Tag Archives: Full information

Julian Assange Awakens Secrecy as Repugnant to Freedom

This is an article from the Australian ABC regarding Julian Assange, lawyers, breach of privacy and surveillance.  the article focuses on the recording of Geoffrey Robertson QC a famous Australian barrister, well known by those of us over 40 for the ABC program ‘Hypothetical’.  Geoffrey Robertson demonstrated justice as he challenged influential Australians to respond to controversial issues, scenarios indicating how they would handle a difficult problem. He demonstrated Justice and Inquiry. 

He is a human rights lawyer and his lawyer-client privilege was breached due to powerful interests not driven by Justice but power. 

I felt inspired to give J F Kennedy a voice in this blog which drives to the heart of this problem.  

Transcript: https://www.jfklibrary.org/archives/other-resources/john-f-kennedy-speeches/american-newspaper-publishers-association-19610427

The keystone message of Kennedy is as follows:

I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers–I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

The important question for US lawmakers and politicians is – Can you face high crimes and misdemeanours and correct mistakes rather than criminalise the messenger?   Wikipedia provides insight into the meaning:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_crimes_and_misdemeanors

When you deeply contemplate the journey of Julian Assange you realise he is a light on the hill as he reminds the US of its true purpose as they have lost their way.  He is a beacon who not only revealed US secrets but awakened the world to what is called the ‘dark side’ of surveillance and political corruption. Justice is not a business deal it is about the truth that sets all free.

Recently I wondered about him. I sent light and protection to him and that he is safe as the US seek to jail him for revealing what is on ‘a need to know basis’. 

When you have experienced inequality before the law, illegal surveillance, privacy breaches and corruption your Cinderella world view dissolves as you become dis-illusioned.  That is, the illusion falls from your eyes and you see clearly. 2020 (vision) is about clear seeing. Until you walk in Julian’s shoes you cannot know the sacrifice he made in the public interest, albeit global interest. We are learning about how power operates as distinct to Justice. The lengths people will go to, to win and pervert the course of  justice. The lack of ethics, integrity and manipulation of the rule of law is under the spotlight. 

It is noteworthy that those persons exposed of crimes and/or breaches to the Constitution are not arrested but the whistle-blowers are pursued as if criminals and rights to Justice undermined. The Brave New World is a teacher, we are being given glimpses into this possible future and every person is choosing. This is the real universal vote. Complacency or democracy?

The surveillance state is increasingly being privatised as contractors are paid by national intelligence agencies accessing secrets themselves.  Secrets (security) are leverage.  Imagine how wide spread is espionage as intelligence becomes private security (business) becomes intelligence in the revolving door of greed where there is always a back door to breach privacy and make money from vulnerability.  Greed is the key issue arising out of a desire to live like the US, yet, must we rob Peter to pay Paul. Debt is another leverage point.

Some key quotes from the ABC article below are worthy of contemplation.

“It’s important that clients can speak frankly and freely in a confidential space with their lawyers in order to be able to protect themselves and ensure that they have the best possible legal strategy and that the other side does not have advance notice of it,” Robinson said.

Referring to a Spanish allegation that the US Government had advance notice of legal conversations in the embassy, she said: “That is … a huge and a serious breach of [Assange’s] right to a defence and a serious breach of his fair trial rights”.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s an occupational hazard for human rights lawyers. You’re bugged, you’re followed by secret police, you’re spied upon,” said Robertson, one of Australia and the UK’s most respected human rights barristers for almost 50 years.

The extradition hearing comes amid a flurry of activity related to Assange: on Friday his legal team also confirmed they will try to seek asylum for the WikiLeaks boss in France, and on Thursday an English court heard that Assange was offered a US presidential pardon if he agreed to say that Russia was not involved in a 2016 leak of Democratic Party emails.

When the ABC asked questions of the US embassy in Canberra, it referred questions to the US justice department, which did not respond by deadline.

The ABC also sent questions to the CIA and the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Neither responded by deadline.

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/julian-assange-and-his-australian-lawyers-were-secretly-recorded-in-ecuadors-london-embassy/ar-BB10hrG3?ocid=spartandhp

Julian Assange and his Australian lawyers were secretly recorded in Ecuador’s London embassy

Dylan Welch, Suzanne Dredge and Clare Blumer 2 hrs ago

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain January 13, 2020.

© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain January 13, 2020. Barrister Geoffrey Robertson’s shuffles into the entrance to Ecuador’s embassy in London, a camera recording the sound of his shoes echoing on the hard tiles.

It’s just after 7:00pm on January 12, 2018.

The camera rolls as Robertson stops at the front door, unbuttons his overcoat and removes his cap.

Once inside the embassy, other cameras follow him as he’s ushered into a meeting room, where the storied Queen’s Counsel is offered a cup of tea.

After a few minutes, he is greeted by the embassy’s most famous resident, Julian Assange.

The camera continues to roll, recording every word of the confidential legal conversation which follows.

While this may be typical surveillance at a secure diplomatic property, what Robertson did not know was he and a handful of other lawyers, were allegedly being targeted in a remarkable and deeply illegal surveillance operation possibly run at the request of the US Government.

Pictures: The case of Julian Assange (Showbizz Daily)

And recordings such as Robertson’s visit are at the heart of concerns about the surveillance: privileged legal conversations between lawyer and client in a diplomatic residence were recorded and, later, accessed from IP addresses in the United States and Ecuador.

Robertson was only one of at least three Australian lawyers and more than two dozen other legal advisers from around the world that were caught up in the surveillance operation.

Long-time WikiLeaks adviser Jennifer Robinson was one of the other Australian lawyers caught in the spying operation.

“It’s important that clients can speak frankly and freely in a confidential space with their lawyers in order to be able to protect themselves and ensure that they have the best possible legal strategy and that the other side does not have advance notice of it,” Robinson said.

Referring to a Spanish allegation that the US Government had advance notice of legal conversations in the embassy, she said: “That is … a huge and a serious breach of [Assange’s] right to a defence and a serious breach of his fair trial rights”.

On Monday evening (Sydney time), Assange will face an extradition hearing relating to US criminal charges against him for his role in the WikiLeaks releases of classified US Government material.

The extradition hearing comes amid a flurry of activity related to Assange: on Friday his legal team also confirmed they will try to seek asylum for the WikiLeaks boss in France, and on Thursday an English court heard that Assange was offered a US presidential pardon if he agreed to say that Russia was not involved in a 2016 leak of Democratic Party emails.

The offer of a pardon was allegedly made by the US congressman Dana Rohrabacher when he visited Assange in the embassy in August 2017. Rohrabacher has denied he was making the offer on behalf of Donald Trump.

‘It’s an occupational hazard for human rights lawyers’

The surveillance was uncovered via a very public investigation into the Spanish company contracted by the Ecuadorian Government to provide security at the embassy, UC Global.

WikiLeaks Spanish lawyer, Aitor Martinez, told the ABC the surveillance came to light after Assange was arrested, when former UC Global employees provided a large file of material.

“This consisted of recordings from cameras installed in the embassy and hidden microphones; recordings made with secret microphones placed inside the embassy; hundreds of secret copies of the passports of Mr Assange’s visitors; multiple emails exchanged between the company owner and the employees,” Martinez said.

The recording of lawyers and legal conversations was not accidental, according to the Spanish criminal case, which is now investigating UC Global and its owner, former Spanish Navy marine David Morales.

“David Morales was justifying himself by saying that he had been expressly asked for this information, sometimes referring to ‘the Americans’,” a UC Global employee turned prosecution witness said.

“He sent on several occasions — via email, by phone and verbally — some lists of targets in which we had to pay special attention … they were mainly Mr Assange’s lawyers.”

“I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s an occupational hazard for human rights lawyers. You’re bugged, you’re followed by secret police, you’re spied upon,” said Robertson, one of Australia and the UK’s most respected human rights barristers for almost 50 years.

Robinson — also an Australian citizen — was spied on while providing confidential legal advice to Assange.

“It is incredibly troubling that our secret and privileged legal conversations with Julian Assange were recorded and apparently handed to US authorities,” she told the ABC.

“It is one of the most fundamental principles of protecting attorney-client relationships that we are able to have confidential and private meetings, to discuss legal strategy.”

The concerns about illegal monitoring of confidential legal discussions may become part of his defence, with his lawyers expected to argue that the espionage has denied Assange his basic legal rights.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne did not respond to ABC questions about the Spanish case. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) also declined to discuss it, only noting that it had previously sought assurances that Assange would be treated appropriately under UK law.

“The Australian Government cannot intervene in any extradition request for Mr Assange, which is a matter for the UK authorities,” a DFAT spokeswoman said.

Robinson said that she believed Canberra had not done enough to protect Assange, an Australian citizen.

“This is a case in which an Australian citizen is facing 175 years in prison in the United States for the same publication for which he won a Sydney Peace Prize and the Walkley award for the most outstanding contribution to journalism,” she said, referring to WikiLeaks’ publication in 2010 and 2011 of confidential US documents that revealed, among other things, war crimes and illegal spying on world leaders.

“His Australian lawyers — all of us Australian citizens — have [also] had our rights as lawyers and our ability to give him a proper defence superseded by the US and potentially the UK Government.

“This is something that the Australian Government ought to be taking very seriously and ought to be raising both with the UK and with the United States. It is time the Australian Government stands up for this Australian citizen and stops his extradition.”

The file

The ABC has obtained hundreds of internal UC Global documents, videos, audio files and photos tendered in the Spanish case, which commenced in April last year days after Spanish newspaper El Pais published videos and audio of Assange and guests being spied on in the embassy.

The files reveal the remarkable and expanding secret surveillance targeting the WikiLeaks boss and his guests.

In an email from September 2017, Morales ordered UC Global staff to find out what the walls around Assange’s bedroom were made of, and to photograph the embassy’s rooms and its furniture.

Then in December, UC Global updated the embassy’s camera system, installing audio-capable cameras.

A month later, and under instructions from Morales, they installed a listening device in the false base of the meeting room’s fire extinguisher.

They also installed a microphone in the women’s bathroom — a place where Assange would regularly hold sensitive legal meetings.

The case is being investigated by Spain’s federal court, the Audencia Nacional, which is examining whether Morales and UC Global are guilty of breaching both Assange’s privacy and lawyer-client privilege, as well as crimes relating to misappropriation of funds, bribery, and money laundering.

“From 2015 to mid-2018, when UC Global lost the embassy’s security contract, a battery of illegal espionage measures was deployed, with massive interference in the privacy of [Assange], in his communications with his [legal] team, in meetings with his doctors, and in general against everyone close to him,” a criminal complaint filed by Assange’s Spanish lawyers stated.

“In those years the defendants created a sort of ‘Big Brother’ in which all the movements of Mr Assange and the people close to him were monitored.”

The case commenced after a group of Spanish citizens contacted senior WikiLeaks employees and demanded a significant sum of money in return for what they said was voluminous proof of the espionage.

A former UC Global employee — who cannot be identified for legal reasons — also separately approached WikiLeaks, wanting to reveal what they saw as the illegal behaviour of their former company.

WikiLeaks referred the case to Spanish courts, who launched an investigation and arrested Morales. He was later released on bail.

“This spying did not only affect Mr Assange’s lawyers, it also affected all of his visitors, including journalists,” Martinez said.

“It got to the point where, during a visit to Mr Assange, the head of Ecuador’s intelligence service [Rommy Vallejo, on December 21, 2017] was also spied on,” Martinez added.

“In the meeting between Mr Vallejo and Mr Assange the possible release [from the embassy] of Mr Assange in a few days later was discussed.”

Within hours of that secret meeting, which was known to only a few people, the US Ambassador to Ecuador complained to Ecuadorian authorities, and the next day the US issued an international arrest warrant for Assange, Martinez said.

“That leads us to believe that the conversation was urgently sent to the US authorities and that they urgently issued the international arrest warrant the next day,” he said.

Martinez was himself spied on while having legal meetings with Assange at the embassy.

“Mr Assange began to suspect that he was being spied upon … so he asked us to hold the most sensitive meetings in the women’s toilet at the back of the building,” Martinez recalled.

“We honestly thought it was an exaggerated step to hold our legal meetings in the women’s toilet, where he would even open the water tap to avoid anyone listening.

“It was interesting to find out that Mr Assange was, in fact, correct: the material before the court proves that UC Global knew the meetings were held inside the women’s toilet, as they proceeded to install an additional microphone [there].”

‘It goes to the heart of client-lawyer privilege’

While the case made headlines in Europe and the UK, there has been little to no discussion here about what it means for the Australian citizens and lawyers caught up in the alleged espionage operation.

The Law Council of Australia told the ABC the alleged surveillance operation was “deeply disturbing”.

“The allegations that Julian Assange’s conversations with his lawyer were being recorded are really serious,” the council’s president, Pauline Wright said.

“If you can’t have that full, frank discussion without fear that that’s being recorded and potentially released to the authorities … it erodes trust in the whole system.

“It goes to the heart of the client lawyer privilege.”

The file also reveals that Morales’ surveillance project — dubbed Operation Hotel — did not just observe Assange and his guests. Internal UC Global documents reveal staff also stole or illicitly photographed visitors’ belongings.

The file includes photos of passports, mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices owned by dozens of activists, journalists, lawyers and public figures that visited Assange.

The file also reveals a growing desire, on Morales’ part, for ubiquitous surveillance of Assange and his visitors.

Morales directed UC Global to scrutinise particular people visiting Assange, whom he refers to as “el huesped” (the guest).

“We must … create or improve the following profiles (personal data, relationship with the guest, phones, emails, number of visits, et cetera) of these regular visitors or collaborators of the guest,” he said.

He lists nine people, one of whom is Robinson.

“We must do everything to know their data … I want a person completely dedicated to this work, so if you have to hire someone for it, tell me,” Morales said.

“All this must be considered top secret.”

UC Global staff sometimes resisted their boss’s more intrusive requests. In December 2017, Morales allegedly directed an employee to steal the used nappy of a baby who sometimes accompanied his mother when she visited Assange.

The theft was necessary, Morales said, to DNA test faecal matter to establish if the child was Assange’s son.

“I decided to talk to the mother of the child,” the employee said in his statement to the court.

“When we were outside of the embassy, I told her that she must not take the child to the embassy anymore because they planned to steal her baby’s diapers to prove whether he was the son of Julian Assange.”

‘Amigos americanos’

The Spanish criminal complaint states the turbo-charged surveillance operation began after Morales travelled to Las Vegas in 2015 for a security fair. There, he signed a contract with Las Vegas Sands, a company owned by billionaire Trump donor Sheldon Adelson, according to the complaint.

Ostensibly, the contract was to provide security services to Adelson on his mega yacht, the Queen Miri.

But, when Morales returned to Spain, he told UC Global staff they were now “playing in first division”, according to two witness statements tendered in the case.

“[Morales] said he’d gone to the ‘dark side’, referring to himself as a casual collaborator with US authorities, and he said that as a result of this collaboration, ‘The Americans will get us contracts all over the world’,” one witness said in his statement.

Throughout the operation, the employees were repeatedly told by Morales that the surveillance operation was being directed by people he referred to as “amigos Americanos” (American friends).

Concerned about the increasingly illegal behaviour, the UC Global associate pressed Morales on the euphemistic references to “Americans”, demanding to know exactly who they were working for.

According to the statement, Morales replied: “la inteligencia de Estados Unidos” (United States intelligence).

“However, when I asked him who was the particular intelligence person he was meeting to provide them information, Mr Morales ended the conversation and told me that this topic was handled exclusively by him outside the company,” the UC Global associate told prosecutors.

The associate told the court he had repeated and heated discussions with Morales about the operation and who was behind it.

Once such conversation ended with Morales making the gesture of opening his shirt and saying: “I’m a mercenary!”

US action

At first, Morales collected the surveillance footage and delivered it by hand to unknown people in the US.

Later, he asked staff to create a file server and then a secret website to stream the embassy cameras.

A UC Global employee responsible for running the secret website told the Spanish court he noted at least one visitor to the site with an American IP address.

In a Spanish interview, Morales said neither he nor UC Global staff installed any listening devices in the embassy and suggested WikiLeaks had placed the microphones around the embassy.

When the ABC asked questions of the US embassy in Canberra, it referred questions to the US justice department, which did not respond by deadline.

The ABC also sent questions to the CIA and the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Neither responded by deadline.