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Featured Hearing Coverage

Julian Assange Extradition Appeal: Day 1

Assange too unwell to view proceedings remotely

Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing, which will turn in part on determinations about his health and risk of suicide, commenced with the news that Julian was too ill to even follow the proceedings by remote videolink from Belmarsh prison. Julian did enter the viewing box about midway through the morning’s session, but he appeared thin and unwell, and he could be seen leaving the room about an hour later.

Assange’s extradition was denied in January of this year when District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that ordering his extradition would put him at such high risk of suicide so as to be “oppressive.” The U.S. is appealing that ruling to the UK’s High Court on the grounds that, it argues, the judge misapplied evidence as to Assange’s mental health, and the U.S. government can assure the court that Assange wouldn’t be held under the worst and most isolating conditions if sentenced to a U.S. prison.

Prosecution claims Assange won’t face isolation in U.S. prison

As the appealing party, the U.S. government argued first, led by James Lewis QC. Lewis broke up up its objections to each aspect of the judge’s finding — whether Assange’s mental health condition puts him at high risk of suicide, his personal capacity to resist that impulse, how prospective treatment affects that risk level. He began with the so-called “assurances” that Assange wouldn’t be placed in ADX Florence, the U.S.’s highest-security prison designed specifically to isolate its inmates, and that he wouldn’t be imposed Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which are applied, often in national security cases, to even further restrict an inmate’s communication with the outside world. The U.S. worked to restrict all of the defense’s objections regarding prison conditions to ADX Florence and SAMs, attempting to narrow its burden of proof by arguing that if ADX Florence and SAMs were removed from the equation, Judge Baraitser would have ruled to extradite Assange.

Amnesty International has warned that assurances Assange wouldn’t be placed in ADX Florence and that SAMs wouldn’t be imposed are “inherently unreliable,” as they contain the crucial caveat that the U.S. can change its mind whenever it chooses, if it determines that Assange has done something to warrant isolation or SAMs. Lewis admitted that these assurances are indeed “conditional,” but he said that they must be, “otherwise it would give him a blank check to do whatever he’d like.”

Lewis argued against the defense’s contention that Assange would likely face solitary confinement in pre-trial detention by claiming that Assange would be allowed to visit with his lawyers whenever he would like. (Note that even in detention in the UK, Assange has gone for stretches of several months without being able to communicate with his legal team.) He also floated the possibility that Assange might not be convicted at all, despite the fact that more than 90% of U.S. federal cases result in guilty verdicts, and Assange would be tried in the U.S.’s harshest district, EDVA (a district that CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who has been convicted under the same Espionage Act of which Assange faces 17 counts, refers to as the “Espionage court”). 

U.S. attempts to undermine renowned psychiatrist’s testimony

The prosecution then moved to Assange’s mental health and the testimony of Professor Kopelman, the psychiatrist who examined and interviewed Assange and determined he would be at high risk of suicide if his extradition were ordered. The U.S. contends that the defense conflates criteria for breaching Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” and those for breaching Section 91 of the UK Extradition Act, which prevent extradition if “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.”

As it did in the evidentiary stage in September 2020, the U.S. attempted to elevate the opinion of its own psychiatrist, Dr. Nigel Blackwood. over that of Dr Kopelman. Dr. Blackwood “accepted there was some risk of a suicide attempt linked to extradition but this did not reach a ‘substantial risk’ threshold.” In October 2020, Declassified UK reported that Dr Blackwood “works for an academic institute that is funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and linked to the US Department of Defence.”

The U.S. spent considerable time in the afternoon session repeating its arguments from the evidentiary stage of the proceedings back in September 2020. Lewis reiterated the U.S.’s feeling that Dr. Kopelman misled the court in his first psychiatric report by omitting his awareness that Julian was in a relationship with Stella Moris. In her ruling, Judge Baraitser addressed the issue head-on: 

“I did not accept that Professor Kopelman failed in his duty to the court when he did not disclose Ms. Morris’s relationship with Mr. Assange…. Professor Kopelman’s decision to conceal their relationship was misleading and inappropriate in the context of his obligations to the court, but an understandable human response to Ms. Morris’s predicament. He explained that her relationship with Mr. Assange was not yet in the public domain and that she was very concerned about her privacy. After their relationship became public, he had disclosed it in his August 2020 report. In fact, the court had become aware of the true position in April 2020, before it had read the medical evidence or heard evidence on this issue.”

The prosecution attempted to persuade the High Court that if it doesn’t find this renders Kopelman’s testimony inadmissible, it should at least find that it holds much less weight than Baraitser did. The U.S. argument boils down to this question of weight, rather than contestations of fact: which witnesses and statistics and pieces of evidence should be considered more seriously than others. Lewis complained that the judge didn’t adequately explain her reasoning for preferring Kopelman’s testimony. 

Defense responds; judge preferred Kopelman

But as Edward Fitzgerald pointed out when responding to the prosecution in the final half hour of today’s session, the judge can’t explain in detail her reasoning for weighing every bit of evidence more than others, and in fact she was quite clear about how she reached her conclusion. “I preferred the expert opinions of Professor Kopelman and Dr. Deeley to those of Dr. Blackwood,” Baraitser wrote. “[Dr. Blackwood’s] summary of the notes was significantly less detailed than the summary provided by Professor Kopelman and he did not appear to have access to all relevant notes.” For example, Dr. Blackwood didn’t even know why Julian was in the healthcare ward at Belmarsh, that ”Mr. Assange was finding it hard to control his thoughts of self-harm and suicide.”

The prosecution argued that the present tense in the phrase barring extradition on the grounds that “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him” means that only a defendant’s present mental health conditions should be considered, as opposed to how future prospective prison conditions might impact the risk of suicide. But Fitzgerald responded that Dr. Kopelman addressed this as well, finding that the mere ordering of Assange’s extradition would trigger this grave risk, so this was considered an imminent issue rather than a hypothetical.

Court adjourned after Fitzgerald’s point-by-point response to the arguments the U.S. made in court today. Tomorrow, the defense will have the majority of the day to argue its own response to the full government submission. We’ll return at the same time tomorrow. 

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Past Events

ACLU Capital U. Law panel on Julian Assange

Panelists:

  • Gabriel Shipton – Brother of Julian Assange
  • Juan Passarelli – Journalist & Film Maker of “The War on Journalism
  • Stephen Rohde – Former Chair of ACLU So. Cal. & Attorney with 50 years experience in Constitutional/Civil Rights Law
  • Misty Winston – Assange Activist & Host of “Action 4 Assange

Moderator:

  • Chris Licameli – Capital Law ACLU Evening Rep. & Founder of Unified People’s Coalition

Resources mentioned in the panel:

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Past Events

Oakland Rally to Free Assange

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Flyer for today's rally to free Assange at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater from noon to 1:30pm, featuring Nozomi Hayase, Dennis Bernstein and others in person, with taped statements from Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Dan Ellsberg, Mumia Abu Jamal, Boots Reilly, and more.
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Video Series

My Son Julian Assange: Episode 2

An exclusive video series and an intimate fireside chat with John Shipton discussing the persecution of his son Julian Assange. Julian faces extradition to the US where he risks up to 175 years in a maximum security prison for publishing truth about war crimes.

Episode 2 – The impact of WikiLeaks Publications
  • “What has been the impact of WikiLeaks publications on the war in Afghanistan?”
  • “How do you respond to the US claims that these publications endangered lives?”
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Video Series

My Son Julian Assange: Episode 1

An exclusive video series and an intimate fireside chat with John Shipton discussing the persecution of his son Julian Assange. Julian faces extradition to the US where he risks up to 175 years in a maximum security prison for publishing truth about war crimes.

Episode 1 – The UK Extradition Procedure
  • “What to think of the Jan. 4th 2021 decision by a UK court not to extradite Julian?”
  • “What is the Oct. 27-28, 2021, appeal really about?”
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Press Release

Free Julian Assange: The Belmarsh Tribunal Comes to London

Just after the bombshell revelations about the CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange while he sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the Progressive International comes to London with the first physical Belmarsh Tribunal. The intervention comes ahead of Assange’s extradition proceedings, which are set to continue in London’s High Court from 27 to 28 October 2021.

Inspired by the famous Russell-Sartre people’s tribunal, the Belmarsh Tribunal places the War on Terror on trial and holds the US government accountable for its war crimes. It is named for the London prison that has held Assange in permanent confinement for the last two years, as he faces extradition to the US, whose government plotted his assassination. The Belmarsh Tribunal will hold its first physical proceedings in London on the 22 of October 2021 at the Convocation Hall, Church House, Westminster, which was used for sittings of parliament during the Second World War.

The Belmarsh Tribunal will gather leading figures from politics, the law and journalism, to shed light on the US crimes that were revealed by WikiLeaks – torture, violence, illegal spying – but also to speak about the existing crimes of both US and UK against Julian Assange for exposing their illegal and unjustifiable actions. Among the speakers who will appear both in physical presence and via “live-stream” are Tariq Ali, Renata Ávila, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Jeremy Corbyn, Rafael Correa, Özlem Demirel, Deepa Govindarajan Driver, Daniel Ellsberg, Selay Ghaffar, Markéta Gregorová, Heike Hänsel, Srećko Horvat, Ken Loach, Annie Machon, Stefania Maurizi, John McDonnell, Yanis Varoufakis, Ben Wizner and Eyal Weizman.

“After the revelations about the murderous CIA plans to kill a publisher and journalist on British soil, not only the current US government but also the UK government must be held responsible for still keeping Assange in prison”, says philosopher Srećko Horvat, cabinet member of the Progressive International and one of the founders of the Belmarsh Tribunal.

“The Biden administration should drop the charges against Assange and the UK government should free him immediately and end the suffering and torture of a courageous man who has committed no crime. In a society in which telling the truth becomes a crime, we are all accomplices of crime as long as Assange is in prison.” 

“Wikileaks exposed crimes of US empire in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. At the Belmarsh Tribunal, we will turn the world the right way up, placing crimes of war, torture, kidnapping and a litany of other gross human rights abuses on trial,” says Jeremy Corbyn, Progressive International council member and member of the Belmarsh Tribunal

“The perpetrators of these crimes walk free, often still prominent public figures in the US, U.K. and elsewhere. They should be held accountable for the lives they destroyed and the futures they stole.”

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New Events

Repressing Free Speech: From Hip Hop to Julian Assange

Join us for an hour of hip hop performance, testimonials, and updates on Julian Assange’s free speech fight.

Click to watch the full program on YouTube

America has a shameful history of censoring marginal voices who had the courage to speak truth to power, from Fred Hampton to Angela Davis to Daniel Ellsberg to Colin Kaepernick to Ice Cube. Today, Julian Assange is being prosecuted for telling the truth about US war crimes. We need to stand with all victims of censorship.

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Click to watch the full program on Facebook
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Past Events

Video: Stand-Up for Assange DC

A Night of Comedy and Satire in Support of Julian Assange with Lee Camp & Randy Credico.

Special Guests: Max Blumenthal, Margaret Kunstler, and John Kiriakou


Jazz Piano by Steve Jones

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Past Events

Video: Panel of veterans and intelligence experts on Assange

Featuring:

  • Maj. Danny Sjursen, U.S. Army Veteran and Director of Eisenhower Media Network
  • Capt. Matt Hoh, Former U.S. Marine Corps Captain and State Department Officer
  • Special Agent Coleen Rowley, Former FBI Agent and Whistleblower

Moderated by author, activist and spiritual thought leader Marianne Williamson

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Press Release

24 rights groups call on Garland to free Assange

Two dozen leading civil liberties and press freedom organizations have written a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to share “profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange.”

The groups, including the ACLU, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Amnesty International among others, wrote to the Biden DOJ back in February to warn of the dangers of the Assange prosecution, and here they reiterate the First Amendment considerations in the case

“In our view, a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists alike, chilling their work and undermining freedom of the press.”

But the groups write today with a renewed urgency in light of the Yahoo News revelations that the CIA under the Trump administration drew up plans to kidnap and even kill Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. 

“The Yahoo News story only heightens our concerns about the motivations behind his prosecution, and about the dangerous precedent that is being set.

In light of these concerns, and in light of the shocking new reporting on the government’s conduct in this case, we respectfully urge you to drop the ongoing appeal of Judge Baraitser’s ruling and to dismiss the indictment of Mr. Assange.”

Garland and the Biden administration have yet to comment in public about the Assange prosecution. In the Trump administration’s final days in office, the DOJ appealed the UK District Court ruling which blocked Assange’s extradition to the U.S. on the grounds that it would put him at grave risk of suicide. The Biden DOJ has allowed that appeal to continue, and the UK’s High Court will hear appeal arguments in London on October 27-28. 

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Featured Press Release

Bombshell investigation reveals CIA plots to kidnap, assassinate Assange

Yahoo! News has uncovered the incredible and disturbing range of actions the CIA was considering against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff spoke to more than 30 former U.S. officials to confirm that the agency seriously considered and debated abducting Assange from the embassy and even mentioned the possibility of assassinating him. 

“Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request “sketches” or “options” for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. “There seemed to be no boundaries.”

The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency’s multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.”

Read the full piece here

U.S. officials allege that in 2017 they believed that Russia was working to sneak Assange out of the embassy—which, as Assange’s partner Stella Moris reminds, was a fabricated pretext —and they were willing to go to extreme lengths to thwart such a plot: 

“In response, the CIA and the White House began preparing for a number of scenarios to foil Assange’s Russian departure plans, according to three former officials. Those included potential gun battles with Kremlin operatives on the streets of London, crashing a car into a Russian diplomatic vehicle transporting Assange and then grabbing him, and shooting out the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow. (U.S. officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.)”

The Obama administration, as has been widely reported and discussed at length during Assange’s extradition hearing, declined to prosecute Assange on publication charges on Constitutional grounds, finding no way to do so without running afoul of the First Amendment. So the intelligence community worked to redefine WikiLeaks to circumvent the problem and to expand their range of targets:

“Still chafing at the limits in place, top intelligence officials lobbied the White House to redefine WikiLeaks — and some high-profile journalists — as “information brokers,” which would have opened up the use of more investigative tools against them, potentially paving the way for their prosecution, according to former officials. It “was a step in the direction of showing a court, if we got that far, that we were dealing with agents of a foreign power,” a former senior counterintelligence official said.

Among the journalists some U.S. officials wanted to designate as “information brokers” were Glenn Greenwald, then a columnist for the Guardian, and Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, who had both been instrumental in publishing documents provided by Snowden.”

Video: The war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: Yahoo News Explains

While the abduction and assassination plans were ultimately rebuffed by White House lawyers, they sped up the Department of Justice’s legal case against Assange, merely by virtue of being so outrageous:

“Some National Security Council officials worried that the CIA’s proposals to kidnap Assange would not only be illegal but also might jeopardize the prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder. Concerned the CIA’s plans would derail a potential criminal case, the Justice Department expedited the drafting of charges against Assange to ensure that they were in place if he were brought to the United States.”

Assange remains imprisoned in maximum security Belmarsh prison for two and a half years, despite winning his extradition battle in the UK’s District Court. The ruling, which declared that sending Assange from the UK to the U.S. would put him at risk of suicide, was immediately appealed by the U.S. to the High Court, which will hear appeal arguments in London on October 27-28.

Yahoo News: 5 big takeaways from an investigation into the CIA’s war on WikiLeaks

Followup

Yahoo News: “‘I make no apologies’: Pompeo says Trump administration was protecting sensitive information”

In his first public comments since a Yahoo News investigation revealed discussions within the Trump administration in 2017 about kidnapping or even killing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he makes “no apologies” for the Trump administration’s actions to protect “real national security secrets.”

Pompeo declined to deny the individual allegations in the story, saying only that Yahoo News’ “sources didn’t know what we were doing.”

Pompeo disparaged one of the co-authors of the Yahoo News investigation during his interview with Beck and in response to a question about the Yahoo News story at an appearance at Hillsdale College on Monday.

Reactions

Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer:

“As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. lawyer, told Yahoo News.

“My hope and expectation is that the U.K. courts will consider this information and it will further bolster its decision not to extradite to the U.S.,” Pollack added.

“the extreme nature of the type of government misconduct that you’re reporting would certainly be an issue and potentially grounds for dismissal.” He likened the measures used to target Assange to those deployed by the Nixon administration against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers, noting the charges against Ellsberg were ultimately dismissed as well.

Laura Poitras

“In a statement to Yahoo News, Poitras said reported attempts to classify herself, Greenwald and Assange as “information brokers” rather than journalists are “bone-chilling and a threat to journalists worldwide.” 

“That the CIA also conspired to seek the rendition and extrajudicial assassination of Julian Assange is a state-sponsored crime against the press,” she added.

Glenn Greenwald:

“I am not the least bit surprised that the CIA, a longtime authoritarian and antidemocratic institution, plotted to find a way to criminalize journalism and spy on and commit other acts of aggression against journalists,” Greenwald told Yahoo News.

Freedom of the Press Foundation: “After shocking story about CIA illegal acts, Biden admin must drop Assange charges immediately”

“The CIA is a disgrace. The fact that it contemplated and engaged in so many illegal acts against WikiLeaks, its associates, and even other award-winning journalists is an outright scandal that should be investigated by Congress and the Justice Department. The Biden Administration must drop its charges against Assange immediately. The case already threatens the rights of countless reporters. These new revelations, which involve a shocking disregard of the law, are truly beyond the pale.” — Trevor Timm, Executive Director

Defending Rights & Dissent: DRAD Condemns Outrageous CIA Attacks on Assange and Press Freedom

“Regardless of the targets, such actions are illegal and immoral. That the CIA seriously considered resurrecting some of its most criminal tactics of the Global War on Terror and Cold War is cause for serious alarm. That the target was an award winning journalist, however, makes these revelations all the more chilling.” — Chip Gibbons, Defending Rights & Dissent’s Policy Director.

International Federation of Journalists: CIA reportedly plotted to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange

“If these accusations are true, it would cast a long shadow over all independent journalism and they would once again prove that extraditing Assange to the United States would put his life at serious risk. We are calling for a full investigation and for the British authorities to release him immediately.” — Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary

National Union of Journalists: CIA reportedly plotted to kidnap and assassinate Julian Assange

“The suggestion that US security services even considered kidnapping and murder on the streets of a trusted ally is chilling. That such acts might have been contemplated as a reaction to an individual who had simply published inconvenient truths is all the more troubling.

“At Assange’s extradition hearings, the US government did not contest evidence that individuals allegedly working on its behalf had bugged the Ecuadorian embassy in London, followed Assange’s family and associates, and burgled the office of his lawyer. That context makes these fresh allegations all the more difficult to dismiss.

“If true, the story from Yahoo! News’ blows a hole in the case made by the US government that its attempt to extradite Assange is not politically motivated.

“I am calling on the UK home secretary to explain whether the security services had any involvement in, or knowledge of, these plans.

“Furthermore, it is clear that when the US appeal against the dismissal of its extradition application in respect of Assange is heard in October, it should be dismissed out of hand and its subject released at once.”

Reporters without Borders: “Alarming reported CIA plot against Julian Assange exposed”

“If true, these allegations of a CIA threat to Assange’s life are alarming, and underscore the very serious risk he remains at in detention, which would be exponentially heightened if the US is successful in securing his extradition. The exposed alleged plots that could cause severe harm or loss of life to Assange or his associates are threats to press freedom itself. The Biden administration must act immediately to distance itself from these shocking reports of the Trump administration’s actions, close the case against Assange once and for all, and allow for his release from prison before any further harm is caused.” — Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s Director of International Campaigns.

American Civil Liberties Union

Parliamentary Assembly Council on Europe: “PACE General Rapporteur expresses serious concern at reports that US officials discussed assassinating Julian Assange”

“If these reports are true, I am horrified,” said Mr Omtzigt. “To kidnap or kill a civilian who published leaked documents would be a gross violation of basic Council of Europe human rights principles – and, one would hope, unthinkable in the world’s most powerful democracy. Reports that high-level US officials may have considered such an option are deeply worrying.”

Mr Omtzigt pointed to a 2020 resolution of the Assembly which called for Mr Assange’s extradition to the US to be barred, and urged his prompt release. “The Assembly has already made clear that the detention and criminal prosecution of Mr Assange sets a dangerous precedent for journalists. These reports only reinforce our concern that Mr Assange could be treated most unfairly.”

He added: “I am confident that the British courts will take these reports into consideration when ruling on Mr Assange’s extradition, and I call on the US authorities to clarify whether such appalling ‘options’ really were considered, and if so how to prevent this from happening again.”

Coverage

Yahoo reporter Michael Isikoff spoke to MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin

Isikoff was also interviewed by radio host Randy Credico:

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, responded to the story:

The Hill’s Rising covered the new report as well:

The Intercept: “Assange kidnapping plot casts new light on 2018 Senate Intelligence maneuver”

a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 stated: “It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

This kind of text doesn’t necessarily have a formal impact on policy, but the language was so alarming to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that he opposed the bill in a 14-1 panel vote in July 2017. “My concern is that the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets,” he explained in a press release at the time.

the final compromise bill, which included the new identification for WikiLeaks, was wrapped into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed in December 2019. By that time, according to Yahoo News, members of the intelligence panels had already learned about the CIA’s proposals targeting the group. Yet no lawmaker publicly raised concerns about endorsing the “non-state hostile intelligence service” label.

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Press Release Video Series

Assange Support Video Project

Film your own brief testimonial video and we’ll edit it and share it on social media! Here are some examples — below we explain how to create and submit your own.

Boots Riley

Medea Benjamin

Max Blumenthal

Submit your own!

Parameters: Please limit your video to 40 seconds (20-30 is ideal) and film it horizontally, not vertically!

Sign: If you can, print out a sign (8.5” x 11” or A4 size paper). Your sign should either read #FreeAssange or summarize your argument in a word or phrase (e.g., “PRESS FREEDOM,” “STOP THE WARS,” “DON’T KILL THE MESSENGER”). Make the words as large as possible!

Script: Focus on making one brief argument.

  • Begin with “Because…” or “I care because…” (this answers the question “Why should I care about Julian Assange?” which will be graphically added to the video).
  • End with the words Free Assange (you can work them into a sentence if you prefer, such as “That’s why we President Biden should Free Assange” or “If we want a free press, we need to Free Assange”).

Submit: Email your video to VideoContact@AssangeDefense.org and we’ll add graphics and promote it! 

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Commentary Press Release

Two Years of Assange’s Extradition Detention

Exactly two years ago today, the 50-week jail sentence for a bail violation ended for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, but he has yet to be released from prison. For the last two years, Assange has been detained at the maximum-security HMP Belmarsh in southeast London, solely at the behest of the United States government, which is continuing to seek his extradition.

Even when the U.S. extradition request was defeated earlier this year, Assange was not released from prison, with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejecting his bail application two days after ruling he should be discharged from detention. 

The continued imprisonment has only further worsened Assange’s mental and physical health. Nearly two and a half years ago, in May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer found that Assange, who had spent the previous seven years without sunlight in the limited space of Ecuador’s Embassy in London—had suffered psychological torture.

In January 2021, Baraitser ruled that sending Assange, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and suffering from clinical depression, to the United States would put him at an oppressively high risk of suicide. The U.S. government, which has indicted Assange for publishing on charges carrying 175 years in prison, immediately appealed the ruling to the UK’s High Court. 

The High Court will hear the appeal, which was recently expanded to allow the U.S. to argue five lines of argument, on October 27-28 in London. The U.S. government is attempting to undermine the testimony of renowned psychiatrist Michael Kopelman, an effort which Assange’s partner Stella Moris described as “the latest move by the US government to try to game the British legal system.” 

Furthermore, she writes,

“The U.S. government’s handling of the case exposes the underlying nature of the prosecution against Julian: aggressive tactics and subverting the rules so that Julian’s ability to defend himself is obstructed and undermined while he remains in prison for years and years, unconvicted, and held on spurious charges. The “process” is the punishment.”

The process is costing the British public as well. Declassified UK reports that FOIA-released documents show that the extradition case and Assange’s ongoing imprisonment have cost British taxpayers more than £300,000 (over $400,000).

John Rees, heading the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign in the UK, told Declassified,

“The human and financial cost of this inhuman treatment is entirely the fault of the US and UK governments. Justice delayed is itself injustice. This costly tragedy needs to end now and Julian Assange needs to be set free.”

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Featured Press Release

Press freedom groups renewed calls for Biden administration to free Assange

Amnesty International reiterated their call for the U.S. government to end the prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange ahead of Wednesday’s preliminary appeal hearing.

This disingenuous appeal should be dismissed by the court and President Biden should take the opportunity to drop these politically motivated charges which have put media freedom and freedom of expression in the dock.

Amnesty’s legal advisor Simon Crowther explains the importance of journalists’ right to freedom of expression and that no journalist or publisher should face charges simply for publishing information that governments don’t want in the public domain.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Director of International Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent, was observing the preliminary hearing in London’s High Court:

We call again for the Biden administration to drop its appeal and close the case against Julian Assange, which has alarming implications for journalism and press freedom. Assange should be immediately released and certainly not extradited to the United States

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined the call asking the Biden administration to drop the politically motivated charges and for Assange’s immediate release.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said:

President Joe Biden must end the years of politically motivated prosecution of Julian Assange by finally dropping the charges against him. The criminalisation of whistleblowers and investigative journalists has no place in a democracy. Condemning Assange would not only endanger his life but also fundamental principles of press freedom.

Freedom of the Press Foundation was also among the organizations who monitored the hearing remotely:

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement after the High Court’s decision to allow the United States government to expand its appeal. CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said:

A successful prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder, which hinges on an allegation of conspiracy between a publisher and sources, would hamper reporters’ ability to work with sources and whistleblowers and unearth information that the public should know. The Biden administration should stop trying to extradite Assange and drop all charges against him.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) continues to support Julian Assange and urge for his immediate and unconditional release.

PEN International and English PEN issued a joint statement following the outcome of the preliminary appeal hearing. Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:

“The charges faced by Julian Assange in the US represent a huge threat to media freedom and investigative journalism everywhere. Our position is clear. Espionage laws should not be used against journalists and publishers for disclosing information of public interest. We once again urge the US authorities to drop the case against Assange and to withdraw their extradition appeal.

Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:

“The UK authorities must uphold their commitment to press freedom and prevent Julian Assange’s extradition to the US. Assange has been held in Belmarsh High Security Prison for over two years. This case has deeply concerning implications for press freedom and as such he should be released as a matter of urgency.

Rune Ottosen, head of the Norwegian PEN, was also part of the remote monitoring groups during Wednesday’s hearing. He said:

“Loss for freedom of expression. We are talking about a publisher who risks 175 years in prison for documenting facts about war crimes.

The Global Network for Press Freedom (IPI) reiterated their call for Biden administration to drop the charges and end the prosecution.

Amnesty International – The US diplomatic assurances are inherently unreliable. Julian Assange must be released;

USA/UK: US authorities must drop politically motivated charges against Assange

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – UK: High Court begins consideration of Assange extradition appeal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) – IFJ backs calls to drop charges against Julian Assange

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) – UK court allows expanded US appeal for Assange extradition

PEN International – United Kingdom/USA: Immediately release Julian Assange and drop extradition case

English PEN – United Kingdom/USA: Immediately release Julian Assange and drop extradition case

PEN Norway – Skuffende tap for Assange og ytringsfriheten i retten 

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Featured Hearing Coverage

U.S. allowed to expand scope of Assange appeal

Today Britain’s High Court granted the U.S. government’s request to expand the scope of its appeal of Julian Assange’s extradition ruling. Assange’s appeal hearing has been scheduled for October 27-28, 2021.

 In January of this year, the District Court blocked Assange’s extradition to the United States on the grounds that sending the WikiLeaks publisher to the harsh conditions of U.S. imprisonment would put him at grave risk of suicide. In the final days of the Trump administration, prosecutors acting on behalf of the U.S. filed an application to appeal that decision to the UK’s High Court, requesting permission to appeal on five lines of argument. A High Court judge granted the U.S. limited permission, on three of the five grounds for appeal, and today two separate High Court judges heard arguments over whether to allow the remaining two grounds.

These remaining lines of argument concern the testimony of Professor Michael Kopelman, the psychiatrist who evaluated Assange in prison and found that the combination of his Autism spectrum diagnosis and clinical depression put him at severe risk of suicide should his extradition be ordered. The U.S. wants to challenge whether Prof. Kopelman’s testimony should have been admissible and then whether the District Judge erred in her “overall assessment of the evidence going to the risk of suicide.” 

Professor Kopelman provided two reports to the Magistrate, in December 2019 and August 2020, regarding his assessment of Assange’s mental health as it pertained to potential extradition, and he testified in court in September 2020. At issue is the fact that in his first report, Professor Kopelman did not disclose that he was aware that Assange was in a relationship with Stella Moris and that they had two children together, though he referred to Assange’s children in general terms as relevant to his fears of extradition. By the time of his second report, this information was public knowledge, because the relationship was disclosed when Julian’s defense applied for bail in April 2020, and so Professor Kopelman made reference to it subsequently.

The prosecution questioned Prof. Kopelman over this omission on cross-examination in September, and he explained that he had made the difficult decision to exclude this information to respect the Assange family’s privacy. 

In her January ruling, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser recounted this chain of events and found that while Kopelman should have disclosed his knowledge of the relationship, the omission did not render his evidence inadmissible,

“I did not accept that Professor Kopelman failed in his duty to the court when he did not disclose Ms. Morris’s relationship with Mr. Assange….In my judgment Professor Kopelman’s decision to conceal their relationship was misleading and inappropriate in the context of his obligations to the court, but an understandable human response to Ms. Morris’s predicament.”

The U.S. appealed to the High Court on the grounds that Baraitser erred in this determination, contending that the omission should either render Kopelman’s testimony inadmissible or at the least should mean it is given “no, or far less, weight.” Edward Fitzgerald QC argued for the defense that, “it cannot be…that one lapse, no matter how reasonable given the human predicament, renders his whole submission inadmissible. It must be considered in context.”

The High Court’s came to the conclusion “that it is at least arguable” to challenge Kopelman’s testimony over this omission, noting Koeplman’s declaration that his duty to the court overrides any obligation to the defendant. Lord Justice Holroyde said, “To my mind, this goes more to the weight of the evidence than to its admissibility,” but the fact that it is “arguable” was enough to grant the U.S. request to appeal on the remaining two grounds. 

The High Court scheduled Assange’s appealing hearing for October 27-28. Julian followed today’s proceedings by video-link from HMP Belmarsh and will be invited to do the same in October. 

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Featured Hearing Coverage Press Release

Preliminary Assange Appeal hearing scheduled for August 11

The United States government has been given limited permission to appeal the District Court’s decision to block the extradition of Julian Assange from the UK to the U.S. Britain’s High Court ruled that the U.S. government could appeal on some but not all of their requested points. Now a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for August 11th, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, to argue the scope of that appeal, and whether the U.S. government will be allowed to appeal on its other two proposed lines of argument. Assange is expected to attend in person.

Following that hearing, the High Court will schedule a date to hear full appeal arguments.

Grounds for Appeal

The U.S. government set forth five lines of argument for its appeal of the extradition ruling, and two of them were denied. It will be allowed to argue that the judge misapplied section 91 of the 2003 Extradition Act, which says someone can’t be extradited if the “physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him,” and that the judge should have notified the prosecution that she found extradition would be unjust or oppressive so that it could have provided “assurances to the Court” ahead of time. Finally, the High Court will allow the U.S. to put forth said assurances in the appeal hearing.

The High Court denied the U.S. government’s request to appeal on the grounds that the testimony of Professor Michael Kopelman should have been ruled inadmissible. Professor Kopelman is a psychiatrist who evaluated Assange and determined that he would be at risk of suicide if his extradition were ordered. The court also denied the U.S. government’s request to argue that the judge erred in her overall assessment of evidence that Assange would be at risk of suicide.

On August 11th, the High Court will hold a preliminary hearing for the parties to argue these last two grounds.

Assange’s fiancé Stella Moris explained what the U.S. government is attempting to do with this move:

Any losing party, the US in this case, is allowed to attempt to have different judges review the grounds that they have lost on. But the US government’s attack on Dr. Kopelman is particularly vexatious. The US government will try to re-run arguments that have already been settled by two different judges. It is the latest move by the US government to try to game the British legal system. The US government’s handling of the case exposes the underlying nature of the prosecution against Julian: subverting the rules so that Julian’s ability to defend himself is obstructed and undermined while he remains in prison for years and years, unconvicted, and held on spurious charges. The “process” is the punishment.

However much the prosecution plays to the gallery on August 11th in its efforts to attack the reputation of one of the most well-respected neuropsychiatrists in Britain, the real substance of the appeal will take place when the main appeal hearing will be heard in full later this year. But the scope of that hearing, three or five grounds, will be determined on the 11th of August.

U.S. “Assurances”

The U.S. government purports to give “assurances” that if Assange is extradited to the United States, he won’t be placed in the highest-security prison, Supermax ADX Florence, and he won’t be subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). But these assurances include caveats that render them meaningless: according to its own filing, the United States can still use these measures if it decides that Assange “do[es] something subsequent to the offering of these assurances that meets the tests for the imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX.”

Amnesty International says, “Such latitude to alter the terms of the core assurances after Assange’s transfer to the US renders them irrelevant from the start since he would remain at risk of ill-treatment in US detention at the point of transfer and afterward.”

Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s Expert on Counter-Terrorism, Criminal Justice, and Human Rights, says, “Those are not assurances at all. It is not that difficult to look at those assurances and say: these are inherently unreliable, it promises to do something and then reserves the right to break the promise.”

Responding to the news of so-called “assurances,” Moris said, “What the US is proposing is a formula to keep Julian in prison effectively for the rest of his life.”

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Featured Press Release

Germany: Letter of 120 politicians, artists and journalists, calling for the freedom of Julian Assange

12 July 2021

Dear Madam Chancellor,

We are extremely concerned about the health and life of the journalist Julian Assange, and are writing to you in advance of your planned visit to US President Joe Biden in Washington this month.

For eleven years now, Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing platform Wikileaks, has been deprived of his liberty. Since April 2019, he has been in detention at Belmarsh high-security prison in London, where he must await the decision on whether he is to be extradited from the United Kingdom to the USA. There, he faces the threat of a 175-year prison sentence for his work as a journalist, including his exposure of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like many well-known human-rights organisations and journalists’ organisations, we view the persecution of Julian Assange as an attack on press freedom and freedom of speech, which must be decisively rejected. Anybody committed to human rights and democracy must work to achieve Julian Assange’s freedom.

Madam Chancellor, we request your assistance in ensuring that Julian Assange does not have to remain in detention, where his health is being systematically destroyed through continued isolation. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, has been warning for some time that Julian Assange shows signs of exposure to psychological torture and that he must be immediately released. His fiancée, Stella Morris, reported after her last visit to Belmarsh that his imprisonment was driving him into a “deep depression and despair”, after she and their two young children had previously been refused any direct contact for eight months.

Julian Assange’s poor state of health was the main argument made in the ruling by a British judge on 4 January 2021, disallowing his extradition to serve a lengthy prison sentence of unknown duration in the US. Against this background, the fact that the journalist is still imprisoned in Belmarsh under extremely harsh conditions is even more incomprehensible. Julian Assange is still being deprived of his freedom in the UK, for the sole reason that the US government has appealed against the ruling for political reasons, and is still insisting on Assange’s extradition, which would be life-threatening for him.

The treatment of Julian Assange contradicts principles of the rule of law; the harsh conditions of his detention constitute a humanitarian scandal. In view of his critical state of health, urgent action must be taken.

It is now up to Joe Biden to end the judicial process against Julian Assange begun by his predecessor in office and drop the charges against him. A new turn of events may be brought about by the most recent revelations of the key US prosecution witness, Icelander Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, who admitted in an in-depth interview with the international press having lied in his accusations incriminating Julian Assange and that he was paid for doing so. We ask you to take into account these exonerating statements.

Madam Chancellor, we urgently appeal to you to build bridges in the case of Julian Assange. Please make clear in your discussions with US President Joe Biden in Washington how important the dropping of the charges against the Wikileaks founder is in terms of defending press freedom – in order for him to return to good health in liberty in the company of his family.

We know what great hopes are resting on you – on the part of Julian Assange’s family, as well as numerous international supporters of the journalist. We ask you to find a humanitarian solution for Julian Assange which is also face-saving for the US President.

This would be a striking and enduring humanitarian gesture at the end of your time in office and would after all offer Joe Biden and opportunity to now break with the era of Donald Trump in defending press freedom and freedom of expression.

We hope for your support.

Yours sincerely,

Günter Wallraff

Further signatories:

Jakob Augstein (journalist, publisher), Berivan Aymaz (Member of the North-Rhine Westphalian Landtag), Dietmar Bartsch (Member of the Bundestag, chairman of the Left Party parliamentary group), Gerhart Baum (former Federal Minister of the Interior), Canan Bayram (Member of the Bundestag), Markus Beckedahl (journalist), Rolf Becker (actor), Konrad Beikircher (satirist), Sibylle Berg (author), Roswitha and Erich Bethe (Bethe Foundation), Paul Böhm (architect), Nora Bossong (author), Micha Brumlik (writer), Anke Brunn (former State Minister of Science for North-Rhine Westphalia), Frank Castorf (theatre director), Sevim Dagdelen (Member of the Bundestag), Herta Däubler-Gmelin (former Federal Minister of Justice), Fabio de Masi (Member of the Bundestag), Hans Demmel (media manager), Bijan Djir-Sarai (Member of the Bundestag), Petra Erler (former Head of Cabinet at the EU Commission), Lisa Fitz (satirist), Sigmar Gabriel (former Federal Foreign Minister), Kerstin Gleba (publisher), John Goetz (journalist), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Member of the Bundestag, chairwoman of the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group), Anselm Grün (Benedictine monk, author), Serap Güler (State Secretary for Integration), Gregor Gysi (Member of the Bundestag), Hektor Haarkötter (media scientist), Robert Habeck (chairman of Alliance 90/The Greens), Lutz Hachmeister (film producer), Heike Hänsel (Member of the Bundestag), Frank Heinrich (Member of the Bundestag), Monique Hofmann (General Secretary of the German Journalists’ Union), Elfriede Jelinek (author, Nobel Laureate in Literature), Hans Jessen (journalist), Tilo Jung (journalist, Jung & Naiv), Barbara Junge (journalist, taz newspaper editor-in-chief), Markus J. Karsten (publisher), Navid Kermani (author), Markus Kompa (lawyer), Reiner Kröhnert (satirist), Gabriele Krone-Schmalz (writer), Sebastian Krumbiegel (musician), Wolfgang Kubicki (Member of the Bundestag, Vice-President of the Bundestag), Friedrich Küppersbusch (television producer), Oskar Lafontaine (former Federal Minister of Finance), Karl Lauterbach (Member of the Bundestag), Klaus Lederer (Deputy Governing Mayor and State Senator for Culture and Europe for Berlin), Hans Leyendecker (journalist), Volker Lösch (theatre director), Albrecht von Lucke (writer), Markus Meckel (theologian), Jeanine Meerapfel (President of the Akademie der Künste), Nils Melzer (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), Eva Menasse (author), Franz Meurer (Catholic priest), Robert Misik (author), Amira Mohamed Ali (Member of the Bundestag, chairwoman of the Left Party parliamentary group), Hans Mörtter (Protestant pastor), Andy Müller-Maguhn (IT expert), Albrecht Müller (writer), Linus Neumann (Chaos Computer Club spokesperson), Wolfgang Niedecken (musician), Bahman Nirumand (author), Max-Jacob Ost (journalist, podcaster), Cem Özdemir (Member of the Bundestag), Osman Okkan (filmmaker), Pagonis Pagonikas (filmmaker), Claus Peymann (theatre director), Fritz Pleitgen (journalist, former WDR Director-General), Dagmar Ploetz (translator), Emitis Pohl (entrepreneur), Sabine Poschmann (Member of the Bundestag), Christine Prayon (actor, satirist), Anja Reschke (journalist, editor and host of Panorama), Georg Restle (journalist, ARD Monitor), Rezo (Youtuber), Moritz Rinke (author), Claudia Roth (Member of the Bundestag, Vice-President of the Bundestag), Eugen Ruge (author), Susana Santina (journalist), Joachim Sartorius (former Director of the Berliner Festspiele), Frank Schätzing (author), Volker Schlöndorff (film director), Gerhard Schmidt (President of the German Televison Academy), Renate Schmidt (former Federal Minister of Health), Wolfgang M. Schmitt (film critic), Wolfgang Schorlau (author), Matthias Schreiber (pastor), Ingo Schulze (author), Frank Schwabe (Member of the Bundestag), Gesine Schwan (political scientist), Alice Schwarzer (writer, editor of “Emma” magazine), Winfried Seibert (lawyer), Martin Sonneborn (Member of the European Parliament), Michael Sontheimer (journalist), Klaus Staeck (poster artist), Bernd Stegemann (dramaturge), Uli Stoll (author), Hans-Christian Ströbele (former Member of the Bundestag), Margit Stumpp (Member of the Bundestag), Wolfgang Thierse (former President of the Bundestag), Valentin Thurn (filmmaker), Uwe Timm (author), Ilija Trojanow (author), Georg Stefan Troller (author), Max Uthoff (satirist), Günter Verheugen (former Minister of State, former Vice-President of the European Commission), Antje Vollmer (former Vice-President of the Bundestag), Sahra Wagenknecht (Member of the Bundestag), Jörg Wagner (media journalist), Norbert Walter-Borjans (chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany), Harald Welzer (sociologist), Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (former Federal Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation), Ulrike Winkelmann (journalist, taz newspaper editor-in-chief), Ranga Yogeshwar (physicist, scientific journalist)

German version https://assange-helfen.de/ 

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Featured Hearing Coverage Press Release

US government given limited permission to appeal January decision that Assange should not be extradited

A Court has notified the parties involved in Julian Assange’s extradition case that the United States government’s appeal will be listed for a hearing.

The decision by the High Court simply gives permission for the US government to attempt to challenge the ruling, but it does not reflect the merits of the US arguments.

Permission has been granted on a limited basis, allowing only narrow, technical grounds to form the basis of the appeal. Crucially, the High Court did not allow the United States to appeal any of the factual findings concerning Assange’s condition. No date has been set for the hearing.

Assange’s extradition was blocked in January on the grounds that it would be “oppressive”, citing the circumstances of the extradition, as well as his clinical history and Autism Spectrum disorder diagnosis, which, combined, would drive him to suicide. The High Court affirmed Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s conclusions concerning his clinical condition, as well as the independent expert evidence on which she relied.

Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years in prison if extradited.

The appeal was lodged by the Trump Administration, just two days before President Biden took office, but revelations reported last weekend dealt a new blow to the credibility of the Department of Justice case.

Icelandic investigative journalists revealed that the DoJ’s lead witness, an Icelandic man convicted of sex crimes against minors, fraud and embezzlement, who is also a diagnosed sociopath, now admits that he fabricated allegations against Assange in exchange for immunity from US prosecutors. Those discredited allegations form the basis of the Second Superseding indictment against Assange and were even cited in the extradition judgment delivered on January 4th.

Julian Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, said:

“Six months ago, Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocked the extradition of my partner, Julian Assange, because consigning him to the US prison system would have amounted to signing his death warrant. That should have been the end of it.

“The new revelations concerning the DoJ’s lead witness, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, confirm what we all knew: that the case against Julian has been built on lies. The case is rotten to the core, and nothing that the US government can say about his future treatment is worth the paper it is written on.  This is a country whose agents plotted to kill Julian on British soil; who harried his solicitors and stole legal documents; who even targeted our six-month-old baby.

This entirely baseless, abusive, anti-First Amendment case was driven by the previous administration for nefarious reasons. The administration instrumentalised the law to pursue the political objective of disappearing Julian as a deterrent to journalists in the United States and elsewhere.

“I am appealing directly to the Biden government to do the right thing, even at this late stage. This case should not be dragged out for a moment longer. End this prosecution, protect free speech and let Julian come home to his family.

“The current administration admits that the Trump Department of Justice lacked independence. It seems inconceivable that President Biden would want to continue with this case – because Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms and no democratic society can ever make journalism a crime.

“If the Biden Administration does not end this now, the case will limp through the courts while Julian remains in prison indefinitely: unconvicted, suffering and isolated, while our young children are denied their father. Julian spent his 50th birthday on the 3rd of July behind bars in Belmarsh prison, where he has been on remand since April 2019. He is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.

“This case shows nothing but contempt for the First Amendment. Repressive regimes welcome the Biden administration’s prosecution of Julian because it signals that imprisoning the press and silencing political dissent is practised and endorsed by the United States. Bringing this shameful prosecution demeans the values that the United States says it stands for. It reduces trust in both the US and the UK legal systems.

“Julian’s prosecution is vigorously opposed by The New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as the National Union of Journalists, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and virtually every press freedom and human rights organisation in the West, together with parliamentarians from around the world”.

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Australia have renewed their calls for the Biden Administration to abandon the prosecution as international political pressure grows. A group of German MPs have written to Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to raise the issue with President Biden during her forthcoming trip to Washington.

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Press Release

Cornel West and Ryan Grim join Julian Assange’s father & brother at National Press Club

Renowned academic Dr. Cornel West and Intercept reporter Ryan Grim spoke alongside John and Gabriel Shipton in the First Amendment Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington D.C., concluding their tour of the United States, calling on the Department of Justice to drop the charges against Assange.

Transcript

RYAN GRIM – I will speak really briefly about the latest, potentially explosive news development in this case. And then we’re gonna hear from Gabriel Shipton the brother of Julian Assange, and John Shipton, his father, and an academic, one of the towering intellectual figures of our of our time, Dr. Cornel West will also be sharing some thoughts with us. 

So the news over the weekend if folks hadn’t seen it, is that a young man named Sigurdur Thordarson, who had been a central witness that the Department of Justice is using against Assange has told reputable press in Iceland that he lied to the FBI. And it appears also, that the FBI lied to Iceland, as part of its effort to extradite Assange and why this revelation is so important is because of what exactly he was saying. So, Assange is effectively being prosecuted here for publishing evidence of war crimes. But because of our remaining reverence for the First Amendment here in the United States, the Department of Justice can’t just come out and say that he’s being prosecuted for publishing evidence of war crimes, because then you have to prosecute the New York Times, you have to prosecute The Intercept, you have to prosecute the Washington Post, you have to prosecute all of media that publishes classified information. They don’t want to do that. So they want to say, ‘No, no, no, in fact, he’s actually a hacker. So he’s working with hackers, and he’s hacking into classified systems, and he’s extracting information.’ 

So a key piece of evidence they had was this witness from Iceland, who said that Assange was directing hackers in Iceland to hack into the bank of Iceland. And otherwise kind of operating this hacker syndicate. That turns out, as we as many people knew already, but now he’s confirming on the record, not to be true, that it was a lie. Now, the reason they needed this claim in their indictment, even though he’s not being charged, with those particular crimes is that it buttresses what they’re trying to say about his relationship with his source, Chelsea Manning. What they’re trying to say is that it wasn’t that Chelsea Manning, based on her conscience leaked information about war crimes to Julian Assange in his role as a publisher and a journalist published. No, in fact, what they’re trying to say is that there was a hacking conspiracy here. And they back it up with this evidence from Iceland. 

So with that gone, all they have is the relationship between Manning and Assange. And when you look closely at it, you see a source and journalist relationship. In fact, in the chat logs that have been released, you see Assange being rather careful to make sure that he’s not soliciting, soliciting any specific information from Manning, even one quote where he says, something like, you might remember the exact quote, but something like ‘curious eyes are always interested in more information that the public ought to learn about.’ So he’s very careful never to say, “Go look, in this particular file for this particular information, the only thing he does is help Manning with confidentiality and source protection. And the Department of Justice has tried to flip that into some sort of a hacking charge. When if you step back, Bob Woodward, when he’s working with Deep Throat, and telling him we’re gonna put the plants on this side of the door, and that’s your signal to me that you have information that will meet in the parking garage. That’s, that’s the same, that’s functionally the same thing. That is that Assange was helping Manning with trying to make sure that the source could leak information and retain anonymity. The Washington Post, The New York Times do that every single day. There’s nothing wrong with that. I would also argue there’s nothing wrong, constitutionally, with leaking, that there’s no classification exception in the First Amendment. That’s a separate question that we could talk about later, if we have time. But with Sigurdur Thordarson new allegation or new admission that he lied to the to the FBI, the case is falling apart. And so the only case they’re left with is that they’re prosecuting a publisher for publishing information that the US did not want to be published. Gabriel, if we could start with you. I’m curious to know, how has the tour been going so far? What’s the reception been like around the country? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON : Yeah, so the tour has been absolutely incredible. The reception that we’ve been getting across the country, the outpouring of support, and this upwelling of people who’ve been coming out to talk to us about why they care about this case, why they care about the press freedom implications, the dangers to press freedom that this case represents, and why they care about their First Amendment rights. We’ve literally spoken to thousands and thousands of people across the country. 

We started off in Miami at the Bitcoin conference of primarily technologists, people who are really, really interested in a free internet and how this case constrains internet freedom. We moved on to Boston, where we received a Sacco and Vanzetti award on Julian’s behalf. We stopped in New York, and we had to expand the capacity of the venue three times, that was the amount of people that wanted to come down and hear about this case, to get updated and find out more about this case. In New York, Roger Waters ended up going viral. He had a deal offer from Instagram for use of his song. He tore it up at the event and called Mark Zuckerberg a prick. That went totally viral online, over a million hits, and that sort of feeds into this. Julian saw the internet as for its emancipatory value, whereas others like Zuckerberg, see it as a tool of control or a tool to make money from people. Then we went on to Washington, where we stopped at the Jefferson Memorial. One thing that really struck us there was a quote from Jefferson, which says, “were it left to him to have a government without newspapers or, or newspapers without a government, he would choose the latter.” I had never heard that quote before. 

We then headed west, down to Columbus and onto Chicago where we marched through the streets with about 70 people cheering for Julian and a free press. From there to Denver. What was surprising about Denver is that so many young people, very active activists, were all interested solely in their First Amendment rights. In places like Minneapolis and St. Paul, we had a huge turnout of very antiwar people, very interested in transparency specifically military transparency. And then we went on to Oakland, which was a huge event. But everywhere we went, we were always just blown away by the outpouring of support that we saw. And as we moved across the country, the media interest increased. We’ve had 30 plus articles, some even in mainstream media. We were able to do the Amy Goodman show and we were able to do Tucker Carlson’s show. A couple of days ago, we were on [Mehdi] Hassan’s show. So the media interest has developed. This issue is not a left or right issue. If Amy Goodman and Tucker Carlson agree that this prosecution is a danger to press freedom, and there are not many issues that they can agree on, I think it’s beyond left and right. Wherever we go, local radio is always interested in talking to us. It’s just been incredible, we are just absolutely blown away by the people of the US. 

A lot of the persecution of Julian originates from here, which is why we’ve come here. This is where the decisions are made. But we had this impression that maybe we would have some trouble, people might abuse us, or we might get arrested. We didn’t know what would happen. It’s been the exact opposite. The hospitality has been incredible. The people are amazing. Every day we were just so surprised about how much Americans care about their First Amendment, their democratic rights, and even about Julian Assange. 

RYAN GRIM: And John, has any of this momentum translated into anything tangible from the administration? You know, Joe Biden, I think famously called Julian a high-tech terrorist or something a long time ago. And secondly, when was the last time you got you had any communication with Julian? How is he doing personally? 

JOHN SHIPTON: We were here in January, had some communication with part of the Biden administration. They asked us to wait till after the inauguration, but since the inauguration, as you can see, there’s been a turmoil of demands upon the administration. And consequently, I don’t think we would be rewarded by making approaches, but we are feeling — and it’s demonstrated by the phenomenon of what we call, an upwelling in support — our feeling is that it begins with people. And the concerns of the people rise up in the Congresspeople and the administration. That’s particularly in our case, because this is a worldwide phenomenon. In the Western world, we travel to every country, and there is support there. There are cross party groups in many Parliaments supporting Julian Assange, so that in Spain, France, particularly Germany, Australia, is quite big in Australia and the United Kingdom. Yesterday in the United Kingdom, on behalf of the 21 members of the cross-party group, three MPs went out to Belmarsh prison in a protest and delivered a letter to the governor, because parliamentarians have been unable to get access to the jail to see Julian. 

To the second part of your question, Julian has permission to ring externally international calls, as long as his account is in credit, since the jail was fully locked down, about a year ago. He rings me for 10 minutes each day, and then at the guillotine, we are cut off. He would like to ring more. sometimes he does, but it depends upon the availability of access, because there are 800 prisoners there, all of them wishing to use the telephone to ring their loved ones or the lawyers or whatever. 

RYAN GRIM: Dr. West, could you put the prosecution of Assange into some context for us with a goal of giving people some sense of how he can actually be freed through public pressure? 

CORNEL WEST: Yeah, let me first say that it is a blessing, honor and privilege to sit here with my dear brother Gabriel and brother John, who are biologically and lovingly connected to my very dear brother, Julian. I have a deep love and respect for him. I had dialogue with him when he was there in the Embassy of Ecuador back eight years ago. And we appreciate the work that you’ve done with The Intercept, and another’s brother Ryan, and the great Jeremy Scahill. 

I understand the predicament of our brother Julian Assange as part of the legacy of all the great journalists who tried to raise their courageous voices and vision in the face of forms of terrorism. That Ida B. Wells Barnett, one of the great journalists, a black woman dealing with American terrorism at home on lynching. Seymour Hersh, Jeremy Scahill trying to tell the truth about American lies and crimes. That is a tradition that my dear brother Julian Assange is a part of. And one of the reasons why I would not miss this moment of not just being in solidarity with him and brother john and Julian, but also raising my voice is to accent the degree to which the vision, courage, the willingness to serve and sacrifice in the name of being a truth seeker. And a judge, Justice witness, sir, that’s what brother Julian is. And one of the reasons why the various administrations, be it Obama, be it Trump, be it Biden, have yet to fully come to terms with who he is, and what his witness is all about, is an attempt to try to hide and conceal the American Imperial crimes based on the lies told, and we know that every nation, every government, every Empire, tells lies, to conceal its crimes. 

And therefore, we have to be in genuine solidarity based on a moral consistency. And myself, as a revolutionary Christian part of the legacy of Dr King Jr. is a spiritual constancy for those who have been victimized by American terrorism and crimes, drones and a variety of other mechanisms. And so anytime I get a chance to say a word about my brother Julian be that on television, radio, with the father or the son, or the journalist, I come running. So I was blessed to drive down from New York, and we drive right back to New York with smiles on our faces. I do want to point out brother Randy, and Randy Credico was unique in the culture, the legacy of the Richard Pryor’s and the George Carlin’s, who, as activists, and we’ve been in jail together on many occasions, concerned with the kinds of things that brother Julian is concerned about. The ability for the wretched to live lives of dignity and decency. And that truth ought to resonate, no matter how many of the mainstream press show up, no matter how many politicians show up, because truth, crushed earth will rise again. And the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak, not just brother Julian suffering, but the suffering of those who have been killed, murdered, brutalized by American terrorism here, be it in Ferguson, or abroad, be it as victims of us drones. And that’s what we’re talking about. That’s why this is a life and death issue. This is why it’s an issue of press freedom, it is an issue of trying to preserve the conditions for the possibility of democracies here and abroad. That’s what’s at stake here. And it is never a matter of numbers and quantity. So matter of the quality of the issues raised, that’s what’s at stake when we talk about my dear brother, Julian Assange.

RYAN GRIM: I like that you mentioned the concept of moral consistency. I’d like to get everybody’s response to this because Gabriel, when we spoke last in Washington, several weeks ago, there were several people in the audience, who said I’m with you, and I’m with this cause, but whenever I tried to spread it, I get pushback from my normie Democratic friends who are still bitter, about 2016 and the email leaks. Everybody should know, and it matters, that this has nothing to do with these charges. Assange has not been charged related to anything in 2016. A journalist job if they get a leak is to authenticate it and publish it. If it comes from a hack, if it comes from a conscientious, conscious-driven leaker. That’s not the point. The point is, is the information valuable to the public? If it is, the public ought to have a right to review it. But the question of moral consistency comes in because as soon as the principle becomes hard to defend, and as soon as that there’s a person that you’re still angry at over the 2016 grievance, you see people start to shrink away from the principal. Have you confronted much of that on the road? And what have you found as a way to get through to people that that the principle is far more important than your small grievance here? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: Yeah, we haven’t confronted that a lot, as much as we expected we would. And when we do, we explain its about the Chelsea Manning leaks and the publication of those leaks. It’s about explaining to people what it’s about, what Julian’s being prosecuted for and how this precedent is dangerous. I think this is a real problem that people feel that they can excuse this prosecution. It is the first of its kind against a publisher. They might have a disagreement with that person, but when you talk to people and explain this is the first time that this has ever been done to a publisher, and affects people not just here, but around the world. People in other countries, journalists in other countries where they don’t have the same rights that they do here or in Australia, or Britain, journalists who live in totalitarian states, or authoritarian states. This prosecution and persecution of Julian Assange affects them when the United States State Department goes and confronts, say, China about their human rights record, and their press freedoms. China says to them, well, who are you to lecture us? Look what you’re doing to judge Julian Assange! The Russian ambassador to the UK was confronted about the treatment of Nalvany, and he was able to turn around and say, “You can’t lecture us, down the road, you’ve got a publisher and a journalist locked in prison for publishing.”

Another example is the dictator of Azerbaijan being interviewed by the BBC, confronted about his record on torturing journalists, jailing journalists, killing journalists, was able to say to the BBC, “Who are you to lecture me? Look, what you’re doing the Julian Assange! You’re claiming moral superiority over us, but you’re doing the exact same thing to a publisher and a journalist.” 

I think it’s very important to realize that it doesn’t just affect people here in the US, or the Western countries like Australia or the UK, but it affects people who have a lot less rights and freedoms than we do. That message for me, really takes it out of that local political message and puts it on a broader scale that people can understand that if the Biden administration were to end this prosecution, they would be able to reclaim that moral high ground and pressure on them once again, without the Assange problem that they now have. Thinking about those people in those countries who have a lot less rights than, than Australia, or or here in the States, I think that’s very important. 

JOHN SHIPTON: The Collateral Murder video was released here, in this room, the First Amendment room, by Julian Assange. Julian’s birthday is next week, he’ll be 50. Since that day, the prosecution and persecution, this deluge of madness has continued like a Niagara Falls until, as was just mentioned, Sigurdur Thordarson put up his hand to criminal conspiracy entered into with the FBI, nine FBI officers, till eventually in Iceland in Reykjavik, the appropriate minister of government in Iceland told the FBI to withdraw, realizing what was being done. 

This is a disgrace brought upon the Department of Justice, indelible, upon the administration of justice in the United States by William Barr and the Trump administration. Indelible. Railroading an innocent man, getting a pedophile, a convicted fraudster and thief, bribing him and flattering this damaged human being in order to bring a witness, because they realized that their case under the first indictment was just falling away, falling to bits. So they issued a superseding indictment, a second indictment in July 20, six weeks before the hearing. The defense found out about this matter in the newspapers. But still, the show trial continued and brought disgrace upon the administration of justice in the United Kingdom. The judge Baraitser, quoted Sigurdur Thordarson in her summary. Both sides knew that it was rubbish and that this man was damaged. The defense submitted an affidavit that they didn’t have time, that Julian was inaccessible because of a Covid lockdown. They needed more time, the judge refused. The judge agreed with every single aspect of the United States submission, despite the fact that the First Amendment and despite the fact that the treaty obligations for extradition between the United States and the United Kingdom, states specifically, that there will be no extraditions for political matters. As a consequence, they cooked up this damaged human being and they brought disgrace upon themselves in their society. The United States disgrace indelible equally. The magistrate of the magistrate’s court Arbuthnot saying that Julian ought to go out and get a bit of sunshine on the balconies as he is fond of going out there to speak. He can go and stand in the sun. The callousness of these people. How do they get jobs to judge people? Judge Tyler said Julian was a narcissist. Julian had just been three hours before dragged out of the embassy by six policemen. Despite the fact that Julian was an asylee, the judge said Julian’s a narcissist, I thought that such a woman would have a law degree, not a degree in psychology. She’d only seen Julian for five minutes. Julian had to correct her in court where she declared that the charges, she said the charges but there were no charges, but allegations. Julian had to correct her in court. The inaccuracy.

Anyway, the moral impediment to Julian has now spent well moving to the 12th and 13th year of arbitrary detention. Arbitrary detention declared by the United Nations working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2017 and February 2018. The 2018 Report used even firmer language because the United Kingdom had appealed against the decision and failed. They took no notice, the judge said I don’t take any notice of them, trashing the United Nations. That’s the greatest civil accomplishment of the post war period, the United Nations, where nations can amongst themselves sort out their differences through negotiation, through debating their interest in the best way possible because states naturally compete. The United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer professor of law at Glasgow International University, made his 36-page report after seeing Julian for four hours with two experts on psychological torture, published the report that Julian had undergone years of psychological torture, lies, smears, and endless deluge from judicial officers, from newspapers, from executives of government. To the extent that one newspaper published that Julian had had a visitor just simply wasn’t true. It just wasn’t true, this particular visitor, but it had an important reverberation into the United States because of their concerns, concerns over 2016. It’s just a lie, the second most surveilled person in the world, Julian Assange, after the President of the United States easily demonstrate the proof. 

On it goes until the other day, it was revealed that they used a damaged human being, because their case is in trouble. They bring disgrace upon themselves. That’s a moral question, as Cornel says, and a moral question is continuous. Julian will have his 50th birthday next week in jail. 

Anyway, I’m starting to rant a bit, you’ll forgive me that there’s a lot more that I can offer you in this ongoing injustice. In 1200, the Magna Carta came about when the barons said, we’re not having any more of this. There’s got to be laws. As a consequence of that growth in Western societies, and other societies copying this wonderful civic gift of the English, that there had to be a law between the sovereign and the people, with the sovereign obeying the law as well as the people. In 1793, in the Enlightenment period, the Constitution of the United States understood this and brought about a wonderful thing we call the First Amendment based upon the understanding, implicit in the First Amendment, is that there’s only one road to freedom. And that’s knowledge. 

To get this gold in human affairs, you’ve got to grind up a lot of sand, and all you get is a fleck, the First Amendment being one, the Bill of Rights another, the Magna Carta being another. You’ve got to grind up so much to get the conventions of asylum and other United Nations instruments. 1000s of years of experiment go by, and these flecks of gold accumulate, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, the first president of the united Nations, Herbert Doc Evatt, an Australian. But they trash it all in the case against Julian Assange. They trash all of the treasures that guarantee us that there will be some negotiation and moral impulse, imprimatur some gift that we can give to each other that holds us within a bound, whereby we don’t embark upon murderous escapades and millions and millions die. And according to Brown University, 37 million people wander the earth seeking refuge for the 20 years destruction in the Middle East. 

RYAN GRIM: Dr. West, how do you respond to that point and the question of how do you reach people who will stipulate a principle of free expression, free speech, free Press, but shrink from it, in cases where it’s inconvenient for them in that moment? 

CORNEL WEST: I just want to say I’m just so deeply moved by my brother, because he speaks with power. And eloquence. Also his brother Gabriel. July 3 is a very special birthday because it’s the birthday both of my dear brother Julian Assange, 1971, and that of my beloved mother, who just died just a few days ago, July 3 1932. And mom was an exemplar of what Jane Austen called constancy. She wasn’t pure pristine. But she was a woman of great moral consistency. And that’s where I come from. And so when I hear people say, if the New York Times had done it, then the First Amendment protects them. But when my dear brother Julian Assange, does it, and WikiLeaks does it, it doesn’t protect them. That’s a home of hail. That’s hypocrisy. I learned that from Irene v. West on the chocolate side of Sacramento, California, coming out of Shiloh Baptist Church in the West family. I have no monopoly on truth, the goodness of beauty. You could look at me and see that, but they live their hypocrisy as mendacity. And in hide criminality. I learned that from Irene B West. 

And so when I say brother Julian, concerned about the lies and the crimes, and I’ll see when he reveals it, he’s not protected. But when the New York Times and Washington Post and others cooperate with it, they are protected. And that’s the only reason why the Obama administration tried to bring my dear brother into incarceration in the name of the Espionage Act. But when it came to their friends in the New York Times, they began to pull back. That’s moral inconsistency and hypocrisy of the highest level. We are not here to assess or evaluate the character, full-fledged character of brother Julian. He’s like me, he is a cracked vessel. He is a human being. But when it comes to the vision, when it comes to courage, when it comes to the willingness to expose lies and crimes, I am in deep solidarity with my dear brother Julian. And that’s why we drove down from New York today and driving back to night with smiles on our faces. And we will celebrate both birthdays on Friday. Julian 50. Mom, now gone, would have been 89. 

RYAN GRIM: I think it’s important to add to that for people who are still not persuaded that governments, when they’re trying to roll back powers that people have accumulated to themselves are always going to try to find the case that they think they can move on. They’re not moving on the columnist for The New York Times, who was popular around the country. You have to be on guard for that. Because you have to know that it’s going to be those more difficult questions, not difficult questions for most people here. But we have to understand that there’s an entire country out there. And so you have to understand that when those questions are most difficult, that’s when you have to have the courage to say no, this violates the principle and you have to stand up against that. Otherwise, the precedent is set, the government has done its job of encroaching and pushing back. And the next time they’re going to push back a little further. They always are going to make that same play. Gabriel what in particular, are you asking people to do? Who wants to be involved? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: John mentioned the significance of this location. Here on [5] April 2010, when Julian was here literally in this room, he showed the Collateral Murder video, which showed a helicopter gunship that killed, gunned down, Reuters journalists and then the people who came to save their lives. Since the since that day, almost 11 or so years ago, Julian has been pursued by one force or another. The people who are responsible for those killings have never been pursued. This is a very important point. I think that all of these revelations that Julian has brought to us about all these wars, corruption, lies, laws, but for elected officials there’s little to no repercussions for them. Julian is the one who’s suffering. Julian is the one who was imprisoned. 

RYAN GRIM: And can I interrupt you to add one thing, that nobody’s journalism over the past 10 years has been under as fine a microscope as his because you have the most powerful people and forces in the world looking for any slip up to take him down. There were extensive efforts to try to show that something he revealed had led to some type of death somewhere in Afghanistan or somewhere. Nothing. There were undoubtedly many efforts to get him to publish things that were untrue in an effort to discredit him. But like a good journalist does, he authenticated documents before he published them to have a record over a decade plus, that’s impeccable under that type of a microscope is an incredible journalistic achievement. 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: So I just wanted to point that out that Julian has been the victim in this whole situation that John outlined. What we’ve been asking people to do across the country is get in touch with their representatives, and tell them how concerned they are about their democratic rights that are under threat through this prosecution of Julian Assange. That’s what we’ve been sort of imploring people to do across the country, to stand up for their democratic rights and their free press until their representatives that they really care about their First Amendment, their free press, and so they want this prosecution dropped.

JOHN SHIPTON: How do you go about redemption? The burden of bad conscience that Washington has placed on the people of the United States, this interests me because to alleviate that suffering is such an important thing. So those revelations 10 years ago, Iraq War, Afghan War files, the cables, the Collateral Murder video, the Guantanamo Bay detainees files have seeped in to the consciousness of the people of the United States, in a thin band, that’s not as you would expect, like holding knowledge in the head. It’s a historical phenomenon. So it’s hard for us to read, but we can read the results. They’re out of Afghanistan. Guantanamo Bay closure is, well, on the cusp. People can’t bear it anymore and understand that Washington put it in Guantanamo Bay, because it wouldn’t be covered by the decency of the laws of the United States. Its closure is imminent. They’re out of Iraq and just have a few troops in Syria, causing a little bit of trouble and discomfort, but they’ll be added to it really important to understand that those leaks ended wars, in specific examples I can give you the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States in Iraq was refused by the Iraqi government. And as a consequence, there’s troops of the United States were an allies, my country, were withdrawn. They’re gone, they’re out. Such an enormous Empire takes a bit of turning around, but it has an excuse. 

What I intend is to alleviate a burden of consciousness that that accusation places upon the United States and accompany that the realization that the redemption has been and gone, it’s there. All you have to do is partake of the understanding that the revelations have worked their course. In my imagination, Chelsea Manning is a historic historical figure none less than Joan of Arc and is a treasure of the United States. Her rise to the pantheon of gods will continue in my view. 

RYAN GRIM: Dr. West,, Gabriel, anything else before we open it up for questions? 

CORNEL WEST: I was blessed to be at a trial of Chelsea with Chris Hedges and to witness the unbelievable courage of this Chelsea. Let me say this about journalism that we’re living in a moment of such a massive spiritual decay and moral decrepitude. By spiritual decay, I mean indifference toward the suffering of weakened vulnerable people and by moral decrepitude, I mean the relative eclipse of integrity and honesty and decency. So when it comes to journalism, there is a dearth of quality journalism in the American Empire. And there’s a near death of genuine journalism. And what that means then, is that you got levels of careerism, opportunism, the cronyism between the owners of newspapers with the powers that be so, that truth seeking and witness bearing is an afterthought. And journalism is reduced to superficial PR relations and strategy and tactics that have little to do with the truth. Because the condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak of everybody no matter what color, gender, sexual orientation or nation. 

So when we hear the US government bring critiques to bear on journalists in China, and China’s authoritarian, journalists in Iraq, Iraq, authoritarian, Haiti, Haiti, authoritarian, and then come back to the States, and can’t say, a mumbling word of support for the release of my dear brother Julian. That’s true for Chelsea. That’s true for a whole host of whistle blowers, then that is hypocrisy. And the inconsistency and the inconstancy comes to the surface. And that’s why the Amy Goodmans, the Intercepts, the Black Power media, the Black Agenda Report, WBAI, brother Randy Credico, and the others make a difference. And this is no small talk. Because in the end, it becomes the very grounds upon which you lose any sense of your democracy, any sense of press freedom, any sense of individual liberty. And I come from a black folk in this belly of the American beast, whose history bears witness to that loss of liberties and democracies. It is celebrating itself with forms of national idolatry as the misery continued day in and day out. And that’s what my brother Julian and I talked about, the legacy of Martin Luther King, we talked about the legacy of Ella Baker, we talked about the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer. All the way down from Australia, that opened his heart, and opened his mind and say, lo and behold, brother, Wes, given whatever differences we have, we are committed to press freedom, and democratic flourishing. And I said to him, my dear vanilla brother from Australia, I am in solidarity with you, because I’m committed to press freedom, individual liberty, democratic, flourishing, and keeping track of the victims of the war crimes of the largest empire in the history of the species called the American Empire.

RYAN GRIM: Again, that’s assangedefense.org for anybody who needs to find out how to get involved or get any more information. We do have a little more time. If there are any questions. 

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I just wanted to start out by thanking Ryan and Cornel for showing up. Because when I met Gabriel, and John, on their first leg on their trip in DC, there was a lack of interest of the media. In what I think is the trial of the century. And look at this room. I mean, I feel like Robert Byrd, why is this chamber empty? Where’s the press? I mean, look at the remarkable people on stage. Where’s the press? Why is it up to us? Where’s the press now that the case is totally falling apart? When it’s been revealed that the US government was basically rehabilitating a child molester diagnosed sociopath and a liar to put together a failed case? Where was the press? When files, text messages, emails came tumbling out of a Spanish court showing that CIA assets from UC global had plotted to poison Julian Assange, while the press was reporting on Nalvany in Russia. It was up to us at the Grayzone to report on that incredible story. It should have been on the front page of the New York Times that CIA assets had stalked the partner of Julian Assange, that they had tried to steal the diaper of his child to prove it was his child, that they had robbed his legal counsels office. That they had broken into the cameras in the embassy, that they had subverted the Ecuadorian security services to do so that they had actually hacked into the devices of the Washington Post’s national security correspondent, Ellen Nakashima. And she said nothing. Anthony Lowell Bergman. His devices were hacked in from NPR when he visited Assange, he said nothing. No one said anything.

So I guess my question for Gabriel, and John is on your ability to get any interest from the legacy press, in this incredible case at a very momentous time when it’s clearly falling apart. And Cornel as well, I mean, you’ve been on Anderson Cooper a lot recently in the last year. I mean, Have there been any request to talk about this? And, and for Ryan, I mean, you’re here. You’re putting yourself out there. But Kevin Gostzola said that the Intercept rejected his request to cover the trial in London of Julian Assange. And I don’t believe the Intercept assigned anyone. I mean, you’re the Washington bureau chief, it’s not necessarily your fault. But the Intercept seems to have strayed from its original mission to take on the national security state in so many ways. So my question for you is what is the Intercept planning to do to focus more on this crime? This this fact huge violation of international law, but also this huge violation of press freedom? Because you have a platform that we don’t have at the Grayzone, you have resources that we don’t have. So what are you all planning to?

GABRIEL SHIPTON: Yeah, big thanks to you, Max. I mean, without a lot of your coverage, no one would know. Thank you. Independent media led the way, they’ve been the tip of the spear. With all these dominoes that just keep dropping, from the arbitrary detention decision in 2015, to the two Nils Melzer torture decisions, to the Swedish allegation just evaporating, to the embassy spying, to the extradition rejection, at each stage of the way independent media really led the way in the coverage. I think what we’re seeing now is that it’s having an effect. The independent media is seeping into the mainstream media. It’s this sort of shame effect, like Julian did with the revelations through WikiLeaks, they could not not report on it. I think that’s what we’re seeing now, the independent media is growing so much stronger, and the mainstream media are going to have to figure out how they’re going to catch up, basically.

RYAN GRIM: It’s a really good question. Kevin, I’m a fan of his journalism. He’s appeared on our podcast to talk about his coverage of the trial. We did assign somebody to it who ran into some serious health difficulties. That led to a lot of internal delays in the coverage, which did eventually run, but I would have liked to see us doing daily dispatches, treating it as a trial of the century type of event. This is a trial of the century. Everything, everything rests on this. I’ve done a lot of questioning why it is that exactly, here we are in the National Press Club, why are there not free Assange signs? Why isn’t there a drumbeat from the American press or around this, and I have not been able to get beyond basic pathologizing, the kind of armchair psychoanalysis. 

Assange was such a dominant journalistic presence for the last generation really. The number of stories that Wikileaks broke that impacted the world that we’ve all we’ve all forgotten about, outnumber the number of consequential scoops that some of the best journalists will have in their entire careers. It’s just a staggering record of achievement. So there may be some professional jealousy there and some wish to solve that by saying, well I didn’t get beaten, because that’s not actually journalism. I don’t know what exactly it is, but it’s something else. Because if it’s journalism, then I’ve been getting my hat handed to me by this weirdo Australian out here with this website. So it can’t be that, that just doesn’t comport with my worldview and my understanding of myself. So then you start inventing rationalizations for that that allow you to then separate him from your field, because you don’t want him in your field. There might also be some thought of a winning favor, with sources who are hostile to him by not speaking up or losing favor by speaking up. 

CORNEL WEST: The consequences of living in a decadent Empire is that the virus of cowardliness and hypocrisy is manifest in every sphere, including the professional managerial classes, including journalism, including the Academy. I won’t go into that right now. I was blessed to break bread with ___. He was writing his book on Socrates. We talked week after week. I love my brother. And he told me he said journalism is experiencing his way back 30 years ago and experiencing the captivity of the right-wing politicians and the neoliberal emerging politicians. The cronyism at the top of journalism is now accommodating itself to those politicians, which means that the patrons will choose that brother Ryan is talking about they’re not interested in doesn’t generate money, then generate revenue generate profit. So who does accrue? Well, sometimes a dose of vulgar Marxism is useful. Sometimes a dose of understanding class dynamics is very useful and doesn’t matter what color they are. They could be careers, they can be opportunities, they can be cronyism they can be nepotistic. That’s part of it. So that the relative paucity of the courage, which is manifest in Julian Assange, is more and more rare thing. The willingness to take a risk manifest in Assange and Chelsea and others, more and more rare thing is, so I think that’s part of it. That’s not the definitive explanation. But I do think that’s part of it. And I think that’s something that we have to acknowledge that sooner or later these truths will be manifest. 

My brother Randy Credico always reminds me when the abolitionists came to Washington, DC in the 1840s. How many journalists showed up? For Theodore Parker, Lydia, Maria Chow, Frederick Douglass, how many showed up? It was a paucity but they were talking about the possibility of a civil war if you don’t come to terms with this catastrophe called white supremacist slavery. They said, Oh, these journalists don’t know what they talking about. 15 years later, you got a whole different situation only because we’re talking about something as real. We’re talking about suffering of human beings. We’re talking about structures and institutions that are deteriorating, and therefore don’t want to come to terms with the kind of questions you’re asking my brother. And so we shouldn’t be discouraged. I’m not discouraged, not at all. When I look in the sparkling eyes of a precious child, we go fight for you. That’s who Julian is also fighting for, the preciousness of this little one, so they live in a world in which liberty and democracy can flourish, and people don’t have to sacrifice,

JOURNALIST QUESTION: Belmarsh is a dungeon. I visited Winston Silcock there 30 years ago. It’s a terrible place. Can you talk please about the conditions of Julian’s confinement? And how much contact does he have with, with outsiders? I mean, in person, is he allowed to get visits? And, just how’s he doing, you know, like, in himself personally. 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: I’m not sure if you’re aware that Julian won his extradition case on 4 January this year. The US DOJ immediately signaled they would appeal. And then a couple days later, Julian’s bail was rejected. So he’s now in his third year of prison in Belmarsh as a remand prisoner. Belmarsh is full of the most violent criminals in the UK. It’s not a nice place. The last time I saw him was in October last year. After I saw him, they shut down visits, and he wasn’t able to get a visit for eight months. So he has had no contact, no contact whatsoever with his family, lawyers, or friends or loved ones, no physical contact for eight months. Luckily, last week, he had his first visit with his family after eight months. We are very happy about that. But he is suffering in there. It’s been years. He is strong, he is very strong, a very courageous person. But after years of attacks, spending 23 hours a day in a small cell, by yourself, it has an effect on someone. And seeing him over the years, you can really see the change in him, which is quite frightening to me. 

JOHN SHIPTON: Thank you. There’s a bitter irony that Julian few months ago got permission to have a visit. The jail was in lockdown, and then it was sort of lifted. They allowed a family visit. They cut down the time, so it was about 40 minutes with the children. The instructions from the guard were this: that should the children embrace you, (Julian was in full PPE by the way), should the children embrace you, you will have to spend two weeks in isolation. Should Stella embrace you, you have to spend two weeks in isolation. That’s a bit mad isn’t it? He’s already 23 hours a day in isolation. But Nils Melzer who went there, he’s brave and brainy, he’s characterizes this as before our eyes, a slow motion murder. I use those dramatic turns to make the point so that it is not reduced to the ordinariness. These people deliberately, consciously, constantly, continuously, think of ways. 

So when they visited last week, the guard attempted to stick his finger in the little boy’s mouth, tracking for drugs or something, a little boys mouth of just over two years of age. Of course, the boy went into meltdown, his father has to sit there in the chair, or otherwise be brought low and the visits finished. What I mean by brought low is they bundle on. If you go against the rules, they bundle on, six of them, push you down, put the handcuffs on, throw you through the door. He has to sit there, watch his child go into meltdown as a guards tries to stick his finger in his mouth, in the little boy, in the little boy’s mouth. That’s the circumstance. I won’t make it easy for you. That would be a pleasure and an end. For the crown prosecuting serves the Department of Justice and certain disgruntled, miserable elements of the State Department. And certain, probably vicious members of the CIA who hate it when the finality of their authority is evaded. It upsets their guts, because they exercise the power of life and death over many people every day. So that’s the circumstances Forgive me. I can’t make it easy for you. They would be delighted if his end came now.

JOURNALIST QUESTION: I feel like it’s one of the most important aspects of the case that isn’t talked about enough. Randy did on one of the episodes of Assange Countdown to Freedom when talking to Ben Wizner about the global precedents that this case sets with having a non US citizen charged with breaking US law. Why is there not more focus on that? What if China says, this US journalist broke our laws, send them over? Are we going to do that? I just wish there were more talk about that, I would think that may get through to some people that are still hung up on the 2016 election. 

RYAN GRIM: I’m pessimistic that it could break through. What on earth is going on with an Australian being accused of treason in the United States? And what precedent does that set around the world? Am I right now breaking laws in Azerbaijan or, or China or, or Peru by what I’m reporting and can I then be extradited to one of one of those countries? —which is not an idle concern when the global regime for extradition, Interpol, is controlled by the United Arab Emirates. I think UAE owns like half of the Interpol foundation or invests in half the Interpol foundation, so what if the UAE says I violated some of their journalism laws, which I no doubt have? So the next time that I fly through a country where somebody from Interpol pick me up and send me to the UAE to face charges for a crime that they say I committed in their country, even though I was not even in their country, it’s true that he released the evidence of the war crime right in this room, but otherwise, he has spent very little time in the United States. Am I right, Gabriel? 

GABRIEL SHIPTON: He hasn’t spent much time here at all. 

RYAN GRIM: This isn’t an American citizen. This wasn’t a crime that happened on American soil. And it’s not a crime period. What have your attorneys said about that part of this case? 

JOHN SHIPTON: William Barr, under the first Bush administration had the nickname “the snatcher” because of his capacity to manipulate extradition treaties for the judicial abduction into the United States, of those people that the United States determined were necessary to come here for whatever reason. Over the last 10 years, the treaties between the United States and whomever was willing have been rewritten to the advantage of the United States, in particular, my country has less restrictions on extradition to the United States than the United Kingdom. United Kingdom at least has ‘not for political purposes,’ and ‘not if a death penalty is involved.’ 

So it’s a policy of Washington to be able to judicially abduct whomever it wants to bring to the United States. Ola Bini, an AI expert; the CEO of Huawei is under threat of extradition into the United States from Canada. There are many, many, many, I can’t remember them all. Somebody the other day, I met in Minneapolis had a list of them. Extraordinary list. There’s one just happened last week, the man was on an airplane, the airplane was diverted, upon request of the United States in an extradition order to lodge in a third country. He is dying of cancer in a jail in a third country, not his country, the plane was diverted. It’s a technique or tool of policy. 

JOURNALIST QUESTION: John, you mentioned I believe that the Biden administration gave you a message or someone told you that they wanted you to wait until after the inauguration to begin pressure campaign. I hope that you could elaborate a little on who told you that and what they told you and what kind of communication you may still have. 

JOHN SHIPTON: Our communication was through the Human Rights Division. At that time, in January, the inauguration hadn’t happened. So it was with the potential team. After that, we changed our tact and rather than move, I found that approaching politicians with Julian’s matter, they will take a position which fits in with the current, what they imagined policies or what the current atmosphere of government is, and then it’s very hard work to change their mind. So the best thing, we evaluated, Gabriel and myself, was to approach staffers and to approach people. Get the assistance of people to approach staffers and continue to approach staffers, because the staffers are the people who formulate and draw in the ideas to put to their political masters. We came to the view that we were building something, and that approaching the administration saying, “Well, what about Julian” was a falsity. 

First you had to come here and build support, and then come again and build support. And finally, you might be able to do something, also taking advantage of the unfolding of time, because the world is in a parlous state at the moment, there’s a lot of tensions around. And as we saw last week, with new revelations, changes are coming quite rapidly. So being able to skate or utilize those changes was very, very important. And then another thing is that Merrick Garland is manifesting an interest in changing the perception and actions of the DoJ, the Department of Justice. He had a meeting with the executives of The Washington Post and the New York Times over the four journalists that were under investigation by the Department. Also, USA Today had a subpoena against it for the IP addresses of those people who had gone online to USA today and looked at a particular video, that subpoena has been withdrawn. 

The Supreme Court over the Computer Fraud act made a decision that the interpretation of the Act was far too broad, which assists us because part one of the cooked up charges against Julian, was a broad interpretation. So the nature of things are changing. And consequently, we want to be able to make the decisions very quickly appropriate to the unfolding of information, as the times produce new ideas and new elements constantly. As you see with the Biden Putin meeting, everybody was relieved that this strategic stability was discussed. And then now there’s 30 ships in the Black Sea on an exercise which is reintroduce tension. So we have to be adroit. 

CORNEL WEST: I just wanted to say that we have just been so blessed and graced by the presence of brother Gabriel and brother John, on behalf of our dear brother Julian, to come to the United States, and to bear witness with such integrity, such quality, such eloquence. And we want you to know that there’s fellow citizens in the midst of this empire, that fellow human beings in this country are in solidarity with you, with your son and your brother, and that no matter what you see at the top, there’s a whole wave of us who will be resilient, who will be resisting and who will fight in the name of principle. You need to know that as you make your way back and we bid you a safe trip, farewell, but no goodbyes, because we are in this struggle together all the way down. 

RYAN GRIM: Thank you, Gabriel. Thank you. Thank you, John. Thank you for I know what you’re doing is for Julian but thank you too, for what you’re doing for the press. And thank you all for coming out here today, and go to AssangeDefense.org to find out more.

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Commentary Featured

Assange’s Persecution Highlights U.S. & U.K. Hypocrisy

The United States and United Kingdom continue to imprison WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange for journalistic activity, under charges that press freedom experts across the political spectrum agree represent a grave and unprecedented threat to investigative journalism around the world. At the same time, U.S. and UK leaders use their international platforms to condemn other countries for the very same abuses of basic journalistic rights. Foreign leaders are taking notice, and pointing out this blatant hypocrisy in response. The Assange case no longer represents a hypothetical danger; it is actively undermining the West’s moral authority to push back on human rights violators around the world.

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab held a joint press conference in which they condemned China, Russia, and other countries for press freedom violations.

Sec. Raab said,

“Violations of media freedoms are growing around the world at what I feel is an alarming rate.  And I welcome the unequivocal stance of the United States and the whole G7 on safeguarding those vital democratic bulwarks in our media freedoms.”

Sec. Blinken echoed those remarks, recognizing the

“The work that journalists are doing around the world in increasingly difficult and challenging conditions to inform people, to hold governments and leaders of one kind or another accountable.  Nothing is more fundamental to the good functioning of our democracies, and I think we are both resolute in our support for a free press.”

Blinken then condemned the “repression of media freedom across China and in other parts of the world.” 

Glaring Double Standard

Days later, Chinese Foreign Secretary Hua Chunying held a press conference in which she was asked about these types of comments, and she responded by calling attention to the glaring double standard underlined by Assange’s ongoing persecution. Chunying said,

“Some in the US, in the name of freedom of press and speech, wantonly smear and attack China. This in itself is spreading disinformation and a travesty of real freedom and democracy.

If they are truly defending freedom, why won’t they allow others to tell the truth when they are making up lies to confuse public opinion? If they are truly defending freedom, why is it that Mr. Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was thrown in prison after being forced to shelter in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years? If they are truly defending freedom, why not respect or at least tolerate the existence of other civilizations and systems? If they are truly defending freedom, why target views different from its “political correctness” and repress those holding such views? If they are truly defending freedom, why deprive other countries of their right and freedom to normal development and suppress them?”

Glenn Greenwald writes, ‘Antony Blinken Continues to Lecture the World on Values His Administration Aggressively Violates,’

“How can you run around the world feigning anger over other countries’ persecution of independent journalists when you are a key part of the administration that is doing more than anyone to destroy one of the most consequential independent journalists of the last several decades?”

Mads Andenæs, former UN special rapporteur on arbitrary detention and the chair of UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, criticized this double standard as well.

Azerbaijani President: “Let’s talk about Assange”

This week also saw the resurfacing of a video from November 2020, in which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the BBC about repression in that country. Aliyev responded with questions about how the U.K. aided in the persecution of Assange,

“We have opposition, we have NGOs, we have free political activity, we have free media, we have freedom of speech. But if you raise this question, can I ask you also one? How do you assess what happened to Mr. Assange? Isn’t it the reflection of free media in your country?”

He continued, later in the interview,

“Let’s talk about Assange. How many years, sorry, how many years he spent in the Ecuadorian embassy, and for what? And where is he now? For the journalistic activity, you kept that person hostage actually killing him morally and physically. You did it, not us. And now he is in prison. So you have no moral right to talk about free media when you do these things.”

Reputational Damage

Julian Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, foresaw the issues Assange’s prosecution would pose for western governments in an interview last month, on the two-year anniversary of his arrest.

“The treatment of Julian is compromising the UK constantly all round the world. It’s giving authoritarian governments points to score all round the world both privately and in international fora like the UN. You cannot start a new values competition with China with Julian Assange in Belmarsh for publishing war crimes. It just does not work. You don’t get to take the moral high ground with this as your starting point.”

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Featured Past Events

Capitol Calling Party: In Defense of Whistleblowers

On Tuesday, April 27, CODEPINK Congress focused on freeing Julian Assange and all whistleblowers. 

The event featured three guests: 

Gabriel Shipton, Julian Assange’s half-brother. Gabriel is a Melbourne-based film producer. When he isn’t making movies, he campaigns for the freedom of his half-brother Julian Assange.

Stella Morris is Julian Assange’s partner, mother of two of his children, and an attorney with his legal team. 

Chip Gibbons is the policy director and legislative counsel for Defending Rights & Dissent, an organization founded by victims of the House Un-American Activities Committee that works to protect the right to engage in political expression. In this capacity, he has advised both state and federal lawmakers on the First Amendment.

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is incarcerated in Britain’s Belmarsh Prison, where he is fighting US extradition on espionage charges related to his involvement with whistleblower Chelsea Manning and the publication of the Baghdad airstrike of 2007 and Iraq War Logs, among other documents.

Daniel Hale is a heroic former intelligence analyst who pled guilty to informing the public about the drone warfare program. He faces sentencing on July 31st for violations of the Espionage Act. Meanwhile, NO ONE in the US government who authorized the killing of civilians has ever been held accountable.

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Past Events

Deconstructing the Prosecution of Julian Assange

On April 19 at 10am CDT, British journalist Mohamed Elmaazi and Professor of International and Criminal Law Mohamed A. ‘Arafa discussed the prosecution of Julian Assange, in a panel event hosted by the Chicago chapter of Assange Defense.

Elmaazi has covered Assange’s case extensively, including courtroom coverage of all of Assange’s extradition hearings. Elmaazi will discuss the Espionage Act charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

As the Rapporteur on the Rule of Law for Egypt, a widely published Professor of International and Criminal Law at Alexandria University in Egypt, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law in New York, Professor ‘Arafa outlined and deconstructed the attempted character assassination of Assange, from misconceptions to outright falsehoods, in the media and in the courtroom.

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Past Events

International Symposium of Parliamentarians

Watch the full event here

Julian Assange is facing a 175-year sentence for publishing US government documents revealing evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses. The publication of these public interest releases was the result of collaboration between WikiLeaks and multiple news organizations including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and many others. The politically motivated decision to prosecute is unprecedented and would set a chilling precedent for every journalist and publisher in the world.

Despite a 4 January 2021 UK Magistrates Court ruling that his extradition would be oppressive and must be stopped, Assange continues to be denied bail and remains in detention. He has been detained in one form or another for over 10 years – either under house arrest, seven years while under political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, or for the past two years in Belmarsh Maximum security prison.

Due to Covid restrictions, Assange has been unable to receive any visitors for more than a year, including his fiancee and two young children. Communication with his lawyers has been difficult and Assange’s ability to prepare for the US appeal against him severely hampered.

There has been mounting pressure on the US Department of Justice to distance itself from the Trump-era prosecution of Julian and drop the charges entirely. The proceedings against Mr. Assange “jeopardizing journalism that is crucial to democracy.”

This international public symposium of parliamentarians and legislators discusses and examines the issues at stake in the Julian Assange case. The event was livestreamed by the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook channels.

All major Human Rights and Free Press Organizations have opposed Assange’s extradition including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch and many more. Newspaper Editorial boards including The Guardian, New York Times, El Pais, Der Speigel, Le Monde, as well as major Journalist Unions including the UK’s NUJ and Australia’s MEAA have voiced their strong opposition to the proceeding against Assange and the threat it poses to journalism and the free press.

Watch the full event here:

Programme:

  • Session 1. Briefing on the Julian Assange case with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner. Chaired by Richard Burgon MP. Followed by questions and contributions. 
  • Session 2. Country Reports: A chance for attendees to discuss the situation in their countries.
  • Session 3. How to take the campaign forward. With former Nobel prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, German Member of Parliament Sevim Dagdelen and UK MP Richard Burgon – with questions and contributions from attendees.
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Featured Past Events

Global Day of Action for Julian Assange: April 11

Assange supporters Candles4Assange have put together an incredibly helpful list of actions planned for Julian Assange on April 11th around the world, to mark 2 years of his unjust imprisonment. The full Twitter thread is here but we’ve also listed each event by city below. 

Los Angeles

12 noon

CBS building -> Hollywood Blvd -> CNN building

New York City

11am 

UK Consulate (2nd/47th Streets)

See NYC Free Assange for more info/contact

Washington DC

April 10th:

12 noon 

Ecuadorian Embassy (2535 15th St. NW) -> British Embassy

April 11th

12 noon

Department of Justice (950 Pennsylvania Ave)

See Action4Assange for more

Denver

1pm

Speer Blvd & Lincoln St

See Denver Action to Free Assange

Raleigh

1pm

Capitol Building (1E Edenton Street)

Seattle

12 noon

City Hall Park 

See Seattle4Assange

London

11:30am: 3 Hans Crescent (Knightsbridge station)

1pm: Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Baker Street station)

3pm: HMP Belmarsh (Plumstead Station or No. 380 bus)

See bus tour, more info and how to write your MP here

See the Committee to Defend Julian Assange here

Wellington

12 noon

Cuba/Leftbank

7:30am motorway billboard, Hill St

Auckland

12 Noon

US Consulate (23 Customs St. East)

See FreeAssangeNewZealand

Mexico City

12 noon 

Ecuadorian Embassy (Tennyson 217 Polanco)

See AssangeLibre

Toronto

12 noon

US Consulate (360 University Ave)

Frankfurt

1pm

Silent march, Weseler Werft 

See FreeAssangeFrankfurt

Düsseldorf

2-5pm

Bertha Von Suttner Platz (near US & UK consulate

See FreeAssangeEU

Glasgow

2pm 

George Square

Melbourne

6:30pm

Melbourne CBD

Truth Is Out: Street film 4 Freedom of Julian Assange

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Past Events

Journalists, Assange, Press Freedom: The “New York Times Problem” Explained

Speakers:

  • George Freeman—Executive Director, Media Law Resource Center
  • Erin Aubry Kaplan—long-time LA journalist

Moderator:

  • Jim Lafferty, Executive Director Emeritus, National Lawyers Guild,

Featuring exclusive recorded comments from Daniel Ellsberg

Erin Aubry Kaplan is a contributing writer to the New York Times opinion page and a former weekly op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, the first African American in the paper’s history to hold the position. She is the author of “Black Talk, Blue Thoughts and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches From a Black Journalista,” (2011) and “I Heart Obama” (2016).

George Freeman is Executive Director of the Media Law Resource Center. He is a former Assistant General Counsel of the New York Times Company, where he was at the forefront of numerous high-profile cases for the company and its affiliated businesses. He is the William J. Brennan Visiting Professor at the Columbia Journalism School and also teaches at New York University and CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. He has led or participated in many media groups and is the founder and Co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law annual conference.

Jim Lafferty is the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles; and the host of The Lawyers Guild Show on KPFK.

Daniel Ellsberg, a former defense analyst, set in motion a chain of events that led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that said government efforts to halt publication of the Pentagon Papers represented a prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment freedom of the press.

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Featured Past Events

#FreeAssangeTelethon!

Congressional candidate Jen Perelman and podcaster Katie Halper co-hosted #FreeAssangeTelethon, an all-day livestream event featuring renowned activists, journalists, comedians, and many others highlighting the persecution of Julian Assange and encouraging supporters across the U.S. to call their representatives to demand the DOJ drop the charges. Find a sample phone script for your call to your representative below!

  • 1:30 p.m. EDT: START
  • 1:45-2:00 p.m. EDT: Nathan Fuller of the Assange Defense Committee
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT: John Kiriakou, Medea Benjamin, and Kevin Gosztola
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT: Lee Camp, Rania Khalek, and Ron Placone
  • 4:00-5:00 p.m. EDT: Justin Jackson, Kate Willett, and Jordan Chariton
  • 5:00-6:00 p.m. EDT: Norman Solomon, Marjorie Cohn, and Shahid Buttar
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m. EDT: Chris Hedges & Margaret Kimberley

The telethon streamed on Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and you can replay the full event here:

Throughout the broadcast, the hosts encouraged supporters to let their representatives know that they want the Biden Administration to drop the case against publisher Julian Assange.

Here’s a phone script you can use to call your Congressional representative, Senator, and the Department of Justice:

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Commentary Featured

Sunshine Week Round-up: The new DOJ, Press Freedom, and Julian Assange

March 14-20 is Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of transparency and open government, featuring panel events exploring the public’s right to know, how to protect journalists, and how to improve access to essential information.

This year’s Sunshine Week is a particularly important opportunity to highlight threats to a free press, as the United States has seen a rise in journalist arrests, an erosion of local journalism, and an unprecedented indictment against a publisher.

As Merrick Garland has been confirmed as the new Attorney General, rights groups and journalists alike have been asking how the new Department of Justice will handle press freedom issues, particularly the prosecution of Julian Assange.

ACLU: “Merrick Garland Can Transform the Department of Justice. Will He?”

The free press faced unprecedented attacks under the Trump administration, from Trump calling the press the “enemy of the people” to federal officials targeting journalists at racial justice protests last year. The freedom of the press is fundamental to American democracy, and senators questioning Garland should ask if he will defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press. This includes asking whether he would support a federal journalists’ shield law and if he agrees with Attorney General Holder’s conclusion that whether or not one considers Julian Assange a “journalist,” there is no way to prosecute him for publishing classified information without opening the door to similar prosecutions of important investigative journalism. 

Jameel Jaffer, Knight First Amendment Institute: “The Biden Administration Should Drop the Assange Case”

Of Trump’s many attacks on press freedom, however, it’s his Justice Department’s indictment of Julian Assange that could have the most significant implications over the long term. As I explained here and here, the Justice Department’s indictment of Assange focuses principally on activity that national security journalists engage in “routinely and as a necessary part of their work”—cultivating sources, communicating with them confidentially, soliciting information from them, protecting their identities from disclosure, and publishing classified information. As a result, a successful prosecution of Assange would have far-reaching implications both for national security journalists and for the news organizations that publish their work. This isn’t an accident. It’s likely why the Trump administration filed the indictment, as Jack Goldsmith observed here.

President Joe Biden plainly does not share Trump’s attitude toward the press. But the Assange case will present the Biden administration with an early test. 

Knight First Amendment Institute: “A First Amendment Agenda for the New Administration” 

9. Disclaim the use of the Espionage Act for the prosecution of journalists, sources, and publishers.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations relied on the Espionage Act to prosecute government insiders accused of providing sensitive information to the press. The Trump administration continued this trend, charging six individuals for disclosing information on matters such as possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, racially discriminatory investigative practices within the FBI, and Russian interference in the 2016 election. It also charged Wikileaks founder Julian Assange under the Act, in the first use of the Act against a publisher. The use of the Espionage Act in these cases raises profound First Amendment concerns and threatens journalism that is crucial to our democracy. The Biden administration should reserve the Espionage Act for cases of classic espionage, and it should affirmatively disavow the use of the Act for the prosecution of journalists, sources, and publishers.

Dan Froomkin, Salon: “Questions for Joe Biden: There’s still so much we don’t know” 

The state of the media

  • One of the country’s major media outlets, Fox News, traffics in outright disinformation and far-right propaganda, arguably even incitement. Most other media outlets, by contrast, respect facts, to a greater or lesser degree. Do you personally see a gulf between Fox and the others? Would you encourage the public to consider them differently? Should the White House?
  • Why is your administration still prosecuting Julian Assange? Did you approve the decision in February to continue seeking his extradition from the U.K.? 
  • Will you pledge not to use the Espionage Act of 1917 to pursue people who leak to journalists?
  • How concerned are you about the decline of local journalism, and what do you think should be done about it?

Lawfare: “Here’s Merrick Garland’s Orientation Memo for the Trump-Era Hangover on Press Freedom” 

…there are several cases where the Trump Justice Department ventured into undiscovered territory. The first category of such cases involves legal actions that are truly unprecedented, while the others are so wrapped up in President Trump’s attacks on the press that one wouldn’t expect to see them but for President Trump himself. 

Julian Assange

With respect to the first category, the clearest example is the Julian Assange spying prosecution. As noted above, recent administrations have expanded the use of federal spying laws, and especially the World War I-era Espionage Act, in attempts to criminalize the disclosure of national defense secrets to the press. Never before, however, has the Justice Department secured an indictment against an individual outside of government based on the mere act of publishing those secrets. But that is exactly what the Trump Justice Department succeeded in doing in the Assange case after the Obama team declined to indict. 

It very much remains to be seen what will happen with the Assange case. In early January 2021, a British court denied an extradition request from the Justice Department, citing a high risk that Assange might kill himself in U.S. custody, but otherwise endorsing the government’s legal theories in the case, including its “pure publication” claims. And there will undoubtedly be some pressure to pursue the case, given that the government has long taken the position, though never in the direct prosecution of a reporter, that the act of disclosing secrets to the public, even by the press, is indeed covered by the Espionage Act. The Justice Department has vowed to continue to pursue extradition and appealed the lower court’s denial in February. 

Whistleblowers Blog: “What Can New AG Merrick Garland Do For Whistleblowers?” 

Garland’s record on whistleblowing as a Federal judge is strong. In 2004 and 2008 he penned opinions that supported or expanded the scope of the False Claims Act, America’s premier whistleblower law. In 1979, Garland served on a DOJ panel and demonstrated a strong understanding of the False Claims Act and its importance as a whistleblower and anti-fraud law. He has also defended strong whistleblower protections against retaliation

In a recent editorial, Whistleblower Network News (WNN) called on Garland to advocate for essential changes to laws that concern whistleblowers, citing issues with the False Claims Act and other more recent laws. The editorial states that the False Claims Act can be further modernized to clarify the contentious “materiality” loophole that has let many companies off the hook. The piece also mentions the 2020 Anti-Money Laundering whistleblower law, which it claims requires serious revision to be effective. While fixing these laws will require cooperation of the legislature, Garland could single-handedly stop whistleblower prosecution under the Espionage Act, an antiquated law that both the Obama and Trump administrations used to stifle government whistleblowing. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Reality Winner and many others still languish in federal prison as a result of what legal experts have said is a gross misuse of the Espionage Act.

 National Law Review: “Message to Judge Garland: Make DOJ the ‘Whistleblower’s Advocate’” 

In a historic speech entitled “The SEC as the Whistleblower’s Advocate,” the then-Chairman of the SEC, Mary Jo White explained the new relationship between the Commission and whistleblowers: “It is past time to stop wringing our hands about whistleblowers. They provide an invaluable public service, and they should be supported. And, we at the SEC increasingly see ourselves as the whistleblower’s advocate.” 

 Congress should demand that the new Attorney General follow this example. Judge Garland has the background and experience to transform the Justice Department’s whistleblower programs. Congress must ensure that this transformation is not delayed. It is time for the next Attorney General to make the Department of Justice the “Whistleblower’s Advocate.” 

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Commentary Featured Press Release

How Will Merrick Garland’s Justice Department Handle the Assange Case?

The U.S. Senate is reportedly on the verge of confirming President Biden’s nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland.

The next Attorney General will have a major influence on many important matters, including the fate of the U.S. government’s case against Julian Assange.

Unlike many prominent officials from the Trump administration, Garland hasn’t made any public comments about Assange or the case. But it’s worth looking into Garland’s record and what he’s saying about his nomination for insight on how he’ll handle what has been described as the most important press freedom case in a generation

Garland’s First Amendment Record 

Garland spent 23 years as a federal appellate judge, seven of those as chief judge of the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Press freedom groups have delved into his judicial opinions for insights into how he might handle First Amendment issues as Attorney General.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press found some cause for optimism, noting that Garland “has taken strong stands on First Amendment issues” in a number of cases. Specifically, RCFP notes, Garland defended the media’s right to publish questionably obtained information, supported a stronger reporter’s privilege, and showed a commitment to government transparency in his decisions on FOIA cases.

What happened at Garland’s confirmation hearing?

Garland’s nomination passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on a 15-7 vote after a relatively routine process. Press freedom issues were not a major theme of Garland’s confirmation hearing, and the Assange case was not brought up at all, but a few things stood out as potentially relevant to how Garland would act as Attorney General.

Garland testified that he would not allow politics to influence decisions about prosecutions and would resist pressure from the White House. On its face, that’s a welcome change of tone. It was the Trump Justice Department that politicized the Assange case after the Obama DoJ had previously decided that prosecuting Assange would create a “New York Times problem.”

How might this be a cause for concern? We want the Attorney General to ignore political concerns when making prosecutorial decisions, right? Yes. But coming on the heels of the precedent-shattering Trump administration, there are a lot of injustices that need to be undone. Simply letting bad cases play out allows injustice to fester.

Garland’s message here isn’t completely clear. One could interpret Garland’s words as an assurance that he will be independent, and not as an indication that he will allow his prosecutors to unjustly continue bad cases. Or one could extend that logic in the other direction: Garland might give Justice Department attorneys significant leeway to continue their work. He specifically mentioned allowing “ongoing cases” to play out, and attempted to contrast himself with predecessor William Barr’s willingness to intervene in criminal cases.

The Bottom Line

In all likelihood, Garland will be confirmed without ever being directly pressed on the Assange case. So we are unlikely to have clarity on how he’ll handle the matter in the near future.

We should be cautiously optimistic about Garland’s pro-transparency and pro-First Amendment record. And his promise to be independent should count as a plus — if true, it means he would be more resistant to other voices in the administration who might have animosity toward Assange.

There’s reason to believe Garland will arrive at a similar conclusion as former Attorney General Eric Holder — that, as the ACLU notes, “there is no way to prosecute [Julian Assange] for publishing classified information without opening the door to similar prosecutions of important investigative journalism.”

But Garland’s “by-the-book” ethos suggests he will likely defer to staff prosecutors who have already invested significant time and resources into pursuing Assange — at least for the time being. Being a deliberative leader is usually a good thing, but dragging your feet when confronted with manifest injustice isn’t. In this case, Garland might ultimately arrive at the right conclusion, but take his time getting there if he is hesitant to overrule his prosecutors and bring a swift end to Assange’s case. 

In other words, Garland’s deference may trigger the old legal maxim: “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Categories
Past Events

Julian Assange Appeal & the First Amendment

Monday, February 22nd 2021 |   12pm PT / 3pm ET

An online panel discussion on the persecution of Julian Assange. A British judge has recently blocked his extradition from the UK to the US, where he would face unprecedented charges that aim to criminalize basic journalistic activity. The US is appealing that decision, but the indictment against Assange was drawn up during the Trump administration, and the newly elected Biden DOJ should take a new look at the case and drop the charges.

Our panel will gave an overview of Assange’s case, the threat his prosecution poses to the First Amendment, and the latest on his legal proceedings in the UK.

Speakers:

  • Alice Walker: Pulitzer Prize-winning author
  • Mumia Abu-Jamal: political prisoner
  • Nathan Fuller: Director, Courage Foundation
  • Joe Lombardo: National Coordinator, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)

Moderator:

  • Jeff Mackler: Director, The Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal/Northern California and Steering Committee, AssangeDefense.org

Categories
Featured Press Release

Will the US appeal Assange’s extradition?

 

On January 4, UK district judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against the U.S. government’s extradition request. Baraitser’s ruling was not a stunning victory for press freedom — she agreed with most of the U.S. government’s dangerous arguments. But she ruled against extradition because she determined that Assange would be at risk of suicide should he be sent to American prisons. The U.S. has until tomorrow, February 12, to appeal that decision.

But since that ruling, a new president has taken office in the U.S., and that means a new Department of Justice. There are rumblings that the new administration plans to appeal, but the Attorney General, who should break with the politicized nature of the previous administration and make a determination based on the facts, has yet to be confirmed.

President Biden nominated Merrick Garland for that job. Garland is a longtime federal judge, who has taken some solid positions on the First Amendment. Will he take a renewed look at the prosecution and drop the case?

Here’s why he ought to: The Assange case represents the gravest threat to press freedom in a generation. It’s not about Julian Assange as a person. It’s about whether the U.S. government will respect the role journalism plays in democratic life (as a check on powerful institutions), or whether they will take “direct aim at previously sacrosanct protections for the news media.” The indictment “characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take.”

That’s why the Obama-Biden administration chose not to pursue charges against Assange back in 2013. They called it “the New York Times problem.” They knew that if they went after Assange, it would be a press freedom nightmare.

This did not worry the anti-press folks in the Trump administration. After unsuccessfully trying to force Assange to reveal his sources, they aggressively pursued him — even sending Vice President Mike Pence to pressure the Ecuadorian government to withdraw Assange’s asylum.

President Biden’s Justice Department has an important choice to make. Will the new administration restore sanity and show deference to press freedom and the First Amendment, as President Obama did? Or will it continue President Trump’s dangerous war on journalism?

Stay tuned.

Categories
Past Events

Verdict First, Then the Trial

On January 12, the Los Angeles Branch of the Assange Defense Committee hosted a discussion on the prosecution of Julian Assange within the context of the U.S. history of persecuting political dissidents. Sharon Kyle, publisher of LA Progressive, moderated the discussion with University of Southern California law professor Jody Armour and Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor emerita Marjorie Cohn.

Take action for Assange by joining the Assange Defense Committee, writing letters to your representatives, and sharing our petition.

Categories
Featured Press Release

Press freedom groups call on Biden DOJ to drop Assange charges

Two dozen major human rights and press freedom organizations are calling on the new Department of Justice to drop the charges against Julian Assange. The cosigners have written to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson in a letter warning that “the proceedings against Mr. Assange jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy.”

The letter was organized by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and signed by leading rights groups including Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and PEN America.

The cosigners write,

“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do. Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.”

The letter comes just days before the United States’ deadline to appeal the ruling in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing. On January 4, British Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocked Assange’s extradition last month on medical grounds, and the U.S. announced its intent to appeal that decision. It has until February 12 to file its appeal.

The New York Times’ Charlie Savage writes, “The litigation deadline may force the new administration to confront a decision: whether to press on with the Trump-era approach to Mr. Assange, or to instead drop the matter.”

Then-President Trump’s Department of Justice requested Assange’s extradition and indicted him on unprecedented charges for the 2010 publication of the Iraq and Afghan war logs, the State Department cables, and Guantanamo Bay Detainee Assessment Briefs. The indictment threatens Assange with 175 years in prison, and it would mark the end of the First Amendment’s protection of the right to publish. 

But Trump’s outgoing prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said he wasn’t sure if his successors in President Biden’s Department of Justice would keep up the prosecution. Biden’s nomination for Attorney General, Merrick Garland, is a longtime federal judge who has taken strong positions in favor of robust press freedom. Garland’s confirmation hearing has been delayed.

If the U.S. submits its appeal application in the UK this Friday, a High Court judge will review the submission, decide whether to grant the appeal, and then schedule oral arguments. The rights groups’ write,

“We urge you to drop the appeal of the decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to reject the Trump administration’s extradition request. We also urge you to dismiss the underlying indictment.”

The Obama-Biden Justice Department looked into charging Assange back in 2013 for the same publications, but decided against doing so due to the dangers such a prosecution would pose to press freedom.

Categories
Featured Press Release

Julian Assange’s Extradition Appeals Process

Almost immediately upon District Judge Vanessa Baraitster’s ruling that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange would not be extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States on medical grounds, lawyers representing the U.S. announced their intent to appeal that decision. Two days later, Judge Baraitser denied Assange’s bail application, meaning he will remain in the freezing cold, COVID-infected maximum-security Belmarsh prison in London as he waits for the appeal process to unfold. That process could take weeks, months, or longer if the U.S. refuses to drop the case altogether. 

Will the U.S. drop the charges?

Despite the prosecution’s declaration of intent to appeal, it’s unclear how much appetite there is in the U.S. for continuing the prosecution. The ruling and notice of appeal came in the final days of the Trump administration, and the day after the verdict, the U.S.’s outgoing lead federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger told NPR that he wasn’t sure if the Biden administration would continue to fight for Assange’s extradition.

“It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case,” Terwilliger said. “There’ll be some decisions to be made. Some of this does come down to resources and where you’re going to focus your energies.”

President Biden was Vice President when the Obama administration explicitly decided not to prosecute Assange.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

Press freedom organizations and newsrooms agree that the prosecution of Assange puts all journalists at risk, by criminalizing basic newsgathering activity as well as the publication of truthful information in the public interest. “Julian Assange’s Indictment Aims at the Heart of the First Amendment,” writes the New York Times editorial board.

Appealing on Medical Grounds

The U.K.’s lawyers (the Crown Prosecution Service, or CPS) representing the U.S. confirmed to reporters that the United States officially filed its intent to appeal the ruling on Friday, January 15. They then have two weeks to file grounds for appeal, notifying the court of the types of arguments they intend to raise later. 

In her verdict, Judge Baraitser ruled that sending Assange to the U.S. would violate Section 91 of the U.K.’s 2003 Extradition Act, which bars extradition if the “physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.”

Medical experts testified throughout the hearing that Assange has Asperger’s syndrome, that he has clinical depression, and that his specific condition and history combined with his prospective treatment in any U.S. prison all create a dangerously high risk of suicide.

Prison experts testified about the types of conditions Assange would likely face if he were extradited. The experts agreed that he would likely be held in solitary confinement, which the U.N. has deemed psychological torture; that he would get an extremely long prison sentence; and that he’d be held under Special Administrative Measures which render a prisoner effectively incommunicado, even further isolating him from his family, friends, and the rest of his support system. 

But even without these additional harsh measures Assange could expect, the mere ordering of his extradition from the U.K. would trigger this suicide risk. “I am 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,” testified Dr. Michael Kopelman. 

High Court

Once the U.S. files its grounds for appeal, Assange’s defense team has 10 days to respond to that filing. These appeal submissions are then sent to a single High Court judge, who must decide whether the grounds are reasonably arguable and therefore whether to grant permission to appeal. If the judge rules to allow the appeal, the case is then scheduled to be heard by the High Court, a panel of two judges.

If the High Court refuses to hear the appeal, which is rare, it will be the end of the road for the United States and Julian will be released. If the High Court allows the appeal, a date for an oral hearing will be set.

It is at the High Court stage where Courage Foundation beneficiary Lauri Love, a U.K. national accused of computer crimes in the U.S., successfully defeated an extradition request from the United States. In Love’s case, whose appeal Judge Baraitser referred to in her own ruling, the District Judge ruled he should be extradited, but on appeal, the High Court ruled that the United States could not guarantee adequate mental health care in its prison system and Love, who (like Julian) has Asperger’s syndrome, could not be protected from the high risk of suicide. 

Potential further appeals

If the case were successfully appealed beyond the High Court, it could theoretically (though not automatically) be sent up to the U.K.’s Supreme Court and even higher to the European Court of Human Rights. 

While these proceedings take place in the United Kingdom, Assange is only detained and at risk because of the U.S.’s prosecution, and the new Justice Department could simply drop the indictment and extradition request at any time.

Categories
Featured Press Release

Rights groups react to Assange verdict

Press freedom, human rights, free speech, and digital privacy organizations have been sounding the alarm over the prosecution and attempted extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ever since his arrest in April 2019. Now a district court judge in London has ruled against extraditing him from the United Kingdom to the United States purely on medical grounds, while accepting nearly all of the U.S.’s dangerous arguments that would criminalize basic journalistic activity — the very arguments these rights groups have warned about. Just two days later, the same judge denied bail for Assange, so he remains in British custody as the U.S. appeals the verdict.

Amnesty International

On the extradition ruling:

We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA, but this does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial.

On the subsequent denial of bail for Assange:

“Today’s decision to refuse Julian Assange’s bail application renders his ongoing detention ‘arbitrary’, and compounds the fact that he has endured punishing conditions in high security detention at Belmarsh prison for more than a year,” said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

“Rather than finally going home with his loved ones and sleeping in his own bed for the first time in almost ten years, Julian Assange will be driven back to his solitary cell in a high security prison.”

Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia

Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director:

“This is a victory for Assange, but it’s not an uncomplicated victory for press freedom. The court makes clear that it would have granted the U.S. extradition request if not for concerns about Assange’s mental health, and about the severe conditions in which the U.S. would likely imprison him. In other words, the court endorses the U.S. prosecution even as it rejects the U.S. extradition request. The result is that the U.S. indictment of Assange will continue to cast a dark shadow over investigative journalism. Of particular concern are the indictment’s counts that focus on pure publication—the counts that charge Assange with having violated the Espionage Act merely by publishing classified secrets. Those counts are an unprecedented attack on press freedom, one calculated to deter journalists and publishers from exercising rights that the First Amendment should be understood to protect.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Executive director Trevor Timm:

Today’s ruling is a huge sigh of relief for anyone who cares about press freedom. While the judge’s opinion contains many worrying assertions that disregard journalists’ rights, her rejection of the Trump administration’s extradition request means the US government likely won’t be able to obtain any precedent that would criminalize common newsgathering and publishing practices. And that is a very good thing.

American Civil Liberties Union

Ben Wizner, director of the speech, privacy and technology project:

“National security investigative journalism in the crosshairs. The job of an investigative journalist is to publish government secrets,” Ben Wizner, the director of the speech, privacy and technology project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said.

“I think what hasn’t gotten enough attention is this idea that the US secrecy laws can bind foreign journalists and publishers,” Wizner added. “That’s a very, very dangerous precedent. I hope that this court’s decision on the charges doesn’t become the decision that people look to in future cases.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Executive Director Cindy Cohn:

“We are relieved that District Judge Vanessa Baraitser made the right decision to reject extradition of Mr. Assange and, despite the U.S. government’s initial statement, we hope that the U.S. does not appeal that decision. The UK court decision means that Assange will not face charges in the United States, which could have set dangerous precedent in two ways. First, it could call into question many of the journalistic practices that writers at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, and other publications engage in every day to ensure that the American people stay informed about the operations of their government. Investigative journalism—including seeking, analyzing and publishing leaked government documents, especially those revealing abuses—has a vital role in holding the U.S. government to account. It is, and must remain, strongly protected by the First Amendment. Second, the prosecution, and the judge’s decision, embraces a theory of computer crime that is overly broad — essentially criminalizing a journalist for discussing and offering help with basic computer activities like use of rainbow tables and scripts based on wget, that are regularly used in computer security and elsewhere.

While we applaud this decision, it does not erase the many years Assange has been dogged by prosecution, detainment, and intimidation for his journalistic work. It also does not erase the government’s arguments that, as in so many other cases, attempts to cast a criminal pall over routine actions because they were done with a computer. We are still reviewing the judge’s opinion and expect to have additional thoughts once we’ve completed our analysis.”

Categories
Past Events

The Trial of Julian Assange and its Implications for Press Freedom

Sunday, January 17th 2021 |   11:00am CST/ 12:00pm EST

Hosted by the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee

Speakers:

  • Nils Melzer–United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture
  • Ray McGovern–former, longtime CIA Russia analyst, presidential daily briefer, and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Moderator:

  • Ann Batiza–Milwaukee Branch of the Assange Defense Committee

Nils Melzerthe UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; and Ray McGovern, former CIA Russia analyst, presidential daily briefer for George H.W. Bush and current peace activist (who is growing his beard in solidarity with Julian Assange), discussed the unprecedented extradition trial of Walkley-award-winning publisher and seven times (including 2020) nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Julian Assange. Notably, Mr. Assange said, “If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth.”Amnesty International, the ACLURebecca Vincent of Reporters without BordersLaura Poitras writing in the New York TimesBarton Gellman writing in the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger former editor of the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald now on Substackeditor Marty Baron of the Washington Post and editor-in-chief Dean Baquet of the New York Times have all described the threat to press freedom posed by this extradition trial.  It is time that the public also understood what was at stake.

Categories
Press Release

Verdict First, Then the Trial: 1st Amendment, Political Prisoners, Assange Extradition

Tuesday, January 12th 2021 |   5pm PT / 8pmET
Online Event: Register here

Hosted by the Los Angeles Branch of the Assange Defense Committee

Speakers:

  • Jody Armour—Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law, University of Southern California, and author of N*gga Theory: Race, Language, Unequal Justice, and the Law
  • Marjorie Cohn—Professor Emerita, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Past President, National Lawyers Guild; and editor and contributor to Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law

Moderator:

  • Sharon Kyle, LA Progressive

Julian Assange, founder of the international nonprofit WikiLeaks, awaits an extradition decision scheduled for January 4th in the United Kingdom. Much hangs in the balance with this decision—not just for Assange’s potential trial and possible conviction and incarceration in the United States, but for freedom of the press and transparency activists everywhere.

On January 12, the Los Angeles Branch of the Assange Defense Committee (AssangeDefense.org) will host a discussion on this issue with University of Southern California law professor, Jody Armour, and Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor emerita, Marjorie Cohn, moderated by Sharon Kyle, publisher of the LA Progressive.

If British courts send Assange to face U.S. prosecutors, no journalist and indeed no one can feel safe calling authority to account. America’s much-vaunted First Amendment rights hang in the lurch.

Our discussion—“Verdict First, Then the Trial”—centers on the cost of transparency activism, who bears it, and when. Our discussion will also address the broader issue of America’s dismal record on political prisoners.

As Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, recently told supporters, “This case is already chilling press freedom. It is a frontal assault on journalism, on the public’s right to know, and on our ability to hold the powerful to account.”

Register here

Categories
Featured Hearing Coverage

Judge denies bail for Julian Assange

Two days after blocking Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has denied Assange’s bail application, keeping him in custody at HMP Belmarsh while the U.S. appeals the decision. 

Lawyers for Assange today argued to release Assange immediately, saying he would accept stringent conditions including house arrest. Defense lawyer Ed Fitzgerald said the “natural consequences” of the judge’s ruling on Monday, which ordered Assange’s discharge, “must be that he regains his liberty, at least conditionally.”

Fitzgerald argued that since October 2019, Assange has been detained solely on the basis of the U.S. extradition request. Now that the judge has ruled against extradition, there is no more reason to keep him in prison. Fitzgerald noted that outgoing U.S. prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger, reacting to the blocking of Assange’s extradition, told the press yesterday that he wasn’t even sure if the incoming Biden administration intends to continue its prosecution of Assange. 

“It will be very interesting to see what happens with this case,” Terwilliger said. “There’ll be some decisions to be made. Some of this does come down to resources and where you’re going to focus your energies.”

Fitzgerald also argued that Assange must be released for his own safety. Belmarsh has seen a spike in COVID19 cases in December, and a fellow inmate has recently committed suicide. 

Finally, Fitzgerald said Assange should be freed for “broader reasons of humanity,” to finally be allowed physical contact with his family—his partner and their two young children. 

Prosecutor Clair Dobbin, acting for the U.S., said that the denial of Assange’s extradition, based on mental health grounds — the judge ruled it would be unjust and oppressive” to extradite Assange due to the high risk of suicide — “hangs by a single thread.” Dobbin said that Assange’s seeking of asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London shows his determination to avoid U.S. extradition, and she noted WikiLeaks’ assistance of whistleblower Edward Snowden as he sought asylum after disclosing NSA documents to journalists.

Judge Baraitser ruled that because the U.S. has signaled its intent to appeal the case, “As far as Mr Assange is concerned, this case is not yet resolved.” She noted Assange has previously shown willingness to “abscond”, and said she finds the conditions at Belmarsh “bear no resemblance” to those she found he would endure if sent to the United States. The judge denied Assange’s bail application and proceedings concluded.

The United States now has 13 more days to formally submit its appeal of the extradition decision, and the U.K.’s High Court will decide whether to hear the case.

Categories
Past Events

The Assange Case: What Next?

Thursday, January 7th 2021 |   7pm GMT

A roundtable discussion hosted by Stop the War Coalition

Speakers:

  • Tariq Ali
  • Apsana Begum MP
  • Jeremy Corbyn MP
  • John Rees
  • John Pilger

2021 is off to a dramatic start with the excellent news that the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States has been rejected by a judge at the Old Bailey.

This is a hard fought victory for the campaigners and activists who have worked tirelessly for Assange’s release and congratulations is due to everyone involved.

But the fight does not end here as the US will appeal and it is up to us to demand his immediate release from Belmarsh Prison.

Categories
Featured

Judge blocks extradition of Julian Assange, finding that abusive U.S. prison system wouldn’t protect him from suicide

An amazing day for Julian, but the judge’s ruling is extremely ominous for press freedom

LONDON — January 4, 2021

A British magistrate today ruled against the U.S. government’s request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his reporting of leaks from U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser began today’s hearing by spending more than half an hour rejecting Julian’s arguments and siding with the United States on virtually every aspect of the case. Then, in a shocking turn of events, Baraitser agreed with the defense team’s arguments regarding his mental health and the cruelty of the U.S. prison system. In particular, Baraitser ruled that it would be unjust to subject Julian to “Special Administrative Measures,” which would likely result in his suicide.

The ruling is a mixed blessing. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said “It is a win for Julian Assange, but it is not necessarily a win for journalism.” Despite ultimately ruling against extradition, Baraitser’s other findings raise serious concerns about the future of press freedom. 

Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, spoke outside the courtroom following the ruling. Stella says that she has longed for Julian to return home, and while that day isn’t today, “that day will come soon.” She said that it is concerning that the U.S. has said it will appeal and that it hasn’t withdrawn the indictment. “We will never accept that journalism is a crime, in this country or any other,” she said. “Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms.”

Among Baraitser’s more ominous findings:

  • Assange’s conduct “went beyond that of a journalist”
  • The release of unredacted diplomatic cables was “indiscriminate”
  • There was insufficient evidence that the charges were “pressurized” by the Trump Administration and instead showed healthy internal debate.
  • The UK Extradition Act should take precedence over the U.S.-UK Extradition Treaty, and the former removed the clause barring extradition for political offenses.
  • The charges against Assange in the U.S. would be considered offenses in the UK.
  • Challenges of the U.S. prosecution’s “overbroadness” and “vagueness” should be made in a U.S. court, not adjudicated in the UK. The judge found no reason to think Assange wouldn’t have constitutional rights when tried in the U.S. — despite ample evidence that the U.S. intends to argue that the Assange lacks First Amendment rights. Baraitser ruled that: “This court trusts that a U.S. court will properly consider Mr Assange’s constitutional right to free speech.”

The judge’s ruling calls for Julian to be immediately “discharged.” The U.S. government immediately requested that Julian be kept in custody while they appeal; the defense requested his immediate release. After a recess, the court reconvened and scheduled a bail hearing for Wednesday, Jan. 6. Julian will remain at HMP Belmarsh until that time.

Categories
Featured Hearing Coverage

Julian Assange Extradition hearing: District Court Ruling

January 4, 2021

Judge blocks the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, ruling the abusive U.S. prison system could not protect him from suicide

In a ruling in which she accepted nearly every argument from U.S. government, Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed with the defense’s claims that the U.S. prison conditions Assange would face if he were extradited, including solitary confinement, Special Administrative Measures, and extreme restrictions at ADX Florence, would drive Assange to suicide. She ruled it would therefore be unjust to extradite Assange to the U.S. and ordered his release. 

The U.S. will appeal the decision.

Judge Baraitser summarized her lengthy opinion and the arguments at issue, siding with the prosecution at virtually every step, upholding dangerous arguments that would undermine the First Amendment protections of a free press. The judge ruled:

  • The U.K. Extradition Act should take precedence over the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty, and the former removed the clause barring extradition for political offenses
  • The charges against Assange in the U.S. would be considered offenses in the U.S.
  • Assange’s conduct “went beyond that of a journalist” in agreeing to help Chelsea Manning crack a password and in telling her that “curious eyes never run dry,” encouraging her to leak more files
  • The release of unredacted cables was “indiscriminate”
  • Defense arguments about Assange’s political opinions were “extraneous”
  • There was insufficient evidence that the charges were “pressurized” by the Trump Administration and instead showed healthy internal debate
  • Though the intelligence community has harshly criticized WikiLeaks, it doesn’t speak for the administration 
  • It isn’t the UK court’s place to comment on the case of UC Global spying on Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as it doesn’t have access to court documents in the case against UC Global in Spain
  • Assange’s prospective jury pool in the Eastern District of Virginia would come from a large county, can’t prove it would only be ex-national security and ex-military officials
  • Challenges of the U.S. prosecution’s “overbroadness” and “vagueness” should be made in a U.S. court, not adjudicated here, no reason to think Assange wouldn’t have constitutional rights when tried in the U.S. — “This court trusts that a US court will properly consider Mr Assange’s constitutional right to free speech”
  • On whether it would be oppressive to extradite: I accepted Prof Kopelman opinion that Mr Assange suffers from a recurrent depressive disorder, that Assange has suicidal ideation, and would be ‘single-minded’ in attempt to end his life
  • Potential conditions in a US prison: CIA views Assange as hostile, still a security risk; Assange likely to be sent to ADX Florence, would be held in serious isolation
  • The purpose of Special Administrative Measures is to minimize communications, and prisoners have extreme limitations. These conditions were considered by all experts to have deleterious impact on Assange’s mental health
  • Mr Assange has the intellect and determination to follow through with suicidal ideation
  • Therefore I rule it would be unjust to extradite Mr Assange. The US has the right to appeal.

The judge has ruled Assange should be discharged. The U.S. government asks for him to be kept in custody while they appeal; the defense requests his immediate release.

Defense lawyer Ed Fitzgerald said that the judgement itself, ruling Assange should be discharged, constitutes the strongest grounds for granting bail. However he said the defense would like to put all of its arguments forward, including the deleterious conditions in Belmarsh prison, so the defense needs time to put together the formal bail application. Court is adjourned until Wednesday 10am GMT for the full bail application. Assange will be physically produced then and will be kept in HMP Belmarsh until then.


  • See our full extradition hearing coverage here, with daily reports from the courtroom.
  • See a guide to testimony here, from experts on the history of journalism to doctors who examined Assange.
  • See an overview of the legal case here, summarizing the main arguments the judge considered.
Categories
Past Events

NYC Free Assange Rally & Press Conference

Sunday, Jan. 3 | 11am at the UK Consulate in New York City, a series of speakers on the impending ruling in Julian Assange’s extradition case

Speakers: Nellie Bailey, Cliff D. Conner, Randy Credico, Kim Ives

Categories
Press Release

Assange’s Call to the State Department

Audio & transcript of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s call to the U.S. State Department in 2011, warning of the impending public release of unredacted diplomatic cables.

75 Minute call to US State Department – Transcript

26 August 2011

  • Julian Assange
  • Sarah Harrison
  • Chad Thornberry
  • Cliff Johnson

Sarah Harrison

Hello?

Chad Thornberry

Hello is this Miss Harrison?

Sarah Harrison

Speaking.

Chad Thornberry

Hi Miss Harrison this is Chad Thornberry from the State Department Operation Center we spoke yesterday.

Sarah Harrison

Oh yes how are you today.

Chad Thornberry

I’m doing well thank you how are you.

Sarah Harrison

Very good thank you.

Chad Thornberry

Miss Harrison, if Mr Assange is available I have one of the secretary’s lawyers on the line who has been asked to return the call on the Department of State’s behalf.

Sarah Harrison

OK, could I take his name please?

Chad Thornberry

His name is Cliff Johnson.

Sarah Harrison

Cliff Johnson, and he’s a lawyer for the Secretary of State did you say?

Chad Thornberry

Yeah, he’s one of the lawyers here at the Department of State.

Sarah Harrison

OK, one moment please.

Chad Thornberry

OK.

Sarah Harrison

[whispered] It’s the lawyer of the Department of the Secretary of State [inaudible] Cliff Johnson, Cliff.

Julian Assange

G’day Cliff.

Chad Thornberry

Hello Mr Assange, this is Chad Thornberry from the Operations Center I’m going to bring Mr Johnson to the line now OK.

Julian Assange

OK thank you.

Chad Thornberry

Introducing Mr Cliff Johnson to the call.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange hello it’s Cliff Johnson.

Julian Assange

G’day Cliff, thank you for calling back.

Cliff Johnson

Certainly.

Julian Assange

Have you been briefed?

Cliff Johnson

I believe so. We had understood that you and perhaps Sarah had been trying to reach out but to the Department and some calls put into Embassy London, and I’ve been asked to get back to you with respect to those calls.

Julian Assange

Yes, so the situation is that we have intelligence that the State Department Database Archive of 250,000 diplomatic cables including declassified cables is being spread around and is to the degree that we believe that within the next few days it will become public and we’re not sure but the timing could be imminently or within the next few days to a week. And there may be some possibility to stop it.

Cliff Johnson

And who would be releasing these cables? Is this WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange

No, we would not be releasing them, we are doing our usual thing of continuing on with our redaction plan, but we have in the past 24 hours released a some 100,000 unclassified cables as an attempt to head off the incentives for others to release the entire archive, but I believe that nonetheless while we may have delayed things a little by doing that they will do so unless attempts are made to stop them. We have already engaged in some legal attempts to get them to stop but I think that it will not be enough.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange, who is this, who are these other people.

Julian Assange

This is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a previous employee who we suspended last August.

Cliff Johnson

And he apparently has access to the material that Wikileaks also has?

Julian Assange

Yes that is correct?

Cliff Johnson

And he has access to everything you have is that right?

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And that includes classified as well as unclassified cables.

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

So your organization, the recent release of the 100,000 cables that I think were unclassified, that was something that you guys had done but what you’re indicated now is that a broader group of classified ones might be released by this other entity.

Julian Assange

Yes it was in part we have had a program to go through the cables and release them as we can and as the journalism is done so part of that is a natural progression I mean our release schedule. But we have moved forward the unclassified released schedule very significantly in order to deal with this situation whether there is a high demand for the cables and there is an individual who is spreading them around and the particular manner in which they’re being spread means that sort of a greatly increased number of people receiving access to them and we believe that it’s only moments to days until the information is made public which would permit everyone to have access to them. And there are some key details some, there are two key pieces of information which if combined together are enough to give people anyone access to the material. So an encryption key and another piece of information. And this is what has been spread around. And that is why the situation is so delicate because it is extremely easy to spread that information, we have already received it back from at least two relatively minor newspapers, one in Germany and one in Denmark.

Cliff Johnson

Does anybody else besides this group also have access to this same material or at this stage is it just them.

Julian Assange

At this stage we are only aware of other than this group newspapers having access to it. Although of course one might have certain suspicions based upon the demand. But at this stage the only, what one could speculate on intelligence activity but I will not do that, but as far as things that are not matters of speculation we only know of this individual attempting to spread this information around.

Cliff Johnson

And how did that individual get access to it?

Julian Assange

For legal reasons I don’t want to go into the specifics but they were an employee of WikiLeaks last year. We suspended them in August last year and they took a variety of materials and funds with them. They were a rogue, if you like, from our perspective.

Cliff Johnson

I see. And in terms of what they took does that mean that they now have the ability themselves without your control or authorization to make this as available as they want? Is this now entirely under their control?

Julian Assange

That’s correct. They have been doing that for some time, however, in order to sort of gain benefit with various media organizations they wish to collaborate with, and that hasn’t been such a concern to us previously, but the manner in which it is being done now, we believe will lead to imminent release within the week and possibly within the hour to the general public. And at the moment presently within the I suppose, not quite public but within a rather wide journalism or other groups, activist groups in general.

Cliff Johnson

In other words your sense is that they’re trying to reach out to these other media or activist groups themselves to coordinate some sort of release, or?

Julian Assange

I wouldn’t say it’s coordinating a release, rather it is spreading information in such a form, the motivation is to, is to embarrass us, to, and destroy our exclusivity as severely as possible. And the best way to do that is to make the information completely public, and en masse, instead of in an ordered way, and that is what is being done.

Cliff Johnson

And have you made any efforts to try to stop them, or are you…?

Julian Assange

Yes, we have written legal demands to them through our German lawyers and to, and asked the, one of the publications Freitag, who was given them in this manner, to not publicly reveal the key information that would permit them to spread, those publications have been swapping the key information over unencrypted email, which they sent to us, in researching their story, and they’ve made that a story, and also in Denmark it’s been printed, and I would suspect that within the next 24 hours Reuters or a similar news wire will also, if not directly mention the details will mention the factual side. What we want the State Department to do is to step up its warning procedures which it was engaged in earlier in the year, like last year, to a State Department sources to mention it in the cables. I assume but am not sure that all of those individuals at the State Department at risk in despotic regimes have been contacted and certainly they’ve had because of the press significant warning that this sort of thing was coming, but in case they are any individuals who haven’t been warned that they should be warned. Insofar as the State Department can impress upon people within Germany to encourage them to desist that behavior that would be helpful.

Cliff Johnson

And my understanding is that the legal actions you’ve initiated have been in Germany, you don’t have any lawyers in the US, or there’s nothing legal happening on the US side is that right?

Julian Assange

In the US side there’s no point because the individual concerned is in Germany. As far as the law is concerned we do not have standing to initiate such action because the material does not belong to us, and we would be one of its, neither could we say that we were directly harmed by its release, we could only say that we would be reputationally, indirectly, harmed, so it is very difficult for us to take legal action in court. We have issued demands to the individual concerned, legally, but we do not have legal ability, standing to initiate a legal action itself.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And do you have direct contact with this individual, or you’re learning about this from the media circling back to you?

Julian Assange

We’re learning about this from the media circling back to us from Germany and Denmark contacting us from what they had said publicly, publication, yesterday, and we have learned about it from our own sources where this individual has been spreading this information to them and to others and has been inviting over 111 people in Germany on a mailing list to contact him to receive these details.

Cliff Johnson

And by the details, am I right that these are the encryption keys that would…

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

Sort of, and it would permit access to the complete unredacted forms of the materials?

Julian Assange

That’s correct.

Cliff Johnson

I see.

Julian Assange

So the material, there is an encrypted version of the materials on the web somewhere, that we do not control. Probably in a rather, number of places, rather, to make sure they don’t disappear, which is fine, because the encryption is strong, but it’s the, the encryption key and the location of the material are the only two things that need to be disclosed. And so that is information that could spread extremely quickly. One doesn’t actually need to convey the material itself, one only needs to convey the location of the material, and its encryption key.

Cliff Johnson

And you believe that this other group is motivated not just to establish some kind of relationship with the media and go about sort of a release of the cables but that they’re also interested in more broadly making the key available on the web as a whole which would give access presumably to anybody?

Julian Assange

That is correct. We can see by their actions they are inviting many people including people not from the media to approach them to get the key. And the level of people is now such that we believe it will very quickly spread outside the media; it has already spread to media such as a computer journal in Denmark, so it has already spread outside investigative journalists.

Cliff Johnson

So it sounds like now that you’ve lost control of this material that [inaudible] that either you or anybody else can do to stop it, unless I guess you’re successful in the legal proceedings in Germany.

Julian Assange

I think it is only, we may be able to slow it down a little.

Cliff Johnson

Oh.

Julian Assange

I do not think it is possible to stop, I think, it may be possible to slow it down, the number of people who have apparently been given access by this individual in Germany that we suspended last year now, I think is at a critical mass. But perhaps it can be slowed down a little bit and during that time anyone who needs to be informed, any say human rights workers who haven’t already been informed who are in contact with US embassies will be informed.

Cliff Johnson

I mean I will certainly pass that message, I mean obviously if we’re talking about a release which you indicated could be happening in an uncontrolled way within 24 hours, there’s real limitations on the ability to do steps beyond what’s been done, and…

Julian Assange

Yes I can see that, but I don’t know that it will be 24 hours. We have been trying to suck the oxygen out of the market demand by releasing all the unclassified cables and that is distracting a bit from market demand but my strong suspicion is once that distraction disappears which will be within the next few days the market demand will just like any demand for an interesting rumor will cause that information to spread, just like interesting rumors do spread.

Cliff Johnson

What do you think the motivation, with this individual having previously been part of your organization what do you think is their motivation at this stage and how does that differ from WikiLeaks’ own motivations with these releases?

Julian Assange

Their motivation appears to be competitive to us, so, because, the information has news value to us, they have started a competing organization although it hasn’t published anything yet, but, so their motivation is to compromise our reputation as much as possible.

Cliff Johnson

I guess from, I mean from the State Department’s perspective, it sounds like, what we’re dealing with is another WikiLeaks in a sense. I mean that they’re…

Julian Assange

Well, it is, they won’t actually be publishing it you see, so it’s not like they’re actually standing up and saying we believe in what we’re doing and it has value to historic record and value to potential political reform, they’re doing it under the surface. There’s no attempt at redaction program and no attempt at harm minimization.

Cliff Johnson

I’m not at all a computer or an encryption expert but am I right that this encryption key issue, it has two parts and they have both of them or it’s a single key or…

Julian Assange

There is the location of the file on the internet, or rather, locations, there are several locations, and the key, which decrypts the file. One needs both of these pieces of information. The key has been disclosed, a violation of our agreements, by a mainstream media organization

Cliff Johnson

Disclosed to who?

Julian Assange

Disclosed to the public, but I won’t mention other details because it will enable anyone listening to the call to know how to get it. But the public doesn’t know that that key is meaningful. All one needs to do, the information that is being spread is the meaning of that disclosure, by that mainstream media organization, together with the location of the file.

Cliff Johnson

I see. So the key is out there but it was out there before in a way that people might not know

Julian Assange

Yes, they definitely would not know the key to the particular file that exists presently.

Cliff Johnson

Isn’t this something that you can change? The key or the location of the files?

Julian Assange

No, because the files, we do not control. There are not so many, perhaps 5 locations, although we haven’t researched for all of them. But we do not control these encrypted files, other people have placed them there as backups, to prevent censorship, without knowing that this particular file is included in their collections.

Cliff Johnson

But these different locations where the files were… Weren’t those ones that WikiLeaks had placed earlier? Although you retained the key but now what has changed is…

Julian Assange

No, the key, we had some others that we used to prevent censorship of our up and coming publications.

Cliff Johnson

And you still retain control over those?

Julian Assange

We don’t retain control over the files but we retain control of the key, so that is not a problem for those and they’re working the way that they’re meant to, that is the encrypted information is very widely distributed but uses top secret ciphers and a key that is retained by us and not known to others. So they’re alright, it’s just this one particular file.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And I guess you’d mentioned these new 5 locations, those locations were recently created or is this something that has been out there for a while?

Julian Assange

I’m not sure how these came to be, they appear to have been out there for a few months, they weren’t there last year, but they retain collections of a number of files we have released, maybe several thousands of files that we have released, and this file is one that is included in those several thousands of files, so unless you know to look for which particular collection and which particular file then the information is hidden, but if you know the precise file location and you know the key then that is an option. And that is the information that is being deliberately spread.

Cliff Johnson

Doesn’t it… I mean I guess I’m just trying to think as you are what their next steps or motivations might be, but why would it be in their interest to make all of this available worldwide to everybody if part of what they’re trying to do is position themselves as an organization that has control of the material.

Julian Assange

Ah, because they understand that we and others already have that material, and it is a reputational asset for us to gradually roll it out in a safe way. And we are the organization that is most strongly associated reputationally with the material. And the current attack that is being used is that we cannot keep control of our own materials, and therefore we are an insecure organization and therefore sources can’t give us material. And the best way to demonstrate that is this current approach which is to hand over the material to various organizations and spread these two pieces of information and when the material all becomes public, that will permit the attack, the reputational attack, to say that we had put people in harm by permitting such information to become public in unredacted form to the public.

Cliff Johnson

OK, I understand.

Julian Assange

So without that information spreading, at least for us it was secure. There are certain views about what certain handling procedures of some of the mainstream media organizations has been a violation of our agreement, that they not store it on any internet-connected computer, The Guardian for instance. But we don’t have any proof that information has been smuggled out by any third parties, from those media organizations. But from this particular case we can see it going, that invitations are being made to collect the key and the location from this individual and it is being rapidly spread to very minor media players together with this particular story. So it is not just to give them the information, it is also to give them the statement that we are an insecure harmful organization, as proven by the information this individual is conveying to them. So it’s actually a rather sophisticated spin. But because we’ve been seeing this develop behind the scenes for about a month now we can see what it’s motivated by.

Cliff Johnson

Well I appreciate your thoughts on that and I appreciate that you’ve recognized that these kinds of releases absolutely can pose a threat to the very sources reflected in the material, and I think without belaboring the point I think you know from the statements our government has made the grave concerns we’ve had with this kind of dissemination and the potential for it, and the fact that this material has now spread farther, obviously, and I share your concerns here, just exacerbates the concerns that we had originally with the danger it can pose – is there other material that WikiLeaks has that these groups do not have, or that similarly could be compromised?

Julian Assange

There are some possibilities, but I would have to think carefully about that. At the moment I am only dealing with this particular issue.

Cliff Johnson

OK. Cause I think, particularly in light of this latest chapter, I think that’s worth considering because…

Julian Assange

We have tremendously, we have undergone a lot of internal changes as a result of this insider last August but I have to say from our perspective a lot of this happened as a result of the overbearing pressure by the United States; if the United States, the State Department had responded to our overtures to meet and discuss the matter, and not made such threatening statements that put the safety of our individuals, our employees at risk, we would have been able to manage the internal dynamics a lot better, and so, this is an example of when you push people into a corner, they stop behaving in a step-by-step methodical manner, because of the threats that they are under. If it hadn’t been for those sorts of threats, the internal stability of our organization would be more coherent and we wouldn’t have had to suspend this individual.

Cliff Johnson

Well, I don’t know how productive it is to go back to that stage but truly you can understand when the department is confronted with a situation where very sensitive national security material is being compromised, at risk and at threat to national interests as well as individuals, that it would be understandable that we would react to that and take…

Julian Assange

I understand of course there’s the pressures, but we had a publication scheduled that was not going to be until January and everything would be much more ordered and the newspapers as a result of the pressure that they were feeling decided to rush that forwards against our wishes, to November 4, and we had to take legal action to get it extended to November 29, so just for your own information and how the State Department may handle such a similar situation in the future, if you can’t actually stop someone from publication, if you threaten them legally, although it’s not only the State Department who’s at fault here, the Pentagon made a 40 minute press conference threatening the organization and me personally, with various measures, the result is that people feel that they must publish or perish, that they must act extremely quickly within the threats that are made towards them.

Cliff Johnson

But Mr Assange does this suggest that your efforts in Germany to pursue litigation and pressure against this group will result in their doing exactly what you just laid out and accelerating the release and doing it in this uncontrolled way.

Julian Assange

I don’t think so because their motivations are different, their motivations are to keep their own reputation and to damage us, their motivations are as far as I can determine and other people who are involved can determine are not higher than that. We have been involved in 11 months of negotiation with them through a mediator, so it is not like we have rushed him into pushing him to do something, this has been 11 months of negotiation.

Cliff Johnson

And with a mediator, is that a kind of process where if the mediator decides a certain way they would be bound to proceeding accordingly, or do you feel that that process has run its course and…

Julian Assange

The mediator pulled out about 2 weeks ago because of the amount of lies that were being made by this individual, so they said they would return the information, return the information, made many promises, and it was eventually viewed by the mediator that the mediation was impossible under those circumstances so they pulled out.

Cliff Johnson

From your knowledge of this individual do you see any path for persuading them not to proceed do they seem intended to proceed, or?

Julian Assange

Well they’re proceeding under the surface, so they have a cover for what they are doing, they are proud of what they are doing. They are not admitting that they are spreading information this way but we know and it is abundantly apparent to anyone who reads even the public newspaper stories by information.dk and Freitag in Berlin and from the last information from the media. So I’m not certain that they are, that it is impossible to stop them from the path that they’re conducting, they’re engaged in the path that they’re going down because they believe it to be efficient to meeting their desires, rather than it being an ideological committed goal.

Cliff Johnson

During the course of this long mediation, what was it that they thought they were seeking from you that would stop this process, I mean was there some, presumably there was some effort during the course of that mediation for you to get back control of the material, were there indications that they were prepared to do that, or that there was something they were seeking in order to do that?

Julian Assange

They, the only leverage we had in the mediation was that they had made a previous public statement that they would return all of the material, so it was only a reputational issue that permitted the mediation to occur. That is, they faced a potential reputational loss by not returning the material. And possibly, we also started an initial legal process back in February and stopped that to conduct the mediation. So there was a reputational motivation and a motivation to stave off court action.

Cliff Johnson

And they have a legal entity in Germany that is the subject of your legal efforts or… Julian Assange No, they did not have a legal entity, it is just an individual although they say that they intend to form a legal entity.

Cliff Johnson

Are there any other individuals or groups that we should also be concerned about that either may now have or in the future have access to this information – and I realize that all of that is to some degree moot if this broad release happens that you’ve alerted us to.

Julian Assange

There are individuals who have been transferring information, but they, for instance the Guardian gave all the cables to Haaretz in Germany, sorry in Israel, but these are moves that are done by individuals within those newspaper institutions as a competitive play to other newspapers where they have arrangements. For example the Guardian gave them against our agreement to the New York Times, a violation of our written contract, and to a number of other groups, but as far as we are aware, we don’t know, it’s hard to be aware of other groups but as far as we are aware they are giving them to other news organizations as a competitive maneuver in relation to us.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange is there anything else at this stage which you think would be useful for us to know.

Julian Assange

Well there are these two key details I would like to convey in person, not over an unencrypted connection.

Cliff Johnson

I’m sorry, I don’t follow.

Julian Assange

The two key pieces of information, which are necessary, the location and the information about the passphrase, and these I obviously cannot convey over an insecure connection.

Cliff Johnson

Right but you would be prepared to provide those to us.

Julian Assange

I would be prepared to encourage someone to provide you with that information.

Cliff Johnson

And how would that play out? What would the next step be?

Julian Assange

There are two possibilities. One is to encourage the individual in Germany to desist in their activities, if you – because they are concerned about the reputational risk, if they are told that if they continue their activities it may lead to people coming to harm, then that is possible leverage to get them to stop, although we have tried, we have made those statements, it may be viewed as more serious if it comes from the US or a Human Rights Organization or the German Government.

Cliff Johnson

I guess earlier in our discussion you seemed to suggest that given their motivation they wouldn’t care about that kind of concern.

Julian Assange

They care about reputational risk. They’re not going to care about that, clearly by the behavior, but they may care about reputational risk. They know about it because we’ve informed them about it and made a demand through our lawyers to stop doing it but they may care about the reputational risk. So if it becomes public that they were asked to desist, they may desist. If there is another possibility which is the taking down of those files, that is a degree of research and effort that we do not have the capacity to do. There are not so many of them.

Cliff Johnson

And you know all the locations of them, do you think?

Julian Assange

We know several and it’s probably not that hard to find the others – they are not viewed by the public as important files. There are some important encrypted files that we have released which there, some 100,000 people have copies to them but the keys are well secured.

Cliff Johnson

Can you provide us with that location information?

Julian Assange

I can encourage other people to do so.

Cliff Johnson

OK. I mean in terms of your suggests that we make clear the harm that could follow from the release of such information, I mean that’s almost the response we had in our public statement from when we tried to dissuade WikiLeaks from doing its releases on the same ground, and I don’t know why we would fare any better with, you…

Julian Assange

Well I mean, I don’t suggest that it is a result of those public statements but we released cables slowly, to media partners, and went through every cable and redacted source identities accordingly. The differences between that scenario of journalists and human rights activists reading cables, redacting them and putting them out through us, which is what has been happening, and all of them, all 250,000, including all the classified cables, going out without any redaction at all. So there is quite a degree of difference between these two scenarios. Yes, we were not influenced to do more than what we had planned to do but I think of course there are always compromises to make in this sort of thing but they are, at least as far as publication was concerned, while it might have been politically annoying, we acted as other media organizations acted; in fact, it was mainstream media organizations who were redacting our cables for us and then feeding them back through our redaction system.

Cliff Johnson

If we were… Just speculating if we were able to influence these other groups or this other group from making a release or if your litigation efforts succeeded in that, what would, could we expect from WikiLeaks, would you continue to proceed with the releases of this exact same information?

Julian Assange

We would continue to proceed in the way which we have been proceeding, which is, in an orderly fashion reading the classified cables one by one and redacting source identities where necessary.

Cliff Johnson

I see. So the difference in the two scenarios is, is your sense that this other group would not have any interest in redactions or any other more, I don’t know how to describe it, sort of a more planned release.

Julian Assange

That’s correct, because they are not releasing the information for either a highly illogical purpose or for their reputation. So they are not seeking to grow their reputation as a news organization by producing newsworthy information, rather they are seeking to secretly release this information to others in order to damage our reputation. So it is quite a different motivation and it means it is not possible to dissuade them reputationally from engaging in the course of conduct that they are engaging in because they are doing it under the surface.

Cliff Johnson

Right, but I guess in terms of the redactions, even though we have seen some of the releases that have been coming through the media reflecting some redactions of particular individuals’ names or sensitivities or source sensitivities, as I think you can understand we have not seen and nor do we have the sense that there’s any redactions of the actual classified material in the cables as well so I guess I do appreciate that there’s a distinction in terms of some of the redactions but overall the WikiLeaks releases that you’ve done that you would intend to do would still involve the release of material that was classified.

Julian Assange

Our redactions are done by our media partners, so our material is given to those media partners and then they feed back the redactions that they feel are appropriate, that is within their expertise within that particular region.

Cliff Johnson

And then you make a final decision as to what’s released or not?

Julian Assange

No, we do not make that decision, that is a process that is conducted purely by the media partners.

Cliff Johnson

In terms of, and I realize it’s late there Mr Assange and I appreciate that you’ve been willing to talk at this length, in terms of the litigation in Germany do you have an assessment from your own lawyers as to how likely that is to succeed or not succeed?

Julian Assange

The current assessment is that we do not have standing. We have made certain demands but we do not have standing to take a court action because the information does not belong to any parties and we would have to be one of the US informants say that are mentioned in the material to have a standing with the courts to take such an action.

Cliff Johnson

And Germany is the only country where…

Julian Assange

We perhaps could sue for, we could sue in London for the breach of confidence and the reputational loss that would come from it, but that of course won’t have any effect in Germany.

Cliff Johnson

Mr Assange, earlier you had mentioned that there were two items that you were interested in providing us but wanted to do so in person or directly.

Julian Assange

That is correct.

Cliff Johnson

I just wanted to make sure I had a clear understanding of that. What were those? Was one of them the locations of the files and the encryption key?

Julian Assange

I wouldn’t venture to say that I would provide you with that information but I would encourage others to give you that information.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And are those the two items or is that the…?

Julian Assange

Those are the two items, the encryption key and the location.

Cliff Johnson

Mm. I mean we’re certainly prepared to receive those, but I guess I’m in your hands in terms of the process for that, or, it sounds as if you might take steps through some intermediary to do something like that.

Julian Assange

The process would be that, because I am under house arrest, you would have to send someone out here to Norfolk, and then a contact would give you that information.

Cliff Johnson

OK. So if we were to…

Julian Assange

We have been trying to get the US Ambassador out here, we’ve been calling him for 24 hours now, more than 24 hours.

Cliff Johnson

Yeah, and they have been coordinating with us which is why I wanted to be in a position to return this call on behalf of both the embassy and the department so we could centralize some of the communication. But if we were to arrange for somebody from the embassy to come out to you then that would be the mechanism for you to provide us with that information, is that right?

Julian Assange

That would be the mechanism by which you would be provided with the information.

Cliff Johnson

And then to set that up, should we, what should we do, should we reach back out to…

Julian Assange

You should call this number and make an appointment.

Cliff Johnson

OK. And how soon if we were to arrange this early next week that would be…

Julian Assange

I would suggest immediately, but…

Cliff Johnson

So we could do it at the weekend or…

Julian Assange

Our view is that it is more your problem than it is ours but we have been calling the State Department and the Embassy for over a day trying to explain the urgency and they have not called back other than this call.

Cliff Johnson

But again, even if we had, and once we have this material, it’s not clear to me how that would prevent any of these releases that you are anticipating.

Julian Assange

Which particular ones?

Cliff Johnson

By this other group.

Julian Assange

The particular manner, the approach that they are taking to spreading information is to just give this password and location and thereby they are able to give the appearance that they are not spreading the information itself, do you understand?

Cliff Johnson

Um. I think so, you’re suggesting that they’re, uh…

Julian Assange

They have developed a sophisticated cover for their activity, which is to spread the password and location, but not actually directly convey the data itself, even though the effect is precisely the same, which is to convey the data. And so either if they are pressed upon to cease that activity or the file is removed from the internet, then they will not be able to engage in that activity. Of course, they may still spread this file in other manners, in another manner, but they believe it has greater evidential weight if they spread it in another manner, so I believe that they will not do that, or at least, they will take a lot longer to do that.

Cliff Johnson

Right. But if in some manner or for some reason they’re prevented from spreading it in this current manner that involves these five locations it sounds as if your sense is that they would still have the capability to release this information in another way.

Julian Assange

Yes, that’s correct. But I don’t believe that they would necessarily do so for some time. Perhaps something else can be negotiated or perhaps other motivations may come into play.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

At the moment they have a very easy option, which is they can make it look like they are not spreading the material, yet in fact spread the material to those that they wish to curry favor with or build alliances with. At the same time also make a reputational attack on this organization and do so by looking like it is not, like they have not deliberately engaged in a course of action to provide all the material to the public. Because all that is needed is this location and password, and they are spreading it to people. They know that fairly soon that information can simply be sent over an email or by a single tweet, and once it is done so, it will be in a million people’s hands, within a few hours. So this is really the key difference. The information that can spread to several million people within a few hours, or information that is very very large, and your involvement in transmitting it is clear.

Cliff Johnson

So is the idea that by having this information and spreading it they could basically provide people with access to stuff that was under the WikiLeaks umbrella but they would in fact be providing, in a sense they would be unlocking your own material, is that what it is?

Julian Assange

They would be making available all these State Department cables, all 250,000.

Cliff Johnson

And access would be provided through the WikiLeaks website or through these other…

Julian Assange

No, through these other, through these other files that are held by people we don’t know who they are, but they are publicly available.

Cliff Johnson

I’ll report back to folks and we will…

Julian Assange

The people who have them, and who have made them publicly available, do not know what they have.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

So they appear to just be people who have a collection of various information that is available to us.

Cliff Johnson

How could they not know what they have?

Julian Assange

Because the collection is extremely large.

Cliff Johnson

Uh-huh.

Julian Assange

And this is just one file among a very large collection.

Cliff Johnson

So to be able to use it they would need to know where to get it.

Julian Assange

Exactly. Exactly.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

And this is the information that is being spread by this individual.

Cliff Johnson

Well we will loop back to you to make an appointment to visit. Is there anything else that would be useful for me to know at this time?

Julian Assange

An article has appeared in Freitag, that’s f r i e t a g, sorry f r e i t a g, of billion, provided by that individual who works with, is trying to set up a business relationship with Freitag. The information in it is not strictly accurate, because he is trying to use his connection with Freitag to make an attack against us, but it will give you a hint of the game that’s being played, and also information.dk has an article in Danish, also provided by, the source of which is also this individual Daniel Domscheit-Berg, it’s the same attack in both cases, and it’s a preexisting connection between this individual and these two papers. But it is, a my news at Freitag was going to publish and I spoke to the publisher before the publication and impressed upon him that he should obscure as many details as possible in the publication. Unfortunately while there are some that are obscured, nonetheless there may be people who will put two and two together from this, and certainly if these reports continue it will create a tremendous demand to know what it is, what this password is, and what the location is. And that tremendous demand will be satisfied by this individual, because he is clearly the source of the information and has asked that other people contact him.

Cliff Johnson

OK. I hear what you’re saying.

Julian Assange

The leverage on him is a reputational pressure that can be applied to him, that he is doing all of this behind the scenes, and thinks that if it all becomes public it will all be to his benefit, it will be to our loss, and that is why he is spreading information. But if he feels it would in fact work against him reputationally, he will stop doing that so publicly, and there is the other possibility of tracking down who is supplying these files and asking them to stop.

Cliff Johnson

OK.

Julian Assange

At the moment, the people do not think these files are particularly interesting. Once it is understood their significance then they will spread. And they will be impossible to get rid of.

Cliff Johnson

Right. I appreciate what you’ve told us Mr Assange. I mean, as I’ve mentioned before as you can probably imagine from our perspective the notion of one entity putting out classified US government material versus another entity doing it, either way it’s something that to our minds continues to pose equal harm to us, but…

Julian Assange

Well, you know, we heard these statements from the Pentagon, that they’re not concerned about harm minimization., but I would suggest that that’s a rather disturbing attitude. If it is the case that the State Department has contacted the relevant players and forewarned them already, I know a lot of that activity has occurred, and it is my strong suspicion that, or rather, I think it is probable that nearly all people mentioned who need to be informed have been informed, either directly by the State Department or directly through the news media, then, I suppose that is fine and the chance of harm to those sources of the State Department is minimal. On the other hand the State Department has made statements countering to that effect, although a significant time ago.

Cliff Johnson

No I guess my point is really the opposite one, that we face a great harm however the material is released, whether by you or by them, it’s not that we’re indifferent to an another organization also releasing it, it’s more the minute anybody other than our government has access to our material it creates the risk, inherent risk that it will leave somebody’s control, and then it will spread regardless of what individuals’ motivations are, and I also don’t want to leave you with the sense that when you’re talking about this volume of material, that even with the best efforts of the United States Government that we’re able to protect all or even a significant amount of source equity from them. So you’re certainly right that that’s something that’s been a major concern and that efforts have been made when they can be made, but they are by no means, we do not have the ability to completely protect our interests just on the source issue, and as I mentioned our concerns with this kind of material goes well beyond that, there’s certainly a primary concern with lives and individuals whose well-being can be threatened but there’s also national security material throughout the classified cables that also causes us harm, I mean, you know, you’ve heard those things before, I expect you appreciate them whether you agree with them or not, but I do wanna say that I appreciate the time you’ve taken to talk about this latest step in this.

Julian Assange

Well I understand you need to make that statement for legal reasons, and you will understand that I need to make the following statement also, we do not believe that in the material that through our partners have released that that is the case, and we continue to make sure that the there is no harm to the interests of the United States and rather the news benefit to the American people and to others is paramount in everything that we do. And that is partly why you have received this call and we’re saying as we said last year that if you have genuine concerns that we ask that you act on them and last year we asked that you provide us, or assist us to find out which information would be harmful to release, and now we are asking that you take measures to reduce any possible harm including via contacting those people who might be at harm and to assisting the steps we have taken to prevent unredacted release of the material.

Cliff Johnson

I hear you and I won’t repeat what I said before because I’m confident you heard that too. So if there’s nothing else that’s useful to discuss further at this stage, if it makes sense to you the way I would leave it is that we will follow up with you probably by embassy but I’ll just need to discuss that further.

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Featured

What we learned in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing

Experts debunked the U.S. government’s case, argument by argument. Here’s a recap ahead of the judge’s verdict on January 4th. 

The prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange would be a landmark test of the First Amendment right to publish if he were brought to trial in the United States, as press freedom groups, constitutional lawyers, and newsrooms across the board have sounded the alarm about the ways in which the U.S. indictment intends to silence investigative journalism around the world. 

But Assange would first have to be extradited from the United Kingdom, where he has been imprisoned in HMP Belmarsh for over a year and a half. At Assange’s extradition hearing in London, comprising one week of oral arguments in February and four weeks of witness testimony in September, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser heard debate over the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty’s ban on extraditing for ‘political offenses,’ the unprecedented nature and scope of the U.S. prosecution, and the threat sending Assange to a Supermax prison in the U.S. would pose to his health and even his life. 

Judge Baraitser will issue her ruling on January 4th, and she is expected not only to approve or deny Assange’s extradition, but rather will lay out the ways in which she agrees or not with the government and defense’s many arguments. Here is what the government argued in court and what defense experts said on the stand. 

Journalists & Source Protection  

  • U.S. government said: Julian Assange is not a journalist
  • Experts said: Assange engaged in basic journalistic activity

That Julian Assange is a journalist should not be in dispute. Assange has earned dozens of journalism awards, from Amnesty International’s New Media Award in 2009 to the 2011 Walkey Award, the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. WikiLeaks has been referred to in court as a journalistic outlet, and mainstream media organizations around the world now use the very same anonymous submission system that WikiLeaks pioneered. But there’s no need to wade into this semantic dispute in the first place — laws and amendments protect or criminalize types of actions, not types of people. A press pass doesn’t give you more or fewer freedoms: the First Amendment protects journalistic activity, not journalists, and what WikiLeaks has done in soliciting, redacting, contextualizing, and publishing the Iraq & Afghan War Logs, the State Department cables and the GTMO Detainee Assessment Briefs is pure journalistic activity. 

Fellow journalists and press freedom experts alike explained this distinction. U. of Maryland Professor of Journalism Mark Feldstein called WikiLeaks’ actions “standard journalistic behavior.” Furthermore, Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia, testified:

“The indictment [of Julian Assange] focuses almost entirely on the kinds of activities that national security journalists engage in routinely and as a necessary part of their work-cultivating sources, communicating with them confidentially, soliciting information from them, protecting their identities from disclosure, and publishing classified information. The indictment’s implicit but unmistakable claim is that activities integral to national security journalism are unprotected by the U.S. Constitution and even criminal.”

As Trevor Timm, founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, put it in court, “In the US, the First Amendment protects everyone. Whether you consider Assange a journalist doesn’t matter, he was engaging in journalistic activity.”

This journalistic activity is not limited to publishing the documents. The Assange indictment also attempts to make criminal every step in the reporting process, from journalist-source communications to possessing the files to finally making them public. In addition to the 17 charges under the Espionage Act, the 18th charge is under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, attempting to reframe normal reporter-source interactions as something nefarious and to paint Assange as a mastermind directing computer intrusions when he allegedly chatted online with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. 

Computer forensic expert Patrick Eller testified that he found several important inaccuracies and technological misunderstandings in the government’s assessment of the Manning conversations and concluded that what the government alleges — an attempted password crack — wasn’t even technically possible and that if it were, it wouldn’t be for the purposes they allege. More fundamentally, he testified, the government couldn’t even prove that it was Assange himself that Manning was speaking to. 

Even if the accusation held up, Trevor Timm explained, that this time of source communication is not only normal but essential for investigative journalism.  “Material journalists often write about and print do not magically land on their desks,” he said.  They talk to sources, they ask for clarification, and they ask for more information. “This is standard practice for journalists.”

Unredacted cables 

  • U.S. government said: Assange recklessly published names of informants
  • Experts said: WikiLeaks redacted more than even the US government, Assange warned the State Department about unredacted release and was ignored, and WikiLeaks wasn’t even the first to publish unredacted

This argument has been completely debunked. Three of the charges against Assange are for “pure publication,” which is a dangerous attempt to set a precedent that criminalizes the publication of truthful information in the public interest.  The government’s indictment ignores the painstaking redaction process that WikiLeaks engaged in starting in 2010. Veteran journalists who worked with WikiLeaks on the 2010 publications testified that Assange and WikiLeaks were ardent about redacting cables to protect innocents who might be named. John Goetz testified that he looked at a few specific files in the Iraq War Logs and compared them to the same documents that were later released by the US government itself, and he found that WikiLeaks’ redaction system — using a computer script to first redact every single name in the files and then working backward to inspect and unredact words that couldn’t be used to identify the individuals — actually redacted more than the U.S. government’s. Working on the State Department cables, Stefania Maurizi lauded WikiLeaks’ unprecedented security in protecting the files. 

The government’s indictment ignores all of this and dishonestly tries to criminalize WikiLeaks’ 2011 publication of certain unredacted cables. As several experts testified, the indictment’s timeline is extremely misleading, obscuring how those disclosures came to pass in an attempt to deceive the judge and to paint Assange as reckless. The individuals responsible for initially publishing the unredacted cables were never charged. John Young, founder of the US-based leak site Cryptome, testified that he published the State Department cables first, and that the US government has never tried to prosecute him or asked him to take them down. When Assange learned that the unredacted files were available on the internet, he and other WikiLeaks officials immediately called the State Department’s emergency line to warn them. That Cryptome and John Young were never charged reveals how this is a blatant case of selective prosecution — political payback instead of an honest application of the law.

Assange is an Australian citizen who published WikiLeaks files while in Europe, so make no mistake: the U.S. government is claiming global jurisdiction and the right to dictate what is and isn’t published about it beyond its borders. Furthermore, it’s arguing that the First Amendment no longer protects the publication of truthful information in the public interest. A successful prosecution would spell the end of any legal protections journalists have left. 

Politicized Prosecution

  • U.S. government said: This is the culmination of a decade-long investigation
  • Experts said: Obama explicitly declined to prosecute; Trump launched a war on the press 

The question of whether the prosecution of Julian Assange is “politicized” is no theoretical debate; this is an important legal distinction: the US-UK Extradition Treaty explicitly bans extradition for “political offenses.” In this case, both the publication and the prosecution should be viewed as political. Assange’s defense team explained, “Espionage” is a textbook political accusation, the allegation of a crime done to a particular nation-state for political reasons. Experts in Assange’s hearing testified that Assange is an anti-war libertarian, and he published evidence of war crimes and corruption for the purpose of exposing and ending those unjust practices. 

On the question of a politicized prosecution, the government has attempted to portray the Trump administration’s indictment as the natural conclusion of a years-long investigation into WikiLeaks. But as experts explained in court, President Obama’s Department of Justice looked closely at indicting WikiLeaks and explicitly decided not to indict, because they could find no meaningful difference between the actions of WikiLeaks and those of the New York Times. The Trump administration, by contrast, had no regard for these First Amendment concerns and decided to reopen the essentially closed investigation into Assange. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said early in Trump’s tenure that arresting Assange was his personal “priority.” In April 2017, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivered an extremely aggressive speech against WikiLeaks, declaring, “we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”

At Assange’s extradition hearing, Carey Shenkman, an American human rights attorney and constitutional historian who is writing a book on historical analyses of the Espionage Act, testified, “I’ve never thought we would see something like [this indictment],” adding that most legal scholars agree that this use of the Espionage Act is “truly extraordinary.” The way the charges are framed and the timing of the indictment, he said, “really point to a highly politicized prosecution.”

Verdict

On January 4th, 2021, Judge Vanessa Baraitser will issue her ruling on whether to approve Julian Assange’s extradition. To accept the government’s arguments, she will have to disregard weeks of expert testimony debunking the prosecution’s legal theories, and she’ll have to accept its misleading timeline of events. These experts in journalism, the history of the Espionage Act, and the politicized application of the law gave her ample reason to shut this extradition process down. 

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Commentary Featured

Election Hot Take: 5 Reasons Pardoning Assange Could Drastically Enhance Trump’s Legacy

Even though we are all still recovering from the election (and there are still some pending legal challenges to consider), we thought we’d take a few minutes to unpack an idea that many people have floated on social media and opinion columns.

Here’s one example, from Thomas Knapp, the director of the the Garrison Center, writing at Counterpunch:

Headline: America in Transition: Two Things Donald Trump Can Do to Burnish His Legacy

Trump has the power to pardon. He should use that power in unprecedented fashion, emptying the federal prisons of non-violent drug offenders and other assorted victims of a “justice” system gone haywire.

In particular, he should pardon (in alphabetical order) Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Ross Ulbricht.

Assange and Snowden have been charged, but not yet tried, with telling the American people the truth about their government’s crimes. Manning has been convicted for the same heroic acts. President Obama commuted her sentence, but it’s time to restore her rights and recognize her service to her country.

Knapp isn’t the only one floating the possibility of a pardon for Assange. So let’s break down why this might be a great idea for Assange, for Trump, and for America.

1. It Would Transform Trump into the Defender of American Values 

Presidents rarely get to define their own legacy, and are often victims of external circumstances. Trump would love for his legacy to be about economic growth and reworked trade deals, but that’s unlikely to be how history remembers him. He has his tax cuts, and his defenders will make claims about economic strength…that was ultimately derailed by the COVID pandemic.

But there’s the rub. You can’t summarize the Trump presidency without fixating on COVID. The next sentence would probably be something about the divisiveness of the cultural and political moment. Much of that is beyond Trump’s control, but tell that to Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Johnson. Those are the breaks.

If Trump wants to shake up the narrative on his presidency, he can use one of his most important powers to do so. Pardoning Assange, Snowden, Manning, or a combination of the three would drastically reshape Trump’s legacy. It would become impossible to spin a narrative about Trump and our political climate without noting his magnanimous gesture. The speech almost writes itself:

#Gamechanger.

 2. It preempts Joe Biden 

We can’t be sure what Joe Biden will do as president when it comes to Assange. Maybe he’s weighing a pardon himself. Maybe he’ll merely drop the extradition request. Maybe he’ll actually continue the prosecution. 

Whatever Biden’s hypothetical course of action, a Trump pardon takes the decision out of Biden’s hands and gets Trump all the credit. 

Biden has a lot of work cut out for him uniting the Democratic Party and its coalition. They won’t have Trump to kick around any more, and the Left will be keeping a close eye on Biden. Taking Assange (and others) out of play gives Biden one less move he can make to appease key parts of his base.

3. It makes things more difficult for the Biden administration.

Similar to our last point, sending a powerful message in support of press freedom and releasing Assange causes headaches for the incoming president. Remember: Assange, Manning, and Snowden are all charged with crimes committed during the Obama-Biden administration. Allowing these transparency advocates the freedom to speak truth to power is a great way to undermine those in power.

4. It strikes at the Deep State.

Whatever your thoughts on Trump, let’s get one thing out of the way: the Deep State is real. Maybe you’d rather not call it that, and prefer “the national security establishment,” the “military-industrial complex,” or just “the bureaucracy.” Regardless of the label, there are career bureaucrats who transcend political parties and seek to accumulate power. They hate people like Assange, who operate outside established institutions. And Trump (usually) hates them back. What do they say about “the enemy of my enemy?”

The more “establishment” types prefer the predictability of someone like Joe Biden over the likes of Trump, who they feel less capable of controlling. It’s one of the reasons (although not the only one) that many establishment Republicans and hawkish (neoconservative) figures were “Never Trumpers,” “Lincoln Project” supporters, or even supported Joe Biden. Trump can tell them off by pardoning Assange and others.

5. It’s just the right thing to do.

Call it “saving the best for last.” Or chalk it up to cynicism about politics. But we can’t write a list like this without pointing out that the persecution of journalists and whistleblowers is simply wrong, and any action that pushes back against that persecution is a positive move.

Assange is not a U.S. citizen. He is being literally charged with “Espionage” for activities undertaken while he was in Europe. And even if you object to him being characterized as a “journalist,” the activities he is being charged over are textbook journalistic activities: newsgathering, working with sources, and publishing. Assange might not have operated like an old-school journalist, but that’s because he’s part of the evolution of journalism that is more open-source and accessible. Countless journalists, scholars, human rights organizations, and legal groups have all condemned the prosecution of Assange because it strikes at the heart of the free press and would make reporters all over the world subject to government persecution simply for doing their jobs: trying to tell the public the truth about things they have a right to know.

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Featured

Guide to Testimony in Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing

Click on each topic for links to key testimony and further reading

Assange Indictment Poses Unprecedented Threat to Journalism

What expert witnesses said

Fellow journalists, academics, and professors testified that the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange are unprecedented and would mark the end of First Amendment protections on journalism everywhere. Assange is charged with obtaining, receiving, and publishing government documents, activity that investigative journalists engage in every day.

Why it matters

To extradite someone from the U.S. to the U.K., the prosecution must prove “dual criminality,” that the crime alleged in the United States would also be an offense in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Article 4 of the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty says, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”


The Importance of WikiLeaks’ Releases

What experts said

Lawyers, journalists, academics, and activists testified about the enormous importance of WikiLeaks’ 2010-11 publications. They explained how the Iraq and Afghan War Logs documented previously uncounted civilian casualties, war crimes and the true nature of modern warfare, how the State Department cables exposed backroom corruption and the U.S.’s global influence, and how the Guantanamo Bay files revealed the deceitful justifications used to keep prisoners in detention. These experts testified about using WikiLeaks’ releases in their own work, in crucial legal cases, and in informing the public about what their government was doing in secret.

Why this matters

The U.S. 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.


WikiLeaks’ Redaction Process and the Unredacted Cables

What expert witnesses said

Journalists who worked with WikiLeaks on the Cablegate release testified about Assange’s redaction process, care to conceal names of those who might be at risk, and digital protection of the documents to prevent accidental release. Digital experts who reviewed online records testified that it was Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh’s publication of a password that ultimately led to the unredacted publication, that actually a different leak site published the unredacted cables first and haven’t been prosecuted, and that Assange attempted to mitigate any damage that could result from the release.

Why it matters

The three publishing counts under the Espionage Act — perhaps the charges most worrying to fellow journalists as a conviction for publishing would be unprecedented — only charge Julian Assange with publishing the unredacted State Department cables in September 2011 (as opposed to the redacted cables in late 2010 and early 2011). The government alleges that Assange published recklessly, without regard for the informants and sources named in the documents.


On the Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion

What is alleged

In the second superseding indictment, Count 2 is 18 U.S.C. § 371 Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusions. The government argues that US Army soldier Chelsea Manning chatted over Jabber with a user ‘Nathaniel Frank’, who the government alleges but hasn’t proven is Julian Assange, and asked for help cracking a “hash”, which is an encrypted portion of a password, she was attempting to gain increased access to government databases and to disguise her identity in doing so. It argues that Assange attempted to help Manning crack this password in order to obtain more classified documents to send to WikiLeaks.

What the expert witness said

Patrick Eller reviewed the indictments against Assange and the transcripts from Chelsea Manning’s court martial in 2013 to analyze the allegation that Assange and Manning engaged in a conspiracy to conceal Manning’s identity and steal more documents. Eller found several important inaccuracies and technological misunderstandings in the government’s indictment and found that what the government alleges isn’t technically possible and if it were, it wouldn’t have been for the purpose the government alleges.


Spying on Assange in the Embassy

What witnesses said

Two anonymous former employees of Spanish surveillance company UC Global testified that the company’s director David Morales secured a contract with top Trump financier Sheldon Adelson to spy on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, from 2017 until his eviction in April 2019, and fed the recordings to United States intelligence. The whistleblowers said Morales was particularly zealous about recording Assange’s conversations with his lawyers, and even discussed kidnapping or poisoning him.

Why it matters

The Nixon Administration’s case against Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was dropped when the defense discovered that government officials had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist and the FBI had intercepted some of his phone calls. James Goodale, the lawyer who defended the New York Times’ right to publish the Pentagon Papers, wrote, “For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.” The testimony about Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s visit is also relevant for the case that this prosecution is heavily politicized.


The Trump Administration’s Politicized Prosecution of Julian Assange

What expert witnesses said

The prosecution of Julian Assange is political in nature because: Trump prosecuted after the Obama administration explicitly decided not to, the Trump admin is uniquely aggressive against journalism, the prosecution is essentially revenge for WikiLeaks embarrassing and exposing the U.S. government, Espionage is a classic “political offense”, and a conviction on these charges would set a dangerous new precedent.

Why it matters

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


Medical Testimony & U.S. Prison Conditions

What expert witnesses said

Psychiatrists and doctors who have interviewed, visited, and treated Julian Assange testify that he has Asperger’s syndrome, clinical depression, and is at a high risk of suicide in the event of extradition. U.S. lawyers, prison experts and a former warden testified that if sent to the United States, Assange would be held in solitary confinement under communication-gagging Special Administrative Measures, would get an extremely long prison sentence, and would likely be held post-trial in the highest-security prison in the country, ADX Florence in Colorado.

Why it matters

Section 91 of the United Kingdom’s 2003 Extradition Act prohibits extradition if “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.” Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights says that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”


Daily Reports

Categories
Hearing Coverage

The Importance of WikiLeaks’ releases

What experts said

Lawyers, journalists, academics, and activists testified about the enormous importance of WikiLeaks’ 2010-11 publications. They explained how the Iraq and Afghan War Logs documented previously uncounted civilian casualties, war crimes and the true nature of modern warfare, how the State Department cables exposed backroom corruption and the U.S.’s global influence, and how the Guantanamo Bay files revealed the deceitful justifications used to keep prisoners in detention. These experts testified about using WikiLeaks’ releases in their own work, in crucial legal cases, and in informing the public about what their government was doing in secret.

Why this matters

The U.S. 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.

Key testimony

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Medical Testimony & U.S. Prison Conditions

What expert witnesses said

Psychiatrists and doctors who have interviewed, visited, and treated Julian Assange testify that he has Asperger’s syndrome, clinical depression, and is at a high risk of suicide in the event of extradition. U.S. lawyers, prison experts and a former warden testified that if sent to the United States, Assange would be held in solitary confinement under communication-gagging Special Administrative Measures, would get an extremely long prison sentence, and would likely be held post-trial in the highest-security prison in the country, ADX Florence in Colorado.

Why it matters

Section 91 of the United Kingdom’s 2003 Extradition Act prohibits extradition if “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.” Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights says that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Key testimony

More

Categories
Hearing Coverage

The Trump Administration’s Politicized Prosecution of Julian Assange

What expert witnesses said

The prosecution of Julian Assange is political in nature because: Trump prosecuted after the Obama administration explicitly decided not to, the Trump admin is uniquely aggressive against journalism, the prosecution is essentially revenge for WikiLeaks embarrassing and exposing the U.S. government, Espionage is a classic “political offense”, and a conviction on these charges would set a dangerous new precedent.

Why it matters

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

Key testimony

Read more:

Categories
Hearing Coverage

Spying on Assange in the Embassy

What witnesses said

Two anonymous former employees of Spanish surveillance company UC Global testified that the company’s director David Morales secured a contract with top Trump financier Sheldon Adelson to spy on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, from 2017 until his eviction in April 2019, and fed the recordings to United States intelligence. The whistleblowers said Morales was particularly zealous about recording Assange’s conversations with his lawyers, and even discussed kidnapping or poisoning him.

Why it matters

The Nixon Administration’s case against Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was dropped when the defense discovered that government officials had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist and the FBI had intercepted some of his phone calls. James Goodale, the lawyer who defended the New York Times’ right to publish the Pentagon Papers, wrote, “For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.” The testimony about Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s visit is also relevant for the case that this prosecution is heavily politicized.

Key testimony

Read more

Categories
Hearing Coverage

WikiLeaks’ Redaction Process and the Unredacted Cables

What expert witnesses said

Journalists who worked with WikiLeaks on the Cablegate release testified about Assange’s redaction process, care to conceal names of those who might be at risk, and digital protection of the documents to prevent accidental release. Digital experts who reviewed online records testified that it was Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh’s publication of a password that ultimately led to the unredacted publication, that actually a different leak site published the unredacted cables first and haven’t been prosecuted, and that Assange attempted to mitigate any damage that could result from the release.

Why it matters

The three publishing counts under the Espionage Act — perhaps the charges most worrying to fellow journalists as a conviction for publishing would be unprecedented — only charge Julian Assange with publishing the unredacted State Department cables in September 2011 (as opposed to the redacted cables in late 2010 and early 2011). The government alleges that Assange published recklessly, without regard for the informants and sources named in the documents.

Key testimony

Read more

Categories
Hearing Coverage

On the Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion

What is alleged

In the second superseding indictment, Count 2 is 18 U.S.C. § 371 Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusions. The government argues that US Army soldier Chelsea Manning chatted over Jabber with a user ‘Nathaniel Frank’, who the government alleges but hasn’t proven is Julian Assange, and asked for help cracking a “hash”, which is an encrypted portion of a password, she was attempting to gain increased access to government databases and to disguise her identity in doing so. It argues that Assange attempted to help Manning crack this password in order to obtain more classified documents to send to WikiLeaks.

What the expert witness said

Patrick Eller reviewed the indictments against Assange and the transcripts from Chelsea Manning’s court martial in 2013 to analyze the allegation that Assange and Manning engaged in a conspiracy to conceal Manning’s identity and steal more documents. Eller found several important inaccuracies and technological misunderstandings in the government’s indictment and found that what the government alleges isn’t technically possible and if it were, it wouldn’t have been for the purpose the government alleges.

Patrick Eller debunks Manning/Assange “conspiracy”

The key witness on the technical aspects of this hearing was Patrick Eller, who dismantled the government’s allegations. His testimony established that:

  • The attempted cracking of the password hash was not technologically possible in 2010, when the conversation happened
  • Even if it were feasible, the purpose would not have been to conceal Manning’s identity
  • Even if it were feasible, it would not have given Manning any increased access to government databases
  • The U.S. government cannot prove that ‘Nathaniel Frank’, who chatted with Manning, was actually Julian Assange

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Hearing Coverage

Assange Indictment Poses Unprecedented Threat to Journalism

What expert witnesses said:

Fellow journalists, academics, and professors testified that the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange are unprecedented and would mark the end of First Amendment protections on journalism everywhere. Assange is charged with obtaining, receiving, and publishing government documents, activity that investigative journalists engage in every day.

Why it matters:

To extradite someone from the U.S. to the U.K., the prosecution must prove “dual criminality,” that the crime alleged in the United States would also be an offense in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Article 4 of the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty says, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”

Relevant testimony

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Featured Video Series

Video Series: Assange’s Extradition Hearing

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This playlist compiles all of our video coverage of Julian Assange’s resumed extradition hearing in September 2020, featuring commentary outside the courtroom in London summarizing legal developments. See our live blog for daily recaps and a guide to testimony throughout the proceedings.

Week 1 Summary

Week 2 Summary

Week 3 Summary

Week 4 Summary

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Video Series

Video Series: Iraq War Logs

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This playlist compiles our videos marking the 10-year anniversary of WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq War Logs. Beginning on October 22, 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing the U.S. Army’s significant activity reports, disclosed by military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, exposing years of war crimes, previously uncounted civilian casualties, and an unprecedented window into the realities of modern warfare.

Iraq War Logs: Chapter 1

Iraq War Logs: Chapter 2

Iraq War Logs: Chapter 3

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Past Events

The Prosecution of Julian Assange & the Threat to the Freedom of the Press

The charges Julian Assange faces are a major threat to press freedom. After being forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy, Assange is now in a high security prison in London where he faces extradition to the United States and imprisonment for the rest of his life.

At this forum hosted by UCLA Law School, distinguished lawyers and activists will will explore the vitally important journalistic role Julian Assange has played in exposing the lawlessness of the US government and the threat posed by his prosecution to everyone who believes in freedom of the press.

Speakers:

  • Alveena Shah, UCLA Law School, Moderator
  • Barry Pollack, Julian Assange’s US attorney
  • Marjorie Cohn, National Lawyers Guild
  • Carey Shenkman, First Amendment lawyer
  • Jim Lafferty, National Lawyers Guild-LA
  • Stephen Rohde, Constitutional scholar, ACLU SoCal
  • Sharon Kyle JD, LA Progressive

Featuring filmed interviews with Julian Assange, Noam Chomsky, and Daniel Ellsberg.

With Margaret Kunstler, co-editor of “In Defense of Julian Assange”

Sponsors:

  • ACLU Southern California and its First Amendment Committee
  • ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter
  • Courage Foundation
  • FAIR
  • Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
  • LA Progressive
  • National Lawyers Guild-LA

Resources: