November 17, 2018

Crisis: Julian Assange, Wikileaks & Press Freedom, Schumer, Facebook, On Free Speech


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 17, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 17, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from November 17, 2018:
1. Prosecution of Julian Assange for Publishing Documents Poses Grave
     Threats to Press Freedom

2. WikiLeaks Lawyer Warns U.S. Charges Against Assange Endanger Press

3. Chuck Schumer Shouldn’t Lead Senate Democrats.
4. Facebook Used a Republican Firm to Attack Critics & Spread

5. The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Prosecution of Julian Assange for Publishing Documents Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

The Trump Justice Department inadvertently revealed in a court filing that it has charged Julian Assange in a sealed indictment. The disclosure occurred through a remarkably amateurish cutting-and-pasting error in which prosecutors unintentionally used secret language from Assange’s sealed charges in a document filed in an unrelated case. Although the document does not specify which charges have been filed against Assange, the Wall Street Journal reported thatthey may involve the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of national defense-related information.”

Yes indeed. Here is more:

[P]rosecuting Assange and/or WikiLeaks for publishing classified documents would be in an entirely different universe of press freedom threats. Reporting on the secret acts of government officials or powerful financial actors – including by publishing documents taken without authorization – is at the core of investigative journalism. From the Pentagon Papers to the Panama Papers to the Snowden disclosures to publication of Trump’s tax returns to the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, some of the most important journalism over the last several decades has occurred because it is legal and constitutional to publish secret documents even if the sources of those documents obtained them through illicit or even illegal means.

The Obama DOJ – despite launching notoriously aggressive attacks on press freedoms – recognized this critical principle when it came to WikiLeaks. It spent years exploring whether it could criminally charge Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. It ultimately decided it would not do so, and could not do so, consistent with the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment. After all, the Obama DOJ concluded, such a prosecution would pose a severe threat to press freedom because there would be no way to prosecute Assange for publishing classified documents without also prosecuting the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian and others for doing exactly the same thing.

Yes again. Here is more:

But the grand irony is that many Democrats will side with the Trump DOJ over the Obama DOJ. Their emotional, personal contempt for Assange – due to their belief that he helped defeat Hillary Clinton: the gravest crime – easily outweighs any concerns about the threats posed to press freedoms by the Trump administration’s attempts to criminalize the publication of documents.

This reflects the broader irony of the Trump era for Democrats. While they claim out of one side of their mouth to find the Trump administration’s authoritarianism and press freedom attacks so repellent, they use the other side of their mouth to parrot the authoritarian mentality of Jeff Sessions and Mike Pompeo that anyone who published documents harmful to Hillary or which have been deemed “classified” by the U.S. Government ought to go to prison.

Yes, precisely so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

What has changed since that Obama-era consensus? Only one thing: in 2016, WikiLeaks published documents that reflected poorly on Democrats and the Clinton campaign rather than the Bush-era wars, rendering Democrats perfectly willing, indeed eager, to prioritize their personal contempt for Assange over any precepts of basic press freedoms, civil liberties, or Constitutional principles. It’s really just as simple – and as ignoble – as that.

It is this utterly craven and authoritarian mentality that is about to put Democrats of all sorts in bed with the most extremist and dangerous of the Trump faction as they unite to create precedents under which the publication of information – long held sacrosanct by anyone caring about press freedoms – can now be legally punished.

Yes, I think this is also correct and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. WikiLeaks Lawyer Warns U.S. Charges Against Assange Endanger Press Freedom

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:
The Justice Department has inadvertently revealed that it has prepared an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an unusual development, language about the charges against Assange was copied and pasted into an unrelated court filing that was recently unsealed. In the document, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer wrote, “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” The news broke on Thursday night just hours after The Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department was planning to prosecute Assange. Assange has been living since 2012 in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has sought refuge and political asylum. It’s unclear what charges may be brought against Assange (...) We speak with human rights attorney Jennifer Robinson, who has been advising Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010.
Yes - and yes, this duplicates a bit with the previous item. Here is more, this time by a lawyer of Assange:
JENNIFER ROBINSON: This is confirmation of what we’ve been concerned about and been talking about since 2010. It is the reason, of course, that Julian Assange was—sought asylum and granted asylum inside the Ecuadorean Embassy and the reason he remains there today. This confirms what we’ve been saying, that there is a very real risk that the United States is going to seek to prosecute him for his publishing activities and potentially seek to extradite him, and that if there was to be an indictment, it would be sealed, it would be secret, and we wouldn’t know that it existed until such time as he was in custody.
Yes. I also have a question: How can indictments of persons - who are innocent at least until convicted - be sealed and secret? I am sure there is some sort of answer to my question, but I don't know it.

Here is more:
JENNIFER ROBINSON: And that a publisher could face prosecution in the United States—and we now have confirmation that they’ve sought an indictment—over publishing such truthful public interest information is a real concern. And this is a concern not just for us and not just for Julian Assange, which is what we’ll be discussing later today, but is also a concern for all of the press, all of the domestic press in the United State, but also what it says about what the United States is doing in terms of exercising jurisdiction over publishers all over the world. What does this mean? Does this mean that the U.S. could seek to prosecute a publisher who’s publishing information from abroad about material about the United States? Will Russia, will Saudi Arabia, will China start to follow suit?
Yes indeed. And yes, Robinson is quite correct that this indictment not only threatens Assange, but the whole free press, also outside the USA, for it means, especially if Assange gets convicted, that the USA could prosecute anyone anywhere for publishing truthful public interest information, namely simply on the ground that the USA's government doesn't like these truths to be seen by the public.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Last year, just after he became CIA director, in Pompeo’s first major address, he blasted WikiLeaks.

MIKE POMPEO: It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia. … In reality, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is clickbait, their moral compass nonexistent. Their mission, personal self-aggrandizement through destruction of Western values.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: Well, Pompeo’s statements, as the head of the CIA, demonstrate the fervor within the CIA in certainly to be seeking WikiLeaks’ prosecution. But to say that receiving and publishing information in the public interest is an attack on Western values is, frankly, wrong and a dangerous statement to be coming from the head of the CIA and someone who’s been very senior in the Trump administration. This cuts at the heart of constitutional protections for free speech. It is protected under the U.S. Constitution to receive and publish information that’s in the public interest, even classified information. And that any publisher, including WikiLeaks, could be called a hostile nonstate intelligence agency, when media organizations around the world all the time, including The New York Times, including The Washington Post, receive classified information and publish it when it’s in the public interest—to say that that is an attack on Western values is a very dangerous statement from the head of the CIA that ought to be investigated.
Yes indeed. Robinson is quite correct and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Chuck Schumer Shouldn’t Lead Senate Democrats.

This article is by Medhi Hasan on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

It wasn’t Donald Trump who said he opposed the nuclear deal with Iran because “we will be worse off with this agreement than without it,” while lying about the contents of that deal.

It wasn’t Mike Pence who said that “since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas … to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go makes sense.”

It wasn’t John Bolton who voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2002, saying that Saddam Hussein was engaged in a “vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.”

It wasn’t Mike Pompeo who said, “It’s easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you’re in the foxhole, it’s a very different deal.”

It wasn’t Stephen Miller who responded to the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris by suggesting “a pause may be necessary” in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

It wasn’t Betsy DeVos who joined a group of finance industry executives for breakfast only a few weeks after the 2008 financial crash and told them, “We are not going to be a bunch of crazy, anti-business liberals.”

Forget the hawks, blowhards, and kakistocrats of the Trump administration. You know who made all these statements? It was Chuck Schumer.

Yes, the fourth-term Democratic senator from New York has a long history of making really right-wing and rancid remarks. Yet on Wednesday morning, Schumer was re-elected as minority leader by acclamation in a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats. They didn’t even bother to vote on it.

By Wednesday evening, though, the New York Times had published a blockbuster investigation into Facebook, which reminded us how Schumer, in the words of my colleague Glenn Greenwald, “has long been the embodiment of everything sleazy, legally corrupt, corporatist and craven in Washington.”

Yes, precisely so, and see item 1. Here is the final bit that I quote from this article:

For the corrupt and lawless Trump, having his old friend Schumer — to whom he has donated thousands of dollars — in charge of the Senate Democrats is a blessing. Schumer is bent on negotiating with this president, whether over immigration reform or infrastructure. That Trump can’t be trusted, or that Trump is leading a white nationalist movement from the White House, doesn’t seem to bother him. As one of the young organizers of a November 2016 protest at the Senate office of the minority leader told the Village Voice: “What’s really dangerous about Chuck Schumer and the Democratic leadership is they don’t understand the stakes of what’s happening in this country.”

“Dangerous” is the correct word. Schumer has voted in favor of Trump cabinet appointees and Trump judicial appointees. He has downplayed the threat posed by the more deranged members of the Trump base by equating it to nonviolent protests from the left. And he refuses to talk impeachment.

Yes, although I think Schumer does "understand the stakes of what’s happening in this country": He has chosen the best paying side. And this is a recommended article.

4. Facebook Used a Republican Firm to Attack Critics & Spread Disinformation

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:
“Delay, Deny and Deflect.” That’s the name of a new bombshell investigation by The New York Times revealing that Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, were aware of a Russian misinformation campaign on the social media network and took a series of extraordinary private actions to preserve the company’s reputation, launching an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat critics and spread misinformation. The New York Times investigation reveals that Facebook hired the Republican opposition-research firm Definers Public Affairs to discredit critics of Facebook, linking them to the billionaire liberal donor George Soros. Facebook also allegedly lobbied the Anti-Defamation League to condemn criticism of the company as anti-Semitic. Since the publication of the investigation, Facebook has announced it will cut ties with Definers. (...)
Yes indeed, although I personally add that nothing that gets published about the utter rottenness of Facebook will amaze me. Here is some more:
SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: The big picture is, Facebook is impossible to govern, impossible to control. And Facebook had explicitly encouraged, for instance, all of our personal data to go out to third parties and fourth parties and fifth parties, like Cambridge Analytica. We can’t even know where all this data went. That was one scandal. The other scandal is, Facebook is susceptible to—beyond susceptible. Facebook amplifies all sorts of misinformation, propaganda, disinformation, much of which came from Russia trying to mess with American democracy. But a lot of it comes domestically, too, comes from domestic hate groups, comes from political operatives who seem a bit more mainstream.
Well... I disagree mostly about Russia. But I utterly despise Facebook and its members, and the sooner Facebook gets blown up somehow, the better it seems to me. And this is a recommended article.

5. The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

If you clicked this story, or have any desire to listen to the interview embedded within, odds are you’re a consumer of independent media. Yet even as you’re reading these words, your ability to do so in a timely manner is in grave jeopardy.

Since the repeal in June of Obama-era rules guaranteeing net neutrality, websites like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Common Dreams and more risk being pushed into an internet slow lane that could severely hamper their readership, if not drive them out of business entirely. For Jeff Cohen, editor and co-founder of the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), it may be the most urgent threat to the First Amendment no one is talking about.

“The biggest issue of freedom of the press is not that Trump is mean to reporters, as he was last week with CNN’s Jim Acosta and Yamiche Alcindor of “PBS NewsHour,” he tells Robert Scheer. “The biggest freedom-of-the-press issue is that Trump is working with Comcast and AT&T and Verizon to end net neutrality. … Ownership of the media and the ownership of the internet, the fact that these big internet providers are [a] few giant companies that also produce content—it’s very, very dangerous.”

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cohen plumbs a range of topics, including the myriad failures of our political press and the Blue Wave election that wasn’t (quite), as well as the future of the progressive movement. No matter how many congressional seats it ends up flipping, he contends, the Democratic Party is unlikely to change course until it replaces its leadership: “It’s too indebted to the donor class."
I completely agree with Scheer, but only printed the start of his interview for reasons of space.
This is  a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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