starmer is a bastard

Tory legislation legalising war crimes by UK troops goes forward thanks to Labour Party
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Sep 25 2020

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer sacked three MPs from their front bench roles after they voted against the Johnson government’s Overseas Operations Bill. The Bill is designed to protect British armed forces personnel who have committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan from prosecution and to protect those committing atrocities in future. With the Tories majority of 80, the Bill easily passed its second reading Wednesday to go to its next stage. The SNP’s 45 MPs and the Lib Dem 9 voted against. The overwhelming majority of Labour’s MPs abstained, as instructed by Starmer, with only 18 (8% of the parliamentary party) defying the whip and voting against. Beth Winter, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake were the three Parliamentary Private Secretaries, the most junior front-bench role, sacked for doing so. The Bill means that the rule of law will not count when it comes to the actions of the armed forces abroad. It introduces a statutory presumption against prosecution, making it exceptional for personnel to be prosecuted five years or more after an incident. It also presages another breaching of international law, as it places a duty on the government to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to large-scale overseas military operations. The Bill is a flagship Tory policy, long mooted after a series of almost universally unsuccessful prosecutions taken out against members of the armed forces who committed war crimes in the years following the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Starmer instructed an abstention on the Bill on the transparently false basis that it could be amended and made more palatable at a later stage. Backing the abstention, Labour’s John Healey made the extraordinary statement:

We are dealing with matters of torture, war crimes, MOD negligence, compensation for injured troops and compensation for the families who have lost their loved ones overseas. … We on the Labour Benches will work with the Government to get the Bill right.

Labour has moved to the right of even sections of the military high command. Speaking to the Financial Times, General Sir Nick Parker, a former commander of British land forces, raised his opposition, saying:

We shouldn’t be treating our people as if they have special protection from prosecution. … What we need to do is to investigate properly so that the ones who deserve to be prosecuted, are.

The sacked MPs were members of the Socialist Campaign Group, led by Starmer’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn and his ally John McDonnell. That this misnamed rump will never do anything to challenge the Labour right was underscored by the fact that nearly half, 16, of its meagre 34 MPs did not vote against a Bill that is a licence for soldiers to maim, torture and kill. Starmer’s role in backing the Bill is particularly venal. Only days earlier, he boasted in his keynote speech to Labour’s online annual conference, referencing Johnson’s plan to ditch the Brexit treaty he agreed last year with the EU:

We’re all doing our bit to combat the virus by obeying the rule of six. Meanwhile the government won’t even obey the rule of law… While the prime minister was being sacked by a newspaper for making up quotes, I was fighting for justice and the rule of law.

Starmer’s real record is less exemplary. The legal career this multi-millionaire pursued was one in which he faithfully served the needs of the ruling elite. For this, he was rapidly elevated and accepted by the security services into the highest echelons of the British state, becoming director of public prosecutions in 2008. Under his direction, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute MI5 and MI6 personnel in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Its agents were accused of participating in CIA extraordinary rendition programmes and the torture of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan. Most infamously, in 2013 the CPS pressured Swedish prosecutors into maintaining a fraudulent investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as a pretext for extraditing him and then shipping him off to the United States. Uncovered emails show Starmer’s department writing to their Swedish counterparts:

Don’t you dare get cold feet!

Assange’s show trial by his US and British persecutors for revealing their war crimes is the result of this dirty operation facilitated by Starmer. The Bill Starmer is helping steer onto the statute books to sanction future war crimes is testimony to why Number 10 and the White House are seeking to silence Assange forever. Starmer’s actions as Labour leader are no aberration. Labour is a party of state that has defended every crime of British imperialism for more than a century. So filthy is the record of Starmer and Corbyn’s party that, introducing the Bill, Tory Defence Minister Ben Wallace was able to crow to the Labour benches:

Much of the mess we are having to come and clean up today is because of your illegal wars.

It was the Blair Labour government, in alliance with his fellow war criminals in Washington, based on a pack of lies, that dragged Britain into illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have cost over a million lives. The political establishment are seeking to ensure that the criminal operations of the ruling elite are freed from the constraint of any democratic accountability, not just overseas but in the UK. Yesterday, within 24 hours of the Overseas Operations Bill going forward, the government introduced its Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) Bill, which allows confidential informants working for MI5 and the police to break the law. The CHIS does not explicitly rule out any crimes, with human rights groups demanding amendments against government opposition. Reprieve has called for an explicit prohibition on the authorisation of crimes such as torture, murder and sexual violence. Amnesty International wrote:

There is a grave danger that this Bill could end up providing informers and agents with a licence to kill.

The Bill’s remit goes far beyond MI5. Public authorities authorised to use the Bill’s powers include all intelligence agencies, the police, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Home Office relating to immigration and border control. The raft of new repressive legislation being enforced in the land of Magna Carta is of a piece with the move of the ruling elite internationally to dispense with democratic forms of rule. What is being finalised is the framework for a police state, much of which is already in place, to be used against the working class. This week, using the resurgence of COVID-19 as justification, Johnson announced a “greater police presence on our streets, and the option to draw on military support where required to free up the police.” Under the Emergency Coronavirus Act passed in March, without a parliamentary vote, 20k troops were put on standby to be mobilised during the pandemic, with threatened social unrest cited. This week, it was revealed that 1.5k soldiers from three battalions are ready to take to the streets with 12 hours’ notice, “if armed police are overstretched.”

In confronting the threat of dictatorial rule, the working class in Britain and internationally face a bitter enemy in Labour and its putrid “left.” Starmer is working in a de facto coalition with Johnson in the name of the “national interest” during a pandemic. According to the Skwawkbox blog, Starmer’s team told the right-wing Guido Fawkes website about the sackings before Whittome herself, who was being interviewed on TV, was told. McDonnell and Corbyn, after spending five years betraying the mandate they were handed by hundreds of thousands of Labour members and supporters to drive out the Blairite right, have retreated to the comfort of Labour’s backbenches. There, as they did for decades, they are once again safely opposing this or that directive of their right-wing party with token votes in opposition. Yesterday, McDonnell tweeted that after the vote:

It’s important to note that deciding not to vote against the Bill would have been a serious Rubicon to cross for anyone concerned about human rights.

McDonnell’s political career path is littered with crossed Rubicons. While he and Corbyn led the party, they allowed a free vote on the Cameron Tory government’s participation in bombing missions in Syria. With the help of the Blairites, this handed Cameron a majority and bombing started soon after. Asked last month by Rupert Murdoch’s Times Radio if Starmer is a “proud socialist,” McDonnell replied that Starmer represented “21st-century socialism … We’re on the same page.”

Report demolishes government claims that reopening UK schools reflects concern for disadvantaged children
Margot Miller, WSWS, Sep 25 2020

Since the reckless reopening of the UK economy from the beginning of July and all schools at the beginning of September, the number of coronavirus cases has escalated out of control. Weekly figures show a doubling of new infections, directly related to the premature lifting of lockdown before the virus was sufficiently suppressed and adequate public health measures put in place. As early as May, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, backed by the Labour Party and the unions, insisted schools be reopened so parents could return to work. Health Secretary Gavin Williamson dismissed the safety concerns and opposition of parents, educators and doctors as “scaremongering,” claiming the government had the best interests of children at heart. Such nonsense is belied by a damning report by the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), “The Long Shadow of Deprivation: Differences in Opportunity across England.” The SMC is an advisory public body sponsored by the Department of Education. Its remit is to monitor and encourage ways to achieve social mobility in the UK. Published as schools began reopening their gates, its findings confirm what has long been known: that inequality in educational outcomes is directly related to economic deprivation, over which successive governments have presided. The inequality persists and widens post-education, with children from poorer backgrounds in general earning less than their peers with the same educational qualifications. Williamson said:

We recognise that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones that are going to suffer the most if we do not bring schools back when we are able to do so.

The recent A-level assessment scandal, which forced the government into a U-turn with an apology, exposed this hogwash. The exams were cancelled due to the pandemic, and rather than base this year’s grades on teacher assessments, an algorithm was used which favoured children from better off areas. Almost 40 percent of pupils’ grades were downgraded, revealing that the awards were based on social class, not merit. Pupils attending private schools saw their grades rise. The education of poorer children is of as little concern for the Johnson government as the health of the working class. And neither was it for the last Labour government led by Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown. Since the 2008 banking crash, education and social welfare suffered draconian cuts to shore up the profits of the mega-rich. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, total spending per pupil in England fell by 8% in real terms in 2009–10 and 2019–20. The number of children living in relative poverty has soared by 600k since 2012, according to the SMC, which projects an “increase to 5.2m by 2022.” Black children and children from ethnic minorities are among the most deprived. The data collected for the SMC report related to young men attending state schools, born in the period 1986–1988, with a view to examining trends in earnings by age 28, in 2014–2016. Young men were the chosen cohort because women would have gaps in employment due to maternity leave. The report notes:

Sons from affluent families still typically achieve higher GCSE results than sons from deprived families (&) perform significantly better than those from the most deprived families, scoring on average 41 percentiles higher in the age 16 (GCSE) test score distribution.

The study found variations between different local authorities. In Manchester the difference in educational outcomes was found to be 37 percentiles, compared with 48 in nearby Trafford. Local authorities with the largest gaps in educational outcomes between rich and poor sons were found to have a difference of over 50 percentiles in the GCSE exams. The gap was twice that in authorities with the smallest gaps. Explaining these variations in the general trend the report states:

Local authorities with large educational inequalities tend to have greater school segregation in terms of both achievement and socio-economic status. … They are also more likely to have grammar schools. Seven of the 10 local authorities with the largest education gaps have grammar schools.

As its name suggests, the SMC is more concerned with how educational achievement impacts on job prospects, earnings and social mobility. The section of the report referencing the mantra of the Blair Labour government, “Education, Education, Education?” examines data comparing the earnings of the sons from affluent parents with those with the same qualifications from deprived backgrounds. Education was promoted by Blair and Brown as a way out of poverty and the key to social mobility. But under them, the previous Conservative government’s regime of rigorous testing in primary schools continued, along with the proscriptive National Curriculum and privatisation of education continued. It was the Blair government that launched Academy schools (publicly funded, privately run) in the inner cities in 2000, supposedly to drive up standards and replace failing schools. New Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is repackaging Blair’s mantra with the slogan “Close the gap,” calling on the Johnson government to guarantee no child will be left behind due to COVID-19. Studies show the attainment gap has widened since the pandemic. The report deliberately doesn’t use the word class, but its findings show that class differences persist when children enter the jobs market. The report’s key findings highlight:

Where you grow up matters. Social mobility in England is a postcode lottery, with large differences across areas in both the adult pay of disadvantaged sons and the size of the pay gap for sons from deprived families, relative to those from affluent families.

In areas with the highest social mobility, 28-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds earned twice as much (over £20k more) as their disadvantaged counterparts in areas with the lowest social mobility. In parts of London and more affluent areas, pay inequalities between children from affluent and poorer backgrounds, with the same educational qualifications, almost disappear, according to the report. Areas with the lowest social mobility had the largest pay gaps, 2.5 times bigger, between the children from affluent parents and those from poor families than areas of high social mobility, when comparing those with comparable qualifications. Areas with low social mobility, “typically have fewer professional and managerial occupations, fewer ‘Outstanding’ schools, more areas of deprivation.” The report singles out Bolton, Bradford, Chiltern, Hyndburn and Thanet. Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull and Manchester were the local authorities with the highest proportions of neighbourhoods classed as the most deprived in England. Of the Local Authorities in the study, one in six were found to have low pay for sons from poor families as well as large pay differentials between those from affluent and deprived backgrounds equally qualified. The report offers the following explanation:

State schools in deprived areas may have fewer resources to spend on enrichment and career development activities for their pupils, leaving them relatively ill equipped to enter the labour market. Sons from deprived backgrounds may lack the financial capital available to more affluent sons to explore various job opportunities in the early stage of their career … [with] parental financial backing [allowing them] to pursue unpaid or low-paid internships. Higher costs may also deter people from less advantaged backgrounds from moving to seek good opportunities elsewhere.

Also, sons from richer families will have “better social networks.” The report offers no solution to the inequality it exposes, except a vain plea for the Tories to “consider what support can be targeted on these local authorities to improve overall social mobility outcomes.” Parents, educators and students should join the fight against the unsafe reopening of schools, colleges and universities. To participate in the next meeting of the newly founded Educators Rank-and-File Committee, this Saturday Sep 26 at 2 pm, click here.

Assange lawyers expose politically biased medical evidence
Thomas Scripps, Laura Tiernan, WSWS, Sep 25 2020

Medical evidence continued to be heard in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing yesterday, with Dr Nigel Blackwood providing expert testimony for the prosecution. Blackwood is a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the NHS and a Reader in Forensic Psychiatry at Kings College London. Blackwood assessed Assange in April this year and found him to be “moderately depressed.” He holds that there is a “elevated risk of suicide” if there is a decision to extradite Assange to the US, but not a “substantial” one and that this risk is “modifiable and manageable.” Referring to the findings of Professor Kopelman, the defence medical expert, Blackwood said, “I certainly agreed with Professor Kopelman that he had a recurrent depressive disorder.” He disputed Kopelman’s findings on the severity of that depression, but admitted that there seemed to have been an improvement in the months between Kopelman’s assessment and his own, accepting there was “variability in his mood and his engagement with treatment.” In cross-examination, defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC drew attention to a section of Blackwood’s written report which suggested the reason for Assange being admitted to the health-care unit was the emergence of video footage of Assange, not health concerns. Blackwood confirmed that Dr Daly, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at Belmarsh, told him “she did not seek to place him in health-care because of concerns about symptoms of depression or suicidal risk.” Fitzgerald then produced a prison report of a review of Assange from the day he was admitted to health-care which read:

Staff have raised concerns about the way Assange has been the last few days. Assange looked very low in mood during this review. He has stated he’s finding it hard to control thoughts of self-harm and suicide. During this review we discussed if a move to the health-care department would help Assange. I told Assange I would talk to health-care to see if this could be done.

That Daly failed to mention this raises serious questions about Belmarsh prison’s mental health reporting. Turning to conditions of detention in the US, Fitzgerald asked if it would be inappropriate to detain someone suffering from depression in isolation, or if solitary confinement would exacerbate psychiatric disorders, Blackwood gave a series of equivocations. He accepted their “potential to exacerbate particular mental illnesses” but repeated that this would depend on “what is available beyond isolation in terms of access to telephones, supportive networks, associations etc.” and “on the specific characteristics of solitary confinement.” When Fitzgerald put to him the fact that 50% of suicides in US prisons are among the 3% to 8% of prisoners in isolation conditions, Blackwood responded that the overall rate was low. When Fitzgerald cited a report authored by former US prison warden Maureen Baird describing, in Fitzgerald’s words, the “totally inhuman system” of Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), Blackwood replied that it was his “understanding that there is a range of approaches under the broad rubric of SAMs.” He explained that he “drew on Mr Kromberg’s evidence for my own report” in this regard. Gordon Kromberg is the US prosecutor who has submitted legal documents for the US government in this case. Fitzgerald cited the extradition case of USA v Lauri Love, in which the High Court found it would be inhumane to expose Love to US prison conditions in view of his vulnerable mental state. Fitzgerald asked Blackwood:

Would you accept that the question of whether it would be inhumane to expose someone in his condition to the prison regime in the US would depend on knowledge of the US system?

Blackwood conceded:

Yes, it would depend on detailed knowledge of the exact conditions that pertain.

Fitzgerald’s cross-examination established that Blackwood had never visited either of the US federal prison facilities, where Assange would likely be detained, Truesdale adult detention centre in Alexandria or ADX Colorado. He had never visited a single US federal prison. Blackwood’s view that Assange would not be subject to solitary confinement was based on “what I’m told.” Fitzgerald’s cross-examination showed that Blackwood’s witness statement had ignored information provided by the defence, namely the reports of Eric Lewis and Joel Sickler, who had provided detailed evidence of oppressive conditions at both facilities. Replying to Blackwood’s contention that “there are many varieties of SAMs,” Fitzgerald again cited Baird:

If Mr Assange is extradited subject to SAMs he will be treated similarly to all other prisoners under SAMs. The only form of interaction they encounter was when correctional officers open the viewing slot for inspection.

In response to an interjection from Judge Vanessa Baraitser, Fitzgerald explained:

Once you’re under SAM, it’s a basic regime that applies to all prisoners.

Baraitser has interjected repeatedly against defence arguments that SAMs would be oppressive of Assange. Fitzgerald told the court that Blackwood had described the Truesdale in “glowing” terms. Yet he had failed to acknowledge Chelsea Manning’s suicide attempt there. Dr Sondra Crosby, a US licensed physician who has treated Assange, gave expert witness testimony via videolink. The Massachusetts-based doctor has expertise in the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and those suffering the effects of torture and PTSD. She visited Assange on several occasions between 2017 and 2020, first at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and later at Belmarsh prison. Crosby was uniquely placed to provide evidence of Assange’s deteriorating physical and mental condition due to his confinement and “prolonged trauma.” When she first visited him at the Ecuadorean Embassy in Oct 2017, he had been there five years. Crosby recalled that Assange described to her symptoms of depression and PTSD, along with physical symptoms which she was unable to evaluate within the Embassy and which she found “very worrisome.” She said:

Over time, as I visited him again, I observed that his mental state was declining. He was describing more and more symptoms of depression, of sleep disturbance, of low mood, inability to concentrate, nightmares and quite a lot more of psychological distress.

When Crosby visited Assange again in Feb 2018, she recalled her alarm at the intense suicidal thoughts he described. One year later, in Feb 2019, she found him “markedly deteriorated, physically and psychologically.” He was by now suffering from an advanced tooth infection causing “excruciating pain,” which could only be treated inside the Embassy with a diagnosed narcotic. She recalled he was “fearful of the consequences” if he left the Embassy for treatment. “His depression and suicidal thoughts had increased as well,” she said. In Oct 2019, at Belmarsh prison, Dr Crosby found Assange “markedly changed in affect and appearance,” with difficulty holding a conversation or remembering names. He appeared to be “severely depressed” and was thinking of suicide “a hundred times a day.” She felt his risk of suicide was “very high,” telling Fitzgerald:

What he has always said to me over time is that the trigger would be extradition to the US, where he felt his life would be intolerable. Mr Assange is at a high risk of completing a suicide if he were to be extradited.

Two additional witness statements were read into court. Christopher Butler, based in San Francisco, who is founder of The Internet Archive, confirmed that historic versions of WikiLeaks publications were held in the Wayback Machine, a repository for websites from around the world. He confirmed the US government had not taken down its archived WikiLeaks catalogue. John Young, the owner and administrator of Cryptome, confirmed that his site had published the unredacted US State Dept Cables that were subsequently published by WikiLeaks. He stated that US law enforcement agencies had not been in touch to inform him that Cryptome’s actions were illegal. Cryptome has not been instructed to remove the files, underscoring the politically motivated targeting of WikiLeaks and Assange. The hearing continues today.

Assange Hearing, Day Thirteen: Prosecution Witness Leaves Out Reason Why Assange Was Sent to Belmarsh Medical Ward
Joe Lauria, Consortium News, Sep 24 2020

The second prosecution witness has taken the stand and under withering cross examination by defense attorney Edward Fitzgerald, key parts of his story have fallen apart. Dr Nigel Blackwood, a forensic psychiatrist for the NHS, testified on direct examination by James Lewis QC that he determined Julian Assange was suffering from “moderate” depression, not severe depression as defense witness Dr Michael Kopelman testified on Tuesday. Blackwood said Assange was not at high risk of suicide, as Kopelman had said. Blackwood said from the stand:

I think there is some risk of suicide, but that risk has been carefully managed in Belmarsh and the risk factors are modifiable. He engages with treatments to manage that risk. I believe he retains the capacity to resist suicide.

Lewis then went through the same prison notes he went through on Wednesday or examinations of Assange, which repeatedly showed him displaying “good eye-contact, humor, alertness & no mention of self-harm.” On cross examination Wednesday, Fitzgerald established that a report of “no mention of self-harm” meant that Assange was not asked about it, and he didn’t volunteer any sentiments about suicide to prison doctors whom he did not trust. But Lewis went through the notes again, eliciting confirmation from Blackwood based on his own four-hour examination of Assange during two meetings in March. Blackwood testified:

He could concentrate during four hours of interview, and his gestures and posture were appropriate. He becomes animated about the political nature of his trial and his expected treatment in the US, and gets animated and speaks in detail in a monologue, but can be interrupted. He considers me naive about my understanding of his case. He said Kopelman did not have a political dimension to his report, so he was very keen to give me the political dimension and to exercise editorial control over my report.

Blackwood testified that he did not find Assange to be suffering from PTSD as Kopelman had testified, and that any traits of autism were on the low end of the spectrum. He said Assange exhibited pride in saying he was able to rally other prisoners to his cause. Blackwood added:

In February Assange was found to be drinking coffee and talking with other prisoners. He was articulate and well and fit to stand trial. He was deemed not suicidal.

Blackwood said when Assange wasn’t in the hospital wing of the prison, he was reading books and interacted with other prisoners. How he came to be put in health care isolation was a key moment in the morning’s drama. Blackwood asserted that he was sent to the medical ward because of a video of Assange in the prison that became public in Jun 2019. He testified that if Assange had indeed suffered from severe depression, the prison authorities would have sent him for outside medical treatment. That they didn’t showed Assange was not suffering as much as Kopelman had contended. Blackwood said:

They have no interest in this process.

On cross examination, Fitzgerald first elicited from Blackwood that the reason the authorities sent Assange to the medical ward, isolated from other prisoners, was because of “reputational damage” to prison officials caused by the release of the video. Then Fitzgerald produced a prison document that said that at 2:30 pm on the day Assange was sent to the ward, it was noted that he was exhibiting a risk of self harm. Flashing anger for the first time, Fitzgerald spoke over Blackwood, demanding to know why Blackwood hadn’t put that in his report. Judge Vanessa Baraitser interjected that the witness should be allowed to finish his answer. Blackwood said there were multiple factors for why he was sent to the medical ward, and essentially broke down to admit that Assange’s thoughts of self-harm was one of them, though he neglected to mention that in his report. Fitzgerald then turned to conditions in US prisons and whether they were equivalent to those in Britain. Fitzgerald asked:

Would it be in appropriate to put someone suffering from depression in isolation in prison?

Blackwood replied:

Depressed people can be treated in isolation, but it has the potential to exacerbate mental illness. It depends on what is avaialbable to him beyond telephone calls, access to social networks.

Fitzgerald asked:

If he has been deprived of these things would it seriously exacerbate his condition?

Blackwood replied:

It may do.

Fitzgerald pressed:

It clearly would.

Blackwood replied:

Mr Assange has proven himself as a very resilient man.

Fitzgerald asked if Blackwood were aware of medical recommendations that prison isolation should be avoided in prisoners with mental health issues. “Yes,” said Blackwood. Fitzgerald asked if he was aware that of all suicides in US prisons, 50% are of inmates in isolation, and only 3% to 8% of the total prison population is isolated. Blackwood noted that incidents of suicide was still higher in British prisons than in the US. Fitzgerald asked:

Would it be wise to send Mr Assange, given his condition, to be sent to isolation?

Blackwood responded:

It depends on what the regime is in individual settings. Even with Covid-19 isolation in British prisons, a predicted upsurge in suicides has not happened.

Fitzgerald asked:

Mr Assange will be sent to the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC), he will be confined to a small cell with no exercise or fresh air and limited communication with his lawyers and no contact with prisoners. Assuming this is correct, would those conditions be damaging with Julian Assange’s psychiatric history?

Blackwood admitted:

Yes, that may have an impact on his depressive disorder.

After Fitzgerald described the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) Assange would likely be held under he then asked if Blackwood would accept that sending Assange to Alexandria under those conditions would be psychologically damaging to Assange. Blackwood said:

There is a range of approaches under SAMs and this is at the most pessimistic end. If that pertains, it has the potential to impact his mood state. But I maintain that his mood state is manageable.

“Even in these conditions?” Fitzgerald asked incredulously. Blackwood cited Gordon Kromberg, the US prosecutor who has submitted legal documents for the US government in this case, saying:

I drew on Kromberg who says in Virginia there is broad equivalency with Britain and that there is no solitary confinement in the ADC.

Fitzgerald asked:

You were simply relying on Kromberg? Why are you saying there is no solitary confinement in the ADC?

Blackwood said:

Because I am drawing on Kromberg.

Fitzgerald asked:

Kromberg says there is no solitary in the ADC, so you just put that in your report?

Blackwood said:

That is what I’m drawing on.

Fitzgerald asked:

So you don’t think that the statement of Kromberg, a government official, which we say is incorrect, is open to question? You are only taking this from Kromberg. Shouldn’t you have seen what the defense has said?

Blackwood said:

I relied on Kromberg and the academic literature on what happens in US prisons. There may be stuff that isn’t covered, but there is broad equivalence.

Fitzgerald continued:

The witness keeps saying there are many varieties of SAMS but evidence before the court says that once under SAMs all prisoners are subjected to the same regime. Against the background of that bold assertion that there is no solitary confinement in the ADC, you then say that given Mr Assange’s mental health condition it would not be unjust to extradite him. That’s nonsense.

“I’m saying his current mood does not—,” Blackwood started. Fitzgerald cut him off:

It is not your business to decide that, whether extradition is just or unjust, that is up to the judge.

Blackwood murmured “Of course.” Fitzgerald continued:

So why did you enter something into your report that is up to the judge?

Blackwood said::

It’s up to the judge. Of course.

Fitzgerald then drew out the fact that Blackwood had never visited the ADC or any federal facility, having only been to a state prison in Connecticut and a jail in Newport, Rhode Island. Next up was defense witness Dr Sondra Crosby, an internist in Massachusetts. Crosby visited Assange five times, three times in the Ecuador embassy, first in Oct 2017, and twice in Belmarsh, the last time in January this year. Each time she saw him he had markedly deteriorated. Crosby testified on an array of physical ailments, the details of which Consortium News has agreed to withhold to protect Assange’s medical privacy. Some of his impairments were already been made known, such as a lung ailment and an infected tooth. She said that she was unable to convince Assange to leave the embassy for medical treatment. Crosby testified that Assange was confined to the embassy. On cross examination, Lewis invoked a common anti-Assange meme, that he could leave any time he wanted to. Crosby said this was a “complex” question, and she compared Assange’s situation in the embassy to someone “who is being chased with an axe or a gun and locks himself in a room for safety.” She noted:

Indeed, the British foreign secretary said that Assange was free to leave whenever he wanted and the British police would be there, welcoming him with open arms. Before he was arrested and dragged out of the embassy, Assange and his lawyers repeatedly said they feared his arrest would ultimately lead to extradition to the US. It was ridiculed at the time, but we are about to end the second week of extradition proceedings to the US.

Crosby also testified about Assange’s mental state, which was challenged by Lewis as she is an internist. But Crosby said part of her medical work with refugees and asylum seekers entailed psychological conditions and that she had numerous times testified to courts on psychological matters. Crosby said Assange was at high risk of suicide and discussed it frequently with Assange during her visits. In perhaps the most disturbing moment of testimony, she described how Assange told her he studied the video of a Croatian, Slobodan Praljak, on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, killing himself in 2017 in a courtroom after taking potassium cyanide. Only a very hardened person in the courtroom would be unmoved by Crosby’s testimony. The day in court ended with the testimony of John Young, founder and operator of Cryptome.com being read to the court by Fitzgerald. Young said that he published the unredacted diplomatic cables containing informants names a day before WikiLeaks did on Sep 1 2017. He said the files are still accessible on his site. Young said he is a US citizen. Young testified:

Since my publication on Cryptome.org of the unredacted diplomatic cables, no US law enforcement authority has notified me that this publication of the cables is illegal, consists or contributes to a crime in any way, nor have they asked for them to be removed.

The hearing continues.

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