Archive | March 1st, 2020

Freedom of the Press on Trial: 10 Reasons Why Assange Is Lawfully in the Right

By Makia Freeman

Global Research,

Freedom of the press is on trial right now in London, as the Assange case has now gone 3 days. As this massive case begins, Julian Assange has been subjected to yet more intimidation, depravation and abuse. In just the first 2 days, Assange had been stripped naked and searched 2 times, handcuffed 11 times and locked up in different holding cells 5 times.

In addition, all of his court documents were taken from him by the prison wardens, including privileged communications between himself and his lawyers, leaving him with no ability to prepare to participate in the proceedings. As journalist Taylor Hudak, who is covering the event, said, this is a “selective prosecution and also a political persecution.”

Learn below why the courageous Assange, due to his extremely extensive efforts in exposing governmental war crimes and corruption, is not only morally in the right, but also very much lawfully in the right. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a landmark and unprecedented case on freedom of the press which has colossal implications for the future of free speech and journalism.

Freedom of the Press and the UK Kangaroo Court

Before we begin, let’s examine whether this is really a fair trial or not. Prima facie, one would expect that a courtroom trial involving the UK and the US would be just, given that the Magna Carta and the the US Bill of Rights sprung from those 2 liberal, freedom-upholding nations respectively. You would expect that a UK court would uphold the value of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. However, don’t count on it; there are very ominous signs that this UK court is more of a kangaroo court. The supervising judge Lady Emma Arbuthnot is riddled with conflicts of interests.

WikiLeaks itself has exposed some of the dealings of Lord James Arbuthnot, Emma’s husband, who is a former Conservative defense minister with extensive links to the British military and intelligence community! Arbuthnot is overseeing the district judge Vanessa Baraitser who is presiding over the Assange trial right now. Former UK ambassador Craig Murray has been one of the few who was able to get a seat (limited to 16 members of the public). He reports:

“James Lewis QC made the opening statement for the prosecution. It consisted of two parts, both equally extraordinary. The first and longest part was truly remarkable for containing no legal argument, and for being addressed not to the magistrate but to the media … I am frankly astonished that Baraitser allowed this. It is completely out of order for a counsel to address remarks not to the court but to the media, and there simply could not be any clearer evidence that this is a political show trial and that Baraitser is complicit in that.”

To her credit, the magistrate Baraister actually asked a pertinent question to the prosecution:

“Lewis then proceeded to read out a series of articles from the mainstream media attacking Assange, as evidence that the media and Assange were not in the same boat. The entire opening hour consisted of the prosecution addressing the media, attempting to drive a clear wedge between the media and Wikileaks and thus aimed at reducing media support for Assange.”

“In particular, the claim that newspapers were not in the same position because Assange was charged not with publication, but with “aiding and abetting” Chelsea Manning in getting the material, did not seem consistent with Lewis’ reading of the 1989 Official Secrets Act, which said that merely obtaining and publishing any government secret was an offence. Surely, Baraitser suggested, that meant that newspapers just publishing the Manning leaks would be guilty of an offence … Lewis appeared to come to a decision. Yes, he said much more firmly. The 1989 Official Secrets Act had been introduced by the Thatcher Government after the Ponting Case, specifically to remove the public interest defence and to make unauthorised possession of an official secret a crime of strict liability – meaning no matter how you got it, publishing and even possessing made you guilty … Lewis had thus just flat out contradicted his entire opening statement to the media stating that they need not worry as the Assange charges could never be applied to them.”

Yet the MSM didn’t report this:

“Yet remarkably I cannot find any mention anywhere in the mainstream media that this happened at all. What I can find, everywhere, is the mainstream media reporting, via cut and paste, Lewis’s first part of his statement on why the prosecution of Assange is not a threat to press freedom; but nobody seems to have reported that he totally abandoned his own argument five minutes later. Were the journalists too stupid to understand the exchanges?”

For the most part not too stupid – just too lazy, too complicit, too scared about their job security, too attached to career climbing and too comfortable pandering to the Establishment to do real journalism, think for themselves and report what the public needs to know.

1. The Public Has the Right to Know

The first reason why Assange is lawfully in the right is that he was using the freedom of the press to perform a public service. The people have the right to know what their governments are doing in their name. The public’s right to know is based on the fundamental truth that the public at large are the source of legal power in a society. The people are sovereign, and so when politicians and government represent them, they are borrowing the people’s power, and may only do so with the consent of the governed. When a government uses the hackneyed excuse of national security to hide war crimes, it is unlawful. When a government classifies secrets to hide criminality (rather than to legitimately protect a field agent’s safety), it is unlawful. Exposing governmental criminality is not unlawful.2. USG Used CIA-Hired Spanish Security Company to Spy on Assange and His Defense Lawyers

This next point is a key point on which the entire case could already have been thrown out and summarily dismissed. The USG (US Government) was caught using its notorious spying agency the CIA to hire the Spanish security company UC Global to spy on Assange during his time in lockdown at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Every room was bugged, so Assange had no privacy as he met with his lawyers to discuss his defense strategies. One of Assange’s lawyers, Edward Fitzgerald QC, has claimed the defense will produce evidence showing that the CIA actively considered kidnapping or poisoning Assange! Murray reports:

“On abuse of process, Fitzgerald referred to evidence presented to the Spanish criminal courts that the CIA had commissioned a Spanish security company to spy on Julian Assange in the Embassy, and that this spying specifically included surveillance of Assange’s privileged meetings with his lawyers to discuss extradition. For the state trying to extradite to spy on the defendant’s client-lawyer consultations is in itself grounds to dismiss the case.”

Clearly, there is no commitment to proper rule of law in this case. This egregiously and blatantly violates Assange’s rights and is a clear abuse of process. It is fair to say that a non-biased judge would have summarily have throw the case out of court on this point alone.

3. Political Extradition is Illegal

At this stage in the hearing, the crux of the case will probably come to hinge on this key point. The US and UK have a 2003 Extradition Treaty which was ratified in the US in 2007, but never ratified in the UK. Article 4.1 of this US-UK Extradition Treaty forbids the political extradition of people. Espionage is considered a prime example of a purely political offense; Jen Robinson, one of Assange’s lawyers, stated that “espionage is the traditional and typical political offense.“ However, here’s the catch – magistrate Baraitser, who almost appeared to be working for the prosecution with this comment, dropped a bombshell. She stated that although the US-UK Extradition Treaty forbade political extraditions, this was only in the Treaty, and that this particular exemption did not appear in the UK Extradition Act, which is a UK domestic political act that differs from the Treaty. She therefore claimed that political extradition was not illegal in the UK, since the Treaty had no legal force in this court.

This is an interesting plot twist which, you can be sure, will be fiercely debated in the days to come. In general, political extradition is illegal in UN Treaties and other US Treaties, so it remains to be seen whether the prosecution can use this legal loophole to make the charges on Assange stick or not.

4. Assange Didn’t Reveal Agents’ Names

The Establishment has been working overtime to pin smears on Assange, and the prosecution is using this one big time. They are claiming that Assange put lives at risk by carelessly publishing classified documents which contained the names, locations and other identifying pieces of data of or on US agents – which meant an enemy group or nation of the US could use that information to kill those agents.Attack on WikiLeaks Is an Attack on Independent Journalism

This is a giant lie.

Assange was very careful to not release any names or information that could put people in danger. He carefully redacted them. In fact, Wikileaks’ redaction was so thorough that it exceeded that of the Pentagon and other MSM organizations. There is no evidence of harm to agents or informants, a fact which the USG had confirmed in other fora like the trial of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. What happened was that 2 journalists who worked at The Guardian, David Leigh and Luke Harding, published their book Wikileaks in February 2011, and one of the chapters (Chapter XI) was entitled with the exact password to the unredacted collection of 250,000+ files. The German news outlet Die Freitag publicized this. Once Assange found out, he and his assistant Susan Harrison frantically called the White House to warn them that people’s lives were at risk. Guess what? The White House put them off for a few hours and downplayed the problem. Several journalists who worked with Assange attested (on Twitter) to the fact that Assange deeply cared about agents’ names and not putting anyone in harm’s way with WikiLeaks revelations, e.g. Iain Overton.

Besides, as Murray writes, the USG “had been actively participating in the redaction exercise on the cables. They therefore knew the allegations of reckless publication to be untrue … Assange and Harrison attempted to convince US officials of the urgency of enabling source protection procedures – and expressed their bafflement as officials stonewalled them. This evidence utterly undermined the US government’s case and proved bad faith in omitting [this] extremely relevant fact.”

Assange also pleaded with Die Freitag not to publicize the information.

Meanwhile, look at the gross double standard: the USG claims it’s worried about potential harm to its agents in leaked documents, while the US war machine murders foreign civilians and Reuters journalists in cold blood (see Collateral Murder)! This is on top of its regime-change wars in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and more, which have easily killed way over 1,000,000 people.

5. Assange Didn’t Hack Any US Computers, and Neither Did Manning

Another false claim leveled at Assange is that either he himself hacked into US Military computers, helped Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning do it or encouraged Manning to do it.

It’s another lie.

Chelsea Manning was already acquitted on the charge of conspiracy to hack computers. The truth is that Manning already had access (just as other soldiers of her rank did) to sensitive and classified documents, so there was no need to hack and there was no password to share. Another of Assange’s lawyers, Mark Summers QC, walked through the facts of the case. Murray reports on day 2:

“He said the charges from the USA divide the materials leaked by Manning to Wikileaks into three categories:

1) Assange helped Manning to decode a hash key to access classified material.
Summers stated this was a provably false allegation from the evidence of the Manning court-martial.

2) Assange solicited the material from Manning
Summers stated this was provably wrong from information available to the public

3) Assange knowingly put lives at risk
Summers stated this was provably wrong both from publicly available information and from specific involvement of the US government.

a) Diplomatic Cables
b) Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs
c) Iraq War rules of engagement
d) Afghan and Iraqi war logs

Summers then methodically went through a), b), c) and d) relating each in turn to alleged behaviours 1), 2) and 3), making twelve counts of explanation and exposition in all.

The bottom line here is that the prosecution deliberately misconstrued the “hacking” since Manning already had access as did many other military members – purportedly to access high-bandwidth videos.

6. Does Dual Criminality Exist?

In order to prove their case, the prosecution must prove that there is double or dual criminality. What is this? It is a common requirement in the extradition law of many countries. It means that a suspect can only be extradited from one country to stand trial for breaking a second country’s laws if a similar law exists in the extraditing country. Murray reports that Assange’s defense have already brought up some case law showing examples where a defendant was not extradited because dual criminality was not proven:

“He pointed to three examples in case law—most notably Castillo vs. Kingdom of Spain—where precedent gave the judge the ability to determine a more accurate picture of the facts in the case when the court has been severely misled. The new facts can then be used to determine whether dual criminality exists, a requirement of extradition.”

7. Assange is a Publisher – Not a Whistleblower, Leaker or Hacker

It’s important to define who Julian Assange is in this case. He is a publisher – not a whistleblower, leaker, hacker or hactivist. As a publisher, he is a member of the media or press. Under US law, he is specifically and specially protected by the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This protection is so important that the media is the only class/profession singled out. This is how important freedom of the press is to the functioning of a free society. Now, Assange is not a US citizen (see #8 below), but the prosecution is arguing that Assange should be subject to US jurisdiction (which itself is a matter of debate), so as long as they argue that, they need to concede that Assange is entitled to certain rights enshrined in US law.

Assange has won many awards for being a journalist and publisher. Here are some of his credentials:

– He has been a member of the Australian Journalists Union since 2009;

– He is a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) (a trade union for journalists in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland);

– He is a member of the European Federation of Journalists;

– He has won numerous media awards including being honored with the highest award for Australian journalists;

– His work has been recognized by the Economist, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe;

– He is the winner of the Martha Gelhorn prize;

– He has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, including both last year (2019) and this year (2020);

– He has written or produced many books, articles and documentaries;

– His articles have been published in The GuardianThe New York TimesThe Washington Post and the New Statesman.

8. Assange is Not a US Citizen!

One highly contentious and important legal matter here, which has thus far been sidestepped, is whether Assange can even be charged by the USG at all, given that he is not and was not on US soil and is not a US citizen. Lawfully, how can he possibly be considered as subject to US jurisdiction? How can he even be charged under US law when he’s not an American – he’s an Australian? Again, this case is unprecedented, since we are now living in a globally connected society where it is apparently possible to commit high crimes against the government of a nation – in the cyber world – without ever setting foot in their geographical jurisdiction. But, can this really be lawfully or legally justified? How can USG lawfully chase journalists all over the world and claim they have magical extra-territorial reach? Is this law or is this intimidation and bullying?

9. Impossibility of a Fair Trial in the US

Just like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange is rightfully worried that he will not get a fair trial if he is extradited to the US. His lawyer Fitzgerald referred in court to the shocking conditions of US prisons and the impossibility of a fair trial for Assange in the US. Knowing this, this lawfully puts the burden on the UK to not extradite a defendant, since it would be exposing him to injustice and serious danger.

10. Trump Administration Denies Foreign Nationals First Amendment (Freedom of the Press) Protections

As covered in the article WikiLeaks Editor: US Is Saying First Amendment Doesn’t Apply To Foreigners In Assange Case, former CIA Head and now Secretary of State under Trump, Mike Pompeo, said in 2017 that “Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an embassy in London. He’s not a US citizen.” As a reminder, this is the very same Pompeo who confessed that at the CIA that “we lied, we cheated, we stole.”

However, this is a serious perversion and misunderstanding of the First Amendment – or any of the Ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Everyone, not just Americans or US citizens, is endowed with inherent, natural, God-given rights, including life, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, free speech and the right to choose or not choose a religion. That means everyone. It includes people who are citizens of other countries. Citizenship has nothing to do rights that are vested in everyone by nature and God. The above mentioned article quotes journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is also being harassed by the USG even though he lives in Brazil:

““To see how false this notion is that the Constitution only applies to U.S. citizens, one need do nothing more than read the Bill of Rights,” Greenwald argued in 2010. “It says nothing about ‘citizens.’  To the contrary, many of the provisions are simply restrictions on what the Government is permitted to do (‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . or abridging the freedom of speech’; ‘No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner’). And where rights are expressly vested, they are pointedly not vested in ‘citizens,’ but rather in ‘persons’ or ‘the accused’ … “The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2008, issued a highly publicized opinion, in Boumediene v. Bush, which, by itself, makes clear how false is the claim that the Constitution applies only to Americans,” Greenwald wrote. “The Boumediene Court held that it was unconstitutional for the Military Commissions Act to deny habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees, none of whom was an American citizen(indeed, the detainees were all foreign nationals outside of the U.S.). If the Constitution applied only to U.S. citizens, that decision would obviously be impossible.””

In a nutshell, we all have the right to free speech and freedom of the press, and the USG cannot lawfully deny this to Assange.

The Assange Case is a Retaliation by President Trump

According to Kit Dotcom, Trump was well aware of the meeting between Assange and Rohrabacher. This case is retaliation by Trump against Assange because Assange refused to reveal his sources. Trump clearly wanted this so he could have more proof that the whole RussiaGate fiasco was a hoax, but what is strange is that:

– The Mueller Report has already exposed the fact that there was “no collusion”; and

– Assange had already clearly said in 2016 that Russia was not responsible when he said that Wikileaks DNC source was “a non-state actor” and also when he said that the material from the DNC was “leaked, not hacked” which means it must have come from an insider.

As a true journalist, Assange refused on principle to reveal his sources. Here is Suzie Dawson’s take:

Suzie Dawson@Suzi3D

This is where media keep twisting the Rohrabacher/Trump/Assange/Russia story:

1st image: what MSM are trying to push – that Assange was asked to exonerate Russia

2nd image: what Trump *actually wanted* – for Assange to NAME THE SOURCE – which he refused to do on principle

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

1931:03 PM – Feb 28, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy150 people are talking about this

Independent journalist Cassandra Fairbanks has released a call between her and a senior Republican operative by the name of Arthur Schwartz. In the call (dated September 2019), Schwartz begs Fairbanks to delete a tweet (from September 10th, 2019) where she refers to this ABC story that reports that Richard (Rick) Grenell (Trump’s new DNI) was instrumental in persuading Ecuador to let British police into its London embassy. The report alleged that Grenell promised Quito that the US would not pursue the death penalty for Assange if it gave him up. This is yet more proof that Trump has the whole time been directing the prosecution of Assange. Assange inadvertently got Trump elected, yet Trump went from “I love Wikileaks” to conducting his own witch-hunt against Assange.

This is an absolutely disgusting betrayal of freedom of the press by Trump, who has yet again shown his true tyrannical colors. At the time of the Chelsea Manning trial and again in 2013, the Obama Administration decided not to prosecute Assange for the Manning leaks, presumably because they knew the case was so weak. Trump has reversed this decision for completely political reasons. I point this out not because I like Obama more than Trump – I reject the entire ruling class. This has nothing to do with the fake left-right paradigm and everything to with freedom and justice.

Conclusion: What is the Future of Freedom of the Press Worldwide?

Assange is on trial for telling the truth. He is being attacked for embarrassing the New World Order US Empire. He is morally and lawfully right in every way. His only crime is telling the truth in a world of lies.

The question is: will they find a legal loophole to capture Assange and destroy freedom of the press? We shall see.

Hat tip to Craig Murray, Taylor Hudak, Cassandra Fairbanks, Tareq Haddad, Kevin Gosztola and all the other independent reporters, citizen journalists, activists and concerned members of the public who are paying attention to this historic case and reporting the truth to the public – because the MSM sure isn’t.

Biggest hat tip of all to you Julian: you have done so much for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. So many people admire your guts and determination. May truth start peace, as you say, and as we say in Australia, you’re a bloody legend mate.

*

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This article was originally published on The Freedom Articles.

Makia Freeman is the editor of alternative media / independent news site The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at ToolsForFreedom.com. Makia is on Steemit and FB.

Sources

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWDWJV_mr4w

*https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-02-21-revealed-chief-magistrate-in-assange-case-received-financial-benefits-from-secretive-partner-organisations-of-uk-foreign-office/

*https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-1/

*https://english.elpais.com/elpais/2019/09/25/inenglish/1569384196_652151.html

*https://twitter.com/iainoverton/status/1231948664584704000?s=20

*https://collateralmurder.wikileaks.org/

*https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-2/

*https://thefreedomarticles.com/curious-case-edward-snowden-permanent-record/

*https://thefreedomarticles.com/wikileaks-editor-usg-first-amendment-doesnt-apply-foreigners/

*https://www.pscp.tv/w/1ZkKzLgobAyJv

*https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-gave-verbal-pledge-death-penalty-assange-sources/story?id=62414643

*https://www.pscp.tv/w/1YpJkQadPAVKj

Posted in USA, Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on Freedom of the Press on Trial: 10 Reasons Why Assange Is Lawfully in the Right

Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four

By Craig Murray

Global Research,

Please try this experiment for me.

Try asking this question out loud, in a tone of intellectual interest and engagement: “Are you suggesting that the two have the same effect?”

Now try asking this question out loud, in a tone of hostility and incredulity bordering on sarcasm: “Are you suggesting that the two have the same effect?”

Firstly, congratulations on your acting skills; you take direction very well. Secondly, is it not fascinating how precisely the same words can convey the opposite meaning dependent on modulation of stress, pitch, and volume?

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.

In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable:

“Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…”

“So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…”

“But surely that’s a circular argument…”

“But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”

All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but.

The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

So now to report the legal arguments themselves.

James Lewis for the prosecution, continuing his arguments from the day before, said that Parliament had not included a bar on extradition for political offences in the 2003 Act. It could therefore not be reintroduced into law by a treaty. “To introduce a Political Offences bar by the back door would be to subvert the intention of Parliament.”

Lewis also argued that these were not political offences. The definition of a political offence was in the UK limited to behaviour intended “to overturn or change a government or induce it to change its policy.” Furthermore the aim must be to change government or policy in the short term, not the indeterminate future.

Lewis stated that further the term “political offence” could only be applied to offences committed within the territory where it was attempted to make the change. So to be classified as political offences, Assange would have had to commit them within the territory of the USA, but he did not.

If Baraitser did decide the bar on political offences applied, the court would have to determine the meaning of “political offence” in the UK/US Extradition Treaty and construe the meaning of paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 of the Treaty. To construe the terms of an international treaty was beyond the powers of the court.

Lewis perorated that the conduct of Julian Assange cannot possibly be classified as a political offence. “It is impossible to place Julian Assange in the position of a political refugee”. The activity in which Wikileaks was engaged was not in its proper meaning political opposition to the US Administration or an attempt to overthrow that administration. Therefore the offence was not political.

For the defence Edward Fitzgerald replied that the 2003 Extradition Act was an enabling act under which treaties could operate. Parliament had been concerned to remove any threat of abuse of the political offence bar to cover terrorist acts of violence against innocent civilians. But there remained a clear protection, accepted worldwide, for peaceful political dissent. This was reflected in the Extradition Treaty on the basis of which the court was acting.

Baraitser interrupted that the UK/US Extradition Treaty was not incorporated into English Law.

Fitzgerald replied that the entire extradition request is on the basis of the treaty. It is an abuse of process for the authorities to rely on the treaty for the application but then to claim that its provisions do not apply.

“On the face of it, it is a very bizarre argument that a treaty which gives rise to the extradition, on which the extradition is founded, can be disregarded in its provisions. It is on the face of it absurd.” Edward Fitzgerald QC for the Defence

Fitzgerald added that English Courts construe treaties all the time. He gave examples.

Fitzgerald went on that the defence did not accept that treason, espionage and sedition were not regarded as political offences in England. But even if one did accept Lewis’s too narrow definition of political offence, Assange’s behaviour still met the test. What on earth could be the motive of publishing evidence of government war crimes and corruption, other than to change the policy of the government? Indeed, the evidence would prove that Wikileaks had effectively changed the policy of the US government, particularly on Iraq.

Baraitser interjected that to expose government wrongdoing was not the same thing as to try to change government policy. Fitzgerald asked her, finally in some exasperation after umpteen interruptions, what other point could there be in exposing government wrongdoing other than to induce a change in government policy?

That concluded opening arguments for the prosecution and defence.

My Personal Commentary

Let me put this as neutrally as possible. If you could fairly state that Lewis’s argument was much more logical, rational and intuitive than Fitzgerald’s, you could understand why Lewis did not need an interruption while Fitzgerald had to be continually interrupted for “clarification”. But in fact it was Lewis who was making out the case that the provisions of the very treaty under which the extradition is being made, do not in fact apply, a logical step which I suggest the man on the Clapham omnibus might reason to need rather more testing than Fitzgerald’s assertion to the contrary. Baraitser’s comparative harassment of Fitzgerald when he had the prosecution on the ropes was straight out of the Stalin show trial playbook.

The defence did not mention it, and I do not know if it features in their written arguments, but I thought Lewis’s point that these could not be political offences, because Julian Assange was not in the USA when he committed them, was breathtakingly dishonest. The USA claims universal jurisdiction. Assange is being charged with crimes of publishing committed while he was outside the USA. The USA claims the right to charge anyone of any nationality, anywhere in the world, who harms US interests. They also in addition here claim that as the materials could be seen on the internet in the USA, there was an offence in the USA. At the same time to claim this could not be a political offence as the crime was committed outside the USA is, as Edward Fitzgerald might say, on the face of it absurd. Which curiously Baraitser did not pick up on.

Lewis’s argument that the Treaty does not have any standing in English law is not something he just made up. Nigel Farage did not materialise from nowhere. There is in truth a long tradition in English law that even a treaty signed and ratified with some bloody Johnny Foreigner country, can in no way bind an English court. Lewis could and did spout reams and reams of judgements from old beetroot faced judges holding forth to say exactly that in the House of Lords, before going off to shoot grouse and spank the footman’s son. Lewis was especially fond of the Tin Council case.

There is of course a contrary and more enlightened tradition, and a number of judgements that say the exact opposite, mostly more recent. This is why there was so much repetitive argument as each side piled up more and more volumes of “authorities” on their side of the case.

The difficulty for Lewis – and for Baraitser – is that this case is not analogous to me buying a Mars bar and then going to court because an International Treaty on Mars Bars says mine is too small.

Rather the 2003 Extradition Act is an Enabling Act on which extradition treaties then depend. You can’t thus extradite under the 2003 Act without the Treaty. So the Extradition Treaty of 2007 in a very real sense becomes an executive instrument legally required to authorise the extradition. For the executing authorities to breach the terms of the necessary executive instrument under which they are acting, simply has to be an abuse of process. So the Extradition Treaty owing to its type and its necessity for legal action, is in fact incorporated in English Law by the Extradition Act of 2003 on which it depends.

The Extradition Treaty is a necessary precondition of the extradition, whereas a Mars Bar Treaty is not a necessary precondition to buying the Mars Bar.

That is as plain as I can put it. I do hope that is comprehensible.

It is of course difficult for Lewis that on the same day the Court of Appeal was ruling against the construction of the Heathrow Third Runway, partly because of its incompatibility with the Paris Agreement of 2016, despite the latter not being fully incorporated into English law by the Climate Change Act of 2008.

Vital Personal Experience

It is intensely embarrassing for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when an English court repudiates the application of a treaty the UK has ratified with one or more foreign states. For that reason, in the modern world, very serious procedures and precautions have been put into place to make certain that this cannot happen. Therefore the prosecution’s argument that all the provisions of the UK/US Extradition Treaty of 2007 are not able to be implemented under the Extradition Act of 2003, ought to be impossible.

I need to explain I have myself negotiated and overseen the entry into force of treaties within the FCO. The last one in which I personally tied the ribbon and applied the sealing wax (literally) was the Anglo-Belgian Continental Shelf Treaty of 1991, but I was involved in negotiating others and the system I am going to describe was still in place when I left the FCO as an Ambassador in 2005, and I believe is unchanged today (and remember the Extradition Act was 2003 and the US/UK Extradition Treaty ratified 2007, so my knowledge is not outdated). Departmental nomenclatures change from time to time and so does structural organisation. But the offices and functions I will describe remain, even if names may be different.

All international treaties have a two stage process. First they are signed to show the government agrees to the treaty. Then, after a delay, they are ratified. This second stage takes place when the government has enabled the legislation and other required agency to implement the treaty. This is the answer to Lewis’s observation about the roles of the executive and legislature. The ratification stage only takes place after any required legislative action. That is the whole point.

This is how it happens in the FCO. Officials negotiate the extradition treaty. It is signed for the UK. The signed treaty then gets returned to FCO Legal Advisers, Nationality and Treaty Department, Consular Department, North American Department and others and is sent on to Treasury/Cabinet Office Solicitors and to Home Office, Parliament and to any other Government Department whose area is impacted by the individual treaty.

The Treaty is extensively vetted to check that it can be fully implemented in all the jurisdictions of the UK. If it cannot, then amendments to the law have to be made so that it can. These amendments can be made by Act of Parliament or more generally by secondary legislation using powers conferred on the Secretary of State by an act. If there is already an Act of Parliament under which the Treaty can be implemented, then no enabling legislation needs to be passed. International Agreements are not all individually incorporated into English or Scottish laws by specific new legislation.

This is a very careful step by step process, carried out by lawyers and officials in the FCO, Treasury, Cabinet Office, Home Office, Parliament and elsewhere. Each will in parallel look at every clause of the Treaty and check that it can be applied. All changes needed to give effect to the treaty then have to be made – amending legislation, and necessary administrative steps. Only when all hurdles have been cleared, including legislation, and Parliamentary officials, Treasury, Cabinet Office, Home Office and FCO all certify that the Treaty is capable of having effect in the UK, will the FCO Legal Advisers give the go ahead for the Treaty to be ratified. You absolutely cannot ratify the treaty before FCO Legal Advisers have given this clearance.

This is a serious process. That is why the US/UK Extradition Treaty was signed in 2003 and ratified in 2007. That is not an abnormal delay.

So I know for certain that ALL the relevant British Government legal departments MUST have agreed that Article 4.1 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty was capable of being given effect under the 2003 Extradition Act. That certification has to have happened or the Treaty could never have been ratified.

It follows of necessity that the UK Government, in seeking to argue now that Article 4.1 is incompatible with the 2003 Act, is knowingly lying. There could not be a more gross abuse of process.

I have been keen for the hearing on this particular point to conclude so that I could give you the benefit of my experience. I shall rest there for now, but later today hope to post further on yesterday’s row in court over releasing Julian from the anti-terrorist armoured dock.

Posted in USA, Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four

Zionist Arab puppets Zionist secret history

Arab rulers and Israel’s leaders: A long and secret history of cooperation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been actively seeking closer relations and alliances with Arab rulers (Illustration by Mohamad Elaasar]2.8kShares

In the last month, Israeli leaders have been actively seeking closer relations and alliances with Arab countries, including the Gulf states, Morocco and Sudan.

These are states that, we are told, have finally seen the light and realised that Israel, unlike Iran, is their friend not their enemy.

This is presented as some major change of heart on the part of Arab regimes, which had apparently always shunned relations with Israel in the interest of defending the Palestinians.

This was always a fiction. Most of the 20th century’s Arab leaders and ruling families maintained cordial relations with Israel and, before it, the Zionist movement.

False narrative

This false narrative of resistance has been presented by Arab regimes as well as Israelis. It’s been put about by pro-Israeli Arab intellectuals, who claim that these regimes unfairly spurned Israel or even went to war with it at the behest of the Palestinians, rather than in their own national and regime interests.

This line of thinking concludes with the assertion that now, finally, is the time that Arab governments put their own interests ahead of the Palestinians, as if they had ever prioritised Palestinian interests before.

The largest number of Arab leaders and ruling families have had cordial relations with Israel and, before it, the Zionist movement, throughout the twentieth century

This was most recently expressed by the Sudanese military commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda two weeks ago. It was hardly the first such meeting between Sudanese officials and Israel.

Secret overtures had taken place as early as the 1950s, when Sudan was still ruled by the British and Egyptians and the Umma party sought to gain Israeli support for Sudanese independence.

Following independence, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Khalil and Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, held a clandestine meeting in Paris in 1957.

In the 1980s, Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiri met with the Israelis and facilitated the Israeli transport of Ethiopian Jews to Israel to become colonial settlers in the land of the Palestinians.

Hussein stands with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington in 1994 (AFP)
Jordan’s King Hussein stands with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington in 1994 (AFP)

More recently, in January 2016 and with Omar al-Bashir still in charge, foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour sought to lift the US economic sanctions on Sudan by offering to open formal diplomatic ties with Israel. When questioned about his recent meeting with Netanyahu and the normalisation of relations, Burhan’s response was that relations with Israel are based on Sudan’s “security and national interests”, which come first. 

The history of Sudan’s leaders’ connections with Israel is hardly unique. Indeed, Arab cooperation with the Zionist movement goes back to the dawn of the arrival of Zionist officials in Palestine.

Cordial relations

It was on 3 January 1919, two weeks before the beginning of the Paris Peace Conference, that Emir Faisal Ibn al-Hussein, then of the short-lived Kingdom of Hejaz and later the king of Iraq, signed an agreement with the President of the World Zionist Organization Chaim Weizmann. Faisal consented to the creation of a Jewish colonial majority in Palestine, in exchange for becoming the king of a large and independent Arab kingdom in all of Syria.  

The justification that Hussein used for his secret contacts with the Israelis was the preservation of his throne, conflated as Jordan’s “national” interest, in the face of Nasser’s pressure

While Faisal was denied his Syrian throne by the French colonial takeover, the agreement, which the Zionists used at the Paris Peace Conference to claim that their colonial-settler plans for Palestine had the agreement of Arab leaders, came to naught. 

Not to be outdone by his brother, Emir Abdullah of Transjordan embarked on a lifelong relationship of cooperation with the Zionists, in the hope that they would allow him to be king of Palestine and Transjordan, within which they could realise their goals under his kingship. This cooperation led to his assassination in 1951.

His grandson, King Hussein of Jordan, authorised the first secret meetings between one of his army generals and the Israelis in 1960 in Jerusalem. By 1963, he himself was meeting with Israelis secretly at his doctor’s office in London. By the mid-1970s his covert meetings with Israeli leaders would take place regularly inside Israel.

Hussein’s long friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (who had personally expelled the Palestinian population of the city of Lydda in 1948, and initiated the break-their-bones policies against West Bank and Gaza Palestinians in 1987) was evident during Rabin’s funeral in 1994.

King of Morocco Mohamed VI (L) chats with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres (R) as President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika (C) looks on, 11 March 2005
King of Morocco Mohamed VI (L) chats with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres (R) as President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika (C) looks on, 11 March, 2005 (AFP)

The justification that Hussein used for his secret contacts with the Israelis was the preservation of his throne, conflated as Jordan’s “national” interest, in the face ofEgyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pressure and later that of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. 

Zionist alliances

Aside from the Hashemite princes and kings, the Maronite Church of Lebanon, as well as right-wing fascist Maronite leaders like the Phalangists, allied themselves with Zionists from the mid-1940s. This alliance continues to the present, in the interest of setting up a sectarian Christian republic in Lebanon, modelled after the Jewish settler-colony.

Why have Arab rulers accepted the Trump deal?

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By the early 1950s it would be Tunisian nationalists of the Neo Destour party who met with Israeli representatives at the United Nations to help them obtain independence from the French, eliding Israel’s colonial-settler nature. Tunisia’s authoritarian leader Habib Bourguiba would maintain these friendly relations with Israel until the end of his rule in 1987.  

In the 1960s, Israel would support Saudi Arabia’s efforts in maintaining the rule of the imamate in Yemen against the republicans – the Israelis airlifted weapons and money to the Yemeni monarchists, which were well-received.

The warmest relations in North Africa would be between Israel and the late King Hassan II of Morocco.

While Israeli leaders met with Moroccan officials in the late 1950s, warm relations had to wait till King Hassan assumed the throne. From 1960 onwards the Israelis, through secret agreements with Morocco, airlifted Moroccan Jews to become colonial settlers in the land of the Palestinians.

The Moroccan connection

By 1963, Moroccan minister Mohamed Oufkir had concluded an arrangement with the Israelis to train Moroccan intelligence agents. Israel also helped Morocco track its opposition leaders, including Mehdi Ben Barka, who was captured and killed by Moroccan intelligence in 1965. Indeed, Yitzhak Rabin was invited by King Hassan to visit Morocco secretly in 1976.

By 1986, there were no more reasons for secrecy, and Shimon Peres visited Morocco with much public fanfare. In 1994, Morocco and Israel officially exchanged liaison offices.

In 2018, Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly at the UN with Morocco’s foreign minister for talks. In the last few weeks, the Israelis offered the Moroccans their help in securing US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco’s formal normalisation of relations with Israel and endorsement of Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”.  

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) during a meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh on May 11, 2009.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) during a meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh on 11 May, 2009 (AFP)

As for the great love affair between the Egyptian political and commercial classes with Israel, it has been a public affair since the late 1970s.

Since 1991, we have seen Israeli leaders, officials and athletes visit most Gulf countries openly, including Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and secretly Saudi Arabia, never mind the opening of liaison or trade offices in these countries.

Public enemy number one

Arab relations with Israel, whether hostile or friendly, were never governed by the interests of the Palestinian people, but rather by their own regime interests, which they often misidentify as “national” interests.

Israel-Sudan: Is Abdel Fattah al-Burhan evolving into a Sudanese Sisi?Read More »

Only the latter part of the history of their love for Israel has coincided since 1991 with the Madrid Peace Conference and the Oslo Accords, which transformed the Palestinian national leadership and the PLO into an agency of the Israeli military occupation; this is testament to Israel’s ceaseless efforts to co-opt Arab political, business, and intellectual elites.

It is also testament of how co-optable these elites are and have always been. 

While Israel has been mostly successful in its task as far as the political and business elites are concerned, it has failed miserably to co-opt the Arab intellectual class, except for those amongst them on the payroll of Gulf regimes and Western-funded NGOs. Even less has it gained any popularity among the Arab masses, for whom national interests and the colonisation of Palestinian lands, unlike for the Arab regimes, are not separable at all, and for whom Israel remains the major enemy of all Arabs. 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Africa, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, SudanComments Off on Zionist Arab puppets Zionist secret history

Resistance, referendum only viable solution to Palestine issue

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks in an interview with khamenei.ir website on February 18, 2010.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the only viable solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in taking the path of resistance and a popular vote, rather than the US-devised Middle East proposal that seeks to bolster Israeli hold on occupied land at the expense of Palestinian rights.

Zarif made the remarks in an interview with khamenei.ir, the official website of Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, published on Monday.

He stressed that the Palestine dispute cannot be resolved through a scheme that seeks to violate the Palestinian rights and expand unlawful settlements on occupied territory.

“As for Palestine, instead of giving in to the humiliation and the increasing and infinite pressures exerted by the US and the Zionist regime, there are two solutions that should be pursued simultaneously, not separately from one another. One is resistance and another is democracy and popular vote. If they put these two solutions in practice, the question of Palestine will be resolved,” he said.

Last year, the Islamic Republic submitted to the United Nations its proposal for the holding of a referendum on the issue of Palestine issue, as put forth by Ayatollah Khamenei, he noted.

“The solution for the issue of Palestine turns around the two pivots of democracy and resistance. The purpose of resistance is clear and the Palestinians are in fact resisting, but today all Palestinians should express their unanimous opposition to the “deal of the century.” The unity inside Palestine on the basis of resistance can help foil Zionist policies,” he said.

Zarif highlighted the role of democracy as another game changer in the issue of Palestine, saying the proponents of a fake democracy who consider the Zionist regime to be “the only democracy in the region” need to be prepared to embrace true democracy.

“What does true democracy mean? It means that all those who live in Palestine, who are the real owners of Palestine, but who have been displaced around the world should be able to determine and make decisions for their own future,” he pointed out.

US President Donald Trump released his self-proclaimed “deal of the century” during an event at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on January 28.

The so-called ‘Vision for Peace’ bars Palestinian refugees from returning to their homeland, regards Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

Trump outlines contentious Palestine scheme, says Quds will be Israel’s ‘undivided capital’

Trump outlines contentious Palestine scheme, says Quds will be Israel’s ‘undivided capital’Trump repeats his hugely-controversial endorsement of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” as he outlines his administration’s self-styled Mideast plan.

Elsewhere in his comments, Zarif described the US initiative as the continuation of Washington’s interventionist policies regarding the question of occupied Palestine.

“One of the mistakes made in the past 30 years was that they [some Palestinian organizations] thought they would be able to revive the rights of the Palestinians through cooperating with the occupiers,” he said, adding that all Palestinian parties have realized the fallacy of this notion.

“We have always stressed that it is the Palestinians who have the right to choose and the Islamic Republic will accept whichever path the people of Palestine opt for. In other words, we accept that the Palestinians should make the final decision and their final decision should be respected by everyone.”

The top Iranian diplomat further emphasized that even the former Pahlavi regime had proposed a democratic solution for the Palestine issue and rejected the 1947 UN Palestine Partition Plan. 

He also complained about the “passivity and degradation” of the Arabs in the face of the Americans and the Zionists.

In recent years, the Arab world has not only adopted “a passive outlook” towards Tel Aviv and Washington, but also allied with the pair against Palestine, Zarif said, noting that such an approach has led the Americans to the conclusion that they can unveil their plan for the Middle East. 

Zarif pointed out that the Arab world has stooped to such a level of disgrace that the Americans think they can portray such a despicable plan as a means of upholding the rights of Palestinian people, whereas “on the basis of what Trump and [his son-in-law and adviser Jared] Kushner think and say, they are not at all concerned about anyone’s rights and they view this plan as a [real estate] project.”

“The Arab world is still insisting to purchase security from the US and the Zionist regime… instead of relying on themselves, their people and their Muslim neighbors. As for the Americans, they obviously welcome it due to the fact that they sell weapons to Saudi Arabia worth 67 billion dollars, and at the same time they purchase the dignity of Saudi Arabia.”

Zarif exclaimed that the Arab leaders do not even dare voice their opposition or adopt a position in support of Palestine, and they even go as far as thanking Trump for his skewed proposal.

The Palestinians need to realize that they cannot achieve their goal by giving in to US interventionism, he pointed out.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, IranComments Off on Resistance, referendum only viable solution to Palestine issue

The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria

Documents obtained by MEE reveal how British contractors recruited Syrian citizen journalists – often without their knowledge – to promote ‘moderate opposition’

Anti-government protesters in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood in 2013. British objectives in Syria included ‘promotion of the moderate values of the revolution’ (AFP)

By Ian CobainAlice Ross

The British government covertly established a network of citizen journalists across Syria during the early years of the country’s civil war in an attempt to shape perceptions of the conflict, frequently recruiting people who were unaware that they were being directed from London.

A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria.

Syrian activists say pro-rebel propaganda campaign may have been counterproductiveRead More »

Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria.

These journalists, many of them young, were commissioned to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and even children’s comics.

While many Syrians turned spontaneously to media activism from the start of the war, the documents describe the way in which the British government sought to guide some of their output, seeing citizen journalism as a way of covertly influencing Syrian audiences.

The papers also make clear that those people who were recruited were often unaware that they were part of a British propaganda initiative.

Document

Some of those who were recruited have defended their involvement, however, saying that they were reliant on western support in their efforts to counter pro-government reporting in Syrian state media, and in Iranian and Russian-backed media.

At a time when the last opposition-held enclave in Idlib province is under assault by pro-government forces, they questioned whether western countries could have contributed more material support to moderate rebels.

Some Syrian journalists complained that western support for their work was decreasing even as it was most needed, after Russia’s entry into the war in 2015 tipped the balance in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

The documents were drawn up as blueprints for the initiative by an anthropologist working in counter-terrorism at the foreign office in London. They were issued in late 2014 to a small number of communications companies that were invited to bid for three contracts to deliver the work.

One says: “The objective of the project is contribute [sic] towards positive attitudinal and behavioural change.”

This was further defined as: “Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity.”

‘Reinforcement of popular rejection of the Assad regime and extremist alternatives; promotion of the moderate values of the revolution; promotion of Syrian national identity’

– British government documents

The documents show that the over-arching aim of the citizen journalism project – and a series of interlinked British propaganda initiatives – was to promote the UK’s strategic interests in Syria and the Middle East.

These are defined in the leaked papers as “a more stable and democratic Syria that better meets the needs and aspirations of its people”, support for a political solution to the conflict, the alleviation of humanitarian suffering, and enhanced UK security.

As well as developing grassroots journalism aligned with British government values, the UK and other western governments were at the same time attempting to build civil society in areas controlled by some of Assad’s opponents, financing and training police forces and civil defence teams.

The anthropologist’s blueprint makes clear that this was being done not just to help maintain law and order and provide humanitarian assistance, but “to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule”.

However, the documents acknowledge the risks to the young journalists who had unwittingly been co-opted by the British government.

“Media coverage of the project will be distinctly unwelcome due to the risks to Syrian employees and to project effectiveness that it would generate,” says one.

“The implementer is not permitted to speak publicly (to the media or at academic conferences) about their work without the explicit permission of HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]. This will be enforced by a Non Disclosure Agreement.”

A number of young Syrian citizen journalists were detained and murdered by the Islamic State (IS) group after it began capturing territory in the country in 2015.

The group frequently denounced its victims as western “spies”, and some Syrian citizen journalists were pursued across the border to Turkey and killed.

Whilst many of the victims were not thought to be involved in British-sponsored projects, MEE is aware of two who were.

Three-pronged campaign

The British government’s citizen journalism project was part of a three-pronged propaganda initiative that was developed in London and was, according to the documents, intended to “have a synergistic effect”.

The first strand, named Syrian Identity, sought to “unite Syrians through positive affirmation of common cultures and practices and to restore trust between neighbours, while illustrating Syrians’ strength in numbers,” according to the blueprint.

The documents explain that the second strand, called Free Syria, “seeks to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule”.

Document

It “amplifies the work of the ‘free’ police, civil defence teams and wider public service provision and broader developments in civil society and seeks to unite the moderate opposition (civil and armed) to work for a common future”.

The third, known as Undermine, “seeks to degrade the effectiveness of VE [violent extremist] networks in Syria by undermining the credibility of VE narratives and actors and isolating VE organisations from the populace.”

The document goes on, using a different acronym for IS: “ISIL is an explicit and named focus, Al Nusra Front (due to its current popularity within Syria) is addressed indirectly through its behaviour.EXCLUSIVE: Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldierRead More »

“The purpose of the project to directly ‘Undermine’ (degrading the effectiveness of) VE networks in Syria through the delivery of media product, the emboldening and empowering of moderate voices, and supporting community coalescence around a vision of a tolerant, pluralist Syria. Ultimately, active Syrian rejection of VE is the requirement.”

The documents add that the research underpinning the initiative “will need to be able to draw upon open source material, jihadist discourse and, in particular, a network of assets inside Syria”.

Military intelligence officers

Individuals familiar with the project say that around nine companies were invited to bid for the contracts. They included a number of firms established by former British diplomats, intelligence officers and army officers.

Although the contracts were awarded by the UK’s foreign office, they were managed by the country’s Ministry of Defence, and sometimes by military intelligence officers.

These companies set up offices in Amman, Istanbul and, for a period, at Reyhanli in southeast Turkey. From here they would employ Syrians who would in turn recruit citizen journalists inside Syria, who were under the impression that they were working for the media offices of Syrian opposition groups.

“It was a shady, shady business,” says one person involved in the work, adding that frequently the individual journalist would believe they were working for an opposition group, and have no idea that a British communications company was running their media office, under contract to the UK government.

A second person involved with the initiative added that if you hired Syrians “to pump out propaganda, inside Syria and outside”, attributing their work in any way to the British government would have undermined its effectiveness.

Document

Many of these citizen journalists would be using equipment that they believed was being supplied by opposition groups but which had in fact been bought using funds supplied by the UK government as part of the contract.

Some would be paid a retainer of between $250-$500 a month, while others were paid for individual pieces of media – around $50 for each picture or $200 for a short piece of video.

These would then be distributed to Arabic language media organisations, through what purported to be the press offices of Syrian opposition groups.

Favoured video clips might be film of fighters from the moderate opposition handing out food, or using sophisticated weaponry to good effect.

“Then that would go to Sky News Arabia, BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, those sort of outlets,” said one person involved.

Whenever British government officials wished to discuss the work, meetings would be held away from the newly established offices, to avoid contact with the locally hired Syrians.

British staff running the offices would also be expected to prepare reports on their meetings with Syrians, which would be passed back to the foreign office.

Opposition social media accounts

Meanwhile, other leaked documents seen by MEE show that the British government had awarded contracts to communications companies, which selected and trained opposition spokespeople, ran press offices that operated 24 hours a day, and developed opposition social media accounts.

British staff running these offices were told that their Syrian employees were permitted to talk to British journalists – as spokespeople for the Syrian opposition – but only after receiving clearance from officials at the British consulate in Istanbul.

One of the responsibilities of the press offices set up covertly by the British government under the terms of these contracts was to “maintain an effective network of correspondents/stringers inside Syria to report on MAO [moderate armed opposition] activity”.

In this way, the British government was able to exert behind-the-scenes influence over conversations that the UK media was having with individuals who presented themselves as Syrian opposition representatives.

Document

People involved with the operation say that some prominent British journalists visiting Istanbul would be introduced to Syrians acting as opposition spokespeople, who had been prepared for the encounter by British handlers.

They say they would brief the Syrians before the meeting, and avoid any face-to-face contact with the visiting journalists themselves.

The propaganda initiative was primarily aimed at Syrians, living both inside and outside Syria. The blueprint explains that “radicalised UK citizens are not an explicit focus (target audience) for this work,” adding: “Those efforts are the responsibility of another government department.”

It adds: “Nevertheless, it is accepted that some C-VE [countering violent extremist] material may reach the UK information space.”

Furthermore, UK audiences could on occasion be “a specified target” of some media being produced as part of the initiative, with the permission of British officials in Istanbul.

The different strands of the propaganda programme were evaluated by a scientist from the UK’s Ministry of Defence, looking for evidence of “behavioural and attitudinal change”.

The companies bidding for the contracts were told: “Behavioural changes linked… to campaign activity will be especially highly valued.”

During 2015, Free Syria, Syrian Identity and Undermine were funded in both British pounds and Canadian dollars, with the equivalent of around £410,000 ($540,000) being spent each month.

Some Syrians who became involved in the programme say that the money they received was the only means by which they could hope to support their families. “I have a wife and family,” said one. “We need support in order to be able to live. Is there an independent media outlet in this world?”REVEALED: The ‘woke’ media outfit that’s actually a UK counterterror programmeRead More »

The British government appears to have regarded its propaganda initiative as being in part a way to maintain a presence in Syria until it was able to become militarily engaged, with the blueprint saying that it should have “the capability to expand back into the strategic as and when the opportunity arises, to help build an effective opposition political-military interface”.

Around the same time that the initiative was being developed, the British government “loaned” a number of its pilots to the US, French and Canadian air forces, enabling them to take part in combat missions against Syrian targets, despite the country’s parliament having voted against such action.

British government enthusiasm for much of the work appears to have begun to wane as it became increasingly clear that the Assad government and its Russian and Iranian allies were winning the civil war, and funding for contracts began to dry up.

Early in 2019, the Free Syrian Police, a British-backed organisation, finally ceased operations following a militant takeover of Idlib province, much to the dismay of civilians and civil society activists. 

The Turkish government is also said to have become less tolerant of the propaganda initiatives being co-ordinated from its territory.

One British contractor is understood to have been expelled after the Turkish authorities discovered she had entered the country on a tourist visa.

Posted in Syria, UKComments Off on The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria

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