US Government Campaign Against Whistleblowers and Electronic Robin Hoods

  November 19, 2012

US Government Campaign Against Whistleblowers and Electronic Robin Hoods

Michael Ratner: Alleged hacktivist accused of leaking Stratfor files awaits trial; Manning lawyers say charges should be dropped as he was tortured
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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. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America, and Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.

NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.


US Government Campaign Against Whistleblowers and Electronic Robin HoodsJESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Now, this is the time that we would like to have Michael Ratner join us for The Michael Ratner Report. Michael Ratner is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He's also a board member for The Real News Network. Thank you for joining us, Michael.


DESVARIEUX: So, Michael, what do you have for us this week?

RATNER: Well, I know it's been a busy week for the country, for the world, and for Real News. I mean, as we speak, of course, the Gaza bombing is continuing. General Petraeus has resigned. I know you've covered a lot of that.

Today I want to talk about three interrelated cases. They have to do with hacking, with journalism, with publishers, with whistleblowers.

Your viewers are going to be familiar with two of those cases, but the third one is one I want to focus on. He's known as the "Electronic Robin Hood". He's a 28-year-old man. He's currently in federal prison here in New York. His name is Jeremy Hammond. Now, if that name isn't familiar with people, it ought to be. In my view, this Jeremy Hammond is a very important whistleblower and should be a hero to many.

I hope people have heard of the Stratfor emails. The Stratfor emails are the emails of a private intelligence company that was doing spying on everything from activists who were opposed to Dow Chemical and what happened at Bopal, spying on actually even activist groups like Anonymous, which allegedly Jeremy Hammond was part of, groups like PETA, the people for the ethical treatment of animals, doing all kinds of surveillance for private companies and for governments, doing the surveillance for the Israeli army, the U.S. CIA, etc. Big company.

They were hacked a couple of years ago by a group, apparently a group called Anonymous. The documents were then uploaded to WikiLeaks, which is the client that I represent, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And so what—Jeremy Hammond was the person ultimately arrested for supposedly leading or partaking in this hack of Stratfor.

The way he was caught was through an informant. Perhaps your viewers have heard of that person. His name is Sabu, S-A-B-U. He eventually joined the government [inaud.] and eventually, according to the government's theory, or statements and indictment, disclosed that Jeremy Hammond was one of the hackers who got a hold of the Anonymous—who was part of Anonymous and got a hold of the—helped in the Stratfor documents.

Now, the Stratfor documents were very important. Of course, one of them even refers—actually, not one of them, but 2,000 of them refer to my client Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. In addition, they talk about there being a sealed indictment against Julian Assange in the United States for espionage.

Jeremy Hammond, who as I said is not well known, is in prison at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. And the reason I'm talking about his case today is that on Monday, November 19, he's applying for bail so that he can be released from prison, pending the trial in his case.

Now, there is an indictment against him. He could, according to that indictment, do many years in prison—20, 30, maybe even more. Hopefully, that will not happen. Hopefully, he will be treated as the important—assuming he did this, as the important whistleblower that he is. The bail application is important because he's under very severe restrictions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

There's 150,000 or more documents the government has given to the defense as part of their discovery process, and Jeremy Hammond, even though he is the defendant in the case, is not allowed to look through those documents without an attorney being present. And the attorneys estimate that it'll take two years to go through those documents with him in his prison cell. And so they're asking that he can get out so that he can spend the time preparing his defense.

But Jeremy Hammond, as I said, is the equivalent of an electronic Robin Hood if he did what allegedly the government said. So he is part of, really, the attack that you're seeing right now on what are called hacktivists, which are people, really, who are political, who are allegedly getting into government documents and private documents and exposing, really, the corruption, the venality, and the criminality of not just private companies, but government as well.

So Jeremy Hammond's case flows into my client's case, of course, WikiLeaks. The other case, of course, which we spoke about last week is Bradley Manning. As people may recall, Bradley Manning put in an offer to plead guilty to some of the lower charges in his case. We don't know what the government's position is going to be on that. We don't know what the judge's position is going to be on that, but if that guilty plea is not accepted, that trial will go forward in February.

The next date that's important in that trial is November 27. On November 27 in the Bradley Manning case, we'll be having a hearing on the torture that occurred to Bradley Manning when he was kept for nine months in a cell, stripped naked, etc. And the argument of the defense is going to be that the charges ought to be dismissed because he was actually tortured while he was in prison. So that's Bradley Manning. Again, remember who Bradley Manning was. He was the private in the U.S. military who, according to the government, uploaded millions of documents to my client Julian Assange and WikiLeaks concerning the Iraq War, the Afghan War, the collateral murder video, and what's called CableGate, the State Department cables.

So those are two of the cases that are going on.

And the third case, of course, is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The update on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is that he is still, as we speak, in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. It's a situation in which he's not allowed to leave that embassy or he will be subject to arrest by the British police. They've surrounded the embassy. I was in London recently, and you can just see the cops all around the embassy. He can't move out of the embassy. He gets visitors in the embassy, and he's able to work, and he's able to continue the work of WikiLeaks.

So together we have—really, those three cases stand for what I consider the government's assault on whistleblowers, on journalists, and on people who are trying to expose their criminality. It's a difficult time for all three, but hopefully, eventually they will be seen as the heroes they are, like Daniel Ellsberg is seen today.

DESVARIEUX: Well, Michael, thank you so much for that update.

RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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