Iain Overton (Iraq War Logs) at ‘Anonymous Bites Back’ speaks in defence of Julian #Assange

Investigative journalist and author Iain Overton worked with WikiLeaks Julian Assange in the publication of the Iraq War Logs while he was working for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Here, speaking to the podcast Anonymous Bites Back, he raises a strong voice in defence of the WikiLeaks publisher almost 10 years after their initial collaboration.

Mark

Okay guys, welcome back, everyone. We are live now, with our new whistleblower special. We’ll discuss the Assange situation and what happened to Chelsea Manning and other free journalism related issues. We have a guest in Ian Overton, he worked with Assange on the Iraq War Logs. He is involved with the guardian and he will help us explain a little more about what happened regarding that whole thing. So I want to thank all of you do that you’re back listening. And I want to request all listeners to please help us share this episode. One second. We just went live, I was just introducing you and I just have to ask the listeners to help us share the episodes. That’s what we depend on. Some issues for some reason social media are not particularly nice to the information we we sometimes get in our broadcasts and with some of our accounts are facing shadow bands and all these things. I’m sure you’re also familiar with these things. So thanks anyway, I’m not sure if you already heard me introducing you, but I just said that you worked on the Iraq War Logs with with Assange and that you are currently involved with The Guardian. That’s, that’s about it. I want to say welcome.

Iain Overton

Thank you. It’s been a while, since Julian entered my life when I worked at, I was running the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. And, you know, it’s very painful dissent for him since those heady days where we thought we were really changing the world. And , I think one of the reasons why I wanted to speak to you guys and and try and get out a bit more of a message around this is I just genuinely feel that along the way, journalists lost perspective as to what the issue is here. I think in many ways it’s journalism under threat, is freedom of speech under threat, and it’s bigger than Julian. You can have different opinions on Julian the man, but this is about the ethos and I thought that speaking on here might be one way of at least creating a record of note to say, I think that actually he’s been very good poorly treated by some members of the British press. And ultimately I think he’s been let down by a system that is effectively making whistleblowing an illegal act, which I am profoundly uncomfortable with. Regardless of how it’s wrapped up and presented in the law, the essence is he’s been prosecuted and persecuted because he leaked information or out to leak information. That’s as simple as that.

Mark

Yeah, yeah. So you worked with him like early on out on the Iraq War Logs, right. So you, maybe you can give us an impression on how on how that was working with him and how, what your observation was about how how professional and what if he had a really like the journalistic approach you would expect from like a journalist, right?

So the first I really heard about Wikileaks was actually, I mean, apart from sort of vague background noise. The first time I think it leaped into the public sphere is when somebody who worked for me at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism called James Ball, said that there’s a massive story coming out in The Guardian about the Afghan War Logs. And it’s gonna be huge. And we saw what The Guardian and others did with the Afghan War Logs. And very soon after that, there were these rumors going around, there was going to be a next phase of the Iraq War Logs. And I think that Alan Rusbridger at the time mentioned that there was going to be another tranche and then by way of, I won’t revealed who contacted me but somebody contacted me, said I think you should meet this person, a guy called Julian, come along to the Frontline Club in Paddington in London. And you know, be good for you to have a chat with him. So I turned up at the club and he was being interviewed by CNN. Then, he looked very tense and drawn and he looked very tired. He’s wearing a bulletproof vest. And clearly he was worried about his own personal safety and the enormity of what he was doing, swiftly came across i’d obviously read the Iraq the Afghan logs, but to some degree, and until you really sort of met the man and realized the risks that he knew he was taking, It was difficult to sort of put it within context. But we after the interview, in which he was so to be honest, he wasn’t that, I guess, experienced of doing interviews. He made some basic errors and talking to CNN in terms of just his style, his approach, and I sat down with him afterwards and I gave him some hints about how to do you know, live interviews because he wasn’t, you know, he wasn’t media trained or anything. And he was very affable, very intense, very engaged, very articulate, profoundly intelligent. And he obviously knew things about digital cyber, hacking and all and engagement. And I wasn’t really, I was an old school, TV investigative journalist, I sort of, you know, a bit more leather on pavement type approach to journalism, like getting prime resources, and developing trust sort of thing. This was a kind of a new, a brave new world of data journalism that I wasn’t that familiar with. But nonetheless, after meeting with some of my workers, including James Ball, he agreed he will give us this enormous cache of documents with the argument that we would then have a run into the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which was this not for profit organization that I have set up, and that The Bureau would do the heavy lifting on the investigations and we would then disseminate that material via documentaries, which will be done with some of the large British and international documentary companies. So I went away with this data on a USB stick on, James ball actually took it, and we then almost over a weekend convened and got together a lot of very, very good journalists, who some are still at the Bureau and others, you know, one of them was Chris Woods, who runs Air Wars an amazing journalist. And we basically just sat down and said, we’ve got the largest ever bit of military data leaked in one go the world had ever seen and, and I think we got a team together almost 30 journalists and we created a strategy, created a structure towards how best to investigate and just really ran at it. And then my job really was to take the bare bones and what we had, obviously this was still unfolding and then I was supposed to go out and go to the BBC go to Channel 4 dispatches, go to Al Jazeera go ABC news, go to CNN, etc, etc. and see of those, which of those broadcasters would be content to run the story. And in the end, what we ended up doing was we produced a website on the Iraq War Logs, called Iraq War Logs dot com that won an amnesty award. We produced a long form dispatches along for Al Jazeera Arabic. We created a news a Radio 4 radio documentary and we also wrote a lot of copy for Le Monde. So we had a huge amount of output over these and all through this Julian was in regular contact and it was around this time when everything changed in his life cause he went from being this relatively low level I guess hacker activist who then the Afghan logs put him in the public eye, and then the Iraq logs just thrust him into a kind of a form of madness. I mean, we had, in terms of what the Bureau’s suffered we were broken into three times during the the logs as we were investigating them. I haven’t got proof that it was, you know, a government agency, but it just seems incredibly suspicious that we kept on being broken into a friend of mine who used to work in the intelligence services, knocks on my door early one morning I opened this and he said ‘they’re watching you’ and ran off. And I had serious complications with my phone during all this time. So, I’m pretty convinced we were being spied upon by, by various bodies. And this is just us let alone Julian was, at this time, he didn’t really have a place to stay. I offered him to stay at my house. He ended up I think, with Vaughan Smith, over this time.

And I saw a pout, you know, a huge change in the man over over the few months that I really was working closely with him he went from, he just had so much stress on your shoulders. And and yet, throughout that he maintained, I would argue, an understanding that this was a very important piece of work. But I think, in the sense that the biggest problem was that he became the story as opposed to the logs so everyone kept on writing about Julian Julian Julian, and journalists didn’t want to write about what he was revealing. And, you know, did Julian, enjoy that attention? Possibly? He’s only flesh and blood he is only human. And I think along the way, it was difficult to maintain the primacy of what we were doing in terms of messaging. So on the day that we launched the logs, we got together around 350, journalists, a massive press conference, along the banks of the Thames in a hotel, the bureau rented out, Julian took to the podium explained the origin of the logs. And then he left the podium and left the room and basically every single journalist in the room ran after him. And whereas I then took the podium, and I tried to explain to those remaining what was actually in the logs. So I think along the way that the problem was that the story became more about Julian than it did about what we what Julian revealed or what we revealed with his data. And I think, ultimately the that has that framing has been harmful all along. And to what degree that’s Julian’s fault and to what degree that’s the media’s fault, I don’t want to engage you in, because I can’t tell you. But I do know that I think one of the fundamental problems is that along with this entire journey, the essence of what he did, which is very brave act of releasing documents pertaining to substantive human rights abuses to the death of civilians to widespread attacks across Iraq during those days by US personnel including extrajudicial murder these things were at the foremost of what he did and revealed. And yet the problem is that those stories haven’t caused change or prosecution or even opprobrium of what the Americans did in Iraq. And the all the opprobrium and anger and vitriol and smearing seems to still remain around Julian. So it is a curious morality tale really of how the messenger here has been shot as opposed to the message.

Mark

Right. Do you feel he is he was like, lured into all that because at first he enjoyed it, of course, you mean he gave for interviews everywhere and he gave him an opportunity to explain a lot of things and to make like the general public known with this gradually…

Iain Overton

Yeah, he, he wrote the trip, you know, and now and now this is the back the backside of the trip. He had moments of extreme elation and heights. You could see that in him. I mean, and could you blame him he’s mortal, he’s a human, he’s flesh and blood. But we could all be lured into that, you know, it’s not like this was some grand orchestrated event that he sought out. He followed the right thing to do at the time and that right thing had consequences to his ego, that it would affect all of us. I mean, I anyone who blames for being, for appearing the way he’s appeared, particularly I’m not talking about certain incidents that one can have questions about. I’m talking split expressively about his media engagements here. And yes, he may have courted the media, but maybe he decided to court the media in the hope that ultimately, it will amplify the message. But it never did, I believe I think the message was always lost under the media’s interminable focus on Julian. As an example, I gave a three a like a one and a half hour interview to the New Yorker about Julian about the work he did about what was revealed about the logs about the human rights abuses and all the rest, the very last comment she said to me, do you think you can say a few things about what you think of Julian as a person I said I’d rather not because you know, this is the logs, It’s not about Julian, but if you need to know something, I said that he kept on wearing the same bulletproof vest and it must have smelled. I couldn’t think of anything else to say I said something flippant like that. And of course, the only bloody line that the New Yorker ran was that he kept on wearing the same bulletproof vest and it smelled the same leather jacket or something. I can’t remember exactly.

AK

No, that’s important, isn’t it?

Iain Overton

To me The problem I had was that they ignored one and a half hours of me explaining to them about the human rights abuses and just focused on his smelly jacket or something.

Mark

Yeah, I got the whole concept of, of influencers these days, right? It does help to amplify the message. But in that example you’re giving Yeah, that’s, of course, it’s annoying. And it’s also it destroys the whole message, what it’s about and now we see the end results of it.

Iain Overton

And I think, concern I have over this all is that what we’re seeing now is, the narrative is almost as if he deserves what he’s getting right now. And, and even those people there are some journalists who worked very closely with him, who are now utterly silent over his fate. And I find that despicable, and one of the reasons I’m happy to speak to you is because I’m basically saying that they need to speak up. Where is Alan Rusbridger in all of this, decrying what’s happened to Julian Assange, Where are the editors of Le Monde? The Washington Post? Why are they not, you know, creating this as a fundamental issue, they sold papers off the back of what he did. I didn’t make any money off what he did, they were not for profit, but they had profit of what he did. And ultimately, they have a duty of care that they are totally remiss on I believe, and I do want to call them out and worse there are some individuals who worked close to Julian and for whatever reason had a falling out with him who seem even not to be offering him… They seem to be trying to undermine his legal narrative. I saw that David Lee was saying on social media the other day, David Lee was the investigative journalist who’s responsible for The Guardian. He was criticizing Julian’s position on the passwords on social media. And my point to David Lee is, David, this man is facing a lifetime in prison. Are you helping by opening your mouth in that way? And I think he’s not. I think he’s actually hindering. And honestly, in terms of the greater human rights abuses that we’re witnessing here. I think we need to go back to the primacy that Julian Assange is, is on trial for his life effectively, because he will he could be sent to prison for years. He’s on trial for his life over what any decent journalist would have done. In other words, leaked substantive military documents, I would have done it. And I think anyone else in that position would have done it, had they been given the opportunity, and I think is an absolute travesty that he’s not been supported, by the very press and the very broadcasters who willingly took his data when they were offered it.

AK

Right. And in the court case, recently, the US lawyers actually argued and claimed that Assange is publishing the Iraq and Afghanistan war diaries, endangered lives, a claim that is actually debunked by the Pentagon’s own admission during the Chelsea Manning trial. And actually, before the show went live, we were discussing this and I want you to tell the audience what you know about Julian Assange’s methods to redact names and information from these documents, just to set the record straight.

Iain Overton

Yeah, this is obviously my recollection. And given that this is been a number of years, you know, every single nuance might not be right. But I will give it as as clear as I remember it is that Julian came into my office at the Bureau and we had this discussion, there were a number of people there, including my deputy editor and my lead investigative journalist and the concern was about duty of care in the laws of these documents. And we all we all on on the journalistic side, on the Bureau side, we all said, Julian, the most important thing is we do a form of redaction because none of us are feeling comfortable to be part of this, if there isn’t a redaction. And Julian, at that time, agreed. He laid out an argument for not redacting. And he listened to the argument for redacting. And he agreed on redacting. He listened to reason. And the reason that he then came back with an argument, and I think he often thought this through about how do you redact the world’s largest ever data thing? because nobody’s going to sit down and go through every single line he came up with that I thought was a very clever solution, he redacted absolutely everything. And then he did a process of reverse redaction. So in other words, he took out every single word in the entire documents. And then he came across the, I don’t know, top 500 words used in the English language, and then unredacted, those top 500 words. And then, and then you saw substantive sections that were then readable. And then you could, once you went through it, be able to uplift certain words that were or were not present. So, in other words, he didn’t type in the word let’s say Mohammed Yusuf, in case a fixer called Mohammed Yusuf was mentioned in the notes. So as far as I’m aware that what happened was he did substantive, total reduction of everything, which is actually contradictory to what the US lawyers are saying that he didn’t redact anything, he redacted everything and then unredacted things based on non harm. So words that would not cause harm like and or their or attack or missile, or killing or murder, or roadblock or a soldier or all these words were then unredacted. But you know, unless there was a fixer out there called Mohammed soldier Roadblock, they wouldn’t be identified and clearly there wasn’t a Mohammed soldier roadblock in existence. So in other words, it was a form of ultra protection, I thought it was an intelligent way to ensure safety. We were very pleased with it. And and if someone says to me that Julian went ahead and didn’t do that, what I’m saying to them is, then you’re questioning my credibility, my ethics as a journalist, I would be willing to work on a story where there was a possibility of harm. Of course, I wasn’t none of us. Nobody on my team wanted harm to come from this. And since then, I’ve been very conscious of ensuring did any harm come from our reporting, any ethical journalist wants to establish that they didn’t do harm. And I find no evidence whatsoever that the Iraq War Logs or the reporting of the Iraq War Logs led anyone towards harm. What we did was we created a substantive body of evidence to show that the people who really created the harm was the US and the Iraqi military, in cahoots.

AK

Right, and also, just to add on to that multi award winning Australian journalist Mark Davis. He also backs up your claims in regards to Julian working. Basically having extreme measures redacting names and information as you said.

Iain Overton

I mean, I’m genuinely surprised that other journalists who would have been to corroborate this have not come out and said so. I said a number of times on my social media channels that he did this. I don’t know why the Guardian isn’t defending him on this. I don’t understand it. I honestly don’t understand it. And I can only judge from this, that there’s some sort of personal vendetta occurring here between journalists, at The Guardian who work with Julian, and Julian and if that’s the case, then they’re playing not just with fire, but they’re playing with a man’s life. And I think it’s morally reprehensible.

AK

Well, I will say that Luke Harding was was involved in publishing that book, Julian Assange’s war on secrecy, which contain the password to the unredacted material. And in addition to that, he was the journalist who recently published an article in regards to a secret meeting with Julian Assange and Paul Manafort. That basically never happened and there’s no proof that happened. So I mean, that’s, that’s where I kind of see things in my view.

Iain Morton

I’ve only met him twice and I’ve always found Luke, very affable. And I don’t want really to be pointing fingers. I think that the question of, of responsibilities here lies in his co author, who was the go to for the Guardian at the time. And and I think that, you know, the question, Luke was not involved in the Iraq War Logs at the time. But, you know, so is he, I mean, maybe he’s not seeing the bigger picture here. I don’t want to defend him, but I don’t want to criticize him. But I do think that there are editors at The Guardian or previous editors who were intimately involved in all of this and I really don’t understand, like, you know why David Lee, for instance, isn’t speaking up about this, because David Lee knew that there was wholesale reduction. And of course, his password thing. I mean, it’s one person’s word against another, as far as I can see over all of this. David Lee claims that the password was, you know, by Julian, and Julian says it’s in the book. The bottom line is that this is a debate about how many angels are on the top of a pinhead, whereas the the true issue is that a man is facing trial for whistleblowing. And I don’t understand why there’s not greater outrage over that. So I appreciate what you’re saying about sort of needing to ensure that there is no harm being done by journalists. I think that the bigger picture is the fact that this is an absolute travesty of human rights as occurring right in front of us and supported by parliamentarians in the Conservative Party in the UK, who have no idea about what really happened. And I was there, I saw the measures that Julian went to, to ensure that words were redacted. And he adhered to the ethical, the ethical position that all of us a group agreed upon.

AK

Right. Now, I just wanted to point that out in regards because of the court case, where the US government is arguing that, that he didn’t and that’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean, he even called the State Department and and tried to get in touch and he was basically blown off.

Iain Overton

I mean, it’s the way Well, I mean, let’s go back to sort of the primacy on on all of this is that we what we revealed was wholesale lying on the part of the US Military as part of the Iraq War Logs for there to be any surprise now that the US military and the US Department of Defense etc, are lying is well, we’ve already proven that they’re liars. We’ve proven their lies over body counts over human rights abuses of extreme level. I mean, the war logs revealed… sorry?

AK

No, I was just agreeing. I was saying, right.

Iain Overton

Yeah, I mean, and the the, the War Logs revealed, for instance, there’s one example of an instance where an Apache helicopter pilot pilot found somebody in front of him surrendering. He radioed back to base saying I’ve got a militant who wants to surrender. And the lawyer on the other end said you can’t surrender to a helicopter. And so the Apache open fire on this unarmed man and killed him. Now that is a violation of the Geneva Convention. Has that ever gone to trial? Has that ever turned into an international debate? No, that pilot is free, that lawyer is free, and a man was murdered. That, to me is what a trial should be about, not about the person who leaked the murder evidence. It’s an absolute, unbelievable travesty. And I can’t understand why other journalists absolutely involved in the logs aren’t as outraged as I am.

AK

Do you think they’re scared? Like, like, do you think that they’re scared that what will happen to what’s happening that Julian will happen to them? And in essence, because, you know, basically, he’s being used as a word I’m looking for. He’s being used as a kind of an example?

Iain Overton

Yeah. I mean I have to be careful about what I say here. But there is part of me thinks, if Julian Assange get sent to prison, then I possibly will want to present myself at the United States Embassy in London and say, if you’re going to extradite him, then why are you not extraditing me? As I was the editor of part of the logs? I published, I reviewed them I had access to them, and I took them off Julian. So the argument is that Julian was handling stolen goods. I’ve handled stolen goods. So why why does the long arm the law not extend to me? Why am I not in custody? I mean, this is a fundamental challenge to the position of the British government, because what they’re doing, I believe, is essentially suggesting that my actions were implicitly criminal, even if I’m not being prosecuted, because if they’re saying what he did was criminal, therefore, I was involved in a criminal act. And I see that as slanderous. At the very least. So I think they opened up an absolute can of worms. Are people scared? I don’t think people are scared. I think there are some people who ended up profoundly disliking Julian and have taken that personal vendetta into the realm of what I would say is immoral silence on this matter. And I think people who may not have liked Julian are now not coming to support simply because they’re acting like prima donnas, or ultimately venal hacks. And I want to call them out on it because I do think that there’s some people here who could be really coming to his savior and they’re not. And I have a problem with that. And I don’t know why the Guardian isn’t the biggest cheerleader of all given that they will behind two of the major leaks or three of the major leaks.

Mark

Yeah, and you mentioned, why am I not being extradited? Right? But you could argue and you could extend it like all the different media that have actually used this material. They’re part of this too, right? They’ve all been handling, so called stolen materials then. We were talking about..

Iain Overton

[…] scared What I think I’m what. So put this in a wider framing, it’s often revealed I’m not going to say the name of the newspaper. But a number of… around a year after we work with Julian Assange, a guy called Chris woods and now runs Air Wars came to me and said, he thought he thought that there were a real story about US drone strikes in Pakistan. And at the time, the CIA said nobody was being killed. No civilians have been killed in Pakistan. And I can, we started looking at the evidence and we came very quickly to the conclusion that actually there were dozens of people being killed by US drone strikes who are civilians, including children. And we took this story fully formed to a national newspaper, a very credible, reputable national newspaper in the UK. And they were going to run it front page until their Washington correspondent basically was lent on by the Pentagon, we were told we were a bunch of discredited journalists who shouldn’t be trusted. And they dropped it from the front page. A couple of weeks later, the same paper got an exclusive from the CIA. And they ran that instead, we ran the story anyway, and it got traction. I fundamentally believe that our story became the basis by which America today knows about US drone strikes. It was it was one of these massive stories that you know, snowballed into something that ended up being even being picked up by Hollywood. But my point is that at the time, one paper refused to do it because they feared it would harm their relationship with the CIA and Washington. Sorry?

AK

No, I was just agreeing I said ‘right’.

Iain Overton

So my concern here is not the journalists are fearful, but that ultimately journalists are not taking the step towards crying condemning this, because there are some journalists who have inherited this story. And it’s no they have no vested interest in Julian. But they have a vested interest in the community that they would be criticizing, if they took this on. There are lots of people who, you know, want to be close to government, and they would take the government’s line, they won’t challenge this in the way that needs to be challenged. And this is all very well when you talk about this in theory and the university and college lectures, you know, the framing of influence and bias and patronage and media, but this is Julian is facing possibly a very long sentence because of these errors of omission. And that’s my fundamental bugbear about this. I no longer really I write books for a living now largely, I’m no longer a front page. You know, I can’t produce front pages, I don’t have that influence anymore, you know, explicitly anyway. But so my voice is quite small in this. But I do believe that the people who do have a voice have squandered it, either just because they can’t be bothered, or because they fear not they fear but they just have measured up the benefits against the cost of being pro Julian. And unfortunately, I think we also have this other issue, which is the looming issue that some people can’t disassociate what happened with the with the abuse case and what happened is happening now, in terms of his extradition, they conflate the two and they feel uncomfortable defending Julian. Because of you know, the atmosphere at the moment about men accused of abuse, and that is a right atmosphere, but I don’t think it should sully this quite pure moment, which is Julian is possibly going to be deported from this country to a very hostile judicial system in the US where I don’t believe he’ll get due representation and due diligence. And I think the danger is when he’s in that sphere, the danger is that he will end up with a very long prison sentence. And Chelsea Manning’s actions recently with a very tragic event that occurred the other day where she tried to kill herself, I think is indicative of how much she knows that what would happen to Julian if Julian was sent to the US. In other words, Julian has shifted from this moment where I knew him where he was the man on the mountaintop full of light, everyone in the world wanting to speak to him. So this man now lonely in a prison cell, who is who was facing a very lengthy spell in the US, and I think that there’s a profound tragedy in that arc, and that trajectory of him, and I think his health has suffered, his mental health clearly has suffered. Judging from what I’ve read, and I it makes my heart weep to think what has been done to him.

AK

Now, let me ask you, what do you think about how Julian was treated in court and how he was put into a glass box? And have you ever heard that type of treatment for any accused and in court before because I’ve never seen it. I’ve never heard it before at all myself.

Iain Overton

You know, I mostly can’t immediately recall every single case in the UK that has may may or may not have involved that. But certainly the fact that, you know, is he a flight risk, given how famous he is? And could he get on a plane? You know, with a passport and all that? I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t understand why he’s in prison for the length of time he is, given his health situation. There’s so many things that I think can be challenged over this. But the problem is, is that this is almost he’s no longer witnessed as a man, he’s a spectacle, he’s a he’s a notion, he’s a caricature. I think people have lost the semblance of humanity in all of this that, you know, is a is a person who’s you know, obviously suffering and in ill health, he goes to bed, you know, and has been locked in a small room for years now in various forms. And I think the spectacle of his trial is exactly that. This is more than just Julian. This is a big statement about if you take on the world’s largest military and its allies, this is what’s going to happen to you, buddy. This is this is exactly what’s happening. And the rule, this is the the hard rule of law. That is an application of the, you know, the US military, I mean, for a lesser man, so to speak a less visible man, he would have been taken out by a drone strike already, he would have been seen labeled as a terrorist and killed. You know, that’s the sort of, you know, we know that the US has done targeted killings in that arena, extrajudicial murders, we know that! so it comes as no surprise to me, the inhumanity by which Julian is being treated. You know, war is inhumane, but what does come as a surprise to me as the muted response by by journalists who claim they are human rights reporters.

Mark

Yeah, so I asked this question on air to two other journalists, and I want to ask it from you, as well. And that is, some of us believe that they already know they are going to lose, because actually, Assange is just a journalist and did nothing wrong. Right. And so the, the suggestion is, maybe this is already his punishment. This is the deterrent to other journalists. What do you think about that?

Iain Overton

I’m… is this inevitable that he’s going to be sent to prison? there is a part of me he feels that is and he won’t be given a free trial here and isn’t being given a free trial in the US, I mean, that’s the whole tragedy of this. I think that there are I mean, you know, we have a situation where, we’re deporting a man to the US likely to for revealing the truth about us killings. And yet, we were not able to deport an American who actually kills somebody in the streets by driving over them and negligence, last year. I mean, I think we need to weigh that up quite carefully about the imbalance and I think there’s, this says a lot about I mean, there are bigger issues at stake here. There’s the Brexit scenario where Britain is desperate for US patronage because we need a fiery and feisty trading partner to work with. We and I think, in many ways, the last thing this government wants to do is pick a fight with Donald Trump’s administration and Donald Trump, you know, despite his previous praise or engagement with Julian and WikiLeaks, clearly wants to see this as as sort of a, a metaphor, maybe of his potency, and that nobody can, you know, take on greatness of the United States and win. The problem is, and I think this is the fundamental issue is that, even though there have people like Chomsky and others who have come up and spoken in defense of Julian, the problem, I think, is that there have been, there are lots of people who are supportive of Julian, who are not part of the establishment. And the consequence of that is that those who support Julian are quickly put into a very derogatory box of conspiracy theorists. The, you know, the crazies, you know, the disempowered, who are calling for Julian’s release, and you see it, I was invited. I was a judge on the forum on the British press, because that awards, and I turned up and there were people demonstrating for Julian outside. It was impressive to see. But it was interesting that it was people on the outside protesting, not people on the inside, who were all the nation’s top journalists. And I think that there is this. I think there’s something uncomfortable has occurred of this is that we’ve a lot of journalists who should be lamenting what’s happening to Julian have, for whatever reason, absented themselves as they said, and the, in the space in between citizen journalists like yourselves, people who might not be widely known in the journalistic world have decided to speak out for him. And that means you’re coming from a disempowered base where, you know, you’re easily rejected as conspiracy theorists or whatever, and reduced accordingly. And I don’t mean that offensively, I just mean that that’s the way that’s outrage and dissent is silenced. You’re just seen as being, you know, mad.

Iain Overton

Do you feel that is actually working for them that strategy like, like, because you mentioned that there were people protesting on the outside, right. And when I look at social media, for example, I see like, the support for Assange is growing among the general public and this is not, is not these are not small numbers of people anymore. So do you think…

Iain Overton

I mean, this could be that this is one of the strengths of Wikileaks it could be that actually, you know, this mass response the response that I applaud, and support the you know, the response that you are creating and collating is an admirable one. And I think you have justice on your side and justice has a tendency to be heard. I’m just thinking that this is why I’m genuinely surprised that the voice that you’re, the voice has to come from the disenfranchised, or the non media elite, you know, groups. It doesn’t come from the media itself. I just don’t really understand why there hasn’t been a campaign to release Julian in the in the British press. I’m, I’m perplexed to that. And I’m sure somebody far cleverer than me could explain it to me.

AK

Well, like I was just gonna say, like you said, they kind of pin us as paranoid or conspiracy theorists, but the word conspiracy theory actually comes from the CIA. They kind of put that term out there during the Warren Commission. to combat the conspiracy theories, for lack of a better term against what happened to John F Kennedy, when he was assassinated. And I think that you’re absolutely right. When it comes to WikiLeaks, the intelligence services, they do everything that they can against supporters and those connected actually into WikiLeaks. And we know that from the documents and Stratfor, where it showed Palantir and all these big intelligence agencies kind of colluding together to go after WikiLeaks. I don’t know if you know, the documents of talking about or not.

Iain Overton

Not explicitly, but I understand you know, the general arc I mean, the immediate way to silence a critic is to discredit them. It’s to sort of dismiss them as a loon or as crazies, or irrational or whatever. And unfortunately, this entire arena of secrecy and government secrets or does attract some people who are maybe paranoid, etc. And so, you know, even if 95% of you who campaigning for Julian are lucid, the 5% to sort of throw in, you know, chem trails or whatever it is, into the mix, they’re the ones who get, you know, who end up being representative. It’s like, you know, the people who, who are concerned about climate change just reduced to tree huggers. You know, the politics of discord, and the politics of undermining campaigns is usually rooted in ad hominem attack to the individuals so you know, I’m pretty sure that people could discredit me, we’ve all made errors in our past those errors can be amplified and used to sort of suggest that you are x y Zed, um, I mean, no, I hope that I’m viewed as a credible journalist who’s written some critically acclaimed books. That is, is at least my hope. But you know, as sure as hell if it became to the point where I was offering myself up to be arrested at the US Embassy because I felt that if they were going to send Julian they should send me as sure as hell you would have some hack in Britain, wanting to discredit me as opposed to applaud my the solidarity I have with whistleblowers and journalists the world over.

Mark

Oh yeah, no, and I agree with you. And that is like, I was wondering, you mentioned that early in the episode that so much of the information is like, it’s not known by the general public, and they focus like mostly on the person of Assange, you know, and I was thinking like, the Collateral Murder the video on the other hand, it did go viral, and many people actually watched the Collateral Murder video. Now, this is video material. There are short versions of it too. And it’s easy, you can watch it very quickly and easily. It’s widely available. What is the big difference with the other material? Like is there some form of apathy or laziness or that that people are just not looking into it?

Iain Overton

I mean, I once was on a panel in one of the former Eastern Bloc stands with a leader writer from the Financial Times. And he turned to me, we were this panel about investigative journalism in Kazakhstan. And he turned to me and said, of course, there was nothing new in the Iraq War Logs that we didn’t already know. And I almost fell off my seat. I was like, how can you sit there and say that we revealed dozens of civilians killed by US troops, hundreds actually, we revealed hundreds of civilians, murdered and tortured by the Iraqi military. We revealed systemic abuses in Iraqi prisons, we revealed, you know, the execution of prisoners. As I said, there was so much we reveal I think one of the problems generally is that we live in an age where, you know, people want a quick soundbite summary that, you know, that is an emblem. And maybe the problem with the Iraq war is that it was too big. The Iraq War Longs was just too big to find a single emblematic story. There was so many stories of abuse and horror and heartache and hardship. The other thing, which I thought was very telling is this, we were all told that, you know, our collaboration together was quite secret. So it was asked the Guardian, The Washington Post, etc, etc, all working on this on this story together. But Julian asked me explicitly with the agreement to the others, that I was to go to broadcasters to try and see if they would broadcast our stories. And of course, one of the problems of that is that when you go to a broadcaster they want to see what’s the budget, what’s the timeline, what’s the stories how much they’re gonna cost me to make a documentary. In other words, it’s not like writing an article and just getting it out there you need to hire a cameraman, edit suites, a soundboard you know, all these things cost money documentaries are expensive. And so of course, there was me on the phone to ABC or CNN or whatever, saying, you know, we’ve got these stories do you want them? Do you want me to do a one hour documentary? They were like, how much is that gonna cost? I’m like, Well, you know, with the cameraman and the producer and the and the sound, you know, edit hire in the editing suite hire, you’re looking at $60,000 or something. Okay. So I kind of was pushing this out there. And then I got a phone call from Newsweek saying, we understand you’re selling access to the Iraq War Logs. And I’m like, No, no, no, I’m selling the I’m making documentaries and if you know these cost money, and I’m being paid by Channel Four, to produce a documentary, etc, etc. and the story came out or the question was they would write stories saying that Julian was selling access to the logs, which is absolute buncombe. You know, that’s just not that’s not how broadcasts work, broadcasts cost money. Anyway, and I kind of quashed the story, but in quashing it, I acknowledged that the Iraq War Logs were out there. Now. You know, the the intriguing thing was the the the outrage amongst others in The Guardian was that I’d spoken publicly the fact that there were these Iraq War Logs, even though their own editor hadn’t spoken about it before. I had spoken about it before. And the point I’m trying to make is this is that the navigating the storytelling of the Iraq War Logs was profoundly complex and difficult, getting the world’s largest media reporting of a single issue in a collaboration was bound to cause upset and concern. And it was rooted, I think, in a profound competitiveness between the various media organizations, right? And that competitiveness, which is evidence in The Guardian’s, response to Julian, and etc, etc, I think ultimately ended up inhibiting the proliferation of the facts. In other words, newspapers that weren’t allowed to be part of that collaboration, spent most of their time reporting on Julian, not the results of the collaboration. And so it didn’t have an amplifying effect. The story quickly became about Julian and not about what was in the logs. And that’s what everyone became obsessed about. And I think ultimately, there was something quite profoundly problematic with the way the media responded to the logs, That is meant that the logs themselves haven’t been amplified in the way that let’s say that murder video has, because, you know, the Daily Mail didn’t report at length about what was in the logs The Telegraph didn’t, The Times didn’t Sunday Times didn’t, you know, etc, etc, etc. And I think that that’s ultimately has inhibited just the profound truths that are inherent in the log that Julian revealed.

AK

Like you said, they didn’t report what was in those logs. And, you know, what do you think, in your opinion, was one of the most important things to be reported in those logs that you want to tell the audience about?

Iain Overton

I mean, to me, the thing which I often come back to is actually how many civilians were shot at checkpoints by Trigger Happy worried young soldiers from the US you know, They were in this profoundly challenging time in Iraq where there were suicide bombers going off left, right and center. And these young men ended up shooting more civilians, than they shot militants. And I think that that is a profoundly important story that was never relayed with any substance. And I think one of the reasons why it wasn’t related is because of at that stage, people have had years and years of people dying in Iraq, as we’ve now got people dying in Syria. And I think just another dead Iraqi just became ‘yeah, I don’t really care’. I mean, I got an example yesterday occurred actually in the I mean, I think he’s just a wider example of, of just on ‘we’. So yesterday, on the BBC reported that the British RAF were implicated in 15 more civilian deaths and airstrikes. That’s getting no traction whatsoever in British media. And I think ultimately, the bigger concern here is this, is that we, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way that the military is reported on by right wing press in the last 10-20 years. We generally have favorable reporting about militaries. The RAF in Britain is almost always favorably reported on the only paper that doesn’t favor and reports on is The Guardian. And so it’s almost as if the military, which is one of the hallmarks of a right wing government has a unique status, a preferential status, where criticism of the military is muted and sometimes totally ignored. And I think that’s the one of the big takeaways I have from this is in the US didn’t buy my documentary or didn’t want to invest in a documentary of the Iraq War Logs, because the US media is ultimately nationalistic, in large part and doesn’t want to be seen to be criticizing the boys out in Basra or in in Baghdad. simultaneously, the same largely applies to the British printed press, that they are largely right wing pro military, and they are reluctant usually to criticize our boys on the ground. And I think that that is a fundamental problem with both the US and the British approaches towards reporting defense is that it’s normally an uncritical and supportive right wing mantra that really just mimics the top line of the government and its MOD or Department of Defense.

AK

Well, another thing that point out there is that the military industrial complex, basically invest into mainstream media in the US. So I mean, that’s no surprise, like you said that they wouldn’t want to report on that.

Iain Overton

Exactly. And and and this so called special contract or relationship that exists between the US and the UK as well means that we’re reluctant to report on American troops and misdemeanors here in the UK. Not entirely, but you know, it’s there’s just a general sort of, it’s more in a mission that is in publication of sort of mean is we may not run stories, and it’s the absence of stories being run that might be in the public interest or might be a human rights expose, or whatever is the absence of those stories, that concerns me and frankly, you know, I would say that the only people who are doing any decent investigations into the British military today in Britain is the BBC, Channel Four, and The Guardian and The Observer. Everyone else, largely, I would argue, gives the military a bit of a soft touch. And and I don’t know, I can’t speak on what happens in the US, but I think the same largely applies.

AK

Yeah. And we actually saw the results of what’s happening to Julian Assange kind of spread into Australia, after Assange was arrested. There was a raid in ABC office in regards to human rights abuses and war crimes that they were investigating on, I think it was Australian soldiers, during the Iraq war. So…

Iain Overton

I mean, it’s, I mean, I think we definitely all of these, all of these governments are represented by the right and one of the hallmarks of a right wing government is military exceptionalism. And this, this notion, I mean, what we’re seeing currently in Britain is an attempt to ensure that our veterans are not prosecuted for human rights abuses conducted overseas. We’re seeing veterans being given guaranteed job interviews in the civil service. We’re seeing veterans being given tax breaks, free transport, reduced cost of homes while they’re serving. All of these things are to me, a veering towards exceptionalism. I mean, there’s cases now of British veterans getting better treatment on the NHS than people who didn’t serve and the NHS is supposed to be blind to your background. It’s free for all and the services that contact is there regardless of whether you’re a beggar baker or you know, a banker. The point is that the NHS shouldn’t have these priorities. But we’re beginning almost have a US version of the sanctified veteran in British society. Now people can have those arguments as to whether that’s worth it or not arguable or not. But one of the consequences of having an elevated veteran status is that the press is increasingly reluctant to criticize historic allegations of military abuse, because it seemed to be attacking the veteran community. This might shock your listeners, but 1 in 7 Tory MPs in the British government are ex servicemen. So our very dominant government has a huge number of MPs in it who all served in the forces. And I don’t quite know if it’s the same in the Senate, etc in the US, but certainly the nature of the military Is that you retire at 40 or whatever. And then you go and have a second career. And that means lots of ex military officers go and become MPs, which emboldens the political contracts and reduces the media dissent. I mean, you know, it’s no surprise in Britain, that the head of the military is the Queen, who’s also the head of the state, who’s also the head of the Church. You know, it’s deep rooted in our psyche, that the military is somehow virtuous, and we don’t like criticizing them. And I think the same applies in the US today.

AK

Yeah, I definitely agree with you on that, living here in the US for sure.

Iain Overton

The US veteran given almost sacred status today. I mean, it’s a sharp U turn from a maybe it’s a bit of bitter regret about what happened to veterans from the Vietnam War, where they were forgotten, but the veteran, you know, thank you for your service. the US. And people wear their service with extreme pride, even and I do believe it’s politicized.

AK

Yeah, yeah, I definitely agree with you on that fact, too. But I was gonna say, was that do you think that if Julian Assange is extradited to the US, do you think that the military’s tyranny that is currently going on with with wars in Syria? And still, I think, in Iraq now, very recently, we saw some attacks in Iraq and the US responding. Do you think that that will get worse, because journalists won’t want to report on that and won’t report on leaks?

Iain Overton

I think that it sends out a very chilling message and the thing that establishes absolutely is precedent. And this precedent can then be reiterated in different forms and different arguments in different settings further down the line. I mean, it is a thin and we saw what happened to Chelsea Manning. And now we’re seeing what’s happened to Julian, this is an absolute statement that if you want to leak from either the US government or by default Her Majesty’s Government in the EU and Britain, then the the, the essential point is this is that we will come and get you and you will pay the price. And that is a chilling statement that I believe then leads towards a fundamental failure for people to understand what’s happening in the ground. And one of the things that is the hallmarks of modern conflict is distanced warfare. So you’ve got boys in Arizona, sending drone strikes into Pakistan or Syria or Iraq, Yep? And there are no, I mean, I’ve been on the Borderlands of Syria recently. And there are no journalists out there. You know, journalists themselves are targets. I, I’ve been detained by Hezbollah last year for asking too many questions in Lebanon. And, you know, I don’t think I’d want to be detained by Hezbollah today. The point is, is when you go out to these countries as a, as I am a white guy, you know, from Britain, you become a target, whether it’s a an ISIS target, or, you know, another target of another description. Nonetheless, the journalist is no longer a protected species, we’re open to attack. So the consequence of that means that there are lots of journalists who fear to go to downtown Baghdad for fear of being abducted or whatever. And that means that then there is less reporting on airstrikes as an example in those locations. So the only evidence that have proof that you strike killed or civilian or whatever is the US own data. And then if you get to a situation, the US military have said, If you steal our data, you’re never going to see the light of day again, then nobody’s going to steal that data. So ultimately, accountability is lost, because journalists are not doing the job that they want to do because of threats and difficulties and getting on the ground. And budget costs threats as well, who’s buying a newspaper nowadays, the International journalism is a dying art because of funding on the one hand, and on the other hand, you’ve got this scenario where guess what we blow the whistle, that’s it, you might as well just shoot yourself in the head because your life as you know it is over. I think these two come together to produce a scenario where Modern Warfare going forward is, is all going to be about distanced attacks in countries you can’t get to and the outcome of that will be well, you know, you just have to take our word for it. And history has taught us that when governments go to war, the first thing they start doing is lie.

AK

Yeah. And they lied about the Iraq War by saying that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And that actually came from a academic report that they put together copy paste that and called the Downing Street report.

Iain Overton

Exactly. So you have the war that was built on a lie. Um, you know, I mean, in the immediate aftermath of 911, you had Rumsfeld with Cheney and others in a basically a bunker. And he said, we got to go to war with Iraq, and everyone looked at him ‘what do you mean, it was, it was Afghanistan, wasn’t it? And he said Afghanistan isn’t big enough. We need a bigger fish and and the decision to go to a war. In the in the weeks following 911, Bush got the CIA to say how many countries would they need to operate in in the so called war on terror? And the the CIA came back and said, we need, we think this will extend to 88 countries. Two years ago, the US Department of Defense released information saying that it had current military operations 18 years after 911. It had current military operations in 88 countries. I mean it’s almost as if the Global War on Terror was created in the weeks following 911. And everyone has kept to that script ever since. And, and what human rights abuses have occurred in those countries? We don’t know. Because, you know, journalists are not being equipped to find out these stories. We do rely on whistleblowers. No, no whistleblower will ever come forward. I mean, would you whistle blow today if you were a US soldier?

AK

Well, they have precautions that are in place now after Chelsea Manning’s leak. I know that because I’ve talked to several whistleblowers, but in regards to what you just said, US, General or NATO general? Wesley Clark. He said that after 911 weeks after 911 they devised the plot to invade seven countries within five years. So, I mean, like, it’s, I didn’t hear anything about the 88 countries. I never heard that before. But um, you know, it’s criminal, what they’re doing. I mean, they’re planning wars.

Iain Overton

I mean, and, you know, when I first began to look into all of this and report on this when someone said the word military industrial complex, I genuinely like thought, okay, your conspiracy theorists I am not going to give you any time. The more I’ve looked into this, the more I think that actually it’s not necessarily that somebody is calling somebody saying go to war, we’re going to make money. I don’t think it’s explicit as that, but it’s all about the implicit framing of support and notions that if you do this, you will get support for doing it. In other words, the money lubricates the support, and the people who make the money out of the conflict will then support the conflict thereafter. And those people making the money are very powerful people. So I don’t think it’s a sort of a it’s not sort of catch 22 or Fahrenheit 911 military industrial complex in that sense, but I do think it’s just the way that the mechanisms of power and lubricated are supported by large arms industries. And I’ve spoken for instance, to British Members of Parliament who’ve said that they would not criticize BAE systems arming Saudi Arabia because they have BAE companies in their constituencies and these bring in jobs and no MP is gonna want to reduce job employment in their constituency. So these things it’s sometimes the micro decisions made surrounding conflict that lead towards it’s waging.

Mark

Hey, so you mentioned the military industrial complex, right and and yeah, that you can easily be put away as a conspiracy theorist, but you can also apply logic to it because we’re talking about an American military budget yearly of hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. And we’re talking about private companies producing weapons. We’re talking about airplanes on Boeing, we’re talking about Lockheed Martin, we’re talking about these companies delivering the weapons. That means that yearly hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars go into the hands of these companies, we’re talking about public wealth going into the hands of a few private companies. And it means like after a number of years, there is so much wealth in the hands of these companies, that of course, they will gain a lot of power with that especially in the type of Economy The United States is right. This is like a logic.

Iain Overton

I mean, um, I think I think the basic concept there is a military industrial complex exists in the US and in Britain. There are billions and billions of pounds at stake here and, and the US Britain as well as others. Security Council members make up the vast majority of arms exports around the world, that this is the truth. The thing which I think people think when you say military industrial complex is you sort of have shadowy figures in the background sort of orchestrating this in a coherent way. I don’t think that’s the case. But what I think is the case is that decisions are made, decisions not to do things are made with the notion that there may be profit in the background. In other words, the entire… so in Britain, for instance, you often get people who are in the military who then go and work in the defense industry, and then you get people in the military go work in Parliament, and these people know each other. And I think it’s often that it’s that creation of micro communities at an elevated level that create the conditions whereby a militancy and a militant state is created and upheld. I don’t absolutely agree that there are people pulling strings here, but I think it’s the organic creation of communities that sort of believe, in America, for instance, they believe in the right to bear arms. And you know, Bolton is not only the the chief executive of the National Rifle Associations, Foreign Select Committee, or is the head of the foreign Select Committee in the NRA. But Bolton was also obviously, you know, at some stage, the UN ambassador to the for the US, as well as all these other things. I mean, John Bolton is a perfect example of a man who has profited both from the diplomacy of war war as well as the mechanisms of war war in terms of you know, our The NRA Anyway, I hope that that was a good session for you. I’m afraid I have to leave it now. But it was a real joy speaking to you and hopefully we, we I put a few truths about Julian down on tape. And hopefully that some of this might even surface as evidence in the future that the one takeaway or the two takeaways I will have is this. Number one, Julian Assange redacted the Iraq War Logs. And number two, I believe that some journalists who worked with Julian Assange ought to speak up about the fact that he did that. And the fact that he should not now be on trial for what I believe is almost his life. Thank you very much.

Mark

Thank you very much. And I really appreciate you coming on and sharing this with us and yeah, I guess we we covered everything we need to cover for now. And Yeah once again thank you and of course we can do another episode in the near future and update about this.

Iain Overton

Ok, Good speaking to you and you, Take care bye bye.

Mark

Yeah so to listeners a lot of information is given at the start. If you missed out on this you can always wait till we finish the broadcast and then you can scroll back and listen back everything again. There is some useful information like the guest mentioned to you don’t want to miss out on for the rest. I don’t know it guy. Do you wanna have anything else to bring in?

AK

Uh, no, I think we should just end this episode and if you want to go alive with another episode on the coronavirus fix Do that there’s a lot of updates on that. But I think this episode we should definitely end and then yeah, we could do another one if you want.

Mark

Okay, so be it Okay, thanks everyone for listening…

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