The working class and the fight to free Julian Assange …

23 February 2019

Since June 19, 2012, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has lived as a prisoner inside the small Ecuadorian embassy in London, deprived of direct sunlight, adequate medical treatment and, for the past year, even the ability to communicate with the outside world.

Assange, a courageous journalist and publisher, is being ruthlessly hounded by the American state and its global lackeys because he helped expose the crimes of US imperialism and ruling class criminality and corruption all over the world. His persecution is the spearhead of a global offensive against freedom of speech and for censorship of oppositional voices on the internet.

Assange was forced to seek political asylum with Ecuador after the British courts upheld a warrant to extradite him to Sweden on manufactured accusations that he was under suspicion of sexual assault.

Assange and his defenders correctly assessed that as soon as he was detained in Sweden, the US Justice Department would issue its own extradition application to have him hauled to the United States. Assange faced, and still faces, the danger of being put before a show trial in the US on false charges of espionage.

Millions of working people rightly see Assange as a champion of freedom of speech. Pseudo-left organisations, such as the International Socialist Organization, Jacobin magazine and Socialist Alternative, however, have either abandoned him or joined the herd of intelligence agencies and imperialist propaganda outfits demanding his arrest and extradition.

They have turned against Assange as part of their lurch to the right and alignment with imperialism following the eruption of revolutionary movements of the working class in Tunisia and then Egypt in 2011. The entry into politics of the working class terrified privileged sections of the upper-middle class, which has enriched itself as a result of the destruction of workers conditions over the past four decades.

The backlash was most sharply expressed in the milieu of organisations that falsely claim to be socialist. These groups supported the US-led military intervention to overthrow the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and then the US-backed Sunni Islamist extremist organisations that provoked a sectarian civil war in Syria against the secular regime headed by Bashar al-Assad.

The Australian organisation Socialist Alternative denounced criticism of their support for the US-backed Syrian Islamist rebels as knee-jerk anti-imperialism.

While the pseudo-left lined up with neo-colonial operations in the Middle East, they also fully embraced the conscious turn by the ruling elite internationally to divide and disorientate the working class through the state promotion of gender and identity politics.

The American Socialist Alternative, for example, had declared in December 2010 that the accusations against Assange were a frame-up and shameful. By August 2012, it had completely flipped, asserting that the claims must be investigated and US imperialisms hunt for Assange does not mean he is innocent.

The demands by these groups that the public believe accusations against Assange that were a transparent frame-upand have since been dropped as a basis of criminal prosecutionparallel the right-wing #MeToo movement, with its disregard for fundamental democratic principles such as the presumption of innocence and the right to due process.

It was impossible for organisations and individuals to align with imperialism and elevate identity politics issues while continuing to proclaim support for Julian Assange and WikiLeakswhose very existence is viewed as a threat by the ruling class.

It was one thing for WikiLeaks to expose the war crimes committed under the despised Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was quite another for independent and critical media to publish information that helped inspire mass revolutionary upheavals that brought down governments and threatened the capitalist profit system itself.

But while these right-wing organisations continue their silent complicity in Assanges persecution, support for the journalist is growing among workers, young people and all those committed to the defence of democratic rights.

The Socialist Equality Party (Australia) is organising demonstrations in Sydney on March 3 and Melbourne on March 10 to demand the freedom of Assange. The rallies will insist that the Australian government end its collaboration with the persecution of one of its own citizens and intervene immediately, using the full weight of its diplomatic and legal powers, to compel Britain to allow Assange to leave the Ecuadorian embassy and return to Australia.

The SEP demonstrations have won important support from principled individuals, publications and organisations that defend democratic rights. These include filmmaker John Pilger and civil rights advocate Professor Stuart Rees, who will both be speaking in Sydney on March 3. It also includes singer/songwriter Roger Waters, independent journalists Chris Hedges, Elizabeth Vos and Joe Lauria, and the broader WikiLeaks defence movement that fights for the freedom of Assange.

In its defence of Assange, the Socialist Equality Party has insisted, in the face of a global onslaught against democracy by the ruling elite, that the working class is the powerful, mass force for the defence of democratic rights.

All over the world, from teachers in the United States to auto parts workers in Mexico, to public sector workers in India, the working class is engaged in a wave of strikes and struggles. As this strike movement expands, it must, and will, increasingly raise political demands. Among the most important will be for freedom of expression and the right to know the truth. The fight to free Julian Assange is vital to the defence of democratic rights. It must and will be taken up by masses of workers in the coming struggles.

James Cogan

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The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange, Part 1: Whats …

In the first part of a special New Matilda investigative series, clinical psychologist Dr Lissa Johnson exposes the science behind the hunt for Julian Assange, and the tactics those in power use to keep you in the dark.

Next month rallies will be held in Sydney and Melbourne in defence of Julian Assange. Protesters will call upon the Australian government to uphold its obligations to its citizens and secure freedom for Assange, whose health is failing is in his ninth year of UN-declared arbitrary detention.

Assange faces extradition to the United States and secret charges for his publishing activities should he step outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. This cross-border, extraterritorial persecution threatens not only Assanges health, and possibly his life according to a recent UN statement, but poses grave legal risks both to journalism and dissent.

Among the speakers at the Sydney rally will be renowned journalist and film maker John Pilger, who will address protesters in the Amphitheatre at Martin Place on Sunday, March 3rd, from 2pm. The Melbourne rally will be held at the State Library on Sunday March 10th, from 1pm.

The Australian rallies join a growing international chorus of organisations and individuals sounding increasingly urgent alarms over Julian Assanges plight, and its implications for freedom of speech and democratic rights.

Late last year, as secret US charges against Julian Assange surfaced, and the threat of his imminent extradition to the US loomed, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) issued a strongly worded statement to the UK Government, having previously ruled twice that Assange is being arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

In its statement, the UNWGAD demanded that the UK abide by its binding legal obligations and immediately secure freedom for Julian Assange. The UN reminded the UK Government that human rights treaty law is binding law, it is not discretionary law. It is not some passing fancy.

The same fears prompted 33 EU parliamentarians to write a similarly strongly worded letter to the British Prime Minister, the Ecuadorian President and the UN Secretary General on December 10th, condemning the very serious and egregious violations of human rights in the heart of Europe. They called for Assanges immediate release, together with his safe passage to a safe country.

Two German MPs followed with a visit to the Ecuadorian Embassy on December 20th, at which they denounced the violation of Assanges fundamental rights and expressed their demand that this case has to be solved: that no publisher, no editor, no journalist is detained because of publishing the truth.

The politicians and UN statements added to previous condemnations of Assanges persecution from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and a former senior lawyer for the UNHCR and UN Expert on the Promotion of International Order.

All of these leading legal and human rights authorities have been making essentially the same fundamental point: that Julian Assange is being persecuted for publishing truth in the public interest, placing public interest journalism itself at risk, along with freedom of speech and other democratic and human rights principles.

It is the same fundamental point made by several speakers at an earlier Australian rally to free Julian Assange, held in Sydney in June last year. John Pilger spoke at that rally also.

Pilgers important 2018 speech, however, like the rally itself, was subject to a near total, if not total, mainstream media blackout. So if you missed it, that may be why. And if you havent followed the US war on Wikileaks from the outset, as I hadnt when I attended last years rally, Pilgers speech is a powerful way to bring yourself up to speed.

Speaking from the steps of the Sydney Town Hall, John Pilger said, I know Julian well. I regard him as a close friend: a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I have watched a tsunami of lies and smear engulf him, endlessly, vindictively, perfidiously, and I know why they smear him.

In 2008, a plan to destroy both Wikileaks and Julian was laid out in a secret document dated 8th of March 2008. The authors were the Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessment Branch of the US Defense Department.

The Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessment Branch of the US Defense Department? Whats that?

Is it any relation to the CIA? The same CIA that recently came out openly in front of the US mission to take down Wikileaks?

The intelligence branch of the US Defense Department (DoD) is known as the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA. The DIA differs from the CIA, according to the DoD website, in that the CIA supplies intelligence to the President and his Cabinet, while the DIA supplies intelligence to combat related missions.

In other words, as far back as 2008, it sounds as though the DoD had enlisted its intelligence apparatus in some kind of combat mission against Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

What kind of combat mission?

Pilger explained, They described in detail how important it was to destroy, and I quote, the feeling of trust that is Wikileaks centre of gravity. This would be achieved, they wrote, with threats of exposure and criminal prosecution and an unrelenting assault on reputation.

An unrelenting assault on reputation? Like the long and unrelenting assault on Julian Assanges reputation in The Guardian and other mainstream publications, for instance? An assault that has involved some serious blatant fabrications of late, seemingly in collaboration with a US-aligned political operator with a known history of forgery? While government-funded intelligence-media cut-outs such as the Integrity Initiative have worked to smear both Julian Assange and Jeremy Corbyn behind the scenes on social media?

That kind of unrelenting assault?

But what sort of military operation targets a thing as deeply psychological as trust? Is this what they call a psychological operation? Are psyops even a thing? If so, does the DIA do them?

Yes appears to be the short answer, based on this 125-page Military PSYOPS document issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCOS). The JCOS define psychological operations as planned operations to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of target audiences.

Like destroying the trust at a publishers centre of gravity perhaps.

So who might the DoD engage to influence the emotions, motives, reasoning and behaviour of it targets? Psychologists? That would make sense, given that psychological operations are psychological. Influencing emotions, reasoning and behaviour is our area of expertise, after all.

It would be disturbing, though, to think that psychologists had anything to do with aiding and abetting the UN-declared arbitrary detention of a journalist for publishing. Let alone contributing to his torture, as defined by the UN, via effective solitary confinement since March last year, without access to adequate medical care, possibly endangering his life according to the UNWGAD.

The fact that psychological bodies have remained silent about such a thing, rather than taking a logical stand beside leading human rights organisations, is bad enough. But never fear. A friendly chat on the American Psychological Association (APA) website reveals that, in reality, CIA psychologists differ little from their more pedestrian counterparts. They provide mental health care, assessment and screening for intelligence personnel facing challenging and demanding roles.

Phew. And fair enough. Espionage must be stressful. CIA operatives would need therapy as much as the next person.

But there are other, more intriguing opportunities for psychologists at the CIA. According to the Careers section of the CIA website, the agency also seeks PhD psychologists who can advise on the practical application of professional knowledge and experience to exciting real-world situations.

Exciting real-world situations? Like what?

The worlds your oyster according to a CIA recruitment video posted on Youtube last year. A young attractive psychologists eyes widen as she describes exciting position[s] for psychologists at the CIA, including psychological assessments of foreign leaders, collecting critical foreign intelligence for the president and senior policy makers and undertaking clandestine collection and dissemination of intelligence, involving some of the most sensitive work this nation performs.


Even the CIAs Twitter feed beckons: If you have a background in Psychology, there are a number of rewarding career opportunities for you at CIA!

Exclamation mark! #PsyopsRUs!

Neither the Twitter feed nor promotional video nor CIA website, however, offer any concrete examples of the specific rewarding, exciting, sensitive, clandestine real-world situations awaiting psychologists at the CIA. Thats classified, presumably. Destroying the trust at Wikileaks centre of gravity, sadly, isnt listed.

However, thanks to CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou and a 499 page summary of a 6,700 page Senate Intelligence Committee (SIC) report, we do know that at least one CIA situation requiring psychological expertise has involved torture.

As is widely known by now, from 2002 to 2009 under an extra-judicial counter-terror framework established by George W. Bush, individuals deemed a terror threat were apprehended and tortured at a number of secret black sites around the world.

Two licensed APA psychologists, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, were engaged by the CIA to design, oversee and implement the black-site torture program.

The programs targets were kidnapped without due process, often based on fabricated, single-source information according to the SIC (i.e. dodgy leads), and detained indefinitely without trial. Some are still being held today, having never been charged or tried. For anything. At all.

Much as Julian Assange is still being arbitrarily detained today, having never been charged with anything. At all.

Under the psychologists leadership, victims of the torture program suffered porno-sadistic depravity that was gruesome beyond imagination.

Why? To gain important information on critical terror threats post 9-11 perhaps? Desperate measures for desperate times?

Except that by then the CIA had known since the 1980s that torture does not produce intelligence. What it does produce is false information. Which is not to be sneezed at, as it happens.

According to former senior officials, a tortured false confession was pivotal to Colin Powells infamous UN speech pressing for the Iraq War, unbeknownst to Powell at the time. CIA director George Tenet and MI6, however, did apparently have an inkling.

So, with a War on Terror to wage, and false confessions to be gained, psychologists Mitchell and Jessen set to work designing a torture program.

Along with traditional forms of state brutality such as slamming peoples heads against walls and stringing them up naked, the pairs combined psychological creativity spawned such innovations as: rectally force feeding victims with hummus, pasta and nuts; sexually assaulting them with broomsticks; locking them in boxes of insects; threatening to harm their children and slit their mothers throats, or rape their mothers in front of them.

The pairs combined psychological creativity spawned such innovations as: rectally force feeding victims with hummus, pasta and nuts; sexually assaulting them with broomsticks; locking them in boxes of insects; threatening to harm their children and slit their mothers throats, or rape their mothers in front of them.

In order to heighten their victims susceptibility to distress, subjects were often marinated in savage ordeals of sleep deprivation first, for up to several days at a time.

At least 26 of the programs targets were ultimately determined to have been innocent. One man, apprehended in a case of mistaken identity, snatched from his wife and four children on the way to a medical check-up, died. Many suffered lasting injuries such as prolapsed bowels, brain damage and seizures. All were psychologically decimated, as intended.

On the status of one survivor, torture expert and Associate Professor Dr Sandra Crosby reported, In my many years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, Mr. Al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.

What has all this got to do with Wikileaks and Julian Asssange? A few things. First, it is an example of the sensitive, clandestine, real-world CIA psychology deployed against terrorists and enemies of the state, as Julian Assange and Wikileaks have been branded.

Second, it illustrates the kinds of activities that even the most reputable, respected and trusted of authorities, such as the American Psychological Association, can get up to in the absence of transparency and public oversight, such as that provided by Wikileaks.

Third, it is a case study in state secrets, the likes of which we are told we must protect by sacrificing our liberties, including the free speech liberties embodied by Wikileaks.

Fourth, it is a cautionary tale in the modus operandi of the CIA, which has recently come out openly in front of the US mission to take down Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

And fifth, it is an example of the importance of whistleblowing, and what happens to whistleblowers who are not protected by an organisation such as Wikileaks.

Psychologists Mitchell and Jessens labyrinth of physical and mental cruelty was exposed after ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou went on TV in 2007 and contradicted then president George W. Bush. Bush had denied the existence of a torture program in response to reports by human rights organisations.

This government does not torture people, Bush had pronounced. We stick to US law and our international obligations.

I knew that was a lie recalls Kiriakou.

During a subsequent television interview with ABCs Brian Ross, John Kiriakou explained that waterboarding was indeed CIA policy. In that interview, I essentially called the president of the United States a liar Kiriakou explains. I had become the first CIA officer, current or former, to actually confirm that we were torturing prisoners and that torture was our policy.

Following Kiriakous revelations, the Senate Intelligence Committee launched its exhaustive investigation, culminating in the extensive 2014 report, which left no doubt, writes the World Socialist Website, that CIA agents, in close collaboration with licensed psychologists, committed torture, murder, and war crimes.

A later 2015 report commissioned by the American Psychological Association board of directors revealed that the APA colluded in secret with the CIA and Department of Defense (DoD) to implement the torture program.

To hide its national security perversions, the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice (DoJ), impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIAs Detention and Interrogation Program, wrote the SIC. In other words, they lied to cover it up. Why wouldnt they? Theyre the CIA. Covert, clandestine activity is their game. Besides, how else are state secrets to be kept?

Despite the CIAs secrets being blown wide open on this particular occasion, and despite the CIA and APA being caught with their legal pants well and truly down in sadistic secret black sites, it was John Kiriakou the whistleblower who went to jail. The perpetrators, in contrast, went free.

As a result, other prospective whistleblowers are likely to think twice before following in Kiriakous footsteps and exposing any nefarious psychological activity at the CIA. Which means that those of us on the outside can only speculate as to what else CIA psychologists might be getting up to behind closed doors.

Being a psychologist with a PhD in a relevant field myself, however, I am willing to hazard a guess.

A contemporary real-world situation bearing the hallmarks of an arsenal of psychological knowledge is the decade-long psychological war being waged against the leading whistleblower protectors of our time: Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

At last years Sydney rally to free Julian Assange, John Pilger said of the 2008 Cyber Counterintelligence offensive against Wikileaks, It was as if they planned a war on a single human being, and on the very principle of freedom of speech. Their main weapon would be personal smear. Their shock troops would be enlisted in the media.

If that sounds far-fetched, it is worth taking a moment to briefly trace the history of psychological operations in US intelligence.

Going back to the CIAs founding days, psychology and psychological operations appear to have been woven into the DNA of US intelligence. As long ago as 1954, when the CIA was just seven-years-old, President Eisenhower commissioned a review, called the Doolittle Report, to assess the state of the agency and offer guidance going forward. The report concluded that the CIA must become an aggressive covert psychological, political and paramilitary organization more ruthless than that employed by the enemy.

An aggressive covert psychological, political and paramilitary organisation. In that order.

By the 1980s psychological operations were well established for use against foreign populations during wartime. Under Ronald Regan, however, their use was bureaucratised and expanded to target domestic populations also, in times of both war and peace. To facilitate this, Regans administration established an inter-agency Psychological Operations Committee (POC), whose aim was to create a coherent, worldwide psychological operations strategy, using psyops as a weapons system both at home and abroad, in peacetime and in war.

By 1996, according to a thesis submitted to the Naval War College under the direction of the Chairman of Joint Military Operations, the US Army alone boasted 24 psyops teams, some of which went on to develop units called Media Dissemination Battalions. The 1996 thesis argued, among other things, for an increased use of psyops in Military Operations Other than War (MOOTW), including a greater role as a political and domestic tool.

Seven years later, in 2003, the JCOS wrote that psychological operations were by then a vital part of the broad range of US diplomatic, informational, military and economic activities.

Little wonder, then, that by 2017 a Sonoma State University paper reported that upwards of 80 percent of mainstream media content emanates from Propaganda and Public Relations firms, among whose major clients are the Pentagon and the US military. This has spawned what the authors term a military-industrial-media complex.

In a 2018 book chapter, Piers Robinson, Chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism at The University of Sheffield added that the production of propaganda involves more than government and corporation spin doctors and PR agents, it also involves a variety of entities, including think tanks, NGOs, and even academia. It also involves actors from within the so-called deep state including the intelligence services.

All up, it sounds as though there is plenty of work for psychologists willing to get their hands dirty in a military-intelligence propaganda psyop or two. No wonder the CIA keeps advertising for psychologists.

Which is one reason, but not the only reason, to speculate psychological involvement in the decade-long counterintelligence offensive against Julian Assange and Wikileaks. My main reason for hazarding such a guess, however, is that my own PhD concerned the psychological processes by which one person influences anothers beliefs about reality.

As a result, I am familiar with the large body of psychological literature concerning the human reality-attribution system, its vulnerabilities, and the ways in which those vulnerabilities can be exploited and manipulated.

True to the modus operandi of counterintelligence, which, according to the CIA website, seeks to leverage insights into adversary vulnerabilities, every major vulnerability in the human reality-processing system has been leveraged and exploited in order to smear Julian Assange and Wikileaks since the DoD launched its war on the publisher, and on the principle of freedom of speech, in 2008.

In this case, the adversary in the US crosshairs has been not only Julian Assange and Wikileaks, but the global populations that Wikileaks seeks to inform. It is our own vulnerabilities the vulnerabilities in the information processing systems of all human beings that have been leveraged and exploited in order to undermine and discredit Wikileaks.

And while we will likely never know whether the war on Wikileaks had its own Mitchell and Jessen behind the scenes, the field of psychology certainly holds a great deal to offer a smear campaign such as that waged against Julian Assange in 2008. In fact, the Cyber Counterintelligence branch would have needed all the psychological help it could get back then.

It is a tall order, psychologically, to turn the tide of world opinion against an organisation that boasts trust as its centre of gravity. The task becomes even trickier when that organisation is known for its scrupulous honesty, having only ever published the truth. Truth, moreover, that has exposed the lethal criminality, lies and corruption of the very people and institutions seeking to promote the smears.

What is needed in such a situation is to turn reality on its head. The fundamental psychological task is to render truth suspicious and deceit reassuring, war criminals virtuous and their critics corrupt, pacifism threatening and violence comforting, abuse of power righteous and resistance reprobate, torture forgivable and whistleblowing a crime, censorship a bastion of democracy and free speech a menace to be overcome. Much as George Orwell foresaw.

In order to justify the psychological war on Wikileaks, US powerbrokers have branded Wikileaks and Assange anti-American terrorists, a non-state hostile intelligence service and enemy combatants. Bolstered by these factually indefensible slurs, Julian Assange now faces imminent extradition to the United States to face secret charges, most likely for 2010 scoops exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite the hysterical American rhetoric rationalising this extraterritorial persecution, in 2017 a UK tribunal ruled upon what Wikileaks really is: a media organisation.

It is a media organisation, moreover, that serves as the worlds leading mechanism for anonymous, public interest leaking, or whistleblowing. And anonymous whistleblowing, according to numerous authorities and experts, sits not only at the heart of real journalism, but of democracy.

Why anonymous? Why must Wikileaks protect its sources so fiercely, making Wikileaks look to some, superficially at least, a little like the spy agencies pursuing it? Why all that encryption and identity-protection and the like?

Effective whistleblowing, such as John Kiriakous, typically requires publicity and media attention to achieve change, explains Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences Brian Martin. Private, poorly publicised whistleblowing, such as complaints through official channels, Martin says, typically goes nowhere and/or blows up in the whistleblowers face.

The price for such public whistleblowing, however, as John Kiriakous case illustrates, is that the whistleblower is open to retribution, whistleblower protection legislation and all.

The reality of whistleblowing, according to Professor Martin, is that legislation designed to protect whistleblowers is either useless or harmful in practice. Accordingly, anonymous whistleblowing, such as via Wikileaks, serves a critical democratic function in that it affords the public interest benefits of public whistleblowing, for instance exposing torture, while maintaining the great advantage of avoiding reprisals.

Wikileaks, for example, has published all manner of waste, fraud and abuse while protecting whistleblower sources, including on the TPP, UN vote-trading between Saudi Arabia and the UK, NSA spying on world leaders, the extent of US support for the genocidal war on Yemen, torture at Guantanamo, international and environmental abuses by oil and mining companies, a raft of nuclear issues, the rape and plunder of Haiti and, the last straw, Vault 7 the CIAs cyber tools for spying on us. Through our Smart TVs. When the TVs are turned off.

(Hilary Clinton might believe otherwise, but its not all about her).

As the CEO of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) wrote in a 2015 report Going After Whistleblowers, Going After Journalism, If the identity of whistleblowers can be revealed then that has a chilling effect on public interest journalism. Public interest journalism relies on whistleblowers, the confidential sources that provide crucial information to journalists. Without them we all lose, the report says, and unchecked power gets away with murder.

Originally posted here:
The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange, Part 1: Whats …


Published time: 11 Jan, 2011 20:42 Edited time: 12 Jan, 2011 01:49

Julian Assange conducts interviews from a house in England, but PFC. Bradley Manning, the soldier believed to be responsible for leaking classified cables to WikiLeaks, sits in solitary confinement on a US military base.

Few have followed the treatment and details surrounding Mannings imprisonment, however a group of psychologists are calling on the US military to refrain from using solitary confinement on the grounds it may have severe psychological effects on those subject to the treatment.

Stephen Soldz, the president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility explained that isolation can have dubious affects on an individual and further, holding a person in that accord that has not been charged or convicted is wrong.

One of the aspects of psychological torture, one of the techniques used is isolation, he explained. Hes kept in his cell 23 hours a day. Hes not allowed to even exercise. If he tries to do push-ups they go in and stop him. Hes not allowed to sleep during the day. He has virtually nothing to do.

He explained, this type of isolation is harmful to people.

People live in a social environment, Soldz remarked. When we are isolated from that we do not do well.

Isolation of this nature can induce depression, listlessness, hopelessness, delusions and even thoughts of suicide. In addition, it impedes that ability of the individual to think clearly and cooperate with attorneys, lawyers and function for an adequate legal defense. His inability to operate fully can impede his access to a fair trial.

Abuse leads to a lack of clarity and an inability for the person to provide accurate information; Things like solitary confinement are counterproductive, Soldz argued.

As one veteran interrogator said to me, if I want to interrogate someone, I want him to get ten hours sleep before. I dont want him to be sleep deprived because I want him thinking clearly, he explained. If you want good information you need people who are clear.

Soldz argued isolation is both unusual and inhumane treatment that violates US and international law.

Although Assange has been receiving all the attention, many wonder should he be? Is Assange truly a Journalist? Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists explained that whether Assange is a journalist or not is irrelevant, the important issue is whether the act of disseminating information to the public unfriendly to the government will be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. If he is, it will have a major impact on journalists in the US and on press freedom globally, he argued.

For this reason, it is important to keep the debate also focused on press freedom and the rights of journalists.

The first amendment of the Constitution guarantees press freedom in the United States and the Espionage Act, there has never been a successful prosecution of a journalist or anyone for disseminating information. So, the notion that somebody could be prosecuted for disseminating information under the Espionage Act, in our view, would open the door for subsequent prosecutions potentially of journalists and weaken the protection that journalists in this country currently enjoy, said Simon.

It is important to fight for continued press freedom, whether the focus is on Assange himself or otherwise. The debate should focus on the principle of a free press and the right to disseminate information.

Should they decide to pursue criminal charges under the Espionage Act, it will be applied extraterritorially, in other worlds, outside the United States. Potentially, journalists around the world who report on or publish information about classified activities of the US government might feel that they too could be subject to prosecution, he explained.

The implications of this are global; it is much bigger than WikiLeaks or Assange, Simon argued.

Read the rest here:
In Assange limelight Bradley Manning almost forgotten RT …

Julian Assange gets a new Australian passport –

Swedish prosecutors announced in 2017 that they had closed the rape investigation.


The new passport makes it possible for Mr Assange to return to Australia. He has been without a passport after his previous one expired several years ago.

Australian barrister and adviser to Mr Assange, Greg Barns, said credit was owed to Australia’s former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who he said had gone to great lengths to ensure Mr Assange’s rights as an Australian citizen were upheld by being granted a passport.

Ms Bishop announced yesterday that she was quitting parliament at the next election.

Mr Barns said it was time for the Morrison government to get more active in resolving Mr Assange’s situation.

“The Australian Government does have a role to play in the resolution of Julian Assange’s case,” he said.

Despite his isolation, Mr Assange continues to be at the centre of some of the world’s biggest news stories and has hosted celebrity visitors within the Ecuadorian embassy, including actor Pamela Anderson.

Most notably, Mr Assange and Wikileaks have been key elements of the US Justice Department probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller which is examining whether any members of the Trump 2016 campaign conspired with Russian operatives to influence the presidential election by hacking Democrat Party emails to damage candidate Hillary Clinton’s prospects.

Wikileaks released embarrassing emails from the heart of the Democratic campaign during the 2016 campaign, fuellingsuspicion Mr Assange was working in concert with Russian interests.


A DFAT official at an estimates hearing in October said Mr Assanges passport application had not been rejected.

But absolute confirmation that he has actually received a new passport did not come until Thursdays heading.

DFAT officials told the estimates hearing they had no knowledge of legal proceedings against Mr Assange in the United States.

Documents show Mr Assange’s UK-based lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, applied for a new passport on his behalf in mid-2018.

DFAT replied that it was of the belief that Mr Assange’s entitlement to a passport may be affected by ongoing legal proceedings in the United Kingdom.

“Specifically, we understand you may be the subject of an arrest warrant in connection with a ‘serious foreign offence’ within the meaning of section 13 of the Australian Passports Act 2005,” DFAT replied.

“In order to progress your application, we require confirmation that section 13 is not enlivened by your circumstances. To this end, we ask that you provide us with confirmation that section 13 no longer applies to you. Until this time, your passport application will remain on hold.”

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who has pursued Mr Assange’s right to a passport in recent estimates hearings, said that, given Mr Assange’s failing health, the best thing would be for him to leave the Ecuador embassy and face the British justice system over breaching his bail conditions.

After that, he should return to Australia, Senator Patrick said.

Richard Baker is a multi-award winning investigative reporter for The Age.

Read the original here:


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted a new passport by his native Australia, marking what could be the clearing of a significant hurdle in his quest to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and return home.

After lengthy discussions over whether Assange was subject to an arrest warrant for a serious foreign offence, Australias Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed: Mr Assange does have an Australian passport.

Confirmation was given at a Senate hearing on Thursday that Assanges 2018 application for a new passport had been accepted. The WikiLeaks chief received his Australian passport in September 2018, news of which has only now been reported.

Assange had been without a passport after his previous one expired a few years ago. The new passport issued to him makes it possible for him to return to Australia if he were ever able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy without UK prosecution.

Assange has been there since he sought asylum in 2012, after Swedish authorities requested his extradition as a suspect in a rape case.

He was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in December 2017 in a bid to protect him from being extradited to the US, where he fears he would face secret charges for publishing US government cables and thousands of classified documents relating to activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2017, Swedish prosecutors announced that they had closed the rape investigation.

A number of celebrities, such as actress-turned-activist Pamela Anderson and music artist Kanye West have been vocal supporters of Assange. Pink Floyd founder and political activist Roger Waters has endorsed upcoming political demonstrations in support of the WikiLeaks founder, to take place in March in Assanges native Australia.

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Julian Assange has been issued a new passport by his native Australia, regional media reported Thursday, clearing one of several hurdles keeping the wanted WikiLeaks publisher from exiting the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and returning home.

Andrew Todd, an assistant secretary for the Consular and Crisis Management Division of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, confirmed that the government approved a passport application filed by Mr. Assange in 2018, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Mr. Assange does have an Australian passport, Mr. Todd said during a Senate hearing, the newspaper reported.

Mr. Assange, 47, was born in Townsville, Australia, in 1971. He has lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, however, when he sought asylum in the face of the U.S. investigating his WikiLeaks website over its publication of classified State and Defense Department material. British authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in the interim, and he fears he will be apprehended if he leaves the embassy and extradited to the U.S. to face charges related to releasing hundreds of thousands of secretive documents.

Ecuador granted asylum and citizenship to Mr. Assange in 2012 and 2017, respectively, but the future of his status has become clouded on account of the current administration in Quito repeatedly raising concerns recently regarding his ongoing residency.

Mr. Assange has been without a passport since his previous one expired several years ago, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Mr. Assange, applied for the passport on his behalf in the middle of 2018, prompting a response from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade acknowledging the WikiLeaks publishers peculiar situation, the report said.

Specifically, we understand you may be the subject of an arrest warrant in connection with a serious foreign offence within the meaning of section 13 of the Australian Passports Act 2005, the DFAT replied at the time, the outlet reported. In order to progress your application, we require confirmation that section 13 is not enlivened by your circumstances. To this end, we ask that you provide us with confirmation that section 13 no longer applies to you. Until this time, your passport application will remain on hold.

Mr. Assange ultimately was issued the passport in 2018, the report said, following lengthy negotiations over whether he wanted abroad for a serious offense as described by Australian law.

A spokesperson for the DFAT subsequently told The Washington Times that Mr. Assange was, in fact, issued an Australia passport in September 2018.

Neither Ms. Robinson nor representatives for WikiLeaks immediately returned messages seeking comment.

Prosecutors in the U.S. have previously filed charges against individuals accused of supplying government secrets to WikiLeaks, but the Department of Justice has refused to state whether Mr. Assange is personally the subject of a criminal investigation.

Lawyers for a group representing journalists sued the Justice Department last year seeking access to any court documents involving a hypothetical case against Mr. Assange, but a federal court judge ruled for the DOJs late last month and agreed to keep any relevant files sealed.

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Staff at the Ecuadorian Embassy have cause for celebration today with the news that they may finally be rid of their long-term house guest Julian Assange.

The Australian government has confirmed that the WikiLeaks founder has a new Australian passport after years without one, and could now return to his home country.

An official at Australias department of foreign affairs and trade confirmed yesterday that Mr Assange does have an Australian passport. The timing is good: last year he said that he feared Ecuador was seeking to end his asylum. He has been holed up in the embassy in Knightsbridge since the day he walked in, breaking his UK bail conditions, in 2012.

The Londoner called the embassy this morning and asked for a response to the news of the new passport. A member of staff initially said no comment but then added: He has the right to do whatever he wants, but he doesnt move on. He could stay here for ever.

Now, in another boost, Assange has the support of Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who described him as a hero of mine and called on Australians to rally for him.

We live in strange and dark times and we need journalists and others, activists of all kinds, to shine light into the dark places, Waters told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Waters is not his only high-profile backer. Assange has also entertained figures such as Pamela Anderson. Nigel Farage was seen there in March of 2017 but said he could not remember the reason for his visit.

Assanges passport had been held up by wrangling over whether it could be issued to him given that a warrant is still out for his arrest in the UK.

His UK lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, reportedly applied for a fresh passport halfway through last year.

Greg Barns, Assanges Australian lawyer, gave credit to former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop for her role in securing the new document.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Barns thought she had gone to great lengths to ensure Mr Assanges rights as an Australian citizen were upheld by being granted a passport.

On nodding terms

David Natzler, the outgoing clerk of the Commons, took his row with the BBC up a notch yesterday by bringing up the Jimmy Savile inquiry when asked about the Newsnight investigation into bullying in the Commons.

Natzler tells this months House magazine that it must have been quite upsetting for the BBC to learn of its internal scandal.

But Christopher Cook, the journalist who worked on the story, hits back: I was hired as part of the aftermath of the BBCs attempts to fix that. Because, you know, the BBC tried to fix it, rather than nodding along.

After Piers Morgan branded the Duchess of Sussexs baby shower an orgy of opulent extravagance, former royal chef Darren McGrady proposes that Meghan should invite Piers around for lunch and charm him the way Princess Diana did, adding: I remember her coming into the kitchen after hed left and saying what a jerk she thought he was.

Audiences at the Bush Theatres The Trick on Wednesday were left sobbing by the moving story of a woman mourning her late husband. Unfortunately, as they exited via the foyer, they were greeted by Queens Another One Bites the Dust, playing as part of the Bushs main show, And The Rest Of Me Floats.

Olivia, everyone’s Oscars favourite

Olivia Colman (Getty Images)

The Oscars take place on Sunday and Britain is hoping for success. Olivia Colman and her film The Favourite have some impressive fans. It is the best movie of the year, Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto tells us. Hes also backing Free Solo, which is up for Best Documentary.

Asked who she wants to win, actor Tuppence Middleton was resolute: Olivia Colman. Harry Potter actor Jason Isaacs is backing Richard E Grant for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me?.

I absolutely adore him, he tells us. I have my fingers, legs and toes crossed that he wins. Grant has taken Hollywood by storm by posing for selfies with the A-list and sharing effusive posts online.

Its incredibly endearing that hes not pretending to be cool, Isaacs says. He never did. Hes a refreshingly, searingly honest person. He taught me a lot of unrepeatable things.


Emily Thornberrywatched as her local party voted in favour of a second referendum last night. Delighted at the attendance numbers, she says she will take their views on board, thus increasing pressure on Jeremy Corbyn. Reports suggest that dozens of MPs are prepared to either join the Independent Group or resign the whip if he rejects plans put forward by backbench Labour MPs.

The arrival of Andrea Leadsoms third child didnt stand in the way of her aspirations to be an MP. I remember giving birth to her at home at 2.30 in the morning and going to a final selection meeting for Reading West that evening, she tells the Women With Balls podcast. People thought I was mad.

Jeremy Corbyn was seen alighting the Eurostar at Brussels Gare du Midi yesterday, missing Tory Brexit team Stephen Barclay and Geoffrey Cox by seconds. Carry On, Brexit.

It’s all about Gillian at an X Files reunion

The truth is out there… Gillian Anderson was reunited with David Duchovny, her X-Files co-star, last night. The American actor, who played Mulder to her Scully in the beloved sci-fi series, visited her backstage at the Nol Coward Theatre, where she is starring alongside Lily James in the stage adaptation of All About Eve.

Despite their sometimes turbulent working relationship in the Nineties, the two are firm friends and returned for the 2016 revival of the show.During contract discussions, Anderson was offered less money than Duchovny but fought for equal pay. Those negotiation skills may come in handy for her next job: she has been cast as Margaret Thatcher in the next series of The Crown.

Quote of the day

‘I want to spend more time gazing at the sky than at the screen’

Nigella Lawson says she’s cutting back on her social media, and who can blame her.

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The Londoner: Julian Assange closer to a journey home …

Australia confirms Wikileaks’ Assange has valid passport …

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has confirmed that Julian Assange has a valid passport, a key development for the Wikileaks founder, who fears that Ecuador seeks to end his asylum in its London embassy and extradite him to the United States.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate in front of presidential palace regarding his Ecuadorian citizenship, in Quito, Ecuador, October 31, 2018, REUTERS/Daniel Tapia

The new passport, which would allow Assange, who is in failing health, to return to Australia, was issued in September last year but remained unreported until Saturday. His previous passport had expired.

Senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Thursday told a Senate estimates hearing that Assange had a valid passport, reiterating a statement from last October.

Senator Rex Patrick of minority party Centre Alliance, who has taken up Assanges cause in parliament, asked department officials if they had talked to the United States about safe passage for Assange if he left the embassy.

James Larsen, the departments chief legal officer, said he was not aware of any U.S. proceedings against Assange and so there was nothing to discuss.

I dont have a record before me of what our engagement with the United States is specifically concerning Mr Assange, he said.

We are not aware, on the Australian governments side, of any legal proceedings initiated within, or by, the United States, concerning Mr Assange.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that federal prosecutors launched a lengthy criminal investigation into Assange and Wikileaks, which published U.S. diplomatic and military secrets under him.

Assanges supporters remain convinced the United States will seek his extradition if he tries to leave the embassy.

Day 2998 of the unlawful and arbitrary detention of Julian Assange in the United Kingdom, the Defend Assange Campaign said in a message on social network Twitter on Thursday.

U.S. government continues to seek his arrest and extradition for publishing the truth about the war in Iraq. He has been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Assange first took asylum in the embassy in 2012, but his relationship with Ecuador has grown increasingly tense.

In December he was administered a series of medical tests, in line with new rules for his asylum at the embassy that prompted him to sue the government.

Reporting by Alison Bevege; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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Obama says Bradley Manning "broke the law" – CBS News

Speaking with supporters at a San Francisco fundraiser Thursday, President Obama said that accused Wikileaks leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning “broke the law,” Forbes reports.

Mr. Obama’s comments followed an incident earlier on Thursday in which protesters seeking Manning’s release from prison interrupted a fundraising speech from the president.

Manning’s prolonged detainment has been a source of controversy for the Obama administration for several months. Just this week, the Pentagon transferred Manning to an Army prison in Kansas from the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., where he spent nine months in restrictive conditions. Manning faces nearly two dozen charges, including aiding the enemy, but no trial date has been set.

Though Manning has yet to stand trial, Mr. Obama asserted yesterday that he is guilty.

“If you’re in the military, and — I have to abide by certain classified information,” Mr. Obama explained to a supporter. “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law. We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate… He broke the law.”

The person to whom the president was speaking compared Manning to Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon study related to the Vietnam War.

“It wasn’t the same thing,” Mr. Obama responded. “What Ellsberg released wasn’t classified in the same way.”

Ellsberg is among the protesters who were arrested last year for demonstrating against Manning’s treatment.

The demonstrations against Manning’s detainment spurred one congressman to compare Manning’s situation at Quantico to Abu Ghraib and prompted Amnesty International and the British government to voice concerns over his treatment as well.

The Pentagon has said its treatment of Manning has been all legal, and Mr. Obama has supported that assertion.

Officials said this week it moved Manning to the Kansas facility because it is designed for long-term detention. His case could take months, if not years, to be settled because of its complexity, the Associated Press reported.

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Mass government surveillance pros and cons: NSA spying …

Internet surveillance helps to detect threats but can infringe citizens’ privacy, and the laws which protect it. Is mass governmentsurveillance a necessary evil? Why is the NSA spying on regular citizens? Is Edward Snowden ahero or a traitor? Join our debate on pros and cons of government surveillance and vote in our poll

Wikileaks new release of CIA hacking documents casts new doubts on the ethics of government approach to privacy protection. With the advent of the Digital Era, many governments have adopted a policy of mass online surveillanceand data mining. This is a clear case of the privacy vs security dilemma.Governments justify computer and network monitoring based on security concerns. Online surveillance may help detect threats such as terrorism, crime, child pornography, tax evasion and fraud. However these measures have been strongly criticized for the infringement of privacy it necessitates and potential abuse of the data collected for political and commercial purposes. Due to this, maintaining Internet privacy is becoming increasingly difficult. Should the government engage in bulk collection of personal data for national security purposes? Is it acceptable for the greater good to have our online communications monitored?

The NSA surveillance programPRISMis one of the most paradigmatic cases of a government spying on its citizens. This program was launched in 2007, following President Bush’sProtect America Act, to collect and store data from internet communications from at least 9 major internet companies in the United States, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, Youtube, Yahoo!, Paltalk, AOL and Facebook.

PRISM replaced another mass Internet data mining program, the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which was launched by the US government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but heavily criticized and considered illegal.Through PRISM, the NSA monitorand collectinternet communications from internet service providersusing Data Intercept Technology. The type of communications intercepted and collected include emails, text chats, video and voice messages, voice-over-IP chats (including Skype calls), social networks information and files transferred. In addition to NSA, other government intelligence agencies such as CIA andFBI were given access to the data collected.

This secret government surveillance program was exposed to the public thanks to the leaks made by the NSA contractorEdward Snowden which were published on June 2013 by The Guardian and The Washington Post. The classified information disclosed by Edward Snowden’s NSA Files also revealed that the UK government also spied on British citizens through the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Apparently the NSA surveillance program was not only used to collect intelligence for domestic affairs but also to collect data from foreign leaders and politicians. Snowden’s revelations triggered a series of domestic and international criticisms. Some claimed it was a perversion of the system, that this type of data-gathering is a serious intrusion into people’s privacy and entails other risks. The government justified it as part of the wider security strategy of thecountry.

Edward Snowden has been blamed for disclosing this mass surveillance system and endangering national security. At the same time thanks to him individual liberties may be now safer from government interevention.Snowden travelled to Moscow andrequested asylum in Russia to avoid facing legal action and charges in America for revealing secret information. He is now afraid of being abducted by American secret services.Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? IsEdward Snowden simply a whistle-blower or a responsible citizen concerned with fighting to prevent the government from abusing its power? Share your views on the forum below.

Watch Edward Snowden TedTalk on how take back the internet:

There are many pros and cons associated with the use of mass internet surveillance. This is a list of the most common arguments in favor and agaist government surveillance programs:



Difficult questions: What do you think of the NSA spying on us for security purposes? Are there better alternatives? Could these government surveillance systems be subject to public scrutiny and accountability rules? How much more security should these programs deliver to justify the infringement of privacy and personal liberties? Join our discussion forum below.

Watch this academic debate on National Security and Cyber Surveillance at George Washington University:

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Mass government surveillance pros and cons: NSA spying …