Assange Extradition Hearing 2020: Day Seven

September 16, 2020

Pre-Hearing

Nothing new again to report pre-hearing minus the fact that forty “human rights, free speech and political observers” are still being banned from the extradition hearing including Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch. According to Julia Hall from Amnesty International, they’ve made three applications “requesting recognition as expert trial monitors” and yet the court continues to shoot down their requests. I mean, these aren’t some sketchy, obscure organizations that are requesting access. Today, Hall posted a screenshot of a response they received from judge:
Ridiculous. And my daily reminder: Every day Belmarsh prison puts Assange through a five-hour ordeal just to take him to court which includes being handcuffed, strip-searched, and a three-hour round-trip transport. 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 punishment for simply practicing journalism. Especially those who used WikiLeaks documents in the past to bolster their work, image, or publications.

Witness #7: John Goetz

John Goetz is an investigative journalist who currently works for the German media outlet, NDR. He previously worked for Der Speigel on stories about Afghanistan and in 2010, he traveled to London to assist Assange with the Afghan War logs. During that time the two of them along with others would meet at the offices of The Guardian and the collaboration led to stories “such as the activities of a secret American military assassination squad.”

Encryption

While they were working on the logs, Goetz testified that Assange was overzealous about using encryption and thought that he was over-the-top paranoid about the whole thing which he admits has now become standard journalistic practice.

Redactions

Goetz also testified that Assange was “very keen” to redact sensitive names in the documents and that he himself was not aware of any sensitive names getting through their redaction or “harm-minimization” process. At one point, even The Guardian’s David Leigh supposedly complained that publications were being held up due to the redaction process. Indeed, Goetz called the process “rigorous” and at one point WikiLeaks partners from The New York Times contacted the White House about redactions after which 15,000 docs were held as a result.

However, in a book published by The Guardian‘s David Leigh and Luke Harding in February 2011, they leaked the password to WikiLeaks’ server after which Cryptome published the 15,000 unredacted documents. More: The Guardian claimed that Assange told them that the password was only temporary which has to be one of the lamest journalistic excuses I’ve ever heard, like, you wouldn’t check first to make sure it was changed before publishing? My guess is that they did.

Assange called the U.S. State Department to warn them:

Now, during Assange’s extradition hearing, the U.K. prosecution for the U.S. is arguing that Assange published the unredacted documents before Cryptome. This seems like a pretty easy thing to clear up. I guess we’ll find out later because Cryptome is supposedly on the witness list.

Khaled El-Masri

On December 31, 2003, German citizen Khaled El-Masri was mistakenly abducted in Macedonia by U.S. troops and held at a CIA black site called the “Salt Pit” for over four months. During that time he was beaten, tortured, sodomized, and then eventually dumped on the side of the road in Albania. At the time, Gina “Bloody Gina” Haspel was overseeing the site and even after CIA agents realized their mistake they continued to hold him “by insisting that they knew he was ‘bad.’”

In 2011, Goetz worked on El-Masri’s case and was eventually able to track down the names of the CIA staff who kidnapped him “which led to the Munich state prosecutor issuing 13 arrest warrants.” However, Wikileaks documents proved that the U.S. government pressured the Germans not to issue the arrest warrants lest they face “serious consequences.”

During today’s hearing the defense wanted to present El-Masri’s statement (HERE) but the prosecution objected because it wasn’t relevant to the charges in the indictment.

No decision by the court has been made yet. Naomi Colvin noted that El-Masri’s case was the first time that the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the US rendition program constituted torture.

Witness #8: Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. Marine who worked for the U.S. government during the Vietnam war. During that time he made copies of classified documents and gave them to The New York Times. They became known as the Pentagon Papers and they revealed how the U.S. government had misled the public. He was later charged under the Espionage Act but the case was dismissed due to government misconduct. And just as a fun side note, the U.S. government apparently dumped 350 documents on Ellsberg yesterday in preparation for today’s hearing.

Assange’s Political Views

  • Ellsberg said that Assange has “political opinions of sophistication and complexity”
  • He thinks its amazing that anyone would think that Assange doesn’t have any political opinions
  • He talked about Assange’s views on transparency and accountability

Afghan/Iraq War Logs and Classification

  • Ellsberg said that if he had seen similar reports in Vietnam like the Afghan/Iraq War logs they would have been classified higher
  • Back in his day, WikiLeaks’ reports would have been classified top secret “but torture and assassination” have become so normalized that “the documents were available to a system used by 100,000 people”

Collateral Murder (Apache video) and Recklessness

You know that most of the U.S. government’s case so far has revolved around Assange (technically WikiLeaks?) allegedly being reckless when it came to redacting names so naturally it was a big topic of the day. Ellsberg, on the other hand, characterized WikiLeaks’ work as “sophisticated, technical and done with a great deal of care.” When the prosecution asked Ellsberg if the Pentagon Papers had ever resulted in harm, he stunningly answered “Yes,” and then described how he had kept in the Papers the name of a “clandestine CIA officer who had been involved in the assassination of the [Vietnamese President] Ngo Dinh Diem.” Wow. And here we still are sitting through this circus act. More:

  • Ellsberg: The Collateral Murder video shows a “blatant war crime
  • He’s shocked no one has been punished for it
  • Prosecution insisted that Assange was not being charged for Collateral Murder : “He is only being charged for publishing the small number of documents where names of sources or informants were disclosed”
  • Despite the prosecution trying to hammer home this argument (once again) regarding three counts against Assange, Ellsberg continued to hammer home that there were 15 remaining counts in the U.S. indictment

Did WikiLeaks Publications Put People in Harm’s Way?

According to James Lewis who finally started putting some “WikiLeaks killed some people” cards on the table today:

  • U.S. Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg’s affidavit states that when the U.S. government went to find their sources (including religious leaders and human rights activists) “all the individuals who had to flee their homelands suffered actual harm, some quantifiable such as losing employment or having assets frozen.”
  • The prosecution also noted that an Ethiopian journalist had to flee after refusing to reveal their sources during an interrogation—allegedly a direct result of WikiLeaks’ publications.
  • James Lewis pointed out that WikiLeaks documents were found in Bin Laden’s compound and one has to wonder if the CIA purchased the computer and printer that made them available to him. Ellsberg’s response?

“None of these hundreds of threats appear to have been carried out, if they were I would have a very different attitude…”How many refugees have been caused in the region ‘by US wars’”

Floyd Abrams Article

The prosecution also asked Ellsberg about a 2010 Floyd Abrams article entitled “Why WikiLeaks Is Not Pentagon Papers 2.0,” in which Abrams argued that the Pentagon Papers were published “to expose the secret history of the Vietnam War” whereas WikiLeaks simply dumped 250,000 U.S. State Department cables “just because they were, well, secret.” Abrams is the attorney who represented The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case who believes that unlike Ellsberg who held back 43 volumes of Defense Department volumes, Assange would have published it all had he been standing in Ellsberg’s shoes. Ellsberg:

  • He doesn’t believe Assange just “dumps” documents
  • He believes these types of distinctions by Abrams and others are so they can attack Assange and Snowden
  • He doesn’t feel that Abrams understands his motives or Assange’s
  • He noted that Assange held back 15,000 documents
  • He admits that he allowed the name of a known CIA agent to be published in the Papers in order to show that he hadn’t doctored/withheld
  • When Assange reached out to the U.S. government re: redactions “they did not lift a finger to help people who might have been at risk”
  • Prosecution: “So this is all the government’s fault, is that right?”
  • Ellsberg: “Yes, it seems to me they bear responsibility”

Motivation

  • Ellsberg was not allowed to explain in court his motivation for the Pentagon Papers
  • The Espionage Act has been used this way ever since: strict liability offense, not allowed to explain motivation
  • Ellsberg feels he didn’t get a fair trial under the Espionage Act nor will Assange

Assange Speaks! Again.

At some point in the proceedings and AGAIN like a shot in the air Assange unexpectedly spoke out. Naturally Judge Baraitser threatened to boot him out of the courtroom again. The hearing resumes tomorrow morning.

Twitter Sources

The Twitter users I followed today that I want to give a special thanks to for covering the hearing and that were used as my source material include (these guys and gals do the heavy lifting so we don’t have to):

Interviews

“’Julian Did Redact’: An Interview With Lawyer-Journalist Mark Davis.” Paul Gregoire via Sidney Criminal Lawyers

Rebecca Vincent, Reporters Without Borders via Mohamed Elmaazi/Sputnik HERE

Articles

Bridges for Media Freedom Daily Court Summary: A.M. SUMMARY and P.M. SUMMARY

Richard Medhurst’s Day 7 Updates HERE

“Wikileaks founder Julian Assange Withheld 15,000 Documents About Afghanistan War to ‘Protect Innocents From Being Harmed’, Investigative Journalist Tells Extradition Hearing.” Danyal Hussain via DailyMail

“Pentagon Demands WikiLeaks Return All Leaked Documents.” (2010) Adam Levine via CNN

“WikiLeaks Founder Gets Support in Rebuking U.S. on Whistle-Blowers.” (2010) John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya via NYT

Of Interest

“How Did We Get Here? The Threat of Fascism in U.S.” Davey Heller via ClassConscious.org

“The Darkest Corner: Special Administrative Measures and Extreme Isolation in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” Center For Constitutional Rights

Conditions of Prison in Alexandria, VA via The Justice Campaign (Twitter thread)

“Lockdown Life is Better in Virtual Reality” Madeleine Spence, The Times

“Wikileaks – USA against Julian Assange (english subtitles)” via ardmediathek.de

Witnesses

  • Day 1 and 2: Mark Feldstein
  • Day 2: Clive Stafford-Smith
  • Day 3: Paul Rogers, Trevor Timm
  • Day 4: Eric Lewis (cancelled)
  • Day 5: Eric Lewis
  • Day 6: Eric Lewis (continued), Thomas Durkin
  • Day 7: John Goetz, Daniel Ellsberg

Attorneys

  • Edward Fitzgerald QC (Assange defense)
  • Mark Summers QC (Assange defense)
  • Jennifer Robinson (Assange defense)
  • Gareth Peirce (Assange defense)
  • Florence Iveson (Assange defense)
  • James Lewis QC (prosecutor for the U.S.)
  • Joel Smith (prosecutor for the U.S.)
  • Claire Dobbin (prosecutor for the U.S.)

Documents

Defense Opening Arguments HERE

Defense Skeleton Arguments HERE and HERE

Prosecution Skeleton Arguments (photos via @MacWBishop) HERE

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

Defense Witness #2 Statement: Clive Stafford-Smith HERE

Defense Witness #3 Statement: Paul Rogers HERE

Defense Witness #4 Statement: Trevor Timm HERE

Defense Witness #5 Statement: Eric Lewis (not released yet)

Defense Witness #6 Statement: Thomas Durkin (not released yet)

Defense Witness #7 Statement: John Goetz HERE

Defense Witness #8 Statement: Daniel Ellsberg (not released yet)

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