Hacks and Hackers: Burns and Somaiya Help Pave the Path for Assange Extradition

June 1, 2012   ·   2 Comments

Source: NYTX

By Chris Spannos:

Britain’s Supreme Court decision allowing Sweden to extradite WikiLeaks' Editor Julian Assange could not have happened without mainstream media distortion and betrayal — especially by the New York Times, who helped pave the way to the current cross-roads.

John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya add their latest contribution in yesterday's print edition, "WikiLeaks Founder Loses Another Bid to Halt His Extradition" (May 31, NYT).

Burns and Somaiya go to incredible lengths to undermine the importance of Assange's case for civil liberties and press freedoms around the globe. They also ignore Assanges personal human rights, omitting the fact that he has not been charged with anything but has been detained for more than 540 days.

They belittle the court proceedings that lead to the decision, writing that they have "been billed as the culmination of an 18-month legal battle." As if the courtroom drama and evisceration of Assange's private life does not live up to the “culmination” they hoped for.

“The decision was delivered in a court hearing lasting barely 10 minutes…,” they write dismissively.

The article continued to spiral into distortions and mistruths — except Times readers would never know by reading the current 11 paragraph article that Burns' and Somaiya’s manipulations went on for 14 more paragraphs in their original 25 paragraph piece.

In other words, Times Editors cut more than half their original article after it was published online. On top of that they did not post any correction to inform readers that they lopped off the bottom 55% while keeping the top half essentially untouched!

How could 14 paragraphs make it through the Times editorial process to be published Live on their site only to be immediately hacked off? What happened and why?

We don’t know. But the deleted paragraphs contain almost as many falsehoods and accusations (many recycled and some new) as the paragraphs themselves. By omitting the paragraphs Times Editors actually did Burns and Somaiya a favor.

But knowing what information Times Editors disappeared may reveal what kind of distortions will appear and reappear over the coming weeks.

At the request of Assange’s lawyers, the court agreed to delay the implementation of their decision for two weeks. During that time his lawyers will prepare a new submission to the court arguing that the majority of judges made their decision on a basis that was never argued in court by either the prosecution or defense.

Burns and Somaiya explain that the court’s “ruling turned on whether the Swedish prosecutor who had made the extradition request was a competent ‘judicial authority’ under the terms of the European extradition treaty.”

The current published version of their article ends by summarizing an un-sourced WikiLeaks statement explaining that they are under serious threat, “The U.S., U.K., Swedish and Australian governments are engaging in a coordinated effort to extradite its editor in chief, Julian Assange, to the United States to face espionage charges for journalistic activities.”

The original 25 paragraph article was published online May 30th when NYT eXaminer first reviewed it. While researching for the production of this article we noticed that the Times had deleted the majority of their original and without providing any explanation for their readers.

Other websites have re-posted the Times original full-length article (here too for corroboration).

NYT eXaminer is republishing the original 14 deleted paragraphs here for readers to see the full extent of Burns' and Somaiya’s distortions and to anticipate what may re-emerge in future Times reporting:

The statement cited reports that the Obama administration has obtained a sealed indictment charging Mr. Assange with espionage, as well as a range of other activities that WikiLeaks said pointed to plans to move against Mr. Assange as soon as the British court proceedings were completed.

It said the preparations included special task forces at the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department, and secret subpoenas it said had been served on Google, Twitter and other online services to obtain the “private data” of WikiLeaks’s staff members and supporters.

In effect, the four-page WikiLeaks statement depicted the decision in London as a prelude to a much grimmer challenge awaiting Mr. Assange than the sex abuse charges. Lawyers in Sweden have said he will probably face a stiff fine or at most a brief prison term if he is convicted on the Swedish charges.

But extradition to the United States — involving what would almost certainly be another lengthy legal battle — could put him in jeopardy of a much harsher punishment. If found guilty on espionage charges, he could face a life sentence in a maximum-security prison.

The WikiLeaks document was speculative, since the Obama administration has never said how it plans to act once a final British ruling is handed down. The United States ambassador to Britain, Louis B. Susman, has said the Justice Department will “wait to see how things work out in the British courts,” and there have been reports in the past year of confidential meetings between American officials and representatives of Britain, Sweden and Australia concerning the Assange case.

Mr. Assange has repeatedly said he regards the Swedish sex allegations as a prelude to an American attempt to extradite him to the United States, and has expressed anxiety about his options of finding sanctuary elsewhere in the world where he would be beyond the reach of American law even if he were cleared of the charges in Sweden.

That fear found expression in the WikiLeaks statement. It said Mr. Assange had been unable “to take steps” to avoid extradition to the United States — a phrase that appeared to mean that he could not leave Britain to seek a safe haven elsewhere because he had been detained for over 500 days under what amounted to house arrest in Britain.

The British Supreme Court took nearly four months to consider Mr. Assange’s final appeal, the latest in a string of high-profile actions he has taken to avoid being returned to Sweden, where two former WikiLeaks volunteers accuse him of “four offenses of unlawful coercion and sexual misconduct including rape,” according to the court’s account.

The charges refer to incidents that occurred over 10 days during August 2010, when Mr. Assange, then in the midst of releasing hundreds of thousands of classified United States military and diplomatic documents, had sexual relations in Sweden, as he has acknowledged, with the two women. They subsequently made complaints suggesting that what began as consensual encounters turned non-consensual, allegations Mr. Assange has denied.

Mr. Assange appeared for an initial interview with the Stockholm police shortly after the allegations were made, but fled to London before further questioning could be completed, a court here was subsequently told. He was briefly jailed in December 2010 when Swedish authorities issued a European arrest warrant for his return. He has since been under tight bail conditions that have included a curfew, travel restrictions, regular reports to the local police and electronic tagging.

The activist and hacker, who will turn 41 in July, has always maintained his innocence and has railed at the allegations with characteristic defiance in a series of interviews and messages on Twitter. Sweden, he has said, is the “Saudi Arabia of feminism,” and his lawyers have spoken darkly of a “honey trap,” perhaps intended to thwart Mr. Assange’s ambition to leak further government documents.

WikiLeaks has not released any significant material for more than a year, since a spate of defections weakened its submission and processing systems, and action taken under American government pressure by American credit card and online payment companies effectively starved WikiLeaks of what had been a global flow of donations.

The cumulative effect of his entanglement with the Swedish case, the financial problems facing WikiLeaks and his own difficulty in paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees have combined with a spate of defections by disillusioned activists to isolate Mr. Assange.

A left-winger since his youth, he has effectively abandoned WikiLeaks’s original pledge to act as a secure, nonpartisan drop box for documents and information from whistle-blowers eager to expose wrongdoing in governments and corporations, and has embraced a wide range of controversial political causes.

One of his recent moves was to accept a position as a talk show host on the international Russia Today television network, which is financed by the Russian government. His first guest was the Lebanese-based Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

In these deleted paragraphs Burns and Somaiya assert, imply, and recycle many falsehoods that Assange predicted would be used to smear him. In a statement coinciding with the launch of his television talk show, “The World Tomorrow,” Assange claims:

Corporate media and regime propaganda machines alike excel in the mass production of sensationalist smears against individuals and organisations they perceive to be social, political or economic competition. Fortunately WikiLeaks is all three.

Most of the time, I despair at the lack of imagination and poor sense of humour evinced by journalists and public figures who should know better.

I have decided to hold out an olive-branch to our overworked detractors, by writing higher quality smears for them. Now please don’t take them all for yourself. One per “journalist”.  (Smear and Enjoy, Feb. 17, WL)

Smear #1.1 offered is “The trinity of evil: WikiLeaks, Russia, Pick Your Guest!”

The Times does offer a glimmer of hope for truth, integrity and social justice. However, hope does not lay with Times Editors or reporters, but with its readers.

Of more than 100 comments on Burns' and Somaiya’s article, and from among the "Reader Picks," Times readers display an amazing array of opinion. While not all comments below are based in fact or agreeable to everyone, they do illustrate a remarkable divergence from Burns' and Somaiya’s predictable and repetitious smears of Julian Assange.

Times readers deserve the last word:

"Socrates" from New Jersey writes:

A sad day for global transparency.

The international global governmental cartels demonstrate their strong preference for the powers of secrecy and corruption over disclosure, honesty and forthrightness.

If global governments had their way, virtually everything would [be] 'classified', undisclosed and unavailable for public review by citizens, exactly the way efficient mafias work.

Assange represents freedom of information and democracy; the governments represent suppression of information and plutocracy.

The government should be full of Assanges providing information services to a public starved of 'classified' information, but they can't even recognize the virtue of one when they see one.

"kurthunt" from Chicago comments:

I have no way of knowing whether or not Assange is guilty of sexual assault or not, but to me this looks like a set-up. The coincidence is far too great. The U.S., Britain, and Sweden should all be ashamed. They aren't fooling anyone.

"Jim K" from San Jose  asks:

Why is the US assuming that he is endictable under our laws?

If a Chinese dissident had released a trove of embarrasing diplomatic cables which were subsequently published by a US journalist, would we consider complying with an extradition request for that journalist from China? Hardly.

Welcome to the new police state where the supression and intimidation of journalists has now joined torture, warrantless domestic survelance, and state directed violence against peaceful protesters.

"Listen Tome" from Washington DC:

Freedom of the press is more important than Julian Assange.

If every journalist who revealed leaked secret information (usually leaked by the government on purpose for political reasons) were charged with espionage, there would be nobody left to write the stories.

The only difference is the scale on which Assange was able to leak information that the government didn’t want leaked. Little of the Wikileaks info was anything more than just embarrassing to the government.

The government naturally wants to cover-up embarrassing information. Much government information is withheld from the people for sinister reasons. In a free democratic country the people have a right to know what their government is doing (or not doing) in their name.

It should not be the government alone who decides what the people should know or not know. It is up to the historic tradition of the Forth Estate, a free vibrant independent courageous unbiased media, to provide the check and balance on government abuse by exposing government cover-ups to the people.

Either we believe in freedom of the press or we don’t. Either the media is free and independent or it is just another government propaganda organ. There is no middle way.

"Bill" from San Fransico:

Julian is on America's hit-list. maybe not Obama's kill-list, but the end result is not that different.

We should be ashamed...

"swartp01" from New York:

So, its ok for the Obama administration to leak classified info to Katharyn Bigelow because she is going to make a film that puts Obama in a heroic light (and was planned to be released pre-election before a stink was raised) but someone who is letting us know our government's wrongdoing or the DOD's wasteful spending is pursued and threatened with huge amounts of jail time. The Times also prints classified info, why aren't your people in jail? Selective punishment while Wall Street criminals and banksters go scot-free.

"noman"from California:

Obvs.the sex charge is an excuse; Assange isn't a DSK nor a neutral figure, he's a lightning rod for those who don't want our dirty linen aired. Clearly some in the US dearly want to punish this guy.

"TC"  from DC:

By this time the Swedes should have gathered enough facts and assumptions to determine whether or not Assange needs to be tried. It always sounded trumped up to me because we wanted to nail Assange. Allow Assange to be questioned by Swedish authorities while he is in England. It's not like he is Roman Polanski. These were adults.

"Ian N" from NY NY:

Call me a skeptic but this sounds like a witch hunt. I know of no deaths that were attributed to the leaks, and I'm a pretty avid reader of the news. Furthermore as I read it, the rape charge is one of those "it started as concensual and became non-consenting sex," which is pretty murky water even in the context of a he-said she-said situation.

I also find it scary that my government can seek to imprison a foreign national who did not commit a crime on our sovereign soil. Talk about over reach of power.

"Mike Smith" from NY:

Assange did nothing illegal at all. Unlike Mr. Bundy and Charles Manson, he did not kill several people. Assange merely exposed crimes and errors committed by the U.S. and other governments and corporations. He should be given an award, not arrested and charged on what appears to be trumped up charges on rape.

It appears that the Swedish government (probably at the urging of the U.S.) gained the cooperation of the Swedish women to testify that Asange raped them, after they consented to sex, by threatening them with prosecution for espionage or treason. Assange did nothing illegal. He embarrassed powerful people by exposing their crimes, and he is now being railroaded.

As for Mr. Manning, the U.S. soldier that has been held in a jail cell in solitary confinement naked for months and denied the most basic constitutional rights, that is just the latest stain on the U.S. justice system that has now become nothing but a complete farce.

"adg" from NY NY:

People have to stop perpetuating this falsehood......Julian Assange didn't LEAK anything nor is he a whistleblower, he was the PUBLISHER- just like the new York times, the guardian, washington post, etc.....Pfc. Bradley Manning is the accused leaker. His court marshal this fall.

"joe" from NY:

Absolutely disgusting and shameful. Judge Nicholas Phillips and the rest of the British Supreme Court, as well as virtually everyone in the Obama administration, the Swedish prosecutor, top brass at the Pentagon, and officials at the Justice departments of the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia should be extradited to the Hague for prosecution on charges of covering up the war crimes revealed by the New York Times and the other media outlets that chose to print the information Wikileaks received from a hero, Bradley Manning, who is being treated like a serial killer or mastermind behind 9-11 by the United States.

I say this knowing that defenders of Assange in these comments pages should probably fear for their own safety. President Obama has now given himself and all future presidents the right to spy on civilians without a warrant, imprison indefinitely without charge and even assassinate. This is fascism, not Democracy.

"trblmkr" from NYC:

The UK, under Jack Straw's order, releases Pinochet, a mass murderer, on health grounds (he lived 6 more years) yet extrdites Assange! What hypocrisy!

"Carolyn Egeli" from Md.:

This is an injustice. Assange has done the world a great favor by shining light on the dark injustices hidden from public view. For this, the powers that be are trying to make an example out of him and squelch any free press before it gets any further. I feel Assange is a journalist, in need of support from honorable journalists around the world. I hope if he is found guilty in Sweden, that it is true justice and not just trumped up business to keep him from his purpose of enlightening the world. I hope if he is found guilty that it does not become an excuse for the US government to silence him. I believe Assange when he says that is the purpose of this extradition.

"jasonzenith" from DC:

Assange gets extradicted just for "questioning," since the Swedish prosecutor refused to question him in Britain. Augusto Pinochet, who murdered thousands, including American citizens, (these bloodthirsty commentators don't mind that, I bet) was also facing extradition in the UK pursuant to an arrest warrant from a Spanish judge, for killing Spaniards, and the UK refused to extradite him. HMM.

"Barbara"from Mexico:

The Egyptians and Tunisians should be fighting for his liberty. Wikileaks provided a lot of fuel to the fire of their revolutions. The world is a better place, in many places, because of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Can we say the same about Obama (and yes I will vote for him again, there is no choice).

"Wayne Fuller" from NH:

Give the government credit. It has proceeded to make this whole affair about the leaker rather than about what was leaked.

We are a strange people. We hate our government until someone exposes our government. Then we side with the government and against those who expose its dark secrets.

Julian will probably join Manning and Winston in disappearing within the halls of the Ministry of Truth.

This is only a small sample of Times readers whose comments differ from Burns and Somaiya. There are many more.


Chris Spannos is Editor of NYT eXaminer.


Readers Comments (2)

  1. alphonsegaston says:

    Thanks for the Times comments-I have not been reading their assaults on Assange so missed the readers’ views.

    The attack on Assange, who did this country a great service, is one more Obama-generated straw for this camel! Kill list indeed!

    That there is no place where he can get protection from us is demoralizing. The victory of terrorism over America is almost complete. Bin Laden can count Brad Manning and Assange among his 9/11 victims, along with our democracy and our human rights.

  2. Ormond Otvos says:

    Straw after straw drifts down on the camel…

    I wonder if it will be allowed to be televised. Or even put on the internet.

    It’s a horse race between total suppression of dissent on the internet, and revolution. I’m holding my breath!


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