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article imageVideo: Naomi Wolf interviewed about torture and whistleblowers

By Anne Sewell     Aug 20, 2012 in World
In an interview with author and journalist Naomi Wolf, we hear that the U.S. classifies torture, but punishes those who tell the truth. The current crackdown on journalists, whistleblowers and activists is discussed in detail.
RT's Marina Portnaya interviews Naomi Wolf on a range of subjects.
Wolf is asked for her take on the fact U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently announced an order to Pentagon officials to start monitoring major news stations in the U.S. to see if any of the outlets are disclosing classified information.
Wolf reaction is "a profound feeling of nausea", and "a sense that the United States has collapsed into the Soviet Union, circa the mid-30's. This was horribly foreseeable, but I can’t believe it’s come to this."
Wolf then discusses Bush and the reenaction of the Espionage Act. She mentioned how the U.S. Government went after the New York Times when they broke the story of the SWIFT banking scandal, where the government was monitoring people's private financial transactions.
She discusses how it is a journalist's job to publish classified information, and that a crack down by both Bush and Obama is over-classifying information, especially wrongdoing, especially anything related to what whistleblowers want to release, especially torture that they have engaged in and methods of torture, including fraud, corruption.. they are classifying it.
Wolf mentions that she has interviewed legal representatives of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and that these representatives cannot tell her how their clients were tortured, as this is classified information.
"It's not National Security information, it's the government using classification as a way of protecting it's own corruption and fraud," Wolf says.
She says what it most scary about the situation is that anyone who is a journalist, and tells the truth, doing their job, all they do all day long is discuss classified information, trade the information, share the information, and "show off when we have classified information", "because it means we are being effective at our jobs."
She explains that this is not the same a leaking classified information. Anyone that leaks classified information does know that they are breaking the law.
However, the job of journalists is to publish classified information that is brought to them which is in the public interest.
But she says that now the U.S. government is using "almost mafia tactics", to tell journalists in America that "we're going to intimidate you, threaten you, and we're threatening you with serious legal penalties, like prison time, if you do your job." She says that's what they do in China.
When asked what she thinks would happen to Julian Assange if he ends up in the U.S., Wolf says, "In an ideal world he would go safely to Sweden and the women that have accused him would have their day in court, he would have his day in court and justice would be impartial."
"I don't think that is what's happening in his case. I think that it's a global, kind of man hunt to punish and silence a whistleblower, publisher. Again not a leaker, a publisher."
"Bradley Manning leaked the material allegedly, and so he has to deal with whatever he has to deal with." She stresses that Julian Assange is the publisher, and not the leaker.
It is agreed that this is similar to the case with the New York Times.
"I think that there is no way that he can have an impartial trial in Sweden, but quite apart from that, I am very concerned that there is meta-national pressure on Britain and on Sweden by the U.S.".
Wolf then quotes evidence on this fact, that demonstrates that the intent is to extradite Assange to the U.S. and then "have him be the highest profile journalist in Guantanamo" - she says, where do you go from there as people have been there for ten years without charge or trial.
She says this is not just to silence him, but is also to send a message to anyone else who might "leak compromising or embarrassing or problematic material about the United States government."
The National Defense Authorization Act is discussed in detail and Wolf has been involved in a class-action lawsuit against President Barack Obama and his Defense Secretary.
Wolf said, at that time the NDAA would "include powers that could bring the authorities of Guantanamo to America's court houses, streets and backyards."
They discuss that in May, judges suspended section 10.21 of the NDAA - Wolf was actually in the courthouse when this happened.
Wolf says, "The National Defense Authorization Act is an absolutely terrifying piece of legislation. Section 10.21 was the section that explicitly said that the President had the power to round up anyone without charge of trial and hold them forever."
Chris Hedges, a journalist brought this forward as well as many activists, including an Occupy activist from London. The President's lawyers were in the court, Wolf was there, but she says that there were very few reporters in the room, and that none of them were from major U.S. news outlets.
The government's lawyers then confirmed that "Chris Hedges could be detained forever for reporting on the Taliban, for reporting on people who could be classified as enemy combatants. They confirmed that that was indeed the case."
"Or if someone wrote a book about enemy combatants that in any way was sympathetic to the point of view that the U.S. had too much power in this part of the world. Crazy examples of sweeping powers to detain American citizens and to criminalize dissent, criminalize journalism,"
Getting back to the court case, Wolf says, "This very brave judge listened to the evidence, which wasn't hard to miss because it was so confirmed by these lawyers that this is what it would do, and she suspended that part of it [section 10.21 of the NDAA], and so saved the constitution, where the due process clause is, that guarantees everyone in America the right to a trial."
The fact that the NDAA has not been a bigger story in the mainstream media in the U.S. is then discussed, and how it was a huge issue, that was signed by President Obama on New Year's Eve, when everyone was out partying. Wolf said that she had spoken to many mainstream journalists who were not even aware of the NDAA and what it consisted of, and actually wouldn't believe what she said, as they hadn't seen it themselves in the media.
Discussions are held on why the violent crackdown on Occupy activists and the crackdown on dissent, the bullying of journalists is now occurring.
Wolf links this to the huge systemic fraud that is being uncovered in the banking sector.
Wolf says that it is clear that "there is a small group of guys and girls who are in on massive fraud, and so this Occupy movement, journalists threaten to uncover a lot of crimes if the books are ever opened, and in an email world, in an electronic world, these crimes are forever.."
Occupy Wall Street is discussed and the violent attack against the protesters. How they were shot with rubber bullets, arrested for standing on the sidewalk and maced. The interviewer says that Occupy seems a little quieter these days and asks Wolf why she thinks this is so.
Wolf says, "I was arrested for standing on a sidewalk telling Occupy protesters what their first amendment rights were, to protest. We were facing 15 days in Ryker's Island which is a violent prison. It makes you think twice about going out to use your first amendment rights."
"Every activist I know assumes their emails are monitored, their phone calls are monitored .... it's just a complete sense of Big Brother is a hair's breadth away."
"I am frightened to see countries like Britain sleepwalking into okaying legislation to institute this kind of surveillance, but really in Europe people still think they have some privacy. They can go to the march, and go home."
"I am sorry to say that when you get this matrix of surveillance plus police brutality, plus laws that suspend due process, it's very effective at breaking down protest."
However, "having studied closing societies, and having studied societies that re-opened democracy, mass protest is the key to re-opening democracies."
The full transcript of the interview can be read here.
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