key witness for Assange’s defense: John Goetz of der Spiegel

John Goetz

Now that Judge Baraiter has told the defense to STFU about Julian’s extradition being ‘political’, in the second superceding indictment is his (WikiLeaks) having ‘put people in harm’s way‘.  Now his Aussie attorney Jen Robinson said that i) if he had, there would have been reports of it, and ii), even if anyone had been harmed, the issue was still moot under  his (their)  First Amendment rights to have done so.  As per Kevin Gostola yeterday, it was unclear whether or not Baraitser would allow Jen to testify for the defense.

Noteworthy is the fact that of all the media organizations who’d profited from publishing WikiLeaks work, Goetz is the only one willing to testify for the defense and tell the Truth.

‘Former Der Spiegel journalist exposes US government lies that Assange “failed to redact” and “put lives at risk”,  Laura Tiernan, 17 September 2020, (Given permission, I’ll use it all, as he’s da bomb!)

Award-winning investigative journalist John Goetz testified at Assange’s extradition hearing yesterday morning from Berlin, blowing out of the water US government claims that Assange had failed to redact names from US classified documents, placing the lives of US government informants at risk.

Goetz, Head of Investigations for German public broadcaster NDR, was a journalist at Der Spiegel when it partnered with WikiLeaks in 2010. He travelled to London in June of that year where he worked with Assange and senior journalists from the Guardian and New York Times on what later became known as the Afghan War Diaries.

Goetz had earlier worked on major stories for Der Spiegel exposing German war crimes in Afghanistan. These included the bombing in Kunduz ordered by German military officers in September 2009 resulting in civilian deaths. The story received a prestigious Nannen Award for investigative journalism.

Despite a half-hour time limit imposed by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, Goetz comprehensively refuted the US indictment that Assange published “certain classified documents that contained the un-redacted names of innocent people who risked their safety and freedom to provide information to the US and its allies.”

His expert witness testimony established that the only “harm to life” came from US war crimes which Assange and WikiLeaks were trying to expose.

Mark Summers QC for the defence asked Goetz about the content of the Afghan files, “Were they anodyne, irrelevant?”

“They were a fascinating first-hand eyewitness diary of what was happening in Afghanistan during the war, as it was happening,” Goetz replied. “I ended up working together with Nick Davies on a story about Task Force 373, which was a kind of assassination squad that existed in Afghanistan and which became then a cover story for Der Spiegel.

Task Force 373 was “something parallel to Operation Phoenix that existed in the Vietnam War, a team that went out and did assassinations … In the documents you could follow their activities. That hadn’t been known, and that’s why it was a major story at the time.”

A second witness statement submitted by Goetz related to the plight of German citizen Khalid el-Masri, whose story of CIA kidnapping, rendition, sodomy and torture Goetz had investigated in 2005-06. “At that point,” Goetz explained, “very few people believed it was true.”

Goetz later tracked down El-Masri’s CIA kidnappers in the United States. After NDR broadcast the story, Munich’s state prosecutor issued arrest warrants for each of the 13 CIA abductors, but the warrants were never issued in the US, where the perpetrators lived.

“When I finally saw the diplomatic cables, one of the first things I typed in was ‘Khalid el-Masri’ and I was fascinated to see the pressure that the United States had placed on the German government not to issue the arrest warrant in the United States,” Goetz recalled.

Goetz’s testimony established the “extreme” efforts Assange made to protect documents and redact names.

Recalling his own time in the Guardian’s “bunker,” Goetz said, “I remember being very annoyed and very irritated by the constant, unending reminders by Assange that we needed to be secure. That we needed to encrypt things, to use encrypted chats, and it was the first time in my life I had ever seen or used or touched a cryptophone. The amount of precautions around the safety of the material were enormous.”

Goetz admitted he had thought Assange’s focus on data security “paranoid and crazy, but later it became standard journalistic practice.” He recalled interviewing Assange at the Guardian’s downstairs restaurant in 2010, with Assange explaining that WikiLeaks’ harm minimisation process “was designed to protect innocents.”

The media partners’ own efforts at “harm minimisation” had involved contacting the White House, “[T]he New York Times team we were working with based in Washington, they had the connections, they knew how to reach the White House, and they sent a delegation to the White House to discuss their concerns about the publication.”

Straight after the White House meeting, the Times’ editor Erick Schmitt relayed a request for redactions, with WikiLeaks confirming they would redact 15,000 documents from the Afghan war logs. WikiLeaks said they would be open to receiving “technical assistance” from the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan over the redaction of names, Goetz recalled.

With the Iraq War Logs, Goetz recounted, WikiLeaks had “overshot” the redaction process, publishing fewer documents than had already been released by the US Department of Defence under Freedom of Information.

WikiLeaks’ vetting and redaction process for the release of US diplomatic cables was tighter still. They were to be rolled out over the course of an entire year, on a country-by-country basis, with an expanded group of local media partners. Meanwhile, Assange’s initial media partners took a conference call from US State Department officials who cited document numbers to the journalists, “pointing out [the] things that were sensitive.”

As the 30-minute limit for the defence expired, Summers alluded to sections 30-31 of Goetz’s written evidence, citing the role of Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh in publishing a “codeword” created by WikiLeaks to protect unredacted cables, “Are you able to explain the process by which unredacted State Department cables came into the public domain if anybody wants to ask you?”

“Yes,” replied Goetz, explaining later under cross-examination that the only unredacted documents published by WikiLeaks were those already widely available via the Cryptome site, thanks to the Guardian’s own journalists. 

James Lewis QC on behalf of the US government referred to a batch of 133,000 cables released by WikiLeaks in August 2011, prior to the Cryptome release. But Goetz explained these were unclassified. Moreover, as Summers established in his re-examination of Goetz, the main source for claims that Assange had placed the lives of US informants at risk was an article by LA Times journalist Ken Dilanian, later fired for sharing stories in advance with the CIA.

Lewis’s cross-examination of Goetz floundered on several occasions. He mixed up dates and appeared at one point to confuse the Afghan War Logs with the US State Department Cables. Lewis later tried to block the reading into evidence, in summary form, of expert witness testimony from Khalid El-Masri, claiming its sole motive was to prejudice his client, the US government.

The hearing continued in the afternoon.

Thank you Laura Tiernan, and thank you, John Goetz.  I’d had a copy of Khalid El-Masri’s testimony about his brutal torture at ‘the salt pit’ in Afghanistan, but I’ve mislaid it.  It was grisly beyond belief.

(cross-posted at

UPDATED sept. 18, 2020 ‘Former CIA director Leon Panetta: We are prosecuting Assange to intimidate others’ ,Oscar Grenfell.  18 September 2020,

“Leon Panetta, who served as director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2009 to 2011, and then as the Obama administration’s secretary for defence, has let the cat out of the bag, telling interviewers that the US is seeking to prosecute WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to send a threatening message to whistleblowers and publishers alike.

The comments were aired this week in a documentary produced by German public broadcaster ARD, entitled “Wikileaks – USA against Julian Assange.” The program was a compelling and objective account of the ten year US persecution of Assange and featured strong interviews with his father John Shipton, his partner Stella Moris, WikiLeaks’ lawyers, United Nations Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and famous National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Panetta’s remarks were arguably the most significant, because they were confirmation from the horse’s mouth of the mafia-character of the US pursuit of Assange, its politically-motivated nature and flagrant disregard for international laws and fundamental democratic rights. His comments have, not only political, but potentially legal significance, refuting the lies of the US Justice Department, aimed at presenting the attempted extradition as a bona fide process conforming with judicial norms.

Panetta’s comments have probative value, because he was intimately involved in the initial stages of the US campaign to silence Assange. A decades-long Democratic Party political operative, Panetta was head of the CIA in 2010, when the US government responded to WikiLeaks’ exposures of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and global diplomatic conspiracies, by launching an unprecedented operation against Assange and denouncing him as a “spy” or a “high-tech terrorist”

Panetta would undoubtedly have been involved in the Obama administration’s establishment of a “WikiLeaks war room,” staffed by hundreds of military and intelligence operatives, with the sole purpose of “neutralising” Assange.

It can only be assumed that he was privy to the plans surrounding various dirty tricks against the WikiLeaks founder; the 2010 global tour by Hillary Clinton to mitigate the impact of the publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables and to line up governments internationally against Assange, and the discussions that resulted in the establishment of a secret grand jury, convened for the purpose of concocting charges against Assange.

In other words, Panetta is not a disinterested observer, but a direct participant. Moreover, while he departed the CIA in mid-2011, and retired from federal office two years later, it is well known that no one ever quite leaves the agency. Its power is based not only on a vast bureaucracy and network of field agents, but also a web of influence encompassing “retired” officials and private security companies, who are “kept in the loop.” Panetta remains a prominent political figure, heading the “Panetta Institute for Public Policy.”

It was in this context that Panetta baldly declared: “All you can do is hope that you can ultimately take action against those that were involved in revealing that information so you can send a message to others not to do the same thing.”

In other words, the prosecution of Assange is a political act, intended to send a warning to journalists who would consider publishing the secrets of the American government. Earlier in the program, Panetta had presented the publication of “classified” and “national security” material as a sin worse than any other.

Those statements alone demonstrate that the US government is lying to the British courts. Under the existing British-US extradition treaty, an individual cannot be extradited to face charges of a political nature.

Since extradition proceedings resumed last week, British prosecutors, representing the US Justice Department, have alternated between claims that Assange is charged with common criminal offenses related to hacking and espionage, meaning that his prosecution would not pose a threat to press freedom, and ominous assertions that the US government is entitled to decide what journalists can and cannot publish.

Moreover Panetta’s concluding comments, on the intent of the prosecution, clearly demonstrated that the motivation for the laying of charges is to crackdown on journalism more broadly.

Panetta’s statements about Assange himself underscored the intensely vindictive character of the US prosecution. He declared, without attempting to provide any evidence, that “Assange is somebody who will sell somebody in his family if he thinks that, you know, that he is going to get some attention.” This is not the language of legal proceedings, but of a vendetta.

The ARD program also included an interview with David Morales, a former Spanish navy marine turned mercenary. As head of the Undercover Global security firm, he is accused of overseeing a vast spying operation against Assange while he was residing in Ecuador’s London embassy.

Undercover Global was contracted by the Ecuadorian authorities to manage security at the embassy. But former staff members have stated that in 2015, Morales entered into a secret agreement with US intelligence agencies to surveil every aspect of Assange’s life on their behalf.

The operation, which spanned until March, 2018, allegedly ended up including the installation of cameras and microphones throughout the building, in conference rooms, a women’s toilet and elsewhere. The material was then reportedly uploaded to a server, to which US intelligence had access.”

[a section of Morales’s denials, etc….]

The denials were undercut by Panetta. With the hubris of an official accustomed to doing as he pleases, Panetta declared the allegation that US intelligence spied on Assange through Undercover Global “doesn’t surprise me. That kind of thing goes on all the time. In intelligence business, the name of the game is to get information any way you can, and I’m sure that’s what was involved here.”

Panetta knows of what he speaks. The alleged espionage likely involved the agency that he previously directed.

Two further points should be made. Panetta’s unequivocal endorsement of the Trump administration’s attempt to prosecute Assange demonstrated, yet again, the bipartisan character of the US war against WikiLeaks and journalism. It is further proof that in the official contest between the Republicans and the Democrats in this November’s presidential election, there is no alternative for the working class.”

the rest is here.

I’ve updated the c99% version again,

One response to “key witness for Assange’s defense: John Goetz of der Spiegel

  1. sad news from a lion of a voice against russiagate, may he rest in power:

    ‘Stephen F. Cohen, pre-eminent contemporary American scholar of Russia & USSR, friend of Gorbachev & advisor to Bush, dies at 81’, 19 Sep, 2020,

    they’ve kindly provided many of professor cohen’s earlier wrings and interviews.

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