By Richard Phillips
11 December 2012
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has stepped up his exposure of the escalating US-led attacks on legal and democratic rights with a series of media appearances over the past few weeks to promote his book Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet. Co-authored with Jacob Applebaum, Jeremie Zimmermann and Andy Mueller-Maguhn, the book warns that state authorities and giant corporations are using the Internet to facilitate massive spying operations.
“The Internet,” Assange declares in the introduction, “has led to revolutions across the world but a crackdown is now in full swing. As whole societies move online, mass surveillance programs are being deployed globally. Our civilization has reached a crossroads.”
In line with the Obama administration’s campaign against WikiLeaks, most of the mainstream media has largely ignored the book. Others, such as the American television network CNN, have brushed aside the book’s themes while claiming that Assange’s principled defence of press freedom is hypocritical. CNN journalist Erin Burnett, who hosts the network’s prime time nightly news program—“Erin Burnett: OutFront”—attempted this approach in late November.
CNN producers assured Assange that the program would discuss Cypherpunks, but Burnett, who began her career as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs before moving into television journalism, had no intention of allowing the WikiLeaks founder to participate in any such discussion.
Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after he was granted political asylum by that country, in the wake of a British High Court decision to extradite him to Sweden on bogus sexual misconduct charges. The Australian citizen rightly fears that if he is sent to Sweden he will be extradited to the US to face frame-up espionage charges. A grand jury has already been convened in that country to indict him, while the American military has branded WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as “the enemy,” placing them on a legal par with Al Qaeda.
After an initial question about the book, CNN anchor Burnett provocatively asked Assange if he felt “any guilt” about the situation facing Bradley Manning, the young US soldier currently facing pretrial hearings for allegedly leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks.
Assange calmly replied that the brutal treatment being meted out to Manning was aimed at trying to coerce the young man into a confession that would directly implicate WikiLeaks. The case, he observed, was another “reflection of the decay in the rule of law.” Assange pointed out that the UN’s special rapporteur Juan Mendez had described Manning’s treatment as akin to torture.
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