Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 18 118


It is hard to believe, but Judge Baraitser on Friday ruled that there will be no closing speeches in the Assange extradition hearing. She accepted the proposal initially put forward by counsel for the US government, that closing arguments should simply be submitted in writing and without an oral hearing. This was accepted by the defence, as they need time to address the new superseding indictment in the closing arguments, and Baraitser was not willing for oral argument to take place later than 8 October. By agreeing to written arguments only, the defence gained a further three weeks to put together the closing of their case.

But this entire hearing has been conducted in effective secrecy, a comprehensive secrecy that gives sharp insight into the politico-economic structures of current western society. Physical access to the courtroom has been extremely limited, with the public gallery cut to five people. Video link access has similarly been extremely limited, with 40 NGOs having their access cut by the judge from day 1 at the Old Bailey, including Amnesty International, PEN, Reporters without Borders and observers from the European Parliament, among many others. The state and corporate media have virtually blacked out this hearing, with a truly worrying unanimity, and despite the implications of the case for media freedom. Finally, the corporations that act as internet gatekeepers have heavily suppressed social media posts about Assange, and traffic to those few websites which are reporting.

I am reminded of the words of another friend of mine, Harold Pinter, in accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. It seems perfectly to fit the trial of Julian Assange:

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Harold sent me a copy of that speech printed for the ceremony, with a kind dedication that I knew was by then painful for him to write as lines of ink shot uncontrollably across the page. After he died, I had it framed and it hangs on my study wall. That was a mistake. When I get back home to Edinburgh, I will break the frame and get the pamphlet out. It needs to be read, often.

The closing arguments are the part of any trial which the media is most likely to report. They sum up all the evidence heard on both sides and what might be drawn from the evidence. To have these simply submitted on paper, without the drama of the courtroom, is to ensure that the hearing will continue to be a media non-event.

The timetable which has been accepted is that the defence will lodge their closing arguments in writing on 30 October, the prosecution will reply on 13 November, with the defence able to make a further response by 20 November purely on any legal questions; Baraitser will then deliver her judgement in January. She made plain that she would not accept any further submissions based on developments in the interim, including the US Presidential election.

Friday was yet another day when the process was as important to the result as the evidence heard, if not more so. The day had started with discussion over a defence attempt to submit two new statements from two new witnesses. Both were psychiatrists with expert knowledge of the US prison system. Previous witnesses, both psychiatrists and US attorneys, who had testified for the defence had been criticised by the prosecution as not having direct knowledge of the specific prison, ADX Florence, Colorado, in which Julian would serve his sentence if convicted.

The prosecution had provided two affidavits on conditions in the prison, one from US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg dated 20 August 2020 and one from a prison psychiatrist named Leukefeld dated 3 September 2020. Now it is a very strange feature indeed of these extradition hearings that the defence have no right to cross-examine witnesses who are US federal employees. Gordon Kromberg has submitted five separate affidavits, containing much which is disputed hotly as to fact, but he cannot be cross-examined. Nor may Leukefeld be cross-examined.

Fitzgerald made the point that the defence had to respond to this prosecution evidence somehow, as it could not be cross-examined. He stated that as it had been submitted by the prosecution with the last four weeks, it had taken the defence a little time to find expert witnesses who were in a position to contradict, and then to take their evidence. The defence now had two excellent witnesses with personal knowledge of ADX Florence, and wished to enter their evidence. The defence accepted that because Baraitser had stated the trial will end next week, there would not be time to cross-examine these new witnesses. But then, the prosecution witnesses could not be cross-examined either. As Fitzgerald put it “the prosecution do not have a divine right to cross-examine our witnesses when we do not have any right to cross-examine their witnesses.”

For the US government, James Lewis QC “strongly objected” to this new evidence being submitted. He said the defence had more than a year to prepare these statements and kept trying to prolong the hearing. He said that the defence witnesses did not have the authority of the US government witnesses, and they needed to be cross-examined because many of the defence “experts” were not really expert at all. If these witnesses were called, he would insist on the right to cross-examine and that would extend the hearing.

Having heard the lawyers, Judge Baraitser yet again read out a ruling from her laptop which had been written before she heard either Lewis or Fitzgerald speak. Entirely predictably, she ruled that the defence statements were not admissible, as being too late. The defence “had had a fair opportunity to investigate”. Defence witnesses must be liable to cross-examination. These proceedings had lasted too long already and there must be an end to new evidence. “As a matter of fairness a line must be drawn”, she intoned. She seemed particularly pre-occupied with the notion of “fairness”, which apparently almost always entails ruling against the defence.

For the first time in the course of these hearings, Baraitser did look up briefly from her pre-prepared judgement to insert a reference to something Fitzgerald had said in court, that one possible approach might be that the new defence evidence could simply be cited as though it were an academic article. But only to dismiss it.

So, no closing speeches and two key witnesses not admitted.

We then moved on to the next leg of this very peculiar procedure, in which “case management” always trumps justice, with another defence evidence statement of which an agreed “gist” is simply read into the record, with no cross-examination. Under this procedure, which Baraitser expressly initiated to save time, where the defence will agree, witness statements are whittled down simply to those facts which are uncontested, and a “gist” or edit of that edit is read out, with the whole redacted statement entered into the court record.

The defence have allowed themselves to be too easily browbeaten into submission on all of this “time saving”, which is of course pursued by the judge and the US government in the interests of having as little embarrassing information aired in public as possible, and closing down the hearing quickly. One consequence of the rather hangdog defence approach to this is that, after the first very effective reading of key passages from el-Masri’s evidence, subsequent “gists” read into the record have been raced through, as though the defence realise this evidence has been reduced to a pointless formality, with no expression or weight in the reading and at a speed that far exceeds my ability to take an accurate note.

Like Thursday’s evidence from John Young of Cryptome, the witness statement of Jakob Augstein was important evidence that went to the fact that it was not Assange or Wikileaks who first published the unredacted material, and Augstein added additional information that Assange had tried to prevent it. Before Der Freitag had published its article of 25 August 2011, which revealed that both the password key and the file were out there, Assange had telephoned Augstein, editor of Der Freitag:

This evidence negates the main thrust of the prosecution case, so much so that I cannot understand why the defence have agreed to having it slipped into the record in a manner nobody notices.

The other interesting point about Augstein’s evidence is that it pointed squarely at the possibility that it has been Daniel Domscheit-Berg who, in defecting from Wikileaks, had been responsible for the emergence of the encrypted but unredacted cache on the net.

We then came on to the only witness who was actually heard in person on Friday, Patrick Eller, by videolink from the States. He was to address the accusation that Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning to crack a hash key password and obtain the documents which Manning leaked, and/or to help Manning cover her tracks. Securing Eller was rather a coup for the defence as there could not be a better expert witness on this particular subject. Eller is CEO of Metadata Forensics and a Professor teaching forensic evidence at the US Army Law School. A 25 year veteran, he was commander of the US Army digital forensic investigations unit at US Army Criminal Investigation Command in Virginia.

I am not going to use my usual technique of reporting through Eller’s evidence and cross-examination chronologically, because the subject matter does not lend itself to that, being both highly technical and delivered in a very disjointed fashion. This was partly due to the approach by James Lewis QC, counsel for the US government, who adopted a policy of asking long runs of technical questions about the operation of the computer systems, most of which were basic, irrelevant, and both required and got the simple answer “yes”, and then after a run of a dozen to twenty “yeses”, Lewis would throw in a more dubious proposition. This did once work when he got a “yes” to the proposition that “a great hacker can crack a great cypher” by this system of inducing impulsive repetition of “yes”. Lewis went on to claim that Assange had once self-described as “a fantastic hacker”.

I am not attempting to hide the fact that there were passages of Eller’s testimony in court which I simply did not understand. When I get a new laptop, it takes me days to work out how to turn it on and I am yet to find how to transfer any information from an old one. There are very definitely readers who would have done a much better job than me of reporting this, but then I was there and you were not. So these, for me, were the key points of Eller’s evidence.

With respect to the Jabber conversations between Chelsea Manning and “Nathaniel Frank”, which form the basis of the charge of aiding the commission of computer intrusion, there is no forensic evidence that “Nathaniel Frank” is Julian Assange, or indeed any single individual.

The “Hash key”, or encrypted half of a password, which Manning had requested assistance with cracking could not have been cracked with the technology available in 2010. It was “impossible” and “computationally infeasible”, according to Eller. This could not have been done with a brute force attack, dictionary attack or rainbow table. In cross-examination Lewis explored this at great length and read from a 2009 article on a vulnerability in Windows XP precisely with regard to the hash key system. Eller replied this was well known, but Microsoft had fixed it with a patch well before the events in question. That made it in practice impossible for the code to be cracked using one half of the hash key. Lewis did not query this and quickly moved on; it appeared he knew of the patch all along.

Perhaps Eller’s most telling evidence was that Manning had in fact already downloaded the bulk of the material passed to the Wikileaks dropbox before initiating the conversation with Frank at all. Manning had full access to the SIPRnet, or classified infranet of material up to secret, under her own username, and had already been downloading using a program called wget. Furthermore, Manning had already been taking steps to protect her identity by rebooting from a Linux CD thus evading several Windows security features. That would have been at least as effective as downloading from the FTP account if preventing detection were the goal.

Manning therefore had no need of help from “Nathaniel Frank”, either to obtain the classified documents or to cover her tracks, although the problem of downloads being traceable to the IP address would remain. But this would not have been solved anyway by Manning’s interest in logging in to a File Transfer Protocol account. There was much discussion as to whether the FTP account would or would not have admin privileges, but as Eller was insistent it would neither have increased her access to classified material nor have better enabled her to cover her tracks, and that they could not have cracked the password with the hash key half anyway, I did not quite understand where that discussion was leading.

One particularly jolting bit of information from Eller was that the SIPRnet from which Manning had downloaded all the material was open to “millions” of users. Eller’s final key point was that all of his evidence was consistent with the findings of the prosecution at Manning’s court martial, and presumably thus with the investigations of his old forensic team. Some of the lines taken by Lewis – including that it was in fact possible to crack the password from the half hash key – are inconsistent with the US prosecution’s own forensic evidence at the Manning court martial.

Eller’s evidence is an example of those occasions where I know the comments below the line will be much more informed than my own efforts!

Finally and ominously, Baraitser heard arguments on whether the full medical records of Assange from the doctors and psychiatrists who had given evidence should their public be released to the media. They have been requested by the press. The records contain a huge amount of background and many intimate details of Julian’s childhood and relationships which are in evidence but were not given in open court by the doctors. Both defence and prosecution opposed release, but Baraitser kept referring to “open justice”. You will remember that earlier this year, Baraitser decided that it was in the interests of “open justice” to release to the media the identity of Julian’s partner Stella Moris and her children. That too was against the wishes of both prosecution and defence.

That a judge so intent on shutting down or refusing to hear defence evidence is suddenly so preoccupied with “open justice” when it comes to hurting Assange by release of his deeply personal information, is a great irony. Baraitser will rule on this on Monday and I hope humanity has prevailed with her.

 
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118 thoughts on “Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 18

1 2
  • M.J.

    Judging from Baraitser’s habit of preparing judgments before hearing the lawyers, it looks as though the judgment is a foregone conclusion. Better start preparing the appeal.

    • David G

      Apologies. I meant to post that as a top-level comment, not a reply.

      I’ll repost it. Mods feel free to delete it from here.

    • Tom Welsh

      Maybe we could look forward to seeing a full and comprehensive account of Judge Baraitser’s life, career, and personal details published on the Web.

      In the interests of “open justice”, of course.

  • Mark Sheppard

    Where Craig’s written “Java conversations” I think they were probably talking about “Jabber conversations” as Jabber is an instant messaging service: https://www.jabber.org/


    [ Mod: Correct. Duly amended. ]

      • Cascadian

        It’s also true that not everyone is familiar with the terminology.

        Would you care to elucidate the difference between Java and Javascript?

        See my point?

        • Eoin

          To some people, java is still a familiar term for coffee.

          I think this is what Craig was referring to when he said there might be some clarification below the line! [though, having said that, I thought the technical detail provided above by Craig was impressive enough and he is clearly abreast of the principles of hacking, encryption, passwords and transmission of data]

        • S

          not really, java and javascript are extremely different, arguably javascript was just trying to cash in on the “java” brand that was trendy at the time.

          • Cascadian

            You get my point then – which was that the non-technical can easily be confused by technical jargon.

    • Tom Welsh

      An easy mistake to make when the speaker has an American accent. In British English, “Java” has a long “a” sound and “Jabber” a short “a”.

      Americans tend to employ a short “a” for both.

  • pretzelattack

    this is a variant on the show trial.

    “A show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt, and/or innocence, of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors.”

    the messy public part of the proceeding has been almost entirely dispensed with, retaining the core features of a predetermined result, and a useful warning to journalists everywhere. i’m surprised they let any observers attend at all.

  • Stephen+Henson

    What do you reckon, Andrew Neil to launch new news channel with Julian’s Trial, would be good but I doubt it!

    • S

      I struggle to believe that many people will tune in to this new channel. Do many people still watch rolling news stations? I would be interested to know the real reason behind it. Maybe the reason is to get soundbites out that the BBC will then feel that they have to report.

  • Misbah

    Craig,

    Have you considered a crowd funding option to have your record of the trial published as a book? Certainly I’d imagine it could be formatted and released as an ebook/pdf.

    Regards

  • amanfromMars

    A great hacker is not a fantastic hacker. Only the former is able to remain anonymous and intangible and untouchable. It is an abiding defining distinction.

    • Tom Welsh

      The term “hacker” means entirely different things to different people. As everyone familiar with the history of software knows, a “hacker” was originally an enthusiastic amateur programmer. It still retains that original and legitimate meaning.

      As excitement spread in the ranks of those who often know little or nothing about computers over the phenomenon of unauthorised computer use, the word “hacker” came to be used to denote a “black hat” – a criminal or data thief.

      If Mr Assange described himself as a fine hacker, he obviously meant it in the original sense of a good programmer. To suggest that he was confessing to being a “black hat” is a typical slimy lawyer’s trick.

  • Ian

    Craig’s summary makes the point well. This is essentially a US trial taking place in a British court, with their lackey, minor functionary and bureaucrat Baitser, following her instructions. Clearly those are to keep it as short as possible, minimise any opportunities for the defence to question witnesses, or reveal the darker truths around this whole case. Like a faithful bureaucrat, taking her satisfaction from following her instructions, she muzzles the defence while giving every concession to the prosecution. The British legal profession should be ashamed and appalled, but seem to prefer to avert their gaze and, like the press, pretend this isn’t happening.
    The idea that she is ‘considering’ releasing a slew of personal information about Assange, despite even the prosecution not wanting it, tells you a lot about her and her handlers’ intentions. What would be better, in their sadistic view, than for the verdict to be announced along with a hoard of personal information which the tabloids would put on the front page, destroying any perception that Assange may be a victim in these machinations. They are beyond evil.

      • mr.lobaloba

        Cool but she’ll definitely want to send Julian to the USA. Then they can leak the personal information.

    • 6033624

      I’ve noticed that a few of the things that Lewis has said to Baraitser seem to be more than simply ‘comment’ They appear to be threats of action he will take if she does not, for example, prevent new witnesses from being heard. It appears Baraitser has only a little control of this case. Perhaps I am wrong, I don’t suppose I will ever know the truth of the matter..

    • Bramble

      They may or may not be evil, but they are certainly unscrupulous. There’s another word for the media consumers who avidly snaffle up this crap and allow it to dominate their perception of what is an issue fundamental to how our “democracy” operates.

  • Eoin

    Are there any grounds to believe the contention by Judge Baraitser that the defence is dragging this out as long as possible.

    As Julian remains in custody in unusually strict circumstances, why would the defence want to prolong that misery.

    Will the forthcoming US presidential elections have any impact on the extradition request? If Joe Biden were to win and replace Trump, are there grounds to believe the US will drop the extradition request, and hasn’t the prosecution already claimed this isn’t a political exercise?

    • Ian

      No there aren’t. The only reason the defence needs more time is that the prosecution deliberately withheld the relevant documents until the last possible moment, often the day witnesses appeared, so that it has been impossible for them to call key experts or prepare their case. The whole thing is rigged in order to deny the defence adequate time to present its case and witnesses. It is a travesty of justice. And Baraitser lied about them having ‘plenty of time’. She knows full well that they have been deprived of key documents to make it next to impossible for them to mount their case. Because, as has become evident, the prosecution case is beyond flimsy – a farrago of lies, distortions and smears – which they have gone to great lengths to protect from scrutiny.
      And yet, despite all the barriers put in their way, any observer will have seen how the defence witnesses have consistently run rings around the prosecution, to the fury of Lewis. They have shown his case to be based on lies and false suppositions, have have far more expertise, particularly in US law and politics than him, and have shown Assange’s vulnerability to the extreme torture and isolation which they are condemning him to.
      No wonder they want it curtailed, and no closing speeches. An utter travesty.

      • Carolyn Zaremba

        I agree with your estimation of the proceedings. It is a show trial akin to the worst of Stalin’s show trials in the 1930s. Thank goodness for the defense witnesses who know their stuff and have their wits about them.

    • wonky

      Just a quick reminder, that it was Killary who proposed for Assange to be drone-bombed..
      Biden is a walking neoliberalcon zombie who keeps calling everyone a traitor, who dares having second thoughts on the Iraq debacle.
      Considering his failing health, he would be replaced by Kamala Harris most likely within months of a presidency.
      And said Kamala wouldn’t even exist without Killary.
      Does that answer your question?

      • Dan

        “Killary” – wasn’t even witty, insightful or especially original when people first started saying it five years ago. Now it’s just tedious and childish. Name-calling always suggests that the name-caller’s argument is weak, but there are plenty of strong grounds for attacking Clinton’s policies, so it’s daft to undermine them with playground name-calling.

        • M.J.

          “Killary”? Oh, ha ha, I get it. The Killarney film studios, Johannesburg. A typo 🙂
          Seriously, what proof is there that “Madame Secretary” ever suggested assassinating someone in London? Why work so hard (and pay so much, no doubt) to have him extradited, if Mafia methods were all that they intended?

        • Carolyn Zaremba

          I disagree. “Killary” perfectly describes the sick glee Clinton expressed over Muammar Gadaffi’s brutal murder and her sadism is expressed in her call for Julian Assange to be “droned”. Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is a sadist and war criminal who gets off on death and violence. She practically wet herself over the murder of Gadaffi.

          • Etheldreda

            And Obama’s ill-hidden glee when announcing Bin Laden’s death? Hilary Clinton is no better or worse than the people in that position before her. To demonise such a policy wonk is to suggest being in the grip of conspiracy theories. She is really not worth all this invective.

          • Tom Welsh

            “Hilary Clinton is no better or worse than the people in that position before her”.

            Which makes her one of the wickedest human beings who have ever lived.

      • pete

        It wasn’t Killery, it was Michael Grunwald who made the Assange Drone remark:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Grunwald.
        It was Killery who said we came, we saw, he died: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4gwwym
        I don’t know if one remark was less charitable than the other, or, for that matter, why anyone would leap to Killery’s defence… she is no longer in the running, thankfully.

        Craig is about the only reliable reporter we have in this farce of a hearing, I would be happy to contribute to a crowdfunding of any book he chose to write on the matter.

    • Big M

      It seems to be generally assumed that a Democrat government with Biden at the helm would be lenient toward Julian and WikiLeaks, however the Democrats partially attribute their loss of the 2016 election to the release of Hilary’s emails by WikiLeaks. The Democrats might be *more* vindictive than Trump.

      • Bramble

        Yes. They have swallowed the Russia-gate crap and believe that Assange and Putin are bosom-buddies. You have to weep (or laugh) at the total rubbish they spew, all the while refusing to recognise that Clinton lost the election because she was a rotten candidate for a rotten party.

        • Gerald

          The Democrats paid Christopher Steal to create the ‘dodgy dossier’ so they knew well what they were doing and knew its intention as pure propaganda and the excuse for losing the election whilst being able to use it to undermine the Trump govt. Despite it being found to be utter clap trap and the Mueller investigation coming up with anything other than no collusion, the dems continue to use it as an excuse. It’s actually really simple, if the Dems had handed Sanders the nomination they would have won, ditto this year also but they simply would rather have a Trump govt and enjoy destroying the US via being in opposition than win with a centrist candidate. Dems are the war party (I remember when that was the republicans job!) How things have changed but somehow just remained the same. Julian stands no better chance under Biden, he and Harris will be running on a law and order ticket aimed at white middle class America scared silly by constant rioting. (Harris has never been popular with black voters, wanting to lock them all up for petty crimes)

    • Carolyn Zaremba

      Quite a lot of people. And I, for one, share each day’s report with everyone I know. And I know a lot of people.

  • Jay Vaughan

    Quite legitimately, we should be asking what psychiatric medications Judge Baraitser is currently taking, and who prescribed it for her.

    • Gerald

      Champagne mostly. She’s thoroughly middle class you know but with pretensions to power. I’d be worried if I was her, once they’ve finished with her the yanks will drop her like a brick. She’ll get her Damehood or whatever it is these people crave in order to feel accepted by the establishment but no one will ever forget this little performance, some time in the future her life will be leaked all over the internet and the dodgy dealings of her family. Time is a wonderful thing and the internet and leakers have a long memory. Assange and his reputation and history aren’t going to disappear and neither is the cowardice of the press and ‘British journalism’ nor those who engaged in this farce for their own benefit

  • Olly Perry

    I have to admit that the finer details of the supposed hack go over my head. Forgive me if I am wrong but what I do understand is that the US government is trying to prove that Julian Assange was guilty of attempting to hack into the US government/military/Pentagon system(s) hence the espionage charge. From your coverage, Craig, I get the feeling that the defence is quite toothless in all of this and have made quite a few errors or bad calls. They do not seem to be fighting tooth and nail for Julian Assange’s freedom, standing up more to Baraitser, but seem to go along with this farce of a hearing. Am I wrong in this? Anyway, I wonder why they were chosen if that is the case. They need the equivalent of Lewis fighting on their side. Also, I wonder why there isn’t more outrage coming from the legal profession itself about the obvious lack of justice that JA is receiving. Surely there must be some retired or even serving judges who are following this case and who must see that it is totally unfair and biased in the prosecution’s favour. If, as it sadly appears, that this is just a mockery of justice and the hearing goes against JA in January then are there further options for appeal? High court etc? And what would those involve? Would the ECHR still be an option in a post-Brexit world? Once again, thank you, Craig for all your work on this.

    • Olly Perry

      Regarding my previous post, I would add that I am sure that the defence are doing all they can in the difficult and challenging circumstances. I apologise for seeming to judge them. It’s just my frustration spilling out onto the page regarding how they have been hampered by the judge and prosecution. Anyway, sorry about that.

      • Stevie Boy

        My understanding:
        Hacking: “the gaining of unauthorized access to data in a system or computer.”

        • Manning was authorised to access the data she released.
        • Snowden was authorised to access the data he released.
        • The person at the DNC was authorised to access the data (s)he released.

        The officially authorized data that was accessed was “leaked” not hacked.
        Julian published the data that was leaked to him.

        • Carolyn Zaremba

          Correct. This has been known for some time to anyone who was paying attention to the case going back 10 years. Unfortunately, most people were not paying attention. We must change that.

    • Matthew

      Yes, Mr Assange can appeal to the High Court, the Supreme Court, or potentially the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) if a potential Article 3 violation can be established. There are strict time limits on appealing to the High Court – his legal team will have 7 days to appeal. However, (assuming the appeal succeeds) the prosecution can then cross-appeal and the High Court must remand Mr Assange in custody or on bail until the appeal is discontinued or dismissed by the High Court.

      Furthermore, even if the High Court dismisses the appeal, the prosecution can immediately inform the High Court they’ll be appealing to the Supreme Court, and the High Court must again hold Mr Assange in custody or on bail for a further 28 days.

      Brexit does not affect our membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). We would have to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 to quit the ECHR.

  • writeon

    I imagine the defence knows full well that this process ammounts to a strange kind of ‘showtrial’, except that it isn’t being ‘showed’ at all; which almost makes one feel nostaligic for the public showtrials of Stalin and Hitler!

    The defence probably understands that the decision to extradite Assange has already been taken by higher authorities and this hearing is just there to give the impression that justice is being served and the arguments are being weighed fairly by Baraitser. Not true. Even if they ‘win’ in the Old Baily it doesn’t matter, because it’s really the Americans that are calling the shots. Knowing all this it’s perhaps understandable that the defence is saving the powder for the inevitable appeals that lie ahead. They are taken part in a grotesque ritual where the outcome is known in advance. And given the bizarre lack of interest by the UK media, it’s difficult to know who the defence are addressing, should they adopt a more aggressive and confrontational posture towards Baraitser’s rulings and conduct; at this stage in this awful legal saga.

    Craig though has succeeded in flushing the ghastly Guardian out of the undergrowth and forced them to issue a statement denying that it was their fault that the files became public property by their crass stupidity in publishing the code/key Assange had reluctantly given them for safe-keeping. These Guardian hacks really are the pits of the world.

    • mr.lobaloba

      They say The Guardian is controlled by MI6. They told a lie about Assange telling them the ‘password’ was about to expire, so they put it in the book ut encryption keys can not expire.

      Anyway, If the powers that be has some control over Judge Baraitser’s decisions (which is the case), they could arrange the next show trials in the high court and supreme court, right?

    • Shardlake

      You and many other contributors here have rightly described this to be the ‘show trial’ of a political prisoner in the sense of its description for future reference. In the event that Mr Assange is eventually extradited to the USA it will, I believe, not be the end of the matter; although such an outcome will be of little comfort to him and all those who are trying to prevent it. These machinations have a tendency to come back on such perpetrators and bite their rear ends just at the most inopportune moment. I have no doubt there will be a day of reckoning for Judge Baraitser, her string pullers and all those who are engaged and have been engaged previously in this travesty of justice. Many of these people may rue the day they allowed themselves to be used as pawns in this conspiracy. These same people may have long lives yet to lead so I hope during what time they may have left it is sufficient to reflect on their participation in what they are doing now.

    • Tom Welsh

      “Craig though has succeeded in flushing the ghastly Guardian out of the undergrowth and forced them to issue a statement denying that it was their fault that the files became public property by their crass stupidity in publishing the code/key Assange had reluctantly given them for safe-keeping”.

      So, whereas they were previously lying, now they have been forced to lie that they were not lying?

      “Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and the pig enjoys it”.

  • OnlyHalfALooney

    I am worried that Baraitser and Lewis seem to be leaving so many avenues open to appeal (both “in law and fact”). Do they perhaps know there will be no appeal, or pre-decided appeal?

    Surely the High Court would uphold legal principles of justice and fairness? I hope so, otherwise democracy and the rule of law are finished in the UK.

    • Stevie Boy

      It seems apparent, to me, that anyone relying on the UK Legal System to help Julian is deluded.
      This government has sold the country down the river to such an extent that foreign governments dictate how our laws are enacted, and the MSM are complicit in this. The outcome of this legal fiasco will indicate clearly what the future holds for this country, and at this point it doesn’t look good.

    • Matthew

      For this specific extradition hearing, they will only really be able to appeal on a point of law which is defined as:

      (a) the appropriate judge ought to have decided a question before him at the extradition hearing differently;
      (b) if he had decided the question in the way he ought to have done, he would have been required to order the person’s discharge.

      This is because there is unlikely to be any new evidence, etc. that wasn’t available at the original hearing (the evidence being available but the judge refusing to deal with it for case management reasons does not appear to be a valid reason to appeal).

      • mr.lobaloba

        What do you mean? Does it look like the defence won’t have the requirements to go to appeal?

      • Courtenay Barnett

        Matthew,

        ” (the evidence being available but the judge refusing to deal with it for case management reasons does not appear to be a valid reason to appeal).”

        Doesn’t this go directly to the fairness of the trial itself – exclusion of relevant evidence – an appealable point?

        • Matthew

          It’s an administrative hearing, not a trial. It’s entirely possible the High Court says that Mr Assange received a “fair trial”, but I would argue that the exclusion of relevant evidence directly impacted the fairness of the hearing, yes.

        • Matthew

          Further to this, there are “conditions” for allowing a successful appeal – and these are:

          (2) The court may allow the appeal only if the conditions in subsection (3) or the conditions in subsection (4) are satisfied.

          (3) The conditions are that—

          (a) the appropriate judge ought to have decided a question before him at the extradition hearing differently

          (b) if he had decided the question in the way he ought to have done, he would have been required to order the person’s discharge.

          (4) The conditions are that—

          (a) an issue is raised that was not raised at the extradition hearing or evidence is available that was not available at the extradition hearing;

          (b) the issue or evidence would have resulted in the appropriate judge deciding a question before him at the extradition hearing differently;

          (c) if he had decided the question in that way, he would have been required to order the person’s discharge.

          —–

          Subsection 3 concerns points of law, while subsection 4 concerns issues and evidence. The difficulty with an appeal based on subsection 4 is that the issue or evidence must not have been raised or available at trial. In this case, it seems the issues were raised and the evidence was available, but deemed irrelevant, etc. or whatever the judge said.

          Taken literally, this would seem to restrict any appeal to being based on subsection 3 – there’s no room for an appeal about the fairness of the hearing given that these hearings are defined in law and any successful appeal conditions circumscribed in law accordingly.

          • Courtenay Barnett

            Matthew,

            ” (4) The conditions are that—

            (a)….

            (b) the issue or evidence would have resulted in the appropriate judge deciding a question before him at the extradition hearing differently; “

            So since rebuttal evidence was available, but the Magistrate/Judge excluded the evidence – then why wouldn’t this section apply?

      • OnlyHalfALooney

        Matthew:

        Isn’t it possible to put forward an appeal case that the judge should have decided that Assange’s prosecution is political, given the (to my eyes) ample evidence that this is the case?

        The “conspiracy to hack a password” indictment also seems rather tenuous as the evidence is very open to question. Could this not also be grounds for appeal?

        I also understand that the Defence has to lodge an appeal within 7 days!. Can this be a “pro forma” appeal? Or does the appeal have to fully motivated immediately? In Dutch law, it is possible to lodge a “pro forma appeal” and provide a full motivation later (within a reasonable time) to avoid an appeal being declared “inadmissible” due to not being lodged within the legal deadline.

        • Matthew

          OnlyHalfALooney,

          1. Yes. That is what I would base any appeal on.
          2. No, you can only appeal on a point of law (namely, the judge misapplying the law in some way) – this is not a criminal trial remember, and the court will not re-litigate the hearing itself (that is best left to the judge at first instance, Baraitser in this case).
          3. Yes, they only have 7 days to lodge an appeal. It must give a prima facie ground for appeal, but I do not believe it needs to be fully complete: they should be able to amend the initial grounds for appeal as part of their submission.
  • Anthony

    To my knowledge there has been no attempt by state or corporate media to try and justify their blackout. They are colluding cynically to ignore the substance of this trial. But the implications and historical record will not ignore them.

    • Tony Little

      D notices perhaps? UK govt does not want the wider public to understand what the implications are for them if this show trial comes to the wider public’s attention.

      • Ort

        To the despotic, malignant governments and state-security apparatus that created “D-notices”, the beauty and glory of such mailed-fist censorship is that for every actual D-notice that is issued, a hundred “D-notices of the mind” bloom in complicit and submissive mass-media organizations and would-be journalists.

        They are useful in preserving the fiction that they are necessary to prevent an impartial, aggressive “watchdog” press from disclosing valid government secrets and betraying confidences. The lapdog press eats them up like sausages, and are so well-heeled that they will honor them in spirit even if they don’t actually exist.

  • writeon

    Isn’t it a given that this thing will move upwards to the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, and then onto the European Court on Human Rights, because there are so many important principles involved? Not least our own national sovereignty? Are we just going to accept that the United States can extradite any investigative journalist from the UK who publishes material about warcrimes that they want to keep secret? But who knows about any of this? The only person who’s written anything in the mainstream is Christopher Hitchins in the Daily Mail of all places! I suppose it shows that the Americans have massively succeeded in their campaign to castrate the media and frighten the life out of journalists by their persecution of Assange. The silence and passivity of the rest of the journalists, is chilling and doesn’t look good for the future. In fact the last ten years have been one long retreat from scrutiny of our overseas military adventures; think Libya and Syria, despite their criminal and bloody nature and the outrages we’ve been part of. Is this because the editors and leading journalists believe and accept that we are, in reality, already at war, the border skermishes have started, so to speak, with Russia and China, and, therefore, it’s their patriotic duty to support our war effort and defend the interests of the fatherland?

    • Mary

      Jonathan Cook

      SEPTEMBER 28, 2020
      The Guardian’s Deceit-Riddled New Statement Betrays Both Julian Assange and Journalism
      by JONATHAN COOK

      In my recent post on the current hearings at the Old Bailey over Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, where he would almost certainly be locked away for the rest of his life for the crime of doing journalism, I made two main criticisms of the Guardian.
      https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/09/28/the-guardians-deceit-riddled-new-statement-betrays-both-julian-assange-and-journalism/

    • arby

      This travesty has been systematically stomping on a series of “given”s under the sheltering umbrella of media disinterest. My feeling is that this is a carefully thought out strategy that will only have been embarked upon after the ducks were all in a row. If *any* British court can operate in such a blatantly unprincipled manner then I think the game’s a bogey and appealing to a higher Ievel of British “justice” will not turn it around. JA twisted the tiger’s tail and the annoyed beast is looking to deter any similar transgression.
      I fear JA will be extradited – I hope I’m wrong.

  • 6033624

    This entire case is sickening. With even that evidence that has been allowed it is obvious that Assange should not be extradited, this is purely political and that the charges are actually untrue as well. But with the defence, the prosecution and the judge ALL fully aware of this and with the prosecution and judge actually conniving to cover up evidence which would mean he would not be extradited we can’t say we live in a free country any more. Assange has done nothing but uncover wrong doing, for that he is in jail and will be transported to the US to spend the rest of his life being held incommunicado in a high security jail..

    • Tom Welsh

      “…we can’t say we live in a free country any more”.

      We have actually never “lived in a free country”.

      But in a strict sense, I suppose it is true that we can no longer say we do. Not without bursting into hysterical giggles and banging our heads on the wall.

  • Perkpooker

    “We then moved on to the next leg of this very peculiar procedure”

    Is it peculiar? This is the first UK extradition hearing I’ve ever followed so I have nothing to compare to. There don’t seem to be any restraints on this judge’s outrageous behavior from her bosses, or her peers’ complaints, or etc., so it doesn’t seem like the general UK justice system finds this particularly “peculiar”. Maybe every UK extradition hearing is like this. How would I know?

  • amanfromMars

    Is everyone dismissing the possibility that over the course of this masquerade and charade of a fair show trial, both the evidence presented and that refused the cold cruel light of day and public knowledge, will have encouraged District Judge Baraitser to experience brave and bold rather than remain cravenly cowed and cuckolded and forever looking back over her shoulder for the enemies of a fascist state deserved rather than realising the phantoms of an almighty society perceived to deceive and wilfully abuse her, are hers to destroy rather than retain and maintain?

    Case Not Proven. Extradition Request Dismissed.

    Now that would be a Red Letter Day, in Deed, indeed, and extraordinarily render her quite famous and highly respected, Ruth Bader Ginsberg style, rather than infamous and detested, Richard Milhouse Nixon style.

    Stranger things can happen ….. and therefore they always will. That’s the beauty of life, it is full of fabulous surprises.

      • amanfromMars

        Do humans on Earth try anything more than just a simple cloistered existence in the vast fields of madness and opportunities that abound there ‽ . That may be life as it is present there it but it is not necessarily as others experience it.

  • Ingwe

    Of course I don’t really know the full machinations of the defence team and the result is uncertain, but it really does seem to me that they’ve been completely ‘arseholed’ by the prosecution and the judge. I’m sure Mr Fitzgerald QC and Mr Summers QC are eminently qualified and intellectually astute counsel but what Mr Assange really needed was counsel who are both of those things but also common-law street fighters. This isn’t some mooting exercise in Middle Temple ffs!

    Accepting no right to cross examine prosecution witnesses who’ve filed witness statements or affidavits, agreeing to no oral closing speeches, the time table for written submissions, etc etc have all been pushed through without nary an angry word from Mr Assange’s advocates.

    All the injustices visited on Mr Assange make me angry but what appears to be the docility of his legal team raises my blood pressure to dangerous levels. I hope they’re right and I’m wrong but it sure as hell doesn’t look like it from here.

  • Ken Garoo

    “The “Hash key”, or encrypted half of a password, which Manning had requested assistance with cracking could not have been cracked with the technology available in 2010. It was “impossible” and “computationally infeasible”, according to Eller. This could not have been done with a brute force attack, dictionary attack or rainbow table.”

    If Eller had released the name of the encryption algorithm, a large number of security experts could confirm the strength of the cipher. The strength of a good cipher depends solely on the key. Effort of at least national state security would be in inadequate starting point for decryption, unless they were aware of flaws in the encryption algorithm. If the NSA/GCHQ?BND/etc did decrypt the key, then it would be reasonable to assume there are hidden flaws in the algorithm. That would trash the digital economy instantly.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Showtrial of Assange = Baker Inquest into Diana/Dodi deaths = David Kelly farrago = all the ‘Iraq Inquiries’. It’s so obvious to everyone. USA-UK needs to make an example of Assange to others. They will kill him, probably by driving him to suicide. Where now are all those righteous loudmouths all across social media who were so very vocal about “hero rape” and who slammed anyone who took issue or even questioned the allegations as a “rape apologist”? Where exactly are they, now?

    • Tom Welsh

      “Where exactly are they, now?”

      I think, if you were to track them down individually and interview them, that they would deny any recollection of ever having said anything of the sort.

      When a person knows that he or she is always right, it is impossible for them to hold in their mind the possibility of having been wrong.

  • Elmac

    If even only a small fraction of what you have reported is true then this kangaroo court should be disbanded forthwith and Baraitser herself put on trial for corruption in high office. This farce is beneath contempt and any decent human being can only hope that one day the perpetrators will be brought to book which is, unfortunately, highly unlikely in the corrupt society in which we live. With luck there may just be a God to ensure that these despicable people roast in hell when they depart this world.

    More power to your elbow Craig I believe every word.

    • Natasha

      And notably three UK MPs who on 21 September brushed aside any risk of breaking ‘sub judice’ laws or conventions, applicable whilst a court case is being heard, by publicly signing an open letter in support of the growing global call for the immediate release of Julian and to end all extradition proceedings on grounds they are illegal, driven by politics and illegitimate.

      When will the remaining 647 MPs join Corbyn, McDonnell, & Kenneth MacAskill, former Justice Secretary of Scotland, and lawyer, who commented, “This is a political crucifixion not legal process and is about seeking to bury truth and those exposing it.”?

      https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/world-leaders-past-and-present-urge-uk-government-to-end-assange-extradition-proceedings/

  • Carolyn Zaremba

    I watched Harold Pinter’s speech on receiving the Nobel and it was powerful and brilliant. I believe it is available on YouTube. What a loss to humanity was his death.

  • David G

    “One particularly jolting bit of information from Eller was that the SIPRnet from which Manning had downloaded all the material was open to “millions” of users.”

    That is one thing in this trial that did not jolt me: I learned around the time of Manning’s leaks of the vast number of people with legal access to U.S. “secrets”. Remember, Manning was just a low-ranking soldier, and yet she had full access to all these documents about U.S. activities around the world, no “hacking” required.

    Even if we concede that the U.S. is able to keep some of what it considers its biggest secrets from the hands of foreign states (who knows?), there seems to be little doubt that real spies (the kind that report to governments, not the public) have little trouble getting hold of information classified at this level, which is sloshing around among literally millions of government-authorized users.

    There are many Federal statutes that exist or could be written to apply to actual spies. The value of the “Espionage Act” is not its use against espionage, but against people who make information that may *already* be well-known to foreign governments with the motivation and resources to go after them available to the U.S. and international public.

  • David G

    NY Times coverage of the extradition trial hit zero last week, after barely existing for the prior two weeks.

    It’s worth emphasizing just how self-conscious an institution the NY Times is (n.b.: self-conscious is not at all the same thing as conscientious). Probably the greatest object of fascination for the Times is itself, not the world it is ostensibly reporting on. There are doubtless many parochial and understaffed news organizations in the U.S. that are just in the fog about Assange, but the Times knows exactly what it is doing, and not doing.

    A rundown on the news blackout more generally, with The Guardian a partial but toxic exception, is here: https://fair.org/home/julian-assange-press-shows-little-interest-in-media-trial-of-century/

  • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

    Quote as preface in Colin Wilson’s classic “The Outsider” (Pan Piper 1971). The words are from Bernard Shaw’s ‘John Bull’s Other Island’, Act IV —

    BROADBENT: . . . I find the world quite good enough for me – rather a jolly place, in fact.
    KEEGAN (looking at him with quiet wonder): You are satisfied?
    BROADBENT: As a reasonable man, yes. I see no evils in the world – except of course, natural evils – that cannot be remedied by freedom, self-government and English institutions. I think so, not because I am an Englishman, but as a matter of common sense.
    KEEGAN: You feel at home in the world then?
    BROADBENT: Of course. Don’t you?
    KEEGAN (from the very depths of his nature): No.

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