Is phony assault charge against Grayzone editor latest twist in US war against Maduro?
The US intelligence service finally ran out of patience with Max Blumenthal last Friday morning and stormed his home, seizing him and spiriting him away to prison for a weekend of illegal detention, mistreatment and threats.
If that had happened to a well-respected investigative journalist in Caracas, Venezuela then the international media would have risen as one in outrage, condemning the heavy-handed tactics of President Nicolás Maduro and his security forces.
There would have been calls for the Venezuelans to explain their actions, demands to release the journalist immediately and to guarantee their future security. Sanctions already in place by the US would have been tightened and denunciations would have been forthcoming from all corners.
But with this happening in the US capital, it is a different story because the intelligence services do not like people like Max Blumenthal. He is the sort of troublemaker who asks awkward questions of the powers that be, who raises issues that are considered best left unexplored and generally makes them squirm when rocks are kicked over and their less honourable activities are revealed in daylight.
Ask Edward Snowden how that goes down. (Better still, read his autobiography Permanent Record which came out a few weeks ago.) Ask Chelsea Manning, ask Julian Assange.
If you cause a fuss that US intelligence does not like then your card is marked and it is only a matter of time before you will be whisked away for a weekend of fun and games while shackled in a cage. It might not be today, or tomorrow, but that knock on the door will come.
So Blumenthal’s reporting from outside the Venezuelan embassy, as he and other activists attempted to deliver food and sanitary supplies to those besieged inside was exactly the sort of thing to make the men in dark suits see red.
He told how, “the pro-coup mob outside turned violent, physically assaulting embassy protectors, and hurling racist, sexist and homophobic abuse at others” and he, along with his colleagues, tweeted details of pro-coup individuals vandalising the Venezuelan embassy and abusing the Embassy Protection Collective activists.
This sort of exposure did not fit in with the plans of the US Government to demonize Venezuela or its president, with Obama having kicked things off by declaring the nation a national security threat way back in 2015.
Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that belief earlier this year in case anyone thought there had been a thaw in the frozen relationship since the change in the White House residents.
And as the powers have spoken, don’t you dare disagree with them or make them look bad. Which is what Blumenthal has done.
Having made its mind up about Maduro, the US managed to sign up 50 nations to somehow back the notion that the Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido should actually be recognised as president of the oil-rich nation. There are some powerful dissenting voices, however, namely Russia and China who sit alongside the US as permanent members the United Nations Security Council.
America decided to try and orchestrate a coup back in June this year and along with Colombia and Chile, devised a plot to overthrow the Venezuelan government and assassinate Maduro.
Around the same time, the embassy in DC became a focus for the plotters, who included supporters of Guaido but the local activists were too quick and managed to get people embedded inside the building to report on and record the siege as it unfolded.
That was not what the intelligence services wanted.
Blumenthal and Co needed to be shut down. Stooges willing to press fake charges were found and Blumenthal was wrongly accused of assault albeit five months after the incident apparently took place. Why the delay?
A puzzled Blumenthal wrote online: “If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment.”
But it is not justice that is being sought here. This is an exercise in intimidation and fear, hence the unheralded 9am arrival of the forces of law and order, the shackles, the cages and the denial of contact with legal representation.
Whatever happened to the press freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment which permits information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government? Or doesn’t that count anymore?
Are threats, insults and attacks now simply occupational hazards for journalists in the USA?
Will Max Blumenthal and his colleagues at The Grayzone, and investigative journalists elsewhere, let an increasingly authoritarian regime intimidate them into early retirement? Unlikely.
Blumenthal has had an unpleasant experience, no doubt, and while the assault charge may not succeed in unnerving him he would certainly know now that the fight to maintain press freedom does not come easily. First amendment or not.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.