Conflicts in Priti Patel’s Power Over Assange

Priti Patel, who will soon decide whether to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher, has links to a group that has attacked Assange in the media for a decade, Matt Kennard reports.

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel in April 2021. (Tim Hammond/No 10 Downing Street)

By Matt Kennard 
Declassified UK

  • Patel sat on advisory council of Henry Jackson Society (HJS) with Lord Arbuthnot, whose wife later made two key legal rulings against Assange
  • Former C.I.A. Director James Woolsey has been an HJS patron since 2006
  • HJS has hosted three other ex-C.I.A. directors in London since 2014
  • Patel was paid £2,500 by HJS to fly to Washington for a “security” program in the U.S. Congress
  • Patel ignores Declassified’s request for clarification of her role in HJS

Priti Patel sat on the Henry Jackson Society’s (HJS) advisory council from around 2013-16, although the exact dates are unclear as neither the HJS nor Patel responded to Declassified’s requests for clarification. 

She has also received funds from the HJS, and was paid £2,500 by the group to visit Washington in March 2013 to attend a “security” program in the U.S. Congress. 

Patel, who became an MP in 2010 and was appointed home secretary in 2019, also hosted an HJS event in parliament soon after she returned from Washington. 

After the U.K. Supreme Court said this month it was refusing to hear Assange’s appeal of a High Court decision against him, the WikiLeaks founder’s fate now lies in Patel’s hands. He faces life in prison in the U.S. 

The Henry Jackson Society, which was founded in 2005 and does not disclose its funders, has links to the C.I.A., the intelligence agency behind the prosecution of Julian Assange and which reportedly developed plans to assassinate him. 

One of the HJS’s international patrons is James Woolsey, C.I.A. director from 1993-95, who was in this role throughout the period Patel was advising the group. Woolsey’s affiliation to the Henry Jackson Society goes back to at least 2006, soon after it was founded. 

Former C.I.A. Director James Woolsey in 2015. (Christopher Michel, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

In 2014, the group hosted General David Petraeus, C.I.A. director from 2011-12, at a U.K. Parliament meeting from which all media were barred

Three years later, in 2017, the Henry Jackson Society organized another event at Parliament with General Michael Hayden, C.I.A. director from 2006-9, to “discuss the current state of the American Intelligence Community and its relationships with foreign partners.”

Hayden described “the relationship within the Five Eyes community as strong as ever, despite potential concerns over recent intelligence leaks between members.” Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.

‘Perception of Bias’

During a visit to the U.K. in July 2020, then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at a roundtable hosted by the Henry Jackson Society with what the Washington Post referred to as a group of “hawkish” members of the Conservative Party. 

As director of the C.I.A. in 2017, Pompeo had launched a blistering attack on WikiLeaks calling the media organization a “hostile intelligence service” that makes “common cause with dictators.” 

Pompeo did not provide evidence but added a threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

Mike Pompeo as C.I.A. director calling WikiLeaks a nonstate hostile actor. (Screenshot)

On the Henry Jackson Society advisory council at the same time as Patel was Lord James Arbuthnot, a former Conservative defence minister. His wife, Lady Emma Arbuthnot, was Westminster chief magistrate from 2016-2021. 

For part of her tenure, she was in charge of the Assange case and made two key rulings against him in 2018. Lady Arbuthnot eventually stepped aside from ruling on the case because of a “perception of bias” but never declared a conflict of interest. 

The links between Patel and Lord Arbuthnot go further. In 2010, soon after becoming an MP, Patel was appointed one of five parliamentary officers of the Conservative Friends of Israel when the group was chaired by Lord Arbuthnot. 

The Conservative Friends of Israel has been described as “beyond doubt the most well-connected and probably the best funded of all Westminster lobbying groups.” It also does not disclose its funders.

Patel was forced to resign as secretary of state for international development in November 2017 after it was revealed that she had held more than a dozen undeclared meetings with Israeli ministers and organizations while on holiday in the country. 

Many of these were arranged by the Conservative Friends of Israel’s honorary president, Lord Polak. Patel’s resignation letter accepted that her conduct “fell below…standards of transparency and openness.”

‘Bonkers & Paranoid’

Assange supporters in London during the hearing of the U.S. appeal. (Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign)

HJS staff have been repeatedly critical of Assange and WikiLeaks in the British media since 2011 when its then associate director, Douglas Murray, engaged in a combative debate with Assange. 

The following year, the Henry Jackson Society posted a video of Murray stating on media channel Al-Jazeera English: “There is not a witch-hunt of WikiLeaks. An organisation illegally obtained, or stole as we used to call it, a whole set of government documents and published them with consequences which are still not fully understood.”

Murray continued: “I think Mr. Assange has been bonkers and paranoid for years, it’s part of his alleged political makeup, and indeed I would allege that of many of his supporters.” 

Over the following years, the Henry Jackson Society and its staff continued to be among the most active civil society voices for impugning the motives and reputation of Assange. 

This stands in contrast to nearly all human rights and press freedom organizations which argue that extraditing the WikiLeaks publisher to the U.S. would be a grave blow to media freedom. 

‘Conspiracy Theories’

Boris Johnson in February 2019 speaking at an event hosted by the Henry Jackson Society. (Tommoretti5, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

In October 2016, the Henry Jackson Society released a statement to the media, which claimed:

“Mr. Assange has a long track record of stealing and distributing information, peddling conspiracy theories, and casting aspersions on the moral standing of western democratic governments. He has done this whilst supporting, and being supported by, autocratic regimes.” 

No evidence was supplied to support the assertions. 

A number of other Henry Jackson Society staff — including spokesperson Sam Armstrong and then chief of staff Ellie Green — have made anti-Assange interventions in the British media.

In April 2019, after Julian Assange was seized from the Ecuadorian embassy in London by British police, Henry Jackson Society Executive Director Alan Mendoza was put up as the counterweight against Assange’s lawyer on BBC’s flagship Newsnight program. 

Posted to the Henry Jackson Society’s Youtube channel, Mendoza told the national broadcaster: “Journalists are not allowed to break the law in obtaining their materials.” 

He added: “I think it’s quite clear Mr. Assange has spent many years evading justice, hiding in a room in Knightsbridge … Isn’t it time he actually answered questions in a court of law?”


In October 2019, as home secretary, Patel visited Washington again to meet William Barr, the then U.S. attorney general who was in charge of the Assange case as head of the Department of Justice. 

Together they signed the Cloud Act which made it easier for American and British law enforcement agencies to demand electronic data on targets as they undertake investigations.

Assange’s defense team had previously raised the concern in court that Barr may have used Assange’s extradition case in the U.K. for political ends.

Then U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Priti Patel sign the Cloud Act in Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2019. (U.S. Department of Justice)

In August 2020, Declassified requested basic information about Patel’s 2019 trip to Washington. The Home Office confirmed it held the information but refused to release it because the department considered “that disclosure of some of the information would prejudice relations between the U.K. and the United States.”

In May 2020, Declassified also requested information about any calls or emails made or received by Patel since she became home secretary which concerned the case of Julian Assange, or mentioned his name.

The Home Office told us “we can neither confirm nor deny whether we hold the information you have requested” because “to do so either way would disclose information that constitutes the personal data of Julian Assange.”

The same request for Sajid Javid’s tenure as home secretary from 2018-19 was rejected because the department said “we have carried out a thorough search and we have established that the Home Office does not hold the information that you have requested.” 

This was despite the fact Javid signed the initial U.S. extradition request for Assange in June 2019. The shadow home secretary at the time, Diane Abbott, opposed approving the U.S. extradition request.

Declassified previously revealed that before signing the U.S. request, Javid had attended six secretive meetings, some attended by former C.I.A. directors, which were organized by a U.S. lobby group which has published calls for Assange to be assassinated or taken down. 

The Home Office recently admitted it had eight officials working on Operation Pelican, the U.K. government campaign to seize Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. 

The department, however, claimed it did not know which other U.K. government ministries were involved in the operation.

Priti Patel and the Henry Jackson Society did not respond to requests for information and comment.

Matt Kennard is chief investigator at Declassified UK. He was a fellow and then director at the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London. Follow him on Twitter @kennardmatt 

This article is from Declassified UK.

15 comments for “Conflicts in Priti Patel’s Power Over Assange

  1. Tom
    April 1, 2022 at 23:35

    The future of Assange looks pretty dire to me. They are going to kill him by suicide. He will disappear and never be heard of, exactly the same as the Skripals in Salisbury .

  2. Ray Peterson
    April 1, 2022 at 15:10

    This piece of authentic journalism is why the deep state wants WikiLeaks and
    Julian dead on arrival (as he will be if extradited).
    So this law enforcement death squad operation has been in the CIA works
    since at least the “Collateral Murder” video, and with the UK court stacked by
    cheerleaders loud to protect themselves and American JFK assassination progeny,
    Julian needs Americans loud for his freedom.

  3. April 1, 2022 at 10:07

    If the US take Julian Assange and lock him up forever, for telling the truth, we might as well, sack the Justice
    System, which has failed him and destroyed his health and life with his boys!
    Justice will not have been served, from the start, with a biased Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot and no family allowed to watch the trial!
    None of the UK Media supported Julian, which is shameful The choice of Magistrate, was purely to allow her,
    to “pay back” Wikkileaks for publishing her husbands dirty weapons deals! Her son, Alexander, is Westminster Chief Magistrate, in charge of Julian extradition….it seems to be a family effort, a biased family trio..approved by Government and
    ready to say anything, to lock up Julian forever! Keir Starmer worked against Julian too..preventing Swedish
    Lawyers to meet Julian in the Embassy, where he sought safety, as Starmer, didn t want the real truth to be public…this is a long list of corruption, to bring down, a world renowned Publisher, who gave us the truth…something our Government, is afraid of! If Boris allows Biden to take Julian and lock him up forever, he must face the anger and despair of all of us, who watch our Government carefully and see, nothing to be proud of, in lies and .Covid deals with mates and breaking the Law with Partying, while we followed the Law!

    • MrBumble
      April 1, 2022 at 12:10

      “while we followed the Law”

      There were no conflicts in Priti Patel’s power over ( Mr) Assange, but co-ordination and complicity by following the “rule of man” wrapped in the cloak of the “rule of law”, facilitating Priti Patel’s power over (Mr) Assange and most of the rest of the population, whom are often mesmerised by the conjuring trick of mutating Mr De Bord’s society of the spectacle into the society of the spectators, which is regularly the purpose, so little corruption/decay was perceived in the process by the implemeters thereby encouraging them to engage in iterations.

      As a now deceased member of the “House of Lords” once observed – Laws are for little people to control them by making them feel safe.

    • April 1, 2022 at 15:23

      Methinks the goal has never really been to try and imprison Assange in the USA, but rather to persecute him to the point of an early but very public death. It is simultaneously punishment for the leaks Wikileaks published that greatly embarrassed many US elites and gave lie to many things Americans were told about what their government is really doing and attempting to cover up.

      Assange was the example; the chilling effect of his long-term meritless, illegal persecution and imprisonment is likely enough to dissuade many would-be whistleblowers and leakers from following through with their attempts.

      I can only imagine the complete and utter nonsense Washington and the consensus ‘legacy’ corporate media will utter in order to try rationalizing the kangaroo court (rather than trial by jury) and spinning the show trial to which he will be subjected.

  4. March 31, 2022 at 13:07

    Priti reminds me of the quote by the great Malcolm X about House Negros. She is more vicious than the master himself in carrying out the master’s command.

  5. Tony
    March 31, 2022 at 09:49

    Woolsey recently wrote a book, Operation Dragon: Inside the Kremlin’s Secret War on America, in which he claimed that Khrushchev ordered the assassination of President Kennedy and that it was carried out by Lee Harvey Oswald.

    There is actually no evidence at all that Oswald was on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting. And is it not a bit strange that an assassin, especially a lone assassin, would wait until his target has actually gone past before he starts firing?

    That question is highly relevant but, to my knowledge, only Craig I. Zirbel has ever referred to it, in his book The Texas Connection.

    And Oswald and Khrushchev did not have the power to make Kennedy go to Texas or to ensure that the Secret Service failed to protect him, choose the ideal route for the assassination, ensure that the top was removed from his car so that the assassins would get a clear view or ensure that the motorcycle escort was rendered useless by getting them to ride behind the car.

    Woolsey’s claims are a useful device for obscuring who really ordered the assassination and helping to promote hostility towards Russia.

    • Surrealisto
      March 31, 2022 at 22:39

      Well, who is to say a Marine volunteer would one day suddenly turn and become a Communist, emigrate to Russia (a cover for his own intelligence operations?) since as it happens Marines are arguably some of the most patriotic Americans? How sincere was his Communism, or was it merely a front, a front which could one daybe used against him by his own controllers in DC? (“I’m just a patsy.”) How does a guy like this show up one day at a Pro-Castro rally and the next day at an Anti-Castro rally? A lot they are not talking about and didn’t and wouldn’t, and I doubt any of us will be left alive who remember it all happening, when they finally relsease everything as they said they would years ago.

  6. Vera Gottlieb
    March 31, 2022 at 05:37

    Most probably you won’t print my comment but this is how I feel about this woman: !!!

    • Vera Gottlieb
      March 31, 2022 at 14:26

      A shrew…

  7. Ian Stevenson
    March 31, 2022 at 05:26

    Patel is seen as one of the most punitive Home Secretaries since the war.
    According to Craig Murray ‘s account of Assange’ s hearing, no American journalist who has been given classified material and published, has been sent to jail under the 1917 Espionage Act. Yet he is threatened with years in prison. He has not broken any British law and she could order he was kept in an open prison or on bail rather than a high security prison.
    Wikileaks revealed failures in the Afghanistan campaign ten years ago. It would have been good if someone had listened then.

    • Scully
      March 31, 2022 at 08:07

      “Patel is seen as one of the most punitive Home Secretaries since the war.”

      Up against a lot of competition, but still joining in the chorus of Lord Starr of Dingle – F*uck you bugaloo.

  8. MrBumble
    March 31, 2022 at 04:08


    The “rule of law” is a cloak worn by the rule of man.

    The “law” is a tool of coercion designed and wielded by those who can, in furtherance of the continued sustainability of their social relations, based on precedent which can be modulated not transcended in reaction to challenge, to maintain the rule of man by the “rule of law”.

    “Jurisdiction” is a function of another illusion namely “the nation state” predicated on yet another illusion of we-are-all-in-this-togetherness which facilitates the voluntary surrender of agency to “representatives” whom are deemed to be subject to “the rule of law”.

    The way to transcend the “rule of law/rule of man” is to transcend the social relations from which “the rule of law/rule of man is derived.

    A purpose of the Eurasian project is to transcend the coercive social relations self-misrepresented as “The United States of America” by social relations based upon mutual cooperative agency, one of the reasons why the Russian Federation and its associates are existential threats to “The United States of America” where cooperation/conformance is facilitated by various forms of coercion designated as “rules based order”

    You can of course continue to dance and ponder within “the rule of law” since there are remaining contradictions within “law” which can be addressed linearly in conformance with “law”thereby iterating “the rule of law”, but there are no conflicts in Priti Patel’s Power over Assange – to paraphrase Dionne Warwick – that’s what laws are for – ergo it is the normal practice within coercive social relation to attain conformance by cooperation/coercion.

    As a character in Mr. Dicken’s Oliver Twist observed – The law is an ass – whom some perceive as a racehorse of fine pedigree, encouraged by illusions that “these” truths are self-evident.

    Mr. Assange and his representatives to some degree were immersed in that illusion, whilst his opponents and their representatives were not so immersed by understanding that it is about “power” facilitated by cooperation/conformance through coercion, as it has been throughout.

    • curious spectator
      April 1, 2022 at 03:57

      A very insightful comment. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  9. March 31, 2022 at 01:38

    After the U.K. Supreme Court said this month it was refusing to hear Assange’s appeal of a High Court decision against him, the WikiLeaks founder’s fate now lies in Patel’s hands. He faces life in prison in the U.S.

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