Democracy Dying in the Darkness of the Assange Case

The establishment figures on the bench took American promises as “solemn undertakings from one government to another” because Assange is too important to let go, writes Joe Lauria.

(Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

It is a very dark day indeed for the future of press freedom. If Julian Assange does not find relief at the U.K. Supreme Court, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that democracy, already on life support, is done for. The U.S., and its best ally Britain, have behaved in this affair no better than any tinpot dictator tossing a critical reporter into a dungeon.

The judgement by the High Court on Friday to allow Assange’s extradition to the U.S. comes on U.N. Human Rights Day; the day that Washington concluded its so-called Democracy Summit and the day when the Nobel Prize was awarded to two journalists, one of whom dismissed Julian Assange and said the purpose of journalism is to support national security.

That’s exactly what the national security state wants from its journalists. And they reward them with the highest honors. Assange did the opposite. He fulfilled journalism’s supreme purpose and he may be about to pay for it with his life. 

The Choices Available

The High Court could have denied extradition to a country whose intelligence service plotted to kill or kidnap him. It could have sent the case back to magistrate’s court to be reheard.

Instead Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde found an extremely narrow way to overturn the lower court’s decision not to extradite Assange. Their judgment dismissed three of the five grounds of the U.S. appeal. They upheld Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s determination that Assange was too sick and prone to suicide to be extradited.

But that was only one of the two pillars of her judgment. The other was that extreme isolation in an American prison made it almost certain that Assange would take his own life. So the justices of the High Court found a way to demolish that second pillar and with it Baraitser’s order not to extradite crumbled to dust.

The Americans gave assurances, promises, after Baraitser’s judgement, that they would never, ever put Assange under Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) – the most extreme form of American isolation – nor would they send him to ADX Florence maximum security prison in Colorado.

But as journalist Chris Hedges pointed out to me there are many facilities strewn across the U.S. that have various forms of harsh isolation. And nor did the Americans promise not to put Assange in isolation at the Alexandria Detention Center, the first place he goes to if he lands in the United States.

There is a curious error, or a ruse, in the U.S. written assurances. It says Assange will not be held “pre-trial” at ADX Florence, even though that is strictly a post-conviction facility. Pre-trial detention is in Alexandria, where extreme isolation measures exist.

In any case, the American promises are full of holes and other things: if Assange should commit an unspecified offense all bets are off. He can then be sent to SAMs.

They Solemnly Swear

But the establishment figures on the high bench take these American promises seriously, in fact as “solemn undertakings from one government to another.”

They ruled: “There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say. There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”

They dismissed documented evidence that the U.S. breaks such promises, saying, “General statements of opinion calling into question the good faith of the USA from those who establish no relevant expertise to give such an opinion are of no more value than a journalistic opinion culled from an internet search.”

So they found Baraitser was essentially right about everything in her ruling, about Assange’s health and about U.S. prison conditions combining to make extradition “oppressive” and therefore against the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Act.

But all that was dismissed by the High Court because the Americans promise not to do anything really bad to Assange. Therefore it’s no longer oppressive to send him to the States. Not because the prisons aren’t a horror, but because the Americans promised to not treat him badly. 

On that flimsy, hard-to-believe basis, the court ruled his extradition should go ahead. 

Too Big to Free

Assange is too important to the establishment to let get away. No matter that the C.I.A. wanted to kill him; no matter that the C.I.A. spied on his privileged conversations with his lawyers; no matter that the chief witness in the computer conspiracy charge admitted he made it all up.

The Old Boy Network of trust between the rulers of the Anglo-Saxon powers was enough.

To save their hides from more exposure about how they try to violently and deceptively dominate the world, they are willing to sacrifice the last vestiges of their pretend democracy.

Julian Assange is that important to them.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. 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 work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

 

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26 comments for “Democracy Dying in the Darkness of the Assange Case

  1. d carr
    December 13, 2021 at 04:52

    Lauria writes “if Assange should commit an unspecified offense all bets are off. He can then be sent to SAMs.”

    Even if he doesn’t commit such an offense, but is accused of such an offense, his treatment will getbe much worse. Prisoners have no rights.

  2. Sam F
    December 12, 2021 at 19:31

    This is a rare glimpse of the abject corruption of the judiciary, which the public refuses to believe, preferring their childish fantasy of Santa Claus in solemn robes who will rescue them from nightmares. They see no means to correct it, so they ignore it.

    H.L. Mencken said “The average man avoids truth as diligently as he avoids arson, regicide, and piracy on the high seas, and for the same reasons: it is dangerous, no good can come of it, and it doesn’t pay.”

    All judges work for pay-to-play party operatives (my expert knowledge is in Maine, Massachusetts, DC, Georgia, Florida, and California), and regard their job as the subversion of the Constitution and laws for private gain of party. The corruption flows downward from the Supreme Court, so it is fair to generalize to nearly all federal judges, although a few on the West coast have a better record.

    The judiciary cultivates the science of lying and nothing more. It becomes sharply more corrupt from bottom to top, and the fake judges at the bottom are trying hard to prove their ability to lie, cheat, and steal in judicial sounding tones. One would have to get rid of nearly every one of them to have a working judiciary.

    The public is fooled by their own dream of a judicial Santa Claus who will set things right if they are wronged. If suspicious enough to read cases, they are fooled by judgments that simply lie about the facts: the public always assumes that the judiciary would not be so audacious. Lawyers are absolute dependents of the judiciary for survival, and many aim to be judges themselves, receiving bribes from the rich instead of legal fees from the poor. The mass media are also utterly dependent for survival upon the judiciary, who can easily throw a libel suit against critics. Those who know the truth and dare to speak are extremely few, and the public will never hear of them in mass media, and will never listen to what it dares not believe.

    Anyone who hopes for a judicial solution to any problem, other than by coincidence or for the benefit of insiders or the rich, is a fool of the oligarchy.

    My experience is with civil rights cases. Here is an excellent article by Paul Roberts on the abject corruption of the criminal justice system: hXXp://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/01/30/justice-system-criminal-paul-craig-roberts/
    Here is an article on judicial corruption and the extensive measures that would be necessary to get rid of it:
    hXXp://www.counterpunch.org/2010/12/10/why-judicial-corruption-is-invisible/

  3. Donald Duck
    December 12, 2021 at 08:16

    The interesting thing about totalitarian states now taking shape in much of the northern hemisphere is that the leaders tend to have rather short lifespans. Our own rapidly degenerating ruling elites are also not particularly adroit in the art of rule. Their principal problem is that they tend to believe in their own BS. Hitler met his end in a grubby little room in a bomb-shelter in Berlin and Mussolini tried to evade capture by Italian communist partisans, but was caught, shot, along with his mistress and hung up by his toes. Such are the vicissitudes of totalitarian dictators.

    I think that there is good reason to believe that this will also be the eventual fate of our sick, demented, global oligarchy and their apologists and their self-serving ‘journalist hacks’. All over Europe in 1945 the guilty ones were tracked down and sometimes shot or hanged where they stood. Wonderful. Bring it on.

  4. Doris
    December 11, 2021 at 16:54

    Democracy, always more a concept than reality, has been dying from a thousand cuts from the beginning, and Julian Assange is the icon for its demise. Too bad we didn’t notice that Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Syria, Libya and a hundred other places were parallels to the iconic fascist regime, Rome. Now – They – have all the power, and solutions are almost inconceivable, much less employable. Yet not entirely impossible, so long as the idea of democracy survives.

  5. Khlooi
    December 11, 2021 at 14:45

    The day when the Nobel Prize was awarded to two journalists, one of whom dismissed Julian Assange and said the purpose of journalism is to support national security.

    I despair.

    Assange should be the winner of the Peace Prize many times over.

  6. December 11, 2021 at 09:01

    Good piece, Joe.

    • Skip Edwards
      December 12, 2021 at 14:30

      It’s not only a “good piece, Joe”. It is also a very necessary piece. It serves as a very explicit warning to all of us that Democracy only stands up when a dedicated citizenry exists as its foundation. A free press is the only tool we have to allow us the opportunity to realize when that foundation must act as one unit in order to keep our Democracy. Julian Assange acted as a journalist should; and, so far we have failed him along with ourselves.

  7. John Doran
    December 11, 2021 at 04:38

    Julian fights for truth & honesty.
    Julian fights for us all.

    But truth & honesty would kill the Empire of Lies of Chaos of Murder of Genocide.
    All in the name of Human Rights, of course. & Democracy.

    Thank God Putin seems to have enough brains & backbone to resist the Empire, though one particularly insane Senator is calling for nuclear war on Russia in protection of the cesspit that is Nazi Ukraine!
    Thank God that Xi seems determined on a future of win win development.
    The Empire will not have a free run to global domination, it seems.

    We must all pray & do all we can for Julian: for Julian is us.

    JD.

  8. Adam Gorelick
    December 10, 2021 at 22:59

    Only the deepest cynicism and self serving political motives can account for the High Courts straight faced acceptance of U.S. assurances of being kind and gentle with Assange being in “good faith”. The U.K. has officially been Americas lap dog since they were ordered to retreat from Egypt during the Suez crisis. Now they will be as complicit in murdering Julien Assange and putting a boot heel to the face of actual journalism.

    • Francis Lee
      December 12, 2021 at 07:53

      The UK has been the American lapdog since the 1946 loan. As Michael Hudson put it.
      ”The first loan of the post-war agenda was the British loan, which as President Truman announced in forwarding to Congress, would set the course of American and British economic relations for many years to come. He was right for the Anglo-American Loan agreement spelled the end of Britain as a great power.(Michael Hudson – Super-Imperialism. – pp.268-69)

      What also followed the British capitulation was extended to Europe as a whole, and even extended into Eastern Europe. Europe is neither sovereign nor democratic. It is an American occupied zone, without sovereignty or democracy.

  9. Marie-France Germain
    December 10, 2021 at 19:04

    When and where are the funerals for the UK and USA’s democracies? It might just be in their respective halls of “justice” to perform the last rites. After all, women have already been put back almost 50 with the Supreme Court’s allowing the extremists’ abortion limitations. However, murdering children and people of colour anywhere and everywhere in the world, including American schools is one hundred percent okay with the courts and congress. America is sick and most of the Western world has caught what virulence it spreads.

    Forever wars, forever heat and rain and drought and ice cold where it is not the norm. I anticipate a wonderful future for humans, we mostly of us, deserve it but the innocent natural world does not deserve to die at the hands of we monsters. The saving grace is that we are going to be very, very aware of the hell on earth we created and we won’t be able to hide or deny.

    • Piotr Berman
      December 11, 2021 at 06:55

      “When and where are the funerals for the UK and USA’s democracies? ”

      The status of the patient is “imperfect democracy”, more frequently called “authoritarian rule”. Perhaps temporary, but further decay will come first.

  10. rosemerry
    December 10, 2021 at 18:30

    I am glad nobody wrote again about the “faces 175 years in prison” when it just means he will (perhaps) live and definitely die in a US hellhole for daring to tell the truth.

  11. Peter SCHWEINSBERG
    December 10, 2021 at 17:45

    The wonderous Christian nation of the United States of America, the one which desperately wants to save unborn babies in the name of Jesus, does not want to admit to the truth exposed by Julian Assange, instead they seek to punish him or at least make it impossible for him to reveal more of their hidden injustices.
    The judgement of God patiently awaits them, when He will say: “I never knew you.”
    When they will be cut off, left to wither and eventually burnt.

  12. December 10, 2021 at 17:34

    If real democracy is to be realized, it will be because of the Darkness of the Assange Case.

  13. Lois Gagnon
    December 10, 2021 at 17:23

    The gloves are off. It’s the Western ruling oligarchs against humanity. This is the real war being waged. Let there be no more illusions.

    • John Doran
      December 11, 2021 at 03:59

      Precisely correct.
      Banksters & billionaires vs us.
      JD.

    • Daniel
      December 12, 2021 at 11:09

      Exactly, yes. And the sooner we all realize this, the better, so that we can start reshaping our narratives to more accurately reflect tihs reality.

  14. David Otness
    December 10, 2021 at 17:02

    In a word, “Word!” Clarity and no bones about it.

    • evelync
      December 10, 2021 at 19:11

      Thanks, David Ott. I think Lowkey expressed it very well: “a war against our right to know”

      “Lowkey
      @Lowkey0nline

      The US were spying on private conversations between Assange and his lawyer, even in the toilet through security company UC Global. This negates any pretence of a “fair trial” in the US. This is a sham. This is not just a war against him but a war against our right to know.”
      hxxps://twitter.com/Lowkey0nline/status/1469295599564595200

  15. evelync
    December 10, 2021 at 16:53

    Yes, Joe Lauria, because if democracy really means this:
    “Democracy (Greek: ??????????, d?mokrati?, from d?mos ‘people’ and kratos ‘rule’) is a form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation (“direct democracy”), or to choose governing officials to do so (“representative democracy”)” .
    hxxps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

    Then crushing Julian Assange for speaking to us to share with us the truth, should be seen as burying us in the darkness.

    We, the people, are the target of Julian’s punishment. We are disposable. We are hated and feared. We are prevented from deliberating and deciding by being kept in the dark.

    • evelync
      December 10, 2021 at 16:59

      CORRECTION

      Yes, Joe Lauria, because if democracy really means this:
      “Democracy (Democracy (Greek: ??????????, d?mokrati?, from d?mos ‘people’ and kratos ‘rule'[1]) is a form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation (“direct democracy”), or to choose governing officials to do so (“representative democracy”). ” .
      hxxps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

      Then crushing Julian Assange for speaking to us to share with us the truth, should be seen as burying us in the darkness.

      We, the people, are the target of Julian’s punishment. We are disposable. We are hated and feared. We are prevented from deliberating and deciding by being kept in the dark.) is a form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation (“direct democracy”), or to choose governing officials to do so (“representative democracy”)” .
      hxxps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

      Then crushing Julian Assange for speaking to us to share with us the truth, should be seen as burying us in the darkness.

      We, the people, are the target of Julian’s punishment. We are disposable. We are hated and feared. We are prevented from deliberating and deciding by being kept in the dark.

    • David Otness
      December 10, 2021 at 17:34

      A very succinct synopsis, evelync.
      Democracy remains the most difficult human order to maintain under most circumstances. And many—too many—are those who are adept in corrupting its purity of manifestation. So here we are.

  16. Anonymot
    December 10, 2021 at 16:37

    Thank you, Joe Lauria for your insistant coverage of this disgraceful case that demonstrates the elephantine memory and vulture fangs of Hillary who initiated it and exerted continual presseres for it to continue.

    Does Julian have any further appeals available?

    I do disagree with your Lede, for democracy’s sarcophagus was nailed closed in 1988; the lid has never been lifted and probably never will be, given the identicality of the two parties’ controllers.

    • December 10, 2021 at 17:36

      Tons of legal steps still pending. Assange Defense has yet to petition their own appeals on the merit. Plus they will seek reviews of today’s blundering result.

  17. Consortiumnews.com
    December 10, 2021 at 16:19

    Totally, dead wrong. Held at Stockholm City Hall in Sweden. hXXps://www.nobelprize.org/ceremonies/the-nobel-prize-award-ceremony-2021/

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