Desperate to Get Assange, US Promises No SAMS & Prison Time in Australia

To fight its appeal, the U.S. is now promising not to put Julian Assange in Special Administrative Measures isolation and to allow him to be imprisoned in Australia if convicted.

Julian Assange outside British Supreme Court, 2011. (acidpolly/Flickr)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Seeking to overturn a judgement against extraditing WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, the United States has told the High Court in London that it would not put Assange in harsh isolation measures in the U.S. and that if convicted he could serve his sentence in his native Australia.

A district judge in Magistrate’s Court on Jan. 4 ruled against sending Assange to the U.S. because his mental condition put him at serious risk of suicide if he were kept in isolation in an American prison. The High Court Wednesday allowed the U.S. a limited appeal of that decision only on the issue of U.S. prison conditions and not on Assange’s mental health.

In its submission through its British prosecutors to the High Court, rather than argue its prisons were not unusually harsh, the U.S. Department of Justice promised not to put Assange in Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) while in the U.S. and that if convicted, he could serve his sentence in an Australian prison, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing excerpts provided by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The U.S. appeared to understand that it could make no argument in court that its prison system is not inhumane. In granting leave to appeal, the High Court apparently found some merit in these U.S.  promises.

The U.S. has a history of broken promises in such cases. For example, in the September 2020 Assange extradition hearing, lawyer Lindsay A. Lewis testified that the UK had imposed this condition for humanitarian reasons on Abu Hamza, a prisoner who had lost both hands, but once on U.S. soil, Hamza was placed in isolation.

Assange faces 175 years in prison on 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act and one charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the course of his work publishing U.S. state secrets that revealed prima facie evidence of war crimes and corruption. 

SAMS are conditions of detention that severely prevents a prisoner from having direct human contact, even with his or her attorneys. It limits a prisoner to one telephone call per month. Communications with an attorney through an opening in a wall can be monitored by the prison.

The U.S. filed its appeal of the Jan. 4 judgement on the last two days of Donald Trump’s presidency and the Biden administration has decided to continue to pursue the appeal.

“The U.S. has given the U.K. a package of assurances that Mr. Assange won’t be held at ADX, a maximum-security federal penitentiary in Colorado, or subjected to extra security measures, according to the excerpts of the ruling, potentially removing a key impediment to his potential extradition,” the Journal reported.

Defense expert witnesses testified in Assange’s extradition hearing last September about the harsh conditions at ADX as well as in isolation at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, where Assange would be held during his trial.

The gambit to promise Assange would not face extreme prison conditions in the U.S., and that he could serve his time in a less inhumane prison in Australia, underscores Washington’s desperation to have Assange sent to the United States. 

U.S. Department of Justice headquarters in Washington. (CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Journal reported that it was a break with usual policy, which would be to offer to send Assange to Australia after conviction rather than before a trial had even begun. In its submission to the High Court, the U.S. said it still reserved the right to put Assange in a super-max prison under special measures if “he were to do something subsequent to the offering of these assurances.”

A defense witness who worked in the U.S. government helping to determine where a prisoner was sent said that the Central Intelligence Agency would have a hand in that decision. 

Though District Judge Vanessa Baraitser on Jan. 4 said she was discharging Assange, she then denied him bail and threw him back into Belmarsh Prison where he has languished since April 2019. He will remain there until the appeal is heard. No date for an appeal hearing has yet been set.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe  


26 comments for “Desperate to Get Assange, US Promises No SAMS & Prison Time in Australia

  1. Jeff Harrison
    July 9, 2021 at 11:20

    I wouldn’t believe a word the US government says.

  2. Robert Zibulsky
    July 9, 2021 at 05:34

    National security is the wall behind which criminal activity is hidden- “legally”. Thus are the “crimes” of Julian Assange.

  3. July 9, 2021 at 00:10


  4. Captain Colin Smith
    July 8, 2021 at 20:20

    Do not under any circumstances send Julian to the USA. America has never kept it’s word and certainly won’t do so this time. They want to sink their teeth into Julian so badly they are dribbling with hatred. Even sending him to Australia, especially under the conditions cited, would result in him being sent to the USA. Both US and Australian governments are extremely reactionary, and care nothing for international law. The only safe result is for him to be released in the UK and allowed to stay there. Gambling on the integrity of the Australian and US governments is a losing proposition.

  5. Mary Jean Naylor
    July 8, 2021 at 18:16

    The United States justice system is in great need of reform. A good book on the subject is Chris Daw QC Justice on Trial. It is truly shameful that an acclaimed journalist and freedom warrior such as Julian Assange is in prison at all. They should release him at once!

  6. Beverly
    July 8, 2021 at 16:18

    This is laughable. Everyone knows that the U.S. is “non-agreement capable. They promise one thing and then do the opposite. U.S. history is full of these miserable deceptions, from agreements with Native Americans to the Afghan pullout, lies and deception upon lies and deception. Moreover, if the U.S. does not want Julian Assange in its appalling third world prisons, but rather send him to Australia for prison, then why not have him tried in Australia?

  7. Ole
    July 8, 2021 at 14:47

    I only have one thing to say: Free Julian Assange

  8. evelync
    July 8, 2021 at 14:10

    this is a shoddy and sleazy way to persuade their crony – the British Court system – to let them get away with this unconstitutional attack on a publisher/journalist for exposing embarrassing criminal wrongdoing
    a shameless manipulation of the “justice” system to double down on a sordid plot to silence the truth to keep it from the eyes of the public which pays the cost in lives and treasure and reputation and a well functioning economy, infrastructure, healthcare and the rest – and btw a domestic policy and foreign policy that serve the wealthy and powerful by way of corrupted institutions and lies .

    Americans, sadly, fed lies about catastrophic criminal wars for profit serving the financial interests of the MICIMATT, including Big Oil, too big to fail banks et al at the expense of the general interest here at home) have been duped into acquiescence while sons and daughters die, suffer trauma and kill/maim/destroy – and for what

    Julian, as he has written, believes/hopes/sacrifies as many of us do that the truth would help us demand wise leaders and wise policies that are sustainable and stabilizing

    When fear mongering, based on lies is used to advance subversive policies that are not in the public best interest only the truth will open our eyes and give us a chance to work together to shift course to avoid nuclear war and climate stabilization and achieve a fair country for all

    until this government has a day of reckoning with the depths of their wrongdoing things will continue to go downhill

    recovery could start now with the withdrawal of the witch hunt on Assange

    martyring Assange continues to cost the government a basic public trust

  9. Rob
    July 8, 2021 at 13:02

    What a godawful sham of legal justice this entire process is and has been from the start. Given that England is the U.S.’s poodle, I expect it to obey whatever commands it receives.

  10. John Smith
    July 8, 2021 at 11:18

    There has never been another criminal organization as transparently corrupt as the U.S. government. Its proposal is bullshit and the answer is “NO.”

  11. Em
    July 8, 2021 at 10:39

    NEWS FLASH!!!!!!
    Warning: With apologies to those who may be sensitive, some of the following imagery may be disturbing.
    If Julian Assange, a person who has performed one of the greatest services to ‘freeing’ humanity from perpetual bondage, is permitted by historical British oligarchic infamy, to be extradited to the US, the only way he will ever make it to Australia is in a box, wrapped, for emphasis, addressed to the Australian government, in an Australian flag!
    If it is good enough for the US “to allow (Julian Assange) to be imprisoned in Australia, IF convicted, why is it not good enough to send him directly home to Australia to be tried?
    Answer: Because no other sane country would be that audacious to expose itself to further global ridicule, without even the blink of an eye; especially Australia!
    “This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.
    Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.”
    Hannah Arendt

  12. John Puma
    July 8, 2021 at 09:06

    Let the US court convene in the UK. All aforementioned US “promises” are steaming, patent BS. If Assange goes to the US, whether there follows conviction or not, only his corpse will go to Australia … if the US ghouls deign to release it.

  13. Larry McGovern
    July 8, 2021 at 08:45

    …if “he were to do something subsequent to the offering of these assurances.” What masterful, precise and clear legal writing!! Did the government lawyer authoring this even pass 1L Legal Writing course?!

    Two questions that perhaps the always perceptive and illuminating Alexander Mercouris can address. The first has to do with the proceedings in London. Since the whole basis of the indictment upon which the extradition case exists has now shown to be a sham with the suborned perjury of the key witness, isn’t there something in the British system which would allow Julian’s lawyers to appeal and have the case thrown out?
    Secondly, and I guess more fundamentally, why have I not heard that Julian’s lawyers have brought a proceeding in the American court where the indictment was issued to have the indictment thrown out?

    • robert scheetz
      July 8, 2021 at 13:30

      Good point. Where is the ACLU, the famous well-bred spaniel guarding our civil rights? Another scoundrel time?

  14. Tom Partridge
    July 8, 2021 at 05:16

    The U.S. said it still reserved the right to put Assange in a super-max prison under special measures if “he were to do something subsequent to the offering of these assurances.”
    If Julian is extradited to the U.S. there is no doubt that he will be convicted and that they will find “something” to ensure he is held in a super-max prison. This is a political trial and the outcome is predetermined. There are no ifs and buts about the eventual outcome. What’s on trial now is the U.K. and U.S. judicial systems.

    • Annie McStravick
      July 8, 2021 at 11:04

      Yes, of course. Any “assurances” by Washington are meaningless.

  15. Cascadian
    July 8, 2021 at 04:40

    The problem is that even if he is released he will desperately need to find a safe haven – They will just revert to methods of termination as They have done in other instances.

  16. Bruce
    July 8, 2021 at 03:39

    Is this a predictable but unacceptable outcome? Was the UK ruling against Julian’s extradition to the USA on the grounds of the harsh prison conditions there, instead of the most important parts of his defense on protecting journalism, done deliberately and cynically to allow the US to make these “promises” in its Appeal?

  17. Michael Keenan
    July 8, 2021 at 01:51

    Promising not to SAMs when that is what he is under now? What a farce.

      July 8, 2021 at 08:34

      He is not under an equivalent of SAMS in Belmarsh, harsh as those conditions are.

  18. KBB
    July 8, 2021 at 01:07

    The U.S. should drop all charges against Julian Assange, and allow him entrance into the U.S. in exchange for his full testimony on Seth Rich and how he, Assange, got the WikiLeaks emails he published in 2016.

  19. Ian
    July 8, 2021 at 00:23

    Chances are very high that the US is lying in their assurances, but the proposal itself is crazy:

    Assange, an Australian, is imprisoned indefinitely in the UK to be extradited and tried in the US, and supposedly imprisoned in a third country, Australia, for lawful acts committed in Sweden and Iceland, that are also protected under the US First Amendment, which are legal in Australia, and until Baraitser’s ruling, were also fully legal in the UK.

    What do Australians have to say about the prospect of imprisoning Assange for 175 years for acts that are both legal in Australia and the US, that were committed in neither country?

    • Moi
      July 8, 2021 at 02:53

      What do Australians have to say about the prospect of imprisoning Assange for 175 years for acts that are both legal in Australia and the US, that were committed in neither country?

      “Duck fat”, as Dr Spooner might have said. Tickertape parades and the “shining wits” be damned.

    • Dollyboy
      July 8, 2021 at 08:11

      As an Australian I can assure you we have no opinion. Our government just does the bidding of the US, we’re her little bitch.

    • Piotr Berman
      July 8, 2021 at 10:25

      It is not exactly crazy. The principle of “tribal code” is that you do what is good for your “tribe” to the extend you can get away with. Interestingly, one of the largest “waves of outrage” was the arrest of Protasiewicz and Sapieha couple of journalists (? that status is obviously debated, but claimed by the outraged governments, I use Polish spelling as closer to correct pronunciation) by Belarus. Both were charged with severe crimes but allowed to stay in a rather humane form of house arrest (observed walking in a park and going to a restaurant, so they can move around town).

      In many examples, so-called authoritarian governments restrict the freedom of the accused people much less than “democratic West”. That is duly used in the internal propaganda to convince the population of Western hypocrisy. Thus in terms of global propaganda, the West decided to fortify the interior by increasing the coordination of the “responsible media” and controlling the range of facts and opinions, and give up on convincing Russians, Belarus-ians, Chinese etc. who do not “benefit” from this control.

    • Fred
      July 8, 2021 at 11:22

      What do the Australian people have to say? About as much as the the American or British people.

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