Wikileaks has released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (so not technically “leaks”) detailing the investigation of an Airman working in Information Technology in the UK which in his typical grandstanding fashion Julian Assange has chosen to read as a vindication of his long held goal of becoming an International Enemy of the State:
The allegation of “Communicating with the Enemy” indicates the extremely serious threat Julian Assange and WikiLeaks face from the United States. The investigation was into the subjects support and interactions with WikiLeaks and its supporters ie her communications (or attempted communications) with Mr Assange and WikiLeaks. Therefore the term “Communicating with the Enemy” would appear to show that the US government term Mr Assange and WikiLeaks the “enemy”. By deeming them the “enemy” they can be treated under the laws of war which could include killing, capturing, detaining without trial etc.
There is one other possible interpretation of this term and that is that is that Mr Assange and WikiLeaks are not themselves the “enemy” but are a conduit to the “enemy”. This too opens up an array of possible attacks on WikiLeaks by the US government and means that all media organizations now risk having suspected sources being executed because communicating with media would mean communicating with the public which is communicating with the enemy in this interpretation.
I’m sorry to inform Mr. Assange and the cult of internet fanboys who share his absurd cloak and dagger fantasies that neither of these interpretations are even close to plausible, Glenn Greenwald’s embarrassing breathless credulousness notwithstanding. A thorough reading of the documents reveals a more disturbing and sadder tale of what actually happened with the investigation of the unnamed young airman. That tale, unsurprisingly, has nothing at all to do with Assange’s paranoid megalomania.
The narrative the investigation outlines is as follows:
A young, idealistic woman, who remains anonymous, with a good deal of unanalyzed patriotism along with her atheism and leftist politics of some sort finds herself unexpectedly out of sorts among the macho right-wing christian subculture that festers in the US Armed Forces. That she went into the military not expecting this problem by itself indicates that one of her supervisors assessments of her, that she was bright but naive, is probably pretty close to the mark. Over time the pressures of not fitting in among her tight-knit co-workers in a culture with a heavy investment in groupthink and conformity wears her down and she is forced to look outside the military for friendship and company. She finds them among a group of older British leftwing activists during the initial stages of Assange’s extradition trial in the UK and, in part because of Assange’s nonsensical assertions—nevertheless widely believed among her cohorts—that the extradition proceedings are in fact a US Plot to have him killed, the young woman starts to develop anti-military and anti-US feelings because of the sympathy that she and her friends had for Assange’s alleged “plight.”
For a person in the military, amidst a culture where the smallest disobedience is a criminal offense and which by its very nature is hotbed of right-wing militarism, infested at all levels with various strains of evangelical Christianity that perceive the U.S. Military as God’s Army leading a crusade against infidels in preparation for judgement day, the cognitive-dissonance that must engender is enormous. Her relationships with other airmen start to fracture and crack. She becomes withdrawn and the people around her describe her as depressed and “obsessed” with Julian Assange. Eventually, the young woman breaks down. She shows up to work one day crying uncontrollably, gripping her stomach and unable to function. She is referred to an Army psychiatrist and in their interview she claims that she has had contact with a “local anti-US/anti-military” group and all of a sudden the stresses of a young woman trapped in an an intolerable situation become a matter of national security.
Why? Well, it has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, whose involvement in this whole sordid drama is almost entirely tangential. But because the woman is a “cyber systems operator” with Top Secret security clearance whose work involves doing maintenance to the highly classified Secret Internet Protocal Router SIPR, a network hub—access to which is what allegedly enabled Bradley Manning to gather secret information to divulge to WikiLeaks. Given her widely repeated sympathies for Assange and WikiLeaks, the criminal investigation against her included questioning about whether she had leaked information to WikiLeaks, although most of her co-workers interviewed expressed doubts that she was a real security risk. Not because of WikiLeaks being an “Enemy of the State” but because of her level of access, her obviously fractured mental state, and because there is a general order prohibiting military personnel from accessing WikiLeaks. Indeed the initial allegation against the young woman was because of suspicions that she had violated that order by accessing the WikiLeaks website. Then, after her breakdown, her psychiatrist reports she claimed to have met with “anti-US/anti-military” groups, and that is what gives rise to the section 104 suspicions that she is aiding the enemy. During later interviews, the young woman revealed that those groups were the london based “UK Friends of Bradley Manning” and “the Stop the War Coalition” both of which she came into contact with through Twitter. And once that was made clear, the investigation appears to have ended.
What is important in all this is that the subject of the investigation on the Aid to the Enemy charge—the foundation for Julian Assanges current boner for himself —were her meetings with these groups. The reason that it was potentially a crime of “communicating with the enemy” was because she had been communicating with a group that she described to her psychiatrist as a “local anti-military or anti-US” group. That group, therefore was not Wikileaks and it was not Assange, since neither could be described as “local London groups” and even before being identified, the groups are always described in the investigation documents as “local” to London. There is no evidence of any connection between the allegations of giving aid to the Enemy and Wikileaks, other than the fact that a general sympathy with Assange and WikiLeaks that can be attributed to everyone from Michael Moore to the leader of Hezbollah and so could well include enemy organizations. At an early point in the investigation, which appears to have only lasted for a few days at most, these groups the airman had met with were unidentified, and it could well have beeen an “enemy organization” within the definition of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Not that that’s a reasonable presumption either, but the point is that identifying such an unknown group as potentially the “enemy” is not the same as classifying either WikiLeaks or Assange as “Enemies of the State.” It seems ridiculous to even have to point out that “anti-US” and “Enemy of the US” are virtually synonymous terms, and at that level of abstraction there’s really nothing sinister or unexpected at all in the further investigation of the issue. What matters for the WikiLeaks angle is that once the groups were ascertained to be FOBM and SWC, the charges were dropped. Even though Friends of Bradley Manning is a group very closely related to WikiLeaks and Assange.
And that’s important because it demonstrates why Assange is yet again getting the whole thing completely wrong in the process of fluffing up his own fevered ego. The case is closed despite the fact that connections with WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks supporters are the only things that the investigation unequivocally established. If WikiLeaks and Assange were “Enemies of the State” as Assange now proudly brands himself, then the case would not have been closed and the young woman may have actually been court-martialed; although whether the death penalty would have been imposed for giving aid to the enemy is unlikely since US Military Courts haven’t imposed capital punishment on anyone since 1961. Even the anti-death penalty United Kingdom has executed prisoners more recently. That the case was closed without court-martial and the investigation declassified proves, yet again, that Assange’s narcissism remains no threat to the United States of America or any other established power in the world. Why that should be shocking to anyone remains beyond my ken.
What this investigation does demonstrate in spades, however, is that the US Military which has long promoted itself as little more than a patriotic summer camp where patriotic teenagers can learn job skills and get money for college, is still doing an abysmal job of caring for the men and women in its ranks. Leave the various problems with the VA and the ballooning populations of veterans suffering PTSD, joblessness, and homelessness aside. That the Military can’t even take care of someone having a mental breakdown in its own ranks while it has complete control over his or her life without turning the whole thing into a potential serious criminal investigation is a scandal worthy of real scrutiny. The fact that it brought this story to light, even if it is once again overshadowed by Julian Assange’s clownish behavior, proves the continuing importance of WikiLeaks as a journalistic organization. It’s just a shame that Assange and Co. are so busy undermining their own credibility world wide that the real story here is likely to go underreported and unnoticed.