The US case against Julian Assange now rests on a weak allegation of conspiracy to commit computer hacking. From Catherine Vogan at consortiumnews.com:
Since the U.S. is on shaky constitutional ground with the espionage indictment, the computer intrusion charge has served as a hook to try to get Assange, by portraying him not as a journalist, but as a hacker, writes Cathy Vogan.
While most of the talk about the Julian Assange case is about the espionage charges, which are political in nature, the U.S. case hangs by a thread for the second time on the non-political charge: conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
There is a reason why the computer charge is so vital to the U.S. case. Charging a journalist with espionage for unauthorized possession and dissemination of defense information has been possible since 1917, but it runs the risk of violating the First Amendment.
The tradition has been instead to charge leakers and hackers for breach of an oath, contract or firewall. The legal and public perception of hacking is that it is much like burglary; something generally feared and whose punishment by the state is not subject to political debate or opposing laws; but rather welcomed. The intrusion charge shifts public and legal perception.
Since the U.S. is on shaky constitutional ground with the espionage indictment, the computer intrusion charge has served as a hook to try to get Assange, by portraying him not as a journalist, but as a hacker. Underscoring the difference between the two is fundamental to the U.S. case.
That’s why the U.S. prosecutor, James Lewis QC, on the opening day of Assange’s extradition hearing in February 2020 turned to the press in the courtroom and told them journalism was not the target of the U.S. prosecution. He said Assange was not a journalist and instead had participated in the theft of government documents. In other words: he’s not a journalist like you, but a hacker.
Take on the propaganda steamroller and you’re going to get run over. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
Julian Assange once said, “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”
As someone whose life’s work before his imprisonment was combing through documents of an often classified nature, he’d have been in a prime position to know. He’d have seen time and time again how a nation’s citizenry are not under the slightest threat from the secret information in the documents that had been leaked to him from around the world, but that it could damage the reputation of a politician or a government or its military.
As the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder continues to trudge on with the UK government’s granting the Biden administration permission to appeal a declined extradition request, claiming that it can safely imprison Assange without subjecting him to the draconian aspects of America’s prison system which caused the initial dismissal, it’s good to keep in mind that this is being done entirely for the purpose of controlling public access to information that is inconvenient for the powerful.
The US may have to come up with yet another last-minute, bogus indictment in Julian Assange’s extradition proceeding. From Craig Murray at consortiumnews.com:
Thordarson was always the most unreliable of witnesses, and it seems impossible to believe FBI cooperation with him was ever any more than deliberate fabrication of evidence by the FBI, says Craig Murray.
FBI Headquarters in Washington. (Sammy Six/Flickr)
On the final day of the Assange extradition hearing, magistrate Vanessa Baraitser refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce, on the grounds it was out of time. The affidavit explained that the defense had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on Sept. 8, 2020.
The defense had not only to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. The defense had requested an adjournment to give them time to address the new accusations, but this adjournment had been refused by Baraitser.
She now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.
What had happened was this. The hearings on the Assange extradition in January 2020 did not seem to be going well for the U.S. government. The arguments that political extradition is specifically banned by the UK/U.S. extradition treaty, and that the publisher was not responsible for Chelsea Manning’s whistleblowing on war crimes, appeared to be strong. The U.S. Justice Department had decided that it therefore needed a new tack and to discover some “crimes” by Assange that seemed less noble than the Manning revelations.
Add the recent revelation that a key Assange witness was lying to the ever-lengthening list of stories the legacy media refuses to cover. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
As of this writing, it has been three days since the Icelandic newspaper Stundinbroke the story that a key witness in the US government’s case against Julian Assange had fabricated allegations against the WikiLeaks founder. And yet, somehow, Assange is still in prison.
Weirder still, not one major western media outlet outside of Iceland has reported on this massive and entirely legitimate news story. A search brings up coverage by Icelandic media, by Russian media, and by smaller western outlets like Democracy Now, World Socialist Website, Consortium News, Zero Hedge and some others, but as of this writing this story has been completely ignored by all major outlets who are ostensibly responsible for informing the public in the western world.
It’s not that those outlets have been ignoring Assange altogether these last few days either. Reuters recently published an interview with Assange’s fiance Stella Moris. Evening Standard has a recent article out on Assange’s plans to marry Moris in Belmarsh, as does Deutsche Welle. It’s just this one story in particular that they’ve been blacking out completely.
On the strength of this revelation Assange should be a free man, but don’t bet on it. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
The Icelandic newspaper Stundinreports that a key witness in the US prosecution of Julian Assange has admitted in an interview with the outlet that he fabricated critical accusations in the indictment against the WikiLeaks founder.
“A major witness in the United States’ Department of Justice case against Julian Assange has admitted to fabricating key accusations in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder,” Stundin reports. “The witness, who has a documented history with sociopathy and has received several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and wide-ranging financial fraud, made the admission in a newly published interview in Stundin where he also confessed to having continued his crime spree whilst working with the Department of Justice and FBI and receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution.”
BREAKING: Lead witness in US case against Julian Assange admits to fabricating evidence against him in exchange for a deal with the FBI #Assangehttps://t.co/kZxsTi62q0
Freedom. As a general matter, the Biden administration clearly opposes it. It specifically abhors press freedom, especially the kind that exposes things they don’t want exposed, as Julian Assange did with the Obama administration. However, when talking to foreign nations, Biden’s lightweight Secretary of State has no problem extolling press freedom. From Glen Greenwald at greenwald.substack.com:
How can you feign anger over others’ attacks on a free press when you imprison Assange as punishment for his vital revelations about U.S. officials?
Continuing his world tour doling out righteous lectures to the world, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday proclaimed — in a sermon you have to hear to believe — that few things are more sacred in a democracy than “independent journalism.” Speaking to Radio Free Europe, Blinken paid homage to “World Press Freedom Day”; claimed that “the United States stands strongly with independent journalism”; explained that “the foundation of any democratic system” entails “holding leaders accountable” and “informing citizens”; and warned that “countries that deny freedom of the press are countries that don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves or in their systems.”
The rhetorical cherry on top of that cake came when he posed this question: “What is to be afraid of in informing the people and holding leaders accountable?” The Secretary of State then issued this vow: “Everywhere journalism and freedom of the press is challenged, we will stand with journalists and with that freedom.” Since I know that I would be extremely skeptical if someone told me that those words had just come out Blinken’s mouth, I present you here with the unedited one-minute-fifty-two-second video clip of him saying exactly this:
The Western nations, particularly the US and Great Britain, are acting like those totalitarian dictatorships they supposedly stand four-square against. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
The western world has a very high opinion of itself and its supposed values, and its treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a lie of it all.
Truth. Justice. Freedom. Democracy. We are taught from an early age that these are the sacred values our society upholds with the utmost reverence, and that we are very fortunate to have been born in a part of the world which holds such virtue.
You see this haughty self-righteousness pop up on a daily basis in the most influential circles on earth, from the way US presidents are still to this day referred to as the “leader of the free world”, to US Secretary of State Tony Blinken recently babbling about the “shared values” of the “free and open rules-based order”, to Magnitsky Act manipulator Bill Browder recently referring to the US-centralized power alliance as “the civilized world” in a bid to get Australia up to pace with the rest of the empire’s China hawkishness.
When it comes to Julian Assange, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
Just one day after a coalition of prominent civil rights groups made headlines with a letter urging the Biden administration to drop efforts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges, the Biden administration has announced its intention to continue those efforts.
“Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi on Tuesday said the U.S. government will continue to challenge a British judge’s ruling last month that Assange should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk he would commit suicide,” Reutersreports.
“We continue to seek his extradition,” Raimondi said.
The so-called journalists who smear the most visible free press martyr in the world aren’t fit to shine his shoes. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
I wouldn’t have thought that any mass media reporters would have the temerity to continue the public smear campaign against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after it became clear to everyone that he was the subject of a brutal Trump administration prosecution aimed at criminalizing inconvenient journalism. But if there was going to be anyone to take up that flag, it would be the odious James Ball.
Ball, who as activist Suzie Dawson documented in 2016 has been working within the plutocratic media to destroy Assange’s reputation for years, has just published yet another disgusting smear piece titled “Julian Assange is no hero. I should know — I lived with him and his awful gang”, this time with Murdoch’s Sunday Times. Claiming that Assange is “Reckless and immoral in deed and word”, Ball spins the tortured journalist as a monster who must remain marginalized and never be trusted by sources again.
This would be the same James Ball who, as Financial Eyesrecently observed, “admits to having taken money from the Integrity Initiative, a government and NATO funded propaganda unit designed to shape opinion in a direction hostile towards Russia and favourable towards increased militarism.”
Julian Assange’s best hope is probably a pardon from Trump. From binoy Kampmark at off-guardian.org:
The odds are stacked against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher who faces the grimmest of prospects come January 4.
On that day, the unsympathetic judicial head of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser will reveal her decision on the Old Bailey proceedings that took place between September and October this year.
Despite Assange’s team being able to marshal an impressive, even astonishing array of sources and witnesses demolishing the prosecution’s case for extradition to the United States, power can be blindly vengeful.
Such blindness is much in evidence in a co-authored contribution to The Daily Signal from this month. The authors are insipidly predictable: national security and technology types with comic strip names (Charles “Cully” Stimson; Klon Kitchen) and rule of law advocates who seemingly campaign against their own brief (John G. Malcolm).
Having not bothered to read the evidence submitted at the extradition trial, the authors are obedient to a fictitious record. This includes allegations that WikiLeaks harmed US diplomatic relations; the stubborn libel that Assange’s actions, far from exposing US atrocities, led to a loss of life; and the disruption of essential “intelligence sources and methods”. (Accountability can be expensive.)
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