Chris Hedges Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Chris Hedges on the Ruling Class’ Revenge Against Julian Assange

Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges joins Robert Scheer to discuss the WikiLeaks founder’s plight as he languishes in a British prison.
“Truthteller” [Art by Mr.Fish]

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The mistreatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over the past decade has been defined as “psychological torture” by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer. Yet, there is still no real end in sight to Assange’s promethean plight. Several months after a British judge blocked his extradition to the U.S.–citing that conditions in America’s inhumane prison system would be detrimental to his health–the WikiLeaks founder continues to be held in a maximum security prison in the U.K. The U.S. government, first under Donald Trump’s rule and now under Joe Biden’s, is appealing the extradition ruling. With a new decision in the case is due to be announced any day now, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and ScheerPost columnist Chris Hedges joins Robert Scheer on this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss what Hedges has called Assange’s “martyrdom.” 

Scheer and Hedges assert that Assange’s case is a clear threat to freedom of the press given that he acted in the capacity of a publisher in the same way the global media outlets that printed the content released by WikiLeaks did. Should the publishers of the Washington Post, New York Times and other media have been charged with a crime for publishing the content? Hedges and Scheer, who have both been staunch supporters  of the WikiLeaks founder, conclude that there can only be one reason for all recent Republican and Democratic administrations to doggedly persecute Assange: he is a major threat to the establishment’s most sinister interests. 

“Your job [as a publisher] is not to be partisan,” says Hedges. “Your job is to expose the machinations of power, the crimes of power, the lies of power–whoever’s in power. And that’s precisely what Julian did. when he was going after Bush with the Iraq War Logs, the Democrats loved him. But as soon as his journalistic integrity led him to also expose the inner workings of the Democratic Party establishment, they turned on him as vociferously as the Republicans. 

“I’ve been stunned at what an egregious assault [Assange’s persecution] is on press freedom and how the institutions that purport to care about freedom of the press have been complicit in the persecution of Julian.” 

As Assange is tortured before our eyes, Hedges decries the silence of organizations such as PEN, which “are tasked with holding up the kind of liberties and press freedoms that we care about.” The award-winning journalist argues that PEN and others have not only sold out to their liberal donor base, but have been “taken over” by Democratic establishment figures such as Suzanne Nossel, the current head of PEN America and former member of the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Scheer also highlights the plight of another person who has become collateral damage in America’s tyrannical mission against Assange. 

“The real hero of this whole thing is Chelsea Manning,” says Scheer. “The U.S. government has been tormenting Chelsea Manning because they basically want to get her to say: ‘Julian Assange put me up to this; he’s the really bad guy.’ It’s a horrible story of government torture and manipulation that you have this rare, exemplary citizen, Chelsea Manning, who does the right thing and says our government, in our name, is committing war crimes–killing innocent children and journalists and everything–and then they want to now break her so she’ll go against Julian Assange.” 

Listen to the full conversation between Hedges and Scheer as they examine in detail the U.K.’s role in the Assange trial, as well as discuss the very real dangers the results of the case could pose to journalists and journalism the world over. 


Robert Scheer

Joshua Scheer

Natasha Hakimi Zapata 

Lucy Berbeo 

RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case, unquestionably; a very shrewd observer, Chris Hedges, longtime correspondent, bureau chief for the New York Times, and wrote for a lot of other publications. 

But I want to get Chris on now with some urgency, because I’m really concerned about the fate of Julian Assange. I’ve turned 85; in my whole life I don’t think I’ve had, experienced a case of such splendid indifference to press freedom and the suffering of a brave journalist in this country, in the United States. He’s of course not from the U.S., which makes it even more appalling that he’s being held under terrible conditions in an English prison. 

But Julian Assange contributed so much to our knowledge of what our government does. And I go through the human rights media, I get all the mailings and everything, and somehow it’s off the charts. So Chris Hedges, you’ve met Julian Assange; you visited him when he was in the embassy, taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. So tell us something about it.

CH: Well, yes. First, I want to second the importance that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, and the courageous whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, have served at shining a light into the inner workings of empire, which is the role of journalism. I don’t think there’s anyone that’s come close to matching the volume of material, nor the importance of that material. And that’s why, of course, Julian is being persecuted. 

So he’s now spent two years in this high-security Belmarsh Prison, in appalling conditions; the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, calls what’s been done to him “torture,” psychological torture. The judge–I sat in at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court–decided not to extradite Julian to the United States based on the prison conditions in the United States and how she did not feel that that would adequately protect him from harm, and self-harm in particular; there have been suicide issues with Julian. And remember this is now 10 years, that he was first trapped for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. 

So, but of course the Trump administration appealed this decision not to extradite Julian, where he faces 175 years in prison. And the judge–who could be very caustic to Julian in the court, and did not dismiss any of the charges that the U.S. has leveled against Julian–refused him bail, even though it was clear that he would now spend many, many months more in Belmarsh waiting for this appeal to be heard. And there will be a ruling; we don’t know exactly when, sometime within the month, as to whether the appeal can go forward. 

You know, the decision to keep him in the high-security prison although he’s not been found guilty of any crime–the only crime he’s been found guilty of in the U.K. is jumping bail when it was clear that they were coming for him, and he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy and was given political asylum. The judge could have had home confinement, they could have given him an ankle bracelet; these precautions are probably unnecessary anyway, because he can’t leave the U.K. If he leaves the U.K. and goes to another country, the U.S. can start a new extradition proceeding. 

The whole process has really been a mockery of the rule of law. Julian is not a U.S. citizen; WikiLeaks is not a U.S.-based publication. How can you charge him under the Espionage Act for giving secrets to a hostile foreign power, which is what the act is about, passed in 1917 by Woodrow Wilson? Julian’s never come before a jury. If he is extradited, it will be because of appointed judges and because of the home secretary in the U.K. And so, you know, it’s one thing if [unclear] offenses are decided by a no-jury magistrates’ court and a no-jury appeal, but this is a life-or-death case.

And to continue this railroading without him ever seeing a jury is, again, a kind of grotesque manipulation of the legal process. Because I don’t think any jury would have accepted that an admitted CIA operation, which spied on Julian and his lawyers in the embassy–and they had set up cameras even in the bathroom, where the lawyers would go to speak–and then given all of this material to the U.S., to the prosecution, would have, they would have thrown the trial out. I mean, that alone would be grounds for invalidating the trial. But the judge accepted, because the judge was handpicked, and her husband is in the private defense industry, you know, and formerly worked in the defense industry. I mean, it’s very incestuous. 

So he’s being held without charge, for years on end; habeas corpus doesn’t exist; he’s being harassed within the prison; he can’t get the material that he needs, often. Just to humiliate him, they would strip search him in and out of the courtroom when he requested to sit with his lawyers rather than in a kind of glass cage. Even the U.S. prosecution didn’t object, but the judge just denied him that, so many times he couldn’t even hear the proceedings. 

And you know, the whole idea that Julian is accused of breaking U.S. laws, although he’s not a U.S. citizen, and the violation on top of it with the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty–which says quite categorically that no one should be extradited for political offenses. And what happened under Tony Blair was that this part of the treaty wasn’t written into British law when the legislation was pushed through the House of Commons in the name of the War on Terror. So you have this strange kind of legal conundrum where the treaty and the legislation are in conflict, but of course the judge sides not with the treaty, but with the British law that was passed after 9/11. 

So it’s a politically motivated prosecution against, I would argue, the most important publisher of our time, hands down, without question. Was initiated by the Trump administration and facilitated by the U.K. government. You know, we have Alan Duncan, for instance, recently released diaries made clear that this was a planned, orchestrated pursuit of Julian by U.K. ministers. So, yeah, the whole failure to give him due process, and the kind of denial of political asylum–I mean, the mere fact that U.K. police under Theresa May were allowed into the Ecuadorian embassy is a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty. Lenín Moreno, the new president, who was essentially bought off with IMF loans and everything else by the United States, stripped Julian of his Ecuadorian citizenship. Rafael Correa, the previous president, had given him citizenship. 

Yeah, it’s a very–it’s disturbing on many, many levels, not just in terms of the persecution of our most important publisher, but also the way the legal norms have just been sacrificed, both in the U.K. and by Sweden and the United States, to nail Julian to a cross.

RS: You know, but I want to bring it closer to home, to my crowd or your crowd, people who claim to be liberals, people who were shocked by Donald Trump and his disrespect for the press. This is now a Joe Biden problem. And it’s of historic significance, I believe, to the liberal pretenses of the United States. Because as you point out, this is a publisher. And Daniel Ellsberg, who faced a long sentence under Richard Nixon, if that trial had gone forward, was in a much weaker position; he had actually worked for the Defense Department. The same with Chelsea Manning. 

But the reality here is that there’s no difference between what Julian Assange did and what the New York Times and Washington Post did in publishing the Pentagon Papers. They revealed–they and Julian revealed evidence of international war crimes committed by the United States government. And they had an obligation, which we announced at Nuremberg, to do that; they certainly had a right, but even as world citizens they had an obligation, because the principle of Nuremberg is that if you know of war crimes, you have to reveal them. 

And so it couldn’t be more profound an issue. If we look at actually what was released, the shooting of innocent civilians, the killing, shooting of journalists–it was grotesque, among many other revelations that came from [WikiLeaks]. And yet I had one journalism professor tell me, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to Julian Assange.” You know, a kind of respected journalism professor at a respected university. That is not the only such comment that I’ve heard every time I’ve raised this case. 

So we really have here, I would argue–I don’t know whether you agree with me–the most important case of press integrity and freedom maybe in this century, I would argue. Certainly in this century, but even going back to a good chunk of the previous century. And the stony silence about it–I don’t hear from PEN, I really don’t even hear much from any of the human rights organizations. Let’s talk about this culture of acceptance. Joe Biden’s name–it’s his attorney generals [unclear] who have taken this case further, who refuse to drop it. Why? Because Julian Assange’s revelations were embarrassing to the official Democratic Party. 

CH: Right. So this is one of the first acts of the Biden administration when it came into office, was to pursue the appeal and continue to seek the extradition. And you’re right; you know, this has all been preceded by a very effective campaign of character assassination, orchestrated against Julian with the charges, which are untrue, that he committed rape; even the Swedish authorities did not charge him with rape, but that became the kind of mantra. And it all became about his personal proclivities rather than the heart of the issue, which is press freedom. 

And so, yeah, and the liberal groups have–well, look. I mean, liberals are moral until there’s a cost. I mean, I see this with Israel. You know, they will decry what’s done to undocumented children on the border, because there’s no political cost. But taking on the Israel lobby–and I speak from personal experience–means you are essentially pushed out of the mainstream and demonized and attacked, as I have been, as an anti-Semite. And so there’s a cost for standing up for Julian and WikiLeaks, and the liberal organizations and liberals themselves have run for the door. That’s kind of characteristic of liberalism itself, and its hypocrisy; that a lot of it is just about moral posturing, and pumping yourself up as a kind of moral arbiter within the society. But as soon as things get difficult, you fall completely into line. 

So yes, you’re right. PEN is an appalling organization, which was founded originally to deal with precisely these kinds of issues, and it’s remained completely silent. Because it doesn’t want to–it doesn’t want to confront the ruling elites and the Democratic Party establishment, which is as aggressive in going after Julian because of the leak of the John Podesta emails. John Podesta was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and many of those emails were very embarrassing to Hillary Clinton. And as I’ve said many times, you can argue–and it definitely hurt her, how much I don’t know, but it did hurt her. I mean, she was caught lying about her ties to Wall Street; we learned that she earned $675,000 to give three speeches to Goldman Sachs. That’s a sum so large it can only be described as a bribe. We learned that she was aggressively pursuing military intervention in Libya because she thought it would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

So, yeah. And that’s what a journalist should do. I mean, your job is not to be partisan. Your job is to expose the machinations of power, the crimes of power, the lies of power, whoever’s in power. And that’s precisely what Julian did. So when he was going after Bush with the Iraq War Logs, the Democrats loved him. But as soon as his journalistic integrity led him to also expose the inner workings of the Democratic Party establishment, they turned on him as vociferously as the Republicans. And I mean, journalists shouldn’t have any friends in the ruling power structures, and he doesn’t. But yes, I’ve been stunned at what an egregious assault this is on press freedom and how, as you correctly point out, the institutions that purport to care about freedom of the press have been complicit in the persecution of Julian.

RS: Yeah, and I want to push back a little bit. I don’t think this is comparable to going easy on Israel and the West Bank and so forth. Because there you’re talking about opportunism and so forth, or whatever you’re talking about. This is different. This is Democratic Party vengeance, OK? First of all, this case has nothing to do with Sweden. You don’t have to bring somebody to the United States to sit in a maximum security prison to deal with a charge that the Swedes have even not pursued. That’s a different issue, and Julian has actually said he would go back to Sweden, and that’s been investigated and so forth. 

So it had nothing to do with it. And it has nothing to do with any of his behavior in England, whether he was at an embassy or what. It has to do with the total demise of any notion of Anglo-American tradition of jurisprudence. You know, the Magna Carta and everything. It has to do with these two nations–well, basically, England just doing whatever the U.S. wants. And basically saying they cannot only–we know they grab people all over the world and torture them and everything else; they can do it in daylight. You know, you make our lives politically uncomfortable, in any respect–which is what happened both with the Bush administration and the Democratic Party–and we’re going to destroy you. We’re going to kill you, we’re going to put you in a maximum security prison, we’re going to drive you crazy. That’s what’s going on here. It’s vengeance. It’s anger. They want to destroy Julian Assange, because he dared–this is the ultimate “killing the messenger.” That’s what’s really at issue here. It’s not just oh, they’re–no, they’re vengeful. They want him–that’s what, you know, “I don’t give a rat’s ass”–why don’t you? A major figure in journalism, other papers have won prizes over Julian Assange, and you don’t give a rat’s ass? 

And that is the conventional position right now. That’s why I’m doing this interview now, because I am really ticked off by the deliberate disinterest in this whole affair. And we’ve got to cut to the chase. What is happening here is that the U.S. government, whether it’s the Trump or Biden government–right now it’s Biden. Joe Biden is the person keeping Julian Assange in jail. He’s the one who sent his attorney generals to keep pushing this forward, instead of dropping it. And so anyone who feels, oh, OK, Biden’s a lot better than Trump, we solved the main problem–it’s a lie. It’s a lie, and by the way, it was a lie with Barack Obama, because he brought more people, charge more people with leaking and so forth than had been done by all presidents before him under the Espionage Act. 

So let’s discuss that. This is not just another case of press mealy-mouth cowardliness. This is a deliberate act of revenge to destroy somebody for being one of the great–

CH: That’s not new. I mean, you know, they did that to Árbenz, they hounded him his whole life; they ordered the execution of Che Guevara. When the empire really feels wounded, it’s relentless, I mean, until it destroys that person or group. I would say that there is a cost for groups like PEN to make any kind of stance, because they’re dependent on the Democratic donor base. And they don’t want to lose it. And essentially–I mean, we’ve seen PEN being taken over by Suzanne Nossel, who became the executive director of the PEN America center. And Nossel comes out of the Hillary Clinton State Department. Has never said a word about the suffering of the Palestinians; championed preemptive war, which under international law is illegal; never said a word as a State Department official about torture and the use of extrajudicial killings. I mean, she’s utterly unfit to lead a human rights organization, especially one with global concerns. And I resigned, not that it had any effect, but I– 

RS: We should point out that both of us have been honored by PEN, before the Clintonistas took it over.

CH: Yes, and I was supposed to give a talk for PEN in New York City when Nossel was appointed, and I refused to give the talk, and I resigned from the organization. And I think that we have seen the Democratic Party establishment quite effectively corrupt, or take over in this case, institutions that are tasked with holding up the kind of liberties and press freedoms that we care about. So–and to challenge this, you know, there is a cost. I mean, Julian has been turned into a pariah, and the Democratic Party establishment, as you correctly point out, is as furious at WikiLeaks and Julian as the Republican Party. And so if you are running PEN and you are defending Julian Assange, you are going to be punished, not only in terms of your career but in terms of your funding. And that has effectively silenced–and then of course we talk about publications like the New York Times, El País, The Guardian, Der Spiegel–they all ran Julian’s stuff. But you know better than I do why they ran it. They ran it because if they didn’t run it, you know, it would have been released, and they would have been exposed as being utterly complicit to the power elite. They were forced to run it; they were shamed into running the material in the same way you shamed, when you were editor of Ramparts, the mainstream press into running material that was true. But that animus towards Julian was always there, and as soon as the material was published, they became part of the campaign to destroy Julian, who they never liked in the first place. 

And so now it’s just, you’re right, there is a kind of coalescing of all of these forces now to abandon the most important publisher in my lifetime, and the one who’s done more to expose the reality of the crimes of empire than anyone else. I mean, it isn’t just the Iraq War Logs. It isn’t just the Collateral Murder video. These were volumes of material that, for instance, exposed that U.S. authorities were imprisoning hundreds of people from Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa–all of whom they knew, we know from the documents, were not guilty of terrorism offenses. It exposed this kind of new, lawless frontier where people are kidnapped and often sold to the CIA by local authorities–most of the people in Guantanamo were sold–and then held in these black sites, transported across the world on CIA black flights in hoods and diapers, and then tortured. You know, this was all Julian.

And WikiLeaks published the Guantanamo files in addition to the Iraq and Afghan War Logs, which exposed thousands of illegal killings and violations of international law. They published these 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables that revealed coups and illegal surveillance operations and, you know, rampant human rights abuses, much of it provided by Chelsea Manning. So you know, the Obama administration–and Biden was the vice president–was very hostile to the publication of the Guantanamo files. And it did not go after Julian only because his lawyers couldn’t figure out how to separate Julian Assange from the New York Times, otherwise they would have. 

RS: So let me–we’re going to run out of time here, but let me just conclude this with talking a little bit about the real hero of this whole thing, is Chelsea Manning. And you know, the way they’re going to try to get Julian Assange, they’re going to say that he somehow gave her the code or helped her crack the code to be able to get documents, so he’s really not just a publisher but in fact he’s an actor here. Which of course is silly, because if you look at the history of any great investigative journalism based on leaks and sources and so forth, the publisher and the journalist were always very active. The New York Times organized the whole Pentagon Papers release, and then when they were stopped, the Washington Post stepped in, and these people were honored for all that. 

But Chelsea Manning was in the position, in this case, that Daniel Ellsberg is. They were part of this military machine, and they saw things that rose to the level of war crimes, and they revealed it. And where the case now–and so what Julian Assange did, really, was what any honorable publisher should do: he published it, the material. But where the case is right now is that the government has been tormenting Chelsea Manning–first was released, and now different charges and grand jury and so forth–because basically what they want to do is get Chelsea Manning to say: Julian Assange put me up to this; he’s the really bad guy. That’s who they’re after. And it’s a horrible story of government torture and manipulation that you have this rare, exemplary citizen, Chelsea Manning, does the right thing and says our government, in our name, is committing war crimes–killing innocent children and journalists and everything–and then they want to now break her so she’ll go against Julian Assange. That’s really where the case is now, isn’t it?

CH: Yeah, that’s an important point for the government. Because that does separate Julian–first of all it’s untrue, by the way, because Manning didn’t need a password; Manning had full access to the material. But the government charges that, because if they can convince the judge that Assange offered act of assistance to Manning, then Assange becomes a co-conspirator in the theft of Pentagon data. And so yes, that differentiates Assange from the New York Times and the Guardian. And so yes, they’ve been persecuted–I mean, unfortunately Chelsea Manning, through this treatment–who has not broken; I mean, she is certainly one of the most courageous figures of her generation, and has also had several suicide attempts. But yes, that’s right, they want Chelsea Manning to essentially implicate Julian Assange as a co-conspirator, even though it’s untrue. 

RS: Let me push a little further on this issue of the publisher’s role. Because if you look at–and we both know Daniel Ellsberg, and he’s certainly written a lot about this, but he’s not the only one. That anytime any publisher, any news organization, gets involved with a whistleblower story or documents that were classified or so forth, they’re going to be very actively involved. The New York Times rented hotel rooms to work on it. This happened with Edward Snowden’s leaks with major newspapers. They thoroughly investigate; they decide what they’re going to run and not run. You know, after all, Julian Assange was distributing this to other organizations; he didn’t have newsstands or anything. 

And so the case against Julian Assange is a parody of any claim of press freedom. It’s basically saying you can punish a publisher for revealing the truth. There’s nothing else to be said about this. Because otherwise there’s no reason to bring Chelsea Manning to the United States. And so I just want to stir up something here, for people to ask their friends who are in the news business, or human rights concern, or Democrats–they’re so happy the Democrats are in power. Why is this Democratic president out to put Julian Assange in a maximum security prison for the rest of his life, and cause him to commit suicide? That’s the question we have. And is it any different than when under Lyndon Johnson the FBI went out to cause, to try to get Martin Luther King to commit suicide?

Just because the power is being exhibited by the gloved fist of the Democrats–you know, we have to really ask profound questions of: Who are we? And it’s not some “others.” That’s why I don’t want to blame it on, you know, thinking about Israel or something–no. This is an attempt to get vengeance for the worst practitioners of torture and killing of civilians, against a person who revealed that. And it was done by the United States, and this is a case that only matters now getting him from England to the United States. The rest of it can be dealt with by England and by Sweden and everything else. But the case really has force because the U.S. wants to destroy this publisher.  

CH: Yeah, that’s right. And you know, the Democrats talk a good game, but it was that whole kill chain by that lethal bureaucracy behind Obama’s drone war was expanded. It was Obama that reinterpreted the 2002 authorization to use military force act as giving the executive branch the right to order the assassination of U.S. citizens; I’m talking about Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son in Yemen. It was the Obama administration–and Biden was part of that–that used the Espionage Act nine times to shut down and persecute whistleblowers. 

So there is no difference. I mean, the hunt, the drive to extradite Julian is–I mean, not surprisingly to me–as aggressive under the Biden administration as it was under the Trump administration. You know, what has changed is the rhetoric. I mean, we’ve got that whole other issue, you know, that everybody’s salivating that Biden is somehow the new FDR, which is absurd; the facts just don’t justify, in any way, that. But the return–or that he’s the climate president, or something else. And so they are all issuing statements honoring Press Freedom Day at the very moment that they are working overtime to extradite Julian to the United States. So it’s–you know, on that, there’s no daylight between the Republicans and the Democrats on Julian and on this issue.

RS: I want to–again, you have a few more minutes, I know you have to leave. But you know, I don’t care about the rest of our president’s agenda. That’s to be discussed and so forth. Because I grew up with this. FDR was my hero in my house in the Bronx, and my out-of-work father and everyone else, OK? And as a result, I–it really was not my fault, I was just a young kid, you know, seven, eight years old–but the media ignored the roundup of the Japanese Americans, people who had nothing to do with the war, and their internment. And looked the other way. And so this idea that you want to support your president because you agree with him on what he’s going to do about health care or he’s going to do about unemployment, and you ignore fundamental human rights, press freedom, you know, questions–that’s the opening that Orwell and Huxley describe. You know, it’s always lesser evil; it’s always a better way to go. 

And so giving any, any–let’s talk about, let’s end this with a little comment about journalism. Because if any group of people should know that, it should be journalists. And their job is not to help the next person get elected or help the incumbent stay in office. Their job is to search, as you did, for what, 20 years in war zones, looking at the truth of the matter. Trying to find out, you know, who’s getting killed and who’s doing the killing, and what’s going on here. And that has been lost here now. Because we have greenwashing, and we have Trumpwashing; you know, we had this, oh, horrible experience, so now we’re going to give this guy a pass. 

And I want to end on that, because I think you have been the–not the only voice; I think others, like Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald and others, have spoken out. But there are very few people who are really willing to call it as it is now, given their post-Trump trauma. 

CH: Yeah. And it is, you know, I think it is a damnation of the press. This is the most important press trial of the 21st century. If Julian is extradited, it will be a signal that the United States can kidnap and extradite anyone, anywhere around the world, for releasing information that they find offensive; it doesn’t matter whether they’re a U.S. citizen. It also gives a signal to every regime that wants to clamp down on freedom of speech to do so with impunity. And you know, the consequences of this are catastrophic. And many of those people in the mainstream press, the New York Times and others who are remaining silent, will rue the day. Because these people have no intention of stopping with Julian Assange.

RS: Well, that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. I want to thank Chris Hedges. And I want to thank Christopher Ho at KCRW for week after week posting these shows, making sure the sound quality is there. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer. Natasha Hakimi Zapata, who writes the introduction. Lucy Berbeo, who does the transcription. The JWK Foundation for giving us some funding to help do this, and in memory of Jean Stein, a journalist I much respected. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. 


  1. I would just like to say that to me Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are true heroes. I cannot imagine where we would be without them and what they did to expose the truth. Clearly there is CORRUPTION run amok in government, and left unchecked as it has been for sometime, the consequences are dire. We deserve better. Why elect people if they are only going to become corrupt. We need total, complete and pure transparency WORLDWIDE. Only then can we live free of the fear that corruption and the darkness it brings can be kept in check.

  2. Blessed are the meek, for they know not. Professors of Journalism that don’t give a rats ass? That pretty much says it all, yes? Is there any such thing as a nonviolent remedy to this?

  3. The persecution and torture of Julian Assange is the secular equivalent of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago and the silence of the establishment media is a “mortal sin” of omission. While the crucifixion of Christ may be mythology, the crucifixion of Julian Assange is REAL, and it’s happening NOW–right before our eyes. “God” won’t intervene, so we must.

  4. KCRW prevents download of your interviews. In order to listen on the other sites mentioned, you must sign up and allow them to use your private personal information. KCRW is a publicly funded station in santa monica. If they had a shred of integrity, they would allow people to download ‘your’ interviews.

    It is important that your interviews are readily available to those of us who must time shift them to listen to them when we have time. Most honest, transparent news sites have a ‘download’ button with out spyware.

    Please either get KCRW to provide a simple ‘download’ button, or use another of the more honest, transparent site for your interviews. I am part of a large network of Public Interest Technologists and we are monitoring and reporting on this to a wide audience of concerned people.

  5. To be fair, I must add to my previous comment that I do VERY MUCH APPRECIATE that you go to the trouble to provide a transcript of your interviews!

    However, many of us can listen to an audio clip, but, don’t readily have the time to focus all our mental faculties on a written transcript. That is why we desire a simple ‘download’ button.


    1. I appreciate, and enjoy the essays and audio and video available from this website. I do not support you … as I should, but neither do I support so many other sites as I should … and if I could. My pockets are empty. I appreciate the transcripts, and audio, and video available, and hang upon the words of those few I still hold Wise among Humankind.

      However, I am troubled by the providers of audio and video content. My computer’s sound card does not well handle audio or the audio associated with videos. Sitting at my computer is not comfortable for me. I grow old. Where I can feel comfortable is constrained. My television, very deliberately NOT tied to Internet, is at a comfortable place for me to listen to audio or watch video. I very very strongly prefer to download mp3 audio as opposed to video. It is more conservative of bandwidth and storage … and sorry … but unless some killer visuals are absolutely required I do not need nor do many presentations require video. For some lectures, presentations, or discussions where graphics become involved I very very strongly prefer the slides themselves over the slides spread across video.

      My preferences deprecated — it becomes evident to me that access to content grows increasingly controlled and constrained by others than those who created that content. This most deeply disturbs me. I believe now is time that there must be some ‘place’ built where content providers can freely post audio and text using their lesser bandwidths but with similar freedoms to that once available through YouTube before it became Goggle. I realize we live in the age of broadband and high bandwidth Internet … but I live in a different, a real world, where mp3 and text are much smaller, faster, and better than video. I cannot support the numerous sites where I find content. I most truly wish I could. I believe I could support, even given my limited means, a site that enabled the minimally curated sharing of mp3 and text files.

      1. Well, at least on this site you will never have video or audio play at you automatically without your choice. And zero ads!

  6. It is interesting how left-wing journalists have split over Julian Assange. Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer, here, Joe Luria, Glenn Greenwald (in a similar situation with Snowden), Matt Taibbi, Max Blumenthal and his The Grayzone staff, Jimmy Dore, Caitlin Johnstone and only a handful of others, vs an army of suddenly Pro-War CIA stenographers, who have been gushing over Biden and ignoring Assange since Biden’s people decided to follow most of Trump’s policies. The merging of the DNC and all major Establishment branches, particularly the CIA, including the media of the Police State, is embarrassing. I grew up as a Democrat, left with the Clintons, came back to Obama (first term) and now am adrift. I’m happy Trump is gone, but cannot believe anyone is happy that Biden is now President. He has a 50 year record of war-mongering and corruption.

  7. The pathetic, pusillanimous, pandering of successive Australian governments to the Empire of Evil is sickening.
    We should be ashamed.
    We will all sink together.

  8. Nils Melzer, the same one who investigated the torture of Julian, also investigated the ‘rape’ allegations against him.
    Here’s but one citation from an interview with Nils:
    “Allow me to start at the beginning. I speak fluent Swedish and was thus able to read all of the original documents. I could hardly believe my eyes: According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never even taken place at all. And not only that: The woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.”
    Here in Australia, the recent findings by Melzer have gone largely unreported.

    p.s. thanks Chris & Robert.

  9. I really appreciate the transcripts because I can read faster and better than I hear, thanks!

    Wikileaks was a successful project designed to open up ‘forbidden’ texts to a much wider audience than is normal or allowed. Wikileaks filled an obvious, glaring, gap in the media spectrum. Giving people access to texts without the overwhelming redaction, editing and ‘censorship’ that defines the establishment, maintream media. It was transparency in action, and a real challenge to the role of establishment journalists and media platforms, like the BBC, the Guardian, NSNBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times. In a way, in a historical parallel, Wikileaks was publishing the BIble in English and breaking the established church’s monopololy on presenting and explaining these texts. A few centuries ago people were burned alive for smuggling from Holland, Bibles written in english into England. That’s how seriously the state and church regarded the control of these texts. In essence, Assange is being treated like a dangerous heretic undermining the authority and position of the state.

  10. Yup, yup and we peacefully resist…yup, yup..

    When the prolific capitalist book writer Chomsky was asked by a college student, “Well what do we do?”…

    Chomsky looked perplexed…

    Writers don’t do battle..

    Guantanamo Bay?

    Leonard Peltier?

    Assange knew what he was getting in to grifting intel to make a million dollar website…

    Martyr him and let’s move on to “What to do?” or lose readers reading what they’ve read before from leftist writers shopping for websites these days..,

    1. What do we do? Well, we will never have anything close to more weapons and resources than our government, so if you are suggesting a violent uprising, that truly doesn’t seem like a good idea. Someday, maybe even today, one or two or three countries, alone or combined will have as much or more firepower than the good old USA. My suggestion is a peaceful, but blunt anti-war message like NO, my government – we have no time for your lying propaganda anymore. We don’t care to be #1, we don’t care how profitable your international portfolios are, we don’t care to rule the world. We care only about survival and needs and cooperation and peace. We see no reason to support any present or future illegal war, nor the secret wars or the proxy wars. Then we loudly and clearly cheer on China and Russia in their bid to release the U.S. government from their obsession about ruling the world. If they can’t understand that message and back down (and honestly, it seems pretty clear many won’t ) then our survival will not depend on rioting. It also will not depend on supporting this out of control government. We have no faith in a government that keeps so many secrets, tells so many lies and half-truths, and locks up truth-tellers. That’s what we can do. We can let them know we are done with their bull–it and we will not support it any longer. There are two things they cannot afford to allow to grow amongst the people or they are done. Anti-war sentiment and sentiment against foreign direct investment in places it …is…not…welcome, (i.e. neocolonialism). As we march peacefully or stand quietly, we let them know. We don’t trust our own government because it lies, it kills in our name, and it locks up truth-tellers. Frankly, it’s not worth fighting for. They should have no doubts people feel this way. It must be said loudly and repeatedly.

  11. Hedges writes that a publishers job is to expose the machinations of power, the crimes of power, the lies of power–whoever’s in power. Which is to say that everything’s a lie and that’s a fact.

    A publishers job is to promulgate absurdities that some of the people will believe no matter what. They call this exposing the truth or something super-serious.

    Sounds like fiction but the gospel truth is that the press is keeping Assange in jail by covering all sides of the issue.

  12. Like Nils Melzer who’s examined the Assange affair in detail, I speak Swedish. Like him I was appalled from the very beginning by the huge, Grand Canyon size, gap between what the media was reporting and the information about the case available in Swedish. Anybody who bothered, could in see for themselves that something was very, very wrong here.

    At first I believed the distorted coverage in the media was down to basic ignorance and lack of effort to examine the evidence. That was wrong. The journalists didn’t ‘give a rat’s ass’ about Assange or the truth at all! I spent hours engaging with them when the Guardian allowed people to comment freely, and they weren’t interested in the facts of the affair which clearly undermined the entire ‘case’ against Assange for ‘rape’ from the very beginning.

    I was shocked that ‘liberal’ journalists at the Guardian and elsewhere, didn’t care about the truth or that an innocent man was being smeared and railroaded, without a shred of concrete evidence presented that backed the ‘charges’ levelled at him. The last veils of faith in mainstream journalism were ripped to pieces. ‘Liberal’ democracy is dead in my opinion. I think we’ve moved into a different era. The era of something that resembles a form of ‘soft fascism’ or ‘liberal fascism’ were the state, the great corporations and the media have merged into new whole, and one is either inside that ruling group, or, like Assange and others, on the outside and branded the enemy.

  13. I want to thank sheerpost for their openness and transparency in allowing comments. I see the crimes are ‘against’ not ‘by’ Assange. I hope the moderator allows my posting my message to sheerpost here for others who may want to setup audio and podcasting on their own site.
    I remarked about lack of availability of audio download on KCRW. We put together a tutorial on podcasting. You may view it at:
    While it is very rudimentary, you are welcome to use any of it that might help you.
    Sincerely, Sherman Jay of The Arts In Arizona

  14. The persecution of Julian Assange was initiated under the OBAMA administration, Chris! It was merely continued under Trump, and is being continued to this day under Biden. Don’t try to let the Democratic Party off the hook in this matter.

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