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Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman

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Protect Your Friends -- Protect Julian Assange

Posted: 01/31/11 01:47 PM ET

After months of isolation and sleep deprivation — psychological torture — Bradley Manning probably no longer knows whether he was involved in leaking collateral murder video and various other scandalous documents. True or not, he is likely to confess to it, but what his captors really want is to get Julian Assange. They want to claim he was involved in convincing Manning to leak the documents so they can punish him too. They could make Manning say so, but testimony from a broken co-defendent may not be very convincing. They need more.

They may try to use you to get it.

I hear that they are focusing on Manning's friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts, seeking to link Manning to Assange through them and some chain of other people, then accuse the whole lot. Any chain of people they can get will do.

Prof. James Duane, of the Regent University School of Law, explains how stating even a harmless fact to the police can enable them to convict you of a crime that you did not commit. (The second part too.) I didn't refer to these on video.google.com because you need to run non-free/libre Javascript code to view the videos there, even if you use the free Gnash player instead of Adobe's nonfree player which implements digital handcuffs.)

During the present witch hunt, it's worse. Innocent-seeming information they get from you could give them the opportunity to convict you or your friends, and Assange, even if you had nothing to do with the leak and neither did they.

Suppose that federal agents believe that Bradley Manning knew J. R. Gensym. Suppose they find out that you met J. R. Gensym. They could try to pressure you into testifying that you helped Julian Assange communicate with J. R. Gensym and Bradley Manning (even if you didn't). With that testimony, they can condemn Assange to a life of solitary confinement. Whatever they threaten you with, it won't be as bad as the shame of knowing you were their tool to destroy Assange.

If they don't see a good way to use you against Assange, they might try to use your friends or acquaintances instead.

Suppose they find out from you that Fred Crunchly knew J. R. Gensym. And suppose they see a way to accuse Fred of some felony — maybe a real one, or perhaps a plausible falsehood fabricated out of strained interpretations of innocent facts. Then they can invite him to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for testifying that Julian Assange used him to communicate with J. R. Gensym and Bradley Manning.

If he cracks, they get Assange. Whether Fred ever communicated with Julian Assange will make no difference if he testifies that he did. (A state that practices imprisonment without trial based on secret evidence, and shields torturers, cannot be relied on to be scrupulous about the truth.) As for you, your sentence will be 40 years' hard self-loathing.

If you're in the computing community or the dissident community, or you know someone who is, be careful for your friends' sake. It is a crime to lie to investigators, and they can twist most anything you might say to them into a lie; but it is lawful to refuse to answer, or (much better) to bring a lawyer who will remind you to say nothing.

Meanwhile, and don't gossip about your acquaintances with people you don't know very well — nor on the telephone even with friends — nor in a room where there is an eavesdropping device (aka cell phone) unless ALL its batteries have been removed.

Copyright 2011 Richard Stallman
Released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noderivs 3.0 license.