Is open and transparent government a good thing or not? Is shedding light on corruption and graft important or not? Is there blood on the hands of those who call out crimes or on those who commit the crimes? These are questions that must be answered.
Notice how American state officials do not try to answer these questions. Instead, they launch an unmitigated smear campaign against Julian Assange and his organization WikiLeaks. He has been called everything from rapist to terrorist. In many respects. Mike Pompeo has been leading the charge to discredit Assange and his mission to increase international political awareness. Pompeo’s remarks, for instance, as prepared for delivery at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in April 13, 2017, tell us everything we need to know about the way the soon to be Secretary of State thinks about free speech, whistleblowing, and the moral imperative to expose systemic abuses of power. Pompeo stated:
One of the many reasons why we at CIA find the celebration of entities like WikiLeaks to be both perplexing and deeply troubling…is because while we do our best to quietly collect information on those who pose very real threats to our country, individuals such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden seek to use that information to make a name for themselves. As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.
WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.
Hostile intelligence service? All WikiLeaks has done is post and circulate information. If some of that information is unsettling, it would behoove Pompeo and others to ask themselves why it is so uncomfortable for it to be seen. Rather than congratulate his journalism for helping to reveal new data, Assange has been demonized by the mainstream press, slandered by governments, betrayed by confidants, targeted by organized crime syndicates, and hung out to dry by the courts. (To this day he is held in a form of house arrest at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.)
And why is he treated this way? All he has done is bring attention to problems that should be attended to. Here is just a brief summary of what Wikileaks has stood for in the past two decades:
-They published the Guantanamo Bay ‘Detainee Policies’: more than 100 classified or otherwise restricted files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody. The release of these documents led to fundamental reforms that brought the United States back within the boundaries of human rights according to the Geneva Convention. How bad would the torture have gotten without this revelation in WikiLeaks?
-On the 5th of April 2010, WikiLeaks released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. The video-seen by tens of millions of YouTube viewers, “was shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, and it clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.”
-“WikiLeaks opened up a corrupt multi-billion dollar war by Western and Chinese companies grabbing uranium and other mining rights in the Central African Republic (CAR). Among the hundreds of pages in this publication were detailed maps of mining rights, mining contracts with illegal kickbacks and secret investigative reports. In December 2015 a case was filed against Areva, alleging corruption related to the €1.8 billion purchase of three uranium mines in 2007.”
-And they reported how the Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor, “revealed the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provided confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.”
If this is what Mr. Pompeo thinks qualifies as a hostile intelligence service, we are all in serious trouble. In that revealing talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pompeo went on to remark:
They do not care about the causes and people they claim to represent. If they did, they would focus instead on the autocratic regimes in this world that actually suppress free speech and dissent. Instead, they choose to exploit the legitimate secrets of democratic governments—which has, so far, proven to be a much safer approach than provoking a tyrant…No, Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong…Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value. He relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous. He is a fraud—a coward hiding behind a screen.
Tough words. But do they mean anything? Assange has done nothing but sacrifice his own well being and freedom for the opportunity to share unadulterated information about corporate and governmental crimes. Assange truly believes that global citizens have the inherent right to know the full truth about the world they inhabit. This truth, whether we like it or not, must come without redaction or censorship. He truly believes that every human being deserves the right to see the facts as they are, not as someone else wants them to be. What is so terrible about that? Why persecute him?
If Pompeo disagrees with Assange about the merits of uncensored journalism, then so be it. But to actively demean Assange’s character, and to seek his head on a platter is too much. This vindictiveness was unbecoming as a Senator and it will be unbecoming as a Secretary of State. Like so many of his colleagues in Congress and the CIA, Pompeo’s paranoid desire for secrecy should not be confused for patriotic foresight. The bottom line is that his stance on WikiLeaks is guilt ridden and on the wrong side of history; it is a stance that has done nothing to combat injustice, spread democracy, or preserve human rights; it has only succeeded in making the United States look hypocritical and immoral.
George Cassidy Payne is a free lance writer, adjunct professor of philosophy, and domestic violence counselor. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.