Queen’s Counsel Charges vs. Assange ‘Significantly Overwrought’

We are about to see how malleable the British Court system is to diktat from Washington. Will the British embrace the flimsiest of circumstantial “evidence” from U.S. security services that have axes to grind?

Will British officials turn their back on 800 years of progress on the human rights wrested from King John at Runnymede? Are there today no “English Nobles” to thwart the obscene “legal” proceedings aimed at extraditing WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to a US prison for publishing the truth about US and UK war crimes?

At Monday’s court hearing in London, James Lewis QC, argued the US case using information the US gave him from “secret sources” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s Mr. Lewis:

“The US is aware of sources, whose unredacted names and other identifying information were contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks.”

With the CIA and Defense Department saying, in effect, “Trust Us”, what could possibly go wrong? – aside from a publisher of accurate information spending the rest of his life in prison – and all future journalists running the same risk, should they run afoul of US authorities.

Unless the British Court system has become totally subservient to US influence, James Lewis QC will have to do better in the coming weeks to plausibly pin a crime on Julian Assange.

Still, do not underestimate British “flexibility” in reaction to orders from Washington. Recall, for example, that just a short, but havoc-filled 17 years ago, UK Attorney General Lord Peter Henry QC (now Baron) Goldsmith was persuaded to abruptly reverse his opinion on the upcoming US/UK unprovoked attack on Iraq from “illegal” to “legal”, for which he was awarded yet additional British honorifics.

Do President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson really wish to take their cue from the sorry pair of Bush and Blair? We never did learn very much about the “secret sources” that were said to be behind all the poppycock about those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, did we?

Once Called ‘Hearsay’

Speaking on behalf of US officialdom, Lewis claimed that hundreds of people across the world had to be warned after the WikiLeaks disclosures. Some had to be relocated. Others later disappeared, he said. But wait. He was careful to indicate that the US would not try to prove that these events resulted directly from the disclosures. (Is this not what was once called “hearsay”?)

As an ominous coda to his presentation, Lewis somberly added that some WikiLeaks information was found at Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. Aha!

‘Significantly Overwrought’

After WikiLeaks published copious materials on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and State Department cables, there was a hue and cry regarding the “inevitable” damage to US assets and equities. On Nov. 30, 2010, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered a more candid appraisal of risks and damage from the WikiLeaks disclosures.

Here’s Gates at a formal Pentagon news briefing:

“Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought … We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. [Emphasis added.]

Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for US foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

Shortly after Gates’s unusually frank correction, politicians and pundits adjusted their sights on Assange, to allegations that he was a “terrorist.” Then Vice President Joe Biden said publicly that Assange was a “high-tech terrorist”, and CNN invited a slew of talking heads to confirm the new meme: Yes indeed, Assange clearly was a terrorist.

Apparently, someone told CNN it might look a little better if they added another head for balance. I became the token head “for balance” – the patsy.

CNN’s Don Lemon asked me on Dec. 12, 2010 to explain why many of my VIPS colleagues and I could conceivably think Assange was not a terrorist, but rather a journalist.

Lemon: “So, you don’t like the way he’s been labeled a terrorist or a hacker? You actually think that he’s a journalist. I want to get that correct.”

Lemon was right about one thing: “That will have to be the last word.” Indeed, I have not been invited onto CNN since.

When I had a chance to review the show, I found it so transparent that I actually felt a bit sorry for Lemon who, after all, clearly had his instructions – and perhaps a family to feed. That turned out to be silly; he got promoted and now has his on show on CNN.

Collateral Murder

The gunsight video-cum-audio showing the cold-blooded killing of at least 12 Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, by gunners in a US Apache helicopter on July 12, 2007 during the “surge” of US forces into the Baghdad area needs to accompany any story on WikiLeaks’ revelations; this whether or not it is given much play at the hearing in the days ahead. Watching this 18-minute video will provide some idea as to why Private Chelsea Manning was moved to give it to WikiLeaks.

Every American should watch this video to get some sense of the kind of war crimes WikiLeaks exposed – accurately, with original footage – and to understand why Establishment Washington got so angry at Assange and remains hell bent on making an example of him.

For broader perspective on events surrounding Manning’s decision to give the video to WikiLeaks, there is no better source than the account given by video-maker Sonia Kennebeck, nee Mayr.

Her work “Shooters Walk Free, Whistleblower Jailed” appeared first on the German TV program Panorama; it is only 12 minutes long, but speaks volumes.

There was nothing like it at the time, so Panorama was persuaded to prepare a version, with Sonia’s own voice-over, for English speakers. Strongly recommended. (Kennebeck later directed/produced the award winning documentary film about drone warfare, “National Bird” (2016).

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). This originally appeared at Consortium News.

Author: Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).