In what his lawyers have described as a “brief but significant moment in the case,” a British magistrates’ court has signed off on Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, bringing the WikiLeaks founder one step closer to a US trial under the Espionage Act which threatens press freedoms worldwide.
“He is a war criminal,” President Biden said of Vladimir Putin following allegations of war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine earlier this month. “I think it is a war crime. … He should be held accountable.”
And that’s all I’d like to say here today, really. That this discrepancy is very interesting.
I mean, can we take a moment to deeply appreciate the irony of this? Because it’s so obscene and outrageous it’s actually hard to take in unless you really let it absorb. The most powerful government in the world, which serves as the hub of the most powerful empire that has ever existed, is working to extradite a journalist for exposing its war crimes while simultaneously rending its garments over war crime allegations against another government.
I mean, damn. You would think a power structure that had recently been caught red-handed committing war crimes and is currently in the process of imprisoning a journalist for exposing those war crimes would at least have the sense not to yell too loudly about war crimes for a little while. But this is how confident the empire is in its ability to control the narrative.
Really take it in. Really digest it. The more you think about it, the freakier it gets. Not only is the empire persecuting a journalist for exposing its war crimes while at the same time demanding that others be held accountable for war crimes, it is also attacking the free press for reporting the truth about the powerful while at the very same time engaging in a massive propaganda operation which holds that it is involved in Ukraine to protect its freedom and democracy.
I mean, the gall. The absolute temerity. The balls on this empire, man.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Assange exposed many ugly realities about the powerful in his work with WikiLeaks, but everything that he has managed to expose thereafter simply by forcing them to prosecute him far surpasses the revelations in those publications.
If the highest form of journalism is exposing the darkest secrets of the most powerful people in the world, then Julian Assange is the highest form of journalist.
A United Kingdom court on Wednesday issued a formal order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to stand trial over the publication of national secrets pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The final decision now rests in the hands of U.K. Interior Minister Priti Patel. However, Assange’s legal team will still have the opportunity to appeal any decision within 14 days.
Last month, Assange was denied permission to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court against actions to extradite him to the United States, where a conviction could mean a lifetime prison sentence.
In the U.S., Assange would face trial in connection to the 500,000 secret military files he leaked to the public relating to the actions of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Early last year, Assange successfully argued that he was a suicide risk who could not be kept in solitary confinement at a maximum security facility in America.
The U.S. government, however, appealed the reprieve and made assurances that Assange would not be held in isolation at a federal supermax facility.
Assange has since unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the most recent ruling, but the British court denied the appeal application on the grounds that it “didn’t raise any arguable point of law.”
The Twitter account belonging to Kim Dotcom, founder and CEO of the now-defunct filesharing paradise Megaupload (Rest in Power), has been tweeting out some rather sensational claims of late.
The first of Dotcom’s recent tweets to come to this author’s attention is one of the few that have not since been deleted and sets the tone for the subsequent claims. In the tweet, Dotcom states that he “was instrumental in ending the 2016 election hopes of @HillaryClinton with a courageous DNC whistleblower and Wikileaks.”
Dotcom claims to be “helping to expose the crimes of the Biden family.” The following tweets have since been deleted but can still be seen using the Wayback Machine HERE.
Regarding the alleged “crimes of the Biden family”, it can be surmised that Dotcom was referring specifically to information found on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
He goes on to claim that he is working with a “data forensics team” that is apparently analyzing the Hunter Biden Laptop, that a major release of information is impending, and that Hunter Biden will go to jail and Joe Biden will resign.
He mentions the forensic team again in a tweet where he @’s Tucker Carlson, claiming that Tucker and his team are “filming in Zurich today”.
In what is perhaps the most provocative tweet of the bunch, Dotcom claims information on the laptop connects the Biden family to the Biolabs in Ukraine.
For those who are unfamiliar with Dotcom’s post Megaupload activity, he became more known in later years for his political activism, particularly after the US government seized Megaupload, some believing it was done so in an unlawful fashion. If you care to familiarize yourself with the case I recommend reading the work of Lawyers Robert Amsterdam and Ira P. Rothken, who authored the white paper Megaupload, the Copyright Lobby, and the Future of Digital Rights, laying out the fundamental absence of evidence against Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.
The veracity of the claims put forward by Dotcom, which we can neither substantiate nor disprove, has yet to be determined. As far as the motivation behind these tweets, we can only speculate.
The condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is coming from governments that have committed war crimes, without media coverage, for decades.
This does not justify Russia’s actions.
Any actions taken by governments that harm, displace and kill innocent people should be condemned and forbidden.
Why do we only hear a one-sided story from Western legacy media?
Why are people who have a different view of this conflict, and other issues, instantly condemned in today’s society?
Are we creating a culture where people who oppose narratives can’t even speak, share their opinion or fear to do so?
What’s happening in our world when relationships are ruined due to a certain narrative we believe?
Human rights groups, civil liberty groups and press freedom advocates received a glimmer of hope when Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, won the right to ask the Supreme Court to block his extradition to the United States.
At that time last January, the High Court ruled that Assange had an arguable point of law and that he can petition the Supreme Court to hear the case. This was allowed to happen over concerns about how the US justice system would treat Assange, especially given the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) wanted to assassinate him.
Heart’s sank on Monday when the British Supreme Court refused Assange’s latest appeal to prevent his extradition to the US. The case now moves to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorize the extradition.
According to his Lawyer Barry Pollack, Assange will continue the legal process fighting his extradition to the United States to “face criminal charges for publishing truthful and newsworthy information.”
Assange was charged under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, largely for actions rightfully recognized as protected news-gathering practices. He made public previously classified documents exposing various war crimes carried out by the US and other governments.
A favourite quote of mine comes to mind here from Nils Melzer, the Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law who has served as the UN Rapporteur on Torture and Other Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
“How far have we sunk if telling the truth becomes a crime? How far have we sunk if we prosecute people that expose war crimes for exposing war crimes? How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals? Because we identify more with them, than we identify with the people that actually expose these crimes. What does that tell about us and about our governments? In a democracy, the power does not belong to the government, but to the people. But the people have to claim it. Secrecy disempowers the people because it prevents them from exercising democratic control, which is precisely why governments want secrecy.”
Nils Melzer, Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law
This is why it’s ironic that the western military alliance and their allies overseas are condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The point is not that it shouldn’t be condemned, any violent conflict that escalates to the point where innocent people have to fear for their lives should always be condemned. The point is that it’s hypocritical given that the West has done the same, and in many cases the citizenry is programmed to praise it.
Multiple governments, the United States included, are guilty of some of the most significant war crimes in human history. Just look at what’s happened in Iraq and various parts of the Middle East over the decades. Governments funding, arming and even ‘creating’ terrorist organizations that they claim to be ‘fighting against’ has been a common theme exposed by Assange and many others.
Again, this doesn’t justify the Russian invasion, but it’s important to note that facts about tensions that have been boiling for quite some time have been omitted.
War and geopolitical issues are always followed by propaganda campaigns by governments to influence the perception of their own citizenry. The screenshot below is a great example. This is an unfortunate part of our reality, and the most horrendous atrocities have always been committed and disguised as a noble action.
Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange and mother to his two boys explains,
“Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power. He published evidence that the country that is trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; that it committed gross violations that killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children; that it tortured and rendered; that it bombed children, had death squads, and murdered Reuters journalists in cold blood; that it bribed foreign officials and bullied less powerful countries into harming their own citizens, and that it also corrupted allied nations’ judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing.”
The US alone has displaced between 38 and 60 million people across eight countries since 2001. Keep this in mind the next time you hear US government officials pledge to defend “international law,” “human rights,” or “sovereignty and territorial integrity” abroad, or any government for that matter.
There is ongoing conflict on this planet almost at all times, the US-Saudi led war in Yemen has killed nearly half a million people and more than 20 million are facing famine.
Making Sense of War Is Difficult
These days it’s nearly impossible to decipher what’s actually happening, but does it really matter? Innocent people have become the sacrifice of governments who seem to enjoy playing their war games. When it comes to the Russian Ukraine conflict, we are only presented with one side from legacy media, while all other perspectives, whether legit or not, are deemed a “conspiracy theory” or, in this case, “Russian propaganda.”
An open, balanced, and grounded discussion is never had. Opposing points are never addressed, and dialogue is not welcome. You’re not allowed to ask questions about COVID in the same way you’re not allowed to question the mainstream narrative with regards to what’s happening in Ukraine. If you are, you’re condemned for it.
Is this a slippery slope? Have we created an unsafe space for meaningful dialogue? What will the effects be of the continued shutdown of dialogue?
This underlying cultural theme is why people like Julian Assange are in jail – and suffering. This is why the US Department of Homeland Security has stated that sharing “misinformation” online may be considered domestic terrorism. The only issue is, they (the US government) are the ones acting as ‘the ministry of truth.’
A few days ago Saudi Arabia executed 81 people for having “deviant beliefs.”
Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, American Civil Liberties Union, explains with regards to Assange,
“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information…It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it’s equally dangerous for U.S. journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations.
Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
Seeking truth threatens the power and control governments and corporations continue to grasp day by day. What we see today is the justification of unethical actions that are deemed by government to be justified for the good of the world. This requires massive propaganda campaigns to convince a large portion of the citizenry to obey, and stigmatize those who don’t.
“National Security” has become a term used to justify secrecy on virtually anything that threatens the power, control, and reputation of governments and organizations that are tasked with looking out for humanity’s best interests.
What’s The Solution?
It’s high time citizens of the world refuse to get caught up in the back and forth banter of what’s happening, what’s right and what’s wrong. This doesn’t mean running away from truth-seeking, but instead seeking a different and more balanced conversation on the grounds of good faith. It means being ok with the idea that the “popular” narrative and the one presented to us by our “leaders” may not be the only one.
The world is growing tired of people being divided on both sides of a crisis to the point where relationships with friends and family are ending because we cannot find comfortable ways to discuss ideas.
At the heart of any meaningful action in our world is our ability to make sense of reality and unite on a direction. The problem we face in sensemaking is breaking down as we are shutting out a balanced inquiry and pretending that anyone who opposes an idea in the mainstream is just operating off of ‘misinformation.’
We need to unite in something where most of us agree, allowing and giving governments the power to kill innocent people should not be tolerable. It’s not fair that innocent people continue to suffer with regard to complications that have nothing to do with them. I’m not sure what the solution is. A massive shift in consciousness is needed on this planet, and that shift needs to happen in those who “govern” us and seem to desire more power and control. At the same time, an “us versus them” mentality also seems useless.
The co-founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is to remain in prison even after his term ends due to his “history of absconding,” as reported by a judge. He is “crumbling” psychologically and physically, as Chris Hedges reports.
Hedges attended Julian Assange’s wedding to his partner Stella Moris at London’s Belmarsh prison. Assange has been behind bars for nearly three years awaiting possible extradition to the United States on espionage charges for publishing documents revealing war crimes committed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hedges says Assange exposed the “most important information” of this generation, along with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
He was supposed to be released on September 22, 2019, after serving his sentence for breaching bail conditions. The Magistrate’s Court in Westminster believed that he would abscond again on “substantial grounds.”
He was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations – which he has denied.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser on Friday told Assange, who appeared by video link:
“You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.”
She said that his lawyer had declined to make an application for bail on his behalf, adding “perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings”.
“In my view, I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”
Aitor Martinez Tells Julian Assange’s Story, Shared That His Life Was Being Destroyed In Prison
Julian Assange’s lawyer, Aitor Martinez, came to the forefront and expressed his feelings and shared how Assange was doing in the prison.
He shared how Assange was being “tortured,” as per some reports, and was living a “real nightmare.”
The reporter from 60 Minutes Australia asked him if Julian would keep fighting in this condition or would he eventually give up, to which the lawyer replied, “No, he will keep fighting.” Julian Assange has been suffering this persecution for 12 years and has the support of his entire team, to date.
The lawyer added:
“He has been living isolated for 12 years, without any rights.
What was the crime?
Publishing truthful information.
The US committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is the duty of the whole international community to prosecute those crimes.
The journalist that published those war crimes is in jail and the people who committed those crimes are not even under investigation.”
This was “absolutely crazy” as stated by Aitor Martinez.
Julian Assange had asked for asylum from the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 and Ecuador dropped the news on the US and asked if there were any criminal actions against Julian. The US did not give a straightforward answer.
When Ecuador inquired to Australia if they would provide any diplomatic protection to its citizen, they simply denied it, according to Aitor. They denied it and added that “it was a domestic matter for the UK.”
Julian Assange did not receive any help from the consulate nor did he have a passport, as his own had expired.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won the first part of his legal battle to overturn a U.K. court ruling that opened the way for his extradition to the U.S., where he would stand trial on espionage charges.
The High Court in London granted Assange permission to appeal his case to the U.K. Supreme Court, though the Supreme Court must agree to hear the case before it can move forward, according to the Associated Press.
“Make no mistake, we won today in court,” said Stella Morris, Assange’s fiancee.
The High Court typically requires about two months to decide whether it will accept an appeal case.
Last year, a London district court judge rejected an extradition request from the U.S. on the grounds that he believed Assange might kill himself if subjected to the harsh circumstances of U.S. prison conditions. Last month, the High Court overturned that ruling.
Despite retroactive assurances from the U.S. that the WikiLeaks founder would not face the severe treatment, Assange’s lawyers will now argue extradition will put their client’s physical and mental health in jeopardy and the U.S. government’s promise is meaningless due to its conditional nature.
The U.S. has been fighting for Assange’s extradition so that he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse in connection to the publication of thousands of leaked, classified military and government affairs documents
Since 2019, Assange has been held at Belmarsh Prison, after spending the better part of a decade inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden where he would have faced allegations of rape and sexual assault.
United States prosecutors are arguing that Assange assisted U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing classified diplomatic messages and files and publishing them, thereby putting American lives at risk.
Assange’s attorneys also argue their should never have been charged because he was acting in his capacity as a journalist and is protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of the press.
They also say the classified documents he published expose the wrongdoings of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is no accident that Julian Assange, the digital transparency activist and journalist who founded WikiLeaks to help whistleblowers tell us what Western governments are really up to in the shadows, has spent 10 years being progressively disappeared into those very same shadows.
His treatment is a crime similar to those WikiLeaks exposed when it published just over a decade ago hundreds of thousands of leaked materials – documents we were never supposed to see – detailing war crimes committed by the United States and Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These two Western countries killed non-combatants and carried our torture not, as they claimed, in the pursuit of self-defense or in the promotion of democracy, but to impose control over a strategic, resource-rich region.
It is the ultimate, ugly paradox that Assange’s legal and physical fate rests in the hands of two states that have the most to lose by allowing him to regain his freedom and publish more of the truths they want to keep concealed. By redefining his journalism as “espionage”– the basis for the US extradition claim – they are determined to keep the genie stuffed in the bottle.
Eyes off the ball
Last week, in overturning a lower court decision that should have allowed Assange to walk free, the English High Court consented to effectively keep Assange locked up indefinitely. He is a remand prisoner – found guilty of no crime – and yet he will continue rotting in solitary confinement for the foreseeable future, barely seeing daylight or other human beings, in Belmarsh high-security prison alongside Britain’s most dangerous criminals.
The High Court decision forces our eyes off the ball once again. Assange and his supposed “crime” of seeking transparency and accountability has become the story rather than the crimes he exposed that were carried out by the US to lay waste to whole regions and devastate the lives of millions.
The goal is to stop the public conducting the debate Assange wanted to initiate through his journalism: about Western state crimes. Instead the public is being deflected into a debate his persecutors want: whether Assange can ever safely be allowed out of his cell.
Assange’s lawyers are being diverted from the real issues, too. They will now be tied up for years fighting endless rearguard actions, caught up in the search for legal technicalities, battling to win a hearing in any court they can, to prevent his extradition to the United States to stand trial.
The process itself has taken over. And while the legal minutiae are endlessly raked over, the substance of the case – that it is US and British officials who ought to be held responsible for committing war crimes – will be glossed over.
But it is worse than the legal injustice of Assange’s case. There may be no hacksaws needed this time, but this is as visceral a crime against journalism as the dismemberment of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officials back in 2018.
And the outcome for Assange is only slightly less preordained than it was for Khashoggi when he entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. The goal for US officials has always been about permanently disappearing Assange. They are indifferent about how that is achieved.
If the legal avenue is a success, he will eventually head to the US where he can be locked away for up to 175 years in severe solitary confinement in a supermax jail – that is, till long past his death from natural causes. But there is every chance he will not survive that long. Last January, a British judge rejected extraditing Julian Assange to the US over his “suicide risk“, and medical experts have warned that it will be only a matter of time before he succeeds.
That was why the district court blocked extradition – on humanitarian grounds. Those grounds were overturned by the High Court last week only because the US offered “assurances” that measures would be in place to ensure Assange did not commit suicide. But Assange’s lawyers pointed out: those assurances “were not enough to address concerns about his fragile mental health and high risk of suicide”. These concerns should have been apparent to the High Court justices.
There is no need to speculate about the Americans’ bad faith. It is only too apparent in the myriad get-out clauses in the “assurances” they provided. Those assurances can be dropped, for example, if US officials decide Assange is not being cooperative. The promises can and will be disregarded the moment they become an encumbrance on Washington’s ability to keep Assange permanently silenced.
‘Trapped in a cage’
But if losing the extradition battle is high stakes, so is the legal process itself. That could finish Assange off long before a decision is reached, as his fiancee Stella Moris indicated at the weekend. She confirmed that Assange suffered a small stroke during a hearing in October in the endless extradition proceedings. There are indications he suffered neurological damage, and is now on anti-stroke medication to try to stop a recurrence.
Assange and his friends believe the stroke was brought on by the constant double strain of his solitary confinement in Belmarsh and a legal process being conducted over his head, in which he is barely allowed to participate.
Nils Melzer, the United Nations expert on torture, has repeatedly warned that Assange has been subjected to prolonged psychological torture in the nine years since he fled into Ecuador’s embassy in London seeking asylum from US efforts to persecute him.
That form of torture, Melzer has pointed out, was refined by the Nazis because it was found to be far more effective at breaking people than physical torture. Moris told the Daily Mail:
“[The stroke] compounds our fears about [Assange’s] ability to survive the longer this long legal battle goes on. … Look at animals trapped in cages in a zoo. It cuts their life short. That’s what’s happening to Julian.”
And that indeed looks to be the prize for US officials that wanted him assassinated anyway. Whatever happens to Assange, the lawless US security state wins: it either gets him behind bars forever, or it kills him quietly and quite lawfully, while everyone is distracted, arguing about who Assange is rather what he exposed.
In fact, with each twist and turn of the proceedings against Assange we move further from the realities at the heart of the case towards narrative distractions.
Who remembers now the first extradition hearings, nearly two years ago, at which the court was reminded that the very treaty signed by Britain and the US that is the basis for Assange’s extradition explicitly excludes political cases of the kind being pursued by the US against Assange?
It is a victory for state criminality that the discussion has devolved to Assange’s mental health rather than a substantive discussion of the treaty’s misapplication to serve political ends.
And similarly the focus on US assurances regarding Assange’s well-being is intended to obscure the fact that a journalist’s work is being criminalized as “espionage” for the first time under a hurriedly drafted, draconian and discredited piece of First World War legislation, the 1917 Espionage Act. Because Assange is a political prisoner suffering political persecution, legal arguments are apparently powerless to save him. It is only a political campaign that can keep underscoring the sham nature of the charges he faces.
The lies of power
What Assange bequeathed us through WikiLeaks was a harsh light capable of cutting through the lies of power and power of lies. He showed that western governments claiming the moral high ground were actually committing crimes in our name out of sight in far-off lands. He tore the mask off their hypocrisy.
He showed that the many millions who took to the streets in cities around the world in 2003 because they knew the US and UK would commit war crimes in Iraq were right to march. But he also confirmed something worse: that their opposition to the war was treated with utter contempt.
The US and UK did not operate more carefully, they were not more respectful of human rights, they did not tread more lightly in Iraq because of those marches, because of the criticism beforehand. The western war machine carried on regardless, crushing the lives of anyone who got caught up in its maw.
Now with Assange locked up and silenced, western foreign policy can return comfortably to the era of zero accountability that existed before Assange shook up the whole system with his revelations. No journalist will dare to repeat what Assange did – not unless they are ready to spend the rest of their days behind bars.
The message his abuse sends to others could not be clearer or more chilling: what happened to Assange could happen to you too.
The truth is journalism is already reeling from the combined assaults against Khashoggi and Assange. But the hounding of Assange strikes the bigger blow. It leaves honest journalism with no refuge, no sanctuary anywhere in the world.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. This originally appeared in the Middle East Eye.
More than 2.5 years have passed since WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after 7 years in hiding from British authorities, during which time Assange has struggled through a lengthy court battle, all while remaining imprisoned. And yet it seems Assange’s real nightmare is only just beginning as Britain’s high court ruled Friday that he could be extradited to the US to face charges that could see him imprisoned for the rest of his life.
Assange can appeal the ruling, but it’s clear at this point that the chips are stacked against him. The US government has been quietly pursuing charges against the Wikileaks founder under the Espionage Act for years. According to what’s been publicly revealed, Assange is facing an 18 count indictment in the US with most of the charges focused on violating the Espionage Act. Should he be found guilty, Assange could be imprisoned for up to 175 years.
In response to the ruling, WikiLeaks slammed the US for trying to avoid accountability by covering up the “collateral murder” incident where two Reuters journalists were killed in Iraq, along with innocent civilians, by the US military. The infamous footage from that incident, which was first published by Assange after being leaked by Chelsea Manning (back when she was an army intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning).
As Axios reminds us, Assange’s case has serious implications for journalists in the US, and around the world.
The case has raised significant questions about First Amendment protections for publishers of classified information, as Assange argues he was acting as a journalist when he published leaked US government documents on Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a statement, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said “Julian’s life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient.”
Assange’s fiancee, Stella Morris, called the ruling “dangerous and misguided” and said his legal team intends to appeal – something his lawyers also claimed in a letter that has been shared on social media.
In its petition to overturn the lower court’s decision to block Assange’s extradition, the US managed to assuage the judges’ concerns about Assange’s mental and physical health, and that Assange’s risk of suicide would be greatly reduced. The US authorities have given assurances that Assange will not be placed in the most highly restrictive conditions unless he does something in the future to warrant it.
Giving the judgment, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said: “That risk is in our judgment excluded by the assurances which are offered.”
“It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently.”
Judge Timothy Holroyde said he was satisfied with the assurances given by the US about Assange’s treatment in custody. Holroyde said the case must now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the direction that judges send it to the British government to decide whether or not Assange should be extradited.
To be sure, all is not yet lost for Assange. Reuters reported that Assange’s inevitable appeal would likely send the matter of his extradition to the UK’s Supreme Court.
As we mentioned above, lawyers for the US offered the British high court four assurances, including that Assange would not be subject to solitary confinement before or after his trial, and that he would not be detained at the ADX Florence Supermax jail in Colorado – a federal prison that’s home to some of America’s most infamous criminals. In light of reports about Assange’s deteriorating health, the US also promised that he would receive all necessary clinical and psychiatric help.
They argued Assange’s mental illness “does not even come close” to being severe enough to prevent him from being extradited, but also reassured the British that Assange would be allowed to transfer to Australia to serve any prison sentence he may be given closer to home.
The US has insisted that by publishing thousands of pages of classified documents, Assange put American lives in danger. It’s not clear when Assange will be extradited, but now that the High Court has ruled, it’s likely he will be moved across the Atlantic to stand trial in the US very soon. That trial will likely be closely covered by the international press, just like every other chapter of Assange’s nearly decade-long legal battle.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, writing on her Telegram channel, blasted the UK high court’s judgment while pointing out the irony that it happened on International Human Rights Day.
“This shameful verdict in this political case against a journalist and public figure is another manifestation of the cannibalistic worldview of the Anglo-Saxon tandem,” she said.
Assange’s loyal band of supporters gathered outside of the court after the ruling, chanting “free Julian Assange” and “no extradition.” They tied hundreds of yellow ribbons to the court’s gates and held up placards saying “journalism is not a crime”.
Was the government of Australia aware of the US Central Intelligence Agency plot to assassinate Julian Assange, an Australian citizen and journalist arrested and now imprisoned under unrelentingly bleak, harsh conditions in the UK?
Why have the country’s elected leaders refused to publicly advocate for one of its citizens, who has been held on dubious charges and subjected to torture by a foreign power, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer? What does Canberra know about Julian’s fate and when did it know it?
The Grayzone has obtained documents revealing that the Australian government has since day one been well-aware of Julian’s cruel treatment inside London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison, and has done little to nothing about it. It has, in fact, turned a cold shoulder to the jailed journalist despite hearing his testimony of conditions “so bad that his mind was shutting down.”
Not only has Canberra failed to effectively challenge the US and UK governments overseeing Assange’s imprisonment and prosecution; as these documents expose in stark detail, it appears to have colluded with them in the flagrant violation of an Australian citizen’s human rights, while doing its best to obscure the reality of his situation from the public.
On knowledge of CIA plot against Assange, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs issues snide non-denial denial
In the wake of Yahoo News’ startling September revelations of CIA plans to surveil, kidnap, and even kill WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which confirmed and built upon a May 2020 exposé by The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, officials in the NATO-oriented ‘Five Eyes’ global spying network struggled to get their stories straight.
William Evanina, Washington’s top counterintelligence officer until his retirement in early 2021, told Yahoo the Five Eyes alliance was “critical” to Langley’s dastardly plot, and “we were very confident” that Julian’s potential escape from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London could be prevented, by hook or by crook.
When asked whether the US had ever briefed or consulted the government of Julian’s native Australia on the operation, however, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) dodged the question. For his part, Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister at the time of these deadly deliberations, claimed, “the first I heard about this was in today’s media.”
It is certainly possible that elected officials in Canberra were kept in the dark about the CIA’s proposals. Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was unaware of the very existence of Five Eyes until 1973, 17 years after his country became a signatory to the network’s underpinning UKUSA agreement, following police raids on the offices of domestic spying agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, due to its withholding of information from the government.
Whether or not Turnbull was aware of the operation, DFAT’s response when a member of Julian’s family contacted the Department demanding Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne ask the Biden administration to drop the charges against him, and seeking comment on the Yahoo article, was disturbingly flippant.
“Just because it’s written in a newspaper doesn’t mean it’s true…the CIA has been accused of a lot of things, including faking the Moon landing,” a DFAT official quipped in a classic non-denial denial.
These crude remarks were recorded in a letter sent to Payne by John Shipton, Julian’s father. The missive is just one of many documents provided exclusively to Grayzone by Kellie Tranter, Julian’s legal authority in Australia.
For years, Tranter has filed freedom of information requests with the Australian government in a campaign to uncover its true position on Julian, and to what extent its intimate alliance with Washington has limited its ability or willingness to push for his freedom.
The documents acquired by Tranter expose Canberra as anything but an advocate for Assange, the Australian citizen. Instead, throughout Julian’s time in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in Belmarsh high security prison – “Britain’s Gitmo” – the Australian government has been determinedly committed to seeing, hearing, and speaking no evil in his regard, despite possessing clear evidence of his dramatically waning physical and mental health, and the torturous conditions of his confinement.
Assange informs Canberra of US violations of his rights: ‘This action was illegal’
The records of a brief visit by Australian consulate officers to Belmarsh on May 17th 2019, one month after Assange’s dramatic expulsion from the Embassy, are especially illustrative of Canberra’s attitude. Over the course of that meeting, Assange spoke in detail about prison conditions and his 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement.
“He remains in his cell most of the day, with 40 minutes allocated each day for ‘associations’,” the Australian consular officials noted. “He is allowed outside for 30 minutes each day, although he said at times this does not happen,” for reasons unstated. Unable to eat at all “for a long period,” he was now ingesting “small amounts”, collecting meals from the kitchen and returning to his cell.
Permitted just two personal visits each month, plus legal consultations, Assange mentioned his recent meeting with Nils Melzer and two medical experts specialized in examining potential victims of torture and other ill-treatment, and that he had so far been unable to speak to his family.
The WikiLeaks co-founder eschewed work programs “which would afford him the opportunity to get out of his cell more often,” according to the diplomats, on the grounds that he refused to engage in “slave labour” and needed time to prepare his legal case. Prisoners in British jails earn an average of $13 per week for hard, thankless toil on behalf of big business, which in turn profits immensely from their rank exploitation.
While mercifully prescribed antibiotics and codeine by prison doctors for an infected root canal, which can be life-threatening in the event the infection spreads, Assange was still waiting on reading glasses and had yet to see an optometrist. The jailed journalist went on to describe how one senior officer “has it in for me,” showing his visitors a charge sheet indicating that a search of his cell uncovered a razor blade, and he’d failed to tidy it after an inspection.
A third infraction of any sort “would result in exercise privileges being withdrawn,” the document states. Possibly fearing reprisal, Assange asked that officials not raise these matters with prison authorities. Evidently, what might typically be considered an unambiguous indication of suicidal intentions was instead logged as a simple disciplinary matter.
Adding to his psychological toll, Assange reported that he had undergone blood tests, and been advised he was HIV-positive, a shocking diagnosis. However, subsequent examinations confirmed the test result to be a false positive, forcing Assange to wonder if the misdiagnosis was a mere error, or “something else.” It could well have been a grotesquely sick mind game, perhaps alluding to the bogus sexual assault allegations he had faced in Sweden, and intended to drive him toward madness.
Assange also presented the Australian consular officials with a recently-published UK Home Office deportation notice, informing him then-Secretary of State Sajid Javid had determined under the 1971 UK Immigration Act that his presence in the UK “was not conducive to the public interest, and he would be removed from the UK without delay,” with no chance of appealing the decision.
“Mr. Assange expressed concern about surviving the current process and fears he would die if taken to the US. He claimed the US was going through his possessions that had remained at the Ecuadorian Embassy. He said that this action was illegal,” the officers wrote. “He stated that his possessions included two valuable artworks he planned to sell to raise funds for his legal defence, the manuscripts of two books, and legal papers. He expressed concern his legal material would be used against him by the US.”
Assange was correct that sensitive documents were stolen by US authorities. Immediately following his arrest, his attorney Gareth Peirce contacted the Ecuadorian Embassy regarding this privileged material, demanding it be handed over as a matter of urgency. When at last his property was collected, all legal papers were missing save for two volumes of Supreme Court files “and a number of pages of loose correspondence,” making his extradition defense an even greater challenge than it already was.
Over the course of Julian’s initial extradition hearings in early 2020, assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Gordon Kromberg implausibly pledged a “taint team” would excise material from these files so it would not be used in any resultant trial. Similarly feeble “assurances” of this ilk were offered during the recent appeal proceedings.
Conversely, there has so far been no unconvincing public guarantee against the abuse of any information illicitly obtained by UC Global, a CIA contractor, from its extensive surveillance of the Embassy. The Spanish private security firm went as far as bugging the building’s female bathroom, where the WikiLeaks founder conducted discussions with his lawyers, away from prying ears and eyes – or so he hoped.
Despite his situation, Julian somehow retained a vague shred of optimism about the future in discussions with consular officials, suggesting that the result of Australia’s federal election, which was held the very next day, “may present a window for a new government to do something supportive for his case,” asking that Marise Payne be briefed on developments.
As it was, Scott Morrison’s Liberal National Coalition retained its grip on power – and no alarm was publicly raised about anything learned over the course of the consular visit. Indeed, remaining tight-lipped on Julian’s suffering, no matter how horrendous, was to be a matter of dedicated policy.
Australia’s DFAT denies any role in “progressively severe abuse” of Assange
On May 30th that year, WikiLeaks’ made the shock announcement that Julian had been moved to Belmarsh’s medical ward, expressing “grave concerns” about the state of his health. Almost immediately, DFAT’s Global Watch Office fired off an internal email drawing attention to the post.
The following day, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Nils Melzer proclaimed “the collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!” The international legal veteran added that, “in 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution,” he had “never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”
Next, Melzer fulminated against a “relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation” by the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador, which had subjected him to “persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy.”
In response, Australia’s DFAT issued a statement rejecting any suggestion Canberra was “complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support” in Assange’s regard, claiming to be “a staunch defender of human rights and strong advocate for humane treatment in the course of judicial processes,” and expressing confidence that he was “being treated appropriately.”
Due to “privacy considerations” allegedly extended to all consular clients, the Department declined to divulge any further details related to his physical or mental state.
It added that the Australian High Commission in London “previously raised any health concerns identified with Belmarsh prison authorities and these have been addressed,” with further inquiries made following Julian’s move to the health ward.
The documents provided to The Grayzone indicate Canberra did indeed make repeated enquiries to Belmarsh by phone and mail in the wake of Wikileaks’ announcement, all of which went unanswered for six straight days. So why did Australia’s High Commissioner not intervene, and demand immediate clarity on an issue of literal life-and-death urgency?
Whatever the reason for the Australian government’s foot-dragging, a consular file dated August 8th that year records how Shipton wrote to advise that Julian had been readmitted to Belmarsh’s sick bay, and a lawyer was drafting a letter to Marise Payne, requesting DFAT “use its diplomatic sources to seek an independent medical assessment (ie outside the prison).”
Then, 11 days later, Shipton mentioned that Julian’s brother, Gabriel, had recently visited the prison and was distressed by Assange’s “deteriorating condition,” leading him to write letters to both Australian Governor General David Hurley and Morrison raising his fears.
On October 21st, Assange appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing in his extradition case. As was widely reported in the mainstream media, he appeared frail and discombobulated, struggling to recall his own name and date of birth when asked by the judge. When the presiding justice enquired whether he even knew what was happening, Assange responded, “not exactly,” indicating conditions in Belmarsh left him unable to “think properly.”
“I don’t understand how this is equitable,” the imprisoned journalist stated. “I can’t research anything, I can’t access any of my writing. It’s very difficult where I am.”
Assange’s attorney, Mark Summers, argued that his initial extradition hearing, scheduled for February 2020, should be delayed by three months due to the complexity of the case – “the evidence…would test the limits of most lawyers,” he said, and discussed the immense difficulty of communicating with his client in the jail, given he lacked access to a computer.
The judge denied the request. As a result, Julian would be deprived of “the most basic of access to the bare minimum needs for proper representation” until just weeks prior to the hearing.
Assange attorney warns Australia’s DFAT of “impending crisis”
Three days later, Assange attorney Gareth Peirce wrote to the High Commission, asserting that if consular representatives had attended court, “they will have undoubtedly noted what was clear for everyone present in court to observe” – that her client was “in shockingly poor condition…struggling not only to cope but to articulate what he wishes to articulate.”
Unbelievably, a DFAT report on the proceedings unearthed by Tranter made no mention whatsoever of Julian’s disheveled appearance, or his clearly frayed mental state.
Peirce went on to argue that under the circumstances, it was unsurprising Julian had not authorized prison officials to provide the Australian government with information regarding his medical treatment, which had been “been grossly and unlawfully compromised over some time, including, disturbingly, even whilst he has been in Belmarsh prison, false information on at least one occasion having been provided to the press by very obviously internal sources.”
“We hope that what we are able to say…will be accepted by you as having been based on close observation, including by independent professional clinicians..Every professional warning provided to the prison, including by at least one independent doctor called in by Belmarsh, has been ignored,” she wrote. “We would be pleased to meet with you at any stage if by intervention in what is now an impending crisis [emphasis added], you can contribute to its amelioration and avoidance.”
And so it was that consular officials visited Belmarsh November 1st. In their exchange, Assange criticized false statements made to the media by DFAT which suggested he had rejected offers of their support.
Next, he revealed that a prison doctor was “concerned” about his condition. In fact, Assange said his psychological state was “so bad that his mind was shutting down,” with his near-permanent isolation making it impossible for him “to think or to prepare his defence.”
He did not even have a pen with which to write, was unable to do any research, could not receive documents during legal visits, and all his mail was read by prison officials before it was given to him.
The next month, Professor Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London, prepared a report on Julian’s psychiatric state based on meetings throughout his first six months in Belmarsh, conversations with his parents, friends, colleagues and Stella Morris, his partner and mother of his two children.
As was revealed in Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January ruling on the US extradition request, Kopelman diagnosed Julian with a severe recurrent depressive disorder, which was occasionally accompanied by psychotic features such as hallucinations, and frequent suicidal thoughts.
His symptoms furthermore included loss of sleep and weight, impaired concentration, a persistent feeling of being on the verge of tears, and state of acute agitation in which he paced his cell until exhausted, punching his head or banging it against the wall.
Assange commented to Kopelman that he believed his life was not worth living, he thought about suicide “hundreds of times a day,” and had a “constant desire” to self-harm or commit suicide, describing plans to kill himself that the professor considered “highly plausible.”
Calls to The Samaritans, a UK charity helpline providing emotional support to those in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide, were “virtually” a nightly occurrence, and on occasions when he had not been able to reach them, Assange had slashed his thigh and abdomen to distract from his sense of isolation.
Kopelman concluded that, if Assange was held in solitary confinement in the US for a prolonged period, his mental health would “deteriorate substantially resulting in persistently severe clinical depression and the severe exacerbation of his anxiety disorder, PTSD and suicidal ideas,” not least because various “protective factors” available to him in the UK would be absent Stateside.
“For example, he speaks to his partner by telephone nearly every day and, before lockdown, was visited by her and his children, various friends, his father, and other relatives…[Kopelman] considered there to be an abundance of known risk factors indicating a very high risk of suicide,” Baraitser recorded. “He stated, ‘I am as confident as a psychiatrist ever can be that, if extradition to the US were to become imminent, Mr. Assange will find a way of suiciding.’”
The professor’s reports were fundamental to the extradition order’s rejection – a surprising outcome, given Baraitser previously approved extradition in 96% of cases upon which she has ruled.
Nonetheless, she accepted every other argument and charge put forward by the Department of Justice, in effect criminalizing a great many entirely legitimate journalistic activities, and setting the chilling precedent that citizens of any country can be extradited to the US for alleged breaches of its national laws, therefore implying Washington’s legal jurisdiction is global in scale.
Files on Australia’s DFAT discussions with US Secretary of State redacted in full
In response to the ruling, Australia’s Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus issued a forceful statement, declaring the opposition Labor party believed “this has dragged on for long enough,” particularly given Julian’s “ill-health,” and demanding the Morrison administration “do what it can to draw a line under this matter and encourage the US government to bring this matter to a close.”
Conversely, DFAT published a characteristically laconic, soulless note, stating merely that Australia was “not a party to the case and will continue to respect the ongoing legal process,” and rehashing previous false claims that Julian had rejected multiple offers of consular assistance.
Canberra was simply silent when in June, the Icelandic publication Stundin revealed in detail how a “superseding indictment” levelled against Assange in September 2020, which charged that he and others at WikiLeaks “recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions,” was based largely on the admittedly false testimony of fraudster, diagnosed sociopath and convicted pedophile Siggi Thordarson, who had previously embezzled vast sums from WikiLeaks and been recruited by the FBI to undermine its founder from within.
There is good reason to believe the Australian government knew the indictment was coming. In July that year, Foreign Minister Payne met with CIA director Mike Pompeo at an Australia–US Ministerial Consultations convention, “the principal forum for bilateral consultations” between the country and the US.
Tranter submitted freedom of information requests for details of that rendezvous, but the documents she received in return were fully redacted. As were files released to her relating to the Foreign Minister’s summit with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May 2021.
It was almost certain that Assange was a subject of these meetings. DFAT claims Payne “raised the situation” when she met Blinken again in September, and the minister herself alleges she specifically discussed Australia’s “expectations” regarding Assange’s treatment with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab when he visited Canberra in February 2020. Tranter requested records related to this meeting too, but was told none existed.
Upon Julian’s arrest, Prime Minister Morrison alleged he would receive “the same treatment that any other Australian would get.”
“When Australians travel overseas and then find themselves in difficulties with the law, they face the judicial systems of those countries,” Morrison said. “It doesn’t matter what particular crime it is that they’re alleged to have committed, that’s the way the system works.”
However, an internal email dated April 5th 2019 secured by Tranter from the Australian Attorney General’s office was shot through with contempt for the Wikileaks co-founder. The note asserted, “FYI – Assange might be evicted. Not sure if his lawyers will make any (not very convincing) [emphasis added] arguments about Australia’s responsibilities to him but thought it was worth flagging.”
As usual, Australian officials said nothing in public about Assange’s imminent abduction.
Assange’s treatment, and the total lack of outrage over his incarceration, prison conditions, blatant procedural abuses engaged in by Washington in their relentless pursuit of him, and CIA plans to kidnap and/or murder the WikiLeaks founder, diverges starkly from Australia’s approach to Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic jailed in Iran for 10 years on questionable charges of espionage in September 2018.
Behind the scenes, Australian diplomats struggled for almost two years to secure her release, eventually brokering a prisoner swap, under which she was traded for three Iranian inmates in Thailand – two of whom were convicted in connection with a 2012 bombing plot in Bangkok. In a statement, Foreign Minister Payne expressed relief that Moore-Gilbert was finally free as a result of “professional and determined work,” noting Canberra had “consistently rejected” the grounds on which she was detained.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has consistently reinforced Washington’s position on Assange. In fact, officials have on occasion gone even further than their US counterparts in publicly condemning him and his actions.
In December 2010, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared WikiLeaks’ release of US diplomatic cables meant Assange was “guilty of illegality,” and that Federal Police were investigating, to offer “advice about potential criminal conduct of the individual involved.” To be fair to Canberra though, elected representatives there may effectively have no choice in the matter.
According to investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, each Five Eyes member theoretically has the right to veto a request for signals intelligence collected on an individual, group or organization collected by another. However, Campbells explained, “when you’re a junior ally like Australia or New Zealand, you never refuse,” even in situations when there are concerns about what ostensible allies may do with that sensitive information.
The documents obtained by Tranter and provided to The Grayzone provide an unobstructed view of the Australian junior ally’s betrayal of one of its citizens to the imperial power that has hunted him for years. As Julian Assange’s rights were violated at every turn, Canberra appears to have been complicit.
The extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to resume in London on Monday, September 7th. Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh Prison, and if extradited to the US, the publisher faces up to 175 years in prison.
The US has indicted Assange on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiring with a source to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The charges are related to WikiLeaks’ dissemination of a trove of documents released in 2010 that revealed classified information about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US prison in Guantanamo Bay.
The information was provided to WikiLeaks by former US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who spent more almost seven years in prison for the leaks before President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017. Manning was jailed again in March 2019 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, and was not released until March 2020.
If Assange, an Australian citizen, is extradited to the US and prosecuted, it will be the first time a journalist is tried under the 1917 Espionage Act, and it will set a grave precedent for press freedom in the US and around the world.
Consortium News will be reporting on the hearing and live-tweeting throughout the process. Journalist Joe Lauria will be recapping each day on the CN Live! YouTube channel. The channel will also host a panel of experts every weekend while the hearing is ongoing; the trial is expected to last three to four weeks.
“As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.” -Hunter Thompson