Assange Extradition Hearing 2020: Day Two

September 8, 2020: Day 2

Pre-Hearing Details

Nothing unusual to report about anything that happened pre-hearing minus the fact we should all keep in mind what Julian Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, said yesterday about how Belmarsh prison puts Assange through a five-hour ordeal including being handcuffed and strip-searched just to take him to court. I’m wondering how many journalists and publishers out there that refuse to speak out on his behalf against this extradition request would feel if the U.S. arrested them tomorrow and put them through this as punishment for journalism. Especially those who used WikiLeaks documents in the past to bolster their work, image, or publications.

Other than that, Assange is still being caged up in the courtroom like a mass murderer and we’re waiting for the rest of the world to wake up to this show trial that will affect journalism as we know it.

Defense Witness #2: Clive Stafford-Smith

The first witness we heard from today was British human rights attorney Clive Stafford-Smith and some of his testimony was absolutely stunning—obviously in the sense that it never ceases to amaze me just how criminal the U.S. government is. Smith runs an organization called “Reprieve” which focuses on cases “involving rendition, secret detention, torture, death penalty cases & litigation involving conduct in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Here are some of the highlights from his testimony:

Drones

  • Smith used WikiLeaks’ documents in “litigation involving US drone killings in Pakistan”
  • Litigation would have been much more difficult without them
  • Legal action that Smith took eventually led to the U.S. halting drone killings in Pakistan

Assassination Program

  • WikiLeaks documents exposed the United States’ “targeted assassination program”
  • A U.S. national who worked as a journalist was targeted by the U.S. assassination program
  • One journalist was targeted five times for assassination with hellfire missiles from predator drones

“The cables also helped in investigations concerning rendition and torture. They also highlighted the US assassination programme that included around 669 men. The documents show that the targets also include journalists.” — Juan Passarelli

So yeah, do you honestly think the U.S. government cares about media workers? Smith called the program not only unlawful but morally and ethically reprehensible.

Torture

Smith’s background includes making sure Guantanamo Bay detainees receive a fair hearing. He described the atmosphere at Gitmo as “hostile.”

  • WikiLeaks documents helped him win litigation and free innocent people at Gitmo
  • One WikiLeaks document revealed “enhanced interrogation techniques” like “hanging people by their arms while their shoulders slowly dislocated”
  • Binyam Mohamed was tortured including “razor blades to his genitals” although he said the psychological torture was worse
  • Smith: “It was like the Spanish Inquisition”
  • Members of an international criminal court were sanctioned by the U.S. over one of Smith’s cases
  • WikiLeaks documents show U.S. pressure not to prosecute cases of torture

And then there’s this little nugget that Mohamed Elmaazi tweeted out today about Binyam Mohamed:

“The British government actively sought to avoid its legal responsibilities in this case. To the point that the security officials leaked a statement which had been obtained under torture.”

Assange Speaks!

When it came time for the U.S. prosecutor to cross examine Smith, James Lewis QC repeatedly tried to argue with the witness that Assange was not being charged for publishing but rather because Assange—not WikiLeaks or any other journalistic outfit that had published WikiLeaks documents—had put Afghan and Iraqi sources in harm’s way.

“You have to realise I am covering #Assange hearing as an investigative journalist who spent 1 year working JUST on cables: it was so hard and intense to read and redact, and now the US try to depict all this work as just dumping stuff on the Internet putting lives at risk” — Stefania Mauriza

Then, at some point and out of nowhere Assange interjected into the proceedings, “This is nonsense!” and reportedly, “Apparently my role is to sit here and legitimate what is delegitimate by proxy.”

Woohoo!!!!

However, as amazing as it was to hear Assange speak up, under the circumstances and especially with Judge Vanessa Baraitser presiding over the case, this kind of thing landed him in trouble because it’s been a rigged circus since 2010 and ain’t nothin’ changed since then. How rigged, you ask?

Right. The judge is just going to banish Assange from his own extradition hearing because that’s not corrupt at all. I can’t emphasize enough times how much the U.K. judicial system is a U.S.-governed raging due process dumpster fire.

After a short break, the court received a submission from the prosecution on behalf of the U.S. government crying about how the defense made it sound like they wanted to extradite Assange for publishing because, again, it’s all about how Assange (not other journalists like Luke “the mouthpiece” Harding) basically doxed Iraqi and Afghan sources. And yet it’s never been proven that WikiLeaks put anyone in harm’s way and even the U.S. government has said previously that no one has been injured or killed because of publications.

Defense Witness #1: Professor Mark Feldstein

*Note this witness tried to testify on Monday, September 7th but the court had technical difficulties with the video link and so the proceedings were cut short for the day

Some Highlights Under Direct

  • Feldstein wrote a book about President Nixon’s persecution of journalist Jack Anderson. The U.S. government tried to prosecute Anderson under the Espionage Act and failed
  • So then they discussed poisoning him which kinda a lot sounds familiar
  • Feldstein: Working with sources to obtain information and protecting their anonymity is “standard journalistic practice”
  • Feldstein: The government often times classifies information to hide embarrassing information, incompetence, misconduct, political vendettas
  • Feldstein: The Obama administration didn’t prosecute Assange because it would have created a dangerous precedent
  • Feldstein: Things changed under Trump
  • Feldstein: Trump administration wanted a “head on a spike” to deter leaks and pressure the DOJ to prosecute
  • Reportedly two prosecutors involved in the case against Assange, James Trump and Daniel Grooms, argued against charging Assange

James Lewis QC for the U.S. Government (cross)

  • Lewis questioned if Feldstein was really an unbiased “expert” witness because he had noted that the Obama administration didn’t charge Assange previously and yet he knew that the investigation continued into the Trump administration
  • Lewis brought up this Wikileaks tweet in an effort to discredit Feldstein who said he just saw the tweet for the first time last night
  • Stefania Mauriza: “In a nutshell: In his cross-examination of Prof Feldstein, the US counsel, James Lewis,is trying to: Demolish Feldstein’s credibility as an impartial expert+demolish the argument Obama Admin didn’t charge JA whereas Trump did+demolish the NYT argument against prosecution”
  • Lewis pointed out three counts in the indictment that pertained to documents containing un-redacted names which he said had put lives at risk
  • However, the U.S. government is literally relying on The Guardian’s David Leigh and Luke Harding, the notorious propagandist, as his sources
  • Harding is the same guy who hung out with Bill Browder at PutinCon, I mean, come ON
  • Unbelievably, Lewis made a comment to Feldstein about engaging in a “diatribe against President Trump” and asked if he would apologize!!
  • I don’t think anyone said it today but I got the distinct feeling (note: I did not attend the hearing) that there was some serious “We have to save Trump’s ass in all of this” from the prosecutors which that ALONE makes the case political!

Witnesses

  • Day 1 and 2 Defense Witness #1: Professor Mark Feldstein (Statement HERE and HERE)
  • Day 2 Defense Witness #2: Clive Stafford-Smith (Statement HERE)

Interviews

Stella Moris: HERE

Kristinn Hrafnsson: HERE and HERE

Juan Passarelli: HERE

Roger Waters: HERE

Documents

Defense Skeleton Arguments HERE and HERE

Bridges for Media Freedom Court Daily Summary HERE and HERE

Defense Witness #1 Statement: Professor Mark Feldstein HERE and HERE

Defense Witness #2 Statement: Clive Stafford-Smith HERE

Twitter Users and Articles

The Twitter users I followed today that I want to give a special thanks to for covering the hearing (or for their postings) that were used as source material include @WikiLeaks @SMaurizi, @MElmaazi, @jamesdoleman, and @jlpassarelli. These guys (and gals) do the heavy lifting so we don’t have to.

  • “How Did We Get Here? The Threat of Fascism in U.S.” Davey Heller via ClassConscious.org
  • “Your Man in the Public Gallery: the Assange Hearing Day 6.” Craig Murray via CraigMurray.uk.org
  • “The Working Class Must Demand an End to the Show Trial of Julian Assange.” Thomas Scripps via wsws.org
  • “Wikileaks Revealed US War Crimes, Assange Extradition Hearing Told.” David Brown via The Times (paywall)
  • “Rubberhose Cryptography and the Idea Behind Wikileaks: Julian Assange As a Physics Student.” Niraj Lal via Medium.com

Of Interest

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