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UK-USA: Leaked recording bolsters case for dismissal of US charges against Julian Assange

Sunday 20 December 2020, by siawi3

Source: https://www.thecanary.co/uk/analysis/2020/12/19/leaked-recording-bolsters-case-for-dismissal-of-us-charges-against-julian-assange/?__s=jzpw832quasy7aw3kcp4

Leaked recording bolsters case for dismissal of US charges against Julian Assange

Photo: Julian Assange on phone to US state department

Tom Coburg

19th December 2020

There are only a couple of weeks before the UK court rules on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to be extradited to the US. Now a leaked audio recording has been made public that undermines the US prosecution’s key accusation that WikiLeaks put lives at risk.

It could provide further grounds for the court to dismiss the extradition request.

The video and audio evidence

In March 2020, The Canary reported on claims that Guardian journalists had played a pivotal role in ensuring that an unredacted version of classified US cables could be published, contrary to the wishes of WikiLeaks. That’s because, in February 2011, David Leigh and Luke Harding published the complete passphrase to the unredacted US cables in the book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. The Guardian denied that the book had “compromised security in any way”.

In that article, The Canary also highlighted a video from 2011 (featured in the 2017 film Risk). The video showed WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison and Assange in a phone call to the US State Department, warning that the unredacted version of the cables was about to be published:

VIDEO here 3:22 RISK: Julian Assange emergency call to Hillary Clinton’s Office | SHOWTIME Documentary

That led to another phone call thirty-six hours later with US State Department lawyer Cliff Johnson.

On 16 December, Project Veritas published a leaked audio recording of that phone conversation. During the phone call, Assange and Harrison warned Johnson that a rogue former WikiLeaks employee Daniel Domscheit-Berg was attempting to ‘spread around’ an unredacted version of the classified US cables:

AUDIO here 1:14:15 Full RAW AUDIO, August 26, 2011

A week later, WikiLeaks issued a statement on the events that led to the two phone calls:

We contacted the US embassy in London and then the State Department in Washington on 25 August to see if their informant notification program, instituted last year, was complete, and if not, to take such steps as would be helpful. Only after repeated attempts through high level channels and 36 hours after our first contact, did the State Department, although it had been made aware of the issue, respond. Cliff Johnson (a legal advisor at the Department of State) spoke to Julian Assange for 75 minutes, but the State Department decided not to meet in person to receive further information, which could not, at that stage, be safely transmitted over the telephone.


“Abuse of process”

Fast forward to 2020 and the extradition hearings. Following on from day two of those hearings in February, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray observed that defence barrister Mark Summers QC pointed out how Assange and Harrison had tried to forewarn the US that the unredacted US cables were about to be published.

Murray explained:

Once Der Freitag [a weekly German magazine] announced they had the unredacted materials, Julian Assange and Sara [sic] Harrison instantly telephoned the White House, State Department and US Embassy to warn them named sources may be put at risk. Summers read from the transcripts of telephone conversations as Assange and Harrison attempted to convince US officials of the urgency of enabling source protection procedures – and expressed their bafflement as officials stonewalled them. This evidence utterly undermined the US government’s case and proved bad faith in omitting extremely relevant fact.

He summarised Summers’ argument as:

the US government knew that the allegations being made [against Assange regarding risk to lives] were false as to fact, and they were demonstrably made in bad faith. This was therefore an abuse of process which should lead to dismissal of the extradition request.

“Pardon”

Meanwhile, actor Pamela Anderson has called for Assange to be pardoned. And whistleblower Edward Snowden has called for clemency:

Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency during your time in office, please: free Julian Assange. You alone can save his life. @realDonaldTrump
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) December 3, 2020

Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, also tweeted:

These are Julian’s sons Max and Gabriel. They need their father. Our family needs to be whole again.

I beg you, please bring him home for Christmas @realDonaldTrump.#PardonAssange#FreeAssangeNOW pic.twitter.com/dzwSFxNUnc

— Stella Moris (@StellaMoris1) November 26, 2020

The extradition verdict is due to be given on 4 January 2021.