Craig’s bombshell during Assange trial

Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 10

The gloves were off on Tuesday as the US Government explicitly argued that all journalists are liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act (1917) for publishing classified information, citing the Rosen case. Counsel for the US government also argued that the famous Pentagon Papers supreme court judgement on the New York Times only referred to pre-publication injunction and specifically did not preclude prosecution under the Espionage Act. The US Government even surmised in court that such an Espionage Act prosecution of the New York Times may have been successful.

It is hard for me to convey to a British audience what an assault this represents by the Trump administration on Americans’ self-image of their own political culture. The First Amendment is celebrated across the political divide and the New York Times judgement is viewed as a pillar of freedom. So much so that Hollywood’s main superstars are still making blockbusters about it, in which the heroes are the journalists rather than the actual whistleblower, Dan Ellsberg (whom I am proud to know).

The US government is now saying, completely explicitly, in court, those reporters could and should have gone to jail and that is how we will act in future. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and all the “great liberal media” of the USA are not in court to hear it and do not report it, because of their active complicity in the “othering” of Julian Assange as something sub-human whose fate can be ignored. Are they really so stupid as not to understand that they are next?

Err, yes.

The prosecution’s line represented a radical departure from their earlier approach which was to claim that Julian Assange is not a journalist and to try and distinguish between his behaviour and that of newspapers. In the first three days of evidence, legal experts had stated that this gloss on the prosecution did not stand up to investigation of the actual charges in the indictment. Experts in journalism also testified that Assange’s relationship with Manning was not materially different from cultivation and encouragement by other journalists of official sources to leak.

By general consent, those first evidence days had gone badly for the prosecution. There was then a timeout for (ahem) suspected Covid among the prosecution team. The approach has now changed and on Tuesday a radically more aggressive approach was adopted by the prosecution asserting the right to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information under the Espionage Act (1917).

The purpose of the earlier approach was plainly to reduce media support for Assange by differentiating him from other journalists. It had become obvious such an approach ran a real risk of failure, if it could be proved that Assange is a journalist, which line was going well for the defence. So now we have “any journalist can be prosecuted for publishing classified information” as the US government line. I strongly suspect that they have decided they do not have to mitigate against media reaction, as the media is paying no attention to this hearing anyway.

I shall now continue my exposition of the questioning of Eric Lewis. I shall not set out as much of this in full detail as dialogue as I did yesterday, but will do so at key points in the summary.

Read how the rest of the chit chat went.

Kevin Gosztola’s coverage of Daniel Ellsberg

Good Ellsberg, Bad Assange: At Extradition Trial, Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Dismantles False Narrative

Opponents of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange often hold up Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as an example of someone who was responsible for a good leak. They insist WikiLeaks is not like the Pentagon Papers because supposedly Assange was reckless with sensitive documents.

On the seventh day of an extradition trial against Assange, Ellsberg dismantled this false narrative and outlined for a British magistrate court why Assange would not receive a fair trial in the United States.

James Lewis, a prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service who represents the U.S. government, told Ellsberg, "When you published the Pentagon Papers, you were very careful in what you provided to the media."

The lead prosecutor highlighted the fact that Ellsberg withheld four volumes of the Pentagon Papers that he did not want published because they may have impacted diplomatic efforts to end the Vietnam War. However, Ellsberg's decision to withhold those volumes had nothing to do with protecting the names of U.S. intelligence sources.

As Ellsberg described for the court, the 4,000 pages of documents he disclosed to the media contained thousands of names of Americans, Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese. There was even a clandestine CIA officer, who was named.

Nowhere in the Pentagon Papers was an "adequate justification for the killing that we were doing," Ellsberg said. "I was afraid if I redacted or withheld anything at all it would be inferred I left out" the good reasons why the U.S. was pursuing the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg was concerned about revealing the name of a clandestine CIA officer, though he mentioned the individual was well-known in South Vietnam. Had he published the name of the officer today, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act could have easily been used to prosecute him. But he left it in the documents so no one could make inferences about redacted sections that may undermine what he exposed.

Like Assange, Ellsberg wanted the public to have a complete record.

This did not exactly distinguish Ellsberg from Assange so Lewis explicitly highlighted an article, "Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike The Pentagon Papers," by attorney Floyd Abrams, which he wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

Abrams was one of the attorneys who represented the New York Times in the civil case that argued the government should not be able to block the media organization from publishing the Pentagon Papers. And like Lewis, Abrams fixated on the four volumes that were kept confidential.

Ellsberg insisted Abrams was "mistaken." He never had any discussion with Ellsberg while defending the right to publish before the Supreme Court so Ellsberg said Abrams could not possibly understand his motives very well.

In the decades since the Pentagon Papers were disclosed, Ellsberg shared how he faced a "great deal" of defamation and then "neglect" to someone who was mentioned as a "clear patriot." He was used as a "foil" against new revelations from WikiLeaks, "which were supposedly very different." Such a distinction is "misleading in terms of motive and effect."

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Pricknick's picture

Please go to her site for the full monte.
A total destuction of prosecutorial misconduct.

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2020/09/17/news-media-who-ignore-the-assang...
News Media Who Ignore The Assange Trial Are Admitting They Don’t Care About Journalism
by Caitlin Johnstone
The Sydney Morning Herald just published an article titled "Julian Assange interrupts extradition hearing again" about the WikiLeaks founder's correct interjection that he never put anyone's lives in danger with the publication of the Manning leaks a decade ago.

It's actually a rather shocking smear piece for the SMH, who has been one of the better Australian publications at giving Assange a fair hearing over the years. The article's author Latika Bourke spends an inordinate amount of time waxing on about Assange's naughty "outburst" and how he was reprimanded for it by the judge, telling readers that the prosecution "separates Assange from the press which also published information revealed by WikiLeaks but without naming journalists, human rights advocates and dissidents who were informing on their governments and repressive regimes", and bringing up Osama bin Laden's possession of WikiLeaks documents apropos of precisely nothing.

At no time does Bourke (who has been a regular smearer of Assange) bother to provide the reader with any of the readily available information showing that Assange never caused anyone harm and was not responsible for the unredacted documents being made public. She weaves a narrative about Assange being badly behaved in the courtroom, insinuates that the accusations he objected to could be true to the furthest extent possible without actually making a claim that would need to be retracted, and gets out.

Your headline writers misspelled "Julian Assange being prosecuted for journalism in historic case that threatens press freedoms worldwide", @smh.https://t.co/xQ1O0z8BUh

— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) September 17, 2020

And unfortunately this drivel is more or less typical of the coverage Assange's historic, world-shaping extradition trial has been receiving from the mass media since it resumed this month. To the extent that they report on the trial at all, mainstream news outlets have mostly limited their coverage to trivialities like trouble with courtroom audio equipment or postponement due to a coronavirus scare. No mainstream outlet has been covering this immensely important trial in-depth to anywhere near the extent that former UK ambassador Craig Murray has been doing every night, or explaining to their audience the significance of a precedent which will allow journalists all over the world to be extradited and jailed for exposing embarrassing truths about the US government.

This dereliction of journalistic responsibility was damning enough back when the prosecution was trying to argue that Assange doesn't have First Amendment protections because he was engaged in espionage and not journalistic behavior. But now that the prosecution has pivoted to arguing that it doesn't matter that Assange is a journalist because the US government is allowed to imprison people for journalism, this dereliction of duty has become far more pronounced.

Murray writes the following in his latest update:

The prosecution’s line represented a radical departure from their earlier approach which was to claim that Julian Assange is not a journalist and to try and distinguish between his behaviour and that of newspapers. In the first three days of evidence, legal experts had stated that this gloss on the prosecution did not stand up to investigation of the actual charges in the indictment. Experts in journalism also testified that Assange’s relationship with Manning was not materially different from cultivation and encouragement by other journalists of official sources to leak.

By general consent, those first evidence days had gone badly for the prosecution. There was then a timeout for (ahem) suspected Covid among the prosecution team. The approach has now changed and on Tuesday a radically more aggressive approach was adopted by the prosecution asserting the right to prosecute all journalists and all media who publish classified information under the Espionage Act (1917).

The purpose of the earlier approach was plainly to reduce media support for Assange by differentiating him from other journalists. It had become obvious such an approach ran a real risk of failure, if it could be proved that Assange is a journalist, which line was going well for the defence. So now we have “any journalist can be prosecuted for publishing classified information” as the US government line. I strongly suspect that they have decided they do not have to mitigate against media reaction, as the media is paying no attention to this hearing anyway.

Corporate journalists have barely bothered to cover Assange's trial. But while they doze, the US has changed its argument, as ex-ambassador Craig Murray reports. Now the US is threatening to lock up other journalists for espionage if they expose its crimes https://t.co/4dpYUQ0EAZ

— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) September 16, 2020

Murray's subsequent breakdown of the prosecution's arguments makes it clear that he was not over-selling this change in strategy. His notes on attorney for the prosecution James Lewis' arguments contain lines as blatant as "There are Supreme Court judgements that make it clear that at times the government’s interest in national security must override the First Amendment" and "serial, continuing disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest cannot be justified. It therefore follows that journalists can be prosecuted" in arguing against witness testimony that Assange's publishing behavior should be protected by the First Amendment.

"The United States Supreme Court has never held that a journalist cannot be prosecuted for publishing national defence information," Murray reports Lewis argued.

So that's the precedent the prosecution is setting now. No longer "We can extradite and imprison Assange because he isn't a journalist", but "We can extradite and imprison Assange because we're allowed to extradite and imprison journalists."

The argument that Assange isn't a journalist has always been transparently false, whether made in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion. Publishing important information so that the public can understand what's going on in their world is exactly the thing that journalism is. All WikiLeaks publications have included extensive written analyses of their contents, and its staff have received many esteemed awards for journalism.

WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange has been awarded the 2019 GUE/NGL Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information.
The award, sponsored by European parliamentarians, was established in honour of assassinated Maltese journalist, Daphne Galizia. pic.twitter.com/5DaMWcMFM9

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 16, 2019

But the fact that the prosecution is no longer even attempting to argue against the journalistic nature of the actions they are attempting to criminalize means they have ceased trying to pretend that they are not waging a war against worldwide press freedoms. Which means that all journalists and news media outlets have lost their last excuse for not condemning Assange's persecution with great force and urgency.

Now that it is out in the open that the US government plans to prosecute any journalist anywhere in the world who it deems to have committed "disclosure of secrets which harm the national interest" (which in Assange's case means exposing US war crimes), anyone on earth who actually plans on doing real journalism which holds real power to account is at risk. If someone isn't using whatever platform they can to denounce Assange's persecution, they are showing the world that they have no interest in ever doing real journalism which holds real power to account.

News reporters and news outlets are showing us what they are right at this moment. If they are not speaking out for Assange's freedom right now they are telling you that his persecution poses no threat to them. They are telling you that they never plan on doing anything that might hold power to account with the light of truth. They are telling you that they will side with power every time. They are telling you they are propagandists.

The prosecution's new line of argumentation should have drawn massive headlines from all the major news outlets who've been bloviating about the dangers posed by Trump's war on the press with flamboyant preening and self-aggrandizement. Instead they are silent, because they do not care.

To quote Maya Angelou, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

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Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

@Pricknick Assange makes his way to date with destiny he always predicted

Now the United States is trying a less dramatic but equally questionable version of its CIA rendition program. The attempt to extradite Assange is designed to stifle dissent, sending a chill through the ranks of investigative journalists worldwide. If Assange can be prosecuted for exposing evidence of US war crimes, so can any journalist anywhere in the world.

It was just such a fear of being extradited to the US that led Assange to successfully seek asylum in London's Ecuador embassy in 2012, where he remained until April last year when police stormed in and arrested him - a particularly zealous act for the relatively minor offence of skipping bail.

Fowler then introduces a germane historical precedent - The ABC case:

As he makes his way into the court today, Assange is walking in the footsteps of one of the UK's most celebrated investigative reporters, who exposed Britain's worldwide electronic intelligence gathering operation.

Duncan Campbell, working for the magazine Time Out in London, had revealed the existence of the then secret Government Communications Headquarters, Britain's version of the Australian Signals Directorate and the US National Security Agency.

If not for Campbell, would we today even know of the existence of GCHQ and its subservience to the NSA?

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Lookout's picture

...and miscarriage of justice.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Assange Hearing

Yet another shocking example of abuse of court procedure unfolded on Wednesday. James Lewis QC for the prosecution had been permitted gratuitously to read to two previous witnesses with zero connection to this claim, an extract from a book by Luke Harding and David Leigh in which Harding claims that at a dinner at El Moro Restaurant Julian Assange had stated he did not care if US informants were killed, because they were traitors who deserved what was coming to them.

This morning giving evidence was John Goetz, now Chief Investigations Editor of NDR (German public TV), then of Der Spiegel. Goetz was one of the four people at that dinner. He was ready and willing to testify that Julian said no such thing and Luke Harding is (not unusually) lying. Goetz was not permitted by Judge Baraitser to testify on this point, even though two witnesses who were not present had previously been asked to testify on it.

Is this a new procedure coming to U.S courts? Back to the Salem Witch trials!

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snoopydawg's picture

@Marie

the useful idiot who released information that Wikileaks did not want released? That Luke Harding? The idiot who Aaron Mate destroyed once because he knew more of what he was talking about that Luke did?

It shouldn't matter what Luke says Assange said because it is hearsay and if I had to pick which one was more trustworthy it sure as hell ain't Luke. The trial already stated that Wikileaks withheld 15,000 reports because it did name names and besides, the Chelsea Manning trial already established that not one person had been killed or harmed because of the information released.

Lewis will go down in history as the US puppet that helped destroy freedom of the press along with the witchy judge Baraitser. And every person on both sides of the pond involved in this miscarriage of justice should be tied to it too.

Is this a new procedure coming to U.S courts?

Well it is a known fact that anyone tried under the espionage act does not get a fair trial because so much evidence is not allowed in. Democrats didn't care one bit that Obama charged 8 people under it, but now that there are whistleblowers coming out against Trump both the democrats and the sycophants think that they need to be protected. Where was Schiff's outrage of their treatment during O's tenure? Fucking hypocrites.

Most journalists don't have to worry that they could be prosecuted for exposing war crimes because they are just stenographers for the PTB and wouldn't dare take the risk Assange and his team has.

I think it was in 2010 when a judge ruled that Wikileaks could not be prosecuted for what they released. I was barely paying attention to this at the time, but if that case set precedent then that should help on appeal if that is allowed to be on the up and up. But then our government is hoping Assange dies is prison before he's extradited. I made the mistake of reading an article on what life is like in a supermax prison.

Land of the free my ass. Land of laws my ass too. Kill 11 people in cold blood and nothing happens. Write about those 11 people and the 2 who did the killing and you're considered a criminal. Just like the only person who went to prison for our torture programs was John Kiroku who exposed it. Little help on his name? I know I've butchered it.

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“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

snoopydawg's picture

@snoopydawg

"Obama came out of retirement to shut down the NBA protest."

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“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

@snoopydawg As a total shill for HRC. Defended but not so much of a shill for Obama for eight years, but roared back in 2015-16 as the Hill Shill again. Now contents himself with rewriting history to denigrate Trump (as if there isn't enough about Trump to honestly denigrate) and hope it's enough to elect Biden who is even tough for Krugman to tout.

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snoopydawg's picture

@Marie

as it is Jimmy's ranting about Obama and where the country went during his tenure. People are just as blind to his true legacy as they are about Biden's. I see so many people saying that Biden wasn't their 1-5th choice for president, but now that he's the candidate he's the best one for this time. I ask them just what the hell changed for them in their minds that made Biden the best choice when they wouldn't consider him when others were running.

The idiots that voted for Obama for what he was running would now say they are against those things since they rejected Bernie who was running on many of the same things.

Candidate Obama: "I know I ran on going to give you universal health care, but here's the ACA instead that doesn't even offer a public option."

From BOO to okay this is the best we can get so let's just make it better even though lots of people still can't get health insurance and lots can't afford to use it because of high premiums and deductibles and 1/2 million go bankrupt if they get sick.

Candidate Bernie: "I am running on universal health care which is past time this country had."

No we cannot afford to have UHC because people like their private insurance and they have worked hard to get what they have now by giving up raises if companies will keep it affordable for us. Boo Bernie go away. We will never want what other countries have.

Hey! Trump is trying to do away with the ACA and pre-existing rules. He's bad. But we still don't want UHC!!

It's the same with wars are bad under a republican pres, but when dems do them they are to protect people from their leaders. It is the f'cking hypocrisy that drives me nuts.

Sorry, I'm in a rant mood this morning. Too much devastation and pain with all the weather events.

Thanks with the assist on the name.

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“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

snoopydawg's picture

@snoopydawg

another rant on Obama.

Maye not as best friends forever as Biden thought he was with Obama.

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“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

@snoopydawg coherent narrative. It's not that difficult but one does have to get all the 2007-2008 pieces correct and in the correct order.

By 30 Sept 2007 from FEC filings, it was clear that the big money (Wall St) had split. Why? After all, HRC was "inevitable" and "electible," and guaranteed to keep shoving neoliberalism and the MIC up the behinds of the public. Why take a chance on a young and inexperienced Kenyan/American? There were undoubtedly some that didn't like or were weary of the Clintons, there were some new wannabe kingmakers who were totally confident that Obama was one of them, and the 'smart' money could recognize that Obama was attracting small donors and young foot soldiers. At that point the trial attorneys (who are also wealthy) were with Edwards who also satisfied a sector of the Democratic primary voters who believed that only a southern Democrat can win and liked his lip-service to working class voters.

HRC's campaign team acted as if it were still 1996 and as the underdog, Obama's team was up to date running primaries and caucuses. That plus at least 50% more in campaign funds was barely enough. Had the SC Democratic machine not flipped to Obama (and that was after NH where Clinton played the race card), HRC would have been the nominee. Once the phony Edwards was out, Democratic primary voters could do no better than choose between militarism and neoliberalism or maybe less of one or both. As with 1992, I voted against GHWB and still got GHWB. Still not convinced that HRC wouldn't have been worse than Obama on FP.

June 2008 - decision time for team Obama. They correctly calculated that without the Clinton's support, a win would be tougher. And anyone that thinks Clinton wouldn't have drove a hard bargain doesn't understand that duo. They settled on SoS and full support should she run at a later date (2012 if Obama didn't win or 2016 regardless of whether he won or lost in 2012). For his VP, Obama needed 1) a long-term DC hand to shore up his thin resume 2) satisfactory to the big money 3) happy to play second fiddle and 4) wouldn't run to succeed Obama. (This was before McCain chose an idiot for VP and before the mega-financial meltdown, the final nail in the Bush/Cheney coffin even though Democrats were equally responsible for it.)

There was no more "Scranton Joe" than there was a "Two Americas Edwards." That's a figment of someone's imagination. The one person that wouldn't have been made privy to the selection criteria was Biden. It was harmless enough not to clue him in because he didn't possess the resources on his own to run in 2016, and those resources 'naturally' rallied around HRC in early 2015. Nothing Obama could do anything about if Joe had asked which he probably did.

Public empathy for Joe's loss made him reconsider. Maybe he could take advantage of that opening and get the nomination without the resources. Even then, Obama wouldn't have revealed his deal. Most likely relied on "talking sense" (one of Obama's go to places) to Biden by pointing out the obvious that he didn't have a campaign operation and was too emotionally empty to run.

Obama is much to narcissistic to acknowledge that Trump's win was partially a repudiation of him. However, HRC's loss put the party back in his hands. Not that either the Clintons or Obama managed the party all that well as both lost Congress during their tenure. With Perez, well...

Still for 2020 Biden hadn't put together much of a campaign operation and his fundraising was lackluster and dependent on large donors. There was always the threat that HRC would jump in and be a spoiler for Obama's pick. Biden was never more than Obama nostalgia among 20-30% of primary voters who didn't understand that Joe wasn't Obama's guy, but they weren't opening their wallets for him. What was the Obama team thinking last year through June? Didn't they clear Harris to attack Joe in that first debate? Wasn't Harris supposed to take off? Gradually pull in support from those with Joe? The Tulsi attack and Harris's on camera response to it set them back. Likely extending the financial lifeline to Joe to hold onto the bloc and not let it scatter among Sanders, Warren, and Mayo. A holding pattern that ended up leaving them without an acceptable candidate other than Joe after IA and NH and he was running on fumes. So, they pulled the old triggers in NV and SC.

Obama never found a way to dissuade Joe from running but also never found a saleable successor. So, he's stuck with him and now hoping he can beat Trump.

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@snoopydawg . The Harding crap is similar to Libby 'leaking' to Judith Miller who publishes it in the NYT as fact and Cheney then claims "even the NYTimes says..."

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@snoopydawg Assange's Partner Says He is Being Stripped Naked & X-Rayed, Transported in 'Vertical Coffin' Daily

Stella Morris, Julian Assange's fiancé and a member of his legal team, said on Twitter that he is undergoing x-ray scanning every day, as his extradition hearing continues in London.

Morris, who is the mother of Assange’s two children, who were conceived while the WikiLeaks founder was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, said that every day her partner has been “woken at 5 am, handcuffed, put in holding cells, stripped naked and x-rayed.”

“He's transported 1.5 h each way in what feels like a vertical coffin in a claustrophobic van. He's in a glass box at the back of court, from where he can't consult his lawyers properly, ” the lawyer wrote on Twitter, as she advertised a crowdjustice campaign “to free Julian Assange and stop US extradition”.

"..Earlier, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer said Assange is being “psychologically abused” in prison, with the demeaning conditions described potentially driving him to take his life.

In February, he was joined by over a hundred of doctors from 18 countries, who published an open letter asking to “end the psychological torture” of Assange.

“Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has warned, he will effectively have been tortured to death,” the medical workers asserted.

(bold is mine)

https://sputniknews.com/world/202009171080489844-assanges-partner-says-h...

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snoopydawg's picture

@aliasalias

I knew some of that was being done to him, but not all of it. This is Nazi level stuff being done to him. And of course the prison guards are just following orders to do it to him. Hopefully the karma bus comes along soon.

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“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

Literally everything we know about so-called Russiagate has come from anon sources revealing what appears to be classified information such as the claim that the Russians were paying Taliban bounties for American soldiers.

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wendy davis's picture

piece. he's a man among men, isn't he? i'm about to post what i consider one of the two greatest issues afoot. aside from the extradition being 'political', it's WikiLeaks (read assange', 'putting people in harm's way'. john goetz of der speigel was da bomb! as far as i'm concerned, consortium news got it wrong, at least according to what kevin kosztola had tweeted yesterday.

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