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Extradition Hearing: Assange and WikiLeaks Redacted Documents and Protected Sources - Defence Team

CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO / Mohamed Elmaazi / Free Assange No US Extradition Poster at Woolwich Crown Court/Belmarsh pro Assange Rally
Free Assange No US Extradition Poster at Woolwich Crown Court/Belmarsh pro Assange Rally - Sputnik International
The US government on Monday claimed that charges against Julian Assange were motivated by a reckless disclosure of the identity of sources, and not in retaliation for exposing US war crimes or publishing embarrassing revelations. Mark Lewis QC, speaking for Washington, claimed at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court that the defendant "is not a journalist".

Assange's defence team hit back on Tuesday against claims that the WikiLeaks founder revealed hundreds of sources, names, and identities, when the organisation published Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and US diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.

Mark Summers QC, speaking for the defence, told the court on 25 February, that Assange and WikiLeaks "worked tirelessly" with a coalition of news outlets to redact information which might have put US government informants and sources at risk. The prosecution argued the opposite during its opening statement on 24 February.

​WikiLeaks was part of a harm minimisation redaction process, in collaboration with mainstream and establishment news outlets, as early as November 2010, the court heard on Tuesday. This process involved the US government feeding suggested redactions into the media relationship. In some cases WikiLeaks redacted more than what other mainstream outlets did, Summers detailed.

"The state department was also part of the process", Summers said, "They gave numbers to [the media collaboration to] redact, which WikiLeaks did, knowing the requests were coming from the US government". Summers stressed that the US government was and is fully aware of this fact.

This goes directly to support the defence's claim that the prosecution are acting in "bad faith" when they claimed that Assange is "not a journalist" who "recklessly" put the lives of innocent people at risk. In fact, the prosecution has had to admit that it has no evidence of US sources actually coming to harm due to WikiLeaks publications.

​"Can it be said, with any sensible view, that the [extradition] request portrays an accurate picture of the situation?", Summers asked the court rhetorically. "We had many suggestions for redactions which WikiLeaks agreed to", including names.

Summers noted that it was two Guardian journalists, and not Assange or WikiLeaks, who provided access to the original unredacted US diplomatic cables.

In February 2011, Luke Harding and David Leigh, writers with The Guardian, published a book about the diplomatic cables which contained a password that could be used to unlock the WikiLeaks documents and remove the redactions. Six months later, Summers continued, Assange became aware that internet sites Cryptome and Pirate Bay had discovered the password and used it to decrypt the documents and then publish them in their original form. Assange contacted Cryptome, according to Summers, and "begged" them to stop publicising the unredacted files and take them offline.

Assange then called the US State Department, at the time run by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, to let them know that other sites had gained access to the unredacted cables which would "imminently" incur a situation in which "lives are going to be put at risk". The court also heard that this conversation was video recorded at the time and featured in the Laura Poitras documentary Risk.

​"The notion that Assange deliberately published unredacted information is knowingly false", Summers noted.

The defence team presented evidence from Chelsea Manning's court martial to establish that Assange had not "solicited" classified documents from her. Instead, they argued, the evidence clearly shows that Manning leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks because her conscience was triggered by war crimes and mistreatment she saw happening at the hands of US-led forces in Iraq and elsewhere.

James Lewis QC, speaking on behalf of the US government, argued that the claim could be disputed, but that the dispute should take place on US soil.

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