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Assange, Manning still the only ones imprisoned for Collateral Murder

This article about fellow Australian Julian Assange has been adapted from the original Sputnik International article of 7 April 2015.

April 5 marked the five-year anniversary of the release of the Collateral Murder video by WikiLeaks (embedded within). The shocking footage showed the entire world the 2007 US Apache attack helicopter airstrike on Baghdad that killed 12 people - including two Reuters staff members - and injured two small children.

Ironically, the only ones imprisoned for the crime were those with the courage and compassion to attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice.

See also: l'Espresso interview | Julian Assange: 'I still enjoy crushing bastards' (2/4/15).

Assange took part in a Reddit AMA on Monday, along with journalist and Assange’s closest adviser Sarah Harrison, to discuss the many things the duo have been involved in.

The Collateral Murder video was part of a massive trove of confidential evidence of US wrong-doing, collected and released by whistleblowing army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, in an attempt to show the world the “true costs of war.”  The collection was deemed the largest release of confidential documents ever leaked to the public.

Manning equated actions she witnessed in the video to “children torturing ants with a magnifying glass,” except these ants were human beings, who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Manning was charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, a charge that  could have lead her to death row over an act of conscience. She was ultimately acquitted of that charge, but was found guilty of 17 others, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence in a maximum security military prison.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange remains under investigation by the US government for publishing their criminal secrets, and has been granted political asylum by Ecuador. Unable to safely travel to South America, he has remained in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012.

The city has had officers from the Metropolitan Police Service continuously stationed outside the building, prepared to arrest him should he ever try to leave ever since.  The total cost for the first two years of this patrol has cost the city £6.5 million.

But an undeterred Assange has remained active even from inside the embassy. The publisher has continued to release information and has helped to raise money and support for political prisoners and whistleblowers through the Courage Foundation.  Manning has also been writing — and now tweeting — from prison.

During an AMA with Sarah Harrison, Renata Avila, Andy Müller-Maguhn of the Courage Foundation and Julian Assange on Reddit Monday evening, Reddit user Josiah_Bartlet1 asked Assange: “do you think that the work you have done will lead to a radical shift slowly in the government and society as we know it, or do you think the instruments of the government are enough to throttle any such efforts (based on your personal experiences)?”

Assange responded saying, “These are cascading effects with geometric amplifiers in both directions. It's hard to say, but at least we can say we fought and gave people a choice to know themselves and their civilization.”

Another user, Militaria, asked, “What would you say to people like my parents, who believe that leakers and whistleblowers are dangerous traitors who are supporting ‘the enemy?’”

“This propaganda happens a lot. What is very important here is to explain that throughout the whole of the Manning trial the US government was desperate to prove that some "harm" had come. In fact if could prove none. What did happen, is that the US troops began to withdraw from Iraq. What has happened since Snowden's revelations is that citizens around the world began to protect their communications. And still not one reported "harm". In fact we still get bombs by known person's of suspect. It is a matter of US interests the government is protecting, not US security,” Harrison responded.

“What legal protections would you recommend for intelligence whistleblowers?” another user asked.

“The reality of the situation is that alleged journalistic sources like Snowden and Manning will rarely, if ever, be fully protected regardless of domestic laws. At the very least all cases of whistleblowing, publishing and journalistic sources should have the ability to have a public interest defence. I think the real solutions in such cases will always rely on international measures though. However, these will always also still rely on the reality of international politics — few countries have the balls to stand up to the US,” Harrison wrote.

When asked what the average citizen can do to stop illegal breaches of individual privacy by the US government, Julian responded with, “Nothing. There's nothing you can do. As soon as you do something you'll no-longer be average. Do that. Don't be average.”

“How has Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning's whistleblowing affected other potential whistleblowers? Do you get a sense that they are emboldened by their efforts, or more apprehensive after seeing the response to it?” user raihan42 asked.

“Edward Snowden has said that he was inspired by Chelsea Manning. The US government wanted to publicly destroy Manning, in a grotesque way, as a warning. They did not succeed but I realised we can do even better! This is part of the reason why we put a lot of resources and risk into getting Edward Snowden asylum. He is now mostly free, living a fulfilling life of respect, an inspirational symbol for whistleblowers world wide and not a general deterrent suffering in a US prison unable to defend himself or promote his cause in public,” Assange wrote.

“Obama and the US government generally have tried to offer each truthteller as an deterrent. Manning was sentenced to 35 years, Hammond to 10 years, Brown to 5 years, WikiLeaks secret Grand Jury is ongoing in its 5th year. Yet, their deterrent method is clearly failing. Snowden came forward,” Harrison continued. “I look forward to when the next truthteller comes forward. Courage is building the safety nets for when they do.”


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The silencing and persecution of whistle-blowers on war crimes has direct parallels with the threat of Ag-Gag laws infiltrating Australia. It's about criminals being protected by the powers that be, and prosecuting the messengers rather than the criminals.

Only criminals desire to protect crimes from being disclosed, and shut down avenues of transparency and integrity. Under threat of imprisonment, it would force investigators to surrender the first piece of evidence obtained – effectively tipping off industry and shutting down the investigation. Ag-gag laws operate to hide the truth about how animals are raised on factory farms by silencing advocates and stifling transparency.

In 2013, the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson observed that “it seems every week now where you’ve got animal activists breaking into intensive farms … these people are vandals. These people are akin to terrorists.” So, the word "terrorists" can be warped to include compassionate people promoting a more peaceful, and kinder world for humans and animals!

The indiscriminate use of bombs by the US, usually outside a declared war situation, for wanton destruction, for no military objectives, whose targets and victims are civilian populations, or what we now call "collateral damage." The US has repeatedly acted to undermine peace and human rights initiatives at the United Nations, routinely voting against hundreds of UN resolutions and treaties.

The brutality of the US government’s “war on terror” has been condemned both by the court of international public opinion and by the Principles of International Law governing human rights. The wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture of detainees are clearly defined as war crimes by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture and other treaties to which the United States is a signatory. Under the aegis of "national security," additional countries are being drawn into these on-going wars.

War Criminals Watch

Sean Penn 'sympathetic' to whistleblowers, but not Snowden, Assange

The following is from an article Sean Penn says families will be hacking each other's emails within two years (10/5/15) about the movie The Gunman by Garry Maddox in the Sydney Morning Herald:

While there is a reference to whistle-blowing in The Gunman, handing over dark secrets for the public good, Penn admits he feels torn about the leaks by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, even though it was important the world saw some of the material.

"I'm certainly inclined to be on the side of the whistleblower in most circumstances," he says. "However, in the case of Snowden and even more so in the case of WikiLeaks, I think there are some very serious questions about curation.

"You look back historically to somebody like Dan Ellsberg, who was quite a responsible curator of the information he released in the Pentagon Papers and a very informed one. Then you have Edward Snowden by his own words saying, 'Gee I don't really know what should go out, what shouldn't go out. I'll let these journalists have it and let them decide our national security interests'. 1 

"Well, that doesn't seem like the way we can go either. If we're not going to protect national security then we're not going to get anywhere by protecting whistleblowers. We've got to find a way to do both."

Penn is even tougher on the Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, for the security information he has released.

"I think he definitely needs to be brought to account, with the damage to diplomacy and the likelihood that there was life loss as a result of some of those things," 2  he says. "A lot of very important relationships are going to take a long time to retrieve. The people lose in a situation like that."

Penn concedes it's a tough issue because intelligence agencies cannot go unchecked, given the technology they have, without jeopardising the individual's right to privacy. But "you can't have these wholesale exposures going on".

Penn thinks his outspoken nature is a trait of his generation. "The Vietnam War 3  was very present in our lives on television as kids. And you watch what you think is the truth turn into a lie. You watch what you think is a lie turn into a truth or a partial truth.


1. ↑  This one quote, taken out of context, could make Edward Snowden appear indifferent to concerns about United States national security. However, has Snowden has made it clear that he was prepared to surrender to the United States government as long as he was guaranteed a fair and open trial for his alleged crimes. Fellow Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, was never given a fair trial and is now incarcerated for her 'crime' of revealing to Wikileaks information about United States war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. ↑  These do not appear to be Edward Snowden's own words. Searches on "Gee I don't really know what should go out, what shouldn't go out" and "I'll let these journalists have it and let them decide our national security interests" with quotes and with quotes omitted only found the article cited above. Edward Snowden has made it clear that he is not indifferent to concerns about United States national security and that he was prepared to surrender to the United States government as long as he was guaranteed a fair and open trial for his alleged crimes. Fellow Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, was never given a fair trial and is now incarcerated for 35 years for her 'crime' of revealing to Wikileaks information about United States' war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

3. ↑  It's instructive that America's war against the Vietnamese people, which formally ended in 1975, is the only example cited by Penn in this lengthy article. There is no mention of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria nor Ukraine. The combined death toll of these wars, even excluding the Vietnam and Korean wars, is many hundreds of thousands, barely an order of magnitude less than the crimes committed by Hitler's Third Reich.