Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

CIA spying on Assange “illegally” swept up US lawyers, journalists: Lawsuit

 Newsweek SHAUN WATERMAN ON 8/15/22 CIA surveillance of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange while he was sheltering in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London included recording his conversations with American lawyers, journalists and doctors, and copying private data from visitors’ phones and other devices, violating constitutional protections, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit – filed on behalf of four Americans who visited Assange – seeks damages personally from then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo for violating the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The suit also seeks damages against a Spanish security firm contracted to protect the embassy, and its CEO, alleging that they abused their position to illegally spy on visitors and passed on the surveillance data they collected to the CIA, which is also named a defendant in the suit.

Legal experts, including a former senior intelligence official, told Newsweek that the allegations in the lawsuit, if proven, show the CIA crossed lines drawn to protect American citizens from surveillance by overzealous intelligence agencies………………………………………………..

The suit cites evidence gathered in a preliminary criminal inquiry by the Spanish High Court, launched after whistleblowers came forward from the Spanish firm hired to provide physical security for the embassy. The firm and its CEO are under investigation for alleged violations of Assange’s privacy and the confidentiality of communications with his lawyers – both of which are guaranteed by EU law.

The plaintiffs in the U.S. suit – filed in federal District Court in New York – are two New York attorneys on the Assange international legal team and two American journalists who interviewed him. A U.S. doctor who conducted medical interviews with Assange about his mental state chose not to join the lawsuit but told Newsweek he was subjected to the same surveillance. The surveillance also swept up visits from a U.S congressman and celebrities such as model and activist Pamela Anderson.

“As a criminal attorney, I don’t think that there’s anything worse than your opposition listening in on what your plans are, what you intend to do, on your conversations. It’s a terrible thing,” said the lead plaintiff, attorney Margaret Kunstler, a member of Assange’s U.S. legal team. “It’s gross misconduct,” she added, “I don’t understand how the CIA … could think that they could do this. It’s so outrageous that it’s beyond my comprehension.”

New York-based attorney Richard Roth, who filed the suit, said, “This was outrageous and inappropriate conduct by the government. It violated the most profound privacy rights” of the plaintiffs and others who visited Assange in the embassy.

And the violation is worse, Roth added, because it included “conversations of an absolutely privileged and confidential nature,” such as those with his lawyers, and the “theft of data” from devices owned by people such as journalists and doctors who rely on confidential relationships with their sources and patients.

“All my conversations with Julian Assange were covered by doctor-patient confidentiality,” said Sean Love, a physician and faculty member at Johns Hopkins, who visited Assange twice in 2017 to conduct a study of the effects of his confinement on his physical and mental health………………………………

The privacy of other American visitors not party to the lawsuit was also violated, according to copies of surveillance material turned over to the Spanish court and reviewed by Newsweek. Every visitor had their passport photocopied and most seem to have their phones photographed. Among the visitors subject to surveillance was then-California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who was trying to negotiate a deal for a presidential pardon for Assange. .Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima’s phone was photographed and a detailed written account of her visit (revealing that she removed the battery from her phone before handing it over) was prepared by embassy security guards. Anderson’s passwords for her email and other accounts were included in surveillance photographs allegedly sent to the CIA, according to disclosures by Spanish whistleblowers.

Email messages sent to Anderson’s foundation requesting comment were not returned.

Apart from the constitutional violations against Americans swept up in the surveillance, the sheer magnitude and sensitivity of the material obtained by U.S. authorities may make it impossible for Assange to get a fair trial, Roth said. In addition to the surveillance, after the Ecuadorian government allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest Assange, it publicly turned over all his legal papers and computer equipment to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“When a federal prosecutor comes after a lawyer with a search warrant and seizes their devices, there are multiple layers of review and protection for privileged lawyer-client communications,” Roth said. The court might appoint a special master – typically a retired judge or a senior attorney independent of the government – to oversee the process and ensure that privileged communications were segregated from those collected for the prosecution.

“None of that happened here. They just grabbed everything.”

…………………………………………………………………………………. Anyone who visited was required to leave their phones and other electronic devices with security guards at the embassy, according to the lawsuit.

“Julian’s visitors weren’t allowed to bring their devices into the embassy, nothing that could photograph or record or connect to the Internet,” WikiLeaks media attorney Deborah Hrbek, the other attorney suing, told Newsweek. “We turned them over to the security guards. We thought they were embassy personnel. We believed it was a measure to protect Julian.”

In fact, the guards were contractors, working for the Spanish private security firm UnderCover Global. Engaged by the Ecuadorian government to provide security for the embassy and its long term houseguest, UC Global in 2017 began secretly also working for U.S. intelligence, according to the lawsuit, citing evidence compiled by the Audiencia National, the Spanish High Court.

UC Global CEO David Morales returned from a Las Vegas security convention in early 2017, telling colleagues they were now working “in the big leagues,” “for the dark side,” and with “our American friends,” according to whistleblower testimony from former UC Global employees. The testimony says it became clear over the subsequent weeks and months that he was being paid substantial sums of money to share surveillance data with the CIA…………………………………………………………………………………….

The suit is directed against Pompeo personally because U.S. law and the Constitution make it difficult to sue executive branch agencies for damages, said Robert Boyle, a constitutional law attorney who consulted with Roth on the suit.

A 1971 Supreme Court judgment “made it possible to personally sue government officials for violations of certain constitutional rights,” he said……………………………………………

The surveillance revealed by the Spanish courts was likely “the tip of the iceberg,” said lead plaintiff Kunstler. “We happen to have discovered that. Who knows what else they were up to?”

 https://www.newsweek.com/cia-spying-assange-illegally-swept-us-lawyers-journalists-lawsuit-1731570

August 18, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, secrets and lies

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