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As the sordid process of Craig Murray’s trial gets underway it marks another alarming wake-up call regarding how freedom of the press must be vigorously defended as a vital tool in protecting the integrity of our democracy. Reading Craig’s posts I was outraged by the implications of the Scottish Governments case as they selectivly targeted one journalist whose Blog posts supported Alex Salmond following the obvious conspiracy to persecute and demonize him on fabricated sexual assault charges that didn’t hold up in court. Despite Murray’s meticulously cautious and unbiased reporting, the Contempt of Court charge attempt to criminalize Craig over this case will send an alarming warning to all journalists who don’t tow the establishment line. Sadly, this will remain true even if the Crown Prosecution do not manage to prevail in their efforts to punish Craig; the huge financial and emotional toll of mounting such a defence sends the message to all dedicated Journalists: if it’s a controversial issue you just don’t go there.
This is a similar tactic used in the growing proliferation of SLAPP Lawsuits, the case can be totally unsubstantiated and ludicrously flimsy, without any real prospect of success, but the more costly and protracted it becomes the more damage it inflicts on the target which in itself is a deterrent to investigative journalism. This damage is exacerbated by the compliant sensationalist press, which in turn requires punitive measures against those who try to expose the truth in the public interest as Craig does on this Blog. The one saving grace that is emerging from these attempts to gagg free speech is the ability to crowdfund for justice at a time when more and more of us are realizing how critically important it is to fight back. ‘Truth is the best disinfectant,’ but it is far easier to capitulate, so our encouragement and financial support for those who must make the tough decision to embark on this grueling and perilous journey is essential to combating this injustice. Paying fraudsters the ‘devils ransom’ only perpetuates this corrupt system of abuse.
But the bad guys are fighting back… It used to be the case that the prosecution were obliged to hand over any evidence that might be pertinent to proving the guilt of an accused defendant, well not any more. In the increasingly fanciful ‘Novichok’ poisoning cases the Russians have been refused access to any supposedly incriminating evidence. The western Media can be relied upon to spin incredulous plotlines generated by Governments trying to discredit Putin with the simplistic claim: ‘we say you’re guilty therefore you are.’ The latest anti-soviet propaganda supplied by the thoroughly discredited agency ‘Bellingcat’ has Alexi Nivalni poisoned with the deadly Novochok after it was applied to his underwear! We are not told how this dastardly mission was accomplished, but they knew the British public was gullible enough to swallow any line of total bulshit. Elliot Higgins, the NATO funded ‘entirely impartial’ investigator, who started Bellingcat used to sell skivvies so I guess he thought it was a ‘smalls’ price to pay for lingerie advertising!
This amusing RT.com News Article exposes the stirling credentials and oratory prowess of Eliot Higgins, who they describe as being, “praised by Western media as a bulwark against sinister Russian disinformation.” They say he, “has a persuasive, Atlantic Council-fellow retort for those who take issue with his Google Earth investigations: ‘Suck my balls.’ Higgins gave up his lucrative career as a payments officer at a women’s underwear company to create Bellingcat, a celebrated internet blog that specializes in using open-source information to blame Russia for every crime against humanity, real or imagined, committed so far this century. Now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and a self-declared specialist in ‘social media & digital forensic research,’ Higgins recently teamed up with NATO-funded compatriots to create DisinfoPortal, ‘an interactive online guide to track the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns abroad’.” Far more logical targets would include the CIA, Israeli Mossad and our very own MI5 & MI6!
As incredulous as his concocted investigations get, even after they are comprehensively debunked, Higgins manages to maintain his confected credibility. In that sense, his dodgy exploits are no laughing matter, as his pseudo inquiries and damaging false flags have had very serious consequences that lingered well past the point where they were discredited as fake news. Integrity Initiative (II) is another serial offender, disseminating fake news while claiming to be, “Defending Democracy against Disinformation.” They are described by Wikispooks as, “an organ of the UK Deep state, controlled through the Institute for Statecraft. It was exposed in 2018-19 by 7 sets of leaked documents. Craig Murray blogged that it ‘offers us a glimpse into the very dirty world of surveillance and official disinformation. If we actually had a free media, it would be the biggest story of the day’.” But II is still churning out trash!
One of the Leaks said, “We have warned the UK government that it must conduct an honest and transparent investigation into the activity of the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft. Yet, today we can only see some awkward excuses and attempts of the politicians to quieten it all down. The outrageously illicit use of the British taxpayers’ money to organize a smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and entire Labour party must not remain unpunished! To prevent the conservative ministers from lying to the people from the benches of the UK Parliament we have decided to publish another part of the documents that will help make the investigation more honest and open.” The evidence of corruption on the part of this Tory Sovereign Dictatorship is in plain sight.
Ongoing corruption with regard to Tory squandering of public funds is being investigated and challenged in Court by the Good Law Project; under Judicial review, but it is only a matter of time before the Tories neuter this option to gain even tighter control over an already seriously warped judicial system that is well on the way to criminalizing investigative journalists. We must continue to offer our support to Craig Murray and Julian Assange because their struggle for justice is vital for a free press to restore UK democracy. On another front in the battle to rescue our free press and citizen’s access to the truth, the Open Democracy Petition entitled, “Stop the secrecy: save our Freedom of Information,” demands our urgent attention. In an appeal addressed to, To: “Michael Gove, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office” it asks that comply with the following demands: “Come clean about the Clearing House; Stop profiling journalists and blocking ‘sensitive’ requests; Empower, fund and make the FOI regulator independent.”
Open Democracy say, “The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is one of our most important laws. It’s helped journalists break major stories on secret political lobbying, plans for NHS reform, and much more. Without it, the MPs’ expenses scandal would never have come to light, and our taxes would still be paying for duck houses and moat cleaning. But now, just when we need it to scrutinise the COVID response, it’s being fatally undermined.The UK government is running a secretive unit inside Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office that’s been accused of ‘blacklisting’ journalists and blocking the release of ‘sensitive’ information. Experts say they’re breaking the law, and it’s an assault on our right to know what our government is doing. We’re not going to let it stand. We’re launching a legal battle, but we also need a huge public outcry, showing that thousands back our call for transparency.”
I just received a heads-up email from Open Democracy that said: “If your home was a possible fire risk, you’d want to know, wouldn’t you? If it was covered in Grenfell-style cladding, you’d expect the authorities to tell you, surely? Think again. You’re one of 30,000 people who have backed our call to defend Freedom of Information. Today, we’ve broken another story which shows exactly why this is so important. It turns out the British government has been advising local councils to block Freedom of Information requests that could identify buildings with similar cladding to that implicated in the tragic 2017 Grenfell fire, which killed 72 people. It’s the latest scandal which shows just how vital it is that we defend our information rights.” I was requested to forward this email to everyone I know, and ask them to Sign this Petition?” Will you add your name?
Open Democracy reminds us that, “Freedom of Information (FOI) laws are supposed to let citizens and journalists get vital information from any public body. Without FOI, we wouldn’t know that MPs were claiming thousands of pounds in taxpayer-funded expenses for duck houses and moats. But now our FOI rights are under unprecedented attack. Not only has the UK government blocked details of thousands of Grenfell-style fire-risk homes, we’ve also uncovered how a secretive unit inside Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office routinely screens Freedom of Information requests and blocks the release of ‘sensitive’ information across government. Experts say this ‘Orwellian’ practice is breaking the law, so we’re challenging the government in the courts. But to build the strongest possible case, we need a loud public outcry.” They, “have a big campaign planned for the coming weeks” and urge us all to, “share this email with friends, family or colleagues, to let them know what’s going on.”
We must not forget Julian Assange still languishing in Belmarsh prison as his case is another strategic assault on our free press. In the Canary Article entitled, “Judge’s ruling in Assange’s extradition case could be seen as a declaration of war on journalists,” they elaborate on the wider importance of the Assange trial. They say, “On 4 January 2021, judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shouldn’t be extradited to the US. Her decision was based on the likelihood that Assange would take his own life once incarcerated in the merciless US supermax prison system. However, Baraitser refused bail for Assange, arguing he could abscond while awaiting an appeal by the prosecution.” The punishment for journalism continues to intimidate.
The Canary claims, “there’s been scant attention to the implications of the bulk of Baraitser’s ruling, which equates to a ringing endorsement of the US prosecution case. Regarding Baraitser’s ruling, UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer commented: I am gravely concerned that the [Baraitser] judgement confirms the entire, very dangerous rationale underlying the US indictment, which effectively amounts to criminalizing national security journalism. He added: Should the US provide [via an appeal] assurances that Mr. Assange will be treated humanely, his extradition could potentially be confirmed on appeal without any meaningful review of the very serious legal concerns raised by this case. It could also be argued that Assange’s prosecution was selective.”
The Canary reports that, “In December 2020, Pulitzer prize winning journalist and film-maker Laura Poitras pointed out that she was: ‘guilty of violating the Espionage Act, Title 18, U.S. Code Sections 793 and 798. If charged and convicted, I could spend the rest of my life in prison’. But she hasn’t been charged. She adds: I confess that I, alongside journalists at The Guardian, The Washington Post and other news organizations, reported on and published highly classified documents from the National Security Agency provided by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, revealing the government’s global mass surveillance programs. This reporting was widely recognized as a public service. In 2019, journalists worldwide issued a stark warning on the prosecution of Assange: If the US government can prosecute Mr Assange for publishing classified documents, it may clear the way for governments to prosecute journalists anywhere, an alarming precedent for freedom of the press worldwide.”
The Canary speculate that, “Perhaps this is why the Guardian appeared to distance itself from Assange’s, despite having been a WikiLeaks partner.” They say that, “In April 2019, in response to Assange’s arrest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges argued that should Assange be extradited: it will create a legal precedent that will terminate the ability of the press, which Trump repeatedly has called ‘the enemy of the people,’ to hold power accountable. The crimes of war and finance, the persecution of dissidents, minorities and immigrants, the pillaging by corporations of the nation and the ecosystem and the ruthless impoverishment of working men and women to swell the bank accounts of the rich and consolidate the global oligarchs’ total grip on power will not only expand, but will no longer be part of public debate. First Assange. Then us.”
The Canary confirm that, “Indeed, the judge’s ruling leaves open the possibility that US authorities could submit a new extradition request against Assange in a country that has an extradition treaty with the US. Or a country that could be pressured into handing over the WikiLeaks founder. That would rule out Australia as a safe haven for Assange, unless certain conditions are met. Indeed, Greg Barns, barrister and adviser to the Australian Assange Campaign, told The Canary that: Unless there is a pardon, then the US could seek to extradite Assange from Australia. Therefore there would need to be an undertaking by both countries that no extradition request would be filed or entertained in Australia. Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that, according to government sources, ‘there was no intention to raise the matter [of a pardon for Assange] with either the Trump or the incoming Biden administration’.” When it really mattered Trump refused to change his mind, even to distract from his own situation.
According to the Canary, “It’s also reported that Mexico has offered Assange asylum, and hopefully a diplomatic passport, or a letter of safe passage, to be applied once the appeal hurdles have been cleared and Assange is free to exit the UK. But as Common Dreams points out: ‘Mexico is also the deadliest country in the western hemisphere for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’.” They also point out that, “Anyway, the US could use Assange as a bargaining chip in its relations with the Mexican government over, say, migrant issues.”
The Canary warns that, “Even if a suitable country is found where Assange can seek asylum, the US could resort to intercepting a flight carrying him to his destination. This is not as fantastic as it sounds. In 2013, a plane from Moscow carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales was forced to divert by US allies to Austria. This was because it was suspected the plane was carrying NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier that day, Morales indicated he was prepared to offer Snowden asylum. However, it turned out that Snowden was not on board the plane, but was still in Moscow airport, seeking refuge. While the US could appeal the judge’s decision to refuse extradition, the defence may also seek to appeal other aspects of the ruling on matters of law. For example, Baraitser ruled that ‘the agreement between Mr. Assange and Ms. [Chelsea] Manning for her to obtain and disclose the information would amount to a conspiracy’.”
The Canary report that, “Journalism historian Mark Feldstein cogently argued in his witness statement to the court that: Good reporters don’t sit around waiting for someone to leak information, they actively solicit it; they push, prod, cajole, counsel, entice, induce, inveigle, wheedle, sweet-talk, badger, and nag sources for information, the more secret, significant, and sensitive, the better.The Canary also pointed out that in an alleged conversation between Assange and Manning, the latter asked for help in cracking a password. But the account supposedly run by Assange told Manning he’d had ‘no luck so far’. The US argued that had they been successful, Manning would’ve been able to access an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) account.”
The Canary say that, “However, Patrick Eller, formerly lead digital forensics examiner with the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Command in Virginia, disputed that. He pointed out that Manning: already had legitimate access to all the databases from which she downloaded the data… Logging into another user account would not have provided her with more access than she already possessed. Eller added that Manning had access to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet). This is a secure network from where she could access diplomatic cables and information about Guantanamo detainees. When asked how many people would have access to SIPRNet, Eller answered ‘in the millions’.”
The Canary note, “Following the judge’s ruling, a US Department of Justice spokesperson pointedly stated: While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised. In particular, the court rejected all of Mr Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offence, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr Assange’s extradition to the United States. Australian independent MP Andrew Wilkie observed that: ‘regrettably it [Baraitser’s ruling] fails to address central issues like freedom of speech, media freedom and the US claim to extraterritoriality’. Arguably, after Baraitser’s ruling, there’s nothing to stop any country issuing arrest warrants against journalists, anywhere in the world, for merely exposing injustices and wrong-doings of those in power. Thus the fight goes on.”
In another Canary Article entitled, “Letter: The demonisation of Assange paves the way for more rape and murder by the State,” Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape, highlights the impact of persecuting a Whistleblower and Investigative Journalist like Assange will have in discouraging others from being so couragous. They say, “We are relieved the court ruled not to extradite Julian Assange to the US. His immediate release from Belmarsh, classified as torture by the UN Special Rapporteur, especially under coronavirus, must follow. The refusal of bail must be reversed immediately. As an anti-rape organisation, we resent the original use of alleged sex offences to facilitate Assange’s extradition to the US via Sweden. Knowing the evidence, that case was never viable, but it initiated and fuelled a witch-hunt against Assange and diverted from the real target: his Wikileaks reporting.”
Longstaff points out that, “Assange and Chelsea Manning exposed rape, torture, and murder by the US-UK coalition: war crimes that we all urgently needed to know about. After the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, we wrote an open letter, ‘No Blood or Rape for Oil’, to every woman MP. We were alarmed that none even acknowledged it. The witch-hunt against Assange invited women furious at the continuing neglect of rape by the criminal justice system to join that system against Assange. This manipulation is typical of how governments protect themselves while claiming to protect us. It proved irresistible to many. Contrast the determination to get Assange, the work hours and millions of pounds over 10 years, with the deadly lack of state protection for most victims of violence. While rape and domestic abuse soar, even faster under the coronavirus lockdown, they have been practically decriminalised.”
Longstaff says that, “Women have had to campaign to expose police and CPS trawling through victims’ social media and sexual history to discredit them and drop their cases. The lucky 1.5% of reported rapes that ever reach court may have waited four years to get there. If the government was serious about rape and domestic violence, it would make sure the police, CPS, and courts, both criminal and family, prioritise victims regardless of race, age, class, immigration status, or relationship to their attacker. They would increase benefits, resources and services women need to protect themselves and their children, and extend them to all women, including immigrants and asylum seekers excluded by the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule. They would end the ‘presumption of contact’ which enables violent men to use the family courts to continue their reign of terror against women and children and avoid prosecution. They would stop accusing mothers of ‘parental alienation’ when they report child abuse by violent fathers.”
Longstaff adds, “they would stop prosecuting rape victims they refuse to believe.” Longstaff asks: “What is WikiLeaks? What did Julian Assange do? Why does the US want to extradite him? Much of this could be addressed in the Domestic Abuse Bill currently in the House of Lords. But the government has resisted amending the bill as demanded by women’s organisations. Instead, they promote the Covert Human Intelligence Source (Criminal Conduct) Bill and Overseas Operations bills which would enable rape, torture, and even murder by anyone the state gives a licence to, including corporations. The war crimes that Assange and Manning found proof of and publicised would be legalised and extended to UK soil.” Longstaff makes a heartfelt plea, “Help us to get basic protections in the Domestic Abuse Bill and join the mounting opposition to the so-called Spy Cops and War Crimes Immunity bills.”
When this Tory Government used taxpayers money to fund fake Charity Integrity Initiative who launched a relentless defamatory smear campaign targeting Jeremy Corbyn they broke the law. If we lived in a functioning democracy this illegal act of corruption to sway the vote in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election would have led to prosecution and jail time, not a stolen ‘landslide victory’ and elected office! Instead Integrity Initiative’s propaganda was used to make the truly incredulous result appear plausible in order to evade challenge and Investigation of the Ballots. This injustice has led to over a year of shambolic governance where the Tories have rewarded cronies squandering billions in public funds on dysfunctional schemes to line their own pockets while using their parliamentary majority to pass horrific legislation like the above bills and make catastrophic decisions that have cost thousands of lives. This corruption is still awaiting an investigation that should rightfully remove the Tory Sovereign Dictatorship from power. DO NOT MOVE ON!