Categories
Press Release

WHISPeR Urges UK to Reject Assange Extradition

Posted below is the letter from the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program [WHISPeR] at Expose Facts, calling on UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to reject the US government’s request to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.

The Rt. Hon Priti Patel
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF
May 16, 2022

Dear Home Secretary,

The Whistleblower & Source Protection Program is a US-based nonprofit organization that protects freedom of the press and civil liberties by providing pro bono legal defense for journalistic sources and whistleblowers. We write to urge you to reject the United States government’s request to extradite Julian Assange.

We are uniquely positioned to speak to this matter. We have represented several of the most prominent defendants in Espionage Act cases, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, and Daniel Hale, who were investigated, charged, and/or prosecuted for revealing information about mass surveillance, torture, and war crimes. They were charged under the same law as Mr. Assange: the Espionage Act of 1917, a draconian wartime law that has been increasingly abused to hide government abuses and punish dissent. Under the Espionage Act, no prosecution of a non-spy can be fair or just. The trial would take place largely in secret. Moreover, it is effectively a strict liability law that does not permit you to raise a defense because under the terms of the law, intent is irrelevant.

Thanks to vague and overbroad language, the Espionage Act implicates a wide range of activities that are central to the news-reporting process and bear little or no resemblance to classic espionage. Prosecutions of journalists’ sources over the past decade have done enormous damage to the free functioning of investigative
journalism, a central pillar of democracy. The prosecution of a publisher such as Assange is even more chilling. Several counts of the Assange indictment criminalize “pure publication,” and others extend to ordinary journalistic activities, including using encryption.

The precedents from any such proceeding would erode the bedrock principles of the Anglo-American legal tradition, and the cherished freedoms they guarantee. The extradition of a foreign-citizen publisher operating on foreign territory for crimes of pure publication would give encouragement and cover for similar behavior by tyrants and dictators around the world. It would be a boon to the enemies of freedom and a travesty for human rights and freedom of speech globally.

Finally, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is simply too capricious and arbitrary to guarantee that Mr. Assange will receive the minimum standard of humane treatment for prisoners. Consider the experience of our client, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale. Last year, Hale was unexpectedly jailed pre-trial due to supposed concern for his mental health. He was sent to the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia – the same facility where Assange would be held – where he was placed in “administrative segregation,” euphemism for solitary or near-solitary confinement. In actual practice, mental health is commonly used as a pretext for more oppressive conditions.

At sentencing, Judge Liam O’Grady recommended Hale for placement in minimum security prison, citing Hale’s nonviolent offense, lack of criminal history, and the utter impossibility of recidivism, given his now permanent lack of access to classified information. The Bureau of Prisons, however, is not bound to this recommendation, and instead sent him to a high security facility called a Communications Management Unit (CMU) where he is nearly isolated from the outside world. These conditions, while not meeting the strict definition of solitary confinement, do not meet international minimum standards, and are deeply detrimental to his well being. The stated rationale for creation of Communications Management Units was the need to more heavily monitor and control the communications of people convicted of crimes with ties to organized crime or terrorist networks, who could potentially carry on these crimes while incarcerated. The specious logic of the Bureau of Prisons placement then should be obvious, given the aforementioned impossibility of recidivism by Hale, and the fact that the communications central to his conviction were with a journalist, not a criminal network. Julian Assange would certainly be vulnerable to these kinds of capricious designations.

The assurances provided by the U.S. government elided these realities, and even their own terms left plenty of freedom to renege. Our experience is that they are not reticent to take those liberties, and given the political nature of Assange’s prosecution, they would be exceptionally eager to avail themselves of any opportunity for retaliation.

For these reasons, we ask you to reject this extradition.

Sincerely,

Jesselyn Radack,

Director, Whistleblower & Source Protection Program at
ExposeFacts


This post was originally published at ExposeFacts.

Categories
Press Release

Defending Rights & Dissent Urges UK To Reject Extradition Request for Julian Assange

SmallLogo

On Monday May 9, 2022, Defending Rights & Dissent urged UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to reject the US’s extradition request for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. As a US-based NGO focused on the First Amendment, it is highly unusual for us to correspond with foreign governments. However, given the extraordinary nature of Assange’s case and its implications for press freedom not just in the US, but globally, we are compelled to do so.

For 12 years, our organization has closely monitored the US government’s attacks on WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. We have also monitored the cases of other individuals indicted under the Espionage Act.We have repeatedly monitored the treatment of national security journalism-related individuals detained at the Alexandria Detention Center, where Assange is likely to be held if extradited. We raised concerns about their treatment to both local officials and United Nations experts.

Based on this extensive monitoring, we have concluded that the case against Assange is politically motivated, that he will not receive a fair trial in the US, and that he will be subjected to conditions of confinement that would constitute serious deprivations of human rights. For these reasons, we urge the UK to reject his extradition.

You can read the letter below:


This was originally published at Defending Rights & Dissent.

Categories
Press Release

Send a message to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Please use this form to contact UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Customize your email subject line and message to ensure each email is delivered and read by them separately.

Categories
Press Release

One step closer to extradition: rights groups call on Home Secretary to free Assange

April 22, 2022 — On Wednesday, a UK magistrates judge ordered the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, where he will face an unpredented prosecution threatening 175 years in prison for publishing truthful information in the public interest.

The decision now moves to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, to sign off on the extradition order. The defense have until May 18 to file an application to appeal the extradition order on the substantive issues —like a politicized prosecution and the threats to press freedom— back at the UK’s High Court. 

Rights groups around the world condemned the latest legal development and are calling on Patel to halt the extradition.

PEN International and 18 other press freedom groups signed a new letter to the Home Secretary, calling for Assange’s freedom

“We, the undersigned press freedom, free expression and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern regarding the possibility of extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States and to ask you to reject the US government’s extradition request. We also request a meeting with you to discuss these points further.”

National Union of Journalists: Assange’s fate in Priti Patel’s hands

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke to protestors outside the court. He told them:

“There is still a chance for this Government to do the right thing, bring this case to a close, and free Julian Assange. I call on them to do that at once”.

 Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“This Government seems confused about press freedom. It promises legislation to make SLAPPs more difficult, but is allowing this extradition to continue, when it is clear that the US is trying to prosecute Julian Assange for actions that are commonplace for journalists the world over”.

Reporters without Borders launches new #FreeAssange petition as Home Secretary considers extradition order

“Following a district court order referring the extradition of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange back to the Home Office, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched a new petition calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel to reject Assange’s extradition to the United States. RSF urges supporters to join the call on the Home Secretary to #FreeAssange by signing and sharing the petition before 18 May!


The next four weeks will prove crucial in the fight to block extradition and secure the release of Julian Assange. Through this petition, we are seeking to unite those who care about journalism and press freedom to hold the UK government to account. The Home Secretary must act now to protect journalism and adhere to the UK’s commitment to media freedom by rejecting the extradition order and releasing Assange,” said RSF’s Director of Operations and Campaigns Rebecca Vincent, who monitored proceedings on RSF’s behalf.”

Sign the petition here.

Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnés Callamard speaks to the New York Times

“The extradition of Julian Assange would also be devastating for press freedom and for the public, who have a right to know what their governments are doing in their name.”

Stella Assange’s speech outside of court

More reactions from human rights & press freedom groups

Categories
Press Release

Press freedom groups send letter calling on UK Home Secretary to free Assange

April 22, 2022 — PEN International joins Reporters Without Borders and 17 organisations – including English PEN, German PEN, PEN Melbourne, PEN Norway, PEN Sydney, Scottish PEN, Slovene PEN and Swedish PEN – in calling on UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to reject Julian Assange’s extradition to the US and to release him from prison.

The Rt. Hon Priti Patel

Secretary of State for the Home Department

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

22 April 2022

Dear Home Secretary, We, the undersigned press freedom, free expression and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern regarding the possibility of extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States and to ask you to reject the US government’s extradition request. We also request a meeting with you to discuss these points further.

In March, the Supreme Court refused to consider Mr Assange’s appeal against the High Court decision, which overturned the District Court ruling barring extradition on mental health grounds. We are deeply disappointed with this decision given the high public interest in this case, which deserved review by the highest court in the land.

However, it is now in your hands to decide whether to approve or reject Mr Assange’s extradition to the US. The undersigned organisations urge you to act in the interest of press freedom and journalism by refusing extradition and immediately releasing Mr Assange from prison, where he has remained on remand for three years despite the great risks posed to his mental and physical health.

In the US, Mr Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years. He is highly likely to be detained there in conditions of isolation or solitary confinement despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate his risk of suicide.

Further, Mr Assange would be unable to adequately defend himself in the US courts, as the Espionage Act lacks a public interest defence. His prosecution would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media outlet that published stories based on leaked information, or indeed any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world.

We ask you, Home Secretary, to honour the UK government’s commitment to protecting and promoting media freedom and reject the US extradition request. We ask you to release Mr Assange from Belmarsh prison and allow him to return to his young family after many years of isolation. Finally, we ask you to publicly commit to ensuring that no publisher, journalist or source ever again faces detention in the UK for publishing information in the public interest.

We request to schedule a meeting at your earliest convenience, and would be grateful for a prompt response. Please reply via Azzurra Moores at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) at amoores@rsf.org.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Vincent, Director of Operations and Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19

Mark Johnson, Legal and Policy Officer, Big Brother Watch

Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director, Blueprint for Free Speech

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN

Laurens Hueting, Senior Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice-President and Writers-in-Prison Officer, German PEN

Index on Censorship

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

Séamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Journalists

Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International

Christine McKenzie, President, PEN International Melbourne Centre

Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President, PEN Norway

Zoë Rodriguez, joint President, PEN Sydney, and Chair of the PEN International Women Writers Committee

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Ricky Monahan Brown, President, Scottish PEN

Tanja Tuma, President, Slovene PEN

Jesper Bengtsson, President, Swedish PEN

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org


This was first posted by PEN International

See also: UK: RSF launches new #FreeAssange petition as Home Secretary considers extradition order

Categories
Press Release

PEN America highlights Assange’s persecution

PEN America, the U.S. chapter of PEN International, an association of writers around the world founded in 1921, has released its annual ‘Freedom to Write’ index, a catalogue of bloggers and journalists and other writers who have been killed, prosecuted, or otherwise threatened for carrying out their work.

In its section on the United Kingdom, PEN highlights the detention and indictment of Julian Assange, noting:

“Assange, publisher of WikiLeaks, was imprisoned in the U.K. in 2019 for violating bail terms. Since September 2019 he is jailed facing possible extradition to the U.S., including on 17 counts under the Espionage Act, charges with worrying implications for press freedom.”

In the full report, PEN expounds on Assange’s journalism and the charges against him, noting

PEN International calls on the United States to drop charges against Assange. Espionage laws should not be used against journalists and publishers for disclosing information of public interest. PEN International further calls on the United Kingdom to reject extraditing Julian Assange to the United States. PEN Action: statement April 2019, resolution September 2019.

Last year, PEN America joined two dozen other press freedom and human rights organizations in signing an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, calling on the Department of Justice to drop the case against Assange.

Earlier this week, PEN’s Australian branch visited the British Consulate to present an Open Letter calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange and a halt to the extradition. They wrote,

“PEN Australia centres, in conjunction with PEN International, call for the British Government as an independent democracy to immediately release Julian Assange and to halt the US case for extradition.

The prosecution of Assange has been described as a political case from the outset. Extradition for political offences has been prohibited by democracies that respect human rights. Britain prides itself for standing for democracy and freedom of expression. We call on Britain to take a stand for the wellbeing and democratic freedom of expression of Wikileaks founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange.”

See PEN America’s full ‘Freedom to Write’ index here.

Categories
Press Release

3 years since Julian Assange’s arrest

April 11, 2022 — Today marks three years since WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had his political asylum revoked by the Ecuadorian government, which then allowed British police into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to arrest Assange, as the United States unsealed its indictment against him. Assange has spent the entire interim in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison, where experts have visited him and determined him to have suffered psychological torture. He has been all but barred from participating in his own extradition proceedings, in which a district judge initially ruled against sending Julian to the United States on grounds that doing so would put him at undue risk of suicide. A High Court later overturned that ruling after accepting belated, caveated “assurances” from the United States government regarding the prospective prison conditions Assange would face. Human rights organizations, press freedom groups, leading politicians, and top newspaper editors across the board have condemned the U.S. indictment against Assange as a landmark threat to the First Amendment which would criminalize basic journalistic activity on which a functioning democracy depends. If convicted, Assange faces 175 years in a U.S. prison.

Stella Assange: Julian’s continued imprisonment is “a criminal act”

Speaking to Press Association, Stella said,

“The UK Government could end Julian’s imprisonment at any time by obeying its treaty obligations. The US extradition request violates the US-UK extradition treaty Article 4, which prohibits extraditions for political offences. The UK Government can and should obey the word of the treaty and put an end to the extradition process once and for all. Julian’s incarceration and extradition process is an abuse in itself. He faces 175 years buried alive in a US hellhole for publishing true information in the public interest, exposing the crimes and killing of innocent people by the country that wants him to spend the rest of his life in prison. The UN special rapporteur on torture has found that Julian has been subjected to psychological torture. Senior US officials have reportedly confirmed White House and CIA plans to assassinate him on UK soil during the Trump administration. The UK is imprisoning a publisher on behalf of the foreign power who conspired to murder him. There is no way of concealing any more that Julian is the victim of a vicious political persecution. His continued imprisonment is not only a national disgrace, it is a criminal act.”

PEN International delegation calls on UK to free Assange

In Australia, a delegation from global writers’ association PEN International visited the British Consulate to present an Open Letter calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange and a halt to the extradition. They write,

“PEN Australia centres, in conjunction with PEN International, call for the British Government as an independent democracy to immediately release Julian Assange and to halt the US case for extradition.

The prosecution of Assange has been described as a political case from the outset. Extradition for political offences has been prohibited by democracies that respect human rights. Britain prides itself for standing for democracy and freedom of expression. We call on Britain to take a stand for the wellbeing and democratic freedom of expression of Wikileaks founder, Australian citizen Julian Assange.”

Australian media union calls on government to stand up for one of its own

SBS News: ‘It’s been three years since Julian Assange was imprisoned. Advocates say it’s time to let him go’

Australia’s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) calls on the Australian government to help free Assange:

“Julian Assange’s work with WikiLeaks was important and in the public interest: exposing evidence of war crimes and other shameful actions by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” MEAA Media federal president Karen Percy said on Monday.

“The stories published by WikiLeaks and its mainstream media partners more than a decade ago were picked up by news outlets around the world. The charges against Assange are an affront to journalists everywhere and a threat to press freedom.

The US government must see reason and drop these charges, and the Australian government should be doing all it can to represent the interests of an Australian citizen.”

Protests held around the world to free Assange

Westminster Magistrates Court

Image
Photo by Gordon Dimmack

Projections across London

Image

Rallies across the United States

Demonstrations organized in Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Denver, Tulsa, Bay Area, Minneapolis, and more:

DC rallies at UK Consulate and DOJ

Progressive leaders call on US President Biden to drop the charges against Assange

“progressive leaders, intellectuals, and former heads of state from across the world including Dilma Rousseff, Yanis Varoufakis, Roger Waters, Rafael Correa, among others sent a letter to US President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to demand that US officials drop the 18 charges against Julian Assange.”

More reactions / statements

Categories
Press Release

Progressive leaders call on US President Biden to drop the charges against Assange

This was first published at the International Peoples’ Assembly

En Español

Today April 11, progressive leaders, intellectuals, and former heads of state from across the world including Dilma Rousseff, Yanis Varoufakis, Roger Waters, Rafael Correa, among others sent a letter to US President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to demand that US officials drop the 18 charges against Julian Assange.

Today also marks the three year anniversary of when Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by the Metropolitan Police, arrested, and put in Belmarsh Prison. He is being held there while the UK courts deliberate on the request to extradite him to the United States where he will stand trial for the 18 charges, many of which are under the Espionage Act, and where he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years. 

If extradited and charged, it would be the first time a publisher would be convicted under the Espionage Act and it would mark a dangerous precedent for the right to Free Speech and Press Freedom not only in the US but across the globe.

Assange who while in prison has already suffered suicide attempts, psychological torture, COVID-19 outbreaks, and a severe deterioration of his physical and mental health has stated that his extradition to the US would be akin to a death sentence. 

Many, including the signatories of the letter, have denounced the persecution faced by Assange as retaliation for his brave work with Wikileaks to, as a journalist, uncover the truth about the crimes committed by governments across the world.

Stand with Assange, stand for press freedom.  

JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW:

SEND A LETTER – Sign this letter drafted by the IPA and send it to your local British embassy or consulate telling them to respect their legal responsibilities and Free Assange NOW!

PARTICIPATE – Follow the social media accounts of the IPA to learn more about Assange’s case and his immeasurable contributions to the anti-imperialist struggle today. Share our materials with your communities and movements. Help us get the word out about why we must #FreeAssangeNOW! 

Contact information: secretaria@asambleadelospueblos.org


President Joseph R. Biden Jr. 

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

1236 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear President of United States and Speaker of the House,

We have been paying close attention to the legal process and trial of Australian journalist Julian Paul Assange, who is currently in prison in the United Kingdom where he awaits a final decision on the extradition request made by the government of the United States of America.

 The United States of America has a long tradition of defending freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press. The philosophical, legal, political and social thought produced by intellectuals in the United States of America forms an important foundational framework for the reflection and realization of freedom of expression throughout the world. Likewise, the struggle of activists since the 19th century for this freedom has been a source of inspiration for countless societies and countries.

It is precisely in the name of this tradition, continually renewed by daily creation, that we, progressive leaders of the world, address you to ask that, within the scope of its constitutional and legal competence, in respect of due process of law, and the democratic rule of law, that Your Presidency exercise its prerogative of dropping all 18 charges leveled against journalist Julian Paul Assange.

With such a gesture, you will send a strong message to the world: that freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press constitute an instrument that can controvert the interests of any government, including that of the United States of America. The cases where there are reports of serious violations of freedom of expression would also be impacted by the dropping of the 18 charges against Assange. It would affirm the defense of this Fundamental Human Right and would undoubtedly represent a clear and robust sign that everyone can express their opinion without fear of retaliation; that all the press outlets can give news to all the citizens of the world, with the certainty that the pluralism of thought is guaranteed.

It is these considerations that lead us to address you, Mr. President and other American authorities, to request that you drop all 18 charges against Julian Paul Assange.

São Paulo, April 11, 2022.

SIGNATORIES OF THE LETTER:

  • DILMA ROUSSEFF –
  • Former President of Brazil (2011-2016).
  • ERNESTO SAMPER – Former President of Colombia (1994-1998) and former General Secretary of UNASUL
  • FERNANDO LUGO – Former President of Paraguay (2008-2012).
  • RAFAEL CORREA – Former President of Ecuador (2007-2017)
  • AIDA NARANJO GARCIA MOCHA – Former Minister for Women in Peru
  • ALOIZIO MERCADANTE – Former Chief of Staff and former Brazilian Minister of Education in the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff
  • ANDRÉS ARAUZ – Ecuadorian presidential candidate in 2019
  • CARLOS OMINAMI – Chilean intellectual
  • CELSO AMORIM – Brazilian diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Itamar Franco’s government and in Lula’s government, and Minister of Defense in Dilma’s government 
  • DANIEL MARTÍNEZ – Former Mayor of Montevideo for the Broad Front of Uruguay
  • ESPERANZA MARTÍNEZ – Senator from the Guasú Front in Paraguay
  • GUILLAUME LONG – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador
  • IDELI SALVATTI – Former Senator of the Republic, former Minister of Human Rights, former Secretary of Access to Rights and Equity at the OAS (Brazil)
  • IVAN CEPEDA – Senator from the Alternative Democratic Pole party in Colombia
  • JOSÉ CARLOS DIAS – Lawyer, former Minister of Justice, former Secretary of Justice in the State of São Paulo (Brazil)
  • JOSÉ EDUARDO CARDOZO – Former Minister of Justice and attorney-general of the Union of Brazil. He is a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo
  • KAROL CARIOLA – Federal Deputy from the Communist Party of Chile
  • MARCO ENRÍQUEZ-OMINAMI – Chilean filmmaker
  • MARIA DO ROSÁRIO NUNES – Member of parliament and former Special Secretary for Human Rights (Brazil)
  • MARÍA JOSÉ PIZARRO – Senator from the Historic Pact in Colombia
  • MÓNICA XAVIER – Former Senator from the Broad Front in Uruguay and the former President of the Socialist Party of Uruguay
  • NILMA GOMES – Professor Emeritus of UFMG. Former Minister of the Secretariat for Racial Equality Policies and the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights (Brazil)
  • NILMÁRIO MIRANDA – Former National Secretary of Human Rights (Brazil)
  • PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO – Former Brazilian National Secretary for Human Rights. Former UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi, an African country victim of civil war
  • PAULO VANNUCHI – Former Brazilian Minister of Human Rights (2005-2010). Former Commissioner of Inter American Commission on Human Rights (2014-2017)
  • PEPE VARGAS – Former Minister of Human Rights, Minister of Institutional Relations, and Minister of Agrarian Development in the Dilma Rousseff government
  • RICARDO PATIÑO – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador
  • ROGÉRIO SOTTILI – Executive Director of Vladimir Herzog Institute, former Special Secretary of Human Rights, former Secretary of Human Rights in the State of São Paulo (Brazil)
  • ROGER WATERS – Singer, songwriter and musician (England)
  • SLAVOJ ZIZEK – Philosopher (Slovenia)
  • SREĆKO HORVAT – Philosopher and Co-founder of DiEM25 (Croatia)
  • TARSO GENRO – Jurist, former Minister of Education, former Minister of Justice, former Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)
  • YANIS VAROUFAKIS – Member of the Hellenic Parliament (Greece)
Categories
Press Release

Call for Assange’s Freedom

Call your Senators, Representatives, the Department of Justice and the White House comment line. We can make clear to our elected officials that we demand the charges be dropped, the First Amendment be protected, and Assange be freed. Here’s how.

Contact your Senator

Phone numbers are available on each state’s page or on your senator’s website — a directory is also available here: Senators Suite & Telephone List (PDF)

Or you can call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard operator: (202) 224-3121

Find other ways to contact your Senator here.

Contact your Representative

Contact the Department of Justice

  • DOJ comment line: 202-353-1555
  • DOJ general phone number: (202) 514-2000
  • Email: AskDoJ@usdoj.gov

Ask Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop the prosecution of a publisher

Contact the White House

The White House comment line is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 11am to 3pm EDT, and callers have the option of speaking to an operator and leaving a voicemail. Please remember that respectful communication is most effective.

Categories
Press Release

U.S. demonstrations planned for April 11th

April 11, 2022, will mark three years since WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was arrested and removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain, three years he has spent since in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in London. Protests are planned in major cities around the world — see this thread from @Candles4Assange for global actions; here we highlight rallies and other events planned here in the United States.

Washington DC

Boston

Minneapolis

Felton, CA

Tulsa

Denver

Milwaukee

Online

Categories
Press Release

Julian and Stella marry at Belmarsh

March 23, 2022 — Julian Assange married his partner Stella Moris in a beautiful ceremony held at Belmarsh prison, in London. Stella was accompanied by Julian’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton. Legendary fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood custom-designed Stella’s dress and a tartan kilt for Julian, a nod to his Scottish heritage. 

“This is not a prison wedding”

As the Guardian notes, Belmarsh blocked the couple’s witnesses and proposed photographers on the grounds that they were members of the press and therefore, a “security risk.”

Stella wrote an op-ed for the Guardian on the fight to get married and what today’s occasion means to her:

Today is my wedding day. I will marry the love of my life. My husband to be is the father of our two sons, he is a wonderful man, intelligent and funny, he has a deep-seated sense of right and wrong and he is known the world over for his work as a courageous publisher. At lunchtime today, I will go through the gates at the most oppressive high security prison in the country and be married to a political prisoner, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Of course, this is not the wedding we should be having. Julian has spent nearly three years unjustly detained on behalf of the foreign power that plotted to kill him in the streets of London.

Today will be a private moment in which we will affirm our love for each other. The dress is designed by Julian’s friends, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler. I am honoured to be wearing their beautiful creation. It is a symbol of our love and defiance in the face of this cruel situation.

This is not a prison wedding, it is a declaration of love and resilience in spite of the prison walls, in spite of the political persecution, in spite of the arbitrary detention, in spite of the harm and harassment inflicted on Julian and our family. Their torment only makes our love grow stronger.

Photos

Photos by Reuters’ Peter Nicholls

Categories
Commentary Hearing Coverage Press Release

Extradition Looms for Assange After UK Supreme Court Refuses to Hear His Appeal

March 16, 2022 This article, by professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and Assange Defense Committee advisory board member Marjorie Cohn, was originally posted at Truthout.org.


The British judicial system has erected still another barrier to Julian Assange’s freedom. On March 14, the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal of the U.K. High Court’s ruling ordering his extradition to the United States. If extradited to the U.S. for trial, Assange will face 17 charges under the Espionage Act and up to 175 years in prison for revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes.

With no explanation of its reasoning, the Supreme Court denied Assange “permission to appeal” the High Court’s decision, saying that Assange’s appeal did not “raise an arguable point of law.” The court remanded the case back to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which is the same court that denied the U.S. extradition request on January 4, 2021.

In all likelihood, the magistrates’ court will refer the case to the British Home Office where Home Secretary Priti Patel will review it. Assange’s lawyers then have four weeks to submit materials for Patel’s consideration. If she orders Assange’s extradition — which is highly likely — his lawyers will file a cross-appeal in the High Court asking it to review the issues Assange lost in the magistrates’ court.

If the High Court refuses to review those additional issues, Assange can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. That could take years. Meanwhile, he languishes in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, in fragile mental and physical health. He suffered a mini-stroke as his extradition hearing began. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer wrote in a Twitter post that the “U.K. is literally torturing him to death.”

The Legal Background

On January 24, 2022, the High Court rejected Assange’s appeal but it certified to the Supreme Court that Assange had raised a “point of law of general public importance.” This means that it is a proper issue for the Supreme Court to review. The three-judge panel of the Supreme Court has now refused Assange permission to appeal.

The point of law that the High Court certified to the Supreme Court was as follows:

“In what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings.”

The United States waited until after the extradition hearing was over to offer U.K. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser assurances about the way Assange would be treated in U.S. prisons if extradited.

Following a three-week evidentiary hearing, Baraitser ruled on January 4, 2021, that if Assange is extradited to the United States for trial, he is very likely to attempt suicide due to his mental state and the harsh conditions of confinement under which he would be held in U.S. prisons.

During the hearing, the U.S. government did not assure Baraitser that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in the United States. After Baraitser denied extradition, the Biden administration provided “assurances” that Assange wouldn’t be subject to special administrative measures (SAMs) or be housed at the ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

But the United States’s so-called assurances contained a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. All assurances would be void if Assange committed a “future act” that “met the test” for the imposition of SAMs. That subjective determination would be made by prison officials with no judicial review.If extradited to the U.S. for trial, Assange will face … up to 175 years in prison for revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes.

Although the late timing of the U.S.’s assurances prevented Assange’s lawyers from arguing they were unreliable and citing prior such assurances the United States failed to honor, the High Court accepted Biden’s assurances and dismissed Assange’s appeal in its January 2022 ruling.

Issues Assange Seeks to Raise on Cross-Appeal

In the cross-appeal, Assange’s lawyers will raise the following points:

*The extradition treaty between the U.S. and the U.K. forbids extradition for a political offense and since espionage is a political offense, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case;

*Extradition would be oppressive or unjust due to the passage of time;

*The charges against Assange do not satisfy the “dual criminality test” which requires that they constitute criminal offenses in both the U.S. and the U.K.;

*Extradition is barred because the request is based on Assange’s political opinions;

*Extradition is barred because it would violate Assange’s rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression, as well as the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, under the European Convention on Human Rights; and

*The request for extradition is an abuse of process because it is being pursued for a political motive and not in good faith.

Human Rights Organizations Decry Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Appeal

Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s deputy research director for Europe, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal a “blow to Julian Assange and to justice.” Hall said, “Demanding that states like the UK extradite people for publishing classified information that is in the public interest sets a dangerous precedent and must be rejected.” She added:

Prolonged solitary confinement is a key feature of life for many people in U.S. maximum security prisons and amounts to torture or other ill treatment under international law. The ban on torture and other ill-treatment is absolute and empty promises of fair treatment, such as those offered by the U.S.A. in the Assange case threaten to profoundly undermine that international prohibition.

Likewise, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed strong opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision. “Assange’s case is overwhelmingly in the public interest, and it deserved review by the highest court in the U.K. After two full years of extradition proceedings, once again Assange’s fate has become a political decision,” said Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s director of operations and campaigns. “We call on the Home Office to act in the interest of journalism and press freedom by refusing extradition and releasing Assange from prison without further delay.”

Assange’s Fiancée Says U.S. Wants to Imprison Him for Exposing Its War Crimes

Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, says Assange is being persecuted for carrying out a core journalistic mission: telling the truth.

“Whether Julian is extradited or not, which is the same as saying whether he lives or dies, is being decided through a process of legal avoidance,” Moris said. “Avoiding to hear arguments that challenge the UK courts’ deference to unenforceable and caveated claims regarding his treatment made by the United States, the country that plotted to murder him. The country whose atrocities he brought into the public domain. Julian is the key witness, the [principal] indicter, and the cause of enormous embarrassment to successive US governments.”

Moris added, “Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power.”

According to Moris, the United States wants to imprison Assange for 175 years because he “published evidence that the country that is trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; that it committed gross violations that killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children; that it tortured and rendered; that it bombed children, had death squads, and murdered Reuters journalists in cold blood; that it bribed foreign officials and bullied less powerful countries into harming their own citizens, and that it also corrupted allied nations’ judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing.”

Assange and Moris, who share two small children, have finally received permission to marry. They will be wed later this month in Belmarsh Prison.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

UK Supreme Court refuses to hear Assange appeal

Statement from Assange’s legal team, Birnberg Peirce Solicitors

On 24 January 2022, the High Court (the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Justice Holroyde) certified that a point of law of public importance had been raised by Mr Assange following its rejection of his appeal.

The point certified for the potential consideration by the Supreme Court was

“In what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings.”

A panel of three judges of the Supreme Court has considered the application on paper, and this afternoon (14 March 2022) refused permission to appeal on the basis that “the application does not raise an arguable point of law.”

We regret that the opportunity has not been taken to consider the troubling circumstances in which Requesting States can provide caveated guarantees after the conclusion of a full evidential hearing. In Mr Assange’s case, the Court had found that there was a real risk of prohibited treatment in the event of his onward extradition.

We explain below the legal processes that now follow in his case.

The case, on the direction of the High Court, will now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court, whose function thereafter is limited to referring the decision for extradition to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

The Home Secretary then decides whether to order or refuse extradition to the United States on a number of statutory bases. The defence is entitled to make submissions to the Home Secretary within the following four weeks, in advance of her making any decision.

It will be recollected that Mr Assange succeeded in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the issue subsequently appealed by the US to the High Court. No appeal to the High Court has yet been filed by him in respect of the other important issues he raised previously in Westminster Magistrates’ Court. That separate process of appeal, of course, has yet to be initiated.

Statement from Assange’s partner, Stella Moris

From Moris’ new Substack newsletter:

Just this morning on our way to school, our four-year-old son asked me when daddy will come home. Julian’s life is being treated as if it were expendable. He has been robbed of over a decade of liberty, and three years from his home and his young children who are being forced to grow up without their father.

A system that allows this is a system that has lost its way.

Whether Julian is extradited or not, which is the same as saying whether he lives or dies, is being decided through a process of legal avoidance. Avoiding to hear arguments that challenge the UK courts’ deference to unenforceable and caveated claims regarding his treatment made by the United States, the country that plotted to murder him. The country whose atrocities he brought into the public domain. Julian is the key witness, the principle indicter, and the cause of enormous embarrassment to successive US governments.

Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power. He published evidence that the country that is trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; that it committed gross violations that killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children; that it tortured and rendered; that it bombed children, had death squads, and murdered Reuters journalists in cold blood; that it bribed foreign officials and bullied less powerful countries into harming their own citizens, and that it also corrupted allied nations’ judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing. For this, that country wants him in prison for 175 years.

Now the extradition will formally move to a political stage. Julian’s fate now lies in the hands of Home Secretary Priti Patel. This is a political case and she can end it. It is in her hands to prove that the UK is better than all of this. Patel can end Britain’s exposure to international ridicule because of Julian’s incarceration. It takes political courage but that is what it needed to preserve an open society that protects publishers from foreign persecution.

The cruelty against Julian is corrupting. It corrupts our most cherished values and institutions.  They will be extinguished and lost forever unless this travesty is brought to an end.

The fight for freedom will go on, until he’s freed.

Categories
Press Release

Twin Cities launch new Assange Defense chapter!

Supporters of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange in the Minneapolis/St. Paul have formed the newest branch of Assange Defense! The Twin Cities join other chapters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Denver, and Washington D.C.

Twin Cities Assange Defense launched their chapter at Mayday Bookstore in Minneapolis:

Photo: Mike Madden

Spokesperson for the Twin Cities Assange Defense is Mike Madden, a member of Vets for Peace Chapter 27. Madden has organized several coordinated write-in actions to various government officials, explaining the threat Assange’s prosecution poses to the First Amendment and why he must be freed. Most recently, Mike helped organize a nationwide call-in to the White House with Women Against Military Madness, calling on the Biden Administration to drop the charges.

Last year, when John and Gabriel Shipton toured the United States to meet supporters and speak out about the case, Minneapolis/St. Paul warmly welcomed Assange’s family members with a roundtable discussion with local journalists at the East Side Freedom Library, followed by a rally at the Highland Park Pavilion.

In the Twin Cities and want to get involved? Get in touch! Email TwinCities@AssangeDefense.org

Categories
Press Release

VIDEO: John & Gabriel Shipton’s #HomeRun4Julian

In June 2021, John and Gabriel Shipton, father and brother of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange, toured the United States to speak about Julian’s persecution and to meet with thousands of supporters across the country. This 20-minute video features highlights from that trip and insights from John and Gabriel along the way.

Gabriel has produced a feature-length film on his and his father’s travels around the world to speak up about the prosecution of Julian Assange and what it means for the rights of journalists to publish and for the rights of citizens to know what their governments are doing in their names. Ithaka premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in November, and at the Capricorn Film Festival in Queensland, the film won awards for Best Documentary and Best Direction.

Categories
Past Events Press Release

Nils Melzer press briefing on The Trial of Julian Assange

On February 18, 2022, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer discussed his new book, The Trial of Julian Assange, in a press briefing with the Foreign Press Association.

PA Newswire: ‘No legal basis for leaving Assange in high security prison – human rights expert’

Accusations of the psychological torture of Julian Assange have not been addressed, with no legal basis for leaving the WikiLeaks founder locked up in solitary confinement in a high security prison, a human rights expert has claimed.

Nils Melzer, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, said Mr Assange’s health is being “destroyed” as he remains in Belmarsh prison in London as the United States continues to try to extradite him.

The UN official, speaking about his book The Trial Of Julian Assange, said allegations that Mr Assange hacked sensitive information were based on fabricated evidence.

He said he declined to become involved when he was first approached, shortly after Mr Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, but acted after receiving medical reports.

Mr Melzer visited the WikiLeaks founder in prison, saying: “I did not expect to find torture. What I found shocked me.”

He claimed “mass violations” of Mr Assange’s human rights, which he added have not been properly addressed.

From Verso’s book listing:

“When Ecuador finally turned [Assange] over to Britain in 2019, the US immediately demanded his extradition and threatened him with 175 years in prison. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, initially declined to get involved. Only when he visited Assange in prison and researched the facts did he begin to see through the deception and recognize the case for what it really was: the story of a political persecution.

Melzer’s findings are explosive: in all four states involved, Assange has faced grave and systematic due process violations, judicial bias, and manipulated evidence. He has been exposed to constant surveillance, defamation and threats. Melzer also gathered consolidated medical evidence proving that Assange has suffered prolonged psychological torture. Melzer’s compelling investigation shows how—through secrecy, impunity and, crucially, public indifference—unchecked power risks annihilating Western democracy and the rule of law. The case of Julian Assange sets a chilling precedent: for when telling the truth has become a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny.”

Read more and see Melzer’s interviews about the new book, released by Verso, here.

Categories
Press Release

Tell the White House: Free Julian Assange

February 22, 2022 — The Assange Defense Committee is endorsing an action organized by Women Against Military Madness and Assange Defense-Boston in a continuing effort to free Julian Assange: a call-in to President Joe Biden the day after President’s Day to say that upholding the First Amendment to the Constitution is presidential! We urge the White House to halt the extradition, drop all charges, and guarantee safe passage for Julian Assange.

The White House comment line is 1-202-456-1111.

If you prefer to write, you can use the White House contact form.

The White House comment line has limited hours. On Tuesdays, you can only leave a message from 11am to 3pm Eastern Standard Time. Please remember respectful communication is most effective.

Below is a list of suggested comments. You may also have your own reasons to free Julian. Please speak from your heart in your call:

  • Free Julian Assange. He has committed no crime. He has done a public service. Every WikiLeaks publication has been shown to be true and authentic.
  • Julian Assange is charged under the Espionage Act. He is not a spy. He provided information of public interest to the whole world, not a foreign adversary.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom everywhere. He has won journalistic awards including the Martha Gellhorn Prize. His cause is supported by press freedom organizations around the world including Reporters Without Borders, PEN International, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • The Obama Administration recognized the threat to press freedom, and declined to prosecute Assange citing what it called a “NY Times problem”. Instead of following Obama’s lead, the Biden administration has taken up the mantle of the Trump Administration which unsealed an indictment and requested Assange’s extradition the very day (April 11, 2019) he was unlawfully expelled from Ecuador’s Embassy in London.
  • The wrong party is on trial. Julian Assange exposed US war crimes and torture. Instead of addressing its own wrongdoing, the US government is vindictively pursuing the messenger.
  • The case against Julian Assange has collapsed. A key Icelandic witness has recanted his testimony that Assange instructed him to hack into government computers. Prosecutorial conduct has been egregious. The CIA spied on Assange, including meetings with his doctors and lawyers. In 2017, the CIA plotted to kidnap or assassinate him.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange diminishes the stature of the United States. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken proselytizes about U.S. support for independent journalism, it is simultaneously seeking to imprison the most high-profile journalist of the 21st century for 175 years.
  • Julian Assange did not “put lives at risk”. A 2013 Pentagon study could not identify a single instance of anyone killed as a result of being named in the WikiLeaks trove.
  • Julian Assange wanted the documents published responsibly. He worked with traditional news outlets to redact the documents and reduce harm. It was only when two Guardian journalists, Luke Harding and David Leigh, recklessly published an encryption code that unredacted documents spilled into the public realm.
  • An investigation by United Nations Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer found the entire period of Assange’s detention, including that spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy, to be arbitrary. He also called his treatment at the hands of the State parties responsible for his detention “a public mobbing”.
  • Over the course of more than ten years of arbitrary detention, Julian has suffered greatly. His physical and mental health have deteriorated to the point that he has trouble concentrating and cannot properly participate in his own defense. He suffered a small stroke on October 27, 2021 during a remote court hearing. His continued imprisonment is a threat to his very life. He must be transferred immediately from Belmarsh Prison to home confinement to regain his health.
  • Julian Assange is not an American citizen, nor was he on American soil when the alleged crimes were committed. He should not be subject to American laws like the Espionage Act.

If you belong to an organization that would like to be a co-sponsor of this effort, please contact Mike Madden.

Co-sponsors:

Categories
Press Release

Belmarsh Tribunal comes to the United States

Inspired by the Russell-Sartre Tribunals of the late 1960s, which put the US government on trial for its war crimes in Vietnam, the Belmarsh Tribunal will expose the crimes of the so-called War on Terror 20 years after the first prisoners were brought to Guantánamo Bay — and call for Julian Assange’s freedom. Register here to watch the event online.

The event — convened in partnership with DiEM25, the Courage Foundation, The People’s Forum, DSA International Committee, The Intercept, People’s Dispatch and the International People’s Assembly — will be chaired by philosopher Srećko Horvat and civil rights attorney Margaret Kunstler. Witnesses will include: Alice Walker, Angela Richter, Austin González, Balthesar Garzón, Chip Gibbons, Chris Hedges, Clare Daly, Claudia De la Cruz, Cornel West, Deborah Hrbek, Golriz Ghahraman, Guillaume Long, Jeremy Scahill, Jodi Dean, Milo Rau, Nancy Hollander, Nathan Fuller, Nick Estes, Noam Chomsky, Renata Avila, Roger Waters, Sevim Dagdalen, Srećko Horvat, Steven Donziger, Vijay Prashad, and Yanis Varoufakis.

The Belmarsh Tribunal coincides with the 20th anniversary of the opening of the concentration camp at occupied Guantánamo Bay on Cuba’s southeastern shore. In January 2002, the first 20 detainees arrived at the site. Since then, 779 Muslim men and boys from 49 countries have been held there. The youngest detainee was just 14 when he arrived. The oldest was 89. Over years and decades, detainees faced torture, ritual humiliation, and the uncertainty of prolonged detention without charges or trial.

Two decades after the facility opened its doors, 39 people continue to languish at Guantánamo, 27 of them without charge — “eternal prisoners” with little hope for release, and no prospects for justice. Many of them remain confined for the simple reason that their release would allow them to testify to the brutal treatment they endured.

Classified documents leaked by Chelsea Manning and published by Wikileaks in 2011 revealed the grim contours of the US regime of detention and torture at Guantánamo. Many prisoners — among them a journalist from Al Jazeera — were held for years despite officially posing no threat to the US. Many developed severe mental health problems as a result of their treatment. Some committed suicide.

But, today, it is not the perpetrators who face persecution, but the whistleblowers. In April this year, Julian Assange will enter his third year of detention at HMP Belmarsh — a maximum-security prison, sometimes referred to as “Britain’s Guantánamo”, that was infamously used to detain terrorist suspects without trial — as he seeks to appeal a court decision to extradite him to the US.

That is why the Progressive International is bringing the Belmarsh Tribunal to the belly of the beast. On 25 February 2022 at 2pm EST, at the People’s Forum in New York City, we will convene legal experts, UN representatives, whistleblowers, journalists, and many others to investigate and expose the crimes of the so-called War on Terror, to seek justice for its victims, and to demand the closure of the concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay.

Ahead of the Tribunal, one of the most distinguished public intellectuals of our time, Council member of the Progressive International and co-chair of Assange Defense, Noam Chomsky said:

“We just commemorated one of the mechanisms to strangle Cuba – the control of the Guantánamo Bay naval facilities vital for Cuba’s development, which was stolen from Cuba in 1903 as part of the system for maintaining Cuba as a virtual colony after the United States intervened to prevent Cuba’s liberation from Spain. Twenty years ago Bush’s administration moved on turning it into one of the world’s most horrendous torture chambers still holding brutalized victims without charges. Information about all these was provided to the American and the world public by WikiLeaks. Those are the crimes that cannot be forgiven as power begins to evaporate when exposed to sunlight.”

Categories
Press Release

Book release: The Trial of Julian Assange

February 3, 2022 — UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer’s The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution will be released by Verso on February 8, 2022. In May 2019, Melzer visited Julian in prison and was shocked at what he found: that Julian Assange had been psychologically tortured.

Melzer gives a full recounting of how he came to discover just how misinformed he and the rest of the public had been about Assange’s case, and how a close examination reveals the extent of Assange’s mistreatment by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Ecuador. 

“When Ecuador finally turned [Assange] over to Britain in 2019, the US immediately demanded his extradition and threatened him with 175 years in prison. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, initially declined to get involved. Only when he visited Assange in prison and researched the facts did he begin to see through the deception and recognize the case for what it really was: the story of a political persecution.

Melzer’s findings are explosive: in all four states involved, Assange has faced grave and systematic due process violations, judicial bias, and manipulated evidence. He has been exposed to constant surveillance, defamation and threats. Melzer also gathered consolidated medical evidence proving that Assange has suffered prolonged psychological torture. Melzer’s compelling investigation shows how—through secrecy, impunity and, crucially, public indifference—unchecked power risks annihilating Western democracy and the rule of law. The case of Julian Assange sets a chilling precedent: for when telling the truth has become a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny.”

Current Affairs

Primary Sources podcast

On Contact with Chris Hedges 

Categories
Press Release

Thousands Sign Petition Supporting Assange Release


January 19, 2022 – Led by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), more than 26 antiwar groups and 2,500 individual peace and justice advocates have cosponsored a statement calling for the immediate release of publisher Julian Assange and commending him for his contributions toward global peace. They write,

“The persecution of Julian Assange by the U.S. government is a threat against free speech and free press. It is also a threat to the Peace Movement and all movements for social change since without information and the ability to speak and write freely about U.S. wars and war crimes we are greatly limited, and the people of the world are kept in the dark.”

Assange is currently fighting extradition to the United States after the Trump administration indicted him on unprecedented Espionage Act charges. His indictment marked the first time in U.S. history that a journalist has been charged for publishing truthful information. 

Since being removed from Ecuador’s London embassy after a new Ecuadorian administration bowed to U.S. pressure to withdraw his asylum, Assange has been held for more than 1,000 days in Belmarsh Prison while his extradition case is being heard through UK courts. A decision from the British High Court on whether to hear an appeal is expected in the coming days.

Among the statement’s signers is Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Color Purple and longtime peace activist. Walker, a co-chair of the Assange Defense Committee, emphasized the importance of Assange’s commitment to showing the public the horrors of war.

“We owe it to Julian to fight for his freedom, because he fought for peace for the rest of us,” Walker said. “He fought for justice by exposing how the United States conducted horrific wars of conquest in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions died in these wars, mostly civilians. Assange believed that knowledge of U.S. war crimes belonged to us, the people, to decide for ourselves what should happen in our name. And now it’s time for us to fight for him.”

Remarking on the ignominious 1,000 day milestone, Nathan Fuller, Director of the Courage Foundation and Assange Defense, expressed disappointment over the Biden administration’s unjust continuation of Trump’s controversial prosecution.

“While the Biden administration is confronting U.S. adversaries over their press freedom shortcomings, it should address its own hypocrisy,” Fuller said. “Locking up Julian Assange for exposing the truth about U.S. wars is an insult to all those struggling for peace and human rights.” 

Categories
Press Release

CPJ report on Biden and the press

January 13, 2022 — The Committee to Protect Journalism has issued a report on the Biden administration’s relationship with the press thus far, including the Justice Department’s handling of the Assange case. CPJ closes the report with recommendations for the Biden administration, including, “Stop the misuse of the Espionage Act to hinder press freedom: Drop the espionage charges against Julian Assange and cease efforts to extradite him to the U.S. Put into place legislation that would prevent the use of the Espionage Act as a means to halt news gathering activity.”

The report’s authors discussed these issues in a web event:

The following is an excerpt from the CPJ’s full report:

“The Biden administration is not just stepping away from what Trump was doing, but also what Obama was doing,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “But, so far, it’s just words. It needs to be written into Justice Department guidelines. And Congress needs to take the words of Garland and write them into law.”

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department prosecuted an unprecedented 10 government employees and contractors for leaking classified information to the news media, including Justice investigations begun under President George W. Bush. Reporters’ phone logs and email records were secretly subpoenaed and seized in several of those cases. Under Donald Trump, Justice prosecuted eight more government employees and contractors for leaks to the press. In addition, it indicted Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, with obtaining secret military and diplomatic documents and publishing them on the WikiLeaks website, making them accessible to news media around the world.

Under pressure from Trump, Justice also opened leak investigations that involved the secret seizures in 2020 of 2017 phone and email records of the Post, Times, and CNN reporters. The Biden-era Justice Department did not disclose the seizures until notifying the targeted reporters in May and June of 2021. While Garland took responsibility, Brown of the Reporters Committee said that the news media leaders and lawyers who met with Garland “made clear there should be accountability within DOJ” for the secrecy and delay in notifications.

Brown and other press freedom advocates also remain concerned about what the Biden Justice Department will do with the long-standing indictment of Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which was used by both the Obama and Trump administrations for many of their prosecutions of government employees and contractors for leaking classified information to the press. 

The Trump-era indictment charged Assange with conspiring with U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to acquire and publish classified military and diplomatic information on WikiLeaks.

In February 2021, the Justice Department filed a brief appealing a British court ruling that had blocked extradition of Assange from the U.K. We are continuing to seek extradition, Justice spokesperson Marc Raimondi said at the time. On December 10, Britain’s High Court ruled that Assange could be extradited after assurances from the Biden administration that, if convicted, Assange would not be sent to the highest-security U.S. prison or put into solitary confinement. Assange’s lawyers said they would seek to make additional appeals on free speech and human rights grounds. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment further.

A coalition of press, civil liberties, and human rights groups have urged the Biden administration to drop its extradition efforts because they believe prosecution of Assange poses a grave danger to press freedom. Many organizations fear that successful prosecution of him could hamper investigative reporting around the world by labeling as espionage the ways that reporters often work in seeking information from government sources.

“What is written in the indictment is a threat to journalists everywhere – obtaining and publishing classified information,” Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation told me. “The Assange prosecution would make reporting on national security a crime. It could criminalize investigative reporting. The Biden administration should drop the charges.”

Columbia Journalism School’s Coll agreed. “The Assange case should be dropped,” he told me. The indictment “is full of misunderstandings about how reporting works – very ordinary reporting.”

“It’s really troubling that in the indictment was a characterization of basic reporting as part of a conspiracy,” said University of Georgia’s Peters.

“How does the administration square new protections for journalists with the actions it takes on Assange?” asked Columbia Law School’s Professor Jameel Jaffer. “The answer will shed light on the scope of those protections.”

Categories
Press Release

Call on DOJ to Free Assange

Contact the Department of Justice to urge AG Merrick Garland to drop all charges and free Julian Assange. The DOJ does not provide an option to speak with a live person. It does have a comment line where you can leave a recorded message.

That number is 1-202-514-2000.

Below is a list of suggested comments. You may also have your own reasons to free Julian. Please speak from your heart in your call:

  • Free Julian Assange. He has committed no crime. He has done a public service.
  • Julian Assange is charged under the Espionage Act. He is not a spy. He provided information of public interest to the whole world, not a foreign adversary.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom everywhere. He has won journalistic awards including the Martha Gellhorn Prize. His cause is supported by press freedom organizations around the world including Reporters Without Borders, PEN International, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • The Obama Administration recognized the threat to press freedom and declined to prosecute Assange. Obama said prosecution would present the government with a “NY Times problem”. Instead of following Obama’s lead, the Biden administration has taken up the mantle of former-President Trump.
  • The wrong party is on trial. Julian Assange exposed U.S. war crimes and torture. It’s obvious to many that the party guilty of those crimes is vindictively pursuing him.
  • The case against Julian Assange has collapsed. A key Icelandic witness has recanted his testimony that Assange instructed him to hack into government computers. Prosecutorial conduct has been egregious. The CIA spied on Assange, including meetings with his doctors and lawyers. In 2017, the CIA plotted to kidnap or assassinate him.
  • The prosecution of Julian Assange diminishes the stature of the United States. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken proselytizes about U.S. support for independent journalism, it is simultaneously seeking to imprison the most high profile journalist of the 21st century for 175 years.
  • Julian Assange did not “put lives at risk”. A 2013 Pentagon study could not identify a single instance of anyone killed as a result of being named in the WikiLeaks trove.
  • Julian Assange wanted the documents published responsibly. He worked with traditional news outlets to to redact the documents and save lives. It was only when two Guardian journalists, Luke Harding and David Leigh, recklessly published an encryption code that unredacted documents spilled into the public realm.
  • An investigation by United Nations Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer found the entire period of Assange’s detention, including that spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy, to be arbitrary. He also called his treatment at the hands of the State parties responsible for his detention “a public mobbing”.
  • Over the course of more than ten years of arbitrary detention, Julian has suffered greatly. His physical and mental health have deteriorated to the point that he has trouble concentrating and cannot properly participate in his own defense. He suffered a small stroke on October 27th during a remote court hearing. His continued imprisonment is a threat to his very life.
  • Julian Assange is not an American citizen, nor was he on American soil when the alleged crimes were committed. He should not be subject to American laws like the Espionage Act.

If you belong to an organization that would like to be a co-sponsor of this effort, please email Mike Madden.

Co-sponsors:

Categories
Press Release

New York Times, Chicago Tribune publish Free Assange letters

December 22, 2021 — The New York Times and Chicago Tribune have published letters to the editor from Assange supporters this week, a sign of the growing chorus calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop the Trump Administration’s unprecedented charges against Julian Assange. 

Writing to your own local newspaper is a great way to take action for Julian Assange. When you write a letter to the editor, you are letting your community, your legislators, and our national leadership know that you care about the criminalization of journalists and publishers, and you encourage your local news outlet to cover the case further.

In the New York Times, retired constitutional lawyer and Assange Defense-Los Angeles member Stephen Rohde writes,

A free, uninhibited and courageous press is essential to a functioning democracy. When the Supreme Court upheld The New York Times’s right to publish the classified Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote, “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama rightly declined to indict Julian Assange for publishing secret government documents. But in 2019, the Trump administration did so, and President Biden’s Justice Department chose Donald Trump’s path over Mr. Obama’s by vigorously pursuing Mr. Assange’s extradition. Mr. Trump’s shameful legacy threatens to become Mr. Biden’s.

In October, 24 leading press freedom, civil liberties and human rights organizations urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to dismiss the indictment.

Mr. Garland should uphold the Constitution and American values of freedom of the press, due process and human rights by immediately dropping the indictment against Julian Assange.

Richard McGowan, writing to the Chicago Tribune, says:

Can a country still call itself a democracy, founded on the notions of truth and justice and a free press, if it suppresses state crimes and forbids journalists publishing classified information when that reveals the crimes of elites? If damning information implicates the powerful, how much will the public tolerate the inversion of law by those same elites to exact revenge on journalists for exposing the truth?

Those are some of the questions that I had this past week when President Joe Biden hosted a summit for the U.S. and other countries to demonstrate their commitment to democracy and human rights — the same week the U.S. won its appeal to extradite Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, under the archaic Espionage Act, for exposing American war crimes and human rights abuses.

Covered-up videos of troops killing journalists and civilians. Censored documents that show the torture of prisoners in Iraq. Records of mass illegal surveillance of American citizens. Assange exposed these crimes and more, committed during the Bush and Obama administrations.

United States official statements and policy are often full of hypocrisy — pledging to be a leader in the climate crisis and immediately opening up 80 million acres to drilling comes to mind — but the Justice Department’s maleficent, single-minded mission to imprison Assange for exposing the truth is the epitome of injustice.

Juxtapose that with the official double talk of defending democracy and a free society heard at this summit and in recent years. It’s a national shame.

Write your own letter to the editor today! Here’s how.

Categories
Press Release

NYC Assange Rally: Susan Sarandon, Julian’s Brother, Roger Waters & More

Image
Photo credit: Assange Defense

Supporters of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange gathered Monday at the British Consulate in New York City to condemn Friday’s High Court ruling granting the US appeal of Assange’s extradition ruling.

Oscar-winning actor and prominent activist Susan Sarandon spoke out against the prosecution of Assange for the first time. “When the truth is illegal,” she said, “when you can’t speak the truth, how do we know what’s being done in our name?”

Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, told reporters at the rally that he fears for Julian’s life:

Shipton also spoke to AFP about his brother:

The demonstrators were protesting against a decision on Friday by British appeals judges to overturn the ruling after accepting US government assurances Assange would receive appropriate treatment and not be held in punishing isolation in custody.

“Very worried about it,” Shipton told AFP. “This hanging over Julian’s head just increases the pressure on him now.

“So we live in fear that he won’t make it through this or that he will die basically, during this process,” he added.

Pink Floyd cofounder and activist Roger Waters warned of the dangers the prosecution against Assange poses to the rest of our rights:

Veteran human rights attorney Margaret Kunstler spoke about the importance of Julian’s journalism. “Without truthtellers, we’re in tremendous danger.”

Podcaster Katie Halper called on President Biden to drop the charges against Assange:

Halper interviewed Waters as well as comedian and radio host Randy Credico, who MC’d Monday’s rally:

Katie Halper · Free Assange Protest with Roger Waters & Randy Credico

See the full rally video, featuring speeches from Credico as well as several local activists, and subsequent interviews by Status Coup’s Jordan Chariton.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

High Court decision “Grave miscarriage of justice,” says Julian Assange’s fiancée

A UK court has overturned an earlier decision blocking the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States where he is accused of publishing true information revealing crimes committed by the US government in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and details of CIA torture and rendition. Julian Assange was not given permission to attend the appeal hearing in person.

The prosecution against Julian Assange is an existential threat to press freedom worldwide. Leading civil liberties groups, including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, ACLU, and Human Rights Watch have called the charges against Julian Assange a “threat to press freedom around the globe.” Journalist unions, including the National Union of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists, have said that “media freedom is suffering lasting damage by the continued prosecution of Julian Assange.” He faces a 175-year prison sentence.

Responding to the decision of the High Court to overturn the lower court’s earlier ruling to block the extradition of Mr. Assange, Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, said: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

Moris described the High Court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.” “How can if be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said.

On September 26, CIA plans to assassinate Julian Assange were uncovered in a bombshell report. The detailed investigation revealed that discussions of assassinating Julian Assange in London had occurred “at the highest levels” of the CIA and Trump White House, and that kill “sketches” and “options” had been drawn up on orders of Mike Pompeo, then CIA director. The investigation revealed that plans to kidnap and rendition Assange were far advanced and the CIA’s operations prompted a political decision to produce charges against him.

Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson said, “Julian’s life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient. This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower.”

Amnesty International says the so-called ‘assurances’ upon which the US government relies “leave Mr. Assange at risk of ill-treatment,” are “inherently unreliable,” and “should be rejected,” adding that they are “discredited by their admission that they reserved the right to reverse those guarantees.” Amnesty concluded the charges against Assange are “politically motivated” and must be dropped.

Julian Assange and Stella Moris are engaged to be married and have two children, who are British and live in London.

Stella Moris will be giving a statement outside court following the decision; updates via @wikileaks

Categories
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.”

Categories
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. 

Categories
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.

Categories
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! 

Categories
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.”

Categories
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 

Categories
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.”

Categories
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/ 

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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
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
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
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
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.

Categories
Press Release

United Kingdom: UN expert calls for immediate release of Assange after 10 years of arbitrary detention

Read the statement here

Categories
Press Release

ASLEF welcomes NUJ condemnation of Julian Assange detention – Statement

Categories
Press Release

Unite welcomes NUJ condemnation of Julian Assange detention – Statement

Categories
Press Release

NUJ calls on all unions to support Assange

In a dramatic call the National Union of Journalists has asked every trade union in the UK to campaign to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the US.

Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s general secretary, has written a letter to the general secretaries of all other unions pointing out the danger to a free press that would be triggered if Assange is extradited. 

Writing of the US Espionage Act of 1917 under which Assange could face a lifetime in jail, the NUJ leader wrote: ‘This is a repressive statute that has in the past been used to jail trades union activists and working-class leaders. More particularly, the charges themselves seek to criminalise activity that for many NUJ members is their daily work – cultivating sources who are willing to share sensitive information that reveals incompetence, corruption, and illegality’.

The NUJ has been at the forefront of campaigning to stop Assange’s extradition and in the letter Michelle Stanistreet addresses her fellow general secretaries directly: ‘It is vital that we build a campaign to oppose Mr Assange’s extradition and prosecution that is located in the mainstream of progressive concerns – and only trades unions have the reach to achieve this. I am hoping that you will join in this campaign.’

The letter contains a model motion that other unions can use to align their policy with this call for solidarity from the NUJ.

NUJ letter

The train drivers union (ASLEF) has already adopted national policy to support the Assange campaign and this letter from the NUJ is sure to see other unions join the campaign. 

ASLEF support

The NUJ is offering to send its executive members to meetings organised by other trade unionists to explain why the union is appealing for support for Julian Assange. The NUJ recently held an online rally to discuss the case with former Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger, NUJ executive member Tim Dawson, the union’s Assistant General Secretary Seamas Dooley, and Julian Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson. 

Trade unionists back campaign to Free Assange

Categories
Press Release

NUJ letter to trade unions

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 18: Hearing concludes, ruling to come January 4th 2021; Gareth Peirce – Embassy spying instilled “chilling effect” on legal defense

October 1, 2020

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

Hearing concludes, ruling to come January 4th 2021

Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner, speaking outside the courtroom (@DEAcampaign)

The evidentiary phase of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing concluded today, with final witness statements summarized in court. Judge Vanessa Baraitser then announced that she will deliver her ruling on January 4, 2021.

Outside the court following the proceedings, Assange’s partner Stella Moris addressed supporters and the press.

“This is a fight for Julian’s life. It is a fight for press freedom,” she said. Moris spoke about Julian facing a 175 year prison sentence, and the prosecution admitting that no one has been proven to be harmed as a result of WikiLeaks’ releases.

“The U.S. prosecution is trying to make normal journalistic activities, which are entirely legal in this jurisdiction, an extraditable offense,” she said.

“The US says it can put any journalist anywhere in the world on trial in the US if it doesn’t like what they’re publishing.”

“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.

“Terrible crimes were committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrible crimes were committed in Guantanamo Bay. The perpetrators of those crimes are not in prison. Julian is.”

Gareth Peirce: Embassy spying instilled “chilling effect” on legal defense

Defense lawyer Mark Summers summarized statements by Gareth Peirce, Julian Assange’s solicitor, regarding surveillance of legal visits in the Ecuadorian Embassy and the seizure of Assange’s property after his eviction and arrest.

Peirce recounted Assange’s application for asylum and Ecuador’s reason for giving it. She explained that she learned after the fact that her legal conversations with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London were spied on, and that this surveillance instilled a “chilling effect” on the whole legal defense team as they prepared for the hearings.

The judge then rejected a defense application to consider as evidence a recent speech by U.S. Attorney General William Barr made in the middle of these proceedings and a Washington Post article on the AG’s comments.

While Barr didn’t mention Assange or the case in his remarks to Hillsdale College on September 16, 2020, the speech is clearly relevant to the defense argument that this prosecution is “political” in nature. As the Post explained,

The attorney general said it was he, not career officials, who has the ultimate authority to decide how cases should be handled, and he derided less-experienced, less-senior bureaucrats who current and former prosecutors have long insisted should be left to handle their cases free from interference from political appointees.

“Under the law,” Barr said, “all prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general.”

But the judge refused to accept the statement, arguing that it is a routine speech by an attorney general and not significantly dramatic or relevant to be included at this late stage.

In announcing the date of her ruling, Judge Baraitser explained that the defense gets four weeks to submit its closing arguments, and the prosecution then gets two weeks to submit its closing arguments in response. Then her ruling will be delivered in court on January 4th, 2021, at 10:00am.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 17, Part 2: Anonymous witnesses detail U.S.-directed spying of Julian Assange in the Embassy; UC Global agrees to send Embassy recordings to US intelligence

September 30, 2020

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

Background on the UC Global/Embassy spying story:

Anonymous witness 1: UC Global secures contract with Trump financier Sheldon Adelson

Around July 2016, by which time UC Global was already providing security services under a contract with the Government of Ecuador in London, David Morales travelled to a security sector trade fair in Las Vegas, which I wished to accompany him on, but he insisted he had to travel alone. On this trip, Mr Morales showcased the company UC Global in the Las Vegas security sector trade fair.


After his initial travels to the Unites States, UC Global obtained a flashy contract, personally managed by David Morales, with the company Las Vegas Sands, which was owned by the tycoon Sheldon Adelson, whose proximity to Donald Trump is public knowledge (at the time Trump was the presidential candidate).


After returning from one of his trips to the United States, David Morales gathered all the workers in the office in Jerez and told us that “we have moved up and from now on we will be playing in the big league”. During a private conversation with David, I asked him what he was referring to when he said we had moved up into “the big league”. David replied, without going into further detail, that he had switched over to “the dark side” referring to cooperating with US authorities, and as a result of that collaboration “the Americans will get us contracts all over the world”.

In addition to the new contract, after Morales’s return from Las Vegas and his comments about “the big league” and switching to “the dark side”, I learned through my conversation with Davis Morales that he had entered into illegal agreements with U.S. authorities to supply them with sensitive information about Mr. Assange and Rafael Correa, given that UC Global was responsible for the embassy security where Mr. Assange was located.

UC Global agrees to send Embassy recordings to US intelligence

as a result of the parallel agreement that David Morales has signed with U.S. authorities, Morales commented that these reports would also be sent to “the dark side”. In order to do this, David Morales began making regular trips to the United States, principally to New York but also Chicago and Washington, he told me he was traveling to talk with “our American friends”.

At times, when I asked insistently who his “American friends” were, David Morales replied “U.S. intelligence”.

2017: Increasing Embassy surveillance

From 2017, with the victory of Donald Trump, I realized that David Morales’s trips to see “the American friends”, which he did not want anyone else at the company to take part in, began to escalate. More specifically, around June or July 2017 David Morales began to develop a sophisticated information collection system inside the embassy. He asked the employees who were physically inside the embassy to intensify and deepen their information collection. The employees also received the instruction from David Morales to change the internal and external cameras of the embassy. The interior ones recorded sound. I was also informed by the employees that David Morales instructed a team to travel regularly to London to collect the camera recordings.


After this, in Jerez packages of information were configured so that David Morales would personally bring  these to American authorities, with increased details and intrusion on the privacy of Mr Assange, his lawyers, doctors and other visitors.

He showed at times a real obsession in relation to monitoring and recording the lawyers who met with the “guest” (Julian Assange) because “our American friends” were requesting it.

Anonymous witness 2 corroborates UC Global’s U.S. ties

I remember that after David Morales had returned from the United States, at a meeting with the rest of the staff he affirmed that we were moving into “the premier league”. After this I became aware that David Morales was making regular trips to the United States, the context of which my boss, David Morales, repeated to his having “gone to the dark side”.

On 24 January 2017, once Donald Trump had acceded to the presidency of the United States, David Morales sent a message over Telegram in which he wrote, “Well, I want you to be alert because I am informed that we are being vetted, so everything that is confidential should be encrypted […] That’s what I’m being told. Everything relates to the UK issue. I am not worried about it, just be alert […] The people vetting are our friends in the USA”.

Audio recording of Assange’s meetings

In early December 2017, I was instructed by David Morales to travel with a colleague to install the new security cameras. I carried out the new installation over the course of several days. I was instructed by Morales not to share information about the specifications of the recording system, and if asked to deny that the cameras were recording audio. I was told that it was imperative that these instructions be carried out as they came, supposedly, from the highest spheres. In fact, I was asked on several occasions by Mr. Assange and the Political Counsellor Maria Eugenia whether the new cameras recorded sound, to which I replied that they did not, as my boss had instructed me to do. Thus, from that moment on the cameras began to record sound regularly, so every meeting that the asylee held was captured.

Providing recordings to the U.S.

Around June 2017, while I was sourcing providers for the new camera equipment, David Morales instructed that the cameras should allow streaming capabilities so that “our friends in the United States”, as Morales explicitly put it, would be able to gain access to the interior of the embassy in real time.

Morales instructed me to place a microphone in the meeting room, placed in the PVC holder of the fire extinguisher in the meeting room, where it was glued to a magnet and then concealed at the base of the PVC plastic.

Further to this, David Morales asked me to install a another microphone, in the toilet at the end of the embassy, a place that had become strategic because Mr. Assange, who suspected that he was the subject of espionage, maintained many of his meetings there in order to preserve confidentiality.

David Morales also indicated that the aim was that the surveillance, control of information and recordings should focus on the meetings of the asylee, especially those in which he was meeting with his lawyers, who were priority targets, so the security personnel that were physically deployed in the embassy were specifically asked to monitor these meetings of Assange with his lawyers, as this was required by our “US friends”.

Extreme privacy intrusions

David Morales asked me to steal a nappy of a baby which, according to the company’s security personnel deployed at the embassy, regularly visited Mr. Assange. Morales stated that I had to steal the nappy in order to establish whether the baby was a child of the asylee’s. On this occasion, Morales expressly stated that “the Americans” were the ones who wanted to establish paternity.

Categories
Press Release

US intelligence sources discussed poisoning Julian Assange, court told

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 17, Part 1: Witnesses – UC Global spied on Assange’s conversations with lawyers; Patrick Cockburn, Ian Cobain, Guy Goodwin-Gill, Stefania Maurizi, Robert Boyle

September 30, 2020

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

Witnesses: UC Global spied on Assange’s conversations with lawyers

UC Global director David Morales

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

Background on the UC Global/Embassy spying story:

What follows are experts from other statements read aloud:

Patrick Cockburn: WikiLeaks showed the realities of war

Patrick Cockburn is an investigative reporter for The Independent. See his article ‘Julian Assange in Limbo‘ in the London Review of Books from earlier this year.

I was in Kabul when I first heard about the WikiLeaks revelations. which confirmed much of what I and others had suspected. The trove was immense: some 251,287 diplomatic cables. more than 400,000 classified army reports from the Iraq War and 90,000 from the war in Afghanistan. Rereading these documents now I’m struck again by the constipated military-bureaucratic prose, with its sinister dehumanising acronyms. Killing people is referred to as an EOF (‘Escalation of Force’), something that happened frequently at US military checkpoints when nervous US soldiers directed Iraqi drivers to stop or go with complex hand signals that nobody understood. What this could mean for Iraqis ls illustrated by brief military reports such as the one headed ‘Escalation of Force by 3/8 NE Fallujah: I CIV KIA, 4 CIV WIA’. Decoded, ii describes the moment when a woman In a car was killed and her husband and three daughters wounded at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Fallujah, forty miles west of Baghdad. The US marine on duty opened fire because he was unable to determine the occupants of the vehicle due to the reflection of the- sun coming off the windshield’. Another report marks the moment when US soldiers shot dead a man who was ·creeping up behind their sniper position’. only to learn later that he was their own unit’s Interpreter.

These reports are the small change of war. But collectively they convey its reality far better than even the most well-Informed journalistic accounts. Those two shootings were a thousand times repeated, though the reports were rare in admitting that the victims-were civilians. More usually, the dead were automatically identified as ‘terrorists’ caught in the act, regardless or evidence to the contrary.

On why WikiLeaks and Assange are persecuted

The Wikileaks documents exposed the way the US, as the world’s sole superpower, really conducted its wars – something that the military and political establishments saw as a blow to their credibility and legitimacy. There were some devastating revelations, the helicopter video among them, but many or the secrets uncovered were not particularly significant or indeed very secret. In my view, they do not themselves explain the degree of reaction that the Wikileaks revelations provoked from the US government and Its allies: I consider this to have been their response to a perceived assault on their monopoly control of sensitive state information, which they saw as an essential prop to their authority. Making such information public as Assange and Wikileaks had done weaponised freedom of expression: if disclosures of this kind went unpunished and became the norm, it would radically shift the balance of power between government and society – and especially the media – in favour of the latter.

Wikileaks did what all journalists should do, which is to make important information available fo the public, enabling people· to make evidence-based judgments about the world around them and, in particular, about the actions of their governments, and, of those actions more than any other those that reveal the gravest of state crimes. In my view steps taken against Assange for publishing information of such great importance betrays the true motivation behind the unprecedented steps being taken to criminalise his actions. In 2010 WikiLeaks won a great victory for freedom of expression and against state secrecy and the US government Is now making every effort to reverse it.

Ian Cobain: Only leaked docs confirm what governments cover up

Ian Cobain is an investigative journalist who was with The Guardian in 2010-11.

There is always the understanding – one that is so clear that it needs not be spoken – that anyone who has knowledge of state crimes, and who comes forward to corroborate allegations about those crimes, may face prosecution.

Evidence that would support such allegations is extraordinarily difficult to obtain from within governments with disciplined intelligence agencies and civil services, and where the penalties for unauthorised disclosure can include intrusion into family life, prosecution and imprisonment, loss of livelihood and loss of pension rights.

Cobain reported on British intelligence helping the CIA kidnap an entire family and render them to Libya where they were tortured.

Almost certainly, nothing of this case would have emerged into the public sphere were it not for the unique emergence of hundreds of documents relating to the Libyan security state. The documentary evidence emerged during a serendipitous moment in Tripoli during the 2011 Libyan revolution when filing cabinets full of documents belonging to the Libyan security apparatus fell into the hands of NGO workers and journalists.


Had the documents not emerged in the way in which they did, the British government would no doubt have continued to maintain that “the UK does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture for any purpose”, a claim that is completely undermined by the documentary evidence now available in respect of this case. In the event the government apologised to the couple and made a payment to the wife. A case brought by the family was settled out of court.


Under these circumstances, it could be argued that media scrutiny is more important than ever, and that leaks and whistle-blowers remain a vital means by which state crimes can be exposed.

Guy Goodwin-Gill: Spied on in the Embassy

“On 16 June 2016, I attended a meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to discuss the international legal aspects of the asylum accorded to Mr Julian Assange. Those attending included the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, senior Ecuadorian officials, and members of Mr Assange’s legal team. Before entering the ground floor meeting room, I left my passport, phone and tablet ‘at the door’, together with unlocked luggage (I was en route to give lectures in Italy).

I naturally assumed that, given the precautions taken before entry, such a legal conference would be secure and confidential. I was therefore somewhat shocked, to say the least, to learn in late 2019 that my name featured in papers lodged in connection with legal proceedings in Spain concerning the disclosure of confidential information, that the occasion of my visit and participation had been shared with various parties, and that my ‘electronic equipment’ may have been copied and the contents also shared.

Mr Assange is not a citizen of the United States of America and that most of the charges levelled against Mr Assange are drawn from the US Espionage Act. Espionage is not defined in international law; it is neither an international crime nor a serious crime of international concern, and it is commonly considered to be a ‘purely’ political offence, which either would not be listed as an extradition offence, or is one for which surrender would be refused.

It is against this background and the political opinions involved, therefore, that the evidence of surveillance and the sharing of confidential, privileged information needs to be considered, and an assessment made of whether these factors indicate more clearly the political motivation, intent and purpose of the extradition request, or otherwise indicate the likelihood of prejudice, punishment, detention or other restrictions on liberty by reason of extraneous circumstances, as described above…”

Stefania Maurizi: WikiLeaks’ unprecedented document security

Stefania Maurizi is an Italian journalist who worked with WikiLeaks to report on Italian documents within the State Department cables.

Assange and the war

On more than one occasion, Mr Assange expressed to me his view that if Wikileaks had existed before the US invaded Iraq and had published what it later published earlier (the “Collateral Murder” video with respect to Iraq, for example}, the war might have been avoided or would have come to an end sooner. The fact is that what had been and was being disseminated by the  governments involved, in particular the USA, was largely false, and the true picture was not being allowed to be known.

Document security

I myself was given access to 4,189 cables which could be better assessed and understood with the assistance of a knowledgeable Italian partnership. I sat down with Mr Assange and went through the cables as systematically as possible. I was given an encrypted USB stick, and once I returned to Italy I was given the password that would then allow opening the file. Everything was done with the utmost responsibility and attention. I am aware of the password that David Leigh and Luke Harding of the Guardian subsequently published in their book: it was not the same password I myself was given at the time.

That was the first time I had ever worked in any publishing enterprise involving strict procedures of that kind. Even experienced internationalcolleagues found the procedures burdensome, involving protections considerably beyond those which any of them were accustomed to exercising.

Robert Boyle: Chelsea Manning was punished by grand jury

Robert Boyle is a U.S. attorney and an expert on grand juries. His statement recounts relevant portions of Chelsea Manning’s allocution statement made at her court martial and then discusses her imprisonment for refusing to testify to a secret grand jury.

Chelsea Manning’s allocution statement

Manning explained that due to her position as an intelligence analyst, she had access to information about United States military activities in Iraq. Some of those activities contradicted the stated goals of U.S. policy. She told the court:

“[the United States military] became obsessed with capturing/killing targets on lists and being suspicious and avoiding cooperation with our host nation partners and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions.

I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy, in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

A participant in an online chat pointed Manning to Wikileaks’ online submission system. Manning was somewhat familiar with Wikileaks. In her view the organization “seemed to be dedicated to exposing illegal activities and corruption [and had] received numerous awards and recognition for its reporting activities.”

[Regarding Collateral Murder] Manning told the court that she “wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”

Although I stopped sending documents to [WikiLeaks], no one associated with [WikiLeaks] pressured me into giving more information. The decisions I made to send documents and information to [WikiLeaks] were my own decisions and I take full responsibility for my actions.

Manning subpoenaed, refuses to testify, punished further

Manning filed a motion to quash the subpoena:

she argued that the subpoena was improper in that it was an effort by the government to punish her for the release of the information to Wikileaks. Manning also pointed out that the government had available to it her exhaustive sworn statement before the Military Court that was given at the time of her guilty plea and which truthfully set forth the full extent of her knowledge, including but not limited to her contacts with Wikileaks. Manning asserted that compliance with the subpoena would also enable the government to set a “perjury trap”. Should there be inconsistencies, even minor inconsistencies between her court martial testimony and grand jury testimony she could be criminally charged with committing perjury.

Manning was imprisoned for refusing to testify:

she was placed in solitary confinement “despite the stated concerns regarding the effects of prolonged isolation [that compound[ed] the trauma I suffered from my previous time of confinement.” Manning remained in isolation for 28 days, an experience that caused her “extraordinary pain.”

He quotes her own statement:

I understand that this grand jury [is] related to my disclosures of classified and unclassified information and records in 2010. I acted alone in these disclosures. The government is still preoccupied with punishing me, despite a court martial, sentence and presidential commutation nearly two years ago

Manning believed the U.S. government wanted information ahead of Assange’s hearing:

As Manning herself has stated “I suspect that [the government) [is] simply interested in previewing my potential testimony as a defense witness, and attempting to undermine my testimony … This justifies my theory that participating in this investigation functions simply to abuse the justice system for political ends.”

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is a UK-based activist and researcher who has studied the Guantanamo Bay prison for over a decade. See his first statement here and supplemental second statement here.

In April 2011, Worthington wrote, WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies.

In its latest release of classified US documents, WikiLeaks is shining the light of truth on a notorious icon of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” — the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which opened on January 11, 2002, and remains open under President Obama, despite his promise to close the much-criticized facility within a year of taking office.

In thousands of pages of documents dating from 2002 to 2008 and never seen before by members of the public or the media, the cases of the majority of the prisoners held at Guantánamo — 765 out of 779 in total — are described in detail in memoranda from JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay, to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs).

These memoranda, which contain JTF-GTMO’s recommendations about whether the prisoners in question should continue to be held, or should be released (transferred to their home governments, or to other governments) contain a wealth of important and previously undisclosed information, including health assessments, for example, and, in the cases of the majority of the 172 prisoners who are still held, photos (mostly for the first time ever).

Crucially, the files also contain detailed explanations of the supposed intelligence used to justify the prisoners’ detention. For many readers, these will be the most fascinating sections of the documents, as they seem to offer an extraordinary insight into the workings of US intelligence, but although many of the documents appear to promise proof of prisoners’ association with al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, extreme caution is required.

The documents draw on the testimony of witnesses — in most cases, the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.

Uncomfortable facts like these are not revealed in the deliberations of the Joint Task Force, but they are crucial to understanding why what can appear to be a collection of documents confirming the government’s scaremongering rhetoric about Guantánamo — the same rhetoric that has paralyzed President Obama, and revived the politics of fear in Congress — is actually the opposite: the anatomy of a colossal crime perpetrated by the US government on 779 prisoners who, for the most part, are not and never have been the terrorists the government would like us to believe they are.

Jameel Jaffer: Assange indictment gravely threatens press freedom

Jameel Jaffer is executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. In 2019, he joined Jeremy Scahill’s podcast, ‘Prosecuting Julian Assange for Espionage is a Coup Attempt Against the First Amendment‘. Earlier this year, Jaffer joined the Courage Foundation’s panel at the National Press Club in Washington DC to discuss the impact of the Assange indictment on press freedom.

On the indictment and Trump’s view toward journalism

The indictment of Mr. Assange poses a grave threat to press freedom in the United States. This case is the first in which the U.S. government has relied on the 1917 Espionage Act as the basis for the prosecution of a publisher. The indictment 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.

In my view, the indictment of Mr. Assange was intended to deter journalism that is vital to American democracy, and the successful prosecution of Mr. Assange on the basis of the activities described in the indictment would certainly have that effect.

On the wide breadth of the Espionage Act

These provisions are extremely broad, as many others have observed,7 and they criminalize a “wide range of activities that may bear little resemblance to classic espionage.”8 The Act exposes leakers to severe penalties without regard to whether they acted with the intent to harm the security of the United States.9 As it has been construed by the courts, the Act is indifferent to the defendant’s motives,10 and indifferent to whether the harms caused by disclosure were outweighed by the value of the information to the public.

By its terms, the Act also provides for the imposition of these same severe penalties on subsequent publishers-i.e., not just on leakers, and not just on the news organizations that first publish the leaks, but on anyone who later shares the leaked information through any channel, formal or informal.

On the importance of publishing government secrets

At least in the United States, informed public deliberation about matters relating to war and security would be impossible if the press did not publish classified information.

There are structural reasons why unauthorized disclosures of classified information are so vital to the public’s ability to understand, evaluate, and influence government policy relating to war and security.

lf the press did not publish classified information without authorization, public debate about war and security would take place in an information environment controlled almost entirely by executive branch officials.

Using the Espionage Act against a publisher

The government’s use of the Espionage Act against government insiders who supply classified information to the press poses a serious threat to the ability of the press to inform the public about matters relating to war and security. The government’s indictment of a publisher under the Act, however, crosses a new legal frontier.

The conviction of Mr. Assange under the Act for the activities described in the indictment would have a significant chilling effect on journalism that is vital to the proper functioning of American democracy.

Some government officials have argued that the indictment should not be understood as a threat to press freedom because Mr. Assange is not a journalist, or because WikiLeaks is not a member of the press. This argument misses the point. The indictment is mainly a description of Mr. Assange engaging in core journalistic activities.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 16: Former warden – Assange would get “desolate and degrading” Special Administrative Measures; Lindsay Lewis – Assange will “almost certainly” be placed under SAMs

September 29, 2020

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

Former warden: Assange would get “desolate and degrading” Special Administrative Measures

Maureen Baird

Former prison warden Maureen Baird, who presided over the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York and who worked in the U.S. prison system for more than 20 years, testified today about the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) that she believes Julian Assange would be subjected to if he were extradited to the United States.

At issue are Assange’s potential pre-trial and post-trial prison conditions, because the U.K. cannot extradite if doing so would be “unjust or oppressive” or would subject the defendant to “inhumane or degrading treatment.”

What are Special Administrative Measures?

Special Administrative Measures are a layer of extreme gagging restrictions on a prisoner that render them effectively incommunicado. SAMs are an additional layer on top of an individual prison’s conditions, such as solitary confinement. SAMs are only imposed by the U.S. Attorney General after a determination is made with the input of an intelligence agency. Baird testified that in Assange’s case, it’s likely the CIA and the Department of Justice would be involved in the decision to place him under SAMs, and the the direction would come from Attorney General William Barr.

Baird testified about the inmates she oversaw who were under SAMs:

“Inmates were in solitary confinement, technically, for 24-hours per day. There was absolutely no communication, by any means, with other inmates. The only form of human interaction they encountered was when correctional officers opened the viewing slot during their inspection rounds of the unit, when institution staff walked through the unit during their required weekly rounds, or when meals were delivered through the secure meal slot in the door.”

Inmates are allowed 30 minutes of phone time per month, she testified, and all calls are monitored by an FBI agent and must be scheduled two weeks in advance.

The effects of SAMs

Baird testified that to call conditions under SAMs “unduly harsh” is an understatement, and that they afford no real avenue to challenge or appeal. In her statement to the court, Baird agreed with Joel Sickler’s description of conditions for SAMs inmates as “desolate and degrading” as well as Lindsay Lewis’ description of the “devastating effects caused by isolation.”

The conditions are so bad, she wrote, that she can’t believe they still exist:

“I am uncertain how the BOP has been able to continue with these types of isolation units, given all the studies, reports and findings of the horrific physical and psychological effects they have on inmates.”

SAMs at the Colorado Supermax

The defense and prosecution agree that if extradited, Assange would be held pre-trial at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia. The defense argues that post-trial, Assange would be held in ADX Florence in Colorado, the highest security prison in the United States which its former warden has called a “clean version of hell.” A former prison designator herself, Baird testified today that she believes it’s “very likely” that if Assange is placed under SAMs, he would be detained at the ADX in the segregated housing unit.

“As someone who spent the majority of her adult life working for the BOP and as a former Designator, who decided where inmates would serve their sentences, absent a medical requirement, or a protected Witness Security Case, I am not familiar with any alternative long-term options, aside from the ADX, for offenders under SAMs.”

While the prosecution claims they don’t know where Assange would be imprisoned if convicted, they have argued at length in court and by way of cross-examination that the ADX is a humane facility. Similarly, while the prosecution claims they don’t know whether Assange would be subject to SAMs, they have argued that SAMs are applied for good reason, that inmates can remove SAMs restrictions, and that SAMs inmates can sometimes reduce restrictions to be able to speak to other prisoners.

Baird Contradicts Prosecution’s Top Witness

Baird’s testimony directly contradicts many of the assertions made by the prosecution’s chief witness, assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg, in his affidavits to the court. Kromberg listed many of the social and therapeutic programs offered at the ADX in Colorado. Baird replied,

“For anyone to suggest that an inmate assigned under SAMs would be able to participate in group counseling is baffling to me. The main premise of assigning SAMs is to restrict a person’s communication and the only way to accomplish this is through isolation.”

Kromberg also suggested that inmates under SAMs could challenge their conditions through an Administrative Remedy process. As Baird testified today, a prison warden has no ability to modify how SAMs are applied and they are applied equally to prisoners across the board.

“During my 28 years with the BOP, there were times that I was responsible for responding to Administrative Remedies. With certainty, I declare, for the purpose of challenging a SAMs, it would be a futile process. The BOP exercises no control/jurisdiction over SAMs imposed by the Attorney General. Wardens are bound to abide by the SAMs imposed on an inmate.”

“During my term as Warden at MCC New York, I have never seen an inmate have SAMs removed, only extended.”

Lindsay Lewis: Assange will “almost certainly” be placed under SAMs

Lindsay Lewis

The defense then called Lindsay Lewis, a U.S. attorney who has represented Abu Hamza (whose legal name is Mostafa Kamel Mostafa), a convicted terrorist who is detained at the ADX Florence in Colorado. Central to her testimony was the fact that when Hamza faced extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States, the U.S. gave assurances to both English courts and the  European Court of Human Rights that he wouldn’t be held at ADX Florence without a medical exam to determine if he could survive daily activities. She said Assange would “almost certainly” be placed under Special Administrative Measures if extradited to the United States.

The U.K. courts operated, Lewis said, under the assumption that it was “impossible” that Hamza — a double amputee with diabetes and blindness in one eye — would pass such a test and therefore would not be detained at the ADX. Hamza has been imprisoned under SAMs and in solitary confinement for the last eight years and has been imprisoned at the ADX Florence since 2015.

Lewis explained in her witness statement that SAMs “limit [Hamza’s] contacts not just with the outside world, but also with his family, other inmates and even his attorneys.” She says the restrictions SAMs impose on her as his lawyer limit her own ability to describe his conditions to the court.

The restrictions are so absurd, she said, that Hamza was written up for violating SAMs when he “improperly tried to convey, in a letter to one of his sons, his love to his one year old grandson” because the grandson is not an approved contact for him to speak to.

Lewis also testified about the inability to redress grievances under SAMs. The prosecution’s witness Gordon Kromberg suggested that SAMs could be lifted if appealed and sometimes aren’t renewed after a year. Lewis testified, as Baird did earlier, that inmates must exhaust the “long, drawn-out” Administrative Remedy process before they can sue the Bureau of Prisons in court to try to get SAMs removed. Lewis said she’d never heard of any case in which an inmate successfully got SAMs removed through the Administrative Remedy process.

Anonymous witnesses to testify on Embassy spying

The judge granted anonymity to two witnesses from U.C. Global, who will testify about that company’s spying on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. El Pais reports that U.C. Global director David Morales traveled to Las Vegas where he secured a contract with a company working for top Trump financier Sheldon Adelson to spy on Assange and provide recordings to the CIA. The witness statements will be read aloud in court later this week.

Background:

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 15: Assange would face solitary confinement and extreme restrictions if sent to US; Joel Sickler – Assange would get little to no health care

September 28, 2020

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

Assange would face solitary confinement and extreme restrictions if sent to the United States

Yancey Ellis

The final week of the testimony portion of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing began with Yancey Ellis, a former judge advocate in the U.S. Marines who practices in Alexandria, Virginia. Ellis has defended many clients who would be held at the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC) where Assange would be detained before trial if he were extradited.

At issue is whether extraditing Assange be “cruel or oppressive” and whether he would be subject to “torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Ellis believes it is “most likely” that Assange would be held in the X block at the ADC, the housing unit for administrative segregation (ad-seg) which he said constitutes solitary confinement. Assange would be held there due to a combination of his notoriety and his mental health condition, Ellis said.

Speaking from his experience visiting clients at the ADC, Ellis said that inmates on the X block live in 50’ square cells for 22-23 hours a day. They have no access to therapeutic or other programs and no interaction with other prisoners. In his witness statement, Ellis writes, “There is no outside recreational or exercise area at the Alexandria jail and I do not recall there being any windows in the ADSEG unit.”

The prosecution has submitted a witness statement from assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg, who wrote that inmates in ad-seg at the ADC can access prison programs and can speak through doors or windows to communicate from cell to cell. Ellis writes that “several assertions made by Mr. Kromberg are incorrect or incomplete” and has tried to communicate with a prisoner through cell doors and “you have to scream” to be heard.

“The whole point of this unit is to keep you away from other inmates,” he said.

These are all the basic minimum physical conditions of the X block, Ellis said, and Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) impose further restrictions on outside communications on top of that.

Ellis also spoke about mental and physical health care at the facility. The ADC doesn’t employ a doctor but contracts with part-time psychiatrists. Ellis said that many of his clients needing their medication to be modified would go several weeks between psychiatric visits.

Ellis writes that inmates at risk of self-harm are placed in a “suicide prevention suit that immobilize the arms away from the body, removing shoe strings and sheets, etc.”

“The extent of mental health care is that a social worker or counselor comes around to check on you every once in a while to ensure basic functioning,” he said.

Joel Sickler: Assange would get little to no health care

Joel Sickler

Next the defense called Joel Sickler, a prison advocate for more than 40 years who founded the Justice Advocacy Group in Virginia. Sickler has been to the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC) dozens of times and has many clients detained there, and he testified about his experiences there. He also discussed his knowledge of the ADX Florence in Colorado, the Supermax federal prison where Assange is likely to be imprisoned post-trial if extradited and convicted.

Sickler testified that he believes that pre-trial in the ADC, Assange will be housed in ad-seg on the X block. He agreed with Ellis’ characterization of the prison cells there as about the “size of a parking space.”

Sickler also noted that AUSA Kromberg claims that inmates in ad-seg at ADC can communicate with each other but that “in practice, that’s ridiculous.”

“He absolutely won’t have communication with other inmates,” he said.

Inmates on this unit have very limited access to the outside world, Sickler said. “You’re twiddling your thumbs. You’ll have access to reading material, but your whole world is the four corners of that room.”

He also testified about the lack of health care at the Alexandria facility:

”Mr. Assange should expect to receive only the most limited medical services at the ADC. Any suggestion to this Court that he will be fully evaluated and assessed for medical or mental health conditions is misleading.”

Furthermore, Sickler said that legal opportunities to challenge your status under SAMs are incredibly small. “It’s a well-known fact here that even the most minor administrative appeals by inmates are denied,” he said. “I’ve probably filed 1,000 or more appeals, winning a dozen at most.” The chances of appealing SAMs are “remote to nil.”

The prosecution then spent the afternoon taking Sickler through Bureau of Prison policies and claims about their staffing, health care provisions, and the ADX’s levels of housing through which inmates can work to reduce their restrictions and ultimately get off of SAMs.

But time and again, Sickler would acknowledge that while what the BOP claims on paper is far different than what happens in practice. He said that the Marshall Project’s reports on the ADX Florence are “spot on.”

Prosecutor Clair Dobbin cited the case of Cunningham v BOP, in which inmates sued the Bureau of Prisons and ultimately agreed to a settlement which led to mentally ill inmates being moved out of the ADX. Sickler addressed that case in his own statement, noting that just three years after that settlement was upheld, “that same Court would find that the health care in ADX failed to meet basic standards of care for inmates.”

Dobbin also cited the fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a convicted terrorist at the ADX, has said he could see family members while detained there. But as the New York Times reported in 2017, Abdulmutallab “sued the Justice Department, arguing that prison officials are violating his rights by holding him in solitary confinement, restricting his communication with relatives and force-feeding him when he goes on a hunger strike to protest.”

Responding again to Dobbin’s reading through BOP policies as to the care they provide, Sickler said, “What I see ongoing in practice is entirely different.”

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 14: Judge admits political nature of Assange’s case; Jakob Augstein – Assange “feared for the safety of informants”; Patrick Eller debunks Manning/Assange “conspiracy”

September 25, 2020

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

Judge admits political nature of Assange’s case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Eller debunks Manning/Assange “conspiracy”

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

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

Eller’s testimony establishes several key points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 13: Cryptome published unredacted cables first; Dr. Crosby – “very high risk” of suicide if Assange is extradited

September 24, 2020

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

Cryptome published unredacted cables first; medical testimony continues

At the very end of today’s proceedings, the defense read aloud an important and consequential witness statement from John Young, host of cryptome.org.

“I published on Cryptome.org unredacted diplomatic cables on September 1, 2011 under the URL  https://cryptome.org/z/z.7z and that publication remains available at present.

Since my publication on Cryptome.org of the unredacted diplomatic cables, no US law enforcement authority has notified me that this publication of the cables is illegal, consists or contributes to a crime in any way, nor have they asked for them to be removed.”

The statement is a critical piece of evidence against the U.S. government’s indictment of Assange for publishing the unredacted diplomatic cables in 2011. The prosecution must prove “dual criminality,” that Assange’s alleged offenses in the U.S. would be a crime in the U.K. as well. Republishing classified documents is not a crime under the U.K.’s Official Secrets Act the way that publishing them is.

This witness statement corroborates previous testimony from John Goetz and others on the chronology of events, that WikiLeaks was not the first to publish the unredacted cables and in fact took great care to prevent names from being disclosed.

The defense also read a statement from Christopher Butler of the Internet Archive, also known as the Wayback Machine, a U.S.-based historical internet record based on snapshots of websites over time. Butler confirms that the Internet Archive still to this day hosts records of WikiLeaks’ publications and that the U.S. government has never attempted to take this data offline.

Medical experts on the dangers of extradition

Today’s proceedings mostly consisted of live testimony from Dr. Nigel Blackwood, the prosecution’s psychiatrist who interviewed Assange in prison, and Dr Sondra Crosby, who visited Assange multiple times in the Ecuadorian Embassy and again in Belmarsh. Once again, because this testimony dealt with Julian’s personal medical condition and history, we’ll try to summarize the relevant portions rather than provide every detail.

Dr Nigel Blackwood is a consultant forensic psychiatrist with the NHS, and he produced a report for the prosecution on Assange’s mental health and his suicide risk in the event of extradition. Dr. Blackwood has previously provided testimony supporting extradition in the case of Korcala v Polish Judicial Authority in 2017.

Medical testimony is used to establish whether “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him”, as that would violate Section 91 of the U.K.’s 2003 Extradition Act, and to prevent violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Dr. Blackwood determined Assange to be “moderately depressed” and acknowledged, “There is undoubtably some risk of suicide attempt in the event of extradition,” but he doesn’t feel that it rises to a “high risk.” Blackwood relied on the standard established in USA v Turner, that the person facing extradition must be “capable of controlling” their own risk of suicide, and he found that Assange, whom he called a “very resilient” and “resourceful” man, would be capable of doing so.

In addition to USA v Turner, there is also relevant precedent in USA v Lauri Love, in which the U.K.’s High Court overturned the lower court judge’s ruling that Love could be extradited because the judge relied too heavily on the assurances that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons could provide adequate mental health care and prevent suicide in prison.

Defense lawyer Ed Fitzgerald therefore asked Dr. Blackwood for his to comment as to whether the conditions Assange would be detained under in the United States could be said to be “broadly equivalent” to those in the U.K. At issue are both pre-trial conditions and prospective post-trial conditions. The defense and prosecution agree that if extradited, Assange would be held before trial at Alexandria Detention Center (ADC) in Virginia. The defense argues that if convicted, Assange would be sent post-trial to ADX Florence, a Supermax prison in Colorado. The prosecution doesn’t confirm that Assange would be sent there but provides evidence regarding the facility to respond to the defense’s arguments.

In court, Dr. Blackwood admitted that he made his determination relying on the U.S. government’s supportive affidavit from assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg, wherein Kromberg argued that “there is no solitary confinement” at the ADC in Virginia. He made his statement before seeing the witness submission of Eric Lewis, lawyer for Reprieve who testified about his clients’ experience under SAMs and in solitary at the ADC. Dr. Blackwood would only say that he accepts there is a range of opinion as far as solitary confinement, but he agreed broadly that placing Assange in solitary confinement under SAMs, which would virtually bar him from communicating with the outside world, would be “deleterious” to his mental health. Dr. Blackwood also agreed that the question should be dealt with by experts on U.S. prisons, which he is not.

Dr. Crosby: “very high risk” of suicide if Assange is extradited

Dr. Sondra Crosby

This afternoon we heard testimony from defense witness Dr. Sondra Crosby, an associate professor of medicine and public health at Boston University and an expert on the physical and psychological impact of torture, who visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, beginning in October 2017.

In January 2018, Dr Crosby co-wrote, “We examined Julian Assange, and he badly needs care – but he can’t get it” with the two medical doctors who visited Assange with her:

As clinicians with a combined experience of four decades caring for and about refugees and other traumatised populations, we recently spent 20 hours, over three days, performing a comprehensive physical and psychological evaluation of Mr Assange. While the results of the evaluation are protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, it is our professional opinion that his continued confinement is dangerous physically and mentally to him, and a clear infringement of his human right to healthcare.

Dr. Crosby has also written that her February 2019 visit in the embassy was spied on and her medical notes were taken. “Mr. Assange’s right to doctor-patient confidentiality was violated, and his confidential information had been breached,” she said.

Testifying by remote video, Dr. Crosby today said that in the embassy, Assange described symptoms of PTSD and psychological distress, and he complained of a number of physical symptoms that Dr Crosby found “very worrisome” but she had no way of performing a necessary physical evaluation at the time.

On the question of whether it would be unjust to send Julian to the United States, Dr. Crosby said, “Assange is at a very high risk of completing a suicide if he were to be extradited.”

Proceedings continue tomorrow at 10:00am London time.

Categories
Press Release

We Are Millions

“We are millions and millions are one.” —Laibach

This book is part of the Courage Foundation’s #WeAreMillions, an arts project demonstrating the global support for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange as he fights extradition to the United States. The Trump Administration wants to prosecute Assange for publishing U.S. government documents in 2010 that exposed war crimes, previously uncounted civilian casualties, and human rights abuses. If the prosecution is successful he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

#WeAreMillions features striking black and white images of supporters holding signs that express simply and clearly why they are standing up for Assange. The supporters are young and old, well-known and anonymous, and from all around the world.

In presenting these images, both in this book and in the exhibition that accompanies it, the creators aim to convey the breadth of recognition that Assange’s persecution represents a threat to journalistic freedom and whistle-blowing everywhere.

You can find out more about #We Are Millions at wearemillions.org

Proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to The Courage Foundation

Categories
Press Release

IN DEFENSE OF JULIAN ASSANGE

22. 09. 2020

A book talk and panel discussion with contributors to In Defense of Julian Assange, published by OR Books.

The charges Assange faces are a major threat to press freedom. James Goodale, who represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, commented: “The charge against Assange for ‘conspiring’ with a source is the most dangerous I can think of with respect to the First Amendment in all my years representing media organizations.”

It is critical now to build support for Assange and prevent his delivery into the hands of the Trump administration. That is the urgent purpose of In Defense of Julian Assange. In the wide range of distinguished contributors, many of them in original pieces, here set out the story of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the importance of their work, and the dangers for us all in the persecution they face. In Defense of Julian Assange is a vivid, vital intervention into one of the most important political issues of our day.

Join us for a critical discussion with contributors to this urgent publication: Margaret Kimberley, Nathan Fuller, and Renata Avila, moderated by journalist Anya Parampil.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 12: Prosecution attacks Assange’s autism spectrum diagnosis

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

Warning: this post discusses suicidal ideation. As mentioned yesterday, for Assange’s privacy we won’t report every detail of today’s testimony, dealing with Assange’s very personal private, social, and medical history.

Prosecution attacks Assange’s autism spectrum diagnosis

Dr. Quinton Deeley

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

Dr. Deeley explained that Assange had taken two ADOS tests leading to his diagnosis, and he observed “obsessive rumination” and “rigidity of thought”, typical ASD symptoms. In brief defense questioning, Dr. Deeley also spoke about the high rate of suicides in solitary confinement and the dangers of isolating Assange in both UK and US prisons.

The prosecution then spent nearly its entire cross-examination questioning this diagnosis, attacking Dr. Deeley’s findings and impartiality.

Prosecutor James Lewis suggested that the fact that Assange has hosted a televised interview show, written books and articles, and given speeches indicate his sociability and contradict the diagnosis of Asperger’s. Lewis even played a video of Assange speaking at the Frontline Club in 2010 by Skype, answering questions about WikiLeaks’ releases, redacting to protect informants, and partnering with fellow media organizations.

Dr. Deeley rejected the idea that these activities contradict a diagnosis at all. On the contrary, they show Assange in his comfort zone, he said, speaking at length on issues of which he has substantial interest and knowledge in a well-defined setting. In these interviews and Q&A sessions, Assange is an “expert on the material” and knows the expectations of format, so he doesn’t have to pay attention to social etiquette or make small talk.

Lewis said the fact that Assange has sole custody of a child was “inconsistent” with the diagnosis, suggesting that “no court” would give custody to someone who had “difficulty developing peer relationships.” He also said that those on the autism spectrum “lack empathy,” and his mother described him as an “extraordinarily selfless father”, suggesting these are “inconsistent” as well.

Dr. Deeley rejected this idea too, saying that those on the autism spectrum can be parents, and it isn’t unusual for them to be “dutiful, principled,” and moved by the idea of suffering in general.

Lewis questioned Dr. Deeley’s impartiality, asking if he was trying to “excuse” behavior or confirm a diagnosis. Dr. Deeley said he was giving a comprehensive summary, and that trying to drill down on one item of supportive evidence for the diagnosis misses the full picture. Lewis said that Dr. Deeley himself often looked at the ceiling when giving answers in court, rather than making eye contact, insinuating that eye contact isn’t relevant to a diagnosis and even saying “we all do that.” Dr. Deeley seemed taken aback, saying that he didn’t think he would score highly on an ADOS test (meaning he wouldn’t be found on the autism spectrum), that he was presenting to the defense, the judge, the prosecution; eye contact alone isn’t a definitive indicator.

On final defense re-examination, Dr. Deeley confirmed his corroboration of the diagnosis. “It is clear to my mind that Julian Assange is on the autistic spectrum,” he said.

Prosecution’s first witness, Seena Fazel

The prosecution called its first witness this afternoon, as scheduling issues disrupted the defense witness list which will continue tomorrow. The prosecution called Seena Fazel, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, who specializes in prison suicide. Fazel interviewed Assange this summer, notably after what doctors agree was his most severe period of depression at the end of 2019.

Fazel testified that he found Assange to be “moderately depressed,” but accepts that he was “severely depressed” in late 2019 and was treated with medication, and that Assange’s depression intensity is “episodic” and liable to fluctuate dependent on his circumstances. However, he said, he doesn’t find Assange’s mental capacity such that he is unable to manage his own suicidal risk.

Fazel agreed that Assange has “autistic-like traits” but that he would be in the milder end of the autism spectrum.

In defense cross-examination, Fazel conceded that he is not an expert in U.S. prisons, which have a 6-7 times larger inmate population. This means, the defense established, that he’s not aware of Alexandria Detention Center where Assange would be held in pre-trial confinement nor the full effect of Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), to which Assange would be subjected, nor is he aware of ADX Florence in Colorado, where Assange is likely to be sent post-trial if convicted, and where conditions under SAMs have been described by a former warden there as a “clean version of hell” and “unfit for human habitation.” U.S. prison experts will be called to testify about those facilities, likely later this week.

Discussing solitary confinement and lengthy prison sentences, Fazel said that “hopelessness is an important risk factor” for suicide, that Assange’s risk increases if he feels he has “bleak prospects.”

Prosecution questioning attempted to undermine the definition of solitary confinement and to paint a rosier view of Supermax imprisonment, as prosecutor James Lewis read off a long list of amenities allegedly offered at the federal facility in Colorado, such as “13-inch televisions” and “arts and crafts.” The defense noted that this description does not apply to housing unit H, where Assange would be held.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 11: Psychiatrist – High risk of suicide if Assange is extradited

September 22, 2020

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

Psychiatrist: High risk of suicide if Assange is extradited

Dr. Michael Kopelman

Dr. Michael Kopelman, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, took the stand today to testify about his visits with Julian Assange in prison and his medical evaluations. Out of respect for Julian’s privacy, we won’t share all details that were discussed in court but will summarize the most relevant portions. Most pertinently, Dr. Kopelman said that Assange, who has been diagnosed with clinical depression and Asperger’s syndrome, would be at a high risk of suicide if he were extradited to the United States.

Dr. Kopelman has observed in Julian “loss of sleep, loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness as a result of threats to his life, the concealment of a razor blade as a means to self-harm and obsessive ruminations on ways of killing himself.”

“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,” he wrote in written submissions to the court.

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.” Section 91 of the 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.”

Both section 91 and article 3 were cited in Lauri Love’s case, in which the high court ruled against extraditing Love, a U.K.-based computer science student who also has Asperger’s syndrome, to the United States over alleged computer crimes. That court ruled in Love’s favor on two grounds, the forum bar (meaning the U.S., instead of the U.K., was the wrong venue in which to try him) and the conditions he would face in a U.S. prison. “We come to the conclusion that Mr Love’s extradition would be oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition,” the court found.

The court specifically cited the lack of adequate mental health care in the U.S. prison system. “Suicide watch is not a form of treatment; there is no evidence that treatment would or could be made available on suicide watch for the very conditions which suicide watch itself exacerbates.”

Lauri Love spoke about his case and how it relates to Julian’s in our online panel, “What would Julian Assange face in the United States?” which also included Assange’s U.S. attorney Barry Pollack and CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, who discussed his imprisonment after being convicted under the Espionage Act.

Dr. Kopelman testified in Love’s case as well. In that case, he said today, he was given reassurances that U.S. prisons protect against suicide. But since then, he noted, Jeffrey Epstein has killed himself in prison, and Chelsea Manning has attempted suicide in the very facility where Assange would be held in pre-trial detention. “Those reassurances were not so reassuring,” he said.

“Isolation he would experience in North America would be far worse than anything experienced in embassy or Belmarsh”

But before getting to U.S. prison conditions, the defense is establishing Assange’s current mental state and medical evaluations. Dr. Kopelman testified about meeting with Assange on several occasions, finding that he has severe depression and he has been making end-of-life preparations.

Dr. Kopelman reviewed Assange’s personal, medical ,and family history as factors in his determination as well as observations he made in these visits. He also noted that renowned Autism expert Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen has found that suicide is nine times more likely in patients with Asperger’s syndrome.

Cross examining the doctor, prosecutor James Lewis attempted to undermine Dr. Kopelman’s expertise on the subject, suggesting that as a neuropsychiatrist he deals with the interaction between brain disease and mental health and therefore isn’t sufficiently qualified to comment on this case. Insulted, Dr. Kopelman said he is not “just” a neuropsychiatrist, and actually, Lewis himself has requested Dr. Kopelman’s psychiatric services for a different case, “so it’s a bit rich” for Lewis to question his qualifications.

Lewis then suggested that Dr. Kopelman is “more of an advocate than a psychiatrist” to which Dr. Kopelman replied that he would like to respond to that with an “unparliamentary word.”

Lewis also tried repeatedly to insinuate that Assange is “malingering” or exaggerating his symptoms to induce a diagnosis and avoid extradition. Dr. Kopelman said he was well aware of this possibility and knows to look out for signs of this, which he didn’t find.

Lewis then argued that Julian’s comments in court, including his response to whether he agreed to be extradited (“No”) and his comments from the dock amid witness testimony, indicate his ability to follow the proceedings and therefore indicate that he doesn’t suffer from serious depression (earlier he tried to establish with Dr. Kopelman that severe depression means an inability to function in work and social activities).

Dr. Kopelman reiterated that he primarily evaluated Assange from May-December of 2019, as well as a visit this spring, but he doesn’t find these comments to preclude a diagnosis of severe depression. If anything, he said, these comments in the middle of court proceedings appear to Dr. Kopelman as evidence toward the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 10: Christian Grothoff – WikiLeaks did not publish unredacted cables first; Cassandra Fairbanks: High-level plan to revoke Assange’s asylum

SEPTEMBER 21, 2020

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

Christian Grothoff: WikiLeaks did not publish unredacted cables first

Christian Grothoff

The first witness this week was German computer science professor Christian Grothoff, who testified about his research into the timeline of events surrounding the 2011 publication of the unredacted State Department cables. Three of the 18 counts against Assange charge him specifically for publishing the unredacted cables, and Grothoff’s testimony establishes that WikiLeaks was not the first outlet to publish that archive, that others published it first and have not been prosecuted for doing so, and that WikiLeaks took care to encrypt the file but actions outside of Assange’s control led to its release.

Grothoff went through the timeline in his statement and on the stand. In the summer of 2010, WikiLeaks shared the diplomatic cables with The Guardian journalist David Leigh via an encrypted file on a temporary website along with a strong passphrase to decrypt it. Assange had written just part of the passphrase down on paper.

WikiLeaks and its media partners began publishing the redacted cables in November 2010, in the release known as Cablegate. WikiLeaks was then subject to Distributed Denial of Server attacks which took the site down or made it very difficult to access, so it encouraged supporters to create mirrors of the site, replications of site data on different servers, and hundreds of people did so.

In February 2011, Leigh and fellow Guardian reporter Luke Harding published a book on working with WikiLeaks and Assange in which one chapter title was the full passphrase which could be used to decrypt the file containing the set of unredacted cables.

On August 25, 2011, German weekly Der Freitag published an article explaining that the password Leigh and Harding revealed could be paid with an encrypted file to find the documents — the article doesn’t say exactly what the password is or where exactly the file could be found, but it provided enough clues that sufficiently tech-savvy readers could figure it out. Der Speigel then confirmed the story, and on August 31, Nigel Parry published, ‘Guardian Investigative Editor David Leigh publishes top secret Cablegate password revealing names of U.S. collaborators and informants… in his book’, in which he says exactly what the passphrase was. 

When WikiLeaks discovered that this information was public, Assange and fellow WikiLeaks staff member Sarah Harrison called the State Department to warn them that the cables were online unredacted — those warnings were ignored.

Cryptome, a US-based leak site well-known in the tech community, published a file containing the full unredacted cables — Cryptome has never been prosecuted for publishing that file. Later that day, WikiLeaks posted an editorial, ‘Guardian journalist negligently disclosed Cablegate passwords.’, and on September 2nd WikiLeaks published the unredacted cables.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote that day,

“Once WikiLeaks realized what had happened, they notified the State Department, but faced a quandary: virtually every government’s intelligence agencies would have had access to these documents as a result of these events, but the rest of the world — including journalists, whistleblowers and activists identified in the documents — did not.  At that point, WikiLeaks decided — quite reasonably — that the best and safest course was to release all the cables in full, so that not only the world’s intelligence agencies but everyone had them, so that steps could be taken to protect the sources and so that the information in them was equally available.”

On cross-examination, the prosecution attempted to suggest that WikiLeaks shared the full archive with all 50 media partners that it worked with on Cablegate, but Grothoff said there is no evidence for that, and he suggested the prosecution “didn’t do [their] homework” as far as the chronology of publication. He pointed to David Leigh’s book, in which it’s clear that Assange was “reluctant” to hand over the unredacted archive to The Guardian. Leigh had to repeatedly badger Assange for the full archive and initially Assange suggested giving only half of the dataset. Other media partners were only given subsets of the data, relevant to their experience or geographical region.

Cassandra Fairbanks: High-level plan to revoke Assange’s asylum

Cassandra Fairbanks

This afternoon, the defense read a witness statement from Cassandra Fairbanks, a DC-based journalist who supports both President Trump and Julian Assange. In 2018-19, Fairbanks was in a Direct Message group on Twitter which included “multiple people who either worked for President Trump or were close to him”, such as German Ambassador Richard Grenell, and Arthur Schwartz, “a wealthy GOP donor who does communications for the Ambassador and works as an informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr.”

On October 30, 2018, Fairbanks posted an interview with Assange’s mother in the group chat, “hoping that someone would see it and be moved to help.” Schwartz, “outraged,” called her shortly after and “repeatedly insisted that I stop advocating for WikiLeaks and Assange, telling me that “a pardon isn’t going to fucking happen.”

“He knew very specific details about a future prosecution against Assange that were later made public and that only those very close to the situation then would have been aware of. He told me that it would be the ‘Manning’ case that he would be charged with and that it would not involve the Vault 7 publication or anything to do with the DNC. He also told me that they would be going after Chelsea Manning. I also recollect being told, I believe, that it would not be before Christmas. Both of these predictions came true just months later.”

Grenell brokers deal to evict and arrest Assange

Schwartz also knew in advance of plans to revoke Assange’s political asylum granted by Ecuador:

“He also told me that the US government would be going into the Embassy to get Assange. I responded that entering the embassy of a sovereign nation and kidnapping a political refugee would be an act of war, and he responded ‘not if they let us.’

I did not know at the time that Ambassador Grenell himself had that very month, October 2018, worked out a deal for Assange’s arrest with the Ecuadorian government.”

Fairbanks began to cry on the phone with Schwartz, which led to him “softening his tone and saying that Assange would ‘probably’ only serve life in prison.”

In January 2019, Fairbanks visited Assange in the Embassy and

“informed him of everything I had been told. I know that he was concerned about being overheard or spied on and he had a little radio to cover up the conversation. I had also met with Chelsea Manning in person and told her that I feared that they might come after her again.”

Two months later, in March 2019, she visited Assange again, but she said, “This visit was very different. I was shocked at the way in which both Assange and I were treated.” Fairbanks was “locked in a cold meeting room for an hour while Embassy staff demanded Assange be subjected to a full body scan with a metal detector before allowing him in the room.”

“I considered at the time ‘it seemed our government was getting what they wanted from Ecuador, as a former senior State Department official told Buzzfeed in January “As far as we’re concerned, he’s in jail”’. I noted ‘[i]n an interview with El Pais in July, President Moreno also said his “ideal solution” is that Assange may “enjoy” being ‘extradited’ if the UK promises that the US will not kill him.”

Fairbanks then messaged Schwartz, asking what he knew about the rumors that Assange may be evicted, and Schwartz called her and made clear that “knew I had told Assange what he had told me.” This appears to be corroborating evidence that Assange’s private conversations in the embassy were surveilled and that recordings were sent back to the U.S.

Assange was evicted from the embassy and arrested on April 11, 2019. Four days later, ABC News reported, ‘US gave verbal pledge of no death penalty for Assange: Sources’

The process of moving Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy started a year ago, on March 7, 2018, when the Ecuadorians made their first request to the U.K.: a letter asking for written assurances that the U.K. would not extradite Assange to a country where he could face the death penalty, according to the Ecuadorian Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo.

Ecuador’s direct outreach to the U.S. came six months later, through the country’s ambassador to Germany, Manuel Mejia Dalmau, according to U.S. and Ecuadorian officials. Dalmau sought a private “emergency meeting” in Berlin with the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, viewed as one of President Donald Trump’s closest envoys in Europe, the officials said.


During one meeting, Dalmau asked whether the U.S. would commit to not putting Assange to death, according to a senior US. official.

Grenell then contacted the U.S Justice Department to see if he could provide assurances that the U.S. government would not seek the death penalty. According to the senior U.S. official, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein consented. That enabled Grenell to make the pledge. The agreement between the U.S. and Ecuador was a verbal one, according to a source in the Ecuadoran government.

Direct “orders from the President”

Finally, Fairbanks said,

Schwartz informed me that in coordinating for Assange to be removed from the Embassy, Ambassador Grenell had done so on direct “orders from the President”. I believed this connected President Trump to those who have been reported as having secured the deal to arrest Assange. I believed Schwartz’s statement to be correct because his close personal ties to both President Trump and Grenell are well-known.

The other persons who Schwartz said might also be affected included individuals who he described as “lifelong friends”. Arthur Schwartz is very well known and is publicly reported to be a right hand man or “fixer” for Donald Trump Junior and part of a circle extremely close to the White House which includes Richard Grenell, Sheldon Adelson and others. I am aware that Schwartz has frequented the White House all the time (his presence is recorded on many videos there) and is extremely close to the inner circle of people who are very close to the President.

In May 2020, The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal reported “new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange.”

Following Assange’s imprisonment, several disgruntled former employees eventually approached Assange’s legal team to inform them about the misconduct and arguably illegal activity they participated in at UC Global. One former business partner said they came forward after realizing that “David Morales decided to sell all the information to the enemy, the US.” A criminal complaint was submitted in a Spanish court and a secret operation that resulted in the arrest of Morales was set into motion by the judge.

Throughout the black operations campaign, US intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson’s hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.

Court resumes tomorrow morning, 10:00am London time.

Categories
Press Release

161 former heads of state, prime ministers, and ministers demand Assange’s freedom

London: September 21 2020

A remarkable international letter from 161 heads of state and former heads of state, and a raft of politicians and lawyers, has been released in support of Julian Assange. The letter argues that Julian Assange should not be prosecuted for his political opinions or his actions as a journalist and publisher.

The signatories include José Luis Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain (2004- 2011), Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina (2019-) , Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil (2011-2016), Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia (2006-2019), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil (2003 -2010), and Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador (2007 – 2017).

The former Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, said, ‘Assange needs to be defended by all of us who love democracy, who love freedom of the press, freedom of trade unions, who love freedom of organisation.’

The signatories are supporting a statement by lawyers which challenges the legality of the Trump administration’s prosecution, in particular the extension of the reach of the US legal system beyond its own territory.

Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister has also long condemned the prosecution: ‘If their case is essentially that Mr Assange broke the law by obtaining and disclosing secret information, then I struggle to see what separates him from any journalist who solicits, obtains and publishes such information. This includes the editors of the many American media outlets that reported the material…why should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly release the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?’

The letter comes as the recommenced Assange extradition hearing enters its third week at the Old Bailey.

The full letter is available here: https://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/open-letter.html

Background

The remaining three weeks of the Julian Assange extradition hearing began on 7 September 2020 at the Old Bailey will last for at least two more weeks.

Julian Assange is charged by the US administration for publications exposing war crimes and human rights abuses for which he faces a 175 years sentence.

Julian Assange’s lawyers have experienced a considerable difficulty communicating with their client. Speaking at a recent hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said ‘We’ve had great difficulties in getting into Belmarsh to take instructions from Mr Assange and to discuss the evidence with him.’ Mr Fitzgerald continued: ‘We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr Assange and to take his instruction.’

The UN working group on arbitrary detention issued a statement saying that “the right of Mr. Assange to personal liberty should be restored”.

Massimo Moratti of Amnesty International has publicly stated on their website that, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”

Human Rights Watch published an article saying, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”

The NUJ has stated “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 9: Nicky Hager – Assange’s redactions protected informants; Jennifer Robinson – Trump offered pardon for Assange in exchange for sources; Khaled el-Masri, kidnapped and tortured by the CIA

SEPTEMBER 18, 2020

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

Nicky Hager: Assange’s redactions protected informants

Nicky Hager

New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager took to stand to testify about using WikiLeaks documents in his work. Hager published Other People’s Wars, New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror, and said that WikiLeaks-released military and diplomatic files “greatly increased my understanding of the conduct of the war. It would have been impossible to write the book without these confidential and leaked sources.”

In his written testimony, Hager explained,

“It is in general impossible to research and write about war to a useful standard without access to sources that the authorities concerned regard as sensitive and out of bounds — and all the more so with the subject of war crimes.”

“In the case of war, information which is classified is essential to allow journalism to perform its roles of informing the public, enabling democratic decision making and deterring wrongdoing.”

Further commenting on the importance of WikiLeaks’ releases specifically, Hager compared the publication of the Collateral Murder video, in which U.S. gunmen can be heard saying “Look at those dead bastards”, to  the video of the police killing George Floyd and his words “I can’t breathe” for their contribution to “world opinion about the misuse of state power.”

Hager worked with WikiLeaks to report on the State Department cables, and he was called to testify about WikiLeaks’ redaction process. One of his jobs was to “identify any [cables] that should not be released for reasons such as personal safety of the named people.” Hager said he found WikiLeaks staff “to be engaged in a careful and responsible process.”

On Assange specifically, Hager said that he spent a lot of time with Julian, and “The person I got to know was very different from the image portrayed in the US media.”

During cross-examination, the prosecution sought Hager’s opinion on the release of the unredacted embassy cables in 2011. Hager said, “My understanding is that the information came out before Wikileaks made that decision,” referring to the fact that cables were published on Cryptome and had already been mirrored on several other websites beforehand. “WikiLeaks made strenuous efforts to keep it secret, and it was released elsewhere first.”

Pressed further about the releases, Hager said that he was “glad that the redacted cables were out so long, that there was a 9-month period to warn any informants who could’ve been named.” Because WikiLeaks had first published redacted cables beginning in late 2010, the U.S. government was on notice as to whom it should alert. Although the cables were ultimately published without redactions, that lead time, Hager said, is probably why there were no deaths as a result of WikiLeaks’ releases.

Jennifer Robinson: Trump offered pardon for Assange in exchange for sources

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

The defense then read a statement from Jennifer Robison, a barrister in London who has advised Assange since 2010.

Robinson’s testimony recounted a meeting she observed between U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Congressman Rohrabacher made clear that he had come to the embassy on behalf of President Trump and they would “have an audience” with Trump upon their return to Washington D.C.

Rohrabachr explained that he wanted “to resolve the ongoing speculation about Russian involvement” in WikiLeaks’ publication of the Democratic National Committee leaks in 2016.

He said ongoing speculation was “damaging to US-Russian relations, that it was reviving old Cold War politics, and that it would be in the best interests of the US if the matter could be resolved.”  Rohrabacher explained that information from Assange about the source of the DNC leaks would be of “interest, value and assistance to President.”

Rohrabacher proposed that Assange identify the source for the 2016 election publications “in return for some form of pardon, assurance or agreement which would both benefit President Trump politically and prevent US indictment and extradition.”

Assange did not provide any source information to Rohrabacher, and instead Assange and Robinson urged the Congressman to raise the First Amendment implications of any U.S. indictment with President Trump.

The defense revealed this pardon offer to demonstrate the politicized nature of Assange’s prosecution. The fact that it could be dropped if Assange provided source information, and the fact that it was brought after Assange declined to provide that information, belies claims of a desire to simply prosecute a crime.

Khaled el-Masri, kidnapped and tortured by the CIA

Khaled el-Masri (click for source)

The defense then summarized a statement from Khaled el-Masri. As John Goetz outlined in his testimony on Wednesday, el-Masri was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. El-Masri’s statement has been the subject of contention, because the prosecution (operating on instruction from the U.S. government) objected to admitting the statement as evidence.

Amid debate over whether to hear from el-Masri live by video or to read his statement aloud, the prosecution said, “We see no utility whatsoever in having Mr. el-Masri in court.” Julian spoke up from the dock: “I will not censor a torture victim’s statement to this court,” he said. “I will not accept that.”

The prosecution ultimately agreed to allow the “gist” of the summary to be read as long as it was understood that the prosecution does not stipulate that el-Masri was tortured by the U.S. government.

An innocent German citizen, el-Masri was rendered to a CIA black site, where he was sodomized, force-fed through a tube through his nose, and subjected to total sensory deprivation. You can read his harrowing statement here.

The German state prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for the 13 CIA agents responsible. As Goetz explained, WikiLeaks documents revealed that the U.S. had pressured the German prosecutor to issue the warrant in a jurisdiction where the perpetrators didn’t live, threatening “repercussions” otherwise.

A court ruled his detention and rendition were unjustified, but there has been no justice for the U.S., he said. El-Masri cited U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo threatening the family members of any International Criminal Court officials who cooperate with an investigation into U.S. crimes.

Carey Shenkman: Espionage Act instills a “chilling effect”

Carey Shenkman

Following el-Masri’s statement, historian and attorney Carey Shenkman continued his testimony on the historical applications of the Espionage Act.

Shenkman and prosecutor Clair Dobbin continued a lengthy exchange about case law on the Espionage Act. Dobbin read through several rulings on Espionage Act cases, arguing that the Act allows for prosecution of journalists, that it has been refined by judicial interpretation, and that challenges to its “overbreadth” have been tried and failed.

But Shenkman explained that these cases have dealt with government insiders, not members of the media, so the language used in those cases doesn’t necessarily apply here.

He said here’s dispute in the scholarship as to whether these judicial interpretations could be called refinement. In fact “if anything,” he said, “some of these terms have been broadened,” such as the fact that “national defense information” doesn’t just mean classified information but instead includes anything the government considers sensitive.

The prosecution attempted to argue that the use of the Espionage Act has historically demonstrated “restraint” on the part of the government, but Shenkman said he doesn’t think any scholar on the issue would agree.

Shenkman explained that simply bringing forward an indictment under the Espionage Act against a journalist, even if the prosecution isn’t successful, combined with the law’s “breadth and overuse,” instills a “significant chilling effect” throughout the media. The effect pervades beyond journalists too, he noted, because the law is written so broadly that it could be used against anyone who even reads or retweets national defense information.

On the common threads running through all attempts to bring prosecution under the against the media, Shenkman said that in all cases, the journalists accused don’t support the administration’s policies, are revealing misconduct, or are revealing information contrary to what the administration is revealing.

Reuters journalist Dean Yates: Assange told us what US wouldn’t

Dean Yates (click for source)

Finally, the defense read portions of a witness statement from Dean Yates, who was the Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters at the time of the incidents depicted in Collateral Murder. In the video, taken in July 2007, U.S. gunmen shoot and kill two Reuters journalists, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, among other civilians.

Yates recounted his efforts to find out what happened that day and the U.S. efforts to stonewall him, including rejecting a Freedom of Information Act request for the video. The military showed him part of the video but not the whole thing. He explained that Assange’s release of the video, along with the Rules of Engagement accompanying it, proved that the U.S. had lied to him.

“When I had first been shown a part of the video in 2007 by the US military it had been burnt into my mind that the reason the helicopter opened fire was because Namir was peering the corner. I came to blame Namir, thinking that the helicopter fired because he had made himself look suspicious and it just erased from my memory the fact that the order to open fire had already been given. the one person who picked this up was Assange. On the day he released the tapes he said the helicopter opened fire because it sought permission and was given permission. He said something like, ‘If that’s based on the rules of engagement then the rules of engagement are wrong.’”

Yates said he found it “impossible to grapple with the moral injury” of unfairly blaming Namir.

“I was devastated at having failed to protect my staff by uncovering the Rules of Engagement in the US military before they were shot — and for not disclosing earlier my understanding of the extent to which the US had lied. I was profoundly affected.”

The U.S. government knows how powerful the video is too, Yates said.

“The US knows how devastating Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military — they are fully aware that experts believe the shooting of the van was a potential war crime. They know that the banter between the pilots echoed the language that kids would use on video games.”

On the importance of the release, to the victims and to the rest of the world, Yates said,

“I know Namir and Saeed would have remained forgotten statistics in a war that killed countless human beings, possibly hundreds of thousands of civilians. Had it not been for Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange the truth of what happened to Namir and Saeed, the truth of what happened on that street in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, would not have been brought to the world. What Assange did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq in fact was and how the US military behaved and lied. The video was picked up by thousands of news organizations worldwide, sparking global outrage and condemnation of US military tactics in Iraq.”

The hearings resume on Monday.

Categories
Press Release

Vietnam war leaker Daniel Ellsberg warns against extraditing Julian Assange

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 8: WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs exposed 15,000 civilian casualties; Carey Shenkman – “Highly politicized prosecution”

SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

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

WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs exposed 15,000 civilian casualties

WikiLeaks’ Iraq War Logs

John Sloboda, co-founder of Iraq Body Count, an independent NGO devoted to continuously counting killings civilians in Iraq, testified today about working with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks on the Iraq War Logs, released in October of 2010.

Sloboda started Iraq Body Count to give “dignity to the memory of those killed”,” because knowing how loved ones die is a “fundamental human need,” and to aid in “processes of truth, justice, and reconciliation.”

The Iraq War Logs, a compendium of 400,000 Significant Activity reports filed by the U.S. Army, constituted “the single largest contribution to public knowledge about civilian casualties in Iraq”, Sloboda testified. The logs revealed an estimated 15,000 previously unknown deaths.

Most of these deaths were the results of small incidents, meaning 1-3 deaths at a time, “the kinds of incidents that attract the least reporting” he said in his statement.

Redaction process

Iraq Body Count + WikiLeaks releases (click for source)

WikiLeaks invited Iraq Body Count to join the media partners and given pre-publication access to the material. Assange imposed a “very stringent redaction process” in order to protect named sources from potential harm. Sloboda explained that because the necessary redactions would have taken a team of hundreds to do this manually, an automated process was developed to scan the files and redact every word that wasn’t in a standard English dictionary, to automatically remove any names. Then the files were scanned to remove occupations, like “doctor” or “driver”, so as to further protect identities.

Redacting the logs took “weeks”, Sloboda said, calling it a “painstaking process.”

The other journalists in the partnership wanted to hurry to publication. “There was considerable pressure on Wikileaks because the partners wanted to publish faster,” Sloboda said, but WikiLeaks continuously rejected this pressure, insisting that redactions must take place. Some media partners had redacted a small number of documents by hand and wanted to publish those first, but “Assange and WikiLeaks wanted the entire database to be released together.”

Many people who used the war logs would agree they were over-redacted, Sloboda said, but the agreed stance was to be overcautious first and then to take a closer look afterward, to possibly unredact something if it was agreed it could be revealed.

On the importance of the releases, Sloboda writes in his witness statement that 10 years on, the Iraq War Logs “remain the only source of information regarding many thousands of violent civilian deaths in Iraq between 2004 and 2009,” and it is Iraq Body Count’s position that “civilian casualty data should always be made public.” While the U.S. government often claims that the disclosure could have endangered Iraqi or U.S. lives, it “has never been able to demonstrate that a single individual has been significantly harmed by the release of these data. This is not least because the War Logs were highly redacted prior to their release by Wikileaks.”

“It could well be argued, therefore, that by making this information public Manning and Assange were carrying out a duty on behalf of the victims and the public at large that the US government was failing to carry out.”

Carey Shenkman: Espionage Act is an “extraordinarily broad” political offense

Carey Shenkman

The defense then called Carey Shenkman, an American human rights attorney and constitutional historian who is writing a book on historical analyses of the Espionage Act, to testify by video link from the United States. Shenkman has worked for the late Michael Ratner, President Emeritus at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which advised Assange and WikiLeaks prior to Ratner’s passing.

Shenkman’s witness statement gives a history of the use of the Espionage Act, created in 1917 under President Woodrow Wilson, in what Shenkman refers to as “one of the most politically repressive [periods] in the nation’s history.” The act was used against a range of dissidents, and Shenkman says he provides this history to show how widely it can be used and to show that the act is “extraordinarily broad” and one of the U.S.’s most divisive laws.

Shenkman explained two key points about the law: first, it is written to criminalize the disclosure of not sure “national security information” but all “national defense” information, which means it encompasses even information that isn’t classified, and second, the act does not include a “public interest” defense, meaning defendants can’t argue that disclosures were made to benefit the public.

In 2015, Shenkman wrote about the use of the act against whistleblowers in an article for the Huffington Post, ‘Whistleblowers Have a Human Right to a Public Interest Defense, And Hacktivists Do, Too.”

“Not a single one of those prosecuted has been allowed to argue that their actions served the public good…Whistleblowers cannot argue that their actions had positive effects, known as a “public interest defense.” The United States treats disclosures to the press as acts of spying — no matter what good they lead to.”

Also in 2015, Shenkman and Ratner wrote, ‘CCR to UN: Whistleblower Protections Must Include Publishers Like WikiLeaks and Julian Assange’

“the ultimate effect of prosecuting and censoring publishers is the unacceptable chilling on the free flow of information, rights to access information, and freedom of expression.”

Because of just how controversial the Espionage Act is, Shenkman testified, there has never been a prosecution like the one against Assange.

“There has never, in the century-long history of the Espionage Act, been an indictment of a U.S. publisher under the law for the publication of secrets. Accordingly, there has never been an extraterritorial indictment of a non-U.S. publisher under the Act.”

Therefore, Shenkman told the court, journalists have generally felt comfortable that their activity was protected. This changed briefly in 2010, when the Obama administration began using the Espionage Act against sources and even named journalist James Rosen as an unindicted co-conspirator in an Espionage Act case, and fellow reporters began to get nervous. But Shenkman says, that anxiety was dialed back when then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced, upon his resignation in 2014, that naming Rosen as a co-conspirator in that case was his greatest regret in office.

But the Trump administration’s escalation from prosecuting the sources to prosecuting the publisher has signaled a major shift that carries a widespread chilling effect. Shenkman writes:

“What is now concluded, by journalists and publishers generally, is that any journalist in any country on earth—in fact any person—who conveys secrets that do not conform to the policy positions of the U.S. administration can be shown now to be liable to being charged under the Espionage Act of 1917.”

“Highly politicized prosecution”

On cross-examination, prosecutor Clair Dobbin attempted to get Shenkman to concede that in 2015, he felt that the U.S. still may bring charges against Julian Assange. This is part of the prosecution’s effort with most witnesses to attempt to undermine the 2013 Washington Post article reporting that the Obama Administration would not be bringing Espionage Act charges against Assange. This is a key factor in the extradition proceedings, because the US-UK Extradition Treaty bars extradition for “political offenses”, and a clear decision not to prosecute by one administration followed by a 180º shift to a decision to prosecute by the following administration would appear plainly politicized.

Shenkman testified that he took the 2013 article at face value, that he believed the Obama DOJ had decided not to prosecute. Asked about the investigation into WikiLeaks continuing across administrations, Shenkman said, “oftentimes these things are left to simmer, but ultimately an indictment wasn’t brought.” Furthermore, he argued, if Obama and Holder truly wanted to prosecute, wouldn’t they have been eager to do so? Wouldn’t Obama have wanted to write in his memoirs that he was the one to prosecute WikiLeaks?

Asked again about the ongoing investigation, Shenkman said, “Using the Espionage Act like this is extremely contentious,” something he thought would be an apt assignment for law school students to debate and explore because it’s so contentious.

“I’ve never thought we would see something like [this indictment], he said, adding that most legal scholars agree that this use of the Espionage Act is “truly extraordinary.” Furthermore, he said, the way the charges are framed and the timing of the indictment “really point to a highly politicized prosecution.” He began to comment on the politicized nature of the way the 3 “pure publication” charges are written, but the prosecution stopped him, saying they’d go through the indictment later.

In a long back-and-forth, the prosecution attempted to get Shenkman to comment on agreed legal principles in the U.S. Shenkman repeatedly explained that these are contentious issues dependent on the circumstances.

“Do you agree that a government employee who steals national security or national defense information is not entitled to use the First Amendment as a shield?” Dobbins asked.

“It’s a highly fact-specific inquiry,” Shenkman said, and it “depends on what you mean by ‘steal.” For example, Shenkman noted that the 9th circuit appeals court recently ruled on Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures, and “they credited Mr Snowden with those disclosures even though he was a government employee accused of stealing these things.”

Shenkman and Dobbin had a similar disagreement over the use of “hacking” — asked, “Are you saying that hacking government databases is protected under the First Amendment?”, Shenkman said he’d have to ask what she means by “hacking”, because the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act doesn’t actually use the term, instead it deals with “exceeding unauthorized access.”

Phrases like “crack a password” and “hack a computer” sound “scary”, Shenkman said, but there are many nuances and interpretations to consider. “So yes I think there are ways the First Amendment could be relevant.”

Failing to get a yes or no answer, Dobbin asked, so shouldn’t these matters be decided in a U.S. court?

Shenkman responded, “No,” saying that his testimony was about the application of the Espionage Act, and whether the way they are written in the indictment against Assange is “political.”

It became clear we would need more than another hour for Shenkman’s cross-examination and closing questions by the defense, so court was adjourned for the day, and Shenkman will return to the stand tomorrow afternoon.

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 7: John Goetz – WikiLeaks docs confirm CIA torture & escaping accountability; Daniel Ellsberg – WikiLeaks did not cause harm

SEPTEMBER 16, 2020

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

John Goetz on WikiLeaks’ “very rigorous redaction process”

Journalist John Goetz

American journalist John Goetz, who has worked in Germany for the last 30 years, testified today about his experiences as a media partner on WikiLeaks’ releases in 2010. Working for Der Spiegel, Goetz had already been reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan when he joined the partnership to report the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, and the State Department cables.

WikiLeaks’ Harm-Minimization Withheld 15,000 documents

Goetz was involved in early discussions and testified that Wikileaks spearheaded a “very rigorous redaction process,” beginning with the Afghanistan files. He said Assange himself was “very concerned with the technical aspect of trying to find the names in this massive collection of documents” so that “we could redact them, so they wouldn’t be published, so they wouldn’t be harmed.” He testified that Assange continually reminded the media partners to use secure communications, encrypted phones and apps, and while he seemed paranoid at the time, this is now standard journalistic practice.

Goetz also testified about WikiLeaks and the media partners’ conversations with the U.S. government ahead of publication. At one point the partners were on a conference call with the State Department in which U.S. officials would provide numbers of documents that they especially didn’t want published. They didn’t give specific names to redact but rather were indicating politically sensitive areas — when they realized that they were just calling attention to stories the journalists would be interested, they stopped.

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

As Goetz testified, Der Spiegel interviewed Assange in 2010 about his harm-minimization process

Assange: The Kabul files contain no information related to current troop movements. The source went through their own harm-minimization process and instructed us to conduct our usual review to make sure there was not a significant chance of innocents being negatively affected. We understand the importance of protecting confidential sources, and we understand why it is important to protect certain US and ISAF sources.

SPIEGEL: So what, specifically, did you do to minimize any possible harm?

Assange: We identified cases where there may be a reasonable chance of harm occurring to the innocent. Those records were identified and edited accordingly.

Iraq War Logs: WikiLeaks redacted more than the U.S. gov’t

Though he personally wasn’t as involved in later releases, Goetz testified that with future releases, WikiLeaks’ harm-minimization process developed over time, and he said that the organization “overshot” with the Iraq War Logs, and “ended up redacting more than the Defense Department did. Some of the files had been declassified and released under FOIA requests, so one could compare redactions and see that WikiLeaks had concealed more names than the U.S. government had.

WikiLeaks docs confirm CIA torture & escaping accountability

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

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

Following Goetz’s testimony, the defense wanted to read a statement from Khalid el-Masri himself into the court record. The prosecution objected, suggesting that el-Masri isn’t in the charges against Assange and therefore is irrelevant and shouldn’t be considered admissible. While still objecting, prosecutor James Lewis said the defense could read the statement “if it wants to waste half an hour of the court’s time.” The judge warned  Lewis that the way he was objecting, he was going “down a risky path” that could involve accepting the defense’s evidence “unchallenged.”

The remote press video went down at this time, but journalists inside the court reported that discussion of el-Masri’s statement continued, with the government objecting because it didn’t want to imply that allowing his evidence to be read that the prosecution would stipulate that el-Masri was tortured by the U.S. government. The statement wasn’t read aloud and it appears the matter is yet to be resolved.

  • See this BoingBoing video from 2010 on ‘WikiLeaks and the el-Masri case’ in which el-Masri relates his experiences: “El-Masri’s futile efforts at receiving justice in the U.S. are well-known, but cables recently leaked by Wikileaks reveal that the U.S. also warned German authorities not to allow a local investigation into his kidnapping.”
  • Also see ‘El-Masri v. Macedonia‘, ‘Extraordinary Renditions: The Right to the Truth.’

Unredacted Cables Falsely Blamed on WikiLeaks

A central argument in the U.S. government’s case is that WikiLeaks published documents which, the government alleged, it knew would cause harm. Time and again the prosecution alerts witnesses to the fact that Assange is only charged with publishing on the internet the unredacted cables containing the names of sources who could have been harmed. The claim is misleading about the charges and was contradicted by both witnesses today.

While the three “pure publication” counts do indeed deal with the 2011 publication of unredacted cables, the 15 other charges, which charge Assange with “soliciting” “obtaining” and “receiving” the documents, deal with the full datasets of Iraq and Afghan war logs, the State Department cables, and the Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs. The charges work in unison, relying on each other, and so the full set of documents must be discussed together. Furthermore, all of the documents — and any conduct that the judge deems relevant even if not in the charges — would be considered at sentencing, where the court considers factors to be mitigating or aggravating.

But even on the facts of it, today’s witnesses strongly disputed the government’s claims. Asked about the 2011 publication of unredacted cables, John Goetz explained what really happened: in February 2011, Guardian reporters David Leigh and Luke Harding published a book with a password to the unencrypted file set as the title of a chapter. German magazine Die Freitag published this information, which allowed eagle-eyed observers to use that password to unlock the files and publish them online in full. Most notably, they were released on Cryptome, a “rival leak site” as described by the government, but they were also mirrored on several other sites, so they could not be taken down and they were out of WikiLeaks’ hands.

Assange and other WikiLeaks staff called the State Department’s emergency phone line at the time (as you can see in this video clip) warning that sources had been named, but they were ignored.

The prosecution pointed to a Guardian article from September 2011, in which the media partners condemn WikiLeaks’ release of the unredacted cables (though they concede in the article that the material was first published by Cryptome). Goetz testified, however, that the media partners did not know the true chain of events at this time, it was only later put together that the password in Leigh and Harding’s book was to blame for the material being released.

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

Daniel Ellsberg: “I totally disagree with the ‘good Ellsberg / bad Assange’ theory”

Next the defense called Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to testify about Assange’s motivations, Ellsberg’s own experience being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, and his view on the unredacted publication of State Department cables.

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

“My own actions in relation to the Pentagon Papers and the consequences of their publication have been acknowledged to have performed such a radical change of understanding. I view the WikiLeaks publications of 2010 and 2011 to be of comparable importance.”

In court, Ellsberg testified about Julian Assange’s political opinions, his opposition to war and believe that justice is brought about by transparency and accountability. He and Assange both felt that both the Afghan and Iraq wars were wrong and that it was “clear even to the layman” that the Iraq war was a “crime.” an “aggressive war” as defined by the United Nations. He compared the war in Afghanistan to the war in Vietnam, the former a “rerun” of the latter, as perpetrators of both knew that they could only result in a seemingly endless “stalemate.”

What had changed, Ellsberg said, was that in Afghanistan (and in Iraq), horrific abuses, illegal killings and war crimes had become normalized, so much so that they appeared in “low-level field reports.” The Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs are marked up to Secret, whereas the Pentagon Papers were all Top Secret. Ellsberg said he “would’ve been astonished to see similar reports in Vietnam” in low-level classification. They are now so routine, he said, that they appear in the leaked logs as just the normal course of war.

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

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

Ellsberg spoke of the decision to leak them:

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

Ellsberg and the Espionage Act

Asked if he was able to explain his own motivations when he was charged under the Espionage Act by the Nixon administration, Ellsberg said,

“No, absolutely not…I had withheld, in the nearly 2 years between the revelations and their release, discussion as to what led me to do that in the hopes that I could testify under oath, with sufficient solemnity and credibility.”

But at his 1973 trial, when his lawyer asked Ellsberg on the stand to explain his motivation, the government objected that the question was irrelevant, and the judge agreed. This established the Espionage Act as a “strict liability offense,” with every prosecution under the law in the years since handled in the same way.

“The Espionage Act does not allow for whistleblowing, to allow you to say you were informing the polity. So I did not have a fair trial, no one since me had a fair trial on these charges, and Julian Assange cannot remotely get a fair trial under those charges if he were tried.”

False Dichotomy

On cross-examination, the prosecution attempted to draw out a distinction between Ellsberg and Assange by citing Floyd Abrams, who along with James Goodale argued for the New York Times’ right to publish the Pentagon Papers, as Abrams has written that he believes WikiLeaks is different from the Ellsberg’s release. But Ellsberg said Abrams “doesn’t understand my motives or Julian’s” since he didn’t actually read through all the Pentagon Papers and didn’t discuss Ellsberg’s motivations with him.

Ellsberg added that this false dichotomy isn’t limited to Abrams. “And I’d say people who criticize Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, they don’t want to criticize me — it is entirely misleading,” he said.

Ellsberg said at the time of his releases, he was harshly criticized, the way Snowden and Manning and Assange are now. Then for a long time he was ignored. And now that these new releases have come out, WikiLeaks’ in 2010 and Snowden’s NSA revelations in 2013, all of a sudden commentators were contrasting them with him, referring to Ellsberg positively “to draw some contrast between us.”

“I totally disagree with the ‘good Ellsberg / bad Assange’ theory,” he said. “Except for the computer aspects which didn’t exist back then, I see no difference between the charges against me and the charges against Assange.”

In addition to the personalities involved, the prosecution also attempted to draw a contrast between Assange’s and Ellsberg’s releases, in particular by highlighting the harm the government alleges was caused by WikiLeaks disclosures.

Prosecutor James Lewis cited the fact that Ellsberg withheld 4 volumes of documents from the media, though he gave the full set of files to the Senate, as well as the fact that Abrams quoted Ellsberg as having said, “I don’t want to get in the way of diplomacy,” whereas, Abrams says, Assange clearly does. The prosecution painted this as Ellsberg wanting to protect his country from harm. But Ellsberg clarified that at the time of his release, the U.S. and Vietnam had been engaged in peace negotiations. They were not progressing very well, but the talks were taking place, and Ellsberg didn’t want the release to be used as a pretext for withdrawing from peace talks.

Ellsberg recalls his own full quote: “I want to get in the way of the war, I don’t want to get in the way of negotiations.”

This is also the reason Ellsberg didn’t redact a single word of his releases, even allowing the publication of the name of a clandestine CIA agent (who he knew was already known in Vietnam). He didn’t want the public to think that the files had been edited or interfered with. He wanted to show there was no adequate justification for the killings in Vietnam, and he didn’t want to allow any implication that something he redacted covered up such a justification.

WikiLeaks did not cause harm

Lewis still attempted to get Ellsberg to concede that WikiLeaks’ documents were more harmful.

“Are you saying no one was placed in grave danger?”, he asked.

“It appears not, as there was no harm, as shown by the Defense Department,” Ellsberg said, referring to the fact that in Chelsea Manning’s court-martial, the government was forced to admit that it could not point to a single death that resulted from WikiLeaks’ releases.

Lewis then spent several minutes reading aloud from an affidavit from assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg on the government’s allegations of harm caused by WikiLeaks releases. These included many allegations and claims that were already attempted in Manning’s trial, such as the fact that WikiLeaks files were found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound, or the Taliban saying they would read through the datasets for informants to punish. These arguments were put forward in the government’s attempt to prosecute Manning for “aiding the enemy” — she was acquitted on that charge.

At one point, Ellsberg interrupted the prosecutor to ask if he would ever get the chance to respond to them. At the end of Lewis’ recitation, Ellsberg said, “I find the government recounting of these allegations to be cynical. Am I right in that none of these people actually suffered physical harm?”

Lewis responded, “The rules are that you do not get to ask the questions.”

Ellsberg reminded the court that the U.S. government was specifically asked to help redact the documents and declined to do so. Furthermore, he said, if there really was massive harm caused by the releases, he would have expected the government to show something far more concrete, or the Taliban to have pointed to actual informants they punished rather than merely talking about it.

Lewis spoke about some named informants having to flee their countries or their posts.

“I understand the anxiety that these people named might be harmed. And that anxiety is caused by the refusal to help WikiLeaks redact. But aside from that, people having to leave the country, must be put in the context of Mr Assange trying to end a war that has caused 37 million refugees and over a million deaths.”

Categories
Hearing Coverage Press Release

Day 6: Eric Lewis – abusive conditions in US prison; Tom Durkin – Assange would not get a fair trial in US

SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

  • See previous daily reports here and a video recap of last week’s proceedings here
  • See an overview of USA v. Julian Assange here
  • See a thread of live-tweets of today’s hearing here
  • See yesterday’s videos about the effects of Julian Assange’s imprisonment here and one about freedom of the press here

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

Attorney Eric Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

175 years in prison

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

The prosecution attempted to invoke the Espionage Act cases of whistleblowers Terry Albury