Courage Foundation boss walks as pro-Jules trustees order Barrett Brown cut loose
The director of whistleblower support outfit the Courage Foundation has quit after being told to pull support from Barrett Brown following some barbed comments he made about Julian Assange.
Naomi Colvin walked out of the foundation after “three of Courage’s trustees wrote to me demanding that I inform Barrett Brown that he could no longer be a Courage beneficiary, on the basis of ‘nasty adversarial remarks’ about WikiLeaks,” she wrote in a blog post.
Courage works by picking people in legal trouble who it deems worthy of support and then giving them help in a variety of ways, including financially. Those eight “beneficiaries”, as Courage calls them, include Anonymous-linked FBI-baiter Barrett Brown and everyone’s go-to website for Russian-influenced propaganda the embarrassing contents of American governmental messages, Wikileaks.
Nonetheless, Brown’s growing antipathy towards Assange/Wikileaks as the increasingly isolated Wikileaker goes steadily more stir crazy in Ecuador’s London embassy earned him Assange’s ire. So it was that Colvin received missives from Courage trustees ordering her to cut Brown loose, something she would not do.
In a statement posted on her personal blog, Colvin said she remains “absolutely, unambiguously opposed to the withdrawal of Julian Assange’s asylum and the prospect of his extradition to the United States,” while adding that she does “have acute concerns about the way advocacy on this issue is developing.”
Some in pro-whistleblower circles have grown concerned by what they see as the rise of the online far right in support of Assange. This sits alongside mounting allegations from American governmental figures that Assange used his website to publish material nicked by state-backed Russian hacker crews for that country’s political gain.
Brown himself tweeted to thank Colvin for quitting "rather than execute Assange's order to purge me from the org under false pretenses".
Courage’s trustees are named on its website as: Assange himself; legal activist Barbara Bukovska; left-wing activist and film-maker John Pilger; Spanish human rights lawyer Renata Avila; Scottish arts organiser Susan Benn; and clothes designer Vivienne Westwood, who modestly bills herself as “co-created punk in the 70s”.
Colvin declined to name the three who demanded she pull the foundation’s support from Brown.
“I think this leaves Courage in a difficult position,” Colvin told The Register in an interview about her resignation.
“Nathan Fuller is still there, I have absolute faith in him and he’s a person of great integrity. He cares about our beneficiaries, he’s really great. Any new director of Courage will have to plot a difficult course between ensuring that the promise we make to all our beneficiaries is respected and also establish some kind of independent space to conceive and fulfil campaign plans.”
As for herself, Colvin – who played a major role as director of Courage in keeping the world updated and the press happy during the trial of accused British hacker Lauri Love – said she will continue working on “the problems facing our community… under a different banner,” adding that she is “committed to helping this community and others who are in legal jeopardy for doing the right thing.” ®
Julian Assange Went After a Former Ally. It Backfired Epically.
WikiLeaks’ founder tried to retaliate against hacktivist hero Barrett Brown and prompted a crack-up at a whistleblower protection group, losing an asset in an extradition clash.
A botched power play by Julian Assange has led to a split within a key organization supporting whistleblowers and leaves the WikiLeaks founder more isolated than ever among his core constituency of radical transparency activists.
Assange has grown furious at a one-time ally with substantial moral authority within their movement: the journalist and activist Barrett Brown.
Since his release from federal prison on trumped-up charges related to a major corporate hack, Brown been increasingly public in voicing disgust at Assange’s embrace of Donald Trump and his general comfort with the nationalist right. That has led Assange, an erstwhile transparency advocate and whistleblower champion, to retaliate.
“I have been increasingly vocal about my growing distaste for WikiLeaks in general and Julian Assange in particular, largely due to his close and ongoing involvement with fascist entities, his outright lies about his role in the last U.S. election, and his willingness to have others tell similar lies on his behalf,” Brown told The Daily Beast. “I have also continued to support his rights against the state and private organizations that have pursued him from the very beginning, when his original mission of ethical transparency was still in play.”
Assange had a lever against Brown. Brown has received financial backing from the Courage Foundation, a whistleblower protection group. Courage operates WikiLeaks’ legal defense fund, which is increasingly important to Assange amid rumors that Ecuador will soon evict Assange from its London embassy, where he has lived since 2012 following a since-shuttered rape investigation in Sweden and possible interest in Assange from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller, as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, last week subpoenaed an alleged backchannel between Assange and Trump consigliere Roger Stone.
While Assange has no formal role on Courage, multiple knowledgeable sources said he continues to exert informal influence over it. Assange co-founded what would become the group and was an initial trustee. In May 2017, Courage formally took on WikiLeaks as a beneficiary.
On Thursday, three Courage trustees aligned with Assange instructed Courage’s widely respected director, Naomi Colvin, to cut off Brown. According to a new statement Colvin has posted on Medium, the trustees explicitly based their reasoning on “‘nasty adversarial remarks’ about WikiLeaks” Brown has made.