by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:
When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonizes a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a “fraud,” “coward” and “enemy,” it puts all journalists on notice, or should. Pompeo’s next talking point, unsupported by fact, that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” is a dagger aimed at Americans’ constitutional right to receive honest information about their government. This accusation mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings…
Words matter, and I assume that Pompeo meant his when he said, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an embassy in London. He’s not a U.S. citizen.” As a legal matter, this statement is simply false. It underscores just how dangerous it is for an unelected official whose agency’s work is rooted in lying and misdirection to be the sole arbiter of the truth and the interpreter of the Constitution.
– From Julian Assange’s Washington Post opinion piece: The CIA Director Is Waging War on Truth-Tellers like WikiLeaks
What’s most unique about Mike Pompeo isn’t the fact he’s a terrible human being, it’s the fact he’s so transparent and shameless about it. This became crystal clear last April when I read the transcript of a speech he gave at UAE-funded think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
I covered Pompeo’s commentary in detail in the piece, The American Empire Under Donald Trump Has Become Increasingly Desperate, Dangerous & Insecure, but let’s revisit in case some of you missed it the first time around.
First, he falsely characterized Wikileaks as a hostile non-state intelligence agency (despite lauding it during the election), and then used this false categorization to launch an attack on the First Amendment.
So we face a crucial question: What can we do about this? What can and should CIA, the United States, and our allies do about the unprecedented challenge posed by these hostile non-state intelligence agencies?
While there is no quick fix—no foolproof cure—there are steps that we can take to undercut the danger. First, it is high time we called out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists. We know the danger that Assange and his not-so-merry band of brothers pose to democracies around the world. Ignorance or misplaced idealism is no longer an acceptable excuse for lionizing these demons.
Third, we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now…
Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong.
Pompeo went even further in the Q&A stating:
A little less Constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen. What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters doing good work to try to keep the American Government on us. These are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life.
That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity as I understand them. This is what I was getting to. We have had administrations before that have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish.
Glenn Greenwald responded to this assertion with the following:
Pompeo’s remarks deserve far greater scrutiny than this. To begin with, the notion that WikiLeaks has no free press rights because Assange is a foreigner is both wrong and dangerous. When I worked at the Guardian, my editors were all non-Americans. Would it therefore have been constitutionally permissible for the U.S. Government to shut down that paper and imprison its editors on the ground that they enjoy no constitutional protections? Obviously not. Moreover, what rational person would possibly be comfortable with having this determination – who is and is not a “real journalist” – made by the CIA?
Meanwhile, Pompeo spent a lot of his speech demonizing Julian Assange as someone who cozies up to dictators, saying stuff like the following.
We know this because Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today. Yes, they try unsuccessfully to cloak themselves and their actions in the language of liberty and privacy; in reality, however, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is clickbait; their moral compass, nonexistent. Their mission: personal self-aggrandizement through the destruction of Western values.
It’s takes some nerve for Pompeo to say that considering the following, via Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept:
So how could Mike Pompeo – fresh off embracing and honoring Saudi tyrants, standing in a building funded by the world’s most repressive regimes, headed by an agency that for decades supported despots and death squads – possibly maintain a straight face as he accuses others of “making common cause with dictators”? How does this oozing, glaring, obvious act of projection not immediately trigger fits of scornful laughter from U.S. journalists and policy makers?
The reason is because this is a central and long-standing propaganda tactic of the U.S. Government, aided by a media that largely ignores it. They predicate their foreign policy and projection of power on hugging, supporting and propping up the world’s worst tyrants, all while heralding themselves as defenders of freedom and democracy and castigating their enemies as the real supporters of dictators.
Try to find mainstream media accounts in the U.S. of Pompeo’s trip to Riyadh and bestowing a top CIA honor on a Saudi despot. It’s easy to find accounts of this episode in international outlets, but very difficult to find ones from CNN or the Washington Post. Or try to find instances where mainstream media figures point out what should be the unbearable irony of listening to the same U.S. Government officials accuse others of supporting dictators while nobody does more to prop up tyrants than themselves.
This is the dictatorship-embracing reality of the U.S. Government that remains largely hidden from its population. That’s why Donald Trump’s CIA Director – of all people – can stand in a dictator-funded think tank in the middle of Washington, having just recovered from his jet lag in flying to pay homage to Saudi tyrants, and vilify WikiLeaks and “its ilk” of “making common cause with dictators” – all without the U.S. media taking note of the intense inanity of it.