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The Julian Assange Media Blackout Must End – Jacobin magazine



The Julian Assange Media Blackout Must End

Stunning revelations have emerged overseas about the reckless and duplicitous methods used by US law enforcement against Julian Assange. But in the US, the story has been subject to an almost total media blackout.

Protesters seen holding a banner at a Free Julian Assange protest at Grand Central Terminal in New York on July 8, 2021. (Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images)

A couple weeks back, the US government’s attempt to prosecute Julian Assange for publishing classified material was dealt a major blow. You probably didn’t even hear about it.

Two weeks ago, the Icelandic newspaper Stundin published a bombshell report revealing that Sigurdur Thordarson, a former WikiLeaks volunteer from Iceland whose testimony was key to the US case against Assange, admitted to fabricating accusations against Assange. Those accusations had been featured in the US indictment against the organization’s founder, and they were cited by the British judge who narrowly ruled against Assange’s extradition at the start of this year.

The crux of the situation is this: the indictment charges, among other things, that Assange instructed Thordarson “to commit computer intrusions” and secretly record high-ranking Icelandic officials, including members of parliament; that they tried to decrypt a “stolen” file from an Icelandic bank; that Assange tried to use “the unauthorized access given to him by a source” to make use of a government website that tracked police vehicles; and that he had ordered and encouraged Thordarson to set up a relationship with a hacking group, who would hack and illegally obtain documents to pass on to WikiLeaks. All of these claims, Thordarson has now admitted to Stundin, are either highly misleading or outright false, the paper reports.

But it gets much worse. Thordarson is a clinically diagnosed sociopath with a history of criminal activity, including stealing documents and embezzling funds from WikiLeaks itself, which he did shortly before contacting the FBI offering to be an informant on the organization. While he was collaborating with the FBI, Thordarson was racking up an impressive rap sheet, featuring fraud, forgeries, and serious sexual misconduct involving underage boys, landing him in prison for a time.

This didn’t stop the Trump administration, with its bias toward the national security state and hostility to press freedoms, from jumping at the chance to make an immunity deal with Thordarson in 2019, made in writing and viewed by Stundin.

According to the newspaper, in exchange for helping the US government build a case that Assange was a criminal rather than a news publisher worthy of First Amendment protections, the Trump Justice Department guaranteed Thordarson both immunity from prosecution over any of his law-breaking that they happened to know about, and that they wouldn’t share information with Icelandic or any other authorities about his criminal activities. As a result, states the report, Thordarson “started to fleece individuals and companies on a grander scale than ever,” including forging his lawyer’s signature for a fraudulent real estate scheme, criminal activity that was going on right up to the day the report was published.

It’s hard to know where to begin here. For one, it’s a vivid illustration of just how sordid Washington’s yearslong pursuit of Assange has been. To punish Assange for embarrassing the US government, successive administrations not only got in bed with a criminal, they effectively facilitated his crimes, which included forcing and tricking boys into sex. The fact that accusations of sexual misconduct against Assange proved central to the case for his extradition to the United States adds an extra layer of hypocrisy.

That’s far from the only one, though. As Stundin reports, when the FBI first tried to use Thordarson as an informant, under Barack Obama, they “took material he had gathered, including data he had stolen from WikiLeaks employees and even planned to send him to England with a wire.” In other words, they took stolen documents and planned to secretly record a group of people, the very things the US Justice Department has (in the latter case, falsely) accused Assange of doing while charging that it made him a vile criminal.

In fact, as Stundin points out, when the hackers Thordarson had been in touch with carried out a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack on several Icelandic government websites — thereby giving the FBI the pretext to enter Iceland and set up contact with Thordarson — one of those involved had already become an informant for the Bureau. That means that, before falsely accusing Assange of carrying out hacking operations against the Icelandic government, it’s likely the US government gave, at the very least, its blessing to an actual hacking operation against the Icelandic government.

It’s abundantly clear, from this report alone, that at no point in this saga did Washington have a genuine and principled opposition to any of the transgressions involved here, from hacking and stealing secrets to general criminality. Rather, it was all about punishing Assange for exposing US war crimes and the backroom dealings of the powerful, sending a message to any other whistleblowers or leakers who would try to do the same and, as a nice bonus, maybe scaring journalists and press outlets into thinking twice before reporting on such information.

All of this has become particularly relevant this week, with the UK courts agreeing to hear the US government’s appeal of the rejection of Assange’s extradition, as reported by Shadowproof. Happily piggybacking on Donald Trump’s seedy deal with Thordarson, the Biden administration has now offered several “assurances” in an effort to reverse the January decision, including that they would allow Assange to apply for transfer to a prison in his home country of Australia to serve out his time.

With Thordarson recanting on his allegations, however, this puts the Biden administration in a bit of an awkward position. Secretary of state Antony Blinken has previously acknowledged the danger to press freedoms from prosecuting Assange, noting quite accurately in 2017 that “if he is simply publishing information that happened to come his way . . . that doesn’t make him a whole heck of a lot different, perhaps, than the New York Times.” He had then added the caveat that “if, on the other hand, he is actually instructing people to try to steal classified information that he can publish, that might be different.”

No one should be under any illusion that Blinken or Joe Biden is actually concerned about press freedoms, of course, as the administration’s actions in the first six months in office plainly show — just with assuring liberal voters this presidency is different from Trump’s. But that’s a lot harder to do when a key part of the case that Assange wasn’t merely a publisher of official secrets, but a criminal directing global hacking operations, turns out to have been fabricated.

But there’s always a solution. As organizations like FAIR and Media Lens have documented, the establishment press — which, since the campaign period, have adopted a tone of unabashed cheerleading toward the new president that has been measurably more favorable than for Trump — has decided to simply ignore the story.

Nearly two weeks after the Stundin report came out, the only mainstream news outlet that’s so much as acknowledged its existence is the Washington Post, which on Thursday buried a brief reference to it halfway down a story on Biden’s magnanimous offer to let Assange rot in an Australian prison, playing down the story’s significance to the case. Of course, last year, before Thordarson had been discredited, the paper had devoted nearly eight hundred words to his falsified allegations when they were included in the Justice Department’s updated indictment, arguing that it “adds evidence to the government’s assertions that Assange is not a publisher or journalist but a hacker” and that it “seem[s] to strengthen the prosecution’s case.”

We will see how long Biden continues to pursue his extradition and whether it will prove successful, particularly in light of these recent revelations. But one thing’s for sure: however you might feel about his various alleged wrongdoings, it is hard to argue that Assange, who turned fifty last week in solitary confinement, hasn’t been sufficiently punished already.

Assange spent seven years locked in an embassy, unable to set foot outside, a far more extreme version of the pandemic lockdowns we were all forced to briefly endure and which sent rates of mental health problems soaring. Following that, since April 2019, Assange has been held in near-total isolation, with the UN special rapporteur on torture declaring that his “rights have been severely violated for more than a decade.” The prolonged solitary confinement left Assange unable to “think properly” and suicidal, ironically the chief reason given for denying his extradition.

This level of suffering should be enough to consider the matter closed, and the message sent to any other potential leaker of state secrets. The fact that this administration is continuing this wretched crusade speaks to the carceral sadism that has long been a bipartisan project in Washington, and which Joe Biden made his area of expertise for decades. Let’s hope it fails, for the sake of the very “decency” the establishment press loves to wax poetic about when it talks about this president.

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RCMP Southeast District media relations officer headed east – Cranbrook Daily Townsman – Cranbrook Townsman



After 15 years in B.C., RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey is headed east.

O’Donaghey has spent the last two years as the district advisory non-commissioned officer for media relations B.C. RCMP’s Southeast District. Before that, he served as the communications officer for the Kelowna Regional Detachment, following stints as a front-line officer in Kelowna and Lake Country. He began his policing career in Chilliwack with Fraser Valley Traffic Services.

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Now, he’s accepted a transfer to Newfoundland and Labrador, where his spouse was born and raised.

“I am absolutely thrilled for the opportunity to take her back home,” said O’Donaghey. “I am also overjoyed for the opportunity to work in such a gorgeous part of our country and raise my young family in a warm and welcoming province, well-known for having the some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.”

O’Donaghey was born in Calgary, Alta., but moved to Penticton at eight years old. He graduated from Pen-High.

“Jesse has been a valuable part of the BC RCMP Media Relations program,” says Dawn Roberts, director in charge of B.C. RCMP communications. “Representing the RCMP, talking about what we do, as well as being very engaged in community awareness and charity events is why we are going to miss him so much as he heads to the east coast.”


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BC residents taking more outdoor risks for social media glory – My PG Now



Securing that killer selfie or video for some social media glory comes at a cost according to BC Hydro.

According to its latest survey, 16% of British Columbians have stood at the edge of a cliff, while 12% knowingly disobeyed safety signage or trespassing.

Spokesperson, Dave Conway told Vista Radio the recent numbers ring true of an even more disturbing trend.

“We have seen over a five-year period a 200% increase in trespassing incidents over the last five years and about 2% or 80-thousand British Columbians admit to hurting themselves while trying to get a photo or a video.”

Cuts, falling, and spraining ankles are among the most common injuries followed by near-drownings and broken bones.

Those living in the north experience injuries the most at a rate of 4% while taking a photo or video while people in our region were most likely (19%) to trespass or ignore warning signs.

Conway also mentioned public interference with electrical infrastructure is quite risky.

“You do not need to touch the infrastructure to be electrocuted. You need to come within the area that the electricity can jump from the infrastructure itself into you and then down into the ground.”

However, the risks do not stop at selfies.

British Columbians also admit to staying in a park or recreation site after permitted hours (25%), getting too close to a wild animal (17%), cliff diving (15%), hiking in a or restricted area (13%), and swimming out of bounds or in a restricted area (12%).

Selfie-related deaths and injuries are on the rise globally.

Between 2011 and 2017, 259 people were reported killed worldwide in these types of incidents.

A link to the full report can be found here.

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Is Social Media Spreading Dangerous Covid-19 Delta Variant Misinformation? – Forbes



Throughout the pandemic, there have been memes on social media that questioned whether Covid-19 was real. Now across the platforms there are those who are even claiming that the delta variant was somehow caused by the vaccines. That’s not true of course, as the delta variant was first identified in India last October – two months before the first emergency-approved Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was even administered.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the delta variant is also just one of eight known variants of the virus. It has been in the spotlight because of its high transmission rate and its level of aggression.

On social media there are those that not only disregard the warnings from the WHO and Centers of Disease Control (CDC), but have used the platforms to spread contradictory information.

“Social media is not news,” warned William V. Pelfrey, Jr., Ph.D., professor in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Reputable news outlets have objective editors who review information quality before disseminating it,” added Pelfrey. “There are, unfortunately, some media elements that present as news but are instead politically motivated and distribute information that is not factual. They are usually easy to spot. Although the word ‘news’ may be in the title, they are in reality an echo chamber.”

Misinformation Spreads Like A Virus

Because of the continued divide in our country, it is easy to see how social media can help spread information, misinformation and even disinformation. Information sent by like-minded individuals, even if they aren’t friends, can be more trusted than what is seen or heard from the actual news outlets.

“Social media is different,” noted Pelfrey. “People post what interests them, posts that will draw attention – and secure distribution – and posts that make them feel good. The psychology behind this process is fascinating. When given a large enough platform, posts that make a person feel good can be very dangerous. If I have thousands of followers and post that ‘Covid-19 is over!,’ I am creating a serious public health risk, even if that post makes me feel less insecure about an uncertain world.”

The ability for social media to spread this sort of misinformation isn’t new, but the pandemic may have increased its ability to act as a megaphone.

“As a healthcare provider, I was already starting to see an increase in patients turning to social media before Covid-19 even started. Jokes about Dr. Google or Dr. Facebook were already taking place,” said Dr. Donna Gregory, senior lecturer within the School of Nursing at Regis College.

Previously it was more of an individual case-by-case basis, but with the outbreak of the pandemic last year, suddenly it seemed the masses took to social media for the latest source of information, even as health care experts knew very little about it.

“Unfortunately, with social media it can often be difficult to determine the original source and the credibility of that source,” added Gregory. “I often hear patients say, ‘Someone I know shared a post…,’ or ‘My friend posted that her friend…,’ regarding health information. Many of these posts generate fear and impact patient decision making but aren’t grounded in fact.”

Social media remains a great place to interact with others, especially during the shutdown that forced people to stay at home. It can also be a good place for academic discourse and information gathering, but it doesn’t take much for misinformation to be presented as fact.

“Disinformation can lead to fear, failure to follow guidelines, distrust of the medical community, and overall, we have seen it negatively impact the community response to this pandemic,” explained Gregory.

“In order to prevent the spread of disinformation and allow people to make decisions that are based on fact and expert opinion, people need to know how to be savvy consumers of social media,” she explained. “This includes being able to identify disinformation and know what sources are credible. This has been true since the start of the pandemic and continues to be true as we see changes, such as the emergence of the delta variant.”

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