Two days ago the Guardian and four other liberal newspapers published a joint letter which began:
Publishing is not a crime: The US government should end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.
Twelve years ago, on November 28th 2010, our five international media outlets – the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel – published a series of revelations in cooperation with WikiLeaks that made the headlines around the globe.
“Cablegate”, a set of 251,000 confidential cables from the US state department, disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale …
So it did. And it’s truly terrific that the Guardian now opposes Washington’s hideous and often unlawful attempts 1 to persecute this man in ways calculated to cow journalists everywhere. To this end it was amply aided not only by those vassal states, Sweden and above all Britain, but by media vilification in which The Guardian led the pack.
For more examples, see my post Dear Guardian Media Group
How to account for the mismatch between the laudable protestations of this week’s joint letter, and the Guardian’s long record of vilifying Julian? I gave it my best shot in September 2020 with a post entitled, Julian, Guardian & the Law of volitionality. 2
As for that joint letter, I was tempted to take time out of my busy UkraineWatch duties to pen a post but, luckily for me, Caitlin Johnstone has beaten me to it.
The Guardian has joined The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País in signing a letter from the five papers which collaborated with WikiLeaks twelve years ago in the publication of the Chelsea Manning leaks to call for the Biden administration to drop all charges against Julian Assange. This sudden jolt of mainstream support comes as news breaks that Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been personally pushing the US government to bring the Assange case to a close. 3
The Guardian’s participation in this letter is particularly noteworthy, given the leading role that publication has played in manufacturing public support for his persecution in the first place. If The Guardian really wants to help end the persecution of the heroic WikiLeaks founder, the best way to do that would be to retract those many smears, spin jobs and outright lies, and to formally apologize for publishing them.
This is after all the same Guardian which published the ridiculous and completely invalidated 2018 report that Trump lackey Paul Manafort had met secretly with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy, not once but multiple times. Not one shred of evidence has ever been produced to substantiate this claim despite the embassy being one of the most heavily surveilled buildings on the planet at the time, and the Robert Mueller investigation, whose expansive scope would obviously have included such meetings, reported absolutely nothing to corroborate it. It was a bogus story which all accused parties have forcefully denied and no serious person believes is true, yet to this day it still sits on The Guardian’s website without retraction of any kind.
This is the same Guardian which ran an article in 2018 titled “The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride”, arguing that Assange looked ridiculous for continuing his political asylum in the embassy because “The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US.” The article was authored by the odious James Ball …
Caitlin’s post doesn’t include the above, written years earlier in her inimitable style, but I deem it too good to omit
… whose article begins:
According to Debrett’s, the arbiters of etiquette since 1769: ‘Visitors, like fish, stink in three days.’ Given this, it’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like, more than five-and-a-half years after Julian Assange moved himself into the confines of the small flat in Knightsbridge, just across the road from Harrods.
This is the same Guardian which published an article titled “Definition of paranoia: supporters of Julian Assange”, arguing that Assange defenders are crazy conspiracy theorists for believing the US would try to extradite Assange because “Britain has a notoriously lax extradition treaty with the United States,” 4 and because “why would they bother to imprison him when he is making such a good job of discrediting himself?”, and “because there is no extradition request.”
This is the same Guardian which published a ludicrous report about Assange potentially receiving documents as part of a strange Nigel Farage/Donald Trump/Russia conspiracy, a claim based primarily on vague analysis by a single anonymous source described as a “highly placed contact with links to US intelligence”. The same Guardian which has flushed standard journalistic protocol down the toilet by reporting on Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin” (not a thing) without even bothering to use the word “alleged” on more than one occasion. The same Guardian which advanced many more virulent smears as documented in a 2018 article by The Canary titled “Guilty by innuendo: the Guardian campaign against Julian Assange that breaks all the rules.”
Click on the above to read the Canary article
Even the wording of the joint letter itself is dishonest when coming from The Guardian.
“This group of editors and publishers, all of whom had worked with Assange, felt the need to publicly criticise his conduct in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released, and some of us are concerned about the allegations in the indictment that he attempted to aid in computer intrusion of a classified database,” the letter reads. “But we come together now to express our grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials.”
As we’ve discussed previously, the narrative that Assange recklessly published unredacted documents in 2011 is itself a dishonest smear, and the unredacted files were actually published elsewhere as the result of a real password being recklessly published in a book by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding (the same Luke Harding who co-authored the bogus Manafort-Assange story). Assange took extraordinary measures to try and minimize the damage that was done by those Guardian reporters, but wound up getting thrown under the bus and blamed for their actions anyway. 5
If The Guardian is sincere in its stated desire to see the end of the persecution of Julian Assange, the single most effective thing it could do to help advance that goal would be to publicly acknowledge that it helped to deceive the world about him, and work to correct the record.
The only reason Assange’s case doesn’t have more support currently is because so much of the public has been deceived into believing that what’s happening is not the unconscionable persecution of a journalist for telling the truth, but rather the righteous prosecution of a sinister Russian agent who has broken laws and endangered lives. The Guardian easily played a larger role in manufacturing that collective misconception than any other single news outlet in the world, and as such it could do tremendous good by retracting and apologizing for its publications which fed into it.
This is the sort of thing a publication would do if it was really interested in truth, justice, and journalistic ethics. Is it what the people who run The Guardian will choose to do? I highly doubt it.
* * *
- I assume that spying on Julian at London’s Ecuador Embassy qualifies as ‘unlawful’. Ditto a CIA plot to assassinate him on a London street. Not that such trifling technicalities troubled Vanessa Baraitser, the magistrate presiding over the extradition hearings. To her the plot by a foreign power to gun him down on UK soil merely showed how deep was the concern of kindly old Uncle Sam to protect his friends! But then, look who Baraitser was answering to:
As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, that much trumpeted separation of judicial from executive power was blown out of the water the day Blair halted a SFO investigation into arms-contract bribes to Saudi princes. Yes, the credulously pedantic will point out that a High Court judge later found Blair to have acted unlawfully. But was the SFO investigation re-opened? WDYT?
- Julian, a man of high intelligence and perceptive insight, nailed it for me with a truth too few Guardian defenders – including those who voice disappointment at its treatment of this brave man – have grasped:
“What drives a paper like the Guardian or New York Times is not their inner moral values. It is simply that they have a market. In the UK, there is a market called ‘educated liberals’. Educated liberals want to buy a newspaper like the Guardian and therefore an institution arises to fulfil that market.”
- Needless to say, in his speech to the House in Canberra, Albanese repeatedly distanced himself from Julian. “I have no sympathy with some of his actions …” And needless to say, the Australian PM did not specify which ‘actions’ he had no sympathy with. Nevertheless, even while wringing his supine hands in silent apology for having the temerity to raise the matter with Head Office in Washington, raise it he has. And as Stella McCartney said the day her dad was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, about fucking time!
- Britain’s extradition treaty with the USA offers American citizens more protection than it does Britons. Caitlin says “notoriously lax” but “one-sided” may be more accurate. The laxity of the exemption clause for politically motivated requests is arguably due less to the treaty’s drafting than to its implementation in an Assange case riddled with breaches of fundamental legal protections. (As with electronic eavesdropping on his meetings with legal counsel, that exemption clause alone should have seen the US request dismissed in short order, but it’s hard to see how legislators can forestall such blatant trumping of the rule of law by servile realpolitik.) For purposes of comparison, see this brief article in the Law Society Gazette, March 2020. It doesn’t mention Julian. Rather, its focus is the case of a US diplomat’s wife who fled the UK immediately after her car allegedly hit and killed a 19 year old motorcyclist while she was driving on the right.
- In this Twitter exchange, one Dan Wheatley parades two consequences of the Guardian-led vilification. Both are prevalent within a liberal intelligentsia which should have been Julian’s staunchest support base. One is the clueless fatuity that his ego or unlikability (even if true) count for more than the war crimes he exposed. This is nicely skewered by Bo Whoma’s reply.
The other is the more specific smear, a defamatory lie for which Harding and Leigh should burn in Hell, that Julian endangered lives by releasing those unredacted cables. But it was Leigh who revealed the password in – you couldn’t make it up! – a chapter heading of his and Luke Harding’s hatchet job, WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.