Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The War on Whistleblowers (and the population)

Today, a little foray into more domestic issues.

The US and UK (in particular) are making very little effort to cover up the fact that they are running a thuggish campaign to intimidate, imprison, chase and even torture those who are motivated by conscience to reveal government actions and wrongdoing. It’s reaching levels only seen in authoritarian states, and observers with their eyes open (a tiny minority) are starting to say as much.

Barack Obama, the ‘liberal’ president, has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the obscure 1917 Espionage Act than all other post-war presidents combined. Bradley Manning, who leaked the ‘Collateral Murder’ video showing war crimes by a US gunship, and thousands of diplomatic documents which have provided a treasure trove of information for journalists and activists for the past couple of years, was today sentenced by a military court to 35 years for his leaks. He’s already been held for around 3 years, spending 11 months in conditions which the UN said amounted effectively to torture. Amnesty International has already called on Obama to commute the sentence. In the 70s Richard Nixon pardoned William Calley, one of the participants in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, after he had served a tiny amount of his sentence. One highly doubts that Manning will get the same merciful treatment from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president. So this is American justice: reveal the crimes of your government and army, receive 35 years. Massacre for your flag, and get let off by the President. One probably shouldn’t be surprised by the Nixon pardon though; after all, Nixon was himself one of the great mass murderers of the post-war era.

It’s not just Manning who has suffered under Obama- John Kiriakou was put in prison for revealing that the CIA had been involved in the use of water-boarding. Again; reveal the severe international crimes of a previous administration, and the next government will come for you. Thomas Drake, who tried to reveal the extent of NSA spying operations before Edward Snowden came on the scene, was also charged under the act. The list goes on. Now the Obama administration is after Snowden for publicising the horrendous mass spying that the NSA and GCHQ have been carrying out on millions of people all over the world, not just in their own countries.

And it’s not only the US- terrifying claims by the editor-in-chief of the Guardian were made yesterday. The newspaper was the main publication to carry the NSA/GCHQ revelations, excellent journalist Glenn Greenwald having received the documents from Snowden. Coming shortly after Greenwald’s partner was detained at Heathrow for 9 hours, given no legal rights, and having all his electronic equipment stolen from him by ‘security’, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the newspaper, revealed that he was ‘contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach’. He was told that “You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more”, and then was made to destroy the hard drives containing the Snowden documents whilst the government’s thugs from GCHQ watched. It has since been claimed that this order came from David Cameron himself, and that the US was given prior notice that David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, would be detained at Heathrow.

So in a couple of days the true face of the British state has revealed itself- one willing to try to enforce censorship on a newspaper seeking to release information detailing mass spying on citizens of Britain and the world, and willing to detain a journalist under section 7 of an ‘anti-terrorism’ law and steal all his belongings. Journalists are now apparently terrorist suspects. The whole story of the NSA/GCHQ leaks would be almost laughable if it weren’t true.  A while ago the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, had his plane pulled down over Europe because it was suspected that Snowden was on board, despite huge objections from Latin America. John Pilger rightly described this as an act of ‘air piracy’; can you imagine the reaction if Bolivia hauled down President Obama’s plane because it was thought that Obama was shielding someone fleeing persecution? The US would probably go to war with Bolivia if it did that- or else instigate a murky CIA coup. The imperial arrogance of Europe and the US is astonishing.

Jacob Heilbrunn in the conservative National Interest got it about right when he said that the detention of Miranda signified the day that ‘the UK took a fateful step toward a meddling government that tells its subjects what they may read and say’. Juan Cole, respected blogger and former editor of academic foreign affairs journals, claimed that we are moving towards a ‘STASI authoritarian state’. This isn’t merely unhelpful hyperbole. We are seeing the logical conclusion of the absurd policies of an elite that is at war with the whole world, including its own citizens. David Miranda is now considered a terrorist suspect- and one shouldn’t be too surprised, since the label ‘terrorist’ is generally used for people who are opposed to the government. The aim of this ultra-rich, ultra-powerful elite is to keep ‘the herd’ quiet, subdued, passive, and in the dark, whilst those who know best can go about running the world, as is their natural right. We need to realise who our real enemies are. 

Update: The Huffington Post summed up the Manning sentence perfectly- 'The only person going to prison for US war crimes is the guy who revealed them'

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