Free Assange Open Top Bus Tour Protest

Join our protest outside the Home Office 1st July 11am. Come on the Bus Tour Protest.

Join us on our open-top bus tour protest.

When: Friday, July 1, 2022 at 11am BST (arrive 15minutes early if you want to secure a seat on the bus).

Where: Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF


Events Post

Protest To Priti Patel May 17th

Priti Patel must make the right choice. She must save Free Speech and Press Freedom. She must Free Assange. Priti Patel, Don’t Extradite Assange!

Julian Assange’s defence is providing it’s final arguments to Priti Patel on May 17th. Anytime after this date up to May 31st she has to make a decision whether or not to extradite Julian Assange to the United States.

Assange is charged with Political offences under the so-called Espionage Act merely for receiving and publishing documents that revealed US war crimes. Julian Assange is not charged with hacking into computers. Assange’s charges are only in relation to WikiLeaks publications from 2010-2011. Extraditing Julian Assange would represent a massive threat to Free Speech and Press Freedom globally.

The US-UK extradition treaty clearly states “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense” 

Judge Baraitser previously ruled “it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America”

Please join us on Tuesday, 17th May at 6pm outside the Home Office on 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF in Protest to Priti Patel.


Assange Wedding

We invite you to join us outside of Belmarsh Prison on March 23rd at 1pm-4pm local time for Julian Assange and Stella Moris’ wedding.

Can I send gifts?

Julian and Stella have asked that instead of sending gifts, please consider one of the following:

  • Donate to the new Official Crowdfunder Campaign
  • Sponsor a park bench or similar in your local context in honour of their wedding
  • Put up Free Assange posters in your local café or business
  • Write to your MP or local government officials

What should I wear?

Please dress as if you were going to any other wedding. There is no formal dress code but there may be photo opportunities with the bride.

Can I bring a card?

Yes you may bring wedding cards for Julian and Stella and/or gifts of cash to the wedding If writing cheques, make your cheque payable to “DEA Campaign”

Can I bring flowers?

Yes you may bring flowers to help decorate outside of Belmarsh for the wedding. Please note that the bride may not have the space to be able to bring flowers & large gifts home with her after the wedding.

Contact for more information


Set Julian Assange Free! An event in support of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and freedom of expression!

We invite you to join us in Oslo Norway on March 17th at 19:30 local time for a event in cooperation with Norwegian PEN, Kulturkirken Jakob, and the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign.


  • John Shipton, Julian’s father
  • Nils Melzer, UN rapporteur interviewed by prof. Mads Andenæs (on screen)
  • Eva Joly, Norwegian/French lawyer and Europa-politician
  • Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief
  • Ögmundur Jónasson, Former Interior Minister of Iceland who threw out a dubious FBI-group
  • Deepa Govindarayan Driver, dr. juris. Observer at the Old Bailey-trial against Julian
  • Günter Wallraff, German writer (screen) & former editor Dagens Nyheter Arne Ruth
  • Gisle Selnes, prof. & author of «The Persecution of Julian Assange» 
  • Agnete Haaland, actor and deputy-chair of Norwegian PEN, will recite poems.

Weaving all together: Jazz-pianist Tord Gustavsen and saxophonist Trygve Seim

Jakob Culture Church
Hausmannsgate 14, Oslo
17 March 7.30 pm (CET)

Post Statements

Courage Foundation: Russiagate Smears Against WikiLeaks

Russiagate Smears Against WikiLeaks (Source: Courage Foundation, 2019)

2020 Follow up: Update-on-2016-releases.pdf

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been the subject of numerous false, unfounded smears of connection to the Russian government, particularly in relation to WikiLeaks’ 2016 publication of DNC emails. In this brief we recount some of the most pervasive claims and correct the record.

1. False Claim: Julian Assange’s source is the Russian government

Julian Assange has a long-standing policy never to reveal his sources. However, in this case, he has stated that his source of the 2016 releases was not a state party. Regardless of the source, WikiLeaks will publish what it receives provided the material is verifiable and newsworthy.

2. False Claim: WikiLeaks knowingly worked with Russian agents to publish the Democratic Party files in 2016

This is not true, and it follows that no evidence has ever been presented in support of this claim. While this claim has appeared in certain media, it has not been made by senior US officials, who have often made key admissions concerning the lack of evidence about the alleged role of WikiLeaks.1 The Mueller indictment of 2018 accuses “organization 1” (widely believed to refer to WikiLeaks) of receiving from Guccifer 2.0 (which Mueller claims was a Russian front) and then publishing the Democratic Party documents.2 WikiLeaks itself has made no such claim. Moreover, WikiLeaks was not the initial publisher of materials obtained from the DNC and was one of numerous US and other media organisations which published material allegedly from Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.

  • Leaks allegedly provided by Guccifer 2.0 were published in at least 11 different media outlets, including the Washington Post, Politico, Buzzfeed and The Intercept. 3
  • Leaks allegedly provided by DCLeaks were published in at least 17 different media outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Forbes. 4
  • The materials published by WikiLeaks were reprinted and/or covered in at least 23 different media outlets, including the BBC, NBC, ABC, The Guardian, Fox News and USA Today. 5

Yet only WikiLeaks has been singled out for publishing truthful information that is of public interest.

It is important to realise that the DNC case against WikiLeaks does not allege that Wikileaks had any advance knowledge of the hacking of servers or participated in any way in this or made any use of the materials beyond publishing them. 6 Wikileaks has simply published available materials, like many other media outlets.

To give some more examples, Guccifer 2.0 was in contact with various US media outlets which acknowledge it as the source of its material:

  • The Intercept, for example, published an article on 9 October 2016 based on emails provided by Guccifer 2.0. 7
  • The Smoking Gun published material directly provided to it by Guccifer 2.0 in an article published on 15 June 2016. 8
  • Gawker published a document in June 2016 forwarded to it by Guccifer 2.0 – an anti- Trump playbook compiled by the Democratic National Committee. 9

The Telegraph published a report on 17 June 2016 with a link to a disclosure of a 231-page report on Donald Trump; the article stated that Russian intelligence was being blamed for this hack from Guccifer 2.0. 10 Similarly, Politico reported on Guccifer 2.0, linking to an article on 4 October 2016 in which Guccifer 2.0 reveals the results of its hacking into the Clinton Foundation. The Politico article noted, “Some cybersecurity experts believe Guccifer 2.0 is an invented identity that the Russian government is using to release files it obtains through hacking.” 11

One of the most notable conduits for Guccifer 2.0 material was The Hill (see below). Neither The Hill nor any other media organisations have been accused by Mueller or the US government even though the evidence against those organisations is far stronger in terms of contacts with, and publishing material from, Guccifer 2.0.

The Hill’s direct sourcing from Guccifer 2.0

The Hill is a top US political website operating out of Washington DC and is widely read among insiders in US policy-making circles. It was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 in 2016 and covered and cited its document releases, sometimes in exclusive leaks, while simultaneously suggesting that it was likely to be run by Russian intelligence.

On 13 July, Guccifer 2.0 released a cache of DNC documents to The Hill. Its article noted:

“The files provided by Guccifer 2.0 to The Hill includes [sic] a folder with a list of objectionable quotes from Palin and an archive of the former Alaska governor’s Twitter account assembled in 2011 — before Palin decided against running for president.” 12

The article stated that Guccifer 2.0’s “techniques bare the fingerprints of known Russian intelligence hacker groups.” 13

On 23 August 2016, The Hill cited documents “obtained by Guccifer 2.0 and exclusively leaked to The Hill.” These documents highlighted efforts by Democrats to prevent Mike Parrish from winning the party’s primary for a contested House seat in Pennsylvania. The same article stated, “Guccifer 2.0 is widely believed to be a cover identity for Russian intelligence, which many posit is trying to bolster Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.” 14 The Hill tweeted a link to this article 10 times on 24 August 2016. 15

On 31 August 2016, The Hill reported that Guccifer 2.0 had publicly released documents on the WordPress blog from Democratic Senator Nancy Pelosi which, it said, “were a small subset of a larger batch given exclusive to The Hill.” The article stated that US intelligence officials say that “Guccifer 2.0 is a cover identity for previously identified Russian hackers affiliated with the Kremlin.” 16

On 15 September 2016, an article in The Hill cited “documents from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee leaked to The Hill by the hacker or hackers Guccifer 2.0” 17 The Hill tweeted a link to this article 10 times on 15 and 16 September 2016, stating “Guccifer 2.0 leaks new documents on Dems in key battleground state.” 18 The Hill published

this information after it reported that “Guccifer 2.0, who has claimed credit for the DNC hack, is widely thought to be a front for Russian intelligence agencies.” 19

There are numerous claims about Guccifer 2.0 in the Mueller indictment and US media which have been questioned or debunked by independent analysts. 20

3. False Claim: By publishing the 2016 files on the Democrats, Assange and WikiLeaks consciously manipulated the election to help Trump win

WikiLeaks publishes material given to it, regardless of the source. It cannot publish material not given to it. Had it received material on the Trump campaign, it would have published this.

Since publishing is what WikiLeaks does, to withhold the publication of information until after the election would have been to have favoured one of the candidates above the public’s right to know. 21

New York Times editor Dean Baquet said in an interview with the BBC in December 2016 that he would have published the DNC and Podesta emails had his paper obtained them. 22 Even the Mueller indictment does not make any accusations that Russian efforts succeeded in influencing the election results. 23

4. False Claim: Assange and WikiLeaks colluded with Trump adviser Roger Stone to help Trump win the election

WikiLeaks has had no contacts with Roger Stone (other than to publicly and privately refute the claim) and has issued several tweets highlighting that Stone was falsely claiming “contacts” or a “backchannel” to WikiLeaks. 24

5. False Claim: Assange and WikiLeaks do not criticise Putin or Russia

WikiLeaks has published over 600,000 documented related to Russia25 and nearly 80,000 files mentioning Putin. 26 In 2017, WikiLeaks released “Spy Files Russia”, a collection of documents on surveillance contractors in Russia, concerning domestic Russian spying. 27 Edward Snowden responded to the publication by tweeting: “@WikiLeaks publishes details on Russia’s increasingly oppressive internet surveillance industry.” 28 WikiLeaks would publish even more material on Russia if whistleblowers provided it with such material.

WikiLeaks also published, in 2012, over two million documents from Syria, a close Russian ally, including on President Bashar al-Assad personally. That data set derives from 680 Syria- related entities or domain names, including those of the Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture. It includes 68,000 emails in Russian. 29

6. False Claim: A Russian plan to help Assange escape the embassy

A Guardian story that was published in September 2018 is a fabrication. It headlined: “Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK”, claiming that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK.” 30

There was no secret plot involving Russia and no desire whatsoever on Julian Assange’s part to go to Moscow. Claims that Julian Assange or his legal team or anyone else acting on his behalf entered into negotiations with Russia, directly or indirectly, are false. As far as they are aware, no one at the Ecuadorian mission in London engaged in such discussions either, at any time.

7. False Claim: Seeking a diplomatic post in Moscow

In October 2018, the Associated Press published a report claiming to show that Julian Assange was being named by Ecuador as a political counsellor in the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow. 31 The strong implication in the report was that Assange wanted to go to Moscow.

At no stage has Julian Assange ever sought or wanted to go to Moscow. He was appointed to the UK. Ecuador had unilaterally sought out states which might potentially accept Assange as a diplomat – up to 13 countries were approached. The negotiations and arrangements were undertaken unilaterally, without informing Assange. After Ecuador informed Assange’s lawyers of the possibilities, Assange requested that he be appointed to the UK and was appointed to the UK. Assange did not consider Russia as a possible destination. 32

8. False Claim: Assange applied for a Russian visa

In September 2018, another Associated Press article, authored by the same person and widely reproduced in other media, also sought to link Assange to Russia. It published a document claiming to show that Assange applied for a Russian visa in November 2010. 33

Assange did not apply for such a visa at any time or author the document. 34 The source is convicted document fabricator Sigurdur Thordarson who was sentenced to prison for fabricating documents impersonating Assange, multiple frauds and pedophilia. Thordarson distributed these documents to Scandinavian media outlets years ago and they found them to be untrustworthy. Thordarson volunteered to become an FBI informant for the purpose of conducting entrapment operations on Assange and WikiLeaks.

The British government is in possession of Julian Assange’s passport, which Assange provided upon his arrest in December 2010. There is no Russian visa in his passport: if there had been, the UK authorities would have used this to argue against his bail.

There is a further false claim: that Julian Assange actually obtained a Russian visa in 2011, which was reported by, for example, the New York Times. 35 As noted, Julian Assange’s passport was seized in December 2010. Given that Assange never applied for a visa and the fact that the passport was already in UK custody, the claim is clearly bogus. 36

9. False Claim: Assange has ties with the Kremlin

Numerous mainstream media reports refer to Julian Assange’s “ties” 37 or “links” to the “Kremlin.” 38 In fact, Julian Assange has no ties or links to the Russian government. Some media have imputed a connection to Moscow simply because Assange has received at the Ecuadorian embassy a handful of Russian or non-Russian journalists who work in Russian media. 39 These visitors have been among hundreds of people of all political persuasions who visited Assange at the embassy which have often involved giving interviews, and which have included Russian dissidents. 40

10. False Claim: Assange received Trump documents but did not publish them

This is false. At the verification stage, preparations to publish Trump-related documents were halted when it became clear the documents had already been made public. This is independently confirmed by the “New York Times of Italy”, La Repubblica, which worked with WikiLeaks on the documents. 41

What is really going on?

A hostile environment is taking shape to make it easier to secure Assange’s extradition to the US. The false assertions about Assange and Russia have noticeably increased since early 2017. In March 2017, WikiLeaks published the biggest leak in CIA history, Vault 7, 42 after which an intensified multi-layered propaganda and diplomatic effort has been waged against Assange and WikiLeaks.

1 President Obama said: “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit [for] we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked [sic].” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said: “The WikiLeaks connection, the evidence there, is not strong and we don’t have good insight into the sequencing of the releases or when the data may have been provided. We don’t have as good insight into that.”

2 indictment/ba0521c1eef869deecbe/optimized/full.pdf?action=click&module=Intentional&pgtype=Article

3 indictment/ba0521c1eef869deecbe/optimized/full.pdf?action=click&module=Intentional&pgtype=Article

4 For a list see WikiLeaks legal filing in the DNC case: Publications.html. The full filing is here:

5 For a list see WikiLeaks legal filing in the DNC case: Docs-Stolen-by-GRU.pdf. The full filing is here: content/uploads/2018/12/WikiLeaksDNC.pdf

6 See Wikileaks legal filing in the DNC case:













19 See article of 13 September 2016:

20 See, for example,


22 emails/1273817099320066/










32 country-s-Russian-embassy











Update on 2016 releases

Since we released this briefing, a number of developments have brought more information into the public record confirming WikiLeaks acted as a journalistic outfit in releasing DNC emails in 2016. We’ve also collated relevant commentary from intelligence officials and fellow journalists.

New York Court dismissed a DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks

On July 21, 2019, SDNY Judge John Koetl dismissed a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) over WikiLeaks’ publication of DNC documents in 2016.

Court found Wikileaks 2016 publications involved “matters of the highest public concern”

“Discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of government established by our Constitution. The First Amendment affords the broadest protection to such political expression.” – Buckley v Valeo, 424, US 1, 14 (1976)

In the 81-page ruling, Judge Koetl emphasized the “newsworthiness” of WikiLeaks’ publishing activities, describing them as “plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers” because the publication related to “matters of the highest public concern.” He elaborated:

“The DNC’s published internal communications [through WikiLeaks] allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election. This type of information is plainly the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.”

The Judge drew a comparison to the Pentagon Papers case of 1971, where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the New York Times and Washington Post to publish secret documents on the Vietnam War provided by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. In that case the Nixon administration attempted to prevent the newspapers from publishing and threatened them with criminal prosecution.

“If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents […] simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet,” wrote District Judge John Koeltl.

US press freedom and civil liberties groups sided with WikiLeaks against the DNC

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Colombia University submitted

an Amici Curiae brief in support of dismissing the lawsuit against WikiLeaks. In essence, they argued that “holding Wikileaks liable in this situation would also threaten freedom

of the press. […] Journalists are allowed to request documents that have been stolen and to publish those documents”.

The First Amendment experts’ brief contains a detailed discussion of the case law to date on this issue. The Amici concluded:

“The legal question addressed here is one with significant implications for the free press: does an act of publication that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment lose that protection simply because a source acquired the published information unlawfully? The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that it does not, in recognition of the First Amendment’s role in ensuring the public has access to the information it needs to hold those who seek and wield power to account. The press routinely relies on this First Amendment protection in performing its democratic function to inform the public on matters of public concern.”

It is not illegal for journalists to solicit stolen material. It is actually common journalistic practice

Judge Koeltl noted that “WikiLeaks did not play any role in the theft of the documents and it is undisputed that the stolen materials involve matters of public concern.” (p. 40)

He added: “Journalists are allowed to request documents that have been stolen and to publish those documents” and that this is in fact “common journalistic practice.” The principle elaborated in the case of Bartnicki is important for investigative journalists who often receive information from whistleblowers.

Judge Koetl also noted that it is “constitutionally insignificant” whether WikiLeaks knew the published documents were acquired without permission, by hacking, or other means before they were obtained by WikiLeaks. “A person is entitled [to] publish stolen documents that the publisher requested from a source so long as the publisher did not participate in the theft.”

Judge Koetl added:”[I]t is also irrelevant that WikiLeaks solicited the stolen documents from Russian agents. A person is entitled [to] publish stolen documents that the publisher requested from a source so long as the publisher did not participate in the theft. […] Indeed, the DNC acknowledges that this is a common journalistic practice” (p. 43)

Bartnicki v Vopper protected the right to publish

Judge Koetl cited Bartnicki v Vopper, a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that publishing stolen or otherwise illicitly obtained material does not make a media outlet liable for how that material was obtained. “As Bartnicki makes clear, there is a significant legal distinction between stealing documents and disclosing documents that someone else had stolen previously,” he wrote.

Later in the ruling he writes, “Like the defendant in Bartnicki, WikiLeaks did not play any role in the theft of the documents and it is undisputed that the stolen materials involve matters of public concern.”

Finally, Judge Koetl dismissed the idea that WikiLeaks should be held accountable for the documents’ theft as an “after-the-fact coconspirator” because this argument would criminalize all journalists who publish hacked or otherwise unlawfully obtained material, something investigative journalists at the New York Times and the Washington Post do as a matter of course. “That argument would eviscerate Bartnicki,” Judge Koetl wrote, “such a rule would render any journalist who publishes an article based on stolen information a coconspirator in the theft.”

The Mueller Report: Findings

No evidence of alleged Assange/WikiLeaks “collusion” with Russia/Russian agents

The Mueller report concluded that the government found no evidence to substantiate the central claim of “collusion” between Assange/WikiLeaks and Russia/Russian agents. It found no evidence that Assange/WikiLeaks had done anything wrong:

“the government could not prove WikiLeaks (or Assange) joined an ongoing hacking conspiracy intending to further or facilitate additional computer intrusions”.

The report added:

“[w]ithout knowledge, the intent cannot exist” and “persons cannot retroactively conspire to commit a previously consummated crime”.

The only evidence Mueller found was that WikiLeaks’ role in the 2016 DNC and Podesta publications had been that of “disseminating” information that it had received from a third party, nothing more. In particular, Mueller:


  • Could not find any evidence WikiLeaks participated in any manner in the alleged source’s hacking of the email server.
  • Could not find any evidence of WikiLeaks having any “knowledge” of the alleged source’s “hacking”, nor of their “criminal objective”.
  • Could not find any evidence WikiLeaks “was aware of”, or “intended to join”, “a criminal venture” with the alleged source.
  • Could not even find any evidence WikiLeaks was “willfully blind to” the alleged source’s ongoing “hacking efforts”.
  • Could not find any evidence of an agreement, express or tacit, with the alleged source to further a “criminal objective”.
  • Could not establish an “implicit working relationship” between the alleged source and WikiLeaks.

Prosecuting Assange/WikiLeaks over the 2016 publications would run afoul of the First Amendment

The Mueller report acknowledged there was no evidence (referred to as “fundamental” “factual hurdles”) to bring a case against Assange/WikiLeaks.

Furthermore, the report acknowledged a fundamental legal hurdle: WikiLeaks’ conduct was constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.

The leading case in this area of the law is Bartnicki v Vopper, which established that “the First Amendment protects a party’s publication of illegally intercepted communications on a matter of public concern, even when the parties knew or had reasons to know of the intercepts’ unlawful origin”.

The significance of the Mueller report’s findings on Assange/WikiLeaks’ role in the 2016 elections

After three years of in-depth investigations, the Mueller report concluded that claims that Assange/WikiLeaks “colluded” with Russia or its agents are, and have always

been, literally baseless.

The report also establishes WikiLeaks acted no differently to other mainstream US media that was reporting on the documents from the Clinton campaign.

The DoJ concealed the Mueller report’s findings concerning Assange/WikiLeaks until 2 November 2020

The Mueller report’s conclusions finding no evidence of “collusion” between Assange/WikiLeaks and Russia or its agents were inexplicably blacked out from the text when the report was initially published on 18 April 2019.

On November 2, 2020, the Department of Justice released a reprocessed version

of Mueller’s report (PDF) following litigation under the Freedom of Information Act.

The report’s publication just one day before the 2020 U.S. presidential election meant the findings received little news coverage. This is extraordinarily telling as one of the central tenets of the “Russian interference” narrative was precisely allegations of “collusion” between Assange/WikiLeaks and Russia/Russian agents, which these passages of the Mueller report show to be unfounded.

US Intelligence Chiefs’ earlier statements also acknowledged lack of evidence of “collusion”

US intelligence chiefs acknowledge intelligence gathering has yielded no evidence of “collusion” nor of any “ties” to Russia. The “emerging consensus” among U.S. officials by late August 2016 was that Assange/WikiLeaks “probably have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services”, reported the New York Times.

Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, at a Congressional hearing in November 2016, stated, “As far as the Wikileaks connection, evidence there is not as strong and we don’t have good insight into the sequencing of the [DNC/Podesta] releases or when the data may have been provided.”

Then-Director of the FBI James Comey, at a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in March 2017 said Russian officials “didn’t deal directly with WikiLeaks”.

An unclassified US intelligence report of 6 January 2017 asserted it had “high confidence”, but no actual evidence, that Russian agents relayed material to WikiLeaks.

The Mueller report itself uses vague and qualified language when advancing the claim that Wikileaks obtained its DNC publications from Guccifer 2.0. For example, Mueller’s report states: “”Unit 26165 [GRU] officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016″ (Mueller report, p.41, emphasis added). [Further reading]

The FBI itself never obtained access to the hacked DNC server. The investigation was instead carried out by Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC. The FBI did not carry out its own forensic analysis of the server.

Crowdstrike’s CEO Shawn Henry admitted to Congress that, while there was evidence that the servers were hacked, Crowdstrike’s investigation found no concrete evidence that emails were actually exfiltrated from the server. [Also see this thread]

What has Assange said about US reports on hacked DNC/Podesta emails and the WikiLeaks publications?

Assange has stated:

“Has at least one state actor hacked the DNC? Probably. Now this is a separate question to the release of our emails” (Video: Going Underground]

“In the US media there’s been a deliberate conflation between DNC leaks, which is what we’ve been publishing, and DNC hacks of the US Democratic party…” (Video: Going Underground)

““The emails that we have released are different sets of documents to the documents of those [that] people have analyzed… The real story is what these emails contain, and they show collusion at the very top of the Democratic Party” to derail Sanders’ campaign.” (NBC News)

“There’s no forensic traces on our [2016] publications at all tying them to Russia—at all! it’s clearly completely different material, and there’s been a very sneaky attempt to conflate various hacks that have occurred with our publications.” (The New Yorker)

Computer forensics in the era of Marble Framework

Some commentators have pointed out that, in the era of malware designed to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to their true origins, any cyberforensic analysis is inherently unreliable. For example, WikiLeaks published a leak revealing state-sponsored malware called “Marble” that

“permit[s] a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion”.

While the Marble Framework specifically is attributed to the CIA, other countries are suspected of use similar methods of obfuscation.

New York Times editor: Publish newsworthy material regardless of source

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet discussed WikiLeaks’ publication of the Democracy Party files in an interview with the BBC in December 2016. Baquet said that he believes newsworthy material should be published regardless of its source: “I don’t think it matters where [source materials] come from, to be perfectly frank.”

“If I get a leak that really offers tremendous insight into how government or big business works and it’s something important that people should know, I think even if the source makes me uncomfortable, I think I still have to do it…There are things that journalists should not withhold.”

Baquet called WikiLeaks a “clear public service”.

Multiple US media organisations sourced from and communicated with Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks

See WikiLeaks’ filing in the DNC case

Leaks allegedly provided by Guccifer 2.0 were published in at least 11 different media outlets, including the Washington Post, Politico, Buzzfeed and The Intercept.

Leaks allegedly provided by DCLeaks were published in at least 17 different media outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street

Journal, CNN and Forbes.

The materials published by WikiLeaks were reprinted and/or covered in at least 23 different media outlets, including the BBC, NBC, ABC, The Guardian, Fox News and USA Today.

The Telegraph published a report on 17 June 2016 with a link to a disclosure of a 231- page report on Donald Trump; the article stated that Russian intelligence was being blamed for this hack from Guccifer 2.0.

Politico reported on Guccifer 2.0, linking to an article on 4 October 2016 in which Guccifer 2.0 reveals the results of its hacking into the Clinton Foundation.

The Politico article noted, “Some cybersecurity experts believe Guccifer 2.0 is an invented identity that the Russian government is using to release files it obtains through hacking.”

One of the most notable conduits for Guccifer 2.0 material was The Hill (see below). Neither The Hill nor any other media organisations were singled out by Mueller or the

US government, only WikiLeaks, even though in the cases of these publications there is clear evidence of communications with, and sourcing from, Guccifer 2.0

The Hill’s direct sourcing from Guccifer 2.0

The Hill is a top US political website operating out of Washington DC and is widely read among insiders in US policy-making circles. It was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 in 2016 and covered and cited its document releases, sometimes in exclusive leaks, while simultaneously suggesting that it was likely to be run by Russian intelligence.

On 13 July, Guccifer 2.0 released a cache of DNC documents to The Hill. Its

article noted: “The files provided by Guccifer 2.0 to The Hill includes [sic] a folder with a list of objectionable quotes from Palin and an archive of the former Alaska governor’s Twitter account assembled in 2011 —before Palin decided against running for president.” A follow-up article five dayes later stated that Guccifer 2.0’s “techniques bare the fingerprints of known Russian intelligence hacker groups.”

On 23 August 2016, The Hill cited documents “obtained by Guccifer 2.0 and exclusively leaked toThe Hill.” These documents highlighted efforts by Democrats to prevent Mike Parrish from winning the party’s primary for a contested House seat in Pennsylvania. The same article stated,“Guccifer 2.0 is widely believed to be a cover identity for Russian intelligence, which many posit is trying to bolster Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.” The Hill tweeted a link to this article 10 times on 24 August 2016.

On 31 August 2016, The Hill reported that Guccifer 2.0 had publicly released documents on the WordPress blog from Democratic Senator Nancy Pelosi which, it said, “were a small subset of a larger batch given exclusive to The Hill.” The article stated that US intelligence officials say that “Guccifer 2.0 is a cover identity for previously identified

Russian hackers affiliated with the Kremlin.”

On 15 September 2016, an article in The Hill cited “documents from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee leaked to The Hill by the hacker or hackers Guccifer 2.0.” The Hill tweeted a link to this article 10 times on 15 and 16 September 2016, stating “Guccifer 2.0 leaks new documents on Dems in key battleground state.”

The Hill published this information after it reported that “Guccifer 2.0, who has claimed credit for the DNC hack, is widely thought to be a front for Russian intelligence agencies.”

Post Press Clippings Press Release

‘Censored’: Record-breaking artist Pak joins forces with Assange to make NFT history

‘Censored’ is a digital art collection created by NFT artist Pak in collaboration with imprisoned WikiLeaks-founder Julian Assange.

The art collection titled ‘Censored’ will be unveiled shortly in time for the auction on February 7th. ‘Censored’ is shrouded in mystery and is set to make NFT history.

Pak has dropped some hints with tweets about censorship and freedom. On January 5th, Pak’s Twitter account @muratpak tweeted “nine hundred ninety nine”, signifying the number of days that Julian Assange had spent in prison. The following day, @muratpak tweeted “define freedom”, followed by “freedom as a medium” and linked to a WikiLeaks tweet:

Renowned digital artist Pak is one of the highest grossing artists alive, known for pushing conceptual and stylistic boundaries. Pak became a household name in the traditional art world after Sotheby’s auctioned his collection ‘The “Fungible’ in April 2021, selling for US $16.8 million. In December 2021, Pak again made headlines as his collection ‘The Merge’ set a new record for an artwork sold publicly by a living artist at US $91.8 million, surpassing Jeff Koons’s “Rabbit”.

Australian award-winning author and publisher Julian Assange is the world’s most famous living political prisoner and freedom of speech campaigner. The US government is seeking his extradition to put him on trial for publishing documents evidencing war crimes against civilians by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as torture in Guantanamo Bay. Julian Assange faces a 175-year prison sentence if the US government gets its way. Press freedom organizations warn that the legal precedent will cripple free speech protections worldwide. WikiLeaks specializes in publishing censored documents of diplomatic, political, ethical, or historical significance. WikiLeaks is credited for sparking democratic revolutions, exposing corruption, war crimes, big pharma, the banks, and environmental disasters, and of bringing evidence of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial killings onto the public record. Julian Assange, who has been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, has been imprisoned in London’s notorious Belmarsh prison for over one thousand days.

‘Censored’ is a two-part NFT collection:

The first part is a one of a kind (“1/1 edition”) NFT, which Pak describes as “dynamic and generative”. “Dynamic” means that the digital art piece changes over time. “Generative” means that the artwork is generated from the artist’s instructions on the blockchain. The single edition NFT is expected to attract major collectors and NFT-world cooperative funds known as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs).

The second part of the collection is an “open edition” [], which in addition to being “dynamic” will also be participative. The open edition is designed to be more accessible and therefore draw a broader pool of collectors. As a reference point, Pak’s record-breaking collection ‘Merge’ set the record for open editions with 30,000 collectors and grossing US $91.8 million.

The auction for the Single Edition commences on Monday February 7th, 2022 at 09:00 New York, 14:00 London, 17:00 Moscow, 19:30 New Delhi, 22:00 Hong Kong, 01:00 (on 8th) Sydney.

How will it work?

NFTs are typically auctioned over a period of 24 to 48 hours. NFTs are traded using blockchain technology and are usually sold on the Ethereum network. The currency is ETH.

The code for the NFTs will be contained within the Ethereum blockchain itself. This means that the computer code that generates the artwork exists on the blockchain and can therefore not be manipulated, corrupted, removed, or censored. This ensures data permanence and avoids the problems associated with some NFTs that rely on links to external servers.

The auction location will be announced via the Twitter accounts of the artist (@muratpak), Julian Assange’s brother (@gabrielshipton) and his partner (@stellamoris1).

Proceeds of the NFT will go to benefit Julian Assange’s defense fund as he fights against a US extradition request.

Battle of the DAOs

The auction for the single edition is expected to bring about a major bidding war between DAOs.

DAOs, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, have proven to be extraordinarily effective fundraising vehicles, especially in short time frames. A DAO is a collective of people who organize online to pool their resources, skills, and time to achieve the stated goals of the DAO. The structure and objectives are determined by its members. The management of a DAO is then automated on the blockchain, allowing people from around the world to come together for a common purpose without having to trust each other.

AssangeDAO launched today to bid on the single edition ‘Censored’ NFT. By 17:15 GMT on February 4th, the contributions to the AssangeDAO had surpassed over US $7 million (over 2,450 ETH). AssangeDAO’s mission statement aims “to inspire a powerful solidarity network and fight for the freedom of Julian Assange” and to “raise funds to help with his legal fees and campaigns to increase public awareness on the systemic failure of our justice systems”. 

AssangeDAO was loosely modeled on FreeRossDAO (, which raised over US $12 million to bid on the Ross Ulbricht NFT collection.


Curtain Raiser Event:

Join the Twitter Spaces event ( with the NFT artist Pak (@muratpak), Julian Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton (@gabrielshipton), and Julian Assange’s partner Stella Moris (@stellamoris1) and others at 22:00 GMT on February 5th, which is:

  • 17:00 New York time on February 5th (Saturday)
  • 22:00 London time on February 5th (Saturday)
  • 06:00 Hong Kong time on February 6th (Sunday)
  • 09:00 Sydney time on February 6th (Sunday)

Assange Christmas Card

Print and send Christmas cards – let people know about Julian’s case and the fight for a free press.


Assange Christmas Card
Assange Christmas Card
Press Clippings

John Pilger: A day in the death of British Justice

The reputation of British justice now rests on the shoulders of the High Court in the life or death case of Julian Assange.

I sat in Court 4 in the Royal Courts of Justice in London Wednesday with Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner. I have known Stella for as long as I have known Julian. She, too, is a voice of freedom, coming from a family that fought the fascism of Apartheid. Today, her name was uttered in court by a barrister and a judge, forgettable people were it not for the power of their endowed privilege.

The barrister, Clair Dobbin, is in the pay of the regime in Washington, first Trump’s then Biden’s. She is America’s hired gun, or “silk”, as she would prefer. Her target is Julian Assange, who has committed no crime and has performed an historic public service by exposing the criminal actions and secrets on which governments, especially those claiming to be democracies, base their authority. 

For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.

WikiLeaks released almost a million documents from Russia which allowed Russian citizens to stand up for their rights. It revealed the Australian government had colluded with the U.S. against its own citizen, Assange. It named those Australian politicians who have “informed” for the U.S. It made the connection between the Clinton Foundation and the rise of jihadism in American-armed states in the Gulf.

About Those Who Take Us to War

There is more: WikiLeaks disclosed the U.S. campaign to suppress wages in sweatshop countries like Haiti, India’s campaign of torture in Kashmir, the British government’s secret agreement to shield “U.S. interests” in its official Iraq inquiry and the British Foreign Office’s plan to create a fake “marine protection zone” in the Indian Ocean to cheat the Chagos islanders out of their right of return.

In other words, WikiLeaks has given us real news about those who govern us and take us to war, not the preordained, repetitive spin that fills newspapers and television screens. This is real journalism; and for the crime of real journalism, Assange has spent most of the past decade in one form of incarceration or another, including Belmarsh prison, a horrific place.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he is a gentle, intellectual visionary driven by his belief that a democracy is not a democracy unless it is transparent, and accountable.

On Wednesday, the United States sought the approval of Britain’s High Court to extend the terms of its appeal against a decision by a district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, in January to bar Assange’s extradition. Baraitser accepted the deeply disturbing evidence of a number of experts that Assange would be at great risk if he were incarcerated in the U.S.’s infamous prison system.

Professor Michael Kopelman, a world authority on neuro-psychiatry, had said Assange would find a way to take his own life — the direct result of what Professor Nils Melzer, the United Nations rapporteur on torture, described as the craven “mobbing” of Assange by governments – and their media echoes.

Those of us who were in the Old Bailey last September to hear Kopelman’s evidence were shocked and moved. I sat with Julian’s father, John Shipton, whose head was in his hands. The court was also told about the discovery of a razor blade in Julian’s Belmarsh cell and that he had made desperate calls to the Samaritans and written notes and much else that filled us with more than sadness.

Watching the lead barrister acting for Washington, James Lewis — a man from a military background who deploys a cringingly theatrical “aha!” formula with defence witnesses — reduce these facts to “malingering” and smearing witnesses, especially Kopelman, we were heartened by Kopelman’s revealing response that Lewis’s abuse was “a bit rich” as Lewis himself had sought to hire Kopelman’s expertise in another case.

No Contradiction

Lewis’s sidekick is Clair Dobbin, and Wednesday was her day. Completing the smearing of Professor Kopelman was down to her. An American with some authority sat behind her in court.

Dobbin said Kopelman had “misled” Judge Baraister in September because he had not disclosed that Julian Assange and Stella Moris were partners, and their two young children, Gabriel and Max, were conceived during the period Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The implication was that this somehow lessened Kopelman’s medical diagnosis: that Julian, locked up in solitary in Belmarsh prison and facing extradition to the U.S. on bogus “espionage” charges, had suffered severe psychotic depression and had planned, if he had not already attempted, to take his own life.

For her part, Judge Baraitser saw no contradiction. The full nature of the relationship between Stella and Julian had been explained to her in March 2020, and Professor Kopelman had made full reference to it in his report in August 2020. So the judge and the court knew all about it before the main extradition hearing last September. In her judgement in January, Baraitser said this:

“[Professor Kopelman] assessed Mr. Assange during the period May to December 2019 and was best placed to consider at first-hand his symptoms. He has taken great care to provide an informed account of Mr. Assange background and psychiatric history. He has given close attention to the prison medical notes and provided a detailed summary annexed to his December report. He is an experienced clinician and he was well aware of the possibility of exaggeration and malingering. I had no reason to doubt his clinical opinion.”

She added that she had “not been misled” by the exclusion in Kopelman’s first report of the Stella-Julian relationship and that she understood that Kopelman was protecting the privacy of Stella and her two young children.

In fact, as I know well, the family’s safety was under constant threat to the point when an embassy security guard confessed he had been told to steal one of the baby’s nappies so that a CIA-contracted company could analyse its DNA. There has been a stream of unpublicised threats against Stella and her children.

Based on a Fraudster

For the U.S. and its legal hirelings in London, damaging the credibility of a renowned expert by suggesting he withheld this information was a way, they no doubt reckoned, to rescue their crumbling case against Assange. In June, the Icelandic newspaper Stundin reported that a key prosecution witness against Assange has admitted fabricating his evidence. The one “hacking” charge the Americans hoped to bring against Assange if they could get their hands on him depended on this source and witness, Sigurdur Thordarson, an FBI informant.

Thordarson had worked as a volunteer for WikiLeaks in Iceland between 2010 and 2011. In 2011, as several criminal charges were brought against him, he contacted the FBI and offered to become an informant in return for immunity from all prosecution. It emerged that he was a convicted fraudster who embezzled $55,000 from WikiLeaks, and served two years in prison. In 2015, he was sentenced to three years for sex offenses against teenage boys. The Washington Post described Thordarson’s credibility as the “core” of the case against Assange.

On Wednesday, Lord Chief Justice Holroyde made no mention of this witness. His concern was that it was “arguable” that Judge Baraitser had attached too much weight to the evidence of Professor Kopelman, a man revered in his field. He said it was “very unusual” for an appeal court to have to reconsider evidence from an expert accepted by a lower court, but he agreed with Ms. Dobbin it was “misleading” even though he accepted Kopelman’s “understandable human response” to protect the privacy of Stella and the children.

If you can unravel the arcane logic of this, you have a better grasp than I who have sat through this case from the beginning. It is clear Kopelman misled nobody. Judge Baraitser – whose hostility to Assange personally was a presence in her court – said that she was not misled; it was not an issue; it did not matter. So why had Lord Chief Justice Holroyde spun the language with its weasel legalise and sent Julian back to his cell and its nightmares? There, he now waits for the High Court’s final decision in October – for Julian Assange, a life or death decision.

In the Land of Magna Carta

And why did Holroyde send Stella from the court trembling with anguish? Why is this case “unusual”? Why did he throw the gang of prosecutor-thugs at the Department of Justice in Washington — who got their big chance under Trump, having been rejected by Obama – a life raft as their rotting, corrupt case against a principled journalist sunk as surely as Titantic?

This does not necessarily mean that in October the full bench of the High Court will order Julian to be extradited. In the upper reaches of the masonry that is the British judiciary there are, I understand, still those who believe in real law and real justice from which the term “British justice” takes its sanctified reputation in the land of the Magna Carta. It now rests on their ermined shoulders whether that history lives on or dies.

I sat with Stella in the court’s colonnade while she drafted words to say to the crowd of media and well-wishers outside in the sunshine. Clip-clopping along came Clair Dobbin, spruced, ponytail swinging, bearing her carton of files: a figure of certainty: she who said Julian Assange was “not so ill” that he would consider suicide. How does she know?

Has Ms. Dobbin worked her way through the medieval maze at Belmarsh to sit with Julian in his yellow arm band, as Professors Koppelman and Melzer have done, and Stella has done, and I have done? Never mind. The Americans have now “promised” not to put him in a hellhole, just as they “promised” not to torture Chelsea Manning, just as they promised ……

And has she read the WikiLeaks’ leak of a Pentagon document dated 15 March, 2009? This foretold the current war on journalism. U.S. intelligence, it said, intended to destroy WikiLeaks’ and Julian Assange’s “centre of gravity” with threats and “criminal prosecution”. Read all 32 pages and you are left in no doubt that silencing and criminalising independent journalism was the aim, smear the method.

I tried to catch Ms. Dobbin’s gaze, but she was on her way: job done.

Outside, Stella struggled to contain her emotion. This is one brave woman, as indeed her man is an exemplar of courage. “What has not been discussed today,” said Stella, “is why I feared for my safety and the safety of our children and for Julian’s life. The constant threats and intimidation we endured for years, which has been terrorising us and has been terrorising Julian for 10 years. We have a right to live, we have a right to exist and we have a right for this nightmare to come to an end once and for all.”


Parliamentary Actions Post Press Release

EDM 220 – Assange Meeting with Parliamentarians

Please email your MP using our app to ask them to sign Early Day Motion 220.

Motion Text:

‘That this House expresses its concern at the refusal of the UK Government and prison authorities to allow an online video meeting between Julian Assange and a cross-party group of British parliamentarians; notes that the request was first made in December 2020 in a letter signed by 17 British parliamentarians from four parties; believes parliamentarians must be allowed to discuss important issues relating to press freedoms and the UK-US Extradition Treaty with interested parties; and calls on the Government to facilitate this meeting between Julian Assange and a cross-party group of parliamentarians.’

Press Clippings

Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s Partner, Speaks about the Espionage Act and how the case brought against Assange is catastrophic for free speech

Julian Assange is my partner. We have two little boys, Max, 2, and Gabriel, who is almost 4. The sole reason Julian remains in jail is because the US government under Trump decided to bring an outrageous, abusive and political case under the Espionage Act against Julian, and the Biden administration has not yet put a stop to it.

Julian has been in a high security jail in London for two years now, even though he is not convicted of any crime. The US extradition case is progressing through the courts. In January a judge decided Julian should not be extradited. The US government is appealing.

Julian faces 175 years.

Julian has not been able to hold his sons in his arms for over a year. The last time he saw them in person was in October, when the jail briefly allowed visits.

Julian is a public figure, and he is known for his courageous publishing work. But he is also a son, a father, and a brother. He is caring and funny. He is the most principled man I know. He has helped bring justice to victims of state and corporate abuses all over the world.

Our family is fighting to free him, but because of the case that has been brought against Julian under the Espionage Act, that fight is at the same time a fight for our collective freedoms.

Julian faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act. The 175 year sentence concerns receiving, possessing and publishing the Guantanamo Bay Files, the Afghan and Iraq War Diaries, the Collateral Murder publication’s Rules of Engagement, and the US State Department cables. There is no allegation that Julian did anything that could be construed as espionage. The US government is accusing him of publishing information to the public.

These same publications have won Julian the most prestigious journalism awards, like the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Australian equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of these revelations. The Sydney Peace Prize jury said the following:

“Assange’s work is the Tom Paine Rights of Man and Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers tradition— challenging the old order of power in politics and journalism. Assange has championed people’s right

to know and has challenged the centuries old tradition that governments are entitled to keep the public in a state of ignorance. In the Paine, Ellsberg, and Assange cases, those in power moved quickly to silence their critics even by perverting the course of justice.”

Julian says the best way to obtain justice is by exposing injustice. And exposing injustice is what has made Julian enemies on both sides of politics in Washington. He is also admired on both sides of politics. And that is because regardless of where one stands on the political spectrum, what Julian represents goes to the heart of what it means to live in a democracy.

It is no overstatement to say that the use of the 1917 Espionage Act against Julian is the single biggest most urgent threat to press freedom and a free democratic society.

It is also profoundly wrong. Julian isn’t simply just innocent. He is being punished for doing the right thing. For exposing the wrongful killing of journalists and of thousands of civilians. For documenting war crimes. For doing the most important journalism any person can possibly do.

So how did we get here?

The first thing to understand is that the Espionage Act itself is a terrible piece of legislation. It was originally designed to try World War I spies, but the wording is so broad and indefinite, that the Act has been abused again and again for political purposes.

The wording is so broad that pretty much anyone could be prosecuted under it. During Julian’s extradition proceedings, expert witnesses explained that reading the daily newspaper could be construed as a violation of the Espionage Act. Another example: say you are a journalist and you write that the CIA torture memo should be in the public domain, and then a source sends it to you. You could go to prison as a co-conspirator. That is essentially what the conspiracy charge against Julian alleges in relation to the so-called Most Wanted Leaks, a wiki page where any random person on the Internet could nominate documents that ought to be in the public domain.

Secondly, what Bill Barr’s Department of Justice did in launching an Espionage Act indictment against Julian, is to do precisely what the First Amendment explicitly forbids. It is completely unconstitutional.

Think about the First Amendment. It says “Congress shall make no law [] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. The First Amendment doesn’t grant people rights that can be taken away, or specify who’s rights apply and whose don’t. What it does is impose a Constitutional prohibition on lawmakers which prevents the executive from restricting speech and publishing.

James Goodale, who was General Counsel of the New York Times himself says that Julian Assange is indistinguishable from the NYT reporter in the Pentagon Papers, Neil Sheehan. The conduct described as criminal in the indictment against Julian is standard journalistic conduct. The US newsrooms know that what is being criminalised here is not Julian or WikiLeaks, but journalism itself.

The indictment against Julian has already set a chill on freedom of the press. That is why the New York Times editorial board, The Washington Post, and USA Today, and virtually every press freedom organization that exists have been absolutely clear that the prosecution against Julian must be dropped.

Thirdly, the Espionage Act is a strict liability offence. It is an authoritarian piece of legislation that has no public interest defence. Imagine what an Espionage Act trial of a publisher will look like. Julian will have no ability to explain why he published what he published, the fact that no person was harmed, and the undeniable public interest it served. If that wasn’t bad enough, the US government intends to try him in Alexandria, Virginia, just fifteen miles from CIA headquarters. No national security defendant has ever won a case there. And that is because the Eastern District of Virginia is effectively a federal national security court, where jury members cannot be excluded on the basis that they or their spouses work in government.

The use of the Espionage Act has been rightly criticised, especially since the Obama era especially, but the indictment against Julian is categorically different to anything that has come before.

Before Obama, only a handful of prosecutions had been brought cases to go after journalistic sources. The only media source convicted prior to the Obama administration was pardoned. The Department of

Justice’s prosecution against Pentagon Papers source Daniel Ellsberg famously fell apart because of misconduct by the executive.

However, this changed with Obama. Obama’s DoJ prosecuted more journalistic sources than all previous administrations combined, including WikiLeaks alleged source Chelsea Manning who was sentenced to 35 years.

Trump’s administration continued this trend by prosecuting Reality Winner, Terry Albury and Joshua Schulte, and drone whistleblower Daniel Hale, amongst others, under the Espionage Act.

Like previous administrations, Obama’s administration had considered prosecuting journalists under the Espionage Act. For example, prosecutors in the Kim case said in relation to
Fox News reporter James Rosen, that there was “probable cause to believe that the reporter has committed a violation” of the Espionage Act. But just like in the cases of investigative journalists Jack Anderson and Seymour Hersh who had been investigated under the Espionage Act in the early 70s, prosecutors ultimately decided not to indict Rosen.

The Obama Administration also decided not to prosecute Julian Assange. Matthew Miller, the DoJ spokesperson under the Obama administration, said “there is no way of prosecuting Assange for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists”. And that is why the Obama Administration did not prosecute Julian. They had what they called, a “New York Times problem”. Obama did not want to set a precedent that could be used against the rest of the press.
Obama also freed Chelsea Manning, who is Julian’s alleged source, from prison by granting her clemency.

Then came the Trump Administration. Under Bill Barr, the fact that the indictment of Julian under the Espionage Act would set a precedent for the rest of the press was no longer considered a “New York Times problem”. It became a “New York Times solution”. That is to say, a solution to the problem of leaks about the Trump Administration appearing in The New York Times.

The Trump administration indicted Julian not in spite of the threat this case poses to press freedom and American democracy, but precisely because of it. It is being pursued so that the US government can

have a precedent to go after the rest of the press whenever it wants to, New York Times included. The long history of attempted prosecutions against journalists show that the prosecutions will not stop with Julian.

Hence, the Espionage Act prosecution against Julian changes everything. The indictment of Julian under the Espionage Act hangs a noose around every reporter’s neck. It hangs around your neck too, any activist, any internet intermediary, and research institutie. And that noose is especially tight around the necks of national security reporters whose entire careers are now, incriminating.

There is a huge difference between a country in which publishers are free to publish government documents, and a country where they are not. The US is a massive state, with a very large security complex. The saving grace is that it has a robust First Amendment that defines the political culture domestically. The attempt to change that through the prosecution of Julian will change the law with disastrous effects. Especially as the US security state is emboldened with the new Cold War rivalry with China.

What the indictment of Julian does is change the nature of the United States from a superpower with a free press to a superpower where journalism is a crime, and unless the case against Julian is dropped, that is here to stay.

Unless Biden drops this prosecution, he will be following in the footsteps of the worst elements of the Trump administration.

Biden, whose policy is to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, is prosecuting the publisher for exposing abuse in Guantanamo Bay. Biden, whose policy it is to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is prosecuting the publisher for exposing the war crimes committed there and the excesses of the “War on Terror”.

Important journalism will always upset the centers of power. Exposing crimes, and especially crimes of the highest order like war crimes against innocent civilians, or the lies told by government to lead us into wars, is the most important journalism we can possibly have. It is not only a moral act but a duty that we owe ourselves and those who came before us. It is what we have to do to keep living in a free society. And it is also the only insurance we have against unbridled authoritarianism.

Press Release

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

Read the statement here

Hearing Coverage

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.


Vietnam war leaker Daniel Ellsberg warns against extraditing Julian Assange

Hearing Coverage

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.

Hearing Coverage

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.”

Hearing Coverage

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 AlburyReality Winner, and Jeffrey Sterling as evidence that these cases often result in shorter sentences. But Sterling himself tweeted in response,

In February, Sterling wrote, “Reject Using My Unjust Conviction Against Julian Assange.”

Lewis noted that the U.S. Dept of Justice has made several adjustments to the second superseding indictment that it brought in June 2020. Despite adding no new charges, the indictment adds new language that, Lewis explained, increases the likelihood of a higher sentence. These added factors include other co-conspirators the government alleged were under Assange’s direction, reference to a ‘Teenager’ among those (this refers to Siggi Thordarson, Icelandic informant), “special skills” (here could refer to Assange’s alleged computer capabilities), and the fact that the State Department cables allegedly included names of U.S. government employees (at embassies around the world). These all lead Lewis to believe the newest superseding indictment substantially increases a potential sentence for Assange.

Abusive conditions await Assange

Finally, Lewis testified to the conditions Assange would be likely to face in a U.S. prison, both pre- and post-trial. Pre-trial, Assange would be held at the Alexandria Detention Center, and Lewis believes he would be held under both SAMs, which gags a defendant and permits monitoring of attorney-client communications, and the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), which curtails the defendant’s ability to review classified documents in his/her case.

It’s also highly likely Assange would be held in administrative segregation (‘ad-seg), due to his notoriety and mental health issues, and the combination of ad-seg and SAMs would be tantamount to solitary confinement and extremely dangerous to Assange’s psychological health. Lewis testified that two-thirds of all incidents of suicide and self-harm among inmates take place in segregated housing.

Tom Durkin: Assange would not get a fair trial in the United States

Thomas A Durkin (JTF Guantanamo file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nat Moger)

Next, the defense called Thomas Durkin, a criminal defense attorney from Chicago, to discuss how a trial against Assange would play out in the U.S. if he were extradited.

“I don’t believe he would be able to get what I would consider to be a fair trial in the U.S.”, Durkin said, because the case is the result of a highly politicized prosecution, CIPA restrictions would severely hamper the defense, and there would be huge pressure to accept a plea deal simply to avoid an exorbitant prison sentence.

Durkin corroborated what several witnesses have said thus far, that the Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute contrasted with the Trump administration’s decision to prosecute several years later, without new evidence, is clear evidence that the case is political.

The CIPA restrictions, he said, would mean Assange would not be able to view classified documents in the case, contrary to what U.S. assistant attorney Gordon Kromberg argued in submissions for the prosecution.

As for the pressure for a plea deal, Durkin testified that there is a built-in incentive to take a plea, in that a “timely guilty plea” automatically takes the sentence down a level within sentencing guidelines, which Durkin referred to as “draconian.” This is commonly referred to as a “trial tax,” meaning defendants are punished for taking their own cases to trial rather than pleading ahead of time.

Durkin said that the prosecution appears to argue that Assange is more liable than Chelsea Manning, indicating the government would seek a longer sentence than the 60 years it sought for Manning.

Furthermore, Durkin testified that any plea deal would require “full cooperation,” meaning the government would very likely require Assange to reveal WikiLeaks’ sources in order to obtain a plea agreement.

Tomorrow, former Der Spiegel journalist John Goetz and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg are scheduled to testify.

Hearing Coverage

Day 5: Eric Lewis – Assange would face solitary confinement in US prison

SEPTEMBER 14, 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

Eric Lewis: Julian Assange shouldn’t be extradited, would face solitary confinement in the United States

Attorney Eric Lewis (click for source)

Paused last week due to a COVID19 scare, Julian Assange’s extradition hearing resumed today with witness testimony from Eric Lewis, chairman of the board of Reprieve and a lawyer who “represents Guantanamo and Afghan detainees in litigation, seeking redress and accountability for torture and religious abuse while in US custody.”

Lewis confirmed that before being asked to provide expert testimony on this case, he opined in the press that he believes Assange shouldn’t be extradited or prosecuted, and while he handled the facts objectively in providing his witness statement, those are still his views today. In May 2019, Lewis wrote, “As an American lawyer, I don’t want to see Julian Assange extradited to my country.”

While Lewis’ testimony largely deals with his experience defending clients in the US federal justice system and the conditions they face, he first spoke about the significance of the Trump administration deciding to prosecute Assange in contrast to the Obama administration’s decision not to. Echoing previous witnesses, Lewis singled out comments from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo and then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2017 evincing particular zeal in prosecuting Assange. Pompeo castigated WikiLeaks and Assange and declared he would be allowed no First Amendment rights, while Sessions announced that Assange’s arrest was a “priority” of his. Lewis noted that this meant Sessions was specifically directing federal prosecutors to take another look at a case in which the Obama Administration had explicitly decided not to bring charges.

The fact that WikiLeaks documents would be “essential” in war crimes prosecutions in the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Lewis, may also play a factor here, as President Trump, former Sec. of Defense John Bolton, and Sec. of State Mike Pompeo have all criticized the ICC. Furthermore, President Trump has issued an ‘Executive Order on Blocking Property Of Certain Persons Associated With The International Criminal Court.’

Lewis also remarked on the superseding indictment against Assange, adding 17 counts to the previous single charge. Lewis said these charges under the Espionage Act could easily have been all charged together, but separating them out in this way indicates a desire to maximize Assange’s potential jail time, as each new count carries up to 10 years in prison.

Lewis then spoke about the conditions Assange would be likely to endure, including Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) and solitary confinement.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has documented the effects of SAMs in a 2017 report, “The Darkest Corner: Special Administrative Measures and Extreme Isolation in the Federal Bureau of Prisons”:

“SAMs are the darkest corner of the U.S. federal prison system, combining the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world. They prohibit prisoners who live under them from contact or communication with all but a handful of approved individuals, and impose a second gag on even those few individuals. The net effect is to shield this form of torture in our prisons from any real public scrutiny.”

The CCR has also written ‘Solitary Confinement: Torture in U.S. Prisons’ — the report provides background context for Lewis’ testimony on solitary, which the Bureau of Prisons conceals by referring to it as Administrative Segregation.

Lewis and the prosecution engaged in a long back-and-forth about how SAMs and solitary are applied, what conditions are required, whether they are ‘arbitrary’ and whether they violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Lewis disagrees with the prosecution particularly on whether the US Bureau of Prisons fairly applies SAMs and solitary, finding it extremely likely they’d be applied here due to the likely invocation of “national security interests.” He explained the “unique difficulties” presented under both SAMs and solitary in attorney-client defense preparation, particularly in a case of this magnitude.

Technical issues with Lewis’ videolink before the lunch break and continued afterward. The court decided to adjourn for the day to attempt to resolve them, so court will resume with Lewis’ testimony tomorrow at 10am London time.

Hearing Coverage

Day 4: Paused due to COVID19-like symptoms of member of the prosecution

SEPTEMBER 10, 2020

Julian Assange’s extradition hearing was abruptly paused today when the court was notified that a member of the prosecution had come down with COVID19-like symptoms. As Kevin Gosztola notes, the scare came amid a new spike in the United Kingdom.

Because members of the defense and Assange himself are at heightened risk, the defense asked the judge to pause the hearings as we await the prosecutor’s test results. Those results ultimately came back negative, so we are scheduled to resume proceedings on Monday , September 14.

In the meantime, catch up with a video recap of the first week of hearings here:

Hearing Coverage

Day 3: Paul Rogers – politically motivated prosecution; Trevor Timm – protecting your sources


Professor Paul Rogers on Trump’s politically motivated prosecution

Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, took the stand by video link to testify about Julian Assange’s political views and how they factor into the Trump administration’s prosecution of Assange for publishing.

Rogers reviewed Assange’s speeches, including an anti-war speech in 2011 in London and a speech to the UN following the release of Iraq and Afghan war logs, as well as Mairead Maguire’s nomination of Assange for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. LINKs. Rogers concluded that Assange’s views don’t fall into traditional liberal or conservative belief systems but are rather more libertarian, anti-war, and based on values of transparency and accountability.

On the stand, Rogers talked about how WikiLeaks put these values into practice with the war logs publications, and he contextualized the releases with changing opinions in America regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

“Possibly the most important part of the whole thing,” he said, was that WikiLeaks’ releases showed 15,000 previously uncounted civilian casualties, “bringing to the American public a very disturbing aspect of the whole war.”

As Rogers puts it in his statement,

The political objective of seeking to achieve greater transparency in the workings of governments is clearly both the motivation and the modus operandi for the work of Mr Assange and the organisation WikiLeaks. Its manifestation, as is set out in the study by Professor Benkler, has constituted a wholesale alteration of accessing and making available for public information, the secrets that governments wish to remain unknown to their general populations. The subject matter of the charges Mr Assange currently faces involve strong examples of the clash of these positions both in their content and scope, and in the reaction of government.

In his oral testimony, Rogers explained that these views and motivations put him in contrast with successive U.S. administrations but particularly in contrast with the Trump administration.

It is clear that Assange is being opposed because of the success of WikiLeaks in bringing information to the public, he said. This is dangerous to the Trump administration: “the root of it is that Assange and what he stands for represents a threat to normal political endeavor.”  In addition to opposing Assange’s words and views, the fact that Obama didn’t prosecute should to some extent be considered in why Trump is prosecuting.

Prosecutor James Lewis QC sought to undermine Assange’s political views by bringing up his views on corporations and NGOs, but Rogers explained that “political opinion” isn’t just about government leaders, that the definition of political opinion has changed significantly in the last 50 years, and that Assange has a view on “transnational elites.”

Asked if simply being a journalist necessitated political opinions, Rogers explained that it’s a complex question, that deciding what to publish and what not to constitutes a political opinion, but Lewis complained that his answers were too long, not yes or no.

Lewis further sought to portray Rogers as biased toward Assange and the defense. He asked why Rogers didn’t include in his statement, in which he referenced views of other experts like Noam Chomsky and Carey Shenkman, the views of assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg, which defended the prosecution of Assange as a criminal matter, not a political one.

Rogers responded that he takes it as read that federal prosecutors at the lower level act in good faith, that they do as they’re instructed in accordance with the law, but that the wider political context — namely that the Obama administration didn’t prosecute and the Trump admin did, and the Trump administration represents a marked shift in the U.S. political situation — far outweighs the statements of a U.S. attorney.

The prosecution then suggested that the Obama administration may not have prosecuted Assange because he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy at the time:

Lewis: Was it possible to arrest Mr Assange in 2013?

Rogers: Is it necessary to be able to arrest someone to bring a prosecution?

Lewis: What would be the point if he’s hiding in the embassy?

Rogers: Well, to put pressure on him. It would have made very good sense to bring it at that time, to show a standing attempt to bring Mr Assange to justice.

Lewis reviewed the same items as he did with Feldstein yesterday, including WikiLeaks’ lawyer and editor suggesting they still believed charges were possible, but again and again Rogers brought the discussion back to the wider context, and the fact that the Trump administration’s views more broadly have to be considered. Statements by then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others have to be part of the determination. Rogers also referenced Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. The Trump administration wasn’t happy about that, but a commutation can’t be reversed by a subsequent administration, so this could be Trump’s way of responding to that.

Rogers hammered home that by calling this a “politically motivated prosecution,” he isn’t saying that lower-level federal prosecutors are acting in bad faith. Rather, he said, the influence comes from the top down.

Court is in recess for lunch. Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation will testify after the break.

Trevor Timm: These charges would ‘radically rewrite’ the First Amendment

Founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which advocates for reporters’ rights and tracks violations to press freedom across the United States, Trevor Timm took the stand by videolink this afternoon to talk about the dangers the indictment against Assange poses to journalists and their sources.

Timm objects to the indictment on the grounds that it threatens to criminalize source protection and the passive receipt of government documents as well as pure publication. He concluded that “It would be a radical rewrite of the First Amendment if the government were to go forward with these charges.”

Protecting your sources

As Timm writes in his statement,

“The decision to indict Julian Assange on allegations of a “conspiracy” between a publisher and his source or potential sources, and for the publication of truthful information, encroaches on fundamental press freedoms.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation has helped many news organizations adopt SecureDrop, an anonymous and secure submission system for sources to safely send documents to journalists undetected. While a largely unused practice when WikiLeaks pioneered it before 2010, major news outlets around the world make use of SecureDrop, and some of them explicitly ask for leaks of government documents.

The way this indictment is written, particularly the charge alleging Assange engaged in a conspiracy with source Chelsea Manning to crack a military computer password in order to remain anonymous, would make this extremely common news gathering illegal. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this indictment would criminalize national security journalism.”

“Materials journalists often write about and print do not magically land on their desks,” he said. They talk to sources, ask for clarification, ask for more information. “This is standard practice for journalists.”

News outlets and press freedom observers agree. Timm said,

“This is almost a consensus opinion among press freedom groups and media lawyers who have looked at this indictment. This is why newspapers, even those who have criticized Mr Assange, have condemned this indictment.”

Espionage Act: over-broad and over-used

Beyond the effort to criminalize source-protection and news gathering, Timm is extremely concerned about the other charges in the Assange indictment under the Espionage Act of 1917. Some charges criminalize publishing and for soliciting information, and some of the charges are even more broad. “Just the mere thought of obtaining these documents,” Timm said, “the US government is saying is potentially criminal.”

Timm discussed previous efforts to go after journalists under the Espionage Act, efforts which have failed under legal scrutiny.  “In each and every case,” Timm said, “the government concluded or was forced to conclude” that an Espionage Act prosecution would violate First Amendment protections, including the Obama administration’s’s 2013 determination not to prosecute WikiLeaks.

Each Espionage Act charge carries 10 years in prison, allows no public interest defense, and only requires the government prove harm could “possibly” have been caused by leaking or publishing.

James Lewis QC, cross-examining Timm for the prosecution, highlighted Timm’s claim in his witness statement that Trump is waging a “war on journalism.” He sought to undercut the claim by pointing out that the U.S. Department of Justice has explicitly said that they do not consider Assange to be a journalist and that they aren’t going after journalists.

Timm responded, “In the US, the First Amendment protects everyone. Whether you consider Assange a journalist doesn’t matter, he was engaging in journalistic activity.”

Lewis tried again, emphasizing that the DOJ specifically went “out of its way” to say they don’t target journalists.

Timm said,

“My opinions are not based on a Justice Department press release but on what is actually contained in the indictment. There are several charges that deal with the mere fact that WikiLeaks had these in their possession. You say there are three charges dealing with publication just of documents with unredacted names, but the rest of the charges deal with all of these document sets, and this criminalizes journalism.

The aspect of criminalizing publication worries me greatly, but there are many other charges that are as worrying or more so, that could criminalize journalistic practice whether you consider Mr Assange a journalist or not.”

Lewis tried to get Timm to comment on the 2011 unredacted publication of the State Department cables, but Timm made clear that whether WikiLeaks has “perfect editorial judgment” shouldn’t matter as to whether the action is illegal. Furthermore, he said, “I certainly don’t think the US Government should be the one to determine whether this was good editorial judgment.”

Trump: Modern-day Nixon

“Trump has the most confrontational approach to the media since Nixon,” Timm said. He referenced Trump tweeting 2,200 times about the press, including calling them the “enemy of the people.” Timm said, “This case is the perfect opportunity for him to create a precedent to punish the rest of the media.

“To me it’s very telling that Trump’s is the first one to try to bring a case like this since the Nixon administration.”

Hearing Coverage

Day 2: Clive Stafford-Smith – the importance of WikiLeaks material in their litigation; Mark Feldstein – historical context for WikiLeaks’ journalism


Assange’s Extradition Hearing Resumes: 8 September 2020

See our report from Day 1 of these proceedings here. Yesterday, the judge rejected the defense’s request to proceed without the new allegations in the U.S.’s extremely late superseding indictment, then rejected the defense’s request for more time to prepare to deal with these new allegations. Professor Mark Feldstein began his testimony on investigative journalism. Likely to testify today are journalists Patrick Cockburn and Nicolas Hager, and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
See live-tweeted coverage of today’s hearing in one thread.

Clive Stafford-Smith explains using WikiLeaks docs in legal cases

Clive Stafford Smith, a U.S.-U.K. dual national and the founder of Reprieve, which defends prisoners detained by the U.S. at Guantánamo Bay and others in secretive detention localities around the world, testified about the importance of WikiLeaks material in their litigation. He first discussed the utility of WikiLeaks disclosures in litigation in Pakistan relating to drone strikes and the “seachange” in attitudes towards US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Regarding rendition, assassinations, torture exposed in WikiLeaks documents, Stafford-Smith said, “Speaking as a U.S. citizen, it is incredibly important that it stopped … I feel that my country’s reputation was undermined and criminal offenses were taking place.”

“The litigation in Pakistan would have been very, very difficult and different” if it weren’t for WikiLeaks disclosures.

“The most disturbing thing is that the assassination program with respect to terrorists leaked over to narcotics….they were targeting people for death for their involvement in drug trade because it was seen as funding terrorism. I could go on…”

Assassination programs “are not only unlawful but morally and ethically reprehensible,” he said, and journalists being targeted in war zones by the US is “deeply troubling, a monumental criminal offense.”

The defense questioning then turned to the importance of WikiLeaks releases on Guantanamo.

“It is difficult and hostile sometimes – this is one of the cases I have received death threats for representing these people…but your problem is always two-fold, the prisoners in Guantanamo don’t know what they are charged with….second, unfortunately people never get to meet prisoners in Guantanamo and judge their credibility, so proving what happened involved more than just saying it but travelling round the world and gathering proof”

Stafford-Smith explained that it’s complicated as to whether the GTMO releases are positive or negative in his view:

“Those leaks are the very worst that the US authorities confect about the prisoners I have represented. But on the other hand, they are really important because the world didn’t know the allegations that were being made against my client.”

The best example I am able to give you,I was frustrated when I first read those WikiLeaks documents because I thought they would leak what I get to see….what was useful was the 13 pages that the US government alleged against my client, which up until that point I couldn’t discuss it with anyone, and finally I was able to declassify their assertions and prove that each of their allegations was total nonsense. No one has been ordered for release in America but it was certainly helpful to be able to disprove it.”

“I found it immensely frustrating that the world didn’t know about the unreliability of the evidence against my clients…what others have done by taking the WikiLeaks documents, and I credit here Andy Worthington, is to analyze the number of times certain informants were the named basis for detaining prisoners.”

“While it is important representing the client, and it doesn’t show the world what is actually going on there. My experience with Guantanamo is that if we can open it up to public inspection to see what is really happening there, then they will close it down because its just not what it is advertised as.”

“I say this more in sadness than in anger. Before 2001, I would never have believed that my government would do what it did. We are talking about criminal offenses of torture, kidnapping, rendition, holding people without the rule of law and, sad to say, murder.”

On enhanced interrogation techniques:

“I have had a project of comparing the methodologies that my government uses on my clients to what they used in Spanish Inquisition…hanging people by the wrist while their shoulders slowly dislocate….the first thing I do is to apologize.”

“As you go through the documentation Wikileaks leaked, there are all sorts of things identified, including where people are taken and renditioned…and that was the case in Binyam’s case.”

Clive Stafford-Smith says WikiLeaks and those associated could be subjected to U.S. sanctions under the new ICC sanctions regime because of the role Wikileaks has played in the accountability efforts of U.S. officials involved in war crimes.

“To threaten and impose sanctions is unlawful, and what you are doing here today could justify sanction under the terms of the Executive Order.”

Anyone can be sanctioned who is seeking to assist in an investigation which could lead to ICC investigation, which is what Wikileaks does, so that is covered by the US sanction regime.”

Prosecution cross-examination misleads on the charges

U.S. prosecutor James Lewis repeatedly tried to get Stafford-Smith to concede that none of the WikiLeaks cables mentioned in his witness statement are the subject of charges. Lewis is trying to establish that the indictment of Assange only deals with cables that name specific names of informants. But the defense points out that the prosecution is incorrectly stating that there is no reference to publishing – Assange is in fact being charged for “communicating” and “obtaining” classified information, and these charges capture all the documents, not just specific cables referenced in the pure publication counts.

Furthermore, Stafford-Smith repeatedly explained to the prosecutor that Lewis doesn’t understand how the U.S. prosecutes these cases — just because they aren’t in the indictment they will be used against him. Lewis kept saying that he’s only charged with naming names so the other cables released are irrelevant.

Fed up with this back and forth, Assange himself spoke from the dock to say, “This is nonsense,” the US pretense that he’s not being charged with publishing classified information, just naming names, is “nonsense.”

“Apparently my role is to sit here and legitimate what is illegitimate by proxy,” Assange said.

The judge interrupted Assange to reprimand him for speaking out of turn.

“I understand of course you will hear things most likely many things that you do not like and you would like to intervene but it is not your role.

“Your remaining in court is something the court would wish for. But the court could proceed without you.”

The prosecution closed its cross-examination by citing David Leigh’s book with reference to Assange’s comments on informants, asks if Stafford-Smith agrees with Leigh’s or Assange’s view of informants. Stafford-Smith says he wouldn’t judge anyone based on a book.

Feldstein gives historical context for WikiLeaks’ journalism

Mark Feldstein/ University of Maryland Merrill College of Journalism

Journalism professor Mark Feldstein took the stand to continue his testimony which began yesterday, picking up where he left off on the long history of journalists using classified information in their reporting.

Feldstein confirmed that soliciting information is “standard journalistic behavior.” When teaching journalism, Feldstein talks about asking sources for evidence, actively seeking information, working with them to find documents that are newsworthy, and directing them as to what to find out. “It’s all routine,” he said.

Also routine are efforts to conceal sources’ identities. “Trying to protect your source is a journalistic obligation” Feldstein said, adding, “We use all kinds of techniques to protect them, including payphones, anonymity, encryption, removing fingerprints from documents, reporters do this all the time.”

Later, the prosecution would attempt to draw substantial differences between the New York Times and WikiLeaks, suggesting journalists don’t steal or unlawfully obtain information. While agreeing that journalists are not above the law, Feldstein says that it’s a “slippery slope” as to what constitutes “soliciting” information.

“We journalists are not passive stenographers,” he said. “To suggest receiving anonymously in the mail is the only way is wrong.”

Asked if he himself has published this type of information, he said, “Yeah, I didn’t publish a lot of classified documents but my entire career virtually was soliciting and publishing secret information.”

On the question of allegations that publishing names necessarily causes harm, Feldstein said that it’s easy for the government to claim possible harm because it’s impossible to prove. “Scant evidence that national security is harmed” by government disclosures, he said, and “national security is often used as a shield to hide” embarrassing or bad actions.

Feldstein used the Pentagon Papers as an example, where the government prosecutors at the time went to court alleging that these documents exposed war plans, identified CIA officials, and could even prolong the war. Prosecutors told the court that it would cause “immediate and irreparable harm,” and only years later did one such prosecutor admit he saw no harm from the releases. But why lie at the time? We now know that President Nixon himself instructed his attorney general to smear the New York Times as “disloyal,” in any way he could.

The Trump administration’s “politically motivated prosecution”

The prosecution made repeated efforts to characterize the investigation into WikiLeaks from 2010 to 2020 as one ongoing case, which just happened to finally result in charges with President Trump in power. But Feldstein testified to his view that the Obama administration explicitly decided not to prosecute Assange, citing this 2013 article on the Obama administration deciding not to prosecute, whereas “everything changed” under the Trump administration.

The 2013 piece begins, “The [Obama administration’s] Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists.”

In 2017, by contrast, the FBI wanted a “head on a pike”, President Trump wanted journalists in jail, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence agency”, and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions made Assange’s arrest a “priority.”

Even in this administration, the decision was controversial. This 2019 Post article explicitly names James Trump and Daniel Grooms as federal prosecutors who disagreed with prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act, because it was “so susceptible to First Amendment and other complicated legal and factual challenges.”

The prosecution attempted to show that WikiLeaks, Assange and his lawyers believed charges were still coming, but Feldstein said that while of course lawyers would protect their client, and while WikiLeaks would likely always fear charges, the “proof is in the pudding” that the Obama admin did not bring charges and Trump did, with no new evidence coming forward in between.

In answering closing questions, Feldstein was very clear as to why he believed the prosecution of Assange was politically motivated, citing several reasons: the unprecedented scope of these charges, the fact that a prosecution was rejected by the Obama administration, the framing of the superseding indictment, and President Trump’s “known vitriol toward the press.” Finally, he said, the only attempts to prosecute journalists in the past were “obviously highly political.”

The prosecution suggested Feldstein was speculating and returned to the idea that names published in the documents would cause harm and an objective grand jury could see that. Feldstein responded that if that was the real intention, the U.S. could have indicted Assange under the much narrower Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which criminalizes the exposure of certain intelligence figures.

Expanding on the dangers of this broad scope in the indictment, Feldstein said, “recruiting and conspiracy are scary terms, used for terrorists.” By contrast, journalists direct sources, say what they need, send back for more information. “So if that becomes criminalized, if that becomes conspiring, then most of what investigative journalists do would be criminal.”

Hearing Coverage

Day 1: Assange’s Extradition Hearing Resumes: 7 September 2020

September 7, 2020

Press Briefing: Assange Extradition Hearing September 2020

Kevin Gosztola: Previewing witnesses scheduled to testify

See live-tweeted coverage of today’s hearing in one thread.

Assange has been re-arrested, the previous extradition warrant has been withdrawn and the new warrant has been served.

NGOs access to Assange hearing revoked

Judge Vanessa Baraitser then announced that some 40 individuals were granted remove (video) access to the proceedings by mistake, and their access has been revoked. Courage has learned that those whose access was rescinded include representatives from Amnesty International and PEN Norway.

“I know that others are attending this hearing remotely and in an adjacent courtroom. I am allowing this to take place for social distancing and technology allows us to watch this remotely. Those who attend remotely are still bound to the usual rules relevant to court hearings. I remind you that it is a criminal offense to record or broadcast any part of this hearing, including screenshots on any device. As you know I am aware that a photograph has been taken of Mr Assange inside court and shared on social media in breach of these rules.

I have received a list of 40 people who wish to attend this remotely by cloud. This is something I can consider but only after I have received an application. I have granted a number of remote access to lawyers and a small number of people including lawyers who have acted for Mr Assange in closely related proceedings. In error, the court sent out to others who had sought access. During this pandemic, there have been changes about how people can access proceedings. I remain concerned about my ability to maintain the integrity of the court if they are able to attend remotely. Normally, I can see what is happening in the court room to ensure the integrity of courtroom is maintained. Once livestreaming takes place, the court cannot manage this breach even less when the person is outside the jurisdiction. I want to make it clear that the public interest and allowing remote access is unlikely to meet the interests of justice tests. There are many jurisdictions allowing travel to the UK during COVID, so lessening restrictions on travel. For those who consider they still not travel to the UK to attend the hearing, then they need to apply again and I will consider it.

I have regretfully refused the current remaining applications for access to the cloud access.”

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnnson explains that parliamentarians were denied access as well.

Debate over whether witness statements will be read in court

The defense has asked that the witnesses be permitted to be taken through their witness statements so that the court, Assange and the public will hear the evidence in full before cross examination starts. “To plunge into cross examination would not assist yourself, the public or Mr Assange and would not be fair.”

Prosecutor James Lewis QC opposes this, saying it is contrary to Divisional Court jurisprudence and that it would allow witnesses to give additional evidence beyond their written statements and require constant adjournments to allow the prosecution to consider the evidence given on the stand before cross examination can begin.

The judge decides,

“Each of the witness statements will be made public. Mr Assange has been given a copy of those witness statements. In my view there is no benefit whatsoever to allowing the witnesses give evidence in chief. I will give the witnesses time to settle and orientate themselves and will allow no more than 30 minutes.”

Superseding indictment comes well after proceedings were underway

Six months after opening submissions, 18 months before this hearing started and a matter of weeks before the matter was listed, the US announced a new indictment.

Defense counsel Mark Summers QC says,

“It is a curiosity that the US had, in previous hearings, been content for the hearings to go ahead in February and in May, presumably knowing that this was coming.”

It wasn’t immediately obvious what had changed. Of course the conduct outlined in it, but as far as the charges in it, it was difficult to discern what was going on….

“It became clear to everyone on 21 August, just over 2 weeks ago, whether or not we were justified in thinking the charges had changed. The material was expressly now not just background material but was being put before you as potential standalone basis for criminality, that is to say, that even if the US court rejects in their entirely the existing Manning allegations, Mr Assange can be extradited and potentially convicted for this conduct on its own and this is a resounding and new development in this case. The reason I am on my feet is of course the timing of this development.”

The defense also putlined the various other criminal allegations now included in the new indictment – including assisting a whistleblower attempting to evade arrest (Snowden).

“It would be extraordinary for this court to be beginning an extradition hearing in relation to allegations like that within weeks of their announcement without warning and even more extraordinary to do in circumstances where the defendant is in custody.”

To remedy this issue, the defense proposes the court excise the new conduct alleged in the newest indictment. “It impossible for the defense team to deal with the allegations being put to him and in relation to material for which you have been provided no explanation for their late arrival.”

“It is fundamentally unfair to introduce separate criminal allegations, without notice, without time to prepare evidence, where the defense cannot properly deal with the new aspects of the case.”

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

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

Judge refuses to excise new conduct alleged in newest indictment

Judge Baraitser says the defense should have asked for more time despite Assange still being in custody. If conduct is to be excised, she says, it must be in context of a statutory bar or abuse of process argument. The judge refuses the defense proposal to excise any new conduct in the newest superseding indictment.

Defense requests adjournment

In light of the judge’s refusal to excise the new conduct alleged, the defense asks the court for an adjournment until January.

“This is an application that we do not make lightly because Mr Assange will bear the brunt of the consequences of it. In light of your ruling, we do apply for an adjournment to allow us to gather the evidence that we need to answer the new allegations.”

We have not been able to answer the allegations which have only been made in the last few weeks. This has been made worse because of the conditions we are all having to work under.

“I can say without fear of contradiction that no one in this case has been involved in a case of this magnitude dealing with the gathering of evidence at this late stage of the process.”

The defense explained why they haven’t made this application before today’s hearing:

“First, throughout that period, Mr Assange had not seen the new request. I have mentioned more than once that the only way he gets to see documents is by posting documents into Belmarsh. We have not had opportunity to meet and consult with him. He still hasn’t received, for example, the revised opening note and the documents which accompanied it and it was that document that made clear that we were dealing with conduct that was mere narrative as we had believed it to be but was standalone criminality capable of sustaining a conviction if accepted in its own right. Instructions taken from Assange on that basis could only have commenced on 21 August, which was last week, and we took the view that we had the ability to first apply to exclude that material. We have recognized that the solution, if there is one, is adjournment.

I could of course appraise you with more detail of the difficulties the defence team has been operating under the past few months.”

Acknowledging that they haven’t seen their client in person, the judge asks if the defense has been able to speak to Assange by phone. They respond yes, but only twice in very short conversations:

“It is not easy and even coherent on the phone. I don’t want to belabor the difficulties we have had in communicating with our client in the past week, but they have been very significant in the time period you are concerned with. He was, in essence, over that unsatisfactory medium, he was having to take in information from us on – any view – complex documents and to make him aware of the issues and to take a decision on them.”

The defense explained there is no videolink, only these short, difficult conversations by phone. The judge adjourned for 10 minutes to consider the defense’s application.

Judge denies defense request for adjournment

The judge says the defense had time to apply to adjourn previously and they did not do so. Rejecting the defense’s reasoning for applying now, she says she ruled not to excise new conduct now but this can’t have come as a surprise and the defense should have acted as if we would proceed. Judge denies defense application to adjourn.

Journalism professor begins testimony

Mark Feldstein, journalism historian and professor at the University of Maryland, gives testimony. See his witness statement here as to his determination that what Assange and WikiLeaks practice is journalism: Mark Feldstein witness statement

Feldstein testifies to the ubiquity of leaks of classified information:

“There are so many of them – thousands upon thousands – it is routine; every study in the last 60 years has said the leaks of classified information inform the public about government decision making but they also evidence government dishonesty….and they go back to George Washington’s presidency.”

Some journalists make a career of this?

Feldstein says, “Yes, Pulitzer prize winners and some of the most respected journalists in the nation.”

Would you expect publishers to be prosecuted for this criminal conduct?

“Well no…because the First Amendment protects a free press and it is vital that the press expise wrongdoing….not because journalists are somehow privileged but that the public has a right to be informed.”

Has there ever been a precedent of the prosecution of a publisher?

“There has always been a divide, the source-distributor divide….they have charged whistleblowers or sources, but have never charged a publisher, a journalistic or other news outlet.”

There have been other attempts to prosecute journalists before?

“There have been extraordinary efforts to punish presidential enemies…”

Presidents going after journalists but never to the point of a grand jury returning charges?

“That’s correct”

At this point, the court had technical issues with Prof. Feldstein’s videolink, and adjourned for the day. Court resumes tomorrow, 10am London time.

Hearing Coverage Press Release

Julian Assange Defence Skeleton Arguments

Press Release

Julian Assange’s partner calls for his release on eve of extradition hearing + In-depth Press Briefing

06. 09. 2020

Julian Assange Extradition Hearing Press Briefing 2020 – English

Julian Assange Extradition Hearing Press Briefing 2020 – Spanish

Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner, has called for the WikiLeaks founder to be freed on the eve of the resumption of his extradition hearing at the Old Bailey.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s (Monday 7th September) court case she issued this statement:

“Julian will be taken from his cell in Belmarsh tomorrow to the Old Bailey in a prison van that is like a ventilated coffin. He has been confined to his cell for up to 24 hours a day, deprived of intellectual stimulation, and has had no access to his lawyers for the last six months.

Two weeks ago, I was able to see him for the first time since lockdown. He looked a lot thinner than on my last visit. He was in a lot of pain and his health is not good. I was able to take Gabriel and Max to see him for 20 minutes, but we were warned by the prison staff that if they tried to touch him the visit would be ended. We had to wear masks and visors. To the boys, Julian has become a voice on the telephone, not their father whom they can see and hug.

It is heart breaking to think that if Julian is extradited and put in a US super-max prison the boys will never get to know their father and he will never see them grow up. That is what is at stake for us as a family. But there are also much bigger issues that we are fighting for. Julian’s case has huge repercussions for freedom of expression and freedom of the Press.

This is an attack on journalism. Julian is charged with practising journalism and for publishing. If he is extradited to the US for publishing inconvenient truths about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then it will set a precedent and any British journalist or publisher could also be extradited in the future. Julian faces 175 years in prison, but he has had to prepare for tomorrow’s hearing without even seeing the legal papers or seeing his legal team. There have been so many abuses of the legal process throughout the case, including a replacement indictment being introduced at the last minute even though the hearing began in February, and it should be thrown out for that reason alone.

But there are also fundamental legal reasons why the extradition should be blocked. This is a political act by the Trump government and Julian is accused of a political offence, which is outside the terms of the UK-US Extradition Treaty.

Anyone who cares about freedom of expression and freedom of the Press should support Julian’s fight against extradition”. They will explain that the extradition should be thrown out because Julian is accused of a political offence, which is outside the terms of the UK-US Extradition Treaty. They will also show the numerous grave abuses of process have taken place during the case – and highlight the various statutory bars which apply to Julian being extradited. “It’s not just Julian in the prison. It’s the kids that are being deprived of their father. It’s me that’s being deprived.”

Also read the exclusive interview from Sunday Times magazine cover story about Julian Assange and his partner Stella Moris – Julian Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, on their secret family


Julian Assange’s extradition hearing will restart on Monday 7th September 2020 at the Old Bailey and is anticipated to last  three to four weeks.  

Julian Assange has been charged by the Trump administration for publications which exposed war crimes and human rights abuses — for which he now faces a 175 year prison 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”.


Ask your MP to sign EDM 719

Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 719.

EDM 719 acknowledges statements by the National Union of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and others in relation to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and affirms commitment to press freedom and public-interest journalism.

Press Clippings

Local councils across Australia call for Assange to be freed. Councils in the UK should follow their lead…

In recent months local councils across Australia have called for the release of Julian Assange so that the WikiLeaks founder no longer has to face extradition to the US where he could face 175 years in jail for revealing the truth about the Afghan and Iraq wars.

Murad Qureshi from the Greater London Authority (GLA) said, ‘this is a great initiative by local councils in Australia. I hope UK local authorities follow suit in the fight to defend free speech’.

Council’s in Melbourne City, Victoria, Moreland, Victoria, the City of Fremantle, Western Australia, Byron Bay, New South Wales (NSW), Lismore (NSW), Yarra, Victoria, and Darebin, Victoria, have all added their voices to the new wave of protest.

Campaigners are asking that local authorities around the world, especially those twinned with Australian towns and cities, and those in the UK where Assange is held, also put their weight behind the new push to free Assange.

The Don’t Extradite Assange campaign is circulating a model motion based on the Melbourne City councils successful resolution to help local councillors in the UK to get their authorities on board.

This Council:

  1. Reasserts its staunch support for Freedom of the
    Press and the Rule of Law and the extension of both to all people.

  2. Notes that WikiLeaks has played an important and effective role in disclosing war crimes, corporate fraud, environmental damage and other criminal abuses.

  3. Notes that Mr Assange is currently being held on remand in HMP Belmarsh  without charge, locked in a cell for 23 hours per day.

  4. Notes that Mr Assange is now in very poor health and is facing extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States of America (USA) in an unprecedented Espionage Act prosecution for engaging in journalistic activity and, if convicted, faces 175 years imprisonment and potentially the death penalty.

  5. Notes that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for Mr Assange’s immediate release and that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has examined Mr Assange in Belmarsh Prison and believes that his life is in danger.

  6. Notes and supports Amnesty International’s call for the UK to not extradite Mr Assange to the USA and that the UK abide by its obligations under international human rights law that forbids the transfer of individuals to another country where they would face serious human rights violations.

  7. Notes that other major civil liberties, media freedom and human
    rights groups have spoken out against the arrest and treatment of Julian Assange and include:

    The International BAR Association of Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
    The European Council
    The Australian Federal Parliamentary Group headed by Mr Andrew Wilkie
    The Federal Parliament of Catalonia
    The Federal Parliament of Austria
    The former Foreign Minister of Germany
    The Mexican Prime Minister
    A Doctors Group of over 150 German Doctors
    The 130 Prominent Germans Group
    Many international Lawyers Groups
    Teachers Groups in Melbourne and Sydney
    Writers and Journalist Groups
    PEN International
    City Councils including Geneva, Yarra, Darebin, Moreland and Byron Shire
    Freedom of the Press Foundation
    Electronic Frontier Foundation
    American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    Reporters Without Borders
    Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    Australian Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)
    Blueprint for Free Speech
    Center for Constitutional Rights
    Media Watch
    Code Pink
    Cage UK
    Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)
    Digital Rights Watch (Australia)
    IFEX (global network of organisations that promote and defend the right
    to freedom of expression and information)
    Fair Trials (global criminal justice watchdog)
    Freedom of the Press Foundation
    Electronic Frontier Foundation
    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    The New Yorker
    International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)
    A global petition compiled of approximately 400,000 signatures

  8. Requests that the Council’s officers write to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary forthwith requesting that they immediately intervene in this matter to ensure that the appropriate authorities urgently address Mr Assange’s poor health and mistreatment.

  9. Issue a public statement of the above points for dissemination through its regular media channels advising of the council’s position and inform’s MPs of the same.
Press Clippings Statements

Human Rights Advocates

Senator the Hon Marise Payne,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

PO Box 5317
NSW 2550

27 May 2020

Dear Minister,

We the undersigned representatives of Australian human rights, digital rights and civil society organisations are calling for your urgent intervention on behalf of Mr Julian Assange.

Mr Assange and his colleagues at WikiLeaks helped extend the power of investigative journalism and truth-telling into the digital age, exposing war crimes and human rights abuses to public view. As a result, he has paid a heavy penalty.

In May 2019, Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture declared that Mr Assange had been “exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.” He stated that Mr Assange shows the symptoms of an individual subjected to torture.

Professor Melzer’s review was undertaken well before the global pandemic, which has severely disrupted the UK’s prison and judicial systems. Since then, the situation has deteriorated gravely, with remand prisoners now subjected to effective solitary confinement.

The Australian government should be willing to intervene to protect the lives of Australians caught up in legal processes in foreign countries, where those proceedings violate international law.

Before the court reconvenes on 1 June, we request of you the following:

1. To make representation on Mr Assange’s behalf that he be released on bail immediately;
2. To relay to us the outcome of this representation.

Mr Assange is a publisher, a father and an Australian citizen. It is time he had the support of his Government.

We await your response,

yours sincerely,

Suelette Dreyfus, Blueprint for Free Speech
Stuart Rees, Sydney Peace Foundation
George Newhouse, National Justice Project
Lizzie O’Shea, Digital Rights Watch
Victorian Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty Victoria)
Nicholas Cowdery AO QC,President, New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties
Valerie Joy, Alternatives to Violence Queensland
Christine McKenzie, PEN Melbourne
Margaret Pestorius, Australian Nonviolence Projects
Margaret Pestorius, Australian Nonviolence Projects
Cate Adams, Wage Peace
Dr Sue Wareham OAM, Medical Association for the Prevention of War
Paul Barratt AO, Australians for War Powers Reform
Tony Kevin, Canberra
Stanley Koulouris, Unions Australia, Sydney.
Dr K.H. Sievers, Australian Voice
Ian Rose, Support Assange & WikiLeaks Coalition (Sydney Aus)
Lorese Vera, Convenor, Canberra Action 4 Assange.
Tristan Sykes Convenor, Free Assange Hobart
Clare Smith, Adelaide support group for Assange
Margaret Grace Richardson, Founder – Julian Assange Supporters Alice Springs
Sean O’Reilly, Brisbane Assange Action Brisbane Queensland
Rod Lemin, Brisbane Assange Action Brisbane Queensland
Paul Oboohov, Socialist Alliance, Canberra Branch
Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS)
Raine Sinclair, Melbourne4WikiLeaks
Tom Cooper, Melbourne4WikiLeaks
Lorine Anita Brice, Melbourne4WikiLeaks
Kate Hecimovic, Melbourne4WikiLeaks
Joe Lorback, Solidarity Sound System
Danielle Wood, People For Assange
Mitchell Duirs, Perth 4 Assange, WA
Walter Mellado, Australians For Assange
Amelia Ryan, Australians For Assange
Dianne Andary, Australians For Assange
Desmond McMillan, Australians For Assange
Phillip Adams, Australians For Assange
Camillo De Luca, Australians For Assange
Rosemary Gower, Riverland Support Group for Julian Assange’s Freedom Jean Lee, Adelaide Friends of Wikileaks

Press Release

National Union of Journalists (UK) issues resolution on Assange extradition case


National Union of Journalists issues resolution on Assange extradition case

The union’s executive passed a comprehensive motion last Friday demanding that Assange should not be sent to the US where he could face 175 years for revealing information about the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison since he was committed for extradition by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

The union is now writing to the Home Secretary, the Shadow Home Secretary, and the Shadow Justice Minister encouraging them to take action on the Assange case.

The Don’t Extradite Assange campaign said: ‘this is an important development which gives the lie to the US governments argument that Julian Assange is not a journalist. It also provides an important initiative that other trade unionists can rally behind’. 

The full text of the motion is as follows.

This executive notes:
1. That Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is held in Belmarsh prison awaiting United States extradition proceedings, a process that can take many years.

2. If Assange is successfully prosecuted in the US he faces 175 years in prison.

3. That the extraterritorial application of the Espionage Act in the indictment of Assange criminalises journalistic activities, in this case activities carried out on UK soil by a non-US national, in collaboration with numerous UK media (including The Guardian, Channel 4 and The Telegraph).

4. That previous statements by the General Secretary of the NUJ, by the Australian Journalists Union MEAA, and by the International Federation of Journalists’ organisations have supported Assange. 

5. That there is a political dimension to extraditions and that the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and US makes the extradition of Assange more likely to go ahead.

This executive believes:
1. That Assange’s indictment comes at a time of heightened threats to the press in Western countries in the form of raids on newspapers and broadcasters, government claims that the press are ‘the enemy of the people’, and actual prosecutions involving life-long sentences for publishing accurately.

2. That Assange’s extradition to the United States would establish a dangerous precedent with regard to the prosecution of journalists in this country under the UK Official Secrets Act given the requirement for the UK courts to accept US arguments as to dual criminality for the extradition to go ahead. 

3. That press freedoms in this country will be weakened if the courts accept that NUJ members’ publishing activities in this country can give rise to criminal liability in foreign states and to their consequent lawful extradition.

4. That the publication of the Afghan and Iraq war logs and other material by Wikileaks that are the subject of the US indictment revealed important information that has benefitted the public.

7. Disclosing information to the public should never be equated with espionage 

This executive resolves: 
1. To campaign to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the US.
2. To write to the Home Secretary, the Shadow Home Secretary, and the Shadow Justice Secretary making the union’s case on this issue. 

Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign
twitter, facebook: @DEAcampaign

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