Julian Assange

Guns, Drugs, Bodies, the CIA, and U.S. Extradition

Culture of Impunity in the U.S. Makes Fair Trials Elusive

U.S. intelligence agencies are lobbying the United Kingdom to extradite Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange. For now the British courts have refused. Forcing Assange to stand trial in America would be “oppressive,” a lower U.K. court ruled in January.

The U.K.’s High Court in has begun to hear Washington’s final extradition appeal. Until a decision is reached Assange remains in British custody, where he’s been since April 2019, when U.K. police arrested him inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Does Washington’s history with torture and whistleblowers undermine its human-rights assurances in its bid to extradite Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange? (isafrancescaCC BY-NC 2.0)

Likely perceiving a need to change the status quo after the lower court’s denial, or else watch Assange go free, Washington is now making unprecedented assurances to treat Assange humanely if London extradites him.

Washington promises, for example, to allow a transfer so Assange serves any prison sentence in his native Australia instead of a penitentiary run by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Washington also promises not to use so-called special administrative measures (SAMs) to restrict Assange’s communications with attorneys and journalists — at least at first.

But the U.S. and U.K. are two fifths of the intelligence-sharing bloc The Five Eyes. Their intelligence agencies consider Assange a mutual adversary. Critics thus caution that Washington’s promises are unenforceable, serving as mere political cover for the U.K.’s high judges to overlook human-rights concerns in favor to a close ally across the pond.

Wanted man or journalist? Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange was arrested April 11th 2019, after spending seven years under political asylum. (Poiesia on Flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0)

U.S. officials, for example, had expressly warned they will use SAMs on Assange if the need arises, e.g., if he writes something from his American jail cell that U.S. intelligence agencies wish to suppress. This warning itself may already be chilling Assange’s speech. Or—unlike a prisoner transfer to Australia, which cannot be guaranteed in advance—perhaps Assange’s nature, or the nature of Washington’s charges against him, makes SAMs inevitable. This much is certain: Washington is unable or unwilling to foreclose that Assange may one day waken in a U.S. federal prison, under SAMs, serving a natural-life sentence without the possibility of parole.

To get that far Assange would have to survive trial in U.S. custody—usually a years-long ordeal. Perhaps fewer power brokers wanted pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein silenced when he was found, shortly into his pre-trial proceedings, hanged in his BOP jail cell.

Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in BOP custody with these injuries. (Federal Bureau of Prisons, Public domain)

Concerns for alleged British hacker Lauri Love’s survival in BOP custody led the U.K.’s High Court in 2018 to refuse to extradite him. Sidestepping that precedent now could prove controversial, especially in Assange’s case, where many believe the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.K.’s MI6 have their fangs out for him.

Assange is already mistreated in U.K. custody, his attorneys argue. Washington could continue any such mistreatment without technically breaking its promises. To use an Americanism: SAMs isn’t the only game in town.

Washington also runs lesser-known communications-management units (CMUs). And, conspicuously, Washington offers no assurance that it will spare Assange from its CMUs.

Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Terre Haute, Indiana, pictured, is home to one of the two U.S. communications-management units (CMUs). (Federal Bureau of Prisons, Public domain)

“Inmates housed in CMUs”, noted The U.S. Court of Appeals in a 2016 ruling, “may spend years denied contact with loved ones”.

U.S.-based liberal groups label the CMU in Terre Haute, Indiana Little Guantanamo and Gitmo North, after the U.S. military detention centre in Cuba. The American Conservative Union condemns the Terre Haute CMU as “an abomination to civil liberty”.

But Donnie Reynolds and I reluctantly call that CMU home. We know what Assange may expect if or when the U.K. hands him to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Journalist Martin MartyG Gottesfeld (middle) and Donald Donnie Reynolds Jr. (left) inside the U.S. government’s Terre Haute, Indiana communications-management unit (CMU) (Public domain, 2019)

The CMUs began in 2006 as the brainchild of the George W. Bush administration. The goal, supposedly, was to monitor the newly captured Jihadi terrorists locked-up in U.S. federal prisons and thereby to glean intelligence for Washington’s War on Terror. Each CMU receives an annual budget in the millions of tax dollars. But they’ve never produced a single piece of actionable military intel.

The money still flows today, after 15 years of failure and Washington’s withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. This continued funding may indicate different purposes behind the CMUs than those the U.S. government tells the taxpaying public.

FreeMartyG asked The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) if the Bush or Cheney families profit directly or indirectly from the U.S. government’s continuing operation of multi-million-dollar communications-management units (CMUs) after the U.S. withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. The GSA did not respond.

Also, FreeMartyG asked U.S. Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (Ind. Vermont) if the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is making proper use of public funds by continuing to operate multi-million-dollar communications-management units (CMUs) now that the U.S. has withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. Chairman Sanders did not respond.

And money is not the exclusive potential indicator of ulterior purposes. Shortly into running the CMU program, the U.S. started packing the CMUs with prisoners from politically sensitive cases.

Meet Justina Pelletier:

To read how I saved Justina from corrupt U.S. judges and other officials click here. And to read about the U.S. sending me to Gitmo North,click here for CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou’s coverage. (Justina herself endured Harvard University’s version of a CMU inside psych ward Bader 5 at Boston Children’s Hospital. For my retelling of those events at HuffPost, click here.

Donnie’s case implicates U.S. federal prosecutors, IRS agents, federal judges, and other officials in the George W. Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver and it’s better-known Obama-era successor Operation Fast and Furious. During those operations Washington sold “cop killer” guns and armor-piercing ammunition to Mexican drug cartels. Once Washington lost track of the weapons, the cartels used them to mow down at least three U.S. federal agents and untold numbersof Mexican citizens.

During Operation Fast and Furious the U.S. trafficked these and other assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels and then lost track of them. (ATF, Public Domain)

To read my coverage of Donnie’s case at FreeMartyG, click here. To read The American Conservative’s follow-up feature click here.

Previously, when Washington secretly armed foreign groups the CIA was intimately involved.  Then—U.S. Vice President and former–CIA Director George H.W. Bush admitted his awareness during the 1980s Iran-Contra affair of illegal CIA arms sales to Iran. Money from those sales went to arm Nicaraguan guerillas, in violation of U.S. law. Decades earlier the CIA equipped Cuban exiles for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Before that the CIA recruited Guatemalan guerillas to invade and topple Jacobo Arbenz’s regime. This list goes on and on.

The CIA’s habit of arming Latin American groups raises the inference of CIA involvement in Operation Fast and Furious, which armed paramilitary Mexican narcocartels.

The CIA is also involved in the CMU program. It uses it to silence its own. Here in Gitmo North Donnie and I met Aldrich Ames, a former CIA officer sentenced to life without parole on espionage charges.

FreeMartyG asked The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to comment on the likely counterproductivity of the BOP’s decision to place Martin MartyG Gottesfeld, a journalist, in a “general population” communications-management unit (CMU) alongside former—CIA Officer Aldrich Ames and other prisoners who are otherwise prohibited from direct media access on supposed grounds of national security. The ODNI did not reply.

lt was Aldrich Ames who took the photograph, above, of Donnie and me inside Gitmo North. And it was here that Washington tried to bury Donnie once he started connecting his case to Operation Fast and Furious.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided arms (pictured) to Cuban exiles for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. (Robert Lawson, Public Domain)

Now the same elements want Assange. They promise he’ll have a fair trial. They promise he’ll have rights.

Foremost, perhaps, The U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment promises Assange the right to effective legal representation for his defense. In reality BOP Senior Attorney Katherine Siereveld, the de-facto agent in charge of both CMUs, regularly refuses to allow us CMU prisoners to telephone our attorneys.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s office was provided with copies of correspondence showing that U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) attorney Katherine Siereveld denies Martin MartyG Gottesfeld, a journalist imprisoned inside a U.S. communications-management unit (CMU), confidential telephone calls to his attorneys despite 28 C.F.R. § 540.103. The secretary of state’s office was asked for comment on the situation and whether, if extradited, Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange should expect to be denied such calls to his attorneys. The secretary of state’s office referred the matter to the Department of Justice, who did not respond.

Siereveld also personally reviews the contents of my written correspondence to my attorneys, violating my attorney-client confidentiality and U.S. federal regulation 28 C.F.R. § 540.18. She refuses to let me mail my attorneys particular documents indicating BOP misconduct and she confiscates incoming legal documents that I need to fight my case.

Siereveld also reviews my court filings before mailing them, so she can retaliate before any judge reads them. Once I mailed an “Emergency Motion” from solitary confinement and the BOP held it for an extra week or so before it was postmarked.

These and other practices might cause a legitimate attorney to worry about her license to practice. But Siereveld seems unconcerned while collecting her yearly BOP salary of $125,788 plus benefits. Where her operations end, others begin.

The mail that does leave the CMUs is regularly delayed, lost, or destroyed by The United States Postal Service (USPS). Donnie’s mail in particular exhibits this trend –  it’s as if Washington doesn’t want it delivered properly. Concurrently the BOP refuses us CMU prisoners the use of private mail carriers, such as UPS and FedEx, to send our mail to attorneys and the courts.

This piece of an envelope was all that remained of a package of legal mail a CMU prisoner sent his appellate attorney.

FreeMartyG asked U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s office for comment on the frequent mishandling of legal and other mail from the U.S. government’s communications-management units (CMUs) and whether, if extradited, Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange should expect his legal and other mail to be mishandled. The postmaster general’s office did not reply.

This kind of secrecy, suppression, and censorship breeds serious human-rights violations.

For example, Gitmo North’s unit manager is a known sexual voyeur. He watches us defecate in our cells. I and others report him continually but the BOP seems to respond only by encouraging him further. Reports outside the BOP, e.g., to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), go unacknowledged and uninvestigated.

FreeMartyG asked the U.S. Justice Department OIG to comment on its failure to send its own agents to investigate multiple reports and publications concerning the FCI Terre Haute CMU unit manager’s sexual predation, and whether, if extradited to U.S. custody, Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange should expect to be sexually abused by BOP staffers and then ignored by the Inspector General. The OIG did not respond.

U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horwitz is supposed to investigate complaints of sexual abuse inside Gitmo North.

Even Assange’s meals would likely prove problematic inside Gitmo North. The BOP seems to encourage local kitchen workers to pilfer our food before it arrives here. The BOP then opts not to investigate the incomplete meals or it lies about them, claiming they were complete and not cold. But I cannot remember my last hot meal here that matched the items the BOP promises on its National Menu, i.e. the foods the BOP leads U.S. taxpayers to believe it provides us by spending their money.

The BOP’s Correctional Programs Division (CPD) was contacted for a request for comment as to whether, if extradited, Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange should expect cold, incomplete meals inside the FCI Terre Haute, Indiana communications-management unit (CMU). The BOP Office of Public Affairs answered:

While we decline to comment on anecdotal allegations, we can provide you with the following responses to your questions below:

The quality of the food served to our inmate population is a priority of the BOP and the food service mission is to provide healthy, nutritionally-sound, and appetizing meals that meet the needs of the general population and those at nutritional risk.The BOP’s National Menu (see attached) is reviewed and updated annually to assess responsiveness to inmate eating preferences, operational impact, product pricing, and nutritional content.  Nutritional analysis of the National Menu is conducted annually to ensure it appropriately considers dietary reference intakes as developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Inmates have the option to select from a regular, heart healthy, or no flesh entree for every meal, including vegan-friendly options.  The BOP makes fresh (not canned) fruit available daily.  While vegetables are also served daily, fresh (not canned) vegetables are not available every day but are frequently on the menu. For more information, you may also consult the BOP Program Statement 4700.06 titled, “Food Service Manual” found here https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/4700_006.pdf

And if Washington succeeds in confining Assange to a CMU then he can forget about journalism and The U.S. Constitution’s vaunted First Amendment freedom of speech. Here, Donnie and I face brutal retaliation against our efforts to converse with journalists.

Mohamed Botan, a journalist with U.K. publications residing in Seattle, Washington, has tried for months to open a dialogue with Gitmo North prisoner Abdiweli Musa. Donnie and I witnessed firsthand Musa’s fruitless efforts to respond to Botan.

Botan was asked if any difficulties he’s had reaching Musa reflect on Washington’s promises of free speech and freedom of the press. Botan did not reply.

This isn’t a problem that just affects journalists. Federal law enforcement has pointed firearms at Donnie’s family members in retaliation against their efforts to free him. As The American Conservative detailed, witnesses have felt coerced by law enforcement to provide false testimony against Donnie instead of accurate testimony in his favor.

The U.S. federal judge assigned to his case was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush after he had represented the same police department that searched Donnie’s houses.

In my case, my wife Dana videotaped deputy U.S. marshals at our door, trying to intimidate and interrogate her after she made Constitutionally protected press inquiries:

FreeMartyG forwarded the above video to The United States Marshals Service and inquired as to whether, if extradited, Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange should expect similar encounters between The U.S. Marshals Service and his attorneys, witnesses, and inquiring journalists. The U.S. Marshals Service did not respond.

Perhaps worst of all though, more U.S. federal judges come from law enforcement than any other prior profession. So, when our filings actually make it to U.S. federal courts, we face judges already inclined to rule against us. As The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) noted long ago, “Traditionally, [U.S.] federal courts have adopted a broad hands-off attitude towards problems of prison administration”.

SCOTUS more recently ruled that foreign defendants in national-security cases—a label possibly destined to fit Assange — basically have no legal remedy for damages against U.S. officials who violate their rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals earlier upheld the dismissal of a case brought by a CIA detainee simply because the CIA director told the court the case might expose “state secrets”, settinga precedent that SCOTUS refused to address.

The U.S. court rulings from the above links to the U.K.’s High Court and asked The Court if the human-rights FreeMartyG forwarded the U.S. court rulings from the above links were forwarded to the U.K.’s High Court and asked The Court if the human-rights implications of those precedents would affect its decision on Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange’s extradition case. The Court did not respond.

Prisoners have access to courts of law. Hostages do not. So, which are Donnie and I, prisoners or hostages? Which is Assange?

This article also appears at www.FreeMartyG.com. Martin ‘MartyG’ Gottesfeld is an imprisoned journalist, human rights activist, and alleged Anonymous hacktivist. You can follow @FreeMartyG on Facebook and Twitter or donate at www.FreeMartyG.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *