On June 19th, Julian Assange will mark the sixth year since he entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, seeking refuge from the efforts of the US and UK governments to persecute him in retaliation for his journalistic work as Editor-In-Chief of WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange’s voice has proven so effective that the most powerful forces on earth have coalesced to silence him: on June 19th, the public must respond by becoming Julian Assange’s voice, by raising that unified voice to resonate until the glass halls of power are shattered by its force.
That the Ecuadorian government has silenced Assange for over 70 days makes the sixth anniversary of his asylum more significant than ever. Assange entered the embassy as a sanctuary, not a site of imprisonment.
In order to realize the significance of all this, the public must understand the real circumstances that undergird Assange’s need for asylum from the ire of Western governments, in order to then realize that in fighting for Julian Assange, we are fighting for our own voices to be heard. For justice in the face of injustice around the world, for the truth to be known in an era of institutionalized ignorance.
“WikiLeaks was formed as an act of love, I think it is time for us reciprocate that love, for us to spread and transmit our love back to them, to the volunteers, to the legal teams, to all that have sacrificed.” – Patti Smith
This Tuesday, demonstrations of support for Julian Assange will take place across the globe, uniting people of diverse nationalities, political and cultural backgrounds in rallying for a cause that transcends ideology: the cause of Truth.
Some who support President Trump have also expressed frustration that the President hasn’t done more to free Assange, with figures in his administration actually amping up calls for the journalist’s arrest, as noted recently by Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson.
Disobedient Media recently spoke with Kevin Zeese co-Director of Popular Resistance and a board member of the Courage Foundation, CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou, and Ray McGovern, a veteran CIA analyst who co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). The group will be among speakers at a demonstration of solidarity for Assange in Washington DC this Tuesday at 11am in front of the Whitehouse gates.
Additional speakers at the D.C. demonstration of solidarity will include whistleblower and activist Marsha Coleman Adebayo, co-director of Popular Resistance and coordinator of its Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign Margaret Flowers, political activist and Code-Pink founder Medea Benjamin, journalist Lee Stranahan and activist Angel Fox, who organized the event with Kevin Zeese.
Angel told Disobedient Media: “The fight to free Assange is not about one man, but about free speech, human rights and government overreach. One man stood and fought the corruption and he is paying for his integrity and courage. Every single supporter is important and makes a difference with their contributions.”
Information on the plethora of other events and demonstrations of solidarity will follow at the end of this article.
Disobedient Media asked Kevin Zeese, John Kiriakou and Ray McGovern to relate how they became aware of WikiLeaks and eventually supporters of Julian Assange and the organization’s work.
Kevin Zeese related: ”The conflict over media dominance is a central issue today, i.e. democratized media for the people vs. concentrated corporate media for the elites. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are at the center of that conflict as they have empowered people to anonymously blow the whistle on big business interest and government. He is being persecuted and not supported by corporate media, even though they use the documents he publishes, because he is a threat to mass commercial media’s monopoly being challenged. The elites fear a narrative based on the truth of their corruption, theft and war. WikiLeaks has provided the truth.”
John Kiriakou told Disobedient Media: “I only became aware of WikiLeaks after Chelsea Manning made her revelations from Kuwait. I was working at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time and John Kerry called a meeting of senior staff to discuss the information release. I took the position that it was illegal to classify a crime, so the release of any information related to war crimes was automatically legal. I’m sorry to say that I stood alone that day.” [Emphasis added]
Ray McGovern explained: “I saw Julian Assange as an intrepid David in a struggle with a very powerful Goliath, with the odds against him unless he could depend on fellow journalists and justice people to do the right thing and support his quest to expose the truth. Julian Assange was dealing with the kind of documentary information that intelligence analysts, investigative reporters, detectives, positively lust after! Equally important, no one could show that he changed the documents at all. When you build a record of authenticity like that, you become hard to dismiss.”
“Indeed, a fascinating left-handed compliment for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks came in the Mother of All Intelligence Farce, the ICA of Jan. 6, 2017, in a key paragraph on page 3: “… Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”
Disobedient Media asked Kevin Zeese, and John Kiriakou for their thoughts on why it is critically important that the public show solidarity with Julian Assange at this time.
Kevin Zeese responded, saying: “We are in the midst of defining what freedom of speech and freedom of the press mean in the 21st Century. We are also defining the role of the Internet, will it be open and equal to all, allowing everyone access to information that in the past has been kept secret? The increased power of people in the media with every person capable of being their own media outlet reaching thousands of people through social media is a grave threat to the power structure.”
Zeese continued: “They have been able to put forward a false narrative, by saying they are fighting a humanitarian war when they are really violating human rights and killing hundreds of thousands, saying they are solving the healthcare crisis when they are really bailing out the insurance industry while 28,000 people die from preventable causes annually, claiming they are reducing the taxes of everyone when they are really giving massive tax cuts to the already super wealthy. These are a few examples of may where we are being misled and lied to. The people in power fear the truth coming out, which is why they fear Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and they work to silence them. WikiLeaks has never been caught publishing a lie. The criticism of WikiLeaks and their editor, Julian Assange, is they publish too much truth.”
John Kiriakou added: “It is critical that we stand with Julian Assange right now because there is literally no other person and no organization other than WikiLeaks that is as completely devoted to transparency. Media outlets can’t be trusted. They blow the identities of sources all the time. WikiLeaks is the only organization that can be trusted to protect identities and still get the information out.”
Disobedient Media asked Zeese, Kiriakou and McGovern to explain why June 19th is especially significant this year.
Zeese told this author: “Julian Assange went into the Ecuadorian Embassy six years ago to escape decades in prison for being a journalist. He had been able to continue his work as editor of WikiLeaks in the embassy but now the new conservative government in Ecuador has silenced him, preventing him from communicating with the world. It is time not only to allow him access to the Internet and visitors, but to end his persecution. The US government is the source of Assange’s problems. The Trump administration needs to say that they will not prosecute Julian Assange for being an editor of one of the most important news outlets in the world. Our job as advocates is to demand Julian Assange be freed and not threatened with prosecution. Our freedom to information in the 21st Century is under attack when Assange is threatened. We must demand we have the right to know the truth and that government must stop committing crimes in secret in our name.
John Kiriakou responded, saying: “The anniversary of Julian’s entry into the Ecuadorian Embassy is particularly significant this year because of the conditions in which he finds himself. He essentially is in solitary confinement. His physical and mental health is suffering. This is not a workable long-term solution.”
“There will be a rally in Washington DC on June 19 to show solidarity with Julian. It’s easy to not pay attention to an event like this. Washington has rallies every single day. But this is different. WikiLeaks does what it does for us. It does it for transparency and to keep governments honest. Without Julian Assange, there would be no WikiLeaks. And without WikiLeaks we wouldn’t have any idea what our government does in our name.”
Ray McGovern added: “They seem to be closing in on him; he has suffered enough. His confinement and restrictions are an international disgrace.”
Disobedient Media asked Ray McGovern to comment on the value of WikiLeaks in light of his decades of service as a member of the intelligence community.
Ray told this writer: “[WikiLeaks has]Superb value to society as a whole, which is malnourished, lacking accurate – especially documentary – evidence. There are a host of very important WikiLeaks revelations, most of them played down in the mainstream media. My very favorite is the State Dept cable from Moscow to Washington dated Feb. 1, 2008, in which Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warns “NYET MEANS NYET” on Ukraine. I have cited it often.”
“When there was a strong CNN effort to “prove” that JA was a terrorist and not a journalist, and CNN had had 18 or so talking heads alleging that, someone must have suggested they needed some balance, so they asked me on. They led my interview with clips of the most violent scenes of Bonnie and Clyde, placing JA in their company as a terrorist. I am very glad I had no idea until later that they had done that; I’m Irish, after all.”
McGovern observed the reality of the persecution of WikiLeaks for its effective journalism: “Again, wrongdoing revealed in documents the authenticity of which no serious person disputes. US and UK [are] thumbing their nose at the United Nations, just as they did 15 years ago in attacking Iraq. International law still deemed “quaint” and “obsolete” [Bush lawyer Alberto Gonzales].”
He added: “With 55 years in Washington, I have seen a lot of change. But by far the most important change is the reality that we no longer have, in any real sense, a free media. Worse still, the vast majority of our citizens have little to no experience with controlled media – unlike their Soviet counterparts of several decades ago (who knew how to read between the lines, and had samizdat).”
Kevin Zeese expressed his thoughts on how the public can help, if they cannot physically attend a solidarity event on the 19th, telling Disobedient Media: “People should use their social media networks to join the call to free Julian Assange. They have the power to communicate to thousands of people, including elected officials, the Department of Justice and the commercial media. People should say they support Julian Assange and that his persecution must end. If people raise their voices in a unified way to support Assange we will succeed in freeing him and stopping the threats of prosecution.”
John Kiriakou affirmed this advice, telling this author: “If you can’t make it to Washington on the 19th, show your solidarity on social media. Shout it out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Tell your friends. Educate people. It’s the only way to get the word out.”
Kevin Zeese described the value of the work WikiLeaks has done, in the interest of the public: “Most people know they cannot trust the commercial media. The credibility of corporate media is at record low levels. We have been mislead and lied to, too many times. Assange is an antidote to mass media misinformation. He is a lynchpin for helping to build a media of, by and for the people.”
“The attack on Assange is happening in the context of an attack on independent media, the use of algorithms by google and censorship on Facebook to undermine progressive, independent media. It is a time when net neutrality is being threatened so major corporations may soon be able to prevent people from going to websites they want to view. It is a time when the people in power are trying to retake control of the ability to communicate thereby allowing them to prevent a false narrative that undermines the growing movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as stopping imperialism and war.”
Zeese added: “We know from our work how WikiLeaks publishing documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive corporate trade agreement that was being negotiated in secret, helped us win the campaign to stop the TPP and prevent a corporate power grab. We know that WikiLeaks publishing documents about Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries was critical to the Arab Spring.”
“On issue after issue, we have seen how the truth about what is actually occurring has spurred people to challenge those in power. The people in power know this as well which is why they are silencing Assange and threatening him with decades in prison for letting the truth be known.”
John Kiriakou described the effects of the persecution of Assange: “The treatment of Julian Assange is an iron-fisted warning to any potential whistleblower. Governments hate when light is shone into the darkness. Governments hate transparency and truth-tellers. They will do anything to silence them. That’s why we have to fight back. We have to ensure that WikiLeaks can do its important work and that Julian Assange goes free.”
Kevin Zeese told this writer: “”The corporate mass media already has too much power as they tell the narrative of what is happening from the perspective of big business and government while preventing people hearing the stories about people fighting back against the corrupt status quo. The TPP is a good example. The US Trade Representative told the media that the reason they were negotiating it in secret was because if people knew what was in it they would oppose it and it would not become law. Is that how a democracy should work? That is anti-democracy to try and pass a massive corporate trade agreement in secret, negotiating it with the involvement of 600 massive corporations but keeping the public and even elected officials out of the process.”
”We need to turn media on its head. It is unacceptable that we are lied to, mislead and not told what our government and business interests are doing. The 21st Century could be a century to create a real democracy where an informed population participates in decision making. Without information, the people cannot participate in power. Ending the persecution of Julian Assange is central to that effort.”
Kevin Zeese also addressed the campaign of vilification launched against Assange, explaining: “The mass media and government have done a good job of character assassination on Julian Assange. He has been accused, but never even charged, with sexual assault. Three Swedish prosecutors refused to even investigate the case after interviewing the women and Assange, yet people think he is a rapist.”
“They have made sure that he is silenced so he can not tell his side of the story. With false and inadequate information the people will not organize to support him. Therefore, those of us who believe in freedom of the press, freedom of speech and equal access to information on the Internet must work doubly hard to build the mass support that is needed to free Julian Assange, that is why the actions on the 18th and 19th are so important. We urge people to participate and share information about what comes from those rallies in support of Assange. We need to show our unity in seeking to free Julian Assange.”
John Kiriakou expressed his hopes for the outcome of the worldwide demonstrations of solidarity for Assange, and particularly for the rally to be held in Washington DC: “I hope the Washington rally puts Julian and WikiLeaks back into the news, but in a positive light. The debate should be about the work WikiLeaks does. That’s what’s important here. People have to understand that WikiLeaks is performing a public service. Without it, it would be that much more difficult to expose waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality that our government commits.”
Vigils, Demonstrations and Rallies set to take place on and leading up to the 19th include but are not limited to the following list compiled and shared by Julian Assange’s support team via Twitter, and another list sourced from ClassConscious.org: In cities where multiple events are scheduled, both addresses are listed.
Melbourne: Tuesday, 19th June, 12pm-2pm, outside British Consulate: 90 Collins St, CBD
Perth: Adelaide Terrace, Perth, WA: 12-2pm.
Brisbane: 4-6pm: Ann Street Shrine of Remembrance, Ann Street, Brisbane City Centre (opposite Central Station).
Sydney: 9am – 1pm: British Consulate Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place
Dublin: 6-8pm: 29 Merrion Rd, Dublin 4, Ireland, March from the UK to US embassy,
Bern: US Embassy, Sulgeneckstrasse 19, 3007 Bern, Switzerland
London: Ecuadorian embassy, No. 3 Hans Crescent, Knightbridge Stn.
New Zealand: 12-4pm, US Embassy, 29 Fitzherbert Terrace Thorndon, Wellington 6011
India, Tamil Nadu: Siriperumbudur Bus Terminal, 5pm.
Sri Lanka, Columbo: City Center, Fort Railway Station 4pm
Los Angeles: 2-8pm: U.K. and Australia Consulates – Century City – 2029 Century Park East
Event page: June 19th, 2-8 PM, British Embassy, 3100 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington DC
Event Page: June 19th, 11 AM Lafayette Park opposite the Whitehouse.
New York City: 2pm- 8pm: UK Consulate, 845 Third Av, btwn 51st & 52d, Manhattan. Bring brollies & banners. Contact @beaucoupmorceau on Twitter
San Fransisco: 4-6 pm: 1 Sansome St, San Francisco, CA
San Diego: 2-8pm: 5880 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla, CA
& 2-8pm: Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado, San Diego, California 92101
Austin: Banners over Bridges, contact Kara on Twitter.
Phoenix: June 21: 5-6:30 pm: 2425 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ