Michael Ratner: Documents show the US engaged in major attacks against journalists, publishers, and whistleblowers, as a UK court upholds the legality of David Miranda’s detention at Heathrow airport
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to the latest edition of The Ratner Report.
Now joining us is Michael Ratner. He is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the attorney for Julian Assange, and the president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He’s also a board member for The Real News.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Good to be with The Real News again.
WORONCZUK: So what do you have for us this week?
RATNER: Well, it’s always a busy week. This was again, really, a week about my client, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks, also a week about attacks on publishers and journalists.
This week there was an article in a new online magazine called The Intercept. That’s the new magazine coming out from Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill. This article was about NSA documents regarding surveillance and more against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and their supporters, online and otherwise. And the documents stem from 2010, going forward.
And what they really demonstrate is there was a broad effort by the United States government, but through the NSA–these are NSA documents; there’s probably a lot more from the CIA, FBI, and other places–but a broad effort to destroy WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and to really surveil and begin to know all of the people who are their supporters. That was a–it’s a very significant set of documents this week.
And just after those came out, we saw that the U.K. court upheld the stopping and the questioning for many hours of David Miranda, who is the partner of Glenn Greenwald in Brazil. David was heading into the U.K., having come from seeing Laura Poitras in Germany, and he had some of the materials that Glenn Greenwald and Laura were working on as journalists. He was stopped and questioned. And this week, remarkably, the court upheld that stop under the U.K. terrorism law.
So we’ve had two major blows against publishers, journalists, and ultimately, of course, against whistleblowers.
Let’s talk about the first one first, which is the ones that were against my client, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And what the documents revealed were three major efforts–and this, again, is probably the tip of the iceberg. But three major efforts. 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. We’re not clear, actually, whether they said the U.S., but it appears that that’s true as well, because a grand jury was set up in the United States to look at WikiLeaks. So that’s one set of the documents.
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 we don’t know to what extent this program was implemented. We know that on a certain number of days it was implemented, what the slides–these were slides that were given by Snowden, apparently, to Greenwald and others who work on the first Intercept magazine. And what they show is that on a number of days it was implemented. We just don’t know how much this carried on.
So we have a “Manhunting” program. We have what’s called ANTICRISIS GIRL.
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.
What all of this NSA spying on WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and their supporters does in addition to showing what jeopardy Julian Assange is in in the United States and elsewhere: it also utterly justifies his decision to attempt to get asylum in the Ecuador Embassy in London, and it justifies and explains really well why Ecuador was justified in giving him asylum. I don’t think there can be any more debate about it. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and their supporters were being persecuted as journalists and as publishers by the United States and the U.K., and they made efforts to get other countries to do so as well.
The second issue–and I’ll just address it briefly–which is the upholding of the decision to stop David Miranda at the U.K. border and question him for up to nine hours by the U.K. intelligence apparatus. David was coming back from Germany. He had documents on him that was he delivering, apparently, to The Guardian. He is the partner of Glenn Greenwald and was doing that as part of the journalistic activities of Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian. They stopped him for nine hours. He was forced to answer questions. It’s a very nasty scheme in London. If you don’t answer questions, you can go to jail.
They brought a litigation on his behalf, his lawyers. Unfortunately, the middle-level court upheld David Miranda’s stopping under the U.K. terrorism law–hear that: the U.K. terrorism law–that he was stopped. And it was upheld on the fact that even though he’s a journalist or working with journalists, that the terrorism investigation, national security, trumps journalism and they had a right to question him, take the documents, take his laptop, take all of that.
So what you’ve seen now are, this last week, two major attacks–the NSA revelations about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and the upholding of the stopping of David Miranda–two major attacks on journalism in this world, and particularly now in the U.K. and the United States.
We’re at a difficult moment. But we’re at a moment, of course, where we’re seeing tremendous fightback by journalists, publishers, as well as whistleblowers. So I still remain optimistic, but it’s a major fight back.
WORONCZUK: Michael Ratner, thank you so much for that report.
RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.