Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange — not one to hold back in needed criticism of U.S. foreign policy and insidious domestic programs — excoriated the latest absurdities proffered by CIA Director Mike Pompeo as a thinly-veiled attempt to quash the free flow of information.
In particular, Assange told Dr. Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Liberty Report in an interview, the CIA would have the public believe that certain media outlets devoted to transparency should be considered ‘non-state’ intelligence agencies.
In fact, although the comparison isn’t without justification, Assange surmises the Central Intelligence Agency employs those similarities as a premise for attacking the imperative American free press and free speech — dangerous territory that could supplant journalistic immunity for protecting sources and publishing sensitive information. Assange told the Liberty Report,
“The CIA has been deeply humiliated as a result of our ongoing Vault 7 publications, so this is a preemptive move by the CIA to try and discredit our publications and create a new category for Wikileaks and other national security reporters to strip them of First Amendment protections by defining the organization as something that fits into existing interpretations.
“So, you can surveil and engage in certain actions on hostile intelligence services. … You don’t need search warrants and so on, authorized by a judge, if what you’re intercepting or surveilling is connected to an organization that is an intelligence service that is influencing someone.”
Ordinarily, the CIA or FBI or any agency of the government would be forced to follow legal procedures for spying on journalists, including requests to courts or search warrants and other procedures, which would only be required if the target were technically considered an agent of or friend to an enemy State.
“If we allow this president to declare war on those who tell the truth, we have only ourselves to blame,” Ron Paul said.
Freedom of the press looming in the balance, Pompeo’s disregard for organizations focusing on exposure of government activities traditionally protected imparts a telling foray for U.S. Intelligence in its quest to censor media.
“So, to create this new category of non-state intelligence service,” Assange continued, “it can then be very easily applied to a media organization — non-state, of course, means commercial organization or nonprofit organization — I think it’s a long-term strategy. It’s taking two bites of the apple. One it to create this definition of a non-state … to redefine media as non-state intelligence services; and then, on the other hand, to use a jurisdictional argument, which is to say that all foreign reporters have no First Amendment rights.
“Of course, the First Amendment is not a ‘positive’ right — it doesn’t, generally speaking, give me, or in fact, anyone, a positive right. It’s an obligation to the government to give me a right. It’s a limitation on the government, that limits its ability to interfere with freedom of expression or of the press in order to create the necessary environment of public debate, which can stop autocracy from developing in the United States.”
Pompeo’s argument falls short in that the foreign press, of course, is not held to strictures of U.S. government — but agencies of that government, such as the CIA, must follow rules it wishes to shirk in favor of opacity. Beyond that, as Dr. Paul noted, the Constitution wasn’t designed purely for the benefit of U.S. citizens, rather, protection of any individuals who might be compelled to appear before the courts, and,
“Therefore,” Dr. Paul continued, “this accusation that ‘you have no rights, you’re not even an American citizen,’ and therefore you don’t qualify, I think a lot of people believe that and it has to be refuted.”
In deeming Wikileaks’ publications non-state intelligence, or that the outlet is an active participant in shaping political narrative, the CIA sets up a frightening switch for all media in which the subject matter of leaked documents determines whether or not that outlet would technically produce journalism — or participate as an enemy entity.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post Tuesday, Assange penned,
“Mike Pompeo, in his first speech as director of the CIA, chose to declare war on free speech rather than on the United States’ actual adversaries. He went after WikiLeaks, where I serve as editor, as a ‘non-state hostile intelligence service.’ In Pompeo’s worldview, telling the truth about the administration can be a crime — as Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly underscored when he described my arrest as a ‘priority.’ News organizations reported that federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring charges against members of WikiLeaks, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act. […]
“When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonizes a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a ‘fraud,’ ‘coward’ and ‘enemy,’ it puts all journalists on notice, or should. Pompeo’s next talking point, unsupported by fact, that WikiLeaks is a ‘non-state hostile intelligence service,’ is a dagger aimed at Americans’ constitutional right to receive honest information about their government. This accusation mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings.”
Pompeo and his ilk, in order to clamp down on whistleblowers and leaks, wish to redefine both media and journalism, so sources — whom, Assange noted, would build trust over time with a writer before ever offering information of import — and those who publish their information, would be liable for the breach, rather than immune. Without constitutional press protections, a journalist’s relationship with sources, their ongoing or daily communications, could be considered, Assange warns, “conspiracy to commit espionage.”
When it comes to espionage, the CIA would do best not to hurl accusations when an outstanding possibility its agents could still be deemed liable for pernicious spying devices and methods the agency used in millions of household appliances and smart devices. As Assange explains,
The CIA “is a very competent organization — I mean, this is the organization that gave us Iraq, al-Qaeda, that has fractured democracy in Iran, Pinochet, the destruction of Libya, the effective rise of ISIS, and the Syrian civil war. So, you can see, this is an organization that goes around engaging in actions, which are either deeply incompetent or which, even from the perspective of American power, run counter to its purposes.”
In other words, it appears the CIA has been going about business-as-usual — except now, that dubious business of manipulating public opinion and rigging the game in favor of the U.S. seeks primarily to quash the most crucial constitutional protections left. Without true press freedom — including publishing outlets not commentating on the content of articles, such as Wikileaks — there can be no possible expectation of governmental transparency.
America’s media organizations and journalists must retain their badge of immunity if the public expects to ever know what bureaucrats, politicians, and yes, even spies, are doing behind the scenes — that such a vast swath of the populace cheers on the CIA in condemning Wikileaks proves the efficacy of propaganda in convincing the people to turn over their rights willingly, and with a smile.