Assange Craig Murray

Craig Murray: The Power of Lies

The press has been neither humiliated nor found out because most of the country still believes the lies they were told and have not seen corrected.

By Craig Murray / CraigMurray.org.uk

The comments on Peter Oborne’s excellent article on Julian Assange in The Guardian on May 20 are a damning indictment of the media’s ability to instill near universal acceptance of “facts” which are easily proven lies.

The Guardian chose a comment full of these entirely untrue assertions as its “Guardian pick” to head the section:

If you look through all the comments, they repeat again and again that Wikileaks published un-redacted documents, including names of U.S. agents, which put lives at risk. The entire basis of most of the comments is simply untrue – and none of the readers seems to have any information to contradict them.

Julian Assange has never said that governments should have no secrets. That would be a ridiculous position and clearly some information held by government is rightly confidential. He has said that governments should be very much more open to the public, and that most government secrecy is unjustified.

Nor has Wikileaks ever dumped data unread and unedited onto the internet. The commenter is correct to say that Wikileaks has shared editing responsibilities with organisations including The Guardian and The New York Times. This is precisely because the material needs to be edited to avoid revealing inappropriate material, and to make journalistic decisions on what to write stories about.

The notion that Assange was “lazy” because he did not read all the material and do all the editing himself is self-evidently ridiculous. The U.S. diplomatic cables and Iraq and Afghan war logs alone constituted over 600,000 documents. It was simply impossible for Assange to read it all personally. He was the editor of Wikileaks. This is tantamount to criticising Katherine Viner for not writing every single article in The Guardian personally.

The extradition hearing of Julian Assange heard numerous highly professional and respected journalists testify to the rigorous nature of Wikileaks’ editing process to remove names. Here is one extract from my reporting of the trial:

“John Goetz was the first witness this morning. Senior Investigations Editor at NDR since 2011, he was at Der Spiegel from 2007-11. He had published a series of articles on German involvement in the Afghan War, including one on a bombing raid on Kunduz which massacred civilians, for which he had won Germany’s highest journalism award. In June 2010 he went to London to meet with Wikileaks and the Guardian to work on the Afghan War Logs.

In a series of meetings in ‘the bunker’ at the Guardian with the NYT and the other major media partners, the partnership was formed whereby all would pool effort in researching the Afghan War Logs but each party would choose and publish his own stories. This cooperative venture between five major news organisations – normally rivals – was unique at the time.

Goetz had been struck by what seemed to him Julian Assange’s obsession with the security of the material. He insisted everything was encrypted and strict protocols were in place for handling the material. This had been new territory for the journalists. The New York Times was tasked with liaison with the White House, the Department of Defence and State Department on questions of handling the material.

Asked by Mark Summers to characterise the Afghan War Logs, Goetz said that they were fascinating first-hand material giving low level reports on actual operations. This was eye witness material which sometimes lacked the larger view. There was abundant first-hand evidence of war crimes. He had worked with Nick Davies of the Guardian on the Task Force 373 story.

Julian Assange had been most concerned to find the names in the papers. He spent a lot of time working out technical ways to identify names in the tens of thousands of documents. Mark Summers asked f he had been looking for the names for the purpose of redaction, and Goetz confirmed it was for redaction. He had interviewed Assange on the harm minimisation programme of the operation.

On behalf of the group Eric Schmitt of the NYT had been speaking to the White House and he had sent an email identifying 15,000 documents the White House did not want published to prevent harm to individuals or to American interests. It was agreed not to publish these documents and they were not published. Summers asked Goetz if he was aware of any names that slipped through, and he replied not.

Goetz was not so involved for family reasons when the consortium went through the same process with the Iraq war logs. But he knew that when a large number of these were released in the USA under a FOIA request, it was seen that Wikileaks had redacted those they released more heavily than the Department of Defense did. Goetz recalled an email from David Leigh of the Guardian stating that publication of some stories was delayed because of the amount of time Wikileaks were devoting to the redaction process to get rid of the ‘bad stuff’”.

Further very detailed evidence on this point was given by Professor John Sloboda, by Nicky Hager and by Professor Christian Grothoff.

Yet there is no public awareness that this careful editing and redaction process took place at all. That is plain from those comments under The Guardian article. This is because people are simply regurgitating the propaganda that the media has given them.

My blog was effectively the only source for detailed reporting of the Assange hearings, which were almost ignored by the mainstream media. [Consortium News had access to the courtroom every day and filed daily written and video reports.]

This was deliberate choice – the information was freely available to the mainstream media. This is what the Reuters News Agency, to which they all subscribe, produced on Dr Goetz’s evidence, for example:

“WikiLeaks’ Assange was careful to protect informants, court hears
By Reuters Staff

LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) – WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange was careful to ensure that the names of informants in hundreds of thousands of leaked secret U.S. government documents were never published, his London extradition hearing was told on Wednesday.

Australian-born Assange, 49, is fighting against being sent to the United States, where he is charged with conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.

A lawyer for the United States told the court last week that it was requesting Assange’s extradition over the publication of informants’ names, and not for handling leaked documents.

John Goetz, an investigative reporter who worked for Germany’s Spiegel magazine on the first publication of the documents, said the U.S. State Department had been involved in a conference call suggesting redactions, and WikiLeaks had agreed to hold back about 15,000 documents for publication.

“There was sensitivity and it was one of the things that was talked about all the time,” Goetz told the court. Assange was concerned that the media should take measures “so no one would be harmed”, he said.

Goetz said WikiLeaks was later frustrated when a password that allowed access to the full, un-redacted material was published in a book by Guardian reporters in February 2011.

Assange made international headlines in 2010 when WikiLeaks published a U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.”

I can find no evidence that any mainstream media used this report from Reuters, or indeed any of Reuters’ daily news feed that covered the major points for the defence. The BBC managed to report prominently the false claim that has entered public consciousness:

But could not find space for any of the witnesses who contradicted this claim.

It is of course a very delicate subject for The Guardian, whose journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding were in fact responsible for the dumping of un-redacted material on the net. The court heard evidence of this from numerous witnesses, of whom Professor Christian Grothoff gave the most detail:

“Summers then asked Professor Grothoff whether David Leigh released the password. Grothoff replied that yes, Luke Harding and David Leigh had revealed the encryption key in their book on Wikileaks published February 2011. They had used it as a chapter heading, and the text explicitly set out what it was. The copies of the encrypted file on some mirrors were useless until David Leigh posted that key.
Summers So once David Leigh released the encryption key, was it in Wikileaks’ power to take down the mirrors?
Grothoff No.
Summers Could they change the encryption key on those copies?
Grothoff No.
Summers Was there anything they could do?
Grothoff Nothing but distract and delay.

Grothoff continued to explain that on 25 August 2011 the magazine Der Freitag had published the story explaining what had happened. It did not itself give out the password or location of the cache, but it made plain to people that it could be done, particularly to those who had already identified either the key or a copy of the file. The next link in the chain of events was that nigelparry.com published a blog article which identified the location of a copy of the encrypted file. With the key being in David Leigh’s book, the material was now effectively out. This resulted within hours in the creation of torrents and then publication of the full archive, unencrypted and unredacted, on Cryptome.org.

Summers asked whether Cryptome was a minor website. Grothoff replied not at all, it was a long established platform for leaked or confidential material and was especially used by journalists.”

It is telling that in The Guardian itself, scores of commenters on Oborne’s article reference the release of un-redacted files, but nobody seems to know that it was The Guardian that was actually responsible, or rather, massively irresponsible. The gulf between public perception and the truth is deeply troubling.

In a related matter, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal has published an article with that attribution about the “Russiagate” hoax around the 2016 election, which is stunning:

“The Russia-Trump narrative that Clinton sanctioned did enormous harm to the country. It disgraced the FBI, humiliated the press, and sent the country on a three year investigation to nowhere. Putin never came close to doing as much disinformation damage.”

The problem is The Wall Street Journal has one thing wrong. The press is not humiliated – like Boris Johnson, it is entirely brazen and has no capacity for humiliation. The press has not been found out, because most of the country still believes the lies they were told and have not seen corrected.

Hillary’s 2016 campaign manager has stated “Russiagate” was a lie knowingly planted by Hillary. Mueller could find no firm evidence of Russian hacking, and the CEO of CrowdStrike, the Clinton appointed firm who made the original claim, testified to congress there was “no hard evidence”.

Neither the FBI nor Mueller even inspected the DNC servers. The Christopher Steele “peegate” dossier has fallen apart and is now a thing of ridicule. Roger Stone was jailed for false evidence to the FBI – which consisted of him inventing a Wikileaks-Trump link for purposes of self-aggrandisement. The Manafort/Assange story was the most egregious press fabrication since the Zinoviev letter.

But the media who pushed all these false narratives have never backed away from them.

My favourite example ever of almost entirely unreported news was the dismissal by New York federal judge John Koeltl of the Democratic National Committee’s lawsuit against Trump and the state of Russia over the 2016 elections. Judge Koeltl ruled that nothing whatsoever had been produced which met the bar of evidence.

There is plainly a crisis in western neo-liberal societies. The wealth gap between rich and poor has become so extreme as to be insupportable, and even in the wealthiest countries in the world, people in employment are struggling to achieve decent accommodation, heating and food. The billionaire-controlled state and media systems contrived to neuter both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, who sought to restore some social justice.

In consequence, inevitable public discontent has been channelled into populist courses – Brexit, Trump, Johnson – which themselves alarm the establishment, though less than Sanders and Corbyn did. There is a space for comforting fiction to explain the social shock.

Therefore the populist wave is explained, not as a result of popular discontent at the extreme economic imbalance of modern neo-liberalism, but by the Deus Ex Machina of hacking, or Cambridge Analytica, all of which is then itself sourced back to the designated devil Putin.

Modern society is not really much more rational than the Middle Ages. Myth is still extremely potent. Only the means of myth dissemination are more sophisticated.

Craig Murray

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

14 comments

  1. The fault is with the useless media, certainly, but also with the public, who do not care enough to find out the facts, and mindlessly swallow whatever the current narrative is.

  2. I get sick and tired of you people blaming most Americans , the ratings of the corporate media are way down under 50% . I seems to me that those who keep blaming the majority of Americans are only paying attention to that corporate media. The American people are all working they work many work from 60-80 hours a week 7 days a week!! The spend most of their time trying to eek out a living. It is the system not the people. The govt. works for the banks, wall st., corporations and the MIC parasites not the people.

    1. To Johanna,
      “The govt. works for the banks, wall st., corporations and the MIC parasites not the people.”
      True, but who put the govt. in office?

      1. The rich, corporations, banks, wall st and MIC have bought off the govt. they rig the elections now . It is the system <<<we voted in 2016 then the mass murderer hillary bought the primary which screwed the peoples candidate… The people wanted Bernie again in 2020 they screwed him again and did the mail in ballots. My husband and I each got 2 ballots each we went to the polls. IT IS THE SYSTEM .

      2. Rigged them for whom – Trump? Biden? if all the elections are rigged, then why bother voting – or is that your point …

    2. Thank you.
      Exactly.
      Blame the victim.
      I think that it’s called cowardice.
      Like the people who harangue cigarette smokers, but lack the fortitude to take on the tobacco companies.

      1. @Southpaw
        It’s one thing to say that the rich & powerful and their corporations are MORE responsible, maybe even MUCH MORE responsible. But adults have at least SOME responsibility for choices in their lives. Relevant here, if they want to live in a so-called democracy, they are responsible to learn about the issues.

        Ideally, we would have wise, benevolent, empathetic leaders and wouldn’t need democracy. But the vast majority of humans aren’t anywhere near that mentally and spiritually evolved, so we all have to do the work it takes to learn what’s really going on. If you’re stuck working slave hours, change your life by moving or doing something else, but you can’t just say you don’t have time.

  3. Shava Nerad
    Founding executive director, The Tor Project (long retired)

    “I believe that Snowden went through journalistic channels because he was interested in having the leaks responsibly redacted, and WikiLeaks has been notorious for their slack treatment of redaction of materials.

    He had no intention to preserve his anonymity. He was planning on this as an act of open civil disobedience. That’s the definition of whistle blowing. Were there real protection for whistle blowers in the US, he could have stayed here, but that’s unfortunately not the case.

    Snowden has been very concerned with the professional handling of his materials, that his releases were shown to be responsibly handled in the interest of the American people, if not in the interest of the current administration of the NSA. To this end, the confidential materials had to be carefully released after being reviewed for their sensitive information and its impacts in an international context.

    Assange’s crew would not be concerned with this context, as evidenced by the recent DNC leaks. Using Greenwald and Poitras, and The Guardian, was a reasonable choice at the time, although GCHQ was more in the pocket of the NSA than might have been anticipated, and Greenwald has been more radicalized by his family’s treatment perhaps and events over the years since. It’s a high pressure business, and it’s the intention to make people make mistakes.

    Labeling WikiLeaks as “globally trusted” is a bit of an assumption. I was involved in WikiLeak’s inception. If you could sell emails like you could sell paper correspondence, I have the first email Julian sent asking for help with his “journalist drop box.” I thought it was a great idea.

    But he’s lost friends over the years as he’s gone along, and competing projects have sprung up. WikiLeaks is no longer a politically neutral project. I no longer trust Julian to be passing through information that is unaltered or whole, and doesn’t suppress information inconvenient to his agenda. I don’t trust him to not be taking funding that effects his releases. No, WikiLeaks is not universally trusted.

    Russian sources hacked my election and now he is feeding leaks on a timed schedule to influence my election on a partisan basis to favor a candidate with Russian connections. He’s been a reporter for RT for years. You do the math. It’s not terribly complex.”

  4. Hence, there is an Off-Guardian analyses site.

    https://off-guardian.org/?s=Assange&submit=Search

    And Media Lens,

    As Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist Glenn Greenwald put it…

    “The worst media in the democratic world is the British media, and it’s not even close. I know it’s hard for people in other countries who hate their own media to believe, but whatever you hate about your country’s media, the UK media has in abundance and worse.”

    Media Lens is about solidarity with journalists and others fighting the mainstream lies and the corruptions here and there and almost everywhere.

    “They have done their utmost to keep Julian Assange’s name and plight in the public’s consciousness and done the same for Chelsea Manning. They have defended the reputation of the late Robert Fisk. They have similarly defended Jeremy Corbyn and the values he brought back to the Labour Party. ”

    Twenty-one years on the watch, Media Lens:

    https://dissidentvoice.org/2021/04/reflecting-on-twenty-years-of-media-lens/

  5. Craig Murray is a hero second only to JulianAssange himself.

    Only Steven Donziger’s nightmare mistreatment by the
    American JUSTUS system is
    Comparable. I have been a criminal defense attorney in California for 1/2 century…

  6. Nils Melzer writes in his introduction to The Trial of Julian Assange: “I write this book because, when investigating the case of Julian Assange, I came across compelling evidence of political persecution and gross judicial arbitrariness, as well as of deliberate torture and ill-treatment.”

    Yet in the comments section of the Guardian article Craig refers to the majority of commentators displayed nothing but vitriol founded on MSM lies, and would curtly dismiss Melzer’s findings..
    Surely this is a lesson on how persuasive the Guardian’s (and others) reportage of Assange has been; it also highlights how gullible (read: stupid) its readership is. This should surely scare the shit out of ‘us’.

    Australia now has a new government and there is one issue over which Albanese (the new prime minister) and the Greens are in complete agreement:
    That’s the release of Julian Assange.
    “While in Opposition, newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is reported to have told a February 2021 caucus meeting that “enough was enough” and he “can’t see what’s served by keeping [Assange] incarcerated”. ”
    And on May 27 (3 days ago) the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that: “Mr Albanese is also a signatory to the Bring Julian Assange Home Campaign petition.
    Mark Dreyfus, the new Attorney-General, also expressed a need to “bring the matter to a close”.”
    As of writing, the new government refuses to comment on whether or not Julian’s future has been discussed with either Boris Johnson or Biden – even though Albanese met them both in Tokyo a few days after the federal election.

  7. In the case of Trump, the Electoral College and ten swing states. Almost 3 million people who voted for Clinton had their votes essentially thrown out. This not to suggest that Clinton was a good choice, but our Electoral system is utterly corrupt. Clinton and Trump were the ONLY choices.

    1. To TimN,
      No, they weren’t the ONLY choices – they were the ones that, unfortunately, the majority of us made ….

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