The Australian government was warned about embarrassing cables before WikiLeaks published them, according to an updated book on Julian Assange by ABC journalist Andrew Fowler.
Julia Gillard was tipped off by the US government that the WikiLeaks cable dump would be embarrassing for her and the federal government, prompting the Prime Minister to make the claim the group had acted “illegally” in 2010.
That’s one of the claims made in an afterword included in a fresh update of The Most Dangerous Man In The World, Andrew Fowler’s book about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks originally published last year. As Crikey reported last week, Gillard’s remarks were later used by financial companies Mastercard and Visa to block donations to the whisteblower organisation, despite the AFP subsequently saying WikiLeaks had broken no laws. As Fowler writes:
“The Prime Minister had a personal issue with Assange, and a score to settle: the release of the Cablegate documents, which later so embarrassed her and unmasked the ALP plotters who had planned the coup against Kevin Rudd.
“Though the cables were published well after Gillard made her attack on Assange, the government had full knowledge of the contents well in advance. As part of the investigation into Bradley Manning, the US had tipped off its Australian ally about what to expect.”
The book also says Assange’s legal team was split over the decision to drop a legal point in his extradition hearing relating to Sweden’s secrecy surrounding r-pe trials because it went against the basic tenant of British law that hearings should be held in public.
The argument was shelved from the final part of the appeal process, writes Fowler, partly because Assange was trying to make overtures to the women who accused him of s-xual misconduct in the hope they would drop the case. Instead, the argument focused on the legal principle of whether a prosecutor was a “judicial authority” and could legally order someone’s extradition, as had happened with Assange’s arrest warrant. The WikiLeaks founder eventually lost his appeal against extradition in the UK Supreme Court.
One of Assange’s advisers, high-profile silk Geoffrey Robertson, believed dropping the secrecy argument was a mistake, telling Fowler:
“No judge would extradite for a secret trial. Justice must be seen to be done. Courts cannot extradite if the trial would be flagrantly unfair and a secret trial would be flagrantly unfair.”
Another interesting tidbit for is also revealed by Fowler, an ABC journalist who files for Four Corners and Foreign Correspondent: he flew to Sweden to record interviews for a story on Assange for Four Corners the very night he claimed asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy, only to find out by text from his ABC producer of the news.
“We might all be in the global village, but at that moment Assange had made Harls [Fowler’s colleague Wayne Harley] and I feel like global village idiots,” Fowler said.