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New York Times is on the scent of another Russian agent… Julian Assange

on 13 Comments

There are some unasked questions that stare back at a reader of yesterday’s long and factually undernourished New York Times article on the probable or possible material or sentimental links between Julian Assange and the interests of the Russian state.

Four times (including a subsidiary related article) we are offered a version of “US intelligence officials assert.” The unnamed officials assert that they know that certain Wikileaks documents, which reflect badly on the US and on Hillary Clinton, came from Russian spies. The story contains not a word about the basis for this assertion except the all-purpose confidence-building phrase “high confidence.” People who know more about hacking than Steven Erlanger and his co-authors have asserted we possess no reasonably sure way of tracing the source of such leaks

The story builds up Edward Snowden as an honest critic of Russia, quite different from Assange in that regard, but a certain opportunism mars the double portrait. One can’t help recalling that the Times attitude toward Snowden and other whistleblowers has been complicated and by no means consistently friendly or courageous.

Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than four years, with considerable damage to his health. The article alludes to the determination by Hillary Clinton to take “aggressive” steps to punish him for the release of the Cablegate documents, which were humiliating to her State Department. It notes, soon after her vow, the announcement that the DOJ was launching an investigation of Wikileaks — and soon after that, the arrest of Assange by London police. These occurrences are mentioned in successive paragraphs but no connection is drawn. Did Mrs. Clinton make good her vow by exerting her influence to launch a grand jury investigation of Assange in the US and secure his arrest in London?

When explaining the reasons for Snowden’s decision to travel to Moscow, the article omits a relevant fact: the forced landing in Vienna, on July 1, 2013, of the plane carrying President Evo Morales of Bolivia. This extraordinary action was ordered by the president, Barack Obama, and his attorney general, Eric Holder, because they suspected that Snowden was on the plane. Assange believes that the US, given the chance, would hunt him down just as relentlessly. Is that an irrational belief?

David Bromwich

David Bromwich's latest book is "American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us." He teaches literature at Yale and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has written on politics and culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.

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13 Responses

  1. Keith on September 2, 2016, 7:29 pm

    As the empire becomes more and more totalitarian, providing the truth and exposing the lies becomes more and more dangerous.

  2. DaBakr on September 2, 2016, 10:40 pm

    irrational? i would imagine somebodies intelligence service-be it CIA, MI-5/6 or others would have had ample opportunity to infiltrate the security of the ecudoran embassy in london. that assange ( a self-serving narcissist whose is often at odds with the most senior members of wikileaks by making the claim that he “is” wikileaks) has not been harmed anymore then his confinement and continues to refuse to appear for legitimate charges of sexual assault in sweden makes the authors conspiracy seem a little weak.

    As for the US press portraying Snowden as ‘highly critical’ of russia and putin? that depends on what press outlet one reads. i for one am not convinced that snowdon has not had to make a faustian deal with putin in order to avoid a much worse fate. one look at how RT tv is produced and presented and its no surprise that snowden is given some leeway to present critical views of russia as long as the us and the west ar his primary focus.

    • CigarGod on September 4, 2016, 9:58 am

      Another “factually undernourished” reply from DaBakr.
      I don’t know how you survive on such a thin gruel of imagination, speculation and conspiracy theory. Must be the little lump unsavory sex you throw into the pot that sustains you.

  3. tommy on September 3, 2016, 12:11 pm

    The American belief in anti-Russian propaganda is being used to disparage patriots and heroes, as well as prepare Americans for larger conflicts against the few nations with the ability to oppose America’s imperial expansion.

    • chet on September 4, 2016, 9:09 pm

      With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO needed a reason to continue to exist and the US/MIC needed an “enemy” to justify the the monstrously huge military budget. Today’s Russia evolved into that enemy.

      While Yeltsin was in power and allowing the rape of the post-Soviet economy, there was no criticism of Russia or the Russian leadership. However, when Putin came into power and began reclaiming Russian assets and curtailing, and then prosecuting, oligarchs, the US Govt. and then its lackey media began a relentless campaign to demonize Russia. The propaganda machine sold the Russian resistance to the US-inspired attack on South Ossetia as “Russian aggression” and thereby firmly established it as an aggressive enemy that justified NATO’s existence and allowed even more defense spending. The demonizing reached a high point when the US-sponsored (5 Billion Dollars spent!) coup of the democratically-elected Ukrainian govt was eventually sold as Russian aggression while the media almost completely ignored the US/NATO plan to have its Ukrainian vassals force the Russians out of their Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol — the US knew that the prospect of a US/NATO base there would force Russia’s hand.

      With US military bases having encircled China and the aggressive US military actions in the South China Sea, the lapdog media have determined that China is an “enemy” as well.

  4. Sulphurdunn on September 4, 2016, 12:37 pm

    Irrational? It would be irrational to believe that should Assange fall into our hands that he might still be competent to aid in his own defense at trial after several years of solitary confinement and interrogation in a military brig or stockade.

  5. Kathleen on September 6, 2016, 8:54 pm

    No matter how many times I witness the msm flip what should be the focus of an issue to whatever they so choose I am always stunned that the masses fall for it. For instance the wikileaks release of DNC emails confirming the DNC had “rigged the system” for Clinton now it totally focused on the “Russians are coming” the Russians are influencing our election.

    The DNC “rigged system” issue was really never picked up by anyone at MSNBC etc. Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews so sold out.


  6. Rashers2 on September 7, 2016, 2:10 pm

    The key point which appears from this article is that the MSM has sold out beyond the point of no return to the globalist interests of the MIC and their chosen cyphers such as the war-mongering Clinton. THAT is why there is no meaningful coverage of the rigging of the Democratic primaries which it appears Sen. Sanders would’ve won convincingly, absent voting irregularities; THAT is why there is virtually no coverage but rather – it appears – active censorship of the mounting and entirely legitimate concerns over La Clinton’s mental and physical capacity; THAT is why Russia is able now to be cast conveniently as the “new, old” demon, wholly responsible for everything from Wikileaks’ revelations to the situation in Ukraine and – however implausibly – to having an invisible hand up the Trump campaign’s backside… It is why no-one in the MSM or the political establishment seems to give a rat’s a*se about the message emerging from the Wikileaks’ and others’ revelations; but are Hell-bent instead on shooting, metaphorically or literally, the suspected messengers (some, it seems, have already bitten the dust – R. I. P., Seth Rich). I worry for the safety of Julian Assange and others, whose names we don’t know.

    In a “normal”, democratic society, people who rig elections commit fraud and, if they are caught, they are prosecuted and punished. In a “normal”, democratic society, Rep. Wasserman-Schultz and her senior cohorts would be on their way to a trial and, probably, to prison for their rôles in subverting the electoral process; and quite possibly also facing crippling class actions for $ tens of millions by representatives of those many electors who contributed to Sanders’ campaign only to see their contributions – and, indeed, Sanders’ campaign itself – vitiated by the illegal behaviour of the Clinton lobby within the Democratic party.

    In a “normal” democratic society, the mere appearance of “pay-for-play” corruption giving privileged access to La Clinton (and more) for Clinton Foundation donors whilst she was in office would permanently disqualify her from running for any public office. The MSM should be all over these revelations – released not by “Russian hackers” but by the FBI – like a cheap suit.

    Not being by nature a conspiracy theorist, I haven’t paid much attention to those who peddle such theories or to their output; over the past months, however, as scandal after criminal scandal has been exposed and then wilfully ignored or given minimal importance by the MSM, I’m beginning to wonder about whose agenda is being promoted and why. I’m an apologist neither for Vladimir Putin nor Donald Trump but Putin has publicly said to the Western press that he is at his wits’ end how to communicate to the political establishment in Washington and elsewhere in the NATO alliance that they are pursuing policies with regard to isolating and militarily surrounding Russia, which will soon force Russia in its own self-interest to react violently. Putin’s frustration stems from the MSM’s refusal even to write about the current Russian diplomatic impasse, which poses one of the gravest threats to international stability since WWII; they merely join in the establishment’s now-popular game of blaming on nefarious, Russian plots everything from e-mail leaks to the price of bread. When the media won’t discuss something, the public isn’t aware of it and is thus unable to form an opinion; if the public has no opinion it cannot call its politicians to account, thereby – perhaps – prompting greater diplomatic efforts to find peaceable solutions.

    As a gay man with a non-white partner and a liberal, graduate education, I would, if American, hardly be a natural Trump constituent. When Trump entered the presidential race and even after he had won the Republican nomination, I couldn’t have imagined my present position on the US general election, which is that America absolutely MUST elect him to office; and by a margin large enough to defy any attempted vote-rigging in favour of La Clinton. The reasons I believe that Trump to be the only sane option are a) that a Trump presidency would disrupt the established political order in the US and (because of the lessons a Trump victory would carry with it for many Europeans) Europe for at least a generation, thereby challenging and causing to be re-evaluated that same establishment’s distorted view of the rest of the world and its behaviour towards it. By doing this it could, if not save the world, save millions of lives; and b) a Trump presidency could also restore the accountability for the actions of those in high executive office to their electorates: a President Trump’s slightest, least consequential action would be subjected to the most rigorous and critical analysis and scrutiny by the media and by a watching public all over the world; a scrutiny that has all-but-disappeared over the past 25-plus years.

    • Raphael on September 7, 2016, 8:30 pm

      People with money, generally, only join clubs with people that also have money. The poor need not apply. I’m not voting for Clinton or Trump. I think Trump will win easily, though.

      With Clinton, the incompetence is masked. At least with Trump he tells people to their face how he feels. But, if you expect a world changing presidency in Trump… it is not likely to happen, unless he when elected did literally absolutely nothing at all…which might perhaps change things.

      Because his groupies need a leader; and if they have no leader to idolize; they would go nuts.

      I much more respect a person like Trump to tell me to my face how they feel, regardless, if I like his opinion or not, then a person that hides there feelings, or true thoughts about something.

      • Mooser on September 7, 2016, 9:37 pm

        C’mon “Raphael” this is getting embarrassing. Like finding a teenager’s diary and looking into it.

      • amigo on September 8, 2016, 4:45 pm

        “C’mon “Raphael” this is getting embarrassing. Like finding a teenager’s diary and looking into it. ” mooser

        Not if the teenager leaves the diary lying open on a desk .

  7. Mooser on September 8, 2016, 4:55 pm

    “Not if the teenager leaves the diary lying open on a desk .”

    In that case, simply avert your eyes at the first sight of an “i” dotted with a smiley-face.

  8. Citizen on September 15, 2016, 8:27 am

    As “Snowden” opens, three largest rights groups in U.S. call on Obama for a pardon by @AlexanderEmmons

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