UK judge Vanessa Baraitser justified CIA spying on Julian Assange by citing a falsehood-filled CNN report. Her judgment highlighted corporate media’s enthusiastic role in a state-sponsored assault on press freedom.
by Ben Norton
Part 3 - CNN’s source: Untrustworthy, paranoid CIA-backed security firm
A closer look at the CNN article cited by Baraitser reveals it rests on a shoddy foundation.
Published in July 2019, the CNN story was part of a larger, politically motivated campaign conceived by the US intelligence apparatus and embittered former Hillary Clinton aides that sought to portray Assange, WikiLeaks, and other political rivals as nefarious tools of the Kremlin.
Co-authored by Arturo Torres Ramirez, the right-wing anti-Assange and anti-Correa Ecuadorian activist whose work has been supported by organizations funded by the US State Department and British government, the CNN article is based on exclusive access to hundreds of surveillance reports compiled by the Spanish security firm UC Global.
CNN did not once mention in the nearly 4,000-word piece that UC Global was, in fact, a CIA contractor. Instead, the American media giant depicted UC Global as a purportedly independent and trustworthy third party.
Fidel Narváez, the Ecuadorian diplomat who helped run the London embassy when Assange lived there in asylum, wrote in his piece fact-checking 40 falsehoods in the CNN report:
The stunning thing is that CNN considers the reports produced by UC Global as a reliable source. I know, personally, that many of its reports do not reflect reality.
UC Global produced misrepresented, exaggerated, hostile reports, loaded with paranoia and sometimes false information. Those of us who know what was going on inside that embassy know that the company’s reports are going in only one direction: sowing suspicion about Assange and his visits, in order to justify the work of the security company.
The company was spying on Assange’s every movement, leaking materials and documents from inside the embassy, either by ineptitude or on purpose.
UC Global even went as far as to forge a document, falsifying the signature of an ambassador, and then presenting it in a labor tribunal, a fact that the ambassador himself denounced before the Foreign Ministry.
This is not the first time that leaked UC Global reports have generated media reports that are far from reality — like several of The Guardian’s articles on Julian Assange.
CNN used these unreliable, politically motivated reports to besmirch Assange’s reputation and falsely characterize WikiLeaks as a Russian influence operation. According to CNN, one UC Global document “concluded there was ‘no doubt that there is evidence’ that Assange had ties to Russian intelligence agencies.” The corporate outlet did not provide one piece of tangible evidence to support this staggering claim, however.
The CNN article used the words “Russia” or “Russian” 44 times. And it cited FBI special counsel Robert Mueller and the CIA-sponsored UC Global to paint a picture of a global Kremlin-led conspiracy employing Assange to rob Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of the 2016 presidential election victory.
A version of Mueller’s 2019 report published by the US Justice Department in November 2020 with less redactions poured more water on the conspiratorial fire of Russiagate. It revealed that Mueller’s team investigated Assange over purported ties to Russia, but decided not to file any charges because of a lack of evidence.
CNN was ultimately compelled to acknowledge that its report on Assange was utterly baseless, albeit quietly and obliquely, reporting over a year later that, “ultimately, Mueller wrote, the Justice Department ‘did not have admissible evidence.'”
The other extraordinary claim made by CNN, and uncritically repeated by UK judge Vanessa Baraitser, was that “Assange met with Russians and world-class hackers at critical moments [before the 2016 US presidential election], frequently for hours at a time.”
What made this statement so disingenuous was that neither CNN nor Baraitser mentioned that these Russians were civilians, and not government officials. There is nothing inherently criminal or suspicious about meeting with Russian nationals, except perhaps in the frazzled mind of a Cold War-crazed bigot.
Fidel Narváez, who said the CNN “article contains numerous errors, omissions, examples of bias, speculations, and simply false information,” countered this accusation by writing:
An embassy is not a jail — although in the last year, Lenin Moreno’s government did convert his embassy in London into a de facto prison.
Therefore, there is nothing unusual for Assange to have visitors for several hours per day. He met with hundreds of people from around the world: intellectuals, artists, politicians, journalists, dissidents, activists.
Russian nationals, such as the activist group Pussy Riot, an archenemy of the Kremlin, were among Assange’s visitors.
The people whom CNN mistakenly refers to as “hackers” are specialists in computer security and data protection. CNN chooses to refer to them as “pirates,” because it is more in tune with the overall bias of its report.
The heavy reliance by a UK judge and the US federal prosecutor on a baseless CNN report to justify CIA spying on Julian Assange and his associates provides a powerful illustration of corporate US media’s role as de facto publicity arm of the security services. Having been deployed against a journalist on trial for the crime of publishing classified documents, CNN’s demonic portrayal of Assange has ultimately assisted the state suffocation of a free press.
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