Julian Assange Extradition Hearing: Day Nine

Julian Assange Extradition Hearing: Day Nine

September 18, 2020 – Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is currently being held at Belmarsh Prison in the UK, after being forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy where he had been granted political asylum. The United States issued a new superseding indictment in June 2020, with charges of violating the Espionage Act. He is facing 18 charges in total, including “plotting to hack computers” and “conspiring to obtain and disclose national defense” information. He faces 170 years in prison.

From the U.S. Department of Justice:

According to hacker Jeremy Hammond (currently in prison in the U.S. for hacking into H.B. Gary Federal and Stratfor, Inc.), he was threatened by U.S. prosecutors and pressured to lie about Julian Assange.

Indeed, it does appear that Hammond himself was entrapped by FBI informant Sabu. The FBI was able to leverage Sabu due to drug and weapons charges. Bradley “Chelsea” Manning has also claimed she was pressured by U.S. Prosecutors to lie about Assange.  She claims that when she refused, she was subjected to harsh treatment in retaliation for her refusal to cooperate with the prosecutors in their crusade against Assange.

There are several journalists covering the case daily, as the Court in the United Kingdom has limited who can attend the hearing, excluding many journalists and NGOs such as Amnesty International.

From Juan Passarelli who has been doing daily threads:

There are major implications for press freedoms, journalism in general and publishing. However, it seems the mainstream media is spending its time demonizing Asssange and WikiLeaks, rather than taking a stand for Freedom of the Press.

The testimony regarding the CIA torture is extremely difficult to read. Julian appeared upset that the Court refused to allow El Masri, a victim of that torture, to testify via video. His statement had to be read in by the defense.

El Masri was able to impart how Julian’s publishing provided him the only chance to corroborate his claims about the torture.

Incredible testimony.

After having seen images of the torture from Abu Gharib that have been uncovered, this evidence is very disturbing to read.

Kevin Gosztola has been reporting on this case and providing daily updates in his publication Shadowproof.

One has to wonder if these “glitches” are organic or not. While a very personal matter to Assange, this case has immense implications as regards the formal diplomatic relations and the application of extradition policies between the U.S. and the UK. The wider issues at stake are Freedom of the Press, embedded in the U.S. Constitution, and a trend toward the criminalization of journalism.

This aspect of the hearing is critical, as any alteration to case law and procedure could set the dangerous precedent that either prohibits or inhibits journalists from being able to report on government corruption and crimes. More subtly, any dilution of the Freedom of the Press may send a chill down the spines of journalists and would be whistleblowers.

This brings to mind questions about journalism that are overwhelmingly in the public interest. The claim can be made that, but for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks publishing, we would have no insight into how the government uses “National Security” and “State Secrets” privilege to hide embarrassing information.

President John F. Kennedy warned against these “secret proceedings” and the claims of “national security” being used to justify corruption and hide embarrassing information. (Read that “illegal and immoral.”)

Indeed the global mainstream media has taken to smearing and demonizing Julian Assange. People who have been around him claim that he is nothing like the portrayal drawn by the press.

An excerpt from investigative journalist Craig Murray, also covering the case daily:

I have no idea who ‘Dwyer’ – name as heard – is or what evidential value his affidavit might hold. It is a constant tactic of the prosecution to enter highly dubious information into the record by putting it to witnesses who have not heard of it. The context would suggest that ‘Dwyer’ is a US government official. Given that he claimed to be quoting two documents he was alleging Wikileaks had published online, it is also not clear to me why those published documents were not produced to the court and to Professor Sloboda.

We now come to the afternoon session. I have a difficulty here. The next witness was Carey Shenkman, an academic lawyer in New York who has written a book on the history of the Espionage Act of 1917 and its use against journalists. Now, partly because Shenkman was a lawyer being examined by lawyers, at times his evidence included lots of case names being thrown around, the significance of which was not entirely clear to the layman. I often could not catch the names of the cases. Even if I produced a full transcript, large chunks of it would be impenetrable to those from a non-legal background – including me – without a week to research it. So if this next reporting is briefer and less satisfactory than usual, it is not the fault of Carey Shenkman.

This evidence was nonetheless extremely important because of the clear intent shown by the US government in cross examination to now interpret the Espionage Act in a manner that will enable them to prosecute journalists wholesale.

Shenkman began his evidence by explaining that the 1917 Espionage Act under which Assange was charged dates from the most repressive period in US history, when Woodrow Wilson had taken the US into the First World War against massive public opposition. It had been used to imprison those who campaigned against the war, particularly labor leaders. Wilson himself had characterized it as ‘the firm hand of stern repression’. Its drafting was extraordinarily broad and it was on its surface a weapon of political persecution. – Craig Murray

Murray is concerned that the way the U.S. has interpreted the Espionage Act in this case leaves the door open for future prosecution of investigation journalists and makes it impossible to report on any matters of national security and government crimes. It makes it harder for whistleblowers to come forward, as documentation they may provide could now get publishers and journalists thrown into prison.

Journalist Mary Kostakidis has also been covering the case and doing a very good job of providing fast and accurate transcriptions.

There are claims that El Masri’s statement may not be accurate, and he was unable to bring a suit in the Eastern District of Virginia, as the court rejected it.

Consortium News has been following the case, and they have two former CIA agents both of whom have insight into the CIA torture program, as well as the workings of the U.S. National Security apparatus targeting and shutting down whistleblowing.

Assange and WikiLeaks have stated that prior to any publication of relevant material, they reached out to the U.S. Government in advance to work with them to redact names.

Shenkman argues that the Espionage Act is very broad, and claims the First Amendment doesn’t make any of these distinctions. He claims the government has attempted to misuse such acts in the past for a chilling effect on journalists.

The Guardian does not care about Assange, and they are only covering this story in their attempts to attack and tarnish the Trump Administration. They have done nothing to speak up for Assange and they have put their own spin on this story.

Shenkman is doubling down on his claims that the Espionage Act is too broad.

It would appear that Assange’s testimony was wanted in the Russia Collusion hoax investigation and that the Trump administration sought information about the source of the DNC leaks, in order to dispel false attribution claims.

Assange’s father spoke out yesterday about the case, claiming that this is really about hiding war crimes and covering up for criminals.

Syrian and British journalist Richard Medhurst has also been covering the case:

The George Floyd analogy is not a very good one, considering we are learning that the media lied about the case, and have discovered Floyd in fact died of a drug overdose.

There is an important and bizarre aspect to all this – Julian Assange is not even an American citizen.

The principals argued back and forth about the Rules of Engagement — whether or not the CIA-damning “Collateral Murder” video WikiLeaks released in 2010 is relevant to the proceedings. After this the Court adjourned for the day, and will resume again on Monday.

For those who are not aware, Sheldon Adelson the Las Vegas casino magnate and the CIA spied on Assasnge using private contractor UC Global. They even attempted to devise ways to assassinate him, coming up with ideas such as poisoning him. From The Grayzone:

As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa and his country’s embassy in the UK.

The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012. It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands.

In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company’s headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news. 

Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri, the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA. 

Unfortunately for Morales, the Spanish security consultant charged with leading the spying operation, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. 

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

Morales was charged by a Spanish High Court in October 2019 with violating the privacy of Assange and abusing the publisher’s attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. The documents revealed in court, which were primarily backups from company computers, exposed the disturbing reality of his activities on ‘the dark side.’

Obtained by media outlets including The Grayzone, the UC Global files detail an elaborate and apparently illegal US surveillance operation in which the security firm spied on Assange, his legal team, his American friends, US journalists, and an American member of Congress who had been allegedly dispatched to the Ecuadorian embassy by President Donald Trump. Even the Ecuadorian diplomats whom UC Global was hired to protect were targeted by the spy ring.  – Max Blumenthal, The Grayzone

It is unclear if President Trump was aware of the black operation, but it seems unlikely considering he was the one who wanted to obtain information from Assange and have him testify about the source of the DNC leaks, suspected to be Seth Rich. It seems improbable then, that President Trump would be sanctioning an assassination attempt on the very man whose testimony he wanted. Further, there have been rumors of a falling out between Mr. Adelson and President Trump.

Here is the link to the new, superseding indictment from June of 2020.

Here is Kevin of Shadowproof’s breakdown of the days proceedings:

We will continue to keep you updated on the case, as more information comes out and proceedings resume next week.

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