It was the Media, Led by the Guardian, that Kept Julian Assange Behind Bars – Jonathan Cook 6/26/24


It is only right that we all take a moment to celebrate the victory of Julian Assange’s release from 14 years of detention, in varying forms, to be united, finally, with his wife and children – two boys who have been denied the chance to ever properly know their father.

His last five years were spent in Belmarsh high-security prison as the United States sought to extradite him to face a 175-year jail sentence for publishing details of its state crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

For seven years before that he was confined to a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after Quito awarded him political asylum to evade the clutches of a law-breaking US empire determined to make an example of him.

His seizure by UK police from the embassy on Washington’s behalf in 2019, after a more US-aligned government came to power in Ecuador, proved how clearly misguided, or malicious, had been those who accused him of “evading justice”.

Everything Assange had warned the US wanted to do to him was proved correct over the next five years, as he languished in Belmarsh entirely cut off from the outside world.

No one in our political or media class appeared to notice, or could afford to admit, that events were playing out exactly as the founder of Wikileaks had for so many years predicted they would – and for which he was, at the time, so roundly ridiculed.

Nor was that same political-media class prepared to factor in other vital context showing that the US was not trying to enforce some kind of legal process, but that the extradition case against Assange was entirely about wreaking vengeance – and making an example of the Wikileaks founder to deter others from following him in shedding light on US state crimes.

That included revelations that, true to form, the CIA, which was exposed as a rogue foreign intelligence agency in 250,000 embassy cables published by Wikileaks in 2010, had variously plotted to assassinate him and kidnap him off the streets of London.

Other evidence came to light that the CIA had been carrying out extensive spying operations on the embassy, recording Assange’s every move, including his meetings with his doctors and lawyers.

That fact alone should have seen the US case thrown out by the British courts. But the UK judiciary was looking over its shoulder, towards Washington, far more than it was abiding by its own statute books.

Western governments, politicians, the judiciary, and the media all failed Assange. Or rather, they did what they are actually there to do: keep the rabble – that is, you and me – from knowing what they are really up to.

Their job is to build narratives suggesting that they know best, that we must trust them, that their crimes, such as those they are supporting right now in Gaza, are actually not what they look like, but are, in fact, efforts in very difficult circumstances to uphold the moral order, to protect civilisation.

For this reason, there is a special need to identify the critical role played by the media in keeping Assange locked up for so long.

The truth is, with a properly adversarial media playing the role it declares for itself, as a watchdog on power, Assange could never have been disappeared for so long. He would have been freed years ago. It was the media that kept him behind bars.

The establishment media acted as a willing tool in the demonising narrative the US and British governments carefully crafted against Assange.

Even now, as he is reunited with his family, the BBC and others are peddling the same long-discredited lies.

Those include the constantly repeated claim by journalists that he faced “rape charges” in Sweden that were finally withdrawn. Here is the BBC making this error once again in its reporting this week.

In fact, Assange never faced more than a “preliminary investigation”, one the Swedish prosecutors repeatedly dropped for lack of evidence. The investigation, we now know, was revived and sustained for so long not because of Sweden but chiefly because the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service, then led by Sir Keir Starmer (now the leader of the Labour party), insisted on it dragging on.

Starmer made repeated trips to Washington during this period, when the US was trying to find a pretext to lock Assange away for political crimes, not sexual ones. But as happened so often in the Assange case, all the records of those meetings were destroyed by the British authorities.

The media’s other favourite deception – still being promoted – is the claim that Wikileaks’ releases put US informants in danger.

That is utter nonsense, as any journalist who has even cursorily studied the background to the case knows.

More than a decade ago, the Pentagon set up a review to identify any US agents killed or harmed as a result of the leaks. They did so precisely to help soften up public opinion against Assange.

And yet a team of 120 counter-intelligence officers could not find a single such case, as the head of the team, Brigadier-General Robert Carr, conceded in court in 2013.

Despite having a newsroom stuffed with hundreds of correspondents, including those claiming to specialise in defence, security and disinformation, the BBC still cannot get this basic fact about the case right.

That’s not an accident. It’s what happens when journalists allow themselves to be spoon-fed information from those they are supposedly watching over. That is what happens when journalists and intelligence officials live in a permanent, incestuous relationship.

But it is not just these glaring reporting failures that kept Assange confined to his small cell in Belmarsh. It was that the entire media acted in concert in his character assassination, making it not only acceptable but respectable to hate him….

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