RAY McGOVERN: Queen’s Counsel Charges vs Assange ‘Significantly Overwrought’


by Gareth Porter, Consortium News:

The CIA and Pentagon are 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 .

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 U.S. prison for publishing the truth about U.S. and UK war crimes?

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

“The U.S. 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 U.S. authorities.

Lewis: Offered no proof lives were endangered.

Unless the British Court system has become totally subservient to U.S. 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 U.S./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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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’

Former CIA Director (and later Defense Secretary) Robert Gates.

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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

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