UPDATE 01. October 2020: The British fascist governance under Boris Johnson as well as judge Vanessa Baraitser of this kangaroo-court in the City of London want to keep journalist and publisher Julian Assange locked up in the torture chambers of "Her Majesty the Queen" until 04th of January 2021, when the judgement of this horror-trial and the extradition decision shall be delivered. The UK government must now not only be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and war-crimes in Afghanistan at the ICC but also at the ECHR for this sham trial in addition to their failure of meeting the BREXIT conditions. And the people of the world must engage in punishing the USA governance for the "Collateral Murder" and other warcrimes by their own means, since the ICC obviously fails to prosecute the USA for their crimes against humanity. Real justice must prevail - and will be delivered by the people against the tyrranies of the UK and the USA everywhere!

& Assange’s Eighteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Abuse of Power, Breaching Attorney-Client Privilege and Adjournment

UPDATE 01. October 2020: American Intelligence Took Extreme Efforts to Target Assange

UPDATE 30. September 2020: Spying on Assange at embassy ordered by senior Trump associate.

UPDATE 29. September 2020: Assange would have to be “nearly dead” to avoid Supermax prison, if handed to the USA.

UPDATE 28. Sepember 2020: Assange would face “X-block” in US prison, court told, and live in abysmal conditions, with no end in sight, if extradited.

UPDATE 25. September 2020: Julian Assange: Press Shows Little Interest in Media ‘Trial of Century’   & Judge admits political nature of Assange’s case

UPDATE 22. September 2020: Assange hearing day in this Kangaroo court was lost to negotiations between prosecution and defence as to what defence evidence could be edited out or omitted. 

UPDATE 21. September 2020: Assange's Removal From Embassy Was Coordinated on 'Direct Orders From the US President', Court Told & Presidents, ex-presidents & political leaders add names to growing list calling for an end to Assange persecution. & ASSANGE HEARING—Fairbanks Testifies Trump Ordered Assange Arrest; US Concedes WikiLeaks Not First to Publish Cables; But Says it Had Widest Reach.

UPDATE 20. September 2020: Heads of State, thirteen former Presidents, prime ministers, parliamentarians, members of Congress, ministers and other politicians Urge United Kingdom Government to end the trial and demand to immediately set Julian Assange free.

UPDATE 16. September 2020: Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, credited for helping to bring an end to the Vietnam War, comes to defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

UPDATE 15. September 2020: Day 6: September 15, 2020 #AssangeCase

UPDATE 14. September: Day 5: September 14, 2020 #AssangeCase

UPDATE 10. September 2020: The Evil Persecution of Julian Assange

UPDATE 10. September 2020: BREAKING: Court suspended - Julian Assange Extradition Hearing in London Paused Over COVID-19 Risk

ICYMI: Assange Prosecution and Defence Arguments

The Assange Court Reports

- the Assange hearing

By Craig Murray - 22. September 2020

Monday was a frustrating day as the Assange Hearing drifted deep into a fantasy land where nobody knows or is allowed to say that people were tortured in Guantanamo Bay and under extraordinary rendition. The willingness of Judge Baraitser to accept American red lines on what witnesses can and cannot say has combined with a joint and openly stated desire by both judge and prosecution to close this case down quickly by limiting the number of witnesses, the length of their evidence, and the time allowed for closing arguments.

For the first time, I am openly critical of the defence legal team who seem to be missing the moment to stop being railroaded and say no, this is wrong, forcing Baraitser to make rulings against them. Instead most of the day was lost to negotiations between prosecution and defence as to what defence evidence could be edited out or omitted.

More of which later.

PROFESSOR CHRISTIAN GROTHOFF

The first witness was Professor Christian Grothoff, a computer scientist based at the University of Berne Institute of Applied Sciences. Prof Grothoff had prepared an analysis of how and when the unredacted cables first came to be released on the internet.

Prof Grothoff was taken through his evidence in chief by Marks Summers QC for the defence. Prof Grothoff testified that Wikileaks had shared the cable cache with David Leigh of the Guardian. This had been done in encrypted form. It had a very strong encryption key; without the long, strong password there would be no way to access it. It was useless without the key. In reply to questions from Summers, Prof Grothoff confirmed that it was standard practice for information to be shared by an online cache with strong encryption. It was standard practice, and not in any way irresponsible. Banking or medical records might be securely communicated in this way. Once the file is encrypted, it cannot be read without the key, and nor can the key be changed. New copies can of course be made from the unencrypted original with different keys.

Summers then led Prof Grothoff to November 2010 when cables started to be published, initially by partners from the media consortium after redaction. Grothoff said that the next event was a DDOS attack on the Wikileaks site. He explained how a distributed denial of service attack works, hijacking multiple computers to overload the target website with demand. Wikileaks reaction was to encourage people to put up mirrors to maintain the availability of content. He explained this was quite a normal response to a DDOS attack.

Prof Grothoff produced a large list of mirrors created all over the world as a result. Wikileaks had posted instructions on how to set up a mirror. Mirrors set up using these instructions did not contain a copy of the cache of unredacted cables. But at some point, some mirrors started to contain the file with the unredacted cables. These appeared to be few and special sites with mirrors created in other ways than by the Wikileaks instructions. There was some discussion between Grothoff and Summers as to how the cached file may have been hidden in an archive on the Wikileaks site, for example not listed in the directory, and how a created mirror could sweep it up.

Summers then asked Professor Grothoff whether David Leigh released the password. Grothoff replied that yes, Luke Harding and David Leigh had revealed the encryption key in their book on Wikileaks published February 2011. They had used it as a chapter heading, and the text explicitly set out what it was. The copies of the encrypted file on some mirrors were useless until David Leigh posted that key.
Summers So once David Leigh released the encryption key, was it in Wikileaks’ power to take down the mirrors?
Grothoff No.
Summers Could they change the encryption key on those copies?
Grothoff No.
Summers Was there anything they could do?
Grothoff Nothing but distract and delay.

Grothoff continued to explain that on 25 August 2011 the magazine Der Freitag had published the story explaining what had happened. It did not itself give out the password or location of the cache, but it made plain to people that it could be done, particularly to those who had already identified either the key or a copy of the file. The next link in the chain of events was that nigelparry.com published a blog article which identified the location of a copy of the encrypted file. With the key being in David Leigh’s book, the material was now effectively out. This resulted within hours in the creation of torrents and then publication of the full archive, unencrypted and unredacted, on Cryptome.org.

Summers asked whether Cryptome was a minor website. Grothoff replied not at all, it was a long established platform for leaked or confidential material and was especially used by journalists.

At this stage Judge Baraitser gave Mark Summers a five minute warning on Prof Grothoff’s evidence. He therefore started to speed through events. The next thing that happened, still on 31 August 2011, is that a website MRKVA had made a searchable copy. Torrents also started appearing including on Pirate Bay, a very popular service. On 1 September, according to classified material from the prosecution supplied to Prof Grothoff, the US Government had first accessed the unredacted cache. The document showed this had been via a torrent from Pirate Bay. Wikileaks had made the unredacted cables available on 2 September, after they were already widely available. They had already passed the point where “they could not be stopped”.

Neither Pirate Bay nor Cryptome had been prosecuted for the publication. Cryptome is US based.

Joel Smith then rose to cross-examine for the prosecution. He started by addressing the Professor’s credentials. He suggested that the Professor was expert in computer analysis, but in putting together a chronology of events he was not expert. Prof Grothoff replied that it had required specialist forensic skills to track the precise chain of events.

Joel Smith then suggested that his chronology of events was dependent on material provided by the defence. Prof Grothoff said that indeed the defence had supplied key evidence, but he had searched extensively for other material and evidence online of the course of events and tested the defence evidence.

Smith then asked Grothoff whether he had withheld any information he should have given as a declaration of interest. Grothoff said he had not, and could not think what Smith was talking about. He had conducted his research fairly and taken great care to test the assertions of the defence against the evidence. Smith then read out an open letter from 2017 to President Trump calling for the prosecution of Assange to be dropped. Grothoff said it was possible, but he had no recollection of having signed it or seeing it. The defence had told him about it on Saturday, but he still did not remember it. The content of the letter seemed reasonable to him, and had a friend asked him to sign then he would probably have done so. But he had no memory of it.

Smith noted that Grothoff was listed as an initial signatory not an online added signatory. Grothoff replied that nevertheless he had no recollection of it. Smith then asked him incredulously “and you cannot remember signing a letter to the President of the United States?” Grothoff again confirmed he could not remember.

Quoting the letter, Smith then asked him “Do you think the prosecution is “a step into the darkness”?”. Grothoff replied that he thought it had strong negative ramifications for press freedom worldwide. Lewis then put to Grothoff that he had strong views, and thus was evidently “biased, partial”. Grothoff said he was a computer scientist and had been asked to research and give testimony on matters of fact as to what had occurred. He had tested the facts properly and his personal opinions were irrelevant. Smith continued to ask several more questions about the letter and Grothoff’s partiality. Altogether Smith asked 14 different questions related to the open letter Grothoff had allegedly signed. He then moved on:

Smith Did you download the cables file yourself during your research?
Grothoff Yes, I did.
Smith Did you download it from the Wikileaks site?
Grothoff No, I believe from Cryptome.
Smith So in summer 2010 David Leigh was given a password and the cache was put up on a public website?
Grothoff No, it was put on a website but not public. It was in a hidden directory.
Smith So how did it end up on mirror sites if not public?
Grothoff It depends how the specific mirror is created. On the Wikileaks site the encrypted cache was not an available field. Different mirroring techniques might sweep up archive files.
Smith Wikileaks had asked for the creation of mirrors?
Grothoff Yes.
Smith The strength of a password is irrelevant if you cannot control the people who have it.
Grothoff That is true. The human is always the weakest link in the system. It is difficult to guard against a bad faith actor, like David Leigh.
Smith How many people did Wikileaks give the key in the summer of 2010?
Grothoff It appears from his book only to David Leigh. He then gave it to the hundreds of thousands who had access to his book.
Smith Is it true that 50 media organisations and NGOs were eventually involved in the process of redaction?
Grothoff Yes, but they were not each given access to the entire cache.
Smith How do you know that?
Grothoff It is in David Leigh’s book.
Smith How many people in total had access to the cache from those 50 organisations?
Grothoff Only Mr Leigh was given access to the full set. Only Mr Leigh had the encryption key. Julian Assange had been very reluctant to give him that access.
Smith What is your evidence for that statement?
Grothoff It is in David Leigh’s book.
Smith That is not what it says.

Smith then read out two long separate passages from Luke Harding and David Leigh’s book, both of which indeed made very plain that Assange had given Leigh access to the full cache only with extreme reluctance, and had been cajoled into it, including by David Leigh asking Assange what would happen if he were bundled off to Guantanamo Bay and nobody else but Assange held the password.

Grothoff That is what I said. Harding and Leigh write that it had been a hard struggle to prise the password out of Assange’s hand.
Lewis How do you know that the 250,000 cables were not all available to others?
Grothoff In February 2011 David Leigh published his book. Before that I do not have proof Wikileaks gave the password to nobody else. But if so, they have kept entirely quiet about it.
Smith You say that after the DDOS attack Wikileaks requested people to mirror the site globally. They published instructions on how to do it.
Grothoff Yes, but mirrors created using the Wikileaks instructions did not include the encrypted file. In fact this was helpful. They were trying to build a haystack. The existence of so many mirrors without the unencrypted file made it harder to find.
Smith But in 2010 the password had not been released. Why would Wikileaks want to build a haystack then?
Grothoff The effect was to build a haystack. I agree that was probably not the initial motive. It may have been when this mirror creation continued later.
Smith As of December 2010 what Wikileaks are saying is they wish to proliferate the site as they are under attack?
Grothoff Yes
Joel Smith On 23 August 2011 Wikileaks start a mass release of cables?
Grothoff Yes. This is a release of unclassified cables and also ongoing release of redacted classified cables by media partners.
Smith They were releasing cables by country, and putting out tweets saying which countries they were releasing cables for both then and next? (Smith reads from tweets.)
Grothoff Yes. I have verified that these were unclassified cables by searching through these cables on the classification field.
Smith Were some classified secret?
Grothoff No, they were unclassified. I checked this.
Smith Were some marked “strictly protect”?
Grothoff That is not a classification in the classification field. I did not check for that.
Smith Wikileaks boast that they make the files available in a searchable form.
Grothoff Yes, but their search facility was not very good. Much easier to search them in other ways.
Smith You said Der Freitag stated that the encrypted file was available on mirrors. The article does not say that.
Grothoff No, but it says that it was widely circulating on the internet. That is done by mirroring. They did not use that word, I agree.
Smith The 29 August Der Spiegel article does not publish the password. Then Wikileaks publishes an article claiming these stories are “substantially incorrect”.
Grothoff It points to the password.
Smith Some cables were published classified “Secret”.
Grothoff These were cables that had been redacted fully by the consortium of media experts.
Smith Why do you call them “experts”?
Grothoff They knew the subject matter and the localities.
Smith Why do you call them “experts”?
Grothoff They were experienced journalists who knew what was and was not safe and right to publish. So experts in journalism. You need to distinguish between three types of cable published at this time: 1) classified and redacted; 2) unclassified; 3) the classified and unredacted cache.
Smith Are you aware that some cables were marked “strictly protect”?
Grothoff That is not a designation of a cable. It is applied to individuals. But it does not indicate that they are in danger, merely that for political reasons they do not want to be known as giving evidence to the US government?
Smith How do you know that?
Grothoff It is in the bundle I was sent, and the evidence of other defence witnesses.
Smith You don’t know.
Grothoff I do know the “strictly protect” names you are referring to were in safe countries.
Smith Before 31 August you find no evidence of full publication of the entire cache?
Grothoff Yes.

We then went through an excruciatingly long process of Smith querying the evidence for the timing of every publication prior to Wikileaks own publication, and trying to shift back the latest possible time of publication online of various copies, including Cryptome, MRKVA, Pirate Bay and various other torrents. He managed to establish that, depending which time zone you were in, some of this could be attributed to possibly very early on 1 September rather than 31 August, and that it was not possible to put an exact time within a window of a few hours on Cryptome’s unredacted publication early in the morning on 1 September.

[This exercise could cut both ways. The timing of a tweet saying a copy or torrent is up and giving a link, must be sent out after the material is put up, which could be some time before sending the tweet.]

Grothoff concluded that at the end of the day we do not know to the minute timings for every publication, but what we can say for certain is that all of the publications discussed, including Cryptome, were before Wikileaks.

Smith then noted that Parry wrote in his blog “This is a bad day for David Leigh and the Guardian. I ran the password from David Leigh’s book in an old W/L file…” but did not give the location of the file. This was at 10pm on 31 August. Within 20 minutes Wikileaks was issuing a press release “statement of the betrayal of Wikileaks passwords by the Guardian” and 80 minutes later an editorial. [I think that Smith here was trying to say Wikileaks had published Parry’s breakthrough.] Smith then invited Grothoff to agree that when Wikileaks themselves published the full documents later on 2 September, it was more comprehensible and visible than earlier publications. Grothoff replied it was not more comprehensive, it was the same. It was more visible but by that time the cat was well out of the bag and the unredacted cables were spreading rapidly all over the internet. There was no way to stop them.

Mark Summers then re-examined Grothoff and established that the evidence was that the encryption key for the full cache was given to David Leigh and to nobody else. The storage method was secure – Grothoff pointed out that precisely the same method was used to send around the court bundles in this case. Only David Leigh had revealed the password.

On mirror sites, Grothoff confirmed that the Wikileaks instructions created mirrors without the encrypted cache. All the copies of the encrypted cache he could find on other mirrors, were on sites which plainly were created using other methods, for example other software systems. Summers then got Professor Grothoff to explain the methodology he had used to verify the cables published by Wikileaks before the Leigh crash were all unclassified. Apart from dip sampling, this included a correlation of the number published for each country with the number listed as unclassified for each country in the US government directory. These matched in every case.

Summers then attempted to take Grothoff back over the timeline evidence which Joel Smith had put so much effort into muddying, but was prevented from doing so by Baraitser. She had interrupted Summers four times during his re-examination, on the extraordinary basis that this ground was gone over before; extraordinary because that is the point of a re-examination. Baraitser had permitted Smith to ask fourteen successive questions of Grothoff on the subject of why he had signed an open letter. The double standard was very obvious.

Which brings us to a very crucial point. The next witness, Andy Worthington, was at court and ready to give evidence, but was prevented from doing so. The United States government objected to his evidence, about his work on the Guantanamo Detainee files, being heard because it contained allegations of inmates being tortured at Guantanamo.

Baraitser said her ruling was not going to consider whether torture took place at Guantanamo, or if extraordinary rendition had happened. She did not need to hear evidence on these points. Mark Summers replied that the ECHR had ruled on these as facts, but that it was necessary they be stated by witnesses as appropriate as it went to the Article 10 ECHR defence. Lewis maintained the objection from the US government.

Baraitser said she wanted the prosecution and defence to produce a witness schedule that would get the case finished by the end of next week, including closing statements. She wanted them to agree what evidence could and could not be heard. Where possible she wanted evidence in uncontested statements with the defence just reading out the gist.

She also said that she did not want to hear closing arguments in court, but she would have them in writing and the defence and prosecution could just summarise them briefly orally.

What the defence should have said at this moment is “Madam, the dogs in the street know that people were tortured in Guantanamo Bay. In the real world, it is not a disputed fact. If Mr Lewis’s instructions were to deny that the earth is round, would our witnesses have to accommodate that? The truth of these matters plainly goes to the Article 10 Defence, and by pandering to the denial of a notorious and plain fact, this court will be held up to mockery. We will not discuss such ludicrous censorship with Mr Lewis. If you wish to rule that there must be no mention of torture in evidence, then so be it.”

The defence did not say any of that, but as instructed entered a process with the prosecution lawyers of agreeing the shortening and editing of evidence, a process which took all day and with which Julian showed plain signs of being uncomfortable. Andy Worthington did not get to give his evidence. The only further evidence heard was the reading of the gist of a statement from Cassandra Fairbanks. I did not hear most of this because, having adjourned to 4.30pm, the court re-adjourned earlier than advertised, while Julian’s dad John Shipton, the musician MIA and I were away having a coffee. I commend this account by Kevin Gosztola of Fairbanks’ startling evidence. It was read quickly by Edward Fitzgerald in “gist”, agreed as an uncontested account, and speaks strongly of the political motivation apparent in this prosecution.

I am very concerned about the obvious collusion of the prosecution and the judge to close this case down. The extraordinary conflation of “time management” and excluding evidence which the US Government does not want heard in public is plainly illegitimate. The continual chivvying and interruption of defence counsel in examination when prosecution counsel are allowed endless repetition amounting to harassment and bullying is illegitimate. Some extraordinarily long prosecution cross-examinations, such as that of Carey Shenkman the lawyer, have every appearance of deliberate time wasting and distraction.

Tuesday’s witness is Professor Michael Kopelman, the eminent psychiatrist, and the prosecution have indicated they wish to cross-examine him for an extraordinary four hours, which Baraitser agreed against defence objections. Her obsession with time management is distinctly subjective.

Obviously there is a moral question for me in how much of this medical evidence I publish. The decision will be taken in strict accordance with the views of Julian or, if we cannot ascertain that, his family.

From the author’s own website

DRAWIG: REUTERS/JULIA QUENZLER
_______________________________________

===

UPDATES and Background:

Assange’s Eighteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Abuse of Power, Breaching Attorney-Client Privilege and Adjournment

October 1, 2020. Central Criminal Court, London.

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark - 01. October 2020

The Old Bailey has been the venue for a trial that should never have taken place. But during the course of these extradition proceedings against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder accused by the US Department of Justice for violating the US Espionage Act (17 charges) and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an impressive battalion of defence witnesses has been called upon.  They have assisted Assange’s legal team to build a picture of obscene politicisation, imperial overreach and wanton callousness. 

A picture of the detention facilities awaiting the publisher was painted with fine strokes: the alienating brutality of solitary confinement; likely special administrative measures restraining the detainee’s access to legal representation and family; inadequate health facilities both physical and mental for those at risk of self-harm.  Then came the chilling realisation, made clear on the seventeenth day: that the US intelligence services, through the Spanish security firm UC Global SL, had conducted surveillance of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, and proposed kidnapping or poisoning a political asylee.

Peirce and violations of attorney-client privilege 

In the court on Thursday, attention turned to written submissions from human rights activist Gareth Peirce, Assange’s solicitor, who described brazen breaches of attorney-client privilege.  Trial observers noted how “extraordinarily difficult” it had been to follow Peirce’s statements, largely because of Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s penchant for preventing a full reading in the court.

Despite such stints of constipation, the point of Peirce’s submissions was clear enough.  Legally privileged documents were seized from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.  The Ecuadorean intelligence service was complicit.  Two diplomatic pouches with USB sticks were placed in a diplomatic bag, sent to Ecuador, then onwards to the United States.

Peirce claimed that, between 2017 and 2018, three legally privileged meetings were subjected to surveillance without her knowledge.  Assange’s Spanish lawyer Aitor Martínez was also the subject of such intrusion, his legal file photographed when absent in a meeting with his client.  The legal team representing Assange had a nagging sense that their gatherings might be monitored.  While not knowing the full extent of such intrusions, “an exceptionally high level of anxiety” was present during those meetings.

Martínez also furnished the court with an update on the criminal investigation against UC Global SL director David Morales, being conducted by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional.  Morales’s part in this sordid matter was much in evidence the day before, when his role in facilitating surveillance of Assange and his embassy meetings, at the behest of his “American friends”, was given a generous airing by former employees of his company.  The outcome of that case may well shed light upon an already troubling bridge linking UC Global with the Central Intelligence Agency and Las Vegas Sands, owned by Trump supporter and Republican donor, Sheldon Adelson.

Tigar’s testimony and abuse of power 

Testimony from Professor Michael Tigar of Duke Law School was read, drawing parallels between the abuses of power perpetrated by the Nixon administration in 1971 and those of the Trump administration vis-à-vis Assange. 

The first case centred on the outcome of President Richard Nixon’s attempts to prosecute the Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.  After the publication of the papers, Nixon’s staffers formed a covert unit known as the “White House Plumbers,” a blunt outfit that proceeded to commit crimes with abandon for the unforgettable Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CREEP).  Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office was burgled by the Plumbers in an effort to pilfer his medical files; Nixon ordered the illegal wiretapping of Ellsberg; the government then claimed to have mislaid those wiretaps when asked to produce them at trial.  And just to spice things further, US District Court Judge William M. Byrne, Jr., presiding over Ellsberg’s trial, was also approached by Nixon and his assistant for domestic affairs, John D. Ehrlichman, about the possibility of becoming the FBI’s next director.  Judge Byrne could only conclude that the government’s actions had “offended a sense of justice,” leading him to declare “a mistrial and grant the motion for dismissal.”

The US intelligence effort against Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, perpetrated through UC Global’s installation of surveillance facilities, threw up richly disturbing similarities.  Confidential files had been accessed; privileged conversations with lawyers had been recorded; over eager proposals for kidnapping or poisoning Assange expressed.  For Ellsberg, this was certainly damning.  “That’s essentially the same information that ended my case and confronted Nixon with impeachment, leading to his resignation.”

Baraitser’s exclusions 

Patience on the bench, and among the prosecution team, began to wear thin.  The prosecution, led by James Lewis QC, argued that the defence had run out of time.  Objections mounted, temperatures rose.  Material was excluded.  Judge Baraitser decided to exclude one of Peirce’s witness statements addressing the new allegations made in the second superseding indictment served in July.  The statement, argued the defence, was only appropriate to address “fresh and different” allegations the prosecution only saw fit to include at a later date. 

She also batted away the defence’s effort to submit a statement made by US Attorney General William Barr on September 15, outlining his belief that the executive branch had “virtually unchecked discretion” in deciding whether or not to initiate prosecutions. “The power to execute and enforce the law is an executive function altogether,” Barr stated.  “That means discretion is invested in the executive to determine when to exercise prosecutorial power.”

Readying the ground 

The ground, then, is being readied for closing arguments by the defence.  Three areas promise to feature.  The first is the heavy air of political motivation in the prosecution of Assange.  Outlets that had published the unredacted cables prior to WikiLeaks doing so on September 2, 2011, and left unmolested by the DOJ and law enforcement, suggest distinct targeting.  To this can be added the manoeuvrings in the Trump administration, noted in the testimony of Cassandra Fairbanks, about the decision to arrest Assange.  A clear change of heart had manifested in the matter, given the loss of interest shown by the Obama administration in pursuing the publisher.  Coupled with the theory of executive power endorsed by the Attorney General Barr – that such an officer should defer to the views of the presidential office in determining prosecutions – add to claims that this is a politically driven endeavour.

The second focuses on an abuse of power, sharply drawn in the testimony of two anonymous former employees of UC Global.  The third: that Assange, should he be extradited, will face cruel and inhumane treatment.  Frail health and appalling prison conditions at both the pre-trial Alexandria Detention Center, and the post-trial ADX Florence supermax in Colorado, promise to be a debilitating, even lethal mix.

With the evidence now in her possession, Baraitser will have much to get through.  Unfortunately, we are none the wiser about what items of evidence her judicial mind will accept or reject.  The jaw dropping accounts of embassy espionage, suggested poisoning and proposed kidnapping of Assange may be deemed, as the prosecutors insist, irrelevant to the charges at hand. 

A date for judgment was also set.  “Unless any further application for bail is made, and between now and the 4th of January, you will remain in custody for the same reasons as you have been before,” Baraister explained to Assange.

After the adjournment, Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris spoke of the highest of stakes, of this being not merely a fight for life but press freedom and truth.  “This case is already chilling press freedom. It is a frontal assault on journalism, on the public’s right to know and our ability to hold governments, domestic and foreign, to account.”

Moris noted, with pertinence, the prosecution’s admission, under oath “that it has no evidence that a single person has ever come to any physical harm because of these publications.  Let me repeat that: there is no evidence that a single person has ever come to any physical harm because of these publications.”  Assange was in prison for informing “you of actual crimes and atrocities being committed by a foreign power.  That foreign power has ripped away his freedom and torn our family apart.”  It was a power determined “to put him in incommunicado detention in the deepest darkest hole of its prison system for the rest of his life.”

Assange will continue spending time at Belmarsh Prison, one of Britain’s most notorious facilities reserved for only the most hardened species of criminal.   He will put in court appearances every 28 days via videolink.  The defence will submit closing arguments on November 16; the prosecution will then make its final pitch to convince the court two weeks later.  The legions of press members, writers and scribblers should now ruminate, along with Judge Baraitser, about the consequences of this entire process.  Moris is clear about one of them.  “The US administration won’t stop with him.  The US says that it can put any journalist, anywhere in the world, on trial in the US if it doesn’t like what they are publishing.” 

Author:

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email:

Featured image is from Silent Crow News

The original source of this article is Copyright © Dr. Binoy Kampmark, 2020

* Note to readers: Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet fora etc.

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Assange Court Report October 01: Afternoon

Assange Court Report October 01: Afternoon

Assange extradition decision to be announced on 4 January, 2021

The judgment in the extradition hearing of Julian Assange will be announced on the 4 January 2021.

The final day of the hearing of Julian Assange was delayed until 3pm today as the defence and prosecution went through a process of trying to come to an agreement on the content of a number of witness statements.

At the beginning of the hearing the presiding judge, Vannesa Baraitser, decided that evidence would be heard via written statements, with people only being called in person only if the prosecution or the defence wished to cross-examine a witness on their written evidence.

The trial has already over-run its scheduled three-week span by four days partly due to a member of one of the legal teams having to be tested for Covid-19.

In his statement, a summary of which was read out by defence counsel Mark Summers QC, criminal defence attorney and Professor Emeritus at Duke Law School Michael Tigar said that Watergate showed how access to sources and confidential information can “change history,” and described WikiLeaks as “the intelligence agency of the people.” On the subject of whistleblowers, he remarked, “We owe these people a great deal.”

Tigar also noted that under the US Espionage Act, which is the source of most of the charges against Assange, the accused cannot challenge the designation of documents as confidential, or introduce evidence about their motives in court.

The next statements heard by the court were from defence solicitor Gareth Pierce, which clarified evidence the court heard yesterday about the Spanish security company, UC Global and their alleged spying on Julian Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy. In another statement, she said that “legally privileged documents” had gone missing after Assange was arrested at the Embassy in April 2019.

She also provided a statement about the difficulties Assange had faced in gathering evidence to defend himself from extradition, including problems locating witnesses and the fact that the US government issued a “superseding indictment,” in July changing some of the charges against him.

She also noted that the information that her client’s conversations with his legal teams at the Embassy were recorded continued to have a “chilling effect” and damaged the confidence of Assange’s lawyers that their current discussions with their client are not still being monitored by US intelligence. The defence also noted there were still live legal proceeding in Spain over the allegations of the Embassy spying.

The defence then asked the judge for permission to introduce three further statements into evidence, a move the prosecution opposes as they say these have been introduced “at the 59th minute,” which meant they had not had a chance to put them to witnesses.

One of these, the court heard, was a full transcript of a speech Julian Assange made at London’s Frontline Club, a video clip of which was shown by the prosecution in the first week of evidence. Another contained remarks made by US Attorney General William Barr, which he had made while this hearing was ongoing so could not have been submitted earlier, the defence said.

Judge Baraitser said she had already expressed concerns about the defence submitting evidence late, and it “was not in the interests of justice” for it to be admitted. She, therefore, rejected the defence application.

The judge has already ruled that closing arguments from both sides, which are usually heard orally in court will, in this case, be presented in writing at a later date.

The court then adjourned.

===

Assange Court Report September 30: Morning

Assange Court Report September 30: Morning

Assange spying ordered by senior Trump associate

A Spanish security firm secretly filmed and recorded Julian Assange on the orders of Donald Trump associate Sheldon Adelson, the Wikileaks founder’s London extradition hearing has been told. Contractors hired by Adelson also discussed kidnapping or poisoning the Wikileaks founder and allegedly broke into the office of his lawyer, as well as passing on the information to US intelligence agencies.

The evidence, read out in court, came from two former employees of a security company UC Global, who have been granted anonymity amid fears for their safety. Witness 1 stated that they worked for UC Global, whose owner, David Morales, had a contract with the Ecuadorian government which included providing security at their embassy in London where Assange was residing.

In July 2016, Morales travelled to a trade fair at Las Vegas, saying he wanted to go alone. After this the company got a “flashy contract,” from Trump associate Sheldon Adelson. “The contract did not make sense,” Witness 1 said, as it was for security services at Adelson’s casinos which already had their own security. Asked how he got the contract, Morales allegedly told the witness, “We have gone over to the dark side,” saying they were co-operating with the US intelligence authorities to gather information on Assange.

The witness continued that after Trump won the 2016 election, this co-operation “became absolutely clear,” and daily reports were “sent to the dark side.” Morales went to the US once a month personally “to talk to our American friends, US intelligence,” and his wealth considerably increased. The witness stated their understanding was that Morales was receiving $200,000 per month for his services.

Witness 1 stated that in 2016, the CCTV cameras in the Embassy were changed to record sound, with the tapes given to the US authorities. Morales, the witness stated, was “obsessed” with Assange’s meetings with his lawyers because that was the information “the American friends wanted.”

The court then heard the written evidence from Witness 2, who stated that they were an IT worker. They said that Morales had asked for cameras that recorded sound in a way that could not be detected to be installed at the embassy. Morales also wanted US intelligence to have real-time access to the embassy, orders that came from the “highest spheres.” The company also installed a microphone in the toilets of the embassy that was hidden in an electrical socket.

The entire embassy was bugged, they stated, adding that Morales wanted to record meetings with Assange’s legal team, as the lawyers were the “priority targets.” Contractors obtained Assange’s fingerprints from a water glass, and the witness was asked to obtain a baby’s nappy so that US intelligence could check if the child was Assange’s

The witness also stated that they had heard staff discussing entering the office of one of the lawyers. Two weeks later media reported men in balaclavas had indeed broken in. They also heard discussion of more extreme measures, such as leaving the embassy door open so Assange could be kidnapped and discussion of poisoning him.

The court was told that Spanish authorities have since arrested Morales and proceedings are ongoing. The two witnesses are under armed protection after police found a gun with the serial number filed off in Morales’ home

Yesterday, before the statements were read, counsel for the US government James Lewis QC, said that he “had received no instructions,” over these statements from his clients, so would not require the witnesses to appear by video link to be cross-examined. He added that there was a “Chinese wall,” between the Justice Department and US intelligence, so any information that may or may not have been gathered would be not be known to prosecutors.

The trial continues.

===

Assange Court Report September 29: Afternoon

Assange Court Report September 29: Afternoon

“They live in abysmal conditions, with no end in sight”

“Most Special Administration Measures inmates spend all day, almost every day, completely alone,” the Old Bailey extradition trial of Julian Assange has been told.

The testimony came from Lindsay Lewis, a US attorney who represents UK Islamic preacher Abu Hamza, convicted of terrorism charges, who is imprisoned in a Colorado “Supermax” prison. She told the court her client has been under these “Special Administrative Measures” (SAMs) for 8 years.

The witness said that during Hamza’s extradition trial from the UK, representations were given by the US Government in court in the UK that Hamza would not be detained in the Colorado ADX Supermax prison, yet he has been imprisoned there ever since his conviction 5 years ago. She added that Hamza has suffered serious psychological consequences from enforced isolation, but was limited in what she could say about his situation and could only comment on documents that had been made public because even lawyers are restricted in what they can say under the SAMs rules.

Lewis said that Assange would “almost certainly” be placed on SAMs if extradited to the United States, “due to the national security nature of the case and the claim of harm done,” adding that “most SAM inmates spend all day, almost every day, completely alone and for years at a time.”

She said that under these measures phone calls were limited to one a month, and could only be made to approved relatives; in-person family visits were almost impossible and communal prayer is also not permitted.

The attorney told the court that 82% of inmates on SAMs are on them for more than a year, 18% for more than a decade, and it was a “long, drawn-out process to appeal. I don’t know any inmate that has succeeded.” One prisoner she knew of had been on SAMS for 20 years and she did not know of any post-conviction case where a court has ruled against an inmate being held on SAMs

“They live in abysmal conditions, with no end in sight,” Lewis said.

Cross-examining for the US government, barrister Clare Dobbin argued that there was no commitment Hamza would be not put in a Supermax prison, only that his state of health would be considered before a decision was made (Hamza had diabetes and lost both forearms in an explosion).

Lewis replied, “They misled the courts, I can’t see any other interpretation,” saying if there was a medical assessment it must have taken the form of a “rubber stamp.”

She said that the prison could not deal with double amputees stating, “The only conclusion that can be taken from this is that the US did a 180 and completely backed out of their undertakings.”

Dobbin then suggested that Lewis’ opinion was only based on what Hamza had told her. The witness said that she had interviewed members of staff from the ADX and other sources. “Much of it has been independently verified,” she added. When Dobbin suggested that Hamza was only complaining about small things, Lewis replied that he is complaining about dental care and that Dobbin was “trivialising things,” adding, “He has to open cans with his teeth,” as he was not allowed any openers in his cell.

The US government barrister then raised the issue of the Cunningham decision, a case brought by an ADX prisoner prosecution which led to a legal judgment that led to improvements being made in mental health treatment in the institution. After being told that over 100 people had been transferred out of ADX for mental health reasons, Lewis replied, “I’m interested in the people still in there,” and noted that care in ADX can’t be that good if the only way to deal with inmates with mental health issues “was to ship them out somewhere else.”

Asked if her client had violated SAMs, Lewis replied that, in a letter to his son, Hamza wrote “tell [my grandson] I love him.” His SAMs was then renewed for another year for “unauthorised communication with a 3rd party, a 1-year-old child.”

The trial continues.

===

Assange Court Report September 29: Morning

Assange Court Report September 29: Morning

Assange would have to be “nearly dead” to avoid Supermax prison

A 27-year veteran of the US Bureau of Prisons and former warden of a New York Metropolitan Correctional Centre has told the Julian Assange extradition hearing that a prisoner convicted of espionage “would have to be nearly dead,” to avoid being sent to the high-security ADX Colorado prison.

The witness also said that, in her opinion, the WikiLeaks founder would also be subjected to “Special Administrative Measures,” (SAMs) which, in her experience, meant that inmates were kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, were allowed no contact with other prisoners, and their one exercise only allowed them to leave their cell and go into another cell. Phone calls per month were limited to one for half an hour or two of 15 minutes, and these were monitored by an FBI agent. All incoming mail was screened, which sometimes meant it could take a couple of months for the inmate to receive it.

“SAMS is not discretionary, it’s a directive,” Baird said, “there is no black and white and can’t be changed by a warden,” stating that it had become much more utilised after the attacks on 9/11. Asked to comment on prosecution evidence that an inmate could challenge SAM status with their case manager, “it is way over their pay scale, it is unheard of, I’ve never seen anyone with SAMS having it removed.”

Asked why she was so sure that Assange would be treated as a national security risk, Baird said, “because he may still know things that he hasn’t revealed.”

The former warden, who managed a SAM unit for prisoners on remand, told the court, “It’s not meant to be punitive, but the consequences feel punitive, a staff member might walk past their cells but they don’t make contact with them.” This, she said, caused depression, anxiety and paranoia and sent some people into a “severe psychotic state.” Even though Assange is not convicted of terrorism, “he will be treated in exactly the same way as someone who is.” Asked to comment on a quote from its former warden that “ADX Supermax is not built for humanity,” the witness said, “Inmates on SAMS do not participate in any group programmes, any activities would take place alone, no communication with any other inmates and no touching during a family visit.”

“Everything changed after 9/11,” she said.

Barrister Claire Dobbin, representing the US government, then rose to cross-examine Baird. She began by questioning her objectivity, saying that as a consultant she only acts for defendants. She also suggested that no one was put on SAMs for espionage as it was only used for terrorists and major drug traffickers, and the witness had no expertise on what the criteria that were used to decide. The witness replied that in the prosecution documents SAMs were mentioned often and it was unusual that it had not been ruled out. “It’s on the table,” she added.

Dobbin then said that, in New York, Baird was in a position as warden to make sure her staff communicated with SAMs prisoners. Baird replied that guards did not “stand there and engage, it’s not something a corrections officer does,” adding she did not have the authority to tell staff how to interact with inmates. “They are all in a union, they would say it wasn’t in their job description,” she said, adding, “I’m sorry I’m not answering the questions in the way you want me to.”

Responding to a suggestion that she, as the warden, did nothing to try and improve conditions for inmates in her prison on SAMs, she replied that these things were decided, “way above my level.”

Asked why she was sure that all convicted prisoners under SAMs go to the ADX, she responded, “There’s nowhere else for them to go, other places don’t have the facilities to enforce the conditions of isolating long-term,” saying that the only exceptions she knew of were “people with stage 4 cancer or something, who are nearly dead.”

Asked about testimony from a US doctor that prisoners on SAMs could engage in group therapy sessions at the ADX, Baird replied: “that would defeat the purpose of it, the whole point is to stop the inmate communicating with other prisoners.”

The trial continues.

===

Assange Court Report September 28: Afternoon

Assange Court Report September 28: Afternoon

Prison cells, “the size of a parking space, you can scream and no one hears you.”

Prison cells for inmates in isolation are, “very small, the size of a parking place,” US expert witness Joel Sickler has told the London extradition hearing of Julian Assange. “You can scream and no one hears you.”

In the testimony given under cross-examination by a barrister for the US government, Claire Dobbin, Sickler also spoke about the dangers “public figures,” faced in US high-security jails saying, “I have high profile clients that due to their political views face harassment, or they are seen to have access to resources so they can be charged protection money, or someone might want to raise their profile so they just take you out.”

Under questioning, the witness said of the particular facility Assange might be sent to, ADX Virginia, “It’s a very well run prison, but that doesn’t change the fact that the conditions are torturous.” He also noted that due to COVID-19 any newly arriving prisoner is put on 28 days quarantine, and are only let out of their cells for 15 minutes every 3 days, which can have serious mental health effects on even the toughest prisoner.

He continued, “in my opinion, the words of the Chief Judge of the US District Court in the Southern District of New York summed it up best: ‘I take it as a matter of settled fact that the Bureau of Prisons is not the best place for anyone to receive medical care.’”

On the issue of the potential sentence faced by Assange, Sickler said, “He has released details of some of the vilest crimes in US history… he could seriously get life, especially in this district.”

Asked by the prosecution about a government report that said conditions in the ADX prison in Virginia are so good prisoners state they will commit an assault rather than be transferred, he replied “If it’s such a wonderful place I don’t know why so many people are trying to get out of it, but if it’s true, great.” He added that he has a client there “and he has written to the judge begging to get out.”

The trial continues.

===

Assange Court Report September 28: Morning

Assange Court Report September 28: Morning

Assange facing “X-block” in US prison, court told

If extradited, Julian Assange will face effective solitary confinement with no contact with other prisoners in a special “X-block” wing, his extradition trial in London has been told.

The testimony came from Washington-based defence attorney Yancey Ellis who is familiar with the Alexandria jail where Assange would be held on remand as he has often visited clients held there. The witness told the court, “The point of the unit is to keep the prisoner away from other inmates, and is officially known as administrative segregation, “Ad-Seg,” and is effectively solitary confinement. The staff and prisoners, however, refer to it as “X-Block.””

Ellis described conditions saying each cell has a shelf with a mat and blanket on it, a small toilet “and not much else.” Prisoners are only allowed out for 1-2 hours per day and often and odd times so they do not mix with other inmates.

Ellis said prisoners on X-block are usually not allowed to associate with other prisoners, the doors are too thick to be heard through “without almost screaming,” and when an inmate does exercise they do so alone.

“Anyone who says prisoners can communicate with each other hasn’t been there,” Ellis added, saying that when he had to consult clients he had to communicate through the secure slot that was used to put food through.

Asked about medical care, Ellis said it was “very limited,” as the jail did not employ a doctor, instead they used an outside agency that sent in a psychiatrist “occasionally.”

There was also a “special suit” that is placed on inmates who might be in danger of self-harm. He also noted that there was not usually a member of staff in the unit, “as the inmates are all locked down.”

Cross-examining for the US government, James Lewis QC suggested that Assange’s well known public status would mean the prison was unlikely to place him in solitary confinement. “He will have a phalanx of lawyers to protect him,” he suggested. Ellis responded, “I don’t know what difference that will make, the Alexandria jail doesn’t give anyone special treatment.”

The court then heard from another US witness, Joel Sickler, a lawyer who specialises in post-conviction work and prison conditions. Asked if prisoners in the X-block could communicate with each other from their different cells he said no, firstly because the doors were made of thick metal and secondly because the prison itself was a very noisy environment with lots of “screaming and yelling.”

In the X-block, “your whole world is the corners of that room.” he said.

The lawyer also testified about the conditions Mr Assange would face if convicted and placed in a Federal “Supermax,” prison under likely conditions of Special Administrative Measures (SAM) routinely imposed on inmates seen as a threat to national security. He described conditions of solitary confinement, a 15-minute telephone call with relatives only once a month, and no real chance of appealing your status.

“It’s a feudal system,” Sickler said regarding US Supermax prisons, saying he had one client who had been in solitary confinement for 23 years, since he was 19 years old. Asked if there was an upper limit to the time you can spend on SAM, He replied that it was usually indefinite adding, There was a “step-down program,” however, if Assange was given a life sentence, “it’s pointless” to apply.

Asked about mental health care in prison, Sickler said the US government claims only 3% of Federal prisoners have mental health issues, a figure he says that just “does not ring true,” as state prisons report a rate of 25%. “Why are Federal prisoners so healthy?” he asked.

The trial continues.

===

Assange Court Report September 25: Afternoon

Assange Court Report September 25: Afternoon

“Millions” had access to documents before WikiLeaks released them, court hears

After the lunch interval, defence witness Patrick Eller, being re-examined by the defence said he did not know the identity of “Nathaniel Frank” who is one of the names in the chat logs with Chelsea Manning presented by the US government in evidence.

The prosecution allege that Julian Assange agreed to help Chelsea Manning increase her access to a US government computer network. Asked how many people had access to the computer system in question,” the witness replied, “probably millions.”

The defence suggested cracking the hash value was “computationally infeasible” and the witness agreed even a skilled hacker could not do it. The prosecution then rose to object saying they only allege the cracking was “tried,” not that it was successful. Judge Baraitser responded that this was a “fair point.” The computer expert then ended his evidence.

The court then moved on to submissions on the request by a media organisation for a copy of the medical reports that have been presented in evidence this week. Both the defence and prosecution opposed this on the basis that breached Mr Assange’s privacy and key points in the reports have been aired in court over three days of oral evidence.

One of the court reporters spoke and told the judge that they have no desire to add to any pain being suffered by the families and are guided by rules about not disclosing sensitive material. She added that both sides say that the law is that the press must give a reason to get access to documents, the problem was how would it be possible to give a reason for access to documents if you don’t know what’s in them?

The judge reserved her decision and the court adjourned for the weekend.

The trial continues.

===

Assange Court Report September 25: Morning

Assange Court Report September 25: Morning

No Assange ruling before 2021, court told.

After granting the defence four additional weeks to submit written submissions the Judge at the Old Bailey extradition trial of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Vanessa Baraitser said that this would mean it was unlikely that she would now be able to make a ruling before New Year.

The judge remarked that she would have to take into account that Mr Assange is in custody when deciding how long she will give the parties to prepare closing speeches.

Edward Fitzgerald QC responded, “If you granted him bail that would solve that problem.”

Fitzgerald also observed that there was going to be a US election on 3 November and for Assange, “Things will be worse if Mr Trump is still there - we cannot avoid that political fact.”

There was a heated exchange when the defence requested to introduce new witness evidence in response to testimony from a prosecution witness. Counsel for the US government James Lewis QC said to the judge that the case “needs a firm hand, enough is enough,” adding, “This simply cannot go on or this case will simply never end.”

Responding, defence counsel said, “The prosecution has no divine right to have the last word.”

Judge Baraitser then rejected the defence request.

The court heard a written statement from Jakob Augstein, a journalist and publisher of German weekly newspaper Der Freitag. In his statement, Augstein confirmed that Der Freitag had published an article in August 2010 revealing the existence of an obscure website where unredacted US government cables were available to those who had the key.

He continued by stating that Assange called him shortly afterwards and requested that he not publish anything that could reveal where the file was located. Julian Assange was concerned about US government informants having their identity revealed and potentially put in danger.

The next witness was Patrick Eller, a forensic computer analyst who appeared by video link from the United States. The witness told the court that he had studied the court-martial records of former US soldier Chelsea Manning, who the prosecution say hacked into government computers with the assistance of Assange, as well as interviews with members of her former military unit. Eller said he had concluded that soldiers regularly put unauthorised files and programmes, such as music and games, on secure computers and this required cracking an administration password.

Manning, he said, was the “go-to person,” in her unit to do this for her colleagues. Eller testified that in his opinion the encrypted hash value Manning gave to Assange was for this purpose. It could not be used, and would not be needed, for Chelsea Manning to acquire secret documents anonymously.

Cross-examining the witness, James Lewis QC suggesed that Assange and Manning “thought they could crack the password and tried to crack the password.”

Eller pointed out the government’s own expert witness in Manning’s court martial had cast doubt on this.

Lewis then noted that Assange had said publicly he was an “expert hacker,” and asked the witness if an expert hacker could sometimes break into the most secure systems. Eller agreed.

The trial continues.

===

Julian Assange Update:

American Intelligence Took Extreme Efforts to Target Assange

Backup on BRANDNEWTUBE filed 01 Oct 2020

In this video we discuss day 17 of Julian Assange’s extradition hearings. Two anonymous witnesses, who were both employees of UC Global, provided the court with statements. Both witnesses stated that American intelligence was directing UC Global CEO David Morales in the targeting against Julian Assange and his visitors in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. 

Including an extended interview with Italian investigative journalist with Il Fatto, Stefania Maurizi. You may find Maurizi’s work here: https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.....it/blog/stefania-mau 

To view all of our previous updates & reports on this case: 
https://bit.ly/2MZhjAh 

In Explosive Topics

To view more videos on this topics: 
► Assange's fiancée speaks out: 
https://youtu.be/F19a8V2fsjU 
► Julian Assange Global Protest 
https://youtu.be/rSzVjzy7bDs 
► Glenn Greenwald on Assange: 
https://youtu.be/kAvJ4JdeVq0 
► Noam Chomsky on Assange: 
https://youtu.be/gP6T_-bqt40 
► "WeAreMillions" Campaign for Assange: 
https://youtu.be/rEmG_SW2fkM 
► Varoufakis on Assange: 
https://youtu.be/DcEdyRwjrgg 
► Julian Assange "Stop Extradition Protest": 
https://youtu.be/tMwXD5tPtrQ 
► Dr. Jill Stein on Assange & Manning: 
https://youtu.be/tOdD-lvjK7k 
► Julian Assange - Public Rally Event: 
https://youtu.be/QahCPwrZfJY 
► Interview with Assange's Father: 
https://youtu.be/roiyDkNbOkc 
► Interview with Nils Melzer: 
https://youtu.be/f9KRxF9oVxQ 
► Report on the 4th of February public rally for Assange: 
https://youtu.be/AqEz3y4cn0Y 
► Abby Martin, Snowden, Chomsky, Jill Stein, Varoufakis, Horvat & Richter Respond: https://youtu.be/39IUOeQvaOw 
► Srećko Horvat 
https://youtu.be/iYTOv0sj8VY 

✔ Subscribe to our channel: https://goo.gl/aMkRjb 

===

Julian Assange: Press Shows Little Interest in Media ‘Trial of Century’ 

By  - 25. September 2020

Protester at Julian Assange's extradition hearing

 

Labeled the media “trial of the century,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is currently taking place in London—although you might not have heard if you’re relying solely on corporate media for news. If extradited, Assange faces 175 years in a Colorado supermax prison, often described as a “black site” on US soil.

The United States government is asking Britain to send the Australian publisher to the US to face charges under the 1917 Espionage Act.  He is accused of aiding and encouraging Chelsea Manning to hack a US government computer in order to publish hundreds of thousands of documents detailing American war crimes, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. The extradition, widely viewed as politically motivated, has profound consequences for journalists worldwide, as the ruling could effectively criminalize the possession of leaked documents, which are an indispensable part of investigative reporting.

WikiLeaks has entered into partnership with five high-profile outlets around the world: the New York Times, Guardian (UK), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany) and El País (Spain). Yet those publications have provided relatively little coverage of the hearing.

Since the hearing began on September 7, the Times, for instance, has published only two bland news articles (9/7/20, 9/16/20)—one of them purely about the technical difficulties in the courtroom—along with a short rehosted AP video (9/7/20). There have been no editorials and no commentary on what the case means for journalism. The Times also appears to be distancing itself from Assange, with neither article noting that it was one of WikiLeaks’ five major partners in leaking information that became known as the CableGate scandal.

Guardian: 'Politicising' and 'weaponising' are becoming rather convenient arguments

Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman (9/9/20) turned a reader’s question about “liv[ing] in a time of so much insecurity” into a bizarre rant against Julian Assange and his partner, Stella Moris.

The Guardian, whose headquarters are less than two miles from the Old Bailey courthouse where Assange’s hearing is being held, fared slightly better in terms of quantity, publishing eight articles since September 7. However, perhaps the most notable content came from columnist Hadley Freedman (9/9/20).

When asked in an advice article: “We live in a time of so much insecurity. But is there anything we can expect from this increasingly ominous-looking winter with any certainty?” she went on a bizarre tangential rant ridiculing the idea that Assange’s trial could possibly be “politicized,” also crassly brushing off the idea that his young children would never see their father again, and never answering anything like the question she was asked. Holding people to account “for a mess they could have avoided,” she notes, “is not ‘weaponizing’ anything — it is just asking them to do their jobs properly.” She also claimed that believing Assange’s trial was politicized was as ridiculous as thinking antisemitism claims were cynically weaponized against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which, she meant to suggest, was a preposterous idea. This was not an off-the-cuff remark transcribed and published, but a written piece that somehow made it past at least one editor.

Like the Times, the Guardian appeared to be hoping to let people forget the fact it built its worldwide brand off its partnership with WikiLeaks; it was only mentioned in a forthright op-ed by former Brazilian president Lula da Silva (9/21/20), an outlier piece.

The Guardian should be taking a particularly keen role in the affair, seeing that two of its journalists are alleged by WikiLeaks to have recklessly and knowingly disclosed the password to an encrypted file containing a quarter-million unredacted WikiLeaks documents, allowing anyone—including every security agency in the world—to see an unredacted iteration of the leak. In 2018, the Guardian also falsely reported that Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort had conducted a meeting with Assange and unnamed “Russians” at the Ecuadorian embassy (FAIR.org, 12/3/18). And, as former employee Jonathan Cook noted, the newspaper is continually being cited by the prosecution inside the courtroom.

Der Spiegel: Mögliche Höchststrafe: 175 Jahre Knast

Der Speigel’s headline (9/7/20) reads: “Maximum Sentence: 175 Years in Prison.”

There were only two articles in the English or French versions of Le Monde (9/7/20, 9/18/20) and only one in either of Der Spiegel’s English or German websites (9/7/20), although the German paper did at least acknowledge its own partnership with Assange. There was no coverage of the hearings in El País, in English or Spanish, though there was a piece (9/10/20) about the US government thwarting a Spanish investigation into the CIA spying on Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London—accompanied by a photo of a protester against his extradition.

The rest of corporate media showed as little interest in covering a defining moment in press freedom. There was nothing at all from CNN. CBS’s two articles (9/7/20, 9/22/20) were copied and pasted from news agencies AP and AFP, respectively. Meanwhile, the entire sum of MSNBC’s coverage amounted to one unclear sentence in a mini news roundup article (9/18/20).

Virtually every relevant human rights and press freedom organization is sounding the alarm about the incendiary precedent this case sets for the media. The Columbia Journalism Review (4/18/19), Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation note that the government includes in its indictment regular journalistic procedures, such as protecting sources’ names and using encrypted files—meaning that this “hacking” charge could easily be extended to other journalists. Trevor Timm, founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told the court this week that if the US prosecutes Assange, every journalist who has possessed a secret file can be criminalized. Thus, it essentially gives a carte blanche to those in power to prosecute whomever they want, whenever they want, even foreigners living halfway around the world.

The United Nations has condemned his persecution, with Amnesty International describing the case as a “full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression.” Virtually every story of national significance includes secret or leaked material; they could all be in jeopardy under this new prosecutorial theory.

President Donald Trump has continually fanned the flames, demonizing the media as the “enemy of the people.” Already 26% of the country (including 43% of Republicans) believe the president should have the power to shut down outlets engaging in “bad behavior.” A successful Assange prosecution could be the legal spark for future anti-journalistic actions.

Yet the case has been met with indifference from the corporate press. Even as their house is burning down, media are insisting it is just the Northern Lights.


Featured image: Photo of protester at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing that appeared in El País (9/10/20).

===

Day 14: September 25, 2020 #AssangeCase

September 25, 2020

Judge admits political nature of Assange’s case

Before testimony began today, Judge Baraitser acknowledged the political dimensions in the case against Julian Assange for the first time. Amid discussion of when closing arguments will be submitted, and how much time is needed to prepare them after testimony concludes next week, the judge asked the defense whether the U.S. presidential election would impact the defense’s case.

Lawyer Ed Fitzgerald said, “Much of what we say about Mr. Trump personally goes to why this was initiated, that will all remain good,” and, “Much of what we say about the fate which awaits Mr. Assange remains good because it’s about systemic faults in the prisons and his underlying conditions.” But “the situation would be all the worse” if Trump were to win re-election, he said.

The judge said that she had hoped to give her ruling or at least have closing arguments in before the U.S. election on November 3rd. But in granting the defense four weeks to submit closing arguments after testimony and the government a further two weeks to respond, she said her ruling will have to come in the new year.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson reacted to these comments immediately:

In asking the defense how the outcome of the U.S. presidential election would affect its case and indicating that she had hoped to issue a ruling before election day, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has acknowledged what has been clear since even before the first indictment against Julian Assange was unsealed, that this is a politically motivated prosecution.

Article 4 of the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty says, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”

Jakob Augstein: Assange “feared for the safety of informants”

The defense then read a brief witness statement from Jakob Augstein, editor of the German weekly Der Freitag, which in 2011 published an article indicating that the book by Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh had revealed a password that could be used to decrypt files containing the unredacted State Department cables. The article was titled “Leak at WikiLeaks,” referring to former WikiLeaks staffer Daniel Domscheit-berg, who fell out with Assange in 2010 and took files with him to attempt to start a new leak site.

Augstein’s statement alludes to the fact that it was a mirror created or controlled by Domscheit-berg that contained the file that could be decrypted with this password.

It also confirms that Julian Assange had contacted Augstein in advance of the article’s publication to express that he “feared for the safety of informants.” As we’ve reported, the government’s publishing charges are only for the unredacted State Department cable publications and they hinge on their claim that Assange didn’t care about the release of sources’ names.

Patrick Eller debunks Manning/Assange “conspiracy”

Today’s first live witness was digital forensic expert Patrick Eller, who served in the US Army for 20 years as a criminal investigator. Ellis is now president of Metadata Forensics, which provides digital investigation and forensic examination in both civil and criminal cases.

Eller reviewed the indictments against Assange and the transcripts from Chelsea Manning’s court martial in 2013 to analyze the allegation that Assange and Manning engaged in a conspiracy to conceal Manning’s identity and steal more documents. The argument goes that when Manning chatted over Jabber with a user ‘Nathaniel Frank’ (who the government alleges but hasn’t proven is Julian Assange) and asked for help cracking a “hash”, which is an encrypted portion of a password, she was attempting to gain increased access to government databases and to disguise her identity in doing so.

Eller’s testimony establishes several key points:

The attempted cracking of the password hash was not technologically possible in 2010, when the conversation happened

First, some background on how encrypting a password works: an algorithm turns plaintext (a regular password with numbers, letters, and special characters) into a “hash value” (a unique jumble of characters written in a hexadecimal, a numbering system that uses 16 characters) and stored in a Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database, and then encrypted with a key, which itself is stored in both the SAM file and a System file. This means one needs both the SAM file and System file to crack a password. Ellis explains:

“Manning only retrieved the encrypted hash value from the SAM file. She did not have the System file or the portions of the SAM file that are required to reconstruct the decryption key for the hash. This decryption step is necessary before the hash can be cracked and it is a separate process from cracking the hash by guessing difference password values with rainbow tables. At the time, it would not have been possible to crack an encrypted password hash such as the one Manning obtained.”

Even if it were feasible, the purpose would not have been to conceal Manning’s identity

“The government allegation that there was an attempt to gain anonymity is greatly undermined by the tracking system which identified users.” The government says that Manning wanted to crack the password to be able to log in to a ‘ftpuser’ account, which it says would make her look like an administrator, rather than her Bradley.manning account she was given as an intelligence analyst. But the military tracked computers based on IP addresses, not account details, so even if she were to login with the admin account, it would still be traced back to her identifiable computer.

Even if it were feasible, it would not have given Manning any increased access to government databases

The March 2010 jabber chat about hash cracking came after Manning had already leaked the Guantanamo Bay Detainee Assessment Briefs, the Iraq and Afghan war logs, and the Rules of Engagement, so the only documents left are the State Department cables, which are stored in a government-wide intranet (an internal version of an internet) called SIPRNet.  Accessing this network does not require login information, so she already had access to it well beforehand. Furthermore, Eller testified, everyone tasked with using secret government documents would have had access to this database. Asked to give an estimate as to how many people had SIPRNet access, Eller said it was “in the millions.”

What is far more likely, Eller testified, is that Manning wanted to use the admin account in order to download movies, music, and computer games onto her computer. The type of account to which Manning would have gained access would have had administrative privileges making it much easier to access the T-Drive, a shared database where other users uploaded these kinds of files.

Eller’s testimony also established that he and the U.S. government both have no way of proving that ‘Nathaniel Frank’ was actually Julian Assange.

Proceedings resume on Monday at 10:00am London time.

===

Assange's Removal From Embassy Was Coordinated on 'Direct Orders From the US President', Court Told

By  - 21. September 2020

Journalist Cassandra Fairbanks has informed the court in Julian Assange's extradition hearing that Arthur Schwartz, who is known as Donald Trump Jr's "fixer", had advance warning of the US indictment against the WikiLeaks publisher.

Julian Assange's removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy was done so "on direct orders from the [US] president", according to information provided to American journalist Cassandra Fairbanks. 

Ms Fairbanks' explosive testimony would appear to support to position that Mr Assange's prosecution has a political dimension and reflected a shift in the government's attitude with a change in administration from that of former president Barack Obama.

According to Ms Fairbanks' witness statement, which was read into the court by the defence in Mr Assange's extradition hearing on 21 September 2020, she was contacted by Arthur Schwartz, "a wealthy GOP donor who does communications for [former Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell] and works as an informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr". During this phone call, which Ms Fairbanks recorded, Mr Schwartz was panicking because he believed a Tweet that she published revealed "classified information".

Ms Fairbanks attempted to calm down Mr Schwartz saying that she didn't publish classified information and that she merely shared a link to a report from ABC news which described the role that Mr Grenell played in coordinating Mr Assange's release.

Cassandra Fairbanks, Arthur Schwartz and Jack Posobiec 1 January 2018 - Instagram

Mr Schwartz was not put at ease by Ms Fairbanks' assurances and asked her to delete the Tweet. "I don't want to go to prison" Mr Schwartz told Ms Fairbanks, adding that people are aware of the fact that the two have been communicating with each other and have been seen with each other. Mr Grenell was acting "on the orders from the president" Mr Schwartz can be heard saying during the recorded conversation. "So, you're going to punish me because he took orders from the president?" he asked Ms Fairbanks who responded that she wasn't punishing him she was merely retweeting a report by ABC. Mr Schwartz begged Ms Fairbanks to delete the Tweet which she ultimately agreed to do.

Ms Fairbanks is a contributor to the Pro-Trump Gateway Pundit news outlet and she notes that she herself "endorsed [Mr Trump's] presidency over a number of years". Her witness statement says that she "believed Schwartz’s statement [that Mr Grenell coordinated Mr Assange's removal from the embassy] to be correct because his close personal ties to both President Trump and Grenell are well-known".

The statement also says that her interactions with Mr Schwartz, on the subject of Mr Assange and WikiLeaks, first began after she dropped a link to an interview with Mr Assange's mother, Christine Assange, into "a direct message group [in October 2018] containing multiple people who either worked for President Trump or were close to him in other ways – along with several other reporters and political commentators". Among those in the group were then US Ambassador to Germany Mr Grenell as well as Mr Schwartz.

Cassandra Fairbanks 2017 © Photo : Cassandra Fairbanks

After she put the link to the interview into the group chat, Ms Fairbanks' statement says that she received a phone call from Mr Schwartz who was "very angry":

"[Mr Schwartz] repeatedly insisted that I stop advocating for WikiLeaks and Assange, telling me that 'a pardon isn't going to f**king happen.' He knew very specific details about a future prosecution against Assange that were later made public and that only those very close to the situation then would have been aware of. He told me that it would be the 'Manning' case that he would be charged with and that it would not involve the Vault 7 publication or anything to do with the DNC. He also told me that they would be going after Chelsea Manning. I also recollect being told, I believe, that it would not be before Christmas. Both of these predictions came true just months later."

"Kidnapping a political refugee" from the Ecuadorian Embassy would be "an act of war", Ms Fairbanks said to Mr Schwartz, to which he apparently responded "not if they let us".

It was this phone call which ultimately prompted Ms Fairbanks to record the subsequent conversations that she had with Mr Schwartz. "I began recording all conversations with Mr Schwartz because of the threatening tone of the October 2018 call and the amount of details he had provided about Mr Assange’s impending arrest", Ms Fairbanks told Sputnik. "I could never have anticipated that he would admit President Trump personally ordered the arrest", she added. "I didn’t know at the time, until the ABC article, that Grenell was the one who made the deal", Ms Fairbanks explained.

The journalist also says that she has faced reprisals after reporting on these conversationsMr Grenell and Mr Schwartz went so far as calling Ms Fairbanks' employer and pushing for her to be sacked, though these attempts have thus far been unsuccessful.

Joel Smith, acting for the prosecution, told the court that the truth of what Ms Fairbanks says was told to her "is not within her direct knowledge". He added that "So far as the remainder of the evidence is concerned it is not challenged and not accepted" and that it will be up to the judge to decide how much weight should be attached to her statement.

Ed Fitzgerald QC, who read the statement into court, told the judge that Ms Fairbanks' statement is “a good indication of the intention of the US government at the highest level”. Mr Fitzgerald added that in due course he would invite the court to find that the statement helps to establish a "preconcerted plan at the top level" of the Trump administration to take Mr Assange out of the embassy "to extradite him and prosecute him" and to compel Ms Chelsea Manning to give evidence against him.

The extradition hearings are expected to continue for at least one more week if not two, during which time Sputnik will continue to monitor the proceedings on location and via video link.

Mr Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if he is convicted of all of the charges levied against him in the US. The charges almost entirely relate to his role in publishing the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Guantanamo Bay detainee files and the Diplomatic Cables, which revealed war crimes and other criminality and abuse committed by the US government and US-backed forces.

===

The USA wants to kill Julian Assange

===

If you missed the World Premier of my film (and don't want to use a proprietary platform):

Watch "The War on Journalism: The Case of #JulianAssange" here: https://t.co/OkZKhTeFO7#FreeAssange #AssangeCase #SaveJulian

— Juan Passarelli (@jlpassarelli) August 29, 2020

===

Presidents, ex-presidents & political leaders add names to growing list calling for an end to Assange persecution

Presidents, ex-presidents & political leaders add names to growing list calling for an end to Assange persecutionBy RT - 21 Sep, 2020

A further 11 current and former world leaders have joined an ever-growing list of politicians calling for an end to the political and legal persecution of journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Argentinian President Alberto Fernández and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have added their names to an open letter to the UK government, calling for an end to Assange’s persecution.

The message has now been signed by 167 ministers, former heads of state and members of parliament. It is addressed to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and warns Britain against violating domestic, international and human rights law by extraditing the WikiLeaks founder to the United States. 

Other notable names on the list include former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, former prime minister of Spain Jose Luis Zapatero, ex-Colombian president Ernesto Samper, Bolivia's ex-president Evo Morales, former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and former presidents of Brazil, Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef. 

Lula, himself a former political prisoner, said that “If the democrats of the planet Earth, including all journalists, all lawyers, all unionists and all politicians have no courage to express themselves in defence of Assange, so that he is not extradited, it means we have a lot [of] democrats out there who are liars.”

UK MP Kenneth MacAskill, a lawyer and former Justice Secretary of Scotland, described it as “a political crucifixion not legal process” that seeks “to bury truth and those exposing it.”

Rights groups including Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, The American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have long advocated for amnesty for Assange, citing the dangerous precedent any extradition would set for journalists around the world. 

Amnesty International's petition calling for an end to the extradition hearings has garnered over 400,000 signatures. The group has also raised concerns that its international monitors are being blocked from observing the hearings.

The ‘Lawyers for Assange’ group originally published the open letter back in August but support has grown considerably in the interim as Assange's extradition trial languishes in bureaucratic and judicial purgatory, with repeated technical issues and deferrals due to possible Covid-19 infections among the legal teams. 

“The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Julian Assange, and of the offences listed in the indictment, are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile, Assange’s extradition hearing continues at the Old Bailey in London. If the judge rules against him, he will likely be shipped across the Atlantic where he faces over 17 charges under the Espionage Act for handling state secrets and classified information in addition to allegedly assisting Chelsea Manning to hack into government computers.

Cover picture: A supporter of Julian Assange outside London's Central Criminal Court ahead of a hearing to decide whether the WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to the US. © REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

===

They Call for Assange’s Immediate Release: Lula, Rousseff, Morales, Zapatero, Corbyn, Correa, Paul, Galloway, Gravel, Varoufakis…

Heads of state, prime ministers, parliamentarians, members of Congress, ministers and other politicians demand Assange be set free.

Thirteen Former Presidents Urge United Kingdom Government to Immediately Free Julian Assange

Lawyers for Assange

Check here for the latest update to this list. 

As Julian Assange fights U.S. extradition at the Old Bailey in London, over one hundred eminent political figures, including 13 past and present heads of state, numerous ministers, members of parliament and diplomats, have today denounced the illegality of the proceedings and appealed for Assange’s immediate release.  

The politicians from 27 different countries and from across the political spectrum have joined 189 independent international lawyers, judges, legal academics and lawyers’ associations by endorsing their open letter to the UK Government warning that the U.S. extradition request and extradition proceedings violate national and international law, breach fair trial rights and other human rights, and threaten press freedom and democracy.

Politicians endorsing the call to free Julian Assange include Jeremy Corbyn, former Prime Minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, several members of the European Parliament, former presidents of Brazil, Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef, and Australian parliamentarians from the cross-party parliamentary group to free Assange.

Kenneth MacAskill, Member of UK Parliament, former Justice Secretary of Scotland, and lawyer, commented, “This is a political crucifixion not legal process and is about seeking to bury truth and those exposing it.”

The unprecedented appeal to the UK government by the international political community follows concerns raised by Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, The American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other rights organisations regarding the chilling effect Assange’s prosecution will have on press freedom. Amnesty International’s petition calling for the U.S. Government to drop its charges against Assange has garnered over 400,000 signatures. 

Today marks the beginning of the third week of the extradition hearings, which have drawn wide criticism for failing to uphold the principle of open justice by preventing independent observers including from Amnesty International, PEN Norway and others from monitoring the trial. 

The Trump administration is seeking Mr Assange’s extradition from the UK to prosecute him under the Espionage Act for his work as a journalist and publisher. The 2010 publications, on which the U.S. government’s attempted prosecution is based, brought to light a range of public interest information, including evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last week during the hearing the court heard that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks undertook careful redaction processes to protect informants, that no informants are known to have been harmed by their publications, and that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were not responsible for publishing un-redacted cables. Nevertheless, the prosecution asserted the right of the U.S. to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information.

Quotes:

Luiz InácioLula da Silva, President of Brazil (2003-2010), Honorary citizen of the City of Paris (2020), Nobel Prize Nominee (2018):

“If the democrats of the planet Earth, including all journalists, all lawyers, all unionists and all politicians, have no courage to express themselves in defence of Assange, so that he is not extradited, it means we have a lot democrats out there who are liars. Assange should be perceived as a hero of democracy. He does not deserve to be punished. I hope the people of the UK, the people of France, the people of the United States will not allow this atrocity. As was the knee of a policeman killing a black man, this will be the knees of millions of governors from around the world suffocating Assange so that he dies. And we do not have the right to allow that.”

Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Clark and Co-Chair of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group:

“Julian Assange is being politically persecuted for publishing information that was in the public interest, including hard evidence of U.S. war crimes. That the perpetrator of those war crimes, America, is now seeking to extradite Mr Assange is unjust in the extreme and arguably illegal under British law. If it goes ahead, not only would Mr Assange face 175 years in prison, but the precedent would be set for all Australians, and particularly journalists, that they are at risk of being extradited to any country they offend.” 

Mikuláš Peksa, Member of European Parliament, Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy:

“Freedom of speech remains a crucial value in the beginning of the 21st century. Despite it sometimes revealing inconvenient truths, we shall do our best to protect it.”

Open Letterhttps://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/open-letter.html

Political endorsements: https://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/endorsements.html

Legal signatorieshttps://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/signatories-all.html

Contact:

FULL LIST OF POLITICAL ENDORSEMENTS:

Heads of State

1. Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina (2019), lawyer, Professor of Criminal Law (University of Buenos Aires), former Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, adviser to Deliberative Council of Buenos Aires and the Argentine Chamber of Deputies, deputy director of Legal Affairs of the Economy Ministry, Argentina

2. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Vice President of Argentina (2019), President of Argentina (2007-2015), lawyer, Argentina

3.  Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil (2011-2016),economist, former Minister of Energy and former Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic, Brazil

4. Ernesto Samper, President of Colombia (1994-1998),lawyer, economist, former Secretary General of UNASUR, Senator of the Republic and Minister of Economic Development, Ambassador of Colombia in Spain, Colombia

5.  Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia (2006-2019), trade unionist, activist and Bolivian leader of Aymara descent, President of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, Former President pro tempore of UNASUR and CELAC, Bolivia

6.  Fernando Lugo, President of Paraguay (2008-2012)Senator, Roman Catholic priest and bishop, Paraguay

7.  José Luis Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain (2004-2011), lawyer, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of León, former Deputy in General Courts by Madrid, deputy in General Courts of Spain, president of the Council of the European Union, Spain

8.  José (Pepe) Mujica, President of Uruguay (2010-2015)Former Deputy, Senator and Minister of Livestock Agriculture and Fisheries, Uruguay 

9. Leonel Fernandez, President of the Dominican Republic (1996-2012), lawyer,president of the EU–LAC Foundation, president of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, Professor at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) and Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

10.  Luiz InácioLula da Silva, President of Brazil (2003-2010), Honorary citizen of the City of Paris (2020), Nobel Prize Nominee (2018),Brazil

11.  Martín Torrijos, President of the Republic of Panama (2004-2009), political scientist and economist, Panama

12. Nicolas Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Venezuela

13.  Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador (2007-2017), former Minister for the Economy, Professor of Economics,Ecuador

Ministers, Diplomats and Politicians

Jeremy Corbyn. (Chatham House / Wikimedia)

14. Álvaro García Linera,Vice President of Bolivia (2006-2019), mathematician, academic,Bolivia

15.   Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Member of Parliament (since 1983), Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (2015-2020), United Kingdom

16.   John McDonnell, Member of Parliament (since 1997), Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2015-2020), UnitedKingdom

17.  Andrew Wilkie, MP,Independent Federal Member for Clark, Australia 

18.  Gregor Golobic, philosopher, former Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, former Secretary General of Liberal Democracy party, former president of Zares party, advisor to former President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Janez Drnovšek, Slovenia

19.   Arthur Chesterfield-Evans M.B.,B,S., F.R.C.S.(Eng.), M.Appl.Sci. (OHS), M.Pol.Sci. Ex-Member of Legislative Council New South Wales Parliament, Australia

20.  Ögmundur Jónasson, former Icelandic Minister of Interior, Iceland

21.  Ron Paul, Former U.S. Congressman from Texas, USA

22.  Peter Whish-Wilson, Australian Greens, Senator for Tasmania, Australia

23.  Jožef Škol, political scientist, former Minister of Culture, former State Secretary for Culture, first president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), former head of Liberal Democracy, former President of the National Assembly, Slovenia

24.  Prof. Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, sociologist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, theologian, politician and cultural critic, author, former member of the Liberal Democratic Party and its candidate for the presidency of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (1990), Slovenia

25.  Carlo Sommaruga, lawyer, Member of Swiss Parliament, Conseiller aux Etats, Switzerland

26.  Patrick Breyer, Member of the European Parliament, Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Germany

27.  Marketa Gregorova, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chair of the delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, Czech Republic

28.  Mikuláš Peksa, Member of the European Parliament, Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, biophysicist, Czech Republic

29.  Yanis Varoufakis, Member of the Hellenic Parliament for Athens B, Minister of Finance (2015), former Secretary-General of MeRA25, economist, academic, philosopher, Greece

30.  Spomenka Hribar, author, philosopher, sociologist, politician, columnist, public intellectual, co-founder of the Slovenian Democratic Union (1989), former prominent member of the Democratic opposition of Slovenia (Demos), and key figure in the efforts for the independence and democratization of Slovenia, Slovenia

31.  Cédric Wermuth, Congressman of the Nationalrat des Schweizerischen Parlaments, Vice President of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, Switzerland

32.  Enrique Fernando Santiago Romero, Congressman, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), lawyer,Spain

33.   Clare Daly, Member of the European Parliament, Republic of Ireland

34. Kenneth Wright MacAskill, Member of Parliament, Shadow SNP Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice (2007-2014), United Kingdom

35.  Eleonora Evi, Member of the European Parliament, Italy

36.  Francesca Businarolo, Member of Parliament of Italy, lawyer, Italy

37.  Idoia Villanueva Ruiz, Member of the European Parliament, former Senator, Spain 

38.  Eric Bertinat, Conseiller municipal et chef de groupe UDC Ville de Genève, Président de la commission du lodgement, Ancien président du Conseil municipal,Switzerland

39. Ignazio Corrao, Member of the European Parliament, member of the European Parliament Committee on Development and the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,lawyer, Italy

40.  Joti Brar, Deputy Leader of the Workers Party of Britain, United Kingdom

41. Gregor Gysi, Member of Parliament of the German Bundestag,lawyer, author, moderator, Germany

42. Guillaume Long, former Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Organization,former Minister of Foreign Affairs,Minister of Culture and Heritage, Coordinating Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent, former advisor to the National Secretariat of Planning and Development of Ecuador,France / Ecuador

43.  Matthew Robson, former Minister for Courts, Minister of Corrections and Disarmament, Minister for Land Information, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), New Zealand

44. Michel Larive, Member of the French National Assembly, Member of the Committee for Cultural Affairs and Education, France

45.  Mike Gravel, United States Senator (1969-1981), who officially released the Pentagon Papers, former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, presidential candidate (2008 & 2020), United States of America

46.  Mirella Liuzzi, Member of Parliament of Italy, Italy

47.  Piernicola Pedicini, Member of the European Parliament,Italy

48.  Rosa D’Amato, Member of the European Parliament,Italy

49.  Txema Guijarro García, Member of the Congress of Deputies, Chair of the Congress’ Committee on Budget, economist, Spain

Galloway.

50.  George Galloway, leader of the Workers Party of Britain, former Member of Parliament (1987-2009 and 2013-2015), former general secretary of War on Want, writer, broadcaster, United Kingdom

51. Prof. Jadranka Šturm Kocjan, retired Professor of pedagogy and psychology, Member of Parliament (1992-1996), Ambassador in Bucharest (2010-2015), Ambassador in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay (2015-2019), Slovenia 

52. Franco Juri, geographer, journalist, publicist, author, Member of Parliament (1990-93, 2008-11), vice-president of the Zares Party (2011), Ambassador in Spain and Cuba (1993-1997), state secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1997-2000), Slovenia

53.  Scott Ludlam, Senator (2008-2017), former deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Australia 

54. Adriana SalvatierraSenator and President of the Senate of Bolivia, Bolivia

55.  Alberto Rodríguez Saá, Governor of San Luis Province, lawyer, Argentina

56.  Alejandro Navarro, Senator, Professor of Philosophy, Chile 

57.  Alexandre Padilha, Senator, Minister of Institutional Relations in the Lula administration and Minister of Health under Dilma Rousseff, physician, Brazil

58. Alicia Castro, Argentina’s Ambassador in Russia, former Argentina’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2012- 2016), former Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Argentina / Venezuela

59. Aloizio Mercadante, former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Minister of Educatio, former Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic, former Deputy and Senator, Brazil

60. Andréia de Jesus Silva, State Congresswoman of Minas Gerais State, lawyer, Brazil

61. Áurea Carolina, Federal Congressman of Minas Gerais State, political scientist, Brazil

62. Beatriz Paredes, Senator,former Ambassador of Mexico in Cuba and in Brazil, former Congresswoman and former Governor of the state of Tlaxcala, former President of the Congress of the Union, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate,Mexico

63.  Camilo Lagos, National President of the Progressive Party of Chile and of the Progresa Foundation,Chile

64.  Carlos Alfonso Tomada, Legislator of the City of Buenos Aires, lawyer, former Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Security, Director of the Centre for Labour and Development Studies of the National University of San Martín, Argentina

65. Carlos Ominami, former Minister of Economy, former Senator, economist, Order of the Rising Sun award-winner (Japan), Chile

66. Carlos Sotelo Garci?a, former Senator, former Undersecretary of Political Development, Secretary of Image and Propaganda Organization, Government Exercise and Electoral Action, Mexico

67. Celso Nunez Amorim, former Brazilian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, former Minister of Foreign Relations and former Minister of Defence, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Brazil

68.  Clara López Obregón, former Minister of Labour,former Mayor of Bogotá and former Auditor General of the Republic, lawyer, economist, Professor at the Universidad del Rosario and Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

69.  Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, former Senator for the state of Michoacán and former Head of Government of Mexico City,Mexico

70. Daniel Martinez, former Senator of the Republic and Mayor of Montevideo,former Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, Uruguay

71.   David Choquehuanca, former Foreign Minister of Bolivia,Bolivia

72.  David Miranda, Federal Congressman of Rio de Janeiro State, named by named by Time magazine one of the world’s next generation of new leaders (2019), Brazil

73.  Edmilson Rodrigues, Federal Congressman of Pará State, former Mayor of Belém, architect, Brazil

74. Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Minister of Women, Genders and Diversity, lawyer, Professor, Member of Consejo de la Internacional Progresista, Argentina

75.  Esperanza Marti?nez, Senator, former Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare, Paraguay

76.   Fabiana Rios, Congresswoman, former Governor of the province of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

77. Felipe Solá, Congressman, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina

78.  Fernanda Melchionna, Federal Congressman of Rio Grande do Sul State, Leader of PSOL in the Federal Chamber of Deputies,Brazil

79.  Fernanda Vallejos, Congresswoman, economist, Argentina

80.  Fernando Haddad, former Minister of Education, former Mayor of São Paulo, former Chief of staff to the Finance and Economic Development Secretary of the Municipality of São Paulo and Special advisor to the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management, presidential candidate (2018), lawyer, academic, Professor of Political Science, department of the University of São Paulo, Brazil

81.  Ivan Valente, Federal Congressman of São Paulo State, engineer, Brazil

82. Fernando Solanas, Argentine Ambassador to UNESCO, former National Senator, film director, screenwriter, special Honorary Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival prize winner, Argentina 

83.  Fidel Ernesto Naváez, former Ecuadorian Consul and First Secretary in the United Kingdom, Ecuador

84. Florencia Juana Saintout, Congresswoman of Buenos Aires Province, former dean of the Facultad de Periodismo y Cominicación Social (UNLP) (2010-2018),Argentina

85. Francisco Durañona, Senator, former Mayor of San Antonio de Areco, Argentina

86. Gabriel Mariotto, former vice Buenos Aires Governor, journalist,Argentina

87. Gabriela Rivadeneira, former President of the National Assembly of Ecuador, former Governor of Imbabura, Ecuador

88. Glauber Braga, Federal Congressman of Rio de Janeiro State, lawyer, Brazil

89. Horacio Chique, Councillor of Moreno FDT, Buenos Aires district, Argentina

90. Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Venezuela

91. Jorge Enrique Taiana, Congressman,former Ambassador of Argentina in Guatemala,former Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship, Legislator of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

92. José Eduardo Cardozo, former Minister of Justice, former Attorney General and Federal Deputy, lawyer,Brazil

93. José Miguel Insulza, Senator, former Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Home office Secretary, former Secretary General of the Presidency, former Minister of the Interior, lawyer and Professor of Political Theory at the University of Chile and of Political Science at the Catholic University, Chile

94. Julian Hill,  Member of Federal Parliament, Commonwealth of Australia, Australia

95.  Karol Cariola, Congresswoman,doctor in medicine, Chile

96.  Luiza Erundina, Federal Congresswoman of São Paulo State, former Mayor of São Paulo, sociologist, Brazil 

97. Marcelo Brignoni, Chief of Staff of Advisors to the Presidency of MERCOSUR Parliament, former Congressman, Argentina

98. Marcelo Freixo, Federal Congresswoman of Rio de Janeiro State,. Chairman of the Defence of Human Rights and Citizenship Commission on the Rio de Janeiro Legislative Assembly, broadcaster and Professor, Brazil

99. Marco Enríquez-Ominami, former Congressman, founder and former president of Fundación Progresa, filmmaker, France / Chile

100. María Cristina Perceval, former Senator, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations (2012), Professor of Advanced Epistemology at UNCuyo, Argentina

101.  María José Lubertino, former National Congresswoman, President of the Asociación Ciudadana por los Derechos humanos, lawyer, Argentina

102.  María Rachid, Congresswoman for the constituency of Buenos Aires, Head of the Instituto contra la Discriminación de la Defensoría del Pueblo de Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (CABA), vice-president of the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, Argentina.

103.  Maximiliano Reyes,Undersecretary for Latin America and Caribbean of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former Congressman, Mexico

104.  Mónica Xavier, Senator, doctor in medicine, Uruguay

105. Oscar Alberto Laborde, Congressman, President of Mercorsur Parliament (Palasur), Argentina

106.  Pablo Bergel, former Congressman for the constituency of Buenos Aires, environmentalist, Argentina

107. Paulo Pimenta, State Congressman of Rio Grande so Sul State, journalist, Brazil 

108.  Sâmia Bomfim, Federal Congresswoman of Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil

109.  Talíria Petrone, Federal Congresswoman of Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil

110. Tarso Genro, former Minister for Justice, International Relations and Education political adviser to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former President of Brazil, former Governor of Rio Grande do Sul, former mayor of Porto Alegre, lawyer, Brazil

111. Tereza Campello, former Minister of Social Development and Fight against Hunger,economist, international consultant on social development and social protection, visiting fellow at University of Nottingham (UK), Professor and research associate at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), Brazil

112.  Verónika Mendoza, former Congresswoman, former Vice Presidency of the Committee on Culture and Cultural Heritage, Member of the Commission of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples, Environment and Ecology, shift coordinator of the Parliamentary Representation of Cusco, president of the Decentralization Commission, Peru

113. Wadih Damous, Congressman, former President of the Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB) in Rio de Janeiro, lawyer,Brazil

114.  Zoé Robledo Aburto, former Secretary of Human Rights, former Senator and Deputy, Director of the Mexican Social Security Institute, Mexico

Additionally

Kevin Rudd, statement by former prime minister of Australia, 2007-2010; 2013, Australia

Chris Williamson, former British member of parliament, 2010-2015; 2017-2019, United Kingdom

===

ASSANGE HEARING—Fairbanks Testifies Trump Ordered Assange Arrest; US Concedes WikiLeaks Not First to Publish Cables; But Says it Had Widest Reach

Consortium News is virtually “inside” the courtroom at Old Bailey, viewing the proceedings by video-link and we filed this report of Julian Assange’s resumed extradition hearing.

Old Bailey (Wikimedia Commons)

Fairbanks Testifies Trump Ordered Assange Arrest

By Joe Lauria - 21. 

11:48 am EDT:  Journalist Cassandra Fairbanks testified that President Donald Trump had personally ordered Julian Assange’s arrest from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in April 2019.

Cassandra Fairbanks (Twitter)

Fairbanks said she learned in October 2018 directly from Arthur Schwartz, a Trump backer and member of the president’s inner circle, that the U.S. would have Assange taken from the Ecuadorian embassy; that he would only be charged with the Chelsea Manning leaks and not for the Vault 7 CIA or DNC email releases; that the U.S. would again go after Manning to testify against Assange; that Richard Grenell, then U.S. ambassador to Germany and later director of national intelligence, had worked out a deal with Ecuador to hand Assange over, that the order to get Assange had come directly from Trump and that the U.S. would not seek the death penalty to make extradition possible.

All of these things came true, Fairbanks’ testified. Armed with this information she traveled to London from Washington and met with Assange at the embassy where she revealed these details to him. 

Upon return she says she was contacted by Schwartz who was furious because he learned of her informing Assange, evidently through surveillance at the embassy.  When she tweeted about this Grenell contacted her employer at The Gateway Pundit and tried to have her fired. A panicked Schwartz informed her that there was an investigation into who leaked this information to her.  Fairbanks has posted the audio recording of Schwartz’s call in which he fears going to jail. 

She testified that Schwartz said Assange and everyone else at WikiLeaks should get “lethal injections.”

Her testimony was read by defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald after the government objected. But defense argued that hearsay rules do not apply to political testimony.  Her testimony, especially of Trump’s role, bolstered the defense argument that Assange’s prosecution is political and therefore violates the U.S.-UK extradition treaty.

It was probably best for the prosecution to forgo cross examination, say nothing and just let Fairbanks’ testimony be read in court.  She stated she was a WikiLeaks supporter so the prosecutor couldn’t go after her for hiding bias.  It would have been difficult to pick apart her testimony, especially as she has recordings. And the prosecution would not have wanted to go near surveillance at the embassy nor that Trump ordered the arrest. 

9:38 am EDT: Prosecution argued it only learned in the morning of the next scheduled defense witness, journalist Andy Worthington, and did not have sufficient to time to prepare cross examination. Extraordinary, as the prosecution has repeatedly been told by defense witnesses that they are being sent a bundle of prosecution documents sometimes only hours before they were to testify, giving them no time to prepare for cross examination.

It appears Worthington will not appear as a witness and that journalist Cassandra Fairbanks may be up next.

US Concedes WikiLeaks Was Not First
to Publish Unredacted Diplomatic Cables;
But Says it Had Widest Reach

8:24 am EDT: The prosecution Monday morning was trying to establish that even if WikiLeaks was not the first to publish the unredacted State Department cables containing informants’ names (even though only Julian Assange is the only one being prosecuted for it), it made WikiLeaks more liable than others who published first because WikiLeaks has a larger reach on the internet and included a search engine with the files, unlike those who published the cables before it. 

It is a curious argument from the government in that until this point it tried to establish that WikiLeaks was first, or the only one, to publish. The indictment against Assange makes no mention of the chronology of publishing, which is crucial because as the defense is trying to establish, WikiLeaks would not have published the unredacted archive at all if others had not done so first. It could amount to selective prosecution.

The turn in prosecution argument is similar to it dropping its contention that Assange is not a journalist by making it clear that the U.S. is not precluded from charging a member of the media for disclosing national defense information. 

Grothoff (YouTube)

7:20 am EDT: Defense witness Christian Grothoff, a professor of computer science at Bern University, Switzerland has laid out the chronology of the publication of the unredacted State Dept. cables that are at the heart of this case.

He traces it back to the publication of the password in the Feb. 2011 book by David Leigh and Luke Harding. Grothoff then explained that the German publication Freitag wrote on Aug. 25, 2011 about the password being available in the book, which led to the cables being published on Aug. 31 on a torrent site, followed by their publication by Cryptome.org on Sept. 1.

WikiLeaks then published it on Sept. 2.  Grothoff testified that WikiLeaks was a “responsible publisher” that tried to protect the unredacted cables.  Defense attorney Mark Summers on direct asked Grothoff if the files were still available on Cryptome.

Grothoff: “Yes I accessed them last week.”

Summers: “Was Cryptome ever prosecuted for this?”

Grothoff: “The defense never provided me with information, no.”   

On cross examination, prosecutor Joel Smith attempted, as the prosecution has with virtually every defense witness, to undermine Grothoff’s impartiality.

Smith: “Can you think of anything that shows you are not impartial?”

Grothoff: “I don’t know what you are thinking about. Obviously we know that Mr, Assange did publish information about war crimes by governments, which makes him a sympathetic character. But that does not make me impartial.”

Smith then said that Grothoff had signed an open letter to President Donald Trump in 2017 asking that he end the grand jury and drop all charges against Assange because of the threat to press freedom it represented.  Grothoff said he didn’t remember signing the letter.

Grothoff:  “I have a view that this prosecution is unfair but I only  tried to look if there was a case for the prosecution and I did not find it.”

Smith: “You are biased, you are partial.”

Grothoff: “No you are confusing actions WikiLeaks took to hide these cables. So when you say WikiLeaks published these cable first, you are wrong and did not do your homework. It is unfair to accuse Mr. Assange of publishing those cables.”

Smith: “When you first signed that letter did you have knowledge of the release of the unredacted cables?”

Grothoff: “Yes. Even at that time it seemed clear to me the primary publisher was not WikiLeaks because they were known for being responsible. So I had knowledge it lost control of the cables.”  On cross examination, Mark Summers for the defense, said that among other signers of the letter to Trump were former U.S. military and intelligence figures, judges and members of the German Bundestag.

The prosecution brought up an open vote that WikiLeaks conducted on Twitter and Facebook on Sept. 1, 2011, after the files had been published on Kryptome. The vote was on whether or not WikiLeaks should also now release the cables.  Smith told the court that the “global vote” was 100 to 1 to publish.

What was not raised by the defense on re-direct examination is that the main reason given during the debate before the vote was that governments would be most likely to find the files on Cryptome, or decrypt the files themselves from the password that Leigh had made available, and that WikiLeaks wanted to use its wider reach to alert informants whose names had been revealed to seek safety. 

Grothoff had testified on direct examination that Assange had been extremely reluctant to give Leigh the pass code to the entire unredacted archives, but eventually gave in. On redirect, Summers read a passage from Leigh’s book in which The Guardian journalist pressured Assange to give him the entire cache. Assange had offered to give Leigh 50 percent of the archive. Leigh and Harding wrote:

“Leigh refused. All or nothing, he said. ‘What happens if you end up in an orange jump-suit en route to Guantánamo before you can release the full files?’ In return he would give Assange a promise to keep the cables secure, and not to publish them until the time came.”

Grothoff said he saw mention of Guantanamo as part of the pressure that WikiLeaks had been put under.  At the time, on Sept. 1 2011, The Guardian issued a statement:

“It’s nonsense to suggest the Guardian’s WikiLeaks book has compromised security in any way.

“Our book about WikiLeaks was published last February. It contained a password, but no details of the location of the files, and we were told it was a temporary password which would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours.

“It was a meaningless piece of information to anyone except the person(s) who created the database.

“No concerns were expressed when the book was published and if anyone at WikiLeaks had thought this compromised security they have had seven months to remove the files. That they didn’t do so clearly shows the problem was not caused by the Guardian’s book.”

It is possible this was all a screw up. It’s also possible that no one at WikiLeaks saw the book until the Freitag article.

The prosecution appeared to be trying to muddy the waters by bringing up 133,000 diplomatic files that WikiLeaks published in August 2011, before the released of the unredacted cables. These files came from the U.S. missions in numerous countries including Iran, China, Russia, Israel, Yemen, Syria, Australia, Bahrain and Zimbabwe. Grothoff testified that he analyzed all of these files and found that none were classified.

The government alleges the names of some informants appeared in some of these documents. German journalist John Goetz, who testified for the defense last Wednesday, said that while some of these documents were marked “Strictly Protect,” it did not men informants’ names were present.

5:01 am EDT:  Court is in session. First defense witness is Christian Grothoff, a professor of computer science at Bern University, Switzerland. Network security and cryptography are his specialities. He was asked to investigate of the unredacted chache of diplomatic  cables in September 2011.

===

Ellsberg claimed to have never seen evidence that an informant exposed by WikiLeaks was harmed or killed in retaliation.

"I find the government highly cynical ... am I right in believing not one of them who was subject to threats or interrogation by these brutal and ruthless regimes actually suffered physical harm?

"Were any of the threats carried out? Even one? Isn't the answer no?" Ellsberg said.

"The rules are you don't get to ask questions, I do," said Lewis.

Assange also rejected the claims that he put lives at risk.

"Through his rhetorical sleight of hand he is suggesting that I put lives at risk," Assange said from the dock.

"This must be corrected.

"The damage to me will be irreparable if the media reports that I harmed people, when it is not true," he said.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Credit:Nine

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser reprimanded Assange, for the second time in as many weeks.

"I have warned you about this before, you are not entitled to interfere like this," she said.

===

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, credited for helping to bring an end to the Vietnam War, comes to defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

BY PAN PYLAS - 16. September 2020

Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg speaks during a news conference at the National (Susan Walsh/AP)

LONDON — Daniel Ellsberg, one of the most famous whistleblowers in living memory, came to the defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday in his legal fight to avoid extradition to the United States from Britain, arguing that the pair had “very comparable political opinions.”

The 89-year-old, who is widely credited for helping to bring about an end to the Vietnam War through his leaking of the so-called Pentagon Papers in 1971, told London’s Central Criminal Court via a video link that there are echoes of his experience in the way Assange is being treated by the U.S. government.

He told the court that he concluded after his several meetings with Assange over the past decade that they shared the same aspirations, to shine a light on the “great lack of transparency” in decision-making circles in the U.S., especially when it comes to matters of war.

The cables relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that WikiLeaks published had shown, he said, that torture had become “normalized.”

“The American public needed urgently to know what was being done routinely in their name, and there was no other way for them to learn it than by unauthorized disclosure,” he said in his written testimony.

“I observe the closest of similarities to the position I faced, where the exposure of illegality and criminal acts institutionally and by individuals was intended to be crushed by the administration carrying out those illegalities,” he added.

U.S. prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Assange on 17 espionage charges, and one of computer misuse, over WikiLeaks' publication of secret U.S. military documents a decade ago, largely around the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a decade ago. The dump, similarly coordinated at various stages with some of the world’s leading newspapers, was arguably the biggest single leak since the Pentagon Papers four decades before. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

Like Assange, Ellsberg faced the prospect of decades, at least, in prison.

After leaking over 7,000 pages of classified documents to the press, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, Ellsberg was put on trial on 12 charges in connection with violations of the Espionage Act. They were punishable by up to 115 years in prison, but the charges were dismissed in 1973 because of government misconduct against him.

Ellsberg, who had worked at both the State Department and the Pentagon, said Assange won’t be able to provide a justification for his actions if he were to be extradited to the U.S. in the same way that he was denied the chance to raise a public interest defense for his leaking of the Pentagon Papers.

He said that Assange “cannot get a fair trial for what he has done under these charges in the United States.”

Pressed repeatedly by James Lewis, a lawyer acting on behalf of the U.S. government, about the consequences of the leaking of unredacted documents, Ellsberg said there was “zero evidence” that the actions of Assange and WikiLeaks had led to anyone being harmed. He also said that Assange took great care not to willfully expose anyone to harm.

While noting the “understandable anxiety” of those revealed to have helped out the U.S., he said any threats had to be “put into context.” He told the court that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had made refugees of millions as well as to the death of over 1 million people.

Ellsberg said it is “extremely cynical” for the U.S. government to feign concerns when it had spent much of the past 19 years showing “contempt.”

Ellsberg’s testimony was interrupted by an outburst from Assange in the dock before the Australian was silenced by the judge, Vanessa Baraitser.

Assange’s lawyers say the prosecution is politically motivated and that he won’t receive a fair trial in the United States. They also argue that the conditions he would face in prison would breach his human rights.

Assange has been in a British prison since he was ejected from his refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in April 2019.

The extradition hearing is due to last until early October.

===

Day 6: September 15, 2020 #AssangeCase

September 15, 2020

Eric Lewis: Under Trump, Justice Dept. is Prosecutorial Hand of the PresidentStates

Attorney Eric Lewis

Continuing testimony that began yesterday, U.S. lawyer Eric Lewis explained that under President Trump, the Department of Justice is not an independent agency but rather one that takes its direction from the top down. Lewis said that he isn’t questioning the integrity of lower-level prosecutors, but they are taking direction from their Attorney General.

Lewis cited comments from Jeff Sessions, who was US Attorney General at the time Assange’s indictment was brought, in which he called Assange’s arrest a “priority.” The top-down approach continued under William Barr, Lewis said, citing more than a thousand former federal prosecutors who co-signed a statement condemning President Trump’s “obstruction of justice.”

“Jeff Sessions pressured the Eastern District of Virginia to bring the case. I’m not saying individual prosecutors are acting in bad faith, I’m saying the department is highly politicized and many Americans would agree with that sentiment.”

The comments came amid cross-examination, as U.S. prosecutors are attempting to undermine the dense claim that the prosecution of Assange is politically motivated. Lewis pointed again to the fact that the Obama administration made a clear decision not to prosecute Assange in 2013. The facts of the case are from 2010 and 2011 but the U.S. didn’t indict until 2018; the only difference between then and now is who is in the White House.

“This case was dormant when the Trump administration began,” Lewis said. “The evidence hasn’t changed. Witnesses haven’t changed. The First Amendment hasn’t changed.”

175 years in prison

The prosecution also attempted to cast doubt on the claim that Assange would face up to 175 years in prison if he is extradited to the United States. But Lewis said there is significant reason to believe that a judge would sentence him extremely aggressively. Assange would be tried in the Eastern District of Virginia under District Judge Claude M Hilton, who Lewis said is known as a “tough sentencer” and who threw Chelsea Manning in prison for contempt of court when she refused to testify in a WikiLeaks grand jury. Furthermore, U.S. officials have described WikiLeaks’ releases as the biggest leak publications in history and has attempted to argue that U.S. adversaries benefited from the releases. Upon Chelsea Manning’s conviction of 10 counts under the Espionage Act (whereas Assange faces 17), Lewis noted, the government asked for a 60-year sentence, and she was sentenced to 35.

The prosecution attempted to invoke the Espionage Act cases of whistleblowers Terry Albury, Reality Winner, and Jeffrey Sterling as evidence that these cases often result in shorter sentences. But Sterling himself tweeted in response,

In February, Sterling wrote, “Reject Using My Unjust Conviction Against Julian Assange.”

Lewis noted that the U.S. Dept of Justice has made several adjustments to the second superseding indictment that it brought in June 2020. Despite adding no new charges, the indictment adds new language that, Lewis explained, increases the likelihood of a higher sentence. These added factors include other co-conspirators the government alleged were under Assange’s direction, reference to a ‘Teenager’ among those (this refers to Siggi Thordarson, Icelandic informant), “special skills” (here could refer to Assange’s alleged computer capabilities), and the fact that the State Department cables allegedly included names of U.S. government employees (at embassies around the world). These all lead Lewis to believe the newest superseding indictment substantially increases a potential sentence for Assange.

Abusive conditions await Assange

Finally, Lewis testified to the conditions Assange would be likely to face in a U.S. prison, both pre- and post-trial. Pre-trial, Assange would be held at the Alexandria Detention Center, and Lewis believes he would be held under both SAMs, which gags a defendant and permits monitoring of attorney-client communications, and the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), which curtails the defendant’s ability to review classified documents in his/her case.

It’s also highly likely Assange would be held in administrative segregation (‘ad-seg), due to his notoriety and mental health issues, and the combination of ad-seg and SAMs would be tantamount to solitary confinement and extremely dangerous to Assange’s psychological health. Lewis testified that two-thirds of all incidents of suicide and self-harm among inmates take place in segregated housing.

Tom Durkin: Assange would not get a fair trial in the United States

Thomas A Durkin (JTF Guantanamo file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nat Moger)

Next, the defense called Thomas Durkin, a criminal defense attorney from Chicago, to discuss how a trial against Assange would play out in the U.S. if he were extradited.

“I don’t believe he would be able to get what I would consider to be a fair trial in the U.S.”, Durkin said, because the case is the result of a highly politicized prosecution, CIPA restrictions would severely hamper the defense, and there would be huge pressure to accept a plea deal simply to avoid an exorbitant prison sentence.

Durkin corroborated what several witnesses have said thus far, that the Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute contrasted with the Trump administration’s decision to prosecute several years later, without new evidence, is clear evidence that the case is political.

The CIPA restrictions, he said, would mean Assange would not be able to view classified documents in the case, contrary to what U.S. assistant attorney Gordon Kromberg argued in submissions for the prosecution.

As for the pressure for a plea deal, Durkin testified that there is a built-in incentive to take a plea, in that a “timely guilty plea” automatically takes the sentence down a level within sentencing guidelines, which Durkin referred to as “draconian.” This is commonly referred to as a “trial tax,” meaning defendants are punished for taking their own cases to trial rather than pleading ahead of time.

Durkin said that the prosecution appears to argue that Assange is more liable than Chelsea Manning, indicating the government would seek a longer sentence than the 60 years it sought for Manning.

Furthermore, Durkin testified that any plea deal would require “full cooperation,” meaning the government would very likely require Assange to reveal WikiLeaks’ sources in order to obtain a plea agreement.

Tomorrow, former Der Spiegel journalist John Goetz and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg are scheduled to testify.

===

Day 5: September 14, 2020 #AssangeCase

September 14, 2020

Steadfast protesters in London demand the freedom of Julian Assange

 

  • See previous daily reports here and a video recap of last week’s proceedings here
  • See an overview of USA v. Julian Assange here
  • See a thread of live-tweets of today’s hearing here

Eric Lewis: Julian Assange shouldn’t be extradited, would face solitary confinement in the United States

 

Attorney Eric Lewis

Paused last week due to a COVID19 scare, Julian Assange’s extradition hearing resumed today with witness testimony from Eric Lewis, chairman of the board of Reprieve and a lawyer who “represents Guantanamo and Afghan detainees in litigation, seeking redress and accountability for torture and religious abuse while in US custody.”

Lewis confirmed that before being asked to provide expert testimony on this case, he opined in the press that he believes Assange shouldn’t be extradited or prosecuted, and while he handled the facts objectively in providing his witness statement, those are still his views today. In May 2019, Lewis wrote, “As an American lawyer, I don’t want to see Julian Assange extradited to my country.”

While Lewis’ testimony largely deals with his experience defending clients in the US federal justice system and the conditions they face, he first spoke about the significance of the Trump administration deciding to prosecute Assange in contrast to the Obama administration’s decision not to. Echoing previous witnesses, Lewis singled out comments from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo and then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2017 evincing particular zeal in prosecuting Assange. Pompeo castigated WikiLeaks and Assange and declared he would be allowed no First Amendment rights, while Sessions announced that Assange’s arrest was a “priority” of his. Lewis noted that this meant Sessions was specifically directing federal prosecutors to take another look at a case in which the Obama Administration had explicitly decided not to bring charges.

The fact that WikiLeaks documents would be “essential” in war crimes prosecutions in the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Lewis, may also play a factor here, as President Trump, former Sec. of Defense John Bolton, and Sec. of State Mike Pompeo have all criticized the ICC. Furthermore, President Trump has issued an ‘Executive Order on Blocking Property Of Certain Persons Associated With The International Criminal Court.’

Lewis also remarked on the superseding indictment against Assange, adding 17 counts to the previous single charge. Lewis said these charges under the Espionage Act could easily have been all charged together, but separating them out in this way indicates a desire to maximize Assange’s potential jail time, as each new count carries up to 10 years in prison.

Special Administrative Measures

Lewis then spoke about the conditions Assange would be likely to endure, including Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) and solitary confinement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has documented the effects of SAMs in a 2017 report, “The Darkest Corner: Special Administrative Measures and Extreme Isolation in the Federal Bureau of Prisons”:

“SAMs are the darkest corner of the U.S. federal prison system, combining the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world. They prohibit prisoners who live under them from contact or communication with all but a handful of approved individuals, and impose a second gag on even those few individuals. The net effect is to shield this form of torture in our prisons from any real public scrutiny.”

The CCR has also written ‘Solitary Confinement: Torture in U.S. Prisons’ — the report provides background context for Lewis’ testimony on solitary, which the Bureau of Prisons conceals by referring to it as Administrative Segregation.

Lewis and the prosecution engaged in a long back-and-forth about how SAMs and solitary are applied, what conditions are required, whether they are ‘arbitrary’ and whether they violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Lewis disagrees with the prosecution particularly on whether the US Bureau of Prisons fairly applies SAMs and solitary, finding it extremely likely they’d be applied here due to the likely invocation of “national security interests.” He explained the “unique difficulties” presented under both SAMs and solitary in attorney-client defense preparation, particularly in a case of this magnitude.

Technical issues with Lewis’ videolink before the lunch break and continued afterward. The court decided to adjourn for the day to attempt to resolve them, so court will resume with Lewis’ testimony tomorrow at 10am London time.

Source: https://assangedefense.org

===

UPDATE 10. September 2020:

Julian Assange Extradition Hearing in London Paused Over COVID-19 Risk

By Associated Press - 10. September 2020

Julian Assange - Ecuador on May 19, 2017 = Getty-H 2019

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Proceedings were adjourned until Monday while a lawyer representing the U.S. government is tested for the virus.

The London hearing on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition from Britain to the United States was suspended Thursday because one of the lawyers may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ordered the proceedings adjourned until Monday while a lawyer representing the U.S. government is tested for the virus.

Image

 

Assange is fighting American prosecutors’ attempt to get the British government to send him to the U.S. to stand trial on spying charges.U.S. prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret U.S. military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

Assange’s lawyers say the prosecution is a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle press freedom and put journalists around the world at risk.

The hearing started Monday at London’s Old Bailey criminal court and is scheduled to last about a month.

The judge told Julian Assange on Tuesday that the hearing would proceed without him if he continues to speak from the dock and interrupt witnesses. "You will hear things, no doubt many things, you disagree with during these proceedings," she said. The warning came after Assange interrupted a defense witness giving evidence.

===

Assange Court Report September 10: Morning

Assange Court Report September 10: Morning

Julian Assange hearing halted due to COVID-19 scare.

The extradition hearing of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was adjourned today due to a member of one of the legal teams being possibly exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

The presiding judge, Vanessa Baraitser, told a half-empty court that the person concerned would be tested today and agreed with submissions, from both the defence and the prosecution, that proceedings should be halted until Monday when the results of the test will be known.

If the test is positive, members of the legal team concerned will have to self-isolate for 14 days. With neither side happy to conduct the case via video link, this could lead to a major delay in the case, which has already been delayed for months due to the virus outbreak.

Julian Assange remains on remand in London’s Belmarsh prison

===

The Evil Persecution of Julian Assange

By  - 10. 

The Julian Assange extradition farce is now proceeding apace in Great Britain, where the English poodles are going through the motions before they comply with U.S. dictates to transfer Assange to trial in the United States.

The charge? Some supposed violation of some ridiculous espionage statute dating back to World War I, the foreign war in which tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were sacrificed by the U.S. government for absolutely nothing. You would think interventionists would hang their heads in shame over a war that sacrificed U.S. soldiers for nothing. Instead, to get Assange they are relying on a ludicrous law enacted during that war for no other reason than to suppress dissent against the war.

Assange’s real crime? Disclosing the truth about evil and immoral actions of the U.S. national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA. That’s why they have been going after him with a vengeance for the past 10 years. That’s why the British have been treating him as a common convicted criminal as a prelude to the farce of the extradition hearing.

With the British government’s horrific mistreatment of Assange, one can easily understand the reason for the periodic resistance to British tyranny on the part of the British people over the centuries, stretching all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215. Keep in mind that the anti-tyranny principles found in the Bill of Rights were carved out by British citizens in resistance to the tyranny of their own government, a tyranny that is, once again, being reflected in the horrific abuse of Julian Assange.

One of the most ridiculous arguments that the Pentagon and the CIA, through their agents in the Justice Department and at the extradition hearing, is that Wikileaks doesn’t count as a real journalistic outlet and, therefore, Assange isn’t entitled to the protections of the First Amendment.

What difference does that make? Under basic principles of freedom, everyone in the world, journalist or not, has the right to disclose the evil and immoral actions of governments, including their own government. The fact that so many mainstream journalists have bought into this ridiculous argument of the Pentagon and the CIA reflects how deeply the national-security mindset has pervaded America.

There is another reason why the U.S. national-security establishment is targeting Assange for retribution. They want to send a message to everyone else, a message that says: Don’t even think about disclosing our evil and immoral actions because this is what will happen to you.

As I have written in the past, the worst mistake the American people have ever made was in permitting the federal government to be converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state. A national-security state is a totalitarian form of governmental structure. North Korea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba, and China are national-security states. And there is no doubt that they treat people who disclose their dark-side and sordid secrets just like the U.S. government and its British poodle are treating Assange.

Assange, like Edward Snowden, is a hero. The best way for Americans to honor him — and do themselves a favor in the process — would be to dismantle our national-security state form of government and restore our founding governmental system of a limited-government republic to our land.

Author:

Jacob Hornberger

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 8 194

The great question after yesterday’s hearing was whether prosecution counsel James Lewis QC would continue to charge at defence witnesses like a deranged berserker (spoiler – he would), and more importantly, why?

QC’s representing governments usually seek to radiate calm control, and treat defence arguments as almost beneath their notice, certainly as no conceivable threat to the majestic thinking of the state. Lewis instead resembled a starving terrier kept away from a prime sausage by a steel fence whose manufacture and appearance was far beyond his comprehension.

Perhaps he has toothache.

PROFESSOR PAUL ROGERS

The first defence witness this morning was Professor Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He has written 9 books on the War on Terror, and has been for 15 years responsible for MOD contracts on training of armed forces in law and ethics of conflict. Rogers appeared by videolink from Bradford.

Prof Rogers’ full witness statement is here.

Edward Fitzgerald QC asked Prof Rogers whether Julian Assange’s views are political (this goes to article 4 in the UK/US extradition treaty against political extradition). Prof Rogers replied that “Assange is very clearly a person of strong political opinions.”

Fitzgerald then asked Prof Rogers to expound on the significance of the revelations from Chelsea Manning on Afghanistan. Prof Rogers responded that in 2001 there had been a very strong commitment in the United States to going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easy initial military victories led to a feeling the nation had “got back on track”. George W Bush’s first state of the union address had the atmosphere of a victory rally. But Wikileaks’ revelations in the leaked war logs reinforced the view of some analysts that this was not a true picture, that the war in Afghanistan had gone wrong from the start. It contradicted the government line that Afghanistan was a success. Similarly the Wikileaks evidence published in 2011 had confirmed very strongly that the Iraq War had gone badly wrong, when the US official narrative had been one of success.

Wikileaks had for example proven from the war logs that there were a minimum of 15,000 more civilian deaths than had been reckoned by Iraq Body Count. These Wikileaks exposures of the failures of these wars had contributed in large part to a much greater subsequent reluctance of western powers to go to war at an early stage.

Fitzgerald said that para 8 of Rogers’ report suggests that Assange was motivated by his political views and referenced his speech to the United Nations. Was his intention to influence political actions by the USA?

Rogers replied yes. Assange had stated that he was not against the USA and there were good people in the USA who held differing views. He plainly hoped to influence US policy. Rogers also referenced the statement by Mairead Maguire in nominating Julian for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Julian Assange and his colleagues in Wikileaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy and their work for our freedom and speech. Their work for true peace by making public our governments’ actions at home and abroad has enlightened us to their atrocities carried out in the name of so-called democracy around the world.

Rogers stated that Assange had a clear and coherent political philosophy. He had set it out in particular in the campaign of the Wikileaks Party for a Senate seat in Australia. It was based on human rights and a belief in transparency and accountability of organisations. It was essentially libertarian in nature. It embraced not just government transparency, but also transparency in corporations, trade unions and NGOs. It amounted to a very clear political philosophy. Assange adopted a clear political stance that did not align with conventional party politics but incorporated coherent beliefs that had attracted growing support in recent years.

Fitzgerald asked how this related to the Trump administration. Rogers said that Trump was a threat to Wikileaks because he comes from a position of quite extreme hostility to transparency and accountability in his administration. Fitzgerald suggested the incoming Trump administration had demonstrated this hostility to Assange and desire to prosecute. Rogers replied that yes, the hostility had been evidenced in a series of statements right across the senior members of the Trump administration. It was motivated by Trump’s characterisation of any adverse information as “fake news”.

Fitzgerald asked whether the motivation for the current prosecution was criminal or political? Rogers replied “the latter”. This was a part of the atypical behaviour of the Trump administration; it prosecutes on political motivation. They see openness as a particular threat to this administration. This also related to Trump’s obsessive dislike of his predecessor. His administration would prosecute Assange precisely because Obama did not prosecute Assange. Also the incoming Trump administration had been extremely annoyed by the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, a decision they had no power to revoke. For that the prosecution of Assange could be vicarious revenge.

Several senior administration members had advocated extremely long jail sentences for Assange and some had even mooted the death penalty, although Rogers realised that was technically impossible through this process.

Fitzgerald asked whether Assange’s political opinions were of a type protected by the Refugee Convention. Rogers replied yes. Persecution for political opinion is a solid reason to ask for refugee status. Assange’s actions are motivated by his political stance. Finally Fitzgerald then asked whether Rogers saw political significance in the fact that Assange was not prosecuted under Obama. Rogers replied yes, he did. This case is plainly affected by fundamental political motivation emanating from Trump himself.

James Lewis QC then rose to cross-examine for the prosecution. His first question was “what is a political opinion?” Rogers replied that a political opinion takes a particular stance on the political process and does so openly. It relates to the governance of communities, from nations down to smaller units.

Lewis suggested that Assange’s views encompassed the governance of corporations, NGOs and trade unions. They could not therefore be considered as “political opinion”. Rogers replied that the province of the political in the last fifty years or so now includes much more beyond the strict governmental process. Assange particularly discusses relationships between government and corporations and the latter’s influence on government and society as part of a wider ruling establishment.

Lewis then asked “is simply being a journalist a person who expresses political opinions?” Rogers replied not necessarily; there were different kinds of journalist. Lewis than asked “So just being a journalist or publisher does not necessarily mean that you have political opinions, does it?” Rogers replied “not necessarily, but usually.” Lewis then suggested that the expression of editorial opinion was what constituted a political view in a journalist. Rogers replied that was one way, but there were others. Selection of material to publish could manifest a political view.

Lewis then rattled off a series of questions. Is transparency a political opinion? Does Assange hold the view that Governments may never hold secrets? Should that transparency enable putting individuals at risk? There were more.

Rogers replied that these questions did not permit of binary answers.

Lewis then took Rogers to Assange’s speech to the Stop the War Coalition, where he stated that the invasion of Poland at the start of the Second World War was the result of carefully concocted lies. Did Prof Rogers agree with that view? What political opinion did that view represent? Rogers replied it represented a strong political opinion and a particular view on the origin of war. Lewis then quoted another alleged comment of Assange, “Journalists are war criminals” and asked what political opinion that represented. Rogers replied that it represented a suspicion of certain journalistic practices.

Rogers said that he had never said he supported or identified with Assange’s views. He strongly disagreed with some. But that they were coherent political views there was no doubt.

Lewis then read out a lengthy quote by Assange to the effect that strongly anti-transparency governments will always result in more leaks, followed by more restrictions and this would set up a cycle. Lewis asked Rogers what political view this could be said to represent. Rogers replied it was an interesting analysis of the working of highly autocratic systems. Their concern with secrecy leads to increased leaks which decrease their security. He was not sure if it was explicit, but he believed Assange may be positing this as a new development made possible by the internet. Assange’s thesis was that autocratic regimes harbour the seeds of their own destruction. It was not a traditional view held by political scientists but it was worth consideration.

Lewis now changed tack. He stated that Prof Rogers was appearing as a “so-called expert witness” under a continuing obligation to be unbiased. He had a duty to consider all supporting evidence. US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg had submitted an affidavit explicitly denying there was any political motivation for the prosecution, stating that it is evidence based. Why did Prof Rogers not mention the Kromberg statement in his report? An unbiased expert witness would take into account Kromberg’s statement.

Rogers replied that he spoke from his expertise as a political scientist, not a lawyer. He accepted that Kromberg had made his statement but believed a wider view to be more important.

Lewis stated that Kromberg’s first affidavit stated that “based on the available evidence and applicable law a grand jury had approved the charges.” Why had Rogers not mentioned the grand jury? Rogers said that he had taken a wider view about why there was a decision now to prosecute and not in 2011, why Kromberg’s statement was being made now after a gap of eight years. This was anomalous.

Lewis then asked “I want to consider why you did not consider the opposite view. Have you seen the evidence?” At this point he was grinning very strangely indeed, looking up at the judge, leaning back with one arm wide across his chair back, in some sort of peculiar alpha male gesture. I believe Rogers’ videolink only gave him a wide view of the whole courtroom, so how much he could see of the body language of his questioner I am unsure.

Rogers said he had seen the evidence. Lewis gurned in wild-eyed triumph “you cannot have seen the evidence. The evidence has only been seen by the grand jury and not released. You cannot have seen the evidence.” Rogers apologised, and said he had understood Lewis to mean Kromberg’s affidavit as the evidence. Rogers went on to say that less than 24 hours ago he had received an evidence bundle of 350 pages. It was unfair to expect him to have a precise mental picture of every document.

Lewis then returned to a Gordon Kromberg affidavit which said that prosecutors have a code which bars them from taking politically motivated decisions. Rogers replied that may be right in theory, but was untrue in practice, particularly in the USA where a much higher percentage of senior officials in the Department of Justice were political appointees who changed with each administration. Lewis asked Rogers whether he was alleging the prosecutors did not follow the code outlined by Kromberg. Rogers replied you had to consider the motivation of those above the prosecutors who influenced their decisions. “What you are giving me is a fair representation of how federal prosecutors are supposed to do their work. But they work as those above direct them.”

Lewis repeated that the code excludes political motivation for prosecution. Was Rogers claiming that Gordon Kromberg was acting in bad faith? Rogers replied no, but he was acting under political direction. The timing of this indictment after eight years was the key. Lewis asked whether that mattered if a crime had been committed. He referred to historic prosecutions of those soldiers who had allegedly committed crimes in Northern Ireland over twenty years ago. Was it political motivation that led to new prosecutions now? Rogers said this was more about bad faith.

Lewis asked if Rogers understood what Assange was being prosecuted for. Was he being prosecuted for publishing the collateral murder video? Rogers replied no, the charges were more specific and mostly related to the Espionage Act. Lewis stated the majority of charges were focused on complicity in theft and on hacking. Rogers responded there was obviously a wider political question as to why acts were being done in the first place. Lewis stated that on the question of publication, charges only related to the unredacted names of sources. Rogers said that he understood that was what the prosecution is saying, but was not agreed by the defence. But the question remained, why is this being brought now? And you could only look at that from the point of view of developments in American politics over the last twenty years.

Lewis asked Rogers to confirm that he was not saying US prosecutors were acting in bad faith. Rogers replied that he would hope not, at that level. Lewis asked if Rogers’ position was that at a higher level there had been a political decision to prosecute. Rogers said yes. These were complex matters. It was governed by political developments in the US since about 1997. He wished to speak to that… Lewis cut him off and said he preferred to look at evidence. He cited a Washington Post article from 2013 which stated that there had been no formal decision not to prosecute Assange by the Obama administration (this was the same article Lewis had quoted yesterday to Feldstein, on which he had been called out by Edward Fitzgerald for selective quotation). Rogers replied yes, but that must be considered in a wider context.

Lewis again refused to let Rogers develop his evidence, and gave the quotes from Assange’s legal team, again as given yesterday to Feldstein, to the effect they had in 2016 not been informed charges had been dropped. Rogers replied that was just what you would expect from Wikileaks at that time. They did not know and were bound to be cautious.

Lewis: Do you accept there had been a continuing investigation from Obama to Trump administrations.
Rogers: Yes, but we do not know at what level of intensity.
Lewis: Do you accept that there was no decision not to prosecute by Obama
Rogers: There was no decision to prosecute. It did not happen.
Lewis: How could they prosecute when Assange was in the Embassy?
Rogers: That would not preclude a prosecution going ahead and charges being brought. That might be a way to bring pressure on Ecuador.
Lewis: Assange’s lawyer said there was no decision not to prosecute by the Obama administration.
Rogers: I have accepted there was no decision not to prosecute. But there was no prosecution and it was considered.
Lewis: Judge Mehta said there was ongoing investigation of others beside Manning. And Wikileaks tweeted Assange’s willingness to come to the USA to face charges if Manning was granted clemency.
Rogers: Obviously Assange and his lawyer could not be sure of the situation. But it must be understood that bringing Julian Assange to the USA for a major trial of someone who was perceived by many Trump supporters and potential Trump supporters as an enemy of the state, might be of crucial political benefit to Mr Trump.

Lewis now responded that Rogers was not a real expert witness and “had given a biased opinion in favour of Julian Assange”.

Edward Fitzgerald QC then re-examined Prof Rogers for the defence. He said that Mr Lewis had appeared to see something sinister in Mr Assange’s statement that the invasion of Poland and second world war had been started by lies. To what lies did Prof Rogers think that Assange was referring? Rogers replied the lies of the Nazi Regime. Fitzgerald asked if this was a fair point. Rogers replied yes.

Fitzgerald read the context of Assange’s statement which also referred to lies starting the Iraq war. Rogers agreed that lies leading to war was a consistent Assange political theme. Fitzgerald then invited Rogers briefly to summarise the consequences of the change of US administration. Rogers stated that under Trump, the narrative from senior politicians on Wikileaks had changed.

The Bush administration had viewed the Iraq war as essential, with the support of most American people. That view had gradually changed until Obama had won basically on a “withdraw from Iraq” ticket. Similarly the Afghan war had been thought winnable but gradually the political establishment changed their mind. This shift in view was partly due to Wikileaks. By 2015/6 American politics had moved on from the wars and there was no political interest in prosecuting Wikileaks.

Then Trump came in with a completely new attitude to the entire fourth estate and to openness and accountability of the executive. That had led to this prosecution. Fitzgerald directed Rogers to a Washington Post article which stated:

The previously undisclosed disagreement inside the Justice Department underscores the fraught, high-stakes nature of the government’s years-long effort to counter Assange, an Internet-age publisher who has repeatedly declared his hostility to U.S. foreign policy and military operations. The Assange case also illustrates how the Trump administration is willing to go further than its predecessors in pursuit of leakers — and those who publish official secrets.

Rogers agreed this supported his position. Fitzgerald then asked about Lewis’s comparison with prosecution of British soldiers for historical crimes in Northern Ireland. Rogers agreed that their prosecution in no way related to their political opinions, so the cases were not comparable. Rogers’ final point was that four months after Barr took office as attorney general, charges were increased from a single one to eighteen. This was a pretty clear indication of political pressure being put on the prosecutorial system.

TREVOR TIMM

The afternoon witness was Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Association in San Francisco, again via videolink. You can see his full evidence statement here. The Freedom of the Press Association teaches and supports investigative journalism and seeks to document and counter violations of media freedom in the USA.

Mr Timm testified that there is a rich history in the USA of famous reporters covering defence and foreign affairs related matters drawing upon classified documents. In 1971 the Supreme Court had decided the government could not censor the NYT from publishing the Pentagon Papers. There have been several instances over history where the government had explored using the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists but no prosecution had ever materialised because of First Amendment constitutional rights.

For the defence, Mark Summers QC put to Mr Timms that this was the prosecution’s case: Chelsea Manning had committed a crime in whistleblowing. So any act that helped Chelsea Manning or solicited material was also a crime. Timm replied this was not the law. It was standard practice for journalists to ask sources for classified material. The implications of this prosecution would criminalise any journalist in receipt of classified intelligence. Virtually every single newspaper in the United States had criticised this decision to prosecute on these grounds, including those that have opposed Wikileaks’ general activities.

This was the only attempt to use the Espionage Act against a person not in government employ apart from the AIPAC case, which had collapsed for that reason. Many great journalists would have been caught by this kind of prosecution, including Woodward and Bernstein for the cultivation of Deep Throat.

Summers asked about the prosecution’s characterisation of the provision of a drop box by Wikileaks to a whistleblower as criminal conspiracy. Timm replied that the indictment treats possession of a secure drop box as a criminal offence. But the Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times and over 80 other news organisations have secure drop boxes. The International Committee of Investigative Journalists has a drop box with a specific “leak to us” page requesting classified documents. Timms’ own foundation had developed in 2014 a secure drop box which they taught, and which had been adopted by multiple news organisations in the USA.

Summers asked if news organisations advertised drop boxes. Timm replied yes. The New York Times links to its secure drop box in its social media posts. Some even took out paid adverts for whistleblowers. Summers asked about the “most wanted list” which the prosecution characterised as criminal solicitation. Timm replied that multiple respectable news organisations actively solicited whistleblowers. The “most wanted” list had been a Wiki document which had been crowdsourced. It was not a Wikileaks document. His own foundation had contributed to it along with many other media organisations. Summers asked if this was criminal activity. Timm replied in the negative.

Summers asked Timm to expound his thoughts on the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture in 2014. Timm said that this vital and damning report on CIA involvement in torture had been much redacted and was based on thousands of classified documents not made available to the public. Virtually the entire media had therefore been involved in trying to obtain the classified material that revealed more of the story. Much of this material was classified Top Secret – higher than the Manning material. Many newspapers appealed for whistleblowers to come forward with documents and he had himself published an appeal to that effect in the Guardian.

Summers asked if it had ever been suggested to Timm this was criminal behaviour. Timm replied no, the universal belief had been that it was first amendment protected free speech. The current indictment is unconstitutional.

James Lewis QC then cross-examined for the prosecution. He said this was claimed to be expert opinion, but did Timm know what that meant in UK law? Timm said he had an obligation to explain his qualification and to tell the truth. Lewis replied that he was also supposed to be objective, unbiased and have no conflict of interest. But the Free Press Foundation had contribute to Assange’s defence fund. Lewis asked how much? Timm replied US$100,000.

Lewis asked if there were any conditions under which the Foundation would get their money back. Timm replied no, not to his knowledge. Lewis asked whether Timm would feel personally threatened were this case to go to prosecution. Timm replied that would represent a threat to many thousands of journalists. The Espionage Act was so widely drafted it would even pose a threat to purchasers and readers of newspapers containing leaked information.

Lewis said that Timm had testified that he had written advocating a leaking of CIA material. Did he fear he would be prosecuted himself? Timm replied no, he had not asked for material to be leaked to himself. But this prosecution was a real threat to thousands of journalists represented by his organisation.

Lewis said that the prosecution position is that Assange is not a journalist. Timm replied that he is a journalist. Being a journalist does not mean working for the mainstream media. There was a long legal history of that going back to pamphleteers at the time of Independence.

This cross examination was not going so well, and Lewis reached yet again for Gordon Kromberg’s affidavit as for a comfort blanket. Kromberg had sworn that the Department of Justice takes seriously the protection of journalists and that Julian Assange is no journalist. Kromberg had further sworn that Julian Assange was only being prosecuted for conspiring to illegally obtain material, and for publishing unredacted names of informants who would be at risk of death. The government is going out of its way to stress it is not prosecuting journalism.

Timm replied that he based his opinion on what the indictment said, not on the Department of Justice press release from which Lewis had read. Three of these charges relate to publication. The other charges relate to possession of material. Lewis said that Timm was missing the hacking allegation which was central to Count 1 and several other counts. Lewis quoted an article in the Law Review of New York Law School, which said that it was illegal for a journalist to obtain material from the wreckage of a crashed airplane, from an illegal wiretap or from theft, even if the purpose were publication. Would it not be illegal to conspire with a source to commit hacking?

Timm replied that in this case the allegation appeared to be that the hacking was to protect the identity of the source, not to steal documents. Protection of sources was an obligation.

Lewis then asked Timm if he had seen the actual evidence that supports the indictment. Timm replied only some of it, in particular the Java script of the messages allegedly between Assange and Manning. Lewis said Timm could not have seen all the evidence as it had not been published. Timm replied he had not said he had seen it all. He had seen the alleged Assange/Manning messages which had been published.

Lewis said that Assange had published unredacted material which put lives in danger. That was the specific charge. Timm replied that, assuming the assertion was true, the prosecution was still unconstitutional. There was a difference between responsible and irresponsible, and legal and illegal. An act could be irresponsible, even blameworthy, and still not illegal.

There had never been a prosecution for publication of names of informants, even where they were allegedly put in harm’s way. Following the official line about harm to informants precisely due to Wikileaks’ publication of the cables, Senator Joe Liebermann had introduced the Shield Bill into Congress. It failed specifically on First Amendment grounds. The episode tells us two things; firstly that Congress considered publication of informants’ names was not illegal and secondly that neither did they wish to make it illegal.

Lewis quoted a Guardian editorial condemning the publication of names, and stated that the Washington Post, New York Times, El Pais and Der Spiegel among many others had condemned it too. Timm replied that still did not make it illegal. The US government ought not to be the arbiter of whether an editorial decision is correct or not. Timm also felt it worth noting in passing that all of those media outlets whose opinions Lewis held in such high regard, had condemned the current attempt at prosecution.

Lewis asked why we should prefer Timm’s opinion to that of the courts. Timm replied that his opinion was in line with the courts. Countless decisions over centuries upheld the First Amendment. It was the indictment which was out of tune with the courts. The Supreme Court had expressly stated that there was no balance of harm argument in First Amendment cases.

Lewis asked Timm what qualification he had to comment on legal matters. Timm replied he had graduated from Law School and had gained admission to the New York Bar, but rather than practice he had worked on academic analysis of media freedom cases. The Foundation often joined in with litigation in support of media freedom, on an amicus basis.

Lewis said (in a tone of disbelief) that Timm had stated this prosecution was part of “Trump’s war on journalism”. Timm cut in niftily. Yes, he explained, we keep track on Trump’s war on journalism. He has sent out over 2,200 tweets attacking journalists. He has called journalists “enemies of the people”. There is a great deal of available material on this.

Lewis asked why Timm had failed to note that US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg had specifically denied that there was a war on journalists? Timm said he had addressed these arguments in his evidence, though without specifically referencing Kromberg. Lewis stated that Timm had also not addressed Kromberg’s assertion that Assange is not charged simply with receipt of classified material. Timm replied that is because Kromberg’s assertion is inaccurate. Assange is indeed charged with offences encompassing passive receipt. If you get to count 7, for example and look at the legislation it charges under, it does precisely criminalise passive receipt and possession.

Lewis asked why Timm had omitted Kromberg’s reference to the grand jury decision? Timm replied that it meant very little: 99.9% of grand juries agree to return a prosecution. An academic study of 152,000 grand juries had revealed only 11 which had refused the request of a federal prosecutor to prosecute.

Lewis asked Timm why he had failed to mention that Kromberg asserted that a federal prosecutor may not take political considerations into account. Timm replied that did not reflect reality. Prosecution was one prong of many in President Trump’s war on journalism. Lewis asked whether Timm was saying that Kromberg and his colleagues were acting in bad faith. Timm replied no, but there had been a story in the Washington Post that more senior federal prosecutors had been opposed to the prosecution as contrary to the First Amendment and thus unconstitutional.

Mark Summers then re-examined for the defence. He said that Kromberg presents two grounds for Assange not being a journalist. The first is that he conspired with Manning to obtain confidential material. Timm replied that this cultivating of a source was routine journalistic activity. The indictment is precluded by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has ruled that even if a journalist knows that material is stolen (but not by him), he may still publish with entitlement to First Amendment protection.

Summers asked Timm about Lewis’s comparison of Assange’s contact with Manning to theft from an airplane wreck or illegal wiretap. Timm said this alleged offence did not reach that bar. The government does not allege that Assange himself helped Manning to steal the material. It alleges he provided help to crack a code that enabled Manning better to protect his identity.

Lewis here interrupted with a lengthy quote from one of Kromberg’s affidavits, to the effect that the government was now alleging that Assange helped Manning hack a password in order to facilitate obtaining classified information. Timm said yet again Kromberg’s affidavit did not appear to match the actual indictment. The claim there is that the password hacking “may have made it more difficult to identify Manning”. It is about source protection, not theft. Source protection is normal journalistic activity.

Summers stated that Kromberg’s second justification for stating that Assange is not a journalist was that he published the names of sources. Timm replied that he understood these facts were disputed, but in any event the Supreme Court had made plain such publication still enjoyed First Amendment protection. Controversial editorial choice did not render you “not a journalist”.

Summers asked Timm if he accepted Kromberg’s characterisation that Assange was only being prosecuted for alleged hacking and for publication of names. Timm said he did not. Counts 16, 17 and 18 were for publishing. All the other counts related to possession. Count 7 for example was for “knowingly unlawful receiving and obtaining”. That described passive receipt of classified information and would criminalise much legitimate journalistic activity. Huge swathes of defence, national security and foreign affairs reporting would be criminalised.

COMMENT

The defence have been attempting the last two days to make a rational case that this is a politically motivated prosecution and therefore not eligible under the terms of the UK/US extradition treaty of 2007 (relevant extract pictured above).

In opening argument back in February, the prosecution had run a frankly farcical argument that Article 4 of the treaty does not apply as incompatible with UK law, and an esto argument that Assange’s activity is not political as in law that word can only mean support for a particular party. Hence Lewis’s sparring on that point with Prof Rogers today, in which Lewis was well out of his depth.

Lewis primary tactic has been rudeness and aggression to disconcert witnesses. He questions their honesty, fairness, independence and qualifications. Today his bullying tactics ran foul of two classier performers than he. That is no criticism of Professor Feldstein yesterday, whose quiet dignity and concern was effective in a different way in exposing Lewis as a boor.

Lewis’s remaining tactic is to fall back repeatedly on the affidavits of Gordon Kromberg, US Assistant Attorney, and his statements that the prosecution is not politically motivated, and on Kromberg’s characterisation of the extent of the charges, which everybody else but Lewis and Kromberg finds inconsistent with the superseding indictment itself.

Witnesses understandably back away from Lewis’s challenge to call Kromberg a liar, or even to question his good faith. Lewis’s plan is very plainly to declare at the end that every witness accepted Kromberg’s good faith and therefore this is a fair prosecution and the defence have no case.

Perhaps I can assist. I do not accept Kromberg’s good faith. I have no hesitation in calling Kromberg a liar.

When the best thing your most supportive colleague can say about you, is that out-and-out Islamophobes do enjoy temporary popularity in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack, then there is a real problem. There is a real problem with Gordon Kromberg, and Lewis may very well come to regret resting the weight of the credibility of his entire case upon such a shoogly peg.

Kromberg has a repeated history of Islamophobic remarks, including about Muslim women. As the Wall Street Journal reported on September 15th 2008,

“Kromberg has taken a lot of heat recently for comments made and tactics taken in terrorism prosecutions”… said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal terrorism prosecutor. “As long as nothing goes boom, they want to say you’re an Islamophobe. The moment something does go boom, if the next 9/11 happens, God help anyone who says they weren’t as aggressive as Gordon.”

For British readers, Kromberg is Katie Hopkins with a legal brief. Conjure up that image every one of the scores of times Lewis relies on Gordon Kromberg.

More to the point, all expert witnesses have so far said that Kromberg’s precious memoranda explaining the scope of the indictment are inaccurate. It is at odds either with actual practice in the USA (the lawyer Clive Stafford Smith made this point) or the actual statutes to which it refers (the lawyers Trevor Timm and of course Mark Summers QC for the defence both make this point).

Crucially, Kromberg has a proven history of precisely this kind of distortion away from the statute. Also from the Wall Street Journal:

Federal judge Leonie M. Brinkema lashed out at the prosecutor [Kromberg], calling his remark insulting. Earlier, she had chastised Kromberg for changing a boilerplate immunity order beyond the language spelled out by Congress and questioned whether Arian’s constitutional rights had been violated.

“I’m not in any respect attributing evil motives or anything clandestine to you, but I think it’s real scary and not wise for a prosecutor to provide an order to the Court that does not track the explicit language of the statutes, especially this particular statute,” Brinkema said at the hearing in the Alexandria courtroom.

Next time Lewis asks a witness if they are questioning Kromberg’s good faith, they might want to answer “yes”. It certainly will not be the first time. As Trevor Timm testified today, senior prosecutors in the Justice Department had opposed this prosecution as unconstitutional and refused to be involved. Trump was left with this discredited right wing sleazeball. Now here we are at the Old Bailey, with a floundering Lewis clutching at this oaf Kromberg for intellectual support.
 
 
You are free to republish this article, including in translation, without further permission. A brief note left in comments below detailing where it is republished is appreciated.

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Julian Assange's Lawyer: WikiLeaks Founder Faces Life in Prison for "Doing His Job as a Journalist"

•Sep 9, 2020

175 Years in a U.S. Prison? Extradition Trial of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Begins in London

 

Democracy Now!

As the long-awaited extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gets underway in London, his legal adviser, Jennifer Robinson, says the case could set a chilling precedent for press freedoms around the world. "He faces 175 years in prison for doing his job as a journalist and a publisher. That's why this case is so dangerous," says Robinson. Assange faces numerous charges, including under the U.S. Espionage Act, related to the release of diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that revealed war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces a possible life sentence if he is extradited to the U.S.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 7

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH

This morning we went straight in to the evidence of Clive Stafford Smith, a dual national British/American lawyer licensed to practice in the UK. He had founded Reprieve in 1999 originally to oppose the death penalty, but after 2001 it had branched out into torture, illicit detention and extraordinary rendition cases in relation to the “war on terror”.

Clive Stafford Smith testified that the publication by Wikileaks of the cables had been of great utility to litigation in Pakistan against illegal drone strikes. As Clive’s witness statementput it at paras 86/7:

86. One of my motivations for working on these cases was that the U.S. drone campaign appeared to be horribly mismanaged and was resulting in paid informants giving false information about innocent people who were then killed in strikes. For example, when I shared the podium with Imran Khan at a “jirga” with the victims of drone strikes, I said in my public remarks that the room probably contained one or two people in the pay of the CIA. What I never guessed was that not only was this true but that the informant would later make a false statement about a teenager who attended the jirga such that he and his cousin were killed in a drone strike three days later. We knew from the official press statement afterwards that the “intelligence” given to the U.S. involved four “militants” in a car; we knew from his family just him and his cousin going to pick up an aunt. There is a somewhat consistent rule that can be seen at work here: it is, of course, much safer for any informant to make a statement about someone who is a “nobody”, than someone who is genuinely dangerous.
87. This kind of horrific action was provoking immense anger, causing America’s status in Pakistan to plummet, and was making life more dangerous for Americans, not less.

Legal action dependent on the evidence about US drones strike policy revealed by Wikileaks had led to a judgement against assassination by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and to a sea change to public attitudes to drone strikes in Waziristan. One result had been a stopping of drone strikes in Waziristan.

Wikileaks released cables also revealed US diplomatic efforts to block international investigation into cases of torture and extraordinary rendition. This ran counter to the legal duty of the United States to cooperate with investigation of allegations of torture as mandated in Article 9 of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Stafford Smith continued that an underrated document released by Wikileaks was the JPEL, or US military Joint Priority Effects List for Afghanistan, in large part a list of assassination targets. This revealed a callous disregard of the legality of actions and a puerile attitude to killing, with juvenile nicknames given to assassination targets, some of which nicknames appeared to indicate inclusions on the list by British or Australian agents.

Stafford Smith gave the example of Bilal Abdul Kareem, and American citizen and journalist who had been the subject of five different US assassination attempts, using hellfire missiles fired from drones. Stafford Smith was engaged in ongoing litigation in Washington on whether “the US Government has the right to target its own citizens who are journalists for assassination.”

Stafford Smith then spoke of Guantanamo and the emergence of evidence that many detainees there are not terrorists but had been swept up in Afghanistan by a system dependent on the payment of bounties. The Detainee Assessment Briefs released by Wikileaks were not independent information but internal US Government files containing the worst allegations that the US had been able to “confect” against prisoners including Stafford Smith’s clients, and often get them to admit under torture.

These documents were US government allegations and when Wikileaks released them it was his first thought that it was the US Government who had released them to discredit defendants. The documents could not be a threat to national security.

Inside Guantanamo a core group of six detainees had turned informant and were used to make false allegations against other detainees. Stafford Smith said it was hard to blame them – they were trying to get out of that hellish place like everybody else. The US government had revealed the identities of those six, which put into perspective their concern for protecting informants in relation to Wikileaks releases.

Clive Stafford Smith said he had been “profoundly shocked” by the crimes committed by the US government against his clients. These included torture, kidnapping, illegal detention and murder. The murder of one detainee at Baghram Airport in Afghanistan had been justified as a permissible interrogation technique to put fear into other detainees. In 2001, he would never have believed the US Government could have done such things.

Stafford Smith spoke of use of Spanish Inquisition techniques, such as strapado, or hanging by the wrists until the shoulders slowly dislocate. He told of the torture of Binyam Mohammed, a British citizen who had his genitals cut daily with a razor blade. The British Government had avoided its legal obligations to Binyam Mohammed, and had leaked to the BBC the statement he had been forced to confess to under torture, in order to discredit him.

At this point Baraitser intervened to give a five minute warning on the 30 minute guillotine on Stafford Smith’s oral evidence. Asked by Mark Summers for the defence how Wikileaks had helped, Stafford Smith said that many of the leaked documents revealed illegal kidnapping, rendition and torture and had been used in trials. The International Criminal Court had now opened an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, in which decision Wikileaks released material had played a part.

Mark Summers asked what had been the response of the US Government to the opening of this ICC investigation. Clive Stafford Smith stated that an Executive Order had been issued initiating sanctions against any non-US citizen who cooperated with or promoted the ICC investigation into war crimes by the US. He suggested that Mr Summers would now be subject to US sanction for promoting this line of questioning.

Mr Stafford Smith’s 30 minutes was now up. You can read his full statement here. There could not have been a clearer example from the first witness of why so much time yesterday was taken up with trying to block the evidence of defence witnesses from being heard. Stafford Smith’s evidence was breathtaking stuff and clearly illustrated the purpose of the time guillotine on defence evidence. This is not material governments wish to be widely aired.

James Lewis QC then cross-examined Clive Stafford Smith for the prosecution. He noted that references to Wikileaks in Stafford Smith’s written evidence were few and far between. He suggested that Stafford Smith’s evidence had tended to argue that Wikileaks disclosures were in the public interest; but there was specifically no public interest defence allowed in the UK Official Secrets Act.

Stafford Smith replied that may be, but he knew that was not the case in America.

Lewis then said that in Stafford Smith’s written evidence paras 92-6 he had listed specific Wikileaks cables which related to disclosure of drone policy. But publication of these particular cables did not form part of the indictment. Lewis read out part of an affidavit from US Assistant Attorney Kromberg which stated that Assange was being indicted only for cables containing the publication of names of informants.

Stafford Smith replied that Kromberg may state that, but in practice that would not be the case in the United States. The charge was of conspiracy, and the way such charges were defined in the US system would allow the widest inclusion of evidence. The first witness at trial would be a “terrorism expert” who would draw a wide and far reaching picture of the history of threat against the USA.

Lewis asked whether Stafford Smith had read the indictment. He replied he had read the previous indictment, but not the new superseding indictment.

Lewis stated that the cables Stafford Smith quoted had been published by the Washington Post and the New York Times before they were published by Wikileaks. Stafford Smith responded that was true, but he understood those newspapers had obtained them from Wikileaks. Lewis then stated that the Washington Post and New York Times were not being prosecuted for publishing the same information; so how could the publication of that material be relevant to this case?

Lewis quoted Kromberg again:

“The only instance in which the superseding indictment encompasses the publication of documents, is where those documents contains names which are put at risk”.

Stafford Smith again responded that in practice that was not how the case would be prosecuted in the United States. Lewis asked if Stafford Smith was calling Kromberg a liar.

At this point Julian Assange called out from the dock “This is nonsense. Count 1 states throughout “conspiracy to publish”. After a brief adjournment, Baraitser warned Julian he would be removed from the court if he interrupted proceedings again.

Stafford Smith said he had not said that Kromberg was a liar, and had not seen the full document from which Lewis was selectively quoting at him. Count 1 of the indictment is conspiracy to obtain national security information and this references dissemination to the public in a sub paragraph. This was not limited in the way Kromberg suggests and his claim did not correspond to Stafford Smith’s experience of how national security trials are in fact prosecuted in the United States.

Lewis reiterated that nobody was being prosecuted for publishing except Assange, and this only related to publishing names. He then asked Stafford Smith whether he had ever been in a position of responsibility for classifying information, to which he got a negative reply. Lewis then asked if had ever been in an official position to declassify documents. Stafford Smith replied no, but he held US security clearance enabling him to see classified material relating to his cases, and had often applied to have material declassified.

Stafford Smith stated that Kromberg’s assertion that the ICC investigation was a threat to national security was nonsense [I confess I am not sure where this assertion came from or why Stafford Smith suddenly addressed it]. Lewis suggested that the question of harm to US national interest from Assange’s activities was best decided by a jury in the United States. The prosecution had to prove damage to the interests of the US or help to an enemy of the US.

Stafford Smith said that beyond the government adoption of torture, kidnapping and assassination, he thought the post-2001 mania for over-classification of government information was an even bigger threat to the American way of life. He recalled his client Moazzam Begg – the evidence of Moazzam’s torture was classified “secret” on the grounds that knowledge that the USA used torture would damage American interests.

Lewis then took Stafford Smith to a passage in the book “Wikileaks; Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, in which Luke Harding stated that he and David Leigh were most concerned to protect the names of informants, but Julian Assange had stated that Afghan informants were traitors who merited retribution. “They were informants, so if they got killed they had it coming.” Lewis tried several times to draw Stafford Smith into this, but Stafford Smith repeatedly said he understood these alleged facts were under dispute and he had no personal knowledge.

Lewis concluded by again repeating that the indictment only covered the publication of names. Stafford Smith said that he would eat his hat if that was all that was introduced at trial.

In re-examination, Mark Summers said that Lewis had characterised the disclosure of torture, killing and kidnapping as “in the public interest”. Was that a sufficient description? Stafford Smith said no, it was also the provision of evidence of crime; war crime and illegal activity.

Summers asked Stafford Smith to look at the indictment as a US lawyer (which Stafford Smith is) and see if he agreed with the characterisation by Lewis that it only covered publication where names were revealed. Summers read out this portion of the superseding indictment:

and pointed out that the “and” makes the point on documents mentioning names an additional category of document, not a restriction on the categories listed earlier. You can read the full superseding indictment here; be careful when browsing as there are earlier superseding indictments; the US Government changes its indictment in this case about as often as Kim Kardashian changes her handbag.

Summers also listed Counts 4, 7, 10, 13 and 17 as also not limited to the naming of informants.

Stafford Smith again repeated his rather different point that in practice Kromberg’s assertion does not actually match how such cases are prosecuted in the US anyway. In answer to a further question, he repeated that the US government had itself released the names of its Guantanamo Bay informants.

In regard to the passage quoted from David Leigh, Summers asked Stafford Smith “Do you know that Mr Harding has published untruths in the press”. Lewis objected and Summers withdrew (although this is certainly true).

This concluded Clive Stafford Smith’s evidence. Before the next witness, Lewis put forward an argument to the judge that it was beyond dispute that the new indictment only related, as far as publication being an offence was concerned, to publication of names of defendants. Baraitser had replied that plainly this was disputed and the matter would be argued in due course.

PROFESSOR MARK FELDSTEIN

The afternoon resumed the evidence of Professor Mark Feldstein, begun sporadically amid technical glitches on Monday. For that reason I held off reporting the false start until now; I here give it as one account. Prof Feldstein’s full witness statement is here.

Professor Feldstein is Chair of Broadcast Journalism at Maryland University and had twenty years experience as an investigative journalist.

Feldstein stated that leaking of classified information happens with abandon in the United States. Government officials did it frequently. One academic study estimated such leaks as “thousands upon thousands”. There were journalists who specialised in national security and received Pulitzer prizes for receiving such leaks on military and defence matters. Leaked material is published on a daily basis.

Feldstein stated that “The first amendment protects the press, and it is vital that the First Amendment does so, not because journalists are privileged, but because the public have the right to know what is going on”. Historically, the government had never prosecuted a publisher for publishing leaked secrets. They had prosecuted whistleblowers.

There had been historical attempts to prosecute individual journalists, but all had come to nothing and all had been a specific attack on a perceived Presidential enemy. Feldstein had listed three instances of such attempts, but none had reached a grand jury.
[This is where the technology broke down on Monday. We now resume with Tuesday afternoon.]

Mark Summers asked Prof Feldstein about the Jack Anderson case. Feldstein replied he had researched this for his book “Poisoning the Press”. Nixon had planned to prosecute Anderson under the Espionage Act but had been told by his Attorney General the First Amendment made it impossible. Consequently Nixon had conducted a campaign against Anderson that included anti-gay smears, planting a spy in his office and foisting forged documents on him. An assassination plot by poison had even been discussed.

Summers took Feldstein to his evidence on “Blockbuster” newspaper stories based on Wikileaks publications:

  • A disturbing videotape of American soldiers firing on a crowd from a helicopter above Baghdad, killing at least 18 people; the soldiers laughed as they targeted unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists.
  • US officials gathered detailed and often gruesome evidence that approximately 100,000 civilians were killed after its invasion of Iraq, contrary to the public claims of President George W. Bush’s administration, which downplayed the deaths and insisted that such statistics were not maintained. Approximately 15,000 of these civilians killings had never been previously disclosed anywhere.
  • American forces in Iraq routinely turned a blind eye when the US-backed government there brutalized detainees, subjecting them to beatings, whippings, burnings, electric shock, and sodomy.
  • After WikiLeaks published vivid accounts compiled by US diplomats of rampant corruption by Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his family, ensuing street protests forced the dictator to flee to Saudia Arabia. When the unrest in Tunisia spread to other Mideast countries,WikiLeaks was widely hailed as a key catalyst for this “Arab Spring.”
  • In Afghanistan, the US deployed a secret “black” unit of special forces to hunt down “high value” Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.
  • The US government expanded secret intelligence collection by its diplomats at the United Nations and overseas, ordering envoys to gather credit card numbers, work schedules, and frequent flier numbers of foreign dignitaries—eroding the distinction between foreign service officers and spies.
  • Saudi Arabian King Abdullah secretly implored the US to “cut off the head of the snake” and stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons even as private Saudi donors were the number-one source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.
  • Customs officials caught Afghanistan’s vice president carrying $52 million in unexplained cash during a trip abroad, just one example of the endemic corruption at the highest levels of the Afghan government that the US has helped prop up.
  • The US released “high risk enemy combatants” from its military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who then later turned up again in Mideast battlefields. At the same time, Guantanamo prisoners who proved harmless—such as an 89-year-old Afghan villager suffering from senile dementia—were held captive for years.
  • US officials listed Pakistan’s intelligence service as a terrorist organization and found that it had plotted with the Taliban to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan—even though Pakistan receives more than $1 billion annually in US aid. Pakistan’s civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, confided that he had limited control to stop this and expressed fear that his own military might “take me out.”

Feldstein agreed that many of these had revealed criminal acts and war crimes, and they were important stories for the US media. Summers asked Feldstein about Assange being charged with soliciting classified information. Feldstein replied that gathering classified information is “standard operating procedure” for journalists. “My entire career virtually was soliciting secret documents or records”

Summers pointed out that one accusation was that Assange helped Manning cover her tracks by breaking a password code. “Trying to help protect your source is a journalistic obligation” replied Feldstein. Journalists would provide sources with payphones, fake email accounts, and help them remove fingerprints both real and digital. These are standard journalistic techniques, taught at journalism college and workshops.

Summers asked about disclosure of names and potential harm to people. Feldstein said this was “easy to assert, hard to establish”. Government claims of national security damage were routinely overblown and should be treated with scepticism. In the case of the Pentagon Papers, the government had claimed that publication would identify CIA agents, reveal military plans and lengthen the Vietnam War. These claims had all proven to be untrue.

On the White House tapes Nixon had been recorded telling his aides to “get” the New York Times. He said their publications should be “cast in terms of aid and comfort to the enemy”.

Summers asked about the Obama administration’s attitude to Wikileaks. Feldstein said that there had been no prosecution after Wikileaks’ major publications in 2010/11. But Obama’s Justice Department had instigated an “aggressive investigation”. However they concluded in 2013 that the First Amendment rendered any prosecution impossible. Justice Department Spokesman Matthew Miller had published that they thought it would be a dangerous precedent that could be used against other journalists and publications.

With the Trump administration everything had changed. Trump had said he wished to “put reporters in jail”. Pompeo when head of the CIA had called Wikileaks a “hostile intelligence agency”. Sessions had declared prosecuting Assange “a priority”.

James Lewis then rose to cross-examine Feldstein. He adopted a particularly bullish and aggressive approach, and started by asking Feldstein to confine himself to very short, concise answers to his precise questions. He said that Feldstein “claimed to be” an expert witness, and had signed to affirm that he had read the criminal procedural rules. Could he tell the court what those rules said?

This was plainly designed to trip Feldstein up. I am sure I must have agreed WordPress’s terms and conditions in order to be able to publish this blog, but if you challenged me point blank to recall what they say I would struggle. However Feldstein did not hesitate, but came straight back saying that he had read them, and they were rather different to the American rules, stipulating impartiality and objectivity.

Lewis asked what Feldstein’s expertise was supposed to be. Feldstein replied the practice, conduct and history of journalism in the United States. Lewis asked if Feldstein was legally qualified. Feldstein replied no, but he was not giving legal opinion. Lewis asked if he had read the indictment. Feldstein replied he had not read the most recent indictment.

Lewis said that Feldstein had stated that Obama decided not to prosecute whereas Trump did. But it was clear that the investigation had continued through from the Obama to the Trump administrations. Feldstein replied yes, but the proof of the pudding was that there had been no prosecution under Obama.

Lewis referred to a Washington Post article from which Feldstein had quoted in his evidence and included in his footnotes, but had not appended a copy. “Was that because it contained a passage you do not wish us to read?” Lewis said that Feldstein had omitted the quote that “no formal decision had been made” by the Obama administration, and a reference to the possibility of prosecution for activity other than publication.

Feldstein was plainly slightly rattled by Lewis’ accusation of distortion. He replied that his report stated that the Obama administration did not prosecute, which was true. He had footnoted the article; he had not thought he needed to also provide a copy. He had exercised editorial selection in quoting from the article.

Lewis said that from other sources, a judge had stated in District Court that investigation was ongoing and District Judge Mehta had said other prosecutions against persons other than Manning were being considered. Why had Feldstein not included this information in his report? Assange’s lawyer Barry J Pollock had stated “they are not informing us they are closing the investigation or have decided not to charge.” Would it not be fair to add that to his report?

Prof Feldstein replied that Assange and his lawyers would be hard to convince that the prosecution had been dropped, but we know that no new information had in 2015/16 been brought to the Grand Jury.

Lewis stated that in 2016 Assange had offered to go to the United States to face charges if Manning were granted clemency. Does this not show the Obama administration was intending to charge? Should this not have been in his report? Feldstein replied no, because it was irrelevant. Assange was not in a position to know what Obama’s Justice Department was doing. The subsequent testimony of Obama Justice Department insiders was much more valuable.

Lewis asked if the Obama administration had decided not to prosecute, why would they keep the Grand Jury open? Feldstein replied this happened very frequently. It could be for many reasons, including to collect information on alleged co-conspirators, or simply in the hope of further new evidence.

Lewis suggested that the most Feldstein might honestly say was that the Obama administration had intimated that they would not prosecute for passively obtained information, but that did not extend to a decision not to prosecute for hacking with Chelsea Manning. “If Obama did not decide not to prosecute, and the investigation had continued into the Trump administration, then your diatribe against Trump becomes otiose.”

Lewis continued that the “New York Times problem” did not exist because the NYT had only published information it had passively received. Unlike Assange, the NYT had not conspired with Manning illegally to obtain the documents. Would Prof Feldstein agree that the First Amendment did not defend a journalist against a burglary or theft charge? Feldstein replied that a journalist is not above the law. Lewis then asked Feldstein whether a journalist had a right to “steal or unlawfully obtain information” or “to hack a computer to obtain information.” Each time Feldstein replied “no”.

Lewis then asked if Feldstein accepted that Bradley (sic) Manning had committed a crime. Feldstein replied “yes”. Lewis then asked “If Assange aided and abetted, consulted or procured or entered into a conspiracy with Bradley Manning, has he not committed a crime?” Feldstein said that would depend on the “sticky details.”

Lewis then restated that there was no allegation that the NYT entered into a conspiracy with Bradley Manning, only Julian Assange. On the indictment, only counts 15, 16 and 17 related to publishing and these only to publishing of unredacted documents. The New York Times, Guardian and Washington Post had united in condemnation of the publication by Wikileaks of unredacted cables containing names. Lewis then read out again the same quote from the Leigh/Harding book he had put to Stafford Smith, stating that Julian Assange had said the Afghan informants would deserve their fate.

Lewis asked: “Would a responsible journalist publish unredacted names of an informant knowing he is in danger when it is unnecessary to do so for the purpose of the story”. Prof Feldstein replied “no”. Lewis then went on to list examples of information it might be proper for government to keep secret, such as “troop movements in war, nuclear codes, material that would harm an individual” and asked if Feldstein agreed these were legitimate secrets. Feldstein replied “yes”.

Lewis then asked rhetorically whether it was not more fair to allow a US jury to be the judge of harm. He then asked Feldstein: “You say in your report that this is a political prosecution. But a Grand jury has supported the prosecution. Do you accept that there is an evidentiary basis for the prosecution?”. Feldstein replied “A grand jury has made that decision. I don’t know that it is true.” Lewis then read out a statement from US Assistant Attorney Kromberg that prosecution decisions are taken by independent prosecutors who follow a code that precludes political factors. He asked Feldstein if he agreed that independent prosecutors were a strong bulwark against political prosecution.
Feldstein replied “That is a naive view.”

Lewis then asked whether Feldstein was claiming that President Trump or his Attorney General had ordered this prosecution without a factual basis. The professor replied he had no doubt it was a political prosecution, this was based on 1) its unprecedented nature 2) the rejection of prosecution by Obama but decision to prosecute now with no new evidence 3) the extraordinary wide framing of the charges 4) President Trump’s narrative of hostility to the press. “It’s political”.

Mark Summers then re-examined Professor Feldstein. He said that Lewis had suggested that Assange was complicit in Manning obtaining classified information but the New York Times was not. Is it your understanding that to seek to help an official leaker is a crime? Professor Feldstein replied “No, absolutely not”.
“Do journalists ask for classified information?”
“Yes.”
“Do journalists solicit such information?”
“Yes.”
“Are you aware of any kind of previous prosecution for this kind of activity.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“Could you predict it would be criminalised?”
“No, and it is very dangerous.”

Summers than asked Professor Feldstein what the New York Times had done to get the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg. Feldstein replied they were very active in soliciting the papers. They had a key to the room that held the documents and had helped to copy them. They had played an active not a passive role. “Journalists are not passive stenographers.”

Summers reminded Prof Feldstein that he had been asked about hacking. What if the purpose of the hacking was not to obtain the information, but to disguise the source? This was the specific allegation spelt out in Kromberg memorandum 4 paras 11 to 14. Professor Feldstein replied that protecting sources is an obligation. Journalists work closely with, conspire with, cajole, encourage, direct and protect their sources. That is journalism.

Summers asked Prof Feldstein if he maintained his caution in accepting government claims of harm. Feldstein replied absolutely. The government track record demanded caution. Summers pointed out that there is an act which specifically makes illegal the naming of intelligence sources, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Prof Feldstein said this was true; the fact that the charge was not brought under the IIPA proves that it is not true that the prosecution is intended to be limited to revealing of identities and in fact it will be much broader.

Summers concluded by saying that Lewis had stated that Wikileaks had released the unredacted cables in a mass publication. Would it change the professor’s assessment if the material had already been released by others. Prof Feldstein said his answers were not intended to indicate he accepted the government narrative.

Edward Fitzgerald QC then took over for the defence. He put to Prof Feldstein that there had been no prosecution of Assange when Manning was prosecuted, and Obama had given Manning clemency. These were significant facts. Feldstein agreed.

Fitzgerald then said that the Washington Post article from which Lewis complained Feldstein had quoted selectively, contained a great deal more material Feldstein had also not quoted but which strongly supported his case, for example “Officials told the Washington Post last week that there is no sealed indictment and the Department had “all but concluded that they would not bring a charge.”” It further stated that when Snowden was charged, Greenwald was not, and the same approach was followed with Manning/Assange. So overall the article confirmed Feldstein’s thesis, as contained in his report. Feldstein agreed. There was then discussion of other material that could have been included to support his thesis.

Fitzgerald concluded by asking if Feldstein were familiar with the phrase “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich”. Feldstein replied it was common parlance and indicated the common view that grand juries were malleable and almost always did what prosecutors asked them to do. There was a great deal of academic material on this point.

THOUGHTS

See the source image

Thus concluded another extraordinary day. Once again, there were just five of us in the public gallery (in 42 seats) and the six allowed in the overflow video gallery in court 9 was reduced to three, as three seats were reserved by the court for “VIPs” who did not show up.

The cross-examinations showed the weakness of the thirty minute guillotine adopted by Baraitser, with really interesting defence testimony cut short, and then unlimited time allowed to Lewis for his cross examination. This was particularly pernicious in the evidence of Mark Feldstein. In James Lewis’ extraordinary cross-examination of Feldstein, Lewis spoke between five and ten times as many words as the actual witness. Some of Lewis’s “questions” went on for many minutes, contained huge passages of quote and often were phrased in convoluted double negative. Thrice Feldstein refused to reply on grounds he could not make out where the question lay. With the defence initial statement of the evidence limited to half an hour, Lewis’s cross examination approached two hours, a good 80% of which was Lewis speaking.

Feldstein was browbeaten by Lewis and plainly believed that when Lewis told him to answer in very brief and concise answers, Lewis had the authority to instruct that. In fact Lewis is not the judge and it was supposed to be Feldstein’s evidence, not Lewis’s. Baraitser failed to protect Feldstein or to explain his right to frame his own answers, when that was very obviously a necessary course for her to take.

Today we had two expert witnesses, who had both submitted lengthy written testimony relating to one indictment, which was now being examined in relation to a new superseding indictment, exchanged at the last minute, and which neither of them had ever seen. Both specifically stated they had not seen the new indictment. Furthermore this new superseding indictment had been specifically prepared by the prosecution with the benefit of having heard the defence arguments and seen much of the defence evidence, in order to get round the fact that the indictment on which the hearing started was obviously failing.

On top of which the defence had been refused an adjournment to prepare their defence against the new indictment, which would have enabled these and other witnesses to see the superseding indictment, adjust their evidence accordingly and be prepared to be cross-examined in relation to it.

Clive Stafford Smith testified today that in 2001 he would not have believed the outrageous crimes that were to be perpetrated by the US government. I am obliged to say that I simply cannot believe the blatant abuse of process that is unfolding before my eyes in this courtroom.

You are free to republish this article, including in translation, without further permission. A brief note left in comments below detailing where it is republished is appreciated.

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Assange Court Report September 9: Morning

Assange Court Report September 9: Morning15,000 Iraqi civilian casualties exposed by WikiLeaks.

Iraq War logs released by Wikileaks revealed 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, a court has heard.

The evidence, from Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University, came on the third day in the court hearing that will decide if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States on charges of espionage and computer hacking.

Giving evidence for the defence Rogers said that the Iraq and Afghan war information not only revealed far higher civilian casualties than had previously been known but also, the witness said, “they exposed the fiction of success, the wars had gone wrong from the start,” adding that even today Wikileaks was an archive which is still widely used by scholars trying to understand both conflicts.

Asked why he thought Assange was being prosecuted by the US government the professor said that “the Trump administration sees Wikileaks as a threat,” and that “this is an administration that sees everything from a political standpoint,” Rogers said. He also reminded the court that President Trump had even suggested the death penalty for Assange if he was found guilty.

Cross-examining for the US government, James Lewis QC challenged Rogers’ claim that the prosecution of Assange was political, suggesting that US law did not allow District Attorneys to make decisions like this on anything other than a legal basis. The witness responded by saying that the political question was why this prosecution is happening now and not 8 years ago when the original acts occurred, stating “there was a political decision to reopen the investigation,” and adding, “it’s a question of timing.” Challenged again by the prosecution QC, Rogers continued, “My view is that there was a strong political motive for this prosecution at this particular time. You can only understand this if you look at the history of the war over the last 20 years.”

Lewis then asked the witness why Trump would choose to prosecute someone who said during the election campaign he “loved Wikileaks,” the professor responded that a big trial of someone seen as a “public enemy,” might be an advantage to the administration.

Court then adjourned for lunch

The trial continues.

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Twice-daily dispatches, photography and video from the Julian Assange extradition hearings in London. Produced by Bridges for Media Freedom

Follow us on Twitter for live updates on the proceedings: @bridges4media

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Assange Court Report September 9: Afternoon

Assange Court Report September 9: Afternoon

A victory for the US government in the Assange case would “criminalise every journalist,” a press freedom expert has told a court.

The testimony came in the third day of the Julian Assange extradition case

After a delay due to technical issues, proceedings resumed at the Julian Assange extradition hearing this afternoon to hear evidence from a defence witness, Trevor Timm, via videolink from the USA.

Timm, the founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation told the court there have been numerous attempts by the US government to use the Espionage Act against journalists and none have ever been successful. He told the court that in his opinion this prosecution would mean that any journalist in possession of classified information could be arrested.

He stated that if the charges being applied to Assange had been in place in the 1970s, Watergate reporters Woodward and Bernstein could have been thrown in jail, adding that if asking a source for classified information is espionage then the secure “dropbox” systems used by over 80 publications worldwide to encourage whistleblowers to send them information would also be illegally “soliciting classified information,” which is one of the charges against Assange.

Timm told the court “I myself have advocated for leaks in cases where the US secrecy system is hiding abuse, corruption, or illegal acts and no-one has ever suggested I was committing a criminal act.”

Rising to cross-examine, James Lewis QC for the US Government, as he has with every defence witness so far, challenged Timm’s status as an “expert witness,” noting that his organisation had contributed $100,000 to Assange’s legal costs, so he could not be considered to be objective given this conflict of interest.

Lewis then told the court that the prosecution “do not regard Julian Assange as a journalist.” Timm replied that it is not up to the government to decide who is a journalist as “it is the right of everyone,” and that Assange was clearly “engaged in journalistic activities.” The prosecution QC then pointed to a US Justice Department statement that Assange was not being prosecuted for publication of classified material, Timm replied that he made his judgement “based on the facts, not US government press releases.”

After counsel suggested to Timm he hadn’t seen all the evidence in the case, he replied that if there was secret evidence that had not been released he clearly hadn’t.

Asked about the Wikileaks publication of unredacted names of Iraqi and US informants by WikiLeaks, Timm responded that he had never said WikiLeaks had perfect editorial judgement, any more than the Guardian or New York Times have, but if bad judgment is criminal many other publications would be under threat adding, “It shouldn’t be up to the US government to decide if an editorial judgment is criminal.”

Timm continued, “The 1st Amendment is not a balancing act, it also covers unpopular speech, or touches on subject matter that makes some us uncomfortable.” Lewis asked the witness, “Are you a lawyer? What expertise do you have to give legal advice?”

Timms replies that he graduated from law school in 2008 and was called to the New York Bar,” but later decided to run a non-profit organisation instead.

The prosecution barrister quickly moved on.

The witness was then asked why he was ignoring the fact that US prosecutors were bound to act in a non-political way, Timm replied that Trump’s hostility to journalists is well known and that a number of US prosecutors had refused to get involved in this case due to the 1st amendment issues involved.

There was then a heated discussion when the defence rose to say that Lewis has reached his time limit of one hour.

He vehemently objected to this and argued with both the defence and the judge, until judge Baraitser said he could have more time. The prosecutor then said that he “had finished anyway,” and ended his cross-examination.

The trial continues.

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LIVE: Assange extradition hearing – day 3

LIVE: Assange extradition hearing – day 3

This is a live stream outside the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court in London on Wednesday, September 9.  This is the third day of the Julian Assange extradition trial.

The hearings come months later than initially planned due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to his supporters, Assange is in poor health and has been under threat of contracting the virus in prison, where infection cases have been reported.

The WikiLeaks founder has been behind bars in Belmarsh Prison since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in April 2019. He faces multiple charges in the US related to espionage.

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Julian Assange is not on trial for his personality – but here’s how the US government made you focus on it

By drawing attention away from the principles of the case, the obsession with his character pushes out the significance of WikiLeaks’ revelations

 

By Noam ChomskyAlice Walker - 09. September 2020

On Monday Julian Assange was driven to the Old Bailey to continue his fight against extradition to the United States, where the Trump administration has launched the most dangerous attack on press freedom in at least a generation by indicting him for publishing US government documents. Amid coverage of the proceedings, Assange’s critics have inevitably commented on his appearance, rumours of his behaviour while isolated in the Ecuadorian embassy, and other salacious details.  

These predictable distractions are emblematic of the sorry state of our political and cultural discourse. If Assange is extradited to face charges for practising journalism and exposing government misconduct, the consequences for press freedom and the public’s right to know will be catastrophic. Still, rather than seriously addressing the important principles at stake in Assange’s unprecedented indictment and the 175 years in prison he faces, many would rather focus on inconsequential personality profiles.

Assange is not on trial for skateboarding in the Ecuadorian embassy, for tweeting, for calling Hillary Clinton a war hawk, or for having an unkempt beard as he was dragged into detention by British police. Assange faces extradition to the United Statesbecause he published incontrovertible proof of war crimes and abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, embarrassing the most powerful nation on Earth. Assange published hard evidence of “the ways in which the first world exploits the third”, according to whistleblower Chelsea Manning, the source of that evidence. Assange is on trial for his journalism, for his principles, not his personality.  

You’ve probably heard the refrain from well-meaning pundits: “You don’t have to like him, but you should oppose threats to silence him.” But that refrain misses the point by reinforcing the manipulative tropes deployed against Assange.  

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When setting a gravely dangerous precedent, governments don’t typically persecute the most beloved individuals in the world. They target those who can be portrayed as subversive, unpatriotic – or simply weird. Then they actively distort public debate by emphasizing those traits.  

These techniques are not new. After Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to journalists to expose the US government’s lies about Vietnam, the Nixon administration’s “White House Plumbers” broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in search of material that could be used to discredit him. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was falsely portrayed as collaborating with the Chinese, then the Russians. Obsession with military intelligence analyst Manning’s mental health and gender identity was ubiquitous. By demonizing the messenger, governments seek to poison the message.  

The prosecution will be all too happy when coverage of Assange’s extradition hearing devolves into irrelevant tangents and smears. It matters little that Assange’s beard was the result of his shaving kit having been confiscated, or that reports of Paul Manafort visiting him in the embassy were proven to be fabricated. By the time these petty claims are refuted, the damage will be done. At best, public debate over the real issues will be derailed; at worst, public opinion will be manipulated in favour of the establishment.  

By drawing attention away from the principles of the case, the obsession with personality pushes out the significance of WikiLeaks’ revelations and the extent to which governments have concealed misconduct from their own citizens. It pushes out how Assange’s 2010 publications exposed 15,000 previously uncounted civilian casualties in Iraq, casualties that the US Army would have buried. It pushes out the fact that the United States is attempting to accomplish what repressive regimes can only dream of: deciding what journalists around the globe can and cannot write. It pushes out the fact that all whistleblowers and journalism itself, not just Assange, is on trial here.

Author:

This piece was written by Noam Chomsky and Alice Walker, co-chairs of AssangeDefense.org

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A victory for the US government in the Assange case would “criminalise every journalist

A victory for the US government in the Assange case would “criminalise every journalist

A victory for the US government in the Assange case would “criminalise every journalist,” a press freedom expert has told a court.

The testimony came in the third day of the Julian Assange extradition case

After a delay due to technical issues, proceedings resumed at the Julian Assange extradition hearing this afternoon to hear evidence from a defence witness, Trevor Timm, via videolink from the USA.

Timm, the founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation told the court there have been numerous attempts by the US government to use the Espionage Act against journalists and none have ever been successful. He told the court that in his opinion this prosecution would mean that any journalist in possession of classified information could be arrested.

He stated that if the charges being applied to Assange had been in place in the 1970s, Watergate reporters Woodward and Bernstein could have been thrown in jail, adding that if asking a source for classified information is espionage then the secure “dropbox” systems used by over 80 publications worldwide to encourage whistleblowers to send them information would also be illegally “soliciting classified information,” which is one of the charges against Assange.

Timm told the court “I myself have advocated for leaks in cases where the US secrecy system is hiding abuse, corruption, or illegal acts and no-one has ever suggested I was committing a criminal act.”

Rising to cross-examine, James Lewis QC for the US Government, as he has with every defence witness so far, challenged Timm’s status as an “expert witness,” noting that his organisation had contributed $100,000 to Assange’s legal costs, so he could not be considered to be objective given this conflict of interest.

Lewis then told the court that the prosecution “do not regard Julian Assange as a journalist.” Timm replied that it is not up to the government to decide who is a journalist as “it is the right of everyone,” and that Assange was clearly “engaged in journalistic activities.” The prosecution QC then pointed to a US Justice Department statement that Assange was not being prosecuted for publication of classified material, Timm replied that he made his judgement “based on the facts, not US government press releases.”

After counsel suggested to Timm he hadn’t seen all the evidence in the case, he replied that if there was secret evidence that had not been released he clearly hadn’t.

Asked about the Wikileaks publication of unredacted names of Iraqi and US informants by WikiLeaks, Timm responded that he had never said WikiLeaks had perfect editorial judgement, any more than the Guardian or New York Times have, but if bad judgment is criminal many other publications would be under threat adding, “It shouldn’t be up to the US government to decide if an editorial judgment is criminal.”

Timm continued, “The 1st Amendment is not a balancing act, it also covers unpopular speech, or touches on subject matter that makes some us uncomfortable.” Lewis asked the witness, “Are you a lawyer? What expertise do you have to give legal advice?”

Timms replies that he graduated from law school in 2008 and was called to the New York Bar,” but later decided to run a non-profit organisation instead.

The prosecution barrister quickly moved on.

The witness was then asked why he was ignoring the fact that US prosecutors were bound to act in a non-political way, Timm replied that Trump’s hostility to journalists is well known and that a number of US prosecutors had refused to get involved in this case due to the 1st amendment issues involved.

There was then a heated discussion when the defence rose to say that Lewis has reached his time limit of one hour.

He vehemently objected to this and argued with both the defence and the judge, until judge Baraitser said he could have more time. The prosecutor then said that he “had finished anyway,” and ended his cross-examination.

The trial continues.

Follow us on Twitter for live updates on the proceedings: @bridges4media

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supporters gather outside      

If you missed the World Premier of my film (and don't want to use a proprietary platform):

Watch "The War on Journalism: The Case of #JulianAssange" here: https://t.co/OkZKhTeFO7#FreeAssange #AssangeCase #SaveJulian

— Juan Passarelli (@jlpassarelli) August 29, 2020

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Assange Defence Arguments September 2020

Defence skeleton arguments for the Assange extradition hearing are available (in two parts) at the following links:

Part 1

Part 2

Submission 8 in the second document is particularly relevant to proceedings on 7 September.

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Assange Prosecution Argument September 2020

The prosecution skeleton argument for the Assange extradition hearing is available at the following link:

Document 1