WikiLeaks Editor Kristinn Hrafnsson; ex-Icelandic interior minister Ögmundur Jónasson; Stundin journalist Bjartmar Alexandersson; and Australian MP Julian Hill discuss major developments in the U.S. case against Julian Assange. Watch the replay and read the transcript.
There have been two dramatic developments in the U.S. case against imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange within the past month. The Icelandic newsmagazine Stundin on June 26 revealed that a key U.S. witness in the indictment of Assange for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion had changed his story. And on Wednesday the High Court in London allowed the U.S. to appeal a Jan. 4 magistrate’s decision against extraditing Assange to the U.S. because of his mental health and the harsh conditions of U.S. prisons, making him a threat for suicide.
The High Court said, however, that the U.S. could not appeal the judgement of Assange’s health but only that of U.S. prisons. The U.S. promised it would not put Assange under special measures of isolation if he were extradited, and if convicted, would allow him to serve his sentence in Australia. Based on that submission the High Court allowed the appeal.
Joining us to discuss these two major developments were WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson; ex-Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson (on how he resisted an FBI sting against Assange); Stundin journalist Bjartmar Oddur Þeyr Alexandersson (on his piece about Siggi Thordarson); Australian MP Julian Hill; Consortium News legal analyst Alexander Mercouris and radio host and CN columnist John Kiriakou, who was imprisoned for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program.
Produced by Cathy Vogan, watch the replay here with your hosts Elizabeth Vos and Joe Lauria. Watch the replay here, transcript follows:
CNLive! S3E7: ‘ASSANGE ON THE BRINK’ – live webcast by Consortium News, July 9, 2021
SPEAKERS (in order of appearance)
Joe Lauria: editor in chief of Consortium News, Washington.
Elizabeth Vos: presenter, Consortium News, Washington.
Kristinn Hrafnsson: editor in Chief, WikiLeaks, Iceland.
Ögmundur Jónasson: former Interior Minister, Iceland.
Bjartmar Oddur Þeyr Alexandersson: journalist for Stundin, Iceland.
Alexander Mercouris:Consortium News legal analyst, London
John Kiriakou: radio host and Consortium News columnist, Washington.
Cathy Vogan: Executive Producer, Consortium News CNLive!, Sydney, Australia.
Julian Hill: Member of Parliament (ALP), Canberra, Australia.
JOE: Welcome to CNLive! Season three episode seven: ‘Assange on the Brink’. I’m Joe Lauria, the editor in chief of Consortium News.
ELIZABETH: And I’m Elizabeth Vos.
JOE: There have been two dramatic developments in the U.S. case against imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange within the past two weeks.
ELIZABETH: The Icelandic newspaper news magazine Stundin on June 26 revealed that a key U.S. witness in the indictment of Assange for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion had changed his story. And on Wednesday (July 7), the High Court in London allowed the U.S. to appeal a January 4 Magistrate’s decision against extraditing Assange to the U.S. because of his mental health and the harsh conditions of the U.S. prisons, putting him at a high risk of suicide.
JOE: The High Court said, however, that the U.S. could not appeal the judgement of Assange’s health, but only that of U.S. prison conditions. The U.S. promised it would not put Assange under special measures of isolation if he were extradited and if convicted, would allow him to serve his sentence in Australia. This appears to be a desperate move by the United States to try to convince the High Court to overturn the decision not to extradite Assange.
ELIZABETH: In the Stundin article, Sigurdur Thordarson, who was a volunteer with WikiLeaks in Iceland in 2010 stole about $50,000 from WikiLeaks, and when WikiLeaks tried to get the money back, he went to the U.S. embassy to offer himself as an FBI informant in exchange for immunity. He told the FBI many tales of Assange directing hacking operations, which Thordarson now admits were all lies.
JOE: Whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted that these revelations meant the case against Assange had collapsed. But has it?
Joining us today from Iceland to discuss these two major developments are WikiLeaks Editor- in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson; ex-Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson (to speak about how he resisted an FBI sting against Assange); and Stundin journalist Bjartmar Alexandersson; and from London we hope to be joined by Consortium News legal analyst Alexander Mercouris; and in Washington radio host and CN columnist John Kiriakou, who was imprisoned for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. Australian MP Julian Hill spoke to us earlier from Canberra about the U.S. offer to send Assange to an Australian prison if convicted.
We also contacted Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who has voiced support for Assange in the past; and we also contacted the “Teenager” as he was referred to in the U.S. indictment, Sigurdur Thordarson. Neither responded by airtime.
Let’s begin with the background to the story set in Iceland in 2010, how Thordarson became an FBI informant and was participating in a sting operation against Julian Assange until our first guest, got in the way.
Ögmundur, can you tell us when you were interior minister what happened, what was your role in the story particularly how you came to understand that Thordarson and [Hector Monsegur, aka] Sabu, the leader of the elite Anonymous offshoot LulzSec, were both FBI informants, were plotting a sting against Assange?
ÖGMUNDUR: Yes, I was Minister of Interior, as you said, for the government that was in power in Iceland from 2009 until 2013. Now in the summer of 2011, we got word from American authorities, through Icelandic police and the Icelandic Foreign Office that American intelligence had obtained information that Icelandic institutions, key institutions, might be under imminent computer attack.
We of course were alarmed, and contacted all the major institutions that we could think were under such a threat, the Icelandic energy, power industry and then government institutions. Now, this was in June 2011.
The American police, the FBI and the prosecutor of New York police, they asked if we were interested to share information and to cooperate on the investigation of this matter. Of course, we were interested to receive all information they might have on such a serious matter.
So at the beginning of July this year, 2011, we issued a letter rogatory opening for such cooperation. Now, it turned out later that the Americans, the FBI, and the New York state prosecutor interpreted this, or wanted to use this, as a green light to enter Iceland for completely different purposes. This is what happened in August that year. A planeload of FBI agents, between seven and nine of them, landed at Reykjavik airport, in the evening of 24th of August. The following morning, they proceeded to the office of the Icelandic state prosecutor and started having a discussion with them, when I received word of their coming to Iceland. And I of course, wanted to know, what was their mission. What was the purpose of the visit? And then I learned what really was happening. And what was that? Well, they were in Iceland, to try to frame WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in particular.
Now, these are serious allegations, but I choose my words very, very carefully. Because I knew this from firsthand from within the Icelandic administration, they were told that the idea was to use Sigurdur Thordarson, an Icelandic citizen, as an entrapment to contact Julian Assange and involve him in a criminal case, to be used later in the United States. This I know for certain, and I have stated this time, and again, in February 2014, before 2013, I say, before, the Icelandic Foreign Affairs Committee and the Icelandic parliament, where this was discussed, and this, in fact, is not disputed. This is what happened.
The FBI came to Iceland, to frame Julian Assange. That was the purpose of the visit. When I knew this, I said that this was not in accordance to the letter rogatory we issued at the beginning of July, early in December, and they had no permission to stay on in Iceland. And when I heard that they were on the way to the Icelandic police headquarters for a meeting on the matter, I stopped this immediately and said there will be no, should be no further cooperation with this mission. And they were made to understand that they were not wanted in Iceland.
As policemen, they were welcome to look at our waterfalls and our geysers and the sights. But for police work, they could not stay on. And what happened next was that I heard a couple of days later that they were still in Iceland. And then we made it clear to the the U.S. Embassy that they were not wanted here, and they left the country. This is what happened. This is the background.
JOE: Now, were you surprised when you read in Stundin magazine that Thordarson, who at the time was an FBI informant, was lying about the whole thing that he told the FBI, about Julian Assange having conducted hacking operations through him and that he was in fact,
hacking rather than just receiving information as a journalist. Were you surprised by these revelations?
ÖGMUNDUR: No, I was not surprised. Nothing in this case surprises me at all. Because as I see it, I’ve always seen this as a conspiracy. This was a conspiracy directed against us, the Icelandic authorities. They were trying, the American police authorities were trying to get our complicity; to get us to take part in a cooperating on a case against Julian Assange. Now, eh two years, a couple years ago, Mike Pompeo, he said at the time, the former secretary of the United States, former head of the CIA, of course; he said WikiLeaks is a non- governmental intelligence operation, which must be taken down. It was a priority to take WikiLeaks down. Now, that was not a new policy. I experienced the attempt to execute that policy in Iceland in 2011. To get us complicit in that conspiracy, that was the purpose of the visit of the FBI to Iceland in 2011.
JOE: So, because you knew that this was a sting operation, you probably thought all along that Thordarson was making up these allegations against Assange. Is that right?
ÖGMUNDUR: At the time, there were suggestions made to me that I should have a meeting with Sigurdur Thordarson. I didn’t want to do that. I knew nothing of that person at all. All I was interested in was the visit of the FBI to Iceland. And if they had the permits they claimed they were operating along. That was my only interest at the matter. If you had asked me, and people certainly did ask me, where I sided in the matter, I would have said I of course side with WikiLeaks. I side with WikiLeaks; I take a stand with WikiLeaks, not the American authorities. I take sides with the whistleblower, not with those who try to break the whistle.
JOE: So, you never met Thordarson but you knew about him, back then?
ÖGMUNDUR: Yes. And I knew they were going to interview him. And what the police told me at the time, was that they saw their part in the matter only as protecting an Icelandic citizen. I said I am protecting Icelandic interests. I am the Minister of Interior and I am concerned with things being done according to the rule of law.
JOE: And you don’t need the FBI to help to protect Icelandic citizens as Interior Minister.
Kristinn, you were there at the time, in Iceland, you’re involved in these events? Can you give us your input on what you knew about Thordarson back then? And what you thought he was up to? And then of course what’s the significance of him now recanting this testimony that wound up in the superseding indictment?
KRISTINN: Well, I mean, I wasn’t surprised that he would do secret cooperation with the FBI because at the time in 2011 we were trying to hunt him down basically and had discovered that he had been stealing money from us, from the proceeds of online sales of merchandise that, fifty thousand dollars actually got sent to his own personal bank account by forging an email from Julian Assange.
So I mean he is a conman of this. And later on of course, he was sentenced for that act and conning two dozen other individuals and organizations. On top of that, later actually after that, he was sentenced as well for sexually abusing nine underage boys. So this is the person, the individual that FBI decided to work with. The bits and pieces of the story came out throughout the years. And actually now with the article in Stundin, we got the full story. The full story about how this manipulation went about in 2011. And as Mr. Jónasson just said, it is extraordinary how far the FBI and DOJ was willing to go in manipulating Iceland.
One thing that BJARTMAR the journalist can talk about is the simple fact that when FBI was making this offer to save Iceland from this serious so-called computer attacks, shortly before that, actually, the so-called DDoS attacks were made against Icelandic interests, but that was under the watchful eye of the FBI; and even instigated by the FBI because it was their man that they had flipped into cooperation that was instigating those attacks. So this is how far they were willing to go. They were allowing attacks to happen, didn’t warn Iceland, then came to the authorities in Iceland and said you are under serious threat, let’ s help. That was just a facade to frame Julian and go after WikiLeaks.
The fact that they actually came later after Julian was removed from the embassy on April 11 2019 and gave an immunity deal to this individual (Thordarson) in exchange for his witness testimony, and then inserted in an updated indictment against Julian last summer, a lot of elements that were an allegation, very serious allegations were that were solely based on that individual and his testimony. We’re talking about hacking operation that they allege Julian was instigating, and even an attempt to get phone recordings from Icelandic MPs. And this all sort of landed into the judgment of Baraitser on January 4, where she frequently cites these allegations, where she is talking about the dual criminality test, which has to be met before an extradition is considered.
So obviously this attempt to mislead the UK courts in the extradition case did work, because it had an effect. And now you can imagine, then, how relieved we were to see BJARTMAR’s incredible work in Stundin, where after going through all the material that he had access to and hours upon hours of interviews with Thordarson, he recants and says this never happened. It’s baseless. And, you know, one would think, you know, that blows such a huge hole in the entire effort of the DOJ, that, of course, Snowden would, should be right, this should be the end of it.
This comes on top of previous stories, where it has been established very firmly that the CIA was, through an intermediary, spying on Julian’s meetings with lawyers in the Ecuadorian embassy; recording those meetings; and stealing legal documents from those lawyers. So I mean, it’s all falling apart. The key witness has now recanted. And we know that his [Assange’s] rights were violated, so he can never have a fair trial in the U.S.. So it should be the end of it. But still, they were asking for an appeal in the UK courts and granted the appeal on a limited basis. So the serious issue here is that Julian is still sitting in Belmarsh prison and will have to sit in prison for some more months until the appeal process is finalized.
JOE: Of course the U.S. would argue that there are other parts of the indictment, the Espionage Act charges, which we know is really a violation of the First Amendment because Assange was working as a journalist; but also his relationship with Chelsea Manning, which we know from testimony during the hearing in September from expert witnesses that Manning could not have gotten those documents [anonymously] anyway, and that the indictment itself says Manning had clearance to get all of that material.
But this information from Thordarson was given to the FBI back in 2011, I believe. And in fact, we read about it a year later in the Rolling Stone article, which now looks quite dodgy in light of his confession. But that information was known to the FBI then. Why Kristinn do you think that they left it out of the indictment, the first one, and put it only in, seemingly at the last minute in the superseding one? What were they trying to do? They would seem to be bolstering a weak case. Is that what you think happened?
KRISTINN: I think that’s exactly what happened. And when you consider these two parts in the indictment, of course we have all the Espionage charges, which everybody sees the serious implication of, the threat to press freedom and the First Amendment. But then you have the so-called hacking charges, which is mostly a PR stunt in many ways. It is the attempt to depict Julian not as a journalist but as a hacker. So it’s based on this alleged conspiracy that Julian took active part in in Chelsea Manning’s attempt to get information out, so he is a co-conspirator.
But it was already known in the first half of the hearing in London last year, in February, how thin that case was. It was based mostly on a sentence, allegedly from Julian where he says to, allegedly to Chelsea Manning, ‘curious eyes never run dry’. And that’s repeatedly cited in the indictment, that’s the smoking gun. A journalist telling his source, curious eyes never run dry. I mean, everybody sees that; they don’t have to have a law degree to see how ridiculous that is. So they were desperate to underpin that. So in the middle of the proceedings, just a couple of weeks before it was commenced in September, they throw in these allegations based on Thordarson’s testimony last summer. And now they are gone and it should be the end of it.
So I think it was an act of desperation, to try to upgrade the indictment, to sort of hammer in this understanding or this depiction of Julian as a dirty hacker, not a journalist that he is.
JOE: You wonder if the DOJ themselves weren’t that convinced, or they knew that this was false testimony, and they didn’t put it in the original indictment and waited to the last- minute pull it out of the bag because they were desperate.
I want to correct something I said. The expert witness [Patrick Eller] in the hearing in September did not say that Chelsea Manning couldn’t get the documents, but that she couldn’t sign in [and access them] as an administrator. She had access to the documents [only via her own user account].
Now I want to turn to Bjartmar Alexandersson who was the Stundin journalist, the lead journalist on the groundbreaking story on June 26, in which Thordarson for some odd reason, which we’re going to try to find out, decided to tell the world that he was lying. That he had told the FBI, a whole pack of lies about Assange that wound up in this indictment. Bjartmar thank you for joining us. Okay, so tell me, how did you come on to this story?
BJARTMAR: Well, it all started actually, back in 2018, my first story about ‘Siggi the Hacker’
– Mr. Thordarson, sorry. Not a correct name to call him a hacker. Maybe in further details we’ll get into that later. But yeah, I started back in 2018 with a story regarding his frauds, and back now and this year, I started hearing another rumor that he was back into the con artist game. So my first story about him was actually about how he was conning corporations here in Iceland out of money by using shell companies. And then of course, I mean, he’s famously known for his involvement in the WikiLeaks case. And I thought why not continue the conversation since I already got him to confess for fraud here in Iceland, maybe I can get some information out of him regarding the FBI case. And I had a long session of interviews with him, and we spoke for many hours together regarding the case, and also his background and a lot of off the record, of course, but this is where it started, with his frauds. And he has a long history of that here in Iceland.
JOE: I wonder, that you did not quote him once in that article. Was that one of the conditions he gave?
BJARTMAR: No, no, no I mean we have it actually in the Icelandic story, we actually have quotes from him. The Icelandic article is actually much longer, and explains a lot more around the background details. The English version is only just a glossary out of that. So in the next coming days and weeks, we will be putting out more audio recordings and direct quotes from him, regarding certain issues inside the indictment. And when you look at what he told me, and then what says in the indictment, it just doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t match. There’s so much strange information that he’s telling me that it’s not according to the
indictment, and also through all the data that I have, via the chat logs and so on, to point out that these things in the indictment could be right. So I don’t see how they match.
JOE: I wanted to bring up the chat logs, because either he’s lying to the FBI, or the FBI knew that he was lying and they went with it anyway, or he was lying to you. But you’ve got these chat logs that nail it, right? This is documentary proof. It’s not just his word that’s to take for it.
BJARTMAR: Well, there are some proof, yes, and this can be connected via the chat logs. But I think also you cannot forget that he could be lying to me, he could be lying to the FBI, he’s a known liar. So we don’t know. So, but I have to take it that he’s telling me the right thing at the time. And also I can confirm most of it, or some of it with the chat logs.
JOE: Do you know that, in his agreement, his immunity deal with the FBI, Is there, have you seen that? Do you know if there’s a clause where they could lift that immunity, now that he’s spoken the truth about what happened?
BJARTMAR: Well, it could cause some legal problems regarding this. I have actually seen the agreement. He actually gave it to me. We’re not going to publish it, because I promised not to do so. And, the agreement can yes, with this, if this what he says is true. But maybe he just keeps lying to the FBI, that he’s told me a lie and he told them the truth. Who knows?
But I don’t know what kind of legal circumstances can happen in the future for him.
JOE: But here’s the really big question for you. Why did he decide to do this now? You just said that he could get into legal trouble, he could lose his immunity with the FBI? Why did he decide to tell the truth now all of a sudden?
BJARTMAR: I have absolutely no idea. I spent almost nine hours with him through the articles I’ve written about him. And, you know, it could be several reasons. I’m not a trained psychologist, and have no experience in that field. So I could only guess. But it is not my place to do so. But I have no idea why he would tell me these things. And I’m still trying to figure that out.
JOE: Well, he’s apparently been diagnosed as a sociopath, legally. But could he have had some conscience? Could he be seeing what’s happening to Assange in prison, and decided to speak out? Because he couldn’t bear it? Because you seem to really have had a good relationship with him at one point, if you believe that.
BJARTMAR: Well, I mean, through our conversations, of course, he felt bad for Assange, when I pushed him. And I mean, through these hours of interviews, he gave me, you know,
first time he gave me one answer for a question and then I asked him, maybe, you know, half 30 minutes, an hour later, the same question, and he would give me a different answer. And I pushed and pushed until he would break, and give me the correct ones regarding the evidence I had. So it’s, I mean, he could be, he actually told me that he felt bad of what’s happening to Julian, but it’s the only thing that he talked to me about, is this one only sentence, that he actually felt bad. When I asked him “Do you feel bad about it?” And he said “Yes”.
JOE: My last question for you here is about his computer skills. You write that he really didn’t have any. But if you believe that Rolling Stone story he broke into, he hacked into a Skype conference call, for example. Did he have any computer skills? Was he faking it with you, to say he didn’t? What do you think was going on there?
BJARTMAR: Well, actually, he told me that he did not come up with the nickname ‘Siggi the Hacker’, that there was somebody else who came up with that. But through the chat logs, we can see evidence that he’s asking persons and organizations like the FBI for help, regarding technical issues, to finish. For example, he tries to get the help of the FBI to get a video out of a mobile phone. He’s asking hackers to help him with a website that he was actually using to con people. It was just basic computer techniques that any hacker would actually know, with a really low skill in computers.
JOE: Did he did he actually have these relationships with the hackers that he told the FBI he he worked with, with Assange? Or did he not even know these people?
BJARTMAR: Well, he had chats with them. We have the chat logs and conversations with these hackers including Sabu and Kayla, and others too. And he pressured them, especially one hacker from Lebanon, to do the work. And he actually took a hacker from Lebanon and said: “How can you be sure this is not a test?,” to gain some information from the city of Reykjavik. And also in the chat logs you can see that he’s asking them to attack this ministry and another ministry and this corporation and so on. In the whole chat logs there’s no indication that there’s anybody else asking for this than Siggi. The name of Assange is never mentioned. He never says that he’s been told to do this. If you can read through the lines, it’s like he’s on a power trip using WikiLeaks as a stepping stone to convince these hackers that he’s the big man in the league, inside WikiLeaks. There’s basically no evidence that anybody else was on this than him.
JOE: Bottom line, he was working on his own. He was not being directed by Assange.
BJARTMAR: No. And he actually said that. I asked him several times, did Assange ask you to hack these institutions, to do these DDoS attacks on these institutions? And he always said, No, but he tried to convince me that there was some kind of atmosphere inside WikiLeaks; that he had to do it. But there’s no evidence in the chat logs I have seen.
JOE: He just told the FBI that, that he was being directed by Assange in order to get this deal. Is that it?
BJARTMAR: Always when I asked: “Do you have any confirmation that Julian Assange asked you via a chat or something?” – and we’re talking about huge communications; these people talked a lot online – but there’s nothing that indicates that he was asked for this. And I several times asked him again, when did Assange ask and he gave me, you know, strange answers regarding this, and also, he always said, No, he asked me personally, just me and him talking. So there’s nothing to back up his testimony regarding how he was asked to do these things.
ELIZABETH: Kristinn, I wanted to ask you about the early reporting by Rolling Stone on this story with Thordarson. It portrayed him as being highly placed within WikiLeaks and very close to Assange, before his embezzlement was discovered. I wanted to ask you if this was accurate, or was it another fabrication to present Thordarson as more, you know, allow him to increase his importance in general, kind of an ego trip? And can you describe for us really what his role was in WikiLeaks in more detail before you all discovered that he was essentially a conman.
KRISTINN: This Rolling Stone story is shameful. And I must say that I did have a discussion with the journalist before he published, and so he had all the facts, but he did dismiss the facts.
There are two things that I’m really angry about. One thing is, for example, that it is depicted in the story that Thordarson was in a dispute over money issues; that he was owed this money. It was like a labor dispute, but not theft. And he admitted to the theft later on, in trial, and was sentenced for it.
And the second thing was that, at the time of writing, it was already also known that he was a predator, and that the case was in the attention of the police. And it was downplayed by the journalist as a same sex experiment, something innocuous. I think that’s shameful, because we are talking about victims here. I mean, he was sentenced for violating nine boys under age. There were 11 victims originally. There were nine, the charges were pressed on nine counts. One of the victims actually committed suicide. So this is a very serious thing.
I don’t care about this money issue but this is serious and I’m very annoyed that the journalist and the paper should depict him in this manner.
His [Sigurdur Thordarson’s] role within the organization is simply twofold. He was a volunteer for a brief time in 2010 to 2011. This is in the period where all the staff is inundated with the work of publishing the military documents and Cablegate project. We started towards the end of 2010. He was put in charge as a moderator on the open IRC chat line, which was sort of a WikiLeaks platform where people will come together and have a discussion.
He abused that platform, into actually inflating his position; and get into contact with journalists and with hackers; and presented himself as a very important person within the organization. He abused that position, even though he had been strictly warned, you know – you don’t have a discussion with the journalists, you just pass on details if there are questions there – and of course we would not authorize a volunteer to be in a source relationship or anything of that nature.
Secondly, he [Thordarson] was asked to oversee, and work with a Canadian volunteer who offered to put up this online shop. Mind you, at that time we were under a banking blockade so all donations were frozen for us. So a Canadian volunteer offered to set up an online shop selling coffee mugs with WikiLeaks logo, t-shirts, etc. So he was put in charge of working with him. And he abused that position by fabricating an email from Julian Assange to the sales platform, instructing the people to pass all the donations, all the proceeds to his private bank account in Iceland.
So this pretty much sums up what his role was, his limited role, but he was a… he is a con artist. We have to admit that this went under our radar, but it’s very hard to recognize a borderline sociopath, as he has been diagnosed, according to court records. He is a con artist and basically a sick person. When you were talking to Bjartmar earlier, whether he was telling the truth now and lying before, or whether he likes to lie now; does it even matter? We’re talking about a witness with that criminal history; diagnosed borderline sociopath by a court-appointed psychiatrist evaluation. This is the person that the Department of Justice is relying on as a witness. This shows the length that the DOJ is willing to go in this case against Julian and against WikiLeaks.
ELIZABETH: I wonder, I have a question for you about the unique kind of position that Iceland has had in this story over the years. It seems like Iceland and Ecuador are two countries that at least, at some point… I mean, Ecuador, less so in recent years obviously, managed to stand up against U.S. authorities in that relentless persecution of Assange. What to you makes Iceland unique in this respect, how has it maintained this semblance of
independence – while so many other countries actively work to help set up Assange? For example, Sweden and other countries?
ÖGMUNDUR: Well I wish we would have remained unique for much longer than we did. Because actually, when the FBI arrived again in 2019, it seems that Icelandic, very regrettably, Icelandic authorities were cooperating.
But as I see it, I see… We are talking about a trial of Julian Assange. In my mind, we are all on trial. The British justice system is now on trial. The international press is on trial. We are all on trial. We who watched the crimes, the war crimes committed in Iraq, in Afghanistan. We who welcomed the revelations from the secret TISA negotiations; on global issues; welcomed this information from WikiLeaks – they were all provided by WikiLeaks – we are on trial if we do not stand for the provider of this information. So as I see it, we are all on trial.
I was very happy with the way we got involved in those days. And I’m very happy with the work Kristinn Hrafnsson and WikiLeaks is doing. I’m happy with standing with Stundin, with the revelations now recently. I look to what you are doing. And I look to what members of parliaments throughout the world are now doing. You know they’re rallying to a call on Biden to drop the case against Julian Assange. So probably we are not right in focusing on Iceland or Ecuador. We should be focusing on the whole world. And I have a good feeling now that the world, all of us who care for democracy and freedom of the press, freedom of the world; I have a good feeling that we soon will rise to expectations.
ELIZABETH: I hope you’re right. Bjartmar I have a really quick question for you before we move on, and that is that, as a journalist, are you at all surprised at the lack of more mainstream corporate press coverage of your story? In the days since it’s broke? I think that for those of us watching the Assange case, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But is this something you’re kind of used to? Or was it new for you to experience that?
BJARTMAR: Well, I have written a lot about environmental issues, so no, not really. It doesn’t occur to me that strange they do it, but it’s coming slowly. And I have to protect a little bit my colleagues abroad regarding this story, because this is a long story. It’s over a 10 year period for people to go into this, and try to explain to the public via the media. It’s a difficult thing. And of course, there could be some reason why it hasn’t been picked up later. But I mean, Washington Post actually mentioned us in their article yesterday. So it’s coming up, it’s just they have to verify everything, and we’re a small publication in Iceland and can fully understand that they, they need to check and double check. I mean, that’s just what good journalists do. This story is there, it stands, it’s correct, and it will in time, it will come out. There are big media groups showing a lot of interest in this. We’re working with them getting them information and supplying them with facts. So I think this will just… it’s a slow
burn. Let’s say that it’s a slow burn. I know people are excited about the news, and they want to get this out straight away. But you know, good journalists, they take time. And I mean, I spent three months on these articles. And you know, too many man hours. My editor was always screaming at me regarding this. But I think it’s important to show that this will come up, and I think everybody will see that in the near future.
JOE: A screaming editor? I’ve never heard of such a thing before.
BJARTMAR: No, never, never. You rarely have that in any newspaper. (Laughter)
JOE: Yes, not just like that in the movies. I could tell you. But anyway, I’m going to turn to Alexander Mercouris in London and to John Kiriakou in Washington who have been patiently sitting there. Alexander, you were a legal analyst. So I want to ask you the legal consequences of this revelation from Bjartmar’s reporting that a key witness in the superseding indictment was lying. And the magistrate Vanessa Baraitser completely bought it and completely repeated it in her judgment. What are the implications to the case against Assange for this? How does this undermine the case? What do you think happens? Alexander?
ALEX: I think it is profoundly important. I think it undermines the case in fundamental ways. Now, it’s important to remember that this is a political case. And when I say that, that is admitted by all parties, the argument that has been made is that though it is a political case, and the tradition in Britain is not to extradite people who are the subject of political prosecutions, there is an exception in this case, because the Act of Parliament doesn’t prevent extradition of people on political charges to the United States.
So this is a political case. And what we have now found is that one of the key witnesses in that case, is coming forward and is corroborating in effect, what the Minister of Interior of Iceland, Mr Ögmundur [Jónasson] has said, which is that the government that is seeking the extradition of this person in that political case, sought to corroborate or to fabricate part of the case against that person.
Do you extradite a person to a country whose government seeks to fabricate part of a case against that person in a political case? No, you do not. Or at least, you should not. So I think this is fundamental. And I think it goes beyond the second superseding indictment, that part of the second superseding indictment in which Thordarson himself gave the evidence. I think it contaminates the entire case entirely, because it goes directly to the question of good faith, to the question of whether you can rely upon a fair trial for Julian Assange if he is sent to the United States. In fact, to the entire way in which the whole case against him was constructed.
And just to make a few further points, I think the question of whether or not he was a reliable witness, of course he wasn’t a reliable witness. It’s astonishing, that a second superseding indictment was in part based upon the evidence of this individual. And it is incredible that Baraitser accepted that that indictment, on that basis, could be used as part of the case upon which such a person as Julian Assange could be extradited. Well, she did. And it’s now blown up in their faces, and we’ll see what they’re going to do about it. Now, there are problems because, of course, in an appeal process, it’s sometimes very difficult to get into the appeal process evidence which has come to light after the actual trial. But I would have thought in this case, this is so fundamental, that it would be unusual, it will be surprising. I would be surprised if the High Court did not take it into account in some form. That’s my view.
JOE: So you completely dismiss the idea that the FBI was an innocent victim of a liar?
ALEX: Well, that is not just what Thordarson is saying, and bear in mind, it was the FBI that decided to rely on Thordarson. They put an indictment together on the basis that this man is not a liar. So they relied on him. And now they are stuck with him, because he’s turning around and saying, well actually, I am a liar. I lied to you. So you know, they’re in a way, they’re trapped with this.
But it’s also important to remember that what Thordarson is now saying indirectly, corroborates what others have been saying, including the former Minister of Interior of Iceland, whose word should never have been doubted in the first place. So I think that it’s going to be very difficult to argue round this one. I think this is a major problem now, for the extradition and that’s putting it mildly. I think in most cases, if this revelation were to come up in this form, there would be serious doubts about whether an extradition could now occur. And again, I’m being very measured in my words, but we will see what happens. This is an extraordinary case. And extraordinary things have happened, and they may continue to happen for all we know.
JOE: John Kiriakou in Northern Virginia outside of Washington, you know a couple of things about the FBI. Do you think that they were complicit in fabricating this evidence? Do you have any way of knowing for sure?
JOHN: I don’t have any way of knowing for sure, Joe, but knowing the FBI, having worked with the FBI for 15 years, and then having fought them for the last 10, I would say they absolutely knew this. The FBI never goes into a meeting, let alone an entire case, blind.
They know exactly with whom they’re dealing. And, you know, I could just envision this meeting, where they decided that Thordarson’s background was irrelevant to Julian’s case. Okay, he’s an embezzler. Ah irrelevant. He’s a child molester. That doesn’t really affect what
we’re doing against Julian. I could just imagine this meeting, because this is what they do. They get to decide what’s relevant and what’s not relevant. And so yeah, I don’t trust them. I don’t think anybody should trust them. And I think that this just exposes how they address high profile cases like this.
JOE: John, thank you very much. If Elizabeth doesn’t have any further questions, we’ll move on to PART TWO of our show, which deals with the High Court decision in London on Wednesday to grant leave to the United States to appeal the judgment, not to extradite Julian Assange, and the offers that the U.S. gave to the High Court. You’re watching CN Live!. I’m Joe Lauria.
On Wednesday, the High Court in London decided to allow the U.S. appeal to go ahead, not to extradite Assange. But only one aspect of that order was allowed; the conditions of U.S. prisons, not the conditions of Julian Assange’s health. The court said that the U.S. can challenge those prison conditions now, the U.S. knew, would have to know, the DOJ, that it would be absurd for them to argue that they had a humane prison system. So instead, they admitted that, in fact, they don’t, by offering not to put Assange under Special Administrative Measures during his trial. And if he’s convicted, they will allow him to serve his sentence in Australia in a more humane prison.
The U.S. also said it was in this submission to the High Court, which we’ve read about in the press, the U.S. said it reserved the right to drop this offer to Assange, if he “were to do something subsequent to the offering of these assurances”. And of course, that could mean just about anything. So before we begin the panel discussion on this second part of our story, we spoke earlier about this matter with an Australian Member of Parliament, Julian Hill. So let’s listen to what he had to say.
CATHY: Julian Hill, Member of Parliament of the Australian Parliament, we reported that the U.S. in its effort to obtain Julian Assange and win its appeal, the U.S. is now promising not to put Julian Assange under Special Administrative Measures, or isolation, and to allow him to be imprisoned in Australia, if convicted. So I just wondered if Australia had been asked about this. And if they had agreed… I don’t suppose you would know, but it seems to me an extraordinary move.
JULIAN: Well, I don’t know whether Australia was consulted or agreed. As is news here, our Prime Minister has not been seen for days. He’s disappeared because of the failing vaccine program and quarantine problems. But in terms of a broader response to the U.S. announcement, it sounds desperate, frankly, ridiculous. Their case is falling to bits with the news that one of the key witnesses has fabricated evidence. This just seems like a strange stunt, in their desperation to get their hands on Assange. Really, they need to respect the UK
court’s judgment, which found clearly on humanitarian grounds that he’s not well enough to be extradited on health grounds. And the promise not to put him in Supermax conditions, effectively saying, Oh well, we won’t really torture him, we’ll just try and pursue him for an effective death sentence of 175 years. That’s nonsense. In any event, they’re saying: but even if eventually, after years in a supermax prison (Under what conditions? We’d give him a nice room in the supermax prison? ), after years of that treatment, when he has exhausted all appeals – and he’s almost inevitably convicted, given no defendant has ever escaped conviction in the Eastern District Court of Virginia – after all of that, then we’ll send him back to Australia to serve his effective death sentence. I mean, this is ridiculous. They really need to drop the charges. And to be nice about it. They won every point of principle. That’s what worries me, and many people supporting this. They’ve won the points of principle that they were seeking to establish. They really need to stop the persecution of Assange and let it go.
CATHY: Don’t you think that they risk losing in the counter appeal the defense may launch, on the points that they won; the political points, in terms of extraditing and persecuting journalists?
JULIAN: Many people behind this case, and with growing momentum and support, to drop the charges, as they think about those points of principle, the chilling effect on the media, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, most importantly, as has been said, widely; if what the U.S. government or the Trump administration started is now sort of being continued, if the principle that they were chasing was around in the 1970s, then the Pentagon Papers never could have been published. So, you know, there are points of principle which they sought to win, and they’ve convinced the judge in the UK, you’re absolutely right, they do risk losing those arguments, particularly now one of the witnesses is collapsing in a counter appeal if they want to pursue this case. It may well be a lot smarter for the U.S., disagree with them on this issue as I do about the points of principle, it may well be a lot smarter for them to do the right thing on humanitarian grounds and simply drop the charges.
CATHY: Okay, was there anything else you wanted to say?
JULIAN: Look, the other thing that many Australians are feeling is, enough is enough. This has gone on for years, a decade that this guy’s been incarcerated one way or another and it’s way past time that the Australian Government, the Australian Prime Minister, stood up for this Australian, stood up for our citizen and asked the U.S. to drop the charges and committed between the UK the U.S. and Australia that he will not be extradited and leave it at that.
CATHY: Stop the mobbing.
JOE: What’s worrying is that the High Court in London has taken this U.S. offer seriously. The court only allowed the U.S. to challenge the prison conditions. And it granted the U.S. leave to appeal that question after hearing this offer. They could have denied the application for an appeal. But one thinks that because the U.S. made this offer that led to the High Court accepting the application for appeal, taking that offer seriously means there’s a possibility the U.S. could win on appeal. And Assange would be extradited.
Kristinn, back to you. U.S. has a history of broken promises. In such cases, for example, in the September 20, 2020 Assange extradition hearing lawyer a Lindsay A Lewis, a witness for the defense testified that the United Kingdom had imposed this condition of not putting someone under SAMs for humanitarian reasons on Abu Hamza, a prisoner who had lost both his hands. But once Hamza was on U.S. soil, he was placed in isolation anyway, where he remains to this day. So Kristinn, what did you think when you heard about this offer to send him to Australia? And that they wouldn’t put him under SAMs? And can the U.S. be trusted?
KRISTINN: No, of course, they cannot be trusted. Past history shows that they cannot be trusted. If you read the so called offer carefully, it entails of course, the caveat that they retain the right to change their mind and actually put him under SAMS, which by the way, it just strikes me that we should call it for what it is, SAMs or Special Administrative Measures are torture. It’s solitary confinement, and it’s torture. So let’s just call it for what it is, let’s not call torture enhanced interrogation techniques; or let’s not call torture in solitary ‘SAMs’. So, this is the essence of that. It cannot be trusted. Furthermore, of course, the offer that he would, if sentenced, be able to serve in Australia is qualified as well, because you cannot even ask for such transfer until you have exhausted all your appeals possibility in the country.
I mean, that could take 10, 20 years if you include the U.S. Supreme Court. And I said if sentenced, but we know from past history, and John [Kiriakou] knows that as well, that there is not a single case that has been brought to that spy court, as it is called, in the Eastern District of Virginia under espionage charges, where the subject has not been found guilty. And so it’s a certainty, and the solitary confinement, of course it can be imposed by simple requests by the CIA, I am told, and the prison service will have to comply. And with the past history of the animosity of the CIA towards WikiLeaks and Julian, especially after the 2017 revelations, the so called Vault Seven, we know the atmosphere on that side.
So of course, this is nothing but a public relations stunt to try to mislead and get the discussion on another track and away from the essence of this political case. And of course, it is political. It is nothing but political persecution. And I’m very sorry to say it can only be stopped by political interference after grave pressure from individuals, from organizations and from members of Parliaments in other countries, as we are seeing emerging all over the place. I just came from Germany where a cross party group in the Bundestag are urging Biden to drop the case. The same call out has come from across party groups in Australia, and in the United Kingdom. And in the last hour, a group of MPs in Iceland, a cross party group of four parties in Iceland sent a similar urging to the Biden administration.
It has to be stopped and it can only be stopped on the political level, a political persecution has to be stopped by politicians. And what we have been hearing up till now from the Secretary of State Blinken and the spokesperson for the White House that is claiming that they cannot or it is a difficulty in politically intervening into the case of the of the DOJ. That is simply wrong. I mean, how do you stop this, Trump’s indictment, which is political in nature, unless you take a political step to stop it? By claiming that, shrugging your shoulder and saying this has to go on, because it’s a legal case, is basically accepting this Trump legacy into the Biden era, and it is not acceptable. And it is of growing concern to more and more individuals and organisations all around the world, that this has to be stopped.
JOE: Because you say it’s a publicity stunt by the DOJ to make this offer. But the High Court accepted this, it seems, as a reasonable offer, in order for them to decide to give the U.S. the right to appeal. They can only appeal the prison condition question, and they are allowing them to forward this offer. Doesn’t that concern you?
KRISTINN: Well, they are allowing the Americans to make the case to have their day in court, it does not automatically include that they are evaluating the merits of the offer. And let’s not forget that this was the appeal that was narrowed down from the requests of the Americans. They were for example, not allowed in the appeal process – and this is very important in the case of Julian – they were not allowed to question the testimony of the doctors who evaluated Julian Assange. They said that is not a question for appeal. So that stands and is unchallenged.
They were planning to go after vigorously, after the professors and distinguished members of the medical profession in the UK who made this evaluation, and maintained that they were biased, and they had come to the wrong conclusion. So that was not allowed. So that is an important aspect in the process. But I have to say as well. The simple fact of the matter that the High Court will take six months plus one day to decide whether to allow the appeal or not, is outrageous in my mind. I mean, in civil societies, when you have somebody on remand, that has put some extra pressure on the Judiciary to speed up the process, and it’s just unacceptable and a human rights violation to take six months and a day to come to a decision whether an appeal is allowed or not. That is outrageous in my mind. But it’s part of this entire saga that has gone on for years and years. It’s law-fare. It is using all tools possible to keep Julian deprived of liberty for as long as possible.
JOE: JOHN you served time in the U.S. prison for so called national security crime. First of all, can you explain to the audience exactly what SAMs are? And tell us what you think about this U.S. offer?
JOHN: Yes, SAMs are administrative units within prisons at several different levels. They’re at the low security, medium security, and maximum security levels. And they are meant to prohibit a prisoner from having contact with the outside world. So I was in something called a modified SAM, which meant that my phone calls were monitored in real time; that my incoming and outgoing mail was monitored. They would slit the envelopes open and read everything that I wrote, or everything that was being written to me. I was not allowed to meet with journalists. I was not allowed to exchange emails with journalists. If I wanted to write a letter to a journalist I had to smuggle it out through another prisoner, which I ended up doing routinely. But I had it easy. The kind of SAMs that we’re talking about that Julian would be exposed to is something that would be at a higher level prison; either a medium security or maximum security.
You know, when we talk about the DOJ promising that Julian wouldn’t go to the Supermax, they’re not doing him any favor. I mean, there are only two Supermax prisons in the United States. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t send him to a maximum security prison, which is just about as bad. Right? You’re in a six by nine foot room 23 hours a day; you’re allowed to take three showers a week; your one hour a day of so called exercise time is simply allowing you to go into a cage that’s off your own cell and happens to be outside. It’s literally a cage, and you’re allowed to walk in circles in this six by six foot area.
It’s essentially solitary confinement, even if they don’t call it solitary confinement. But the SAM at that higher level prison is onerous. Julian would be prohibited from virtually any contact with the outside world, the way that SAMs are run now. If you’re a SAM prisoner, you’re only allowed one phone call a month; the phone call can only be to an attorney; visitors are restricted to one a month and it can only be an attorney or immediate family. Zero contact with the outside world otherwise, and certainly no contact with journalists. So, you know, this is a way of – I’m not using this word lightly – it’s a way of disappearing people. It’s a way of saying that your ideas are so dangerous that they can’t be exposed to the outside world.
And that’s not America, at least it’s not supposed to be. So what we’re talking about here would be a silencing, an utter silencing of Julian Assange.
JOE: And you’re talking about regular high security prison, in those conditions you just mentioned? Not the SAMs?
JOHN: Just a regular high security prison. And, you know, let’s look at another thing too. These promises that the DOJ ostensibly made to the British appeals court this past week, for example, that Julian wouldn’t be put in solitary confinement unless he did something that warranted sending him right to solitary confinement. Well, that could be literally anything. Listen, I was standing next to people who were then grabbed and sent to solitary confinement, because they gave one of the guards a dirty look. So they can come up with an excuse in five seconds to send Julian to solitary confinement.
Another example, they wouldn’t send Julian to the Supermax. Well, one fight is going to change that. If somebody shoves Julian and Julian shoves him back, they both go to solitary for six months, until the guards can sort out the administrative paperwork of sending them to a prison that’s at a higher security level. So these promises that DOJ made this past week are utterly hollow.
JOE: And you’ve seen other examples of those kinds of hollow promises made?
JOHN: Literally, literally every day, Joe, this kind of thing happens every single day. And one of the themes that I heard a lot when I was in prison, was that the Bureau of Prisons answers to no one. I was supposed to be placed in a minimum security work camp. The judge ordered that I be placed in a minimum security work camp and instead I was sent to a low security prison with the double fences and the concertina wire and the whole nine yards. And when I complained, they said that they were an independent bureau of the Department of Justice, and they were not subject to judge’s orders on administrative placement of prisoners. And so a judge can say that Julian Assange will not be sent to a maximum security prison, and the Bureau of Prisons can tell the judge to go fly a kite.
JOE: Alexander, having worked at the Royal Courts of Justice, give us your insights into the thinking of the High Court and granting this application for appeal to the United States.
ALEX: I think it’s first of all important to say that Kristinn’s observation, that this is only permission to appeal is absolutely right. It doesn’t mean that the appeal is going to be allowed. The threshold for doing this is relatively speaking, quite low. Now, I always assumed that because it was the United States that was appealing, the likelihood is that there would be an appeal; that they would permit an appeal. The fact that they took six months to do it is again, exactly as Kristen said, completely outrageous, an unbelievable violation of Julian Assange’s human rights. But it also suggests that the High Court found itself in a very difficult position for themselves; they saw this as something of a hot potato; they didn’t quite know what grounds of appeal should be permitted to take it forward; and that they struggle to make this decision. I was expecting a decision to be made within about a month, not six months. So that may be a good sign; one can’t be certain, but it may be a good sign.
Now, as for these grounds of appeal, that we now hear about, I have to say that it seems to me that they face a fundamental objection. Obviously, it’s as John said, these promises the U.S. is making are unenforceable. And as we’ve seen in the in the past, they’re not to be relied upon any way. But all of these promises, all of these assurances could have been made to Baraitser at the trial. And they weren’t. Now the Americans are saying, the U.S. government is saying: “Well, this was because we were taken by surprise. We didn’t expect all these issues to be brought up in this way…” Now, of course, I don’t take that seriously. I can’t believe anybody would take that seriously. But if that were true, they have the option then, of applying for a postponement. They say, well, you know, we need time to absorb all of this and come up with our responses and say what we want to say. Well, they didn’t do that; on the contrary, they opposed every application for a postponement that the defence made. So I don’t really see how this is going to hold together at the final appeal hearing. I think that they’re going to have serious problems with this particular appeal.
Now this is a, to say an unusual case is an understatement. But “desperate” was what was used to describe these grounds of appeal at the beginning – I think that’s what you said.
That’s how they look to me. I think this is going to be extremely difficult come November. And if the High Court decides to allow the appeal, and green-light the extradition on the basis of these grounds of appeal. Well, firstly, that will be disturbing, and hopefully subjected to a further appeal to the Supreme Court, but it would also be an extraordinary attempt to push the envelope, to try to help the United States out of what is frankly, a very difficult position legally. So I don’t think we should put too much in the fact that he’s been that they’ve been granted permission to appeal. And on the face of it, these grounds of appeal, don’t look at all strong.
JOE: Alexander, I want to read you something that Craig Murray, the former British ambassador and blogger wrote back on January 6, two days after Baraitser’s decision, which in hindsight is extremely fascinating now that we know what we know. He wrote: “I am not sure that at this stage, the High Court would accept a new guarantee from the USA, that Assange would not be kept in isolation, or in a supermax prison. That will be contrary to the affidavit from assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, and thus would probably be ruled to amount to new evidence.” So my understanding – correct me if I’m wrong – is that in an appeal, you cannot put forth new evidence. You can only…
JOE: So is this new evidence, this offer not to put him in Supermax, it this what Craig was suggesting back in January?
ALEX: It is new evidence. And that actually begs many questions about what the grounds of appeal that have been allowed actually are because of course, it is new evidence. I can’t really see how you can come along and say, well, actually, this is what we’re going to do. I wonder whether the real thing that’s being looked at here, the sort of thin point that they’re allowed to say is well, Baraitser was wrong, to go ahead and consider all this evidence about the prison conditions, when we weren’t given the opportunity to state our case. And if we had been given that opportunity, we would have been able to say all of these things. And all these problems that have been raised could have been allayed. As I said, that comes up with a fundamental problem, though, that they could have sought a postponement, and they didn’t.
And why I would add, making all these points about the prison condition say, well, actually, we’re not going to put him in a SAMS; that’s never been our plan. We might send him to Australia, we’re prepared to do all of these things. Where in a kind of a way, they’re actually accepting that Baraitser’s decision on the evidence put to her about the prison conditions that she was told he might be sent to were correct. If it was that bad, then of course, she was right, and you can’t appeal her, because an appeal is when a judge gets it wrong, not when a judge gets it right.
I hope I explained it clearly, because appeal is a bit of a strange creature. But it doesn’t look too strong to me. And I wonder whether this isn’t, as I said, more an attempt to give, as Kristinn has said, the Americans their day in court, in order to get this thing out of the way. I mean, I hope so. If not, then as I said, it will be a very, very disturbing thing.
ELIZABETH: Kristinn, I wanted to ask you, will WikiLeaks continue to pursue its cross appeal against the substance of Baraitser’s ruling, in which she sided on virtually every point with the U.S. government?
KRISTINN: Well, that is for the lawyers to decide after discussing the issue with the client, with Julian, and it has been indicated that later in the process, a cross appeal will be requested, quite possibly on all the grounds where Baraitser did seem to side with the U.S. government and the political claim. And so, I mean, it simply hasn’t been decided, as far as I know yet. So it comes later in the procedure. There hasn’t been a case management hearing yet so we haven’t got the firm court date. We can expect the case management hearing probably in five or 10 day’s time. So we know how things will progress. But my worry is basically that while this is dragging on, and it’s been dragging on for way too long, a man is suffering. A man is suffering in the maximum security prison in the UK; a non-violent individual whose only crime was to present the truth to the general public, as journalists should do. So. I worry for my friend there. That is what I take away from this prolonged law- fare which seems to me is deliberately being dragged on and on.
We’ll let that be the last word.
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Geneva call to free Assange – Appel de Genève pour libérer Julian Assange – Genfer Aufruf zur Freilassung von Julian Assange
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Barack Obama hat sich nach den Nürnberger Prinzipien strafbar gemacht, sagt der UN-Sonderberichterstatter für Folter, Nils Melzer, bei einer Assange-Veranstaltung in Wien
LIVE: Diskussion N. Melzer, M. Nowak, F. Turnheim: Pressefreiheit und Rechtsstaat in Gefahr
Wien, 2. Juli 2021 – Der Österreichische Journalist*innen Club (ÖJC) hat in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Schweizer Presse Club anlässlich des 50. Geburtstages von Julian Assange zu einem Hintergrundgespräch mit anschließender Buchpräsentation eingeladen. Diskutiert haben Univ.-Prof. Dr. Nils Melzer, Sonderberichterstatter der Vereinten Nationen für Folter, unterrichtet in Glasgow und Genf; Univ.-Prof. Dr. Manfred Nowak, Generalsekretär des Global Campus of Human Rights in Venedig, ehemaliger Sonderberichterstatter der Vereinten Nationen für Folter und Prof. Fred Turnheim, Chefredakteur [Statement] – Österreichs Medienmagazin, der die Veranstaltung auch moderierte. Weltweit werden Whistleblower und Journalisten mit zunehmender Härte verfolgt, misshandelt oder gar ermordet. Von Jamal Kashoggi, Jan Kuciak, Daphne Caruana Galizia, bis hin zu Roman Protasevich wird die Liste der Verfolgten immer länger. Aber auch westliche Regierungen schrecken nicht mehr davor zurück, unbequeme Dissidenten nur deshalb zu verfolgen, weil sie die schmutzigen Geheimnisse der Mächtigen ans Licht der Öffentlichkeit gebracht haben. Whistleblower und Journalisten wie Edward Snowden, Julian Assange und Chelsea Manning sind die Leichen im Keller des Westens. Ihre Verfolgung und Misshandlung zerstört die Glaubwürdigkeit der westlichen Wertegemeinschaft. Wenn westliche Regierungen heute gegen die Verfolgung von Alexei Navalny und Roman Protasevich protestieren, fragen die anderen Regierungen nur: „Was ist denn mit Edward Snowden, der in Russland Schutz suchen muss? Was ist mit Julian Assange, der nach siebenjährigem Asyl in der ecuadorianischen Botschaft nun seit zwei Jahren in britischer Isolationshaft ist, ohne ein Verbrechen begangen zu haben? Was ist mit Chelsea Manning, die verfolgt wurde, bis sie durch einen Selbstmordversuch fast gestorben wäre? Und vor allem: Was ist mit den enthüllten westlichen Kriegsverbrechen, der Folter und der Korruption, die trotz klarer Beweislage nicht verfolgt werden? Whistleblower und Journalisten sind unbequeme Botschafter, denn sie konfrontieren uns mit Missständen im rechtsstaatlichen System. Ihre Stimme zu unterdrücken ist vergleichbar mit dem Ausschalten eines Feuermeldesystems und bringt enorme gesellschaftliche Risiken mit sich. Am Vorabend des 50. Geburtstages von Julian Assange und dem baldigen 20. Jahrestag von „9/11“ sprechen die Podiumsteilnehmer über globale Entwicklungen der letzten zwei Jahrzehnte, insbesondere aus der Sicht Ihrer Arbeit als UNO-Sonderberichterstatter. Droht die Rückkehr des Unrechtsstaates? Im Rahmen dieser Veranstaltung hat der ÖJC bekannt gegeben, dass er den “Genfer Appell zur sofortigen Freilassung von Julian Assange” unterstützt und alle Journalist*innen, aber auch die gesamte Zivilbevölkerung aufruft, den Appell zu unterzeichnen.
I watched the entire broadcast early (6AM) this morning here in Santa Rosa, Ca.
It was an excellent discussion amongst informed, honest, and reasonable people; not a single reference to personal ideological bias distracted from the quality of the discourse. I plan to revisit the entire program later today.
After watching, I actually discovered an article, however minimally substantive it may be, in the Washington Post; I found the comments addressed to it to be a sad reflection of the cognisance of their readership. I commend it to your attention:
The FBI and similar US authorities rely on plausible deniability. Time to call them out on that. Less focus on the snitch, more focus on the FBI. The snitch is throw out so we are road blocked from doing that. Plausible deniability works because we end up focusing on the snitch. Lame.
The Icelandic Interior Minister already told us that the FBI came to Iceland to frame Assange. Why do we ignore that fact? Plausible deniability works because we self censor? We worry that we won’t have enough evidence to call out the FBI. Lame.
Meanwhile we all know the FBI broke the law, is setting up Assange, and Assange remains jailed. Lame.
Call out the FBI. Focus the narrative on the agents. Interview them. Get their name. And ask if THEY are credible. We already know the snitch is not. So stop barking up that tree. Go after the real villains.
Thanks for sharing this, and yes to calling out the FBI on it’s initiation of a criminal fraud that warrants a jury trial with maximum media coverage.
This is great! Would it also be possible to have one of Assange’s attorneys, especially here in US, available to shed some light on why – at least apparently up til now – there has been no filing in US Court to dismiss the indictment since it is based largely on testimony which has now been shown to be false. I would have thought the attorneys would have been banging on the courthouse door the morning after the perjury was revealed. Am I missing something here? Here’s my logic: the superseding indictment was largely based on false testimony. If that is true, why can’t the indictment be dismissed, and since the extradition is solely based on the indictment, that case should be dismissed too.
Another question: If the US had the right to appeal that part of the Baraitser decision which is lost, why wouldn’t Julian have been able to appeal that part of the decision which went against him, namely all the very substantive issues? Regardless of how partial to the US the British High Court might be, it would be hard pressed not to overturn Baraitser’s decision on the substantive issues given the misconduct of the US, particularly the spying on Julian and his attorneys. Perhaps Mercouris can shed light on that.
The recanted testimony is only one aspect of the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion indictment. And there are also 17 charges under the Espionage Act against Assange.
But, if, as I believe is true, that testimony was key, or major, it colors the whole grand jury proceeding. No telling what other testimony was suborned perjury.
In addition, if the whole reason for the superseding indictment was to solve the US’s “New York Times” problem, in other words the 17 count charges under the Espionage Act are really against journalism, then doesn’t the whole house of cards collapse?
Anyway, I think these issues are ripe for discussion tomorrow.
Thanks, Joe, for all you do, including tomorrow’s CN Live, to cover this most important issue for our democracy.
Thank you. Insightful, worrying. My instinct is to never trust the yanks. But we have got to a point where their co travellers in deception Australia and the UK do so quite happily. We are at a point where lying has no consequence, no shame, no requirement to withdraw from public life. As Pompeo gleefully said- we lied we cheated etc. It has not changed. If Obama had been much more a man with spine, we would not be here today. Nice bloke but an artful liar. A great pity
Isn’t manufacturing evidence illegal? Why are the FBI agents not in jail?
Yikes. That’s 6 a.m. in California! Should be good, though.
It will be on replay any time after that.