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Editorial: The US doesn’t want its crimes exposed – because they are still going on

VETERAN investigative reporter John Pilger is right to say that true journalism is the only crime on trial in the extradition hearing on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The US government wants Assange to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act.  

He is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.

A decade ago, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files about US activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

In opening the US case for extradition, James Lewis QC said that, by disseminating material in unredacted form, Assange had knowingly put human rights activists, dissidents, journalists and their families at risk of serious harm in states operated by oppressive regimes, including “individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations like al-Qaida.”

Lewis argued that “reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a licence to break ordinary criminal laws.”  

Yet what is the bigger crime? The blatant breaches of international law and human rights in the US-led invasions – with British support – of Afghanistan and Iraq, and what followed, or revealing the truth of what was going on?

WikiLeaks exposed:

• A video from an Apache helicopter gun-sight showing the shooting of more than a dozen Iraqis in Baghdad, including two journalists. As Chelsea Manning said: “The most alarming aspect of the video for me was the delight of bloodlust they [the pilots] appeared to have.”

• The Afghan War Diaries, a collection of over 75,000 documents that reveal information on unreported killings of hundreds of civilians by coalition forces, and the existence of an elite US-led death squad.

• The Iraq War Logs, exposing numerous cases of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqi police and soldiers, as well as proof of the US government’s involvement in the death and maiming of more than 200,000 people in Iraq.

• The Public Library of US Diplomacy, a collection over three million diplomatic cables from US consulates and embassies, exposing – among other things – that under the Obama administration the US conducted secret drone strikes in Yemen.

• The Guantanamo Bay Files, revealing that more than 150 Afghans and Pakistanis were held for years without charge in that prison camp.

In June 2016, a month before the US Democratic Party Convention enthroned secretary of state Hillary Clinton as presidential candidate, WikiLeaks published emails of her campaign manager John Podesta showing that by August 2014 Clinton knew that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing clandestine financial and logistical support to Isis and other radical Sunni groups in the Middle East.

And there is also “Tick Tock on Libya,” a Clinton email which makes clear her central role driving the destruction of Libya in 2011.  

As Pilger has noted, that resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of Isis in north Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis.

None of the war criminals, whether US military personnel or George W Bush, Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton, have yet been charged.  

Nor will they be, because the judicial systems in the US and Britain are designed to protect the interests of the ruling class and their representatives.

It is simply not possible to take at face value Lewis’s claim that Assange “is not charged with disclosure of embarrassing or awkward information that the government would rather not have disclosed.”  

The US administration does not want the sordid military and subversive dealings of its predecessors made public, because such activities are still going on.

Britain’s “special relationship” with the US, on which basis then home secretary Sajid Javid signed the extradition request, is actually a relationship of subservience and an attack on our own democracy.

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