Saving Press Freedom

Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. Manning, a U.S. Army whistleblower, had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Virginia’s Eastern District to appear for questioning about her 2010 leak to WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We speak with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

AMY GOODMAN: Music by Mangueira, Brazil’s most famous samba school. Last week, Mangueira won Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, getting a perfect score from judges for its float honoring Rio Councilwoman Marielle Franco, who was assassinated almost a year ago. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Manning had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Virginia’s Eastern District to appear for questioning about her 2010 leak to WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To talk more about the jailing of Manning, as well as other issues, including what’s happening in Venezuela, we turn right now to Glenn Greenwald, speaking to us from Brazil. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about Chelsea Manning once again being jailed.

GLENN GREENWALD: I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that Chelsea Manning is extraordinarily heroic. She has demonstrated that repeatedly over the last decade in all kinds of ways. But what she’s doing here is really remarkable, because the context is that the Trump administration is trying to do what the Obama administration tried to do but ultimately concluded it couldn’t do without jeopardizing press freedoms, which is to prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for what it regards as the crime of publishing top-secret or classified documents.

And the media in the United States has spent two years screaming about the threat that Trump poses to press freedoms because he says mean things about the media on Twitter or insults Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd, and yet here we have what is really a grave threat to press freedom: the attempt to make it a felony to publish classified material—which is what WikiLeaks did. Even the anti-press freedom Obama administration said this was a bridge too far for us.

And while most reporters are mute on this scandal, on this controversy, and while a lot of Democrats are supportive of it, because they still hate WikiLeaks so much from the 2016 election that they’re happy to see Julian Assange go to jail, even if it means standing behind the Trump administration, Chelsea Manning is not just opposing it, she’s opposing it to the point where she refuses to participate in it, even if it means, as it now does, that she’s going to be jailed for being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with a subpoena. We all owe our immense gratitude to Chelsea Manning for everything she’s done over the last decade, but even more so now.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to go back to 2017, when Mike Pompeo talked about Chelsea Manning in his first address as CIA director in April of last year [sic].

MIKE POMPEO: WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service and has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information. It overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations. It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Pompeo when he was head of the CIA. Now, of course, he is secretary of state. Can you respond to what he has said, Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: This is the part I find so amazing. Do Democrats not realize the irony here of cheering for the most reactionary, right-wing forces in the Trump administration, who are the ones trying to imprison Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in order to criminalize journalism—namely, Mike Pompeo—and the person who actually first vowed to put WikiLeaks and Assange behind bars, which was then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has since left the Trump administration?

The Obama administration tried to create theories to say that WikiLeaks did more than just passively receive documents from Chelsea Manning and then publish them, because they knew they had to do that in order to prosecute WikiLeaks; otherwise, how do you justify prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing classified documents, without also prosecuting The New York Times and The Guardian? The Justice Department, under Obama, searched high and low for evidence that WikiLeaks participated in Chelsea Manning’s taking of those documents. They found no evidence. She testified under oath that she acted alone, that they played no role whatsoever in her decision to do that.

And now, suddenly, seven years later, Mike Pompeo claims that they have evidence or that they believe that WikiLeaks told her to do it, and therefore they intend to prosecute WikiLeaks. And unfortunately, between the Republicans, who have long hated WikiLeaks for exposing the war crimes of the Bush administration, and Democrats, who now hate WikiLeaks because they published documents that were harmful to or reflected poorly on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, very few people are willing to stand up to this very serious attack on press freedom. And thankfully, Chelsea Manning is one of those people.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to John Bolton speaking about Chelsea Manning in the 2012 BBC film Wikileaks: The Secret Life of a Superpower. He was interviewed by Richard Bilton.

RICHARD BILTON: What do you think of Bradley Manning?

JOHN BOLTON: I think he committed treason. I think he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

RICHARD BILTON: What does that mean?

JOHN BOLTON: Well, treason is the only crime defined by our Constitution, and it says treason shall consist only of levying war against the United States or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. And he gave our enemies a lot of aid and comfort.

RICHARD BILTON: So what should happen to him?

JOHN BOLTON: Well, he should be prosecuted. And if he’s found guilty, he should be punished to the fullest extent possible.

RICHARD BILTON: And what is that?


RICHARD BILTON: You think he should be killed.


AMY GOODMAN: “You think you should be killed.” “Yes,” responded John Bolton, now the national security adviser. Of course, Bradley Manning became Chelsea Manning. She announced her transition the day she was sentenced. Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: These are the sentiments that are driving the current attempt to prosecute WikiLeaks and Assange. And those are the monsters who are responsible for it.

So, I would hope that however angry someone might be at Julian Assange or WikiLeaks for whatever they think they did as part of the 2016 election to undermine Hillary Clinton by publishing truthful documents that showed the corruption of the DNC, however angry one might be at WikiLeaks for having done that, one can separate those emotions and understand that what the Trump administration has nothing to do with the 2016 election. The criminal proceedings that have led to Chelsea Manning’s jailing for the second time in the last decade are all about documents that were published, not in 2016, but in 2011 and 2012.

And it’s being done by people, like John Bolton, who believe that if you publish top-secret documents that report on the misdeeds and criminal acts of the U.S. government, you’re not only a criminal, but a traitor who deserves to be killed. You just heard that with your own ears. And so, anyone supporting the Trump administration’s efforts to put Julian Assange in prison because you’re angry about what he did in the 2016 election, you’re aligning yourself with and you’re empowering those warped, sociopathic sentiments that you just heard come out of John Bolton’s mouth.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, I also want to talk to you about Venezuela. An investigation by The New York Times found several trucks carrying so-called humanitarian aid that were set ablaze during a showdown at the Colombia-Venezuela border last month were not caused by President Nicolás Maduro’s forces, as was widely reported at the time by both media and Trump administration officials. This is Vice President Mike Pence.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Maduro’s loyalists turned on their own people. As the world watched, they set fire to trucks loaded with food and medicine desperately needed by the Venezuelan people.

AMY GOODMAN: Independent journalist Max Blumenthal first raised questions about what happened, in a piece on February 24th that was headlined “Burning Aid: An Interventionist Deception on Colombia-Venezuela Bridge?”

Glenn, your latest piece is headlined “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda.” Talk about the latest in Venezuela and how this has fueled that.

GLENN GREENWALD: Every time the U.S. wants to start a new war, it does it the same way, which is, it invents some really inflammatory, emotionally wrenching lie that gets people to hate the government they want to topple so much that they set their rationality aside and support the war. So, they claimed North Korea—or, North Vietnam attacked U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, which was a lie to start the Vietnam War. They claimed that Saddam had been ripping babies out of incubators in Kuwait, to start the Gulf War, which was a lie. They claimed weapons of mass destruction, which was a lie, to start the Iraq War.

And now you have Marco Rubio and John Bolton and Elliott Abrams, the crew, the neocon crew, who are experts at lying to start wars, going around telling lies about what the Maduro government is doing. And regardless of what you think about the Maduro government or President Maduro himself, you should be highly angry when your own government, with the help of its media, lies to you in order to start a war.

And this incident on February 23rd was incredibly important because that imagery of burning humanitarian trucks was very powerful. And the claim that it was Maduro’s forces that did it came not just from Marco Rubio, who cited anti-Maduro media outlets with no evidence. CNN—CNN—lied to the world. They claimed that their own journalists witnessed with their own eyes Maduro’s forces throwing incendiary devices that set those trucks on fire.

Right away, independent journalists, including Max Blumenthal, as well as Dan Cohen, who works at RT, looked at and studied—they were in Venezuela—the available footage and said that it was clear that it was the anti-Maduro protesters who set those trucks on fire. But those people were ignored by the corporate media in the United States, which only paid attention to the people who were lying on behalf of the U.S. government, only aired the lies that it was the Maduro forces who did it. And then, suddenly, The New York Times comes out with a good exposé that proves that it was a lie. They didn’t bother to credit any of the independent journalists who did it two weeks ago using much of the same evidence, but they did show that it was a lie.

And since then, Marco Rubio has got caught in two other lies. He claimed that babies were dying in hospitals, and then The Wall Street Journal reporter in Venezuela went to that hospital and said no babies had died. And also he claimed that a dam, that he called the German Dam, had collapsed because of the energy shortages, when, in reality, there was no dam that collapsed. The person who reported it was named Germán Dam, and Marco Rubio confused that and thought that it was a dam that had collapsed.

So he’s running around Venezuela telling all kinds of lies, acting like a buffoon and a clown, with John Bolton and Elliott Abrams in tow, in order to try and start a new war in Venezuela. And as usual, the corporate media—unlike Democracy Now!, which has put Venezuelan officials on to give the other side of the story, the corporate media in the U.S. have completely excluded any questioning or dissent of any of these storylines and have allowed these lies to go unchallenged, and, in the case of CNN, have often vouched for the lies themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to go to this issue that you just raised, local reporting emerging that ongoing power outage has killed 17 people in hospitals, where backup generators failed; President Maduro saying last week anti-government saboteurs backed by the U.S. took the nation’s main hydroelectric power station at the Guri Dam offline; meanwhile, The New York Times reporting the sanctions have affected Venezuela’s ability to import and produce the fuel required by the thermal power plants, that could have backed up the Guri plant once it failed. If you could respond to all this, and especially President Maduro’s accusation that the power outage, which has plunged the country into darkness, though the electricity is coming back now, was as a result of a plot backed by the United States?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, one really interesting part of that New York Times exposé that got very little attention, was buried within, I think, the 12th or 13th paragraph, was an acknowledgment that the reason for the power outages, at least in large part, were the sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on Venezuela, that has made it impossible for Venezuela to get the energy that it needs to provide to its people. And so, as usual, the sanctions regime that’s being done in the name of helping the Venezuelan people is one of the biggest factors in their suffering deprivation and misery.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Glenn, your response to what’s happened in the United States, in Congress, to Ilhan Omar and the ultimate just general statement against hatred, of all forms, that the House passed?

GLENN GREENWALD: It’s just so ironic that the whole controversy began—actually in response to one of my tweets—by her simply pointing out that just like the NRA and Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry controls Congress through the use of money and lobbying power, so too does the Israeli lobby, making it impossible for dissent to be aired. And the three weeks of controversy that ensue proved her point, as people treated her as though she had said something anti-Semitic, when in fact she never mentioned or even alluded to Jews at all. The Israel lobby is composed of evangelicals, of militarists, of neocons, of all kinds of people.

And she was simply trying to air a debate that is urgently needed but that never takes place in Washington. And for that, she has been vilified, not just by members of the Republican Party, but also the cowards in her own party, with all kinds of character attacks and smears. And yet she’s incredibly brave. As she said herself, she survived a war in Somalia; this is nothing. And she’s going to continue—and I’m really grateful for this—to do the things she was sent to Washington to do, which is exactly to raise these issues, no matter how many names she’s called for doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to Judge Jeanine Pirro, who was speaking on Fox News. After the resolution passed against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, white supremacy and other forms of hate, she attacked Congressmember Ilhan Omar—one of the two Muslim women in Congress now—for wearing a hijab. Your response, Glenn?

GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, no decent person needs it explained to them why what Jeanine Pirro said is absolutely disgusting and bigoted and repulsive and ignorant. And, in fact, what I find really interesting is that even people at Fox News, including a Muslim producer, publicly denounced Jeanine Pirro in a viral tweet, and then Fox News itself repudiated her remarks and said that they were inappropriate and that they had spoken with her privately and made clear their disapproval. So, just think about that. Her remarks were so grotesque that they went way over the line even for Fox News and its very low standards for what you’re allowed to say about Muslims.

But this is—I mean, Jeanine Pirro is—this is who she’s always been. For people who live in New York, people have always known that. And this is the kind of bigotry that’s typically allowed to be expressed about Muslims, in a way that you’re not allowed to express about any other groups. She just went a little too far in being a little too explicit, and therefore got denounced even by Fox News for having done so.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! has an immediate job opening for a full-time junior systems administrator here in our New York City studios. Details are available at democracynow.org.

And I’ll be headed to Colorado on Friday. I’ll be speaking in Denver at the historic East High School. That’s 7:00, March 15th, the Ides of March. To check out information on this, you can go to democracynow.org.

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