The Affair Assange rips off the veil concealing the face of modern journalism

Summary:  The Affair Assange provides a mirror in which we can see ourselves and our institutions. It’s not a pretty picture. Today we look at our journalists.  Their reaction to the opportunity provided by WikiLeaks, the competition provided by WikiLeaks, and the challenge to their triple loyalties (to us, to their guild, and to their careers).

Plato’s Cave from The Republic

And when he remembered his old life he would congratulate himself on the change, and pity those still in the cave.  Those in the cave confer honors among themselves on those who could best observe the passing shadows, identify their sequence; and guess which came next. Would he care for such glories? Or would he say with Homer, “Better to be the servant of a poor master and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live like them.”

Imagine this man taken suddenly out of the sun and replaced in his former chains. It would take time for him to be re-accustomed to the shadows.  His fellow prisoners would say it was better not to try to ascend; and if he tried to loose another and lead him to the light, they would catch him and put him to death.

— Chapter 2 of The Republic by Plato

Two journalists at work

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. About Journalists
  3. Some are credulous, with their minds blinkered
  4. Some see the world more clearly
  5. For more information
  6. Other posts about the affair Assange

(1)  Introduction

The reaction of US journalists to the Affair Assange tells us much about the decay of the news media.  Their jealousy, as Assange reminds them what a real journalist does. Their overriding obedience to the government, lining up on command like a marching band to play the designated tune. Their dying print business, as people grow reluctant to pay for government, corporate, and NGO press releases. And above all, their role as blinkers for America’s vision — so that we see no heterodox insights.

We can only guess at what’s transformed our journalists from a professional guild that boldly covered the Vietnam War, defied the government to publish the Pentagon Papers, and broke the Watergate burglary and coverup — to become the lap-dogs of our ruling elites.  I suspect it’s just good sense.

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A strong people get good leaders and journalists.  A weak, foolish people become led by some form of oligarchy (for us, a plutocracy), centered on a court (for us Washington, our Versailles-on-the-Potomac).  Our best and brightest respond to these changed incentives by becoming courtiers.  Life is short, and smart people take the fast smooth road to worldly success.

American Journalist

(2)  A clear look at Journalists

The oddly-apt portrayal is from here.

Let’s start with this analysis from one of America’s most incisive reporters and analysts (who should be at the top of every citizen’s reading list):  “The bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for Julian Assange“, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, 22 August 2012 — Excerpt:

{L}et us pause to reflect on a truly amazing and revealing fact, one that calls for formal study in several academic fields of discipline. Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies) depends just so happens to have become – long before he sought asylum from Ecuador – the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class.

… When it comes to the American media, I’ve long noted this revealing paradox. The person who (along with whomever is the heroic leaker) enabled “more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime” – and who was quickly branded an enemy by the Pentagon and a terrorist by high U.S. officials – is the most hated figure among establishment journalists, even though they are ostensibly devoted to precisely these values of transparency and exposing serious government wrongdoing. (This transparency was imposed not only on the US and its allies, but also some of the most oppressive regimes in the Arab world).

… Many journalists (and liberals) like to wear the costume of outsider-insurgent, but are, at their core, devoted institutionalists, faithful believers in the goodness of their society’s power centers, and thus resent those (like Assange) who actually and deliberately place themselves outside of it. By putting his own liberty and security at risk to oppose the world’s most powerful factions, Assange has clearly demonstrated what happens to real adversarial dissidents and insurgents – they’re persecuted, demonized, and threatened, not befriended by and invited to parties within the halls of imperial power – and he thus causes many journalists to stand revealed as posers, servants to power, and courtiers.

… nothing triggers their rage like fundamental critiques of, and especially meaningful opposition to, the institutions of power to which they are unfailingly loyal.

(3)  Some are credulous, with their minds blinkered

The Matrix is a system you know, that system is our enemy. When you are inside, look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters the very minds of the people we are trying to save. But till we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. We have to understand that most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And most of them are so nerd, so, hopelessly dependent upon this system that they would fight to protect it.
— Morpheus talking about America in The Matrix

Supporting players for the tragic comedy that is early 21st century America are those who comment and analyze the news — part of the larger journalism community (ie, providing content, but paid by others).  Their primary role in the Affair Assange is vehemently denying the obvious, providing distractions from the events, and generally throwing dirt in the air. There are a thousand and one possible citations for this; here is one example from one of our best.  Someone who has conducted a bombardment of misinformation against Assange using his Twitter feed. This is a glaring example, but he’s provided many others equally or more so.

Just out of curiosity, is there any evidence  that Assange would be extradited to the US if he went to Sweden?
Michael Cohen@speechboy71

(4)  Some see the world more clearly

Fortunately some people can see these events more clearly.  Here we look at one example, and marshal supporting data.

(a)  Such as this, from “Don’t lose sight of why the US is out to get Julian Assange“, Seumas Milne (Assoc Editor), The Guardian, 21 August 2012 — “Ecuador is pressing for a deal that offers justice to Assange’s accusers – and essential protection for whistleblowers.”

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy’s diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

… The US interest in deterring others from following the WikiLeaks path is obvious. And it would be bizarre to expect a state which over the past decade has kidnapped, tortured and illegally incarcerated its enemies, real or imagined, on a global scale – and continues to do so under President Barack Obama – to walk away from what Hillary Clinton described as an “attack on the international community”. In the meantime, the US authorities are presumably banking on seeing Assange further discredited in Sweden.

(b)  Milne refers to a large body of evidence.  Such as the clear intent stated in “Wikileaks.org — An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups?“, Army Counterintelligence Center, 18 March 2008. The report elaborates this “Key Judgement” in fine detail, much of which has now so fortuitously happened.

Web sites such as Wikileaks.org use trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers. The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Wikileaks.org Web site.

(c)  Evidence from a source close to the US government:  the private intelligence organization Stratfor.  WikiLeaks published the The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails stolen from Stratfor.  Some of its employees are from the US intelligence community, share its views and biases, and gain information from it.  Many of these discuss Assange (collected here).

Chris Farnham to George Friedman, 6 December 2010 (red emphasis added):

Is it possible to revoke some one’s citizenship on the grounds of them being a total dickhead? I don’t care about the other leaks but the ones he has made that potentially damage Australian interests upset me. If I thought I could switch this dickhead off without getting done I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem.

BTW, close family friend in Sweden who knows the girl that is pressing charges tells me that there is absolutely nothing behind it other than prosecutors that are looking to make a name for themselves. My friend speaks rather disparagingly about the girl who is claiming molestation. I also think the whole rape thing is incorrect for if I remember correctly rape was never the charge.

Fred Burton (VP Intel, former head of State Dept counterintelligence) to his analysts, 7 December 2010:

Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever, unless George Soros hires him.

Fred Burton (VP Intel, former head of State Dept counterintelligence) to a secure email list, 27 January 2011

Not for Pub — We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect

(d)  More evidence, from Down Under: “US targets WikiLeaks like no other organisation“, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 2011 — Excerpt:

{C}ables, released under freedom of information to the Herald this week, show Australian diplomats have been talking to the US Justice Department for more than a year about US criminal investigations of WikiLeaks and Mr Assange.

While the Justice Department has been reluctant to disclose details of the WikiLeaks probe, the Australian embassy in Washington reported in December 2010 that the investigation was ”unprecedented both in its scale and nature” and that media reports that a secret grand jury had been convened in Alexandria, Virginia, were ”likely true”.

… Newly released Department of Foreign Affairs documents show that on December 7 last year, the Australian embassy in Washington confirmed the US Justice Department was conducting an ”active and vigorous inquiry into whether Julian Assange can be charged under US law, most likely the 1917 Espionage Act”.

(5)  For more information

(a)  Excellent, recommended:  “Sex, Lies and Julian Assange” on Four Corners — Investifative journalism at its best by Andrew Fowler and Wayne Harley, ABC Australia, 23 July 2012 — Both video and transcript.

(b) Assange in Sweden: The Police Protocol, Rixstep (see their About page) — Translated Testimony of the three proponents and statements by nine witnesses. I doubt anyone with an open mind can retain confidence in the charges against Assange after reading this.

(c)  About Sweden’s laws and procedures for extradition:

(6)  Other posts about the affair Assange

(a)  About this form of 4GW in the 21st century:

(b)  Posts about the Julian Assange affair:

  1. Sad news about the CIA, 23 August 2010 – Delusional assumption about America savvy.
  2. The full story of the rape charges against Julian Assange of Wikileaks, a possible covert op., 27 August 2010
  3. Update to the WikiLeaks rape story, and why it’s important, 29 August 2010 – If a covert op, it’s working
  4. New and strange developments in the prosecution of Julian Assange (Wikileaks), 1 September 2010 – New but not more enlightening.
  5. Endgame for the affair Assange: a big win for the government, 27 September 2010
  6. The US government successfully smears Wikileaks, while America sleeps, 22 October 2010
  7. Freedom and justice, evicted from America, may have found a new home, 17 August 2012

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29 thoughts on “The Affair Assange rips off the veil concealing the face of modern journalism

  1. Interesting to observe that Latin America has a positive view on Wikileaks & Assange.

    Wikileaks sent ca 33.000 e-mails covering US and local governments less than savoury policies to selected journalists and which kick-started investigative journalism in Latin America

  2. I do not like what the soldier who leaked all the classified information did (it was, in the end, treason). However, Assange, imho, has done what any responsible journalist would do with such information. The United States Government has shown its true colors both through the leaks and through their handling of the entire situation.

    If they had simply said, “Look, if you don’t like the way sausage is made, stay out of the slaughter house.” then they would likely have gotten over the whole thing by now. Instead, they pursued a strategy of persecution that, ironically, the leaks suggested they had been doing in other areas. Thus, they confirmed the validity of the leaks by trying to persecute the people who published them.

    1. “I do not like what the soldier who leaked all the classified information did (it was, in the end, treason). ”

      “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”
      — Article III, Section 3

      While it was a crime, I don’t believe there is much (if any) evidence that the low-level information released (Manning had only SECRET clearance) gae “aid and comfort” to our enemies. It is easy to show that this information was of great benefit to the people of the US — and many other nations.

      The Constitution does not speak of the government — as in the government’s enemies (which may include some of its citizens) — but of the United States, which it defines in the opening as “the people of the United States”.

    2. I stand corrected. It was not treason, it was just really, really egregious violation of direct orders. Given our lack of a knock-down-drag-out war, I would not (were I on the Court Martial Board) vote for execution. A very long time pounding rocks in Leavenworth, KS is another story. Just sayin’

    3. Yes, it was a violation of the law. Just like Obama’s release of secret information, such as about the drones, and the bin Laden raid. The difference lies in the intent. Obama did it for personal advantage; Manning (allegedly) to help America — letting citizens know about the deeds the government does in their name.

      Who deserves the harder punishment?

    4. More about Treason, from the Cornell Law School’s annotated US Constitution website.

      The legislative and judicial history of the US has made little use of the charge of treason. To take the extreme case, the Cornell pages note (#1310) that even the The Confiscation Act of 1862 “to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate the Property of Rebels did not did not designate rebellion of the Confederacy as treason.

      What do they say about Treason:

      Since the Bollman case {1945}, the few treason cases which have reached the Supreme Court were outgrowths of World War II and have charged adherence to enemies of the United States and the giving of aid and comfort. … The Haupt Case The Supreme Court sustained a conviction of treason, for the first time in its history, in 1947 in Haupt v. United States. … {Justice Douglas’} concurring opinion contains what may be called a restatement of the law of treason and merits quotation at length:

      “As the Cramer case {1945} makes plain, the overt act and the intent with which it is done are separate and distinct elements of the crime. Intent need not be proved by two witnesses but may be inferred from all the circumstances surrounding the overt act. But if two witnesses are not required to prove treasonable intent, two witnesses need not be required to show the treasonable character of the overt act. For proof of treasonable intent in the doing of the overt act necessarily involves proof that the accused committed the overt act with the knowledge or understanding of its treasonable character.

      … The vacillation of Chief Justice Marshall between the Bollman {1807} and Burr {1807} cases and the vacillation of the Court in the Cramer {1945} and Haupt {1947} cases leave the law of treason in a somewhat doubtful condition. The difficulties created by the Burr case {1807} have been obviated to a considerable extent through the punishment of acts ordinarily treasonable in nature under a different label,1308 within a formula provided by Chief Justice Marshall himself in the Bollman case. The passage reads:

      “Crimes so atrocious as those which have for their object the subversion by violence of those laws and those institutions which have been ordained in order to secure the peace and happiness of society, are not to escape punishment, because they have not ripened into treason. The wisdom of the legislature is competent to provide for the case; and the framers of our Constitution . . . must have conceived it more safe that punishment in such cases should be ordained by general laws, formed upon deliberation, under the influence of no resentments, and without knowing on whom they were to operate, than that it should be inflicted under the influence of those passions which the occasion seldom fails to excite, and which a flexible definition of the crime, or a construction which would render it flexible, might bring into operation.”

      ————

      This gives little comfort to those who wish to charge Manning with Treason, as he obviously lacks one of the two components: intent to aid an enemy of the people of the United States.

    5. “I do not like what the soldier who leaked all the classified information did (it was, in the end, treason). ”

      Still “plugged in” aren’t you?! Amazing statement, this treason thing.

      Good luck, may take you a little while longer and then maybe forever.

      Breton

  3. epagbreton: Let’s give the US the benefit of the doubt on this case (thus giving the reason that I would convict Manning). Manning knew that he was not allowed to divulge the information. The release of the information could easily be used as a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations, as they would easily be able to contend that the entire country (US) was to blame for the methods and techniques used in the leaked documents.

    Politics, and especially foreign affairs, have never been anything but messy. The United States fomented rebellion in Tripoli (which was actually controlling much of modern-day Libya) when they got PO’d about having a ship stolen. During the time that the rebels were advancing on the capital, the US pulled the plug on its support (it had finally negotiated a treaty to its satisfaction). Was this a d$ck move? Yeah, probably.

    The US also took over a number of places by similarly…shall we say, “questionably moral”?…methods. We overthrew the queen of Hawaii. We fomented rebellion in Panama and then immediately recognized the rebel government. I have a hard time trying to think of any atrocities we did NOT commit against Native Americans.

    What I’m saying is not that these things are right, or moral, or even necessary. They are, however, standard procedure throughout history–ours as well as other nations. Although we had a short period of time when we tried to institute the rule of law on nation states (circa 1945-1960?), the experiment had many flaws and has never really taken root. If it had, FM would likely not have any need to have a blog.

    If one has a weak stomach, he really should not watch how sausage is made. The same appears to be true concerning foreign affairs. We supported (and support) some very bad people because our elected officials believe that doing so is in the best interests of the US (if we, once again, give them the benefit of the doubt on motivation and assume they are truly interested in the country they have sworn to protect and defend). We assisted J. Stalin in a war against his central and eastern European neighbors. Does this mean we thought that the was a good guy? I hope not!

    1. “Let’s give the US the benefit of the doubt on this case (thus giving the reason that I would convict Manning).”

      (1). That’s a large basic civics FAIL about the ways our justice system works.

      (2) The US government is not the United States. That’s very inappropriate confusion in this context.

      As I have said so often, many Americans are half-way to fascism. Some big event — economic, terrorism, whatever — might tip us into it with astonishing speed.

    2. “Let’s give the US the benefit of the doubt on this case (thus giving the reason that I would convict Manning).”

      Just… wow. Have you heard of ‘innocent until proven guilty’? Do you remember that it applies to the _defendant_, not the prosecutor? Amazing. Fabius is right, but I fear that my fellow citizens are far more than halfway to fascism. Just as with the so-called debate on the use of torture, a significant percentage of people have zero problem with despicable behavior as long as it is directed at others.

    3. Okay, the soldier is innocent until proven guilty. What I meant to say is that the overwhelming evidence shows that he did, in fact, leak the information to Wikileaks without authorization. That he did so will full knowledge that his actions were not allowed. That he did it anyways; regardless of the fact that he was not hired into a position of responsibility to decide if leaking such information was in the best interests of the United States of America. We hire people (starting with Congress and the President) to make those decisions. They in turn hire others to continue policies that they deem best. An E-4 specialist working in the State Department is not put there to decide if policy should be carried out, nor which ones should be carried out. That person has not been given the training, information, trust nor knowledge to accurately assess such things.

      If Manning believed thoroughly that the disclosure of the information was vital to the people of the United States, he had (imho) an ethical requirement to bring these concerns to the commissioned officers appointed over him. I will grant that those officers might very well be captured by the system and might then thwart any attempt by Manning to reveal the information after they were notified, but that is the nature of an army in the first place. The lower-level soldiers are not given the over-all tactical plan. They don’t need that information and the fewer who know the less likely the plan will be divulged to the enemy. Manning was not a representative of his government. Commissioned officers ARE representatives of their government–legally. When I was an officer, I had the capacity to sign legal documents for the US. Manning did not.

    4. Does anyone disagree with what you say in that comment?

      But there are higher loyalties, a concept long recognized in western religion, western morality, and western law. These are not relevant when evaluating guilt, but are relevant when deciding punishment.

      I believe that is what people were objecting to earlier in this thread.

      Esp. When senior officials do identical actions for personal gain, while mobs scream for Manning’s head — many of us believe this shows that something is wrong in America.

    5. If I did not believe something was wrong in America, I would be reading the wrong blog–by an extreme measure, LOL!! I also agree that this is a fairly good example of what is wrong in America. I still, respectfully, happen to believe that Manning had NO F$%^#NG business deciding which diplomatic messages should and should not have been classified. If he was a second lieutenant or a warrant officer, the case would have been different.

      We were not talking about this guy refusing to kill people designated by some rogue sergeant as “the enemy”. We’re talking about sensitive diplomatic communications with countries that clearly had stuff to hide.

    6. Rank is relevant because of two reasons. 1) training and confidence given by one’s superiors to be doing the job correctly. 2) When it comes to commissioned officers, they are a different entity from enlisted folks. They have been entrusted to be taking actions on behalf of the government (for instance, signing treaties, etc).

    7. Thanks, that’s precious. But ultimately bunk. It does not take special training to identify evidence of ones government being involved i treaty-breaking duplicity, it takes being a moral person. But it takes courage to brake with the peon indoctrination to act, putting ones safety at risk, to inform the public of the break of public trust that has occurred.

  4. Excellent well thought out article. Thank you. I just read that in late 1930’s a Jewish man shot himself in an UN meeting to alert them to the anti-Semitic rollout in Germany and no one ‘heard’. This is a similar situation where a very brave, intelligent man only provided the opportunity to release what was provided to him by others concerned about the blatant hypocrisy of our elected representative. I am not calling them our leaders because they don’t deserve that title.

    As a woman I am disgusted by Swedish prosecutors for using ‘rape’ to smear a person. We have reduced an appalling act to a commodity and means to an end. Shame on all those people.

    1. Thank you for bringing up this episode of forgotten history! From the Wikipedia entry for Stefan Lux:

      Stefan Lux (11 November 1888 – 3 July 1936) was a Slovak Jewish journalist and Czechoslovak citizen who committed suicide in the general assembly of the League of Nations during its session on 3 July 1936. He shot himself in order to alert the world leaders of the rising dangers of German antisemitism, expansionism, and militarism. After shouting “C’est le dernier coup” (“This is the final blow,”) he shot himself with a revolver.[1]

      Condemning his act, but paying tribute to his cause, the journalist Léon Savary concluded: “People bold enough to fight for justice shouldn’t kill themselves, but stay at their position.” Sadly, his actions were misreported by the world media at the time.

      Lux was also a writer, a theater actor, and a film director,[2] who published his work under the pseudonym Peter Sturmbusch. He was wounded on more than one occasion during World War I. Lux and his work has been mostly forgotten.

    2. @Vera

      It is being reported in your media as a rape charge. This is wrong. Assange is wanted for a sexual violation, which in Scandinavian legal nomenclature is different from rape. That your media does not report on this difference is in itself evidence of partisanship.

  5. I greatly enjoy Robert P. Couthino’s flexibility with regard to the uniform code of military justice:

    “I stand corrected. It was not treason, it was just really, really egregious violation of direct orders.”

    As opposed to the actions of the General Petraeus then-general Stanley McChrystal and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen, who, when directly ordered by president Obama in 2009 to prepare a set of planning options for an extremely limited commitment of American military forces in Afghanistan, systematically disobeyed a direct order from their commander in chief, presented Obama instead with a set of a planning option all of which massively escalated American military involvement in Afghanistan, and who then laughingly admitted that “we didn’t pay much attention” to their commander in chief’s direct written orders.

    The military vision was far more expansive than what the president had outlined in the six-page terms sheet he had given Petraeus, Stan McChrystal, and Admiral Mullen when he had approved the surge in late 2009. “This approach is not fully resourced counterinsurgency or nation building,”€ Obama had written, “€œbut a narrower approach tied more tightly to the core goal of disrupting, dismantling, and eventually defeating Al Qaeda.”

    Several months later, I asked one of Petraeus’€™s aides how he had reconciled the general’€™s plan with the president’€™s goal. “€œWe didn’t pay much attention to that memo,”€ he said.

    Source: Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, page 322.

    So let me see if I’ve got this straight: some low-level private in the U.S. army who violates orders and releases some trivial diplomatic cables that should never have been classified deserves to be court-martialed and sent to prison for the rest of his life…

    …But the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the highest ranking U.S., general in a theater of war deserve nothing but praise when they disobey a direct order from the president of the united states and implement a military policy completely contrary to that ordered by their commander in chief.

    I think we see clearly here the way America works in the early 21st century. The real crime is not disobeying an order from a superior, but failing to be powerful and well-connected while doing so. As Voltaire remarks, laws like the Uniform Code of Military Justice are mere spiderwebs to be brushed aside by the rich and powerful, but bands of steel that crush the life out of the ordinary citizen who has the misfortune to be poor and unimportant.

    1. I disagree with you assessment of the diplomatic cables as being trivial and that they should never have been classified. Otherwise, I agree with you on your assessment of the insanity that has been foisted upon our troops as the UCMJ. If Manning’s acts led to a significant benefit to our enemies (Al Qaeda that is) then he deserves to be punished for violating his orders and betraying his security clearance.

      As for the top generals and admirals, it is in Obama’s authority to dismiss them as he sees fit. If they violated his orders as well as his intent, AND if he still has the belief that they should have followed them, then he should either fire them or make them face justice for violating his direct orders. Gen. MacArthur was dismissed by Truman for exactly that reason.

    2. (1). I have seen no evidence that the WikiLeaks cable dump has aided al Qeda — that’s something often asserted, without any attempt to provide evidence. There is much evidence it helped us, and the people of other nations.

      As I said above, that does not affect the issue of guilt, but relevant for setting punishment.

      (2) as for the generals, much has changed during the 60 years since Truman fired General M. That was a brave action then, and would be far more so now. He was like Pretraeus cubed. His equivalent now would be a potential Caesar.

  6. The New Statesman must correct its error over Assange and extradition“, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, 24 August 2012 — “The claim that Swedish courts, not government, have final say on extradition is a crucial mistake that distorts the Assange case” Excerpt:

    The New Statesman owes its readers a correction for a clear and crucial falsehood contained in this much-cited argument by its legal correspondent, David Allen Green. As I noted on Wednesday, Green purported to debunk what he called “common misconceptions” and “myths” being spread by supporters of Ecuador’s asylum decision in the Assange case, but in doing so, he propagated his own myth on the key question in this matter. By doing so, he misled large numbers of readers not only at the New Statesman but in many other venues which cited his claims. Regardless of one’s views on the asylum matter, nobody should want clear errors on the central issues to be left standing in major media outlets.

    The falsehood here is clear and straightforward. One of the “myths” Green purported to debunk was that “Sweden should guarantee that there be no extradition to USA.” Assange’s lawyers, along with Ecuadorean officials, have repeatedly told Sweden and Britain that Assange would immediately travel to Stockholm to face these allegations if some type of satisfactory assurance against extradition to the US could be given. This is the paramount issue because it shows that it is not Assange and Ecuadorean officials – but rather the Swedish and British governments – who are preventing the sex assault allegations from being fairly and legally resolved as they should be.

    But Green claimed that “[i]t would not be legally possible for Swedish government to give any guarantee about a future extradition, and nor would it have any binding effect on the Swedish legal system in the event of a future extradition request.” He said that this is so in part because “any final word on an extradition would (quite properly) be with an independent Swedish court, and not the government giving the purported ‘guarantee’.” He then cited a British lawyer (notably, not a Swedish one) who made the same claim:

    “[I]t appears that if the extradition is contested as it would be in Assange’s case then it is a matter for the court not the government to decide if he is extradited.”

    This is completely and unquestionably false. It is simply untrue that it is Swedish courts, rather than the Swedish government, who are the final decision-makers in extradition requests. It is equally untrue that the Swedish government has no final decision-making power regarding extradition requests that are legally sanctioned by the Swedish judiciary. These are not matters for reasonable debate. The law is clear. Green’s claim is false.

    Last night, international law professor Kevin Jon Heller at Melbourne Law School emailed me and wrote:

    “[I]t is incorrect to say that the final decision to extradite Assange from Sweden to the US would be made by the courts.”

    He directed me to this analysis from Mark Klamberg – a professor of international law at the University of Stockholm – who dissects Sweden’s extradition law and makes Green’s error as clear as it can be [my emphasis]:

    … Professor Klamberg is far from alone in making this clear. As I noted on Wednesday, this Swedish-Moroccon lawyer analyzed Swedish extradition law in rigorous detail to make the same point:

    “Swedish extradition law clearly states that the Swedish government is the body deciding on any extradition request.”

  7. (READER CORRECTION OF) Legal myths about the Assange extradition“, posted by David Allen Green at his blog at The New Statesman, 20 August 2012 — “Common misconceptions, recursively.” Opening:

    David Allen Green is but one lawyer, and as we all know, the legal profession exists to have internal disagreements. It is part of the mundane work of a lawyer to take laws, precedents and facts, and actively rework them so as to service a prior agenda. Lawyers fabricate arguments to fit paid-for biases such as “that man is guilty,” or “my client is innocent.” That is what they do. Even the most mediocre ones are passingly good at it.

    Readers are therefore well advised to always exercise caution when offered ‘legal expertise’ masquerading as journalism. Journalism is the documentary approach to truth. ‘Legal expertise’ is most often a rhetorical approach to a longed-for conclusion.

    With this in mind, introductory paragraphs like the following, purporting to offer The Truth According To David Allen Green, should already put readers on alert:

    “Some Assange supporters will maintain these contentions regardless of the law and the evidence – they are like “zombie facts” which stagger on even when shot down; but for anyone genuinely interested in getting at the truth, this quick post sets out five common misconceptions and some links to the relevant commentary and material. It complements a similar post on the leading Blog That Peter Wrote.”

    “Zombie facts” is an unfortunate coinage, because a “fact” is, according to any classical epistemology, something that makes a proposition true. The world is the totality of facts. A fact cannot be anything other than the case. Anyone who “shoots down” a fact is, by definition, uttering a false statement. If you find yourself confronting a “zombie fact,” which just refuses to die, that means that you are just being wrong, over and over again. And as it turns out, several of David Allen Green’s now widely-dispersed ‘rebuttals’ are seriously disingenuous. …

    {This then gives a point-by-point rebuttal. Worthwhile reading.}

    1. We also see here the fascinating reclassification of inconvenient facts as something other than, or less, observed reality. A fact which proves embarrassing to the United States government gets redefined as a “zombie fact,” therefore tangential to reality and (in Richard Nixon’s immortal words) “inoperative.”

      This is all part and parcel of the creation of an alternate reality, as in Orwell’s Animal Farm. FDR caused the great depression, Obama produced the economic downturn of 2008, Iraq used WMDs against U.S. troops, Assange’s innocence of any crimes under United States law and the ilelgality of American efforts to extradite him under international law are “zombie facts.” Black is white, up is down, ignorance is strength. Familiar techniques from the dark art of disinformation, lately employed in the former Soviet Union and now finding a new home in the garrison state gulag formerly known as the United States of America.

  8. The news media acting as blinkers for our eyes.

    Questions a/ Assange the media won’t ask“, Edward Wasserman, Miami Herald, 27 August 2012 — Excerpt:

    I’m badly out of step with my media brethren, since I find the fate of WikiLeaks and its besieged founder, Julian Assange, a truly compelling story. Other media don’t agree. The pressure on Assange, who has sought sanctuary in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, is fringe stuff, a quirky faceoff involving a spectral, white-haired weirdo whom journalists disdain who spilled secrets that annoyed officialdom and that U.S. media mostly ignored anyway.

    … I think the story is a very big deal and has been underplayed and underreported by the U.S. media.

    … It was the most stupendous assault ever on official secrecy.

    The counterattack has been steady and effective. The United States arrested an Army data clerk named Bradley Manning for leaking and held him for almost a year under brutal conditions. He has been behind bars for more than 800 days, and faces 52 years in prison. It’s assumed he’s being pressured to implicate Assange as a conspirator.

    Then the companies that processed the money that Wikileaks relied on suddenly decided to stop. Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union, Amazon and Bank of America mumbled something about “indirectly facilitating” illegal behavior, and Wikileaks’ income plunged by 90 percent.

    And in late 2010 came allegations of sexual abuse against Assange from two Swedish women. The details are murky, but what’s important is that Assange has been treated with a determination usually reserved for fleeing war criminals, and until he sought asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy had been under house arrest while fighting extradition. Assange says the real plan is to get him to Stockholm because he can then be extradited to the United States more easily.

    Now, he’s hunkered down in Ecuador’s 10-room embassy, but apart from occasional pictures of the spectacularly overblown police presence around the corner from Harrod’s — some 50 officers — the story is stagnating. “Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history,” Seumas Milne observed in The Guardian, “you might imagine there would be at least some residual concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business.”

    Milne was bewailing the British media’s loathing for Assange; in the United States the problem isn’t hostility, it’s indifference. As a result, big questions go unanswered:

    • First, what precisely is he alleged to have done in Sweden — and how are such accusations normally handled? Are the targets of similar allegations always treated like top-drawer international fugitives, or is Assange unusually privileged? And why can’t he be questioned in London?

    • Second, what is the Washington connection? Have U.S. officials urged the Swedes to get him to Stockholm? Does the United States have plans to seek his extradition? Has any reporter asked?

    (And while we’re asking, what pressure did the administration bring to bear on the money handlers who cut off WikiLeaks’ flow of funds?)

    • Third, has Assange been indicted? It’s reported that a sealed indictment exists, and since he is resisting extradition because he already assumes that to be true, it’s hard to see why it should remain under seal.

    • Finally, and most important, isn’t it time for a dispassionate assessment of WikiLeaks’ impact? It has been two years since the massive leaks of military and diplomatic data. The moment is ripe for an accounting. Did the leaks do harm or do good? Did Wikileaks demoralize dedicated officials and expose trusting intelligence assets to risk and reprisal? Or did it blow whistles that needed blowing, embolden dissidents worldwide, fuel the Arab Spring, encourage lackluster news media to defy official controls, help chase despots from power?

    But none of these answers will come from media that don’t even ask the questions.

  9. Another great moment in modern journalism

    Brought to our attention by Josh Marshall at TPM, 29 August 2012:

    Coming right off Ryan’s speech Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett seemed unable not to mention that Ryan’s speech had well … contained a lot of pretty huge fibs. So euphemisms to the rescue. The transcript:

    Blitzer: So there he is, the republican vice presidential nominee and his beautiful family there. His mom is up there. This is exactly what this crowd of republicans here certainly republicans all across the country were hoping for. He delivered a powerful speech. Erin, a powerful speech. Although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will.As far as mitt romney’s campaign is concerned, paul ryan on this night delivered.

    Burnett: That’s right. Certainly so. We were jotting down points. There will be issues with some of the facts. But it motivated people. He’s a man who says I care deeply about every single word. I want to do a good job. And he delivered on that. Precise, clear, and passionate.

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