Journal Entry #45
NORFOLK, CONN., APRIL 12—The heart grew sick, the heart broke a little more, on seeing the pictures of Julian Assange as he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadoran embassy in London yesterday. Packed into a waiting police van, he looked gravely unwell, as one reads he is. His face had a little King Lear in it, and no surprise: A seven-year journey through the punishing storm was inscribed in his features. He wore tragedy and betrayal in his eyes. But also fight. I wondered with a dear friend where Assange found the fortitude to survive the solitude. It would have broken most of us, surely. Another friend said, “He made it because he is right.”
Assange now stands guilty, so deemed by a Westminster magistrate judge, of breaking bail when he took asylum in the embassy in mid–2012. He and his attorneys are now committed to a fight to avoid extradition to the United States; it will almost certainly be a long one. One hopes he gets proper medical care and is treated with decency however long the interval just begun proves to be.
Cú Chulainn finds it difficult to say how this will turn out—as do many others, surely. On one hand, the British legal code is much more rigid and rigorous than America’s, replete as it is with “official secrets” laws and other such provisions. Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic might find it best to keep Assange in an English prison. On the other hand, a court in northern Virginia, as if on cue, unsealed an indictment within hours of Assange’s arrest Thursday. It charges him with conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer system. This suggests the brave, apparently unbreakable Australian may indeed have an airplane ride in his not-distant future.
The Celtic brute has a couple of things to say at this juncture.
THERE IS, TO BEGIN, the peculiar nature of the American prosecutors’ charge. It is limited to allegations that Assange collaborated with Chelsea Manning when the latter began giving WikiLeaks that now-famous trove of military and diplomatic documents back in 2010. Here is The New York Times as it takes up this matter in its Friday editions:
Because traditional journalistic activity does not extend to helping a source break a code to gain illicit access to a classified network, the charge appeared to be an attempt by prosecutors to sidestep the potential First Amendment minefield of treating the act of publishing as a crime.
There is an eight-year statute of limitations on this kind of offense, and federal prosecutors filed their charge against Assange last month—on the very day the statute would otherwise have rendered Assange protected as to what did and did not occur between him and Manning back in 2010. It appears, thus, that the feds’ legal strategy has been well thought through and in place for some time.
The charge, in any case, seems to be notably spongy to go by what we know: It appears to rest on a few ambiguous phrases in email exchanges between Assange and Manning, none of which, to Cú Chulainn’s mind (and his is not a legal mind), establish a conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt. Manning, in testimony during the court martial that landed her in prison, asserted explicitly that she acted on her own and took full responsibility for the leaks that stunned the world when Wiki made them public.
The corporate press that reveled in reproducing the Manning leaks will be off the hook, as has been plain for some time. It would have been nice had one major daily, just one, acknowledged this revelry in its reports of Assange’s arrest. Nothing, of course—no syllable. But to my mind, something of still greater importance is to be sidestepped.
Some of us have wondered for some time how under the sun Assange can be extradited to the U.S. without the risk that he might sing as to the origin of the 2016 mail collections he published—those from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. We now have an answer: Prosecutors will not go within miles of those mail thefts; a single charge of conspiracy eight years back will do.
One is in no wise surprised. Unsubstantiated assertions that the Rrrrrrussians were behind the mid–2016 events are all that remains of the collapsing Russiagate story line. There is a great deal of evidence now amassed indicating that the Russians had nothing to do with a mail “hack” of any kind. There was none: It was a leak, in all likelihood from within the Democratic Party apparatus. Touch that house of cards and some of our republic’s most prominent institutions could easily go down with it.
AS NOTED ELSEWHERE, said republic took a drastically wrong turn after the Mueller report went to Justice. We Americans ought to have said, “O.K., that takes care of the collusion theory. Now let us see about this matter of the pilfered mail. What actually happened there?” No such questions were raised, of course. And again, no surprise: Mueller’s investigators and prosecutors never went near any of the various material witnesses who could have shed light on the mail matter. They never examined the considerable forensic evidence now accumulated and readily available. President Trump and William Barr, his new attorney general, are now going to look into this—to investigate the investigation. It is not clear how far they will get, given the breadth of probable culpability in what amounts to an immense and dangerous national ruse.
What we have seen instead is a quite noticeable rush in our media to refer to the 2016 mail thefts as if Russia’s hand in them has been proven beyond doubt. This has been going on since the day Mueller’s report went to Barr’s office, as any perusal of the nation’s big dailies will confirm. Repeat a lie often and long enough, etc.
But we now have to see this chicanery in a different, harsher light.
Julian Assange’s arrest raises the matter of true culpability. Now that we have seen what the past seven years of suffering have done to this man, who is complicit in this inhumane crime—there are illegalities galore—of seven years’ duration? This is the question one must pose to counter all the flinching, bobbing, and weaving going on all around us.
In this very connection, I had a note yesterday from someone whose character is of an especially contemptible nature, a person who for various reasons calls to Cú Chulainn’s mind—he cannot help it— certain barnyard animals. The note was a gloat—no other word—that a piece in a certain publication had asserted without qualification that it was the Rrrrrrussians who hacked the Democratic National Committee’s mail servers. Nothing out of the ordinary there, of course, although the publication in question ought to have known better. But the note arrived within a few hours of the news of Assange’s arrest.
Think about this. It is what I mean by complicity in a courageous man’s fate. Blind complicity, let us call it. It is people such as this who are responsible not only for a truth-teller’s suffering, but also for bringing our nation’s institutions breathtakingly close to the edge of downfall.
I can do no better than conclude with a quotation plucked from the comment thread appended to a piece published yesterday in Consortium News, which has been admirably diligent in keeping the flame alive for Assange’s sake. Here is what a reader of that piece had to say:
Every “liberal” Democrat who buys into the Russiagate bullshit, who supports the prosecution of whistleblowers, who believes the lies perpetrated by the D.N.C., [the] Clinton/Obama machine, and their press propagandists at CNN, MSNBC, NYTimes, Washington Post, et al., is complicit in the violation of international law and illegal prosecution of Julian Assange. Congratulations: You’re right up there with the likes of Joe McCarthy and every bigoted, warmongering neoconservative Republican, or Trump supporter, you profess to detest. Your ignorance keeps the empire running and the crimes of the U.S. government hidden from view.
It is a little kitchen-sinky, this passage, but that last line about ignorance is enough to warrant reproduction of the whole.