US intelligence services are closely monitoring the movements of Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, after he said the website would soon release a classified Pentagon video showing a May 2009 US air strike in Afghanistan that killed up to 140 civilians.
The “Garani” video, if released, would follow the video released by Wikileaks in May, which showed US soldiers in an Apache helicopter fatally shooting about a dozen civilians in Iraq, including a reporter from news agency Reuters.
That video received worldwide prominence and considerably heightened Wikileaks’ profile.
The Afghan government has said 92 of the 140 civilians killed in Garani were children. The killing of so many children in an armed attack has prompted allegations that the action was a war crime. US accountability is unlikely, as it can veto any resolution of condemnation by the UN Security Council, and the US has not signed up to the International Criminal Court.
Initially, the US said 65 of the dead were “insurgents”. But it has subsequently backtracked on that claim and, after an internal investigation, admitted “mistakes” were made.
Assange has followed legal advice and cancelled a scheduled trip to the US to speak about internet censorship after the arrest of US intelligence analyst Bradley Manning. Manning is accused of leaking secret materials, including 260,000 classified state department cables.
The former intelligence analyst is being held by US military authorities in Kuwait. Wikileaks has provided three lawyers to assist him. It is Wikileaks’ policy not to identify its sources and to provide lawyers and other help when people have been identified.
Little, if any, material on Wikileaks is a “danger” to national security, but it is politically embarrassing for the governments involved. For example, the Australian government’s proposed secret internet censorship list was postponed until after the next federal election, after Wikileaks posted the list on its website. The government’s claim that the list was to combat underage pornography was shown not to be true: 66% of the sites on the list were not related to underage pornography.
Veteran whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has expressed his concern about Assange’s safety now that his site is so badly embarrassing the US government. Ellsberg leaked a top secret study into the US war on Vietnam in 1973, showing that US war operations were being hidden from the US public. The leak received international attention and became known as the “Pentagon Papers”.
Speaking to the US-based political website Daily Beast, Ellsberg said: “I would think that [Assange] is in some danger. Granted, I would think that his notoriety now would provide him some degree of protection.”
Ellsberg speaks from experience as he has been on the receiving end of a US “special operation”. US military operations against its own citizens are not routine, but such operations have been authorised in periods of extreme tension.
“I was in fact the subject of a White House hit squad in … 1972”, said Ellsberg. “A dozen Cuban assets [right-wing Cubans] were brought up from Miami with orders, quote, quoting the prosecutor, to incapacitate Daniel Ellsberg totally … [They were worried that] I would leak [then US] President Nixon’s nuclear threats [against South-East Asia], which he was making at that precise time in 1972.”
Nixon later resigned to avoid his forcible removal from office and potential criminal charges.
Assange resurfaced on June 21 after a month of hiding and spoke to the British Guardian newspaper from Brussels. “We need support and protection. We have that. More is always helpful. But we believe that the situation is stable and under control. There's no need to be worried. There's a need always to be on the alert.”
[The Australian secret internet censorship list published by Wikileaks can not be linked to by the Green Left Weekly website because to do so could expose GLW to fines of up to $11,000 a day. However, it is possible for GLW to link to the home page. Readers can then follow the prompts. Clicking on any of the links on the secret list could be illegal. The Sweden-based Wikileaks website can be found at www.wikileaks.org .]