RAY McGOVERN: Queen’s Counsel Charges vs Assange ‘Significantly Overwrought’

The CIA and Pentagon are saying, in effect, “Trust Us.” What could possibly go wrong? — aside from a publisher of accurate information spending the rest of his life in prison .

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

We are about to see how malleable the British Court system is to diktat from Washington. Will the British embrace the flimsiest of circumstantial “evidence” from U.S. security services that have axes to grind?

Will British officials turn their back on 800 years of progress on the human rights wrested from King John at Runnymede? Are there today no “English Nobles” to thwart the obscene “legal” proceedings aimed at extraditing WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to a U.S. prison for publishing the truth about U.S. and UK war crimes?

At Monday’s court hearing in London, James Lewis QC, argued the U.S. case using information the U.S. gave him from “secret sources” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s Mr. Lewis:

“The U.S. is aware of sources, whose unredacted names and other identifying information were contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks.”

With the CIA and Defense Department saying, in effect, “Trust Us”, what could possibly go wrong? — aside from a publisher of accurate information spending the rest of his life in prison — and all future journalists running the same risk, should they run afoul of U.S. authorities.

Lewis: Offered no proof lives were endangered.

Unless the British Court system has become totally subservient to U.S. influence, James Lewis QC will have to do better in the coming weeks to plausibly pin a crime on Julian Assange.

Still, do not underestimate British “flexibility” in reaction to orders from Washington. Recall, for example, that just a short, but havoc-filled 17 years ago, UK Attorney General Lord Peter Henry QC (now Baron) Goldsmith was persuaded to abruptly reverse his opinion on the upcoming U.S./UK unprovoked attack on Iraq from “illegal” to “legal”, for which he was awarded yet additional British honorifics.

Do President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson really wish to take their cue from the sorry pair of Bush and Blair? We never did learn very much about the “secret sources” that were said to be behind all the poppycock about those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, did we?

Once Called ‘Hearsay’

Speaking on behalf of U.S. officialdom, Lewis claimed that hundreds of people across the world had to be warned after the WikiLeaks disclosures. Some had to be relocated. Others later disappeared, he said. But wait. He was careful to indicate that the U.S. would not try to prove that these events resulted directly from the disclosures. (Is this not what was once called “hearsay”?)

As an ominous coda to his presentation, Lewis somberly added that some WikiLeaks information was found at Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. Aha!

‘Significantly Overwrought’

Former CIA Director (and later Defense Secretary) Robert Gates.

After WikiLeaks published copious materials on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and State Department cables, there was a hue and cry regarding the “inevitable” damage to U.S. assets and equities. On Nov. 30, 2010, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered a more candid appraisal of risks and damage from the WikiLeaks disclosures.

Here’s Gates at a formal Pentagon news briefing:

“Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought … We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. [Emphasis added.]

Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

Shortly after Gates’s unusually frank correction, politicians and pundits adjusted their sights on Assange, to allegations that he was a “terrorist.” Then Vice President Joe Biden said publicly that Assange was a “high-tech terrorist”, and CNN invited a slew of talking heads to confirm the new meme: Yes indeed, Assange clearly was a terrorist.

Apparently, someone told CNN it might look a little better if they added another head for balance. I became the token head “for balance” — the patsy.

CNN’s Don Lemon asked me on Dec. 12, 2010 to explain why many of my VIPS colleagues and I could conceivably think Assange was not a terrorist, but rather a journalist.

Lemon: “So, you don’t like the way he’s been labeled a terrorist or a hacker? You actually think that he’s a journalist. I want to get that correct.”

Lemon was right about one thing: “That will have to be the last word.” Indeed, I have not been invited onto CNN since.

When I had a chance to review the show, I found it so transparent that I actually felt a bit sorry for Lemon who, after all, clearly had his instructions — and perhaps a family to feed. That turned out to be silly; he got promoted and now has his on show on CNN.

Collateral Murder

The gunsight video-cum-audio showing the cold-blooded killing of at least 12 Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, by gunners in a U.S. Apache helicopter on July 12, 2007 during the “surge” of U.S. forces into the Baghdad area needs to accompany any story on WikiLeaks’ revelations; this whether or not it is given much play at the hearing in the days ahead. Watching this 18-minute video will provide some idea as to why Private Chelsea Manning was moved to give it to WikiLeaks.


Every American should watch this video to get some sense of the kind of war crimes WikiLeaks exposed — accurately, with original footage — and to understand why Establishment Washington got so angry at Assange and remains hell bent on making an example of him.

For broader perspective on events surrounding Manning’s decision to give the video to WikiLeaks, there is no better source than the account given by video-maker Sonia Kennebeck, nee Mayr.

Her work “Shooters Walk Free, Whistleblower Jailed” appeared first on the German TV program Panorama; it is only 12 minutes long, but speaks volumes.

There was nothing like it at the time, so Panorama was persuaded to prepare a version, with Sonia’s own voice-over, for English speakers. Strongly recommended. (Kennebeck later directed/produced the award winning documentary film about drone warfare, “National Bird” (2016).

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army/Infantry and CIA intelligence analyst for three decades, and personally conducted the early morning briefings of The President’s Daily Brief from 1981 to 1985. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

27 comments for “RAY McGOVERN: Queen’s Counsel Charges vs Assange ‘Significantly Overwrought’

  1. Sage
    February 28, 2020 at 14:07

    Ray’s the best!

  2. Barbara Richards
    February 26, 2020 at 21:16

    I remember watching this video when it first was shown I think it was a Facebook link. At the time, I was in the middle of a horrible court case, I was being systematically tortured in the UK secret family courts, accused of having Parental Alienation Syndrome and Richard Gardner’s Threat torture torture was used on me and my son. So when this video came out I didn’t fully understand what was going on, all I remember was being horrified at the cold blooded murder. I didn’t at that time realise what a magnificent hero Julian Assange is, the danger he was in because of having the bravery to show that video.

    This film does need to be seen by everyone. I really wish someone working for the BBC or ITV would break ranks, find a way to show this video in the middle of EastEnders or Coronation Street and wake the fuck up the brainwashed people of this country.

    • OlyaPola
      February 27, 2020 at 10:03

      ” I was being systematically tortured in the UK secret family courts”

      Experience is an opportunity and sometimes a catalyst to test hypotheses, which despite attempts to minimise “publicity” and guidance on what is deemed and what is not deemed “ultra vires”, in the case presently being performed at Woolwich Crown Court such opportunities are being afforded to test hypotheses and illumination that the rule of law and torture share a similar root – namely coercion, a similar purpose namely – to preclude qualitative challenge and change to prevailing social relations, whilst requiring varying practice/presentation to discourage conflation and encourage belief in difference and we-don’t-do-tortureness.

      Given that many in the Soviet Union had either direct or trusted relationships with those with direct experience of the Gulag, by the early 1980’s ergo before the annoitment of, and attempts at reform by, the schmooser from Stavropolsk krai and associates, the myths of “The Soviet Union” could not be maintained, and attempts to maintain them accelerated their demise.

      The opponents are a lands of opportunity generous by default in their complicity including, but not restricted to, their efforts in increasing the prison population.

  3. robert e williamson jr
    February 26, 2020 at 16:02

    Two things I missed in my initial post here.

    #1 The American crew was in no way threatened by those individuals on the ground even if those those individuals would have had a RPG since the copper was so far away it couldn’t even be heard. RPG’s do have range limitations.

    #2 The resulting mass killings and casualties to unarmed civilians has proven for everyone to see that the pilot and crew of the copper failed to accurately identify and assess a potential target. Number one rule of firing on others is effective , accurate target acquisition.

    #3 What is exposed here for all to see is the indiscriminate killing of helpless unarmed civilians including children. Something using choppers should prevent. Are we expected to believe that this crew thought they were in too much danger to have a closer look? I’m damned sure no one in that crew feared for their own safety. Pretty unprofessional conduct by the officers on board and who are ultimately responsible. Remember fighters all legal allowed to refuse to obey an illegal order.


  4. Sam F
    February 25, 2020 at 19:50

    The issue is whether the US can bring charges for damages to intel sources when:
    1. The secret operations exposed violated the US Constitution (which permits military force only to “repel invasions” and “suppress insurrections” and prohibits unlimited surveillance);
    2. Agencies engaged in unconstitutional acts are responsible for damage caused by the exposure thereof, not the persons who expose those acts;
    3. No publisher can be responsible for limiting risks of exposing unconstitutional acts;
    4. Exposure of unconstitutional acts is a public duty, not the concealment thereof;
    5. The operations were secret, so risks could not be determined by publishers, nor could secret agencies engaged in unconstitutional acts be presumed to act properly as editors.

    • Sam F
      February 25, 2020 at 20:02

      Also note that unlawful conflicts of interest of the chief judge supervising the judge in Assange’s case have emerged, including ties of herself and her husband to organizations and operations strongly opposed to Assange and exposed by Wikileaks:
      globalresearch -dot- ca/chief-magistrate-assange-case-received-financial-benefits-secretive-partner-organisations-uk-foreign-office/5704665

  5. dean 1000
    February 25, 2020 at 19:16

    Good link to Robert Gates. Puts the issue in the proper perspective. One reason it was ( and still is ) only embarrassing is that Assange, Wikileaks, and the corporate media were careful in what they actually published. They will get no credit. Assange certainly won’t.

  6. hetro
    February 25, 2020 at 15:49

    “The U.S. is aware of sources, whose unredacted names and other identifying information were contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks.”

    Ray, I believe this smearing tactic is known as “the false sponsor” in the intelligence community? Essentially a blame-shifting tactic.

    Daniel Lazarre in another source today begins with this accusation up and calls it very serious, if true. Yes, but it isn’t true. What is needed here is the reminder that Julian spent hours redacting the documents so that precisely this kind of risk would NOT happen.

    The case against Assange is proceeding from guilt by association via consistent smearing and double-talk–as with this quote.

    The smear is an automatic red flag that the case is cooked from the get-go.

    • OlyaPola
      February 27, 2020 at 04:59

      ” the case is cooked”

      You have to be very careful when cooking.

      If you over-cook the dish comes inedible; if you under-cook you get food poisoning.

  7. Skip Edwards
    February 25, 2020 at 15:46

    As a former member of the USAF, Capt and pilot, I can only add my feelings of shame at the actions of the officials of my country’s government. These and so many other actions by these and so many other officials are clearly war crimes and must be prosecuted as such if we are ever to have any respect in the world. Let the trials commence!

  8. Joanne Lukacher
    February 25, 2020 at 14:35

    Has anyone assessed the damage to US assets resulting from the outing of undercover agent Valerie Plame by Dick Cheney and members of the Bush administration in an act of political spite unrelated to any journalistic intent.

  9. Joanne Lukacher
    February 25, 2020 at 14:18

    Has anyone assessed the damage to US “assets” resulting from the outing of undercover agent Valerie Plame by Dick Cheney & members of the Bush administration , an act of pure political spite with no journalistic importance.

  10. John Pretty
    February 25, 2020 at 13:32

    Thank you, Ray. While I don’t want to let Blair off the hook here, I would strongly challenge your assertion that this is a hearing aimed at:

    “extraditing WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to a U.S. prison for publishing the truth about U.S. and UK war crimes”

    “Collateral murder” was highlighting a US war crime, not a British one.

    This revolting war crime was entirely the doing of the United States.

    And Julian is not on trial in the UK. He has not been charged with any crime in the UK – other than a bail violation which he has now served.

    That this matter is political is plain. The question is whether the British government – who kidnapped Julian from the Ecuadorian Embassy last year – will get away with it. The kidnap was organised by Tory government minister Alan Duncan who has labelled Julian a “miserable little worm”.

    Currently the judiciary of the UK is free from political interference. At least in theory. There are no political appointees to the Supreme Court of the UK as in the United States.

    The UK Supreme Court arguably overstepped their authority in punishing the Prime Minister last summer for extending Parliamentary recess, but at least it demonstrates that they are not completely beholden to the British government.

    (And by the way, the Queen had to approve the recess: as a constitutional monarch she had no authority to deny the prime Minister of the UK his request).

    I think it’s also important to recognise that the UK and US have very different systems of governance. In my opinion “the state” is less important in the UK than in the US. The government of the UK has complete control over matters of state.

  11. Uncle Bob
    February 25, 2020 at 12:29

    That Lt.Col. Carafano is a silver tongued used car salesman..despicable

  12. Antiwar7
    February 25, 2020 at 12:00

    It’s now “1984”. Our “leaders” are totally evil, and totally shameless in their lies.

    Obviously, Assange is being persecuted (not just prosecuted) for telling the truth about government crimes. That’s his “crime”.

  13. robert e williamson jr
    February 25, 2020 at 11:55

    A couple of things.

    In the past I have watched this video three times, the first I didn’t catch all of it so I went back for seconds.

    Anyone who watches this video needs to remember a couple of things, one is that the victims here were clearly trying to rescue injured individuals. This is something that even U.S. troops do in the heat of battle. Sometimes even if the wounded have been engaging them in a fire fight. The next is the fact that the crew of this aircraft where in no way threatened by the activity shown here on the ground.

    Then there is the audio and what sounds like the crew is being admonished for not firing on the group sooner. Clearly threatening the crew that they best do what they are told.

    The third viewing was me trying to find some reason why this deaths were necessary. The whole time I’m getting this burning in the pit of my stomach telling me this is very wrong. Then it came to me, shades of Vietnam videos showing the indiscriminate shooting from helicopters at low altitude laying waste to the country side. The dreaded free fire ZONE!

    My stomach was telling me the U.S. had surely forgotten any lessons from Vietnam. How long has this been going on now? Seems we forgot that lesson also.

    So what to do what to do???? Striking out at the messenger, to make him pay in spades, are the actions of a bulling! No more no less.

    What we should be doing is using Assange to cap this Dogdamned madness. For example use him and his data to determine finally once and for all, say just for instance, that the DNC emails were downloaded not hacked. Or maybe outing a lying 41 definitively. It is not too late to try him for war crimes.

    Instead the lies linger on like a spreading cancer. I’ll watch this again because I already know that the guy who owns that voice telling the crew to “hurry up and shoot”, well, he needs to change places with Chelsea and Julian.

    These are examples two wrongs and there is nothing right to be gained here unless Chelsea and Julian walk free and those involved in the murders here and that of Seth Rich, end up with a date with lady justice. Since 41 started this shit storm I’m thinking he needs to be brought out of his cushy retirement and have his date with lady justice also.

    You see what started out as felony lying, that would be 43 standing up on prime time TV and lying through his dogdamned teeth about weapons of mass destruction has turned into a very large , very dangerous monster, one that easily equals all the ludicrous actions and lies the current”Liar in Chief”, is personally responsible for.

    All this perpetuated greatly by the liar from Crawford Texas , racist hate of Obama never tamped down by the MSM and a democratic party that entirely missed the boat on the entire fiasco.

    Garbage in garbage out. War crimes committed because of a total lack of responsible leadership.

    I did watch the Panorama video though. Those comments about the “parents of these children bringing them into a battle zone” are echoing in my ears.

    Who ever this subhuman mongrel is needs to be reminded that the U.S., based on vicious despicable lies brought the battle field to them and the actions taken here are the epitome of unprofessional criminal conduct of the most deadly nature. A war crime.

    FREE THEM ALL FOR THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU ( ALL ) FREE Seems CIA has forgotten their motto!

    Thanks Ray and CN

    • Curious
      February 29, 2020 at 00:21

      As you said it is “Goddamn madness”
      These new recruits are not raised to question an order, much less read about whether or not a false order can be questioned. I wonder if this aspect of the Nuremberg trials has been deleted for new recruits. I wonder if the Geneva Convention is even taught to these blood thirsty US forces.
      But quickly in response to your post, the technology is there where the voices of all participants in this war crime can be identified.Get a FIOA. If the US fights FOIA in this video I’m sure constant application may open it up.
      Today, we can find out who was on duty that day, who was flying the choppers of destruction, and let’s go further and do voice analysis of all the participants. We can find who said “shoot” even to the point of the person who said, when seeing the hole in the widow shield of the van and said “good shot” while children were inside, his voice has an ID and we can find him along with all the others.
      I suggest we do this as a citizens community: get voice ID on all the individuals involved and put them on trial. An FOIA may give the names stationed during this war crime, but we have to take it further and use voice I’d to name all the participants. This can be done, and I’m sure these junior warrior ‘hereos’ would sweat the day.
      We have time. The voices/humans (I use the word loosely) of the US can be identified and prosecuted. they may be sweating this aspect of technology, but they deserve prison time or worse.
      Of course it’s confidential security info…… BS

    • Curious
      February 29, 2020 at 03:57

      Thank you for both your posts. I couldn’t agree more with many of your points.
      Ray, we can make an apology of the trigger happy cops we have in the States (recently an undercover in Costco who was pushed in the food line) and their Union mostly protects them. Can we break through at all the morass of the soldiers, pilots and the like who are killing indiscriminately in our name?
      And yes, lets have a new Nuremberg and put Bush, Cheney. Wolfowitz in the dock. Let’s do it now!
      Any ides Ray?

  14. February 25, 2020 at 11:43

    Any US citizen watching these videos – who retains any measure of compassion or moral awareness – must necessarily feel her or his heart break and all the more for knowing these crimes were committed in our names. I can never watch these without sobbing. These videos document the greatest evil. Even as Iraqi civilians rush to help the wounded they too are gunned down. The US servicemen laughing in these videos have lost their humanity: this too is part of the moral injury (and evil) of war and US imperialism. Assange, to my mind very much like Jesus though I am not Christian, is being prosecuted and persecuted for one thing only: exposing this evil; exposing the crimes of empire.

  15. saurabh
    February 25, 2020 at 09:52

    The charge is frequently made that Assange was criminally negligent, or even malicious and evil, in publishing unredacted names from the cable archive, and rarely is a correction offered (as Ray fails to make one here).

    In fact this is the literal opposite of the truth: Wikileaks was forced to release the full data to mitigate damage done by the ill-advised (possibly malicious) publication of the password to the encrypted archive by a Guardian reporter. See: wikileaks.org/Guardian-journalist-negligently.html

  16. Lily
    February 25, 2020 at 08:20

    Both videos should be seen by all Americans and by the English Judges during the hearing at the Crown Court. The driver of the van who stops his car to help the wounded Reuter’s journalist (although he has two children with him) as well as the compassionate soldier who tries to rescue the two children are heroes. Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange are heroes and should be free. They all should be honoured.

    As it is pointed out here: even in war there always have been rules. Civilians are not attacked but protected and the wounded are to be helped at all costs. The American Empire has changed all that. Now telling the truth is a crime, compassion is punished and laughing murderers are protected.

    Thank you Ray McGovern for your great article. These videos can’t be shown too often.

    Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, you have been so very courageous. What you did will never be forgotten. It thoroughly changed many people’s opinion and helps them to become conscious about what the United States really are.

    May you be free soon!

  17. Nathan Mulcahy
    February 25, 2020 at 08:19

    Secret sources say that lives were put in danger by Assange vs. public evidence shows that the party that claims secret sources committed verifiable war crimes. Which side will the British justice system believe? Of course the first one, and that will be just fine with the “free” western world.

    The Western value system that underlies the Western Civilization has long been crumbling. The Wester Civilization, which in the grand scheme of things is a rather recent and short phenomenon, is well on its journey to irrelevance.

  18. Bob Van Noy
    February 25, 2020 at 07:46

    “Every American should watch this video to get some sense of the kind of war crimes WikiLeaks exposed — accurately, with original footage — and to understand why Establishment Washington got so angry at Assange and remains hell bent on making an example of him.” Ray Mc Govern

    Absolutely right Ray. I think this is the first time Consortiumnews has made this video so readily accessible without a link. I applaud CN and of course you Ray for your hard work…

    If you’re not inclined to watch this, watch it anyway. This is the criminal behavior right here.!

  19. OlyaPola
    February 25, 2020 at 05:38

    ” What could possibly go wrong?”

    The rule of man is often wrapped in the “rule of law”.

    This charade, particularly in regard to reliance upon precedent, is of significant utility in underpinning present social relations

    Courts, judges, barristers and politicians are aware of some utilities of the conflation : myopia in regard to the conflation generally being restricted to solicitors, juries, witnesses and the accused.

    Another notion is that the “law needs to be seen to be done.” : recognition of the need and utilities of spectacle.

    Consequently there is a requirement of gradations of courts in England (since as component, the integration of Scots law tending toward conflation was deemed to be of increasing significance in maintaining the “United Kingdom”), and the higher courts tend to assign more significance to “political matters” and possible blowback over time – for example in the case of Mr. Casement where vindictiveness overcame “reason” to the detriment of “The British Empire”.

    Consequently there are many opportunities to be afforded of slip between cup and lip.

  20. Eugenie Basile
    February 25, 2020 at 03:13

    The most heartbreaking moment of the video is at the end when the U.S. soldiers discover there are two dying children in the destroyed minibus. They ask their command to save them but are ordered to put them back in the wreckage as Iraqi children are not a U.S. responsibility.
    A clear example of Albright words that the deaths of 500.000 children in Iraq ‘ the price was worth it ‘

    So who is to be punished for these inhuman deeds ? Surely not Assange !

    • Richard Coleman
      February 25, 2020 at 17:42

      You’re goddam right Assange!

  21. Casey VanSise
    February 25, 2020 at 01:46

    “Lemon was right about one thing: ‘That will have to be the last word.’ Indeed, I have not been invited onto CNN since.”

    Actually, CNN did feature at least one other segment with Ray McGovern (alongside Thomas Drake) in 2013, after they bestowed Edward Snowden with the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence:

    see: youtu.be/hLJF6HkZdyM

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