2020-02-26

The Assange Hearing

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by Neil Godfrey

What I have learned so far:

— the prosecutor in delivering his opening statements openly stated that he was addressing the media;

— many of the journalists left the courtroom after the prosecution set out its case and did not stay to hear the defence;

— information that has been public knowledge for ten years (published, in the public domain) that Wikileaks and Assange personally went to great lengths to remove sensitive names and sources from their files before they were released to the public means nothing to those in power: they still have the audacity to accuse Assange of not redacting key information and names;

— that the U.S. is allowed to target an Australian for exposing war crimes and the Australian government will not object.

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Neil Godfrey

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11 thoughts on “The Assange Hearing”

  1. This is a very sensitive issue for me. Thank you Neil for seeking truth and justice in this matter. About 10 years ago I started meeting with the SAWC group in Sydney (Support Assange and Wikileaks Coalition). Julian’s father, John Shipton, used to attend on occasions. We group held several protests and fund raising events and sent aid to Julian in London. Some of us even visited him there. We championed his cause by marching in the G&L Mardi Gras 2 years in a row, and demanding the release of Private Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. We struggled to make an impact on public opinion. Our government is well and truly won-over by the US Lobby, believing that we should by all means err on the side of caution and please the US in case one day we need them as an ally. What they do not concede is that the threats they are afraid of are in fact brought on by the actions of the US itself, propogating its military-industrial economy. SAWC continues and I encourage anyone interested in supporting Julian to join and follow. It is very hard for SAWC to get a message across. Most people simply do not care about Julian or feel that our government will ultimately protect us from a greater threat.
    .

    Tonight Wed. 26/2/20 6pm I will be attending a presentation “Bring Assange Home” organised by Australians for War Powers Reform at the NSW Parliament offices . It will be very interesting and I will try and get a transcript or podcast. If I can get it I can put a link in this blog. There may be still room iof you wish to attend, call 02 9230 2526 to Shaoquette Moselmane NSW ALP’s office. Speakers include Bob Carr, former NSW Premier and Federal Foreign Affairs Minisiter (2012-2013). I am hoping he has “done a Malcolm Fraser” and come to his senses in support of Julian. It will be hosted by Shaoquette Moselmane NSW ALP. Other speakers include Greg Barnes Julian’s Lawyer and Alsion Broinowski former diplomat. I have known Alison Broinowski for about 5 years. The following is her bio :

    Exposing a War Crime

    No war crime in history is as accessible. Type Collateral Murder into your search engine and you sit behind the gun-sight camera of an Apache gunship circling a Baghdad street. US soldiers chirp merrily to one another as they pick their victims and punch bullets into 12 unarmed civilians. They include a wounded man lying in the gutter. Were Japanese troops as jocose bayonetting Australian prisoners at Sandakan? Or Serbs slaughtering Bosnians? “Come on, let us shoot,” urges one impatient wag, and got instant authorisation from his supervisor over the radio. The Pentagon, however, is not investigating, let alone prosecuting – not this rifle fire, or the later assault with Hellfire missiles fired at an apartment block. “The fog of war,” shrugged former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. The only prosecution is of the Australian who exposed it.
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    The Echoing Precedent

    For the sake of argument let’s accept every criticism made of Julian Assange. Set them aside for another day. Think now of the echoing precedent if the US succeeds in extraditing him from the UK to be put on trial in Virginia. Last month someone leaked to The New York Times a batch of official documents about the repression of China’s Uyghurs. Imagine if it were an Australian living in London and that China sought to extradite him to face trial in Beijing. Is it conceivable that Canberra would be struck mute, as with Assange? Imagine an Australian, living in London who posts material from the Indian cabinet about the repression of Muslims in Kashmir? Would there be no representations from our foreign minister while the leaker is winkled out of London into the arms of security forces in Dehli? Israel and India have extensive nuclear weapons programs- each protected by ferocious domestic official secrets acts. “Think of the outcry if the Netanyahu or Modi governments attempted to extradite a British or US journalist to face life in jail for writing true things about nuclear arsenals”, wrote Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian. If the American bid succeeds, this extra-territorial reach will be brought home to Australians when they see Assange in shackles, escorted across a British airfield into a CIA aircraft to be flown to Virginia. There he will face a trial, part of it in secret with a high likelihood of a 175 year sentence in extreme isolation, about as close to the death penalty as one can imagine. Effectively, the death sentence. Whatever Assange did in 2010-2011 it was not espionage, and he’s not a US citizen. His actions took place outside the US. Under this precedent anyone, anywhere, who publishes anything the US state brands secret could be prosecuted under the US Espionage Act and offered to the maw of its notoriously cruel justice system.
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    Were Lives Lost? No.

    American diplomats have done the rounds talking darkly about lives lost because Assange leaked unredacted material. But during the Chelsea Manning trial in 2013 a US brigadier general in counter intelligence was asked to nominate casualties caused by the leaks. First he said he knew of one, an Afghan national. Later he had to retract and say there was none. This accords with Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell who had said in August 2010 “there was no evidence that anyone had been killed because of the leaks.” Another Pentagon official had confirmed “the military still has no evidence that the leaks have led to any deaths.” In 2010 an Australian Defence Department task force concluded, in the words of then-defence Minister John Faulkner, “Overall, the content published by WikiLeaks does not reveal any significant details about operational incidents involving Australians beyond that already publically released”. Media Freedom More important than punishing Assange should be protection of media freedom, symbolised by what is an heroic American achievement: the First Amendment to its constitution which entrenches free speech. The WikiLeaks material is no different in principle from the Pentagon Papers leaked in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg to The New York Times and Washington Post. Would anyone argue today we did not deserve to know how two American presidents kept the Vietnam War going after they had been officially advised it could not be won? The US Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment right to publish the material (a freedom-to-print drama captured in the stirring movie The Post with Merryl Streep playing publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee). Some American grievances against Assange are fed by the way WikiLeaks appeared to serve the interest of the Russian state when it intervened in the 2016 election. Brazen interference, and a mark against Assange. Still, wouldn’t American anger be better directed at fixing their electoral system with its creaky electoral college, designed in 1789, twisting a popular vote majority into its reverse? Or at the voter suppression laws and the brazen gerrymander of House boundaries? Cunning Russian Facebook posts and email leaks would not have worked their magic up against healthy voter turn-out and a process run, not by partisan state officials, but something like our own Australian Electoral Commission. In any case more of the US indictments against Assange concern the 2016 US elections. Hard to think of a more effective way of creating a martyr than by pursuing someone who has already paid a price for his poor judgement encased in the walls of the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years. The last Lowy Poll showed that because of Trump support for the US alliance had fallen from 78 percent to 66 percent and that only 25 percent of Australians had confidence in the US president. Among Australians under the age of 18-29 years it was almost non-existent. How better to seed sourness about the alliance than running a year’s trial in British courts, followed by a battle in American courts, against this maverick, with The New YorkTimes and The Washington Post defining it as an issue of free media and, by extension, transmuting him into an unlikely hero, a second Daniel Elsberg. Foreign Minister Marise Payne is entitled to gently remind her counterpart Mike Pompeo that Australia serves up a whopping trade surplus to the US ally, so important to this president. We are a good ally to the point of giddy excess- dispatching a warship to the Gulf, risking a firefight with Iran. We sent trainers and planes into Iraq and Syria. We host two communications bases that probably make Australian territory a nuclear target.
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    Obama’s Pardon of Manning

    All said, we are entitled to one modest request: that in the spirit with which Barack Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, and given President Trump’s own objection to “endless wars” in desert sands, it would be better if the extradition of Assange were quietly dropped. The US has almost 2.3 million prisoners in its jails, a higher proportion than any western country. That includes 162,000 serving life sentences. One less and the sky won’t fall in on the empire. And he is an Australian.

    My final remarks again thanks to Neil for raising the issue and I’d encourage you to our PM to ask that he reevaluate our ties with the US and stand up for our citizen.
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    Some info on SAWC is at :

    https://www.facebook.com/events/sydney-town-hall/sydney-vigil-for-julians-birthday-be-part-of-a-global-movement/623864874779481/

      1. Alison sent this to our Peace group. I haven’t read the SMH. Do you want to join us this evening and you can meet her ? You’d need to call the RSVP number I gave.

  2. Julian knows himself and knew what to expect. This was his profile for the OKCupid dating site in 2006 when he was 36 years old:

    “WARNING: Want a regular, down to earth guy? Keep moving. I am not the
    droid you are looking for. Save us both while you still can. Passionate, and
    often pig headed activist intellectual seeks siren for love affair, children
    and occasional criminal conspiracy. Such a woman should be spirited and
    playful, of high intelligence, though not necessarily formally educated, have
    spunk, class & inner strength and be able to think strategically about the
    world and the people she cares about.

    “I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil.
    Western culture seems to forge women that are valueless and inane. OK.
    Not only women!

    “Although I am pretty intellectually and physically pugnacious I am very
    protective of women and children.

    “I am DANGER, ACHTUNG, and ??????????????!”

    Leigh, David, and Luke Harding. 2011. Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. London: Guardian Books. p. 32

  3. Last night’s meeting (26/2/20) “Bring Assange Home” in NSW Parliament House was hosted by SIPIA, the Sydney Institute for Public and International Affairs.
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    https://www.sipia.com.au/events-2020/
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    Former Defence Minister Bob Carr spoke boldly on, in my words, the hypocrisy of those in power who prefer to prosecute a journalist who exposed war crimes, than to admit that the war crime took place. I think it was him also who emphasised the threat to democracy that a guilty verdict for Julian would bring, where non-US citizens, on non-US soil could be prosecuted by the US. Parallels to the David Hicks case (so called “enemy combatant”) were suggested.
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    Mary Kostakidis spoke among other things on the suffering that Julian is experiencing, she having met him three times in London
    .
    https://twitter.com/MaryKostakidis?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
    .
    I remember protesting against Bob Carr in 2012 or 2013 in our SAWC mardi gras float in the parade in Sydney, when he was Defence Minister. I think it’s great how he has changed his position from indifference to action. I asked him last night how our Australian government could ever change it’s policy of alliance with the US, which I believe is the key to why Julian is not back home now. He said that it’s time our government was willing to have disagreements with the US yet stay friends. He didn’t go far enough for my liking.
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    Former Australian Ambassador to Mexico, Vietnam and South Korea, Richard Broinowski asked Mr Carr if he would go to the office of the current Defence Minister, Maryse Payne and put the wishes of the meeting to her. He said he’d give it some thought.
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    The resounding conclusion of the speakers of the meeting after Q&A was that it is absolutely invaluable that we Australians who care about Julian’s plight and the right to freedom of speech and holding governments accountable should form groups of local voters and arrange a meeting with our Federal Member of Parliament, bring the facts to him /her and asking what they are doing in government to see justice carried out for Julian.
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    I’m still looking for the audio / video link or podcast of the meeting to share.
    .
    Meantime, let us please all call our local member asap.

      1. On Contact: “On the show this week Chris Hedges talks to Joe Lauria, editor of Consortium News, about his coverage of US prosecutors in London attempting to extradite Julian Assange to the United States to face trial for allegations of espionage.”

        Richard G.

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