RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Simpich writes: "What we are facing is an all-out assault against one of the most significant acts of civil resistance in the history of the United States. Specifically, the civil resistance of Chelsea Manning, her whistleblowing that helped end the US combat role in Iraq in 2011, and the courage of Julian Assange in ensuring that Manning's resistance was effective."

A screengrab from 'Collateral Murder' video of a 2007 attack in Baghdad, released by WikiLeaks. (photo: WikiLeaks)
A screengrab from 'Collateral Murder' video of a 2007 attack in Baghdad, released by WikiLeaks. (photo: WikiLeaks)

The Julian Assange Case: Revealing War Crimes Is Not a Crime

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

12 April 19


he US government’s case against Julian Assange is now before the American public. It was revamped in 2017 to avoid a skirmish with the corporate media over the breadth of the “reporter’s privilege” to receive classified materials from a source. Assange is facing a charge of conspiracy with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to “break a password” to gain access to classified information.

What we are facing is an all-out assault against one of the most significant acts of civil resistance in the history of the United States. Specifically, the civil resistance of Chelsea Manning, her whistleblowing that helped end the US combat role in Iraq in 2011, and the courage of Julian Assange in ensuring that Manning’s resistance was effective.

The daily leaks to the media from the “reliable sources” inside the Trump administration are portrayed as a rational tool used to prevent the president and other high officials from abusing their power. These Washington journalists are rewarded with the sign of the dollar.

The all-too-infrequent leaks to the media about US government war crimes are portrayed as criminal conduct. Assange and his journalist colleagues are rewarded with attacks on their integrity and threats to their freedom.

This hypocrisy must end. American citizens and civil society must lead the effort to provide a whistleblower defense in military cases – and, for that matter, in every case that involves the release of classified material or that abused term “national security.”

To end this hypocrisy, it will ultimately take a statute that will somehow make it through Congress. Only then will Edward Snowden be willing to come home and have a fair trial.

A practical first step is a call to the European Court of Human Rights to bar the extradition of Assange. Without a whistleblower defense protected by law, the courts of the United States are unable to provide Assange with a fair trial.

Until this hypocrisy ends, we are all complicit.

Nine years ago, Julian Assange collaborated with Chelsea Manning with a sweeping set of revelations depicting US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the factual background underlying these events.

After many years, a horrified American public saw in April 2010 a graphic video of hardened soldiers gloating about “dead bastards“ while innocent Iraqi civilians died in an Apache helicopter assault.

A 22-minute documentary based on this footage was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award. Ethan McCord, an Army specialist, picked up a wounded child and ran to a US military vehicle. His superiors refused to take the child to a US military hospital, and McCord was reprimanded for his response. When McCord sought psychological assistance, he was told by his staff sergeant to “get the sand out of your vagina.

McCord and fellow Army specialist Josh Stieber wrote a public apology to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, emphasizing that the Wikileaks footage depicted not an aberration, but “everyday occurrences” in Iraq. McCord’s address to a 2010 antiwar conference can be seen here in a YouTube clip.

Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber offer an example of the nation that we could be.

What Wikileaks entitled the “Collateral Murder” video helped bring the US phase of the Iraq war to an end in 2011.

Chelsea Manning admitted releasing this video and a trove of related classified material. She said at her trial that she did it to spark public debate on US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scott Galindez and I covered the Manning trial on behalf of Reader Supported News for many days in 2013. It was clear that the prosecution was obsessed with any way they could find an angle to attack Julian Assange for working with Manning.

Army investigator David Shaver testified to the jury that an unknown user unsuccessfully attempted to reverse engineer a password. Mark Johnson, an expert witness, testified that of the purported Manning-Assange conversations he had heard, none of them contained solicitations for files. None of us at the trial thought they had anything substantive on Assange – but it certainly wasn’t for want of trying.

Private Manning was denied the right to present a whistleblower defense to the jury – the right to argue that one’s actions were justified in order to expose war crimes. The outcome was predictable. Manning was sentenced to 35 years, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge. They even demoted Manning from Private First Class to Private.

The next day, Manning publicly announced her intention to be identified as a woman. She launched a pathbreaking battle to force the military to honor her rights as a transgender woman while behind bars. She continued to win the respect of people throughout the world.

World opinion makes a difference. Just before he left office in 2017, President Obama commuted her sentence. Manning has continued to inspire people in the years since – and especially in the last month, when she returned to prison rather than testify against Julian Assange to a federal grand jury.

Keep in mind that Manning has answered thousands of questions about Assange – every conceivable question has already been asked.

Manning refused to testify to the grand jury precisely because criminal grand juries are tools of repression – and are not used by any civilized country other than the United States and Liberia.

In particular, grand juries are routinely used to harass dissidents. The primary approach is to force dissidents to testify against one another and weaken their political movements. No attorney is allowed to stand in the hearing room with the client. The purpose is to sow division and discord.

Chelsea Manning refused to comply for these principled reasons, and she will almost certainly remain in jail until the end of the Assange grand jury’s term.

It should be said that a review of the indictment – issued in late 2017 as the statute of limitations was running out – indicates the possible weakness of the conspiracy case against Assange. The key language cited to support the conspiracy: “Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’”

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume a robust conspiracy. A situation where Assange actively encouraged Manning to provide additional files. For that matter, let’s also assume that Assange assisted Manning to reverse-engineer a password to obtain the material.

Taking measured actions to bring the truth to light is what whistleblowers do. Whether these actions were reasonable is the role of the jury to decide.

The real question is: Will Assange be allowed to use a whistleblower defense to the jury in order to justify his actions? Will Ethan McCord be allowed to testify? Or the child that he helped save?

The real answer is: No. The European Court of Human Rights should step in and halt Assange’s extradition. The government doesn’t want a fair fight. In a fair fight, the government will lose.

Email This Page

Bill Simpich is an Oakland attorney who knows that it doesn't have to be like this. He was part of the legal team chosen by Public Justice as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 for winning a jury verdict of 4.4 million in Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+40 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-12 12:47
This is an excellent article. It frames the problem very well. Whistleblowers are protected when they expose fraud, waste, crimes and abuse in government. Manning did exactly that. Assange published the materials exactly as the NYT and others would have done and did so with the Pentagon Papers.

"Revealing War Crimes Is Not a Crime." John Kiriakou has written often that the law says revealing torture is not a crime and that torture is a crime. But in practice he went to jail for revealing CIA torture and none of the CIA officers who did the torture ever were indicted or prosecuted. In fact, one of them Jina Haspel was promoted by Trump to be the director of the CIA.

Law enforcement in the US is totally backward. The real criminals walk free and are rewarded, while those who report the crimes are imprisoned.

Last night, Hillary was on TV saying "Assange must answer for what he has done." Well, what has he done? He has given Americans information they both need and have a right to. When will Hillary answer for what she has done -- in Libya, Hondouras, Haiti, or with her office as Sec. of State? How many deaths is Hillary responsible for? How many is Assange responsible for?

It can and should be different but it will take a massive strike by the US population. Just stop being complicit with the criminal regime in Washington. Civil disobedience to all federal laws, don't pay taxes, don't lend any legitimacy to the criminal regime in Washington .
+24 # Anne Frank 2019-04-12 14:05
Revealing war crimes is not a crime, but embarrassing the ruling military dictatorship is.
-13 # logical1 2019-04-12 14:47
Amazing, how screwed up our government has become. Obama let Chelsea Manning off and out of prison, but would not let Edward Snowden off for revealing information that the public should know.
We put these soldiers in a place where we should not be. Where governments operate without humanity, and expect soldiers to be humane and decent.
Nonetheless, it seems Assange is scum. He is willing to assist Russians in interfering with our elections for his news business.
I am pro freedom of the press, but not for using a news media for personal expression of ideologies under the guise of "news".
+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-13 05:58
logic -- "He [Assange] is willing to assist Russians in interfering with our elections for his news business."

What is your basis for saying this. It is just not true. Assange has never worked with Russians. In fact, Wikileaks has published many leaked documents from Russia, embarrassing government and corporate leaders there.

You are only citing US elite media and the Mueller Probers. They are lying to you. Be careful about what you believe.
+17 # Salus Populi 2019-04-12 16:47
Assange, in order to ensure greater coverage of the evidence of criminality -- and arguably even crimes against humanity -- gave the material to El Pais in Spain, Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel in Germany, the Guardian in the UK, and the New York Times. The Guardian, while having over the years published many smears of Assange, has now come out strongly and forthrightly against extradition to the U.S., making the point more strongly by putting it in the headline of the editorial. The New York Times, in the meantime, judiciously ponders whether putting Assange away may lead to further attacks on institutions of journalism such as itself. Its reluctance to defend Assange, the greatest investigative journalist of our era, is palpable.

Our local paper, the Albuquerque Journal, has as far as I know not even commented on the case, and it would scarcely be surprising if this were true of most other regional and local papers.

Meanwhile, in the early edition of Google's news wrap up, it featured five stories that slimed Asssance [CNN, the Chicago Tribune, and a couple of others], and one, from USA Today, that more or less defended him. By the time I next looked at the list, the USA article was no longer there, and its place taken by an article quoting Hellspawn Hillary as Simpich notes above.

If your local paper has not both covered the outrageous charges and the threatened extradition and editorialized against it, it is up to us to do so, and to spread the word.
+6 # Tina Will 2019-04-13 01:36
Under what law did Moreno authorize British police to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy—diploma tically sanctioned sovereign territory—to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador? Under what law did Prime Minister Theresa May order the British police to grab Assange, who has never committed a crime? Under what law did President Donald Trump demand the extradition of Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen and whose news organization is not based in the United States?
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-04-13 08:39
Is there not a legal principle that there is not fault in the commission of a minor crime in order to prevent a greater crime? That should assuredly apply in these cases. & to deny the Whistleblower defence is a very peculiar argument indeed.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.