Op-Ed by Jake Anderson
I’m worried about Julian Assange. This is not a maternal instinct, but rather, a pragmatic one. The increasingly hostile statements made by top state officials and their surrogates show a widespread condemnation of whistleblowers in the halls of government. President Obama set the tone early in his administration.
In the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the rhetoric goes well beyond condemnation of methodology and straight to advocating for his brutal murder.
We already know that Obama, Clinton, Sanders, and Trump have all said they would prosecute Assange. Clinton, to get more specific, wants him extradited from Ecuador, prosecuted for espionage, and his WikiLeaks removed from the Internet. Her desire to charge him with espionage is only a little ironic considering the Clinton Foundation’s Pay-to-Play system arguably warrants an espionage indictment, as does Clinton’s storing of Special Access Program intelligence on an unencrypted private server.
Meanwhile, over in the Trump Tower of Mordor, the business mogul’s draconian approach to just about everything includes a ruthless hatred of all journalists, and most certainly whistleblowers. Trump has indicated his treatment of an extradited Assange or Snowden would be severely harsh. Snowden, in particular, would be assassinated if Trump had his way. I can only shiver imagining how a President Trump would react to a major leak from the inner chambers of his new political empire.
The transition from authorities’ vows of prosecution to their use of surrogates who openly call for Assange’s assassination is highly disturbing, to say the least. Granted, Assange supposedly has his ‘thermonuclear’ device — a 1.4 GB cache of files containing the identity of spies, military secrets, and unredacted documents from Bank of America and BP that can be unencrypted and released upon his death or arrest — but with a large faction of the mainstream media acting as a bullhorn for state propaganda, any damage inflicted by Julian’s ‘insurance’ packet could likely be mitigated by some social engineering. Remember the Panama Papers? A couple months ago people were saying it was the biggest leak in human history. Have you heard even a nostalgic reference to it since?
All this wouldn’t be quite as surprising — or alarming — if the anti-democratic venom hadn’t trickled down into the daily talking points of media figures and network journalists (whom I affectionately refer to as the State Department’s paid interns). Voices from across the political spectrum have repeated the claim that Russia has ‘weaponized’ Wikileaks. Sometimes they pose the conspiracy theory as a question. “Has Russia weaponized Wikileaks to disrupt a U.S. election?” My question in response would be: has the U.S. media questionized State Department propaganda in order to deflect attention away from a rigged primary and a political power structure that is rotten to the core? It’s actually a brilliant little piece of state agitprop. They managed to turn the public’s attention away from one of the most egregious examples of election fraud in recent history and demonize both Russia and Wikileaks in one fell swoop.
Such blatant propaganda is to be expected from the government. But coming from a journalistic establishment that is ostensibly there to dig for the truth, it’s rather shocking to see rampant election tampering from a major American political party get trumped by an unproven accusation toward a foreign country. Regardless of one’s conspiratorial appetite, seeing the 4th estate function as the infotainment branch of the State Department, parroting its every chirp of propaganda, should be profoundly distressing.
Let me give you a couple of examples, first from a mainstream right-of-center publication, then from a wildly popular left-of-center ideologue. In the former, we have TIME Magazine, which has had the hickeys of state propaganda on its neck for decades. On August 12th, 2016, TIME published an article called “WikiLeaks Is Getting Scarier Than the NSA.” I’ll let that sink in for a moment. I don’t even have the emotional bandwidth to explain why that title earns the ‘Psyop of the Century’ award. Just. . . remember to be scared.
On the left, we have Bill Maher, whose excoriations of hypocritical Republicans can be extremely entertaining and perceptive. Like The Daily Show, Maher functions as the liberal end of what some cultural philosophers think of as a manufactured spectrum of acceptable discourse. When Maher, who claims solidarity with Assange and the cause of WikiLeaks, repeats the same government talking point that Russia is tampering with our elections, it kind of forces you to consider that all corporate media — left or right — operates under the same tent.
The anti-WikiLeaks propaganda wouldn’t feel so existential if I didn’t believe anti-whistleblower messaging is soon going to escalate into an actual long-term military campaign against leakers and hacktivists around the world. In the near future, don’t be surprised if there is some ‘event’ that catalyzes a mobilization of military campaigns against targets that are deemed ‘a danger to our democracy because of their unlawful disclosures of matters of national security.’ This would almost assuredly include symbolic targets like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to achieve a “chilling effect.” We’ve already seen Intercept writer Barrett Brown receive prison time for essentially hyperlinking to leaked information in an article. Add to this the fact the Obama Administration has used the Espionage Act to prosecute twice as many defendants as all previous administrations combined, and you get a sense of how power structures are increasingly criminalizing the dissemination of information.
Now back to my non-maternal worrying over Julian’s safety. Recently, in a stunning interview (above) with Dutch television program Nieuwsuur, Assange may have underhandedly confirmed that the recently murdered DNC operative Seth Rich was the leaker of the 3,000 emails that showed the DNC colluded with the Clinton camp, the implication being he was killed either out of revenge for the leak or to prevent future leaks. He didn’t state this explicitly but his abrupt and completely random reference to the murder in the context of assessing the dangers faced by WikiLeaks sources doesn’t make sense unless that was his way of ‘accidentally’ signaling a connection.
The interviewer picked up on that and asked him, “Why make the suggestion of a young guy being shot in the streets of Washington?”
The fact that Wikileaks posted a $20,000 reward for any information on Seth Rich’s murder suggests they do not believe it was a random robbery, which is further evidenced by the fact that his wallet, credit cards, and phone were not taken.
It is also certainly a bit coincidental that within days of the conspiracy going viral, Seth Rich’s family made a public statement asking for rumors about his death to stop. On a likely related note, their new family spokesman is none other than Brad Bauman, who is a Democrat ‘crisis communications’ consultant with the Pastorum Group. According to his LinkedIn profile, Brad’s job is “providing strategic communications advice to Democratic candidates.”
Disputes over this conspiracy persist, but there is no hard evidence linking his death to a politically motivated act of violence by DNC or Clintonian operatives. However, one can surely admit it is unusual for a family to hire a high-powered PR firm that provides “public relations for progressive candidates.” One logical explanation is that the Clinton campaign realized suspicions would surface after Seth Rich was found murdered and immediately started damage control. If Pastorum hadn’t only been created last year, it might not seem so peculiar. And if their web page had any content on it whatsoever, it would be possible for people to easily learn about the origins of their creation. But, like Russia’s connection to the DNC leak, it’s just a theory.
Again, the assertion that a whistleblower was murdered by an operative for a major political party cannot be proven at this time. Nor can the assertion that the murders of five people (in two months) who were going to testify against Clinton had any connection with Clinton operatives.
What can be proven, and what should be taken far more seriously, is the metamorphosis of the state’s rhetoric against Wikileaks from hostile to downright war-like. Not vitriolic, but war-like — as in quite literally the kind of rhetoric that leads to actual war with tanks, guns, and bomber planes — or, in this case, maybe just a bomb robot or a stealthy climber.
It’s a worrisome time for Assange supporters. The last two weeks, in particular, have been downright surreal. First, Obama hagiographer Michael Grunwald tweeted with maniacal delight his support of Assange being killed in a drone strike. Then, Clinton strategist Bob Beckel went on Fox News and jumped up and down in his seat begging for someone to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch…[because] a dead man can’t leak stuff.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 10, 2016
These two men, Democrat luminaries regularly featured on POLITICO and CNN, advocated the extrajudicial killing of a whistleblower to millions of people.
The stigmatization and demonization of whistleblowers and hacktivists come after a decade in which the U.S. government’s civil liberty abuses have been laid bare for all to see. Snowden’s history-altering revelations about the NSA set the precedent that in the information age, state abuses can be illuminated for citizens to see. Transparency doesn’t bode well for Big Brother.
Notably, the NSA leaks facilitated by WikiLeaks are still pouring out. The Intercept recently began publishing internal NSA newsletters written by and circulated among its critically important Signals Intelligence Directorate, or SIGINT. Intercept writer Micah Lee spoke to Anti-Media about the SIDtoday articles.
“Besides the hundreds of small, but significant, individual revelations about the NSA,” he said, “the SIDtoday articles as a whole describe a secret history of the United States’s response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Until Snowden leaked documents, the public didn’t understand, or consent to, what America’s spies were doing, but SIDtoday tells the story of how and why it came it be.”
Micah says the Intercept has only published 9% of what it has, which will amount to around 4,500 articles. Micah acknowledged the dangerous environment in which whistleblowers now find themselves.
“No matter [who is elected], it will be an uphill battle for whistleblowers, but I doubt that will stop them.”
It is my assertion that both Trump and Clinton are likely to engage in specific military operations to dismantle organizations responsible for high-level leaks. It could very well be the next ubiquitous war.
Clinton has cultivated a well-documented track record of pro-war ideologies, not the least of which is her perpetual use of the War on Terror to trigger fear and trauma in the minds of voters. Who could forget the primary debate in which she used 9/11 imagery to defend her Wall Street connections?
An example that may have flown under the radar was the Clinton Foundation’s advertisement for the 2014 exhibit “Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America.” It was a featured installation at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas.
According to the Clinton Foundation’s site:
“Americans have endured thousands of incidents of terror, violence, or subversion right here at home by domestic terrorists and foreign agents, militant radicals and saboteurs, traitors and spies…The exhibition reminds us that Americans have known and dealt with acts of terror since the founding days of the republic and will continue to face these challenges in the years ahead.”
For Clinton (and assuredly Trump, too) war is a permanent fixture in the American empire, as it was for Bush, Obama, and virtually all presidents before them. But the enemies are scattered and amorphous now. Radical jihadists are not like traditional standing armies; their prosecution requires a global, never-ending ubiquitous brand of war that is encoded into the very structure of American foreign policy. A widespread declared war against hackers, hacktivists (Anonymous), whistleblower organizations (WikiLeaks) and individual whistleblowers (Snowden, Chelsea Manning, etc.) would be similar. The empire’s enemy would be scattered, and tracking them would require that the tentacles of the security state slither further into every home and digital device.
For the empire, these leaks are a direct assault on the power and hegemony of the ‘deep state,’ the synergistic nexus of state diplomats and officials, defense contractors, financial institutions, surveillance courts, and the military-industrial complex that together forms the connective tissue holding together a globalist oligarchy.
They stand to lose too much from hacked information showing their improprieties. And the rhetoric continues to accelerate. Guccifer 2.0’s recent hack of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s computer provoked her to use the phrase “electronic Watergate.”
It will be a bipartisan war, and the battle lines will be drawn harshly. In the same vein as Bush’s “you’re either with us or against us” axis of evil, the umbrella of terrorism will expand to include any organizations that leak classified information, any group that publishes the information, and eventually, any journalist that links to a publication containing the information. Barrett Brown, currently serving 63 months for linking to a leak, may agree with me.
Whatever administration is in office will, of course, invoke national security as the pretext for the War on Leaks. Maybe a giant financial institution is hacked, and the information released is said to be the catalyst for an economic downturn; then another leak is blamed for a terrorist attack that kills hundreds of innocent people; then several more major corporations have their entire systems compromised; then an individual hacker releases 50 million social security numbers; celebrities see more of their lascivious sex acts on TMZ (maybe a couple of A-listers are outed).
Soon the entire country agrees: we must go to war with hackers and organizations that leak information.
After years of hating the government, Americans welcome Big Brother back into their lives as the protector of information. They need the state.
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