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Posts Tagged ‘Julian Assange’

FINAL REPORT: ASSANGE HEARING DAY SIXTEEN–Anonymous Witnesses to Detail Alleged CIA Plot to Kill Assange – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on September 30, 2020

Judge Vanessa Baraitser has granted anonymity to two witness from the UC Global Spanish security firm to have their testimony read in court on Thursday regarding an alleged Central Intelligence Agency plot to either kidnap or poison Julian Assange. 

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/09/29/final-report-assange-hearing-day-sixteen-anonymous-witnesses-to-detail-alleged-cia-plot-to-kill-assange/

By Joe Lauria

Special to Consortium News

Judge Vanessa Baraitser has granted anonymity to two witness from the UC Global Spanish security firm to have their testimony read in court on Thursday regarding an alleged Central Intelligence Agency plot to either kidnap or poison Julian Assange. 

The two witnesses have already testified under protection in a Spanish court case against David Morales, founder and director of UC Global. The company was hired by the  Ecuadorian government to provide security at its London embassy, where Assange lived for seven years until his arrest last year.

According to press reports the witnesses testimony in Spain detailed how Morales was working with “American friends,” allegedly the CIA, to stream 24/7 video and audio from Assange’s chamber to the United States, including surveillance of Assange’s privileged conversations with his lawyers. 

That would mean the government prosecuting Assange had eavesdropped on his defense preparations, an offense that would normally get its case thrown out of court. 

The Spanish witnesses sought the same protection from Baraitser’s court that they enjoy in the Spanish court because of fear of retaliation from Morales. Spanish police raided his home and found loaded arms with their serial numbers filed off. 

James Lewis QC, representing the U.S. government told the court he could not get instructions from the Department of Justice on whether to challenge the testimony on Thursday because of a “Chinese Wall” that is supposed to exist between the DOJ and other federal agencies, such as the CIA, to prevent prosecutions from being politically motivated. (It is a wall with holes. We’ve heard testimony in this case about that). 

So there is the specter of damning testimony being read in Assange’s extradition case about the Central Intelligence Agency planning to kidnap or poison Assange that will go unchallenged by the U.S.  The prosecution will be informed of the witnesses’ identities and has 24 hours to vet the witnesses.

Thursday should be the most explosive and perhaps most decisive day during this proceeding. 

During his re-direct examination of witness Maureen Baird earlier in the day defense attorney Edward Fitzgerald asked her how the U.S. government determines which prisoners are put in solitary confinement under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). She said the Attorney General in consultation with U.S. intelligence agencies.  

Fitzgerald: “You were asked about the procedure to impose and remove SAMs and that it could include an intelligence agency. Is that the CIA?”

Baird: “It could be the CIA, the FBI, border control, together with the U.S. attorney and the attorney general.”

Fitzgerald: “If the CIA were involved, would they be consulted?”

Baird: “Yes, with the office of enforcement operations at the DOJ.”

Fitzgerald: “So what the CIA thought about an inmate would be an important factor?”

Baird: “Yes.”

Clearly Fitzgerald was setting this up for the afternoon bombshell about the anonymous witnesses and what they may say about the CIA’s role in trying to harm Assange.  That same agency could have a big influence on whether Assange is put in solitary confinement with Special Administrative Measures.

8:10 am EDT:  Just before lunch break the defense said it wanted to call  anonymous witnesses. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she would determine whether to accept anonymity when the court resumes. 

In the morning session, Maureen Baird, former warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan, testified that she believes Assange would be put in isolation under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) both pre-trial in Alexander Detention Center and if Assange is convicted, in ADX Florence, Colorado.

She said she based that belief on what U.S. Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg had written about SAMs in relation to Assange. Baird, who oversaw solitary confinement with SAMs at the MCC for up to 15 prisoners, said the government usually doesn’t mention SAMs in if they don’t intend to use them.

In her experience, SAMs meant an inmate would be in his or her cell for 23 to 24 hours a day, would be let out once a day to an adjacent room where they could, in Kromberg’s words, “self-recreate” and would only be allowed one 30-minute or two 15-minute phone calls a month with approved family members.

Such calls had to be arranged two weeks in advance to get an FBI agent and if needed, an interpreter, in place to monitor the calls. She contested Kromberg’s assertion that there was “free-flowing” mail service, saying each piece of mail was screened, meaning a piece of mail could take months to be delivered.

She said contact with other prisoners was strictly prohibited. Baird said the number of prisoners under SAMs in the Manhattan facility increased after 9/11, “when everything changed” in the prison system. SAMs came into being after the Oklahoma City bombing.

She said that SAMs was a directive from the Attorney General and thus its implementation could not be modified at individual prisons.  SAMs was the same wherever it existed in the U.S., she said. She said she learned of SAMs in other prisons when speaking with other wardens at national conferences.

“Mr. Kromberg suggested that when an inmate has twice a year review he can challenge SAMs with a case manager, but as a case manager myself I saw that nothing is going to happen,” Baird said. “A case manager has no authority to make any changes to SAMs.” 

Baird testified that while SAMs in solitary confinement as not supposed to be punitive, but only to keep a prisoner from communicating with the outside world for “national security” reasons–whether for terrorism or espionage—that in effect being held under SAMs amounted to punishment.

She said it can lead to “severe depression in isolation, anxiety, paranoia, weight loss,” and is generally detrimental to mental health.

Fitzgerald asked her whether a prisoner subjected to SAMs could be hospitalized if needed. “You would have to be almost dying to go to the medical center,” she said. 

Baird also contested Kromberg’s contention that there were group programs for someone on SAMs. “They may get an extra phone calls,” but “I don’t see where or how that happens because it defeats the entire premise of SAMs.

 

5:05 am EDT: Court is in session. First defense witness is Maureen Baird, former warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan.

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Mainstream US reporters silent about being spied on by apparent CIA contractor that targeted Assange | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on September 24, 2020

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/09/18/mainstream-us-reporters-silent-spied-cia-contractor-assange/

 

Despite being spied on and having their privacy invaded by the UC Global firm that targeted Assange, reporters from major US news outlets have said nothing in protest. Meanwhile, new evidence of that firm’s CIA links has emerged.

A Spanish security firm apparently contracted by US intelligence to carry out a campaign of black operations against Julian Assange and his associates spied on several US reporters including Ellen Nakashima, the top national security reporter of the Washington Post, and Lowell Bergman, a New York Times and PBS veteran.

To date, Nakashima and her employers at the Washington Post have said nothing about the flagrant assault on their constitutional rights by UC Global, the security company in charge of Ecuadorian embassy in London, which seemingly operated under the watch of the CIA’s then-director, Mike Pompeo. PBS, the New York Times, and other mainstream US outlets have also remained silent about the US government intrusion into reporters’ personal devices and private records.

The Grayzone has learned that several correspondents from a major US newspaper rebuffed appeals by Wikileaks to report on the illegal spying campaign by UC Global, privately justifying the contractor’s actions on national security grounds.

UC Global spied on numerous journalists with the aim of sending their information to US intelligence through an FTP server placed at the company headquarters and through hand-delivered hard drives.

Nearly all of those reporters have so far ignored or refused invitations to join a criminal complaint to be filed in Spanish court by Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist whose devices were invaded and compromised during a visit to Assange.

Proof of UC Global’s illegal spying campaign and the firm’s relationship with the CIA emerged following the September 2019 arrest of the company’s CEO, David Morales. Spanish police had enacted a secret operation called “Operation Tabanco” under a criminal case managed by the same National Court that orchestrated the arrest of former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet years before.

Morales was charged in October 2019 by the Spanish court with violating the privacy of Assange and abusing his attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. A mercenary former Spanish special forces officer, Morales also stood accused of illegal weapons possession after two guns with the serial numbers filed off were found during a search of his property.

The documents and testimony revealed in court have exposed shocking details of UC Global’s campaign against Assange, his lawyers, friends, and reporters. Evidence of crimes ranging from spying to robberies to kidnapping and even a proposed plot to eliminate Assange by poisoning has emerged from the ongoing trial.

In an investigation for The Grayzone this May, this reporter detailed how the Las Vegas Sands corporation of Trump mega-donor Sheldon Adelson functioned as an apparent liaison between UC Global and Pompeo’s CIA, presumably contracting the former on behalf of the latter. It was the second time Adelson’s company had been identified as a CIA asset. (The first was in 2010, when a private intelligence report sponsored by gambling competitors alleged that his casino in Macau was sending footage of Chinese officials gambling so they could be blackmailed into serving as CIA informants).

The story placed the Trump organization at the center of a global campaign of surveillance and sabotage that ruthlessly targeted journalists, including Assange and virtually every reporter he came into contact with since 2017.

For the past four years, the Washington press corps has howled about Trump’s angry browbeating of the White House press pool, treating his resentful outbursts as a grave threat to press freedom. At the same time, it has reacted with a collective shrug to revelations that a firm that was, by all indications, contracted by the Trump administration’s CIA to destroy Assange had spied on prominent American national security reporters.

More revealingly, some of the reporters who had their personal information and notes stolen by UC Global, the apparent CIA contractor, have not said a word about it.

Maurizi, the Italian reporter who is filing a lawsuit against UC Global and serving as a witness in the current case before the Spanish judge, told this reporter she was stunned by the mainstream US media’s passive attitude. “Imagine if Putin had done anything like this. Just imagine what a scandal this would be,” she remarked to the Grayzone. “It would be a giant scandal all around the world. But instead, [US media] is saying nothing.”

Randy Credico, a comedian, social justice activist, and longtime advocate for Assange’s freedom, also attempted to generate media interest in the spying scandal when he learned that UC Global had snooped on him in the embassy. “I went to everybody, I went to MSNBC, to the Wall Street Journal, CNN, to journalists I knew, and I couldn’t get anyone interested,” Credico complained to The Grayzone.

“The agency of the stars and stripes wants to see us”

Read the rest of this entry »

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‘The War on Assange is a War on Truth’ – Ron Paul’s 21 September Column

Posted by M. C. on September 22, 2020

Why would they do such a thing? Partisan politics. Journalists – with a few important exceptions like Greenwald himself – are no longer interested in digging and reporting the truth. These days they believe they have a “higher calling.”

We cannot have a self-governing society as was intended for our Republic if the government, with the complicity of the mainstream media, decides that there are things we are not allowed to know about it. President Trump should end the US government’s war on Assange…and on all whistleblowers and their publishers.

https://mailchi.mp/ronpaulinstitute/assangetrial?e=4e0de347c8

Sept 21 – It is dangerous to reveal the truth about the illegal and immoral things our government does with our money and in our name, and the war on journalists who dare reveal such truths is very much a bipartisan affair. Just ask Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was relentlessly pursued first by the Obama Administration and now by the Trump Administration for the “crime” of reporting on the crimes perpetrated by the United States government.

Assange is now literally fighting for his life, as he tries to avoid being extradited to the United States where he faces 175 years in prison for violating the “Espionage Act.” While it makes no sense to be prosecuted as a traitor to a country of which you are not a citizen, the idea that journalists who do their job and expose criminality in high places are treated like traitors is deeply dangerous in a free society.

To get around the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press, Assange’s tormentors simply claim that he is not a journalist. Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo declared that Wikileaks was a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia. Ironically, that’s pretty much what the Democrats say about Assange.

Earlier this month, a US Federal appeals court judge ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records was illegal. That bulk collection program, born out of the anti-American PATRIOT Act, was first revealed to us by whistleblower Edward Snowden just over seven years ago.

That is why whistleblowers and those who publish their information are so important. Were it not for Snowden and Assange, we would never know about this government criminality. And if we never know about government malfeasance it can neve be found to be criminal in the first place. That is convenient for governments, but it is also a recipe for tyranny.



While we might expect the US media to aggressively come to the aid of a fellow journalist being persecuted by the government for doing his job, the opposite is happening. As journalist Glen Greenwald wrote last week, the US mainstream media is completely ignoring the Assange extradition trial.

Why would they do such a thing? Partisan politics. Journalists – with a few important exceptions like Greenwald himself – are no longer interested in digging and reporting the truth. These days they believe they have a “higher calling.”

As Greenwald puts it, “If you start from the premise that Trump is a fascist dictator who has brought Nazi tyranny to the US, then it isn’t that irrational to believe that anyone who helped empower Trump (which is how they see Assange) deserves to be imprisoned, hence the lack of concern about it.”

That may seem like a good idea to these journalists in the short term, but for journalism itself to become an extension of government power rather than a check on that power would be deeply harmful.

We cannot have a self-governing society as was intended for our Republic if the government, with the complicity of the mainstream media, decides that there are things we are not allowed to know about it. President Trump should end the US government’s war on Assange…and on all whistleblowers and their publishers.

Copyright © 2020 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

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Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Dismantles Myths Around Assange

Posted by M. C. on September 18, 2020

https://shadowproof.com/2020/09/16/pentagon-papers-ellsberg-extradition-trial-assange/

Kevin Gosztola

Opponents of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange often hold up Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as an example of someone who was responsible for a good leak. They insist WikiLeaks is not like the Pentagon Papers because supposedly Assange was reckless with sensitive documents.

On the seventh day of an extradition trial against Assange, Ellsberg dismantled this false narrative and outlined for a British magistrate court why Assange would not receive a fair trial in the United States.

Assange is accused of 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime that, as alleged in the indictment, is written like an Espionage Act offense.

The charges criminalize the act of merely receiving classified information, as well as the publication of state secrets from the United States government. It targets common practices in news gathering, which is why the case is widely opposed by press freedom organizations throughout the world.

James Lewis, a prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service who represents the U.S. government, told Ellsberg, “When you published the Pentagon Papers, you were very careful in what you provided to the media.”

The lead prosecutor highlighted the fact that Ellsberg withheld four volumes of the Pentagon Papers that he did not want published because they may have impacted diplomatic efforts to end the Vietnam War. However, Ellsberg’s decision to withhold those volumes had nothing to do with protecting the names of U.S. intelligence sources.

As Ellsberg described for the court, the 4,000 pages of documents he disclosed to the media contained thousands of names of Americans, Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese. There was even a clandestine CIA officer, who was named.

Nowhere in the Pentagon Papers was an “adequate justification for the killing that we were doing,” Ellsberg said. “I was afraid if I redacted or withheld anything at all it would be inferred I left out” the good reasons why the U.S. was pursuing the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg was concerned about revealing the name of a clandestine CIA officer, though he mentioned the individual was well-known in South Vietnam. Had he published the name of the officer today, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act could have easily been used to prosecute him. But he left it in the documents so no one could make inferences about redacted sections that may undermine what he exposed.

Like Assange, Ellsberg wanted the public to have a complete record.

This did not exactly distinguish Ellsberg from Assange so Lewis explicitly highlighted an article, “Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike The Pentagon Papers,” by attorney Floyd Abrams, which he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

Abrams was one of the attorneys who represented the New York Times in the civil case that argued the government should not be able to block the media organization from publishing the Pentagon Papers. And like Lewis, Abrams fixated on the four volumes that were kept confidential.

Ellsberg insisted Abrams was “mistaken.” He never had any discussion with Ellsberg while defending the right to publish before the Supreme Court so Ellsberg said Abrams could not possibly understand his motives very well.

In the decades since the Pentagon Papers were disclosed, Ellsberg shared how he faced a “great deal” of defamation and then “neglect” to someone who was mentioned as a “clear patriot.” He was used as a “foil” against new revelations from WikiLeaks, “which were supposedly very different.” Such a distinction is “misleading in terms of motive and effect.”

Ellsberg noted Assange withheld 15,000 files from the release of the Afghanistan War Logs. He also requested assistance from the State Department and the Defense Department on redacting names, but they refused to help WikiLeaks redact a single document, even though it is a standard journalistic practice to consult officials to minimize harm.

“I have no doubt that Julian would have removed those names,” Ellsberg declared. Both the State and Defense Departments could have helped WikiLeaks remove the names of individuals, who prosecutors insist were negatively impacted.

Yet, rather than take steps to protect individuals, Ellsberg suggested these government agencies chose to “preserve the possibility of charging Mr Assange with precisely the charges” he faces now.

Not a single person has been identified by the U.S. government when they talk about deaths, physical harm, or incarceration that were linked to the WikiLeaks publications.

The lead prosecutor asked Ellsberg if it was his view that any harm to individuals was the fault of the American government for letting Assange publish material without redactions.

Ellsberg indicated they bear “heavy responsibility.”
Lewis attempted to trap Ellsberg into conceding Assange had engaged in conduct that resulted in grave harm to vulnerable individuals. He read multiple sections of an affidavit from Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who is in the Eastern District of Virginia where Assange was indicted.

It covered a laundry list of allegations: they named local Afghans and Iraqis that were providing information to coalition forces, forced journalists and religious leaders to flee, led to harassment of Chinese academics labeled as “rats,” fueled violent threats against people who met with U.S. embassy staff, resulted in Iranians being identified and outed, and spurred violence by the Taliban.

“How can you say honestly and in an unbiased way that there is no evidence that WikiLeaks put anyone in danger?” Lewis asked.

Ellsberg told Lewis he found the government’s assertions to be “highly cynical.” He invited Lewis to correct him if he was wrong, but it is his understanding that no one actually suffered harm as a result of these threats. “Did one of them suffer the carrying out of these threats?”

Lewis replied the rules are you don’t get to ask the questions. He tried to move on as Ellsberg insisted he be allowed to provide the rest of his answer, but Judge Vanessa Baraitser would not let Ellsberg complete his response.

It deeply upset Assange, who spoke from inside the glass box where he sits each day. Baraitser reminded him not to interrupt proceedings as Edward Fitzgerald, a defense attorney, attempted to convince the court that Ellsberg should be able to finish his answer.

Lewis continued, “Is it your position there was absolutely no danger caused by publishing the unredacted names of these informants?”

In response, Ellsberg said the U.S. government is “extremely cynical in pretending its concerned for these people.” It has displayed “contempt for Middle Easterners” throughout the last 19 years.

As Lewis insisted one had to conclude Iraqis, Afghans, or Syrians named in the WikiLeaks publications were murdered or forced to flee, Ellsberg refused to accept this presumption.

“I’m sorry, sir, but it doesn’t seem to be at all obvious that this small fraction of people that have been murdered in the course of both sides of conflicts can be attributed to WikiLeaks disclosures,” Ellsberg stated.

If the Taliban had disappeared someone, Ellsberg said that would be a seriously harmful consequence. “I am not aware of one single instance in the last 10 years.”

At no point did the lead prosecutor offer any specific example of a death, and so the record remains as it has been since Chelsea Manning was put on trial. The government has no evidence that anyone was ever killed as a result of transparency forced by WikiLeaks.

Ellsberg informed the court his motive was no different from Assange’s motive. The Espionage Act charges that Assange faces are not meaningfully different either. And, in fact, he faced efforts by the government to wiretap and incapacitate him just like Assange did while in the Ecuador embassy in London.

Ellsberg recalled that he did not tell the public what led him to disclose the Pentagon Papers because he expected to be able to testify about his motive during his trial.

When his lawyer asked him why he copied the Pentagon Papers, the prosecution immediately objected. Each time his lawyer tried to rephrase the question, the court refused to permit him to tell the jury “why he had done what he’d done.”

Federal courts continue to handle Espionage Act cases in the same manner. “The notion of motive or extenuating circumstances is irrelevant,” Ellsberg added.

“The meaning of which is I did not get a fair trial, despite a very intelligent and conscientious judge. No one since me has had a fair trial.”

“Julian Assange could not get a remotely fair trial under those charges in the United States,” Ellsberg concluded.

Photo of Daniel Ellsberg by Christopher Michel

***

[NOTE: John Goetz, an investigative journalist who worked for Der Spiegel in 2010-2011, gave crucial testimony on German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who the CIA kidnapped and tortured. He described how WikiLeaks disclosures helped El-Masri and provided support for a statement El-Masri has submitted to the court. When El-Masri’s statement is read into the record or made public, I will cover this important aspect of the extradition trial in full.]

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News Media Who Ignore The Assange Trial Are Admitting They Don’t Care About Journalism – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on September 17, 2020

Now that it is out in the open that the US government plans to prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world who it deems to have committed “disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest” (which in Assange’s case means exposing US war crimes), anyone on earth who actually plans on doing real journalism which holds real power to account is at risk.

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2020/09/17/news-media-who-ignore-the-assange-trial-are-admitting-they-dont-care-about-journalism/

The Sydney Morning Herald just published an article titled “Julian Assange interrupts extradition hearing again” about the WikiLeaks founder’s correct interjection that he never put anyone’s lives in danger with the publication of the Manning leaks a decade ago.

It’s actually a rather shocking smear piece for the SMH, who has been one of the better Australian publications at giving Assange a fair hearing over the years. The article’s author Latika Bourke spends an inordinate amount of time waxing on about Assange’s naughty “outburst” and how he was reprimanded for it by the judge, telling readers that the prosecution “separates Assange from the press which also published information revealed by WikiLeaks but without naming journalists, human rights advocates and dissidents who were informing on their governments and repressive regimes”, and bringing up Osama bin Laden’s possession of WikiLeaks documents apropos of precisely nothing.

At no time does Bourke (who has been a regular smearer of Assange) bother to provide the reader with any of the readily available information showing that Assange never caused anyone harm and was not responsible for the unredacted documents being made public. She weaves a narrative about Assange being badly behaved in the courtroom, insinuates that the accusations he objected to could be true to the furthest extent possible without actually making a claim that would need to be retracted, and gets out.

 

And unfortunately this drivel is more or less typical of the coverage Assange’s historic, world-shaping extradition trial has been receiving from the mass media since it resumed this month. To the extent that they report on the trial at all, mainstream news outlets have mostly limited their coverage to trivialities like trouble with courtroom audio equipment or postponement due to a coronavirus scare. No mainstream outlet has been covering this immensely important trial in-depth to anywhere near the extent that former UK ambassador Craig Murray has been doing every night, or explaining to their audience the significance of a precedent which will allow journalists all over the world to be extradited and jailed for exposing embarrassing truths about the US government.

This dereliction of journalistic responsibility was damning enough back when the prosecution was trying to argue that Assange doesn’t have First Amendment protections because he was engaged in espionage and not journalistic behavior. But now that the prosecution has pivoted to arguing that it doesn’t matter that Assange is a journalist because the US government is allowed to imprison people for journalism, this dereliction of duty has become far more pronounced.

Murray writes the following in his latest update:

The prosecution’s line represented a radical departure from their earlier approach which was to claim that Julian Assange is not a journalist and to try and distinguish between his behaviour and that of newspapers. In the first three days of evidence, legal experts had stated that this gloss on the prosecution did not stand up to investigation of the actual charges in the indictment. Experts in journalism also testified that Assange’s relationship with Manning was not materially different from cultivation and encouragement by other journalists of official sources to leak.

 

By general consent, those first evidence days had gone badly for the prosecution. There was then a timeout for (ahem) suspected Covid among the prosecution team. The approach has now changed and on Tuesday a radically more aggressive approach was adopted by the prosecution asserting the right to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information under the Espionage Act (1917).

 

The purpose of the earlier approach was plainly to reduce media support for Assange by differentiating him from other journalists. It had become obvious such an approach ran a real risk of failure, if it could be proved that Assange is a journalist, which line was going well for the defence. So now we have “any journalist can be prosecuted for publishing classified information” as the US government line. I strongly suspect that they have decided they do not have to mitigate against media reaction, as the media is paying no attention to this hearing anyway.

 

Murray’s subsequent breakdown of the prosecution’s arguments makes it clear that he was not over-selling this change in strategy. His notes on attorney for the prosecution James Lewis’ arguments contain lines as blatant as “There are Supreme Court judgements that make it clear that at times the government’s interest in national security must override the First Amendment” and “serial, continuing disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest cannot be justified. It therefore follows that journalists can be prosecuted” in arguing against witness testimony that Assange’s publishing behavior should be protected by the First Amendment.

“The United States Supreme Court has never held that a journalist cannot be prosecuted for publishing national defence information,” Murray reports Lewis argued.

So that’s the precedent the prosecution is setting now. No longer “We can extradite and imprison Assange because he isn’t a journalist”, but “We can extradite and imprison Assange because we’re allowed to extradite and imprison journalists.”

The argument that Assange isn’t a journalist has always been transparently false, whether made in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion. Publishing important information so that the public can understand what’s going on in their world is exactly the thing that journalism is. All WikiLeaks publications have included extensive written analyses of their contents, and its staff have received many esteemed awards for journalism.

 

But the fact that the prosecution is no longer even attempting to argue against the journalistic nature of the actions they are attempting to criminalize means they have ceased trying to pretend that they are not waging a war against worldwide press freedoms. Which means that all journalists and news media outlets have lost their last excuse for not condemning Assange’s persecution with great force and urgency.

Now that it is out in the open that the US government plans to prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world who it deems to have committed “disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest” (which in Assange’s case means exposing US war crimes), anyone on earth who actually plans on doing real journalism which holds real power to account is at risk. If someone isn’t using whatever platform they can to denounce Assange’s persecution, they are showing the world that they have no interest in ever doing real journalism which holds real power to account.

News reporters and news outlets are showing us what they are right at this moment. If they are not speaking out for Assange’s freedom right now they are telling you that his persecution poses no threat to them. They are telling you that they never plan on doing anything that might hold power to account with the light of truth. They are telling you that they will side with power every time. They are telling you they are propagandists.

The prosecution’s new line of argumentation should have drawn massive headlines from all the major news outlets who’ve been bloviating about the dangers posed by Trump’s war on the press with flamboyant preening and self-aggrandizement. Instead they are silent, because they do not care.

To quote Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

_________________________

Feature image by Garry Knight.

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Assange Trial Exposes False Partisan Narratives With Focus On Trump’s War On Journalism – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on September 14, 2020

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2020/09/10/assange-trial-exposes-false-partisan-narratives-with-focus-on-trumps-war-on-journalism/

The last two days of Julian Assange’s scandalously opaque and plainly rigged show trial have brought into focus the reality that the WikiLeaks founder’s plight is the exact inverse of what the mainstream partisan narratives assert in the nation that’s working to extradite him.

A new article about the proceedings in The Evening Standard titled “Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty’” highlights the undeniable fact that this extradition process is only taking place because of a Trump administration agenda which threatens to strike a deadly blow to press freedoms around the world with the precedent it would set.

The Evening Standard reports on the following testimony on Wednesday by Professor Paul Rogers, a lecturer in peace studies at Bradford University:

Assange’s legal team argue that a decision was taken under President Obama not to prosecute the Wikileaks activist, but that move was overturned under Trump.

 

“During the Obama presidency there was a greater recognition of the problems and less pressure on those presenting conflicting evidence”, said Professor Rogers.

 

“But since the election of President Trump there has been a vigorous denigration of the Obama era, a return to the outlook of the Bush administration and even more bitter opposition to those perceived as dissenters, especially those involved in communicating unwelcome information such as Mr Assange.”

 

Rogers is absolutely correct. The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald explained in 2018 that the Obama administration was unable to find an avenue to prosecute Assange for the leaks which began dropping in 2010 without endangering press freedoms, yet the Trump administration worked in concert with London and Quito to drag Assange out of the embassy and slam him with an extradition request (the sole reason for his continued imprisonment) based on the exact same evidence the Obama administration had access to on those exact same leaks.

Greenwald explained in The Washington Post that the Assange indictment was “a blueprint for making journalists into felons”, writing that “the Trump administration is aggressively and explicitly seeking to obliterate the last reliable buffer protecting journalism in the United States from being criminalized, a step that no previous administration, no matter how hostile to journalistic freedom, was willing to take.”

“The argument offered by both the Trump administration and by some members of the self-styled ‘resistance’ to Trump is, ironically, the same: that Assange isn’t a journalist at all and thus deserves no free press protections,” Greenwald wrote.

Indeed, it always blows Assange-hating Democrats’ minds when you point out to them that when they defend this extradition campaign they are in fact defending a Trump administration agenda. Not because it isn’t true, nor even because the proof that it’s true isn’t publicly available information, but because there’s been a massive smear campaign directed at liberal echo chambers to manufacture consent for Assange’s silencing and persecution which has been geared toward painting Assange as a Trump supporter.

Conversely, when you talk to those who espouse the common position of supporting both Donald Trump and Julian Assange, they are unable to wrap their head around the indisputable fact that their president is ultimately responsible for the campaign to extradite Assange and imprison him with a sentence of up to 175 years. They’ll claim falsely that this is an Obama-initiated operation. They’ll claim falsely that Trump, who could have issued Assange a full pardon at any time since he took office, is actually working to get Assange to America so he can pardon him. They’ll claim falsely that Assange, who’s been fighting US extradition tooth and claw for many years, is secretly working with Trump and secretly wants to come to the United States to help him. Again, this is because of establishment propaganda campaigns like QAnon shaping the Assange narrative in a way that benefits the establishment.

The extradition trial has been exposing those partisan positions for the power-serving lies that they are.

 

In an article titled “Trump’s ‘War On Journalism’ Takes Centerstage At Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing“, Shadowproof‘s Kevin Gosztola gives more detail to this Wednesday exposition:

Trevor Timm, the executive director for the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), told a magistrate court judge, “[President Donald] Trump’s administration is moving to explicitly criminalize national security journalism, and if this prosecution is allowed to go forward, dozens of reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere would also be in danger.”

In Timm’s statement to the court, Timm highlighted how Trump has “attempted to stifle press freedom at all levels.” The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which FPF uses to track press freedom violations in the U.S., has tallied over 2,000 examples, where Trump tweeted “negative remarks, insults, or threats to the press” since his presidential campaign in 2016. He has referred to journalists as “enemies of the people.”

The liberal echo chamber has been enthusiastically taking up the banner of “Trump’s war on the press”, but has been pointing its “resistance” to this war at its most inconsequential and downright idiotic aspects rather than at an extradition trial which would set a precedent that could arguably constitute a greater leap toward Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.

“Just embarrassing to have treated this coddled, pompous, self-absorbed windbag who is a threat to nobody like he’s some kind of press freedom martyr, while ignoring what would be by far the most dangerous precedent for press freedom in years if Assange is successfully prosecuted,” Greenwald recently tweeted with a screenshot of a self-aggrandizing book by CNN’s Jim Acosta. “But that perfectly captures Trump-era journalism: hysterically exaggerating deranged conspiracies & sideshows while ignoring real threats unfolding with little attention. Mean tweets about Chuck Todd and Jim Acosta are treated as grave threats to the Republic while this is ignored.”

 

The theme of Trump’s assault on world press freedoms also featured in the previous day at court. Former UK ambassador Craig Murray wrote the following of the testimony by Professor Mark Feldstein, Chair of Broadcast Journalism at Maryland University, on Tuesday:

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

 

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

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

 

Maybe it’s a good thing this trial isn’t being televised. The head explosions it would cause among America’s propagandized partisan hacks would destroy the nation.

This all highlights the fact that it is impossible to gain an accurate understanding of what’s going on in the world through partisan perceptual filters. Partisan echo chambers exist solely to distort people’s understanding of events to the advantage of the powerful, whether you’re talking about ensuring the dominance of establishment political factions, the advancement of status quo-preserving wars, or the elimination of voices who punch inconvenient holes in power-serving propaganda narratives.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. The source of our world’s problems is the fact that the powerful understand this, while ordinary people do not. Things won’t change until a critical mass of people begin waking up to this fact.

_____________________

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Julian Assange’s Trial Has Begun: Judge Warns Him Not To Speak Again & Remain Silent – Collective Evolution

Posted by M. C. on September 10, 2020

Most of the world knows why they hunted him, and why he’s been treated the way he’s been treated and tortured in prison. The same goes for people like Edward Snowden, it’s because they expose lies, corruption, deceit, immoral and unethical actions that their own governments, as well as governments around the world have participated in.

https://www.collective-evolution.com/2020/09/08/julian-assanges-trial-has-begun-judge-warns-him-not-to-speak-again-remain-silent/

In Brief

  • The Facts:Julian Assange has been warned by the judge in his extradition case that he could be removed from court with the case continuing in his absence after he interjected while a lawyer for the US sparred with a high-profile witness in favour of assange.
  • Reflect On:Why do people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden face such a harsh backlash from Governments? If governments and elite corporations aren’t doing anything wrong, what do they have to hide? Why are the censoring so much information?

What Happened: Julian Assange’s legal battle to avoid US extradition to the United States for leaking classified information has begun. The latest news is that “English judge Vanessa Baraitser warns the most famous publisher/journalist in the world – Julian Assange, tortured by UK authorities according to the UN – not to speak again or be removed entirely from the court and be tried for his life in his absence,” according to Afshin Rattansi, a British broadcaster, journalist and author.

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Over the years Assange has faced a number of smear campaigns and character assassinations that have been debunked, when in reality there are so many ‘high profile’ people around the word that support him and see quite clearly what is going on.

According to The Guardian,Julian Assange has been warned by the judge in his extradition case that he could be removed from court with the case continuing in his absence after he interjected while a lawyer for the US authorities sparred with a high-profile witness giving evidence in support of the WikiLeaks founder.”

I suggest you visit The Wikileaks Instagram Page for more the most recent and accurate updates.

Why This Is Important: Most of the world knows why they hunted him, and why he’s been treated the way he’s been treated and tortured in prison. The same goes for people like Edward Snowden, it’s because they expose lies, corruption, deceit, immoral and unethical actions that their own governments, as well as governments around the world have participated in. He exposed these characteristics that seem to represents the backbone of the Western military alliance and the American empire. He exposed, in the words of John F. Hylan, former Mayor of New York City, the “real menace of the Republic”, the “invisible government, which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy legs over our cities, states and nation.” He exposed the ones “who virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes.” (source)(source)

“National Security” has become an umbrella tool to protect a number of unethical and immoral actions by governments, big corporations as well as those that take place in the world of finance.

How far have we sunk if telling the truth becomes a crime? How far have we sunk if we prosecute people that expose war crimes for exposing war crimes? How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals? Because we identify more with them, than we identify with the people that actually expose these crimes. What does that tell about us and about our governments? In a democracy, the power does not belong to the government, but to the people. But the people have to claim it. Secrecy disempowers the people because it prevents them from exercising democratic control, which is precisely why governments want secrecy. – Nils Melzer, Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of Int Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Prof of Int Law at the University of Glasgow, UN Rapporteur on Torture and Other Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Wilikleaks has never had to retract a single story.

Politics has become a cesspool of corruption, and it’s now corporations and big banks that seem to dictate political policy. What we are presented with on our TV when it comes to geopolitical issues and war is far different from what’s happening in reality, and this is what Julian Assange made evident. Whether it’s the funding, arming and creation of  terrorist organizations like ISIS or Al-Qaeda by our governments, creating problems so they can propose the solutions, or documents showing the influence Big Pharma has on global health policy, obtaining this information and using it to inform the public is not a “threat” to the people, it’s a threat to to the people in power. These people in power are using “national “security as they always due to justify the locking Assange up for the rest of his life.

The Takeaway: Do we really live on a planet right now where those who expose truth, expose corporate corruption, and those who want what’s best for the world and want to change the world, are locked away, murdered, silenced, censored, and thrown in jail? Furthermore, what time of ‘machine’ is required to justify his jailing in the minds of the masses? What kind of propaganda tools are used and how powerful are they if they have the ability to completely control human consciousness and perception in a way that best fits their interests?

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Hypocrisy on Display at Assange’s Extradition Hearing – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on September 9, 2020

Summers argued it was “entirely unfair” to add what were in law new and separate criminal allegations, at short notice and “entirely without warning and not giving the defense time to respond to it. What is happening here is abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice if allowed to continue.”

https://original.antiwar.com/?p=2012340900

I went to the Old Bailey today expecting to be awed by the majesty of the law, and left revolted by the sordid administration of injustice.

There is a romance which attaches to the Old Bailey. The name of course means fortified enclosure and it occupies a millennia old footprint on the edge of London’s ancient city wall. It is the site of the medieval Newgate Prison, and formal trials have taken place at the Old Bailey for at least 500 years, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. For the majority of that time, those convicted even of minor offenses of theft were taken out and executed in the alleyway outside. It is believed that hundreds, perhaps thousands, lie buried under the pavements.

The hefty Gothic architecture of the current grand building dates back no further than 1905, and round the back and sides of that is wrapped some horrible cheap utility building from the 1930’s. It was through a tunneled entrance into this portion that five of us, Julian’s nominated family and friends, made our nervous way this morning. We were shown to Court 10 up many stairs that seemed like the back entrance to a particularly unloved works canteen. Tiles were chipped, walls were filthy and flakes of paint hung down from crumbling ceilings. Only the security cameras watching us were new – so new, in fact, that little piles of plaster and brick dust lay under each.

Court 10 appeared to be a fairly bright and open modern box, with pleasant light woodwork, jammed as a mezzanine inside a great vault of the old building. A massive arch intruded incongruously into the space and was obviously damp, sheets of delaminating white paint drooping down from it like flags of forlorn surrender. The dock in which Julian would be held still had a bulletproof glass screen in front, like Belmarsh, but it was not boxed in. There was no top to the screen, no low ceiling, so sound could flow freely over and Julian seemed much more in the court. It also had many more and wider slits than the notorious Belmarsh Box, and Julian was able to communicate quite readily and freely through them with his lawyers, which this time he was not prevented from doing.

Rather to our surprise, nobody else was allowed into the public gallery of court 10 but us five. Others like John Pilger and Kristin Hrafnsson, editor in chief of WikiLeaks, were shunted into the adjacent court 9 where a very small number were permitted to squint at a tiny screen, on which the sound was so inaudible John Pilger simply left. Many others who had expected to attend, such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, were simply excluded, as were MPs from the German federal parliament (both the German MPs and Reporters Without Borders at least later got access to the inadequate video following strong representations from the German Embassy).

The reason given that only five of us were allowed in the public gallery of some 40 seats was social distancing; except we were allowed to all sit together in consecutive seats in the front row. The two rows behind us remained completely empty.

To finish scene setting, Julian himself looked tidy and well groomed and dressed, and appeared to have regained a little lost weight, but with a definite unhealthy puffiness about his features. In the morning he appeared disengaged and disoriented rather as he had at Belmarsh, but in the afternoon he perked up and was very much engaged with his defense team, interacting as normally as could be expected in these circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »

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THE STALINIST TRIAL OF JULIAN ASSANGE. WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Posted by M. C. on September 8, 2020

The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its founder. Page after page revealed a coming war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and democracy.

The imperial shock troops would be those who called themselves journalists: the big hitters of the so-called mainstream, especially the “liberals” who mark and patrol the perimeters of dissent.

http://johnpilger.com/articles/the-stalinist-trial-of-julian-assange-whose-side-are-you-on-

John Pilger

JAgag.jpg

When I first met Julian Assange more than ten years ago, I asked him why he had started WikiLeaks. He replied: “Transparency and accountability are moral issues that must be the essence of public life and journalism.”

I had never heard a publisher or an editor invoke morality in this way. Assange believes that journalists are the agents of people, not power: that we, the people, have a right to know about the darkest secrets of those who claim to act in our name.

If the powerful lie to us, we have the right to know. If they say one thing in private and the opposite in public, we have the right to know. If they conspire against us, as Bush and Blair did over Iraq, then pretend to be democrats, we have the right to know.

It is this morality of purpose that so threatens the collusion of powers that want to plunge much of the world into war and wants to bury Julian alive in Trumps fascist America.

In 2008, a top secret US State Department report described in detail how the United States would combat this new moral threat. A secretly-directed personal smear campaign against Julian Assange would lead to “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”.

The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its founder. Page after page revealed a coming war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and democracy.

The imperial shock troops would be those who called themselves journalists: the big hitters of the so-called mainstream, especially the “liberals” who mark and patrol the perimeters of dissent.

And that is what happened. I have been a reporter for more than 50 years and I have never known a smear campaign like it: the fabricated character assassination of a man who refused to join the club: who believed journalism was a service to the public, never to those above.

Assange shamed his persecutors. He produced scoop after scoop. He exposed the fraudulence of wars promoted by the media and the homicidal nature of America’s wars, the corruption of dictators, the evils of Guantanamo.

He forced us in the West to look in the mirror. He exposed the official truth-tellers in the media as collaborators: those I would call Vichy journalists. None of these imposters believed Assange when he warned that his life was in danger: that the “sex scandal” in Sweden was a set up and an American hellhole was the ultimate destination. And he was right, and repeatedly right.

The extradition hearing in London this week is the final act of an Anglo-American campaign to bury Julian Assange. It is not due process. It is due revenge. The American indictment is clearly rigged, a demonstrable sham. So far, the hearings have been reminiscent of their Stalinist equivalents during the Cold War.

Today, the land that gave us Magna Carta, Great Britain, is distinguished by the abandonment of its own sovereignty in allowing a malign foreign power to manipulate justice and by the vicious psychological torture of Julian – a form of torture, as Nils Melzer, the UN expert has pointed out, that was refined by the Nazis because it was most effective in breaking its victims.

Every time I have visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, I have seen the effects of this torture. When I last saw him, he had lost more than 10 kilos in weight; his arms had no muscle. Incredibly, his wicked sense of humour was intact.

As for Assange’s homeland, Australia has displayed only a cringeing cowardice as its government has secretly conspired against its own citizen who ought to be celebrated as a national hero. Not for nothing did George W. Bush anoint the Australian prime minister his “deputy sheriff”.

It is said that whatever happens to Julian Assange in the next three weeks will diminish if not destroy freedom of the press in the West. But which press? The Guardian? The BBC, The New York Times, the Jeff Bezos Washington Post?

No, the journalists in these organisations can breathe freely. The Judases on the Guardian who flirted with Julian, exploited his landmark work, made their pile then betrayed him, have nothing to fear. They are safe because they are needed.

Freedom of the press now rests with the honourable few: the exceptions, the dissidents on the internet who belong to no club, who are neither rich nor laden with Pulitzers, but produce fine, disobedient, moral journalism – those like Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, it is our responsibility to stand by a true journalist whose sheer courage ought to be inspiration to all of us who still believe that freedom is possible. I salute him.

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

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State Dept-funded Transparency International goes silent on jailed transparency activist Julian Assange | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on July 27, 2020

Transparency International has been vocal in defending jailed opposition activists in states like Zimbabwe, Russia, and Venezuela. But when it comes to Assange – far-and-away the world’s most prominent imprisoned transparency activist – the NGO has not said a word since a week after his arrest in April 2019. 

Transparency International happens to be funded by the UK government which is currently jailing Assange, and by the US State Department, which is headed by Mike Pompeo – the former CIA director who presided over a black operations campaign to destroy Wikileaks.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/21/state-dept-transparency-international-silent-jailed-julian-assange/

By Patrick Maynard

BERLIN, GERMANY – On a cool July day, the Berlin neighborhood where Transparency International’s global headquarters is situated feels a thousand miles away from London’s Belmarsh Prison. But it is not just the pleasant setting a few blocks from the Spree River that makes the influential NGO seem so detached from the maximum security penitentiary’s most famous inmate, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Transparency International has been vocal in defending jailed opposition activists in states like Zimbabwe, Russia, and Venezuela. But when it comes to Assange – far-and-away the world’s most prominent imprisoned transparency activist – the NGO has not said a word since a week after his arrest in April 2019.

When Transparency International did mention Assange’s arrest, it came in the form of a mealy-mouthed blog post that referred to the Wikileaks founder as “polarizing” and failed to condemn his persecution.

Transparency International happens to be funded by the UK government which is currently jailing Assange, and by the US State Department, which is headed by Mike Pompeo – the former CIA director who presided over a black operations campaign to destroy Wikileaks.

Much has changed since Transparency International last issued a statement about Assange. A UN special rapporteur found evidence that Assange may have been tortured. The judge on the case was switched after significant conflicts of interest were discovered.

Assange’s bail-jumping penalty of 50 weeks was also exhausted in April, meaning that for many weeks, the British have been holding him purely as a favor for their American allies, without Assange being formally charged with a British crime. And, perhaps most relevant to the case, 36 members of the European Parliament have recently called for Assange to be released from Belmarsh on press freedom and humanitarian grounds.

Unlike Transparency International, several other large NGOs have been vocal about the case within the last year. Those groups include Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Courage Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. A total of 40 rights groups recently signed an open letter urging Assange’s release.

Ignoring the world’s most prominent jailed transparency activist

Julian Assange first became well-known when Wikileaks published a series of document troves that embarrassed the United States and its allies. Several stashes of military information exposed possible war crimes on the part of U.S. soldiers, while a collection of State Department cables from 1966 through 2010 showed American diplomatic officials being manipulated to act on behalf of U.S. companies abroad.

Shortly after those releases, Assange was investigated over a possible sexual assault in Sweden. Assange and his team worried that the investigation might be a pretext to detain and extradite him into U.S. hands, so they offered to have him testify via video link from Britain. Swedish authorities refused. Assange jumped his British bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he lived for nearly seven years. The sexual assault investigation was later dropped.

Following Assange’s arrest in April 2019, a federal grand jury in the U.S. returned an 18-count superseding indictment charging the publisher with computer intrusion and with breaking the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917.

A key part of the U.S. government’s case is the idea that, by publishing leaked information, Wikileaks damaged the safety abroad of people friendly to the American cause. Asked by The Grayzone by email if the Justice Department would be willing to name a single person who had been killed or injured as a result of Wikileaks material, the DOJ declined to comment.

US State Department, UK government support – and corporate influence peddling

There was an initial groundswell of solidarity from abroad after Assange’s arrest, with publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post commenting on how the Espionage Act charges threatened press freedom. A few major international human rights NGOs spoke out as well.

That support has been uneven over the last 15 months or so, however. After the initial burst of coverage, the hearings faded into the background, with few mainstream American or British media organizations reporting on Judge Emma Arbuthnot’s ties to UK intelligence and defense interests while she presided over pre-extradition hearings.

Asked whether Transparency International had commented on the judge’s seeming conflicts of interest, Transparency spokesman Paul Bell told The Grayzone that the international secretariat “hasn’t made any statements in relation to Lady Emma Arbuthnot.”

The group’s silence over the past year stands in contrast to earlier times when it had been vocal about freedom of speech, and had not been shy about bringing up Assange’s name as a hook for its blog posts on the topic.

Tracking outside influence on Transparency International can be difficult, as it is made up of more than 100 independent chapters around the globe.

But the organization’s USA chapter honored the notoriously war-profiteering oil services giant Bechtel with its  “Corporate Leadership Award” in 2016.

Two years earlier, Transparency USA honored the arms manufacturer Raytheon “for anti-corruption efforts.” Both Bechtel and Raytheon were major donors to the organization at the time.

In 2017, Transparency USA was finally disaccredited for fostering apparent pay-for-play relationships under the guise of anti-corruption efforts. However, Transparency’s Secretariat defended the USA chapter’s honoring of Hillary Clinton with its “Integrity Award” in the face of revelations of influence-peddling by the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Little Sis database, which tracks relationships of organizations by analyzing their donors, board members and leadership, indicates that Transparency has shared adjacencies with organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Infraguard – which the FBI describes as a “partnership between the FBI and the private sector” that is “dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the U.S.”

On its website, Transparency International lists funding from the US Department of State, which is currently headed by the former CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who apparently authorized the spying ring that targeted Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy.

It also receives support from the Department of International Development of the UK government, which is currently prosecuting Assange.

In fact, much of the NGO’s funding comes from EU governments.

Bell, the Transparency spokesman, stated in an email to The Grayzone that his organization’s international board has not received pressure regarding the Assange extradition hearings from U.S. or U.K. entities, including governments.

“There is a principle and a precedent at stake … no matter how you feel about Julian Assange”

Assange has made some powerful enemies over the years. He angered Republicans by exposing inconvenient truths behind the military interventions initiated by George W. Bush, and infuriated Democrats by dumping a cache of embarrassing emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server just before the 2016 election.

Parker Higgins, the advocacy director at Freedom of the Press Foundation, argues that individual feelings about Assange shouldn’t get in the way of a clear-eyed view of the gravity of the extradition case.

“The importance of this case goes far beyond the facts of who Julian Assange is and what he is alleged to have done,” Higgins said in an email to The Grayzone. “There is a principle and a precedent at stake that are important considerations for press freedom, no matter how you feel about Julian Assange himself.”

Higgins asserted that large countries are now attempting to extend their own jurisdiction globally – especially on what he calls “borderless issues” like censorship – and that an Assange extradition would be a deepening of that trend.

China, for example, has recently attempted to assert that non-citizens in foreign countries are subject to its new national security law regarding speech about Hong Kong. That has chilled activism as far away as Canada. In the case of Assange, the United States is attempting to apply its rarely used 1917 Espionage Act to an Australian journalist operating in Europe, activists argue. In doing so, they say, the U.S. government is extending its jurisdiction and setting up a potentially dangerous template for future generations to follow.

Spying, denial of legal access, “torture and neglect”

There are other aspects of the Julian Assange case that trouble many close observers. Assange‘s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said in April that there had been no “direct access” with his client for “more than a month.”

That situation has gotten worse as the COVID-19 outbreak has continued, with a recent hearing featuring Assange literally boxed in inside a glass container, through which it was difficult to hear.

Back when Assange did have regular access to legal counsel – during his time in the Ecuadorian embassy – his interactions with others were secretly recorded by a Spanish contractor with ties to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, as The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal has documented in detail.

In most American court cases, surveillance of attorney-client meetings would result immediately in a mistrial being declared.

Additionally, Assange’s health has been declining. In June, 216 doctors from 33 countries wrote to medical journal the Lancet, protesting what they called “torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange” and stating that, “under the Convention Against Torture, those acting in official capacities can be held complicit and accountable not only for perpetration of torture, but for their silent acquiescence and consent.”

While some reporters have argued that Assange’s extradition would not set a precedent for cases against other journalists, since Assange is accused of helping a source crack a password, Higgins argues that future judges are not necessarily likely to parse that difference.

“There’s no guarantee that the line a journalist draws now is going to be the one that future judges follow,” Higgins stated. “The threat of criminal charges for talking to sources is sure to have a chilling effect.”

Patrick Maynard is a journalist whose work has featured in the Baltimore Sun, Truthout, Vice and The Grayzone.

 

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