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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/9/20

DAY TWO OF ASSANGE HEARING: US Tries to Narrow its Espionage Charge to Only Naming Informants; Defense Witness Crumbles

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2:50 pm EDT: Day 2 of Assange's substantial hearing has ended. Consortium News followed every moment of the hearing that went about 20 minutes over time via a video-link from Old Bailey.

The prosecution tried to narrow the Espionage Act charges down to only classified documents that mentioned the names of informants, a gambit shot down by the defense when it quoted directly from the indictment proving otherwise.

Before the defense got the chance, Julian Assange shouted from his glass cage at the back of the court that it was "nonsense" to suggest he wasn't being prosecuted for all the classified material he published. That brought a firm warning from Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser that he would be removed from the court if he did it again.

The informants theme is one we can expect the government to continue harping on for the duration of this hearing, as they have very little else go on. James Lewis QC for the prosecution quoted from a book that alleges Assange said informants deserved to die, an assertion that has been denied by a German editor present. He is to testify next week.

The other line of attack from the prosecution is that Assange "conspired" with Chelsea Manning to "hack" government a computer to obtain classified documents. In the afternoon, the continuation of Prof. Mark Feldstein continued from Monday.

Under direct examination Feldstein made a spirited defense of Assange's activities as being routine for journalists. The government, he said, "paints journalistic activities in a nefarious light." He said it is "standard to ask sources for evidence and documents to back up what they say and working with them to find documents, making suggestions to what they should look for. It's all routine."

Feldstein also told defense attorney Mark Summers that no publisher had ever been prosecuted before for publishing, but that former presidents had tried. He told the story of Richard Nixon who wanted to prosecute columnist Jack Anderson but was told by his attorney he could not because it would violate the First Amendment.

So Nixon then hatched plans with a former CIA agent to send a false story on White House letterhead hoping he'd publish it then be exposed, but Anderson checked it out and didn't use it, unlike many of today's journalists who run with government hand-outs.

So Nixon then tried to kill Anderson, but all the plots were foiled: poisoning his aspirins, trying to crash a car into him or stabbing him to make it look like a mugging. All this, but Nixon did not prosecute Anderson for publishing.

It was chilling testimony in a British court that added to earlier testimony about U.S. war crimes.

But on cross examination Feldstein fell apart. He allowed himself to be bullied by Lewis. If this were a prize fight, the referee would have ended it.

Instead Lewis took advantage of his prey, asking legal questions he knew Feldstein was not equipped to handle. He badgered him about why the grand jury on Assange continued, even though Feldstein testified that the Obama administration decided not to prosecute because it would run up against the First Amendment.

Lewis then bored into a completely flustered Feldstein about how he could call the Assange prosecution political when he could not prove an order came from the White House. But attorneys general and CIA directors can exert political pressure. Lewis also adopted a very narrow definition of politic, excluding that getting Assange was to preserve U.S. foreign policy from exposure as well as maintaining the political reputations of U.S. officials.

When Baraitser announced that court was adjourned a broad smile lit up Feldstein's face. His ordeal was over.

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