Consortium News is virtually “inside” the courtroom at Old Bailey, viewing the proceedings by video-link and has filed this report on Day Fourteen of Julian Assange’s resumed extradition hearing.
Baraitser Grants Defense 4 Weeks to
Prepare Final Argument, Citing Election
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
5:49 am EDT: Judge Vanessa Baraitser has granted the defense four weeks to prepare its closing argument, saying that her decision would come after the Nov. 4 U.S. election one way or the other. She had been previously reluctant to give more than a week to the defense.
Baraitser set the date of final arguments for Nov. 16. Fitzgerald had told the judge that:
“It seems unlikely for you to make a judgement before Nov. 3 and you would have to bear in mind that the future is uncertain. Much of what we say about Trump is because this proceeding was initiated by Trump,….and some elements of the case would be worse if Trump were there [re-elected].”
Baraitser had raised the issue of the election and how it might impact the hearing. She said: “That’s one of the factors going into my decision.”
“I agree that one way or the other my decision will come after an election in the United States. For that reason I find no reason not to give you the four weeks,” she said.
Baraitser said she could not yet set a judgement day. “That means for your client there will be no decision until the new year, if he appreciates that.”
Reacting to her decision, Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: “District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has acknowledged what has been clear since even before the first indictment against Julian Assange was unsealed — that this is a politically motivated prosecution.”
5:28 am EDT: Defense attorney Mark Summers asked Judge Vanessa Baraitser to give defense witness Patrick Eller, chief executive of Metadata Forensics, an hour to read a prosecution bundle of statements sent to the defense at 11:30 pm on Thursday night.
Summers said that Eller’s written testimony was submitted nine months ago. Summers said it has two propositions: “that the alleged passcode hash conspiracy was impossible, but even if it were possible, it had no utility to what is attributed to it.”
The U.S. government has charged Assange with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion with Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks’ source.
Summers said that U.S. Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg replied in his affidavit initially only to Eller’s first proposition, and only late at night on Thursday to the second.
Summers appealed for an hour for Eller to read the prosecution’s last minute submissions and Baraitser granted it.
Eller is described on his LinkedIn page as a digital forensic examiner, expert witness, principal consultant, adjunct professor, disabled veteran and retired special agent.
Baraitser Refuses New Defense
Witness to Challenge Kromberg
8:00 am EDT: Baraitser has refused two defense witness statements that Fitzgerald proposed as providing “the other side of the coin” to Kromberg’s affidavit regarding the condition of U.S. prisons, specifically the Alexandria Detention Center, where Assange would be held pre-trial and during the trial, as well as ADX Florence in Colorado where he would likely go if convicted. Kromberg, who maintains there’s no solitary confinement at the ADC, has refused to make himself available for cross examination.
“We have no right to cross examine Kromberg, who can say what ever wants and we have no right to challenge him,” Fitzgerald told Baraitser. “They have no divine right to have the last word.” Fitzgerald had proposed as his witnesses a former chief psychiatrist at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and a forensic psychiatrist who has made many visits to ADX.
Baraitser ruled against in the interests of time, she said. She said enough countervailing testimony from defense psychiatrists about U.S. prions had been heard.
Dispute Over Attempt to Crack a Password
10:28 am EDT: Testimony with Patrick Eller was highly complex and inaccessible to the less than computer literate. The essence of the debate between the sides appeared to be whether Chelsea Manning needed a password to access classified material and to download music videos.
Eller testified that from the Manning court-martial that she did not need a password to gain access to classified data. But using a local computer she would need a password to download music videos and computer games.
Eller said Manning wouldn’t have had to use a password to remove classified files from a government computer to her own and send them to WikiLeaks because she used a Linux CD to boot her computer, permitting her to bypass Windows security features.
Lewis on cross examination tried to demonstrate that Assange could help Manning crack the password because of a vulnerability that Microsoft discovered. Lewis was leaving the impression, contrary to what Eller had testified, that the password had to be cracked to obtain the classified documents. But the indictment against Assange stated clearly that Manning had legal access to all classified matter up to Secret.
Eller came back at Lewis explaining that on the same day Microsoft released a patch that fixed the vulnerability and made it “infeasible” to hack a password. Stunned, Lewis said that Assange has “boasted” that he was an expert hacker and could crack the password despite the patch. Eller said it was possible, but withdrew that statement on re-direct.
At one point Lewis asked Eller how he knew for sure, having not seen the government’s evidence, that Assange had not helped Manning crack the hash passcode.
“I understand you said in examination that as a fact the password had not been cracked. How do you know that?” Lewis said.
“Based on the conversation [on jabber between Assange and Manning] I found no evidence,” Eller said.
But the indictment against Assange itself says the Manning and Assange failed to crack the password.
The U.S. extradition request also makes clear that “prior to the formation of the password-cracking agreement, Manning had already provided WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of documents classified up to the SECRET level that she downloaded from departments and agencies of the United States, including the Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports and Iraq war-related significant activity reports.”
It’s not clear how much of the dense, technical detail Baraitser was able to understand, especially as Summers failed to lay out in laymen’s terms what he was trying to establish.
During the first week of the hearing in February, the defense clearly stated that Assange was trying to help Manning crack a password so that she could hide her identity when downloading unauthorized music and video games, a point that Summers did not clearly make on Friday.
10:21 am EDT: Court has recessed early for the day. The hearing resumes on Monday.
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No More War
I thought I once read there was a conflict of interest with Judge Vanessa Baraitser overseeing this case, due to the fact that her husband was exposed in potentially illegal behavior from one of Wikileaks publications. Can anyone confirm/disprove this? Sources included? I’m finding it difficult to find any information on this particular accusation. I am very curious if that was legitimate information. And if so, it’s astounding she would be unwilling to step down. Whether or not that is true or not, I think it’s very telling that she is going to be waiting until AFTER the U.S. elections to pass a judgement. Can’t afford to have a repeat of 2016, right? There can be no doubt this is a political prosecution, which would mean Assange’s extradition is prohibited by the current U.K. / U.S. agreement. Very troubling.
The conflict of interest is with Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the chief magistrate overseeing Baraitser.
Although it’s clear to everyone, including Baraitser, that this is a political trial, and that Assange should not be extradited based on the political exclusion language of the treaty, I am not encouraged by Baraitser postponing closing arguments. In my opinion, the most devastating testimony so far against the U.S. case was given in the written testimony of Cassandra Fairbanks and Jennifer Robinson. Trump needed a trusted source (Wikileaks) to publicly deny that Russia was responsible for the DNC leaks, thereby casting doubt on the whole Russiagate fable. When Assange refused, Trump did what he always does when he doesn’t get his own way–he vowed vengeance on the individual who foiled his plans. It would have been too obvious if the DOJ went after Wikileaks for the DNC leak, so they resurrected the old Chelsea Manning leaks. The DOJ mistakenly thought Manning would be the weak link that would allow it to successfully pursue Assange; but Chelsea’s courage and moral core proved too much for them. Unfortunately, that hasn’t proved to be the end of it. Baraitser knows all this. She has heard the evidence that makes it clear Donald Trump has dared to go where no other President cared to go regarding Wikileaks.
Baraitser, in my opinion, is gambling that Trump will not be re-elected. If Trump is not re-elected, she can simply say that she is extraditing Assange because the political aspects are no longer relevant. Of course, that isn’t true, but she needs an excuse not to see herself as evil for playing along with the UK government.
Baraister in fact admitted that this is a politically motivated case if she takes the date and outcome of the US elections into account.
I wonder if there has been any opinion poll as to whether Julian Assange should be pardoned in the US? If the majority feels he should be, I wonder if Trump would offer a pardon to up his chance of reelection? He flip-flops more than a fish out of water. Either candidate would be going against the Deep State if they offered a pardon, and both have plenty of dirty laundry that is at risk of discovery. If Assange is convicted it is the absolute end of honest journalism. All that will be left is “Mockingbird” stenographers.
Thanks, for being a “court reporter” , as we are, anxiously, waiting for news about Julian, and I will contribute.
The case thus far shows no grounds to summarily turn a foreign national over to the US where many high ranking officials have suggested the person should be done away with. The person in question is responsible for enabling a soldier to honour Principle 7 of the Nuremberg Principles, holding: no soldier should collude to keep military atrocities secret. That was the whole lesson of WW2. If the UK colludes to make this principle null and void they have effectively changed sides in the WW2 conflict.
The world’s civil society groups urgently have to begin discussion on filing a Writ of Mandamus to get the facts concerning the context of this dispute fully understood by all of Britain. The Courts need to be served with a Writ that explicitly states how their involvement with this needless court action is only serving to advance the idea that soldiers do not have a duty to make atrocities in war public domain. This is a disgraceful and anti-UDHR position.
Judge Bersitser should not take orders from Washington