I am fascinated by the reaction to my article that, in my view, was about freedom of the press. Press freedom is not and should not be a right confined solely to the United States. Prior to 2016 it was one of the things that made America special and was something that set America apart from the rest of the world. Sadly, we now have oodles of evidence that the Government of the United States is attacking that freedom and using the excuse of protecting classified information to quash that right.
Many of you surprised me by assuming I was equating the quality of Gershkovich’s work with that of Julian Assange or Edward Snowden. Boy, did you get that wrong. I was simply making the point that the work of a journalist is to get information the public is not supposed to have. Several of you also made the mistake of believing that a journalist trying to find out how many tanks Russia is producing is a heinous crime.
Right now the United States Intelligence Community is reportedly telling political and military leaders that Russia is running out of tanks. I believe that is a lie and a dangerous lie at that. Why? Because if U.S. policy makers buy into that false narrative they may be emboldened to escalate military actions against Russia because they believe it is weak. That is a road to nuclear disaster and I am doing all I can to warn about that danger.
Lest you think I am endorsing Gershkovich as a great reporter, he is not. He is a lazy, gullible tool. Go back and read his articles. Rather than coming up with hard hitting facts backed up by solid sources, he wrote propaganda. Consider these beauties as exemplars:
Russia’s Economy Is Starting to Come Undone
Ukraine Sees Russian Losses in Bakhmut as Paving Way for Spring Offensive
Artillery Shortage Hampers Russia’s Offensive in East Ukraine, Western Officials Say
That said, Gershkovich was not spying for the CIA. He was not being paid by the CIA. He was not a Non-Official Cover officer masquerading as a journalist. How do I know this? Because it is against the law. In saying that I realize there has been quite a bit of lawless behavior on the part of the CIA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice. Nonetheless, nothing in the published work of Evan Gershkovich rises beyond the mediocre and the banal.
I cannot rule out the possibility that the U.S. Intelligence Community may have sent signals that could have persuaded the Russians that Gershkovich was spying for the United States. That is called baiting a trap. And for those of you who insist that Russia does not give a shit what the United States thinks I agree with you. But you’re missing the point that the audience for this is the American public, who are now being fed the bullshit that Gershkovich is a victim of a new Soviet dictatorship. This is all about ginning up more domestic support to battle Russia at the very moment that support for the war in Ukraine is fading.
Do you understand? I think Russia got played on this and has turned a second-rate journalist into a cause célèbre. And while the punditry in America are pillorying Russia for an “unjust” arrest of a journalist, those same pundits are deaf, dumb and blind on the attacks leveled against real journalists, like Julian Assange.
One other point about what constitutes vital intelligence that can undermine a nation’s security and intelligence that helps reduce the risk of conflict. Knowing how many tanks that Russia actually is producing does not weaken Russia’s ability to pursue its military operation against Ukraine. Knowing where tanks are going to be deployed and when they are going to engage would be information that could give Ukraine an advantage. Does anybody really believe that Gershkovich was working on gathering the latter kind of information? That would only be obtained if Gershkovich convinced someone on the Russian General Staff to give that to him. There is nothing in Gershkovich’s previous articles that indicates he had any such access.
If there was a person or persons passing classified information to Gershkovich, the weight of prosecution should fall on them, not the journalist, no matter how inept he may be.
I uphold the Ellsberg principle. There are times that governments in the midst of a war are lying to their public and withholding information that the public has a right to know. Ellsberg did not reveal information about the disposition of U.S. and allied forces in Vietnam nor did he alert the North Vietnamese to impending operations that enabled them to ambush U.S. forces. His information exposed the lies employed to persuade the American public to support a needless war in Vietnam.
If you endorse arresting journalists trying to report on subjects, such as the actual capabilities of a country to wage war, then you side with those who tried to silence Daniel Ellsberg.
I continue to believe that a massive disinformation campaign is being waged against the citizens of Western countries by their own governments with the express purpose of convincing them that Russia is a weak power incapable to withstanding the military might of the United States and NATO. I believe that is dangerous and increases the likelihood that Russia, at some point in the future, will be compelled to teach the West a hard, bloody lesson.