Whistleblower org chief quits over Assange critic boot demand

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 whom 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”.

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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.” ®




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