Daniel Duggan with his wife Saffrine. [Source: apnews.com]

Charges Appear to Be Ridiculous

The 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 CIA’s illegal and immoral torture program. Those were more outrageous lies.

Now they are 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 am talking about Daniel Duggan. The father of six is facing 60 years in prison for allegedly assisting the Chinese.

He has been held in solitary confinement in Australia for two years, pending extradition to the United States. And when his wife Saffrine tried to sell the family farm to hire an American attorney, the Justice Department asked the Australian government to seize the farm so that it could not be sold. The Aussies did dutifully as they were told.

Let me explain how ridiculous the accusation against Dan is.

Dan, 54, is a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot who retired from the military in 2002 with the rank of major, married Saffrine, 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 to tourists. In 2014, he sold the business and moved to Beijing to work as an aviation consultant. Before moving to China, in 2010-2012, he took a part-time job as an instructor at a South Africa-based flight school, where he trained Chinese pilots for a couple weeks at a time. So what, right?

Man in airforce uniform with planes on a ship behind him.
[Source: abc.net.au]

Apparently to the Justice Department, that constituted a major crime. The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains that Chinese pilots are on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list.

Prosecutors stated further that the address that Dan and a Chinese partner used was also on a sanctions list briefly in 2014 and 2016. (Think about that for a minute. The business was not on the sanctions list. An address used by a myriad of businesses was on the list.)

As a result, Dan 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.

Dan, however, has been held in an Australian maximum-security prison for two years now, classified as an “extremely high-risk restricted inmate.” Almost all of his time has been in solitary confinement, despite the fact that 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 (headed by Bernard Collaery) have filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Commission saying that his incarceration was unjustified and was causing him severe psychological distress.

Bernard Collaery wearing a dark blue shirt with light blue stripes, sitting at a wooden desk in his front room office
Bernard Collaery [Source: abc.net.au]

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 is 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 Dan’s detention. That is a decent start, but it is not going to solve anything.

In the meantime, heis still facing extradition to the United States. And also in the meantime, the only developments in the case have been a statement made by Dan’s Australian lawyer in May 2024 that one of Dan’s Chinese partners was a computer hacker, something of which Dan was utterly unaware and had no role with.

In addition—and hold on to your seats—the Justice Department says that it has text messages between Dan and the partner from 2012 in which Dan asked the man if he could source spare parts for some of the planes they were using in the business!

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 is looking at the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.

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

On a personal note, if you would like to correspond with Dan, you can email him in prison at macquarieinmatemail@dcj.nsw.gov.au. You MUST use “683126 DUGGAN Daniel” as the subject line. Everything else will be rejected. And understand that, while Dan can receive the email, he is not permitted to respond to it. He will have to answer you via snail mail. I can tell you as a former prisoner of the U.S. penal system that the 7,000 letters that I received from 675 people literally saved my life. Drop Dan a line. You may just save his.

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