WATCH: The Assange Case & Western Political Repression

The case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in the context of political repression in the West, as well as the medical angle on the U.S. appeal against a British court’s ruling against Assange’s extradition and more was discussed on Tuesday morning. Watch the replay. Produced by Politics in the Pub, Sydney.

In light of the announcement that the Biden administration will appeal the UK’s refusal to extradite on medical grounds, join us for a vital discussion about Julian Assange’s health, and also about the reasons for a possible cross-appeal by the defence on other aspects of the Jan. 4 judgement not to extradite Assange on medical grounds. According to the defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald, both scenarios are possible in the High Court.

Prosecutor Clair Dobbin began her preview of the upcoming appeal by saying to Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Assange’s bail hearing: “Your judgement hangs by a single thread” – a presumption that the accused would commit suicide in a U.S. prison. The judge’s decision was largely influenced by the expert defence testimonies of the neuropsychiatrist Prof. Michael Kopelman & Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) expert Maureen Baird.

What made the thread so slim was Baraitser’s other presumptions – that the words of Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg in the Eastern District of Virginia, and those of Guardian journalists could be accepted as fact; that computer forensic evidence, such as delivered by Patrick Eller and Christian Grothoff, could be disregarded; and that the First Amendment & Article 10 of the ECHR could be crushed by establishing dual criminality between the Espionage and Official Secrets Acts.

Two psychiatrists from Doctors for Assange will address what we know of the prosecution’s intended line of appeal – as outlined by prosecutor Dobbin at the bail hearing on Jan 6. Before being hushed by Baraitser, Dobbin delivered some important information about the U.S. appeal strategy.
The other panelists will discuss political repression and the Baraitser ruling in terms of press freedom in the UK and U.S. Should a cross-appeal happen, Joe Lauria, Flick Ruby, Scott Ludlam and Nigel Parry will have briefed us on what’s at stake and how it could play out.
(Australian Eastern Standard Time)
6pm – 6.10  Felicity Ruby- The Big Picture Intro
6.10 – 6.25  Scott Ludlam- Repression, Miserable Failures and Strong Resistance? (for example)
6.25 – 6.40  Doctors for Assange – Professors Thomas G. Schulze & William Hogan together on Assange’s health / the 4th test in Turner and possibly, on why the judgement was right.
6.40 – 6.55  Joe Lauria – Eye-witness account of the case. Possibly a surprising history of the Official Secrets and Espionage Acts.
6.55 – 7.10  Nigel Parry – Insider story of the un-redacted cables by the first journalist to decrypt them – and alert WikiLeaks. Parry’s investigations and comms with the media partners. The damage control call between WikiLeaks and the DoJ, which Parry wrote about in 2011. He may speak about his own activities. He co-founded the Electronic Intifada and has been working in other areas. Nigel will speak of the impact Assange’s work – and his persecution – has had on journalism.
7.10 – 7.20  Free discussion between panelists
7.20 – 7.30  Q&A – 3-4 questions from Politics in the Pub live audience, and from YouTube live chat 

Panel Bios

Felicity Ruby (Ed.), who will chair the discussion, is an author and co-editor of the recently released book A Secret Australia, on WikiLeaks revelations about Australia. She is a PhD candidate at Sydney University undertaking research on surveillance and democracy. Felicity was advisor to Scott Ludlam for his first six years in the Australian Senate. Prior to this she headed the UN Office for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and was a policy adviser at the UN Development Fund for Women and at Greenpeace International.

Scott Ludlam is a former Australian politician and also an author of A Secret Australia, where he talks specifically about repression. A member of the Australian Greens, Scott served in the Australian Senate from July 2008 to July 2017, and as Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens from 2015 to 2017. In his capacity as Communications spokesperson for the Greens, he campaigned for the right of WikiLeaks to publish without fear of reprisal.

Joe Lauria is the editor-in-chief of Consortium News, and a former correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal. He reported on the Assange case daily from London in February & and from the virtual courtroom in September & January. Joe is currently writing a comparative history of the Espionage & Official Secrets Acts.

Nigel Parry: Journalist who covered the lead-up to the release of the un-redacted cables and was actually the first person to decrypt them and warn WikiLeaks. His account at the time tallies with computer scientist Christian Grothoff’s expert testimony, but it tells us more about who made the release possible – and it wasn’t Assange. Parry will also comment on the recently released call between WikiLeaks and the DoJ (in the interest of preventing or delaying that release) and the implications the Assange case has for press freedom.

Doctors for Assange will be represented by Professor Thomas G. Schulze and Professor William Hogan.

Professor Thomas G. Schulze is Chair and Director of the Institute of Psychiatric Phenomics and Genomics ( at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (IPPG). He is a research affiliate with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, MD, and on Faculty with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. In 2019, he also joined the Faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences of SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA, where he holds an appointment as Clinical Professor.

Professor William Hogan, MD is Professor of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Florida. He is first author on Doctors For Assange’s second letter to the Lancet, published online on the eve of International Victims of Torture Day and in print on the 4th of July. 

Joe Lauria’s prepared remarks:

There is nothing unique about political repression. It has existed in every society and from the beginning of civilization. When an illiterate population looked on the monuments of ancient societies, they knew who was in charge and what their place was. Since literacy grew and new forms of communications evolved, the elite has tried to control the press, the cinema, and now online media. Always brute police and military forced backed up the Noble Lie of each society, the Lie Plato explained as useful for elites to manage a population.

What’s somewhat unique in the West is how its public, especially in the United States, has been led to believe that political repression, and repression of speech only happens in non-Western adversaries: in the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc, in Middle Eastern regimes unfriendly to the West, (we’ve seen how KSA is repeatedly given a pass) in today’s Iran, China and Russia.

While of course there was and is repression in all those countries, Western leaders and their allies in the media point to them to distract from homegrown repression. Citizens in the Soviet bloc at least knew they were being repressed. This can be attributed to elaborate and more developed orthodoxy that is imposed through Western media on its people.

The lie is that America is spreading democracy around the world, not havoc in pursuit of its geo-strategic and economic objectives. It amounts to a coverup in Western society of the crimes committed in that pursuit. And here comes Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to rip the cover off those lies of omission, to end the secrecy that protects the powerful. Is there any wonder they have been out to get him since 2010? Western publics are uncomfortable with these truths, having been trained to believe that there has been no repression at home or suppression of what their governments do abroad. It’s one reason why Western publics have trouble understanding and supporting Assange.

Amongst the tools of Western repression have been the use of espionage laws in the United States, Britain, Australia, and other Western nations. They have not been construed only to punish classic espionage, spying for a foreign nation, but to repress free speech I’ve been working on a piece showing how changes over a century to the Official Secrets Act and the Espionage Act have worked to ensnare Assange, the first journalist to ever be charged with espionage for merely publishing accurate information, information that has exposed the misdeeds of the elite.

It is not a misuse of these statutes. They have been designed to do this. And Vanessa Baraitser, in her decision not to extradite Assange on medical grounds aligned herself with the repressive nature of these espionage laws. Democratic members of the House have proposed a change to the EA to carve out an exception for journalists. Otherwise 793(e) and (g), added in 1950, would have to be challenged on First Amendment grounds.

That section was added in the McCarran Act that was vetoed by President Harry Truman. Had his veto not been overturned, Assange might not have been charged under the EA. A 1961 Amendment gave it universal jurisdiction. The 1989 OSA removed the public interest defense, which was never in the EA, and Sec. 5 allowed for the prosecution of newspapers and journalists, bringing it in line with the EA, and landing Assange in the mess he’s in.