Wikileaks vs. Stratfor: Pursue the Truth, Not Its Messenger

Amy Goodman   1 March 2012     Nation of Change

Among the emails was a short one-liner that suggested the U.S. government has produced, through a secret grand jury, a sealed indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Wik­iLeaks, the whis­tle-blower web­site, has again pub­lished a mas­sive trove of doc­u­ments, this time from a pri­vate in­tel­li­gence firm known as Strat­for. The source of the leak was the hacker group “Anony­mous,” which took credit for ob­tain­ing more than 5 mil­lion emails from Strat­for’s servers. Anony­mous ob­tained the ma­te­r­ial on Dec. 24, 2011, and pro­vided it to Wik­iLeaks, which in turn part­nered with 25 media or­ga­ni­za­tions glob­ally to an­a­lyze the emails and pub­lish them.

Among the emails was a short one-liner that sug­gested the U.S. gov­ern­ment has pro­duced, through a se­cret grand jury, a sealed in­dict­ment against Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange. In ad­di­tion to paint­ing a pic­ture of Strat­for as a run­away, rogue pri­vate in­tel­li­gence firm with close ties to gov­ern­ment-in­tel­li­gence agen­cies serv­ing both cor­po­rate and U.S. mil­i­tary clients, the emails sup­port the grow­ing aware­ness that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, far from di­verg­ing from the se­crecy of the Bush/Ch­eney era, is ob­sessed with se­crecy, and is ag­gres­sively op­posed to trans­parency.

I trav­eled to Lon­don last In­de­pen­dence Day week­end to in­ter­view As­sange. When I asked him about the grand-jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he re­sponded: “There is no judge, there is no de­fense coun­sel, and there are four pros­e­cu­tors. So, that is why peo­ple that are fa­mil­iar with grand-jury in­quiries in the United States say that a grand jury would not only in­dict a ham sand­wich, it would in­dict the ham and the sand­wich.”

As I left Lon­don, The Guardian news­pa­per ex­posed more of Ru­pert Mur­doch’s News Corp. phone-hack­ing scan­dal, which prompted the clos­ing of his tabloid news­pa­per, the largest cir­cu­la­tion Sun­day news­pa­per in the U.K., News of the World. The co­in­ci­dence is rel­e­vant, as News of the World re­ported any­thing but what its title claimed, fo­cus­ing in­stead on sala­cious de­tails of the pri­vate lives of celebri­ties, sen­sa­tional crimes, and pho­tos of scant­ily clad women. For this and his other en­deav­ors, Mur­doch amassed a re­ported per­sonal for­tune of $7.6 bil­lion.

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Mean­while, As­sange—who, like Mur­doch, was born in Aus­tralia (Mur­doch aban­doned his na­tion­al­ity for U.S. cit­i­zen­ship in order to pur­chase more U.S. broad­cast li­censes)—had en­gaged in one of largest and most coura­geous acts of pub­lish­ing in his­tory by found­ing wikileaks.org, which al­lows peo­ple to safely and se­curely de­liver doc­u­ments using the In­ter­net in ways that make it al­most im­pos­si­ble to trace. He and his col­leagues at Wik­iLeaks had pub­lished mil­lions of leaked doc­u­ments, most no­tably about the U.S. wars and oc­cu­pa­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thou­sands of U.S. diplo­matic ca­bles, true “news of the world.”

The Syd­ney Peace Foun­da­tion awarded As­sange a gold medal for “ex­cep­tional courage and ini­tia­tive in pur­suit of human rights.” In con­trast, the U.S. gov­ern­ment tar­geted him, pos­si­bly under the Es­pi­onage Act. Mur­doch is hailed as a pi­o­neer­ing news­man, while pun­dits on Mur­doch-owned ca­ble-tele­vi­sion out­lets openly call for As­sange’s mur­der.

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The Strat­for emails will be re­leased over time, along with con­text pro­vided by Wik­iLeaks’ media part­ners. Al­ready re­vealed by the doc­u­ments are the close, and po­ten­tially il­le­gal, con­nec­tions be­tween Strat­for em­ploy­ees and gov­ern­ment-in­tel­li­gence and law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

Rolling Stone mag­a­zine re­ports that the U.S. De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity was mon­i­tor­ing Oc­cupy Wall Street protests na­tion­ally, and the Texas De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety has an un­der­cover agent at Oc­cupy Austin who was dis­clos­ing in­for­ma­tion to con­tacts at Strat­for. Strat­for also is hired by multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions to glean “in­tel­li­gence” about crit­ics. Among com­pa­nies using Strat­for were Dow Chem­i­cal, Lock­heed Mar­tin, Northrop Grum­man, Raytheon and Coca-Cola.

Fred Bur­ton, Strat­for’s vice pres­i­dent of in­tel­li­gence, and a for­mer head of coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence at the U.S. State De­part­ment’s diplo­matic corps, wrote in an email, “Not for Pub—We have a sealed in­dict­ment on As­sange. Pls pro­tect.” Bur­ton and oth­ers at Strat­for showed in­tense in­ter­est in Wik­iLeaks start­ing in 2010, show­ing in­tense dis­like for As­sange per­son­ally. Bur­ton wrote: “As­sange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the ter­ror­ist. He’ll be eat­ing cat food for­ever.” An­other Strat­for em­ployee wanted As­sange wa­ter­boarded.

Michael Rat­ner, legal ad­viser to As­sange and Wik­iLeaks, told me, “The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has gone after six peo­ple under the Es­pi­onage Act. That’s more cases than hap­pened since the Es­pi­onage Act was ac­tu­ally begun in 1917. … What this is about is the United States want­ing to sup­press the truth.”

1917 is also the year when U.S. Sen. Hiram John­son fa­mously said, “The first ca­su­alty when war comes is truth.” The White House is hold­ing a gala din­ner this week, hon­or­ing Iraq War vet­er­ans. Bradley Man­ning is an Iraq War vet who won’t be there. He is being court-mar­tialed, fac­ing life in prison or pos­si­bly death, for al­legedly re­leas­ing thou­sands of mil­i­tary and diplo­matic doc­u­ments to Wik­iLeaks re­veal­ing the ca­su­al­ties of war. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama would bet­ter serve the coun­try by also hon­or­ing As­sange and Man­ning.

We should pur­sue the truth, not its mes­sen­gers.

© Amy Good­man
Dis­trib­uted by King Fea­tures Syn­di­cate

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Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

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