Navalny, Ward, Assange, Snowden and the Attack on Free Speech 670


Russia does not have a functioning criminal justice system at all, in the sense of a trial mechanism aimed at determining innocence or guilt.  Exactly as in Uzbekistan, the conviction rate in criminal trials is over 99%.  If the prosecutors, who are inextricably an arm of the executive government, want to send you to jail, there is absolutely no judicial system to protect you.  The judges are purely there for show.

When critics of Putin like Alexei Navalny are convicted, therefore, we have absolutely no reassurance that the motivation behind the prosecution or the assessment of guilt was genuine.  Which is not to say that Navalny is innocent; I am in no position to judge. People are complex.   I sacrificed my own pretty decent career to the cause of human rights, but in my personal and family life I was by no means the most moral of individuals.  I see no reason for it to be impossible that all of Navalny’s excellent political work did not co-exist with a fatal weakness.  But his criticisms of Putin made him a marked man, who the state was out to get, and the most probable explanation – especially as prosecutors had looked at the allegations before and decided not to proceed – is that he is suffering for his criticisms of the President rather than a genuine offence.

It fascinates me that the Western media view the previous decision by the prosecutors not to proceed as evidence the case is politically motivated against Navalny; but fail to draw the same conclusion from precisely the same circumstance in the Assange case.

David Ward MP has not been sent to jail.  He has however had the Lib Dem whip removed, which under Clegg’s leadership perhaps he ought to consider an honour.  It is rather a commonplace sentiment that it is a terribly sad thing, that their community having suffered dreadfully in the Holocaust, the European Jews involved in founding the state of Israel went on themselves to inflict terrible pain and devastation on the Palestinians in the Nakba.   Both the Holocaust and the Nakba were horrific events of human suffering.  For this not startling observation, David Ward is removed from the Liberal Democrats.  He also stated that, with its ever increasing number of racially specific laws, its walls and racially restricted roads, Israel is becoming an apartheid state.  That is so commonplace even Sky News’ security correspondent Sam Kiley said it a few months ago, without repercussion.  In Russia you cannot say Putin is corrupt; in the UK you cannot say Israeli state policy is malign.  Neither national state can claim to uphold freedom of speech.  Meanwhile, of course, David Cameron announces plans to place filters on the internet access of all UK households.

In the United States, the House of Representatives failed by just 12 votes to make illegal the mass snooping by the NSA which was not widely publicised until Edward Snowden’s revelations.  What Snowden said was so important that almost half the country’s legislators wished to act on his information.  Yet the executive wish to pursue him and remove all his freedom for the rest of his life, as they are doing to Bradley Manning for Manning’s exposure of war crimes and extreme duplicity.

Around this complex of issues and the persons of Manning, Navalny, Snowden and Assange there is a kind of new ideological competition between the governments of Russia, the US and UK as to which is truly promoting the values of human freedom.  The answer is none of them are.  All these states are, largely in reaction to the liberating possibilities of the internet, promoting a concerted attack on freedom of speech and liberty of thought.

States are the enemy.  We are the people.

 

 

 

 


670 thoughts on “Navalny, Ward, Assange, Snowden and the Attack on Free Speech

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  • Scarlet Pimpers

    “If the prosecutors, who are inextricably an arm of the executive government, want to send you to jail, there is absolutely no judicial system to protect you.”

    by your definition above the USA does not have a functioning criminal justice system at all either.

    Manning will go down no doubt about it. Also, when they catch Edward Snowden (eventually), he too will go down.

    America is creating one of the biggest human rights exploitations in the history of the world. Deplorable…

  • glenn_uk

    As far as Snowden is concerned, and Assange to some extent, I’m amazed at the people who judge them according to the places they seek asylum. Russia = Bad, so anything worthwhile about Snowden is automatically negated. He’s a traitor, end of story (besides, if you’ve got nothing to hide, etc. etc.). Much the same with Assange – since Ecuador does not have a glowing record on press freedom, Assange must be a hypocrite of the first order, should be ignored, and so on.

    This sort of knee-jerk dismissal of whistleblowers/ publishers has taken place across the political divide – many progressives give them the thumbs down. This, despite the fact that Assange/ Snowden had little choice about where to go – there are few countries with the ability to resist/ ignore US threats and disfavour, but also would not just willingly do whatever the US asks as a matter of policy (such as the UK).

    Recall that US Secretary of State John Kerry recently threatened to ground any Venezuela’s aircraft in US or any other NATO country’s airspace, if Snowden landed up there.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    The twelve votes that were missing (not voting) was no coincidence, craig. Strange alliances unless you consider the NSA has dirt on everyone including the House of Representatives.

    “99% conviction rate” Only about 600 jury trials (12 member) out of one million trials. Ostensibly, a jury trial is available if the defendant wishes. how could anyone NOT want a jury?

    It’s not that bad in the US as of yet. I recently served on a criminal trial and it was a clear case of prosecutorial abuse and police bungling. I think the judge agreed with the jury, but thank the gods for the defendant. If the judge was corrupt, he wouldn’t have had a chance.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    “This sort of knee-jerk dismissal ”

    It’s been interesting seeing the lines in the sand, glenn. I think it may be simplistic analysis, but I have broken it down to two disparate groups.

    1) Authoritarian law-givers, who either make their living as an officer of the Court, or have friends in law enforcement, who believe the LAW is an immutable edifice merely needing to superficially reference Constitutional issues.

    2) Civil rights advocates who recognize the Law is just a temporary structure promulgated by the status quo.

    To me, it’s that simple.

  • Michael Stephenson

    Glenn_uk,
    Is Ecuador’s record on press freedom really that bad? How would the US regime react to media that was as critical to the establishment as is tolerated by the Latin American states, and is funded by the US who are trying to bring about a coup.

    The US and the UK will not tolerate PressTV, how’s that for press freedom?

  • Jemand - Censorship Improves History

    Lots of issues in this post, Craig.

    Are we reaching a stage where there is too much information, too much disinformation, too many distractions, too many incidents of corruption, too many accusations of guilt, too many acquittals and too many relative truths that ordinary people give up trying to understand how it all works and  consequently seek relief by ensconcing themselves in little bubbles of false conciousness to simply get by?

    For every bad thing that people protest and demonstrate over, there are a hundred more bad things waiting for their attention. I sometimes wonder whether the powers that be are trying to overwhelm the common man with so many incidents of injustice that his will to resist collapses.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    Craig is establishing an equivalence between the US, the UK and Russia in the question of whether they are interested in promoting human freedom (his thought being that none of them is).

    It’s sad to see that this simple message – expressed in clear English – simply does not penetrate into the minds of (some) readers, who swerve away from Russia in order to give a supplementary kick to the US.

    Note the very first comment on this thread , from Scarlet Pampers. He says :

    ““If the prosecutors, who are inextricably an arm of the executive government, want to send you to jail, there is absolutely no judicial system to protect you.”

    by your definition above the USA does not have a functioning criminal justice system at all either.”.

    and overlooks entirely the point also made by Craig which is that in Russia the judge is there purely for show. This is not the case in the US, where, apart from having judges who are not there purely for show, there are also juries. THEREFORE what Craig correctly says about Russia (“there is absolutely no judicial system to protect you) is NOT valid for the US (and he does not say it is)and CONSEQUENTLY Scarlet Pampers’ statement that the “USA does not have a functioning criminal justice system at all either” is tosh.

    Some of your commenters really do you no favours, Craig (not that that’s your fault).

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Jemand

    “For every bad thing that people protest and demonstrate over, there are a hundred more bad things waiting for their attention. I sometimes wonder whether the powers that be are trying to overwhelm the common man with so many incidents of injustice that his will to resist collapses.”
    _______________

    I think that’s absolutely right (although one could discuss whether the overwhelming is deliberate policy by the powers that be or simply a case of much more information coming out into the open compared to the past).

    It’s a little like so-called compassion fatigue, isn’t it : the more cases of corruption and shady dealings that come out into the open, the more such behaviour inperceptibly becomes to be seen as the norm; the consequences are that public indignation subsides with each new revelation, which in turn emboldens more people to try it on (all the more so as offenders are usually rehabilitated after an interval which appears to be getting shorter and shorter (contrast the John Profumo and David Maws affairs).

  • glenn_uk

    Michael: Slight misunderstanding, those are not my arguments, but those from people who want a reason to bash Assange’s pitching in with Ecuador. For that matter, how’s Ecuador’s record on spying upon not only its own citizens, but everyone else in the world (compared with the US) ?

    *

    Ben: I’d not considered the divide that way before, but now you mention it – bartcop (who used to have a good site) is absurdly authoritarian, particularly on this issue, for someone who likes to call himself progressive. Given the name, perhaps he used to be in law enforcement. I only mention bartcop because it was a rather entertaining place for a long time. Now it’s gone increasingly mainstream and right wing, and so – apparently – are a substantial number of its subscribers.

    Greenwald has also come under the same attack. Contributors who have been on the right side of issues (IMHO, of course!) for years, on the likes of rawstory and so on, can’t find enough unpleasant things to say about him, or with which to mock him, now. Here’s a new interview with Greenwald on the consistently brilliant Majority Report (majority.fm) :

    Glenn Greenwald NSA revelations fallout, on the Majority Report

  • Herbie

    I suppose it’s fair enough to say that Russia is currently operating a much less nuanced gangster system than the US, and that’s understandable given the naked power stage they’re at.

    This system was created for them of course by the US neocons, but still it’s what you’d expect at this stage of development.

    Over time you would expect them to develop soft power alternatives. Much easier to maintain. More stable etc.

    The worrying thing is that the US, even with so much soft power still available to it, is increasingly revealing its fangs and opting for the naked power approach, even at home.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Herbie

    I’m not sure that the UK compares unfavorably : is not the difference that there is no specific law in the UK on insulting public officials and perhaps MPs, Ministers and the head of state – any alleged offences would in general be tried under various general common law offences such as “insulting behaviour”, “behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace”, etc – whereas in some continental countries there are specific offences such as “Beamtenbeleidigung” (Germany)?

    But I stand willing to be corrected (not my speciality).

  • Phil

    States are the enemy.

    Do you mean this in a can’t live with em can’t live without em kind of way or something more interesting?

  • Jemand - Censorship Improves History

    Habbabkuk, I think all judicial systems are functional and therefore serve a function. But was is the function? To quell public unrest? To protect and raise the high standards of humanity? To intimidate people into robotic compliance of state laws? All of the above, it seems to me.

    So many countries have politicised criminal justice systems that are perfunctory exercises in nominal justice but also, more usefully, extensions of state oppression for troublemakers. But that doesn’t let the US justice system off the hook for its own failures.

    The US criminal justice system is a career path for some politicians. Defence lawyers can’t expect many votes coming their way from their legal career in defending pedophiles, rapists and murderers. On the other hand, prosecutors can expect plenty of votes for putting away anyone, guilty or not. There are a few documentaries (by Errol Morris et al) that reveal the political exploitation of the system by (psychopathic) careerist, prosecutors.

    Having said that, I would much rather go to trial in Oz than the US, and the US than Russia, and Russia than China, and China than North Korea.

    But, wherever you are, “justice” is more likely when you have money and clout.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    “The worrying thing is that the US, even with so much soft power still available to it, is increasingly revealing its fangs and opting for the naked power approach, even at home.”

    Herbie; I think it’s easier for most to deal with the stealthy and covert diddling behind the curtain of foreign governments and cold-cocking that influence around the world, when the goodies intended to distract (expanding unemployment insurance to perpetuity) make the medicine go down. Any well-publicized efforts to expand democracy will be lauded in the Media, pushing the untoward stories into the back pages of local fishwrap. It’s an iron fist in a velvet glove and thereby makes criminal governments nearly universal. It’s just a matter of degree.

  • Herbie

    Habby

    In UK there’s a specific offense under Section 5 of the Public Order Act that makes it an offence to use ‘insulting’ language, which of course has been overused by police in what are now quite notorious cases.

    But if you’re arguing more generally that the UK police, in implementation and using a battery of legislation, are more restrictive in this area than the French, then I’d agree.

  • Herbie

    Yes, Ben.

    I’ve long been an advocate of seeing ourselves as we’re asked to see others.

    This is why RT and Press TV etc are so useful.

    And yes, they too are more interesting for what they say about us than what they say about themselves. That’s kinda how it works.

  • Jemand - Censorship Improves History

    Habbabkuk @6.31p

    Yes, correct.

    I believe I see this also in police responses to criminality. If not well managed, crimes can become so overwhelming for the police that their apparent inability to cope is seen as an opportunity to exploit. For criminality, there is likely to be a tipping point at which management rapidly begins to fail.

    And the normalisation of experiences is an important psychological phenomenon. In many parts of the world, petty corruption is unremarkable and flourishes.

    Civilisation appears to be a very thin veneer that is easily scratched.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    glenn; Thx. I hadn’t sen that interview.

    I, too have been horrified at the Nationalism displayed by so-called progressive bloggers and other journos. They seem to be so focused on the cultural opportunity for a black POTUS that they fail to see it a sform of affirmative action due to their enabling behaviors. HE MUST NOT be criticized, and the surveillance issue brings an avalanche of excuses and fly-bys which he then picks up as permission to do what he does. I really think the Neocons did genius-level work at moving the political needle so far right, that the center-right can view themselves as Leftists.

  • Kempe

    Unfortunately the case for Assange being the victim of a US conspiracy comes unstuck when you notice that the release of the American diplomatic cables didn’t start until the 28th Novemeber 2010; eight days after the arrest warrant was issued and nearly 3 months after the rape complaints were first made.

  • Herbie

    Kempe says:

    “Unfortunately the case for Assange being the victim of a US conspiracy comes unstuck when you notice that the release of the American diplomatic cables didn’t start until the 28th Novemeber 2010; eight days after the arrest warrant was issued and nearly 3 months after the rape complaints were first made.”

    I do hope Arbed sees this.

    My thinking was that the dropping of the case against Assange, and more particularly its subsequent resurrection by another (more politically linked) prosecutor highlighted the conspiracy rather than weakened it.

    Is this incorrect, and if so why?

  • glenn_uk

    Kempe: Are you really that lazy, or just deceptive (and rather poor at it)? Wikileaks revealed that Collateral Murder evidence of a war crime in April 2010. Even you should be able to work out that came well before the rape ALLEGATIONS were made.

    Collateral Murder interview, Amy Goodman, 18/April/2010

    Assange was also interviewed about it on Al Jazeera English on 19/4/2010 . Wikileaks stated in January 2010 that it had this evidence and would be showing it at a later date, such as in this tweet here:

    Wikileaks tweet concerning Collateral Murder

    Aren’t you concerned about your credibility, when you post easily proven falsehoods such as that one just above? CM did make a sound suggestion to you personally a few months back – now why don’t you just follow that advice like a good fellow?

  • arsalan

    Craig:
    “In Russia you cannot say Putin is corrupt; in the UK you cannot say Israeli state policy is malign. ”

    That says a lot. Another to put it is, “Putin rules Russia, Just as Israel Rules the UK”.

  • Yonatan

    My gut feeling is:

    Blair – Obama – Navalny

    i) Lawyer
    ii) Presentable
    iii) Fond of PR
    iv) Supports change – 3rd way – Hope and change – End corruption
    v) Described as ‘liberal’

    http://marknesop.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/a-dark-side-of-alexei-navalny/

    Apparently he went to Yale for ‘training’ as a ‘World Fellow’, receiving $32,000 stipend, and was allowed to take his family. His reported lack of fluency in English apparently caused no problems. Not bad for someone only 6% of Russians have heard of.

    The Yale World Fellow program is aimed at ‘creating a global network of emerging leaders and to broaden international understanding’. Such a global network would be very useful to the global empire.

  • Flaming June

    Anger at BBC’s insistence all Jerusalem is Israeli

    July 25, 2013

    Press release

    Anger at BBC’s insistence that all of Jerusalem is Israeli city

    The BBC’s insistence on describing Jerusalem as an Israeli city, despite such a status not being recognised under international law, has been condemned by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

    In a ruling delivered this week, the BBC Trust appears to have accepted Israel’s facts on the grounds, namely that Jerusalem is a united Israeli city.

    Writing to PSC, the Trust quotes the BBC’s Senior Editorial Strategy Advisor, Leanne Buckle, in her assessment of the BBC’s decision to describe Jerusalem as an Israeli city.

    The Trust writes: “The advisor [Buckle] acknowledged that Israel’s sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem was not recognized under international law. However, she considered that Israel had de facto control over the entire city in a political, administrative and military sense. She also noted that Jerusalem was administered as a single entity by the Jerusalem municipal authority which made no distinction between East and West.”

    Based on this, the Trust has said it will not consider a complaint by PSC that BBC journalists are breaching the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy when they refer to Jerusalem as an Israeli city.

    Under international law, only West Jerusalem is considered to be under Israeli de facto control, not the whole of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is described by the UN as Occupied Palestinian Territory that has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel.

    /..
    http://www.palestinecampaign.org/bbcjerusualem/

    For BBC throughout, read ZBC.

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