WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s sins are exposing war crimes and corruption

A historic episode in the struggle for freedom of information in the digital era has taken place with the detention in London of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition to the United States

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s sins are exposing war crimes and corruption
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen as he leaves a police station in London, Britain - Photo:Peter Nicholls/REUTERS
English 18/04/2019 13:18 Gabriel Moyssen Mexico City Actualizada 14:49
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A historic episode in the struggle for freedom of information in the digital era, with serious consequences on journalism’s future across the world, has taken place with the detention in London of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition to the United States, where he is wanted since his web site exposed heinous war crimes.

Beyond the untenable accusations of sex abuse against the Australian editor in Sweden, as well as the U.S. charges of conspiracy to steal government information, it is evident that the persecution of Assange started nine years ago after WikiLeaks published the Collateral Murder video, revealing a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed around 20 civilians, including two Reuters journalists.

This video was followed by the Afghanistan War Logs, a collection of 91,000 military documents published by The Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel which the U.S. newspaper described as “a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents.”

In the same vein, the disclosure of 391,832 U.S. Army field reports in the Iraq War Logs showed, according to The Guardian, that “U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers.”

For its part, the 251,287 diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department contained in the “Cablegate” shook world opinion and changed the way society thinks about foreign relations.

In Mexico, for instance, the scandal led to the resignation of Carlos Pascual as U.S. Ambassador in 2011.

In the communications classified as “secret” and “no foreign distribution”, Elissa G. Pitterle, Director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research/Office of Intelligence Operations (INR/OPS) highlighted that then-President Felipe Calderón and his administration were “under great stress from the drug war, economic collapse, and his party’s midterm election losses,” asking Pascual how these problems “are affecting his personality and management style and how that style is affecting the running of the government”.

Pascual, considered to be the first casualty of the WikiLeaks affair, criticized for his part Mexico’srisk-aversearmy and said it had turned a blind eye to U.S. intelligence leads on how to capture drug lords.

Another cable from Pascual’s deputy said Calderón struggled with lack of coordination on security issues and “spiraling rates of violence that have made him vulnerable to criticism that his anti-crime strategy has failed.”

Trade negotiations

The release of such important information could not go unpunished for the military and intelligence establishment as well as the influential former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was further discredited by The Gitmo Files on the incarceration of innocent people in the U.S. base of Guantanamo, and the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trade and Services Agreement, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, among other documents regarding U.S. and European interests.

In particular, Clinton was affected by the disclosure of her directive to spy on allies and the United Nations, while her presidential aspirations took a severe blow in 2016 with the leak of emails sent from or received by her campaign manager, John Podesta, including Clinton’s paid speeches to banks.

Fearing extradition to the U.S., Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he remained until April 11.

The end in 2017 of the leftist government of President Rafael Correa in Quito set the basis for his detention, since Correa’s successor and former vice-president, Lenín Moreno, made clear his intentions to align with Washington’s strategy in Latin America.

The turning over of Assange, stripped of his Ecuadorian citizenship granted two years ago, violated the 1951 Refugee Convention, which establishes that “no Contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any manner where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his membership of a particular political opinion,” yet it meant for Moreno an act of personal revenge.

Last month, WikiLeaks re-published the “INA papers,” implicating Moreno in a scheme in which the Chinese firm Sinohydro, which built a hydroelectric dam in Ecuador, deposited USD $18 million in payoffs in an offshore company, which in turn transferred the money to a set of ten shell companies that included INA Investments Corp., owned by Edwin Moreno, the president’s brother.

The company name was taken from the common syllable in the names of Moreno’s three daughters, Irina, Cristina, and Karina. The INA Investment funds were used for the purchase of an apartment in Spain, and a number of luxury items for Moreno and his family in Geneva, during his time as a special envoy on disability rights in the U.N.

Moreno, who discussed with the Trump administration handing over Assange in return for debt relief, is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. He was also among the attendees of the founding summit of Prosur, a new block of conservative South American nations meant to replace Unasur.

It is no surprise that in the same day of Assange’s detention by Scotland Yard, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a loan of USD $4.2 billion for Ecuador, including a three-year extended arrangement with the aim of “a wage bill realignment, a careful and gradual optimization of fuel subsidies and a tax reform”.

According to the IMF, Ecuador will report negative growth of -0.5% this year and of 0.2% in 2020. Earlier, Moreno, facing popularity of 17%, concluded deals with the IMF and the World Bank for USD $10 billion in exchange for austerity measures that have seen the axing of over 10,000 public-sector jobs.

In the meantime, Assange can expect his extradition to the U.S. After all, British Judge Michael Snow declared in his brief hearing that the advocate of information transparency is a “narcissistic personality.”

Once in U.S. custody, where his loyal friend and whistleblower Chelsea Manning is back in jail, refusing to testify against WikiLeaks, anything is possible, including charges under the Espionage Act that carry life in prison or the death penalty.

As Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said, “this precedent means that any journalist can be extradited to the U.S. for having published truthful information about the United States.”

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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