'They Should Be In Jail': How The Guardian and New York Times 'Set Up' Julian Assange
British Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed off on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US. His legal team now has just 14 days to appeal the decision, which journalist Peter Hitchens rightly branded “a total and unmitigated disgrace” shaming Britain. If unsuccessful, he faces up to 175 years in a supermax prison.
Understanding how we reached this point is crucial. It was not until 2010 that Julian and WikiLeaks attracted the attention of authorities in the respective capitals of the ‘Five Eyes’ global spying network, and the seeds of his destruction began being sown.
In July that year, WikiLeaks - in collaboration with a number of mainstream media outlets, most prominently The Guardian and New York Times - published the Afghan War Logs, 90,000 US military incident and intelligence reports compiled January 2004 — December 2009.
Provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, the files offered damning and previously hidden evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Allied forces, including a number of extrajudicial killings.
The first US Justice Department indictment against Julian was unsealed 11th April 2019, the very day he was dramatically expelled from London’s Ecuadorian Embassy and imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison, “Britain’s Gitmo”, where he has languished ever since, his mental and physical health deteriorating each and every day.
It charged that in March 2010, Julian unsuccessfully tried to help Manning crack a password, which would’ve allowed her to extract documents from Pentagon computers without detection. In reality, this appears to have been an attempt to assist the then-Army intelligence analyst in downloading music, which was not permitted under her standard Department of Defense login.
Julian’s contact with Manning was conducted as part of his coalition with The Guardian, New York Times, et al. Yet not a single mainstream journalist who worked with him and WikiLeaks under the terms of that arrangement has faced any consequences whatsoever. In fact, these individuals have often played a pivotal and consciously dishonest role in smearing him publicly ever since.
Award-winning journalist Mark Davis can attest to their hypocrisy and lies. He closely followed Julian’s activities over 2010, in order to make a series of programs on the WikiLeaks founder’s life for Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service. He ended up with so much material, he was able to compile a documentary, ‘Inside WikiLeaks’.
He laid bare his shocking experiences during this period at a Consortium News event in Sydney, Australia in August 2019.
Most significantly, Davis was granted intimate insight into the release of the Afghan War Logs, spending much time in “the bunker”, a dedicated operations room established by The Guardian within its London offices to facilitate the project’s completion.
Davis feels his “eye-witness observations” of events surrounding the Logs’ release served to dynamite two “enduring slurs” against Julian’s character — that he had a “cavalier” attitude towards the safety of individuals named in the documents WikiLeaks released, and his lack of journalistic professionalism in comparison to the mainstream reporters with whom he collaborated.
Over the course of his talk, Davis made clear the reality was quite the reverse.
“All the statements made by journalists he worked with in the books and articles they’ve written and TV shows they’ve appeared on about their integrity versus Julian’s lack thereof, I can say are complete lies. I’m witness to it. Nick Davies, Julian’s main contact at The Guardian, has repeatedly claimed Julian had a cavalier attitude to human life — that’s simply not true. If there was any cavalier attitude, it was among Guardian journalists. They had disdain for the impact of this material, a type of ‘gallows humor’ as to what would happen those named in the documents if they were released.”
Davis explained that at no point in the bunker did he see Guardian journalists “express any concern whatsoever” about putting people’s lives at risk, although Julian did on several occasions. Moreover, Davis alleges the issue of exposing the identities of thousands of people — an inevitable and obvious consequence of publishing tens of thousands of sensitive government documents — was “never taken seriously” by the reporters involved.
Chillingly though, Davis claimed he once overheard a discussion between Davies and fellow reporter David Leigh — when Julian wasn’t present — about whether the name of a particular person should be published. Davies was steadfastly opposed, albeit purely out of fear of governmental reprisal, rather than anxieties over the individual in question’s safety.
“But we’re not publishing it,” Leigh allegedly responded — proof, Davis suggested, Julian hadn’t been chosen as The Guardian’s partner, but in fact a sacrificial lamb.
This was highly alarming to me, and I raised it with Julian. He’s a genius but has a certain naivety about him — he thought highly of these guys, felt they were part of a collective effort and all in it together, rather than him being the source and them being the journalists. He didn’t quite believe they’d push him out onto the plank, then say ‘it’s not us, we’re just reporters’. It’s shameful.”
Leigh — who allegedly “fawned all over” Julian in the bunker — went on to coauthor 2011’s WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, with the notorious Luke Harding.
Underlining Guardian journalists’ negligent approach to operational security, in that book the pair decided — contrary to Julian’s explicit warnings — to use the confidential encryption password for the entire, uncensored ‘Cablegate’ archive as a chapter heading, resulting in hundreds of thousands of State Department cables being dumped on the web without the redactions WikiLeaks representatives prepared for them over a period of eight months.
Walls Closing In
Davis also recalled that as the War Logs mutually-agreed publication deadline loomed, both The Guardian and New York Times grew increasingly anxious about being associated with the material.
His film, shot just prior to the release, documents this transformation in real-time — in one highly illuminating segment, Julian informs Gavin MacFayden, then-director of the University of London’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, that The New York Times had requested WikiLeaks scoop them, by publishing analysis of the War Logs first.
The ‘naivety’ referenced by Davis is palpably on display — “they want to report on our reporting, so they can claim they’re not involved!” Julian spluttered bemusedly, in evident disbelief a newspaper would be actively resistant to publishing such a seismic exclusive. As Davis testified, the footage makes for thoroughly “chilling” viewing in the present day, given Julian now faces extradition to Washington “as a result of that subterfuge.”
Simultaneously, Julian was also growing increasingly anxious, in his case about the identities of informants and other individuals featured in the logs being revealed. No effort had been made by Guardian journalists to remove a single one, and despite repeated requests, he wasn’t provided with staff or technical support to redact them.
As a result, the WikiLeaks chief took up the “moral responsibility” for the files — Julian’s numerous entreaties for publication to be delayed so as to give him time to adequately “cleanse” the documents were likewise ignored, compelling him to “literally work all night” to redact around 10,000 names, Davis said.
In a perverse irony, the documentarian also exposed how, despite Julian ultimately acquiescing to publish the Logs on 25th July 2010, in order to allow The Guardian and New York Times to “report” on the story the next day, the plan was disrupted by technical issues with the WikiLeaks website.
As Julian struggled to get the content online, he was inundated with “panicked, hysterical calls” from both newspapers, which grew ever-more frenzied as the day wore on — the outlets were literally on the verge of stopping the presses, as their front-page splashes on the War Logs were predicated on WikiLeaks having published the documents the day prior.
It took several days for WikiLeaks to finally upload the War Logs — The Guardian and New York Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories on 26th July 2010, reporting on the release of the Logs, despite the fact they hadn’t actually yet appeared on the WikiLeaks website.
“Julian was their fall guy. They printed a lie. These two high priests of journalistic integrity very happily colluded, reporting on something that hadn’t happened. The entire searchable Afghan War Logs interface was the sole creation of The Guardian, they promoted it on their website and in the paper, but then turned round and said ‘we didn’t publish this, Julian did’. They set him up from the start. They should be in jail too,” Davis concluded.