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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  • Flaming June

    For David Ward read Jenny Tonge, Paul Flynn, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Jeremy Corbyn, others whose names I have forgotten, who have all been demonized for speaking for Palestine.

    Sir Bob Russell LD Colchester is the latest case in point. He was asking Michael Gove a question about the history curriculum, wishing al Naqba to be included just as Gove intends to include the Holocaust.

    The next thing he is almost being called a ‘Holocaust denier’.

    Some good comments among the 66 which is an unusual number for a provincial paper.

    He has also raised the question of the Bedouin cleansing many times I see.
    Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: Israel (11 July 2013)
    Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many representations he has received in opposition to proposals by the government of Israel to forcibly remove 40,000 Bedouin from their historic lands.

    Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Middle East Peace Process (18 June 2013)
    Bob Russell: Israel, by its policies, is a racist, apartheid state. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that that all the products we are discussing are produced on land that is illegally occupied?

  • John Goss

    If there had not been a jury at the inquest into the death of Princess Diana and Jodi Fayad a verdict of “unlawful killing” would not have been brought in, which is probably why Tony Blair interrupted normal proceedings and Lord Hutton was called in to handle an Inquiry only three hours after Dr David Kelly’s body had been found and before a pathologist had seen the body. The British judiciary is so bent Julian Assange has had to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

    I posted this link a couple of days ago about the death of doughty journalist Helen Thomas. Well worth watching. Not every president is allowed to get away with everything unscathed.

  • Flaming June

    Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press
    Xeni Jardin at 10:05 am Thu, Jul 25, 2013

    Journalists and bloggers covering closing arguments in the military trial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning are reporting a far more intense security climate at Ft. Meade today, as compared to the past two months of court proceedings.

    @carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, and extensive physical searches. I visited the trial two weeks ago, and while there were many restrictions I found surprising (no mobile devices allowed in the press room), it wasn’t this bad.

    Tweets from some of them are below; there are about 40-50 reporters present and not all are tweeting. Internet access is spotty today. Oh, wait; as I type this blog post, I’m now seeing updates that they’re being told they are not allowed to access Twitter. So there’s that.


  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Herbie

    “In UK there’s a specific offense under Section 5 of the Public Order Act that makes it an offence to use ‘insulting’ language..”

    Yes, I know that. What I was wondering was is there a specific law dealing with insulting public officials, MPs, the Head of State, etc. I gather from your reply that there is not such a specific law and that there is only the general law you refer to, which would apply whether I insulted you or the Prime Minister (for example). Correct?

    “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.”

    No, I wasn’t arguing that at all, and I don’t see how you could infer that from my post. I have no idea whether the French are more restrictive than the British in this area

  • Jay








  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    “The United States is preparing for a war with China, a momentous decision that so far has failed to receive a thorough review from elected officials, namely the White House and Congress. This important change in the United States’ posture toward China has largely been driven by the Pentagon. There have been other occasions in which the Pentagon has framed key strategic decisions so as to elicit the preferred response from the Commander in Chief and elected representatives. A recent case in point was when the Pentagon led President Obama to order a high level surge in Afghanistan in 2009, against the advice of the Vice President and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. The decision at hand stands out even more prominently because (a) the change in military posture may well lead to an arms race with China, which could culminate in a nuclear war; and (b) the economic condition of the United States requires a reduction in military spending, not a new arms race. The start of a new term, and with it the appointment of new secretaries of State and Defense, provide an opportunity to review the United States’ China strategy and the military’s role in it. This review is particularly important before the new preparations for war move from an operational concept to a militarization program that includes ordering high-cost weapons systems and forced restructuring. History shows that once these thresholds are crossed, it is exceedingly difficult to change course.”

    We sure have heeded Eisenhower’s warning about the Military/Industrial complex.

    A lack of oversight and poor accountability from Security Services, the outsourcing to contractors, and general MILSPEC waste hogs has led to this.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Sorry someone. forgot to say thanks for the link. I thought it worthy of repetition.

  • Brendan

    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.”

    Memory tells me this is false. So I looked it up.

    Started in Feb 2010. Sure, the release in The Guardian etc occurred in November, but the state department already knew who Assange was, and what documents he had. So the US conspiracy argument hasn’t come unstuck, really.

  • BrianFujisan

    it all reminds me of the shocking treatment dished out to animal rights activist Daniel McGowan, for exercising his First Amendment right of speech, and writing articles for Huffington Post

    On April 4, McGowan was rearrested and jailed. Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers represented him. They said it was because of an article he wrote.
    Their statement elaborated, saying:
    He was “released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he was taken into custody yesterday and is back at the halfway house where he has been residing since his release from prison in December.”
    “Yesterday, Daniel was given an ‘incident report’ indicating that his Huffington Post blog post, ‘Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech,’ violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from ‘publishing under a byline.’ ”
    “The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010.”
    “After we brought this to the BOP’s attention, the incident report was expunged.”
    They called BOP retaliation against him “an outrage.”
    McGowan got CMU hard time for writing articles and letters about animal rights. His constitutional rights were violated.
    On April 4, he was jailed again briefly. He was released on condition he’d sacrifice his First Amendment rights. He was told no more articles.
    According to CCR, it’s a “made-up rule applied only to Daniel.” It’s a “further attempt to chill his freedom of speech.”

  • Herbie

    Despite habby’s protestations

    If the French have a specific law against insulting their President

    And the British have a general law against insulting anyone

    Who is more free to speak their mind. The French or the British?

    If the French go on to repeal the law against insulting their President

    Who is more free to speak their mind. The French or the British?

    There must be a Gillray somewhere that explains this much more succinctly.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Herbie; Check out the political cartoons of Conrad of the LA Times. The best ever.

  • John Goss

    Ben Franklin at 11.22 pm

    It’s late and I’ve only scan-read the article you posted. My guess is this is sabre-rattling from the Pentagon, and the article states this has not got any approval from government. However it could get approval.

    What is worrying the US is that Russia, France and Germany have, if I understand correctly, withdrawn gold bullion formerly in US custody because of justified fears that the US economy is about to pop. The US national debt is growing faster than any amount of earned revenue or taxation can cover.

    China, and other countries have stopped buying US debt (bonds) because they realise these are going to be worthless. The only thing the US can do, because most of its investment has gone into the military and wars to steal other countries mineral wealth, is to wage war on countries with growing economies, like Germany did on the strength of its mighty Krupps’ factories. This war, if it comes about, would probably wipe out mankind, and life on earth as we know it. Frightening, eh?

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    “What is worrying the US is that Russia, France and Germany have, if I understand correctly, withdrawn gold bullion formerly in US custody because of justified fears that the US economy is about to pop. The US national debt is growing faster than any amount of earned revenue or taxation can cover.”

    John; You are correctamundo. BRICS is the real threat to USG. The Petrodollar has reigned for some 40 years. BRICS seeks to establish some fiscal credibility by returning to a gold standard.

    This is contra-intuitive to Western interests, mostly the US. The ‘shadow’ economy seeking the continued auspices of the EU and the remainder of the World is critical to keeping the perception that Petrodollars must continue it’s reign of dominance. The dumbing down of silver and gold to record lows since 2008 is part of the plan to keep equity in the markets of choice. But from my perspective gold is not the place to put your confidence because it’s value makes it inefficient for trading. Junk silver is your hedge against future inflationary purchasing power. Lower denominations are easier to carry and trade.

  • Someone

    “We sure have heeded Eisenhower’s warning about the Military/Industrial complex.”

    It should be noted that all during Reagan’s presidency he took the orders of Thatcher, except on one occasion, the Grenada invasion in 1983. She told him not to invade, so what had the power that overruled Thatcher…The US “Military/Industrial complex”.

  • glenn_uk

    @John Goss: I’ve probably misunderstood your last couple of posts on the subject… you’re not seriously suggesting that Al “The Fugger” Fayad has been right all along, and Lady Di was assassinated by the UK secret services, are you?

    As far as gold is concerned, it appears you are right – but it could be even worse than you’ve set out here. Germany wants possession of its physical gold, as opposed to “paper gold”. The latter is a piece of paper – gold certificates – indicating your entitlement to the stated amount of gold held in that institution’s vault. The trouble is, there’s a high suspicion that these same certificates have been issued multiple times on the same physical resource.

    That is why Germany has become so suspicious recently about their physical gold held by America, and they’d like to get it back. These suspicions are not in any way alleviated by the considerable reluctance the US to hand it over.

    We might have a situation where the promise to exchange for the bearer the stated weight of gold for their certificate, is not much better than our own certificates – to redeem a UK banknote for the equivalent pounds of silver sterling. My advice is that you should take possession of your actual metal, and put it in your personal bank’s safety deposit box, before the whole thing kicks off.

  • Jives

    Me? I just play Strats.

    But i realise,through reading history,that at the end of every empire the veil of the soft state is snatched away and the hard/deep state stands naked,barking and omnivorous in their insane arc.

    Torture,by incompetents-who ought really know better-barely registers to the guy that they want to shut up-or else.

    I’m just a wallflower now-Strats notwithstanding-Eliza.

    My torture was cathartic,to them,over 15 years of complete amateur idiocy that would shame prep school kids.

    I just play Strats,same as it ever was,Jonathan.

    Mostly people tell me i’m really quite adept at that.

    But i already knew that,Stella.

  • Flaming June


    ‘Kicking off a series of speeches about the economy, President Obama told a crowd in Illinois on Wednesday that reversing growing inequality and rejuvenating the middle class “has to be Washington’s highest priority.” During his remarks, Obama failed to mention the bankruptcy filing by Detroit, where thousands of public workers are now fighting to protect their pensions and medical benefits as the city threatens massive cuts to overcome an estimated $18 billion in debt. Detroit’s bankruptcy “is an example of a failed economic system,” says economist Richard Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts. “There are so many other cities in Detroit’s situation, that if the courts decide that it is legal to take away the pension that has been promised to and paid for by these workers, you have [legalized] theft. It is class war, redistributing income from the bottom to the top.”‘

    I read elsewhere that the Detroit Red Wings have a new $400m stadium built with taxpayer support.

  • Jemand - Censorship Improves History

    Maybe the US wants their sovereign debt to become so huge that the world cannot afford to allow the US economy to fail. Provided that they service their existing debts (by sales of high value weapon systems?) they can maintain a perpetual debt that protects it from hostile action – economic or military. Can China afford to go to war with their biggest customer and debtor?

    For those who advocate for currencies to be tied to physical quantities of precious metals, I would ask you to consider the massive environmental damage that would result from exploration and extraction of those metals as their supposed value skyrockets and the relative cost of production plummets. Rain forests and coral reefs would be ripped up in the search for an overvalued scarce resource that has limited intrinsic or natural value. And, in the end, its nominal value is based on trust just like paper currency.

    It is also economic anathema that you can become increasingly wealthy just by sitting on a pile of gold. We should all be so lucky.

  • Jay

    The monetary system is the controling state.

    As we all are in debted to this system the state controls us.

    Assets are mostly influence and effluence of this system, ultimately what comes out the ground defines everything.

    How we are organised is state control.

    The real gold is what we say and do, is that down to the individual?

  • Hasbarista

    Its God Blight America time now, the sins of Fallujah are coming home to roost in Detroit,etc. And the devils have started yet another Bush/Condi/Mubarak like Sharm el Sheikh “road map” charade, to fool the Arabs (yet again) into supporting another destruction of an Arab country, or even a war on Iran. Its only the fear of the Russian Yakhont that has kept the Generals at bay, if the aircraft carriers move AWAY from Syria or the PG, war is coming then.

  • Hasbarista

    Practically speaking its got to be Aquaponics, it would also help to be ready to carry double door fridges/large flat screens on shopping trolleys,as the preppers started practising outside a Wal-Mart in the USA!

  • Komodo

    There are no juries in most Scottish trials. The Sheriff is god

    On the other hand, there are juries in most Scottish trials dealing with severe offences (assault to severe injury or worse) and the dual system of summary and solemn procedures operating in Sheriff Courts seems to operate at least as well as the English system. The Sheriff is admittedly God – it’s at his discretion whether to opt for summary or solemn – , and there have been one or two somewhat bent ones, true.

    In any case, the Sheriff’s or other presiding nebbie’s function, with or without a jury, is to determine whether or not the law has been broken. If the law is reprehensible, that isn’t his fault.

    In plain, if the law is crap, don’t blame the workmen. Blame the people you have the illusion of having elected. Which is what I take Craig to be saying in his last sentence.

    I think the illusion of democracy is central to what Craig is saying. The Russians are probably under fewer illusions than we are, in that regard. But I don’t think, fundamentally, that there is much difference from our situation except in the degree of coercion our governors are prepared to use in order to entrench their power, wealth and influence. That’s changing all the time. For the worse, as Craig says.

  • Komodo

    Obviously, our democracy is under threat when an elected MP can be sanctioned by his former party at the behest and on the say-so of a small and unaccountable grouping of British citizens. For breaking no law, but merely for uttering an opinion.

    Something’s badly wrong there.

  • Flaming June

    Just in case you missed it, there is a reprise tonight on Sky News – ‘The Son and Heir’!

    And if you are short of something to do in London and have a spare £19!! (adult) or £50 (family) you can see the Queen’s dresses. Many diamonds too.

    ‘Queen’s coronation takes centre stage in Buckingham Palace’s summer show
    Monarch’s coronation robe will be laid out for first time since June 1953, along with personal objects including her coronation service

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