External Affairs

Trump Administration Turns On Wikileaks Co-Founder Julian Assange

Glen Ford, a distinguished radio-show host and commentator in the US, says Trump is trying to “normalise” his presidency by doing what US intelligence services want.

Sharmini Peries: Last week, CNN reported that the justice department is ready to file charges against the co-founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. The charges would be in respect to the 2010 leak of confidential federal documents, and the recent release of CIA cyber warfare files.

Assange has been exiled in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost five years now. It is worth noting that the CNN report incorrectly asserted that Assange is seeking to avoid an arrest warrant for rape charges in Sweden. Assange has not been officially charged with rape, a fact confirmed by both the UK Supreme Court, as well as the United Nations.

Furthermore, the UN has now thrice ruled that Assange is being arbitrarily detained by the Swedish, and UK governments. The UN also held that Assange must be granted financial compensation, and the right to exit the embassy without fear of state interference, and without delay.
Joining us today to discuss the implications of these claims is Glen Ford. Glen is executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Glen, thank you for joining us today.

Glen Ford: Well, thank you for having me.

Peries: Glen, let me start with your reaction to the claims from CNN that the US justice department has apparently found a way around the 1st Amendment in order to prosecute Assange. What are your thoughts on that?

Ford: Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And where there’s a political will, we will find a political trial. That seems to be what we’re headed to. That is the plan.

This is a big flip by Donald Trump because those of us who have memories recall that both Trump and the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, not so long ago, back in the primary days, were thrilled that there was a WikiLeaks, which revealed that Hillary Clinton had played all those dirty tricks on her opponent during the primary season. But now it appears that Donald Trump has discovered that the way you run a normal presidency in the United States is you bomb some third world countries, like Syria. And then you blame all your domestic problems on the Russians, or some agents of Russia.

So, Donald Trump is trying to normalise his very abnormal presidency by getting on the same page as the Democrats, and as the corporate media, and as the rest of the deep state. They’ve already convicted… all three of those actors have convicted Julian Assange and the Russians. They’re holding them as co-defendants.

One of the things that Trump has done is he’s actually gotten a few pages ahead of Barack Obama. Barack Obama prosecuted more reporters and whistleblowers than all the other presidents before him combined. But Donald Trump will be the first president to try to put a publisher in prison for telling the truth.

What the Trump administration has done is to create a political test of what kind of speech is protected, and what kind of speech is not protected, in the United States. Trump has allowed his CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to frame the case against Julian Assange. And that’s really interesting because the CIA director is getting to say more about this case than the attorney general who’s the one who’s going to prosecute him. Pompeo, who, I guess, speaks for the government, claims that WikiLeaks is acting as a non-state, hostile intelligence service for the Russians.

Or, for state actors like the Russians. Pompeo doesn’t offer any proof. But no proof has so far been offered. But he, and the CIA, and now the Trump administration, now say that the charge must be true because Russia is the party that benefits from the leaks. And Pompeo complains that the WikiLeaks disclosures overwhelmingly focus on the United States, and that that somehow is also proof.

But, of course, that’s not a crime. And the journalist has no obligation to somehow artificially balance their reporting so as to not harm the reputation of the United States. The real fact of the matter is that the United States is an empire. And like all empires it does more crime, more often, in more places, than normal countries do. We have to ask questions like: what other country is engaged in bombing seven other countries right now, around the world? And what other country bugs every telephone in the world, and taps every electronic digital device that it can somehow get its hands on?

America is, in fact, an exceptional nation, like it claims to be. But not in the way that it claims to be. It commits truly exceptional numbers of crimes. It commits more crimes than China and Russia, because it has a further reach than China and Russia. WikiLeaks sees its job as reporting on blockbuster crimes. And the United States is the champion imperial crime-maker in the world.

Peries: Now, Glen, earlier, in the previous administration, when President Obama wanted to pursue charges against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in particular, they refrained from doing so because if they were to prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing some of these so-called confidential and secret documents, they would also have to prosecute the New York Times and the McCutcheon(?) newspapers, and others who also published these documents that were released by WikiLeaks. What’s your reaction to that?

Ford: Well, that was the big political obstacle. And, if you’re going to do a political trial, you gotta get your politics straight. And you can’t just cavalierly go up against the Washington Post and the New York Times, which were among the many, many newspapers that printed WikiLeaks revelations. So that was a no-go zone.

But now, Donald Trump has mended the fences that separated him from the corporate media. He’s on, as I said, the same page as them. And they are in agreement. That is, the Trump administration, and the corporate media, that WikiLeaks is rogue. In fact, I was just reading a Time Magazine article that specifically called him a rogue. Pompeo notes that Assange is not an American citizen. And he says – and I think legally incorrectly – that since Assange is not an American citizen, he doesn’t have American freedom of speech rights.

So, they’re trying to create a defenceless zone for WikiLeaks, and to get around the prohibitions relating to freedom of speech. But they have to do this by connecting WikiLeaks directly to Russia, by actually proving that WikiLeaks is a foreign agent. And that’s a hard thing to do. That requires real facts. And so far, no facts have been forthcoming. Not even facts that can convince a large segment of the American public.

Peries: And this also absolves the Trump administration from the allegations it faces about its collaboration, potentially, with the Russians. Which is really also unproven at this point, but at least in the public discourse it absolves the Trump administration of any alliance with the Russians at this time.

Ford: That’s right. He thinks this will call off the corporate media dogs. I don’t think that it will. But he’s certainly willing to reverse himself on WikiLeaks. Remember he was so thrilled that WikiLeaks was there when he needed it while he’s not there when Julian Assange needs some support.

Peries: On that note, Glen, let’s listen together what Trump had to say about WikiLeaks during the campaign.

Donald Trump: This just came out. This just came out. WikiLeaks,– I love WikiLeaks.

Crowd: (cheering)

Peries: Glen, let me get your reaction to that.

Ford: Not the clip that you just played, but the events that have just come down from the justice department, the threat to indict Julian Assange – it really is the sound of the other shoe falling. The first shoe was the attack on the Syrian air base. This is the other shoe.

Now Donald Trump can feel confident that he is back on the right side of the war party, and will no longer be charged with being un-American himself. It appears that, in the United States, in order to show that your patriotism is intact, you have to paint someone else with the subversive brush.

Peries: All right. Glen, I thank you so much for your words, and look forward to your report next time. Thank you.

Ford: Thank you.

Peries: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.

Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched ‘Rap It Up’, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.

This piece originally appeared on The Real News Network.