The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.
It is now over four years ago that Julian Assange was spirited away from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and detained in Belmarsh’s maximum security prison. Being locked in a tiny concrete room for more than 1500 days has taken a serious toll on the Australian publisher; reports from this week suggest that his health is “deteriorating by the minute.”
One man who has covered the Wikileaks co-founder’s case closer than almost anyone is Kevin Gosztola. Gosztola is an American journalist, the managing editor of Shadowproof and co-hosts the Unauthorized Disclosure Podcast with Rania Khalek. He is the author of the new book “Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case against Julian Assange.” Today, he joins “Watchdog” host Lowkey to talk all things WikiLeaks, Assange, leaks and cybersecurity.
The U.S. government has always been hostile to leakers revealing embarrassing or compromising information about its actions. But Gosztola states that the Central Intelligence Agency’s “gloves came off” in 2017 as it ramped up its attacks on Assange. By 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo had labeled WikiLeaks as a hostile non-state intelligence service and began turning the screw. For Gosztola, the CIA’s response was a symptom of the agency’s insecurity; “And so at that point, the CIA probably feels they are threatened, their whole regime of pursuing the global war on terrorism is in jeopardy as a result of WikiLeaks,” he told Lowkey.
It is often forgotten how much incredible, extraordinary information WikiLeaks provided the world. This included the Guantánamo prison manuals, which showed that the U.S. Army hid prisoners from Red Cross inspectors and illegally held captives in solitary confinement to soften them up for interrogation.
WikiLeaks also published copious details of American war crimes. The most infamous of these was the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, where American helicopter pilots carried out a massacre in Baghdad, Iraq, killing at least nine people, including a Reuters journalist.
Hillary Clinton’s notorious leaked emails also revealed the underhanded skulduggery of the Democratic Party machine, the documents showing how the party establishment had put their thumb on the scale for Clinton in a successful attempt to shut out left-wing populist Bernie Sanders from gaining the party’s nomination for president.
Nevertheless, what WikiLeaks published was barely a toothpick in a forest compared to the amount of information the U.S. national security state keeps secret. Every day, Gosztola said, Washington produces tens of millions of pieces of classified information. This means, he added that it is becoming increasingly difficult and unwieldy to keep all these secrets under lock and key. If this continues, it might become “impossible for the U.S. government to keep doubling down and adding more infrastructure… eventually, the system might actually collapse in on itself because it isn’t able to support all of the stresses that are being put on it to protect” itself, he adds.
Perhaps, then, Assange’s sacrifices will not be in vain, and the world will move towards a new, more open system of information exchange.
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Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.