Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Guardian's obsession with sullying the reputation of Julian Assange

[Updated below]

After Julian Assange gave a speech at the Oxford Union on January 23, 2012, The Guardian published an article criticizing his appearance, saying "he refused to be gracious". At the time, video had not been uploaded of the event, so it was impossible to contradict The Guardian's claims. Now that the Oxford Union has uploaded the full speech and Q&A session (albeit only after editing out footage of "Collateral Murder" due to copyright fears), The Guardian's blatant smear tactics can be revealed.

It should first be noted that The Guardian chooses to focus on Julian Assange, rather than the event which he was speaking at: the Sam Adams Award ceremony. Thomas Fingar, the recipient of the award who authored a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which asserted that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, is not even mentioned in The Guardian's article.

The Guardian describes Mr Assange's talk as "an impassioned defence of WikiLeaks and against censorship of all kinds", but foregoes any actual discussion of his 21-minute speech, instead focusing on the Q&A session. The article states that Mr Assange "repeatedly refused to answer questions about his decision not to return to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault". This is false as Mr Assange did not "refuse" to answer any questions, but indeed answered all that were asked of him.

The first question The Guardian mentions is a student asking how long Mr Assange will stay in the Embassy. He responds, "We will see. Hopefully not much longer, but who knows". As Mr Assange and the Ecuadorian Government are attempting to arrange a diplomatic solution with Britain, this can be viewed as an honest, straightforward answer. But The Guardian implies that his answer was insufficient, stating that "the next student fared no better".



The following question is about Julian Assange's refusal to return to Sweden. The Guardian describes his answer stating:
"Assange's smile faded. "I have answered these questions extensively in the past," he replied sharply and referred the student to a website."

First off, The Guardian implies that the question altered Julian Assange's mood, something which can be concluded to be false upon seeing the video. He receives and answers the question in the same manner. Secondly, it is true that he has "answered these questions extensively", and it is also detailed in Ecuador's statement on the acceptance of his asylum. Furthermore, after referring the student to the Justice for Assange website, he goes on to give a brief explanation of how Sweden refuses to guarantee against his extradition to the U.S. Again, answering the question. 

 

Mr Assange is then asked, "What would you say to the protesters outside who say that your appearance here and you being in the Ecuadorian Embassy is dismissing victims of rape and the seriousness of the crime of rape?"

The Guardian states, "Assange half closed his eyes and sighed", neither of which happen. Again, we see The Guardian attempting to paint Mr Assange as someone who is annoyed by these questions, when he is actually answering them in an even, straightforward manner.

The Guardian continues:
"[Assange speaking:] "I heard there was a protest but we sent our cameras out there before joining you tonight and there were 28 supporters of me and of no one else."
Before the event, however, there had been at least 50 protesters and no supporters of Assange to be seen. After the ceremony, security staff confirmed they had not seen anyone defending the WikiLeaks founder all evening."
 
If you listen to Mr Assange's actual response, you will notice that he is implicitly referring to the planned protest outside the Ecuadorian Embassy:
"Well, I'm here at the Embassy. I heard there was going to be a protest, repeated ad infinitum in The Guardian by PPE students who somehow have roles writing for The Guardian. But actually, we count 28 supporters of ours out there—we just sent out the cameraman—and no one else."



As he suggests, there were plans to protest both outside the Oxford Union and the Ecuadorian Embassy, arranged by the same person.

The second half of The Guardian's article contains quotes from the protesters outside, as if to frame Mr Assange as a liar based on the previous claims they make. All other questions he is asked go unreported—namely, all the ones not about the Swedish allegations, but about a government's right to keep secrets, Mr Assange's asylee status, the publication of unredacted cables, WikiLeaks' decision process of what to publish, and cyberterrorism.

It is clear from The Guardian's article that they have an obsession with Julian Assange and are incredibly selective of their quotations in order to frame him as an ungrateful liar. But if one reviews the actual source material, it is evident that The Guardian's claims hold no truth.



All videos of Julian Assange's speech at the Oxford Union can be seen at its YouTube Channel.


[Update]

A short letter criticizing the same article, signed by ten former intelligence officers and foreign service officers, has been published by The Guardian. It reads as follows:
If the Guardian could "find no allies" of Julian Assange (Report, 24 January), it did not look very hard. They could be found among the appreciative audience at the Oxford Union, and in our group seated at the front: the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Many in our group, which co-sponsored the event, had travelled considerable distances to confer the 10th annual Sam Adams award on Dr Thomas Fingar for his work overseeing the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that revealed the absence of an Iranian nuclear weaponisation programme since 2003. Many of us spoke about the need for integrity in intelligence, describing the ethical dilemma that confronts government employees who witness illegal activity, including serious threats to public safety. However, none of this, nor any aspect of Dr Fingar's acceptance speech, made it into your article.
Signatories: Ann Wright Retired US army colonel and foreign service officer of US state department, Ray McGovern Retired CIA analyst, Elizabeth Murray Retired CIA analyst, Coleen Rowley Retired FBI agent, Annie Machon Former MI5 intelligence officer, Thomas Drake Former National Security Agency official, Craig Murray Former British ambassador, David MacMichael Retired CIA analyst, Brady Kiesling Former foreign service officer, US department of state, Todd Pierce Retired US army major, judge advocate, Guantánamo defence counsel

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fact Sheet: Julian Assange, his asylum, and the Swedish investigation

This is a fact sheet which was designed to inform those attending or protesting Julian Assange's January 23, 2013 appearance at the Oxford Union. It is available as a .pdf to be printed and handed out.

Why did Ecuador grant asylum to Julian Assange?
Ecuador fulfilled Julian Assange's asylum request due to the risk of persecution by the U.S. Government. U.S. officials have confirmed an ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks, with continued calls for the prosecution of Mr Assange. He has also faced multiple calls for his assassination. It is apparent from Bradley Manning's hearings that the U.S. is attempting to implicate Mr Assange.

Is Ecuador interfering in the Swedish investigation?
The Government of Ecuador officially extended an offer for Sweden to question Julian Assange in the Embassy, which was rejected. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has reiterated that Ecuador has no means to hinder the investigation, but only wishes to protect Mr Assange from U.S. persecution.

Is Julian Assange avoiding questioning by the Swedish prosecution?
Julian Assange has offered to be questioned in London for over two years, and continues to offer such to this day. Questioning someone in another country is a standard EU legal procedure, which Sweden used just last year for an alleged murderer. The Swedish prosecutor offers no reason as to why she will not question Mr Assange in London.

If Julian Assange is innocent, why doesn't he just go to Sweden?
If extradited to Sweden, Julian Assange will be immediately placed in solitary confinement, incommunicado, despite the fact that he has yet to be charged with a crime. This treatment can be seen in the recent case of Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm. Mr Assange would not have had the ability to seek asylum were he to be extradited, therefore being unable to protect himself from U.S. persecution.

[Addendum: People often try to dispute the fact that Mr Assange has not been charged. Here are two official sources—the UK Supreme Court and the Agreed Statement of Facts between both Applicant and Respondant—which state that Mr Assange has not been charged (emphasis mine).
  1. UK Supreme Court: "charges have not yet been brought against Mr Assange".
  2. Agreed Statement of Facts: "The Appellant [Julian Assange] has not to date not been given the copies of the complete case file relating to the case (save those that were provided to the Swedish court by the prosecutor). Under Swedish law the Appellant is only entitled to have access to this material once a final decision to prosecute is made."]

What else should I know?
The Swedish investigation against Julian Assange has been very unusual. The case was initially closed, then reopened by another prosecutor. The interview of one complainant was not recorded, despite the fact that interviews with all other persons were recorded. A condom submitted as evidence by the other complainant contained no DNA from Mr Assange. These are just a few examples of the peculiar conduct of the investigation.


All sources are hyperlinked within the article.
For more information please see the following websites:
U.S. v WikiLeaks - A website dedicated to detailing the ongoing U.S. investigation into WikiLeaks and the case against Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Justice for Assange - A website dedicated to detailing the Swedish investigation against Mr Assange.
"The Wikileaks, Julian Assange Diplomatic Standoff" - An animated infographic, offering a quick and easy way to understand the Swedish investigation against Mr Assange.
Agreed Statement of Facts and Issues - Court document showing facts of Mr Assange's case that are agreed on by both the defense and prosecution.
Jennifer Robinson: Brief to Canberra - A briefing by Mr Assange's lawyer giving a timeline of events and overview of concerns regarding the Swedish investigation.
WL Facts - Assange FAQ - A list of frequently asked questions surrounding Mr Assange.


This flyer was put together by M Cetera.
She can be contacted via Twitter at @m_cetera or via email at mcetera[at]mail[dot]be.