ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Helped Manning Crack Password to Download Video Games, Not State Secrets, Court is Told

Consortium News was inside Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday for the second day of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing. Joe Lauria filed this report.

By Joe Lauria
in London

Special to Consortium News

With the sound of protestors permeating the walls of Woolwich Crown Court, Assange’s defense presented the first part of its case on Tuesday, demolishing the U.S. government’s extradition submission:

  • regarding Assange helping Chelsea Manning crack a password; i.e. allegedly participating in the theft of government documents;
  • the use of WikiLeaks Most Wanted List of stories as a way to supposedly “solicit” stories from Manning, 
  • that Assange recklessly endangered the lives of U.S. informants.

Assange attorney Mark Summers revealed that Assange’s supposed attempt to help Manning “hack” a government computer for secret documents was actually an attempt to help her crack a password to  download video games, movies and music videos, forbidden on military computers.

Manning: Refusing to testify. (Manolo Luna via Wikimedia Commons)

Manning. (Manolo Luna via Wikimedia Commons)

Summers says Manning had legal access to classified material and did not need a user name or a password to get into the database.   The Espionage Act indictment says Assange helped Manning sign in under an administrator’s password in order to help get secrets, not the latest video game.

The U.S. government’s case is based on “lies, lies and more lies,” Summers told the court.  Summers said that there’s no evidence Manning ever saw WikiLeak‘s wish list, and she provided material that wasn’t asked for. Manning gave WikiLeaks the U.S. Rules of Engagement in Iraq to show that the Collateral Murder video had violated those rules, not because Assange had asked for it, Summers said. 

It is difficult to understand how a journalist asking sources to provide the information, even classified information, can be construed as a crime. 

Summers also gave a detailed explanation about why the government’s assertion that Assange had endangered the lives of U.S. informants was false.   He explained that Assange had instituted a Harm Mitigation Program to redact the names of informants and other people that might be at risk, a program so stringent that David Leigh of The Guardian complained to Der Spiegel, two publications partnering with WikiLeaks, that too much time was being wasted. 

A Spiegel journalist said it was the most extreme measures he had ever experienced. Summers also told the court that The Guardian was responsible for publishing the password for the encrypted, un-redacted State Department cables that WikiLeaks and its media partners were slowly and carefully running out. When The Guardian made the entire archive available, Assange called the State Department to warn them.    

“You might think that would be something you would have known when the government submitted the extradition request,” Summers told Baraister.

Before the hearing began Tuesday a court officer instructed Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, that he had been instructed to bar the “head of WikiLeaks” from entering the public gallery, a glassed-in room with two rows of seats high above the small courtroom. 

Hrafnsson: Court tried to shut him out.

John Shipton, Assange’s father, and Assange’s brother Gabriel and Hrafnsson protested and left the cramped area where 18 people lined up to get into the gallery. A few minutes later they returned. Hrafnsson said sending out a few tweets got the court authorities to change their mind. He said no explanation for why the court wanted him barred was given.   

The family sat down to hear Assange’s lawyers complaining that on Monday Assange had been intimidated by prison authorities, being strip searched, handcuffed 11 times, made to stay in five different cells and had legal documents he was studying taken away from him.  Judge Vanessa Baraister told the court she had no jurisdiction over how Assange is being mistreated.

During the hearing Assange is separated from his lawyers in room at the back of the court behind bullet-proof glass. He wore a gray jumper and blazer and looked to have aged well beyond his 48 years. He appeared mostly able to focus on the proceedings, at times intensely.  He sent word to the judge through one of his lawyers that he wished to sit among his attorneys in the courtroom.

The hearing resumes on Wednesday. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

11 comments for “ASSANGE EXTRADITION: Assange Helped Manning Crack Password to Download Video Games, Not State Secrets, Court is Told

  1. Hide Behind
    February 26, 2020 at 11:47

    Crimes, Wikileaks was playing US and British Intelligence game, redacting certain details and acting as a watchdog over foreign News orgs releasing, what he and US intelligence had agreed should not be released.
    As to his release of US helicopter killing reporters in Iraq, there was no crime being commited.
    Throughout this charade what we find is an agreement that there are certain aspects under the labels of “National Security”, that journalist cannot and must not report upon.
    This not reporting has massive support among all Europe, BritainsColonial reach and United States populace at large.
    What is primarily directed against an indoctrinated populace, “Loose Lips Sink Ships”, which was once only used during times when nations were engaged in actual warfare, became a permanent feature after US became premier power on globe as primary weapon of cold war years, the public itself being weaponized.
    Rights are an imaginary flight of fantacy, all Governments rule by doling out priveleges, and the Right to hear and see truth is left in hands of the priveledged few.
    Journalism is both a political and financial monitored information buisness both the owners of source and their employees are income dependent, and in no way can those we call independent journalist compete militarily with Gov controlled mainline media and its interwoven financial partners.
    No matter if Assange is or is judged guilty or not, the attack upon truth by established powers will not ebb and only increase.
    Technology is on the side of who has the power and financial means to wield it.
    We have freedom of speech, if we can afford it, but we have no right or freedoms to be heard; that is once again in the hands of the few, and their granted priveledge to the few.

  2. John Pretty
    February 26, 2020 at 09:29

    Thanks Joe for your balanced reporting.

    I don’t know if it will help, but I want to try to clarify who runs the UK and who is ultimately responsible for what is happening to Julian.

    The Conservative (Tory) Party has been making all of the executive decisions in the UK for the duration of Julian’s incarceration in the Ecuadorian Embassy and Belmarsh. Their government organised Julian’s removal from the Embassy last year.

    In the UK Parliament is sovereign. Parliament is the supreme legal authority in the UK. It can create or end any law.

    The four “Great Offices of State” in the UK (in whom executive power lies) are:

    The Prime Minister: currently Boris Johnson: Conservative politician

    and, appointed by the Prime Minister:

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer: Rishi Sunak: Conservative politician
    The Foreign Secretary: Dominic Raab: Conservative politician
    The Home Secretary: Priti Patel: Conservative politician

    The Queen is the Head of State, but effectively has zero executive power. Senior appointments are made in her name, but are chosen by the Prime Minister. This can give the superficial appearance that the Queen is in charge, but in reality it is the Prime Minister.

    In the United States the Queen’s equivalent is the President, who by contrast, has total executive power.

    Boris Johnson’s Tory government may try to have Julian extradited to the US even if the court decides against it.

    The Prime Minister is the most powerful person in the UK, but he doesn’t get it all his own way, not even in parliament.

    And controversially the new (2009) Supreme Court overrode Johnson’s extension of Parliament last year.

  3. February 26, 2020 at 09:00

    Here are the real criminals who should be sitting behind bulletproof glass in gray jumpsuits in this court for crimes against humanity: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Barack Obama, George W Bush. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Budigieg, Mitch Mcconnell, James Comey, Mike Pence, and any others of their ilk. Assange and Manning are true heros for exposing the true crimes being perpetrated by this dung heap…

    • Sam F
      February 26, 2020 at 12:26

      Yes, all of the operations exposed are extreme violations of the US Constitution, which very explicitly prohibits foreign wars and promiscuous surveillance. All of those involved in those operations, and their concealment, are traitors in conspiracy to subvert the Constitution and laws of the United States, and should be imprisoned indefinitely.

    • February 27, 2020 at 17:23

      all too true!

  4. Mike Lamb
    February 26, 2020 at 05:24

    Glenn Grenwald in an August 20, 2010 piece in Salon states that Wikileaks offered the Pentagon to tell it what names to redact and the Pentagon refused.

  5. Moi
    February 26, 2020 at 04:53

    So let me get this straight. As I understand it, the story so far:

    – Swedish cops invented the rape charges against JA. The cops don’t even interview one of the “victims” until after the allegations had been announced.

    – JA skipped bail to avoid the fabricated charges and holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy. Allegations he smeared crap on the walls and rode his skateboard were also fabricated to smear him. JA was spied upon and his attorney/client confidentiality rights were utterly trashed.

    – Once in custody he was given the maximum one year in a maximum security prison for skipping bail on the fabricated charges. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture JA was tortured in prison and denied access to medical treatment and his lawyers, just for skipping bail.

    – The US allege JA helped Manning crack an admin password to access secret documents. But Manning always had access to the secret docs, all JA did was help him access the computer games otherwise unavailable on Defence computers.

    – The secret documents were put in a secured database while a committee comprised of selected newspapers and the State Dept decided was to be redacted. JA defaulted to “extreme redaction” and the docs were only released after one the newspaper reporters published the password in a book and the Pirate Bay website provided access. JA tried to warn the State Dept that people named in the docs may be put in jeopardy but his warning went unheeded.

    Is this tale of persecution and injustice more or less correct or have I horribly mangled it?

    • mary e
      February 26, 2020 at 12:55

      You definitely got it dead to rights! JA is being railroaded by the US via the UK, their lackey.

    • Steph
      February 26, 2020 at 14:54

      – The US allege JA helped Manning crack an admin password to access secret documents. But Manning always had access to the secret docs, all JA did was help HER access the computer games otherwise unavailable on Defense computers.

      There, fixed it for you.

  6. countykerry
    February 26, 2020 at 04:01

    Thank you for informing us of what is taking place in the Woolwich Crown Court.

  7. anonymous user
    February 25, 2020 at 23:32

    I find that the dumber the order follower is, the the deeper we are slipping into tyranny, not just for journalists, the whole world.

Comments are closed.