Australian news, and some related international items

No chance of a fair trial for Julian Assange in America

Daniel Ellsberg: “It is outrageous that Biden has continued to pursue Julian Assange’s prosecution”, il Fatto Quotidiano, 23v Mar 22,

”……………………………………………..  Julian Assange was charged with Espionage Act violations. Did you expect that the United States, for the first time in its history, would charge a journalist for publishing truthful information in the public interest?

DANIEL ELLSBERG. The lawyers who were following this at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), were predicting that Donald Trump would prosecute journalists. No president had done that yet, it’s a blatant violation of the First Amendment. It’s obviously unconstitutional, which of course doesn’t slow down Trump, and it is outrageous that Biden has continued to pursue that prosecution. He should have withdrawn the appeal Trump made for extradition of Julian, for prosecution. Biden could just drop it any time, he could do it the next hour. It was very arguably unconstitutional even in my case: I was the first to be indicted under those charges, for leaking, but I had been a former official. I was a source, not a journalist – they don’t regard sources as journalists. You could argue either side in my case, as to whether it was constitutional. In Julian’s [case] there is no argument on the other side: it’s obviously unconstitutional, in America, under our First Amendment. Obama had considered indicting Julian, but had backed off for that very reason, that if they went after Julian on those grounds, they would have no excuse for not going after the New York Times. And they didn’t want to take that on, in part because the New York Times is extremely useful to them, to successive administrations. It basically supports the empire, and doesn’t object to endless amounts of money for so-called defense. It’s a very useful outlet for them, even though it occasionally prints things they would rather not have out.

Why do you think the Biden administration doesn’t drop the case?

ELLSBERG. Biden, when he was vice president, at the very beginning, in 2010, called Julian Assange a high-tech terrorist, which is absurd. He is very much against leaks, and actually all presidents get very angry at leaks that they don’t want out, but they recoil from the prospect of clearly unconstitutional action. Trump didn’t, and Biden should have, but he hasn’t so far. It’s still not too late for him to correct that, but I don’t expect that he will. He shows so much animus toward Julian, that I don’t expect it. I don’t know why entirely, by the way. In general, in foreign policy, he has not shown anything progressive or favorable. In domestic policy, in many ways he has acted better than almost anyone expected, but on foreign policy, there is nothing to be said for him: it’s the same as Obama’s, which was not good, and pretty much the same as Trump’s.

According to Yahoo! News, the CIA tried to poison Julian Assange or kidnap him. If the United States can extradite him, do you expect a fair trial?

ELLSBERG. A fair trial? Oh, there’s no chance for him to have a fair trial, any more than any of the other people charged and convicted under the Espionage Act, or even me. I am the only one who, in a way, ‘got away with it’, in the sense of not being put in prison for life or for a long time by the administration, and that was because of a very unusual set of events, but they’re the same as we’ve learned about Julian. Just as they were considering kidnapping him from the Ecuadorian embassy, possibly killing him, possibly poisoning, but also even considering shoot-outs of various kinds that would get him, I [too] had thirteen men, twelve or thirteen, brought from Miami, CIA assets, one of them at least a CIA agent right at that time, but they had all worked for the CIA in the Bay of Pigs. They were brought up with orders to ‘incapacitate Daniel Ellsberg, totally’. When I asked the prosecutor: ‘What did that mean? Kill me?’, he said: ‘Well, the words were ‘incapacitate you totally’, but you know, those who work for the CIA never use the word ‘kill’. But they were killers, those people had been involved in efforts to assassinate Castro, and even Trujillo. They didn’t [kill me]. Again, I escaped that fate, because at the last moment they thought they were being set up to be caught, so I was lucky, over and over again. None of the other people indicted have been lucky, they all have been convicted essentially, in many cases by plea bargains, because they have been threatened with much greater sentences. Life [sentences] for treason or espionage, and they have accepted smaller charges, but that still kept them in prison for years, in many cases……………

So you think there is no chance at all of a fair trial for Julian Assange…

ELLSBERG. Because under the Espionage Act, the defendant has no chance to tell the Jury why they did what they did, or what they were hoping to achieve, what the benefits to the public were hoped to be and in some cases were realised, and what harm there really was, which was usually nothing, to the national security. That is aside from the fact, as you mentioned, that in his case, as in mine, there were crimes against him: conspiracies to harm him, totally, criminally, as was true in my case. But in my case, when it came out, the case was dropped…………..

in the case of Julian Assange, the revelations that the CIA tried, had plans to kill him didn’t make the judge drop the case…

ELLSBERG. She didn’t really consider them, seriously, which seems shocking. I mean, British law is different from American, in the sense: they don’t have a First Amendment………………… in Britain – their Act is much tougher against free speech and against the press there. So maybe the judge couldn’t take that seriously, being British. But the idea of illegally overhearing a defendant’s discussions with his attorneys, and with his doctors, and everything he said with every visitor – I visited him twice in the Ecuadorian embassy, and I am sure it was recorded – that, obviously, even in Britain [he smiles], or anywhere else, should lead to the dropping of the case, except in a clear-cut police society, let’s say, like East Germany used to be, for example.

……………….. If Julian Assange is extradited and prosecuted in America, I would say, with the mood now, since 9/11, with these last twenty years, he might well be convicted, although he shouldn’t be. The First Amendment would then be eliminated. What that means is: not only sources, but journalists would then have to fear being prosecuted and convicted for doing their job in questioning the government, putting out information the top government doesn’t want. This is a government that we know conducts aggressive wars, criminal aggressive wars, as in Iraq, absolutely, clear-cut aggression, and has very, very little concern for the people of those areas, as they are showing in Afghanistan, right now…………..

 In short: it’s a government that needs to be exposed, and it won’t be very much if…if Julian’s case is a real turning point here, then we will essentially have a press like that of Stalin’s Russia.

March 24, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties

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