Craig Murray: The Power of Lies

The press has been neither humiliated nor found out because most of the country still believes the lies they were told and have not seen corrected.

By Craig Murray

The comments on Peter Oborne’s excellent article on Julian Assange in The Guardian on May 20 are a damning indictment of the media’s ability to instill near universal acceptance of “facts” which are easily proven lies.

The Guardian chose a comment full of these entirely untrue assertions as its “Guardian pick” to head the section:

If you look through all the comments, they repeat again and again that Wikileaks published un-redacted documents, including names of U.S. agents, which put lives at risk. The entire basis of most of the comments is simply untrue – and none of the readers seems to have any information to contradict them.

Julian Assange has never said that governments should have no secrets. That would be a ridiculous position and clearly some information held by government is rightly confidential. He has said that governments should be very much more open to the public, and that most government secrecy is unjustified.

Nor has Wikileaks ever dumped data unread and unedited onto the internet. The commenter is correct to say that Wikileaks has shared editing responsibilities with organisations including The Guardian and The New York Times. This is precisely because the material needs to be edited to avoid revealing inappropriate material, and to make journalistic decisions on what to write stories about.

The notion that Assange was “lazy” because he did not read all the material and do all the editing himself is self-evidently ridiculous. The U.S. diplomatic cables and Iraq and Afghan war logs alone constituted over 600,000 documents. It was simply impossible for Assange to read it all personally. He was the editor of Wikileaks. This is tantamount to criticising Katherine Viner for not writing every single article in The Guardian personally.

The extradition hearing of Julian Assange heard numerous highly professional and respected journalists testify to the rigorous nature of Wikileaks’ editing process to remove names. Here is one extract from my reporting of the trial:

“John Goetz was the first witness this morning. Senior Investigations Editor at NDR since 2011, he was at Der Spiegel from 2007-11. He had published a series of articles on German involvement in the Afghan War, including one on a bombing raid on Kunduz which massacred civilians, for which he had won Germany’s highest journalism award. In June 2010 he went to London to meet with Wikileaks and the Guardian to work on the Afghan War Logs.

In a series of meetings in ‘the bunker’ at the Guardian with the NYT and the other major media partners, the partnership was formed whereby all would pool effort in researching the Afghan War Logs but each party would choose and publish his own stories. This cooperative venture between five major news organisations – normally rivals – was unique at the time.

Goetz had been struck by what seemed to him Julian Assange’s obsession with the security of the material. He insisted everything was encrypted and strict protocols were in place for handling the material. This had been new territory for the journalists. The New York Times was tasked with liaison with the White House, the Department of Defence and State Department on questions of handling the material.

Asked by Mark Summers to characterise the Afghan War Logs, Goetz said that they were fascinating first-hand material giving low level reports on actual operations. This was eye witness material which sometimes lacked the larger view. There was abundant first-hand evidence of war crimes. He had worked with Nick Davies of the Guardian on the Task Force 373 story.

Julian Assange had been most concerned to find the names in the papers. He spent a lot of time working out technical ways to identify names in the tens of thousands of documents. Mark Summers asked f he had been looking for the names for the purpose of redaction, and Goetz confirmed it was for redaction. He had interviewed Assange on the harm minimisation programme of the operation.

On behalf of the group Eric Schmitt of the NYT had been speaking to the White House and he had sent an email identifying 15,000 documents the White House did not want published to prevent harm to individuals or to American interests. It was agreed not to publish these documents and they were not published. Summers asked Goetz if he was aware of any names that slipped through, and he replied not.

Goetz was not so involved for family reasons when the consortium went through the same process with the Iraq war logs. But he knew that when a large number of these were released in the USA under a FOIA request, it was seen that Wikileaks had redacted those they released more heavily than the Department of Defense did. Goetz recalled an email from David Leigh of the Guardian stating that publication of some stories was delayed because of the amount of time Wikileaks were devoting to the redaction process to get rid of the ‘bad stuff’”.

Further very detailed evidence on this point was given by Professor John Sloboda, by Nicky Hager and by Professor Christian Grothoff.

Yet there is no public awareness that this careful editing and redaction process took place at all. That is plain from those comments under The Guardian article. This is because people are simply regurgitating the propaganda that the media has given them.

My blog was effectively the only source for detailed reporting of the Assange hearings, which were almost ignored by the mainstream media. [Consortium News had access to the courtroom every day and filed daily written and video reports.]

This was deliberate choice – the information was freely available to the mainstream media. This is what the Reuters News Agency, to which they all subscribe, produced on Dr Goetz’s evidence, for example:

“WikiLeaks’ Assange was careful to protect informants, court hears
By Reuters Staff

LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) – WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange was careful to ensure that the names of informants in hundreds of thousands of leaked secret U.S. government documents were never published, his London extradition hearing was told on Wednesday.

Australian-born Assange, 49, is fighting against being sent to the United States, where he is charged with conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.

A lawyer for the United States told the court last week that it was requesting Assange’s extradition over the publication of informants’ names, and not for handling leaked documents.

John Goetz, an investigative reporter who worked for Germany’s Spiegel magazine on the first publication of the documents, said the U.S. State Department had been involved in a conference call suggesting redactions, and WikiLeaks had agreed to hold back about 15,000 documents for publication.

“There was sensitivity and it was one of the things that was talked about all the time,” Goetz told the court. Assange was concerned that the media should take measures “so no one would be harmed”, he said.

Goetz said WikiLeaks was later frustrated when a password that allowed access to the full, un-redacted material was published in a book by Guardian reporters in February 2011.

Assange made international headlines in 2010 when WikiLeaks published a U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.”

I can find no evidence that any mainstream media used this report from Reuters, or indeed any of Reuters’ daily news feed that covered the major points for the defence. The BBC managed to report prominently the false claim that has entered public consciousness:

But could not find space for any of the witnesses who contradicted this claim.

It is of course a very delicate subject for The Guardian, whose journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding were in fact responsible for the dumping of un-redacted material on the net. The court heard evidence of this from numerous witnesses, of whom Professor Christian Grothoff gave the most detail:

“Summers then asked Professor Grothoff whether David Leigh released the password. Grothoff replied that yes, Luke Harding and David Leigh had revealed the encryption key in their book on Wikileaks published February 2011. They had used it as a chapter heading, and the text explicitly set out what it was. The copies of the encrypted file on some mirrors were useless until David Leigh posted that key.
Summers So once David Leigh released the encryption key, was it in Wikileaks’ power to take down the mirrors?
Grothoff No.
Summers Could they change the encryption key on those copies?
Grothoff No.
Summers Was there anything they could do?
Grothoff Nothing but distract and delay.

Grothoff continued to explain that on 25 August 2011 the magazine Der Freitag had published the story explaining what had happened. It did not itself give out the password or location of the cache, but it made plain to people that it could be done, particularly to those who had already identified either the key or a copy of the file. The next link in the chain of events was that published a blog article which identified the location of a copy of the encrypted file. With the key being in David Leigh’s book, the material was now effectively out. This resulted within hours in the creation of torrents and then publication of the full archive, unencrypted and unredacted, on

Summers asked whether Cryptome was a minor website. Grothoff replied not at all, it was a long established platform for leaked or confidential material and was especially used by journalists.”

It is telling that in The Guardian itself, scores of commenters on Oborne’s article reference the release of un-redacted files, but nobody seems to know that it was The Guardian that was actually responsible, or rather, massively irresponsible. The gulf between public perception and the truth is deeply troubling.

In a related matter, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal has published an article with that attribution about the “Russiagate” hoax around the 2016 election, which is stunning:

“The Russia-Trump narrative that Clinton sanctioned did enormous harm to the country. It disgraced the FBI, humiliated the press, and sent the country on a three year investigation to nowhere. Putin never came close to doing as much disinformation damage.”

The problem is The Wall Street Journal has one thing wrong. The press is not humiliated – like Boris Johnson, it is entirely brazen and has no capacity for humiliation. The press has not been found out, because most of the country still believes the lies they were told and have not seen corrected.

Hillary’s 2016 campaign manager has stated “Russiagate” was a lie knowingly planted by Hillary. Mueller could find no firm evidence of Russian hacking, and the CEO of CrowdStrike, the Clinton appointed firm who made the original claim, testified to congress there was “no hard evidence”.

Neither the FBI nor Mueller even inspected the DNC servers. The Christopher Steele “peegate” dossier has fallen apart and is now a thing of ridicule. Roger Stone was jailed for false evidence to the FBI – which consisted of him inventing a Wikileaks-Trump link for purposes of self-aggrandisement. The Manafort/Assange story was the most egregious press fabrication since the Zinoviev letter.

But the media who pushed all these false narratives have never backed away from them.

My favourite example ever of almost entirely unreported news was the dismissal by New York federal judge John Koeltl of the Democratic National Committee’s lawsuit against Trump and the state of Russia over the 2016 elections. Judge Koeltl ruled that nothing whatsoever had been produced which met the bar of evidence.

There is plainly a crisis in western neo-liberal societies. The wealth gap between rich and poor has become so extreme as to be insupportable, and even in the wealthiest countries in the world, people in employment are struggling to achieve decent accommodation, heating and food. The billionaire-controlled state and media systems contrived to neuter both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, who sought to restore some social justice.

In consequence, inevitable public discontent has been channelled into populist courses – Brexit, Trump, Johnson – which themselves alarm the establishment, though less than Sanders and Corbyn did. There is a space for comforting fiction to explain the social shock.

Therefore the populist wave is explained, not as a result of popular discontent at the extreme economic imbalance of modern neo-liberalism, but by the Deus Ex Machina of hacking, or Cambridge Analytica, all of which is then itself sourced back to the designated devil Putin.

Modern society is not really much more rational than the Middle Ages. Myth is still extremely potent. Only the means of myth dissemination are more sophisticated.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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15 comments for “Craig Murray: The Power of Lies

  1. Me Myself
    June 2, 2022 at 23:31

    Remember when President Bush acknowledged publicly that someone in his administration likely leaked the name of a CIA operative.

    What happened to them?

    Not enough!

  2. Maritime
    June 2, 2022 at 18:34

    It is worse than the Middle Ages now.
    Then people had very limited access to knowledge, most could not read.
    Now we are overflowing with information and yet have become prone to total hysteria as recent events have proven.
    And there is no excuse even.
    Most people have access to alternative information but choose to go along with main media babble.
    To ban people just because they belong to a particular nation, forbid formerly revered writers and composers ….
    Does this not go along with Hitler’s book burning and killing of journalists?

    Julian has warned us many years ago and now we are gradually living under one of those dictatorial regimes like in the 1930s, only this time it’s the whole ‘free’ world not just three countries.
    It is the same pattern but this time more subtle.
    Julian and others have sacrificed so much but have people learned?

  3. Cara
    June 2, 2022 at 15:43

    Excellent. Thank you.

  4. June 2, 2022 at 15:43

    It’s nice to see Murray on CN again. I hope there will be more. Thanks CN and thank you to Craig Murray.

    BTW I think it’s interesting that the Guardian that was responsible for the huge gaff of publishing the password to the whole encrypted file, never bothered to point that out to the people who were writing comments on the Assange article blaming Assange for what they did. That shows just how uninterested the Guardian is in providing truthful coverage of news and also how cowardly they are in quickly covring their own ass regardless of how much damage they cause to others. I find it hard to understand how a responsible reporter can work for them.

    • Gordon Hastie
      June 3, 2022 at 02:48

      Same here. The hypocrisy and deceit of the Guardian is astonishing. And readers dutifully believe Guardian lies such as the alleged visit to the embassy by Cohen that never took place.

      • michael888
        June 3, 2022 at 11:43

        And slimy Manafort (Trump’s Campaign Manager) who the Guardian claimed visited Assange in the closely monitored Ecuadorian Embassy: hxxps://

        Why are the Brits always interfering with American Elections? Harding, Steele… should be illegal…

  5. Em
    June 2, 2022 at 15:22

    Simply ask Glenn Greenwald how deeply complicit The Guardian is, from the get-go, in the entire Wikileaks/Julian Assange/Chelsea Manning/Edward Snowden affairs! Come to think of it, whatever has become of Manning and Snowden since Russia intruded on the humanitarian, and democratic tranquility, that had reigned in the Ukraine prior???
    According to Craig Murray (CM), Peter Oborne may indeed have written an excellent article on Julian Assange, but the fact that The Guardian published it only goes to show how far they are prepared to go in their doublespeak, disingenuous, duplicity and deceptions. Surely Oborne didn’t write the piece free of charge.
    No media has an automatic “ability to instill near universal acceptance of “facts” which are easily proven lies”! Like any good marketer, they tend to cater to a particular audience.
    Why CM would bother to choose two obvious boobs (foolish or stupid persons – knowing where the general male American audiences’ heads are, most of the time) assumptions; who still read, and give any credence to anything the Guardian prints, as legitimate, straightforward, objective reporting, as the basis for sound intellectual disputation and discussion, is beyond comprehension.
    To contradict obvious boobs in the comments sections of whatever media outlet, is an exercise in futility, and an utter waste of time IMO.
    Surely it would have been of more value if CM would also have submitted his piece to the Guardian, to enlighten the boobs, but seriously doubt whether they would have agreed to publish it, for the same reason that the U.S. government wishes to utterly censor Julian Assange and Wikileaks; for telling the truth about the crimes they commit against the general populace of the world.
    Need one look any further back in time than the clandestine crime committed by the U.S. in the Ukraine, in 2013-14 to acknowledge the value of the works of Julian Assange???
    No doubt, CM does an erudite, extensive job of digging through the trash of history!

  6. John Danziger
    June 2, 2022 at 13:32

    Excellent and very clear

  7. ray Peterson
    June 2, 2022 at 13:19

    Remembering well your thorough analysis of Baraitser’s
    ignorant pre-ordained denial of justice to Julian, makes me
    wonder if the Guardian isn’t doing a little journalist
    repentance with this piece.
    Major corporate media’s desertion of Assange
    and their traitorous abandonment of WikiLeaks’ condemns
    them, but truth doesn’t prosper under capitalism.
    As American author, Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), said, “Fascism
    is capitalism plus murder.” So now the question for truth and
    freedom of the press is: Who is the judge?

    • Gordon Hastie
      June 3, 2022 at 02:55

      It’s typical of the Guardian. For example, it led the charge of antisemitism via a vis Jeremy Corbyn partly because it’s really a neoliberal rag, partly because it’s a Zionist rag, but publishes comment pieces now and then about inequality and the plight of the Palestinians. The G is largely responsible for Assange’s murder in broad daylight but I doubt Viner and co will lose a minute’ s sleep over it.

  8. Mike Maddden
    June 2, 2022 at 12:33

    Another astute piece from Craig Murray.

    It’s informative to read through the comments to the Oborne op-ed in the Guardian. In spite of the persistence of media disinformation regarding the Assange case, a surprising number of comments counter the ill-informed Guardian readers who have swallowed the lies.

    I’m hardly an optimist, but the tide of public opinion does seem to be turning in favor of Assange.

    Thanks CN.

    • NoOneYouKnow
      June 5, 2022 at 01:10

      Part of the problem with the Guardian’s commenters is that many of them who saw through its propaganda have been censored, blocked, kicked off, or otherwise alienated from the site, especially after Viner took over. Anyone who still reads the Guardian must be, at best, gullible.

  9. Babyl-on
    June 2, 2022 at 12:12

    “Modern society is not really much more rational than the Middle Ages. Myth is still extremely potent. Only the means of myth dissemination are more sophisticated.”

    In spite of the article relying on Guardian “comments” – distorted and made false by censorship and possible directed comments by Guardian contractors it does in the end make an important point.

    Not only is modern society still caught up in the (primarily religious) mythologies of the 13th century we see that in today’s warfare by the Western empire continues to use the surround, starve and destroy for profit siege warfare. It was religious fascism then and it is now. There are no gods there is lust for power. Until that statement is clearly understood the Western religion of power (attributed to some supernatural “god”) as sacred while human life is subservient to power putrid and temporary.

    Western religion is not humanitarian it worships power above human life.

  10. forceOfHabit
    June 2, 2022 at 12:01

    Sigh. The shameful persecution of Julian Assange persists. Thank you for your unflagging support for Julian and attempts to keep this travesty of injustice in the public eye.

  11. June 2, 2022 at 11:43

    Lies don’t challenge the empire’s thoroughly inculcated worldview. Only truth does that.
    The most protected secrets are those that are criminal and treasonous.

Comments are closed.