Assange, Manning: Media stoops to personal attacks

After the initial furore of the release of thousands of secret United States embassy cables by WikiLeaks, much of the mainstream media coverage has largely ignored or hidend the most important aspect of the saga ― the damning contents of the secret documents that incriminate the powerful and expose their lies.

Much of the coverage has devolved into negative stories and allegations about the personal lives of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and the alleged source of the secret US documents, Bradley Manning.

Manning has spent more than a year in jail, despite the fact he is yet to face trial.

This criticism seeks to diminish support for the whistle-blowing publisher and his alleged source ― and to distract from the political implications of their actions.

The latest publisher exposed for working against WikiLeaks was Wired magazine.

Wired gave in to pressure on July 13 and published the full version of the internet chat logs between Manning and Adrian Lamo, the person who informed on Manning to the FBI.

Wired published excerpts of the chats last year, after receiving them exclusively from Lamo.

They claimed the unpublished sections contained only personal information about Manning and sensitive government secrets.

However, the newly released sections reveal Wired‘s dodgy role in concealing important information.

The chats contain crucial passages about Manning’s alleged dealings with WikiLeaks and his confessions to Lamo.

Lamo is exposed as lying to Manning when he said: “I’m a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of  legal protection.”

In a later conversation he said again: “i told you,  none of this is for print.”

Another part of the logs casts doubt on the US Department of Justice’s efforts to prove Assange conspired with Manning to steal secret information.

Manning said of chats with someone who he believed to be Assange: “he knows very little about me”, “he takes source protection uber-seriously”, “’lie to me’ he says” and  “he wont work with you if you reveal too much about yourself”.

Glenn Greenwald, in a July 14 article, pointed out that Wired‘s concealment of the full logs allowed Lamo to spread lies about Manning.

For example, Lamo told Greenwald on June 17, 2010, Manning’s “intention  was to cripple the United States’ foreign relations for the foreseeable future”.

However, the logs only show Manning talking about desiring political reforms as a result of the leaks.

Greenwald said that “Wired were hand-picking which passages to release and conceal in order to shield Lamo’s conduct and claims from scrutiny and make WikiLeaks look as bad as possible”.

As if these deceptions were not bad enough, there has been a consistent stream of stories attacking the character of Manning and Assange.

Even newspapers who came to agreements with WikiLeaks for the right to publish secret cables, such the New York Times and the Guardian, have been in on the act.

Reports from PBS’s Frontline and New Yorker magazine have offered cheap psychoanalysis of Manning, despite never speaking to him and relying largely on military sources.

They insinuate that his alleged act of leaking was motivated by “psychological problems”, rather than his stated desire to act against injustice.

Assange has also faced a campaign of slurs on his character.

He has been labelled a megalomaniac, money-obsessed and a bully by a former colleague with an axe to grind.

Some attacks bordered on the absurd. Assange has been criticised for wiping his hands on his pants, eating other people’s cocoa and canned meat, and allegedly liking sex with virgins.

On another strange allegation, Assange told the Belfast Telegraph on May 31: “They called me a cat abuser. Now I don’t like cats as it turns out, but as far as I know I’ve never ‘abused’ one.”

He was also mocked because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did not go to his birthday party.

Apart from these petty snipes, there is the serious allegation of rape, for which Assange faces extradition from Britain to Sweden, despite the fact he is yet to be charged by Swedish authorities.

Any form of violence against women is a serious matter, and this type of crime is too often trivialised or ignored. Some defenders of Assange have made this mistake in simply dismissing the allegations or trivialising the allegations.

Only Assange and the women involved know the truth of the matter.

However, given all that has happened, it is highly unlikely Assange can get a fair trial.

The circumstances of his arrest clearly shows the legal action brought against him was not motivated by a desire to protect women’s rights.

The legal action was blatantly motivated by governments’ desire to stop Assange’s political work and discourage others from following his example.

The US and the other governments involved are trying to hijack the struggle against sexual assault to aid their struggle against free speech.

The character assassinations of Manning and Assange are aimed at discrediting WikiLeaks and, crucially, diverting attention from the actual content of the secret cables WikiLeaks has published.

These reveal serious war crimes by the US military, US complicity in torture and human rights abuses by pro-US dictatorships and illegal US diplomatic interference.

The full Manning-Lamo logs do nothing to assist attempts by US prosecutors to find evidence Assange organised or encouraged Manning to steal the secret documents. As the US continues to seeks way to prosecute those involved in WikiLeaks, the character assassinations can be expected to continue.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

By Ash Pemberton

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