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The UK’s hidden hand in Julian Assange’s detention

Julian Assange
Nazareth-based Jonathan Cook writes:

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.

Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.

In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK.

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of Western liberals and leftists.

According to a new, limited release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case for extradition to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him in London, as had happened in 44 other extradition cases between Sweden and Britain.

Ny wrote to the CPS:

We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order… and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so, this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.

Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again: “I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.”

In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

In December 2013, the unnamed CPS lawyer wrote again to Ny: “I do not consider costs are a relevant factor in this matter.” This was at a time when it had been revealed that the policing of Assange’s detention in the embassy had at that point cost Britain £3.8 million. In another email from the CPS, it was noted: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

These are only fragments of the email correspondence, after most of it was destroyed by the CPS against its own protocols. The deletions appear to have been carried out to avoid releasing the electronic files to a tribunal that has been considering a freedom of information request.

Other surviving emails, according to a Guardian report last year, have shown that the CPS “advised the Swedes in 2010 or 2011 not to visit London to interview Assange. An interview at that time could have prevented the long-running embassy standoff.”

Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.

Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently, the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement…

Remember too that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Ecuador recently notified it that Assange had received diplomatic status following his successful application for Ecuadorean citizenship.

As former British ambassador Craig Murray has explained, the UK has no choice but to accept Assange’s diplomatic immunity. The most it can do is insist that he leave the country – something that Assange and Ecuador presumably each desire. And yet the UK continues to ignore its obligation to allow Assange his freedom to leave. So far there has been zero debate in the British corporate media about this fundamental violation of his rights.

One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.

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Julian Assange and the fate of journalism

WikiLeaks

By Lawrence Davidson

Julian Assange

Julian Assange is the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to the public’s right to know what governments and other powerful organisations are doing. WikiLeaks pursues this goal by posting revelatory documents, often acquired unofficially, that bring to light the criminal behaviour that results in wars and other man-made disasters. Because WikiLeaks’ very existence encourages “leaks”, government officials fear the website, and particularly dislike Julian Assange.

Essentially, WikiLeaks functions as a wholesale supplier of evidence. Having identified alleged official misconduct, WikiLeaks seeks to acquire and make public overwhelming amounts of evidence – sometimes hundreds of thousands of documents at a time – which journalists and other interested parties can draw upon. And since the individuals and organisations being investigated are ones ultimately responsible to the public, such a role as wholesale supplier of evidence can be seen as a public service.

Unfortunately, that is not how most government officials see the situation. They assert that government cannot be successful unless aspects of its behaviour are conducted in secret. The fact that those aspects in question thereby lose any accountable connection to the public is discounted. The assumption here is that most citizens simply trust their governments to act in their interests, including when they act clandestinely. Historically, such trust is dangerously naive. Often government officials, even the democratic ones, feel no obligation to their citizens in general, but rather only to special interests.

One reason for this is that large and bureaucratic institutions that last for any length of time have the tendency to become standalone institutions – ones with their own self-referencing cultures, loyalty to which comes to override any responsibility to outside groups other than those with particular shared interests. In other words, long-lasting institutions/bureaucracies take on a life of their own.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that many governments look upon WikiLeaks as a threat to institutional wellbeing. And so, in an effort to cripple WikiLeaks and have their revenge on Assange, the United States and the United Kingdom, with the cooperation of Sweden, first sought to frame Assange (2010) on a sexual assault charge. This having failed, Assange was still left liable for jumping bail in the UK in order to avoid seizure and deportation to the US, where he would certainly be put on trial for revealing secrets. He escaped to the Ecuadorian embassy in London (2012), where he was given asylum. As of this writing, he is still there. However, a recent change in government in Quito has led to discussions between Ecuador and the UK that may well lead to Assange’s eviction from the embassy.

The ideals of journalism

Some of the anger over Assange’s fate has been directed at the journalistic profession which he has sought to serve. After all, Assange has ardently supported the notions of free speech, free press and the public’s right to know. Nonetheless, as the documentary filmmaker John Pilger, a supporter of Assange, has noted,

@@There has been no pressure [in support of Assange] from media in the United States, Britain, Australia or pretty much anywhere except in [media] programmes… outside the mainstream… “The persecution of this man has been something that should horrify all free-thinking people.@@

He is quite right. Unfortunately, there never have been many brave free-thinkers about, so no one should be surprised at Assange’s poor prospects.

This brings up the difference between the ideals of the journalistic profession and the reality within which it operates. There is a model of journalism that presents it as a pillar of democracy. The journalist is a tough and persistent person who digs up facts, asks hard questions and explains the truth to his or her readers/viewers. Few seem to have noticed that, to the extent that this picture is accurate, the ideal model has alienated those readers/viewers who cannot tell the difference between “the truth” and their own opinions. Recently, this alienation has opened the entire media industry to the charge that it is really the “enemy of the people” because it peddles “fake news” – that is, news that belies one’s opinions.

To bring the idealistic journalist in line with real public expectations, editors put pressure on media workers to compromise their professional ideals. The result is most often manipulated reports aimed at fitting the particular outlook of the particular media operation’s target audience. Thus, it is simply wrong to think that, on the average, those who investigate, do research, write about things, and report through the various media are any braver or, ultimately, any more principled than the rest of the population. As Julien Benda showed us in his 1928 book, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, while it is in fact the job of those who research and report to remain independent of the ideologies and biases of both their community and their government, the truth is that most often these people end up serving power. This is particularly the case when there is an atmosphere of patriotic fervor, or just plain pressure from sources that can hurt one’s career. At that point you will find that bravery does exist but it is the exception and not the rule – and the brave will, more often than not, stand alone.

That is what is happening in the case of Julian Assange. Many American news outlets are willing to selectively use the documented evidence made available by WikiLeaks. To do so is to draw on what the website has placed in the public domain. But they will not stand up and publicly defend the “whistleblower” who makes the information public. I imagine publishers, editors, and media moguls, and the vast majority of those they employ, just don’t have the courage to support the individual who breaks some unprincipled law or regulation designed to enforce silence in relation to official crimes and hypocrisy.

A shared problem

The United States is certainly not the only country facing this dilemma. To one extent or another this is a shared problem in all those lands claiming to have a free press. For example, a similar problem has long existed in Israel. Here one finds a whole ethnicity whose journalists are open to persecution.

Take the case of Omar Nazzal, a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate. In a 10 August 2016 report appearing in the online blog +972 Magazine, and entitled “Israeli journalists silent as their Palestinian colleagues are jailed”, we are told that Nazzal was taken into custody by Israeli forces in April 2016, without charges. Like Assange, there has been an attempt, after the fact, to claim that Nazzal is a criminal. The Shin Bet, one of those Israeli security forces that only the naive or venal take at face value, claims that he is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which they consider to be a terrorist organisation. No proof of this charge has been publicly presented (Shin Bet claims the “proof” is secret) and Nazzal denies any affiliation. As it turns out, the real reason he was arrested somewhat parallels Assange’s activity. At the time of his seizure, Nazzal was on his way to Sarajevo for a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists. No doubt, the Israelis did not want him telling true, documentable, stories to an organisation of European journalists. Most Israeli Jewish journalists, like their American counterparts, remain silent. So do their respective publics.

Conclusion

One might ask just how seriously “the public” wants a media that tells them “the truth”. The most watched cable news channel in the US is Fox News, a media ally of Donald Trump that has no demonstrable interest in objective facts. It is more likely that Americans (and others) chose their news outlets on the basis of which one most often tells them what they want to hear – in other words, the search for “accurate” reporting is really driven by a desire for confirmation of bias.

Under these circumstances it is easy to understand why a for-profit media industry need not be beholden to the general citizenry or any ideal of supplying fact-based news. This situation puts truth tellers like Assange, and in the case of Israel, Omar Nazzal, in a bad position. They will have their defenders but they will be outside the mainstream – because truth itself is also outside the mainstream. That is their predicament, and ours as well.

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Guardian escalates its vilification of Julian Assange

Guardian and Assange
By Jonathan Cook

It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to the Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.

Faced with the backlash, the Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.

The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.

… damaging contents of the emails. show that [Democratic] Party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

The Guardian’s latest story provides a supposedly stronger foundation for an existing narrative: that Assange and WikiLeaks knowingly published emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic Party’s servers. In truth, there is no public evidence that the emails were hacked, or that Russia was involved. Central actors have suggested instead that the emails were leaked from within the Democratic Party.

Nonetheless, this unverified allegation has been aggressively exploited by the Democratic leadership because it shifts attention away both from its failure to mount an effective electoral challenge to Trump and from the damaging contents of the emails. These show that party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.

Manafort has denied the Guardian’s claims, while Assange has threatened to sue the Guardian for libel.

“Responsible for Trump”

The emotional impact of the Guardian story is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by the Guardian or the New York Times – but the head of an organisation engaged in espionage for a foreign power.

The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the WikiLeaks organisation, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.

The Guardian story will prepare public opinion for the moment when Ecuador’s right-wing government under President Lenin Moreno forces Assange out of the embassy, having already withdrawn most of his rights to use digital media.

It will soften opposition when the UK moves to arrest Assange on self-serving bail violation charges and extradites him to the US. And it will pave the way for the US legal system to lock Assange up for a very long time.

…  Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

For the best part of a decade, any claims by Assange’s supporters that avoiding this fate was the reason Assange originally sought asylum in the embassy was ridiculed by corporate journalists, not least at the Guardian.

Even when a United Nations panel of experts in international law ruled in 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily – and unlawfully – detained by the UK, Guardian writers led efforts to discredit the UN report. See here and here.

Now Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

Heavy surveillance

The problem for the Guardian, which should have been obvious to its editors from the outset, is that any visits by Manafort would be easily verifiable without relying on unnamed “sources”.

Glenn Greenwald is far from alone in noting that London is possibly the most surveilled city in the world, with CCTV cameras everywhere. The environs of the Ecuadorian embassy are monitored especially heavily, with continuous filming by the UK and Ecuadorian authorities and most likely by the US and other actors with an interest in Assange’s fate.

The idea that Manafort or “Russians” could have wandered into the embassy to meet Assange even once without their trail, entry and meeting being intimately scrutinised and recorded is simply preposterous.

According to Greenwald:

If Paul Manafort… visited Assange at the embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that. 

Former British ambassador Craig Murray also points out the extensive security checks insisted on by the embassy to which any visitor to Assange must submit. Any visits by Manafort would have been logged.

In fact, the Guardian obtained the embassy’s logs in May, and has never made any mention of either Manafort or “Russians” being identified in them. It did not refer to the logs in its latest story.

Murray says:

The problem with this latest fabrication is that [Ecuador’s President] Moreno had already released the visitor logs to the Mueller inquiry. Neither Manafort nor these “Russians” are in the visitor logs… What possible motive would the Ecuadorean government have for facilitating secret unrecorded visits by Paul Manafort? Furthermore, it is impossible that the intelligence agency – who were in charge of the security – would not know the identity of these alleged “Russians”.

No fact-checking

It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like the Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – both because Assange’s personal fate rests on their veracity, and because, even more importantly, a fundamental right, the freedom of the press, is at stake.

Given this, one would have expected the Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.

I worked for the Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them.

And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.

That at the very least hints that the Guardian thought they had “insurance” on this story. And the only people who could have promised that kind of insurance are the security and intelligence services – presumably of Britain, the United States and / or Ecuador.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them. That is profoundly irresponsible journalism – fake news – that should be of the gravest concern to readers.

A pattern, not an aberration

Despite all this, even analysts critical of the Guardian’s behaviour have shown a glaring failure to understand that its latest coverage represents not an aberration by the paper but decisively fits with a pattern.

Glenn Greenwald, who once had an influential column in the Guardian until an apparent, though unacknowledged, falling out with his employer over the Edward Snowden revelations, wrote a series of baffling observations about the Guardian’s latest story.

First, he suggested it was simply evidence of the Guardian’s long-standing (and well-documented) hostility towards Assange.

The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper, has such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.

It was also apparently evidence of the paper’s clickbait tendencies:

They [Guardian editors] knew that publishing this story would cause partisan warriors to excitedly spread the story, and that cable news outlets would hyperventilate over it, and that they’d reap the rewards regardless of whether the story turned out to be true or false.

And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of the Guardian’s reputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.

Deeper malaise

What this misses is that the Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for the Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in the Guardian and the wider corporate media.

Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, the Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritising the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, the Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See herehere and here.

Similarly, the Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.

The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist left-wing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive US hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for left-wing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the US, rather than the region’s right-wing authoritarians beloved of Washington.

The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where left-wing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.

The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.

Heroes of the neoliberal order

Equally, the Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.

Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretences, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.

That “humanitarian intervention” cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and created a vacuum that destabilised much of the Middle East, sucked in Islamic jihadists like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State group, and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fuelled the resurgence of the far-right. None of that is discussed in the Guardian or considered grounds for disqualifying Blair as an arbiter of what is good for Britain and the world’s future.

The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by the Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”. Like Luke Harding, Higgins invariably seems ready to echo whatever the British and American security services need verifying “independently”.

Higgins and his well-staffed website Bellingcat have taken on for themselves the role of arbiters of truth on many foreign affairs issues, taking a prominent role in advocating for narratives that promote US and NATO hegemony while demonising Russia, especially in highly contested arenas such as Syria.

That clear partisanship should be no surprise, given that Higgins now enjoys an “academic” position at, and funding from, the Atlantic Council, a high-level, Washington-based think-tank founded to drum up support for NATO and justify its imperialist agenda.

Improbably, the Guardian has adopted Higgins as the poster-boy for a supposed citizen journalism it has sought to undermine as “fake news” whenever it occurs on social media without the endorsement of state-backed organisations.

The truth is that the Guardian has not erred in this latest story attacking Assange, or in its much longer-running campaign to vilify him. With this story, it has done what it regularly does when supposedly vital Western foreign policy interests are at stake – it simply regurgitates an elite-serving, Western narrative.

Its job is to shore up a consensus on the left for attacks on leading threats to the existing, neoliberal order: whether they are a platform like WikiLeaks promoting whistle-blowing against a corrupt Western elite; or a politician like Jeremy Corbyn seeking to break apart the status quo on the rapacious financial industries or Israel-Palestine; or a radical leader like Hugo Chavez who threatened to overturn a damaging and exploitative US dominance of “America’s backyard”; or social media dissidents who have started to chip away at the elite-friendly narratives of corporate media, including the Guardian.

The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do.

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Endless procedural abuses show Julian Assange case was never about law

Julian Assange after leaving Ecuadorian embassy
Jonathan Cook writes:

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, aGuardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.

The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind always knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.

Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.

Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.

Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.

Trapped in herd-think

The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.

These are is not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.

British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.

Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.

What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.

If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.

If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorites to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.

He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he in fact was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten on with developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.

Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.

His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.

No judicial authority

  • In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.
  • Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”
  • The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, during which time Assange was questioned and spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case. He was then told by prosecutors that he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that any offence they believed he had committed was not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.
  • The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.
  • The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.
  • In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.
  • Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.

Six years of heel-dragging

  • Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.
  • In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.
  • She finally relented on interviewing Assange in November 2016, coming to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, she barred Assange’s lawyer from being present. That was a gross irregularity that Ny was due to be questioned about in May 2017 by a Stockholm judge. Apparently rather than face those questions, Ny decided to close the investigation against Assange the very same day.
  • In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.
  • Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”
  • It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.
  • Despite his interview with Ny taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subseqently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.
  • After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.
  • Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.

Information dark ages

Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.

Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:

In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …

The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …

In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper  that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.

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Julian Assange extradition update

Julian Assange in poor health
Stuart Littlewood writes:

Sure, your rights are protected. But you’ll just have to wait another four months before we listen to concerns that you might die from mistreatment in captivity…

I’ve received a reply from my MP Alister Jack (who is also Secretary of State for Scotland). I asked him to obtain an explanation from our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC MP, on concerns about the proceedings to extradite Julian Assange to the US, since he is the person accountable. But Mr Jack’s response doesn’t make clear whether the response is his and, if not, where it actually come from.

I wanted to know…

  • Why Assange is held under the inhuman conditions reserved for terrorists when he’s a journalist.
  • How the Justice Department accounts for Assange’s poor physical and mental state.
  • Why the question whether political offences are excluded from extradition under Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty hadn’t been not been addressed before these expensive proceedings began.
  • Why Assange’s defence team hasn’t been given easier access and more time to prepare.
  • Why the high-security Belmarsh prison is chosen for February’s hearing, where the opportunity for public scrutiny is minimal.
  • And whether District Judge Baraitser will preside in February when, according to Craig Murray, she has already failed to behave impartially?

In particular I wanted to know why, according to witnesses, Assange’s physical and mental states have deteriorated so rapidly while in the UK justice system’s care.

There’s no attempt to answer most of these points. However, Mr Jack reminds me that Assange was jailed for 50 weeks on 1 May for breaching bail and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

“The UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his interests will be protected,” writes Mr Jack, brimming with confidence.

But, he points out, the home secretary when signing an extradition warrant is limited in what he’s allowed to consider. For example, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 requires any judgement about human rights and health issues to be made in court.

The administrative hearing on 21 October ruled that Assange will face a five-day extradition hearing starting 25 February and, Mr Jack says, that’s when his human rights and poor health will be considered. It is for the judge to determine whether or not extradition would be a human rights breach and whether it would be oppressive and unjust on account of his state of health.

In other words, nobody in the UK justice system could give a toss about Assange’s wellbeing for another for months – an awful long time when you’re already in bad shape and worried sick that you’ll wind up in Guantanamo Bay for – for what, exactly?

Former ambassador Craig Murray, a friend of Assange, attended the October hearing and reported that he was distressed by how his appearance had deteriorated after long confinement, and by his rapid ageing and stumbling speech — “the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known” reduced to a “shambling and incoherent wreck”.

Some have expressed concern that Assange may not live to the end of the extradition proceedings.

From tomorrow MPs will cease to exist and Parliament will cease to function until after the General Election on 12 December. So nobody is representing anybody in the cesspit of Westminster for the next five or six weeks.

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The Guardian’s deceit-riddled new statement betrays both Julian Assange and journalism

Assange – Guardian deceit
Jonathan Cook writes:

In my recent post on the current hearings at the Old Bailey over Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, where he would almost certainly be locked away for the rest of his life for the crime of doing journalism, I made two main criticisms of the Guardian.

A decade ago, remember, the newspaper worked closely in collaboration with Assange and Wikileaks to publish the Iraq and Afghan war diaries, which are now the grounds on which the US is basing its case to lock Assange behind bars in a super-max jail.

My first criticism was that the paper had barely bothered to cover the hearing, even though it is the most concerted attack on press freedom in living memory. That position is unconscionably irresponsible, given its own role in publishing the war diaries. But sadly it is not inexplicable. In fact, it is all too easily explained by my second criticism.


Jonathan Cook@Jonathan_K_CookA journalist due to testify at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing makes a very pertinent point. This is the biggest attack on press freedom in our lifetimes. Why are UK editors not demanding to be heard at the Old Bailey? Where are they? Where is the Guardian?

Iain Overton@iainoverton · Sep 7And, I might be wrong, but I think I am the only editor who is giving evidence in his trial. I do not know where those who worked with him at the Guardian are. And frankly, some of them should be ashamed of themselves for that.Show this thread

That criticism was chiefly levelled at two leading journalists at the Guardian, former investigations editor David Leigh and reporter Luke Harding, who together wrote a book in 2011 that was the earliest example of what would rapidly become a genre among a section of the liberal media elite, most especially at the Guardian, of vilifying Assange.

In my earlier post I set out Leigh and Harding’s well-known animosity towards Assange – the reason why one senior investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, told the Old Bailey courtroom the pair’s 2011 book was “not a reliable source”. That was, in part, because Assange had refused to let them write his official biography, a likely big moneymaker. The hostility had intensified and grown mutual when Assange discovered that behind his back they were writing an unauthorised biography while working alongside him.

But the bad blood extended more generally to the Guardian, which, like Leigh and Harding, repeatedly betrayed confidences and manoeuvred against Wikileaks rather the cooperating with it. Assange was particularly incensed to discover that the paper had broken the terms of its written contract with Wikileaks by secretly sharing confidential documents with outsiders, including the New York Times.

Joseph@jmmos·Sep 8Replying to @Jonathan_K_CookMSM are slaves to the system!

WISE Up Action@WISEUpAction·Sep 8Replying to @Jonathan_K_CookSalient point in John Pilger’s scathing address yesterday – those sections of the media don’t care because they are safe, their job is not to challenge. https://twitter.com/letmelooktv/status/1302948832850907138?s=21…#JulianAssange

LetmelookTV@letmelooktv · Sep 7John Pilger @johnpilger Speaking about the miscarriage of justice outside The Old Bailey at the beginning of #JulianAssange extradition trial

Boney Bones Lee@McsporranJim·Sep 8Replying to @Jonathan_K_Cook and @medialensHow many so-called ‘journalists’ from the MSM even tried to get access to properly report on what can only loosely be termed a ‘trial’ (Stalin couldn’t have done it any better) ? #FreeJulianAssange

Jeremy Corbyn@jeremycorbyn·Dec 18“This crisis has exposed all the inequalities in the world.” I spoke to @jacobinmag about why I’m launching the Project for Peace and Justice.

Leigh and Harding’s book now lies at the heart of the US case for Assange’s extradition to the US on so-called “espionage” charges. The charges are based on Wikileaks’ publication of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning, then an army private, that revealed systematic war crimes committed by the US military.

Inversion of truth

Lawyers for the US have mined from the Guardian book claims by Leigh that Assange was recklessly indifferent to the safety of US informants named in leaked files published by Wikileaks.

Assange’s defence team have produced a raft of renowned journalists, and others who worked with Wikileaks, to counter Leigh’s claim and argue that this is actually an inversion of the truth. Assange was meticulous about redacting names in the documents. It was they – the journalists, including Leigh – who were pressuring Assange to publish without taking full precautions.

Tory Fibs@ToryFibs·20h54 Labour officers were suspended today across 27 Constituency Labour Parties. All were democratically elected by their members. They’re being suspended for holding democratic votes on motions that criticise the supreme leadership of Labour HQ. This is what fascism looks like.

RD Hale@RDHale_·21hJeremy Corbyn is the most abused person on Twitter, possibly the most abused MP we’ve ever had in the UK & he’s the least abusive human being I’ve seen in my life. Corbyn’s restraint & dignity are remarkable. And yet the MSM blame him for racism & bullying? Are you kidding me?

Brian Tweedale@BrianHTweed·18hCall me old fashioned if you like, but as a paid up member of the Labour Party, who has a PhD and two BA Hons degrees I don’t need to be told by the unelected General Secretary of my party what is ‘ competent business’ for me to discuss.

Chelley Ryan@chelleryn99·20hTo all those Labour members who’ve been suspended for standing up for democracy, freedom of speech, truth and Jeremy Corbyn, you have my full respect. Those who’ve kept quiet due to personal career ambitions, not so much.

Tom London@TomLondon6·8h“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark” – Thomas Paine Jeremy Corbyn educated millions Millions won’t forget what they have learned

Iain Overton@iainovertonReplying to @iainovertonAnd, I might be wrong, but I think I am the only editor who is giving evidence in his trial. I do not know where those who worked with him at the Guardian are. And frankly, some of them should be ashamed of themselves for that.


Gary MacLennan@GMacL114·8hAm I the only one who gets sick to the stomach when I see a tweet from @AngelaRayner? It doesn’t matter what she says. I cannot get beyond her shabby treachery.

Of course, none of these corporate journalists – only Assange – is being put on trial, revealing clearly that this is a political trial to silence Assange and disable Wikileaks.

But to bolster its feeble claim against Assange – that he was reckless about redactions – the US has hoped to demonstrate that in September 2011, long after publication of the Iraq and Afghan diaries, Wikileaks did indeed release a trove of documents – official US cables – that Assange failed to redact.

This is true. But it only harms Assange’s defence if the US can successfully play a game of misdirection – and the Guardian has been crucial to that strategy’s success. Until now the US has locked the paper into collaborating in its war on Assange and journalism – if only through its silence – by effectively blackmailing the Guardian with a dark, profoundly embarrassing secret the paper would prefer was not exposed.

In fact, the story behind the September 2011 release by Wikileaks of those unredacted documents is entirely different from the story the court and public is being told. The Guardian has conspired in keeping quiet about the real version of events for one simple reason – because it, the Guardian, was the cause of that release.

Betrayal of Assange and journalism

Things have got substantially harder for the paper during the extradition proceedings, however, as its role has come under increasing scrutiny – both inside and outside the courtroom. Now the Guardian has been flushed out, goaded into publishing a statement in response to the criticisms.

It has finally broken its silence but has done so not to clarify what happened nine years ago. Rather it has deepened the deception and steeped the paper even further in betrayal both of Assange and of press freedom.

The February 2011 Guardian book the US keeps citing contained something in addition to the highly contentious and disputed claim from Leigh that Assange had a reckless attitude to redacting names. The book also disclosed a password – one Assange had given to Leigh on strict conditions it be kept secret – to the file containing the 250,000 encrypted cables. The Guardian book let the cat out of the bag. Once it gave away Assange’s password, the Old Bailey hearings have heard, there was no going back.

Jonathan Cook@Jonathan_K_CookAssange’s lawyers are noting the long-known fact that Guardian journalists made the unredacted cables accessible through incompetence – they published the file’s password. The point is: If anyone should be in the dock (and no one should be!), it would be the Guardian, not Assange

Any security service in the world could now unlock the file containing the cables. And as they homed in on where the file was hidden at the end of the summer, Assange was forced into a desperate damage limitation operation. In September 2011 he published the unredacted cables so that anyone named in them would have advance warning and could go into hiding – before any hostile security services came looking for them.

Yes, Assange published the cables unredacted but he did so – was forced to do so – by the unforgivable actions of Leigh and the Guardian.

But before we examine the paper’s deceitful statement of denial, we need to interject two further points.

First, it is important to remember that claims of the damage this all caused were intentionally and grossly inflated by the US to create a pretext to vilify Assange and later to justify his extradition and jailing. In fact, there is no evidence that any informant was ever harmed as a result of Wikileaks’ publications – something that was even admitted by a US official at Manning’s trial. If someone had been hurt or killed, you can be sure that the US would be clamouring about it at the Old Bailey hearings and offering details to the media.

Second, the editor of a US website, Cryptome, pointed out this week at the hearings that he had published the unredacted cables a day before Wikileaks did. He noted that US law enforcement agencies had shown zero interest in his publication of the file and had never asked him to take it down. The lack of concern makes explicit what was always implicit: the issue was never really about the files, redacted or not; it was always about finding a way to silence Assange and disable Wikileaks.

The Guardian’s deceptions

Every time the US cites Leigh and Harding’s book, it effectively recruits the Guardian against Assange and against freedom of the press. Hanging over the paper is effectively a threat that – should it not play ball with the US campaign to lock Assange away for life – the US could either embarrass it by publicly divulging its role or target the paper for treatment similar to that suffered by Assange.

And quite astoundingly, given the stakes for Assange and for journalism, the Guardian has been playing ball – by keeping quiet. Until this week, at least.

Under pressure, the Guardian finally published on Friday a short, sketchy and highly simplistic account of the past week’s hearings, and then used it as an opportunity to respond to the growing criticism of its role in publishing the password in the Leigh and Harding book.

The Guardian’s statement in its report of the extradition hearings is not only duplicitous in the extreme but sells Assange down the river by evading responsibility for publishing the password. It thereby leaves him even more vulnerable to the US campaign to lock him up.

Here is its statement:

Let’s highlight the deceptions:

1. The claim that the password was “temporary” is just that – a self-exculpatory claim by David Leigh. There is no evidence to back it up beyond Leigh’s statement that Assange said it. And the idea that Assange would say it defies all reason. Leigh himself states in the book that he had to bully Assange into letting him have the password precisely because Assange was worried that a tech neophyte like Leigh might do something foolish or reckless. Assange needed a great deal of persuading before he agreed. The idea that he was so concerned about the security of a password that was to have a life-span shorter than a mayfly is simply not credible.

WikiLeaks@wikileaksIt is strictly false that the Guardian was told the password or file were temporary, hence the elaborate password handover method.11:06 PM · Sep 1, 2011226219 people are Tweeting about this

2. Not only was the password not temporary, but it was based very obviously on a complex formula Assange used for all Wikileaks’ passwords to make them impossible for others to crack but easier for him to remember. By divulging the password, Leigh gave away Assange’s formula and offered every security service in the world the key to unlocking other encrypted files. The claim that Assange had suggested to Leigh that keeping the password secret was not of the most vital importance is again simply not credible.

3. But whether or not Leigh thought the password was temporary is beside the point. Leigh, as an experienced investigative journalist and one who had little understanding of the tech world, had a responsibility to check with Assange that it was okay to publish the password. Doing anything else was beyond reckless. This was a world Leigh knew absolutely nothing about, after all.

But there was a reason Leigh did not check with Assange: he and Harding wrote the book behind Assange’s back. Leigh had intentionally cut Assange out of the writing and publication process so that he and the Guardian could cash in on the Wikileak founder’s early fame. Not checking with Assange was the whole point of the exercise.

4. It is wrong to lay all the blame on Leigh, however. This was a Guardian project. I worked at the paper for years. Before any article is published, it is scrutinised by backbench editors, sub-editors, revise editors, page editors and, if necessary, lawyers and one of the chief editors. A Guardian book on the most contentious, incendiary publication of a secret cache of documents since the Pentagon Papers should have gone through at least the same level of scrutiny, if not more.

So how did no one in this chain of supervision pause to wonder whether it made sense to publish a password to a Wikileaks file of encrypted documents? The answer is that the Guardian was in a publishing race to get its account of the ground-shattering release of the Iraq and Afghan diaries out before any of its rivals, including the New York Times and Der Spiegel. It wanted to take as much glory as possible for itself in the hope of winning a Pulitzer. And it wanted to settle scores with Assange before his version of events was given an airing in either the New York Times or Der Spiegel books. Vanity and greed drove the Guardian’s decision to cut corners, even if it meant endangering lives.

5. Nauseatingly, however, the Guardian not only seeks to blame Assange for its own mistake but tells a glaring lie about the circumstances. Its statement says: “No concerns were expressed by Assange or WikiLeaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. WikiLeaks published the unredacted files in September 2011.”

It is simply not true that Assange and Wikileaks expressed no concern. They expressed a great deal of concern in private. But they did not do so publicly – and for very good reason.

Jonathan Cook@Jonathan_K_CookComputer expert at Assange hearing calls the Guardian’s David Leigh ‘a bad faith actor’ over his publishing a Wikileaks password that opened the door to every security service in the world being able to access 250,000 encrypted cables


Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 14Monday 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 renditicraigmurray.org.uk
10:49 AM · Sep 22, 2020

Any public upbraiding of the Guardian for its horrendous error would have drawn attention to the fact that the password could be easily located in Leigh’s book. By this stage, there was no way to change the password or delete the file, as has been explained to the Old Bailey hearing by a computer professor, Christian Grothoff, of Bern University. He has called Leigh a “bad faith actor”.

So Assange was forced to limit the damage quietly, behind the scenes, before word of the password’s publication got out and the file was located. Ultimately, six months later, when the clues became too numerous to go unnoticed, and Cryptome had published the unredacted file on its website, Assange had no choice but to follow suit.

This is the real story, the one the Guardian dare not tell. Despite the best efforts of the US lawyers and the judge at the Old Bailey hearings, the truth is finally starting to emerge. Now it is up to us to make sure the Guardian is not allowed to continue colluding in this crime against Assange and the press freedoms he represents.

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Julian Assange – unlawfully detained

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahjem,Sr

www.lalkar.org

Political cartoons: Julian Assange's arrest

On the 5 February it emerged in the British press that Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and celebrity virtual prisoner living inside the Ecuadorian embassy which is surrounded by British police, had won a victory of sorts against both the British and Swedish governments.

The UN had set up a panel to examine the situation and it found, by a three to one majority, that Mr Assange was indeed being subjected to ” arbitrary detention” and they called for him to be allowed to walk free. The victory at present remains a moral one only as both Britain and Sweden have turned deaf ears to the UN call and Assange remains exactly where he has been for the past 44 months since Ecuador granted him asylum in their Embassy in Britain .

Much of the history of Assange’s situation can be read in Proletarian issue 39 (December 2010) – ‘WikiLeaks strikes blow for truth on Iraq’ and Proletarian issue 49 (August 2012) – ‘Julian Assange: cyber-revolutionary or liberal do-gooder?’ Also Lalkar carries a good article in the January/February 2011 edition – ‘WikiLeaks: the double standards and hypocrisy of US imperialism.’

According to John Pilger writing online for Counterpunch – ‘Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice’, any charges in Sweden can only be related to misconduct rather than rape, because both young women involved in the allegations have categorically denied that they were raped. Indeed one of the women is on record as saying that she only wanted Assange to take an HIV test but was steamrollered into making charges by the Swedish police. This makes it less understandable, in legal terms, for the Swedish authorities to have always refused to send an officer to interview Assange here in Britain as there is plenty of precedence for this course of action in other cases. It has been rumoured that this may now be done since both the press and public opinion in Sweden seem to have turned from being anti-Assange to a position of healthy distrust of their own government’s motives and most certainly of the hand of US imperialism ‘guiding’ the Swedish government.

A cursory glance at the sentences given to ‘whistle-blowers’ in the US, and the screams emanating from senior US politicians for whistle-blowers still at large to be hunted down and killed, explains instantly the reasoning behind the chief imperialist’s demand that Sweden use these charges to get its hands on Assange in the first place (so that he can then be extradited to the USA for ‘justice’!) and for Britain to hold Assange under siege until ill health or frustration cause him to come out and be packed off to Sweden.

The plans for the ‘legal’ vindictiveness that will be used against a captured Assange are not commonly known as they are considered a state secret and, if he is ever captured, the ‘trial’ will doubtless also be as secret as it will be free of any justice. What is certain is that a lot of money, much of it Swedish and English, has been spent so far (£12 million in Britain) on legal sleights of hand and diplomatic skulduggery in Sweden and what Pilger calls “The siege of Knightsbridge” over here.

Regardless of what crime, if any, Assange committed in Sweden or the known leaks that Assange has made of embattled nations’ secrets that have actually helped imperialism attack them, this case is only really about US imperialism wanting to punish someone who has upset them by showing them to be murdering, thieving liars who spy on the world, including their ‘friends’, as well as the desire of this putrid, rotting beast publicly to heap torment and never-ending punishment on one person as a warning to all others not to reveal the huge crimes against humanity and, indeed, all of nature, committed by imperialism. Under these circumstances we can only wish their intended victim, Julian Assange, the very best of luck and greater strength in resisting the hoary, cold claw of the vile poison-oozing entity we call US imperialism and repeat our call for all to join us in working to slay this and all the other imperialist leeches that cover so much of our planet with their toxic sickness.

Posted in Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on Julian Assange – unlawfully detained

Free Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr
www.lalkar.org

assange

The renegade President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the eviction of Julian Assange from his country’s embassy in London and a team of police was invited into the embassy to effect the eviction. Mr Assange was immediately arrested on 11 April on a charge of jumping bail, which is likely to lead to his being given the maximum prison sentence of one year, while plots are developed to facilitate his extradition to the United States where he would face the rest of his life in prison on trumped up espionage charges. Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who is alleged to have assisted Wikileaks in obtaining information about US war crimes, but who was recently released from jail, is now back in custody in the US for refusing to testify to a secret closed-door kangaroo grand jury.

Grand juries are secretive affairs. The public is barred from knowing what takes place, and individuals hauled before them aren’t even allowed to have attorneys present. Manning wasn’t told what the grand jury was investigating, and a hearing in which she raised objections to being forced to testify occurred in secret.

Grand juries are supposed to determine whether probable cause exists to return a criminal indictment. Originally, they were supposed to act as a check on prosecutorial power. Yet today, it’s commonly said that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to ‘indict a ham sandwich.’ As a result, grand juries are often used as fishing expeditions against political activists and social movements. Manning cited these very concerns when explaining her refusal to testify. In statement, she declared, ‘In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles’…” (Chip Gibbons, ‘Let Chelsea go’, The Jacobin, 27 March 2019).

It is safe to assume that in this case, too, the point of convening a grand jury is certainly not the pursuit of justice! This is supported by the fact that Chelsea Manning is, while in prison, effectively being tortured, i.e., kept in solitary confinement without access to the prison library. It is believed this is because the US authorities want her to say – which she never has – that Assange incited her to uncover secret information, while she has always claimed that she acted purely on her own account because of the moral outrage she felt about what was being done. What it is thought the US administration is trying to do is to set up Assange as being guilty of ‘espionage’ and thus liable to an extremely long prison sentence, rather than the mere 5 years to which he would be liable if found simply guilty of knowingly publishing classified information.

Every possible step must be taken to defend Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, who are being pilloried for doing what any decent human being would do, and indeed in the case of an investigative journalist like Assange it is their vocation to do, i.e., to uncover wrongdoing on the part of those who have responsibilities and are failing in their duties. People like Assange and Chelsea Manning, even if they do not share our political views, are doing an essential job in enlightening the masses of the people about the crimes of imperialism, conducting the exposures that will help us in mobilising the masses for revolution. We must defend them at all costs.

War crimes exposed

Thanks to Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning the public was made aware of some of the worst war crimes committed by our imperialist masters:

According to The Guardian, which itself profited hugely from publishing Wikileaks material, but is now hovering round the idea of joining the rest of the bourgeois media in condemning Assange, while apparently opposing his extradition to the US, but trying to have its cake and eat it: “’He (Assange) believes in publishing things that should not be published – this has long been a difficult divide between the Guardian and him. But he has always shone a light on things that should never have been hidden” (‘The Guardian view on Assange: it would be wrong to extradite him’, 9 April 2019). But, says The Guardian, it was wrong of him to avoid extradition to Sweden on the rape charges, but since these are now withdrawn they are irrelevant. It is difficult to believe that the editor of The Guardian has such a short memory that she cannot remember that the whole point of avoiding extradition to Sweden was that it was likely to end up in Sweden extraditing Mr Assange to the US!

John Pilger in Counterpunch reminds us of some of the “things” brought to light by Wikileaks which include: “ … the truth about the homicidal way America conducts its colonial wars, the lies of the British Foreign Office in its denial of rights to vulnerable people, such as the Chagos Islanders, the exposé of Hillary Clinton as a backer and beneficiary of jihadism in the Middle East, the detailed description of American ambassadors of how the governments in Syria and Venezuela might be overthrown, and much more. It is all available on the WikiLeaks site” (‘The Assange arrest is a warning from history’, 12 April 2019).

Nor is any of what Wikileaks published fake news:

“…the content of the leaked videos and documents is not in dispute. They are what they are purported to be. American soldiers did murder civilians and Reuters staffers who posed no immediate threat to them. Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff did screw Bernie Sanders out of the Democratic nomination and she did give contradictory information about her political positions depending on what she thought her audience wanted to hear” (Rob Urie, ‘Free Julian Assange and all political prisoners’, Global Research, 11 April 2019).

But it is of course deeply embarrassing to US imperialism that likes to portray itself, and its criminal wars in supposed pursuit of these aims, as the great defender of human rights and the principles of democracy! Therefore it is seeking to inflict cruel and unusual, to say nothing of lengthy, punishment on him if only to terrorise others into keeping quiet about the imperialist crimes to which they are witness. A secondary consideration is that the leaked materials prove that a great many ‘highly respectable’ individuals who run imperialist governments are provably guilty of war crimes, for which they should be convicted and severely punished. Of course, since imperialism controls the war crimes tribunals this will never happen, but it is embarrassing to the world rulers for this to have been so openly demonstrated.

The overwhelming majority of decent-minded people are capable of recognising that there was a moral duty on both Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange to make public the information brought to light by Wikileaks, and are completely opposed to the manner in which they are both being victimised for their courage and principled behaviour.

Attempts to incriminate Assange

In Julian Assange’s case at least, the bourgeois media are trying to undermine this popular support for the him by, on the one hand, claiming he is a rapist, and, on the other hand, that his behaviour towards the Ecuadorean embassy and government which gave him asylum was outrageously ungrateful.

With regard to the rape charges, there are several points to be made, starting with the insightful remarks of representatives of the organisation, Women Against Rape:

When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.

“It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction. For decades we have campaigned to get rapists caught, charged and convicted. But the pursuit of Assange is political” (Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, ‘We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited’, The Guardian, 23 August 2012). These ladies also correctly pointed out that the British government is not in the habit of showing concern for women who have been raped when it comes to deporting them to countries where it is all too likely to happen again.

Secondly, when the Stockholm public prosecutor was originally asked to open a rape investigation into Assange’s conduct, “She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, ‘I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.’ Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, ‘There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever’” (John Pilger, ‘Getting Julian Assange – the untold story’, 20 May 2017). Extraordinarily, the matter was then passed on to the Gothenburg chief public prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who was obviously ready and willing to pursue the matter.

However, it would seem that to proceed further she had to suppress evidence:

The war on Assange now [after he had left Sweden for London] intensified. Marianne Ny refused to allow his Swedish lawyers, and the Swedish courts, access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police had extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the ‘rape’ allegations.

Ny said she was not legally required to reveal this critical evidence until a formal charge was laid and she had questioned him. Then, why wouldn’t she question him? Catch-22.

“When she announced last week that she was dropping the Assange case, she made no mention of the evidence that would destroy it. One of the SMS messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, ‘but the police were keen on getting a hold on him’. She was ‘shocked’ when they arrested him because she only ‘wanted him to take [an HIV] test’. She ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ and ‘it was the police who made up the charges’. In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’.

“Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, ‘I have not been raped.’ The women were manipulated by police – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they, too, are the victims of this sinister saga” (ibid.).

Thirdly, when Sweden was seeking Assange’s extradition, no charges whatever had been laid against him, and, indeed, they still have not. What Sweden was asking for was that Assange be extradited to Sweden in order that he might be questioned in connection with an allegation of rape. The obvious question, since Assange was not refusing to be questioned, is why he could not be questioned by Swedish police in the UK? He was happy to go to Sweden to be questioned, too, but only if he received a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the US.

Fourthly, Assange was eventually questioned by Swedish authorities in the UK at the Ecuadorean embassy where he had taken refuge. The prosecutors must have been satisfied that his answers would not justify charges being laid because the case was then abandoned.

The bourgeois media, together with a whole host of British parliamentary toadies, are demanding that Sweden reopen the case, even though the Swedish authorities obviously decided that the case was not, through lack of evidence, worth bringing.

Finally, Assange remains happy to go to Sweden to be tried, confident in his defence that the sexual relations in question were entirely consensual, subject to an undertaking that he would not be extradited to any third country.

That undertaking, of course, would never be forthcoming since the whole point of the exercise is to get him extradited to the United States.

Assange’s behaviour at the Embassy

With regard to his supposed anti-social behaviour within the embassy, including alleged spying on Ecuadorean affairs of state, there is of course no evidence of this except what is forthcoming from staff who had been instructed by the Lenin Moreno government to make life as unpleasant for Assange as possible. The Financial Times admits that the new Ecuadorean ambassador appointed by the Moreno government “had been instructed to concentrate on revoking the WikiLeaks founder’s diplomatic immunity” (Helen Warrell, Jane Croft and Kadhim Shubber, ‘Julian Assange faces extradition to US after arrest in London’, 11 April 2019). To that end the embassy cut off Assange’s access to the internet and restricted his visitors. His lawyer has complained that he had no privacy whatever, and even lawyer-client confidentiality was not being respected.

Yet, in spite of the fact that he had lost virtually all contact with the outside world and was under constant surveillance within the embassy, the Ecuadorean government persisted in insisting he was spying on it, being, in particular responsible for “… the exposure of the president’s and his family’s involvement in a massive corruption scandal involving the funneling of millions of dollars in bribe money from a Chinese construction contractor into an offshore shell company named after the president’s three daughters.

“The publication of the so-called INA papers exposing this corruption was widely reported and prompted the initiation of a congressional investigation in Ecuador before WikiLeaks called attention to the scandal on its Twitter account last month. The Moreno government seized on the tweet to accuse WikiLeaks and Julian Assange personally—despite the intense surveillance and conditions approaching that of solitary confinement in the London embassy—of having hacked the phones and social media accounts of Moreno and his family to secure the evidence of corruption.

“Moreno cast himself as a victim of an invasion of privacy, expressing his ire over the publication of personal photographs, including one of himself eating a lobster dinner in bed at the same time that his government was ordering massive layoffs and austerity measures” (Bill Van Auken, ‘Ecuadorian police repress mass march demanding Julian Assange’s freedom’, WSWS, 18 April 2019).

The fact is that there are millions of angry Ecuadorean people to choose from if one were wanting to identify the real culprit of these leaks – leaks that certainly seem to be entirely in the public interest, as the livelihoods and wellbeing of the Ecuadorean masses have been very badly affected under the Moreno government by the latter’s decision to bow to the dictates of the IMF and impose an austerity regime in return for loans:

As part of a deal signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $4.5 billion in credits, the Moreno government is implementing a series of ‘structural adjustment’ measures that have included the gutting of labor laws, the layoffs of over 10,000 public employees, attacks on pensions and sharp cuts to government services” (wsws, op.cit).

The Moreno capitulation to the IMF

It does seem that Wikileaks (but not necessarily at Assange’s bidding or even with his knowledge) did publish information about the loan deal that Moreno was negotiating with the IMF, as well they might since they directly affected Julian Assange:

“In addition to the $4.2 billion IMF loan, Ecuador’s compliance with the US demand that Assange’s asylum status be revoked triggered the issuance of another $6 billion from other US-dominated global aid funds such as the World Bank. That’s a total of $10.2 billion in cash to a country in desperate need of economic CPR.

“The United States not only controls the largest share of the IMF, but pays for the bank’s overhead, a bill that amounts to over $164 billion annually…

“The information reported by WikiLeaks claimed that Ecuador’s ‘handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron’ were two of the prerequisites put in place by the Trump administration” (Joe Wolverton, ‘Did US lean on Ecuador to hand over Assange in exchange for IMF loan?’, New American, 18 April 2019).

Lenin Moreno allows his country to be bullied by the US in a totally barefaced way (and we can be sure that Ecuador is only a small example of its imperialist bullying around the world):

For instance, last July, the US threatened Ecuador with ‘punishing trade measures’ if it introduced a measure at the UN that supported breastfeeding over infant formula — a stunning move that showed the international community the US’ willingness to use ‘economic weapons,’ even against allies. Ecuador, of course, immediately acquiesced under the threat of US retribution” (New American, op.cit.).

The future plans for the people of Ecuador are dire: in the 3 months from December 2018 to February 2019 alone, 11,820 people were fired from the public sector, and thousands more redundancies are in the pipeline. Fuel subsidies have been drastically cut, and a VAT hike is proposed, along with a cut in public sector wages.

It is with some trepidation that the imperialist world waits to see how the Ecuadorean masses will react:

Austerity is never easy. Further public-sector lay-offs, rises in regulated fuel prices and a planned reform to make labour contracts a bit more flexible may bring street protests” (‘Lenin Moreno’s new economic policy, The Economist, 11 April 2019), and one can be sure that these street protests will not be easy to suppress as workers are stripped systematically of the benefits they gained while Rafael Correa was president.

Fight or flight?

There is no doubt that Ecuador is suffering serious economic difficulties as a result of the drastic fall in the price of oil. Like Venezuela, it spent lavishly at the time when nobody thought that the oil price would ever fall in any significant way. This included borrowing money for major infrastructure projects when there was no reason at all, even by the standards of the most prudent management, to suppose that the loans would not easily be repayable. However, the price of oil has fallen drastically, leaving both countries with the problem of paying the debts incurred in the days of plenty and of maintaining the higher living standards that their progressive governments facilitated for the masses of the people.

In the face of US imperialist bullying and its attempts to seize control of their oil production, the Venezuelan government has stood firm, despite crippling sanctions. The Venezuelan masses under the Maduro leadership is prepared to stand up and fight, knowing that surrender would condemn the country to being bled dry in the interests of imperialist profitability. Lenin Moreno, on the other hand, has hoisted the white flag on behalf of the people of Ecuador. It remains to be seen whether they are as grateful as Moreno thinks they should be at having been saved the troubles that Venezuela is currently experiencing. It is quite likely, however, that the masses of Ecuador, who have already taken to the streets in large numbers to battle with the security forces over Julian Assange’s expulsion from the London embassy, will take the view popularised by Dolores Ibarruri (la Pasionaria) in the Spanish Civil War: “Más vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas“- it’s better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees!

The British proletariat too has a duty to fight with all its might in defence of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. The blood-sucking ruling classes of the world cannot be allowed to terrorise the champions of truth and human decency and those who struggle to advance the anti-imperialist cause of the proletariat and oppressed peoples. Injustice and oppression will never be defeated unless at every turn it is resolutely resisted, whatever the cost.

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Julian Assange extradition trial – shameful martyrisation continues

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr


assange

Julian Assange’s trial has brought to life Franz Kafka’s famous dystopian novel The Trial. To quote the opening sentence: “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.

The following information is to a large extent a presentation in abbreviated form of information available from Craig Murray’s web diary of his attendance at the trial’s public gallery, with some reference also from the Julian Assange Defense website, to both of which we are most grateful. We have both paraphrased and quoted extensively from these sources with a view to bringing the important information they have gathered to as wide an audience as possible.

The extradition trial of Julian Assange began on 25 February 2020 and was then postponed to 7 September 2020. Far from having done anything wrong, he had positively done good.

A view of dystopia

From the very first day the Kafkaesque nature of the trial became evident in the original choice of venue itself. It was held originally in Woolwich Magistrates’ Court located in the precincts of Woolwich Crown Court, a specialist court for the trial of terrorists, though Vanessa Baraitser, the stipendiary magistrate hearing the case, was provided by Westminster Magistrates’ Court. And not only was Julian treated as a terrorist, seated at the back of the court enclosed behind a bullet-proof screen, but every attempt was made to restrict public access to the trial. The public gallery of the chosen court room held only 16 seats, albeit the case is one of extreme public interest. Craig Murray described the physical surroundings of the court in the following terms: “Attached to a prison on a windswept marsh far from any normal social centre, an island accessible only through navigating a maze of dual carriageways, the entire location and architecture of the building is predicated on preventing public access. It is surrounded by a continuation of the same extremely heavy duty steel paling barrier that surrounds the prison. It is the most extraordinary thing, a courthouse which is a part of the prison system itself, a place where you are already considered guilty and in jail on arrival. Woolwich Crown Court is nothing but the physical negation of the presumption of innocence, the very incarnation of injustice in unyielding steel, concrete and armoured glass… It is in truth just the sentencing wing of Belmarsh prison.

“… Indeed, if a single day at Woolwich Crown Court does not convince you the existence of liberal democracy is now a lie, then your mind must be very closed indeed”.

Universal suppression of freedom of speech

Of special note regarding the first day’s proceedings was that prosecuting Counsel, Lewis, made a very long opening speech in which he emphasised that normal journalists who published classified information would not be affected by any adverse decision against Assange as the case against Assange was not that he published the information but that he had conspired with Chelsea Manning to acquire it. Almost immediately, however, it was pointed out that under English law it is an offence merely to publish such information, whatsoever the manner in which it was acquired, so the case very much demonstrates that all or any journalists who seek to expose the criminal activity of the state by publishing leaked classified documents will, like Julian Assange, find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Cruel and unusual abuse of a helpless and innocent man

On the second day: “proceedings … started with a statement from Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s QC, that shook us rudely into life. He stated that yesterday, on the first day of trial, Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells. On top of this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in today’s proceedings”. The magistrate merely said that what the prison authorities did was outside her jurisdiction and she could do nothing about it.

A biased judge

In fact, throughout the day, the magistrate went to town demonstrating her abject lack of impartiality, dismissing with contempt the defence’s incontrovertible arguments. For instance, the basis of charges brought by the US authorities was that Assange had helped Manning to decode a hash key so as to enable her to access classified material. This was ridiculous because Manning at the time in question had full access to all the material in question without any assistance from Assange and had not even been in contact with him at the time she did access it. Evidence that this was the case had emerged from proceedings at Chelsea Manning’s court martial, but incredibly the magistrate took the view that the findings of the US court martial of Chelsea Manning did not have to be treated as fact in English legal proceedings, even in the case of agreed or uncontested evidence or prosecution evidence!

English law does not allow extradition for political offences without an express treaty permitting it

Day 3 was taken up with the question of whether anyone could be extradited to the US for a political offence. Although the 2007 UK/US extradition treaty specifically excludes political offences, this is not the case with the 2003 Extradition Act that governs English, as opposed to international, law. However, Julian’s counsel correctly pointed out that the 2003 Act cannot be relevant except in conjunction with an extradition treaty. If there is no applicable extradition treaty with a given state then nobody can be extradited there, whether for a political offence or anything else, and the extradition can only be on the terms of the Treaty in question. In legal jargon, the 2003 Act is an ‘enabling’ act that cannot stand on its own but only in conjunction with the Treaty its provisions has ‘enabled’. It is true that the 2003 Act ‘enables’ extradition for political offences, but it certainly does not make it mandatory for Treaties to include extradition for political offences! The prosecution also tried to allege that the offences with which Julian has been charged in the US courts were not ‘political’. If it were China trying to extradite someone who had published any of its state secrets it goes without saying that no such suggestion would be remotely tenable!

The arguments on the extradition points continued into Day 4, where it was notable that whereas Magistrate Baraitser listened with careful attention to the largely specious arguments put forward by the prosecution, she continually interrupted the arguments being put forward by the defence which in law were unanswerable.

New charges added to the prosecution’s case

What the trial so far had brought to the fore, however, was the embarrassing weakness of the US case for extradition. However, the case was adjourned until May, with both sides having agreed they needed more time to prepare their case. As a result of the intervention of the Covid crisis, however, the reopening was postponed until 7 September at the Old Bailey. In the meantime, the US Department of Justice deemed it politic to try and bolster its very weak case for extradition by updating its indictment to accuse the Wikileaks founder of soliciting hackers to break into the Icelandic government’s computers to steal information that could be leaked to embarrass the government. This additional charge was presented on 25 June. The purpose of doing this was, apparently, to add weight to the argument that Assange was not a journalist but merely a criminal hacker. In actual fact, the US hope is that if even Baraitser would be hard put to extradite on the basis of the refuted allegations made by the prosecution in February, then she might at least be prepared to extradite on the basis of alleged criminal hacking.

In the meantime, the victim of US imperialism’s rage at its murderous criminality being exposed to public view was to spend at least another 6 months in high-security lock up.

By September 7, the whole of the UK was on high Covid alert, which, needless to say, was seized on by the authorities to restrict access to the hearings. 40 NGOs who had been given permission to ‘attend’ via videolink had that permission revoked on the pretext the original permission had been granted in error.

The defence argued that the amendments to the indictment should not be included as they could have been included initially but were not. The defence argued: “It is fundamentally unfair to introduce separate criminal allegations, without notice, without time to prepare evidence, where the defence cannot properly deal with the new aspects of the case.

“What is happening here is abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice if it is allowed to continue.

“The appropriate course is for the court to exercise its powers to excise the new allegations”.

With her usual impartiality, Baraitser refused to excise the new allegations. She also refused a request that the hearing be postponed until January to give the defence time to prepare properly.

How war crimes were exposed

9 September started with the evidence of Clive Stafford Smith, a British/American lawyer licensed to practise in the UK, who detailed the huge extent to which Wikileaks had uncovered US war crimes in Afghanistan especially, in particular the execution without trial in the form of targeting by drone strikes of civilians simply on the say-so of paid informants, as well as illegal rendition and torture.

His evidence, and that of other personalities, is of utmost importance to the case. The US government is attempting to portray Julian Assange as a ‘hacker’ and as someone who wanted to harm the United States, rather than a journalist performing a public service. These experts debunk that smear and show how Julian Assange’s work carries out his ideals, using transparency to achieve justice. This did not prevent Magistrate Baraitser from decreeing that witnesses were to be given a maximum time of 30 minutes to present their evidence, while the prosecution was to have unlimited time to cross examine them.

Clive Stafford Smith was followed by Professor Feldstein, Chair of Broadcast Journalism at Maryland University, who has twenty years’ experience as an investigative journalist.

Effect of the First Amendment to the US Constitution

According to Craig Murray: “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”.

Political nature of the prosecution

On 10 September Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, took the stand by video link. Asked to expound on the significance of the revelations from Chelsea Manning on Afghanistan, he 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”…

“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” (Craig Murray).

Rogers was asked whether the motivation for the current prosecution was criminal or political? He emphatically replied “the latter”. He was then asked whether Assange’s political opinions were of a type protected by the Refugee Convention. Rogers replied that they were. Persecution for political opinion is a solid reason to ask for refugee status. Assange’s actions are motivated by his political stance.

The afternoon witness was Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Association in San Francisco, again via videolink.

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 [New York Times] 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”…

He said that if it were not for the First Amendment “Many great journalists would have been caught by this kind of prosecution, including Woodward and Bernstein for the cultivation of Deep Throat.”

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 although the indictment was treating possession of a secure drop box as a criminal offence, the Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times and over 80 other news organisations have secure drop boxes for the benefit of whistleblowers, yet nobody would seriously argue that they were conspiring in espionage!

With regard to leaking of 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 [for the defence] 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”.

The trial was then paused because of a Covid scare on the prosecution team but resumed on 14 September.

Elaborate precautions taken by Julian Assange to redact the revelations to ensure no harm to the innocent

On 16 September, an American journalist John Goetz, who was working for Der Spiegel at the time it published Wikileaks revelations in 2010 gave evidence.

He testified that in its anxiety not to reveal any material that could damage the innocent, WikiLeakswithheld 15,000 documents. Goetz testified that Wikileaks spearheaded a “very rigorous redaction process,” beginning with the Afghanistan files. He said Assange was always “very concerned with the technical aspect of trying to find the names in this massive collection of documents” so that “we could redact them, so they wouldn’t be published, so they wouldn’t be harmed.” Assange continually reminded the media partners to use secure communications so that the information would not get out to the wrong people.

Goetz also testified that WikiLeaks and its media partners’ held conversations with the US government ahead of publication.

The New York Times sent a delegation of reporters to the White House to discuss the release ahead of time. As the Times’ Eric Schmitt emailed to Goetz immediately after the meeting, the media delegation informed the US government that WikiLeaks would not be publishing some 15,000 documents within the Afghan War Diaries, and they asked the White House for any technical assistance they could provide to assist with redactions. That request, Goetz said, was met with “derision.”

Der Spiegel published an interview with Assange on 26 July 2010 (‘I enjoy crushing the bastards’) about his harm-minimisation process . It asked him: “The material contains military secrets and names of sources. By publishing it, aren’t you endangering the lives of international troops and their informants in Afghanistan?”, to which Assange responded: “The Kabul files contain no information related to current troop movements. The source went through their own harm-minimisation process and instructed us to conduct our usual review to make sure there was not a significant chance of innocents being negatively affected. We understand the importance of protecting confidential sources, and we understand why it is important to protect certain US and ISAF sources”.

Goetz testified that in relation to the war in Iraq WikiLeaks’ harm-minimisation process “overshot” and “ended up redacting more than the US Defense Department did”. However, the WikiLeaks documents did confirm the CIA’s involvement in torture and its cover up.

Giving an example of the types of stories that WikiLeaks releases assisted with, Goetz explained [he] had been investigating the story of Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia, extraordinarily rendered to a black site in Afghanistan where he was detained and tortured in 2004. This wasn’t known at the time, so Goetz searched the documents for el-Masri’s name, saw that he had been brought to Afghanistan, and found the CIA kidnappers ‘who’d forced el-Masri onto a military plane, sodomised him and sent him’ to Afghanistan.

“Goetz tracked down the CIA agents responsible in the United States, interviewed them, and reported the story. Following that broadcast, a Munich state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for the 13 CIA agents. But, Goetz said, ‘It turns out the arrest warrant was never actually issued to the United States.’ When he saw the State Department cables, he discovered that the US had pressured the German prosecutor to issue the warrant in a jurisdiction where the perpetrators didn’t live, threatening ‘repercussions’ otherwise” (Assange Defense website, 18 September 2020).

The prosecution raised an objection to a statement made by el-Masri himself being entered on the court record, but Magistrate Baraitser said that this could amount to accepting the defence’s evidence ‘unchallenged’. In the end the issue was not resolved.

How unredacted cables came to be published

Asked about the 2011 publication of unredacted cables, John Goetz explained what really happened: in February 2011, Guardian reporters David Leigh and Luke Harding published a book with a password to the unencrypted file set as the title of a chapter. The German magazine Die Freitag published this information, and as a result others whom Assange could not control, in particular the leak site Cryptome, were able to use that password to unlock the files and publish them online in full.

Assange and other WikiLeaks staff called the Hillary Clinton’s office at the State Department on the latter’s emergency phone line warning that sources had been named, but they were ignored.

Goetz also said that Assange had tried to stop Die Freitag from publishing information that would lead to the release of unredacted files.

Altruistic motivation no defence

The next witness was Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who had himself been prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

Ellsberg explained that he had copied and released the Pentagon Papers, comprising 7,000 Top Secret files, to the New York Times in 1971 demonstrating that the United States government had “started and continued” the Vietnam War “with the knowledge that it could not be won” and successive presidential administrations lied to Congress and the public about it.

Ellsberg testified that both he and Assange both felt that both the Afghan and Iraq wars were wrong and that the Iraq war was a “crime.

What had changed, Ellsberg said, was that in Afghanistan (and in Iraq), horrific abuses, illegal killings and war crimes had become normalised, so much so that they appeared in ‘low-level field reports.’ The Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs are marked up to Secret, whereas the Pentagon Papers were all Top Secret…

“The famous ‘Collateral Murder’ video illustrates this further. The title of the video, taken from a USArmy Apache helicopter and documenting the gunning down of civilians including journalists, children, and their rescuers, was controversial when it was released in 2010. Assange was criticised for labelling the actions ‘murder,’ but to Ellsberg, the title caught his eye for a different reason:

“’There was no question to me that what I was witnessing at the time was murder. In fact, the problematic word in the title was ‘Collateral’, implying that it was unintended. This was murder, and a war crime. So I was very glad that the American public was confronted with this’” (ibid.).

Ellsberg continued: “I was very impressed that the source of these documents, Chelsea Manning, was willing to risk her liberty and even her life to make this information public. It was the first time in 40 years I saw someone else doing that, and I felt kinship toward her.”

Ellsberg also mentioned that at his trial under the US Espionage Act his public-spirited motivation for publishing the secret documents was deemed irrelevant: such publication is an offence of strict liability in the US, and the public interest provides no defence at all.

First Amendment not available to foreign nationals prosecuted in US courts?

The main witness on 17 September was Eric Lewis. A practising US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge and is former professor in law at Georgetown University.

He testified that no publisher had ever been successfully prosecuted for publishing national security information in the USA. Following the Wikileaks publications including the diplomatic cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Assange had not been prosecuted because the First Amendment was considered insuperable and because of the New York Times problem – there was no way just to prosecute Assange without prosecuting the New York Times for publishing the same material. The New York Times had successfully pleaded the First Amendment for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been upheld in a landmark Supreme Court judgement. However, Mike Pompeo [was] stating the free speech argument for Wikileaks was ‘a perversion of what our great country stands for’, claiming that the First Amendment did not apply to foreigners. It is on this basis that the US ‘Justice’ department felt free to issue proceedings against Assange.

Inhumane conditions in US jails

Eric Lewis confirmed that Assange’s sentence if convicted could range from ‘best case’ 20 years to a maximum of 175 years.

On the question of detention conditions, Julian Assange while on remand would be placed in the Alexandria City Jail, where he would most probably be held under ‘Special Administrative Measures’. While after conviction he would be held in the supermax prison ADX Florence, Colorado,. kept in a small cell for 22 or 23 hours a day and not allowed to meet any other prisoners. He would be allowed out, shackled, once a day for brief exercise or recreation excluded from other prisoners.

Lewis also exposed how the US administration was directly interfering to prevent the International Court of Justice investigating crimes alleged against any US citizen. An Executive Order had been issued imposing financial sanctions and blocking the banking access of any non-US national who assisted the ICC investigation into such crimes alleged against any US citizen. This would affect Julian Assange.

Where are our ‘freedom loving’ press?

At this point, although it had not yet been possible to give evidence regarding the second indictment, the half-hour guillotine imposed by Judge Baraitser on defence evidence came down, and what followed was a lengthy and futile attempt by the prosecution to show that the witness didn’t know what he was talking about.

In the meantime, Craig Murray noted: “The mainstream media are turning a blind eye. There were three reporters in the press gallery, one of them an intern and one representing the NUJ. Public access continues to be restricted and major NGOs, including Amnesty, PEN and Reporters Without Borders, continue to be excluded both physically and from watching online. … The six of us allowed in the public gallery, incidentally, have to climb 132 steps to get there, several times a day. As you know, I have a very dodgy ticker; I am with Julian’s dad John who is 78; and another of us has a pacemaker”. Not much would appear to have changed since the days of the Star Chamber!

It did subsequently appear that another six journalists representing news agencies were also listening to the trial, but little of their reports was making it to the mainstream media. This is quite extraordinary bearing in mind that the court proceedings are making it clear that the US government is now taking the view that the First Amendment is no defence against prosecution under the US Espionage Act. September 18 was a less dramatic day but was marked by a brazen and persistent display of this US government’s insistence that it has the right to prosecute any journalist and publication, anywhere in the world, for publication of US classified information.

It is clear that if Julian goes down, then so do the media, which makes it all the more extraordinary that most of them are keeping very quiet, possibly in the hope that if they are quiet the US state will not come for them in the way it has come for Julian Assange, bringing to mind all those who kept quiet about Nazi atrocities against some sections of the population in the hope that their section would be left alone, a misconception brought to the fore by Pastor Niemeyer.

The threat to journalism in general explicitly underlay the entire line of questioning in the afternoon session.

Wikileaks did not publish unredacted cables

On Monday 21 September German computer science professor Christian Grothoff gave evidence that Wikileaks did not publish unredacted cables. He testified about his research into the timeline of events surrounding the 2011 publication of the unredacted State Department cables. Three of the 18 counts against Assange charge him specifically with publishing the unredacted cables, and Grothoff’s testimony established that Wikileaks was not the first outlet to publish that archive, that others published it first and yet have not been prosecuted for doing so while Wikileaks had taken care to encrypt the file.

Several witnesses followed who gave evidence of the great importance to the interests of the public of Wikileaks revelations.

Severe danger to Assange’s mental health

On 22 September evidence was adduced as to Julian Assange’s mental state. Dr Michael Kopelman, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London,gave the view that his own “visits to Assange had yielded a man deprived of sleep, suffering ‘loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness as a result of threats to his life, the concealment of a razor blade as a means to self-harm and obsessive ruminations of ways of killing himself.’ Kopelman was, he stated in submissions to the court, ‘as certain as a psychiatrist ever can be that, in the event of imminent extradition, Mr Assange would indeed find a way to commit suicide’” (Dr Binoy Kampmark, ‘Assange’s Eleventh Day at the Old Bailey: Suicide, Hallucinations and Psychological torture’, Global Research, 23 September 2020).

In response to cross examination designed to show that the doctor was wrong, the latter in fact was able to adduce further relevant information:

The psychiatric picture of Assange drawn by Kopelman was one of regression and severity, made worse by the likelihood of harm that can arise to those with Asperger’s syndrome. He had an ‘intense suicidal preoccupation.’ Findings from autism specialist Dr Simon Baron-Cohen –that suicide is nine times more likely in patients with Asperger’s ‘than in the general population in England’ – were mentioned…

“In December 2019, conditions proved acute; in February and March, moderately severe. The lockdown at the Belmarsh prison facility precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic did its share of harm. Assange had sought confession with a Catholic priest, ‘who granted him absolution’.

“He had drawn up a will, scribbled farewell letters to family and friends.

“All signs of a man possibly readying for the other side.

“As appalling as his conditions in Belmarsh had been, including a stint in confined isolation, the conditions ‘he would experience in North America would be far worse than anything experienced in the embassy or Belmarsh.’…

“Attention turned to the prevalence of depression during Assange’s time in the Ecuadorean embassy, starting around 2015. This had caught the attention of Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. Melzer has taken the long view on Assange: that the combined effort of several states – Ecuador, the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden – had created conditions of ‘psychological torture’, part of a deliberate, progressively cruel effort. There had been,he claimed in May 2019, ‘a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and more recently, Ecuador.’

In company with two medical experts experienced in examining potential victims of torture and ill-treatment, Melzer’s May 9, 2019 visit to Assange confirmed that his ‘health has been seriously affected by the extreme hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years.’ Assange, ‘in addition to physical ailments … showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.’

“In November 2019, Melzer reiterated his concerns in the face of tardiness on the part of the British authorities. ‘Despite the medical urgency of my [May] appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law’.”

On September 23, “Dr Quinton Deeley, National Health Service psychiatrist who specializes in autism, ADHD, and other mental health issues, took the stand to discuss Julian Assange’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Dr Deeley interviewed Assange several times over a period of several months, and he spoke to Assange’s partner, mother, and friends to corroborate his findings and prepare a report. Dr Deeley also agreed with what Dr Kopelman testified to yesterday, that Assange would be a ‘high risk’ of suicide if he were ordered to be extradited” (Assange Defense website).

US spying on confidential lawyer-client discussions

On 30 September, the defence read several witness statements aloud in court, including two statements from anonymous former employees of UC Global, the Spanish security company led by David Morales which spied on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The witness statements testify to the particular zeal Morales had in recording conversations between Assange and his lawyers as well as his contract with an American company to report the recordings back to American intelligence officials.

Refusal to admit rebuttal evidence

With regard to the medical evidence, objections had been raised about witnesses’ lack of direct knowledge of conditions in US prisons. The defence had secured the agreement of two further witnesses to give such evidence but the magistrate, of course, ruled the evidence as inadmissible as being out of time. She thus effectively prevented any challenge to the prosecution’s witnesses, US government officials, who had lauded the kindly conditions in the US prisons to which Assange would most probably be sent since it had apparently been accepted that US government officials could not be cross-examined. She also decreed that there would only be written closing arguments, which is handy for those who want to keep the Assange proceedings as far out of the public eye as possible since it is usually the closing speeches that receive the most media attention.

What now?

Now that the hearing at the Old Bailey has come to an end, the timetable which has been accepted is that the defence will lodge their closing arguments in writing on 30 October, the prosecution will reply on 13 November, with the defence able to make a further response by 20 November purely on any legal questions; Baraitser will then deliver her judgment in January.

In his final report, Craig Murray condemned the barbarism of the whole process:

“…in that courtroom, you were in the presence of evil. With a civilised veneer, a pretence at process, and even displays of bonhommie, the entire destruction of a human being was in process. Julian was being destroyed as a person before my eyes. For the crime of publishing the truth. He had to sit there listening to days of calm discussion as to the incredible torture that would await him in a US supermax prison, deprived of all meaningful human contact for years on end, in solitary in a cell just fifty square feet.

“Fifty square feet. Mark that out yourself now. Three paces by two. Of all the terrible things I heard, Warden Baird explaining that the single hour a day allowed out of the cell is alone in another, absolutely identical cell called the ‘recreation cell’ was perhaps the most chilling. That and the foul government ‘expert’ Dr Blackwood describing how Julian might be sufficiently medicated and physically deprived of the means of suicide to keep him alive for years of this”.

The decision on whether to extradite or not will be announced on 4 January 2021 at midday. It is expected that whichever side loses, there will be an appeal, i.e., even if Julian Assange were to win, his detention in inhuman conditions would continue for the foreseeable future, and his two small sons would continue to be deprived of their father’s presence in their lives.

It is no wonder that the imperialist hyenas have taken every precaution to ensure Julian’s extradition hearing received as little publicity as possible. US imperialism and UK imperialism arrogate to themselves the right not only to criticise alleged breaches of human rights in other countries, but also the right to intervene, with bombing campaigns if they think they can get away with it, to impose on other countries their ‘ideals’ of democracy and human rights. The extradition hearing has exposed their total contempt for human rights. The only ‘rights’ they pursue are the right to exploit, the right to enrich themselves at the expense of others, and the right to crush all and any opposition to their predatory marauding.

Posted in Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on Julian Assange extradition trial – shameful martyrisation continues

WikiLeaks: the double standards and hypocrisy of US imperialism

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

www.lalkar.org


After a year of leaks, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in particular an April video taken from a US helicopter in Iraq in 2007 showing GIs shooting at least 12 innocent Iraqis like rabbits, has emerged, thanks to the response of the US authorities, as a hero.  Beginning in July 2010, his site issued half a million US military documents on the American-led predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The final straw that broke the US imperialist camel’s back was a batch of 250,000 US diplomatic notes (written between 28 December 1966 and 28 February 2010, but mostly relating to the past four years) leaked in November, laying bare a US diplomatic service increasingly acting as a branch of the CIA, as well as the duplicity and cynicism that characterised the imperialist regimes and their Arab stooges in their passion to destroy Iran.

These documents originate from 272 (sent to or from) US embassies or consulates and diplomatic missions, with more than 15,000 classified “secret”.  To the seasoned students of imperialism, the secrets revealed by the latest diplomatic leaks may amount to absolutely nothing unusual, but for the average person to see the same in black and white would nevertheless be startling, for he will have his eyes opened to the fact that US diplomats spy as well as lie, that US diplomatic missions abroad are a mere cover for CIA spying and act as dens for the subversion of governments considered unfriendly by the US.  They will be a source of huge embarrassment to the US ruling class, its imperialist allies, as well as its stooge Gulf statelets and other regimes in the Middle East.  Listed below is a random bouquet of the revelations brought to light by these diplo leaks – clearly exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity which are the hallmark of US diplomacy, while providing unvarnished portraits of foreign leaders.

Middle East

The cables reveal that leading government figures in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) refer to Iran as an “existential threat” – the expression routinely applied to Iran by the racist Zionist rulers of Israel.  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is reported to have frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran.  In one such plea, the King, alluding to the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, told the US that its best course was “to cut off the head of the snake”, while hypocritically making public statements that Israel was the enemy.

The president of the Jordanian state left nothing to the imagination when he told a US diplomat: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb”, adding that “sanctions, carrots, incentives won’t matter”.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, which is host to the US Fifth Fleet, in a somewhat guarded tone, told a US diplomat that Iran’s nuclear programme “must be stopped” as the “danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, having already expressed his agreement with a US military assessment that Ahmadinejad was “unbalanced” or even “crazy”, had as early as 2005 called for American action against Iran “this year or next”. Four years down the line, in July 2009, he predicted an Israeli strike on Iran by the end of the year, and appeared not to disapprove.  “Ahmadinejad is a Hitler”, the author of another cable reported him saying.

These leaks will worry UAE sick, as the tiny oil-rich statelet has, while extending publicly a friendly hand to its giant neighbour, been telling Washington how “evil” Iran is and “must be stopped”.

The cables say that Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the region, while fighting al-Qaida, remains the main sponsor of this network.

WikiLeak’s account of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is only too likely to prove extremely sensitive.  He is reported as telling General David Petraeus, the US commander for the region, that he would pretend air strikes carried out against al-Qaida in his country were Yemeni, not American, ordnance. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours”, Saleh told an official in the American embassy in Sanaa.  These revelations will outrage public opinion in Yemen, which is already facing an increasingly potent revolt.

Regular directives from the State Department, signed “Clinton” or her predecessor “Rice”, sent to US embassies in Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Amman and Damascus, demanded the exact travel plans and vehicles used by leading members of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as to gather biometric information “on key Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank” and any evidence of collusion between PA security forces and “terror groups”.

The leaked cables go as far as to question the Western orientation of Turkey, a pillar of NATO’s southern flank.  They refer to Israeli claims that “weapons-related material for Iran’s nuclear program transit Turkey, with prime minister Erdoğan’s full knowledge.”  The letter is described by Eric Edelman, US ambassador, as having “overbearing pride”; “unbridled ambition stemming from the belief that God has anointed him to lead Turkey”; “an overwhelming desire to stay in power”; and “distrust of women”.

In a 2004 cable, Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu is characterised as “exceptionally dangerous”.  In a plunge to banal gossip, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya is painted as a hypochondriac, who hates sleeping on upper floors, prefers not to fly over water, “seems to enjoy flamenco dancing”, and is always accompanied by a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.

Although nothing new about the attitude of the Gulf states towards Iran is revealed by the leaks, in the Arab public eye they will make them look indistinguishable from their Zionist enemy, thus making it extremely hard for US imperialism to exercise influence and win friends in the region.  In the light of these leaks, it is less likely that Arab leaders or ambassadors will speak candidly to the Americans on Iran, Israel or any other sensitive subject; they are unlikely to trust the US government to keep a secret, if they think that the US would proclaim to the world the secrets it had learnt.

Europe

Not even the leaders of European imperialist powers, allies of the US in the war-mongering NATO alliance and participants in US-led wars for spoliation in Iraq and Afghanistan, are spared.  Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, is described as thin-skinned, arrogant and authoritarian, while the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is said to be feckless, vain, ineffective, and “appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin”.

The leaks record critical assessment of British prime minister, David Cameron, and his chancellor, George Osborne, by Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England; they make references to Britain’s “paranoia” about the special relationship with America.  More importantly, they reveal how secret US military missions, involving torture, were started in Britain, while containing strong criticism by US commanders of Britain’s forces in Afghanistan.  Their cumulative effect would be to cause great embarrassment in London and Washington.  The US ambassador in London is unlikely to be greeted with a warm embrace as he will be rightly suspected of sending back far from flattering assessments of the efforts of Britain’s armed forces in Helmand (Afghanistan) and a portrayal of its leaders as fawning creeps to Hillary Clinton.

As for Germany, the diplomatic cables reveal that the US had a mole in the German Cabinet, said to be a “young, ambitious, minute-taker from the Free Democratic Party”.  In addition to turning over scores of documents, he supplied barbed portraits of some leading government figures.  While Chancellor Angela Merkel is described as “tenacious but risk averse and rarely creative”, her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, is portrayed as an “angry old man, neurotic, who sees enemies everywhere”.

Dimitry Medvedev, the Russian president is dismissively referred to as Robin playing to Putin’s Batman, while the Canadians are contemptuously accused of suffering from an inferiority complex.

United Nations

A secret order by Hillary Clinton instructed US diplomats to act as spies around the world against friends and foes alike, according to the documents released by WikiLeaks.  They were asked to collect personal details about Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, as well as personal information about UN Security Council permanent representatives from Britain, China, France and Russia.  The cable, dated July 2009, required US diplomatic staff to find out individual passwords and encryption keys used by UN diplomats and officials in private and commercial computer networks; it also demands biometric information on “undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [Secretary-General] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders”; in addition it requires intelligence on Mr Ban’s “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat”.

Not content with all the above intrusive interference with the work of the UN staff, Mrs Clinton demanded credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers, and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN officials.

This secret “national human intelligence collections directive” was addressed to US missions at the UN in New York, Vienna and Rome, as well as 33 embassies and consulates, including those in London, Paris and Moscow; it was also sent to the CIA and the FBI, furnishing evidence of a massive spying operation deploying thousands of American officials.

Although not explicitly stated, it is clear that those required to comply with the directive would have to have resorted to computer-hacking as well as other methods of intrusive, not to say unlawful, practices.  Bugging the Secretary-General is illegal under a 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states: “The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable.  The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative actions”.

Afghanistan

Afghan puppet president, Hamid Karzai, is described in these leaks as driven by paranoia and an “extremely weak man who does not listen to facts”.  His brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is referred to as corrupt and a major drug-trafficker. Afghan vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud was said to have been caught carrying $52 million in cash by US officials from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) when he visited the UAE, but was ultimately allowed to keep the money without disclosing its origin or destination.

The effect

According to the WikiLeaks disclosures, while Russia was persuaded to back UN sanctions against Iran, but only after the US agreed to abandon its plans for stationing long-range missiles in Poland and replacing them with a floating version nearer the Iranian territory that Moscow did not perceive as a threat to its own interest, the EU governments had to be bribed or threatened to accept prisoners from Guantanamo.

The combined effect of the WikiLeaks disclosures, first, is to furnish clear proof that the US is engaged in relentless spying on its enemies as well as allies; that its 115,000-strong diplomatic service is no more than a cover for spies.  US embassies will find it exceptionally hard to shake off this view.  The effects of the revelations will be felt most of all at the UN and in the Middle East.  At the UN, Washington will find it harder to garner support for its stance, while the US-friendly leaders of the Middle East, who are already struggling to cope with the anti-American and anti-imperialist sentiments of their masses, having been exposed as flunkeys of the US, and whose pretended solidarity with fellow Arabs and Muslims is revealed to be nothing but hypocritical, will find life harder and perhaps will be less inclined to render unquestioning obedience to US imperialism.

Second, the leaks present us with a picture of a world in which the most powerful nation in the world has a dog in every fight, but can expect little help from others – be it the EU, Russia, China, Israel or Pakistan.  Clearly the leaks present a picture of US imperialism on the decline.

Although somewhat hyperbolic, the following words of Mr Robert Baer, a former case officer of the CIA, nevertheless, contain more than a grain of truth: “So this is what the eclipsing of American power looks like, with the disgorging of so much of its sensitive diplomatic correspondence in one fell swoop. Arguably not since Berlin fell to the Red Army in 1945 has there been a compromise of state secrets as breathtaking as that brought about by WikiLeaks. Yet while the drift of much of the ensuing commentary has been that there is not much new in the 250,000 leaked cables, the truth is that the damage to American credibility and diplomacy is incalculable.” (‘Secrecy makes the world go round’, Financial Times, 1 December 2010)

US response

No wonder, then, that the response of US imperialism, as well as the dwindling number of its allies, to the leaks was nothing short of impotent rage.  US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called them “an attack on America’s foreign-policy interests” and indeed on “the international community”, though she did not make clear which particular members of the so-called international community were the victims, or what exactly were they the victims of.

Sarah Palin, former US vice-presidential candidate, called for Assange to be “pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaida and Taliban leaders”.

The man [Assange] is a high-tech terrorist”, said Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the US Senate, adding: “He has done enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and if that becomes a problem we need to change the law.”

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former British Foreign Secretary, refusing to reflect even for a second on the long history of the British state’s worldwide terrorist activities, mindlessly asserted that WikiLeaks’ actions were “active assistance to terrorist organisations.”

Senator Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, and Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein have called for Assange’s prosecution under the US’s antiquated Espionage Act of 1917.

WikeLeaks is by no means the only publisher of the US diplomatic cables.  Britain’s GuardianThe New York TimesEl Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.  Yet it is WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who have attracted the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US administration and other representatives of the US ruling class.  Assange has been accused of treason, even though he is an Australian, not a US, citizen.  Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, has threatened to cancel his passport.  There have been scores of serious calls in the US for Assange to be “taken out” by US special forces.  While the empty-headed Sarah Palin calls for him to be “hunted down like Osama bin Laden”, a Republican bill waits before the US Senate seeking to have him declared a “transnational threat” and disposed of accordingly.  An advisor to the Canadian prime minister’s office went on national television to call for Assange to be assassinated.  An American blogger even called for Assange’s 20-year-old son, in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed simply to get at the father. (The above paragraph is an adaption of the concluding part of Assange’s article ‘Don’t shoot the messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths’, in The Australian, a newspaper in his native country)

Angered by WikiLeaks exposure of US imperialism’s war crimes and of corporate corruption, the US authorities have resorted to extreme measures to silence it and its founder.  Some internet service providers have been pressurised to discontinue providing their services to the Whistleblower.  WikeLeaks was forced this year (2010) to switch to a Swiss host server after several US Internet service providers shut it down, alleging that it was endangering lives, although Assange made it patently clear that his site carefully vetted cables to avoid such an outcome.  WikiLeaks was subjected to cyber attack and, under extreme political pressure, Post Finance (the Swiss Post office bank), Amazon, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard took the arbitrary and unjustified decision to cease doing business with WikiLeaks.  The response of the US authorities and monopoly corporations to WikiLeaks has been a clear demonstration of what a blogger aptly described as “a violent amalgamation of Christian thuggery and ignorance, corporate nihilism, global plutocracy, and monetization of all values”.

Rape allegation

Not being content with conspiring to sabotage the functioning of WikiLeaks and unleashing an avalanche of abuse on it, the US have coerced Swedish authorities to ask for Assange’s extradition on spurious rape allegations, which are entirely politically motivated.

In the end, bowing to political and legal pressure, Assange gave himself up to Scotland Yard on 7 December.  Vindictively denied bail, he was locked up in Wandsworth prison for ten days.  Since then, his supporters have provided £240,000 in cash as surety; he has been released on bail on conditions which constitute nothing but house arrest.  In the new year, he will face extradition proceedings to Sweden on allegations of “rape, unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation”, allegedly committed in August 2010.  The spurious cases are related to consensual relations, one with a woman with close ties to the CIA and the other a spurned groupie.

The Swedish authorities have not charged Assange with any crime; they want him for questioning.  The original charges against him were dropped by the senior-most prosecutor in Sweden, on the ground that there was not one shred of evidence to even warrant investigation, after which Assange was allowed to leave Sweden with the knowledge and consent of the Swedish legal authorities.  Then came intervention by a politician and the involvement of another prosecutor in another Swedish town; it is this prosecutor who has begun a witch-hunt against Assange – a witch-hunt resting on two women, who claim that they had consensual but unprotected sex with him in August, which became non-consensual.

Mark Stephens, Mr Assange’s lawyer, quite correctly observed that the prosecution was driven by political pressure and “darker forces”.

The real danger that Assange faces is that he might be extradited, perhaps even without a proper legal hearing, to the US from Sweden.  It must not be forgotten that Sweden, generally thought of as a liberal and law-abiding state, is actually one of those lickspittle little imperialist countries that does the bidding of the most powerful imperialist countries, such as the US, and it not so long ago permitted extraordinary rendition and torture flights to cross its territory.

Who is Anna Ardin?

Assange’s chief accuser is a lady called Anna Ardin, a gender equity officer at Uppsala University in Sweden.  Though misleadingly described by the media as a “leftist”, she has links with US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups.  She published her anti-Castro diatribes in a periodical, which is the product of a well-financed anti-Castro organisation in Sweden.

This group is connected with Union Liberal Cubana, headed by Alberto Montaner, who has close links with the CIA; a fugitive from Cuban justice for acts of terrorism, he is a fanatical supporter of the most extreme reactionary elements of the Cuban-American mafia.

In Cuba, Ms Ardin interacted with the feminist anti-Castro ‘Damas de Blanco’ (the ladies in white), who receive US funding and, in turn, support US terrorism.

Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan anti-communist, former CIA agent, convicted in absentia of involvement in several terrorist attacks and plots in the Americas, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and who has admitted his involvement in the 1997 targeting of fashionable Cuban hotels and nightspots, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and in the Iran-Contra affair – this nasty sub-human being is a friend of the ‘Ladies in White’.

More bizarrely, Ms Ardin, the alleged victim, chose to throw a party for the alleged assailant – after they had had the sex that even the Swedish prosecutors concede was consensual.  She even tweeted to her followers that she was with the “world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”

The other alleged victim, Sofia Wilén boasted, just like Anna Ardin, of her conquest after the “crime”.

The boastful and exculpatory character of the mobile phone texts of these two ladies has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors.  Neither Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape.

Imperialist double standards

In the light of the foregoing, there is but one conclusion that suggests itself, namely, that the allegations against Mr Assange are fraudulent, designed merely to extradite him via Sweden, and to enable him to be prosecuted and locked up by US authorities for the reason that he and his organisation helped expose the war crimes of US imperialism, the lying and spying of its diplomatic service, the hypocrisy, cynicism and duplicity characteristic of its administrative, diplomatic and war machine.

In conclusion, just two examples of the hypocrisy and double standards of the US authorities:

P J Crowley, a State Department spokesman who denounced Julian Assange as an “opportunist” for leaking US diplomatic cables, without any apparent irony announced: “The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”

In January 2010, in a speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton uttered the following brave words – words which have come to haunt her now – in favour of freedom of expression on the Internet:

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.

This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone. …

There are many other networks in the world – some aid in the movement of people or resources; and some facilitate exchanges between individuals with the same work or interests. But the internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that’s why we believe it’s critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms.

First among them is the freedom of expression. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, email, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas – and created new targets for censorship.

As I speak to you today, government censors are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history.”

It is Mrs Clinton and her government who are now “furiously working to erase … words form the records of history”.

Let it be noted in passing, that the very same imperialist governments that are trying to close down WikiLeaks and incarcerate or kill its founder, are the ones who, with great fanfare, recently attended a prize ceremony for a convicted Chinese criminal and admirer of colonialism and US’s criminal wars.

The wonders of the internet and various social networks are fine as long as they are directed at progressive and independent regimes, which are the targets of imperialist sabotage, subversion and regime change – countries such as the People’s Republic of China, the DPRK, Belarus, Ukraine, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, etc.  But the moment they become instruments for exposing the crimes of imperialism, they suddenly are metamorphosed into tech-terrorists which must be snuffed out.

WikiLeaks itself, which included among its founders Chinese dissidents, was regarded very favourably by imperialism.  A sudden change, however, in imperialism’s view of it descended the moment the site started exposing the dirty and criminal deeds of imperialism.  Furious attempts are on to close down the whistleblowing site, to portray its founder as a womaniser, a sex pervert, and a rapist, and to have him eliminated on one spurious charge or the other.

Whatever the origins of WikiLeaks, and whatever the political and ideological stance of its founder, progressive and anti-imperialist humanity has a duty to defend him while he is under attack from the world’s most powerful terrorist and rogue state.

Instead of pursuing Julian Assange, and the real heroes of the story – WikiLeaks’ sources of information, who have risked their careers, freedom and lives – the US government should itself be the subject of an investigation into its own predatory wars and the criminal activities of its armed forces as revealed in the war logs.

Posted in Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on WikiLeaks: the double standards and hypocrisy of US imperialism

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