WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange phoned the White House to warn lives would be put in danger by the publication of classified materials, a court has heard.
At the start of the second day of his extradition hearing on Tuesday, Assange supporters’ chants could again be heard outside Woolwich Crown Court, which is sitting as a magistrates’ court.
Prosecutors claim he knowingly put hundreds of sources around the world at risk of torture and death by releasing unredacted documents containing names or other identifying details.
Image: Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate outside Woolwich Crown Court
The 48-year-old is fighting against being sent to the US to face trial on 18 charges over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of cables in 2010 and 2011.
He is accused of conspiring to steal from, and hack into US Department of Defence computers, along with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
The court heard that WikiLeaks had asked to speak to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as “a matter of urgency” over fears information was about to be dumped online.
Mark Summers QC, representing Assange, said his client had warned: “I don’t understand why you’re not seeing the urgency of this.
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“Unless we do something, then people’s lives are put at risk.”
Mr Summers also argued that the extradition request “boldly and brazenly” misrepresents the facts.
Image: The court heard WikiLeaks asked to speak to Hillary Clinton as ‘a matter of urgency’
He added: “You can accurately describe this chapter of the case as lies, lies and more lies.”
Mr Summers said WikiLeaks had begun redacting 250,000 leaked documents in November 2010, working with media partners around the world.
He added: “That process involved the US government and state department feeding suggested redactions to the media.
“Knowing the US government was involved in the redaction process, can it be in any way said the request represents a fair or accurate representation of what occurred?”
Mr Summers blamed the leaks on a 2011 book from The Guardian newspaper about WikiLeaks, which contained a 58-key password.
Image: Assange’s legal team blamed the leaks on a 2011 book from The Guardian newspaper about WikiLeaks
He continued: “Far from being a reckless, unredacted release, the world knows, every reporter in this room knows, the US government knows, that what actually occurred was that one of the media partners published a book in February 2011 and published the password to the unredacted materials.”
He claimed that “enabled the entire world to publish those unredacted materials in a book and they circulated on the internet, not on the WikiLeaks site, but on other sites.
“None of them have been prosecuted, some of which are US-based, all of them published first, some of them are still there.”
He said it was not until months later that it was discovered the password could be used along with a mirrored site to access the unredacted database, which was revealed by German news outlet Der Freitag on 25 August 2011.
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Responding to the claims, a Guardian spokesman said: “It is entirely wrong to say the Guardian’s 2011 WikiLeaks book led to the publication of unredacted US government files.
“The book contained a password which the authors had been told by Julian Assange was temporary, and would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours.
“The book also contained no details about the whereabouts of the files.
“No concerns were expressed by Assange or WikiLeaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. WikiLeaks published the unredacted files in September 2011.”
Assange is also accused of encouraging Manning to steal classified documents, which allegedly included a bid to crack a password “hash” (a scrambled password) on US Department of Defence computers to anonymously access a classified network called the Secret Internet Protocol Network.
Image: Chelsea Manning’s first photo after she was released from prison. Pic: Twitter
But his lawyers point to evidence given by Manning at her own 2013 court martial, which they say refutes these claims.
Assange’s legal team have also complained about his treatment at Belmarsh high-security prison.
His barrister Edward Fitzgerald QC said that on Monday, Assange was “handcuffed 11 times and stripped naked twice”, and that he was put into “five separate holding cells.”
Assange has been held on remand in Belmarsh since last September after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching his bail conditions while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
He entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were subsequently dropped.
As James Lewis QC, representing the US government, responded to the defence submission on Tuesday, the judge asked whether Assange was “feeling well enough” to finish the session.
His solicitor Gareth Peirce spoke to Assange in the dock and said he was “struggling”.
“He’s finding it hard to concentrate, he can’t communicate with his legal team and he’s finding it very difficult”, he added.
Image: Julian Assange said he was ‘having difficulty concentrating’ on the hearing
But the judge allowed Mr Lewis to continue after he told her he would only take a few more minutes.
Mr Lewis said: “Mr Assange didn’t have to publish the unredacted cables, he decided to do so.
“And he decided to do so on a widely followed and easily searchable website, knowing that it was dangerous to do so.
“That is the allegation and that is the offence.”
The hearing continues on Wednesday.
Source : Sky News