Julian Assange: Censored To Death?
Julian Assange is being censored to death. Steemit exclusive: transcript of a talk I gave at the Deep Truth conference last Friday night.
Visit the official Deep Truth website here to access the full video of my speech, including my intro and my answers to various audience questions afterwards. The fantastic Ray McGovern, Mark Crispin Miller, Cynthia McKinney and others were also panelists.
My speech was a follow-on from (rather than being about) my article 'Being Julian Assange', with all new content. The focus is on the censorship of Julian, not just the smears, but the ways in which Julian's speech, his organisation and himself have been grossly censored.
I should warn you, it is frankly impossible for me to detail all the ways in which Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been and are being censored within a half hour conversation, but I'm going to try and cover as much ground as I can in this allotted timeframe.
I wanted to start by covering the obvious - what is censorship? We all think that we know the answer to that but we have our own ideas of it. In studying this topic this week I've discovered that it is really a multi-faceted - a prism - you can come at it from so many different angles and there is so many different ways that it manifests.
Ironically, according to what is perhaps the most far-reaching and widespread censorship machine ever created - Wikipedia - censorship can be defined in 305 words, primarily around the usual suspects: national security, indecent or harmful material. Wikipedia has prescribed 82 words to the history of censorship. They talk about Socrates, who paid the ultimate price for resisting censorship, when he was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. They talk about the Greek playwright Euripides, who defended the right of men to speak freely without censorship. Then they point out, interestingly - especially in the case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks - that Sweden banned censorship in 1766 and that they were the first country to do so.
By contrast to the 82 word history of censorship, they have a 199-word rationale of censorship, defending or describing all of the reasons by which censorship could be OK. Then in their description of implementations of censorship they have 255 words, a full 50% of which are about censorship in the Soviet era. Reading through all this, I found it deeply ironic, because it seemed to me that the definition of censorship was being censored. Until I discovered that they had had to put up an entirely different page to describe the incidents of censorship in the United States of America. That page is nearly 10,000 words. Nor is the UK exempt - there is nearly 7,000 words on another separate Wikipedia page for examples of censorship in the United Kingdom. So it seems that the West is neck-deep in censorship.
Wikipedia rightly makes the connection - and this is an important connection - between censorship and surveillance, dedicating only 128 words to the topic, which I could probably write a book about, but they do acknowledge the fact that one cannot go without the other. In summary, this is because the imposition of censorship requires some form of surveillance or policing of content as a prerequisite. But it's also because surveillance by its very nature perpetuates self-censorship.
Julian Assange is probably the most censored person in history, next to Socrates.
WikiLeaks staff and associates and supporters, are also among the most heavily surveilled activists in the world. We know that upwards of 30 million dollars has been spent just by the UK government surveilling the Ecuadorian Embassy and were the full scale of the surveillance and monitoring of the global intelligence community of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to be accounted for, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the surveillance of WikiLeaks might perhaps be a billion dollar operation.
I say this quite confidently because we know that the FBI, CIA, DHS, WikiLeaks Task Force as they called it back in 2010-2011, originally numbered 300 intelligence community members, then it numbered 800. In the present day, it may be well over 1,000 members full-time members of the intelligence community and that's not including private contractors, that's not including resources that have been contributed by other countries, than the US and the UK. So it is entirely reasonable to approximate that it could be a billion dollar operation.
But beyond merely surveillance, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have also been subjected to an incredible number of different types of censorship and that's what I'd like to cover off some of with you today.
So, covering WikiLeaks over the last seven years this is some of what I know of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks being censored but there is bound to be many, many more examples that if I did a bit more research I could probably come across.
I wanted to start by talking about the technological censorship
When WikiLeaks have put out major releases, or announced that they are going to be putting out major releases, we have seen massive, what's known as botnets. Distributed denial of service attacks. This is where large numbers of computers around the world have been commandeered by malware and then their resources, the computer resources, have been redirected to directly attack WikiLeaks domain and website with the objective of shutting down the site or preventing the site from being able to serve its content to its readers. So this is an abject form of censorship, an abject form of technological censorship that is representative of the modern age.
Another form of technological censorship that I have witnessed personally, is extreme audio and visual interference at WikiLeaks press conferences. If anyone here saw the Vault 7 press conference that WikiLeaks announced that they were holding about the documents that they were publishing about CIA surveillance mechanisms and methods, the first press conference was actually unable to proceed because of the severity of the audio-visual interference. Later press conferences have also had similar things happen, where extreme lengths have had to be gone to in order to secure the connection for Julian to even be able to speak to his audience. At times there has been 30 or 40 or 50 thousand people, or even upwards of that, waiting on the stream for the press conference, but either the service providers or the technical infrastructure at the Embassy has been under such severe attack that it has either delayed the event or forced its cancellation.
I was very privileged to cover live in 2014 what was known as the Moment of Truth event where Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Kim Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, Rob Amsterdam and a number of other figures, held a huge event at the Auckland Town Hall in New Zealand. If you watched that stream, which some 350,000 people did watch that stream, it was an extremely successful event, when Julian began to speak, all of a sudden all you could hear behind him was construction noise, power drills and banging and crashing behind him. It was farcical, absolutely farcical. Sure enough, it had turned out that the Ecuadorian Embassy had attempted to purchase the apartment space above where Julian was staying in the Embassy but were unsuccessful. And the apartment space had been sold to what I will only describe as unfriendly actors. Those unfriendly actors had sure enough, been undergoing construction, possibly - this is the cover story anyway - undergoing construction, or renovation, at the precise moments at which Julian was attempting to communicate with the world by livestream from the Embassy.
This is a typical type of intereference, very typical, I won't go too much further into it because it is an entire topic in and of itself but the use of power drills and construction noise - persistent power drills and construction noise - is a known harassment technique that has been used against a number of activists around the world.
We also saw when Julian attempted to speak at a conference in Europe that a fire drill went off in the theatre just moments before he was due to speak and everybody was emptied outside and told that they had to evacuate the building which ultimately led to him being unable to speak at that event and at that venue.
So this is censorship in the modern age - censorship is not just simply something being removed from a website or some pressure being applied to a journalist, censorship can take so many different forms.
Continuing on the theme of technological censorship, we saw WikiLeaks had the denial of access to hosting services. So in 2010, in December, Amazon removed WikiLeaks from its servers entirely. Subsequently, there was extreme pressure applied to other entities offering hosting services to WikiLeaks, even to entire countries who had servers on their territory or within their jurisdiction, hosting the WikiLeaks website.
Moving along from technological censorship, I think it's pretty well known that WikiLeaks has also been subjected to heavy financial censorship.
So this is where the censorship is being achieved by financial means. Because they understand - the powers that be understand full well - that if they attack the resources of an organisation that ultimately it impacts their reach and their ability to get their messages out to a wider audience. So in Julian's personal case, what is maybe not so well known about the time that he was in Sweden - that subsequently resulted in the allegations that had been made against him - at that precise moment in time, his bank accounts were being closed, his credit cards were cancelled, he was left with no access to money.
This is the funny thing about the system. When you are effective enough at tackling the system directly - I'm not sure if you've all seen the Will Smith movie 'Enemy of the State', but in that movie Will Smith's character is targeted by the government and all of a sudden his credit cards don't work and his bank accounts are being closed and he is being denied access to basic services - this was the lived experience for Julian at the time that he was in Sweden and travelling around doing media engagements in the wake of the release of the Iraq War logs.
This is the precise moment in time when Chelsea Manning was in a cage in Kuwait, literally in a cage. And Julian was doing absolutely everything that he could to attempt to drum up support for Manning, and to continue publishing those logs, and at the same time he was finding that he couldn't pay for a bus ticket or make a phone call, because all of his access to services was being denied over and over again. Without due process. You discover these things when they happen to you, there's no one notifying you, there's no grace period in advance, they literally just cut the cord and you're left to deal with the ramifications of it.
We also know that WikiLeaks' Paypal accounts were then subsequently frozen. They were unable to access money that had been donated to them, they were unable to ask people to contribute money to them, at the very same time that Julian was unable to access financial services that should be accessible to every person on the planet.
We know that Bank of America stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks. They really had no way at that time to access funds from supporters, which forced Julian into a position where he had to accept help from strangers. It put him in a very vulnerable position, a physically vulnerable position.
We know that these attacks - the financial attacks and the financial pressure - come not just from governments or from the corporate sphere but can even come from NGO's. NGO's who either deny assistance to activists and journalists who are at risk or a very recent example: in December 2017 the Freedom of the Press Foundation closed down the funding channel to WikiLeaks. It was an anonymous donations channel. Part of my article 'Being Julian Assange' proved that that funding channel was established not just to service WikiLeaks but actually to protect the anonymity of donors, primarily citizens in the United States who were donating to WikiLeaks, to protect them from legal liability or legal jeopardy as a result of their support for WikiLeaks. That channel was closed down on the premise, the false premise, that WikiLeaks was no longer in financial jeopardy. Now having seen Mike Pompeo sit a year ago at his first press conference and declare that WikiLeaks is a non-state hostile intelligence agency and a priority target for the CIA, it seems a bit beyond belief that anybody could rationally believe that WikiLeaks is no longer in need of financial assistance. However unfortunately - to their credit, it was after more than a year of internal debate and internal struggle within that organisation - they did in fact shut down the donation channel to WikiLeaks. So yet again we see that the financial censorship has extended from 2010 all the way into 2018.
Next up we have mainstream media censorship.
I'm not going to go too much into this because my article 'Being Julian Assange' covers this extensively. Obviously, we see smears. Smear after smear after smear after smear in the mainstream media. This is basically an attempt to damage WikiLeaks' reputation. So extensively that it ultimately denies them an audience, it puts people off sharing their work or puts them in doubt about the efficacy of their work, or just makes it socially unacceptable to either peruse the documents and research, or denies broader support to the organisation. So in that sense it is definitely a form of censorship.
We see mainstream media who have publishing agreements with WikiLeaks and then either redact entire documents or portions of documents without consultation or who outright violate their agreements with WikiLeaks. That again is another form of censorship because it is failing to provide the agreed-upon information to the public that WikiLeaks staff and that Julian Assange have been putting their lives on the line to get out there. Also we see the collusion of the State involved in that, where these outlets end up taking documents to or supplying documents to government agencies or state agencies and then deciding what to publish based on the outcome of that.
Increasingly, worryingly, there is also what I am deeming repetitional censorship.
CONTINUED IN PART TWO! You can read it here.
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