Defence complains about Assange “mistreatment.”
The case against him is “Lies, lies and more lies.”
Unredacted cables leaked after password “disclosed” by Guardian journalists.
Assange personally warned the White House of the leak
The second day of the extradition hearing of Julian Assange opened today with a discussion about how he is being treated in prison. The court heard that yesterday alone, he was handcuffed 11 times, strip-searched twice and paperwork was removed from him by security staff.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, for the defence, was supported by James Lewis QC for the Prosecution in asking the judge to “send a message,” to the prison authorities that this was unacceptable.
Mark Summers QC, another member of the defence team, then rose to argue that the prosecution case that Assange had solicited material from former US soldier Chelsea Manning and had then recklessly put lives at risk by releasing it was “Lies, lies and more lies.”
The QC said that the released cables had a clear public interest, including US spying on UN diplomats, extra-judicial killings etc, says their release has “changed the world.”
Manning, the court was told, had taken full responsibility for the release of the information at her court-martial, and while Wikileaks did have requests for information on its website, the idea that they asked for US diplomatic cables was “complete fantasy.”
Summers also gave the court a very different version of the release of the unredacted version of the cables from what the court heard from the US government yesterday.
He suggested that for nine months after the data had been passed on, Wikileaks worked with five media partners to edit out anything from the cables that could put lives at risk. Summers said that even the US State Department was co-operating with the process, holding a conference call with a German media outlet to discuss how this could be done.
The court was told that this went wrong when two Guardian journalists, Luke Harding and David Leigh, published a book which contained the password to the database. This led to the uncensored information being published on Cryptome, a US-based site. As Summers noted, the information is still on the site and Cryptome has never faced prosecution.
Defence Counsel also told the court that when the password disclosure was discovered Assange had personally phoned the White House to warn them, only to be told to call back “in a few hours.”
Summers then said, ““The US government knows all this, but then they send documents to the court saying Assange ‘recklessly put lives at risk’”
He also rubbished claims that Assange had helped Manning to hack a password to gain access to information, noting that she already had full access and, it was shown at her court-martial that this was tracked by IP address, not by a password.
Summers concluded: “Is this extradition request a fair reflection of what is known by the US government? The answer is blatantly no.”
Chelsea Manning “acted through conscience”
Wikileaks dealt responsibly with Afghan/Iraq leak
Assange told Manning “Curious eyes never run dry.”
Case halted early as Assange suffers difficulties in concentrating
Court two at Belmarsh Magistrates Court resumed just after 2 pm to hear further submissions from defence counsel Mark Summers QC.
Summers continued to hammer what he said were inaccuracies in the US government’s extradition request. On the charge that Julian Assange had helped former US soldier Chelsea Manning crack a password to a secure system used by the US military to gather information, Summers said that in fact that the system concerned at that time did not require a password to access.
Turning to the conversation, through a messaging app, between Assange and Manning about passwords, Summers told the court that soldiers in Manning’s unit often wanted cracked administrator passwords so they could install games and music on their computers.
She was seen as a technical expert, even being asked by superiors to install software they wanted.
Defence counsel noted that just before the exchange Manning’s computer had been reformatted, so, “to get movies and games back she’d need another crack at the password.”
Turning to the accusation that Assange had “solicited,” Manning into providing information and then leaked it in an irresponsible manner so putting in danger those helping the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, Summers said “Assange went through what Manning leaked over Iraq, which included the US military handing over detainees to torture squads, and the murder of civilians. He noted that the former soldier has always said she was moved by her conscience to leak the information, not at the urging of the Wikileaks founder.
Turning to the daily “war reports,” for Iraq, also leaked by Manning, the defence barrister says these materials were “non-sensitive,” and “historic. They would, he said, be of no operational use to an enemy after 72 hours or so and generally contained no names.
“There was no danger to any source in the release of these documents,” Summers said, adding to the judge “this is the kind of information you think they [the prosecution] would have told you.”
Summers then told the court that when Wikileaks published the Afghan War Diaries they held back around 20% of the data so as to protect people’s identities.
15,000 documents were held back for “harm minimisation,” the defence counsel said noting again that is the sort of matter the prosecution might have mentioned during their opening yesterday.
He concluded his statement by saying, “the misrepresentations of the US government in this case amount to clear evidence of bad faith.”
James Lewis QC, who is representing the US government then rose to respond. He said many of the points raised by the defence were “Are no more than innuendo,” questioning if Chelsea Manning’s testimony could be trusted. He said much of what Chelsea she says is “self-serving,” and cannot be relied on, adding “she has been consistently been trying to help him [Assange].”
He also noted that during another conversation with Assange, Manning had said he had no more information, to which Assange replied, “Curious eyes never run dry.” – which Lewis suggested was, “evidence of solicitation.”
At this point, the presiding judge, Vanessa Baraitser, paused the case and asked the defence team if Mr Assange was ok to continue. Solicitor Gareth Peirce spoke to the defendant and told the court, “Mr Assange is struggling, he is finding it difficult to concentrate and cannot speak to his legal team.”
The judge then adjourned for the day.
The case continues