Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Top Widely Reported And Completely False Stories of the Assange Case

No, this post isn't about myths and misconceptions. That could days to write an article about, there are so many. This post is simply about prominent cases where a major news outlet penned an article - not an editorial - making some claim about "breaking news" in the Assange case which was pure and utter malarky that could have been determined simply by making a quick phone call - yet was nonetheless published and then widely republished by other outlets citing the first one as a "source". The cases where people actually did do what journalists are supposed to do and double-checked the "scoop" naturally got no traction. So here to give them a bit of a push against the flood of misinformation: the top widely reported and completely false stories of the Assange Case.

1. The US declares Assange an "enemy of state"

Assange supporter Philip Dorling first penned this one for the Sydney Morning Herald as "US calls Assange 'enemy of state'". He begins:

THE US military has designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as enemies of the United States - the same legal category as the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency. Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws, reveal that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with "communicating with the enemy", a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death.

And he extrapolates from there. Never mind that the last death sentence for outright treason of a US citizen in the US was in 1953. Never mind that not only is it specifically illegal to extradite for any kind of military, intelligence, or political crime from Sweden, but extraditing where the death penalty or abuse (even supermax prison is classified as "abuse") is banned in all of Europe, never mind all of that. The simple fact is, the story is wrong.

From this document, the reporter concluded that Assange was now an “enemy of the state.” I had some suspicions, though. The analyst was not charged. Was this because an investigation showed that the analyst was not engaging in the communication alleged? Or was it because somebody determined that the charges weren’t valid because Assange and WikiLeaks aren’t actually “the enemy”?

So I did a thing that journalists do sometimes and called the Pentagon to ask. I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it, given our government’s current tendency to try to keep as many secrets as possible.

But Monday afternoon I got a call back from Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. When flatly asked whether Assange or WikiLeaks had been classified by the military as “enemies of the state,” he said they had not.

Basically Dorling looked through US documents - documents, one should note, which were released through the Freedom of Information act, a law designed to minimize US government secrecy - until he found something he didn't understand which looked suspicious, and instead of checking up on it, spun a story about how the US plans to put to death anyone who talks with Wikileaks. And the lovely fact-checkers at the Sydney Morning Herald didn't even make a quick phone call.

2. Tests on "the condom" reveal "no DNA"

Abul Taher, another serial misreporter on the Assange case, wrote this gem for the Daily Mail as Condom used as evidence in Assange sex case 'does not contain his DNA':

Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have revealed that a key piece of evidence does not contain his DNA.
A torn condom given to Swedish police by one of the alleged victims was examined by staff at two forensic laboratories but they could not find any conclusive evidence of Mr Assange’s DNA on it.


His lawyers have said that the fact no DNA could be found conclusively on an apparently used condom suggests a fake one may have been submitted.

Wow! Amazing! Exculpitory. Oh, and totally false. Not only are these not comments from "Assange's lawyers", here's what the police report he cites *actually* says:

Samtal med SKL

Samtalade med forensiker Anders Nilsson vid SKL för att få ett förtydligande kring DNA proverna.

I tidigare PM har jag skrivit att på kondomen som använts hos [AA] hade de inte hittat DNA. Detta stämmer inte enligt Anders Nilsson. Han sade att de ser "något" men att det inte går att tyda. Det har valt att analysera provet i en mer förfinad metod. Denna metod tar ca. två veckor. Vid det förra PM et var det inte Anders Nilsson jag talade med.

Anders Nilsson förklarade att det inte är mängden DNA som alltid avgör huruvida de kan se DNA. Det finns många anledningar till att de inte får en tydlig bild.

- Något stör analysen såsom smuts mm.
- Små mängder DNA
- Människor ger ifrån sig olika mängder DNA
- Att undersökningsmaterialet har påverkats efter användandet, t.ex. tvättats, torkats av,

Detta var några exempel på vad som kan påverka analysen av DNA men det finns fler faktorer som påverkar.


Conversation with SKL

Conversed with forensic analysist Anders Nilsson at SKL to get a clarification on the DNA samples.

In the previous PM I have written that concerning the condom used by [AA], they had not found DNA. This is not correct according to Anders Nilsson. He said that they see "something" but that it is impossible to figure out. It has been chosen to analyze the sample with a more refined method. This method takes about two weeks. In the previous PM it was not Anders Nilsson that I spoke with.

Anders Nilsson explained that it is not the amount of DNA that always determines whether they can see DNA. There are many reasons why they can't get a clear picture.

- Something interfering with the analysis such as dirt, etc.
- Small amounts of DNA
- People emit different amounts of DNA
- The study material has been affected by usage, for example, washed, dried off

These were some of the things that can affect the analysis of DNA, but there are more factors which can influence it.

That is, to say, the forensic examiner says that they found something on the condom, says nothing about it being "unused", and goes through great efforts to stress that there's nothing suspicious about the results of the first test. The document was leaked before the results of the second test came out, which *were* able to isolate mtDNA.

Of course, Taher's abyssmal reporting doesn't stop there - rather, he descends into something that pushes the borders of slander:

The report also appears to cast doubt on the claim made by the second alleged victim, who told police that she was ‘raped’ by Mr Assange when she was asleep.

But during a police interview, the woman, now 29, apparently suggests that she did not mind him having unprotected sex with her.

Didn't mind, huh? Here's what the subject actually said:

They dozed off and she awoke and felt him penetrating her. She immediately asked, “Are you wearing anything?”, to which he replied, “You”. She said to him: “You better don’t have HIV”, and he replied, “Of course not”. She felt that it was too late. He was already inside her and she let him continue. She didn’t have the energy to tell him one more time. She had gone on and on about condoms all night long. She has never had unprotected sex before.

Here's what others say about what SW told them:

And then [AA] said: “[SW] told me that Julian continued to have sex with her in the morning without protection, without a condom. And she did not want that and she protested, but Julian continued and consummated the sex without protection, despite [SW]'s protests,” said [AA].

“Are you sitting down?” And I immediately became worried. Then he told me that Julian hade been accused of raping that young woman, [SW]. And that [DB] had spoken with [AA], and that [SW] had spoken with [DB]. And that [AA] was furious about what [SW] had told her — that for one reason or another, she believed what [SW] had said and that they were going to meet.

[SW] said that it did not feel good and she wanted him to leave. [SW] said had Assange changed at her place and had become like an entirely different person. [SW] regretted that she had let Assange spend the night with her. After that, [SW] told [HR] that she was feeling worse and worse. She said that the problem was that Assange had had unprotected sex with her while she was sleeping. [SW] also said that Assange had nagged her and tried to have unprotected sex with her during the night, but that she had made him wear a condom. [SW] had told Assange several times to wear a condom. [SW] also told [HR] that Assange had spoken so strangely, as though he wanted [SW] to become pregnant. He said things that sounded like he wanted to make women pregnant. He reportedly said that he preferred virgins, because then he would be the first to make them pregnant. [HR] asked [SW] why she had not pushed Assange away when she understood that Assange was not wearing a condom. [SW] had answered that she was so shocked and paralyzed, and could not really understand what was happening. She had tried to talk with him.

[SW] had said that Assange wanted to have sex with her, and that [SW] had said that she did not want to have sex without a condom. [SW] also said that, when she was half asleep on her side, she had been aroused from slumber to feel that Assange was inside her. [SW] had then asked him what he was wearing and he had replied, “I am wearing you”. The witness said that [SW] did not believe that he had entered her; rather, she had been aroused from slumber when he was already inside her. The witness said that [SW] had not resisted because she thought it was too late. [SW] had also said that she did not have sex with Assange; rather, it was he that had sex with her.

[MT] did not hear about the assault until the day after, or perhaps it was two days after, and got the impression that [SW] was very worried that she might have been infected.

The next time [JW - her brother] heard something from [SW] was via an SMS message which said that Julian was not very nice. [JW] did not learn what had happened until after [SW] had gone to the police and it was reported in the newspapers. He learned about what had happened from [SW] and his mother. The latter had said that Julian had sex with [SW] without a condom and against her will as she slept.

[SB - former boyfriend] said the issue of infection was crucial for [SW] and that, before they had sex the first time, they had both got tested for disease and shown each other the results. They did not have sex without a condom on a single occasion during their two and a half years together. That was completely unthinkable for [SW]. [SB] said that such was their agreement. He said that, as far as he knew, [SW] had never had sex with anyone without using a condom. [SB] related that he learned about what had happened when [SW] sent an SMS message to him, asking if she could telephone him. He was somewhat baffled, because they had not been in contact with each other for several months. When [SW] called, she immediately asked what [SB] thought of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. He answered that WikiLeaks seemed positive. Then [SW] said that she had been raped by Julian Assange, in that he had initiated unprotected sex with her while she lay sleeping. [SW] said that she had asked Assange if he was wearing anything and that Assange had replied, “Yes, you.” The interviewer asked [SB] how [SW] had reacted to that. [SB] said that [SW] had related that she was shocked and did not know what to do. Seth said that, given [SW]’s definite views on the use of condoms during sex, he could imagine that she was very shocked and afraid. He knows how important it is to [SW] that a condom is used when she has sex. [SW] has told [SB] that she could not understand how a representative for WikiLeaks, which does so much good, could be so lacking in respect for another human being.

Sound like someone who "did not mind him having unprotected sex with her"? Really?

Taher, to his credit, did make a phone call - but to the wrong person. He contacted the prosecutor's office, which of course refused to comment about details about an ongoing investigation. Instead, he should have simply contacted a Swedish translator instead of just taking someone's word on what the document says.

Based on comments by Göran Rudling on Craig Murray's forum, Göran appears to be Taher's "source".

3. The Swedish prosecutor resigns from the case.

This is another Philip Dorling gem. The source article is: Assange prosecutor quits while accuser sacks lawyer

The top Swedish prosecutor pursuing sexual assault allegations against Julian Assange has abruptly left the case and one of Mr Assange's accusers has sacked her lawyer.


Fairfax Media has obtained Swedish court documents that reveal high-profile Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny has unexpectedly left the handling Mr Assange's case, effective from Wednesday, and has been replaced by a more junior prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren. The reasons for the change have not yet been disclosed.

As you might guess from the pattern here, Dorling could have figured out that he screwed up just from a simple phone call.

Australian media reports also said that chief prosecutor Marianne Ny had quit the case, which was declined by the country's Prosecution Authority (Åklagarmyndigheten) on Thursday when contacted by Swedish press.

"Ny still heads the investigation and is responsible for the case," spokeswoman Britta von Schoultz told the Expressen newspaper.

Oh well. At least Dorling was half-right this time - [AA] *did* change lawyers.