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11 Apr, 2019 19:10

National security & imperial presidency: What book Julian Assange was reading during his arrest

National security & imperial presidency: What book Julian Assange was reading during his arrest

As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy by British police, he emerged clutching a single book: Gore Vidal’s ‘The History of the National Security State.’

Later, as he sat in the dock at Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange silently read through the book, before he was found guilty of skipping bail in 2012 and remanded in custody.

Was Assange trying to send a message? Through a collection of interviews with Vidal, the book covers themes dear to Assange and WikiLeaks, tracing the historical events that gave rise to the military-industrial-security complex, as well as the expansion of executive powers that led to what the author calls “the imperial presidency.”

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“The people have no voice because they have no information,” Vidal warned in the book. Speaking to RT on Thursday, former MI5 agent Annie Machon hailed Assange for trying to do something about this.

“We’ve seen time and time again how easy it is for the mainstream media to be controlled and manipulated from behind the scenes by the intelligence agencies and by governments,” Machon said. “And that is precisely the model that Julian Assange tried to break. And he did it courageously and he did it knowing full well what he’d be facing.”

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Assange began publishing classified materials, some detailing alleged war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the George W. Bush administration, and avoided US persecution under Barack Obama. In his book, Vidal heaped scorn on both parties for working together to ratchet up ‘homeland security’ in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Now we have a dictatorial system, as best personified by the USA Patriot Act, which just removes us of our Bill of Rights,” Vidal stated. “This is the most serious thing that has happened in the history of the United States, and how we get out of it’s anyone’s guess.”

“I was born eighty years ago in a country called the United States of America and now I live in a Homeland—an expression we haven’t heard since Hitler,” the novelist and essayist added.

The book’s appearance in Assange’s dramatic arrest seems to have piqued some interest in the dissident intellectual. Searches for ‘Gore Vidal’ spiked worldwide after the WikiLeaks founder was hauled away by police.

Vidal passed away in July 2012, a month after Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London. His work remains as relevant as ever while seven years later Assange awaits a possible one-year jail sentence in Britain and likely extradition to the US, where the Justice Department has not ruled out hitting him with more charges in addition to the charge of conspiring to crack an army network password with Chelsea Manning.

Speaking through his lawyers from a jail cell, Assange appeared to tell supporters on Thursday his arrest was inevitable in the age of the national security state.

“I told you so,” he said.

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