Proceedings in London are unfolding in the predictable way. The US side is claiming that:
He [Assange] is not charged with disclosure of embarrassing or awkward information that the government would rather not have have disclosed… The disclosures charges are solely where there was a risk of risk. [sic.]
The risk claim relates to the claim that Assange released information which “would” place informants in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk. The claim is that Assange released the names of “individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations such as al-Qaida”. Of course; relying on Iran here in the same breath as Al-Qaida is a reflection of a uniquely US view of the world. The European view (without Johnson) is that Iran is a reasonable country with whom we can do business. The use of Iran in this manner is a kind of a trope. Is a ‘non-political’ and juridically independent British court going to let it pass?
The idea that the US is going after Assange because they cared about their informants in Iraq and Afghanistan and not because they were embarrassed by the revelations which showed for example that they were lying about the numbers of civilians casualties in Iraq and that they were lying about the shoot-down of helicopters in Afghanistan – lies which can only of had one purpose; to manipulate their own public into supporting illegal wars, is palpably absurd. No one can believe this. I don’t imagine that there is a single person in the court today who believes this – which is why this is fairly called a show-trial.
To undermine Assange’s journalism defence they have co-opted the Guardian and other papers into appearing for the prosecution. This kills two birds with one stone. Firstly; they have to somehow explain to the public why Assange is being murdered (psychologically / ontologically) when the Guardian and other papers who were engaged in a joint publishing project with Assange are not in court. Secondly, they are using this to put forward this line that the case revolves around a concern for the welfare of informants. The Guardian allegedly paid more attention to redaction than Assange.
It is ironic perhaps that it was the Guardian who ran an excellent series of articles exposing how the British government has washed its hands of its interpreters in Afghanistan – leaving them at risk of being punished by the Taliban. If Assange is to be extradited to mental death in the US for the crime of putting informants at risk then a number of British ministers from the last decade or so should logically be joining him in suffering a legal penalty. They won’t be because this case is not about “protecting informants”. It is about nailing Assange. A personal vendetta against someone who for a brief period ripped away the curtain of ‘morality’ behind which the US carries out its war crimes and who showed how the US war machine lies to the American people to dupe them into supporting its wars.
Murray asks why the magistrate asked the barrister for the US why the press (who published much of the WikiLeaks material) was not in court. Apparently this threw the barrister for the US who was left struggling for an explanation. In the end, according to Murray, he relied on the Official Secrets Act – which makes it a crime to publish secret government information regardless of how you obtained it. As Murray points out this contradicts the whole explanation as to why the Guardian is not being prosecuted but Assange is. My guess would be that the barrister remembered who is client is – the US. The important thing is to get Assange extradited; if the UK is left with the thorny problem of prosecuting the Guardian as a result (or explaining why they are not) that is not his client’s problem. As to why the magistrate in charge asked this question Murray isn’t sure. I would suggest the answer is obvious. A key aspect of British ‘justice’ is that it must be seen to be fair. She has to ask at least this question to produce the appearance of fairness.
Murry notes that none of this has been reported in the mainstream press. He accurately comments that most ‘journalists’ these days don’t get beyond copy and pasting the government press release. This exchange wasn’t in the press release (provided to the press by the prosecution) so it isn’t reported on.
Murry then continues to explicate the arguments of the defence. There seem to be a number – and they appear to be strong. In particular statements from the US administration make it clear that this case is political and there is a specific clause in the Extraditon Treaty which excludes political cases. Another strong point concerns abuse of process; there is some evidence from a criminal trial in Spain that the US may have spied on Assange’s conversations with his lawyer. The defence also claims that they will produce evidence which will show that the CIA considered abducting Assange. The multiple (sourced and referenced) arguments on different legal points are glided over in the Guardian’s report as a “barrage” of arguments:
Assange’s counsel delivered a barrage of arguments against extradition, including that Assange would be exposed to cruel and degrading treatment in a maximum-security prison.
The idea of course is to suggest that this is a scatter gun of fimsy arguments.
The most disgusting aspect of the Guardian’s report is of course the way that they still attempt to smear Assange with the Swedish ‘rape’ accusations. The wording does vary but in this report they avoid even mentioning that despite Assange being 100% and indisputibly available for questioning the remaining charge has been dropped by the Swedish authorities (after a judge threw out an application for an arrest warrant):
It has been about 10 months since Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had spent seven years inside as he faced allegations in Sweden of sex crimes, which he has always denied.
Has denied is in the Present Perfect tense which (according to the grammar) means a connection to the present. This is a smear. (As is the constant suggestion that Assange was hiding in the Equadorian Embassy from the Swedish allegations. This latter claim is patently false; after the matter first blew up Assange stayed in Sweden voluntarily and only left when he was told there was no case for him to answer. It was a subsequent Swedish prosecutor who restarted the case. Assange’s claim that he was hiding in the Embassy because the US had a secret extradition case against him has been fully vindicated by events). There are no outstanding ‘rape’ charges against Assange. As soon as he became available for questioning outside of his refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy and as soon as it became clear that he was to face extradition to the US the ‘rape’ charges magically vanished. But the Guardian has consistently used the sexual assault charges to smear Assange. (The charges themselves are not credible; for example the chief accuser was photographed at a happy dinner with Assange after she claims the supposed assault took place. She also declined an offer from a male friend to host Assange so she didn’t have to have him in her flat. – All of the holes in this story have been well analysed by Craig Murray).
The showtrial will continue. I would imagine that Assange’s only hope will lie in the European Court of Human Rights.