September 29, 2021
Opinion by Greg Ray
The revelation that US intelligence agencies were actively considering how they might kidnap and/or assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in 2017 isn’t too surprising, I’m sorry to say. Such rumours had been circulating since 2010, when it was alleged that then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had remarked during a high-level discussion of Assange and Wikileaks: “Can’t we just drone this guy?” Ms Clinton has been famously unable to recollect the remark ever since, and chances are it may have been just a throwaway line in a State Department meeting, but it put the idea out in the world.
According to Yahoo News the idea came into serious consideration in 2017 when the US spooks were getting annoyed about Wikileaks warning the world that they had deliberately planted serious flaws in the computer software that people use every day in order to allow security organisations to break into anybody’s computer at will – allegedly to safeguard society against terrorism or whatever threat might sound plausible at the time. Naturally these flaws became known to and probably used by the security organisations of rival nations, criminal networks and who knows who else. Many people were appalled to learn about this behaviour on the part of the security services, and of course the security services were upset and embarrassed. Hence the talk of kidnapping and murder.
At this time Assange was still trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, having been cornered there by a very dodgy rape case pressed against him by compliant Swedish authorities. It will be noted that this case was dropped by the Swedes – after it had already served its purpose in helping US security forces to trap Assange in even more compliant England. After being stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years Assange was finally booted out, following an intense campaign of threats and inducements directed at Ecuador by the US. A change of government in Ecuador and a multi-billion-dollar sweetener to the tiny and poor country helped tilt the table and Assange was arrested and imprisoned by the UK on behalf of the USA. In the meantime, the mainstream press had kept up a barrage of anti-Assange stories, relentlessly moving public opinion against him.
I have previously described his current situation as a case of slow-motion assassination, which may now seem a less extreme comment given the revelation that more direct means of bringing about his demise were apparently discussed at high levels in the US establishment.
The US has been pressing for Assange’s extradition from the UK, to face the likelihood of life imprisonment in America. This is despite its case against him suffering serious flaws, including the revelation that one of its key witnesses was a fraud and sex offender who has now admitted fabrication evidence in the Assange case. The UK has so far not granted extradition, but it may be that the Americans are perfectly happy with the status quo. By leaving him in prison in the UK they keep Assange under maximum pressure without quite bringing the matter to a head. While he is trapped in England public protests are muted, the torture of confinement is extended and scrutiny of the actual case against him is kept to a minimum as his defenders fight the subsidiary battle against extradition. With the UK court denying the extradition on the grounds of Assange’s mental health and potential suicide risk, cynics might wonder whether an Epstein solution is on the cards. [Jeffrey Epstein was a sex-trafficker with intriguing links to international security services. His “little black book” of close contacts included some extremely high-profile members of the western political and financial “aristocracy”, some of whom may well have been relieved when he somehow managed to kill himself in a US jail in 2019, despite being on suicide watch.]
Broke into their homes
It’s amazing to read how many resources were allocated by the US security services to following and harassing people considered to be friends and supporters of Assange, as described in this article on Crikey. Here in Australia, Assange associates found themselves censored and followed (with the apparent support and approval of Aussie spooks) and have alleged that agents broke into their homes and interfered with their communications.
I recollect being a little surprised when I heard that Newcastle woman Vera Deacon – who expressed some socialistic sentiments during the Great Depression – was spied upon by ASIO. Years later her file was obtained under freedom of information laws and it was both amusing and chilling to read the spook’s description of her sitting up and typing in the evenings – she obviously unaware that a taxpayer-funded snoop was peering through her window and reporting his banal observations to his spymasters. Just goes to show, I guess, that things maybe haven’t changed that much after all.
We like to scoff about the Soviet Union and its KGB, East Germany and its Stasi and of course the Chinese Communist Party and its heavy-handed tactics against dissent. We perhaps like to imagine that our spooks are different: dedicated to the preservation of freedom and democracy and to defending us against totalitarianism. Sadly, our grounds for scoffing are scant, and rapidly diminishing. We have a situation where our national spies are directed to work against friendly foreign governments for the benefit of resource companies. Journalists get raided by the federal police if they embarrass our government. Even the NSW Government sools its “fixated persons” squad against journalists who seek to discuss alleged corruption on the part of high-ranking party officials.
And yet, when we had an actual fleabag like violent crazy Man Haron Monis in our midst, and when numerous warnings were provided to authorities that here was a nutcase who was capable of doing something really mad and bad, he was able to get a gun and make a big mess with no interference from the national security apparatus.
If I were to adopt a jaundiced view based on these and many other instances I might conclude that our alphabet soup of global power-hungry spy organisations have made their priorities clear. Apart from empire-building and self-aggrandisement, I might imagine that they care most about looking after people, groups and corporations who have power and money, and not so much about “security” for the rest of us. Exhibit A among these instances might be the case of Julian Assange. Condemned, it seems, to indefinite imprisonment and possibly worse because he pointed out that our presumed “protectors” sometimes seem to be among the biggest threats to our freedom and safety.