It’s not an accident that Chelsea Manning is in jail and once again temporarily sent to solitary confinement before being released into the general prison population, and Julian Assange is teetering at the precipice of being tried and imprisoned in the U.S. following the certainty of extradition with the cooperation of the government of England.
The U.S. government is at war with both Manning and Assange because they divulged classified information and in particular the “Iraq War Logs” and the “Afghan War Diary.” Those “logs” and “diary” recounted U.S. airstrikes in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Within the “Iraq War Logs” is a video of a helicopter strike in Iraq in which civilians were targeted and killed.
They imprisoned Manning between 2010 and 2017, and again in 2019, in conditions that included horrific treatment such as solitary confinement. Assange has been in virtual imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for six years since being granted asylum, but the election of a conservative president in Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, placed Assange in harm’s way by potentially exposing him to extradition from England to the U.S. and then trial and the certainty of lengthy imprisonment in the U.S. Assange would become yet another political prisoner in the land of the free and the home of the brave beside the enervated First Amendment.
Manning’s 2019 incarceration resulted from her refusal to testify before a grand jury that is investigating WikiLeaks. Manning argued that her previous military trial and imprisonment, including the lengthy stay in solitary confinement, provided the same material that the U.S. government is now seeking through a grand jury.
With WikiLeaks’ journalist Julian Assange, prosecutors for the federal government in the U.S. will get around the hesitancy to extradite Assange by promising not to seek the death penalty should Assange be convicted of espionage. The latter is laughable (not for Mr. Assange, however) because his conviction would place him in a Guantanamo-like dungeon where he would be cut off from the rest of the world. The cliche throwing away the key comes to mind. Counter the hegemony of the U.S. in matters of war and power and the resulting dungeon will be deep and silent!
There are some in the West who are fully convinced that Assange deserves to be tried and thrown in jail for “threatening” US national security and “undermining” its democratic processes. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden have called him a “terrorist”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, has described WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and US Attorney General [former] Jeff Sessions has said prosecuting Assange is a “priority” for him. (“What happens if Julian Assange is tried in the U.S.?” Al Jazerra, November 22, 2018).
On April 6, 2019, Ecuador denied that Assange would be forced out of its London embassy: “Ecuador has denied WikiLeaks’ claims it will expel Julian Assange from its embassy in London, rejecting what it called “’an attempt to stain the dignity of the country.’”
Hillary Clinton’s so-called email scandal was well researched and disseminated by WikiLeaks, a political move that she never was able to have put in perspective. The dysfunction within the Democratic Party in 2016 and the poor campaign strategy she followed put the presidency, to some extent, in the hands of the ignorant nincompoop, Donald Trump.
The persecution of journalists and whistleblowers is breathtaking, both here and around the world. Edward Snowden will most likely spend the rest of his life in exile for blowing the whistle on the mass-surveillance system of the National Security Agency that monitored communications of ordinary U.S. citizens.
The whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who outed the secret and failed history of the Vietnam War in the Pentagon Papers, faced a similar draconian sentence. The government was slightly more functional during that era and the Supreme Court acted to strike down prior restraint in disclosing so-called secret information. In another proceeding, Ellsberg’s case was dismissed because of “gross governmental misconduct.” A good accounting of the history of whistleblowers and journalists in the U.S., when they acted to make important information known to ordinary people, and what happened to them as a result, can be found at the Government Accountability Project in “A Timeline of US Whistleblowers,” (1773-2013).
Governments don’t like their dirty laundry aired and they are willing to torment those who unmask the worst violations resulting from power and greed.
Many (exact numbers are impossible to calculate) were denied their freedom for reasons from street protest to draft and military resistance during the Vietnam War. During that experience, those people learned what it meant to counter power, greed, war, and empire and suffer the consequences. Some did the latter willingly. Somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 men and women became expatriates in countries such as Canada and Sweden during that era, many returning after the amnesty program during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Thousands never returned, but remained exiles the rest of their lives. These people also learned what it meant to confront power and arrogance, pay a moral price, and go on with their lives. While there are groups that stand in solidarity with whistleblowers, the potential for solitary or isolated resistance seems to be a more probable outcome in contemporary societies.
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.