Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 8 232


The great question after yesterday’s hearing was whether prosecution counsel James Lewis QC would continue to charge at defence witnesses like a deranged berserker (spoiler – he would), and more importantly, why?

QC’s representing governments usually seek to radiate calm control, and treat defence arguments as almost beneath their notice, certainly as no conceivable threat to the majestic thinking of the state. Lewis instead resembled a starving terrier kept away from a prime sausage by a steel fence whose manufacture and appearance was far beyond his comprehension.

Perhaps he has toothache.

PROFESSOR PAUL ROGERS

The first defence witness this morning was Professor Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He has written 9 books on the War on Terror, and has been for 15 years responsible for MOD contracts on training of armed forces in law and ethics of conflict. Rogers appeared by videolink from Bradford.

Prof Rogers’ full witness statement is here.

Edward Fitzgerald QC asked Prof Rogers whether Julian Assange’s views are political (this goes to article 4 in the UK/US extradition treaty against political extradition). Prof Rogers replied that “Assange is very clearly a person of strong political opinions.”

Fitzgerald then asked Prof Rogers to expound on the significance of the revelations from Chelsea Manning on Afghanistan. Prof Rogers responded that in 2001 there had been a very strong commitment in the United States to going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easy initial military victories led to a feeling the nation had “got back on track”. George W Bush’s first state of the union address had the atmosphere of a victory rally. But Wikileaks’ revelations in the leaked war logs reinforced the view of some analysts that this was not a true picture, that the war in Afghanistan had gone wrong from the start. It contradicted the government line that Afghanistan was a success. Similarly the Wikileaks evidence published in 2011 had confirmed very strongly that the Iraq War had gone badly wrong, when the US official narrative had been one of success.

Wikileaks had for example proven from the war logs that there were a minimum of 15,000 more civilian deaths than had been reckoned by Iraq Body Count. These Wikileaks exposures of the failures of these wars had contributed in large part to a much greater subsequent reluctance of western powers to go to war at an early stage.

Fitzgerald said that para 8 of Rogers’ report suggests that Assange was motivated by his political views and referenced his speech to the United Nations. Was his intention to influence political actions by the USA?

Rogers replied yes. Assange had stated that he was not against the USA and there were good people in the USA who held differing views. He plainly hoped to influence US policy. Rogers also referenced the statement by Mairead Maguire in nominating Julian for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Julian Assange and his colleagues in Wikileaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy and their work for our freedom and speech. Their work for true peace by making public our governments’ actions at home and abroad has enlightened us to their atrocities carried out in the name of so-called democracy around the world.

Rogers stated that Assange had a clear and coherent political philosophy. He had set it out in particular in the campaign of the Wikileaks Party for a Senate seat in Australia. It was based on human rights and a belief in transparency and accountability of organisations. It was essentially libertarian in nature. It embraced not just government transparency, but also transparency in corporations, trade unions and NGOs. It amounted to a very clear political philosophy. Assange adopted a clear political stance that did not align with conventional party politics but incorporated coherent beliefs that had attracted growing support in recent years.

Fitzgerald asked how this related to the Trump administration. Rogers said that Trump was a threat to Wikileaks because he comes from a position of quite extreme hostility to transparency and accountability in his administration. Fitzgerald suggested the incoming Trump administration had demonstrated this hostility to Assange and desire to prosecute. Rogers replied that yes, the hostility had been evidenced in a series of statements right across the senior members of the Trump administration. It was motivated by Trump’s characterisation of any adverse information as “fake news”.

Fitzgerald asked whether the motivation for the current prosecution was criminal or political? Rogers replied “the latter”. This was a part of the atypical behaviour of the Trump administration; it prosecutes on political motivation. They see openness as a particular threat to this administration. This also related to Trump’s obsessive dislike of his predecessor. His administration would prosecute Assange precisely because Obama did not prosecute Assange. Also the incoming Trump administration had been extremely annoyed by the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, a decision they had no power to revoke. For that the prosecution of Assange could be vicarious revenge.

Several senior administration members had advocated extremely long jail sentences for Assange and some had even mooted the death penalty, although Rogers realised that was technically impossible through this process.

Fitzgerald asked whether Assange’s political opinions were of a type protected by the Refugee Convention. Rogers replied yes. Persecution for political opinion is a solid reason to ask for refugee status. Assange’s actions are motivated by his political stance. Finally Fitzgerald then asked whether Rogers saw political significance in the fact that Assange was not prosecuted under Obama. Rogers replied yes, he did. This case is plainly affected by fundamental political motivation emanating from Trump himself.

James Lewis QC then rose to cross-examine for the prosecution. His first question was “what is a political opinion?” Rogers replied that a political opinion takes a particular stance on the political process and does so openly. It relates to the governance of communities, from nations down to smaller units.

Lewis suggested that Assange’s views encompassed the governance of corporations, NGOs and trade unions. They could not therefore be considered as “political opinion”. Rogers replied that the province of the political in the last fifty years or so now includes much more beyond the strict governmental process. Assange particularly discusses relationships between government and corporations and the latter’s influence on government and society as part of a wider ruling establishment.

Lewis then asked “is simply being a journalist a person who expresses political opinions?” Rogers replied not necessarily; there were different kinds of journalist. Lewis than asked “So just being a journalist or publisher does not necessarily mean that you have political opinions, does it?” Rogers replied “not necessarily, but usually.” Lewis then suggested that the expression of editorial opinion was what constituted a political view in a journalist. Rogers replied that was one way, but there were others. Selection of material to publish could manifest a political view.

Lewis then rattled off a series of questions. Is transparency a political opinion? Does Assange hold the view that Governments may never hold secrets? Should that transparency enable putting individuals at risk? There were more.

Rogers replied that these questions did not permit of binary answers.

Lewis then took Rogers to Assange’s speech to the Stop the War Coalition, where he stated that the invasion of Poland at the start of the Second World War was the result of carefully concocted lies. Did Prof Rogers agree with that view? What political opinion did that view represent? Rogers replied it represented a strong political opinion and a particular view on the origin of war. Lewis then quoted another alleged comment of Assange, “Journalists are war criminals” and asked what political opinion that represented. Rogers replied that it represented a suspicion of certain journalistic practices.

Rogers said that he had never said he supported or identified with Assange’s views. He strongly disagreed with some. But that they were coherent political views there was no doubt.

Lewis then read out a lengthy quote by Assange to the effect that strongly anti-transparency governments will always result in more leaks, followed by more restrictions and this would set up a cycle. Lewis asked Rogers what political view this could be said to represent. Rogers replied it was an interesting analysis of the working of highly autocratic systems. Their concern with secrecy leads to increased leaks which decrease their security. He was not sure if it was explicit, but he believed Assange may be positing this as a new development made possible by the internet. Assange’s thesis was that autocratic regimes harbour the seeds of their own destruction. It was not a traditional view held by political scientists but it was worth consideration.

Lewis now changed tack. He stated that Prof Rogers was appearing as a “so-called expert witness” under a continuing obligation to be unbiased. He had a duty to consider all supporting evidence. US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg had submitted an affidavit explicitly denying there was any political motivation for the prosecution, stating that it is evidence based. Why did Prof Rogers not mention the Kromberg statement in his report? An unbiased expert witness would take into account Kromberg’s statement.

Rogers replied that he spoke from his expertise as a political scientist, not a lawyer. He accepted that Kromberg had made his statement but believed a wider view to be more important.

Lewis stated that Kromberg’s first affidavit stated that “based on the available evidence and applicable law a grand jury had approved the charges.” Why had Rogers not mentioned the grand jury? Rogers said that he had taken a wider view about why there was a decision now to prosecute and not in 2011, why Kromberg’s statement was being made now after a gap of eight years. This was anomalous.

Lewis then asked “I want to consider why you did not consider the opposite view. Have you seen the evidence?” At this point he was grinning very strangely indeed, looking up at the judge, leaning back with one arm wide across his chair back, in some sort of peculiar alpha male gesture. I believe Rogers’ videolink only gave him a wide view of the whole courtroom, so how much he could see of the body language of his questioner I am unsure.

Rogers said he had seen the evidence. Lewis gurned in wild-eyed triumph “you cannot have seen the evidence. The evidence has only been seen by the grand jury and not released. You cannot have seen the evidence.” Rogers apologised, and said he had understood Lewis to mean Kromberg’s affidavit as the evidence. Rogers went on to say that less than 24 hours ago he had received an evidence bundle of 350 pages. It was unfair to expect him to have a precise mental picture of every document.

Lewis then returned to a Gordon Kromberg affidavit which said that prosecutors have a code which bars them from taking politically motivated decisions. Rogers replied that may be right in theory, but was untrue in practice, particularly in the USA where a much higher percentage of senior officials in the Department of Justice were political appointees who changed with each administration. Lewis asked Rogers whether he was alleging the prosecutors did not follow the code outlined by Kromberg. Rogers replied you had to consider the motivation of those above the prosecutors who influenced their decisions. “What you are giving me is a fair representation of how federal prosecutors are supposed to do their work. But they work as those above direct them.”

Lewis repeated that the code excludes political motivation for prosecution. Was Rogers claiming that Gordon Kromberg was acting in bad faith? Rogers replied no, but he was acting under political direction. The timing of this indictment after eight years was the key. Lewis asked whether that mattered if a crime had been committed. He referred to historic prosecutions of those soldiers who had allegedly committed crimes in Northern Ireland over twenty years ago. Was it political motivation that led to new prosecutions now? Rogers said this was more about bad faith.

Lewis asked if Rogers understood what Assange was being prosecuted for. Was he being prosecuted for publishing the collateral murder video? Rogers replied no, the charges were more specific and mostly related to the Espionage Act. Lewis stated the majority of charges were focused on complicity in theft and on hacking. Rogers responded there was obviously a wider political question as to why acts were being done in the first place. Lewis stated that on the question of publication, charges only related to the unredacted names of sources. Rogers said that he understood that was what the prosecution is saying, but was not agreed by the defence. But the question remained, why is this being brought now? And you could only look at that from the point of view of developments in American politics over the last twenty years.

Lewis asked Rogers to confirm that he was not saying US prosecutors were acting in bad faith. Rogers replied that he would hope not, at that level. Lewis asked if Rogers’ position was that at a higher level there had been a political decision to prosecute. Rogers said yes. These were complex matters. It was governed by political developments in the US since about 1997. He wished to speak to that… Lewis cut him off and said he preferred to look at evidence. He cited a Washington Post article from 2013 which stated that there had been no formal decision not to prosecute Assange by the Obama administration (this was the same article Lewis had quoted yesterday to Feldstein, on which he had been called out by Edward Fitzgerald for selective quotation). Rogers replied yes, but that must be considered in a wider context.

Lewis again refused to let Rogers develop his evidence, and gave the quotes from Assange’s legal team, again as given yesterday to Feldstein, to the effect they had in 2016 not been informed charges had been dropped. Rogers replied that was just what you would expect from Wikileaks at that time. They did not know and were bound to be cautious.

Lewis: Do you accept there had been a continuing investigation from Obama to Trump administrations.
Rogers: Yes, but we do not know at what level of intensity.
Lewis: Do you accept that there was no decision not to prosecute by Obama
Rogers: There was no decision to prosecute. It did not happen.
Lewis: How could they prosecute when Assange was in the Embassy?
Rogers: That would not preclude a prosecution going ahead and charges being brought. That might be a way to bring pressure on Ecuador.
Lewis: Assange’s lawyer said there was no decision not to prosecute by the Obama administration.
Rogers: I have accepted there was no decision not to prosecute. But there was no prosecution and it was considered.
Lewis: Judge Mehta said there was ongoing investigation of others beside Manning. And Wikileaks tweeted Assange’s willingness to come to the USA to face charges if Manning was granted clemency.
Rogers: Obviously Assange and his lawyer could not be sure of the situation. But it must be understood that bringing Julian Assange to the USA for a major trial of someone who was perceived by many Trump supporters and potential Trump supporters as an enemy of the state, might be of crucial political benefit to Mr Trump.

Lewis now responded that Rogers was not a real expert witness and “had given a biased opinion in favour of Julian Assange”.

Edward Fitzgerald QC then re-examined Prof Rogers for the defence. He said that Mr Lewis had appeared to see something sinister in Mr Assange’s statement that the invasion of Poland and second world war had been started by lies. To what lies did Prof Rogers think that Assange was referring? Rogers replied the lies of the Nazi Regime. Fitzgerald asked if this was a fair point. Rogers replied yes.

Fitzgerald read the context of Assange’s statement which also referred to lies starting the Iraq war. Rogers agreed that lies leading to war was a consistent Assange political theme. Fitzgerald then invited Rogers briefly to summarise the consequences of the change of US administration. Rogers stated that under Trump, the narrative from senior politicians on Wikileaks had changed.

The Bush administration had viewed the Iraq war as essential, with the support of most American people. That view had gradually changed until Obama had won basically on a “withdraw from Iraq” ticket. Similarly the Afghan war had been thought winnable but gradually the political establishment changed their mind. This shift in view was partly due to Wikileaks. By 2015/6 American politics had moved on from the wars and there was no political interest in prosecuting Wikileaks.

Then Trump came in with a completely new attitude to the entire fourth estate and to openness and accountability of the executive. That had led to this prosecution. Fitzgerald directed Rogers to a Washington Post article which stated:

The previously undisclosed disagreement inside the Justice Department underscores the fraught, high-stakes nature of the government’s years-long effort to counter Assange, an Internet-age publisher who has repeatedly declared his hostility to U.S. foreign policy and military operations. The Assange case also illustrates how the Trump administration is willing to go further than its predecessors in pursuit of leakers — and those who publish official secrets.

Rogers agreed this supported his position. Fitzgerald then asked about Lewis’s comparison with prosecution of British soldiers for historical crimes in Northern Ireland. Rogers agreed that their prosecution in no way related to their political opinions, so the cases were not comparable. Rogers’ final point was that four months after Barr took office as attorney general, charges were increased from a single one to eighteen. This was a pretty clear indication of political pressure being put on the prosecutorial system.

TREVOR TIMM

The afternoon witness was Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Association in San Francisco, again via videolink. You can see his full evidence statement here. The Freedom of the Press Association teaches and supports investigative journalism and seeks to document and counter violations of media freedom in the USA.

Mr Timm testified that there is a rich history in the USA of famous reporters covering defence and foreign affairs related matters drawing upon classified documents. In 1971 the Supreme Court had decided the government could not censor the NYT from publishing the Pentagon Papers. There have been several instances over history where the government had explored using the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists but no prosecution had ever materialised because of First Amendment constitutional rights.

For the defence, Mark Summers QC put to Mr Timms that this was the prosecution’s case: Chelsea Manning had committed a crime in whistleblowing. So any act that helped Chelsea Manning or solicited material was also a crime. Timm replied this was not the law. It was standard practice for journalists to ask sources for classified material. The implications of this prosecution would criminalise any journalist in receipt of classified intelligence. Virtually every single newspaper in the United States had criticised this decision to prosecute on these grounds, including those that have opposed Wikileaks’ general activities.

This was the only attempt to use the Espionage Act against a person not in government employ apart from the AIPAC case, which had collapsed for that reason. Many great journalists would have been caught by this kind of prosecution, including Woodward and Bernstein for the cultivation of Deep Throat.

Summers asked about the prosecution’s characterisation of the provision of a drop box by Wikileaks to a whistleblower as criminal conspiracy. Timm replied that the indictment treats possession of a secure drop box as a criminal offence. But the Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times and over 80 other news organisations have secure drop boxes. The International Committee of Investigative Journalists has a drop box with a specific “leak to us” page requesting classified documents. Timms’ own foundation had developed in 2014 a secure drop box which they taught, and which had been adopted by multiple news organisations in the USA.

Summers asked if news organisations advertised drop boxes. Timm replied yes. The New York Times links to its secure drop box in its social media posts. Some even took out paid adverts for whistleblowers. Summers asked about the “most wanted list” which the prosecution characterised as criminal solicitation. Timm replied that multiple respectable news organisations actively solicited whistleblowers. The “most wanted” list had been a Wiki document which had been crowdsourced. It was not a Wikileaks document. His own foundation had contributed to it along with many other media organisations. Summers asked if this was criminal activity. Timm replied in the negative.

Summers asked Timm to expound his thoughts on the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture in 2014. Timm said that this vital and damning report on CIA involvement in torture had been much redacted and was based on thousands of classified documents not made available to the public. Virtually the entire media had therefore been involved in trying to obtain the classified material that revealed more of the story. Much of this material was classified Top Secret – higher than the Manning material. Many newspapers appealed for whistleblowers to come forward with documents and he had himself published an appeal to that effect in the Guardian.

Summers asked if it had ever been suggested to Timm this was criminal behaviour. Timm replied no, the universal belief had been that it was first amendment protected free speech. The current indictment is unconstitutional.

James Lewis QC then cross-examined for the prosecution. He said this was claimed to be expert opinion, but did Timm know what that meant in UK law? Timm said he had an obligation to explain his qualification and to tell the truth. Lewis replied that he was also supposed to be objective, unbiased and have no conflict of interest. But the Free Press Foundation had contribute to Assange’s defence fund. Lewis asked how much? Timm replied US$100,000.

Lewis asked if there were any conditions under which the Foundation would get their money back. Timm replied no, not to his knowledge. Lewis asked whether Timm would feel personally threatened were this case to go to prosecution. Timm replied that would represent a threat to many thousands of journalists. The Espionage Act was so widely drafted it would even pose a threat to purchasers and readers of newspapers containing leaked information.

Lewis said that Timm had testified that he had written advocating a leaking of CIA material. Did he fear he would be prosecuted himself? Timm replied no, he had not asked for material to be leaked to himself. But this prosecution was a real threat to thousands of journalists represented by his organisation.

Lewis said that the prosecution position is that Assange is not a journalist. Timm replied that he is a journalist. Being a journalist does not mean working for the mainstream media. There was a long legal history of that going back to pamphleteers at the time of Independence.

This cross examination was not going so well, and Lewis reached yet again for Gordon Kromberg’s affidavit as for a comfort blanket. Kromberg had sworn that the Department of Justice takes seriously the protection of journalists and that Julian Assange is no journalist. Kromberg had further sworn that Julian Assange was only being prosecuted for conspiring to illegally obtain material, and for publishing unredacted names of informants who would be at risk of death. The government is going out of its way to stress it is not prosecuting journalism.

Timm replied that he based his opinion on what the indictment said, not on the Department of Justice press release from which Lewis had read. Three of these charges relate to publication. The other charges relate to possession of material. Lewis said that Timm was missing the hacking allegation which was central to Count 1 and several other counts. Lewis quoted an article in the Law Review of New York Law School, which said that it was illegal for a journalist to obtain material from the wreckage of a crashed airplane, from an illegal wiretap or from theft, even if the purpose were publication. Would it not be illegal to conspire with a source to commit hacking?

Timm replied that in this case the allegation appeared to be that the hacking was to protect the identity of the source, not to steal documents. Protection of sources was an obligation.

Lewis then asked Timm if he had seen the actual evidence that supports the indictment. Timm replied only some of it, in particular the Jabber script of the messages allegedly between Assange and Manning. Lewis said Timm could not have seen all the evidence as it had not been published. Timm replied he had not said he had seen it all. He had seen the alleged Assange/Manning messages which had been published.

Lewis said that Assange had published unredacted material which put lives in danger. That was the specific charge. Timm replied that, assuming the assertion was true, the prosecution was still unconstitutional. There was a difference between responsible and irresponsible, and legal and illegal. An act could be irresponsible, even blameworthy, and still not illegal.

There had never been a prosecution for publication of names of informants, even where they were allegedly put in harm’s way. Following the official line about harm to informants precisely due to Wikileaks’ publication of the cables, Senator Joe Liebermann had introduced the Shield Bill into Congress. It failed specifically on First Amendment grounds. The episode tells us two things; firstly that Congress considered publication of informants’ names was not illegal and secondly that neither did they wish to make it illegal.

Lewis quoted a Guardian editorial condemning the publication of names, and stated that the Washington Post, New York Times, El Pais and Der Spiegel among many others had condemned it too. Timm replied that still did not make it illegal. The US government ought not to be the arbiter of whether an editorial decision is correct or not. Timm also felt it worth noting in passing that all of those media outlets whose opinions Lewis held in such high regard, had condemned the current attempt at prosecution.

Lewis asked why we should prefer Timm’s opinion to that of the courts. Timm replied that his opinion was in line with the courts. Countless decisions over centuries upheld the First Amendment. It was the indictment which was out of tune with the courts. The Supreme Court had expressly stated that there was no balance of harm argument in First Amendment cases.

Lewis asked Timm what qualification he had to comment on legal matters. Timm replied he had graduated from Law School and had gained admission to the New York Bar, but rather than practice he had worked on academic analysis of media freedom cases. The Foundation often joined in with litigation in support of media freedom, on an amicus basis.

Lewis said (in a tone of disbelief) that Timm had stated this prosecution was part of “Trump’s war on journalism”. Timm cut in niftily. Yes, he explained, we keep track on Trump’s war on journalism. He has sent out over 2,200 tweets attacking journalists. He has called journalists “enemies of the people”. There is a great deal of available material on this.

Lewis asked why Timm had failed to note that US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg had specifically denied that there was a war on journalists? Timm said he had addressed these arguments in his evidence, though without specifically referencing Kromberg. Lewis stated that Timm had also not addressed Kromberg’s assertion that Assange is not charged simply with receipt of classified material. Timm replied that is because Kromberg’s assertion is inaccurate. Assange is indeed charged with offences encompassing passive receipt. If you get to count 7, for example and look at the legislation it charges under, it does precisely criminalise passive receipt and possession.

Lewis asked why Timm had omitted Kromberg’s reference to the grand jury decision? Timm replied that it meant very little: 99.9% of grand juries agree to return a prosecution. An academic study of 152,000 grand juries had revealed only 11 which had refused the request of a federal prosecutor to prosecute.

Lewis asked Timm why he had failed to mention that Kromberg asserted that a federal prosecutor may not take political considerations into account. Timm replied that did not reflect reality. Prosecution was one prong of many in President Trump’s war on journalism. Lewis asked whether Timm was saying that Kromberg and his colleagues were acting in bad faith. Timm replied no, but there had been a story in the Washington Post that more senior federal prosecutors had been opposed to the prosecution as contrary to the First Amendment and thus unconstitutional.

Mark Summers then re-examined for the defence. He said that Kromberg presents two grounds for Assange not being a journalist. The first is that he conspired with Manning to obtain confidential material. Timm replied that this cultivating of a source was routine journalistic activity. The indictment is precluded by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has ruled that even if a journalist knows that material is stolen (but not by him), he may still publish with entitlement to First Amendment protection.

Summers asked Timm about Lewis’s comparison of Assange’s contact with Manning to theft from an airplane wreck or illegal wiretap. Timm said this alleged offence did not reach that bar. The government does not allege that Assange himself helped Manning to steal the material. It alleges he provided help to crack a code that enabled Manning better to protect his identity.

Lewis here interrupted with a lengthy quote from one of Kromberg’s affidavits, to the effect that the government was now alleging that Assange helped Manning hack a password in order to facilitate obtaining classified information. Timm said yet again Kromberg’s affidavit did not appear to match the actual indictment. The claim there is that the password hacking “may have made it more difficult to identify Manning”. It is about source protection, not theft. Source protection is normal journalistic activity.

Summers stated that Kromberg’s second justification for stating that Assange is not a journalist was that he published the names of sources. Timm replied that he understood these facts were disputed, but in any event the Supreme Court had made plain such publication still enjoyed First Amendment protection. Controversial editorial choice did not render you “not a journalist”.

Summers asked Timm if he accepted Kromberg’s characterisation that Assange was only being prosecuted for alleged hacking and for publication of names. Timm said he did not. Counts 16, 17 and 18 were for publishing. All the other counts related to possession. Count 7 for example was for “knowingly unlawful receiving and obtaining”. That described passive receipt of classified information and would criminalise much legitimate journalistic activity. Huge swathes of defence, national security and foreign affairs reporting would be criminalised.

COMMENT

The defence have been attempting the last two days to make a rational case that this is a politically motivated prosecution and therefore not eligible under the terms of the UK/US extradition treaty of 2007 (relevant extract pictured above).

In opening argument back in February, the prosecution had run a frankly farcical argument that Article 4 of the treaty does not apply as incompatible with UK law, and an esto argument that Assange’s activity is not political as in law that word can only mean support for a particular party. Hence Lewis’s sparring on that point with Prof Rogers today, in which Lewis was well out of his depth.

Lewis primary tactic has been rudeness and aggression to disconcert witnesses. He questions their honesty, fairness, independence and qualifications. Today his bullying tactics ran foul of two classier performers than he. That is no criticism of Professor Feldstein yesterday, whose quiet dignity and concern was effective in a different way in exposing Lewis as a boor.

Lewis’s remaining tactic is to fall back repeatedly on the affidavits of Gordon Kromberg, US Assistant Attorney, and his statements that the prosecution is not politically motivated, and on Kromberg’s characterisation of the extent of the charges, which everybody else but Lewis and Kromberg finds inconsistent with the superseding indictment itself.

Witnesses understandably back away from Lewis’s challenge to call Kromberg a liar, or even to question his good faith. Lewis’s plan is very plainly to declare at the end that every witness accepted Kromberg’s good faith and therefore this is a fair prosecution and the defence have no case.

Perhaps I can assist. I do not accept Kromberg’s good faith. I have no hesitation in calling Kromberg a liar.

When the best thing your most supportive colleague can say about you, is that out-and-out Islamophobes do enjoy temporary popularity in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack, then there is a real problem. There is a real problem with Gordon Kromberg, and Lewis may very well come to regret resting the weight of the credibility of his entire case upon such a shoogly peg.

Kromberg has a repeated history of Islamophobic remarks, including about Muslim women. As the Wall Street Journal reported on September 15th 2008,

“Kromberg has taken a lot of heat recently for comments made and tactics taken in terrorism prosecutions”… said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal terrorism prosecutor. “As long as nothing goes boom, they want to say you’re an Islamophobe. The moment something does go boom, if the next 9/11 happens, God help anyone who says they weren’t as aggressive as Gordon.”

For British readers, Kromberg is Katie Hopkins with a legal brief. Conjure up that image every one of the scores of times Lewis relies on Gordon Kromberg.

More to the point, all expert witnesses have so far said that Kromberg’s precious memoranda explaining the scope of the indictment are inaccurate. It is at odds either with actual practice in the USA (the lawyer Clive Stafford Smith made this point) or the actual statutes to which it refers (the lawyers Trevor Timm and of course Mark Summers QC for the defence both make this point).

Crucially, Kromberg has a proven history of precisely this kind of distortion away from the statute. Also from the Wall Street Journal:

Federal judge Leonie M. Brinkema lashed out at the prosecutor [Kromberg], calling his remark insulting. Earlier, she had chastised Kromberg for changing a boilerplate immunity order beyond the language spelled out by Congress and questioned whether Arian’s constitutional rights had been violated.

“I’m not in any respect attributing evil motives or anything clandestine to you, but I think it’s real scary and not wise for a prosecutor to provide an order to the Court that does not track the explicit language of the statutes, especially this particular statute,” Brinkema said at the hearing in the Alexandria courtroom.

Next time Lewis asks a witness if they are questioning Kromberg’s good faith, they might want to answer “yes”. It certainly will not be the first time. As Trevor Timm testified today, senior prosecutors in the Justice Department had opposed this prosecution as unconstitutional and refused to be involved. Trump was left with this discredited right wing sleazeball. Now here we are at the Old Bailey, with a floundering Lewis clutching at this oaf Kromberg for intellectual support.
 
 
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232 thoughts on “Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 8

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  • N_

    Lewis suggested that Assange’s views encompassed the governance of corporations, NGOs and trade unions. They could not therefore be considered as “political opinion”. Rogers replied that the province of the political in the last fifty years or so now includes much more beyond the strict governmental process. Assange particularly discusses relationships between government and corporations and the latter’s influence on government and society as part of a wider ruling establishment.

    What a f*cking charlie James Lewis is. You would have thought a high-powered lawyer like him, with all his connections in the Cayman Islands etc., would know that the British government for example has something called the “UK [*] Corporate Governance Code“. If I want to campaign to have an effect on it, I can lobby my MP or I can stand for election myself on a platform to change it. That’s called “politics”.

    Note
    *) Note the “UK”. These dickheads put their monarchist branding everywhere they can. It’s similar to clicking their heels and saying “Heil Hitler”.

    • N_

      To be more exact, the Corporate Governance Code is published by the Financial Reporting Council, of which the directors are appointed by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He is supposed to be responsible to a group of fat boozing liggers known as “Parliament”. Currently he is Alok Sharma, who previously worked for a big Wallenberg [*] family-controlled bank where he specialised in advising clients in the “private equity sector”.

      Isn’t there a story about Ravachol where he holds a bourgeois at gunpoint, the bourgeois says “But I’ve never been interested in politics”, and Ravachol says “That’s precisely why I’m going to shoot you”?

      Note
      *) The Wallenbergs are the family that owns Sweden.

      • N_

        Isn’t there a story about Ravachol where he holds a bourgeois at gunpoint, the bourgeois says “But I’ve never been interested in politics”, and Ravachol says “That’s precisely why I’m going to shoot you”?

        Hmm… I searched on this. I don’t know the original source but it is quoted in the Situationist International’s “Theses on the Paris Commune” (1961) where the account features not Ravachol but a communard in 1871.

    • Sophie Langdon

      Hello Craig,
      Thank you so, so much for this incredibly detailed coverage. I know it is the result of your amazing intellect, dedication and resilience. I do hope that somehow, this insane situation will be resolved, and Julian released. In fact, although a staunch atheist, I will pray for your health and strength – and his release.

    • M

      Hello Craig. I want to thank you for doing a great job reporting on Julian Assange’s case/persecution. I recognise this case is about coercing journalists and would be journalists not to disclose documents from whistleblowers exposing government criminality…and revenge for doing so. I believe everything good in society flows from good governance, and good governance can only be established if those in government are made aware their lies will be published and they will be held accountable before the law. Warm regards

  • Graham

    Thank you for your coverage of this vitally important case.

    I attempted to comment on the Assange case 3 times on the guardian live blog and was shocked to be moderated each time. This is one of my comments…

    “Covid is being used as the reason to prevent journalists attending The Assange case at the old Bailey. A case arguably of similar importance as the pentagon papers is going on right now yet the coverage from mainstream press is minimal. That Mr Assange is receiving justice is open to debate.”

    The Guardian are covering the case but it’s tucked away on the website and watered down. Seems no discussion is allowed?

    • John+Deehan

      There should be absolutely no shock or surprise that the Fraudian is censoring comments about the political trial of a persecuted political prisoner. You only have to read the previous articles from Maria Hyde, Luke Harding, Jonathan Friedland, Suzanne Moore attacking Assange etc to see their visceral hatred for everything that he is and they are not. Namely, he is a journalist seeking the truth and they are presstitutes seeking monetary and prestige gains.

      • Squeeth

        Assange shows up these szchits for what they are. Assange isn’t a mere journalist (i.e. guttersnipe), he’s a reporter.

    • dearieme

      It’s a general rule, though not a universal law, that what the Guardian supports is bad.

      So if the Guardian is anti-Assange that’s another reason for me to say the bugger should be released.

      The whole thing is, if Mr Murray will allow bad language, a bloody disgrace.

    • Mighty Drunken

      Guardian’s comment policy is pretty strict.
      If the comment is off topic, or attacks the Guardian, the article or the article writer you will be censored. Also they won’t like comments which make it sound like coronavirus restrictions are being misused as they will probably interpret that to mean you deny the virus’s threat.

    • Guy Thornton

      You could even go so far as to argue that it is of similar importance to the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard libel trial which was covered by every newspaper, from the Times to the Sun, in exquisite detail.

    • Nickle101

      About 2 years ago, I closed my guardian account and hardly ever look at the paper anymore. Despite being always polite and respectful, it is simply impossible for any person who is reasonably politically aware not to get moderated on the Guardian; their Overton window is narrow and specific. Getting moderated on the Guardian is a rite of passage on the way to political awareness. Dumping it altogether as a main source of news is the next step; it is very liberating.

      The Assange case has been a particularly low point for the paper, and there are many. Here we see following the ‘party line’ mixed with an extremely nasty dose of hate and spite. Reading these people does not do anything good for me or probably for the world.

      Dump the Guardian.

      • Kaiama

        Getting moderated is undergraduate stuff. Getting banned is post graduate. Preferably more than once to really establish one’s credentials.

  • pete

    Craig, thanks again for being there to report on the Julian Assange extradition proceedings, I cannot quantify how much bile I feel toward the way the authorities are behaving in this matter. Are they utterly shameless?

  • Goose

    Brilliant granular reporting, that puts the guardian et al to shame.

    Sadly though, as others have stated, these proceedings do have an air of inevitability as if a ‘pre-written script’ is playing out, maybe literally, dictating a foregone outcome. Hard not to feel depressed for what was once sacrosanct in ‘British justice’ : the notion of independence, objectivity and a fair hearing.

    The lack of media coverage is another highly disturbing aspect to this given the potentially grave ramifications for investigative journalism. If they can put Assange away for life on this ever-changing, seemingly threadbare basis, who will dare handle leaked documents or try to protect whistleblowers in the future outside the tightly controlled, infiltrated corporate MSM? Maybe that warning aimed at those outside the MSM is the whole point?

    I guess a middle class, white, heterosexual male like Assange stands no chance of gaining the mass media support/mobilisation and ultimately headline traction from the liberal ‘woke’ brigade either. Were he struggling with his sexuality, LGBT+ ,or of colour, given the current BLM protests, his plight would be centre-stage, he’d be a cause célèbre among many of those currently silent. That comment isn’t meant to be disparaging or trivialising of the genuine problems minorities face in our society in terms of discrimination. It’s merely recognition of the weird disinterest in this important test case, because he doesn’t tick woke ‘person of interest’ boxes.

    We don’t even have a political libertarian right defending him in the UK(unlike the US). As for the opposition, Starmer was party to moves that put him where he is, so no hope from that quarter either. A sad reality is that a few days of Daily Mail vituperative headlines criticising his treatment and the political walls would start to crumble with ‘believe in nothing’ careerist MPs claiming they’ve been outraged all along by his treatment..His best hope may ultimately rest in Europe.

    • N_

      Hard not to feel depressed for what was once sacrosanct in ‘British justice’ : the notion of independence, objectivity and a fair hearing.

      When was that golden age? Before the 1960s few British magistrates or judges would sit back quietly and allow a defendant to accuse a police officer of lying. (Never mind that cops tell lies almost every time they appear in court, even when they don’t have to.)

      • Sarge

        It was always just ruling class propaganda. If those things had ever been sacrosanct the airwaves would be thick with liberal grandees, “the great and the good,” condemning this blatant show trial / railroading. History will ask, where were Britain’s liberal grandees?

        • Ken Kenn

          A lot of spluttering in the media about ‘Rule of Law’ visa – vis the Trade Deal with the EU.

          What they don’t say is that it is the Rule of US Laws that are observed.

          What the US wants – the US gets certainly in the UK without question and reluctantly in other parts of the world.

          This Court Case comes specifically to satisfy the demands of the US and nothing else.

          Hence the hoop jumping from the government and the UK Legal System
          Did any ERG Tory shout ‘ Sovereignty ‘ when the US demanded Assange’s head on a plate.

          Definitely not and the Libertarian press don;t either.

          Anyway Pelosi hasn’t hung about.

          Don’t like the DNC but anything that makes Johnson and the ERG as well as Farage take a giant gulp is fine by me.

          If Trump goes – Johnson goes as does Farage.

          As the Chinese say – it’s a Win Win.

          Temporary – but welcome.

          Sometimes idiots are useful.

          • Los

            The whole ‘Brexit Breaking International Law’ gambit is just a distraction manufactured to deflect from the mounting virus second wave just as Boris Johnson tries to herd children back to school so that their parents can be put back into profitable pursuits.

      • Squeeth

        “(Never mind that cops tell lies almost every time they appear in court, even when they don’t have to.)”

        Gore Vidal said his uncle, a Senator, said the same about politicians. ;O)

    • Sarge

      “I guess a middle class, white, heterosexual male like Assange stands no chance of gaining the mass media support”

      Total misunderstanding of what is motivating their hatred of Assange. How much support did they provide Diane Abbot through five years of extreme monstering?

      • Goose

        “Total misunderstanding of what is motivating their hatred of Assange. How much support did they provide Diane Abbot through five years of extreme monstering?”

        Abbott’s online abuse (mainly from the far right) did attract great sympathy from the left though. And look how she increased her majority in 2017. The wider media were too busy in their obsession with alleged antisemitism; it being a useful device to destabilise and ultimately dislodge Corbyn.

    • Shatnersrug

      Goose,

      We’re well into the era of the ex-SPAD as government now, they’re used to doing what they’re told and they automatically look to america as master. It’s a hopeless precedent. I’d say they don’t have the balls to stand up to Trump, but they actually don’t understand that they can stand up to him.

      • Goose

        @Shatnersrug

        The UK has always been in a stronger position than those in power imagine. Ministers talk of this, that or the other jeopardising the ‘special relationship’ to justify their subservience. Remember when Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, told Britain’s incoming ambassador to the US [Sir Christopher Meyer] to “get up the arse of the White House and stay there.” Who else could the US turn to in Europe to spark a ‘special relationship’ should the Brits walk away? The proudly independent, highly temperamental French perhaps?

        Isn’t the truth that an increasingly isolated US needs the UK as a bridge into Europe, for diplomatic cover, and as the mainstay of Nato? The UK could choose to play a completely different role in the world, more independent, and ultimately more respected in terms of soft power, and the US would be more isolated and have to become more reasonable too.

    • Deepgreenpuddock

      While I understand why you are writing your comment:-

      “Sadly though, as others have stated, these proceedings do have an air of inevitability as if a ‘pre-written script’ is playing out, maybe literally, dictating a foregone outcome. Hard not to feel depressed for what was once sacrosanct in ‘British justice’ : the notion of independence, objectivity and a fair hearing.

      I don’t agree. There may be evidence of ‘bias’ in your mind but that is almost impossible to prove outright.As far as I can tell from Craig’s very detailed report, the prosecution are floundering. And importantly, this is ‘on record’ and in the public domain.Whatever the outcome, the individuals concerned risk being tarnished and having their position and reputation reduced to derision.
      If the report and its facts are overwhelmingly favourable to Julian, but are then flouted shamelessly by some of these actors, it reveals their position.They will make a dishonest finding at their great peril. If this dishonesty is laid out for all to see by the events in the court (and detailed and accurate reporting), the whole system of justice is dragged into disrepute and the basis for orderly rule is utterly undermined.A judge whose behaviour is not transparent, and well judged may well find that justice may come knocking at her or his door. At some point judge Baraitser will have to make a reasoned summation which is also on record.. A dishonest judge may feel confident or assured within the current context of an intellectually feeble , corrupt and very right wing, reactionary, government but a blatant injustice could well lead to the conditions of civil unrest.
      There is everything to fight for.

      • Goose

        @Deepgreenpuddock

        I meant the outcome is preordained, as presiding judge Vanessa Baraitser’s record of extradition in deportation cases is 96%!!!!

        What do you reckon his chances are of joining the 4% are?

        “…but a blatant injustice could well lead to the conditions of civil unrest.”

        Will anyone even notice with this virtual media blackout?

      • Johny Conspiranoid

        ” If this dishonesty is laid out for all to see by the events in the court”

        That’s if they ever get to hear about it through the MSM.

  • Phil Williamson

    The two defence witnesses thus far called as experts on matters of journalism (Mark Feldstein and Trevor Timm) have both repeated the lie (and therefore confirmed the truth of the actual accusation) that Donald Trump claimed that “journalists are the enemies of the people”. In fact, what DT Tweeted on 17/2/17 was: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing NYT, CNN, NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!”. Abstracting for a moment from an assumption of a basic failure of comprehension, which alone would indict the “profession”, to make sense of what is going on requires a return to first principles.

    1. As the theoretical work of Noam Chomsky, Armand Mattelart (and a few others) and the practical work of the Glasgow Media Group, Media Lens, John Pilger (and many others) has shown, the MSM, under the slogan of “holding the powerful to account”, in fact precisely proscribe the limits of criticism of the capitalist system: they are in the business of making money, money is made by advertising and lucrative advertising does not naturally flow towards publications that bite the hand that feeds them, i.e. advocate the overthrow of Capitalism.
    2. The current stage of capitalist development relies upon open borders for capital, goods and services, and labour-power. However, in one of those ironic linguistic tics beloved of the Right (National Socialism = fascism!), this “Capitalist Internationalism” has nothing whatsoever to do with its Communist namesake. Instead it represents the ultimate exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources and its population.
    3. Donald Trump is a non-ideological businessman who approaches political issues from an economic/bottom line perspective. Thus, in asking the idiot savant question “What is NATO for?” (provoked by the unequal financial contributions of member States) he revealed the real (political) reason for its continued existence: sustaining physical aggression. Again, in opposing TPP, TTIP and NAFTA (provoked by their actual or potential effects on the American economy) he revealed the real (political) reason for their “popularity”: the political class (both sides) has been bought by big business and big business loves free trade agreements. Again, in opposing open borders for labour-power/”people” (again provoked by the effect of de facto unlimited immigration on the American economy) he revealed the real (political) reasons for its “popularity”: potential future votes. Finally, in expressing the twin desires of “better relations with Russia” and “withdrawing from foreign wars”, both for economic reasons, he revealed the real (political) reason for their “unacceptability”: again, sustaining physical aggression.
    4. In all cases, the political reasons are, in the last instance, economic: the continued financing of the military-industrial complex; the continued supply of cheap goods from abroad that undercut local produce; the continued supply of cheap immigrant labour that undercuts local labour; long-term support of the Ponzi scheme better known as the pensions sector, etc. And in all cases, the MSM has dutifully covered up the political/economic reality exposed by Trump via a combination of mockery (“He doesn’t even understand why we need NATO!”) and outright lies (“Trump is a racist”, “Trump is a Russian agent”, “unlimited immigration does not reduce wage levels”, etc.).
    5. A final, self-interested reason must be added for the (liberal) MSM’s attacks on Trump: economic survival. Web2.0/social media have forced the former towards an opinion- rather than news-provision model in order to survive behind paywalls: the NYT added c.300,000 subscribers in its first quarter after the election of DT, and this trend has continued and been mirrored by all the other titles that have become “never-Trumper” “organs”.

    In conclusion: in making this Tweet, and in the uproar, distortion and lying that has followed, Donald Trump has managed to out-Chomsky Chomsky in that he has allowed not just the Left but also the Proletarian Right to see for themselves the corruption of the MSM. They have seen it because, in attempting to defend the neo-liberal regime, the MSM via their ideological falsification have blatantly contradicted what this constituency experience as their daily conditions of existence: if you continually tell people that their real economic grievances are merely a manifestation of their inherent racism, xenophobia or just all-round “deplorable” nature there is going to be a reaction.

    The FAKE NEWS media truly are the “enemy of the people”.

    • Ian

      This is nonsense. If you actually read their dispositions you will find copious evidence and quotes about the Trump’s administration self-declared ‘war on journalism’. A pseudo-Marxist analysis of capital and economics is a squirrel spotting exercise.

      And conflating the ‘MSM’ with people who are experts in journalism, the law and state policies is an absurd attempt to tar anybody who practices or teaches journalism with one broad brush.

      Elevating Trump as some kind of holy innocent who upsets the apple cart doesn’t make him the hero you seem to think he is.

      Just read the transcripts instead of making up a litany of prejudged non-sequiturs and clearly having no idea who the witnesses are.

      • Stewart

        “This is nonsense” does not constitute a rebuttal
        Perhaps you should read the tweet…
        and then ask yourself who is actually waging a “war on journalism” – or do you agree with mr lewis that julian isn’t a “real” journalist?

    • Stewart

      Excellent comment Phil
      it’s quite depressing to see so many commentators on this blog regurgitating the “orange man bad” line – as if trump himself was pursuing this prosecution. Given the current state of america and the impending election, it is doubtful that this little drama across the pond will be occupying him overly.
      By the way, I am not a supporter of trump, far from it, but if HRC had gained the presidency in 2016 there is little doubt in my mind that the us would have spent the last four years bombing Iran (in the cause of “freedom” and “democracy” of course) and the world would be in a much worse state than it currently is, “pandemic” notwithstanding.
      Trump is a spanner in the works as far as the globalist military-industrial-financial-complex is concerned; unfortunately for them, their blatant attempts to destroy him (fake pandemic, fake news and fake riots) have backfired mightily and all but guaranteed his re-election.

    • Bayard

      “…he revealed the real (political) reason for its continued existence: sustaining physical aggression. “

      Stop calling it aggression!
      We hate that expression.
      We just want the world to know
      that we support the status quo
      They love us everywhere we go….

  • Republicofscotland

    It definitely sounds as though Lewis is a one trick pony (Kromberg) the real problem lies in the bias of the judge,and the power that lies behind her chair from across the pond, I also get the feeling this is all just being played out, and no matter what evidence or witnesses Assange’s defence produces, that a predetermined outcome of this shambolic trial has already been set.

    In Boris Johnson terms an Oven Ready Verdict.

    • Shatnersrug

      Yes, it’s the pretence of process, obviously Pritti Nasty Patel doesn’t want the fall out from extraditing him so it’s made to look like it was a courts decision and her hands are tied. This is the opposite of the truth – the home sec has always had the option to extradite.

      I’m sure what they’re after is for Jullian to be sent off quietly with a note on page 4 of the broadsheets and some awful slander in the Murdoch press. Which is why Craig’s reportage is so important – the public must know.

      • Goose

        Just as they’re saying the decision to depart unilaterally from WA Treaty will be Parliament’s not the govt’s. This , knowing full well they have an unjustified overwhelming 80 seat majority built upon 43% of the vote thanks to FPTP.

        Don’t know what they are playing at really, unless they’ve been handed some secret intel telling them the EU will blink first. and are betting the house on it being accurate? They do like their espionage.

        • Johny Conspiranoid

          “an unjustified overwhelming 80 seat majority built upon 43% of the vote thanks to FPTP. “

          And the postal ballot.

          • Goose

            38% voting by post in 2019 does seem steep jump on what went before(see below)… Laura Kuenssberg claimed the postal results were ‘grim’ for Labour before election day. Dominic Raab also claimed he had seen postal returns early.

            2010 – 15.3%
            2015 – 16.4%
            2017 – 18%

    • Jim Sinclare

      Yes, if there was any doubt about the outcome, they wouldn’t use a second-rate lawyer like James Lewis.

      • Nick

        Second rate?
        That’s pretty generous
        He probably has taken the prosecution brief as more reputable lawyers realise how flimsy and shambolic the case is,hence the repeateded appeal to authority of Kromberg.
        Personally i don’t warm very much to Assange,but this is irrelevant. The fact that no journalist appears to want to highlight the dangers to investigation of high heid yins misdeeds shows how complicit the baying pack are to their alpha leaders. I fear we are nearing closer and closer to a beyond Orwellian dystopian era

        • Bayard

          As Craig said about Kromberg, “As Trevor Timm testified today, senior prosecutors in the Justice Department had opposed this prosecution as unconstitutional and refused to be involved. Trump was left with this discredited right wing sleazeball. ”
          It is not hard to imagine the same process being played out over here.

  • Skye Mull

    Daily Mail is carrying a brief but fair report of proceedings today, together with mostly sympathetic remarks to Julian appearing in the comments section below the article.

  • writeon

    Craig, you’re doing a really sterliing job. Making sure that the truth about this bizarre legal ritual gets out to a wider public.

    It’s truly ghastly that the prosecution keeps quoting from, of all places… the Guardian’s ‘star’ reporters’ views on Assange, as if they are some kind of authorities in a lame attempt to bolster their case against Assange! This doesn’t really fit with the Guardian’s (false) image of itself and the one it sells to its’ readers. Luke Harding is such a charlatan and a liar. The stuff he writes should carry a health warning!

  • MrK

    Extradition Treaty of 2007.

    “Article 4

    Political and Military Offenses

    1. “Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”
    2. Espionage is a political offense. Julian Assange is charged under 18 USC Chapter 37 (Espionage and Censorship), Paragraph 793

    3. Julian Assange cannot be extradited for espionage.

    Which is what he is charged with. No matter what the prosecution says.

    —————————————————————————

    The superseding indictment at the DOJ
    https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/wikileaks-founder-charged-superseding-indictment
    https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1289641/download

    18 USC Chapter 37, Paragraph 793 – Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/793#

    Oddly enough, even though the US DOJ’s indictment mentions “national defense information” repeatedly, 18USC Chapter 37 Paragraph 37 never mentions the phrase “national defense information”.

    Paragraph 793 only mentions:

    “18 U.S. Code § 793.Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information”, and
    “(a)Whoever, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the national defense”.

    This paragraph only mentions “defense information” and “the national defense”, never “national defense information”.

    I just thought that was odd.

  • pasha

    You’d gain the impression from Craig’s fine reporting that things were going well for the defense. Nothing could be further from the truth–other than, perhaps, the machinations of the prosecution itself.
    Assange will be extradited. This is set in stone.
    Remember, all you fine folks in the UK voted for this. BoJo, fascist Tory government, jackboots, the extinguishing of the last vestiges of free speech and all.
    You voted for this.

        • Bramble

          Vote Lib Dem, get Tory. We all know that. Many of those in England who, on the basis of blatant lies and smears, refused to vote Labour (corrupted though it was by the Red Tories) knew exactly what the result would be. They can blame the red wall voters who shamefully switched sides all they like: they are just as guilty.

    • Stewart

      Oh dear
      just to be clear, the brexit referendum did not include the extradition of assange as a corollary
      at least we CAN vote out the tories – without brexit, there would be no option to vote on ANYTHING the eu decided to impose on us
      ask the catalonians about fascism while you’re at it

  • Marmite

    Fantastic account.

    So important to have a real sense of the filfthy craphole Britain has become under its leaders and legislators.

    When the most respected paper in the country brands Britain a rogue state, you know things are extremely serious. We have lost all dignity under the Tories, and there should be no better time for massive uprisings, but we will no doubt go on licking the boot, and telling ourselves that censorship and lawlessness, Brexit, fracking, monarchy, austerity, anti-homeless and anti-migrant hostility, and the privatisation of everything is ‘the will of the people’.

    • Tom Welsh

      “When the most respected paper in the country brands Britain a rogue state…”

      There is a respected paper in Britain? I have believed otherwise for at least 20 years.

      • Brian c

        I think Marmite is referring to the Guardian, Tom. A newspaper that headlined fake stories about Julian Assange and never apologised, and which did all it could to assure five more years of Boris Johnson as prime minister.

        • Tom Welsh

          Funny how perceptions differ. I would have thought “The Guardian” was – or at least ought to be – the least respected paper in Britain, if only because of the enormous gap between its pretensions and reality.

          • Marmite

            Obviously I didn’t mean to say that I respected it.

            Just to say that it is the paper of choice among those who imagine themselves ‘educated’. Those that know better still tend to respect it more than any of the other mainstream papers. And those that cannot stand it still read it because they want to know what their peers are reading. Hence, ….

            I couldn’t agree with you more though.

            Still, you’ll have to admit that while its editorship is lamentable, there are some good stories now and again.

  • CasualObserver

    Excellent coverage Craig !

    One gets the sense that what we have here is a demonstration of wilful ignorance by both the US and English judiciary, with regard to how exactly things operate in their respective jurisdictions. One might even be excused for thinking that the aim of proceedings is not to achieve an equitable result, but rather to string things out for as long as possible, and should proceedings ever reach a decision to not extradite, leave Mr Assange in the very dodgy position of having his horizons much curtailed.

  • bevin

    A marvelous report. And written by someone who according to The Establishment is not a journalist.
    The best journalists, incidentally, historically have either published their own work- William Cobbett for example- or have found writing the truth- eg Claude Cockburn, IF Stone, Wilfred Burchett-incompatible with working in what we call the mainstream media. Like Murray, Assange is in the best tradition of journalism, and will be honoured long after the country houses of the presstitutes have crumbled into dust.

  • Baron

    Many thanks Mr. Murray, your dedication to the case overwhelms.

    If only Lord Denning were still alive this charade would not be taking place.

    • remember+kronstadt

      when the state needs a result – Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, and the Birmingham Six

    • remember+kronstadt

      Oh, this Lord Denning?

      In 1977, Denning upheld the deportation of Mark Hosenball, a journalist who had worked on a story which referred to the existence of GCHQ, which was considered to be a state secret. In the ruling, he argued that the government’s decisions in these cases were beyond legal review, writing:

      “There is a conflict here between the interests of national security on the one hand and the freedom of the individual on the other. The balance between these two is not for a court of law. It is for the Home Secretary. He is the person entrusted by Parliament with the task. In some parts of the world national security has on occasions been used as an excuse for all sorts of infringements of individual liberty. But not in England.

      • Richard Harris

        The Assange hearing is focused on an argument about the US constitution and US federal law. The Home Secretary’s role in England, which is what Lord Denning commented on in the Hosenball case, is therefore of no relevance.

        Sorry 🙂

  • 6033624

    Thank you, again, for being the only source of reporting on this hearing. As much as I read in the press was an abridged version of Timm’s evidence. It was more than I expected from them. I think the mainstream media want to LOOK like they care but don’t want to back this up by reporting on the case..

  • GEOFF REYNOLDS

    There is no amount of bias in UK justice………………………………

    The Yanks enjoy a Grand Jury and here in the Old Bailey, the Crown operate a Banned Jury.

    ………………James Lewis QC a tribute act to Joe Pesci in ‘My Cousin Vinny’

    Is there any wonder the ‘system’ wanted to block as much coverage of this farce as possible?

  • giyane

    Thank you Craig for thoroughly exposing the flimsiness of this extradition case.
    Britain’s way of dealing with bits of its history it doesn’t like is to hold an inquiry whose sole purpose is to air many shameful crimes in order to totally bury and whitewash far more serious crimes.

    I’m beginning to think this is what’s happening in this trial. What usukis desperately wants the world to forget is its Dr Mengele psychological warfare it [ prsvyisrf ?] on hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims in its secret program of rendition torture brainwashing.

    Hence it had a great public airing of IRS systematic violence in war. Nobody expects empires not to be violent. But we hope the empires imposed on us are neither racist nor mad. Unfortunately the Specter of Mengele targetting a single ethnic group for brutality and psychological experimentation is very very scary indeed.

    IMHO this trial leads us up the garden path.
    Albion is perfidious. This is what it does best.

  • Mazza

    This may sound ridiculous, but here’s an idea: could the defence call Obama himself to testify in order to corroborate their assertion that his administration decided not to prosecute Assange? If so, it would be pretty damn hard, if not impossible, for Baraitser to then extradite him given that Obama’s potential confirmation of this would make it clear that the extradition is politically motivated by the Trump administration. Even Baraitser would be hard pushed to go against the word of a former US President.

    I’ve no idea if this is even theoretically possible and it would be a risky move for sure, but given the circumstances maybe a risky move is exactly what’s called for.

      • Mazza

        Okay, forget the testifying angle and chew this over instead:

        If Trump went after Assange due to personal animus with Obama, as the defence alleges, maybe Obama would, for exactly the same reason, acknowledge that his administration did indeed decide not to prosecute Assange, thus scuppering Trump.

        Even a statement to this effect to a journalist would surely do the job. Has no journalist asked him? Were his position otherwise, surely the prosecution could easily roll out a statement from Obama to prove their case. Is the reason that they haven’t because they know his answer would undermine them not the defence?

        • Ian

          You know the answer. He won’t get involved. However one of his administration, I can’t remember who or where, did say that they had looked at it from all angles and concluded that they couldn’t frame charges which would avoid the First Amendment. Which is why the Trump mob have tied themselves in knots with baroque arguments and plain lies and speculation, in order to claim it is a ‘criminal’ matter not subject to all of those freedoms and guarantees.

          They could dig that up, but it would probably be dismissed as unsourced, or inadmissible, or an opinion, not fact.
          But of course, yes, it would damage the Lewis line about the Obama administration if they could introduce it.

          Having said that, the prosecution would wriggle around it, and. most people think that the verdict is already in. It is political decision by the UK, in conjunction with the US, the court hearing is a fig leaf, although very instructive in the arguments it is exposing.

          • Mazza

            No need for him to get involved, only for a friendly journo, or several of them, to get involved by asking him the question. All he’d need to do is answer. And his personal animus with Trump and desire to preserve his ‘legacy’ might just mean he does. Hell, if enough people bombarded him on Twitter with the question he might even give an answer there. Unlikely perhaps, but given I agree with you that the court hearing is a fig leaf, maybe something like this is the only thing that could actually have an effect.

  • Carolyn Zaremba

    Excellent report of the proceedings, Craig. Prosecutor Lewis does indeed seem to be behaving strangely. Perhaps the CIA breathing down his neck is causing his discomfort.

  • Yalt

    My fantasy is that one of the dropboxes described by Timms will soon receive a packet: Magistrate Baraitser’s final judgment in the case, already prepared for her in advance of any argument and sitting in the laptop of a clerk at the US Dept. of Justice.

  • Willie

    Thank you Craig for your detailed commentary on events.

    We fail to report and take action against the state’s persecution of Assange at our peril. The U.K. is not a functioning democracy.

    The British state is at war. Let us be in no doubt about that. A war against democracy.

    There is no real rule of law. Only physical force. Suppression of the media, the implementation of an illegal hostile environment policiy against certain groups of people, the use of the Police and the Prosecution Services to arrest, harry and jail political opponents. Indeed, the arrests of Alec Salmond, yourself, Mark Hirst are examples of that, as Julian Assange shows that. But it’s even wider than that because the recent dawn arrest and charging of a protester Sean Clerkin for a political banner at Edinburgh airport shows that the hostile abuse extends to low level dissidents to. And of course,the charging, conviction and jailing of Indy march organisers Manny Singh reinforces that further.

    So yes, from Assange, to yourself, to the undermining of the Scottish Parliament , to the extrication of Scots from the EU against their will, to the repudiation of the Good Friday Agreement, to the repudiation of provisions guaranteed in the 1707 Treaty of Union, to the breaking of legal agreement made with Europe only months ago, the proposal for reduced standards of environmental, social and employment protections set to be implemented post the EU exit transition period, to the proposals for mass population movement controls, these are all measures now in play.

    I for one now fear that like a 1930s Jew in Nazi Germany or a black in apartheid South Africa my, and many more like me, are now living in a similar situation. This is no longer a democracy.

    How we resist this, how we extricate ourselves, if we can, is the big question. This is a rogue state on the doorstep of Europe, and we are part of it.

    Keep up the good work Craig. We have a big fight we must win.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    IN my opinion, James Lewis QC should face the death sentence for actively defending the US administration, which committed genocide in Iraq in flagrant disregard of international law, the strictures of the UN and much more.

    He is a murderous, unprincipled prostitute totally unfit to practice law.

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