Assange extradition hearing
September 3, 2020 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Human Rights Watch: Core principles like freedom of the media are at stake in the Assange case “How authorities in the UK respond to the US extradition request will determine how serious a threat this prosecution poses to global media freedom”
posted by - (136 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know, after the recent revelations of Assange's and Wikileaks' conduct in 2016, seeing him referred to as a media figure really rubs me the wrong way. He wasn't part of the media, he was an agent of a foreign power - and his disguising himself as a journalist puts actual journalists in danger.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:51 PM on September 3, 2020 [91 favorites]


I was once sympathetic to the Assange case, but it’s become clear in the intervening years that he isn’t a journalist or a publisher, but a laundry service used by various governments to dish dirt on each other without exposing themselves. It’s disheartening to see articles like this where they uncritically accept Assange’s role as part of the free press.

This article also elides the fact that Assange fled to the Ecuadorean embassy to avoid questioning from Swedish authorities over an alleged rape.
posted by um at 5:57 PM on September 3, 2020 [38 favorites]


I can understand that perspective, but unfortunately, even NYT general counsel thinks that prosecuting him over the 2010 leaks (which is what he is being prosecuted over) will apply any rules applied to him to NYT, WaPo, and anyone else that published information from that period, of which a great many US news sources did.

When they came back to extradite him, they jailed Chelsea Manning in connection with the old case. They didn't bring new info and charge him under what happened in 2016. Maybe if they had these newspaper lawyers wouldn't be shitting bricks over it.

Whether we like it or not, it's a press freedom case that will affect other journalists.

“I think the prosecution of him would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers,” McCraw said. “From that incident, from everything I know, he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and I think the law would have a very hard time drawing a distinction between The New York Times and WikiLeaks.”

McCraw went on to clarify that while Assange employs certain methods that he finds discomfiting and irresponsible, such as dumping unredacted documents revealing the personal information of ordinary people, Assange should be afforded the same protections as a traditional journalist.

“Do I wish journalism was practiced in a certain way, like it is with The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Wall Street Journal? Of course. But I also think new ways of publishing have their value. Our colleagues who are not only challenging us financially but journalistically have raised an awareness that there are different ways to report,” McCraw said.

“But if someone is in the business of publishing information, I think that whatever privilege happens to apply – whatever extension of the law that would apply – should be there. Because the question isn’t whether he’s a journalist. It’s in that instance was he committing an act of journalism.


So before this devolves into a "shit-on-Assange-fest" lets remember the lawyers for the biggest newspapers in the country think this case is a threat to their ability to safely report. With that out of the way maybe we can focus on the details of the case instead of how angry we are at Assange, hmmm?

I mean I guess nevermind that the guy interviewed is the director of Human Rights Watch.

Trump is literally fucking us left and right, and because we are too emotional about Assange, we are going to let him fuck press freedom with that case, too.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:01 PM on September 3, 2020 [64 favorites]


Being able to distinguish between actual journalists and mercenary information brokers seems pertinent, no? And if major media outlets seem confused on this point then maybe that’s a problem we could discuss.
posted by um at 6:15 PM on September 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


Doxxing someone is technically "committing an act of journalism", too. Publishing the conspiracy theories that get people killed is technically "committing an act of journalism."

Hitching the "journalism" wagon to people like Julian Assange is to drag the practice into the mud and sully it to the point that people don't see it as something valuable and worth protecting.

We've discussed how a "journalist" effectively got Naomi Wu disappeared for a while because they didn't respect the position she was in. All for an article. The Atlantic outed a trans model to his family all for a misleading cover story by transphobe Jesse Singal.

When this sort of stuff is defended by lumping it in with the good, it risks making people question whether it should be protected at all.

We all have the first amendment right to freedom of speech and of the press. "Journalist" is not a special class of person who gets extra rights. It's time to narrow the definition of "journalist" and not let agitators and propagandists like Julian Assange, Tucker Carlson, and Andy Ngo taint what is supposed to be a profession bound by ethics.
posted by explosion at 6:16 PM on September 3, 2020 [17 favorites]


Since none of y'all can fucking read, once again:

David McCabe, NYT General Counsel:

“But if someone is in the business of publishing information, I think that whatever privilege happens to apply – whatever extension of the law that would apply – should be there. Because the question isn’t whether he’s a journalist. It’s in that instance was he committing an act of journalism.”

This is a quote from 2018. The article even references the Trump admins war on journalists.

Don't listen to me, listen to the fucking lawyers for these institutions. I'm not the one raising the alarm, their fucking legal teams are.

If you don't think this isn't part of Trumps war on journalism, you're oblivious. there's a very good reason Trump is going after him over 2010 and NOT 2016, and it's because it's way more beneficial to him in terms of shutting down good journalism. (Also going after 2016 would be admitting he is a fraud.)
posted by deadaluspark at 6:17 PM on September 3, 2020 [35 favorites]


The fact that Wikileaks was actively working with the Trump campaign to ratfuck Clinton's campaign makes it hard to have any sympathy for that that asshole.
posted by octothorpe at 6:19 PM on September 3, 2020 [14 favorites]


I can fucking read. I just vehemently disagree.

Ivory tower journalists who defend people like Assange because they're "committing an act of journalism" are undermining their own credibility, and undermining public support for their profession.

"The business of publishing information" is not journalism. Blackmail could be euphemised as "the business of publishing information."

Journalism isn't just printing things, it's putting information into context, considering the impact, and abiding by ethics.

Regarding "Trump's War on journalism," well, the Federal government has wanted him for a lot longer than Trump was in office.

I'm not entirely sure the US government has a real case, and it is certainly political and kangaroo court. But the defense of Assange isn't about whether it's "journalism."
posted by explosion at 6:35 PM on September 3, 2020 [21 favorites]


Mod note: One deleted. People can have differing opinions on complicated legal questions without acting in bad faith or being ignorant, and we can discuss those differences without directing our justified anger at bad public figures/institutions at other MeFites.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


Once again, my point is that the New York Times would be better served by making the case as to why Assange's fuckery is:

A) protected by the laws regardless of whether it is "journalism" or not, and

B) not really in lines with journalistic integrity and not really what one would consider journalism except in the most broad sense that also encompasses all publication including forum posts, social media posts, etc.

If you plan on convincing anyone, perhaps try not actually cursing us out, and maybe reading what we're actually saying instead of just trying to shout us down.

Edit: looks like the comment I replied to is deleted. I still think my point stands.
posted by explosion at 6:58 PM on September 3, 2020 [6 favorites]


Journalism isn't just printing things, it's putting information into context, considering the impact, and abiding by ethics.

"If you don't wish to think well of your government you won't want Hearst's this month or any other. But if you really prefer to be patriotic- to buy your bonds gladly- dont fail to read "The World's Greatest Business in October Heart's Magazine"
-1917
posted by clavdivs at 7:12 PM on September 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


Reading that the NYT lawyers are tying their fate to Assange motivates me to cancel my subscription their newspaper far more than any positive feelings toward Julian.
posted by sideshow at 7:15 PM on September 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this is the post that breaks Metafilter.

Assange is deeply problematic. I wouldn’t defend him for a moment. But right now Facebook and other big movers are selling us out in ways Assange himself could never have imagined.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:35 PM on September 3, 2020 [11 favorites]


He is a rapist and he published important information. He shouldn’t be protected for either no matter
posted by Francies at 7:42 PM on September 3, 2020


Once again, my point is that the New York Times would be better served by making the case as to why Assange's fuckery is:

A) protected by the laws regardless of whether it is "journalism" or not, and

B) not really in lines with journalistic integrity and not really what one would consider journalism except in the most broad sense that also encompasses all publication including forum posts, social media posts, etc.
I believe the issue is more that there is no protection for journalists other than a general understanding that journalists won't be prosecuted for publishing leaks, that the things Assange is being prosecuted for (regardless of whatever else he may have done) are the kinds of things journalists do all the time, and that some journalists are quite reasonably concerned that the same logic will be applied to them.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:44 PM on September 3, 2020 [13 favorites]


My understanding from the article is that US government believes there is no journalistic exemption from prosecution for Doing Actual Crimes, and that if you are a journalist or publisher that Does Actual Crimes like intruding into a computer system where you are legally prohibited from intruding, or help someone else Do Actual Crimes like cover their trail when intruding into a computer system that they are legally prohibited from intruding into that is a whole other class of unprotected behavior than receiving files from a whistleblower whom you did not aid and then publishing what they gave you, and much as it pains me to say it the government may have a point, but I guess we’ll see.
posted by um at 8:00 PM on September 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


At this point, this reads like too many 'staid institutions' being revealed as being way too buddy-buddy with Epstein and trying to justify it after the fact. These lawyers are leaning *hard* on appeals-to-authority, when they've been doing so in service of war crimes and rampant transphobia.

I'm down for strong legal arguments, but they don't have any room on moral arguments anymore.
posted by CrystalDave at 8:01 PM on September 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


It’s in that instance was he committing an act of journalism.

I guess I’m just fucking illiterate or maybe just stupid (sorry, deadaluspark!), but could someone explain what an “act of journalism” is in this legal context?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:06 PM on September 3, 2020




You mean the video he openly admitted to doctoring?
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:20 PM on September 3, 2020


Bill Keller of The New York Times wrote, "But in its zeal to make the video a work of antiwar propaganda, WikiLeaks also released a version that didn't call attention to an Iraqi who was toting a rocket-propelled grenade and packaged the manipulated version under the tendentious rubric Collateral Murder."[4] The New York Times reported that "Critics contend that the shorter video was misleading because it did not make clear that the attacks took place amid clashes in the neighborhood and that one of the men was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade."[66]

Yep, I'm not saying he's not scummy and not above trying to get an emotional rise out of people, but he also released the full, unedited video.

So that's kind of a real bullshit talking point, since the unaltered video exists and was provided by Wikileaks.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:22 PM on September 3, 2020 [4 favorites]


So that's kind of a real bullshit talking point, since the unaltered video exists and was provided by Wikileaks.

Sorry, but no. "But he released the unedited video as well" doesn't change the fact that he released a doctored version edited to be propaganda.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:44 PM on September 3, 2020 [4 favorites]


You mean the video he openly admitted to doctoring?

This is news to me and searching for it isn't delivering any relevant results.

Are you saying those Iraqi civilians and journalists weren't actually torn to shreds by 30mm rounds from American AH-64 Apache attack helicopters?
posted by Ouverture at 8:45 PM on September 3, 2020 [16 favorites]


Ah, I see from the more recent comments. The video wasn't doctored, but it was misleadingly edited to show how a few Iraqis dare carry weapons during an illegal and immoral invasion that had already killed hundreds of thousands of their countrymen.

Goodness, some things never change.
posted by Ouverture at 8:48 PM on September 3, 2020 [13 favorites]


could someone explain what an “act of journalism” is in this legal context?

I believe the core is Shield Laws. "Acts of Journalism" most likely are an event recorded and conveyed that breaks some law, either in subject matter or collection method.
posted by clavdivs at 9:14 PM on September 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


A serial rapist who trades Russian info to Roger Stone to help Trump get elected in 2016. Never worked as a legit journalist. If he had been extradited to the USA and tried and found guilty, Trump would have pardoned him by now.
posted by zaelic at 9:17 PM on September 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


Mod note: Deleted a Nazi comparison and two responses. Assange is always a heated topic at MetaFilter and I'd really like people to crank down their rhetoric and not reach for the most dramatic or extreme comparisons, particularly not in offhanded ways. Comparisons often increase the heat in threads like this, so please think hard about whether your comparison is bringing something interesting or valuable or enlightening to the thread, or whether it's just letting you vent rage or frustration.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:44 PM on September 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


Given the treatment of whistleblowers of white supremacist empire by both Obama and Trump, there is no reason to expect either a future Republican or Democratic administration to treat Assange fairly, even if he helped Trump in the prior election.

No matter how odious Assange is, this won't be a win for the "good guys" because there are no good guys here.
posted by Ouverture at 10:01 PM on September 3, 2020 [12 favorites]


to treat Assange fairly

Beyond this, even if you're driven by pure vengeance and aren't concerned if he's treated fairly...

You should be damn well concerned if this is used as precedent to further erode human rights and empower more authoritarian powers to our government, even if Trump is ousted.

Just like Obama didn't dismantle but codified some of the worst excesses of the Bush administration...

Do people really expect the laws to later be changed back to allow journalists more freedom again? Once the US government takes an inch with issues like this, it doesn't tend to give back. Not without a long, drawn out and concerted fight.

PATRIOT Act never went away. DHS never went away. TSA never went away. We are still at war in Afghanistan. No. They become permanent fixtures that there is very little serious discussion about dismantling. We are only just getting court rulings on the spy programs Edward Snowden revealed.

Any ruling gained from his extradition will likely be the same, whatever it sets forth will likely be quite permanent in the near-term, and if that harms journalists and their ability to do their job, then that will be quite permanent in the near-term as well, which will further erode our ability to make our government take responsibility for its worst excesses and actions.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:16 PM on September 3, 2020 [28 favorites]


Sorry, but no. "But he released the unedited video as well" doesn't change the fact that he released a doctored version edited to be propaganda.

So ok let me see if I understand... the US invaded a random country as a result of a massive barrage of deliberate lies and propaganda, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of ordinary people dead, with the resulting destruction and misery is still ongoing.

But it is Assange who is bad because he edited a video about it.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:47 PM on September 3, 2020 [15 favorites]


I find remarkable that if you find somebody to be unpleasant, human rights don't apply anymore.
posted by - at 11:29 PM on September 3, 2020 [28 favorites]


Not to harp on this too much, but I must add a couple of things. How many of you have watched the original collateral murder video recently? I just did. The longer one. Well now I wish I didn't. Anyway. There are a couple of things about it. First, this is not any sort of an isolated event - I suppose everyone here knows for example about drone striking weddings and buses full of school children. It's standard stuff. Second, the helicopter pilots ripping random bystanders to shreds with their machinegun fire are laughing about it. And third, so Assange edited out the bit where one of the guys on the ground has a missile launcher of some sort? That part is true. What is also true is that these are people defending themselves from a foreign invasion, an invasion based entirely on lies. How dare they! But second, and even "better", what is also edited out is that after killing about ten people with their machineguns, the helicopters then also launch missile attack on a building. This is also not shown in the shorter video. So they edited a video to be propaganda, where they both edited out an Iraqi fighter with a weapon, and also a missile attack to destroy a building. I'm not entirely sure how that's supposed to work.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:14 AM on September 4, 2020 [12 favorites]


I find remarkable that if you find somebody to be unpleasant, human rights don't apply anymore.

That would be remarkable, if that were happening in this thread.
posted by um at 12:31 AM on September 4, 2020 [8 favorites]


That would be remarkable, if that were happening in this thread.

I find Assange to be really odious and despicable. But let's be quite straightforward here: this entire thread thus far has been a pretty standard, even a textbook example of the Just World fallacy.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:04 AM on September 4, 2020 [9 favorites]


There is substantial evidence that the rape case was doctored. Not just the dropping of the charges by the Swedes, but a first-person account by one of the women on how the police invented the accusation, despite her insistence that the sex was consensual. The account of the second accusation, while not as explicitly false, is also suspect (it emerged much after the woman's initial interactions with police and contains contradictions). This report did not get a lot of attention, something also addressed in the article. It's here in German (translates well).
posted by kolendra at 1:07 AM on September 4, 2020 [7 favorites]


Is Assange complete scum? Yes. Is this like going after Capone for tax evasion? Unfortunately no. Well future administrations twist this in any sassy they can to go after legitimate journalists? Of course.

What I wonder is why this isn't covered under the same decision as the Pentagon papers.
posted by Hactar at 4:41 AM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


It should be noted that 'Anna A' has since complained in very strong terms that Melzer misrepresented her in, in an article published in der Spiegel after the Republik article about Melzer linked to above (Google translation below):

'But one of the two women who testified to the police in Sweden in 2010 because Assange had sexually harassed her, is now defending herself against Melzer's portrayal.

She has never "felt so abused" as by him, writes the Swede Anna A. in a dossier that she sent to Melzer's office and that SPIEGEL was able to see. Melzer had spoken of manipulation by the Swedish investigators and claimed the invention of a "rape story".

So he blames the victims, writes the woman; it is "a classic patriarchal technique to define the conditions for how 'a real rape victim' should behave". She also accuses the lawyer of slandering her personally and of having spread the untruth about the investigation, for example about Assange's willingness to testify about the incidents. This is "completely unacceptable, shocking and a reason to quit his work at the UN".'

posted by Major Clanger at 5:54 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


What I wonder is why this isn't covered under the same decision as the Pentagon papers.

Because Assange is alleged (and has admitted to, IIRC) providing material assistance to the underlying criminal act. He did not merely get a message saying "I've got some docs for you," and then provide a means to securely receive them, but provided information and tools to help steal them in the first place.
posted by wierdo at 5:54 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


To be fair, I still have to understand why Assange hurt "the ideals of a free society".

My hunch is that one of last Assange's leaks showed the internal corruption of the American democratic (the party) elite, and it gave an unprecedented view into the inner workings of said elite. A few giveaways: Clinton collusion with Wall Street, how they rigged Bernie Sanders primary, the use of covert military actions and how CNN favorite Clinton by feeding her questions before a TV debate etc...

Now... why those things do not hurt the ideals of a free society, but Assange does? To me, this is an America-centric and intrinsically imperialist position. Totally denying any wrongdoing and shoot the messenger will not help the cause. Trump did not win because of Assange or Russian bots on twitter, thinking otherwise is a delusion.

I think what Assange, Manning and Snowden did, should not be seen exclusively with the "eyeglasses" of the American political debate. They are pointing to a bigger problem, about the dynamics of imperialism. The collateral murder video alone, really helped "the ideals of a free society", in my opinion.
posted by - at 5:58 AM on September 4, 2020 [16 favorites]


I'm just as worried about the implications of some people in this thread getting their wish for Assange to be given some sort of special exemption from prosecution, as I think it's very plausible that every fascist shitlord in the US and the world would then redefine themselves as 'journalists' and 'publishers' if they haven't already, and then aid and abet all kinds of shady and illegal bullshit aimed not only at the US and every other government but poor devils like all of us here knowing they can scream about their journalistic freedom if a prosecutor so much as wags a finger. Like imagine Roger Stone or Steve Bannon started an alt-right version of Wikileaks. They're barely touchable right now.

I wish whistleblower protections were stronger, but I'm under no illusions that if they were then it would not be long before whistleblowing ended up being weaponized against people who don't deserve it. As someone who used to defend Assange in these kinds of discussions I'm truly concerned that his ethical compass has gone steadily more and more haywire since the Collateral Murder days. I really do not understand why people want to grant him journalist status and the (okay, limited) protections that go with it. He's not a moral person. Journalism has too many shitty people in it already.
posted by um at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


To be fair, I still have to understand why Assange hurt "the ideals of a free society".

Because he released information provided to him by Russian state services to manipulate the US election. More specifically, the information was leaked specifically as a counterpunch in the election to protect the candidate whom the Russian government wanted to win, after the release of recordings in which said candidate was openly bragging of committing sexual assault. Furthermore, as was pointed out earlier, he was doing things like making releases without redaction, putting people in harm's way in a manner that benefited Russia.

Things didn't happen in a vacuum, and ignoring the situation around someone's actions doesn't make them go away.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:40 AM on September 4, 2020 [21 favorites]


Because he released information provided to him by Russian state services to manipulate the US election

IIRC this is an allegation, not a proven fact. It could just as easily have been a Democrat insider annoyed by Bernie's treatment.

Isn't all this Manchurian Candidate stuff a little passé now?
posted by AillilUpATree at 7:07 AM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


Isn't all this Manchurian Candidate stuff a little passé now?

Is two week a long time ago? Or do you get bored with news stories faster than that? Bannon was just arrested in August. Here's an article from the 19th of August:
President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign eagerly capitalized on Russia’s efforts to meddle in the election, raising new concerns about connections between his top aides and Moscow, the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a bipartisan report released Tuesday.

When Russian military intelligence officers were releasing hacked Democratic Party emails through WikiLeaks, the report said, the Trump campaign “sought to maximize the impact of those leaks” and “created messaging strategies” around them.

“The Trump campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack-and-leak campaign to Russia and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort,” the report said.
posted by octothorpe at 7:18 AM on September 4, 2020 [16 favorites]


What I wonder is why this isn't covered under the same decision as the Pentagon papers.

But it is. The New York Times and other newspapers were permitted to publish the Pentagon Papers under a Supreme Court decision that said "the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint injunction." That is First Amendment protection for the press.

However, that same protection did not extend to Daniel Ellsberg who illegally provided the documents to the New York Times. He was indicted and went to trial, but the case was dismissed because of illegal actions by Nixon's Justice Department, among which was that government agents burgled his psychiatrist's office. But it was not dismissed on First Amendment grounds. The prosecution was permitted by the Supreme Court.

So this case is similar to the Pentagon Papers. The New York Times and others that published the documents and videos are protected by the First Amendment. Like Ellsberg, Assange is not protected and can be prosecuted because he actively participated in the illegal thief of the material.
posted by JackFlash at 7:24 AM on September 4, 2020 [22 favorites]


IIRC this is an allegation, not a proven fact. It could just as easily have been a Democrat insider annoyed by Bernie's treatment.
This is what the Republicans want you to believe - especially parroting the long-debunked conspiracy theories about Bernie - but there’s considerable evidence pointing at Russia and none at all supporting your hypothetical - note the list of intelligence agencies and private firms which came to the same conclusion:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guccifer_2.0

This was well-supported prior the 2016 election but ignored by Republicans for political reasons, and since then there have been multiple corroborating accounts despite considerable opposition by POTUS and his handlers.
posted by adamsc at 7:27 AM on September 4, 2020 [12 favorites]


details are redacted from the report
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:28 AM on September 4, 2020


Isn't all this Manchurian Candidate stuff a little passé now?


There's another US election in just a few months, so I'd argue that no, it isn't.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:31 AM on September 4, 2020 [10 favorites]


there’s considerable evidence pointing at Russia

As far as I have ever been able to determine this "considerable evidence" consists entirely of the "list of intelligence agencies and private firms which came to the same conclusion," and that doesn't do it for me.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:42 AM on September 4, 2020 [5 favorites]


Never mind that the tactics they describe and corroborate their narrative are out in the open for all to see every day of the week. This isn't the evidence-free allegation of Iraqi WMDs.
posted by wierdo at 8:04 AM on September 4, 2020 [6 favorites]


could he receive a fair trial in the u.s. as to the narrow question of whether he actively participated in manning's unauthorized breach of u.s. government computers?

could a jury of be convened that does not reflect a similar range of opinions about him and his actions, as in this room, so firmly baked-in as to make fair evaluation of that one narrow question unlikely?

how would such a fair trial on the aiding unauthorized access question (however unlikely) harm the noble profession of journalism as practiced by the new york times and washington post?
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:23 AM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


Things didn't happen in a vacuum, and ignoring the situation around someone's actions doesn't make them go away.

I agree that things don't happen in a vacuum. For example, if Assange must be tried for playing a small part in derailing democracy in America, then it is a farce of justice and another insidious form of white supremacy to let a lot of Metafilter's favorite political leaders continue to live free, happy lives after they have done so much worse abroad.
posted by Ouverture at 8:28 AM on September 4, 2020 [6 favorites]


You know, if I were hoping for a precedent-setting case which would give me legal cover to attack journalists and publishers, I would want to prosecute someone with a dubious history who was disliked by liberals and the normal defenders of freedom of the press - precisely because it undercuts their support. Prosecute some shining hero loved by all and you make a martyr. Prosecute a dubious man with a checkered history and you win over your adversaries.
posted by Frowner at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2020 [30 favorites]


So let me get this straight, even though our intelligence community cannot pinpoint and prove exactly where and when the files went from the Russians who hacked the DNC and where Assange got them. Yes, this means that there is a strong possibility Assange was decieved by the cutout who was pretending to be a "source" but was really a Russian operative who knew Assange was still butthurt about Clinton going after him post-2010, but Assange was also curiously spied on for over a year by a Spanish security firm, which broke his attorney-client privelege. Every conversation he had was spied upon for over a year. Yet, somehow, we still don't have solid details on who leaked the files to Wikileaks.

Even after thousands of pages of internal Wikileaks chats came out, we are just "trusting" our intelligence community, and no offense, the heads of those intelligence agencies are of the same ilk as the neocons who lied us into war with Iraq so excuse the fuck out of me if I take their word with a massive grain of salt.

No, I don't trust the words of the guy who claimed every step of the way of the Snowden leaks that they absolutely weren't doing what they were totally doing.

But I'm supposed to trust guys like James Clapper and John Brennan when it comes to Assange. James Clapper, the game guy who lied to congress about spying on Americans (which caused Snowden to go rouge because he couldn't believe his boss lied and got away with it) and who still has his job and isn't in jail despite lying to congress. Why am I supposed to BELIEVE HIM about Assange? Why am I supposed to trust John Brennan for that matter, the CIA director who spied on congress after he accidentally gave them a document he didn't mean to.

Later, the best from Clapper we got was claiming he "had a suspect" but it's not his job to publicize it. Well, either nothing ever came of that or they never publicized it.

So, breaking it down, our news media is happy to say Wikileaks "hacked" the DNC even though it was ostensibly Russians who did it, and there is little proof that Wikileaks was aware that they were being used by a state actor. Assange was spied on for an extended period of time, breaking his attorney-client privilege and making a mockery of this being "justice."

Finally, the grand jury for this case was convened in 2010 and the US government spent 8 years pretending that it didn't exist and Julian Assange was crazy for thinking they would extradite him. Convenient that everyone forgets that it turns out Assanges fears were totally and completely justified and oops, they were looking to extradite him the whole time and have had 10 years to build a case.

Oh, and in regards to it being a grand jury case, meaning the public will not have access to the trial: Yes, there is a NEW accusation that Assange didn't merely act as a publisher but helped "hack" the US in the initial case. No offense, but our police forces are "militarized." One of their most militarized aspects is "looking for a reason we shot people after we shot them." That often includes fabricating evidence. We already know both James Clapper and John Brennan aren't above fabricating evidence, their histories in the Bush Admin well known.

So yeah, please excuse the fuck out of me if suddenly, after ten years, they finally have "evidence" that he hacked the US that I'm extremely fucking skeptical of that claim.

Finally, if any of you think that him "walking free" means he actually walks free you're insane. He has so many enemies he will have a bullet in his back by the end of the night he is released, if he isn't extradited. He has no security team, no love from people around the world, even people like me who don't want him prosecuted to protect press freedom, I'm not going to shed a tear if he goes free and is murdered. He's a dead man walking and has been for the better par of a decade.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:44 AM on September 4, 2020 [15 favorites]


Or do you get bored with news stories faster than that?

That news story says that the Trump campaign were opportunistic in capitalizing on a story that favoured their side. That's just ordinary politics. Or am I missing something?

This was well-supported ...

I think "oft-repeated" would be more accurate.
posted by AillilUpATree at 8:47 AM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


As far as I have ever been able to determine this "considerable evidence" consists entirely of the "list of intelligence agencies and private firms which came to the same conclusion," and that doesn't do it for me.

Ah yes, the "Russian Hoax".

I wonder what the Venn diagram of "Assange must be protected at all costs!" and "There is no difference between voting for Trump or Biden!" looks like? I'm betting it's veeeerrrry circular.

I congratulate those in this thread successful enough in life that they that can look on the last four years and just shrug when it comes Trump being POTUS. But, some of actually think he's kinda bad for, well you know everything, so we want to make sure he, and those who enabled him, go into a black hole from which they never escape.
posted by sideshow at 8:48 AM on September 4, 2020 [12 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. deadaluspark, it's fine to make your points about the issues but you need to stop making it about other Mefites (with comments like "you can't read", or other "I will tell you about yourself" comments), period.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:56 AM on September 4, 2020 [11 favorites]


I congratulate those in this thread successful enough in life that they that can look on the last four years and just shrug when it comes Trump being POTUS. But, some of actually think he's kinda bad for, well you know everything, so we want to make sure he, and those who enabled him, go into a black hole from which they never escape.

This line of argumentation will never work well for the wielders hoping to "out-privilege" the internationalist leftists of color they disagree with.

I recommend watching the Collateral Murder video to understand why.
posted by Ouverture at 8:56 AM on September 4, 2020 [13 favorites]


The fact that this continues to be spun as "we must protect Assange at all costs" when all of us "protecting" him keep repeating we think he is a scumbag, and we aren't against him facing justice, but this isn't justice, this is the US using him as a pawn to destroy press freedoms is kind of pathetic.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:57 AM on September 4, 2020 [11 favorites]


sideshow: Trump being POTUS because of Assange? Is American democracy so weak that does not have the anti-corps against some alleged foreign propaganda? If the answer is yes, then you have some bigger problems than Assange.

But not everybody is American, not everybody is interested in the American political debate. For what I care, Bush Obama and Trump are extremely similar. And in fact, I consider Bush much more toxic than Trump: in Europe we are still dealing with the mess he created, since he destabilized the whole Middle East... Obama didn't help either, in places like Syria and Libya.

That does not mean I like Trump: I really dislike Trump. But he is no less imperialist than the others. Bush, Obama, Trump they hate Assange in the same way. And as much Assange can be unpleasant, he is being persecuted for revealing the truth. And that is very concerning from the human right perspective.

So, the core of this Assange hatred, is extremely provincial: did Assange lead to Trump election?

In all sincerity, my personal answer is no. Thinking this way do not help to understand why Trump got elected for real... and that's another can of worms.
posted by - at 9:09 AM on September 4, 2020 [15 favorites]


Finally, if any of you think that him "walking free" means he actually walks free you're insane. He has so many enemies he will have a bullet in his back by the end of the night he is released, if he isn't extradited.

Assange seems to have pretty much burned every bridge with anyone who would still have sympathy for him. I admit I was one of them, after releasing the unedited "Collateral Murder" footage. It took a lot of courage to take on the US government head on, like that, and the resulting censorship and extradition/veiled death threats pretty much pulled back most of the curtain for me about this country, as a younger person.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


I'm going to bow out of the conversation before the "Mr Trump" talk starts, but it doesn't matter what I say/think anyway. Assange will never see free air again, and God willing, Trump will be in the cell next to him.
posted by sideshow at 9:11 AM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


If your belief is that the role of a free press in a functioning democracy is to hold the powerful to account, that requires both a free press and a functioning democracy. If a completely unconstrained notion of press freedom can be successfully leveraged by extranational actors to sabotage that democracy then the true role of journalism goes with it just as surely as it would if journalistic freedoms were tightly constrained.

The relative odiousness of Assange is, like the man himself, little more than a useful tool here.
posted by mhoye at 9:14 AM on September 4, 2020 [5 favorites]


As we have knowledgeable theorists reading this, is there a consensus why the Ecuadorians sheltered him for so long? An FU to America or England? Did he claim secrets that could be useful to Ecuador or their allies? Bureaucratic inertia?
posted by sammyo at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2020


The question is:

If he is extradited to the US, what is he accused of?

a) Release of information he received from others freely
b) Hacking to obtain information illegally

If A is true, then yes, freedom of speech and press is under attack, and journalists everywhere should be worried. However, the US government is standing firm that they're accusing him of B.

A is protected, we have judicial precedent that it's protected, and a guilty verdict against Assange for hacking is not going to impact journalism.

If on the other hand, the argument is that the federal government routinely fucks people over and that this is a kangaroo court, fine. Make THAT argument.

But right now, it feels as though someone were being indicted for robbing a bank and spending that money, and people are sounding the alarm about it impacting the right of everyone to spend money.
posted by explosion at 9:27 AM on September 4, 2020 [5 favorites]


The thing is, important cases about freedom often involve real scumbags.

Miranda, to pick a famous example, really was an awful person. The rights gained from his case are more important than Miranda the person.

The question here is not "do we like Julian Assange". Because the answer to that question is "not only no, but hell no, he's a scumbag rapist and probably an asset for organized crime, Putin, and various other bad guys".

The question is: should the USA be able to extradite someone to America's infamous torture facilities there to scream out his last breath in endless agony because that person embarrassed American leadership?

And the answer to that should be a resounding no.

Assange is awful. America's desire to kill him via torture is worse.

We need a strong, clear, denunciation of the American elite's desire for vengeance on Assange for the Collateral Murder release. That Assange was already a scumbag rapist at the time of that release, and that it appears he's been operating as a Russian FSB asset for an unknown time, is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

The question is whether the world should turn over a political prisoner to be tortured for humiliating America's elites, including President Obama? I argue they should not, that my nation is far too evil to allow such a thing to happen.
posted by sotonohito at 9:28 AM on September 4, 2020 [28 favorites]


As we have knowledgeable theorists reading this, is there a consensus why the Ecuadorians sheltered him for so long?

I posted about this a while back, but it came down to Assange becoming a pet project of the previous Ecuadorian president. The change in leadership was the beginning of the end, as the new president had less desire to cater to Assange (especially when he began to interfere in Ecuadorian politics.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:29 AM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


explosion I'm not sure where you get the "hacking to obtain information illegally" part. Assange is not a computer person, he's not a hacker, and he's not even accused to hacking anything to get the Collateral Murder video.

He received it from someone who did hack to get it, but Julian Assange personally never hacked to get it.
posted by sotonohito at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


It wasn’t just the consensus of the U.S. intelligence agencies, but also allied intelligence agencies and multiple private researchers. In addition to things like the VPN connections, there were also details in the documents:

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/06/guccifer-leak-of-dnc-trump-research-has-a-russians-fingerprints-on-it/

Note also the dates: anyone who wasn’t trying to elect Trump had plenty of advanced notice. By then we knew they were funding fake news sites and social media accounts so this was consistent with everything else they’re doing, especially the coordination with Wikileaks and right-wing media outlets to sell the contents as far more exciting than the contents warranted.

Since 2016 we’ve only had more evidence emerge, it’s been solid enough to make it into court cases and the Mueller report, and it’s all internally-consistent. The fact that people are still repeating unsupported conspiracy theories on equal footing 4 years later just highlights how successful the right-wing social efforts were at convincing some ostensible leftists that their best course of action was to do what Trump needed.
posted by adamsc at 9:36 AM on September 4, 2020 [6 favorites]


Look, I'm very skeptical of the US governments accusations that Assange helped with the hacking, but that has more to do with the US grand jury being a kangaroo court that has already wasted the time and money of Chelsea Manning for no good reason other than to railroad her into testifying again.

The reality is however, in his youth, he was most definitely a hacker, and as such, acting like he is incapable of such an act is beyond the pale. I mean, his hacking name was Mendax, latin for liar.

I absolutely believe Assange is capable of it, but I'm very skeptical that he did, simply because the US government is hard to trust about these sorts of things (especially when Clapper and Brennan are involved.)
posted by deadaluspark at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


it is count 18 (18 U.S.C. Secs. 371 and 1030), at pp 35 et.seq., conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
posted by 20 year lurk at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


My hunch is that one of last Assange's leaks showed the internal corruption of the American democratic (the party) elite, and it gave an unprecedented view into the inner workings of said elite. A few giveaways: Clinton collusion with Wall Street, how they rigged Bernie Sanders primary, the use of covert military actions and how CNN favorite Clinton by feeding her questions before a TV debate etc...

It is my understanding that it is a matter of some debate whether the material that Assange leaked actually does prove all these things, as opposed to these things being a matter of interpretation of the material that Assange leaked. (Meaning: the actual material Assange leaked that is purported to be proof of "how they rigged the Bernie Sanders Primary" is a handful of email exchanges in which some Clinton staffers talked about how troublesome Sanders was, and could therefore also alternately be proof only that "Clinton's staffers liked to bitch about things in email on office hours". More definitive proof like "here's a copy of the check Hilary wrote, in her own handwriting, to the business of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe with a memo line reading 'to trash Bernie's campaign'" would be a different matter; for something that seems this prone to speculation, it begs the question of why he released what he did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2020 [15 favorites]


I see the UK and Assange in a very similar position to Canada is with Meng Wanzhou right now. Both countries have weak populist leadership, and both are looking at extraditions to the US that have massive "damned if we do, damned if we don't" potential. Both the UK and Canada need to remain in the US's good books, but neither really want to give ammunition to a very unpredictable US leader in a re-election year.

In a way, the UK might have it slightly easier, as Assange doesn't have the backing of a super-power who appears to have no qualms about jailing visitors by way of reprisal. If Assange is indeed an asset of an antagonistic country, he's a lot more deniable to them than the CFO of a government-connected communications tech multinational. For both countries, the timing of these cases is bloody awkward: clarity on who's going to be in the White House would take much of the heat out of the issues.
posted by scruss at 9:41 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


For what I care, Bush Obama and Trump are extremely similar.

I can't help but feel some sympathy for this view, but I'm also a bit heartbroken because it's extraordinarily parochial. There's really little difference between "the parties are the same to me because I'm only affected by their foreign policy" and "the parties are the same to me because I'm only affected by their copper refinery tax rates". There are millions of people who are desperately affected by the differences between these presidents.
posted by traveler_ at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2020 [28 favorites]


People in this very thread are saying that there are allegations that he/Wikileaks hacked. I'm not saying he *did* hack, I'm saying that's what the allegations are.

I think the US prison system is barbaric, and I think it'd be amazing if the global community refused to extradite anyone to us simply because of our cruel and unusual punishments.

I totally believe that this could be an illegal act of revenge against someone who embarrassed the US military apparatus.

My point in this thread hasn't been about whether Assange is guilty or innocent, or whether the US government is operating in good faith. I'm just talking about the framing of it having repercussions for journalism. As far as I'm concerned, it's somewhat orthogonal to the matter.
posted by explosion at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


not everybody is American, not everybody is interested in the American political debate.

While that is quite inarguable, Assange's relationship to the US and the press has pretty obvious implications for the American political debate. Anyone who isn't interested in that is quite free not to, but it's unsurprising that it would be a big part of this discussion.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


adamsc,

Literally no one here is disputing any of that information. But the closest we have of proof that Wikileaks was directly involved was a quote in 2018 from James Clapper claiming they had a suspect for a 'cut-out' that pass the information to Wikileaks. This means that Clappers own evidence points to Wikileaks was passed the information through a third party that was pretending to not be part of the Russian government. I have been unable to find any more evidence of how the information got from Russia to Wikileaks since this statement. So, there's a high likelihood that Wikileaks truly was a "useful idiot" in respect to being used by a foreign party. (This seems most likely to me, because it's painfully obvious that Assange had a bone to pick with Clinton and getting his hands on those emails gave him the ammunition to hit back. Of course he wouldn't question the source, he was too busy having an emotional response of being able to "get back" at someone he saw as "imprisoning" him, despite it being his own choice.)

We have evidence Wikileaks spoke directly to the Trump admin, we don't have evidence they spoke directly to Russia.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


I think it'd be amazing if the global community refused to extradite anyone to us simply because of our cruel and unusual punishments

France has refused extradition requests by the US over its use of capital punishment.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:48 AM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


I retract my objection re: hacking. I still think it's not true that he was involved, his hacking days were from a while before Collateral Murder and I frankly don't think he has the skill to have actually done it, but I will concede that it is not on the face of it impossible or absurd.
posted by sotonohito at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


those other seventeen counts do, indeed, appear to represent a significant threat to journalism of the sort that brought us the pentagon papers and important stories of government lawlessness since.
posted by 20 year lurk at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


I guess what confuses me is that everyone involved openly admits what happened both with regard to how Wikileaks got the documents and how the release was coordinated. Add to that the corroborating emails and I have to wonder why anyone is trying to muddy the waters by claiming otherwise. (This is the case for both the release that included Collateral Murder and the DNC shit)

The US' crimes don't actually excuse the crimes others commit. We have a word for that now.

All that said, I'd rather he not be extradited to the US. Normally I'd argue that the UK should require that the death penalty be taken off the table and certain conditions on his treatment be negotiated, but I don't in any way trust the Trump administration to feel constrained by any such agreement.
posted by wierdo at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2020 [5 favorites]


I can't help but feel some sympathy for this view, but I'm also a bit heartbroken because it's extraordinarily parochial. There's really little difference between "the parties are the same to me because I'm only affected by their foreign policy" and "the parties are the same to me because I'm only affected by their copper refinery tax rates". There are millions of people who are desperately affected by the differences between these presidents.

There is a depressing irony in calling the focus on "foreign" policy as "extraordinarily parochial". You speak of millions of people affected by the differences between these presidents, but there are hundreds of millions of people affected by the similarity between these administrations.

The difference is that the latter group is comprised up wholly of poor people of color who are essentially invisible on Metafilter and Western news media.

The biggest difference for Americans is that Trump finally brought home just a fragment of the horrors that Americans have been dishing out abroad for decades (and what is on display in Collateral Murder). This fixation with Assange indicates to me that Americans have learned little from the decades of building massive charnel houses across the world.
posted by Ouverture at 10:08 AM on September 4, 2020 [22 favorites]


You do realize that many of us were literally in the streets protesting Bush manufacturing "intelligence" in order to invade Iraq and outing a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband exposing the scheme?
posted by wierdo at 10:17 AM on September 4, 2020 [7 favorites]


Seriously, I'd like to see Assange see justice for 2016 as well, at this point. I was skeptical at first, but his communications with the Trump admin make it clear his own selfish motivations. I still think Assange was deceived by Russia, (I'm also willing to be proven wrong about that, plenty of evidence has stacked up against Assange) but whatever the case, you should be prosecuting him for that, not for revealing US war crimes.

I'm just of the opinion that this isn't the hill to die on to make him see justice. I don't think it will amount to real justice, knowing the US, especially if Trump still happens to be in charge. Trump's going to try to steal the election and he might succeed, and I am more than willing to bet on Trump using every item at his disposal, including this case with Assange to consolidate power, destroy press freedoms, and generally complete his transition to dictatorship.

I'm not of the opinion that we should give him those options, should he "win." The safety of millions of people does not ride on if Assange sees justice right away as much as it does for Trump seeing justice right away. Keep Assange locked up, wait until things have calmed, then hit the fucker with the real horrible shit he did, not one of the few good things he did.

It just doesn't make sense to me to go after him for 2010 when 2016 is the case that would destroy Trump as well. Like literally would destroy the entire GOP to go after him for 2016, it would reveal all their scummy Russian connections. Going after him for 2010 just makes it seem like we're finally putting the final nail in the coffin of "George W. Bush was a good president, and anyone who says we did anything wrong in respect to the war in Iraq must stand with the terrorists."

You do realize that many of us were literally in the streets protesting Bush manufacturing "intelligence" in order to invade Iraq and outing a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband exposing the scheme?

Largest worldwide protests in history. Didn't stop the US government then. Not even Wikileaks releasing Collateral Murder stopped it. Nor did it stop the government from bringing these methods home, like indiscriminate spying on the US populace. Nor did Snowdens leaks about said spying stop them. Guantanamo Bay is still open. Oh and the people who helped fabricate that evidence are still in high positions in government or are given cable TV news spots to spout more lies.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2020 [9 favorites]


Like, there ain't nobody here who supported starting the conflicts that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and actual murder of at least thousands. I'm fairly certain the approximately three people who weren't entirely against it at the time already buttoned years ago.

I continue to find it strange that some seem to talk as if MeFi is some hotbed of support for imperialist wars, much less the way in which those wars have been prosecuted.
posted by wierdo at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2020 [12 favorites]


By the way, Gitmo is still open because a Republican-controlled Congress passed a law requiring that it remain because anything Obama was working toward was automatically bad and, for all his faults, he actually respected the rule of law and didn't turn around and ignore Congress like Trump has done. Interesting how we seem to have forgotten about that.
posted by wierdo at 10:30 AM on September 4, 2020 [9 favorites]


I haven't forgotten about that, which is why I'm saying prosecuting him for 2016 would be way more fruitful since it would destroy the careers of the majority of the Republican congress instead of solidifying support for the crimes they committed.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:32 AM on September 4, 2020


If it’s going to proceed with extradition, it’s important for the British government to defend freedom of expression by drawing a clear line: not to be part of an extradition that involves either prosecution for publication of classified information or prosecution for assistance to a source in delivering classified information confidentially. It has to involve more: the actual breaking into the computers for it to be a legitimate prosecution.

I don't trust the UK to do this (non-UK citizen here); I would not trust any government, actually, to keep hanging on to Assange because the US is such a mess, but I hope it does. By many accounts, Julian Assange is an awful human being. Still, I very much hope he does not get extradited to the US because the US cannot be trusted to give him a fair trial.

As the fucking article notes and as it may have been observed above, none of the people responsible for US war crimes or atrocities more generally are in prison but Chelsea Manning is and Edward Snowden would be if he hadn't fled so quickly. On preview, what sotonohito said earlier. This particular American cannot imagine Assange getting justice in the US or all that many actual Americans getting justice these days.

The current President is a lying sack of shit. No news there. But so is the Attorney General and to a seemingly unprecedented degree. That guy doesn't want to prosecute Assange for his activities in 2016. Tl;DR: situation normal, all fucked up.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:45 AM on September 4, 2020 [7 favorites]


MeFi is some hotbed of support for imperialist wars

That blows me away too. As a former war supporter, mefi did more to blunt that Bardiche.

would destroy the careers of the majority of the Republican congress

and some Democrats, don't forget, them.

"The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest. Not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets," Gates said. "Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."
posted by clavdivs at 11:35 AM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


The UK should do a swap with the US: Julian Assange for Anne Sacoolas.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:46 AM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


I continue to find it strange that some seem to talk as if MeFi is some hotbed of support for imperialist wars, much less the way in which those wars have been prosecuted.

You will find plenty of reluctant and not-so-reluctant apologia here because the partisanship for both liberals and conservatives is so high that liberals will defend and excuse Obama's drone strikes at the same time as conservatives criticize him for them (and as Trump expands the program to all new heights of atrocity). That is so incredibly weird to me.

After all, how big were the protests when Obama took over the Great American Bipartisan War Machine? How many were attended by the same people who went to the streets against Bush?

The only winners in all of this are defense contractors. The losers, in every administration, are the people of color facing the asymmetrical, terrible might of an empire rotting from the inside out.

Until Americans, even the woke ones who claim they believe Black Lives Matter, truly reckon with this contradiction, it will keep happening and it will only get worse. Whistleblowers and journalists, even the most odious ones, play an essential role in exposing these contradictions.
posted by Ouverture at 11:47 AM on September 4, 2020 [11 favorites]


Interesting.
To "truly reckon with this contradiction," have "the most odious" of "Whistleblowers and journalists," played " an essential role in exposing these contradictions."?
posted by clavdivs at 12:25 PM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


I found it quite difficult to read the article, may just be me, so I found this one useful setting out the issues and I think along the same vein - Amnesty International

It would be interesting to see how much UK coverage will be next week on the hearing.
posted by peepofgold at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


I think the point is that American hypocrisy is itself so extreme, in a global context, that it is utterly unsurprising to see ideologues try to frame activist journalism as odious.
posted by polymodus at 12:34 PM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


I thought about trying to re-edit my words to bolster them, protect them against language gotchas and ironic twists of phrases to score a zinger or two. But I hate that sort of obsessive self-editing and find it so hard to come up with words anyway, I really try to train myself to speak from the heart and not worry about being misunderstood.

Would you believe I considered using a more clearly metaphorical number to emphasize that I meant "significantly large" instead of "literally one million" that someone could clapback with a larger number? Because if a lot of people are not affected by the differences between presidents bully for them, but if a lot of people are then THEIR LIVES MUST ALSO BE RESPECTED.

There is a depressing irony in calling the focus on "foreign" policy as "extraordinarily parochial".

Not irony, just the English language: foreign WRT the U.S. government, "parochial" as in having no empathy for issues outside one's own self-interest no matter where on this blasted rock one's self happens to be planted. Jesus. There are poor people of color who do not deserve what they get just because they were born in territory occupied so hard by the USA's bullshit imperialism that they're inside its borders.
posted by traveler_ at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2020 [4 favorites]


There is a depressing irony in calling the focus on "foreign" policy as "extraordinarily parochial". You speak of millions of people affected by the differences between these presidents, but there are hundreds of millions of people affected by the similarity between these administrations.

The difference is that the latter group is comprised up wholly of poor people of color who are essentially invisible on Metafilter and Western news media.

The biggest difference for Americans is that Trump finally brought home just a fragment of the horrors that Americans have been dishing out abroad for decades (and what is on display in Collateral Murder). This fixation with Assange indicates to me that Americans have learned little from the decades of building massive charnel houses across the world.


I suggest anyone who's having difficulty seeing the difference between the Obama and Trump administrations from the point of view of poor people of color outside the US find a few Uighurs (while there are still some left to find) to tell them where to look.

Concentration Camps in Xinjiang for Uighurs were discussed in policy circles in China since at least 2014, but very little significant effort to build them took place before late 2016, and in 2018 up to a million and by some estimates 3 million Uighurs had been sent to them.

The Chinese have styled them 're-education camps', and objective observers might have to concede that Uighur 're-education' has been extraordinarily effective in one crucial respect, since Xinjiang Uighurs apparently no longer have much desire for children:
In the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar, births collapsed by more than 60% between 2015 and 2018, the last year for which government data was available, the AP found. Nationwide over the same period, births fell only 4.2%.
And just in case anyone is tempted to argue that China would have implemented its Final Solution to the Uighur problem if Clinton had been elected, remember that Trump is widely and credibly reported to have offered Xi a free hand with the Uighurs in exchange for Xi's help getting reelected.
posted by jamjam at 3:27 PM on September 4, 2020 [7 favorites]


And just in case anyone is tempted to argue that China would have implemented its Final Solution to the Uighur problem if Clinton had been elected, remember that Trump is widely and credibly reported to have offered Xi a free hand with the Uighurs in exchange for Xi's help getting reelected.

Does any of that reporting cite any sources besides John Bolton? I am looking and can't find any. Help?
posted by Fukiyama at 4:12 PM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


The idea that Julian Assange, who is apparently friends* with Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Nigel Farage, might in any way further an anti-imperialist agenda is just so far out of touch with reality that I cannot fathom the chain of reasoning that would lead anyone there. The man has zero sense of allegiance. Not to your cause or anyone else's.

* Using the term loosely as I don't know if any of these men understand the concept.
posted by um at 5:15 PM on September 4, 2020 [9 favorites]


Does any of that reporting cite sources besides John Bolton?

You don't find Bolton's acount credible?

Even though:
1. Bolton is one of a tiny handful of people who could or would have been in the room or on the phone with Trump when he made such an offer?

2. We know for certain that Trump made an almost identical offer to Ukraine?

3. The Trump administration was silent about the camps for months after the first public reports when it must have known about them from almost the beginning, long before any public reporting, and when it did respond it was a few critical comments from the Undersecretary of Used Coffee Cups or something, and Trump himself has still not said anything as far as I am aware?

4. Trump's re-election campaign has not sued Bolton or his publisher for defamation even though they've sued CNN, the Washington Post, NYT, etc., and etc. for all kinds of things that are essentially on the public record, such as Trump calling Covid a "hoax"? And even though they did sue to block publication of Bolton's book?
posted by jamjam at 6:44 PM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


weirdo:

What I wonder is why this isn't covered under the same decision as the Pentagon papers.
Because Assange is alleged (and has admitted to, IIRC) providing material assistance to the underlying criminal act. He did not merely get a message saying "I've got some docs for you," and then provide a means to securely receive them, but provided information and tools to help steal them in the first place.
***
I think this largely gets to the crux of the discussion here.

1. If Assange merely published what someone gave him, my understanding is he should be free and clear.
2. If he assisted to get information via illegal means, he could be extradited and face charges on the illegal means. (Whether he should or not is a different story and I thank sotonohito for giving at least one good reason why.)

I am not really seeing a bunch of nuance here, so maybe I am missing something. What I am seeing is a bunch of people discussing the things that are important to them and much less what is important to the case.

It seems almost universal in this thread that people now think he is an ass, whether or not they liked him in the past. It seems everyone finds this irrelevant.

I am not surprised at all that lawyers working for journalism outfits are 100% against extradition and trial. It's not so much a slippery slope fallacy of thinking their journalists will be next, so much as a solid reasoning based on past behavior from many states, most definitely including US against their own reporters.

I am also not surprised there are many in here saying one can be a journalist and one can publish, but that journalism shield doesn't cover illegal activities just because you are also a journalist. While these are interconnected, one should not cover the other. If the mafia gives you a low rent place to sell your wares to help a neighborhood revive, that's awesome. If they ask for protection money while giving you low rent, that's still wrong.

I'm very interested in the argument that Assange is a journalist because of publishing a "Collateral Murder" video and thus gets immunity for anything he publishes from then on. I am hearing a lot of that in this thread. And, I have no issue with him editing the video. That's what journalists/editors do. There is simply no room for everything to be published.

Still, it's just bizarre to me that some in here seem to be behind the "but, journalism!" shield when it it reads more like: "here is a guy who exposed a lot. we can easily call it journalism. he has done other things that are on the margin, but he's a journalist/publisher so he should be exempt."

tl;dr: one can have done journalistic work and be shielded from that. one can do criminal things before or after that and should be held accountable for those.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:12 PM on September 4, 2020 [8 favorites]


Cough, Bill O'Reilly, cough
posted by sammyo at 7:18 PM on September 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


You don't find Bolton's acount credible?

jamjam, you said that, "Trump is widely and credibly reported to have offered Xi a free hand with the Uighurs in exchange for Xi's help getting reelected."

So it's actually widely and credibly reported insofar a bunch of media outlets simply repeated what Bolton wrote in his book?

CNN: Trump signs Uyghur human rights bill on same day Bolton alleges he told Xi to proceed with detention camps

That story quotes this excerpt from Bolton's book that was published in WSJ:
"With only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do," Bolton writes. "The National Security Council's top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China."
So Bolton didn't personally overhear anything, he claims he was told by an unnamed interpreter and an NSC staffer.

Trump is Trump, but I'm not going to take the word of archneocon John Bolton without supporting evidence regardless of if he's being sued or not.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:51 PM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


Still, it's just bizarre to me that some in here seem to be behind the "but, journalism!" shield when it it reads more like: "here is a guy who exposed a lot. we can easily call it journalism. he has done other things that are on the margin, but he's a journalist/publisher so he should be exempt."

This isn't the argument I am putting forth. I am saying there is no way he can get a fair trial in this country or any country aligned with it because of what WikiLeaks used to do.
posted by Ouverture at 8:13 PM on September 4, 2020 [5 favorites]


And just in case anyone is tempted to argue that China would have implemented its Final Solution to the Uighur problem if Clinton had been elected, remember that Trump is widely and credibly reported to have offered Xi a free hand with the Uighurs in exchange for Xi's help getting reelected.


TBH, China probably would've pursued its current course of ethnic cleansing regardless of who was in power in the US—after all, countries around the world have been pursuing their own agendas, with or without the US' blessing, even during the Obama administration. Now, would Clinton have made some symbolic gestures, or even imposed some sanctions, here and there? Sure! (Note that the Trump administration has also recently imposed sanctions against the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps). This is not to say that symbolic gestures and sanctions do not matter, but at this point, we're talking about a hypothetical Democratic administration's actions in an area of the world that is not under the US' influence, whereas in the part of the world where the US does does wield a lot of power, the Obama administration has committed real atrocities that affected real people.
posted by joethefob at 8:28 PM on September 4, 2020 [5 favorites]


Still, it's just bizarre to me that some in here seem to be behind the "but, journalism!" shield when it it reads more like: "here is a guy who exposed a lot. we can easily call it journalism. he has done other things that are on the margin, but he's a journalist/publisher so he should be exempt."

This isn't the argument I am putting forth. I am saying there is no way he can get a fair trial in this country or any country aligned with it because of what WikiLeaks used to do.
I said some, not all. I was not referencing you. in fact, I mentioned sotonohito making roughly your same point in my same comment.

It's also a misreading of what I said, summarized, just one sentence down from what you quoted:

tl;dr: one can have done journalistic work and be shielded from that. one can do criminal things before or after that and should be held accountable for those.

I am not quite sure why you thought I was specifically addressing you Ouverture, but I can assure you I was not. I was responding to the aggregate of comments over the day. I do my best to link to specific comments when I have an issue for specific comments.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 9:55 PM on September 4, 2020


assange is a vessel for the notion of the individual standing against the imperial state, so both the anti-imperialists and the liberal free speechers sympathize with him to various degrees.

but what they miss is that the current (post 2016) hot trend among the most autocratic goons around the world is to employ the idea of the individual and individual freedom as propaganda in the hopes of defeating the entrenched bureaucracy in western countries. if they succeed, then even the (very) flawed concept of western democracy goes down the drain. and the next thing will be much worse.

so the savvy approach for anti-autocrats would be to downplay the importance of assange rather than defend or attack him. of course there is a risk that his prosecution could create legal precedent that would be bad for other media. but that risk is lower than the risk of turning him into a cultural martyr or symbol.

this is not a winnable fight. the more energy poured into this, the more the autocrats, dictators, and ultra-right propagandists win. disengage.
posted by wibari at 10:00 PM on September 4, 2020 [8 favorites]


after all, countries around the world have been pursuing their own agendas, with or without the US' blessing

It seems to me that this is a fact which many Americans, including quite a number of MeFites, have a really hard time parsing.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:43 PM on September 4, 2020 [3 favorites]


You ignored my supporting arguments, Fukiyama, which is certainly your privilege.

The fact that the sue-happy reelection campaign has not sued Bolton for defamation from a very damaging allegation when they have sued others for much less damaging allegations is prima facie evidence the allegation is true. The similarity of the allegation to a pattern of behavior established by the Ukraine affair is also strong evidence it's true, because it shows Trump's continuing motivation to commit the acts in question and his willingness to do so. The silence of the Trump administration about the camps even though they must have known about them is actually strong evidence that Trump thought he had a deal with Xi and was holding up his end of it.
posted by jamjam at 11:17 PM on September 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


The fact that this particular allegation has not, in fact, been particularly damaging to an administration that still has a 42% approval rating after allowing 180,000 Americans to die might just be why they dgaf about it
posted by moorooka at 2:13 AM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


Could someone please clarify how Wikileaks 2016 publications could be prosecuted by the United States? How is the editor of a foreign publisher publishing true materials able to be prosecuted by a foreign country?

As to the actual charges relating to 2011, the evidence isn't that Wikileaks hacked or assisted in hacking anything. The evidence is that Assange accepted a request by Manning to assist breaking a password hash that would provide Manning administrator permissions. No evidence has been made available that indicates any further action was taken - just a conversation transcript of Wikileaks (Assange) accepting a request by Manning to investigate whether Wikileaks could break a password hash, no evidence it was broken nor even that the conversation went any further.

Irrespective of whether one is considered a journalist, that this should be an offense for which a foreigner may be extradited to the United States should be debated.
posted by bigZLiLk at 5:30 AM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


The left as is sadly so often the case is it's own worst enemy.
Julian Assange: Liberals feted him, then hated him.
“This is a monumental legal case which is an attack on everyone’s right to know about scandals which politicians and governments want buried. If the US government is successful, the ramifications are unthinkable.”
Ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: 'Surprising more can't see Assange case is worrying for all journalists'
Common Dreams: For Years, Journalists Cheered Assange’s Abuse. Now They’ve Paved His Path To a US Gulag. Journalists had a chance to join Assange in his struggle to rebuild journalism. Instead, they fled the battlefield, leaving him as a sacrificial offering to their corporate masters.
Of some concern in Johnson's rabidly right wing Britain is that as a British judge made rulings against Julian Assange, her husband was involved with right-wing lobby group briefing against WikiLeaks founder.
posted by adamvasco at 6:06 AM on September 5, 2020 [4 favorites]


Correcting the record:

We have evidence Wikileaks spoke directly to the Trump admin, we don't have evidence they spoke directly to Russia.
"Twitter DMs obtained by BuzzFeed News show that in the summer of 2016, WikiLeaks was working to obtain files from Guccifer 2.0, an online hacktivist persona linked to by Russian military intelligence, the clearest evidence to date of WikiLeaks admitting its pursuit of Guccifer 2.0.

“[P]lease ‘leave,’ their conversation with them and us,” WikiLeaks asked journalist Emma Best, who was also negotiating with Guccifer 2.0 for access to what it had teased on its blog as “exclusive access” to hacked Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee files. “[W]e would appreciate it if you did not dump the docs and obviously archive.org will delete them anyway.”"
those other seventeen counts do, indeed, appear to represent a significant threat to journalism of the sort that brought us the pentagon papers and important stories of government lawlessness since.

Depends on interpretation. Marcy Wheeler's seems good to me:
[I]ncluding these descriptions of non-criminal conduct legitimately opened DOJ up for justifiable panic among journalists, who are focusing on this language rather than the password cracking language that is the overt act alleged in the conspiracy, that this indictment sets a dangerous precedent. This is not an indictment for publishing true information that a source broke the law to provide, as many responses to the indictment are claiming, but the press can be excused for describing it as such because of this extraneous language that does relate to core journalistic functions
(Her take on the superceding indictment is helpful too.)

the similarity between these administrations.

They're not similar, except in that they are both American, which puts them in a similar position, and gives them similar powers. The way they choose to use those powers has, however, been very different.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:52 AM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


"no evidence it was broken nor even that the conversation went any further. "

Correction: Manning later asked whether Assange had had any lucky cracking the password and received the response "No luck so far."

UnceUponATime: I agree, Wheeler's analysis is better than most, even if I don't always agree with the conclusions drawn. The evidence Assange assisted others in hacking is certainly problematic. It's interesting that Obama's DOJ didn't believe this was enough to pursue charges and makes one wonder what has changed.
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:57 AM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that Obama's DOJ didn't believe this was enough to pursue charges and makes one wonder what has changed.

At this point the impression I get is that Trump/Barr are just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, in terms of helping themselves electorally. While the focus here has been mainly on the liberal/Left perspective on Assange, it's not hard to see how prosecuting him could be spun in a MAGA-wise direction. It's not even necessary to win the case, from that perspective - just drum up some "we're a gonna hang the foreign terrorist-enabling journalist" heat to get a few more votes in.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:24 PM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]


One thing worth noting is that Obama didn't really try to close GITMO in a way most of us would understand that to mean.

There is a facility in Guantanamo Bay where the USA holds people prisoner but has never charged them with any crime, has never held any trials for them, and intends to keep them imprisoned until they die.

Obama looked at that statement and thought the problem was the "in Guantanamo Bay" part not the "people are being held prisoner forever without trials or charges" part. He intended to shut down the physical facility in Cuba but keep all the people imprisoned forever without trials or even charges imprisoned forever without trials or even charges. In fact, as in so many things, Obama went further than Bush Jr and officially codified the part where dozens of the people held there would be held, forever, without even being formally accused of any crimes.

So yes, the Republicans blocked funding for his plan to shutter the physical facility and transfer the detainees who would be held forever without trials or charges to other physical facilities.

The problem wasn't the "in Cuba" part it was the "without trials or charges" part. No one who actually cared about the problem with GITMO was upset about the location, we were upset about the whole people being imprisoned forever on Presidential whim part. And Obama loved the idea that Presidents could just imprison people forever on a whim. He embraced it and made it part of his Presidential legacy by officially declaring dozens of detainees would never face trial or charges.

I would say that Obama never tried to close GITMO in any meaningful sense. It doesn't matter where the uncharged prisoners are being kept for life. It matters that they were uncharged and being imprisoned forever.
posted by sotonohito at 6:42 PM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]


there is no way he can get a fair trial in this country or any country aligned with it because of what WikiLeaks used to do.

I assume that this is fundamentally correct, and I don't think we'll ever see Assange get a fair trial anywhere.

No one who actually cared about the problem with GITMO was upset about the location

I agree with your larger point, but there are still reasons to be upset about the location, too.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:23 PM on September 5, 2020


keep all the people imprisoned forever without trials or even charges imprisoned forever without trials or even charges

No. The reason that Gitmo was in Cuba is because the American constitution did not apply there. Obama wanted to bring the prisoners onto American soil, where the constitution would have required charges and a trial of some kind. One of the sticking points was whether it would be a criminal trial in the federal courts, where they would have strong rights, or, as Republicans wanted, a military tribunal in the military courts, where the rights of the defence would be more limited.
Congress has forbidden the administration to bring terrorism suspects from Guantanamo onto American soil for trial or imprisonment and also has made it harder to send detainees to other countries.

Obama has said he is still committed to closing the prison and trying terrorists in civilian courts. But Monday's announcement made it clear that he would not be able to fulfill one of his most famous promises: "I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and will follow through on that," he said on 60 Minutes shortly after he was elected.
And though Obama did not manage to close Guantanamo, he DID manage to release a bunch of the prisoners. From Wikipedia
As of 15 June 2009, Guantánamo held more than 220 detainees.
[...]
Obama issued a presidential memorandum dated 15 December 2009, formally closing the detention center and ordering the transfer of prisoners to the Thomson Correctional Center, Thomson, Illinois.
[...]
The Guantanamo Review Task Force issued a Final Report 22 January 2010 but did not publicly release it until 28 May of that year.The report recommended releasing 126 then-current detainees to their homes or to a third country, prosecuting 36 in either federal court or by a military commission, and holding 48 indefinitely under the laws of war. In addition, 30 Yemenis were approved for release if security conditions in their home country improve. [This adds up to 240 - ed]
[...]
Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill [with amendments effectively banning the closure -ed] but nevertheless the Obama administration "will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future," the president's statement said.

On 7 March 2011, Obama gave the green light to resume military trials, conducted by military officers, with a military judge presiding, of terror suspects detained at Guantánamo Bay. He also signed an executive order that requires a review of detainees' status "within a year and every four years after that to determine whether they remain a threat... scheduled for a military trial or should be released." The order required compliance with the Geneva Conventions and the international treaty banning torture and inhumane treatment
[...]
On 21 September 2012, the US government disclosed the names of 55 of the 86 prisoners cleared for transfer from Guantánamo Bay prison. All of the names publicized were those of prisoners that Obama's inter-agency Guantanamo Bay Review Task Force had approved for release from the prison. Previously, the government had maintained the names of prisoners cleared could not be made public because it would interfere with diplomatic efforts to repatriate or resettle prisoners in their home country or other countries.

In November 2012, the Senate voted 54–41 to prevent detainees from being transferred to the US. At the end of December 2013, President Obama stated he has not given up the idea of trying terror suspects housed at Guantanamo Bay in United States courts. "The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests," Obama wrote in a signing statement attached to a new defense authorization bill called the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 which relaxed restrictions on transferring detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of foreign governments.
[...]
As of 23 February 2016, 91 prisoners remained in Guantánamo. From these 91 prisoners 35 were recommended for transfer if security conditions could be met. The remaining prisoners were expected to be brought to U.S. facilities in the United States.
[...]
On 15 August 2016, President Obama transferred another 15 prisoners from the prison. This was the largest single day transfer since President Obama took office in 2009. The inmates, 12 Yemeni nationals and 3 Afghans, were transferred to the United Arab Emirates. This brought the total number of prisoners down to 61 with 20 more cleared for transfer. Obama did not close the prison before leaving office but was able to further reduce the population to 41.
Please don't try to gaslight me on this. I was following the story at the time. I was here, I was an adult, and I remember.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:19 AM on September 6, 2020 [18 favorites]


No. The reason that Gitmo was in Cuba is because the American constitution did not apply there. That's simply not true. US soldiers are bound by the UCMJ and Constitution no matter where on Earth they are. There's nothing magic about American dirt that suddenly gives people rights.

'Murca can't just kidnap people and put them in cages forever as long as those cages are off the magic US dirt. The idea that in order to have trials for the people at GITMO they first had to be transported to magic American dirt is patently absurd. Obama could have ordered trials for them anytime he wanted, even if the Republicans had the power to forbid him from taking them to America, he could have at least held military trials there.

He chose not to.

In fact, and this is the crux of the matter, Obama explicitly said he did not want trials, or charges, for some of the people held there. He maintained that they were so incredibly dangerous that to have trials, or charges, would be a risk to America.

Your own quotes note that Obama wanted to keep some of them held, forever, without even a show trial.

For a Constitutional scholar, Obama was really into the idea that if it's too hard to do something the legal, Constitutional, way then America should just shrug and do it the illegal, anti-Constitutional way. See how he decided that arresting, or even bringing charges against, Anwar Nasser al-Awlaki. It was, per Obama, just too much of a hassle to do things the right way, and in his mind that justified having him assassinated.

So don't fucking gaslight me either, I too was an adult who followed the story. He maliciously left 41 people in cages, without even bothering to bring charges against them, because he wanted to. At any moment he could have ordered military trials for them, because he's Commander in Chief and can do that. Hell, he could have simply declared that unless the republicans allowed trials he would have no choice but to obey the Constitution and release them because this is America and we don't put people in cages for no reason here.

Instead he chose the coward's way out and elected to hide behind transparent BS that US "soil" is magic and those meanie Republicans wouldn't let him use the magic dirt.

If he'd given half a shit about human rights he could have ended it all even if the Republicans denied him the magic US dirt. He chose not to.
posted by sotonohito at 9:07 AM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


Obama explicitly said he did not want trials, or charges, for some of the people held there.

No he didn't. If you think he did, then it should not be hard for you to find and link to a source quoting him "explicitly saying" this.

Your own quotes note that Obama wanted to keep some of them held, forever, without even a show trial.

No, they say that the Guantanamo Review Task Force that Obama appointed recommended indefinite detention for 48, and that Obama disagreed with this recommendation. Three years after that report, Obama "stated he has not given up the idea of trying terror suspects housed at Guantanamo Bay in United States courts. "The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests," Obama wrote in a signing statement attached to a new defense authorization bill called the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 which relaxed restrictions on transferring detainees from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the custody of foreign governments."
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2020 [7 favorites]


Sotonohito, you can't just keep asserting all this stuff about Obama without receipts. Maybe you're right but I can't tell since you refuse to post any links backing up your statements.
posted by octothorpe at 11:25 AM on September 6, 2020 [8 favorites]


Here's the relevant executive order from the whitehouse.gov website.

It's a horrifying document in that it normalizes and regularizes indefinite detention without trial, charges, or anything at all except the whim of the executive. It ordered merely a "periodic review" of the status of detainees to decide, not based on a trial or evidence presented to the public but again purely on the whim of the executive branch, whether or not to keep holding the person in a cage forever without even bringing charges against them.

Section 1 paragraph b:
This order is intended solely to establish, as a discretionary matter, a process to review on a periodic basis the executive branch's continued, discretionary exercise of existing detention authority in individual cases.
Note that it asserts a positive right on the part of the executive to detain a person, effectively forever, based purely on executive privilege. It legitimizes and codifies Bush Jr's overreach and arbitrary declaration that he could hold people forever.

Nowhere in the document does it ever say that Obama intends to have real trials for everyone, that there must be actual substantive charges against them that are made public.

Sure, it makes vague assertions that perhaps, sometime, maybe if the executive whim changes, a detainee might be granted the privilege of having real charges filed against them and getting a real trial. Or maybe they won't. Who decides? The executive.

When Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri's lawyers wanted to know if he would be freed if found innocent in his trial the Obama administration said it was entirely up to the executive branch and that the outcome of the trial was utterly irrelevant to whether or not he would go free. This was a specific example of a more general principle previously expressed by the Obama administration when it asserted to a Senate committee that it could, and might, hold detainees forever regardless of the outcome of any possible trials.

In summary: The Obama administration established a legal sounding framework and codified the assertion that the executive could hold people, forever, without bringing them to trial or even officially charging them with any crime. When asked if people found innocent in trials would be released the Obama administration asserted that the executive had the authority to hold people captive forever regardless of the outcome of any trials.

To claim that Obama sought to close Guantanamo in the sense of "having trials for everyone there" is simply not in keeping with any action the Obama administration ever took, and it runs contrary to explicit claims by the administration that it could, and perhaps intended to, keep people imprisoned even if the show trials they deigned to permit for a select few found them innocent.
posted by sotonohito at 12:58 PM on September 6, 2020 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure there were a couple of Supreme Court decisions that complicated the situation. I've been saying that the proper venue to deal with those who attack the US or assist in such attacks is federal court (Something Bill Clinton got right), but the situation, especially with regard to those detained under Bush, is more complicated than we'd like.

Personally, I am of the opinion that if their previous treatment makes a trial impossible that we should release them, presuming we can find a country that will take them. At least for some of the people still stuck in custody, finding someplace willing to take them has proven impossible, IIRC.

The underlying principle is simple and obvious. I don't think anyone here approves of holding people in indefinite detention. I doubt many, if any, supported kidnapping them in the first place. It would have been a lot easier if Obama's predecessor hadn't done that, but he did. Ironically, if it had remained completely off the books and Congress and the Supreme Court hadn't gotten involved, the President would have the ability to unilaterally solve the problem, but that happened too.
posted by wierdo at 5:03 PM on September 6, 2020 [2 favorites]


you gents understand what a derail is, right?
posted by um at 5:26 PM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]


At this point the impression I get is that Trump/Barr are just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, in terms of helping themselves electorally. While the focus here has been mainly on the liberal/Left perspective on Assange, it's not hard to see how prosecuting him could be spun in a MAGA-wise direction. It's not even necessary to win the case, from that perspective - just drum up some "we're a gonna hang the foreign terrorist-enabling journalist" heat to get a few more votes in.

This is a good point and a reasonable argument, but I think a prosecution of Assange is a sop to the intelligence community, which absolutely despises Assange.

Because Trump has big trouble with the intelligence community.

Most recently from the fallout over the bounties Russia was paying to fighters in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers, which Trump tried to get out from under by blaming his inaction on the briefings he got from intelligence officials, saying they didn't tell him in person, it was only written, and on top of all that was never definitive in the first place, all of which were clearly lies.

One of the very highest ranking US intelligence officials, our most senior expert on Afghanistan and the Taliban, committed suicide in his own driveway in front of his new wife in June, right near the start of the Bounty scandal, and only weeks from his scheduled retirement.
Anthony Schinella, 52, the national intelligence officer for military issues, shot himself on June 14 in the front yard of his Arlington home. A Virginia medical examiner’s report lists Schinella’s cause of death as suicide from a gunshot wound to the head. His wife, who had just married him weeks earlier, told The Intercept that she was in her car in the driveway, trying to get away from Schinella when she witnessed his suicide. At the time of his suicide, Schinella was weeks away from retirement
...
As NIO for military issues, Schinella was the highest-ranking military affairs analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, and was also a member of the powerful National Intelligence Council, which is responsible for producing the intelligence community’s most important analytical reports that go to the president and other top policymakers.
...
The National Intelligence Council is now under the control of the Director of National Intelligence, and has recently gained greater public prominence as its analytical work has been caught up in political controversies surrounding the Trump administration, including this summer’s public firestorm over intelligence reports about Russian bounties to kill American troops.

On June 26, the New York Times reported that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, and President Donald Trump quickly faced criticism for having failed to do anything in response to protect American troops. Within days, the National Intelligence Council produced a memo that claimed that the intelligence about the bounties wasn’t conclusive. While the memo was not made public, it was quickly picked up in the press and seemed designed to placate Trump by raising doubts about the original news story about the Russian bounties. The NIC memo appears to have been generated at the urging of John Ratcliffe, the former Republican Texas congressman and Trump supporter who became director of national intelligence in May.

But at the time that the memo became public through press reports, there was no mention of the fact that the national intelligence officer for military issues — the one member of the NIC who should have had the most input into the analysis concerning military operations in Afghanistan — had killed himself just days earlier. In fact, Schinella was considered an expert on the Taliban and its military capabilities. Though he was an analyst, Schinella had deployed to four different war zones during his career, his wife said.
...
After his death, Schinella’s wife discovered a large collection of bondage and S&M gear that had been hidden in his house, along with 24 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. His wife said that one of Schinella’s CIA colleagues contacted her recently and said the CIA has completed an investigation into Schinella’s death, but didn’t provide her with any details.
I think Schinella refused to go along with the finding that the intelligence about the bounties was not conclusive (which was generated when fact checking by the NYT tipped off the Trump administration that the story was coming), Ratcliffe told him that if he didn't, the hidden part of his life associated with the S&M paraphernalia and guns would be exposed, and Schinella committed suicide.
posted by jamjam at 12:05 AM on September 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Assange extradition hearing - Live tweet: https://twitter.com/kgosztola/status/1302932276984967173
posted by - at 4:37 AM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


UK government refuses to release information about Assange judge who has 96% extradition record.
A little more about Westminster chief magistrate Lady Emma Arbuthnot who oversaw Julian Assange’s extradition case and whose husband was closely associated with a lobby group publicly criticising the WikiLeaks founder.
Declassified, the news outlet linked to above has recently been blacklisted by the UK Ministry of defence, giving rise to Freedom of Press concerns.
posted by adamvasco at 7:31 AM on September 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Julian Assange lawyers fail to adjourn extradition hearing
Judge rejects lawyers’ objection to new US evidence against WikiLeaks founder

Assange seems a thoroughly toxic individual and I wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire. That being said, the US's maintenance of a (mostly) Constitution-free zone in Guantanamo shocks the conscience, particularly given its torture program. Even if we accept American claims that this program is over, there is no way to assure ourselves that this is the case, or that it would not be reopened. The USA burned its bridges there. Furthermore, even if we could believe this, extraterritorial prisoners of the USA lack essential legal rights, such as habeas corpus. And its treatment of prisoners inside the US often amounts to what would be considered torture elsewhere. Consequently, I believe any extradition request that should be denied if there is any concern that the subject will not enter the usual justice system; and all other requests should be carefully scrutinised.

Secondly, the disposition of this case stinks. Britain's prosecution of him has been based on one pretext after another. We can see that they never cared about the Swedish sexual assault allegations; I don't even believe he would have ended up in Sweden if he had failed to find refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. At this point it's clear that he's the subject of an extra-legal, politicised prosecution by the USA, which has continuously lied about its position and motives; and this at the behest of an Administration that has a personal interest in suppressing any revelations about its own associations with Assange that may emerge.

Assange's a jerk, but treating this as a normal extradition request is absurd. It's an uncomfortable truth that the USA is not now a member of the international community that respects justice and human rights. Britain should not deliver him into their hands.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:00 PM on September 7, 2020 [7 favorites]


Your Man in the Public Gallery: the Assange Hearing Day 6
I went to the Old Bailey today expecting to be awed by the majesty of the law, and left revolted by the sordid administration of injustice.

For the few still following the discussion, I absolutely recommend this reading.
posted by - at 8:06 AM on September 8, 2020 [3 favorites]




Calling an extradition hearing a trial evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of the process.
posted by wierdo at 1:54 PM on September 8, 2020






Calling an extradition hearing a trial evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of the process.

Focussing on the trivial use of the common phrase "show trial" as if that was the essential element of the statement is illustrative of responses in this case.
posted by bigZLiLk at 4:05 PM on September 11, 2020


As the MSM seems to be ignoring the Assange trial here is a link to Craig Murray's daily ''Your Man in the Public Gallery". Here is day 10 with
“any journalist can be prosecuted for publishing classified information” as the US government line.
posted by adamvasco at 5:24 AM on September 16, 2020


If that is the position they are taking, it is a dramatic change in policy. And a pretty significant statement about what they expect to be allowed by the Supreme Court.

A prosecution for assisting in the misappropriation of classified material is a far cry from the ability to prosecute anyone who merely publishes said material. Indeed, it retroactively criminalizes a lot of scholarship regarding nuclear weapons since nuclear information is supposedly "born secret".
posted by wierdo at 5:36 AM on September 16, 2020


If that is the position they are taking, it is a dramatic change in policy. And a pretty significant statement about what they expect to be allowed by the Supreme Court.

And yet entirely, entirely predictable. I feel like a lot of us are still operating with "there is a stopping point where the Trump administration will show respect for the rule of law or at least respect for human life" when what's really happening is that the exact same type of people (and sometimes the same actual people) who support the Klan and the death penalty and eugenics and marital rape and people dying of easily treatable illnesses and one law for the rich and another for the poor...those people are the ones running the show, and they have figured out that there's very little between them and total rule. (Not to cheerlead for the Democrats, but I think there is a very, very low bar below which they mostly won't go, and there are good elements in the party.)

I saw a tweet yesterday which I should have bookmarked but did not which basically said, "those of us who grew up in relative comfort and security have underestimated how many truly evil people there are and how totally cruel they are willing to be".

Pinochet and Franco were yesterday. Duterte is today. The murder and dispossession of Adivasis in India is today. There is no meaningful difference between Modi, Duterte and the contemporary GOP except capacity. What Modi will do to Adivasis, Trump will do to you if he gets the chance, and he's always looking for the chance. Always assume that whatever they're doing is with the goal of pushing as hard as they can to destroy anything that protects ordinary people from the wealthy and powerful.
posted by Frowner at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2020 [3 favorites]


Prosecutors objected to El Masri giving live testimony.
Assange: “I will not permit the testimony of a torture victim to be censored by this court

The CIA Torture and Rendition of El Masri
El Masri was kidnapped, detained, and held incommunicado and abused for 23 days. On January 23, 2004, a CIA rendition team handcuffed and blindfolded him at Skopje Airport.
posted by adamvasco at 4:51 AM on September 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


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