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MSNBC Pundits Push False Narrative On WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange

by on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

On MSNBC’s Jansing & Co, host Chris Jansing, The Washington Post Editorial Page’s Jonathan Capehart, and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari attempt to create a fictitious narrative for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.  They claim he’s anti-American, anti-Capitalist, and a hypocrite on his transparency agenda, seeing as how he’s ‘on the run’ from his own personal transparency.  They appear with Salon’s Glenn Greenwald — the only one there to contest their allegations — who incidentally gets dropped for most of the discussion.

Capehart begins with this bizarre statement on Julian Assange’s motives:

“Clearly this is a person who has a beef with the United States.  Apparently there’s some reports he’s got some information on a major American bank that he’s threatening to drop at the beginning of the year.  Why he’s doing these things, exactly, I don’t know.” […]

“Beef with the United States”?  “Why he’s doing these things“? — Are we to infer that publishing leaks by whistle blowers runs counter to Capehart’s journalistic integrity?  I could understand a statement like this coming from a White House Press Secretary, but a journalist?

Capehart should be WikiLeaks’ biggest cheerleader.  How are WikiLeaks’ document dumps any different than what the New York Times, the Washington Post, and 17 other newspapers did when they published the Pentagon Papers — secretly leaked to them by whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg nearly 30 years ago?

You can see the ‘anti-American’ narrative slowly developing here, and it only gets worse.  Next Chris Jansing turns the discussion to the fact Julian Assange’s whereabouts are presently unknown, and why that’s relevant:

… The whole point of WikiLeaks, at least in some of the interviews that Julian Assange has given in the past, is that they want to create transparency.  And yet most of the time we don’t know where this guy is.  At one point, during the eruption of the volcano, he was ‘holed up’ in a house apparently in Reykjavík, Iceland.  […]

Malanari adds to the pile-on, weaving it all together:

Well, obviously he doesn’t think he himself fits into the whole question of transparency.  I think one can only conclude, based on what we’ve seen that he is hugely anti-American, somewhat anti-Capitalistic, although obviously WikiLeaks enjoys the benefits of an open Capitalistic society where the media is allowed to engage in accessing these leaks and putting them on the front page and then disseminating them.  […]

Here’s a man who is destructive, and who sets guidelines for the United States government, and clearly only the United States, by rules and regulations that he feels he himself doesn’t have to live by, particularly when he’s being looked at as a potential rapist.

At this point, Glenn Greenwald is FINALLY back on the show, and allowed to speak (albeit briefly, since Jansing cuts him off in mid-sentence).

Jansing asks Glenn whether Assange has an anti-American, anti-corporate agenda, and if he is ‘on the run’, to which Glenn unloads on her and the other two:

Well, I think it’s amazing to listen to someone — like journalists — use McCarthyite techniques to say he’s anti-American, when in reality what he’s actually devoted to is what’s called ‘transparency’, and shining light on what the world’s most powerful factions are doing, which of course is supposed to be the role of journalists.

But Mr. Capehart’s editorial page was one of the leading advocates and still is, for example, for the war in Iraq; which used this vast wall of secrecy to deceive the American people into believing something that wasn’t true.

Mrs. Malanari’s political party did the same.  And so what you have is basically people who are in the political and media class in Washington, who have been exploiting this great wall of secrecy, where the government basically hides everything that it’s doing of any significance so it can manipulate the American public.

And Julian Assange is one of the very few people who is actually fulfilling the role that journalists and members of Congress are supposed to fulfill, but haven’t, which is bringing transparency … [Jansing, with a mortified look on her face, quickly cuts Glenn off]

Jansing switches back to Capehart to rekindle the narrative she’s so clearly intent on pushing forward.  Capehart then makes the astonishing claim that nothing has actually been revealed by WikiLeaks.  Again, here’s a guy who writes for the Washington Post, telling viewers that all the information provided by WikiLeaks, in each of their dumps, was already known, and had already been reported.  Jansing cuts Glenn off from rebutting Capehart’s untruthful statement, and ensures Capehart gets this final word in:

To continue with Susan Malinari’s point in terms of transparency, you notice that in the report on Julian Assange, it said that he gave an interview calling on Secretary Clinton to resign … from a secret location!  Not terribly transparent.

In response to Capehart’s ridiculous claim that WikiLeaks hasn’t provided any new information, Greenwald listed on Salon just a small sample of the MAJOR revelations yielded by WikiLeaks:

(1) the U.S. military formally adopted a policy of turning a blind eye to systematic, pervasive torture and other abuses by Iraqi forces;

(2) the State Department threatened Germany not to criminally investigate the CIA’s kidnapping of one of its citizens who turned out to be completely innocent;

(3) the State Department under Bush and Obama applied continuous pressure on the Spanish Government to suppress investigations of the CIA’s torture of its citizens and the 2003 killing of a Spanish photojournalist when the U.S. military fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad (see The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch today about this: “The day Barack Obama Lied to me”);

(4) the British Government privately promised to shield Bush officials from embarrassment as part of its Iraq War “investigation”;

(5) there were at least 15,000 people killed in Iraq that were previously uncounted;

(6) “American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world” about the Iraq war as it was prosecuted, a conclusion the Post’s own former Baghdad Bureau Chief wrote was proven by the WikiLeaks documents;

(7) the U.S.’s own Ambassador concluded that the July, 2009 removal of the Honduran President was illegal — a coup — but the State Department did not want to conclude that and thus ignored it until it was too late to matter;

(8) U.S. and British officials colluded to allow the U.S. to keep cluster bombs on British soil even though Britain had signed the treaty banning such weapons, and,

(9) Hillary Clinton’s State Department ordered diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data on U.N. and other foreign officials, almost certainly in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say we’ve learned more about the true workings of our government from a couple WikiLeaks dumps than we did from The Washington Post, Capehart’s employer, over the entire last decade.  Which could explain Capehart’s apparent ‘beef’ with WikiLeaks.

As for Julian Assange’s unknown whereabouts and accessibility — which seemed to be the entire basis of Jensing, Capehart, and Molinari’s attack on Assange’s credibility as a champion for transparency — his UK attorney Jennifer Robinson addressed the issue yesterday on DemocracyNow!:

The authorities certainly know how to contact [Assange] via his lawyers.  And, I must — I’m sorry — correct you, that he’s not in hiding, evading any Interpol arrest warrant.  He has genuine concerns for his personal safety as a result of numerous very public calls for his assassination.  And he’s obviously incredibly busy with WikiLeaks current works, and the attacks on their systems.  […]

… An Interpol red notice is not actually an arrest warrant.  It is considered by states who are member states of Interpol as a valid provisional arrest notice.  So the authorities can take action.  Though what we do know and has been reported today is that if a European arrest warrant was issued the authorities would be obliged to arrest my client.

Reports today have suggested that a European arrest warrant was communicated to the authorities here in the UK, but that was returned on the grounds of an administrative error, and we’re seeking confirmation at the moment of what that problem was.  In our view, the Interpol arrest warrant — there are serious issues with it on grounds of due process concerns arising in the Swedish proceedings, and also indeed for the need for it, given our client’s voluntary offers of cooperation that were rejected by the Swedish prosecuting authorities.

[…]

It’s important to note that Mr. Assange remained in Sweden for almost a month, in order to clear his name.  While he was in Sweden, after the allegations came out, he was in touch with the prosecuting authorities and offered on numerous occasions to provide an interview in order to clear his name.  Those offers were not taken up by the police.

He obviously has had to travel for work, and had meetings to attend, and in order to leave Sweden he sought specific permission of the prosecutor to leave on the grounds that there was an outstanding investigation, and she gave that permission.  So he left Sweden lawfully, and without objection by the prosecuting authorities.

Since that time we have communicated through his Swedish counsel, on numerous occasions, offers to provide answers to the questions that she may have through other means — through teleconference, through video link, by attending an embassy here in the UK to provide that information, and all those offers were rejected.

It’s also important to remember that the prosecutor has not once issued a formal summons for his interrogation.  So all of these communications have been informally, and in our view it’s disproportionate to seek an arrest warrant when voluntary cooperation has been offered.

Chris Jansing, Jonathan Capehart, and Susan Molinari were blatantly pushing a false narrative in an attempt to malign the messenger, and based entirely on conjecture:  “How could his underlying motivation for WikiLeaks be about creating transparency, when he is clearly ‘on the run’ from his own personal transparency?  Clearly he’s just anti-American.”

What an embarrassingly pathetic excuse for ‘news’ punditry — most definitely on par with Fox News propagandizing.

It has been well-documented that the United States government routinely intervenes in other countries’ criminal investigations and legal proceedings when its own leaders’ interests hang in the balance.  The Obama Administration actually threatened the British government not to allow its High Courts to reveal Bush Administration crimes.  And as WikiLeaks recently disclosed, the US also intervened in Germany and Spain’s legal proceedings, thereby squashing criminal investigations of the CIA, who kidnapped and tortured their citizens.

Any credible journalist would have to at least consider — due to the timing of the warrants coinciding with the latest WikiLeaks dump — the plausibility that Sweden is being pressured by the US to issue warrants for Assange’s arrests, only to then extradite him to the US, where he could be detained indefinitely without trial.

And not a single mention by these three pundits on the rather obvious point made by Assange’s attorney: His life has been threatened repeatedly in the public arena — both in the United States and in Canada — with calls for his assassination.  Considering that these calls have been made by many of these pundits’ very own political and media cronies, it’s hard to believe they weren’t aware of them.

WATCH:

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UPDATE:

Julian Assange just completed a LIVE Q&A session at the Guardian.  You can view the transcript HERE.

From the Q&A on ‘Free Press’:

Q. tburgi:

Western governments lay claim to moral authority in part from having legal guarantees for a free press.  Threats of legal sanction against Wikileaks and yourself seem to weaken this claim.

(What press needs to be protected except that which is unpopular to the State? If being state-sanctioned is the test for being a media organization, and therefore able to claim rights to press freedom, the situation appears to be the same in authoritarian regimes and the west.)

Do you agree that western governments risk losing moral authority by attacking Wikileaks?  Do you believe western goverments have any moral authority to begin with?

A. Julian Assange:

The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be “free” because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free.

In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.