US Justice Dept’s Next Victim

Daniel Duggan is facing the same extreme tactics applied to Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Daniel Hale and others caught in Washington’s “national security” dragnet

Many of us who write for and read Consortium News are worried about Julian Assange’s personal well-being, especially amid rumors that the British High Court will soon issue a decision to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher to the notorious Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) to face multiple counts of espionage.

Julian deserves unwavering support, at the very least because he alerted the world to crimes being committed by the U.S. government.  His bravery has been well-documented, even if the government says that he is a danger to American national security.

The U.S. Justice Department has made something of a sport of attacking people on “national security” grounds.  Just look at what has happened in recent years to Tom Drake, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Daniel Hale and this writer.

The Justice Department’s attack dogs told Tom Drake and Chelsea Manning that they had the “blood of American soldiers” on their hands.  That was an outrageous lie, of course.  They told Jeffrey Sterling that he had aided Iran’s nuclear program.  That was made up out of whole cloth.  They told Daniel Hale that he had weakened America’s war-fighters.  That was ludicrous.  They told me that I had “weakened our democracy” and “aided the enemy” after I blew the whistle on the C.I.A.’s illegal and immoral torture program.  Those were more outrageous lies.

Now they’re going after a man who has done nothing to hurt anyone, who has done literally nothing to weaken the United States or to strengthen its enemies.  I’m talking about Daniel Duggan.  The father of six is facing 60 years in prison for allegedly assisting the Chinese.  Let me explain how ridiculous the accusation is.

Duggan, 54, is a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot who retired from the military in 2002 with the rank of major, married an Australian woman and became an Australian citizen, simultaneously giving up his American citizenship.

From 2005 to 2014, he lived in Australia, where he founded Top Gun Tasmania, a company that offered flights on military jets for tourists.  In 2014, he sold the business and moved to Beijing to work as an aviation consultant.  It was in Beijing that he took a job as an instructor at a South Africa-based flight school, where he trained Chinese fighter pilots.  So what, right?

DOJ Cites Sanctions 

Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo: M.V. Jantzen / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Apparently to the Justice Department, that constituted a major crime.  The DOJ maintains that Chinese pilots are on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list.  Prosecutors stated further that the address that Duggan and a Chinese partner used was also on a sanctions list briefly in 2014 and 2016.  As a result, Duggan was charged with arms trafficking and money laundering because of the training.  The odd thing is that literally nobody else associated with the school has been charged with any crime.

Duggan, however, has been held in an Australian maximum-security prison for nearly a year, classified as an “extremely high-risk restricted inmate.”  Much of his time has been in solitary confinement, even though he has not been charged with any crime in Australia and none of the other people at the aviation consultancy has been charged with any crime.

His wife and legal team filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council saying that his incarceration was unjustified and was causing him severe psychological distress.  Furthermore, he is not receiving appropriate care for a condition he has called benign prostatic hyperplasia.

A clinical psychologist called the conditions in which he’s being held “extreme” and “inhumane.”  Earlier this year the Australian inspector general for intelligence and security announced that he would conduct a formal inquiry into Duggan’s detention.  That’s a decent start, but it’s not going to solve anything.

In the meantime, he’s still facing extradition to the United States.

Dan Duggan is facing the same heavy-handed tactics that Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Daniel Hale, and others caught in the U.S. government’s overzealous national security dragnet have faced.  He’s looking at the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.  He’s looking at spending much of that in a system that uses solitary confinement in such a way that the United Nations has declared it to be a form of torture.  He’s looking at being isolated in a maximum-security prison, where he will receive substandard medical care and animal-grade food.  And for what?

The deeper problem is that this is not at all a clear-cut case of a person violating national security law.  Duggan is just a guy caught up in big state politics.  The issue here is that the U.S. government is engaged in a cold war with China, whether it’s over trade, Chinese successes in Africa, the Belt & Road Initiative, espionage and counterespionage, or placating the military-industrial complex. 

Dan Duggan is a victim of that cold war.  He’s a victim of a Justice Department that’s gone hog wild in its prosecution of low-hanging fruit, especially in national security cases. It’s a Justice Department where eager young prosecutors get promoted by prosecuting you, not for not prosecuting you.  It’s going to be a long road for Duggan and his family.  We can only hope that his legal team has the wherewithal to fight that fight.

Main photo © Rawpixel / Public domain.

Source: Consortium News.

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