Leaks, Creeps, and Dirty Tricks: Interrupting the Media Narrative

A dead man can’t leak stuff.
This guy’s a traitor, he’s treasonous,
and he has broken every law of the United States.
And I’m not for the death penalty, so…
there’s only one way to do it:
illegally shoot the son of a bitch.
– Pundit Bob Beckel on Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, December 2010

Early in the morning of July 8, 2016, 27 year old Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was fatally shot twice in the back in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Police claim it was a robbery gone wrong although the robber did not do a very good job as Rich’s wallet, phone, and belongings were all still with him.

On July 22, 2016, a few days before the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia where Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic nominee, Wikileaks released nearly 20,000 emails from Democratic National Committee (DNC) staff. The leak blew the lid off a number of Democratic machinations and embarrassing stories:

  • Top DNC staffers colluded to get Clinton elected over Bernie Sanders, looking for ways to weaken the Sanders campaign such as questioning his faith. Have someone ask if he “believes in a God”, brainstormed the DNC CFO.
  • A SuperPAC paid young Clinton supporters to push back against Sanders supporters online
  • Creating fake protests by hiring protestors and sending their own interns.
  • One DNC staffer reffered to Hispanics as “taco bowls” in one message about raising Hispanic engagement
  • One top donor battling cancer lost his seat at a presidential roundtable, getting bumped off the table by a bigger donor. On the discarded donor, a finance director wrote “a lot of people unfortunately get sick”.
  • The DNC was planting “off the record” stories in papers like the Wall Street Journal and journalists like Polito’s Ken Vogel sent the DNC articles to be vetted before publishing them

The backlash was immediate. Despite the pressure, Schultz did not want to take responsibility and wanted her top aides to fall on their swords instead. Only after a personal phone call from President Obama did Debbie Wasserman Schultz resign as DNC Chair on Sunday July 24th. Thankfully for her, the Clinton campaign scooped up Schultz immediately to serve as the Clinton campaign’s honorary chair.

Thus began the Democratic Convention, in chaos on its first day with Schultz being replaced as chair of the convention. Despite the revelations that party officials had rigged the primary election against him, on the first night Sanders made a plea for party unity on the convention stage and urged his supporters to vote for Clinton amidst a chorus of boos. The day after, a large number of Bernie supporters and delegates would stage a walk-out.

Then out of the blue on August 9th 2016, Wikileaks puts out a $20k reward for information on the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich. On the same day, in an interview on Dutch TV, Julian Assange says:

Julian Assange: Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks. As a 27 year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.

Reporter: That was just a robbery, I believe. Wasn’t it?

Julian Assange: No. There’s no finding. So… I’m suggesting that our sources take risks.

He would not confirm or deny who was the source. It is possible that Assange in truth does not know the source of the leaks: the innovative approach to leaking employed by Wikileaks is such that sources can submit material completely anonymously without Wikileaks able to know who it came from. No matter the case, it is clear that they are interested in learning about the death of this young man.

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said in a statement that Wasserman Schultz’s emails put the Democratic Party at risk “but Hillary Clinton’s emails put all of America at risk.” This is very true; I would argue that Clinton’s emails put all the world at risk.

One such email from Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 shows how special interests pay to play. Hedge fund billionaire and major donor to the Democratic Party George Soros directly shaped U.S. foreign policy according to his will, having the State Department via Clinton’s staff order their European underlings to send a mediator to Albania to quiet down growing unrest in that country.

Another email from Clinton’s unsecured private server sent in July 2010 talks openly about their “friend” Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri; shortly after the Iranians blew his cover, captured him, tried him for treason and hung him. Rumors swirl that the intelligence community mistrusts Clinton for her dangerous and cavalier disregard for security protocol; one former NSA employee speculates that someone in the NSA could be behind the leaks in a vindictive act to sabotage the Clinton campaign.

And Assange is not at the bottom of his bag of tricks: he says there are more emails to come that will show how the former Secretary of State organized the shipment of arms from Libya after toppling Gaddafi to Syria in order to topple al-Assad. If this is true, then Clinton could face a felony charge of lying to Congress, although after the FBI failed to convict Clinton for gross negligence in safeguarding state secrets it seems unlikely she would face any consequences for the relatively minor (and often committed) offense of lying to Congress.

Meanwhile, American media obediently follows the narrative fed to them by the Clinton campaign and the DNC: forget about the leaks, we have the Russians interfering in our political process! We have it on the good word of shadowy, unnamed top intelligence officials, they say. While the Democratic establishment and their cronies in the media cry espionage (Remember all that righteous outrage when the U.S. was caught tapping Merkel’s phone? Me neither.)… the White House and other parts of the government remain quiet. The Kremlin dismisses the claims as the “usual fun and games” of American elections.

America’s lapdog press and public intellectuals, who salivate at the idea of drone strikes to assassinate whistleblowers and their facilitators like Assange, will continue defending the regime and telling the established narrative in exchange for prestige, access, and invitations to rub shoulders with the powerful at cocktail parties. The fourth estate of 2016 is feeble, broken, intimidated, charmed, bought, sold, and have conceded public interest to private interest.

For those interested in shining a light on the invasive corruption and oppression facing American society, many conclude the only tactic at their disposal to reach the public conscience is leaking, which amounts to an end-run around the authorities and established media. This was the conclusion reached by conscientious Americans working at the highest levels of government — people like Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers exposing lies about Vietnam), Sibel Edmonds (exposing FBI illicit activity in the drug trade and fabricated terror events), and most recently Edward Snowden (exposing NSA’s mass surveillance) risked everything to get out the truth.

Much bemoaned independent outlets like Julian Assange’s Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, far from being terrorist organizations, represent the last refuge of investigative journalism.

All the resources of history’s greatest empire are aligned to get the policy and the narrative they want, like a giant Death Star, and the only serious resistance they face is an aging nerd that has not stepped foot out of a grim embassy in London for the last 4 years and a veteran journalist writing from a mountainous jungle in Brazil. What is beautiful about this asymmetric conflict is that in the Digital Age, armed with keyboards and webcams, the rebel forces have a chance.

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