Court is adjourned for Wednesday in the extradition hearing of Julian Assange. Consortium News watched the proceedings and filed this report on the testimony of Daniel Ellsberg and John Goetz.
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Ellsberg & Goetz Refute Informants
Were Harmed & That Assange Was
First to Release Their Names
2:15 pm EDT: Ellsberg’s testimony is over and the court is in recess until 10 am BST on Thursday. The issue of Assange’s alleged release of informants’ names again was front and center as the government tries to build its case on it.
However three important matters have emerged on the issue in testimony so far:
- It’s not against the law to reveal the names of informants.
- Assange did not reveal informants names first.
- Not a single informant is known to have been harmed by the revelation of their names.
In morning testimony, German journalist John Goetz, who collaborated with WikiLeaks in 2010, attempted to set the record straight on the sequence of events. He said Assange worked hard to redact the names and was even “paranoid” about the security of the documents. Assange had approached the White House and the State Department for help in redacting names.
WikiLeaks planned to take a year to slowly roll out the unpublished parts of its archive of leaks in order to redact as much as possible. But Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding published the password to that archive in their book published in February 2011.
A German newspaper, Der Freitag, learned about the password and published it even though Assange tried hard to convince them not to because of the risk of revealing informants’ names. After Freitag published it Cryptome dumped the entire un-redacted archive on its website on Sept. 2, 2011.
WikiLeaks then took the decision to also publish the entire archive the next day to help alert informants so they could get to safety. Nevertheless, the government is trying to portray Assange as recklessly endangering individuals.
Prosecutor James Lewis has also quoted from the Guardian book to accuse Assange of having said at a dinner in London that informants deserved to die. Goetz was at that dinner and has previously said on the record that Assange never said such a thing. As defense attorney Mark Summers began to ask him about this, Lewis objected and it was sustained by Judge Vanessa Baraitser.
Daniel Ellsberg, for the defense, began by comparing WikiLeaks releases to the Pentagon Papers, saying they both had the “highest public interest.” Ellsberg said WikiLeaks publications were the first releases “in 40 years that showed a pattern” of policymaking and like the Papers with Vietnam, showed that the Afghan and Iraq wars were going badly and the government was lying to the American people about them.
Ellsberg made an astute observation from the stand that the low-level field reports leaked by Manning contained information about U.S. torture and an assassination program that would never have been in such reports in Vietnam, which Ellsberg said he himself had written when he worked at the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the war.
The existence of such programs, he said, would have been restricted to the highest levels of government. That thousands of people had clearance to read the reports Manning leaked showed that torture and assassination had been “normalized.”
On cross examination, Lewis pointed out Assange was not being prosecuted for the that Collateral Murder video, which Ellsberg had mentioned on direct, but instead for publishing the classified rules of engagement in Iraq.
Ellsberg said the rules of engagement were necessary to show the evidence of war crimes in the video. Had the government taken action against the pilots who laugh as they kill innocent men, the American public would have accepted it. But that’s not what happened. Instead they are prosecuting the man who published the incriminating evidence.
Ellsberg Didn’t Redact
Lewis then tried to establish that Ellsberg had been careful in releasing the Pentagon Papers by withholding four volumes with details of the Vietnam peace negotiations going on at the time. Ellsberg said that he did that because he did not want to stand in the way of diplomacy and that if the talks failed the government might blame him.
But he then undermined Lewis’ argument by testifying that he had not redacted a single name of an informant or even a covert CIA agent (which he knew to be against the law) so that redactions would not be used as an excuse to undermine the credibility of the Papers.
Ellsberg testified that he rejected the notion that had grown up in mainstream media of Good Ellsberg, Bad Assange. He said in fact Assange had, unlike himself, redacted names, withheld 15,000 sensitive documents, and had asked the Pentagon and State Department for help in making further redactions. But both had refused to help him. Ellsberg speculated that it was done so that the government could later prosecute him for revealing names, which is what it is doing now.
Lewis retorted, “So it’s all the governments’ fault then.”
“Yes, they bear a heavy responsibility,” Ellsberg responded.
He said the government was being “highly cynical” in suddenly feigning concern for the informants when they did not try to help when Assange approached them.
It was around this point that Assange began speaking loudly from behind his glass cage and he was warned by Baraitser that he’d be removed from the court if he continued.
Ellsberg said the government cynicism was even starker when U.S. wars in the Middle East in the past 19 years had caused a million deaths and 37 million refugees. “It is extremely cynical for them to pretend that they care for these people,” Ellsberg said.
He also stood his ground when Lewis read from Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg’s affidavit about many informants who were threatened because of WikiLeaks publications. Ellsberg challenged whether anyone was actually harmed or just threatened. Lewis could not establish whether anyone actually was.
The trial continues.
Assange’s father spoke to the media afterward:
Court in Recess as Witness Testimony is Discussed
9:25 am EDT: Court is still in recess as both sides are presumably still discussing whether the court will hear testimony from Khaled El-Masri, and if so, how much of it. Dan Ellsberg is supposed to testify in the afternoon session. “I need a solution to the problem,” Judge Baraitser just said.
7:35 am EDT: The court has adjourned as opposing legal teams discuss how to put into evidence a statement from Khaled El-Masri, who was kidnapped in Macedonia by CIA agents and sent to a black site in Albania where he was sodomized, according to Goetz, who later found the CIA agents living in North Carolina.
Goetz’s cover story in Der Spiegel led to a German parliamentary investigation and the filing of an arrest warrant by Munich prosecutors for the CIA men, as El-Masri is a German citizen. But the warrant was never issued in the United States, where they lived.
Goetz testified that it wasn’t until the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables that he understood why. He said on the stand that cables showed the immense pressure the U.S. put on Germany not to issue U.S. arrest warrants, warning of serious repercussions in U.S.-German relations.
Lewis, unsurprisingly, argued before the judge that El-Masry’s written testimony was not accepted as evidence by the United States and that he would challenge its admissibility as the U.S. contended it was not relevant to the Assange case. Lewis then offered a compromise to allow edits to the statement. We are awaiting court to resume.
Goetz Testifies Assange Was Careful
About Redactions; Is Stopped From
Answering About Dinner Remark
6:15 am EDT: John Goetz, former Der Spiegel reporter has been on the stand, and he attempted to set the record straight about the sequence of events that led to WikiLeaks being forced to publish un-redacted diplomatic cables on Sept. 2, 2011.
Goetz explained to prosecutor James Lewis that it was the publication of the password to the entire archive of un-redacted cables by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding in their 2011 book that led to the website Cryptome publishing that archive on Sept. 1. Goetz tried to explain to Lewis that WikiLeaks then republished those archives, and were not the first to put out un-redacted names as Lewis is trying to establish.
Lewis, seemingly flustered, then made the error of confusing the Afghan war logs with the diplomatic cables and was corrected by Goetz.
Under direct examination Goetz established that Julian Assange was insistent on taking security measures with documents while Goetz, for Der Speigel, worked with The Guardian and New York Times on the Afghan files. Goetz also testified that Assange took part in the effort to redact names of informants with the other news organizations. After the cables were shared with the U.S. government pre-publication, WikiLeaks asked the White House and the U.S. military in Afghanistan to suggest names that should be redacted and also technical help.
Goetz also pointed out that in the Chelsea Manning trial it was established that no named informant had been harmed.
When defense attorney Mark Summers tried to zero in on a key piece of the prosecution’s case–namely that Assange said at a dinner that the informants deserved to die, according to the Guardian journalists’ book–Lewis objected that that instance was not in the witness’s written testimony and that a supplemental witness statement should have been filed.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser sided with the prosecution and would not allow Summers to pursue questioning about the dinner. Goetz has previously said on the record in press reports that Assange made no such statement and would have presumably testified to that effect but the court never got to hear it. That there is no U.S. law making it illegal to publish the names of informants questions the relevancy of the government’s efforts to focus on publication of un-redacted names.
Ellsberg and Goetz on the Witness Stand
3:45 am EDT: Daniel Ellsberg, the famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower, and German journalist John Goetz will take the virtual stand as defense witnesses on Wednesday.
Goetz, a former journalist at Der Spiegel, was present at a dinner in London in 2010 with Guardian editors at which the prosecution alleges Julian Assange said that the informants revealed in a WikiLeaks publication deserved to die. Goetz has gone on the record in press reports to say Assange never said such a thing. He can be expected to say the same thing under oath on Wednesday.
Ellsberg will likely testify about the role of the press and the First Amendment protections it enjoys in publishing classified information, drawing no doubt on his experiences in the Pentagon Papers case. The hearing begins at 5 am EDT, 10 am BST and 7 pm AEST.