UK judge Vanessa Baraitser justified CIA spying on Julian Assange by citing a falsehood-filled CNN report. Her judgment highlighted corporate media’s enthusiastic role in a state-sponsored assault on press freedom.
by Ben Norton
Part 2 - UK judge casts doubt on US spying on Assange while simultaneously justifying it
The Grayzone has published several investigations into the US government spying operation that targeted Julian Assange when he was trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy. The Spanish company hired by Ecuador to provide security, UC Global, was secretly working with the CIA, providing the US spy agency with 24/7 video and audio surveillance that covered almost every inch of the diplomatic building, including even the women’s bathroom.
Max Blumenthal demonstrated that the CIA presided over this illegal spying ring with the help of a company owned by billionaire Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of President Donald Trump and former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In her judgement against Julian Assange, however, UK district judge Vanessa Baraitser cast doubt on the very existence of the US spying operation, suggesting it might not have happened. Ironically, at the same time, she also tried to defend the surveillance, offering several reasons as why it would be justified, were it true.
In light of the Spanish high court’s investigation into UC Global and its owner, David Morales, for their role in the CIA spying ring, Baraitser argued that “it would be inappropriate for this [British] court to make findings of fact on allegations still being investigated in Spain and on the basis of partial and incomplete evidence.”
The day after the British judge released her ruling, on January 5, the Spanish newspaper El País published a follow-up story further documenting the illegal CIA espionage, revealing that the IP addresses that accessed the servers of the Spain-based UC Global matched those of the US-based Shadowserver Foundation, which boasts a client list of NATO states and law enforcement organizations.
In confirming much of what The Grayzone had reported before, El País furthered the case the US government had spied on Assange and his lawyers with the explicit aim of extraditing him. Tellingly, the US and UK governments have refused to comply with the Spanish court in its investigation.
Despite the massive body of evidence proving that UC Global was hired by the CIA to spy on Assange and his associates, including mainstream US journalists, Judge Baraitser proceeded to call into question the very existence of the US spying operation. To do so, she referenced a 2018 article by documented plagiarist, fabulist, and notorious Russiagate propagandist Luke Harding in The Guardian to suggest that “arrangements for monitoring and surveillance of its embassy were made by Ecuador rather than the US.” (Baraitser failed to acknowledge the drastic change of government in Ecuador from leftist President Rafael Correa to US-backed right-wing leader Lenín Moreno.)
Stunningly, Baraitser went on to argue that even “if the US was involved in the surveillance of the embassy there is no reason to assume this related to these proceedings.”
The British judge reflexively shielded Washington and Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg, claiming any CIA spying would be irrelevant to the extradition hearing – even though CIA contractors clearly spied on Assange’s meetings with his legal team, proposed assassinating or kidnapping him, and may have broken into the office of his legal counsel Baltazar Garzon.
Thus, Baraitser insisted that “privileged communications and the fruits of any surveillance would not be seen by prosecutors assigned to the case and would be inadmissible at Mr. Assange’s trial as a matter of US law.”
Baraitser concluded her argument by crudely justifying the CIA spying ring. “A possible alternative explanation for US surveillance (if there was any) is the perception that Mr. Assange remained a risk to their national security,” the UK judge wrote.
She pointed to WikiLeaks’ publication of materials proving that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on numerous foreign government leaders, as well as the website’s Vault 7 leak, which exposed CIA surveillance and hacking tools, as examples of alleged risks Assange could have posed.
Baraitser then cited the 2019 CNN report accusing Assange of turning the Ecuadorian “embassy into a command post for election meddling.”
Baraitser referred to this CNN article two times in her 132-page decision, on pages 66 and 94. In both cases, she employed the report to regurgitate the US government’s narrative that Assange posed a dangerous threat to national security.
Later in her decision, when Baraitser quoted CNN the second time, the British judge practically regurgitated the corporate outlet’s accusations as her own, writing that it “confirmed that Mr. Assange has continued to meet with Russians and ‘world-class’ hackers and has acquired powerful new computing and network hardware to facilitate data transfers whilst at the Ecuadorian Embassy.”
Notably, her reference to “Russians” contained no evidence that Assange met with Russian officials, implying sinister associations based solely on the Russian nationality of his alleged visitors.
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