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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange polarizes people. Some love him, some hate him, others believe he is, whether knowingly or not, a useful tool for the spy hierarchy in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West. Assange’s reaction to the reelection of Obama is worthy of note, however. Not only because he is one of the only high profile dissenting voices in the public eye, but also because he has experienced first hand how Obama has instituted one of the most extreme under the radar crack-downs on dissenters in history.
In a telephone interview with AFP from his asylum at Ecuador’s London embassy, Assange urged that Obama’s reelection should not be any cause for celebration.
“It’s better to have a sheep in wolf’s clothing than a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Assange said, adding that he expects the Obama administration to continue attacking and persecuting anti-secrecy activists.
“All of the activities against WikiLeaks by the United States have occurred under an Obama administration,” Assange said, adding that the Republican party has not acted to try and restrain such excessive activity.
“There is no reason to believe that will change – in fact, the Republicans will push the administration into ever greater excesses,” Assange noted.
“The re-election of Barack Obama coincides with the 899th day of Bradley Manning’s confinement,” Assange said, referring to the soldier, currently being held in solitary confinement in a military prison, accused of leaking thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yesterday, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that a 2-year-old federal grand jury probe into WikiLeaks is still “ongoing.”
WikiLeaks released a statement echoing Assange’s remarks, noting that Obama has forged a “state within a state” that is “replete with secret laws, secret budgets, secret bailouts, secret killings, secret mass spying, and secret detention without charge.”
“Four more years in the same direction cannot be tolerated,” the statement concluded.
It is a well documented fact that Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama’s top Justice Department official, has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act during his tenure than all of his predecessors combined.
In a very informative piece in September, London Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald noted:
“In 2008, candidate Obama hailed whistleblowing as “acts of courage and patriotism,” which “should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration.”
“President Obama, however, has waged the most aggressive and vindictive assault on whistleblowers of any president in American history,” Greenwald clarifies.
In addition, as journalist Peter Van Buren has pointed out,
Obama’s zeal in silencing leaks that don’t make him look like a superhero extends beyond the deployment of the Espionage Act into a complex legal tangle of retaliatory practices, life-destroying threats, on-the-job harassment, and firings. Lots of firings.
At the heart of Obama’s war on whistleblowers is protection of his continued undeclared and unauthorized secret drone war.
Yesterday it was revealed that within 24 hours of his reelection, Obama sanctioned yet another drone missile strike on Yemen.
The strike was said to have killed three militants and injured several others, including a child. Local journalists were surprised that the strike was carried out less than 40km from the capital, making it the closest ever to the country’s centre of government. Activists condemned the strike as part of Obama’s “secret war” on Yemen.
Adam Banron, a freelance journalist based in Yemen, tweeted:
@adammbaron: coming > 24 hours after Obama’s reelection, its hard not to see the suspected U.S. strike in sanhan as a message…if not a provocation. #yemen
Yemeni activist Ibrahim Mothana tweeted:
@imothanaYemen: Drone strikes in a “Secret War” by a “Nobel Peace Laureate”! Life can’t get more surreal #Yemen
Yemeni Blogger Afrah Nasser tweeted:
@Afrahnasser:”Yes We Can #Drone!” #Obama #Yemen #Somalia #Pakistan
Yemeni doctor Wedad Abood tweeted:
@WedadAbood: @BarackObama 4 more years of #drone strikes killing innocent peoples not to forget women & children #NoDrones #Yemen