Tuesday 19th of November 2019

shooting the marathon man..

messenger

Trump administration officials were enthusiastic when Ecuador decided to expel Julian Assange from its embassy in London, where he had received sanctuary for nearly seven years. British authorities promptly jailed him for jumping bail on sexual assault charges in Sweden, and U.S. officials began plans to have Assange extradited to face espionage charges in this country. He just turned 48 in prison on July 3.

Last month, the Department of Justice added 17 counts to the one-count indictment that it had filed years earlier. His current imprisonment in Britain and the probability of a lengthy extradition battle have delayed the prospect of a high-profile trial in the United States, but that outcome remains Washington’s goal. The United States reportedly submitted a formal extradition request on June 6.

The issues at stake go far beyond whether Assange is an admirable (or even a reasonably likeable) person. He symbolizes a crucial fight over freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to expose government misconduct without fear of criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, a disturbing number of “establishment” journalists in the United States seem willing—indeed, eager—to throw him to the government wolves.

Official Washington’s hatred of Assange borders on rabid. The website WikiLeaks, which he and his colleagues founded in 2006, has published voluminous quantities of leaked documents—in some cases highly classified documents. Those revelations have embarrassed, even discredited, powerful government officials and political factions in the United States and other countries. Among WikiLeaks’s revelations were specifics about the torture of terrorist suspects at CIA “black sites” in the United States and allied countries, and evidence of U.S. war crimes, notably brazen killings of civilians, including two Reuters reporters, in Iraq. Some of the most spectacular news accounts emerged because of leaked documents that a young Army private, Bradley (later Chelsea) Manning had given to WikiLeaks.

 

Read more:

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/julian-assange-and-the-...

 

 

press freedom, going down the toilet...

Global press freedom under threat, says Reporters Without Borders

Across Europe and much of the world, journalists are facing increased hostility, but progress in Africa is a sign for hope. That's according to the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

For the first time in three years, North Korea evaded the wooden spoon: The country is no longer ranked last in Reporters Without Borders' annual World Press Freedom Index published Thursday. Instead, it is Turkmenistan that has captured the bottom spot in 2019.

Once again, Norway tops the global ranking, followed by Finland and Sweden.

The Netherlands dropped out of the top three, and in the opinion of Sylvie Ahrens-Urbanek from the German branch of Reporters Without Borders, this demotion is proof that there are press shortcomings even among countries often touted as exemplary democracies.

Read more: 10 'most urgent' global press freedom cases, April 2019

"There have been instances of journalists needing police protection for reporting on organized crime," said Ahrens-Urbanek, who stressed the importance of reversing this negative trend in countries that have typically had strong press freedom.

 

Read more:

https://www.dw.com/en/global-press-freedom-under-threat-says-reporters-w...

 

Unfortunately, since this article was written and published, AUSTRALIA  has gone below Turkmenistan...

shooting the teleprompter...

fighting airports...

enUS [sic] President Donald Trump has blamed wet weather and a teleprompter fault for his reference to 18th century airports in his Independence Day speech.

Mr Trump told rain-soaked crowds that American troops fighting the British "took over the airports" during the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century.

Observers were quick to point out that airports did not exist at the time, as the aeroplane was yet to be invented.

But Mr Trump said the slip-up was due to a technical failure.

"The teleprompter went out and kept going on and then at the end it just went out. It went kaput," Mr Trump said.

"So I could have said that and actually right in the middle of that sentence it went out. And that's not a good feeling when you're standing in front of millions of millions of people on television.

"I knew the speech very well, so I was able to do without a teleprompter but the teleprompter did go out and it was actually hard to look at anyway because it was rain all over it.

"But despite the rain that was just a fantastic evening."

Read more:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-06/trump-blames-teleprompter-for-air...

 

Read from top. A small "spellcheck" error might have creeped in. The original dictation might have been "their ports" and the automated transcriber understood it as "the airports". Unless, in order to save a few bucks and be supportive of "work for all" the US administration employed chinese typists.

 

And a note to The Donald. There is not millions of millions of people living on this narrowing planet. And most people were watching the Tennis (or wahtever sport is their addiction) on TV.

media freedom alla sour pommy sauce...


The Global Conference for Media Freedom in London earlier denied accreditation for the Sputnik news agency, as well as RT, without providing any explanation for this decision. The officials later accused the media outlets of "spreading of disinformation".

Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has criticised the conference for denying accreditation for Russian journalists, calling the whole situation absurd.

In the meantime, Editor-in-chief of Sputnik and RT Margarita Simonyan has also slammed the British authorities over the controversial move.

"The UK Foreign Office on why they did not let us attend the conference on speech freedom in London: 'We have not accredited RT and Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation’. Of course, they have not cited a single example of that disinformation", she said in her blog on Telegram.

Simonyan also recalled how London "sheepishly cleared the post on the Russian origin of the substance used to poison the Skripals".

"Or how the BBC had been trying to find 'Russian traces' — at least some, any at all — when the yellow vests were protesting in Paris”, she added.

 

Read more:

https://sputniknews.com/world/201907091076193283-kremlin-slams-global-me...

in violation of international law...


Transcript


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! special, an hour with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned dissident and father of modern linguistics. In April, Noam Chomsky visited his hometown of Boston, where he was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for more than half a century. He now teaches at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Over 700 people packed into the Old South Church to hear him speak. Later in the broadcast, we’ll air my on-stage interview with him, but first we turn to his speech.

NOAM CHOMSKY: If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to start with a brief reminiscence of a period which is eerily similar to today in many unpleasant respects. I’m thinking of exactly 80 years ago, almost to the day, happened to be the moment of the first article that I remember having written on political issues. Easy to date: It was right after the fall of Barcelona in February 1939.

The article was about what seemed to be the inexorable spread of fascism over the world. In 1938, Austria had been annexed by Nazi Germany. A few months later, Czechoslovakia was betrayed, placed in the hands of the Nazis at the Munich Conference. In Spain, one city after another was falling to Franco’s forces. February 1939, Barcelona fell. That was the end of the Spanish Republic. The remarkable popular revolution, anarchist revolution, of 1936, ’37, ’38, had already been crushed by force. It looked as if fascism was going to spread without end.

It’s not exactly what’s happening today, but, if we can borrow Mark Twain’s famous phrase, “History doesn’t repeat but sometimes rhymes.” Too many similarities to overlook.

When Barcelona fell, there was a huge flood of refugees from Spain. Most went to Mexico, about 40,000. Some went to New York City, established anarchist offices in Union Square, secondhand bookstores down 4th Avenue. That’s where I got my early political education, roaming around that area. That’s 80 years ago. Now it’s today.

We didn’t know at the time, but the U.S. government was also beginning to think about how the spread of fascism might be virtually unstoppable. They didn’t view it with the same alarm that I did as a 10-year-old. We now know that the attitude of the State Department was rather mixed regarding what the significance of the Nazi movement was. Actually, there was a consul in Berlin, U.S. consul in Berlin, who was sending back pretty mixed comments about the Nazis, suggesting maybe they’re not as bad as everyone says. He stayed there until Pearl Harbor Day, when he was withdrawn—famous diplomat named George Kennan. Not a bad indication of the mixed attitude towards these developments.

It turns out, couldn’t have known it at the time, but shortly after this, 1939, the State Department and the Council on Foreign Relations began to carry out planning about the postwar world, what would the postwar world look like. And in the early years, right about that time, next few years, they assumed that the postwar world would be divided between a German-controlled world, Nazi-controlled world, most of Eurasia, and a U.S.-controlled world, which would include the Western Hemisphere, the former British Empire, which the U.S. would take over, parts of the Far East. And that would be the shape of the postwar world. Those views, we now know, were maintained until the Russians turned the tide. Stalingrad, 1942, the huge tank battle at Kursk, a little later, made it pretty clear that the Russians would defeat the Nazis. The planning changed. Picture of the postwar world changed, went on to what we’ve seen for the last period since that time. Well, that was 80 years ago.

Today we do not—we are not facing the rise of anything like Nazism, but we are facing the spread of what’s sometimes called the ultranationalist, reactionary international, trumpeted openly by its advocates, including Steve Bannon, the impresario of the movement. Just had a victory yesterday: The Netanyahu election in Israel solidified the reactionary alliance that’s being established, all of this under the U.S. aegis, run by the triumvirate, the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton triumvirate—could borrow a phrase from George W. Bush to describe them, but, out of politeness, I won’t. The Middle East alliance consists of the extreme reactionary states of the region—Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt under the most brutal dictatorship of its history, Israel right at the center of it—confronting Iran. Severe threats that we’re facing in Latin America. The election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil put in power the most extreme, most outrageous of the right-wing ultranationalists who are now plaguing the hemisphere. Yesterday, Lenín Moreno of Ecuador took a strong step towards joining the far-right alliance by expelling Julian Assange from the embassy. He’s picked up quickly by the U.S., will face a very dangerous future unless there’s a significant popular protest. Mexico is one of the rare exceptions in Latin America to these developments. This has happened—in Western Europe, the right-wing parties are growing, some of them very frightening in character.

There is a counterdevelopment. Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece, a very significant, important individual, along with Bernie Sanders, have urged the formation of the Progressive International to counter the right-wing international that’s developing. At the level of states, the balance looks overwhelmingly in the wrong direction. But states aren’t the only entities. At the level of people, it’s quite different. And that could make the difference. That means a need to protect the functioning democracies, to enhance them, to make use of the opportunities they provide, for the kinds of activism that have led to significant progress in the past could save us in the future.

I want to make a couple of remarks below about the severe difficulty of maintaining and instituting democracy, the powerful forces that have always opposed it, the achievements of somehow salvaging and enhancing it, and the significance of that for the future. But first, a couple of words about the challenges that we face, which you heard enough about already and you all know about. I don’t have to go into them in detail. To describe these challenges as “extremely severe” would be an error. The phrase does not capture the enormity of the kinds of challenges that lie ahead. And any serious discussion of the future of humanity must begin by recognizing a critical fact, that the human species is now facing a question that has never before arisen in human history, question that has to be answered quickly: Will human society survive for long?

Well, as you all know, for 70 years we’ve been living under the shadow of nuclear war. Those who have looked at the record can only be amazed that we’ve survived this far. Time after time it’s come extremely close to terminal disaster, even minutes away. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve survived. Miracles don’t go on forever. This has to be terminated, and quickly. The recent Nuclear Posture Review of the Trump administration dramatically increases the threat of conflagration, which would in fact be terminal for the species. We may remember that this Nuclear Posture Review was sponsored by Jim Mattis, who was regarded as too civilized to be retained in the administration—gives you a sense of what can be tolerated in the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton world.

Well, there were three major arms treaties: the ABM Treaty, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; the INF Treaty, Intermediate Nuclear Forces; the New START treaty.

The U.S. pulled out of the ABM Treaty in 2002. And anyone who believes that anti-ballistic missiles are defensive weapons is deluded about the nature of these systems.

The U.S. has just pulled out of the INF Treaty, established by Gorbachev and Reagan in 1987, which sharply reduced the threat of war in Europe, which would very quickly spread. The background of that signing of that treaty was the demonstrations that you just saw depicted on the film. Massive public demonstrations were the background for leading to a treaty that made a very significant difference. It’s worth remembering that and many other cases where significant popular activism has made a huge difference. The lessons are too obvious to enumerate. Well, the Trump administration has just withdrawn from the INF Treaty; the Russians withdrew right afterwards. If you take a close look, you find that each side has a kind of a credible case saying that the opponent has not lived up to the treaty. For those who want a picture of how the Russians might look at it, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the major journal on arms control issues, had a lead article a couple weeks ago by Theodore Postol pointing out how dangerous the U.S. installations of anti-ballistic missiles on the Russian border—how dangerous they are and can be perceived to be by the Russians. Notice, on the Russian border. Tensions are mounting on the Russian border. Both sides are carrying out provocative actions. We should—in a rational world, what would happen would be negotiations between the two sides, with independent experts to evaluate the charges that each is making against the other, to lead to a resolution of these charges, restore the treaty. That’s a rational world. But it’s unfortunately not the world we’re living in. No efforts at all have been made in this direction. And they won’t be, unless there is significant pressure.

Well, that leaves the New START treaty. The New START treaty has already been designated by the figure in charge, who has modestly described himself as the greatest president in American history—he gave it the usual designation of anything that was done by his predecessors: the worst treaty that ever happened in human history; we’ve got to get rid of it. If in fact—this comes up for renewal right after the next election, and a lot is at stake. A lot is at stake in whether that treaty will be renewed. It has succeeded in very significantly reducing the number of nuclear weapons, to a level way above what they ought to be but way below what they were before. And it could go on.

Well, meanwhile, global warming proceeds on its inexorable course. During this millennium, every single year, with one exception, has been hotter than the last one. There are recent scientific papers, James Hansen and others, which indicate that the pace of global warming, which has been increasing since about 1980, may be sharply escalating and may be moving from linear growth to exponential growth, which means doubling every couple of decades. We’re already approaching the conditions of 125,000 years ago, when the sea level was about roughly 25 feet higher than it is today, with the melting, the rapid melting, of the Antarctic, huge ice fields. We might—that point might be reached. The consequences of that are almost unimaginable. I mean, I won’t even try to depict them, but you can figure out quickly what that means.

Well, meanwhile, while this is going on, you regularly read in the press euphoric accounts of how the United States is advancing in fossil fuel production. It’s now surpassed Saudi Arabia. We’re in the lead of fossil fuel production. The big banks, JPMorgan Chase and others, are pouring money into new investments in fossil fuels, including the most dangerous, like Canadian tar sands. And this is all presented with great euphoria, excitement. We’re now reaching energy independence. We can control the world, determine the use of fossil fuels in the world.

Barely a word on what the meaning of this is, which is quite obvious. It’s not that the reporters, commentators don’t know about it, that the CEO of the banks don’t know about it. Of course they do. But these are kind of institutional pressures that just are extremely hard to extricate themselves from. You can put yourself in the—try to put yourself in the position of, say, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the biggest bank, which is spending large sums in investment in fossil fuels. He certainly knows everything that you all know about global warming. It’s no secret. But what are the choices? Basically he has two choices. One choice is to do exactly what he’s doing. The other choice is to resign and be replaced by somebody else who will do exactly what he’s doing. It’s not an individual problem. It’s an institutional problem, which can be met, but only under tremendous public pressure.

And we’ve recently seen, very dramatically, how it can—how the solution can be reached. A group of young people, Sunrise Movement, organized, got to the point of sitting in in congressional offices, aroused some interest from the new progressive figures who were able to make it to Congress. Under a lot of popular pressure, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, joined by Ed Markey, actually placed the Green New Deal on the agenda. That’s a remarkable achievement. Of course, it gets hostile attacks from everywhere: It doesn’t matter. A couple of years ago it was unimaginable that it would be discussed. As the result of the activism of this group of young people, it’s now right in the center of the agenda. It’s got to be implemented in one form or another. It’s essential for survival, maybe not in exactly that form, but some modification of it. Tremendous change achieved by the commitment of a small group of young people. That tells you the kind of thing that can be done.

Meanwhile, the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists last January was set at two minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it’s been to terminal disaster since 1947. The announcement of the settlement—of the setting mentioned the two major familiar threats: the threat of nuclear war, which is increasing, threat of global warming, which is increasing further. And it added a third for the first time: the undermining of democracy. That’s the third threat, along with global warming and nuclear war. And that was quite appropriate, because functioning democracy offers the only hope of overcoming these threats. They are not going to be dealt with by major institutions, state or private, acting without massive public pressure, which means that the means of democratic functioning have to be kept alive, used the way the Sunshine Movement did it, the way the great mass demonstration in the early ’80s did it, and the way we continue today.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Noam Chomsky, speaking at the Old South Church in Boston in April. When we return from break, I speak to him about the arrest of Julian Assange, the Israeli elections, the war in Yemen and more.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We return to Noam Chomsky’s appearance at the Old South Church in Boston on April 11th. After he addressed the crowd of over 700 people, I had a chance to conduct an on-stage interview with the world-renowned dissident and father of modern linguistics. I began by asking him about WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, who had been arrested earlier in the day. He had been taken out by British authorities of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had political asylum for almost seven years.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the Assange arrest is scandalous in several respects. One of them is just the effort of governments—and it’s not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating. Ecuador, of course, is now cooperating. Sweden, before, had cooperated. The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about—OK?—that’s basically what happened. WikiLeaks was producing things that people ought to know about those in power. People in power don’t like that, so therefore we have to silence it. OK? This is the kind of thing, the kind of scandal, that takes place, unfortunately, over and over.

To take another example, right next door to Ecuador, in Brazil, where the developments that have gone on are extremely important. This is the most important country in Latin America, one of the most important in the world. Under the Lula government early in this millennium, Brazil was the most—maybe the most respected country in the world. It was the voice for the Global South under the leadership of Lula da Silva. Notice what happened. There was a coup, soft coup, to eliminate the nefarious effects of the labor party, the Workers’ Party. These are described by the World Bank—not me, the World Bank—as the “golden decade” in Brazil’s history, with radical reduction of poverty, a massive extension of inclusion of marginalized populations, large parts of the population—Afro-Brazilian, indigenous—who were brought into the society, a sense of dignity and hope for the population. That couldn’t be tolerated.

After Lula’s—after he left office, a kind of a “soft coup” take place—I won’t go through the details, but the last move, last September, was to take Lula da Silva, the leading, the most popular figure in Brazil, who was almost certain to win the forthcoming election, put him in jail, solitary confinement, essentially a death sentence, 25 years in jail, banned from reading press or books, and, crucially, barred from making a public statement—unlike mass murderers on death row. This, in order to silence the person who was likely to win the election. He’s the most important political prisoner in the world. Do you hear anything about it?

Well, Assange is a similar case: We’ve got to silence this voice. You go back to history. Some of you may recall when Mussolini’s fascist government put Antonio Gramsci in jail. The prosecutor said, “We have to silence this voice for 20 years. Can’t let it speak.” That’s Assange. That’s Lula. There are other cases. That’s one scandal.

The other scandal is just the extraterritorial reach of the United States, which is shocking. I mean, why should the United States—why should any—no other state could possibly do it. But why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? I mean, it’s an outlandish situation. It goes on all the time. We never even notice it. At least there’s no comment on it.

You can ask yourself: Why is this accepted? So, in this case, why is it acceptable for the United States to have the power to even begin to give even a proposal to extradite somebody whose crime is to expose to the public materials that people in power don’t want them to see? That’s basically what’s happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, what about what’s happened in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu winning a record fifth term? Right before the election, he announces that he will annex illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Last month, Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, if Benny Gantz had been elected instead of Netanyahu, the difference would not be very great. The difference between the two candidates is not substantial in terms of policy. Netanyahu—here’s another example of the extraterritorial reach of the United States. Netanyahu is somewhat more extreme. The United States desperately wanted him to be elected. And the Trump administration has been giving gift after gift to Netanyahu to try to get him elected. It was enough to carry him over the roughly 50/50—close to 50/50 election.

One of them, of course, was to move the embassy to Jerusalem, in violation of not only international law, but even Security Council resolutions that the U.S. had participated in. A very dramatic change.

A second, equally dramatic, was to authorize Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. The Syrian Golan Heights are, under international law, occupied territory. Israel—every major institution, every relevant institution, Security Council, International Court of Justice, all agree on this. Israel did formally annex the Golan Heights. But the Security Council, U.N. Security Council, with the U.S. participating, declared that null and void. OK? Trump unilaterally reversed it—another gift to Netanyahu, saying, try to demonstrate to the Israeli public that, with U.S. backing, he can get anything they want.

The last was Trump’s latest, just before the election, his declaration that, if elected, he would annex parts of the West Bank. That was with tacit U.S. authorization.

These are strong measures that were taken to interfere radically with a foreign election. Have you heard something about how terrible it is to interfere in foreign elections? I think maybe that you noticed that somewhere. Here, it’s done radically. It’s considered fine. But exactly what are the actual consequences of that in terms of the way policy has been evolving? Fact of the matter is, not much.

So, take the annexation of the Golan Heights. In fact, it was declared null and void by the Security Council. It was condemned by the International Court of Justice. But did anybody do anything about it? Has any move been made to prevent Israel’s development of the Golan Heights, establishment of settlements, enterprises, development of ski resorts on Mount Hermon? Anything? No, nobody lifted a finger. And nobody lifted a finger for a simple reason: The U.S. won’t allow it. Nobody says that, but that’s the fact. Well, now it’s formally authorized, instead of just happening.

Take Netanyahu’s proposal to annex parts of the West Bank. That’s been going on for 50 years, literally. Right after the ’67 war, both political parties, both major groupings in Israel—the former Labor-based party, the Likud-based conglomerate—they have slightly different policies, but essentially they have been carrying out a development program in the West Bank which is geared towards the goal, the very clear goal, of creating what will be a kind of Greater Israel, in which Israel will take over whatever is of value in the West Bank, leave the Palestinian population concentrations—like in Nablus and Tulkarm—leave them isolated. In the rest of the region, there are maybe 150 or so little Palestinian enclaves, more or less surrounded by checkpoints, often separated from their fields, able to survive, but barely.

Meanwhile, Jewish settlements are developed. Cities have been constructed—a major city, Ma’ale Adumim, constructed mostly under Clinton, incidentally, under the Clinton years, east of Jerusalem. The road to it essentially bisects the West Bank. Further ones up north. Jerusalem itself is maybe five times the size of what it ever was historically. All of these are linked by highly developed infrastructure projects. You can take a trip. You can—this is basically creating pleasant suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the West Bank. You can travel from Ma’ale Adumim to Tel Aviv on a big highway, restricted to Israelis and tourists, not Palestinians, more easily than you can get from the South Shore to Boston—never seeing an Arab.

All of this has been steadily developed, year after year, with tacit U.S. support. U.S. provides the diplomatic support, a lot of the economic support, the military aid. And meanwhile, the government says, “We don’t like it. Stop doing it,” but providing the means for it. Well, the only difference in Netanyahu’s statement with Trump’s tacit backing is, “I’m going to go ahead and annex it, annex all of this, instead of just developing it, subject to eventual annexation.” These are the real things that have been happening.

Now, the Netanyahu victory, as I mentioned before, solidifies an alliance that is being—that has been developed, that’s been—parts of it have been kind of undercover for years, not formal, but functioning, now coming into the open, of the most reactionary Arab states—primarily Saudi Arabia, one of the most reactionary states in the world; Egypt, under the Sisi dictatorship, the worst dictatorship in Egypt’s history; the United Arab Emirates, similar; Israel, right in the center of it. It’s part of the international right-wing alliance system, the international reactionary, ultranationalist alliance system that’s taking shape with the U.S. leadership, a kind of a new global system that’s developing. South America, under Bolsonaro, is another part of it.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, in the United States, there’s this growing awareness. For example, the Democratic-Republican vote against Saudi Arabia-UAE’s war in Yemen, fueled by the United States. Does that give you hope?

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s a very interesting development. That’s actually Bernie Sanders. It’s what—and notice—and it is a very important development, but let’s notice what happened. The Saudi-United Arab Emirate war in Yemen has been a hideous atrocity. There’s probably—nobody knows—maybe 60,000, 70,000 people killed, half the population barely surviving. The U.N. describes it as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. It’s a real monstrosity. It’s been going on year after year, using—Saudi Arabia, UAE are using U.S. weapons—secondarily, British weapons—U.S. intelligence support, U.S. intelligence directly working closely with the Saudis to target bombing and so on and so forth. All of this has been happening with no protest.

Then came the Khashoggi killing, brutal killing of a journalist for The Washington Post. That caused outrage. OK? It should have, but, you know, that’s not the reason why the Yemen war should have suddenly had the spotlight shined on it. But it was. Then Bernie Sanders came along, with a couple of others, and initiated the legislation, which put some crimps in the direct U.S. support for the war. Which is significant, but we should put it in the context of what in fact happened. And I think we can be pretty confident that the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton triumvirate will find a way around it and keep the war going—unless the public seriously protests.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, speaking at the Old South Church in Boston in April. We’ll return to Professor Chomsky after a short break, to talk about the Green New Deal and his take on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our special broadcast of an hour with the world-renowned linguist, political dissident Noam Chomsky. I spoke to him April 11th at the Old South Church in Boston. I asked Professor Chomsky to talk about the Green New Deal and the lessons of the old New Deal.

NOAM CHOMSKY: First of all, I think the Green New Deal is exactly the right idea. You can raise questions about the specific form in which Ocasio-Cortez and Markey introduced it: Maybe it shouldn’t be exactly this way; it should be a little bit differently. But the general idea is quite right. And there’s very solid work explaining, developing in detail, exactly how it could work. So, a very fine economist at UMass Amherst, Robert Pollin, has written extensively on, in extensive detail, with close analysis of how you could implement policies of this kind in a very effective way, which would actually make a better society. It wouldn’t be that you’d lose from it; you’d gain from it. The costs of renewable energy are declining very sharply. If you eliminate the massive subsidies that are given to fossil fuels, they probably already surpass them. There are many means that can be implemented and carried out to overcome, certainly to mitigate, maybe to overcome, this serious crisis. So the basic idea is, I think, completely defensible—in fact, essential. A lot of the media commentary ridiculing this and that aspect of it are essentially beside the point. You can change the dates from 2030 to 2040, you can do a couple of other manipulations, but the basic idea is correct.

Well, what’s the difference from the 1930s? Several things. One thing that’s different is large-scale labor action. The 1930s were the period of the organization of the CIO. In the 1920s, the U.S. labor movement had been virtually destroyed. Remember, this is very much a business-run society. American labor history is very violent, quite unlike comparable countries. And by the 1920s, the quite effective, militant labor movement had been pretty much crushed. One of the great works of labor history, by David Montgomery, one of the great labor historians, is called The Rise and Fall of the American Labor Movement [The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925]. He was talking about the 1920s, when it had essentially been destroyed. The 1930s, it revived. It revived with large-scale organizing activities. The CIO organizing began. The strike actions were quite militant. They led to sitdown strikes. A sitdown strike is a real sign of warning to the business classes, because there’s a step beyond a sitdown strike. The next step beyond a sitdown strike is: “Let’s start the factory by running it by ourselves. We don’t need the bosses. We can run it ourselves. So, get rid of them.” OK? That’s a real revolution, the kind that should take place. The participants in an enterprise would own and run it by themselves, instead of being the slaves of the private owners who control their lives. And a sitdown strike is a bare step away from that. That aroused real fear among the ownership classes.

Second element was there was a sympathetic administration, which is very critical. You look at the history of labor actions over the centuries—there’s a very good book on this, incidentally, by Erik Loomis, who studies—has a book called American History in Ten Strikes, or some similar name [A History of America in Ten Strikes], where he runs through the militant labor actions ever since the early 19th century. And he makes an interesting point. He says every successful labor action has had at least tacit support of the government. If the government and the ownership classes are unified in crushing labor action, they’ve always succeeded. OK? Very significant observation. And in the 1930s, there was a sympathetic administration, for many reasons. But that combination of militant labor action—it was a very lively political period in many ways—and a sympathetic administration did lead to the New Deal, which greatly changed people’s lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you share your analysis of President Trump? You have lived through so many presidents. Explain President Trump to us and assess the massive response to him.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Trump is—you know, I think there are a number of illusions about Trump. If you take a look at the Trump phenomenon, it’s not very surprising. Think back for the last 10 or 15 years over Republican Party primaries, and remember what happened during the primaries. Each primary, when some candidate rose from the base, they were so outlandish that the Republican establishment tried to crush them and succeeded in doing it—Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum. Anyone who was coming out of the base was totally unacceptable to the establishment. The change in 2016 is they couldn’t crush him.

But the interesting question is: Why was this happening? Why, in election after election, was the voting base producing a candidate utterly intolerable to the establishment? And the answer to that is—if you think about that, the answer is not very hard to discover. During the—since the 1970s, during this neoliberal period, both of the political parties have shifted to the right. The Democrats, by the 1970s, had pretty much abandoned the working class. I mean, the last gasp of more or less progressive Democratic Party legislative proposals was the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act in 1978, which Carter watered down so that it had no teeth, just became voluntary. But the Democrats had pretty much abandoned the working class. They became pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans shifted so far to the right that they went completely off the spectrum. Two of the leading political analysts of the American Enterprise Institute, Thomas Mann, Norman Ornstein, about five or 10 years ago, described the Republican Party as what they called a “radical insurgency” that has abandoned parliamentary politics.

Well, why did that happen? It happened because the Republicans face a difficult problem. They have a primary constituency, a real constituency: extreme wealth and corporate power. That’s who they have to serve. That’s their constituency. You can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes. What do you do to get votes? This was begun by Richard Nixon with the Southern strategy: try to pick up racists in the South. The mid-1970s, Paul Weyrich, one of the Republican strategists, hit on a brilliant idea. Northern Catholics voted Democratic, tended to vote Democratic, a lot of them working-class. The Republicans could pick up that vote by pretending—crucially, “pretending”—to be opposed to abortion. By the same pretense, they could pick up the evangelical vote. Those are big votes—evangelicals, northern Catholics. Notice the word “pretense.” It’s crucial. You go back to the 1960s, every leading Republican figure was strongly, what we call now, pro-choice. The Republican Party position was—that’s Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, all the leadership—their position was: Abortion is not the government’s business; it’s private business—government has nothing to say about it. They turned almost on a dime in order to try to pick up a voting base on what are called cultural issues. Same with gun rights. Gun rights become a matter of holy writ because you can pick up part of the population that way. In fact, what they’ve done is put together a coalition of voters based on issues that are basically, you know, tolerable to the establishment, but they don’t like it. OK? And they’ve got to hold that, those two constituencies, together. The real constituency of wealth and corporate power, they’re taken care of by the actual legislation.

So, if you look at the legislation under Trump, it’s just lavish gifts to the wealth and the corporate sector—the tax bill, the deregulation, you know, every case in point. That’s kind of the job of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, those guys. They serve the real constituency. Meanwhile, Trump has to maintain the voting constituency, with one outrageous position after another that appeals to some sector of the voting base. And he’s doing it very skillfully. As just as a political manipulation, it’s skillful. Work for the rich and the powerful, shaft everybody else, but get their votes—that’s not an easy trick. And he’s carrying it off.

And, I should say, the Democrats are helping him. They are. Take the focus on Russiagate. What’s that all about? I mean, it was pretty obvious at the beginning that you’re not going to find anything very serious about Russian interference in elections. I mean, for one thing, it’s undetectable. I mean, in the 2016 election, the Senate and the House went the same way as the executive, but nobody claims there was Russian interference there. In fact, you know, Russian interference in the election, if it existed, was very slight, much less, say, than interference by, say, Israel. Israel, the prime minister, Netanyahu, goes to Congress and talks to a joint session of Congress, without even informing the White House, to attack Obama’s policies. I mean, that’s dramatic interference with elections. Whatever the Russians tried, it’s not going to be anything like that. And, in fact, there’s no interference in elections that begins to compare with campaign funding. Remember that campaign funding alone gives you a very high prediction of electoral outcome. It’s, again, Tom Ferguson’s major work which has shown this very persuasively. That’s massive interference in elections. Anything the Russians might have done is going to be, you know, peanuts in comparison. As far as Trump collusion with the Russians, that was never going to amount to anything more than minor corruption, maybe building a Trump hotel in Red Square or something like that, but nothing of any significance.

The Democrats invested everything in this issue. Well, turned out there was nothing much there. They gave Trump a huge gift. In fact, they may have handed him the next election. That’s just a—that’s a matter of being so unwilling to deal with fundamental issues, that they’re looking for something on the side that will somehow give political success. The real issues are different things. They’re things like climate change, like global warming, like the Nuclear Posture Review, deregulation. These are real issues. But the Democrats aren’t going after those. They’re looking for something else—the Democratic establishment. I’m not talking about the young cohort that’s coming in, which is quite different. Just all of that has to be shifted significantly, if there’s going to be a legitimate political opposition to the right-wing drift that’s taking place. And it can happen, can definitely happen, but it’s going to take work.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, speaking at the Old South Church in Boston in April.

And that does it for the show. If you’d like to get a copy, go to democracynow.org. Democracy Now! is produced by Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Nermeen Shaikh, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Sam Alcoff, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Charina Nadura, Tey-Marie Astudillo and Libby Rainey. Mike Di Fillippo and Miguel Nogueira are our engineers. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Julie Crosby, Hugh Gran, David Prude, Ishmael Daro, Vesta Goodarz and Carl Marxer. And to our camera crew, Jon Randolph, Kieran Meadows, Anna Özbek and Matt Ealy. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

 

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CNNNN&N....


Dunce's cap for Russiagate coverage should go to CNN
(by George Galloway)
If there was a dunce’s cap awarded to the most gullible – or worse, complicit – news outfit in the whole ‘Russiagate’ affair, it would surely go to CNN.

The small consolation is that its ratings have plummeted in direct proportion to its fake news agenda. Unless trapped in a hotel room in Ulan Bator and having already read the Gideon’s Bible, nobody in their right mind goes looking for CNN.

However, other media do, of course, amplify their prevailing narrative. This is that the Democratic Party didn’t lose because they chose the only person in America who could possibly lose to Donald Trump, but because a bearded man with snow on his boots smelling of vodka and speaking with a thick Russian accent fooled everyone into voting for the GOP. And where no such man can be identified, then a Western cipher can be demonized as his proxy.

So unhinged has CNN – the last hold-out of the Russiagaters – become that they have now piled new levels of ordure on the political prisoner Julian Assange in a much touted “Special,” heaping speculation upon speculation on what they hope is the coffin of a man they once lionized.

Because, dear readers, in a now-forgotten coincidence, it was CNN that in a way brought Julian Assange into the public limelight. They interviewed him a number of times, including once in 2010, when they sent their team to showcase the then-pale-blonde ascetic wonderkid of the whistleblowing business. That was way before RT had aired Assange’s show ‘The World Tomorrow’ – because that suited CNN’s agenda then, in the way that burying him does now.

Full disclosure: Julian Assange is a friend of mine and so opportunists seeking his crucifixion to serve an anti-Trump agenda cut no ice with me. Furthermore, I work for RT, and know personally the fine broadcasting professionals traduced in a disgraceful way by the CNN “Special.”

Julian Assange was hiding in plain sight by having his own show on RT. That’s how espionage works nowadays in the fevered minds of CNN. And he appeared on news shows throughout the world – any one of which could have “passed him a USB drive” when they went into the Ecuador Embassy to film him. He even appeared on my show on TalkRadio, whose proprietor could of course be a (deep) undercover Russian agent.

The fatal flaw in all of this, of course, is that the DNC computers were never hacked in the first place, not by a “master-hacker” or even a schoolboy in his bedroom. That’s why their servers were never examined by the FBI, Mueller or anybody else wearing any kind of official badge.

The scandalous behavior – including CNN’s own (now Fox) contributor Donna Brazile – through which the Democratic Party rigged their own Primary process to defeat Bernie Sanders and procure the coronation of the aforementioned Mrs Clinton was not hacked but leaked. Not by Russians but by Americans. Not by RT but by Democratic Party insiders, disgusted as they should have been at the shameless Tammany Hall shenanigans going on in their party. 

The real target of fading, failing, flailing CNN was not Julian Assange but Donald Trump. His administration is currently trying to incarcerate Assange in the gulags of the US injustice system for the crime of publishing the truth. That’s the real scandal.

 

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at the festival of whistleblowers...

At a festival in the heart of the Scottish countryside, whistle-blower’s and activists are given centre stage amongst the drums and the dancing. With a fair bit of festival mud, it’s not quite the environment you might expect to find Julian Assange’s successor, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, Kristinn Hraffson.

Sputnik caught up with him, for a word on WikiLeak’s and his role in the organisation.

Sputnik: The heavy-handed approach that is being taken against Julian Assange is often labelled as an attempt to dissuade future whistleblowing. What can be done to ensure that potential future whistle-blowers are protected?

Kristinn Hraffson: To protect whistle-blowers, we need to create a genuine law. The whistle-blowing laws that have been passed in many countries usually have the opposite effect. It’s not protecting the whistle-blower, they are outlining that you should go to certain platforms before you actually go to the media. You should talk to your boss, and then, you know, go up the steps. However, if you don't stick completely to the process, then you're open game. They will go after you. But in saying that, there is an understanding, and there's an appreciation. People do appreciate what Edward Snowden did, apart from the American authorities of course. I mean, it was extremely important information that he brought us. We got involved in WikiLeaks with Edward Snowden because the media betrayed him. The Guardian journalist and the other American journalist working on the base of his material just left him in Hong Kong after they were, had been fed with the information. So he was just sitting there, a sitting duck waiting to be arrested or extradited. So we stepped in, and we're actually helping him get into Latin America. His passport was revoked, and he was stranded in Moscow. And now, of course, being a condemned for seeking asylum in Russia, when actually the State Department in the US was responsible for him ending up there. So, to answer the question concisely, supporting of whistle-blowers in general, and at the same time, laws can be changed, and awareness of the importance of whistle-blowers can be raised on all platforms to ensure that this important work is carried out.

Sputnik: Do you see any danger at all in encouraging whistle-blowing, and freedom of the press, for purposes of national security? These rules and laws are put in there for good reasons presumably?

Kristinn Hraffson: Well, of course, there's a limit, there's a line you don't cross. I've always said that if somebody leaks to WikiLeaks and I see the launch codes of missiles from the submarines you're hosting here or whatever, then, of course, it wouldn't be published. There is a limit there. But the concept of ‘threat to national security’- this term is just so overly broadly used that it has lost any meaning.

Sputnik: Do you have an example of this?

Kristinn Hraffson: The publication from 2010, (related to the war in Afghanistan), which is the basis of the indictment now against WikiLeaks, against Julian Assange. For 10 years the US government have been maintaining that this publication had terrible consequences. I had the head Chief of Staff on TV in front of me, claiming that WikiLeaks might already have blood on their hands. He was in tears- which was a bit ironic, given the fact that he basically been swimming in the blood of the slaughters of Iraq and Afghanistan. But in 2013, the Pentagon had to admit in the Chelsea Manning trial, that no one had been harmed as a result of the 2010 publication. They are still clinging onto the hopes they'll find somebody, somewhere, that might have been harmed. I know actually, that a major news organisation was working on a story that they might actually have found one. But, it gives you an indication of actually how overblown this reaction is that this notion of national security- it hasn't anything to do with the National Security. It has to do with the secrecy of the military organisation that politicians don't want you to know. It's as simple as that. They want you ignorant. They want to keep their secrets for themselves. This has been changing very fast. I mean, their comments are becoming more and more secretive. And it has happened slowly, without us actually recognising it, because it's incremental. So, yes, in the end, I am not too worried, I don't see that anything that WikiLeaks does is in reality affecting national security.

Sputnik: Clearly WikiLeaks is a massively powerful tool for that reason. Is there any worry that there are not enough people paying attention to the info that is being published?

Kristinn Hraffson: It depends on the material. I mean the most important material that was posted were the war crimes that did get attention and will get attention still. Even the mainstream media is very eager to work with WikiLeaks when there is something on offer because they like big headlines as well. But it's not reflecting in the way they actually write about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange in between. If it is newsworthy material, it will get attention.

Sputnik: About Julian Assange, ought he to be tried as a journalist?

Kristinn Hraffson: Journalists shouldn't be tried for publishing truthful information that is just impossible if we get there, and I will say it again, this is the worst attack on media freedom in the West, in decades and at least a century. If it's not contested and it does go forward, then we have basically seen such a blow to media freedom, that there is no turning back. You must question the essence of democracy, when media freedom is attacked in that way,

Sputnik: As your position as editor-in-chief, following on from Julian Assange, are you worried about your freedoms- About the fact that you might be targeted in a similar manner?

Kristinn Hraffson: I'm pretty sure that I am targeted in some manner, but whether a smear campaign will be solved against me. I just assume that might happen. Even some legal process, we know for certain that I and two of my colleagues are subject to an investigation by the secret court in Virginia. So anything can happen, but it is part of the job. People who are committed to working in journalism put themselves in danger, and all over the world, journalists are being killed in war zones, and difficult terrain. So it's nothing for us to complain about the fact that we might have to face some adverse consequences for our action. If you believe in some ideals as I believe in journalism, you do what needs to be done.

*The views expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

 

 

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the potato men are killing your rights to know...

By Eric Zuesse

 

It’s not just that the United States has a higher percentage of its people in prison than does any other nation on the planet. (El Salvador — the land that was largely made, what it today is, by its U.S. trained-and-equipped death squads — is now number 2 on that measure. In another country the U.S. controls, Honduras, protesters tried to burn down the U.S. Embassy on 31 May 2019.) This police-state operates also in far subtler ways.

Here is one of those subtler ways, which has global importance:

The U.S. Constitution has become thoroughly removed from the functioning U.S. Government — no restraint whatsoever upon governmental powers.

For a prominent example of this: What is left of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech (freedom to communicate to the public) and freedom of the press (freedom to transmit to the public) if even online publication (and increasingly not only printed and broadcast publication) is being censored by the government, and/or by the billionaires (such as the neoconservative Democrat Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter), the 607 individuals whose political donations collectively, and very effectively, control the U.S. Government?

If the public does not possess the means to communicate freely with one another, then do they possess any meaningful freedom, at all? Or would such a nation instead be a dictatorship, no democracy, at all(except on paper, such as the now-irrelevant U.S. Constitution)?

The case of Julian Assange is especially instructive here:

On July 12th, Caitlin Johnstone headlined “Top Assange Defense Account Deleted By Twitter”, and she reported that,

One of the biggest Twitter accounts dedicated to circulating information and advocacy for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, @Unity4J, has been completely removed from the site. The operators of the account report that they have been given no reason for its removal by Twitter staff, and have received no response to their appeals.”

 

This is suppression, not only of American speech, but of global speech (Wikileaks is global), and it is perpetrated by one of the corporations of the neoconservative (i.e., imperialistic American) supporters of the liberal American Democratic Party, Jack Dorsey, who thinks that his corporation, Twitter, has the right to do this.

Billionaires’ control over the U.S. Government is so total, that they now are so brazen as to impose their censorship even directly, by the companies and ’nonprofits’ (think tanks etc., such as Dorsey’s friend and fellow-Democrat, the liberal neocon billionaire Nicholas Berggruen‘s Berggruen Institute, which is tied to the liberal Huffington Post, which such wealthy people control even more directly than they control the U.S.Government).

This is how these people pretend to be ‘progressive’, even while they actually are peddling their international corporate empire, by means of hiding the corruption that stands behind and underneath this empire. Even liberal billionaires, such as these, are neoconservatives (U.S. imperialists), because neoconservatism is U.S. imperialism; and, for example, the progressive independent Julian Assange is the world’s leading investigative journalist and publisher against imperialism itself — against any imperialism.

To him, there is no decent imperialism: it’s always international dictatorship, never international democracy; and he (just as any progressive) is committed to democracy, not just nationally, but internationally. Democracy is his ideological commitment. Americans call American imperialism “regime change” operations, but it’s always just raw imperialism — the grabbing of other countries, and WikiLeaks is against that; he’s against international dictatorship. So: how can the public vote in a truthfully-informed way, when the chief corruptors run the entire ’news’ show, and thus can freely censor-out whatever they do not like?

It’s simply not possible.

How can Dempsey do this, while also being a huge supporter of liberal ‘causes’, such as the ACLU?

Here is how: The ACLU and the other ‘causes’ that liberal billionaires contribute to, avoid the issue of imperialism, and avoid any other economic-class-focussed issue, and focus instead on other types of cases (including Black versus White, Jew versus Christian, male versus female, gay versus straight, etc.), which (whatever their own importance) pose no real  threat to billionaires’ personal wealth.

The ACLU wouldn’t be able to get the huge amounts of donations that they get from liberal billionaires and their corporations, unless it excluded the basic political issue, of the super-rich versus everyone else, and so it does this: it avoids this issue — which is what makes it be a liberal organization, instead of  a progressive organization (which, by its very nature, focuses on precisely issues of economic class, such as imperialism).

Imperialism has always been practiced by the aristocracy, never by the public — never by the people who aren’t agents of the aristocracy. Many billionaires are liberal.

Virtually, if not entirely, none of them are progressive, because progressivism is the opposite of conservatism, whereas liberalism is a mixture of both.

Every billionaire is conservative, though some of them (such as Dorsey) are liberal (mixed) conservatives. Not all of them are pure conservatives, such as the Koch brothers are.

Every billionaire benefits from imperialism, because international corporations (which are the main thing that billionaires control) benefit from imperialism. Imperialism benefits only the super-rich, because the super-rich have become, and remain, super-rich only because of the military might that enforces their will when international diplomacy (the cheaper alternative) has failed.

The entire taxpaying public — 99+% of which are NOT billionaires — pays the tab for this enormously expensive global military (half of which is American). (America has emerged to become today’s Sparta.)

But the beneficiaries from imperialism are exclusively the super-rich — it’s an enormous public subsidy to international corporations, and to their investors. It’s the biggest welfare-program that exists, and it is welfare for only the super-rich, at everybody else’s expense. And especially at the expense of the publics in the lands that American billionaires want to grab — such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, Ukraine, Venezuela, China, and Russia. It enormously transfers wealth from the rest of the world, to the world’s billionaires.

All of the world’s millionaires, put together, are only 0.8% of the world’s total population, but they own 44.8% of all of the world’s privately owned wealth. The world’s poorest 63.9% own just 1.9%.(Those facts are documented on page 20 there.)

Thus, the entire poorest 63.9%, which are 3.211 billion people, own around 4% as much as do the few richest 0.8%, which are 42 million people.

And, of course, according to Forbes, there are only 2,153 billionaires. So, there’s 1 billionaire for every 19,531 millionaires. Billionaires are the rarest of the rare, and they control virtually all international corporations.

Those percentages — the enormous inequality — are about the same within the U.S. as they are globally. How is it possible for democracy to exist in such conditions? It’s not. Money is power. Corruption runs the world. And America’s billionaires are the global masters of it. But all billionaires hate Julian Assange, because they cannot corrupt him. That’s why not a single one of them is even trying to protect him from all of the others of them: they are united  in their hatred of him.

No one has done as much to reveal the corruption that stands behind empire as Julian Assange has. Billionaires are disunited on lots of things — for examples: fossil fuels, immigration, feminism — but they are united in favor of imperialism. And, all throughout history, the aristocracy has been that way: imperialistic.

And America’s imprisonment-rate, and the Assange case, are hardly the only indications that the U.S. is no democracy but only a dictatorship. Here are some other such indications.

 

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See also:

https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/jiw/11335902

 

Transcripts:

But now to proper journalism, which as we all know in Australia is under attack:

JOHN LYONS: In March this year, the AFP asked Qantas for the flight details of reporter Dan Oakes. Qantas complied. Then in April, the AFP asked the ABC journalists for their fingerprints …

Journalists were now being treated as common criminals.

- 7.30, ABC, 16 July, 2019

That AFP investigation of two ABC journalists, Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, relates as we know to the ABC’s 2017 Afghan Files, which raised disturbing allegations about our special forces’ behaviour in Afghanistan.

Tonight, though, we want to look at other moves by the AFP that have got much less publicity, involving the issue of two Journalist Information Warrants, which allow police to discover what journalists have been up to on their computers or mobile phones: 

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: Our top story this hour, the Australian Federal Police accessed the metadata of journalists almost 60 times in one financial year. 

- ABC News Channel, 9 July, 2019

We don’t know if those two warrants and 60 searches apply to the two ABC journalists, Oakes and Clark, and we suspect they don’t either.

But here’s the thing. Even if we did, we couldn’t tell you. Because disclosing just about anything about these warrants — including their existence, their targets and the alleged offences — could land us in jail for up to two years.

Sounds draconian? Sure is. But as the journalists’ union explained in 2017:

Everything about Journalist Information Warrants is secret.

… journalists and their media employers will never know if a warrant has been sought for their telecommunications data and will never know if a warrant has been granted or refused …

- MEAA, 28 April, 2017

Journalists, however, are privileged. Because at least 22 government agencies can access everyone else’s metadata without even getting a warrant.

Indeed, the AFP alone did that 20,000 times in 2017-18. 

Special protection for journalists, who are, quote, “working in a professional capacity”, was added by Labor and the minor parties when the metadata laws were passed by Parliament in 2015.

But how much protection does it provide? Again, we don’t really know.

The journalist’s rights are supposedly looked after by a Public Interest Advocate appointed by the Prime Minister, whose job, according to the Department of Home Affairs, is to:

… promote the rights of a journalist to seek and impart information by independently considering and evaluating warrant applications and providing independent submissions in the warrant application process.

- Email, Department of Home Affairs spokesperson, 14 June, 2019

But as lawyer Michael Bradley pointed out in Crikey earlier this month: 

The PIA is not there to represent the journalist’s rights, and the public interest isn’t framed in terms of rights at all. The PIA operates in secret and nobody gets to know what they did or didn’t say.

- Crikey, 11 July, 2019

What’s more, it’s pretty hard to discover even who they are.

In 2016 The Sydney Morning Herald did manage to identify the two initial Public Interest Advocates — retired judges Kevin Duggan and John Muir — and noted that “neither specialised in representing journalists or in media law”.

So, how have those two men been faring?
Media Watch has learned that Kevin Duggan resigned from his position in 2017 and John Muir died last February.

So, who is now doing the job?

We asked the PM’s office, who told us to ask the Attorney-General, who flicked it on to Home Affairs, who eventually told us that since the data retention scheme came into effect in 2015:

… eight Public Interest Advocates have been appointed. Five of those appointed are still serving, with their current appointments due to expire in October 2020. Those five advocates are based in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

- Email, Department of Home Affairs spokesperson, 12 July, 2019

So, who are they?

Well it’s not easy to find out, but the eight appointments are recorded in a document from 2016 about gender ratios on government boards.

And we understand that the five still serving are David Bleby, Ian Callinan, Richard Chesterman, Peter Evans and Peter Jacobson.

So, Media Watch contacted all of them and asked:

How many times have you considered or evaluated a Journalist Information Warrant since you were appointed?

Have you ever made an evaluation that argued against a Journalist Information Warrant?

Do you think there is enough transparency around the process of Journalist Information Warrants and your role in considering them?

- Email, Media Watch, 12 July, 2019

None of them would speak on the record. But Media Watch did learn that at least one had argued against a warrant, and another had pointed out errors and omissions in an application from a state police force, which was then dropped.

And that’s as much as we can publicly reveal.

As media law academic Dr Joseph Fernandez told Media Watch:

The whole system involving JIW’s is cloaked in secrecy. It is designed to allow the authorities to fly under the radar.

- Email, Dr Joseph Fernandez, Curtin University, 18 July, 2019

Under the radar, indeed.

The first annual report from the Minister for Home Affairs revealed that in 2015-16 “33 authorisations were made under two” Journalist Information Warrants for “the purpose of enforcing the criminal law”.

But again, we don’t know which journalists or what law.

And since then, even that drip of yearly information has dried up, with the report for 2017-18 now more than a year overdue.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has made no apology for that delay, or for treating journalists receiving secrets as criminals.

Indeed, he warns they should expect to be punished:

PETER DUTTON: … if you’ve got top-secret documents and they’ve been leaked, it is an offence under the law …

- Today, Channel Nine, 12 July, 2019

So, coming back to where we started, have those two ABC journalists now been fingerprinted? And if not, will the AFP apply for a court order to make it happen? 

We asked the AFP. You’ll not be surprised to learn they told us nothing.

We wish we knew more. But that’s how transparent this whole process is not.