegations.
The Tor Project, a nonprofit digital privacy group, announced on Wednesday that an internal investigation had confirmed allegations of sexual misconduct…
The article references the official Tor Project statement that accompanied the so-called release of the findings.
“Many people inside and outside the Tor Project have reported incidents of being humiliated, intimidated, bullied and frightened by Jacob, and several experienced unwanted sexually aggressive behavior from him.”
“Sexually aggressive behaviour.”
Not sexual assault. Not rapes. Not gang rape. Not serial rape. Not instructing others to rape. Not violence, or sexual violence. Not stupefication. Or any of the other claims plastered all over social media and elsewhere, by his accusers and others.
Instead, as a result of their supposedly thorough, independent investigation, the claims have been dramatically downgraded.
I anticipate that Tor’s defenders will say that this is just the organisation trying not to get sued. Trying to limit its liability. That the statement is the result of professional advice. That they are not law enforcement and cannot label something a crime that hasn’t been tested in court by a judge and/or jury.
Which would run completely contrary to the lauding of Tor by those same defenders as having taken a strong stand for women, in support of the community and against rape and sexual assault.
As being ‘feminist’ superheroes, working for Gaia.
What is far more likely, is that the promised “dozens of victims” never manifested.
[UPDATE: the majority of the existing allegations relate to inappropriate workplace behaviour. However, with the exception of one joke at the Valencia conference where the complainant was not the person the joke was directed at, all other complaints of ‘professional misconduct’ did not occur at a place of work. There was in fact, no workplace. Jacob has been in exile for three years. There were no official Tor rules against, and indeed there was a culture of, social fraternising at pubs/clubs/private homes.)
The H.R. Leaks
On the liability front – Tor’s prior statements and conduct regarding this debacle have been highly questionable. Tor management have allowed multiple staff members to remain employed while visibly running an ongoing online smear campaign against another employee. There is evidence senior management knew about it in advance. They have tacitly endorsed, by their silence regarding it, the leaking of private human resources documents and other information from within the organisation. Leaks that were prejudicial and likely to be in the personal interest of those anonymously making the disclosures in order to support their own claims and to shore up the position of the organisation, rather than in the public interest.
Tor’s initial statement was, in the words of Roger Dingledine, “stripped down” and “bland“. It was in fact 24 words.
It is actually highly unusual for cases, even involving large numbers of victims, to get immediate attention in mainstream press.
Bill Cosby has constantly been brought up by Appelbaum’s detractors, but what they fail to note is that Cosby’s victims, all of whom had been raped or sexually assaulted, had to organise and fight for decades in order to be heard.
Likewise with those behind the Child Sex Inquiry in Britain, which has also spanned decades and still not yet achieved any laudable outcome.
While ignoring demonstrable, provable cases of rape, those who seek to champion rape survivors in name only have a tendency to apply their sympathies only where it suits them.
Worse – there is a clear pattern of partisanship evidenced by key voices in other major outlets which were specifically established to provide a critical counter-narrative to the duopoly of the status quo. Partisanship to me does not mean expressing political views – by all means, journalists should have and express political views. But when their articles are running the same lines as the New York Times on a regular basis – and ignoring material facts while quoting New York Times writers – chances are, they should still be at the New York Times.
Slowly but surely, once-radical organisations which many risked their lives to establish, grow and promote, are being co-opted into reinforcing the reality TV sideshow of the election cycle.
Those who are naturally disgusted by both the obviously corrupt and dangerous Hillary Clinton and the painfully inept and equally dangerous Donald Trump are being browbeaten into supporting Clinton regardless, constantly bludgeoned by the manufactured ‘threat’ of Trump being elected.
They are told that third-party ‘protest’ votes either don’t matter, or worse. As if third-party options that have incrementally increased their vote share, maturing and ultimately rising to prominence around the world (and ultimately even winning elections) did do so by no one voting for them.
The obviousness that in order for there to be a viable third party, people have to vote for them, seems to escape these hawks, who are so obsessed by chasing their next funding round that they end up undermining their own founding objectives and principles, to the detriment of us all.
In their quest to ‘play the game’ and thus secure their own fiscal future – nothing guarantees a favoured status like promoting amongst their own ranks and supporters, hatred of and disdain for Clinton’s number one enemy: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
CIA Employee Hired By Tor Project
As has been proven, Tor/EFF and associated organisations are now being dominated by WikiLeaks detractors. But even more menacing, is the revelation of a CIA employee literally leaving the agency one day and starting work for Tor the very next day.
His inclusion took employees by surprise, and none were more visibly incensed about it than Jacob Appelbaum.
Funnily enough, when the ‘State of the Onion’ address at HopeX rolled around this year – an update on Tor Project recent happenings that Appelbaum traditionally gives – the schedule contained absolutely no mention of the elephant in the room:
The widely-perused leaked chat log of Appelbaum and others confronting the recently ex-CIA employee about his presence in Tor speaks volumes about the internal culture, and the voraciousness of Appelbaum’s understandable opposition to the hiring.
In short, the employee says he left the CIA because he loves Tor so much. You be the judge.
Jake’s concerns about Tor funding had predated the ex-CIA employee incident by some time:
While the target of widespread criticism for being effectively paid by the same government that he so often railed against, it is clear that Jacob himself was deeply concerned about Tor’s funding ties and the extent to which that effected decisions made by the organisation.
[Note: Several people – none of which are Jacob – have come forward to me privately raising concerns not just about the above issues but also about other activities that Tor has been “spending money on” – including but not limited to enhanced metrics for measuring user activity and location around specific ‘events’. That project has been funded “in part by the National Science Foundation”, and as other specific project funders (“sponsors”) are marked only by pseudonymous letters, it is an entire kettle of fish in and of itself that will need people with more technical expertise than I to examine further.]
WikiLeaks and The Iraq War
Indeed, the derision Jacob has faced has not only been due to the sexual assault/rape allegations, or the funding sources of his former employer.
Rather than ask the obvious questions surrounding the revelations of the ex-CIA employee ostensibly leaving an intelligence agency one day to arrive amongst the ranks of Tor developers the next, the topic of conversation over the leaked log astonishingly instead focused on other comments made by Jacob in the log.
Particularly, where he referenced his volunteer work with WikiLeaks.
His reference to WikiLeaks having helped to scale down military conlict in Iraq were personified to him.
The ridicule expounded upon Jacob’s comment: “later with WikiLeaks, I did help end the Iraq War.” This was regurgitated by @ErrataRob, to great hilarity, that Appelbaum was claiming to have “single-handedly ended the war in Iraq“.
However, in the eagerness to poke fun at Appelbaum and at WikiLeaks, the facts of the matter fell by the wayside. As Glenn Greenwald had reported for Salon – WikiLeaks indeed did have a hand in events that ultimately led to decisions by the Iraqi government that led to the down-scaling of the conflict.
“..negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks’ release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported.” – Glenn Greenwald
[UPDATE: as per WikiLeaks statement at the time, which ratifies the above: “It was WikiLeaks’ revelations – not the actions of President Obama – that forced the U.S. administration out of the Iraq War. By exposing the killing of Iraqi children, WikiLeaks directly motivated the Iraqi government to strip the U.S. military of legal immunity, which in turn forced the U.S. withdrawal.”]
The above accusation that Appelbaum doesn’t back up his assertions is eerily similar to the denials by FBI informant Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur that Appelbaum was of interest to the FBI.
In the above thread, @ErrataRob demands logs of Appelbaum’s references to Monsegur having attempted to entrap him on behalf of the FBI.
Ironically, Sabu also asks for logs. The reason it is ironic, is because it has been widely reported that the FBI monitored all of Sabu’s interactions 24/7, throughout the time that he was entrapping and informing on activists and journalists, including myself. So the simple answer is – while we might not have the logs – the FBI sure do. But funnily enough, they aren’t forthcoming with information, as poignantly demonstrated by the FBI General Counsel’s replies to Jacob Appelbaum’s questioning of her, in the below video:
National Security Letters were served on providers requesting the personal data of Jacob Appelbaum and gagging them, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in October 2011. Well in advance of Sabu’s informing rampage which stretched at least throughout most of 2012, and well into 2013. Yet Sabu continues to maintain that Appelbaum is not an FBI target.
Mustafa Al-Bassam promptly replied with the obvious:
@ErrataRob has a long history of trying to debuff Appelbaum, only to be shot down with publically available information.
It is now being reported by Violet Blue that Jacob Appelbaum has been listed as “an official Charlatan”:
Branding Appelbaum a charlatan is an eerie throwback to years of FBI informant Monsegur slinging about the exact same term. Searching @hxmonsegur & ‘charlatan’ yields 19 results.
Now that using the term ‘serial rapist’ is clearly off the cards, maybe subjective terms like ‘charlatan’ are all his detractors have left.
The long list of people the FBI informant has referred to as a “charlatan” is quite impressive.
Fastforward to this week, and the ‘rapist’ smear of Jacob Appelbaum is being downgraded to ‘sexual aggressor’.
This is probably indicative of the trajectory of opinion for the vast majority of the crowds that got on the anti-Appelbaum bandwagon early, only to belatedly discover that things are not at all as they seemed.
The Voice Of Reason
There were several voices of sanity, however. Even in the heat of the campaign, Courage beneficiary, whistleblower and hacker Lauri Love made it clear the issue was not the simple black or white dichotomy that Appelbaum’s accusers had been determined to force people into.
The ‘you’re either with us or against us’ attitude espoused by @VictimsofJake, openly wielded against anyone who didn’t immediately side with the mob from the outset, is immature, hypocritical and counter-productive.
At 01:09:51 in the first video embedded in this article featuring Sarah Harrison and Jacob Appelbaum, Jacob makes a fascinating offhand comment:
“I know that I’ve behaved completely differently knowing that there’s probably sex tapes being made in my – not just by me! – not to imply what I think I just implied but, you get the point…” – Jacob Appelbaum
This corroborates my earlier suspicion that Jacob knew full well that his home was under constant surveillance and that that surveillance may extend to the interior of his home and not just the exterior.
Common conventional methods of forming romantic partnerships that the general public takes for granted, become simply out of the question. Dating apps, cruising bars, hooking up with strangers for one-night stands, or engaging in liaisons outside of your trusted peer group can present not just a reputational risk but even a mortal one. Many of us, as a necessary measure of self-protection, are forced into prolonged periods of abstinence purely for survival.
When meeting new people doesn’t gel with your threat model, there is no other choice but to seek comfort amongst those in your existing community. Thus, the answer as to why Jacob engaged in such ‘risky’ behaviour is likely that amongst his close friends – those he perceived as facing many of the same challenges as him – was the sole environment in which he could express his sexuality.
A lesson hard learned.
In that same video, Appelbaum comments:
“You can’t really blow the whistle these days without blowing up your own life; on really serious issues, with large state adversaries.” – Jacob Appelbaum
The massive powers that Jake Appelbaum took on, have taken the spotlight off themselves, by making a spectacle of him.
Just as they did with Julian Assange.
The Missing Dozens
FBI informant Sabu’s publication of choice The Daily Dot, claimed a female source told them there were “easily a dozen” victims of Appelbaum.
For the record, the Daily Dot has spoken to a dozen sources alleging misconduct. We have spoken to four people who have relayed personal stories of harassment and sexual assault. Some of these women have described themselves as members of an underground “victim network” that now consists of more than a dozen individuals. We understand some are discussing revealing their names and stories soon.
In Isis Lovecruft’s follow-up blogpost, she writes:
“…additional reports of extremely severe sexual assaults and rape are pouring in to The Tor Project.”
In the findings of the Tor Project’s rape investigation there is only mention of two other cases. It is not stated whether these two cases are ‘Briar’ and ‘Alice’.
“It should not be required that a dozen people are harmed before any one of them is taken seriously.”
However, if we take into account the information in this series, and in the Die Zeit article, it changes that picture dramatically.
Nature of Complaint
Public / Anonymous
Allegedly omitted mention of consensual sex following the bath. Claim relates to same timeframe as River
Eye-witnesses claimed to Die Zeit: multiple consensual events over a three day period have been muddled into one misrepresentative non-consensual claim and that no rape actually occurred.
(Isis Agora Lovecruft)
Organised victim statements/reported to Tor Project but didn’t disclose that she was also a victim. Later claimed victim status
Potentially written by one of the creators of the website or its administrators
Extremely brief account that does not detail any specifics
May have been invented by one of the creators of the website/administrators
Professional improprieties including propositioning. Has been ratified by several prominent eye-witnesses.
Claims was targeted after entertaining notion of snitch-jacketing Appelbaum
‘Alice’ says her account was manufactured/ published without her knowledge or consent
It is unknown at this time why this ‘placeholder’ account never eventuated
during BDSM consensual sex (particulars of claimed non-consensual activity unstated)
Historical claim. Says that years after the fact, Appelbaum’s support for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange made her realise she had been violated
Self-described “eye-witnesses” wrongly claimed that Jill was a “victim”
(came forward by necessity)
The “victim” herself says she was not a “victim” and was alarmed to find that she was being misrepresented as one
In the above table:
ORANGE: Accounts that may have been misrepresented, manipulated or invented by smear organisers. (Not reflected: a ‘second’ voice may also have been inserted into middle of River’s testimony)
GREY: Claims that do not involve physical contact of any description but outline personal or professional grievances
BLUE: Complaints that don’t actually describe what happened in detail or are highly unlikely to be pursuable by law – i.e. being kissed in a bar
RED: Claims which are contested by eye-witnesses or by the ‘victim’ themselves
YELLOW: The sole remaining testimony which details a crime
Not listed above:
Accounts by others who say they were pressured into claiming ‘victim’ status
Some other historical accounts by third parties related to unprofessional or unkind speech – such as has already been admitted to by Appelbaum in the Die Zeit article and prior to that, in his original press statement
Taking the findings in the table into account, using the same colour code and looking objectively at what remains, this is what the “serial rapist” / “dozens of victims” claims now look like:
Isis a.k.a. ‘Forest’, who admits to spending “six months” collecting the stories of “victims”, and who didn’t reveal her own allegations to the others or to the Tor Project until after the fact, is the only one left.
Only two people know for sure whether her allegations are true.
Jake and Isis.
The Macrina Logs
Multiple sources have provided me with chat logs featuring Alison Macrina. Some I have been able to verify the authenticity of, some I have not.
There is evidence of a concerted effort not just to air the grievances of alleged rape victims, or to warn others away from having anything to do with Appelbaum, but of a conspiracy to act against him in unison with the very specific objective of damaging his career beyond repair.
Furthermore, there is evidence of pressure being applied both to people whose testimonies appear on the smear website and some who don’t, to denounce Appelbaum or to come forward publically to shore up support for the others involved.
At this time, in the interests of source protection I am withholding the full logs. It is possible that they will be released at a future date.
[UPDATE: this heartbreaking open letter by @shiromarieke cannot be ignored. It catalogues the toxic culture remaining at Tor, the failures of management, the lies and selectivity of those who created the smear campaign and the extremely disappointing end results.]
[UPDATE:posted on the same day as the above, but from half a world away, yet another Tor supporter (one who was the subject of a police raid for running a Tor exit node) has pulled his support from the project, citing gross professional misconduct on the part of Tor management.]
Yes It Is All About Us – They Make Damn Sure Of That
For Persons of Interest, it is made to be all about us because the government is desperately afraid of it being all about them.
Their illegality, their wrongdoing. Which is perpetrated on a massive scale.
So they invest ridiculous amounts of resources into creating a file that is quite literally all about us.
They undertake investigations which are internally framed as being all about us.
They plant agents and concoct situations which are all about us.
They attack us by every possible vector because to them, their very survival requires that it be all about us.
The reason for this is because having shone a spotlight on the powers that be is usually how Persons of Interest are selected in the first place.
Then, once they’ve turned our lives upside down and made a huge spectacle of us, they say “oh – so it’s all about you! You’re a narcissist!”
They called Julian Assange a narcissist, they called Edward Snowden a narcissist, now they call Jacob Appelbaum a narcissist.
In this, the post-Orwell age – where spy agencies are turned upon their own citizens just like the Stasi they used to decry, and drone murderers kill teenagers and babies and then win the Nobel Prize: to be called a narcissist by these people who are the ultimate narcissists – those who kill with impunity and lie about it with no remorse – to be told with scorn and derision in a mocking and accusatory tone that it is “all about you” – is a badge of merit and a profound honour.
In the backwards Orwellian nightmare we live in, exercising common sense or stating things as they quite plainly are and thus expressing views that oppose the monied and complicit status quo, is deemed a ‘radical’ and untenable position.
Radical because too few have the proverbial balls to openly speak their mind or own the full extent of their true opinions in public, making those of us who do a rarity.
Untenable because doing so makes you a target for relentless persecution or worse; a deterrent which is highly effective against those who treasure their public perception or persona, possessions, property, prosperity or (perceived) privacy above the need to appease their conscience by calling a spade a spade, honouring their humanity and openly advocating for the sociopolitical evolution we so desperately need.
It was only a few years ago that millions of people were emboldened to speak up and demand radical (read: common sense) change. The relative speed with which they were largely subdued and corralled back into the political mainstream is frankly shocking and testament to the lethal efficiency of the systems of social control that surround us.
Even Occupy Has Forgotten What Occupy Is About
“No true democracy is obtainable when the process is determined by economic power.” – The Occupy Wall Street General Assembly
The founding declaration of Occupy Wall Street needs to be periodically revisited, to remind us of what birthed the movement.
It is poignantly read below, by Keith Olbermann.
Unfortunately, the societal conditions described remain to this day and have become even further entrenched; exacerbated by the passage of time. Every word of the founding statement holds true, yet the spirit of resistance in which it was authored, has been mostly co-opted by the same politicians and organisations who it once critiqued and decried.
During Occupy, the idea that our main social media accounts – @OccupyWallSt & @OccupyWallStNYC would be used to congratulate politicians, would have led to a massive outcry, but we have become so used to the blatant co-option of our movement that few barely even notice it anymore.
“Our Revolution Endures” etched in the colours of a political party, above a “Paid For By Bernie 2016″ campaign disclaimer makes a complete mockery of the word revolution:
“Not the billionaires” it says inside parentheses, the words spelled out in a pale grey scale – as if, as I predicted in December 2015 that he would, Bernie hasn’t just sold his campaign supporters out to Hillary and the very same billionaires he spent so long decrying.
I got the month wrong – April rather than July – but it was clear from the outset that Bernie Sanders was B.S.
Occupy was born of the betrayal of the broken promises of Obama.
Of course the elites knew that ruse would work again. It always has. Generation after generation, we never learn.
And thus – when the politician full of attractive rhetoric eventually sells us out – the cycle of disillusionment, civic rage and institutional violence, oppression and then political co-option renews.
It isn’t revolution at all.
It’s a cycle and it’s perpetual. Manufactured by the elites. They just pull the levers and watch it spin, around and around again.
I smelled it coming when the compositional horror story that is the band “Nickelback” released the song “Edge of a Revolution.” I can’t even embed the video here because it is so revolutionary that anyone who uploads it to You Tube is instantly hit with a copyright notice and removal.
Bless her soul, even Jill Stein isn’t immune to using the word ‘revolution’ to describe a political campaign. I retweeted and liked the tweet despite it, because I also think if Bernie was worth his salt that in the wake of the betrayal, he would have joined Stein and not Clinton.
The real revolution started by Occupy and not yet finished can be quantified in the bodies of the literal dead – the hopes crushed, the houses lost, the citizens exiled, the relationships and careers destroyed, the homeless re-disenfranchised by the evictions, the property stolen and destroyed.
Every time a politician says the word ‘revolution’ that is all I see. Tents being ripped to shreds, the People’s library being hauled away in rubbish trucks ultimately paid for by the same People whose will was being subverted, whose dreams lay shattered.
Those who gave everything they were and had, to bring the movement to prominence, only to be completely betrayed and violated by the societal infrastructure that was supposed to protect us.
We are spat on every time the language of our struggle is misappropriated for temporary political gain.
The Age Of Hypocrisy
This is the age of hypocrisy that we live in. We know the political process is bullshit – we knew it in 2011. Prior generations knew it, railed against it and lost, just like us. But here we all are, participating in it once again nonetheless.
I know full well that it is all just a great big reality TV show. But I have still voted every election cycle of my adult life.
Most of the people who know me, with the exception of those few who are in even deeper trouble for their honesty and principles than I am, would tell you I am the most ‘radical’ person they have ever met.
Yet even I find myself writing tweets and articles – albeit criticisms, including this one – that feed the electoral monster just by giving it breath.
My own inadvertent complicity scares me almost as much as the corruption and the collusion behind the political farce – because it indicates the level of saturation of the message that participation in the political process – even the critique of it – is a requirement of a properly functioning democracy.
But we knew in 2011 that the process was irredeemably broken.
Just like we knew it in 2000. In 1986. In 1963. In 1935.
George Bush’s brother handing him the presidential election was “democracy” in action.
JFK getting shot in the head on live TV. That was “democracy” in action.
Wall Street making billions while everyone else goes bankrupt. Police beating, pepper-spraying and mass arresting protesters, while “protecting” a bronze bull statue. That was “democracy” in action.
The same nepotism, grand larceny, financial crimes and human rights violations that the USA accuses everyone else of but themselves. That, is “democracy” in action.
We don’t need or want it and desperately have to find a way to get free of the political mousewheel, for good.
In a real revolution, no one would be allowed to own luxury holiday homes in seven different cities that sit empty 50 weeks per year, while retirees and veterans sleep on park benches.
Every bedroom in the White House would be open to homeless families.
Public money paid for every luxury in that building, yet the public are restricted from even seeing the inside of it let alone enjoying it.
All politicians, including the U.S. presidents are the same ilk of usurpers, usurists and tinpot dictators that they so frequently decry.
A real revolution would put direct democracy into the hands of everyone, and undermine the power of the few.
It is long overdue.
Snowden Nailed It
The U.S. election is an illusion of choice and that fact, at least, is more widely accepted than ever before.
Edward Snowden’s publically expressed distaste for both political candidates tracks back quite some time.
WikiLeaks Led The Charge
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ criticism of Trump tracks back even further.
Largely as backlash for the wildly successful #DNCLeak, the world’s corporate press are currently accusing WikiLeaks of essentially being a front for Russian hackers and/or favouring Trump.
I look at it from the following perspective. I followed Hillary Clinton for years, you know that I have a personal issue with Hillary because she was Secretary of State when we published diplomatic cables and more recently emails refused to disclose. And she is much more warlike than Obama. What happened in Libya, the destruction of that country and the collapse of its state, it was mostly a war of Hillary. Hillary was behind it all. Pentagon generals opposed to intervene but Hillary pushed for that bombing. So now comes in Donald Trump, who is more ‘guerrero‘ than Hillary. So whoever wins will be even more aggressive than Obama. The Trump phenomenon is interesting. At this time there is not a massive flood of Latin Americans wanting to enter the United States. Then it is interesting to see where does this phenomenon. Trump is appealing to the same grotesque nationalism can be seen in discussions on refugees in Australia and Europe. The issue of immigrants really was not on the agenda significantly until Donald Trump began to lift. The rest of the Republican Party has more decency and more willing to like voters Hispanic roots.
[Note: The Google translation of the word ‘guerrero’ made little sense so I left the word in Spanish and linked to another translation of that specific term which seems to explain it]
More recently, Assange made his feelings even more plain:
If essentially calling Donald Trump “Gonorrhea” isn’t enough to convince you – time for more hard evidence than merely opinion.
WikiLeaks, it turns out, as part of the very same leak they are copping so much criticism for, actually published Donald Trump’s donor list.
WikiLeaks – A Library Besieged By Barbarians
For the Empire, WikiLeaks getting 16,202 retweets on a single tweet is a nightmare from hell. Especially when the tweet in question was an epic release of US government insider information from inside the political party of the sitting US president.
The corporate media are no doubt equally apopleptic over WikiLeaks getting 14,304 retweets on a tweet like this:
Even the spelling mistake couldn’t stop such a pertinent point about the obvious mass media politically-motivated collusion and hypocrisy from going viral.
Yet politically-motivated collusion is what those already proven to be engaged in, are so eager to accuse WikiLeaks of. Along with a slew of associated accusations that ultimately just serve to distract from the actual content of the disclosures, which have been catastrophic for the Democrats.
Their subsequent National Convention has devolved into nothing short of a circus, as disillusioned Democrats find their voices and raise them in unison.
Julian Assange has famously compared WikiLeaks to the ancient Library of Alexandria. A colossal treasure trove of authentic documentation – a catalogue of human knowledge and historical documents, unmatched in modern times and besieged by barbarians who wish to bury, burn or suppress that knowledge by any means possible.
The barbarians in question are a who’s-who of the military industrial complex, as well as politicians in positions of significant power in many governments around the world who have been embarrassed, inconvenienced or angered by WikiLeaks publishing hidden truths.
His insights are really welcome and the interview is filled with original thought.
The interview debunks a slew of the criticisms against WikiLeaks.
On leaks versus hacks:
Information is constantly stolen by intelligence agencies the world over, for their own ends – yet when it is “stolen” and released to the public for the public good, the same governments who profit from the antics of their intelligence agencies, suddenly take affront at the methods by which the information in the releases are obtained.
Greenwald tackles this beautifully, with his comparison to Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers:
With regards to criticisms (which are prevalent but for which no actual evidence has been provided by critics – only conjecture) that WikiLeaks withheld the DNC release until the most politically expedient time, for maximum damage – Greenwald entirely debunks the theory, stating that -if- this was done, that it is a common practice for news media to withhold stories, for a variety of reasons.
“I think there is a lot of hypocrisy going on in criticizing WikiLeaks for that.” – Glenn Greenwald
The journalist presses him on the issue, but Greenwald stands strong in the face of continued questioning. He goes on to tackle some of the major anti-Trump talking points also; pointing out that criticism of NATO’s interventionist escapades (especially post-Libya) and a desire to tone down the aggression against Russia does not actually make Trump an agent of Russia – that these are legitimate aspects of foreign policy debate that should be had regardless of who is standing.
The pushback gets even firmer when Greenwald states:
It gets better. Reading the next part, I’m literally applauding in my seat. Finally, finally, a major mainstream figure is speaking the righteous rage of the people, without co-opting the message to a particular political platform.
The quote is so incredible it really needs to be read twice.
The reason [Brexit] resonated is that people have been so fucked by the prevailing order in such deep and fundamental and enduring ways that they can’t imagine that anything is worse than preservation of the status quo. – Glenn Greenwald
Absolutely correct and this sham of an election is just adding fuel to the fire.
I don’t usually litter my articles with swear words and neither does Greenwald usually propagate them in his interviews either. But this is the level of frustration we are experiencing.
Nothing meaningful has changed since 2011. And we are all sick to death – literally – of that. No justice – no peace.
The Slate interview is long and comprehensive and there is a ton more worthy content in it than what is discussed above. It is well worth your time to read.
Old Grudges Rehashed
Unfortunately the debunking of so much of the anti-WikiLeaks hysteria has been predictably overshadowed by the singular criticism Greenwald upheld – and not for the first time.
In a media environment where few words and fast output equals easy money for beleaguered “journalists” – a single tweet by Snowden often spirals into global news.
Few journalists are interested in the “big picture” unless it can be explained in a paragraph or two and in a way that aligns with their own strategic career goals.
At a time when the temperature of establishment rage towards WikiLeaks is well past boiling point, it was inevitable that any criticism levelled at them by a usually sympathetic figure, or anyone who may have been viewed as an ally, would be immediately picked up and capitalised upon.
And whoomp – there it is:
Snowden sharing the Greenwald interview? 610 retweets. Snowden concurring with the singular Greenwald criticism of WikiLeaks? 5,100 retweets.
Which really makes you wonder how many people lauding the criticism actually bothered to read the full interview.
But the point Snowden was making isn’t new. He’s said it all along.
Snowden’s tweet counts 138 characters. (Yes, I’m such a geek as to have checked). Which might account for some of the problematic language. Being, the diminutive “helped“, when WikiLeaks has arguably engineered, advanced and championed their field, at extreme risk and sacrifice; and the inflammatory “hostility“.
Hostility unfairly implies emotion rather than ideology, at least to my reading.
The tweet itself generated plenty of hostility – predictably dividing respondents into three categories – those who agree with WikiLeaks on principle, those who agree with Snowden on principle, and those who don’t want to see them criticising each other for whatever reason, and just want them to play nice and get along.
The emotiveness of the tweet is reminiscent of counter-criticisms that track back years regarding Snowden’s strategy for his release of information. I think both parties are so conditioned to receiving torrential waves of abuse regarding their every choice and utterance, that they are understandably tender from the constant bruising.
Snowden and Assange are not silly people. They are in fact, the smartest and most strategic thinkers on the planet. Neither are prone to rashness. They know full well the impact and consequence of their actions. I suspect there is likely much more at play than meets the eye, more than any of us observing can know or guess at.
The issue of curation is an interesting one to me, because in order to have curation, you must have a curator, or curators.
Snowden often makes the point of the behemoth surveillance apparatus – that it isn’t just about who controls the infrastructure and calls the shots now – but who will in the future.
The logical answer would be to have an editorial board, but in these times of freedom of information organisations being under siege – what guarantee is there that any such board would also remain in tact?
We have just witnessed the wholesale firing of the entire board of the Tor Project – or to be politically correct – their “graciously stepping down” en masse… on the back of revelations of a Central Intelligence Agency employee literally having left the agency one day and started work at Tor the next.
WikiLeaks is arguably THE most under-threat journalistic organisation in the entire world. (Which for the record, Greenwald has covered extensively in a long string of brilliant articles about the US persecution of Assange, WikiLeaks and associates).
So the question for me is, where would the curation start and where would it end? Every person has their own ideas of precisely how such curation should or could be done and it would be extremely difficult to get a unified consensus on every single instance.
For their particular threat model, having one fixed rule that can provide a benchmark and carry on for future generations seems the safe bet.
Then of course, there is the significant issue of resourcing. WikiLeaks has been under a historic banking blockade for years now. They can’t place ads in newspapers and hire staff. They rely on an extemely rare breed of people who are willing to quite literally dedicate their lives and risk losing everything they have, in order to skill share with the organisation.
It is high risk and often thankless work.
That they manage to produce what they do, under the circumstances they are daily confronted with, is frankly miraculous. None of their detractors could compete with their output. None are. Their tally was at over 10,000,000 documents some time last year. Over a dozen major releases in 2015 alone.
Many, many stones are cast but who can even begin to claim achievements on a similar scale?
It’s not even just a matter of their journalistic output – they somehow not only manage to keep their head above water while facing unprecedented levels of danger, obstruction, interference, infiltration, oppression and difficulty – but they also support others who are endangered.
Recently, they have constantly had the stuffing kicked out of them by some staff at organisations who they continue to support and promote on their pages.
At what point do we actually collectively pause, consider what they endure in a field few else are endeavouring to compete in and have the graciousness to say THANK YOU WIKILEAKS!!!!!!!!!!
Their publishing models and releases have been capitalised on by multiple news organisations who have made bank off their work and then stabbed them in the back. Yes, I’m looking at you New York Times and The Guardian, in particular.
News organisations all around the world have their own SecureDrop installations – and what is the genesis for the concept? WikiLeaks.
Brother Vs. Brother, Org Vs. Org, Friend Vs. Friend
I recently said on Twitter: “The US election is a public exercise in Divide & Conquer and the extent to which it is working is frankly depressing.”
I can’t help but wonder how many people all over the United States are falling out with each other over the Trump-vs-Clinton dichotomy. How many family members. How many workmates? Employers and employees? Siblings? Lovers? Husbands and wives?
Does this ridiculous, unnecessary side show result in divorces? Broken homes? Is the price really worth it?
What exactly do the public stand to gain?
The obvious irrationality of both candidates, and their unsuitability for office, is so obscene it would be hilarious if it weren’t so horrific.
The wife of an impeached president versus a casino, golf club and supermodel tycoon. And it’s even worse: this is the reality that few will confront, but everyone is really having to subliminally reconcile regardless:
The image on the left is a Huffington Post article begging people not to turn a blind eye to the current child rape allegations against Trump.
The image on the right is a Free Beacon article containing leaked audio of Clinton bragging about how she got a child rapist’s 30-year possible sentence reduced to 2 months time served.
Many people, especially this year, have been referring to me as an investigative journalist. I actually wouldn’t call myself that, because I’m not classically trained in investigative journalism and that hasn’t been my primary focus.
Nearly 5 years ago now, I began reporting live from events then blogging about them afterwards. News spotting in my spare time. Keeping a close eye on what was happening to our fellow independent media teams in occupations around the world and working with them to the best of my ability.
Amplifying for anyone I felt wasn’t getting the attention for their issues that they deserved.
I morphed into a long-form journalist by necessity – in a chronically nepotistic media microcosm (New Zealand) – telling as many people as possible about the corrupt political and media antics being wielded against people in my home town of Auckland. It wasn’t really journalism so much as whistle-blowing. Over and over and over again. Whistle-blowing on police, on civic authorities, on the intelligence agencies, on the military industrial complex.
I eventually came to the conclusion that that is what a good journalist is. Someone who blows the whistle and never stops.
It’s usually circumstantial rather than deliberate. I get curious and dig, or I accumulate scraps of information over a protracted period of time, or I witness things myself. My mental data-microwave goes “DING!” and out pops an article.
Overall what drives me is the realisation that I’m in a unique position to contribute and I feel morally obliged to, despite the obvious drawbacks.
Whenever our media team was burning out, overtired, overstressed, suffering from lack of resources and the strain constantly imposed upon us by state and private agencies and saboteurs – when we really didn’t feel like going on anymore – we would look at each other and say, “if not us, then who?” Then we’d get off our butts and go do it all again. That is the spirit in which I write.
I think the real reason I am being described as an investigative journalist is because I have a habit of unearthing significant information that corporate media haven’t or won’t. What few realise is how easy that is to do, and what an indictment it is on the mainstream press that they so often either fail at it, or refuse to look.
How did I find out WikiLeak’s position on Trump? I searched “@WikiLeaks” + “Trump” on Twitter.
The idea that the dozens if not hundreds of journalists falsely accusing WikiLeaks of being a front for Russia and/or Donald Trump didn’t do the same thing, is astonishing. Or that if they did, that they didn’t amplify the obvious.
But among the learned and free thinkers – there is consensus. Assange thinks, as does Snowden, and apparently Greenwald, that Trump is as bad as Clinton.
For what it’s worth, so do I.
As Greenwald stated in the Slate interview, much better than I could:
I think in general there is no effort on the part of media elites to communicate with [Trump sympathisers] and do anything other than tell them that they are primitive, racist, and stupid. And if the message being sent is that you are primitive, racist, and stupid, and not that you have been fucked over in ways that are really bad and need to be rectified, of course those people are not going to be receptive to the message coming from the people who view them with contempt and scorn. I think that is why Brexit won, and I think that is the real danger of Trump winning. – Glenn Greenwald
As for the accusation that WikiLeaks is in league with Russia… that has already long since been dealt to. It is an unfounded and ridiculous allegation. A smear.
If only the mainstream media would get the memo and cast off their willful blindness.
But that is merely wishful thinking. while money, promotions and status remain largely bestowed upon those most beholden to the corporatocracy that are the true string-pullers, the shadow governments of the West.
And while the vanguard of the people; namely WikiLeaks and Julian Assange; remain Public Enemy Number One.
[This post was blogged live. Thanks for watching! Further source links yet to be added.]
With Glenn Greenwald debating General Keith Alexander live on stage as I write this, it is rather convenient timing for this insipid hit piece to emerge claiming definitively that Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and anyone who supports them are “in bed with the Russians”.
John Schindler’s tweet is just plain irresponsible and dangerous as well as untrue. The smear is an old one; the tactic timeless; the source/author dubious but several angles are worth addressing that I don’t think have been properly before.
The Primary Lie: That WikiLeaks Censors Itself For Russia
The biggest lie is the easiest to disprove. Heard so many times it’s impossible to count – that WikiLeaks doesn’t print documents on/about Russia or that aren’t in its interests… that they somehow exclude Russia from their databases or only print approved messages.
Using the most basic investigative method available, let’s see whether this is true: by going to WikiLeaks official website and typing “Russia” into the search bar.
In case you can’t see that writing at the bottom – there are 647,208 results for ‘Russia’ in WikiLeaks’ database.
Let’s look a little closer.
So. Just in the first few results alone we have:
an article exposing Russian investigations into Tor users – from the Edward Snowden files no less
an article describing a Russian government decision as ‘foolish’
a report on Russian attempts to regulate the blogsophere/new media
a report on Russian censorship of a BBC interview
I think it’s safe to say we won’t have to analyse the entire 647k docs to find more that are critical of Kremlin political views and positions.
WikiLeaks’ Solidarity With Russian Activists
The Russian activists and performance artists known as “Pussy Riot” aren’t just friendly to the cause – they even sit on the advisory board of the Courage Foundation.
None of the detractors explain why, if WikiLeaks is so far “in bed with the Russians”, they work with Russian dissidents who have been targeted for arrest and prosecuted by the State.
Stuck In The Airport For 39 Days
In the pro-NSA anti-Snowden “counterintelligence” fantasy-land of John Schindler, WikiLeaks sent one lone woman to take Snowden ‘from Hawaii to Moscow’ to “defect” only so that he could be… stuck in a Moscow airport with no valid passport for 39 days, desperately applying for asylum, to a whole host of countries?
No, if he was defecting, he’d be welcomed with a parade. Not stuck in civil and physical limbo for over a month. He would have had entire teams of security guys flying him around in military or private jets – instead his entire transit was on civilian airliners.
What makes far more sense is that Edward and Sarah Harrison’s lack of co-operation is what effected their circumstance, leaving them stranded in the airport.
Even after asylum was granted, Sarah stayed on with Edward for several months… this too, indicates that WikiLeaks provided aftercare for him; he was not simply abandoned or left to fend for himself.
A Long Look In The Mirror
Central to the claims that Snowden is colluding with the Russians is the suggestion that intelligence agencies are just so badass that non-cooperation with them is not an option.
This may be true for those without public visibility and a high profile, but as Sarah herself pointed out, Russian authorities were aware that she had access to a platform with millions of followers able to rally in defense of their rights at a moment’s notice.
I can’t help but wonder – who is Julian Assange supposed to hire for bodyguards? Americans? Why is the mere presence of people of Russian origin in one’s life basis for a conspiracy theory?
But any smear will do and smear they have. If the constant boasting of Schindler’s “counterintelligence” / “counterterrorism” background isn’t enough of a clue, a quick look through the author’s past posts exposes his agenda.
“Ever since the Snowden saga broke a few weeks back I’ve defended the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) against the most scurrilous charges in the media..”
Like clockwork, derisive, salacious and defamatory posts date from June 2013 to the present day, making wild accusations. That Snowden is working with the Chinese – that he is working with the Russians – that WikiLeaks is working for the Russians – with the grave nature of what Snowden actually leaked ignored in an attempt to deflect blame away from the elites in control of the intelligence agencies.
One of the author’s smear pieces claims Snowden did no damage and is irrelevant – the next that he did vast, lasting and unforgivable damage. Snowden’s position and access is minimised to him being “just an IT guy”; the next minute it is complained that he took over a million documents. The story is ever-changing and in aggregate, discredits itself.
Snowden’s True Significance
Edward Snowden did many remarkable things – countless things. That he managed to extricate so much information, get it out to the public, and make his “escape” is in itself incredible.
But his greatest achievements are the least talked about.
Snowden is solution-focused. Rather than merely inform the public, he presents them with an array of tools and resources with which to protect themselves.
It is this engagement that is next level. Not just standing on a stage and giving a speech but taking steps to implement actual change. Not merely educating his audience, but changing their practical behaviours, impacting their decision-making.
As much as his critics downplay him as “just an I.T. guy” Snowden’s words and actions are reminiscent of every individual role in a development team. He is the tester – testing the safety and suitability of open source products for public use. He is the analyst… mapping and understanding systems and making recommendations. He is the database administrator… the networker… the technical writer… the architect… the development manager… the delivery manager… the CTO.
Yet it is not these roles he is recognised for so much as his less tangible qualities. Truth-telling. Bravery. Valour, in its truest sense – ‘great courage in the face of extreme danger‘.
Snowden has brought back a time when celebrity meant more than vain idolatry. When statues were carved, or buildings were named, not for those of elite birthright, great wealth or superficial beauty but for those of daring, heroic deeds undertaken for a greater good.
False promises of corrupted political systems aside – when our children aspire to be more like Edward Snowden than Justin Bieber; or Jesselyn Radack than Britney Spears; there is hope and there will be change.
The World Grows Weary
While humans bicker and slander, steal, oppress, tax and incite, the Earth grows weary. There is ecological devastation wherever we look. Apocalyptic weather patterns, extinctions of multiple species and constant natural disasters.
Refugees are fleeing war-torn countries in their millions while financial systems inflict poverty upon billions.
Pretty soon there will be no amount of anti-Snowden op-eds sufficient to bedazzle us in the face of our reality: humankind is in big fucking trouble and it will take more than words to get us out of it.
Critical thought, research and dissemination of information are the foundations to change but we are now past the point where action is required. Our support for whistleblowers needs to be more material than effortlessly debunking the libel of the status quo’s talking heads. To that end, this article is going to be about more than just the critics.
WikiLeaks is doing a brilliant job of directly confronting the system by holding a mirror up to it. Now we need to show our solidarity and not just declare it. Let our actions combine in beautiful, complex ways.
Effecting change where the State refuses to do so, creating new systems that bypass it entirely.
For we should not aspire just to slowing the pace of human destruction, but to creating new pathways of preservation, new avenues of possibility…
…to literally birth a new world. The evidence of the unsuitability and unsustainability of the old one is all around us.
No longer do we need to debate it.
We need to create it.
There have been three recent geographically-disparate and diverse political actions that have produced immediate results.
Glenn Greenwald and First Look Media co-ordinated a brilliant fundraising effort to raise contributions for the legal defense of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, resulting in over $100,000 being donated within the first 48 hours.
Aspects of Manning’s case are precedent-setting and will have ramifications for future whistle-blowers therefore empowering her to pursue her rights to their full extent now may become even more consequential later.
Transsexual Kiwi Prisoner Wins Transfer To Female Prison
A group of activists in New Zealand who began a hunger strike and various online initiatives in protest at a transsexual woman being incarcerated in a men’s prison has achieved a resounding victory.
Prisoner Jade Follett has now been transferred to a womens prison and is to receive an apology from the Department of Corrections. The Twitter account of protest group No Pride In Prisons that organised the actions, is calling for more than an apology.
‘The fact that the policy places trans women almost always in men’s prisons by default shows how much needs to be changed…
That it took a hunger strike to get Corrections’ attention to this urgent issue indicates just how little regard they have for prisoners’ safety…
‘If it emerges that other trans prisoners have been treated in a similar manner, we will not hesitate to take action’
The above is proof that diversity of tactics is more than a catch-phrase; ends can be achieved by a variety of means.
It is also proof that people power is winning battles.
These victories are won when actions are organised and carried out speedily, loudly and on hot-button issues, where the State has insufficient time to prepare countermeasures and is forced to opt for ‘damage control’ tactics that can ultimately count in the favour of protesters and effect change.
With all the problems of the present and uncertainties of the future it is WikiLeaks, independent media and whistleblowers informing us; open-source technological initiatives protecting us; and real people opening their hearts, raising their voices and taking action on the streets, that are the difference between certain human self-destruction and social evolution.
With the Sunday Times Snowden smear completely, utterly and thoroughly debunked, notably if not inadvertently by the journalist and editor themselves, it is time to move on to some of the logical fallacies and prevailing attitudes that continue to support the (albeit-dwindling) anti-Snowden sentiment lingering among certain political hangers-on.
While there were a number of humble apologies made in the Twittersphere and eventually, a “correction“, the most stubborn of establishment sycophants seem determined to press their case.
In particular, the below 15-point Twitter diatribe by columnist Michael Cohen was unmissable and he raised a number of easily dispellable falsehoods that less astute observers appear to have fallen victim to. Let’s take a closer look.
Given that the journalist himself openly stated that that’s precisely what they were doing. it is Cohen’s tweet that is absurd, rather than Greenwald’s theorum.
But what about that Vine. The journalist says, direct quote:
We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British Government – Tom Harper, Sunday Times journalist
There we have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Many national security reporters, analysts and correspondents have far closer, more incestuous and uncritical relationships with the security state that they are supposed to investigate. Public relations executives have invaded the management structure of major print publications and the public relations industry has grown while journalism as a whole has atrophied. State corruption of mainstream media dates back at least half a century.
What Michael Cohen is really accusing Glenn Greenwald of is loyalty to his source, national security whistle-blower Edward Snowden; an accusation which conversely espouses a disloyalty to the establishment which seeks to manipulate public discourse in favour of government policies – policies which include pervasive secrecy and the withholding of information in the public interest from the public arena.
Greenwald’s adversarial role is precisely what real journalism is about. His loyalty absolutely should be with his well-respected and internationally-renowned source, whose veracity and historic significance are long-since established, rather than with Democrat or Republican party lines trumpeted by those with a financial and political interest in the continuation of the status quo.
Glenn Greenwald has been very open from the outset about the interrogation that went into vetting Snowden. Quoting from Greenwald’s interview with PBS’s Frontline:
Having been a lawyer before I was a journalist, and having been a litigator, and therefore having taken a lot of depositions, the purpose of which is to take somebody’s story and just break it down through hours of relentless questioning, where you just ask them similar questions but from different angles and different contexts to ask how reliable those claims are, because if somebody is lying, that process will usually ultimately reveal that, I decided to use those tactics, because I had to be 100 percent certain that I kicked the tires as hard as I could on his story.
The hotel room was relatively small. He sat on his bed. I sat on a chair, probably three feet away from him, maybe four or five feet, and I just looked at him, and I just asked him one question after the next. He didn’t go to the bathroom. He didn’t eat. He didn’t stop and have water. It was really a very rigorous interrogation. I think he later said that it was much more intense than debriefing sessions that he had at the CIA.
I wanted it to be that way by design, because I felt confident that if there was some mendacity or deceit or something scripted, that I would be able to discover it through that process. By the end of that five or six hours, I had zero doubt that he was completely real.
Greenwald went on to spend a further two weeks interviewing Snowden in Hong Kong, and countless hours since. This hardly seems like ‘publishing Snowden’s statements at face value’. Given the origin of the materials Snowden leaked, much of what he says isn’t even a matter of opinion, but a matter of provable fact.
To complain that Greenwald has subsequently become an advocate for Snowden is to ignore the rest of the political landscape and both paid and informal advocacy occurring on all sides. The President of the United States has a Press Secretary, who advocates for and articulates White House positions to the press. Corporations have lobbyists, who advocate for and articulate the positions of big business, to politicians. Politicians have public relation teams, who advocate for and advise them.
Until the launch of the Courage Foundation, whistle-blowers really had very little direct advocacy support. There was some measure of legal support, and limited if any direct governmental support. What is so offensive about journalists who advocate for the weak against the strong? I doubt it’s offensive at all, but rather the impact they are having is growing to be so huge that it is minimising the effectiveness of the disinformation campaigns run by their opponents.
No one, least of all Snowden himself, could have imagined the international sensation he would grow to become. All and sundry expected his fate to be much different. That the advocacy work undertaken on his behalf by his supporters has been achieving spectacular results seems to have provoked some professional jealousy from a political quarter who are used to controlling the media narratives themselves – a quarter that is being displaced by the rising groundswell of public opinion set against them.
The keystone of journalism is access. Access is forming and maintaining a close connection to a source or subject. Those who have access are fundamental to shaping the public narrative. For a mainstream political columnist to suggest this is an unusual arrangement is rather precious. Who does Michael Cohen think should be shaping the narrative? People who don’t have access or who have an alternate agenda? Like Snowden’s opponents? Or who have no moral investment, no stake in the outcome and no clue? Like these guys?
Cohen must know all about access. His timeline is full of Jeb Bush this, Hilary Clinton that. Campaign agendas are all about access. From fundraising to policy announcements to interviews. As a columnist for the Boston Globe, World Politics Review and the London Observer as well as an avid follower of mainstream political campaigns, surely Cohen understands full well the necessity, import and impact of access.
All media eats at Snowden’s table, regardless of whether they are pro-Snowden or anti-Snowden. The entire international media has been profiting off him for the last two years. They ALL have a financial stake in him, one way or the other. He has been the single largest recurring news story in memory, both for organisations and freelancers.
To that end, why should anyone for whom Snowden represents a meal ticket be trusted?
Beneficiaries can be divided into three groups:
* Those who take risks to support Snowden against the full weight of the state and get paid for it
* Those who take risks to support Snowden against the full weight of the state and don’t get paid for it
* Those who kick the shit out of Snowden and get paid for it, while getting kudos (if not additional funding) from the security state for doing so.
No points for guessing which group is the most heavily populated by the affluent, predominantly white cis male, dinosaurs of conventional media.
There is no greater irony than when those who would proclaim themselves the least inclined to put stock in conspiracy theories, begin inventing their own. At this point, Cohen launches headlong into supposition and innuendo.
Rather than playing Pin The Tail On Edward Snowden, Cohen could remove his blindfold with some simple research – reading Greenwald’s ‘No Place To Hide‘ would be a great start, as would watching Sarah Harrison and Julian Assange’s interviews about Snowden’s transition from Hong Kong to Russia.
In doing so he would realise that Snowden didn’t choose to be exiled in Russia, but was stranded there by the American government when it revoked his passport, presumably for exactly this reason – leaving him in Russia bereft of travel documentation created an easy opportunity to smear him as somehow being improperly affiliated with the Russians. And smear him they have, as Julian Assange explains clearly in this interview with Democracy Now. Julian’s answer is prefaced by a clip of Hillary Clinton leveling precisely the same accusation as Michael Cohen.
Mr. Snowden took all this material, he fled to Hong Kong, he spent time with the Russians in their consulate, uh, and then he went to Moscow seeking the protection of Vladimir Putin — Hillary Clinton
Julian Assange responds:
This is sadly typical of Hillary Clinton… not even the National Security Agency accuses [Snowden] of working with the Russians. In fact, the NSA, formally in its investigation, has said that they don’t think he was working with the Russians, at least not before he left the agency. Hillary Clinton, however, tries to reshape the chronology in order to smear Edward Snowden with being a Russian spy. The actual chronology is that Edward Snowden went to Hong Kong, he then saw that the situation was very difficult, reached out to us for help, and we were intimately involved from that point on, so I know precisely myself and our staff know, what happened. We submitted 20 asylum applications on behalf of Edward Snowden, to a range of different countries… it was [Snowden’s] intent to go to Latin America… Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador was also looking favourable and Bolivia offered him asylum. En route to Latin America the U.S. State Department canceled his passport, leaving him marooned in Russia, unable to catch his next flight. Which had already been booked from the very beginning. His whole path had been booked while he was in Hong Kong.
Hillary says that he went to the Russian consulate in Hong Kong – I don’t know about that but I’m sure that, perhaps he was looking at all different kinds of asylum options and that would have made perfect sense for anyone to do that in such a severe situation.
Hillary Clinton was of course, Secretary of State from January 2009 until February 2013, with her tenure ending just a few short months before the State Department would cancel Snowden’s passport while he attempted to transit Russia.
And that is of course, the same State Department who won’t be launching an internal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
Cohen’s “how long is a piece of string” argument is best answered by a commenter on the thread:
No one can prove anything in the negative. Proof is supposed to require evidence and evidence can’t be non-existent or it wouldn’t be evidence at all. What questions like these are really intended to do is to obfuscate, distract and smear. They are completely unbecoming.
As with much of Cohen’s commentary, he fails to back up his accusations with references so this point has been particularly difficult to research. Many hours of reading South China Morning Post’s Snowden archive later, and the only ‘operational info’ I’ve been able to establish that Snowden discussed with them, was wholesale spying on Chinese university students and on the SMS messages of the general population. Unless he is referring to the mention of mass surveillance being undertaken at-cable, which is a worldwide phenomenon that has been reported consistently around the globe, in many regions..
Indeed, the SCMP revelations fit perfectly with the ongoing theme of Snowden’s leaks; where the public of various countries (most of the countries in the world in fact) are spied on in by the U.S. in a wholesale fashion, without warrants or individual suspicion to justify the targeting.
Snowden’s releases have not been about military versus military – but military versus civilians: mass surveillance. To expect him to exclude Chinese civilians, or Russian civilians, or any other, just because the names of those countries are incendiary to the U.S. political mainstream, would be to expect him to discriminate on the basis of nationality, the way his government does. Yet Snowden has very much proved to be a global citizen, and clearly does not adhere to the inherently unjust principle of ‘American exceptionalism’. This does not detract from, but enhances his efficacy in the eyes of the global public.
Funnily enough, even the South China Morning Post has repeated this mainstream echo-chamber claim that Snowden somehow reversed his position about whether he had read the documents he leaked, during his interview with Last Week Tonight. Business Insider also claimed that host John Oliver had caught Snowden in a ‘lie’. Yet that itself is a lie, because the wording used by the echo chamber was never Snowden’s wording at all and the heavy editing in the segment makes it clear that whatever his real answers were, they lay on the cutting room floor.
Transcription from the relevant section of the John Oliver interview:
JO: How many of those documents have you actually read?
ES: I’ve evaluated all of the documents that are in the archive.
JO: You’ve read every single one?
ES: <edit>Well, I do understand what I turned over.
JO: <edit>There’s a difference between understanding what’s in the documents and reading what’s in the documents.
ES: <edit>I recognise the concern
JO: Right cos when you’re handing over thousands of NSA documents the last thing you want to do is read them.
ES: I think it’s fair to be concerned about, did this person do enough, were they careful enough, were they thorough
JO: Especially when you’re handling material like we know you were handling
ES: Well, in my defense, I’m not handling anything anymore, that’s been passed to the journalists and they’re using extraordinary security measures to make sure this is reported in the most responsible way.
Oliver uses the word ‘read’. Snowden immediately qualifies it with the word ‘evaluated’. The same word he had used all along. Yet in this ridiculous Business Insider article the onus is again flipped back to the word ‘read’ and a hyper-inflammatory tweet is included, to raise the drama a notch:
The outright accusation that Snowden is lying is way beyond the pale. It is clear that by his continuing use of the word ‘evaluate‘ that Snowden assessed (whether by computer script or manually) the content of the documents, likely considering their provenance, affiliation, meta-data or otherwise and then entrusted the documents to the journalists, instructing them to only publish what is in the public interest.
To try to split hairs by suggesting he should have read every single word on every single page prior to leaking it is nonsense and in the case of the “many tens of thousands of documents” Greenwald describes having received, outright impossible.
Were Last Week Tonight‘s editing not so appallingly obvious and heavy-handed, the misconception that Snowden lied may not be so easily clung to by his detractors and the content of his full answers could be known. However, the short, snappy style of the interviewer (which I wholly accept is for comedic effect) was clearly carried over to the editing of Snowden’s responses, to his detriment.
Having spent upwards of 15 hours researching this article and hundreds upon hundreds more studying and writing about Snowden’s releases “on my own”, I’m pretty sure I qualify. As with many others who are intrigued by the revelations, I have turned every possibility in my mind over, and over again, while reading, watching and analysing everything that is available in the public sphere.
Ultimately, what convinces me of Snowden’s authenticity is not his supporters but his detractors. They run the exact same establishment ‘deny, degrade, distract, disrupt, destroy‘ playbook against him that his revelations showed are being used against every other significant activist or political opponent in the Five Eyes. This in itself demonstrates how much of a threat he is perceived to be. The voraciousness with which he is attacked by sock puppet accounts and the uniformity of the disparagements they make about him is telling, as is the cast of characters trotted out to discredit him. Cheney. Clinton. Hayden. Current and past directors of this, that and the other agency including proponents of the Iraq war; the disinformation dinosaurs. As usual, the issues are interlinked. The arbiters of American exceptionalism and international economic exploitation detest Snowden and everything he stands for, which, when assessing his credibility, weighs heavily in his favour.
Even if they were trying to protect Snowden and/or their images – how is this any different to the journalists who try to shield the U.S. government from scrutiny, and thus protect their own images? I’ll tell you how – because they are protecting a vulnerable whistle-blower in an unprecedented situation, rather than protecting the behemoth, colossal machine of war, economic bullying and austerity, racism, colonisation and Empire of the U.S. Government and the world is a better place for it. Those who get paid defending empire are hypocrites when finger-pointing at those who get paid to confront it.
There is a vast difference. Journalists who protect vulnerable sources, at great personal risk, cannot be equated with journalists who seek to protect their own government and in doing so uphold cushy, privileged lifestyles and self-justify their positions.
No. What is an incredible insult to a journalist is having a pro-government shill boast that they would like to write a defense of the journalist being droned to death. Or to have a journalist write an article about all the ways in which their pro-government military sources would like to murder a whistle-blower.
If being called a stenographer hurts your feelings, perhaps it is time to walk a mile in a whistleblower’s shoes before casting judgement.
Finally, one more fallacious argument amplified by Cohen:
Anonymity is not the problem. The motivation for acquiring the anonymity and the institution benefiting from it is the problem, alongside the willingness of the media outlet to provide it when it is aware that the source has a personal interest in propagating opinions which are of direct benefit to their employers; sources for which there is a clear financial and social gain.
Which is diametrically opposed to the motivations of Edward Snowden, as evidenced in the very same John Oliver interview.
JO: So, did you do this to solve a problem?
ES: I did this to give the American people the chance to decide for themselves, the type of Government that they want to have. That is a conversation that I think the American people deserve to decide.
JO: There is no doubt it is a critical conversation…
…and it’s one that without Edward Snowden, we may never have had.
“We don’t go into that level of detail in the story; we just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment” – Tom Harper (lead reporter on latest Sunday Times Edward Snowden article)
Controversy has arisen around a recent Sunday Times story on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The article claims that the NSA documents leaked by Snowden have been hacked by Russia and China, putting the lives of agents in the field at risk. It is also a mixture of serious errors, outright falsehoods and unfounded claims made by anonymous sources. One source is quoted as saying that Snowden has ‘blood on his hands’, not the first time that such a claim has been mendaciously deployed for dramatic effect.
Many of the claims in the article have already been debunked by serious critics here, here, and most powerfully here by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist Snowden chose to give his documents to.
One also needs to ask why, if it is true that UK intelligence knew that there was a possibility that the files could be hacked (and momentarily putting aside Craig Murray’s note that names of agents would never be written down) potentially compromised agents were not withdrawn immediately and replaced where possible. If they really were so concerned about the threat to the lives of their agents, why wait until after the documents were hacked (if they were as claimed). The obvious course of action in such a scenario would be to withdraw any such agents from the field as soon as possible in order to minimize the damage.
The focus of this analysis, however, is on the widespread use of anonymous sources, especially within newspapers of record. The Snowden furor is the tip of the iceberg. One recent example of the use of anonymous sources is the repeated evidence-free assertions of build-ups of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, usually accompanied by a strong implication that Russia is about to invade. When such assertions are published on Reuters or the other major ‘wires’, the financial and methodological realities of modern media ensure that the stories will be republished word-for-word everywhere, not only on internet news sites like Yahoo and Google, but also on major blogs and in low-quality independent media. [Aside: High-quality independent media would only print such claims with strong disclaimers while pointing out similar instances in the past].
In other words millions will read and ingest parts of the story and, when the next drama in the news cycle comes along, will forget everything apart from the few soundbites they vaguely recall: ‘blood on his hands’, for instance. As the vast majority of casual news readers have no familiarity with or serious interest in the details of the Snowden case (with some falsely believing, for example, that he gave the documents to WikiLeaks) or indeed in most other serious political or social issues, the damage will have already been done. This, in a nutshell, is why soundbites are so prized and ubiquitously used by PR and advertising firms.
Anonymous sources have been used in several important stories over the years and the most instructive example of how devastating such irresponsible media reporting can be is the destruction wrought upon Iraq. The New York Times and other newspapers relied on anonymous sources to allege the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The term WMD itself is one of the most successful soundbites of all time, with the acronym widely used at the time and even now in casual discourse.
The claims were reported uncritically and little or no questioning of the official government position could be found as the drums beat relentlessly for war. We now know that these claims were fed to the media in full knowledge that they were false or amplified, and history tells us that no WMDs were there.
Fast forward to 2015. Nobel Prize recipient Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a report entitled ‘Body Count’ this year that concluded that over a million people had been killed in Iraq since 2003 as a result of the invasion. Sectarian violence continues to rip the nation apart and the outlook is bleak with the ascendance of IS in the nation. The city of Fallujah lives with the legacy of US chemical warfare, with hideous genetic deformities and other serious health issues out of control. Meanwhile Judith Miller, the star New York Times reporter, recently embarked on a media tour to promote her book explaining how she really believed what she was writing at the time, employing classic tactics of obfuscation to defuse questioning on her culpability.
The dangers of using anonymous sources are clear:
1. They allow governments, institutions and major corporations to selectively leak information that benefits their agenda.
2. They lead to a situation where no one can be meaningfully challenged on the claims. Spokesmen can plead ‘national security’ and other excuses to avoid addressing questions.
3. A claim without evidence is just that: a claim – only a starting point for a journalistic investigation; not a green light for an explosive, defamatory headline piece that will grab instant worldwide attention.
Nonetheless, there are many cases where the use of anonymous sources is unavoidable, though given the above hazards, great care must be taken. There are several types of anonymous source. A credible source could be someone with whom a journalist has cultivated a long relationship, one whose credibility has been proven time and again on the basis of accurate past stories. A first-time source, perhaps an idealistic employee like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden, can also be credible if they provide genuine evidence for their claims and are or have also been in a position to obtain such information.
Acting on information from first-time or even known sources – even with evidence (which may be fabricated) – is risky as Newsweek discovered in 2005 when a story (now retracted) it ran about a US Guantanamo interrogator flushing a copy of the Koran down a toilet turned out to be baseless. The story sparked violent riots in Afghanistan and other nations and at least 16 people were killed.
This is where journalistic instinct and experience all come into play. A good journalist will try to corroborate a story and name as many informants as possible, while at the same time appreciating that many sources have extremely good reasons for not being named. This, of course, damages the credibility of the story and makes it only a claim. A reporter and his/her editors must bear in mind the level of credibility when presenting the story to the public, considering factors such as the availability of publishable evidence (like pictures) and the extent of credibility of sources and corroboration and give an appropriate level of prominence to any article published based on this information.
There are, however, cases when it would be irresponsible to publish; namely when a source or even multiple sources have a track record of providing false information or when a source or sources have something to gain financially or politically from the story.
In the case of the Snowden article and the UK government, it’s two for two. The UK government has lied to or misled the public in the past on numerous occasions and its assertions therefore can not be reported uncritically. Further, GCHQ has been greatly embarrassed by the exposure of its Stasi-like operations thanks to Snowden, meaning the government would therefore benefit from discrediting or smearing him.
The Sunday Times responded to criticisms of its article in the form of a ‘has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed’ interview on CNN with the lead reporter on the story, Tom Harper, taking questions from host George Howell.
Gist (significant comments in bold):
Howell: How do senior officials at 10 Downing Street know that these files were breached?
Harper: Well, uhh, I don’t know the answer to that George. All we know is that this is effectively the official position of the British government.
Howell: How do they know what was in them [the files], if they were encrypted? Has the British government also gotten into these files?
Harper: Well, the files came from America and the UK, so they may already have known for some time what Snowden took — uhh, again, that’s not something we’re clear on … we don’t go into that level of detail in the story we just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment.
Howell: Your article asserts that it is not clear if the files were hacked or if he just gave these files over when he was in Hong Kong or Russia, so which is it?
Harper: Well again sorry to just repeat myself George, but we don’t know so we haven’t written that in the paper. It could be either, it could be another scenario.
Howell: The article mentions these MI6 agents … were they directly under threat as a result of the information leaked or was this a precautionary measure?
Harper: Uhh, again, I’m afraid to disappoint you, we don’t know…there was a suggestion some of them may have been under threat but the statement from senior Downing Street sources suggests that no one has come to any harm, which is obviously a positive thing from the point of view of the West.
In short, Tom Harper knows quite literally nothing about the story. He also says that ‘no one has come to harm’, which makes the inclusion of the term ‘blood on his hands’ unconscionable. He only knows what government officials hiding behind anonymity told him. Yet armed with this spectacular lack of knowledge, he published a headline article that claimed that the files had been ‘cracked’ by the Russians and Chinese (although he doesn’t know that) and also that Snowden has ‘blood on his hands’, while again having no evidence that this is true. These are extremely serious, dangerous and defamatory claims so one would expect the inclusion of a comment from the Snowden side, or at least from one of his prominent supporters or associates. No such opportunity was provided. This also is a fundamental breach of journalistic ethics.
If one were searching for a working definition of ‘government propaganda mouthpiece’, the actions of Tom Harper and – by extension – the Sunday Times are as close as one can get. While the Sunday Times and any media outlet are at liberty at any time to publish the ‘official position of the British government’ on any issue they choose, depicting it as bombshell breaking news complete with deliberately emotive language is the height of irresponsibility.
This is a serious embarrassment for a major newspaper. A retraction, apology and full explanation must be issued for any credibility whatsoever to be regained. As the Sunday Times is unlikely to accept such an assertion, and is indeed standing by its story, can we now expect a similarly aggressive and blockbusting article on the ‘official position of the British government’ on, say, its arms sales to the Saudi regime? At least in this case the term ‘blood on its hands’ would be demonstrably accurate.
It takes a special level of indoctrination to report with a straight face righteous accusations by British government officials that anyone at all has blood on their hands. The UK, both in its colonial and modern eras, has attacked, invaded, occupied or interfered with almost every nation on the planet. Such indoctrination is a common element of establishment journalists in the UK, with many seeming to possess no awareness of how ludicrous some of their claims about the crimes of current enemies are when weighed up against the similar, documented crimes of their own nation, which they almost unfailingly depict as a benign force in the world.
For the Sunday Times to stand by this obviously bogus story, there are only two possible interpretations of its role: it is either naive about or complicit in the actions of its government. As one does not become a decision-maker in a Rupert Murdoch-owned enterprise by being a shrinking violet, the first option can be safely eliminated. The unavoidable conclusion, therefore, is that the Sunday Times in publishing this article is complicit in the aims of the UK government.