So earlier today we learned about a system of directed government Internet trolling designed to destroy the reputation of and disrupt the activities of any targeted organization or individual without any judicial process or oversight.
Here are some examples of how these techniques and programs were used against Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
The Real News Network
(Note: Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange.)
One was that Julian Assange was put on a list called “Manhunting”. [incompr.] say it again: “Manhunting”. And normally on that NSA list there’s people who the NSA, and perhaps and presumably the U.S. government as well, suspects are al-Qaeda terrorists or something like that. This list also had, interestingly enough, Palestinians on it. But it also had Julian Assange on it.
Now, the list is made up of people the U.S. wants to locate, prosecute, and/or kill. In the case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, what they wanted to do was get WikiLeaks and Julian Assange prosecuted everywhere they could in the world. Again, this is 2010. This is right after WikiLeaks introduces what are called the Afghan war logs that indicated that thousands and thousands of civilians were killed in Afghanistan. Those war logs come out. Then the NSA documents come out that put Julian Assange on the “Manhunting” list.
And what the substance of it is is it says that we have to make an effort to get Julian Assange prosecuted everywhere in the world. And at that point they pointed to four, maybe five countries–the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the U.S., Iceland. Those are the countries that are going to go after him in. And, obviously, there are other countries added as they go along. But this just demonstrates how the U.S. in one set of the documents say, we want to get this journalist if we can.
The second set has this odd name called ANTICRISIS GIRL. Who knows what that means. This interestingly is not an NSA program. This is a program from GCHQ, which is the British intelligence company that’s the corresponding intelligence agency in the U.K. And this is really a nasty piece of business. What the slides show [snip] GCHQ has a system of tapping into fiber optics [snip] from Snowden got before. But this one, they say, we have the ability any time anyone makes a search on their computer for WikiLeaks to find either the website of WikiLeaks or anything else about WikiLeaks, we can find out what computer is making that search, know the IP address from that–that’s the, you know, unique address on every computer–and ultimately find out whose computer that is. That’s everybody in the world who look for WikiLeaks.
Then what they say: we also have the capacity to go onto the WikiLeaks website, or to look at that website, and everybody who visits the WikiLeaks websites, search or not, according to WikiLeaks.org, you visit the website, we have an ability to track their IP addresses. So here you have not just the U.S. intelligence going after WikiLeaks, the NSA, but you have GCHQ as well, and, in this second case, going after anybody who has even an interest in WikiLeaks, even if it’s an interest against WikiLeaks, everybody who looks at WikiLeaks.
And the third program, the third program is what we can call the “malicious foreign actor”. I’ll say that again: “malicious foreign actor”. And there’s a document in here in which the NSA goes to their counsel in the NSA–people in the NSA go to the general counsel and say to the general counsel, we’d like your opinion. We want to classify WikiLeaks as a, quote, malicious foreign actor. It’s a term of art, but it’s interestingly a term of art that none of us who work in this area legally, who look around, you know, try and sue, stop the NSA, have ever heard that term about.
What it apparently means is that the NSA can do the broadest surveillance on that target. In this case, it would be WikiLeaks. They admitted in this document they already had Anonymous targeted like that, and now they were going to go after WikiLeaks like that. We don’t know whether it was approved or not. I suspect, considering what’s been going on with WikiLeaks and considering the documents that came out from WikiLeaks after these programs have been put into place, which include the Afghan war logs, as well as Cablegate, which is what really got the United States, apparently, very angry, that that program has been implemented and that WikiLeaks is more likely than not classified as a “malicious foreign actor”.
So you have those three programs used against, we believe, as an effort to destroy, utterly destroy a publisher and journalism, and destroy not just them but to track, really, and get at all of their supporters and everybody who–anybody who has any interest in WikiLeaks–a very, very nasty piece of business. And what’s important about it is not just to show how the U.S. government, in cahoots with the U.K. government, or together–what I call them is two wings of the same surveillance bird, two wings of the same surveillance bird. That’s these two countries.
Assange: We’ve heard a lot in the propaganda pushed on this issue by Clapper and others in the U.S. national security complex that, of course, this pervasive surveillance is justified by the need to stop U.S.-stop terrorist attacks being conducted on the United States and its allies. But we’ve seen example after example come out over the last few months showing the National Security Agency and its partners, GCHQ, engaged in economic espionage.
And here we have an example where the type of espionage being engaged in is spying on a publisher-WikiLeaks, the publishing organization, and a publisher-me, personally. And the other material that came out in relation to GCHQ was from 2012, and that shows that GCHQ was spying on our service and our readers, so not just the publisher as an organization, not just the publisher as a person, but also the readers of a publisher. And that’s clearly, I believe, not something that the United States population agrees with, let alone other people.
Ratner: Well, what I was really shocked by was the extent the U.S. and U.K. have gone through to try and get and destroy WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and their network of supporters. I mean, it’s astounding. And it’s been going on for years. And it also, as Julian pointed out, tells us why he is in the Ecuadorean embassy and why Ecuador has given him asylum. He has every reason to heavily fear what would happen to him in this country, in the United States, if he were to be ever taken here. So I think, for me, that’s a very, very critical point, justifies every reason why Ecuador gave him asylum.
And the document you’re addressing, Amy, what they call the manhunt timeline, which is extraordinary because it groups him among, you know, a whole bunch of people who the U.S. considers terrorists, it also, interestingly, groups them-groups them among Palestinians, which is pretty interesting in itself. But to have Julian on that list as a manhunt timeline, and it says prosecute him wherever you can get him, is pretty extraordinary. It doesn’t say you necessarily need a good reason to prosecute him; it just says, basically, prosecute him. And what it’s reminiscent, to me, is of the program that took place in this country in the ’60s and the ’70s, COINTELPRO, counterintelligence procedures, when the FBI said, “We have to basically destroy the black civil rights movement, the New Left and others, and prosecute them, get them however you can, get rid of them.” And so, the manhunt timeline, even its name is chilling. But that’s what it is. It’s an effort to try and get WikiLeaks and their personnel, wherever they are in the world.
And, of course, we’ve seen some of that. You’ve had people on this show. When people cross borders who are associates with WikiLeaks, they get stopped. They get surveilled all the time. We’ve seen-we’ve seen efforts to take-to basically destroy WikiLeaks by stealing their laptops on a trip that went from Sweden to Germany. We’ve seen efforts across the board, in country after country. Germany, they surveil conferences when WikiLeaks people speak there, everywhere. So, actually, this program is not just an abstraction. This program has been implemented. And the manhunt timeline, I think, is incredibly significant, considering that the manhunt is an effort to locate, find and destroy-in some cases, kill-kill people.