Is the United States waging a war on journalism?
Can we trust the OPCW reports on Syria’s chemical war attacks?
Does the Pentagon produce fake terrorist propaganda films?

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  • The Trump administration has now announced 17 charges against Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917, threatening him with 170 years in prison.
  • The indictment paves the way for criminalizing opposition to war.
  • According to Tor Ekeland, a Brooklyn lawyer, who represents people accused of computer crimes in federal and state courts nationally, writing in Wired:
  • The Espionage Act has a long history of being used to silence political dissent.
  • We saw that recently on the Cold War show, when FDR’s administration tried to use it against Harry Bridges.
  • in 1942, in the middle of World War II, after the Chicago Tribune published a front-page story titled “Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea.”
  • which implied that the U.S. military had cracked Japan’s secret naval code – which in fact it had.
  • FDR demanded that Espionage Act charges be brought against the reporter, the managing editor and the Tribune itself.
  • But a grand jury refused to issue indictments.
  • In 1972 the U.S. government tried to stop The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Department of Defense study on the Vietnam War.
  • In its well-known decision, the Supreme Court held that preventing the publication violated the First Amendment.
  • Less known is the fact that a majority of the justices also thought that the newspapers could be prosecuted and possibly punished for the publication, even if stopping the publication was unconstitutional.
  • The Freedom of the Press Association has called the charges against Assange “a fundamental threat to press freedom in the 21st century”
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm issued the following statement:
  • Put simply, these unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century. The Trump administration is moving to explicitly criminalize national security journalism, and if this prosecution proceeds, dozens of reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere would also be in danger. The ability of the press to publish facts the government would prefer remain secret is both critical to an informed public and a fundamental right. This decision by the Justice Department is a massive and unprecedented escalation in Trump’s war on journalism, and it’s no exaggeration to say the First Amendment itself is at risk. Anyone who cares about press freedom should immediately and wholeheartedly condemn these charges.
  • During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice brought charges against eight people accused of leaking to the media — Thomas Drake, Shamai Leibowitz, Stephen Kim, Chelsea Manning, Donald Sachtleben, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou and Edward Snowden.
  • And it’s not just Assange. 
  • A couple of weeks ago, cops in San Francisco raided the home of Bryan Carmody, a freelance journalist.
  • With their guns out, they put Carmody in cuffs and confiscated thousands of dollars of computer and recording equipment.
  • He stayed in handcuffs for six hours before being released, as authorities searched his house and attempted to interrogate him under the guise of a leak investigation.
  • Weeks earlier, Carmody had sold a story — based on a leaked police report, video footage, and a few interviews — about the death of a local public defender to TV stations.
  • Back to Assange. 
  • The crazy thing about this the reach of the United States. 
  • The UK is co-operating. As is Ecuador. And Sweden. 
  • Not to mention the Australian government, which has done zero to protect its citizen, a publisher. 
  • How is the United States able to organise an AUSTRALIAN publisher and journalist to be evicted from his asylum in an Ecuadorian embassy, and who is now currently in a British prison, based on Espionage charges? 
  • Of course, these charges may violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
  • But does the US constitution protect an Australian citizen? 
  • Does the US Espionage Act apply to foreigners?
  • Nothing in Assange’s indictment turns on any distinction between WikiLeaks and the mainstream press.
  • The current charge would be equally applicable to “real” journalists if they engaged in similar conduct.
  • Even the claim that Assange isn’t a real journalist because legitimate journalists do not help their sources hack into computers – he isn’t accused of hacking into a computer. 
  • He’s charged with agreeing to help Manning hack into a computer.
  • Which is a criminal conspiracy.
  • Do legitimate journalists sometimes engage in criminal conspiracies with their sources?
  • Of course they do.
  • Every time a journalist receives and publishes classified national security information, she can be said to conspire with her source to disclose classified information, which is a crime.
  • Obama thought so too. 
  • In 2009 Fox News reporter James Rosen wrote an article that contained leaked classified information about North Korea.
  • In 2010 the Obama administration filed a search warrant application where it argued that Rosen was a criminal co-conspirator of his State Department source in the criminal disclosure of classified information.
  • The Espionage Act was a panic measure enacted by Congress to clamp down on dissent or “sedition” when the US entered the First World War in 1917. In the subsequent 102 years it has never been used to prosecute a media organisation for publishing or disseminating unlawfully disclosed classified information. Nobody prosecuted under the act is permitted to offer a public interest defence.
  • Whatever Assange got up to in 2010-11, it was not espionage. Nor is he a US citizen. The criminal acts this Australian maverick allegedly committed all happened outside the US. As Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has observed: “Under this rubric, anyone anywhere in the world who publishes information that the US government deems to be classified could be prosecuted for espionage.”
  • The new indictment against Assange falls into three parts – each of them attempting to criminalise things journalists regularly do as they receive and publish true information given to them by sources or whistleblowers. Assange is accused of trying to persuade a source to disclose yet more secret information. Most reporters would do the same. Then he is charged with behaviour that, on the face of it, looks like a reporter seeking to help a source protect her identity. If that’s indeed what Assange was doing, good for him. Finally, he is accused of repeatedly publishing material that “could harm the national security of the US”.
  • Whenever you read about journalists harming national security, massive alarm bells should start ringing. Think no further than Richard Nixon trying to prosecute the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, for harming national security in 1971. Ellsberg, an intelligence analyst, found that the Vietnam war had been prosecuted on the basis of a web of lies and thought the public deserved to know. To Nixon, Ellsberg’s commitment to the truth was treason. He reached for the Espionage Act.
  • The New York Times, among many other news organizations, obtained precisely the same archives of documents from WikiLeaks, without authorization from the government.
  • Even Rachel Maddow, corporate hack for MSNBC, who has attacked Assange and was one of the main voices assuring everyone that Trump conspired with Russia, as Caitlin Johnstone calls her, ” the Queen Mother of all tinfoil pussyhat-wearing Russiagate insanity”, said: “the government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff, and newspapers and magazines and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.”
in its final report on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in the city of Douma last year, the OPCW deliberately concealed from both the public and the press the existence of a dissenting 15-page assessment of two cylinders which had supposedly contained molecular chlorine – perhaps the most damning evidence against the Assad regime in the entire report.
The OPCW officially maintains that these canisters were probably dropped by an aircraft – probably a helicopter, presumably Syrian – over Douma on 7 April 2018. But the dissenting assessment, which the OPCW made no reference to in its published conclusions, finds there is a “higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft”.
The Pentagon gave a controversial UK PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda programme in Iraq, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal. Bell Pottinger’s output included short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee.