What I Got Wrong About Julian Assange

Those who revealed un-redacted cables have never been prosecuted nor requested to remove them from the internet, writes Dean Yates.

By Dean Yates
in Tasmania, Australia

I wrote a piece for Australian online publisher Crikey just before Julian Assange’s extradition hearings resumed in September 2020 in which I regurgitated a slur that has done enormous harm to his reputation.

Australian journalists should stop using the WikiLeaks treasure trove in their stories if they wouldn’t speak up for Assange, I’d written. Journalists like to think they’d go to jail to protect a source. Well, their source was suffering in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, I said.

The problem was I also wrote that Assange dumped the Iraq and Afghan war logs on the internet without redacting names. I was wrong and lazy in repeating that slur which appeared whenever you Googled Assange’s name. That must make it true, right? Two of Assange’s well-known Australian supporters tried to correct me. To my shame, I brushed them off.

Their overtures nagging at the back of my mind, I recently did what I should have done at the time: read the submissions Assange’s legal team made at his extradition hearings and transcripts of witness testimony. I soon realized how mistaken I was.

Why should anyone listen to me? 

In Baghdad

I was bureau chief for the Reuters news service in Baghdad when an Apache gunship with the call-sign Crazy Horse 1-8 killed 12 people including two of my staff, photographer Namir Noor Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh, on July 12, 2007. Namir and Saeed would have been forgotten statistics of that illegal war if not for Assange’s publication of footage he famously called Collateral Murder on April 2010. Thanks to Assange and Chelsea Manning, Namir and Saeed’s names will never be forgotten.

Screenshot from ‘Collateral Murder’ video released by WikiLeaks.

Wikileaks had hundreds of thousands of documents it had gotten from Manning – the war logs and State Department cables — for a considerable period in 2010 and went to “extraordinary lengths to publish them in a responsible and redacted manner,” the submissions to a lower U.K. court said. WikiLeaks held back information while it formed media partnerships with news organizations such as The Guardian, The New York Times and DER SPIEGEL to manage the release of the material. Assange’s legal team cited named witnesses, various journalists who worked with Assange on the process. Those witnesses testified to the rigor of the redaction effort.

The media partners’ work on the Afghan war logs included approaching the White House before releasing them. In July 2010, Wikileaks also entered dialogue with the White House about redacting names. On July 25, 2010, WikiLeaks held back publication of 15,000 documents on Afghanistan to safeguard its “harm minimization process” even after its media partners published stories.

Redaction of the Iraq War diaries was likewise “painstakingly approached” and involved the development of special redaction software. Publication was delayed in August 2010 despite this annoying some media partners because Assange didn’t want to rush.

Un-redacted publication of the State Department cables in September 2011 was undertaken by parties unconnected to WikiLeaks, and despite WikiLeaks’ efforts to prevent it, the legal submissions state. Those who revealed un-redacted cables have never been prosecuted nor requested to remove them from the internet.

[Ed.: John Young, founder of Cryptome, testified at Assange’s hearing that he published the unredacted cables before WikiLeaks but was never questioned by police. The password to the unredacted cables was published by Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh before Cryptome did.]

For an excellent account of the origins of the slur against Assange, watch this video of Australian investigative journalist Mark Davis, who was with Assange in 2010 during the collaboration with the media partners. (Mark wasn’t one of those who chided me over the Crikey piece): 

So, Assange made every effort to redact and WikiLeaks in 2011 won Australia’s Walkley Award (our equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize) for its outstanding contribution to journalism.

Not a Single One

Further evidence Assange sought to protect individuals came at Chelsea’s court-martial in 2013. Brigadier-General Robert Carr testified that his team of 120 counter-intelligence officers couldn’t find a single person killed in Afghanistan and Iraq because of the disclosures. [Ed.: Nevertheless, U.S. prosecutors at the extradition hearing made harming U.S. informants the centerpiece of their case.]

Let’s talk about what is indisputable, who really was endangered and by whom.

The United States of America jeopardized the lives of Iraq’s entire 25 million people with an illegal and reckless invasion based on the lies that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had direct ties to al Qaeda.

It’s indisputable that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi combatants and civilians were killed in the eight-year war because of violence and war-related causes. (Research in 2013 put the total at 400,000). It’s indisputable that four million Iraqis fled their country. Millions more were displaced internally.

It’s reasonable to say millions of Iraqis were wounded by violence or suffered illness from war-related causes. It’s fair to say millions of Iraqis will struggle with trauma and mental illness for life, that a countless number have already killed themselves.

American families suffered too: 4,431 U.S. soldiers were killed in the war and 31,994 wounded. Hundreds of thousands of American veterans have PTSD or moral injury, affecting millions of loved ones and friends. Same goes for any other foreigner who spent time in Iraq – soldier, security contractor, truck driver, cook, journalist.

And in case people think the Iraq War is over, Islamic State rose from its ashes. Yet no American government or military leader has ever been held to account for the lies and misrepresentations over Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States brazenly misrepresents the facts in its case against Assange with the blessing of successive Australian governments.

That’s why we need to make Assange’s freedom an election issue in Australia. It’s why we need to make noise on social media, in the mainstream media, to politicians, and on the streets. Because Assange is being tortured in a foreign country for telling the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he will be extradited to America where he will likely die in prison.

Remember — the Australian government eagerly took part in the invasion of Iraq. His case is the biggest test of press freedom in decades. Make some noise Australians! Bring Assange home.

Re-published from Facebook with permission from the author.

Dean Yates was Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters from January 2007 to October 2008. The U.S. military stonewalled Reuters’ attempt to get the cockpit video of the July 12, 2007 attack until WikiLeaks released it as “Collateral Murder.”


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18 comments for “What I Got Wrong About Julian Assange

  1. January 9, 2022 at 06:47

    Thank you for acknowledging your mistake because,’err is to human.’However,you should always listen to the other opinion or advise especially on coming from those who don’t harbor ill feelings against you other than freely telling you their side or what they see as the truth.
    Yes,Assange did what journalists always do – to publish what’s in the interests of the people (public) they serve whether government likes it or not because,government is there to serve people who put them in power.Therefore,anyone who values TRUE JOURNALISM AND JOURNALISTS and Freedom of the Press should speak out for Assange.Otherwise we,the public and true Journalists will be the losers-living governments free to do as they wish.
    On prosecuting Assange for publishing the true account of what happened but not those who committed atrocities or even rewarding them(as with Blair) is to make a mockery of the Rule of Law. However,to cut the long story short, Journalists who value their profession and whoever believes in the free press should speak out against the the persecution of Assange who made us aware of the war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  2. Dave LaRose
    January 8, 2022 at 08:04

    Well done, Dean, in admitting to your failure to measure up. Speaking the truth here helps us all and most importantly Julian.

  3. Jo Chapman
    January 8, 2022 at 06:36

    I tried to share this article on FB, but neither the title of the article nor the picture is posted. It just says Consortium News. This has happened before. There’s no way anyone will stop to see what the article might be.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      January 8, 2022 at 10:52

      We are aware of this happening and we are trying to fix it with our web hosts.

    • January 8, 2022 at 20:28

      For anyone else wondering how to more effectively share on Facebook? Add a screenshot to the link – either of the headline and picture (pictures are always good for grabbing attention). Or your favourite quote from the above.

      Bonus points: copy your favourite quote and add that to the share too.

      Guide on sharing from (almost) any phone or computer (updated November 2021):

    • Sandra
      January 8, 2022 at 23:47

      I had the same issue. It initially opened in Chrome and when I posted to FB from Chrome it wasn’t linked to the article. Chrome wouldn’t let me copy the URL address so I opened it in Brave browser and copied the link and posted to FB. It still says Consortium News but opens to the article when you click on it.

      As an aside, I also won’t use Google search anymore. I now use Duck Duck Go. It’s mind blowing to see how different the search results are between the two search engines. Google suppresses search results.

  4. Theresa Barzee
    January 7, 2022 at 20:35

    Now we just need Maria Reza to see that Julian never just “dumped” the trove of documents as she claims in her interview after winning Nobel! Harm!

  5. Rex Williams
    January 7, 2022 at 19:24

    Thank you, Dean, for adding another more voice of experience and connection to the Assange criminally motivated case in the UK. Your comments on the lack of support for Julian from our totally feeble government here in Australia should make all thinking Australians concerned as to how the truth is handled here, how in a similar circumstance you would be treated by a foreign government without the support of your own country and the worst aspect of all, how little independence we have from the dictates of the world’s #1 criminal, the USA.

    More strength to you for your article.

    As you would also be aware, we have another great injustice in this country currently being illegally avoided in its resolution and one of which Consortium News is well aware. That of a highly respected lawyer from Canberra, Bernard Collaery, who through his support for a whistleblower, made the world aware of the criminal behaviour of a previous Australian government in “bugging” the East Timor Embassy during its negotiations on an oil lease, for the government’s financial advantage. East Timor.One of the poorest countries in the world. You would have to have a certain type of mindset to approve and implement such an act. But an elected Australian government did and this country benefitted greatly as a result. Bernard, of course, adding insult to injury is still under the threat of a prosecution. Has been for years.

    So here in this once-respected country we have a history of telling lies, avoiding truth and ignoring justice.

    Australians for Justice

  6. Sam F
    January 7, 2022 at 18:56

    Dean Yates should very soon (1) collect and summarize his documentation, (2) get affidavits from his sources, (3) consult with Assange’s defense attorneys, and (4) with their help file an Amicus Curiae brief with the appeals court. This information would be very valuable to his defense. It is important to do this in proper form with complete documentation, and his attorneys will know how to do that.

    • John Zeigler
      January 9, 2022 at 20:48

      As a U.S. citizen in complete agreement with Julian, I thank you Sam. You have nailed the best way to help him at this point. My government is vindictive and looking for a bowl of blood in this matter. Our corrupt military, as powerful as it ostensibly is, takes offense easily because of the web of lies its spins to protect its rice bowl. It has not passed an audit since 1989. Dwight Eisenhower, in his famous farewell address of Jan. 1960 was dead right, but succeeding administrations did nothing to reign in the horrible excesses.

  7. T
    January 7, 2022 at 17:22

    I have had a google Alert set up for “Assange” for over 10 years. Always provided me ‘news’ as it happened even when MSM didn’t cover it. In the past 2 weeks my inbox has been bombarded with Alerts, and none of the related to Assange, all soccer related.

  8. Mike Maddden
    January 7, 2022 at 13:49

    Thank you Dean Yates. Free Julian Assange!

  9. January 7, 2022 at 13:19

    Thank you, Dean Yates. I have paraphrased and quoted from your article and paraphrased this in a comment beneath the article “Novak Djokovic is actually free but Julian Assange is not” at hXXps://www.candobetter.net/admin/blog/6223/novak-djokovic-actually-free-julian-assange-not#comment-253634
    I was overjoyed to read your suggestion that we make Julian Assange an issue at the forthcoming Federal election.
    I concluded my comment with the following:

    At candobetter.net, we have also been, since at least prior to the 2019 elections, trying to have the issue of Julian Assange put to voters at Federal elections and also trying to have the issue discussed of the floor of Parliament.

    Should a substantial number of those Australians who have also been campaigning for Julian Assange get behind Dean Yates’ proposal, then we I think we stand every chance of making a decisive difference in the campaign to free Julian Assange at the next Federal election.

    However, given the changes made to our electoral system by the ruling Liberal/Labor duoply, it will be much harder for candidates who support Julian Assange or who, in any other other, way oppose the US and Australian military-industrial complexes, to stand. Only parties with more than 1500 members can stand candidates. So, other than a number of Greens candidates, who have spoken up for Julian Assange, we could have little choice, that is, unless the Sustainable Australia Party can be persuaded to support Julian Assange.

    Certainly we should also make the repeal of those anti-democratic laws another issue for that election.

  10. January 7, 2022 at 12:41

    Sadly, the privates are the only ones punished for the mistakes of the generals.

  11. Garrett Connelly
    January 7, 2022 at 12:32

    Temple money changers are creating the second coming at the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

    Julian Assange — Super Star.

  12. rosemerry
    January 7, 2022 at 12:19

    Even I, an ordinary person interested in truth, know that Julian had always been very strict about redaction of names and that nobody is known to have been killed or injured through his revelations on Wikileaks. David Leigh and Luke Harding, in their “biography” of Julian and vicious articles about him after using his information for the benefit of the Guardian, deserve to be forever in the bowels of the UK “justice system” yet Harding is still employed by the same Guardian and continues with the fantastic lies about Russia that he used all through 2018 during the Skripal saga.
    Checking out the wonderful interview years ago by Aaron Maté on The Real News Network shows the complete lack of any decency or understanding by this person who has apparently never suffered for his release of the code which led to the “Assange causing US deaths” lie. Luke Harding should never be forgiven.

    • TimN
      January 7, 2022 at 15:59

      Yes! That interview of that cynical liar Harding by Aaron Mate is must-viewing. Also must-viewing is Mate’s equally revealing interview with another Russiagater, the godawful James Risen.

    • Eric
      January 7, 2022 at 20:40

      On Harding, Rosemerry has nailed it.

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