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Day Two: US Reinforces Grand Assange Deception

Above photo: Ribbons for Assange on the gates of the Royal Courts of Justice. Joe Lauria.

A delusory tale that turns journalism into a unique evil because it exposes secret U.S. crimes was heard in a London courtroom on Wednesday.

Julian Assange’s fate is yet to be determined.

On the second and final day of Julian Assange’s High Court hearing, barristers for the United States wove a delusory tale in which journalism is espionage, First Amendment rights are stripped from foreigners on U.S. soil and a government hunting a dissident journalist who revealed its secret crimes is lauded as a beacon of democracy.

However, outside the courthouse on a street called The Strand; and with human rights and press freedom organizations, presidents, prime ministers, and parliaments and with millions of ordinary citizens around the world, this false construct the United States seeks to impose on the world is failing.

In the immediate moment, the life of Julian Assange, an imprisoned journalist who published some of America’s darkest secrets, shattering its self-image, remains subject to the deliberation of two British judges wearing wigs.

Justices Jeremy Johnson and Dame Victoria Sharp informed the court after 10 hours of hearings over two days that they are reserving their judgment of Assange’s fate for an unspecified future date. A deadline of March 4 was given for final submission of papers. A decision can come any time after that.

Johnson and Sharp are considering whether to allow Assange to appeal the home secretary’s extradition order and various points of law in the magistrate court’s decision three years ago.

She had ordered Assange released on health grounds but on the basis of assurances that it would not mistreat Assange in the United States, the U.S. won on appeal at the High Court and reversed her decision.

The U.K. Supreme Court then refused to take Assange’s challenge of the legality of these assurances and last June a single High Court judge also refused Assange’s leave to appeal. This week’s two-day hearing was an attempt by Assange to reverse that decision, an appeal for the right to appeal, as it were.

It was a dry-run to try to convince the judges that there is enough contested evidence in this case to permit a full-blown appeal.

It was possibly Assange’s last stand in Britain to avoid being sent in chains to the U.S. to face espionage and computer intrusion charges and up to 175 years in a maximum-security prison.

After Assange’s lawyers laid out their case Tuesday why Assange should be allowed to appeal, it was the turn of barristers for the U.S. on Wednesday to argue why he should not.

Journalism Dressed Up As Crime

In doing so, prosecutor Clair Dobbin constructed a fantastical story of an evil Assange using nefarious methods to instigate and conspire with a U.S. intelligence analyst to break into government computers with the express purpose of getting informants killed or disappeared and threatening America’s hallowed national security.

She relied heavily on the affidavit of the dodgy U.S. prosecutor Gordon Kromberg.  She wove the same sorry tale of Assange “recruiting” Army analyst Chelsea Manning and conspiring with her to steal vital U.S. secrets, when the evidence is overwhelming and on record in court that Manning had security clearance to get all these documents, that she had already transferred the vast majority of them to WikiLeaks before Assange “recruited” her in a chatroom (if it was Assange she was speaking with at all) and that Manning could not hide her identity by cracking a password with Assange’s help even if she wanted to.

What Dobbin was actually doing was wasting the court’s time by describing some of the most routine aspects of journalism:  seeking out sources, protecting their identity and trying to get as much information out of them as possible.

‘Disappearing’ Informants

Once again the U.S. tried to tell the court that Assange’s actions were not that of a “responsible” journalist but of a criminal who intentionally wanted U.S. informants to be killed or disappeared by revealing their names.

Dobbin said that it was the mainstream partners who had redacted their names, when the exact opposite was true.

Mark Davis, an Australian journalist who covered Assange in London in 2010 when the major releases were being coordinated with the mainstream newspapers, said those papers had little interest in redaction and that it was Assange who stayed up virtually an entire weekend to redact the names.

John Goetz, an American journalist who worked with one of the partners, Der Spiegel, testified at Assange’s 2020 extradition hearing that Assange was obsessed with redactions and Laura Poitras’ film Risk shows Assange calling the State Department to ask them to help redact the Diplomatic Cables. The State Department refused and instead demanded he return the cables.

Though the U.S. argument that Assange harmed informants rests on blaming him for publishing the un-redacted cables, there is copious evidence that has been presented in this case to show that it was two Guardian journalists who revealed the password to the un-redacted cables and that hundreds of publications, such as and Pirate Bay, had published them before WikiLeaks did.

Assange said he published them only to alert those whose names had already been revealed to seek safety and to ensure that the authentic cables, and not possible fakes, were made public. But he never intended to publish the un-redacted documents at all had they not been already released.

Since the classified material had already been published by others before WikiLeaks did, Assange did not violate the Official Secrets Act, which, unlike the U.S. Espionage Act, only punishes first-time publication.  Thus dual-criminality was not breached, which should on its own invalidate Assange’s extradition.

U.S. Brigadier General Robert Carr, who led the post-Wikileaks investigation into the disclosures’ impact, also admitted under oath at the Manning court martial that no one was killed as a result of the WikiLeaks revelations.

Dobbin acknowledged in court after questioning from Justice Johnson, that others published the un-redacted cables first. But she said that didn’t matter because it would never have happened at all if Assange had not gotten his hands on the documents in the first place.

‘Political Offense’

As Assange lawyer Mark Summers asserted, the lawyers for the U.S. completely ignored the content of the releases for which Assange is being prosecuted. He argued on Wednesday as he had the day before, that there is a nexus between Assange’s publications and his pursuit by the United States, making that government no better than any authoritarian regime that hunts down a journalist for revealing their secrets.

After Assange’s lawyers argued that both the U.K.-U.S. Extradition Treaty and the implementing Extradition Act of Parliament barred extradition based on a political offense or a political opinion and that espionage is inherently political, Dobbin contended that Assange’s prosecution could not be political because two U.S. administrations, one Republican and one Democratic, stand behind his indictment.

This displayed a tremendous lack of understanding of the generally solid, bi-partisan agreement on U.S. foreign policy —  essentially both parties band together for the U.S. against the world.

It also showed extreme narrowness to reduce the term “political” to party politics, rather than to an entire military, intelligence, industrial and political system pursuing mammoth interests around the world for which it is ready to kill, and has killed, millions of people who stand in their way.

What does it mean to them to destroy a single Australian journalist who has done them such harm?

A World Moving On

The U.S. arguments inside oak-paneled Courtroom 5 at the Royal Courts of Justice, constructed in 1882, may as well have been made that year. They are losing resonance in a world that is rapidly moving on from American rule, sped up by the globe’s rejection of U.S. policy on Ukraine and Gaza.

Dwindling are the number of governments and populations who accept at face value what the United States says about itself and about them.

Assange’s work has played a vital role in this process, chipping away at American credibility, beginning with the 2010 releases about Iraq and Afghanistan, for which he is being prosecuted.

American credibility has fallen to the point where a British barrister can stand up in a British court and tell British judges that the United States is no different than any authoritarian regime in hunting down a journalist just because he had published secret evidence of their deepest crimes.

When Summers several times over the course of two days explicitly mentioned American war crimes, there was no flinching on the faces of either judge.

Yet there are millions of people in the world, especially in the United States and Britain, who still believe the fantasy world sustaining what is left of American dominance, the world in which Assange is a villain intent on destroying democracy.

Dare these two judges step outside that world to at the very least allow Assange his day in court to fight for his freedom?

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