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Julian Assange

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Left to its own trajectory, within a few years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia, from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be impossible. In fact, we may already be there.
[1]

Julian Assange is an Australian journalist and transparency activist who has gained world-wide recognition as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. In 2006, Assange founded WikiLeaks and since then he has been the focus of a never-seen-before international controversy. His involvement with WikiLeaks has earned Assange praise from civil liberties organizations and criticism from others. Since 2012, he has been kept cryonically alive in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

As one of the founders of WL, his contribution to whistle-blowing and online journalism can only be described as revolutionary. Some of the awards Assange received include Amnesty International UK Media Awards, Sam Adams Award, Sydney Peace Prize and Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

However, his seeming tendency to target only very specific angles with his leaks, and continually making promises he has failed to uphold, has led major news outlets (and some of his most ardent supporters)[2][3] to accuse him of having a political bias which disincentives leakers with opposite viewpoints. Overall, they seem to have poisoned their own well.

Political views[edit]

I was asked this question: Did I prefer Clinton or Trump? And, I mean, the answer is: Well, you’re asking do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea.
—Julian Assange, Democracy Now!

While his politics has been described by some as techno-anarchic, his actual views are much more intricate than that. His admiration and support for Ron Paul and Rand Paul[4] along with comments about a "Jewish conspiracy" against him[5] may make one believe he is on the far-right. This is further supported by the fact that his leaks were helpful to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.[6]

However, Assange has gained support and high praise from prominent Jewish figures, such as academic Noam Chomsky[7] and journalist John PilgerWikipedia's W.svg.[8] Assange also supported the Green Party's 2016 U.S. presidential nominee Jill Stein, appearing via video stream to the Green Party 2016 convention in Texas.[9]

WikiLeaks has gained support from the likes of Yanis VaroufakisWikipedia's W.svg, ex-finance minister for the libertarian-socialist Syriza party.[10]

Assange formed his free speech ideals running a free speech ISP, suburbia.net (still extant) in the 1990s.[note 1] He published a document in 2002, State and Terrorist Conspiracies,[11] setting out his aims in detail: to increase the friction in the mechanisms by which authoritarian governments conspire against their citizens, thus changing the lay of the land and forcing them to more open communication mechanisms. It's the inchoate hacker (as in cracker) free speech ideal of the 1980s developed into a coherent philosophy.

WikiLeaks[edit]

Assange is still the Editor In Chief of WikiLeaks;[12] the only other acknowledged staff member is Kristinn Hrafnsson.[13]

Assange is remarkably disliked by many governments and some newspaper journalists. Sarah Palin has called for him to be "hunted down" and Canadian Tom Flanagan has called for him to be executed.[14][15][16] Mike Huckabee has called for the execution of the individual who leaked the 250,000 US diplomatic cables.[17]

Sex crime allegations[edit]

Two women accused Assange of rape in Sweden. As a result of those accusations, Sweden attempted to get Assange extradited from the United Kingdom so he could be put on trial. There are concerns that if Assange is extradited to Sweden, he could be removed from there to the United States[18] and speculation that he might face the death penalty in the USA.[19]

British courts agreed to extradite Assange to Sweden but in June 2012 he fled to the London embassy of Ecuador, which later granted him asylum. Sweden has given assurances that Assange will not be extradited to the US if he faces the death penalty, which supporters of Assange fear.[20] The Swedes refused to rule out extradition entirely though.[21] Amnesty International is one of many organisations wanting such an assurance,[22] which in any case would be hard to enforce.[23]

Since being granted asylum by Ecuador there has been a standoff. Assange cannot leave the embassy to take up asylum in Ecuador without being arrested. Meanwhile, UK law enforcers cannot enter the embassy without serious diplomatic repercussions. The UK showed how it has the legal option of entering the embassy by force and arresting Assange, but so far has not done this.[24] In the third week of August 2012 an intimidating police presence appeared outside the embassy including one police officer outside a toilet window and there were complaints about excessive police presence.[25] It has been reported that the cost of keeping police outside the embassy, awaiting the opportunity to arrest Assange, was £2.9 million ($4.4 million) as of January 2013[26] and had risen to £6.4m in August 2014.[27]

At the same time, response to the UK government's posturing by President Correa of Ecuador may have helped get him reelected in 2013. Renard Sexton suspects that could possibly have been Correa's motive in granting asylum.[28]

As of April 2013 Assange had settled into a work routine in a confined space in the Ecuadorian embassy. Oliver Stone wrote:

He lives in a tiny room with great modesty and discipline. (…) Strong mind, no sun, friends who visit, work to be done (…) I don't think most people in the US realise how important WikiLeaks is and why Julian's case needs support. (…) Julian Assange did much for free speech and is now being victimised by the abusers of that concept.[29]

Meanwhile a Swedish woman believed to be one of Assange’s accusers claims she is the victim of wild guesses and speculation over her motives for the accusations. Harassment has made it extremely hard for her to work.[30]

As of August 2014 Assange said he might soon leave the embassy for unspecified reasons; he confirmed his health suffered while he was confined in the embassy.[27] In October 2015 Assange was in chronic pain and a heart condition was suspected, requiring hospital diagnosis.[31] As of early 2016 Assange is still in the embassy and Swedish authorities have agreed to question him there.[32] A United Nations panel decided Assange is being detained illegally but the ruling is not binding; Sweden and the UK reject the finding.[33] It is unclear how much has changed.[34]

In October 2016, it was reported that Assange is under investigation by the Bahamas police regarding sexually propositioning an 8-year-old online. The story was later retracted due to fabricated evidence. The Royal Bahama Police Force said in a statement that it did receive an anonymous phone call but is not investigating due to a lack of evidence.[35][36][37] Soon after, his internet connection was cut by Ecuador over fears he was using it to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[38]

These charges were dropped in May 2017.

Guccifer 2.0[edit]

The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.
—Hmm.[1]
GOD BLESS WIKILEAKS - Julian Assange is a hero -> America owes this man one thing -> FREEDOM!!! Thank you, sir - THANK YOU!
David Duke[39]

During the Bill Clinton presidency, Julian Assange was living in the US, working on a Ph.D. According to Assange, the US government cut his funding without providing an explanation. Assange also blames Hillary for indicting him after the initial State Department cable dump, and has also accused her of pushing to indict him for publishing the Chelsea Manning leaks.[40] He believes that if Obama and Clinton had their way, he would live in a metal box for the rest of his life. This belief may not actually be unfounded. (Assange has said he prefers Trump's chaos to Hillary, whom he dislikes.)[41] On the other hand, Trump has stated a desire to punish Edward Snowden and has also made comments that appear to show a desire to restrict free speech.

The timing of WikiLeaks' DNC E-mail dump (aka the "Guccifer 2.0" hack) were released only after Clinton had all but secured her party's nomination, and not during the primaries, or before Bernie Sanders dropped out. This timing appears to be intended to hurt Clinton's chances against Trump in the general election.[41] The DNC took the unusual step of preemptively and publicly announcing the hack and implicating Russia as the source just over a month before the release of the emails and internal communications.[42]

The e-mails were never intended to be released to the public and thus aren't especially PC. The Sanders campaign was using the DNC and the committee chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as a punching bag knowing that their hands were tied publicly. It's not really surprising that a politician would blow off some steam in private (privately call a critic an "ass", or acknowledging the apparent primary winner without waiting for a concession). Guccifer took private conversations and put them in a different context against the will of the people involved. Once removed from that context and placed in a completely different one, it became "evidence" of voter fraud.[43] The email dump reignited a lot of Sanders supporters' belief that the primary was rigged, that the DNC is in bed with the media, and that Hillary didn't really earn her spot on the ticket.[44] The dump also included plain text Social Security and credit card numbers. Per Gizmondo, Assange is the kind of "dickhead" who happily publishes that kind of stuff without question to maintain his eCeleb status.[45] Unfortunately, Wikileaks always over promises and under-delivers. Much of the information came out as recently as May, and there was way too much going on (post-RNC discussion, Trump's daily news creation, the VP announcement and then the convention the following week) for Democrats to care about Inside Baseball crap at the DNC, or which delegates are mad at which people in the media. If these e-mails had come out during the primaries it would have mattered to Sanders.

However, the GE might have gone the other way without those email leaks. It was covered for months, and even Assange stated that the way they were releasing them was in order to maximize coverage. And he was promising other email bombshells[46] ("just around the corner")[47] that never materialized, but were widely talked about. Overall, it was all about creating a narrative of massive corruption: World Tomorrow has never tweeted anything bad about Trump, yet they have posted hundreds of anti-Clinton tweets since April 2016: World Tomorrow used the hashtags #TrumpTrain and #Trump2016, retweeted Breitbart articles, and pimped t-shirts (through the WikiLeaks online store) calling for Hillary to be sent to prison, as well as obligatory #NeverHillary tweets.[48]

Sergei Markov, the current Foreign Minister of Russia, brazenly admitted they were behind the DNC leaks.[49] Julian Assange alluded that Seth Rich, a DC staffer who was murdered in 2016, gave him the E-mails.[50] On 16 May 2017, new evidence surfaced on WikiLeaks that the Democratic National Committee was behind his killing.[51] The evidence, of course, is the word of a PI who freely admits to not having seen the laptop, nor any E-mails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks, or even spoken with a source who confirms they have. The family denies hiring a private investigator; he is in fact a paid Fox contributor.[52][53] The "crime analyst" who broke this story is the same one who went on Bill O'Reilly's show in 2007 to warn us of roving lesbian gangs.[54][55] They've been flooding social media with this to deflect from the Twittergate story.

The Julian Assange Show[edit]

In 2012, Assange started producing and hosting a talk show, World Tomorrow. In theory, World Tomorrow is independently produced and can be syndicated by any TV company that wants it. In practice, the only channel that saw fit to broadcast World Tomorrow is RT,[56] who never miss a chance to provide a platform to any critic of the US. The list of guests in the first few episodes is… interesting.[57]

Assange got his show after he threatened to publish embarrassing documents on Russia’s political elite in 2010,[58] but relented after an FSB official hinted at reprisal against Wikileaks.[59] These documents were never published.

When Assange was first exiled, he requested the FSB, of all things, to handle his security detail.[60] There's also the fact that RT scooped Assange on some of his leaks, since they reported on them before they were dumped.[61][62]

The largest sponsor of WikiLeaks today is the Russian government.[63] They keep their sources of funding secret[64] (which is… somewhat ironic), but it's funny how no major leaks from Russia have appeared on the site since 2010. Case in point: when a whistleblower leaked the Panama Papers to German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, exposing widespread corruption among Russia’s political and business elite, Assange immediately went to Twitter to denounce these documents:[65]

#PanamaPapers Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID and George Soros
US govt funded #PanamaPapers attack story on Putin via USAID. Some good journalists but no model for integrity

WikiLeaks declined to publish those, as well. Their whole angle of the leaks is that it's a US false flag to discredit President Putin. Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which released the Panama Papers, is indeed funded by USAID and George Soros, but several major American companies were also named in the leaks.

High on his own supply[edit]

Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia."
—Assange in 2006[66]
[Russia is a] bit player on the world stage… Every man and his dog is criticizing Russia. It's a bit boring, isn't it?
—Assange in 2016[66]

Assange has a habit of releasing documents that had actual legitimate reasons for being concealed—and, in doing so, endangered groups of already-vulnerable people in the name of "transparency":

  • For some unknowable reason, he decided to release this document containing highly sensitive information on the last Jews living in Baghdad, where they are living in perpetual fear for their lives.
  • After a Turkish writer called them out for dumping private conversations of Turkish citizens, WL called her a "Erdogan apologist" and said that she was fabricating her story.[67]
  • Assange has proposed using WikiLeaks to track down and "verify" the home address, family members, and banking information of Twitter users—to authenticate them. What better way to hand power to the people than by doxing your enemies?[68]

WikiLeaks accused Snowden of trying to curry favors from Clinton (ridiculous) when Snowden criticized them for not sanitizing their leaks.[69] During an interview on Real Time, Assange's response was, "Edward Snowden hasn’t published anything in three years. He did one thing. It was a very important thing, and it was in fact so important that I and this organization saved his ass by rescuing him from Hong Kong...I think he should remember that."[70] So he needs to be your submissive lackey? (Assange also accused Bill Maher of donating a million dollars to HRC's campaign on live television, and had to walk it back because he made it up on the spot.)

On January 18, 2017, Assange tweeted: "If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case." Obama granted Manning clemency; most of her lengthy sentence was commuted and she went free on May 17, 2017. Oh, what's that? Assange went and changed the terms of the offer after the original terms were satisfied? It's clear the offer wasn't serious.[71]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Suburbia has hosted one RationalWikian's anti-Scientology site since 1995, fending off countless frivolous legal threats.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, and Andy Muller-Maguhn, Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet, OR Books 29 November 2012
  2. Matthews, Daniel, "Why I resigned from the WikiLeaks party", Guardian (21 August 2013, 10:43 PM EDT).
  3. Mackey, Robert, "What Julian Assange’s War on Hillary Clinton Says About WikiLeaks", The Intercept (4/6/16 at 12:04 p.m).
  4. News, ABC. "Assange 'Big Admirer' of Ron, Rand Paul".
  5. Quinn, Ben (1 March 2011). "Julian Assange 'Jewish conspiracy' comments spark row". The Guardian.
  6. Jordan, Elise. "Trump Campaign May Have Interfered With Russia Policy".
  7. Rosenmann, Alexandra. "Noam Chomsky defends Julian Assange: “He should be given a medal”".
  8. Communications, BrandFour Design. "Assange: the untold story of an epic struggle for justice".
  9. "WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: Attacks Against Jill Stein Are 'Going to Go Through the Roof'", Democracy Now! 8.8.16. It's simple, Jules: the more Jill Stein calls Clinton a criminal, the more Jill Stein gets attacked. Don't step in the arena if you can't stand your opponent's offense.
  10. "Yanis Varoufakis backs Wikileaks bounty to crack TTIP". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. Precis and analysis; full PDF.
  12. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Wants To Spill Your Corporate Secrets (Andy Greenberg, Forbes, 2010-11-29)
  13. Press: Who Speaks for WikiLeaks?
  14. Flanagan regrets WikiLeaks assassination remark
  15. Never mind the fact that Canada ditched the death penalty several years ago.
  16. Btw, Flanagan is a libertarian himself
  17. American right calls for blood —literally
  18. There are concerns that Assange would be a repeat of Chelsea Manning (née Bradley Manning), who has suffered "cruel and inhumane treatment" together with human rights violations. [1] [2]
  19. Julian Assange’s legal limbo
  20. Sweden: If Assange faces death row in US we won’t extradite him
  21. Ecuador will care for Julian Assange in embassy if WikiLeaks founder falls ill
  22. Sweden should issue assurance it won't extradite Assange to USA
  23. Not to mention such a carte blanche would be an unheard of thing; since it would cover not only what he is accused of but also further acts.
  24. Julian Assange asylum offer leads Ecuador and UK into diplomatic row
  25. Julian Assange can stay in embassy for 'centuries', says Ecuador
  26. Julian Assange police guard cost nears £3m
  27. 27.0 27.1 Julian Assange 'to leave' Ecuador embassy
  28. Rafael Correa's domestic agenda behind Ecuador's Assange asylum
  29. Oliver Stone meets Julian Assange and criticises new WikiLeaks films
  30. 'Julian Assange Sex Assault Accuser' Speaks
  31. Press release: UK refuses hospital visit for MRI and diagnosis
  32. Julian Assange to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London
  33. UN panel Assange detained arbitrarily, should be freed
  34. Julian Assange being arbitrarily held — UN legal panel
  35. Julian Assange investigated for online grooming of 8-year-old girl by Salicylic (2016/10/17) Daily Kos.
  36. United Nations GC Member: T&C Network Solutions ("ToddandClare.com") October 4, 2016 (Archived on 16 Oct 2016)
  37. Did Ecuador Cut Off Julian Assange's Internet Access Over a Pedophilia Investigation? October 19, 2016 Snopes
  38. Ecuador says it cut WikiLeaks founder's internet over interference in US election October 19, 2016 The Guardian
  39. Duke, 11.9.16 Tweet, 12:09 AM.
  40. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9wXq6oRBnI
  41. 41.0 41.1 Savage, Charlie, "Assange, Avowed Foe of Clinton, Timed Email Release for Democratic Convention", NYT 7.26.16.
  42. Yuhas, Alan, "Hillary Clinton campaign blames leaked DNC emails about Sanders on Russia", Guardian (7/24/16 at 3:24 EDT).
  43. Hollande, Joshua, "What the Leaked E-mails Do and Don’t Tell Us About the DNC and Bernie Sanders", The Nation 7.29.16.
  44. Stuart, Tessa, "Bernie or Bust: Meet the Emotional Sanders Supporters Booing the DNC", Rolling Stone 7.26.16.
  45. Nunez, Michael, "WikiLeaks Just Published Tons of Credit Card and Social Security Numbers", Gizmondo (7/22/16 at 1:55pm).
  46. Singal, Jessie, "Does Julian Assange Really Have an Email That Will Get Hillary Clinton Tossed in Prison? (Updated)", New York Magazine' 7.29.16.
  47. Eddy, Melissa, "Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Founder, Promises Raft of Revelations", NYT 10.4.16.
  48. Here's a tweetstorm summary from them.
  49. Shaun Walker and Luke Harding, "Putin applauds Trump win and hails new era of positive ties with US", Guardian (11/9/16 at 9:39 AM EST).
  50. Assange Interview on Nieuwsuur, 9 August 2016.
  51. WikiLeaks, 11 August 2016 tweet, 2:38 PM.
  52. Hermann, Peter, "Family of slain Seth Rich says reports that he fed DNC info to WikiLeaks are untrue", WaPo 16 May 2017, 1:32pm).
  53. Tani, Maxwell, "Family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich criticizes right-wing media's role in igniting new conspiracy in murder case", Business Insider 16 May 2017.
  54. Susan Buchanan and David Holthouse, "Pink pistol-packing lesbian gangs are terrorizing the nation", SPLC 1 October 2007.
  55. Archived courtesy of Reason.
  56. The Prisoner as Talk Show Host Julian Assange Starts Talk Show on Russian TV
  57. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZtcn6HC0FA
  58. Weir, Fred, "WikiLeaks ready to drop a bombshell on Russia. But will Russians get to read about it?", CSMonitor 26 October 2010.
  59. Shuster, Simon, "WikiLeaks: Is Russia the Next Target?", TIME 1 November 2010.
  60. Nemtsova, Anna, "The No-Show", Foreign Policy (26 June 2013, 8:56 pm).
  61. Aravosis, John, October 2016 Tweet, 6:36 PM.
  62. Eichenwald, Kurt, 10 Oct 2016, 4:59 PM..
  63. Caitlin Dickson and Eliza Shapiro, "WikiLeaks’ Money Trail: How It’s Raising Money for Snowden & Assange", Daily Beast (9 July 2013, 1:45 AM ET).
  64. Jeanne Whalen and David Crawford, "How WikiLeaks Keeps Its Funding Secret", WSJ (Updated 8/23/.10 at 12:01 a.m. ET ).
  65. 5 Apr 2016 Tweet, 2:05 PM.
  66. 66.0 66.1 How Russia Often Benefits When Julian Assange Reveals the West’s Secrets: American officials say Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks probably have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services. But the agendas of WikiLeaks and the Kremlin have often dovetailed by Jo Becker et al. (Aug 31, 2016) The New York Times.
  67. Tufecki, Zeynep, 7/25/16 Tweet, 1:38 PM
  68. Fung, Bryan, "WikiLeaks proposes tracking verified Twitter users’ homes, families and finances", WaPo 1.6.16. Hopefully they'll dox a bunch of anti-Russian journalists, or politicians! Maybe someday they'll move onto RW, too.
  69. 7.28.16 Tweet, 2:48 PM. "Opportunism won't earn you a pardon from Clinton & curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows"
  70. Stern Daniel, "Julian Assange to Bill Maher: WikiLeaks ‘Working On’ Hacking Trump’s Tax Returns", Daily Beast (08.06.16 1:07 AM ET).
  71. Murdock, Jason, "WikiLeaks lawyer indicates Julian Assange will not leave Ecuadorian embassy", International Business Times (1/18/17 at 6:12 PM GMT). If Obama had given Manning the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Assange still wouldn't stick his neck out that embassy.