HISTORY, THE ASSANGE HAPPENING: AN INTEWVIEW WITH NOZOMI HAYASE

October 4, 2020 – 5:40 am

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The powerful need to be held accountable for their actions. Whistleblowers need to be protected. Support Julian Assange. Interview conducted by John Kendall Hawkins.

Nozomi Hayase is the author of WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening [2018]. At her website, she describes herself:

Nozomi Hayase, PhD is a liberation psychologist whose writing and activism is dedicated to the empowerment of people. Through her journalistic work, she applies psychological lenses to social and political issues and engages the public in a search for truth, justice and fairness. She has been covering issues of free speech and government transparency, including the vital role of whistleblowers and cryptocurrencies in creating a more democratic society. With the conviction that the foundation of investigative journalism is compassionate curiosity, she strives to bring an inquiry that fosters dialogue, and encourages the honest witnessing of history.

The following is the result of a Zoom interview on September 24, 2020.

1. How are the extradition proceedings going?

First of all, Julian Assange’s US extradition case is the US government’s direct attack on the First Amendment. This is the first time where the Espionage Act is used to prosecute a publisher. If this would be successful it would threaten media freedom everywhere. What has been unfolding this month at the London court is a Kafkaesque show trial.

There have been problems with the abuse of justice. Julian has not been allowed to sit with his lawyers and he’s been placed behind a glass cage, as was the case during the hearing in February. NGOs and international political observers were denied remote access to the court on the first day of the hearing. This includes Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.

The judge has been micromanaging the proceedings, challenging the credentials of the defense’s expert witness and giving an unfair amount of time to prosecutors. With that said, I think Julian’s defense team has been doing extremely well. So far, witness testimonies have been very strong. But remember, this is a show trial. If this were a fair trial, where the judge has her own judicial authority, there’s no way that his US extradition request would be accepted.

So ending this political prosecution requires ordinary people to engage in political action. Consortium News and journalist Kevin Gosztola, managing editor of Shadowproof.com, along with Courage Foundation, the organization that defends rights of whistleblowers, have been giving updates on the hearing. So please follow their work and keep informed about this important case.

2. In your preface to WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate, you reference ‘illegitimate governance’, by which you seem to mean any ‘democracy’ out there that hides from the People what they need to know in order to pressure their representatives in Congress (or Parliament) to make corrective changes to improve their democracy. Can you say more about such ‘illegitimate governance’ and how it relates to Assange’s work?

Governments in modern democratic states require the consent of the governed. For people to give their consent to those who govern, they need to be informed about what their governments are doing. Illegitimate forms of governance are one that violates this principle. We can see it in oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where the governments can act like a dictator with draconian top down laws, coercing people’s will.

Author Nozomi Hayase: “Julian Assange through his work with WikiLeaks defended the public’s right to know. By publishing material that is verified to be authentic and is of public interest, WikiLeaks helped to keep the government honest and make it function on the principle of consent of the governed.”

In Western societies, where there is a notion of free press, governments don’t engage in outright violence. Instead they engage in secrecy and manipulation of public perception, as Noam Chomsky documents in his seminal book “The Engineering Consent”, which fits into this category. Assange through his work with WikiLeaks defended the public’s right to know. By publishing material that is verified to be authentic and is of public interest, WikiLeaks helped to keep the government honest and make it function on the principle of consent of the governed.

3. How does what you call ‘Revolutionary Journalism’ compare to good old adversarial journalism?

The role of journalism from the very beginning was to perform vital checks and balances of government power. The Founding Fathers had an inherent distrust of the government. Thomas Jefferson once noted that when he has to choose between the government and the newspaper he would choose the latter.

So the press was meant to be a watchdog. Sadly the media now has been infiltrated with commercial interests, failing to fulfill this role. Corporate media has become a stenographer to power. Instead of seeking the truth and challenge power, they lie and deceive the public.

When I say WikiLeaks is revolutionary, I am echoing the sentiment described by Orwell’s phrase, “in a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. When the western governments criticize WikiLeaks and create controversy, it actually is deflecting people from recognizing the failure of established media and their lack of commitment to the duty of a free press. What WikiLeaks does is not radical. It is in line with the US tradition of a free press.

4. In the ’60s, which I miss dearly, we had alternative media streams - the birth of FM radio, which activists listened to, as well as magazines like Ramparts, which gave long-read exposes of what The Man was up to. Can you compare Ramparts to WikiLeaks?

I don’t compare WikiLeaks to Ramparts. WikiLeaks invented scientific journalism, which was unprecedented. Just like scientists writing a scientific paper are required to provide all data that they used to form their conclusions, WikiLeaks publishes full archives (after going through rigorous harm minimization process, to redact information that brings imminent harm).

They provide a means for ordinary people to independently check the claims of journalists and this enables a mechanism of account for journalists. So, with WikiLeaks, the source of legitimacy that used to be placed in the ‘objectivity’ of journalists (that determine their editorial decisions) is now placed in the actual source documents. People don’t have to believe in journalists, they can independently check the validity of reporting on their own.

I say, WikiLeaks is Howard Zinn on steroids! Just like Zinn, who worked to restore the history of ordinary people, the whistleblowing site brought information back to the historical record. They provided a means for common people to claim their own history. By opening their archives, WikiLeaks freed people from a stolen history that repeats the abuses of the past. Leaked documents allow us to look at past events anew and restore perspectives that were oppressed and pushed to the margins.

“When I say WikiLeaks is revolutionary, I am echoing the sentiment described by Orwell’s phrase, ‘in a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act’.”

5. Different cultures have different ideas of what freedom of expression should look like - China, India, Japan, the US, France - but Americans, their act of freedom of expression came out of a revolutionary rejection of Britain. Their initial expression to the British was their freedom.

I think the US First Amendment was truly a major milestone in securing individual liberty, but it has shown to be not sufficiently fascist-proof. It has been compromised through economic censorship, now increasingly carried on by giant tech companies, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, censoring and deplatforming anyone who challenges the status quo.

American people believe that they live in a democracy and a free society. In fact, they often compare their free speech right with oppressive regimes like China and Russia that don’t have that protection. But what we have here in the US is a façade of democracy and the illusion of freedom.

While Americans live under this illusion, people in China know that their government engages in propaganda, and they are not getting accurate information. So at the end of the day, what we have is the same. We all don’t have the right to free speech and we are controlled. The difference is just whether it is done overtly or done subversively. It is a choice between Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

6. Little bit of both these days, wouldn’t you say? Orwell and the opioid crisis being the soma of the people.

Yes, a little bit of both. As I see it though, the US is moving more toward a China model of technocratic control like the Social Credit System implemented in Hong Kong. It is a very insidious way to regulate human behavior, by rewarding what the state considers to be ‘good act” and economically punishing actions that are deemed inappropriate or bad. This is a total Orwellian dystopia, where the autonomy of humans is eradicated.

7. There are different kinds of whistleblowers. One can do great good, but still be motivated by venial desires. FBI assistant director, Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, was very helpful in bringing down Nixon. But only because he was pissed off for being overlooked by Nixon for promotion to director after Hoover died. He was motivated by a kind of revenge porn. But also, you know, it means had he been made director, he would have sat on that criminal information. Woodward and Bernstein turned him into a ‘hero’ but, really, he wasn’t. How would you compare someone like Deep Throat to the kinds of whistleblowers we need today?

The thing about whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden is that they identified themselves as citizens, as part of the public. Their interests are to defend the public’s right to know. Their act of releasing information was done in service to common people.

Whereas, insider ‘whistleblowers’ don’t always leak information out of a sense of duty to defend public interests. For me, what really determines someone’s act of whistleblowing is conscience. The highest law of the land, described in the words of Jefferson, ideals that inspired and united all people at the beginning of this country, is not codified into law yet.

“With WikiLeaks, the source of legitimacy that used to be placed in the ‘objectivity’ of journalists (that determine their editorial decisions) is now placed in the actual source documents. People don’t have to believe in journalists, they can independently check the validity of reporting on their own.”

It is inscribed in the heart of each person. To me conscience is a language of the heart that remembers our inherent obligation to one another. This tiny voice inside each of us reminds us when those ideals are violated and urge us to act to uphold those ideals. Manning and Snowden followed the voice of conscience and it is only through those acts of ordinary people the highest law of the land can be truly enforced.

8. How would you describe the greatest benefit Assange has gifted us as global citizens?

Even though WikiLeaks is a transnational journalistic organization, I see their work is very much tied to the impulse that came through the US during its Revolutionary War against Great Britain. This impulse was people’s aspiration toward individual liberty.

I think what happened at the time in the US was historically significant and its impact is not only for the US but also for the entire world. US independence from King George III set a new trajectory in history. It opened up a possibility to move away from monarchy and into creating a society based on the rule of law.

Thomas Jefferson, as a principal author of the Declaration of Independence, stated that “All men are created equal” and certain inalienable rights that we are all endowed with, such as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. Those words inspired people around the world, even to this day.

Of course as history has shown, our founding fathers were not perfect. They had their own hypocrisy and contradictions manifested in the genocide of Natives, enslavement of Blacks and suppression of women. But I would like to think that the signers of this document, 56 people who put their livelihood and lives on line to achieve America’s independence, believed in the ideals spelled out in the document. I would like to think those words were not lies. I see them as promises and that Jefferson aspired to create a society that lives up to the words that he has written.

WikiLeaks released documents that helped us see unaccountable power inside US history. The publication of the collateral murder video, the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and illegal torture at the Guantanamo Bay showed us how America has become a global empire, repeating its dark past of killing natives and destroying their culture, now under the name of fighting terrorism abroad in the oil-rich Middle East. We were able to see America’s own betrayal of its ideals and how this nation lost its own course.

Release of Vault 7, largest leak in CIA history, exposed that the CIA has become its own version of NSA, with its cyberwarfare and malicious hacking tools. It revealed how the republic has been turned into a national security state.

The sources of the WikiLeaks publication risked their personal liberty to inform people about this subversion of American ideals. Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond who allegedly provided to WikiLeaks documents from Stratfor, the private Texas-based global intelligence company, reminded us of ideals that founded the United States and how they are universal ideals that apply to everyone around the world.

Manning demonstrated this by transferring to WikiLeaks raw footage video that captured the US military strike in Iraq killing innocent civilians. Through her own act of conscience, she upheld the principle of equality and liberty for all people. She made it possible for those who were conjured into enemy combatants by the US military industrial complex to speak their side of the story.

“To me conscience is a language of the heart that remembers our inherent obligation to one another. This tiny voice inside each of us reminds us when those ideals are violated and urge us to act to uphold those ideals. Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden followed the voice of conscience and it is only through those acts of ordinary people the highest law of the land can be truly enforced.”

In her request for a presidential pardon, she made clear the motive of her action. She indicated how she is willing to serve her time knowing that one has to pay a heavy price to live in a free society and how she wishes to have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

So the gift that WikiLeaks brought to the world is to help ordinary people around the globe to engage in history, and to open society into a more democratic and free state. When we truly recognize the significance of WikiLeaks, we can see why Julian has been put into prison, tortured and politically persecuted.

We can understand why the former CIA director and Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service” and declared war against the whistleblowing site. We can understand why the CIA, via a Spanish security firm, spied on Julian and his privileged communication with his lawyers while he was inside the Ecuadorian embassy of London and as Julian’s defense evidence revealed, the intelligence agency plotted to poison him. I hope people then realize what is truly at stake with Julian’s extradition case and how we need to do whatever it takes to stop this.

9. I like your notion of the Contagion of courage. It seems really vital right now with regard to privacy. Do you agree with that and, if so, could you elaborate.

With the phrase contagion of courage, I am referring to the waves of whistleblowers that have emerged in recent years; how one person’s act of courage created a ripple effect for social change. For instance, Jeremy Hammond and Snowden both indicated how they were inspired by Manning’s act of conscience.

The principle of civil disobedience was put forward by an American transcendentalist and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. He believed this was a vital mechanism that enables a democracy, one that bridges between the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the constitution.

Thoreau’s idea taught us how the premise of equality and liberty expressed in America’s founding document can be made legally binding through each individual’s act of conscience, by refusing to obey certain unjust laws in order to uphold the higher moral laws.

>From Women’s suffrage, civil rights and free speech movements, ordinary people inside history have shown the power of We the People. They all risked their lives to engage in an act of civil disobedience in order to truly codify ideals in the Declaration of Independence into law.

Now, a new generation of the Internet is carrying on this past struggle for justice. As America increasingly moves away from its own original vision, we desperately need more people who are willing to act courageously to defend her spirit.

With this said, I need to now emphasize on the fact how those who engaged in civil disobedience have been attacked and broken down. The US government has been using the Espionage Act of 1917 to punish whistleblowers who performed a vital duty to hold power accountable.

Now, with Assange’s extradition case, the Trump administration is going after not just the source but also the journalist. The Espionage Act was created during WWI to prosecute spies and it prohibits public interest defense. Those who are tried under the Espionage Act are not allowed to talk about their motivations for their actions. We need to abolish this outdated law and end this illegal government prosecution of truth tellers.

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If you would like to express your support directly to Julian Assange, you can write to him at Belmarsh Prison. Use a pseudonym, if you feel uncomfortable with surveilling eyes. His address is:

Mr Julian Assange
Prisoner #: A9379AY
DOB: 3/7/71
HMP Belmarsh
Western Way
London SE28 0EB
UK

You can send a land letter to the above (include a name and address on back of envelope). Or, as I did, send a letter by way of email (which is then printed out and handed to him. They read everything anyway.) Here is a service that the Belmarsh site references themselves reference: emailaprisoner.com. (You can use a VPN and a pseudo.) Julian does answer some letters, and there’s even a site that shows what that looks like (click here). Get those hands out of wringing mode into writing mode.

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Note: John Kendall Hawkins is an American expat freelancer based in Australia. He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times. The above interview was posted at CounterPunch.

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