Dark days for journalism

Today, on 11 Apr 19, Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after having had asylum there for  the past 7 years, arrested, and will in all likelihood be extradited to the United States to face a Grand Jury on charges of conspiring to commit computer intrusion. That could change. This happened in broad daylight at around 10:30 in the morning. The Russian news organization RT was on hand to record the entire event. Interest in his personal behavior aside, this is a dark day for journalism, worldwide, and also a sad indictment of international relations, which we will get to.

Assange’s chart is below (bigger):

The first thing that stands out in his chart is the Saturn/Neptune opposition across his horizon, which forms a midpoint with his horizon: “An emotionally depressing environment, emotional suffering caused by other persons, limitation of freedom.” That midpoint has now formed a semi-square to its own place by direction, and is thus activated. Transiting Uranus is also quincunx his Ascendant, further activating that midpoint structure and adding the suddenness of the event. There is also a direction of Ceres to his south node, indicating the turning point in his relationships.

The betrayal of trust is indicated by the opposition to his natal Mercury by transiting Pluto, having just come into orb, and also squaring his Vertex axis. Pluto co-rules his 12th house (intercepted), which rules incarceration. He will have the Saturn/Pluto conjunction early next year opposite his Mercury. Further, Mercury squares his Vertex axis natally, showing his interest in and pursuit of journalism, but the Pluto transit also makes a great cross with that axis, showing heavy taxing of his nerves as well as the betrayal he is facing.

He looked quite frail and older when he was dragged out of the embassy. He has the Mars/Saturn and Mars/Neptune midpoints on his Sun natally anyway, which points to a weak vitality, a susceptibility to infections and a general difficulty in extracting himself from situations. And to top that off, his ‘illness axis’ (natal Saturn/Neptune) is on his horizon. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he needs immediate medical attention, with the current direction of Uranus to his Sun. His condition is said to markedly taken a turn for the worse since Moreno took office in Ecuador in May 2017, as well as conditions within the embassy. His current transits and directions are below (bigger):

Reaction: The star witness against him, Chelsea Manning, is not cooperating with authorities and is being kept in detention as a result. She can be held until the grand jury is dissolved, which may take up to 18 months, or until she testifies. The only real defense Assange has now is a public uproar over the situation and journalists en masse coming out in his defense. That is simply not happening. In fact, quite the opposite. I have seen people calling him a traitor. Journalists and critics are having a field day on Twitter, making fun of Assange and gloating about his arrest. The “Assange is a Russian agent” theme is now front and center. Hillary Clinton called for him to be ‘droned’ to death. The Obama administration are the ones who brought forward the sealed indictments against him. The mainstream media in the US has called for his head in the past. The only journalists who have come out in his defense are in independent, alternative media, who have been holding vigils for him (example). Their footprint is small compared to the corporate press, though. The public is woefully uninformed about him, and willfully misinformed.

Why it happened: How has all this happened now, though? The current head of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, backed by the US, has recently accepted an IMF loan for Ecuador which carried a caveat, should he accept it – Ecuador had to lift the asylum for Assange from their embassy in London. Once that was done he was speedily arrested. Ecuador has since received a 4.2 billion dollar loan from the IMF – the day after Assange’s arrest. There was the betrayal. The Pluto transit opposite Mercury is across the 2nd/8th house axis – the banking axis. Betrayal for a few dollars more. The previous PM, Rafael Correa, has called Moreno “the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history”. Assange’s mother was even more blunt, calling for Moreno to “rot in purgatory for eternity for his betrayal”, speaking of Moreno. Hell hath no fury like a protective mother.

The security state in the US has been after Assange for years now, since he exposed many of the workings of that state. The published content that has caused the greatest angst for the security state in the US was the leak of the Vault 7 material, which exposed almost the whole of the activities of the CIA’s hacking group. This was the biggest such exposure since the 1970s. The IMF loan to Ecuador was a ruse to get at Assange, which is clear enough. If it were not, why put the caveat on the loan? And why grant the loan the day after the arrest? Now that he has been taken out of the embassy and arrested, there are already moves to have him extradited to the US to face charges. His lawyers are already fighting the extradition orders.

What is to come: If Assange is extradited, which is more or less taken by many people to be a given, he faces up to five years in prison for the original charge in the US. That, too, is more than likely a ruse, if Daniel Ellsberg’s experience is anything to go by. Once in court, as supposed evidence is presented against Assange, further charges would probably be added, culminating maybe in a charge of espionage, which could carry a life sentence, or even a death sentence. The current charge against him is rather flimsy, which is one reason why the Obama administration did not go after him – that, plus the fact that it would have opened a storm of cases against the corporate press, which has published portions of the Vault 7 material.

If he faces a Grand Jury there is no public disclosure. The case against him would probably end up being for espionage under the Espionage Act, meaning national security, also meaning the public doesn’t have a right to know. Evidence presented to a judge in such a trial can be such that neither Assange, nor his lawyer, nor a jury may see it. It can all be done behind closed doors, behind a cloak of secrecy, and the public may never know what happens to him. There is really no point in having a trial. This is called ‘railroading’ someone, effectively. This is what we have in American law since the Patriot Act and 9/11. For all we know, Assange could be ‘disappeared’, never to be seen or heard from again. It is not so far-fetched. But all of this is the worst case scenario. There are good lawyers in every nation who will fight this case for him. But what laws has he really broken?

What has he really done?: Julian Assange has done nothing more or less than what journalists throughout the ages have done – he published information. He didn’t obtain the information himself. It was leaked information, for sure, provided by whistleblowers – like the Pentagon Papers, for instance – but that doesn’t make him a spy. Daniel Ellsberg is now a national hero in the US for his part in the Pentagon Papers. Journalism is actually protected in the US constitution.

In a recent interview on TheRealNews Ellsberg made the statement that “unauthorized disclosures are the life-blood of a republic”, meaning the public has a right to know what their governments are up to, even behind closed doors. He also went on to say that the UK and Ecuador were more than likely ‘enticed’ by the US to commit this act, drawing upon his own experience. This event has been called an assault on the 1st Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In case American readers have forgotten or don’t know, here’s the 1st Amendment to the constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Seems that Congress has already acted against the law of the land and done so in the interest of ‘national security’. And the unelected state in the US acts unconstitutionally all the time with all its covert operations.

Implications: In terms of international relations this sets a bad precedent. It threatens principles of political asylum worldwide. The British press should have been all over this, asking a lot of questions and pressing for the rule of law. Assange was whisked away, appeared in court a few hours later and was convicted of skipping bail, facing up to a year in jail. The judge in that court appearance was clearly biased, which shows the sort of legal proceedings in Britain Assange faces. There are more than 70 MPs in the UK who are already pressing for Sweden to re-open the rape case against him and for the Home Secretary to have him extradited to Sweden. They want this done quickly. Why the rush? There should also be many questions about the connection of loans and asylum. Money shouldn’t enter into it, in a more ideal world. It should be a simple matter of human rights. Where is the journalism there? And then there is a the connection between Washington and the current leader of Ecuador, which would seem to be rather cozy at the moment. Ecuador is one of the states that is backing the guy in Venezuela who is running around claiming to be the legitimate president, Maduro being the legitimate president.

Blowback: There will be repercussions on this all around. Assange’s arrest is meant to shut down whistleblowers and to frighten, even silence real journalists. An alleged collaborator for Wikileaks has just been arrested in Ecuador. The Trump administration is known for its attacks on the press. Hackers have since shut down, defaced and hacked many government and banking sites in Ecuador. Payback is hell, as the saying goes. If his prosecution and extradition go ahead it will advance calls for censorship above and beyond what we are already seeing, which is already bad enough.

Is there hope?: The main hope for Assange is sustained public outrage and uproar. Failing that, which looks to be the case, a Labour government in the UK has vowed to stop his extradition. They would have to act quickly and push hard for a general election, though. And that will meet with stiff resistance. This case has already distracted the British public, however briefly, from its Brexit woes and taken some of the heat off Theresa May. The timing there is a little suspicious, too, with the arrest coming mere hours before the Halloween Brexit extension was granted. And then there is Trump, but he is now saying he doesn’t know anything about Wikileaks.

But if he is extradited to the US, the American public is quite hostile toward him. They have been fed a steady stream of propaganda against him since the Vault 7 leak. Trump has a choice: He can either pardon Assange and expand his voter base, or destroy him and pay homage to his billionaire supporters. Given that the election cycle is coming into swing now, that will be interesting to watch, as well as giving clear indications as to where Trump really stands regarding the American public.

So, Donald Trump, if you are good to your word and you love Wikileaks, as you have said, you need to stop this abrogation of constitutional law and international principles and pardon Assange. Freedom of speech and journalism must be protected. And just a reminder – it was the very mainstream press Trump called fake news that helped to put him in office. He played that card well. We need freedom of speech and a free press now more than ever, and especially our independent media outlets, like Wikileaks. The light needs to illuminate the dark corners of our society.

Featured pic from Ars Technica

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