By Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch
One of the world’s most courageous whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg challenged U.S. prosecutors on December 6 to come after him, as they have pursued Julian Assange. The 91-year-old Ellsberg, whom the U.S. security state decades ago possibly hoped to drive to suicide, announced that he too had received leaked materials containing evidence of U.S. war crimes from former military analyst Chelsea Manning. “Let’s take this to the Supreme Court,” Ellsberg said, ready to contest the constitutionality of the ghastly Espionage Act, used against him and now Assange.
Ellsberg’s bombshell followed on some other key news about Assange. Finally, on November 28, mainstream newspapers located, after an arduous search, the elusive courage to do what they should have done years ago: denounce the illegal detention and deliberate, combined U.S. and U.K. assault on publisher Assange. Nota bene – these newspapers all published the national security scoops for which Assange has been persecuted, scoops that his organization, Wikileaks, first aired. Yet as President Trump, then next President Biden worked to crush the obstreperous journalist and thus to toss a free press into its grave, these brave news outlets – paramount among them the New York Times and the Guardian – sat on their hands. At last, in late November, they moved their rear-ends off their hands and demanded the bogus charges against Assange be dropped. As at least two journalists noted on twitter, these press organizations must have learned that Biden wanted to end the Assange prosecution. If only!
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Meanwhile, related to Assange’s predicament, few things would be better for justice than for the CIA to be brought to heel, because of its many crimes. Few things would be better for good in the world than for this organization to pay for its abuses. And nothing could be less likely. So, barring such enormously just outcomes, you’ll have to settle for something smaller. That something arrived in early November.
That was when former CIA chief Mike “We Lied, We Cheated, We Stole” Pompeo was served papers in a case involving his clandestine work against Assange. Pompeo has been sued by lawyers and journalists who visited Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy. According to the Dissenter back on August 15, they “allege that the agency under Pompeo spied on them in violation of their privacy rights.” The video of Pompeo being served, posted by Wikileaks, went viral on social media. Newsweek covered it on November 3, but could not verify a Russian report that “Pompeo was given the legal papers last week at a fundraising dinner.”
Plaintiffs allege that Pompeo’s CIA violated their privacy rights by copying data from their phones and devices, which they handed to security when they visited Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he hid out from U.S. extradition for seven years. They also sued the Spanish security firm, UC Global and its director. According to plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Richard Roth, Assange’s visitors “had a reasonable expectation that the security guards at the Ecuadorian embassy in London would not be U.S. government spies, charged with delivering copies of their electronics to the CIA.”
In addition, the Dissenter reported, “Pompeo allegedly approved the placement of hidden microphones in new cameras at the embassy. He allegedly approved bugging the embassy with hidden microphones. He allegedly signed off on a plan to allow the CIA to ‘observe and listen to Assange’s daily activities at the embassy.’”
U.S. persecution of Assange horrifies the world. Brazil’s president-elect Luis Inacio Lula da Silva urged on November 29 that Assange be freed from his “unjust imprisonment,” which would mean that this abomination, this so-called legal case should be dropped. Colombian president Gustavo Petro met with Wikileaks and pledged on social media November 22 to “ask President Biden…not to charge a journalist just for telling the truth.” The leaders of Venezuela and Nicaragua have also called for freeing Assange. Previously, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador on two occasions petitioned Biden on Assange’s behalf. Even Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese on November 30 urged the U.S. to stop its chase of Canberra’s citizen, Assange.
This may be the most significant plea, because Australia is an ally that almost never bucks the U.S., while the other aforementioned countries are all headed by leftists, to whom Washington might be disinclined to listen. So something could well be in the wind. But still, Albanese’s request could be met with the same resounding silence as greeted those of the Latin American leaders. Following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden has so far enabled the atrocious abuse heaped on the Wikileaks founder by the U.S. government, so it is unlikely these protests from mere heads of state will deter him from letting that obscenity under which Assange is charged, the Espionage Act, run its course. Fortunately, Assange has taken action to get his unjust treatment heard in another venue. On December 2, he filed an appeal against the decision to extradite him to the U.S. And he filed it in the European Court of Human Rights. His supporters eagerly await the verdict, even if the Exceptional Empire ignores one that contradicts its wishes.
For seven years, hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange claimed that if he left it, he would be extradited to the U.S. For this the media mocked him. Now, in prison, Assange faces extradition and 175 years in jail if convicted. Have those journalists who belittled him for holing up in the embassy apologized? Have they even acknowledged they were wrong? Not one bit. No doubt their reticence stems from motives as pusillanimous as their ridicule of Assange to begin with, namely, resentment that he’s the true journalist, one who may perish because he told the truth, while they are mere stenographers.
And boy were Assange’s truths explosive! He humiliated the U.S. security state – for which he can never be forgiven – with, among other things, the video Collateral Murder, based on leaked footage from Chelsea Manning. This film revealed American soldiers murdering eleven innocent Iraqi civilians and injuring two children from their Apache helicopter. This video made the security state go ballistic. It grabbed Manning and tortured her in prison until she attempted suicide. She was effectively tried for the same so-called offense twice, thus, double-jeopardy. And it charged after Assange, in the same mad-dog fury with which it pursued NSA leaker Edward Snowden, in the frenzied search for whom the U.S. military forced down an airplane of an actual head of state, Evo Morales, to inspect it for their prey, presumably suspected of hiding under a seat.
Although things still do not look good for Assange, despite the efforts of numerous supporters, change could be afoot. Major newspapers urging an end to his prosecution signify something, though what, yet, is not clear. And a small win, like Pompeo being served is also welcome. It means someone in power might be held accountable for this barbarous assault on a journalist and a free press. It means the CIA’s darkly concealed abuses of Assange – the agency did, after all, plan to kidnap him, with help promised by the British – will see the light of day. It might even provide Assange himself with material to use at trial or on appeal. Much depends on these outcomes. Because so far, both the British and the American judicial systems have behaved disgracefully, blithe and unconcerned as they show themselves to be totally, utterly rigged.