Interviews With the Late Michael Ratner By John Robles 

Michael Ratner

'You might call the United States CIA: ‘Murder Inc.’' – exclusive interview with Assange's lawyer RatnerДжулиан Ассанж Julian Assange Wikileaks

http://static.ruvr.ru/2013/12/20/19/Michael_ratner2.jpghttp://m.ruvr.ru/2013/02/10/1335892088/Ratner.JPGThe U.S. has a hand-in-glove bloated military system – Michael Ratner

Obama has prosecuted twice the number of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined - Ratner

The Late Mr Ranter's WikiPedia Page

Защищавший Ассанжа адвокат скончался в США в возрасте 72 лет Майкл Ратнер, адвокат в области защиты гражданских прав и прав человека, который представлял в суде интересы основателя сайта WikiLeaks Джулиана Ассанжа, скончался в возрасте 72 лет в Нью-Йорке, США. Об этом сообщает The Guardian.

Michael Ratner Passed Away on May 11, 2016 RIP 

Less than a month after I asked him to help my son.

 

My 5 original authored interviews with Michael Ratner

FIVE

01-02-2014

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_10.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2014_01_02/The-US-UK-should-prosecute-criminals-not-truth-tellers-Michael-Ratner-1985/

12-23-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_10.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_12_23/Russias-granting-of-asylum-to-Snowden-was-a-noble-act-Michael-Ratner-5706/

12-21-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_10.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_12_21/The-US-has-classified-people-memories-of-torture-Michael-Ratner-3674/

FOUR

06-27-2013 TITLE SLEDGEHAMMER TO WHISTLEBLOWERS EDITTED BY NEO LIBERAL MEDIA

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_06_27/The-US-has-hand-in-glove-of-a-bloated-military-Michael-Ratner-6469/

06-26-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_06_26/The-U-S-has-hand-in-glove-of-a-bloated-military-Michael-Ratner-0463/

THREE

06-19-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_06_19/We-are-in-the-middle-of-a-plague-Michael-Ratner-6673/

06-07-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_06_07/U-S-weaving-Assange-persecution-into-Manning-trial-Michael-Ratner-1464/

06-05-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_06_06/U-S-illegality-and-Guantanamo-are-completely-crazy-Ratner-5516/

06-05-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_06_05/The-very-war-Manning-was-reporting-on-was-illegal-Ratner-4366/

TWO

05-04-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_05_04/Obama-has-prosecuted-twice-the-number-of-whistle-blowers-than-all-the-previous-presidents-prosecuted-combined-Ratner/

05-03-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_06.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_05_03/Obama-is-holding-people-at-Guantanamo-for-no-reason-and-force-feeding-them-illegally-Michael-Ratner/

ONE

02-11-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_05.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_02_11/You-might-call-the-United-States-CIA-Murder-Inc--exclusive-interview-with-Assanges-lawyer-Ratner/

02-09-2013

http://jar2.com/VOR/Volume_05.html

http://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/2013_02_09/Assange-is-trapped-the-U-S-is-in-decline-exclusive-interview-with-Assanges-lawyer/

Part 1: U.S. Classified People's Memories of Torture

21 December 2013, 00:12

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The illegal interrogation facility and indefinite detention prison camp at Guantanamo Bay continues to function as it has since the events of 9-11 and plans to build new facilities are still in place. Due to the illegality of the entire "operation" lawyers for the detainees have considered not taking part in the proceedings as doing so grants the prison credibility but they have decided that they cannot abandon the innocent people being held for more than a decade without charge and without due process. Michael Ratner, the lawyer for Julian Assange, whose Center for Constitutional Rights, and who personally represents many of the "inmates" at Guantanamo, spoke to the Voice of Russia and said that Guantanamo is "completely flatly illegal, it’s a rump court, it is a kangaroo court, and it is a charade", similar to what the Nazis did. He also called the illegal limbo of Guantanamo an outrage and said with regard to due process and human rights that the US, judicially speaking, is done.

This is John Robles, you are listening to an interview with Mr. Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights  in New York and the President of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights  in Berlin. He is also the American lawyer for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. This is part one of a longer interview.

Robles: Hello Mr. Ratner! How are you this evening?

Ratner: It’s good to speak with you again, John.

Robles: And it is an honor for me to be speaking with you again. Thanks for agreeing to do the interview; I know you are really busy over there. We’ve talked a lot about Guantanamo in the past. And I’d just like to run this by you real quick, and get (I’m pretty sure what your reaction will be but) this is a report from less than an hour ago, that says:

"… many detainees at Guantanamo may be closer to heading home under a bipartisan deal reached in Congress that gives President Barack Obama a 'rare victory in his fight to close the prison" at Guantanamo."

What would you like to say about this: "rare victory in his fight?" I mean, we’ve talked about this in the past but…

Ratner: Well, Obama has never put up a fight to close Guantanamo. He promised he would close it within a year of taking office. That meant it should have been closed in 2010, by January. He actually was weak kneed about it, and we’ve sat there while it remains open, a few weeks ago 162 people there.

There was a hunger strike in February through May of this year. That’s forced Obama to act and give a speech at least, which he is very good at, saying: "well, this isn’t America, we shouldn’t have this open". And now we are seeing, because of the pressure really of the hunger strike and perhaps other countries saying; "What are you guys doing?", and because it is a very popular recruiting item apparently in parts of the Jihadist world, we are seeing some pressure really on the administration and on Congress to finally get some people out.

Let’s just go over the numbers for a second: there were 162 people, over half of those people have been cleared for release, that means they have nothing on them, yet they’ve been there now 10, 11, 12 years. So, it is a complete outrage in every sense of the word.

So what’s happened recently, and which you were referring to in the report of the "rare victory", is the Senate and the House have agreed and that will be voting, I think, right now or within the next few days on the NDAA, which is the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds all of our military really, and it includes Guantanamo provisions. And what it does is it eases up a little bit the restrictions that were placed on the administration before it could transfer people to foreign countries out of Guantanamo.

Now, let’s always understand this. The old NDAA, which is still in effect, had always allowed transfers by the President to foreign countries. It just requires certifications, various things that they won’t be recidivists and all this. So, Obama has actually had the authority, even under congressional "restrictions", to close down much, if not all, of Guantanamo but he hasn’t used that authority.

Now he’s gotten a little bit more liberal on that, or Congress has, he starts to certify things about recidivism and not a threat to national security. But it is a little more liberal, so perhaps it will give him a little more courage to transfer people out.

But we’ve seen that the old Act did allow him, because in the last few days he’s actually made I think four transfers, and possibly two more today, as we speak on Wednesday. He made two to Algeria, two to Saudi Arabia and there’s two coming up to Sudan, we understand. So that is six.

So the camp is being reduced very, very slowly of people who have been cleared. But if it continues at this rate, and it is primarily the cleared people, we are still going to windup with 70, 80, 90 people at the end of a number of months, if not years.

So it’s… we are not seeing a quick end to Guantanamo, particularly because half of those people have not been cleared for release. And what is going to happen to those people is unclear to me. They’ve never been charged, they’ve never been convicted, they are just sitting in what I would call an illegal limbo.

So, I think it is exaggerated to say this is a "rare victory". This is like a little blip. In fact, what needs to go on here is Obama just needs to get some courage and start getting more people transferred. As I said, having a few people transferred recently is a positive sign, but it is a positive sign on what is a complete desert in terms of human rights and protection of human beings.

Also, I want to say if and when they do close Guantanamo, which I don’t think… I don’t see coming up, I don’t think they are going to close it in Obama’s administration, it doesn’t end what is the most pernicious and nasty US practice that we would have been screaming about had it occurred in another country, and that is the practice of indefinite detention. That’s the idea that you can pick someone up, take them to an offshore prison, not ever charge or try them and hold them in prison as long as you want, as long as the Executive wants.

That is unheard of in our country, or it should have been. It is unheard of in the world in a certain way in terms of Law.

The Magna Charta, which is the primary founding document of (really) American, as well as British legal practices, 800 years ago. King John was forced to say: "I’m not going to pick up people and hold them without jury trials, and court hearings and charges", and yet the United States has backed down totally about that. That was such a major, major development in terms of the failure really of the United States to comply with Law.

Now, one last point on Guantanamo I want to make which is: a General named General Michael Lehnert, who came out with an editorial in the Detroit Free Press , and he was the General who actually built Guantanamo within the first six months of 9-11. He was the General who built the cages, who did all of that, and he came out just a few days ago with a statement that said; "Guantanamo must be closed, it’s harming us with our allies, it’s harming us in the Muslim world", all the usual stuff.

But then he went beyond that, he said Guantanamo was a mistake from the beginning, that it was setup not for dangerous people, but it was setup as an interrogation camp, which of course, as we’ve said and we’ve litigated this in my Center for Constitutional Rights, interrogation camps are illegal. That’s what the Nazis used to use in the Second World War.

That’s actually why the US setup Guantanamo, not because they thought people were guilty of anything, but because they wanted to learn how Jihadists (in the US view) operated. Not that the people knew very much in that camp if anything, and that is what General Lehnert says.

He said: "… we didn’t get anything from these people".

So, we’ve picked up people arbitrarily, kept them there for up to 12 years already, 162 now, 158 still remaining there, and it was an illegal camp from its inception.

Then he says something also dramatic, and I just wish this administration, Obama and others, would listen to it. He said: "Look, you have 158 people there, I think something like 150 of them have never been charged with a crime".

His view is you either charge and try people and convict them, or you let them go, and that is what the constitution of the US requires. And that is a bold statement that, unfortunately, our Government has never been willing to comply with.

So, here you have the very General who setup the camp turning on his own Government and saying this was a mistake from the beginning, it was setup for the wrong reason, we didn’t get anything and now your only constitutional choice is to release people if you are not going to charge and try them. So that’s a very strong statement.

So, there is obviously some small shift going on on Guantanamo. It is better than it’s been in the last few years, when it’s been buried completely, but I still think we have a very long way to go before we close that camp.

Robles: That is terrible to hear! Three questions just came up that I’d like to ask you, if you could; regarding, we talked about the building of this, I believe it was a 40 billion or 40 million dollar facility, is that still going ahead? (1)

Can you tell us anything about Ramzi bin al-Shibh? He’s been thrown out of court for complaining about the way he’s being tortured there two times in two days.

And the last point on that, on Guantanamo, do you think there will be, ever, any prosecutions of any official or anyone involved in all the illegality that happened, I would say involving 9/11, and of course everything that’s happened since then?

Ratner:Let’s answerthe easy one first, which is: will there be prosecutions of the higher-ups who were involved in torture, setting up an indefinite detention scheme, currently involved in droning people to death outside the law. The answer is: there will never be a prosecution of any of those people while the United States is still a hegemonic power in the world.

Perhaps, if the United States can get conquered in the next 50 years and those people will still be alive that we can actually try by the conquering country. That seems very unlikely, it’s zero.

So, the answer to your question is zero. The only prosecutions that will take place are, perhaps in other countries, if some of the "Torturers in Chief", if some of the Guantanamo architects, travel to other countries where, even as we speak, the Center for Constitutional Rights has a case in Spain. But those cases are long and difficult, but that is probably the only hope for prosecution.

On the first point you talked about, which is the 40 million dollars for new prisons, court, federal or whatever they are doing in Guantanamo, that is still on the books, it is still part of the budget, and that is why we also see that as a sign that Guantanamo is not on its way to being closed.

The middle point about Ramzi is really important, and we didn’t, (I didn’t address that in my Guantanamo earlier discussion) it is a separate part of Guantanamo.

After 9/11 the US setup quote: "military commissions", to try people at Guantanamo who were alleged terrorists. The scheme, I said from the beginning, the Center for Constitutional Rights said from the beginning, is completely flatly illegal, it’s rump - a rump court - it is a kangaroo court, it is a charade. I mean, that there is nothing, nothing legal about it, nothing fair about it, nothing moral about it. It is a complete outrage what is going on in Guantanamo. These trials have been going on for years and years.

And that is the way the trials are going on currently for the alleged 9-11 conspirators. Those people were first taken to other secret sites. They were waterboarded, they were tortured in a deep, deep way, scores of times, many different kinds of torture.

And the first thing that has come up recently in there, is the lawyers have been objecting to the fact that the … their clients "memories of how they were tortured or their knowledge of how they were tortured is classified" and they are not allowed to speak about it. They can talk to their lawyers about it, but the lawyers can’t talk about it.

So, it is incredible that the US not only classifies it own documents, but it is actually classifying people’s memories and people’s memories of the illegal torture that took place against them. So that is extraordinary.

So there’s been a lot going on in the court on that issue. And the other day the court seemed to give a little bit of room, but not very much, we will have to see what comes out, but basically saying, arguably, they will be able to testify to their torture in the court, but it will be completely closed to the media, the public and everybody else.

So, the only people that are going to hear it are: the military prosecutor, the defense lawyers who already know it from their clients, and the judge. But you and I, or nobody in America will know the actual words of the people themselves who were tortured.

So, it is a new concept here to me, that you can classify someone’s memory, particularly a memory of torture and illegal conduct by your own Government. That’s the first thing.

The second thing with regard to Ramzi, that you’ve mentioned, he’s been thrown out of court. And he was thrown out of court why? Because he’s complained about the conditions, and he’s been complaining for over a year about the conditions he’s been kept in, from torture, to loud noises, to being kept up all night. All kinds of harassment that he’s receiving at the hands of US officials, but really US guards, etc.

And the judge, he raised this objection twice, two or three times in court; the judge basically said "I don’t want to hear that, have your lawyers make a motion or have your lawyers file papers about it".

But it is an outrage, I mean, it is incredible to me that this court is continuing to go on not just with classified memories rump rules, but that the court does not seem to be very concerned by the conditions under which the defendants are kept.

So, we are seeing from beginning to end something that I would say is just so astounding, that is such a shame, not just for our American judicial system, but such an outrage for the people being tried, such an outrage for the fact that the US has, to the extent they had any credibility on human rights before, it has actually none left anymore. None at all, and that’s it. I mean, it is over. This country is done for in terms of any kind of judicial system that has even a modicum of fairness to it.

Robles: Coming from someone of you stature in the legal field that sounds very depressing, to put it mildly.

You talked about the illegality of the torture, I mean, Guantanamo is an illegal location and place to begin with, so I don’t think that anyone is really concerned about anybody’s rights there. I mean, of course, that is obvious.

Do you think that there is any chance that maybe one of the lawyers or somebody could actually like maybe leak some of the information out? Or is everything so tightly controlled that nobody can, or dares to, speak out about the torture, for example?

Ratner: They might speak out, but if they got found out they would be charged with a crime, they would be taken off their cases as defense lawyers, and that would be serious jeopardy for the lawyer, as well as for the defense.

I mean, you could argue and I think in other countries when thing like this happened, whether Palestine or in Argentina during the coup, or Chile during the coup, as many lawyers simply refused to cooperate with the system, and would actually just say "that’s it", and refuse.

I think that this has obviously been debated, I’m sure, by the lawyers who are participating, and their feeling is that they can make more trouble for the Government by being there than not, which may be the case, because at least we are getting objections by the lawyers we are getting people challenging them. But if … I don’t consider…

You know it is a difficult discussion: should lawyers be participating in what is a clearly unconstitutional-railroaded-violation-of-Geneva-and-international-law-kind-of-tribunal. This is like teaching trials under Nazi Germany. What were they like? They were probably very similar.

You were listening to part one of an interview with Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the President of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He is also the American lawyer for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. You can find the next part of this interview on our website at voiceofrussia.com. Thank you very much for listening, and as always I wish you the best wherever in the world you may be.

End Part 1

Part 2: Russia's granting of asylum to Snowden was a noble act 

23 December 2013, 07:37

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The United States continues to try to fool the world into believing that the Edward Snowden persecution is related to terrorism, when it is in fact related to US hegemony and power. This was the crux of a letter from Edward Snowden to the Brazilian people in which he asked for asylum in that country. The fact that the Russian Federation has given Edward Snowden asylum was an extraordinary noble act and one that has protected Mr. Snowden, according to Michael Ratner in an interview with the Voice of Russia. In part 2 Mr. Ratner also comments on a recent attempt by the US Government to further demonize Julian Assange which was published in the Washington Post.

This is John Robles, you are listening to an interview with Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the President of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He is also the American lawyer for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

This is part 2 of an interview in progress. You can find the previous part on our website at voiceofrussia.com.

Robles: Can I ask you a question, now this hasn’t come out too much in the media, but you are close to… (and then I’d like to ask you about Julian Assange)… you are close to Julian Assange, Jeremy Hammond and all these cases, Snowden, I’m sure, you are very knowledgeable about. Just a question I’ve always wondered; starting with the Afghanistan leaks, with Bradley Manning’s information, with Snowden’s revelations that the Guardian admitted that they’ve only published about 1% (they still have about 95% of the files that they are keeping) I’ve always wondered about the absence of, during all these massive leaks, of information regarding Guantanamo and 9-11. Is that stuff being kept under wraps? Can you maybe just speculate, is there any other information like that, that might blow the lid off Guantanamo and 9-11?

Ratner: You know, I don’t know the answer to that. I think with regard to Guantanamo there may be material. I don’t know that, but that there may be. And that is probably Ed Snowden-type material. It is probably it has to do with surveillance and warrants, and all kinds of thing. That’s my guess on that.

With regard to … and of course WikiLeaks published a lot of the documents on Guantanamo – the assessments of the detainees, which mostly were US false information about them, which was helpful to people to see how badly done the US assessments were of people. But I actually don’t know.

I do know there is most likely none that’s public, but there is a huge amount more to be written on the NSA scandal, which may go into all kinds of countries and areas, and people, and programs. So, we don’t know. On 9-11, I just don’t have any idea, but on Guantanamo, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Robles: I see. Would you like to comment on Edward Snowden, he requested that the Brazilian Government and the Brazilian people grant him asylum there?

Ratner: The most interesting thing about Edward Snowden’s letter to the Brazilian people was the letter itself, which said to the Brazilian people: “Don’t be tricked, don’t be fooled to think this is a terrorism investigation, this is about economic spying, diplomatic spying, ultimately it is about power.”

And that’s what he said. And that is probably the most important message from that letter, because what he is really saying is what the US is doing here, what the NSA is doing – this is about the US hegemony, US Empire, in other words “power”, it is not about terrorism. That’s been my view all along.

The US is weakened as an empire, it’s a one that can continue to push obviously the border of Europe into Asia and toward Russia. They want all the economic power and control of a thriving empire and not a declining one. And so, I think that’s what Snowden’s letter is about.

In terms of the request for asylum, of course, he’s been granted a temporary asylum for a year in Russia. And so, I think he obviously needs to think about his next step.

Not knowing precisely what will happen in Russia, my guess is, I’m guessing, it’s unlikely that Russia will simply turn him over to the Americans. I think that’s a very unlikely scenario.

Robles: Well I can say with almost 100% certainty that “that” will never happen.

Ratner: Right, I would say that as well. That would really be … that would be a shock to anybody. But that doesn’t mean that, that he might not want to find another place because he only has a year, not only of the year, but it is incredible what Russia did, obviously, extraordinary in any way. I mean, Ed Snowden would be in prison right now but for that. So, it is an extraordinary step that Russia did. It’s not even to be, what can I say, it’s one of the noblest steps that I’ve seen. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want a more permanent solution to where he is. So, I think that’s what he was saying in the letter.

The only thing that’s he done in the letter, which I thought was extraordinary, was – you know, you’ve been spied on, Brazil, I’m glad to help you with determining how that operation has worked against you, but I can’t do it from where I am, I need to be with you there, I need to have a grant of asylum so I can speak freely.

Robles: Now, going from noble to shameful – Julian Assange trapped in that embassy in the UK. Shameful, I think, is an understatement there. Anything new regarding Julian?

Ratner: Julian, as I think your listeners know, has been granted political asylum by Ecuador. He’s believed all along, as do his lawyers, that he has the right to leave that embassy and go to Ecuador so he can exercise political asylum.

Unfortunately, the British won’t agree to that and they want to send him to Sweden where he is supposed to answer allegations having to do with sexual misconduct. We’ve insisted for a long time that the Swedish should come to the embassy and question him, or the Swedes should give him a safe passage to Sweden and guarantee he won’t go to the Unites States. None of that has happened.

The most recent thing that has happened though, and I think it was probably a … may have well been an operation by the Unites States Government, the Washington Post recently had an article that said: “High Department of Justice official or high US official says that there is no pending indictment of Julian Assage.”

Robles: I actually, I wrote an article on that, yes, and they quoted unnamed sources etc. I think it was a scam myself.

Ratner: Right. So I think it was a scam. But the thing about that article is two things. One, if you read the article carefully and, of course, if you also know what I know and even publically, if you read the article carefully – it was very carefully worded. It said – there is no prosecution of Julian Assange if he did only or exactly what the Washington Post does, which is to say quote: “act as only a publisher of Bradley Manning’s material”.

On the other hand, if there was something different to that, then he might still be prosecuted, which is to say, and I know this from (it’s public), the Grand Jury that is investigating JulianAssange is now investigating a conspiracy of Julian Assange with Bradley Manning. So, the Government “anonymous officials” never said anything about that.

Secondly, in the same article, it said: “… the Grand Jury investigation is continuing.” So, the article is meaningless. And of course, it was anonymous sources.

It is meaningless except how it was picked up. It was picked up in Sweden, so that the Swede … one of the lawyers for one of the people making the allegations in Sweden writes an Op-Ed and is quoted in a letter or quoted in a newspaper, saying: “See this, there is nothing pending in the United States. Julian is just hiding in that embassy quote ‘because he doesn't want to come to Sweden to face the allegations’.”

So, I and the Swedish lawyers had write an Op-Ed back, which was published in the Swedish papers saying: “This is just ridiculous. I mean, let me tell you, he’d be in Sweden in a minute if we got any kind of guarantee that the US wasn’t going to prosecute him, one that we could rely on.”

Well there is nothing we can rely on at this point. And my advice to Julian Assange in that embassy is: he cannot leave it, if there is a fair chance oreven if some chance of going … being shipped off to possibly a very long bad trial and a very long sentence in the Unites States.

So what that tells me, you said the word “scam”, what that tells us is that I think this was purposely drawn up to try… (and it was drawn up with very caged words) so that someone who didn’t read the article would just come up and say; well, there is no prosecution. And so, it was done to make Julian’s situation look worse in the eyes of the public. That’s I think the reason that article came out.

Robles: I see. And there was one part there that said – if they find something that he’d actually hacked or something, then they would just get him on that. But the Grand Jury continuing, and then ... Anything new about Julian? I mean, how is he? Is there anything new going on in the UK? I understood they were going to drop out of the EU extradition agreement?

Ratner: That is still going on. That’s an interesting point, that you know that John. There is some amendment and some other kinds of things happening in the UK about how that extradition process works. It is too early to say what is going to happen there, but it is somewhat hopeful.

And even if it only goes to the future it would really have an effect, in my view, on what happened in the past, it will tighten the extradition, because here what they have is a process where without even filing charges against anybody, with just allegations you can use a European-wide arrest warrant to get somebody and extradite him. It doesn’t make any sense. You walk into a police station, make some allegations, so you can extradite someone from another country – it doesn’t make any sense. So, I think that is undergoing, hopefully, will undergo change.

The other thing, of course, I’m sure, as your listeners know, and I’m not sure that you and I talked about this before, but of course WikiLeaks played an important role in helping Edward Snowden move from Hong Kong to a place where he had a possibility of getting asylum, in Moscow. And that is very important. Sarah Harrison did leave Moscow after four months with Edward Snowden.

She published a letter about that. Basically, it was a very strong letter released by a very brave person – Sarah Harrison – saying – I did what, I did, because, essentially, we have to protect sources, because he is entitled to get asylum for what he did and if the Government isn’t going to really give us the information citizens are required to have, we are going to have to grasp it. She is living in Berlin right now.

Robles: Right, I was going to ask you about how is that? Becauseshe was afraid of going home.

Ratner: Right!

Part 3: US/UK should prosecute criminals not truth tellers  

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2 January, 10:01

The prosecution of the Guardian and other news outlets for publishing the truth about US Government illegality has a chilling effect on the press and journalists. The US has declared a war on journalists and truth seekers and in light of the extreme way that the UK has followed the US’ lead, the American lawyer for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, Michael Ratner, is recommending that people involved in exposing UD Government illegality not go to the UK because at minimum they risk being detained for up to nine hours (if they cooperate), questioned without a right to a lawyer and possibly facing terrorism charges. In an interview with the Voice of Russia, Mr. Ratner said it was interesting that they haven’t touched the lawyers yet and stated that there is a real struggle going on between governments and private corporations who want to both surveil people and keep information secret and the people who want to expose their illegality and believe in democracy needs truth. According to Mr. Ratner the US Government is losing and “the forces of light certainly seem to be pushing back heavily against government’s forces of darkness”.

Ratner:What’s happened now is, the British have opened an investigation of the Guardian, of a man named Miranda, who is Glen Greenwald’s partner, and looking at it under their terrorism law, looking at the revelations that have taken place around the GCHQ, which is their intelligence agency, like our NSA. And they’ve opened a criminal investigation into that. 

And when Miranda came in, through London, they of course questioned him for the 9 hours they are allowed to do under their law, and if you don’t answer the questions you can go to jail for three months. 

So, Sarah Harrison and other people’s situations I think, is that England is perhaps, it’s hard to say, but is perhaps more oppressive now than the United States are. 

Robles: I’m sorry, I watched part of the hearing (well I watched all of it) that the editor of the Guardian did in front of that parliamentary commission; it was stunning! It seemed like something that was at… was even worse than the United States and the questioning that for example George Galloway faced, when he was accused of taking money from the Oil-for-Food Program. Are you familiar with that? 

Ratner:Yes, of course. 

Robles: The grilling that the Editor of the Guardian got… I mean, and of course they come out and they questioned his patriotism. 

Ratner:Well they would do similar, probably, with some right-wing people in the United States, in our Congress. But England I think is actually worse than this country, than the US right now. 

I mean, it is outrageous what they did. I mean they have an Official Secrets Act, so.. Well they just don’t like things published, even if they are not classified, and then they have this investigation of the Guardian – a newspaper – which, even if they don’t ever indict the Guardian, and I still would find it incredible if did. It is very chilling, it basically makes the Guardian not want to publish anything. I mean, Glen Greenwald’s always had a good relationship apparently with the Guardian, ultimately left, perhaps for the reason that the Guardian was getting so much pressure that they couldn’t continue to publish Glen Greenwald. 

So, it is an extraordinary situation in the UK now. And my recommendation would not be for people, whether it is Glen Greenwald or other people, others, to go into the UK right now because you are going to be Schedule 7ed. 

That’s what they do when you cross the border, whether it is me, or you, or anybody; the British police now have the authority under their terrorism law, their immigration law, or no, their immigration people, to stop me or you, or anybody for 9 hours and we have to answer every question. We have no legal right not to answer. 

And as I said, if we don’t answer, we get indicted for terrorism and we get a three month jail sentence. Now the jail sentence isn’t so long, but think about it: you are going through a whole trial and you will then have a conviction for terrorism. Go get on an airplane, after you get out of jail - good luck! 

Robles: Yes, right! Two questions, I know you are probably out of time already, but if you could, about yourself. Anything personal? Because I’m sure you’ve had your share of threats and harassment. I was wondering if maybe you could share any of that with us? 

Ratner:You know, certainly in this recent case – no. What is interesting to me…is it is clear that the NSA is spying on everybody in the United States, and probably most of the world. 

In the case of anybody - and of course all of my clients are foreign, whether they were at Guantanamo or Guantanamo families, or Julian Assange, or the people working with WikiLeaks - and the Government openly says: ‘we have a right to wiretap everything’. It’s better the American citizen is in communication with someone who we want to find out about overseas. So, it is 100% that everything is surveilled. 

What is interesting to me is that they haven’t yet touched the lawyers, and I just think it would be too big a stink right now. If coming back from Berlin, or coming back from the UK, they stopped me at the airport, they took my computer. Of course, I don’t travel with much, but if they did that it would be a huge scandal, and I think they’d probably rather concentrate on the people they can nail more easily, than get a whole another sideshow of going after the lawyers who represent people. That’s my guess.

That doesn’t say that everything I do, or everything I say, including this conversation with you is not recorded. Of course it is. But that’s just the way life is right now, not just for the lawyers, for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but for anybody doing this kind of work. 

Robles: Now would you say there is a war on journalists and truth-seekers, and whistleblowers right now? And do you see that ending soon, or do you see a light at the end of the tunnel, or is this just going to get darker?

Ratner: Well, we are in the middle of the war. I mean, the Obama administration has prosecuted more people, more journalists and more people for espionage than all other administrations put together.

But what is interesting is that the Government isn’t really winning right now. I mean, yes, Edward Snowden is in Moscow, Julian Assangeis in the Ecuadorian Embassy, Jeremy Hammond - the Stratfor hacker –he is in prison, Barrett Brown is in prison. And they’ve actually been able to … you know Sarah Harrison is in Berlin, and Glen Greenwald is in Brazil, but they are all operating. I mean, you know, as far as I know. I don’t know what Edward Snowden is doing, but the others are all… maybe not Jeremy Hammond in prison, but they are all still functioning.

And so there is a real struggle going on, I think not just in the US but in the world, between governments and private corporations who want to both surveil people and keep their information secret, even their dirty crimes secret, and the people and the activists, and the young people, who want to expose that and believe that democracy needs truth.

And the government was winning this up till a few years ago and then WikiLeaks got setup, then Chelsea Manning came forward, Jeremy Hammond came forward and then, of course, Edward Snowden came forward.

And so I don’t think at this point the government is winning any longer. How it is going to come out is unpredictable, but the forces of light certainly seem to be pushing back heavily against government’s forces of darkness.

Robles: Wonderful! Thank you very much. Would you care to comment on the ridiculous sentence that Jeremy Hammond got? I tried to contact you the day of the hearing but…

Ratner: Yes, Jeremy Hammond is a hero. Jeremy Hammond is a young… they called him “the electronic Robin Hood”, because he was never out for his own good, who hacked into the Stratfor e-mails – a private intelligence corporation – and he exposed really for the first time the level at which private corporations are surveilling probably millions of people.

In fact, what has come out now is that 70% to 80% of the surveillance in the world on behalf of the United States is not the NSA, but done by these private intelligence companies, oftentimes as contractors of the NSA, the FBI, the CIA. And that is critical.

And the fact that he was givenunder the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act- an abusive way of prosecuting people for “hacking into computers” -a ten-year sentence.It is just a complete outrage.

First of all, I believe that people like him… there are two or three things I would say and then I will have to leave this conversation. But one of them, is that I never want to see a person like Jeremy Hammond prosecuted, or Chelsea Manning prosecuted, or Julian Assange, or Edward Snowden, or Barrett Brown, until the people who committed the crimes that those people revealed are prosecuted.

What I find outrageous here is that the truth-tellers are prosecuted but the criminals go free. And I don’t like to hear anybody start arguing – “oh, they violated the law”.

The people who violated the law are the people who committed torture … who set up torture centers in Iraq, the people who were involved in the collateral murder video, the people who did spying on corporations, on activist groups from private corporations, the people who widely surveilled Americans and others all over the world – those are the lawbreakers, those people ought to be prosecuted, not the truth-tellers. That is number one.

Number two, is what people have revealed is so important about the truth that it ought to be understood that without whistleblowers and without truth-tellers we would have no democracy. And you don’t punish the people who are trying to give us back our democracy.

And so, the sentence of Jeremy Hammond of ten years, one of the key people trying to make us more democratic in this country and understand the role of private corporations in really subverting, undermining and trying to end democracy is what ought to be prosecuted and the people who expose that role, are the people who are heroes and should not be getting time in prison.

Robles: I agree with you 100%.

Ratner: I’m running now John.

Robles: OK, thank you very much, I really appreciate it. It was an honor speaking with you again.

Ratner:Right. Bye, bye John.

Robles: All right, take care, have a good one.

You were listening to an interview with Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the President of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He is also the American lawyer for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Thank you very much for listening, and as always I wish you the best wherever in world you may be.

End of Interview

Part 1: The U.S. has a hand-in-glove bloated military system 

26 June, 23:56  

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As Edward Snowden remains in the transit area at Moscow’s Sheremyetevo people who support Mr. Snowden worldwide are growing more and more concerned as to what fate has in store for the brave young man and where he will finally find a safe haven. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated Russia will not hand him over to the U.S. because there is no basis for such a move. The Voice of Russia’s John Robles spoke with Michael Ratner, the American lawyer for Julian Assange and discussed Snowden, PRISM and much more.

Greeting between Mr. Ratner and Mr. Robles

Robles: What correlations do you see between the Julian Assange case and the Edward Snowden case if we could start out with that?

Ratner: It is quite remarkable actually. After the U.S. government has applied really, a sledgehammer to people like Julian Assange and Wikileaks, the organization, a journalist organization and a journalist, as well as sources like Bradley Manning, who is on trail at Fort Meade, or Jeremy Hammond who was involved in hack of Stratfor e-mails, a private corporation.

I think one correlation is that people like Ed Snowden are still willing to step forward. I mean it is quite remarkable. I mean he knows that he can never come back to the United States, without facing a very long prison sentence, if not the death penalty, but certainly a long prison sentence, and yet he was so upset and his conscience was so upset by what he was reading and knew about, that he was willing to come forward.

I think two important points here: one is there are still people are willing to come forward despite our government repression of knowledge and opening up closed doors, and secondly, that young people have tremendous conscience now in the United States, and around the world, and they are willing to act on their beliefs.

Bradley Manning was very clear, he acted on his beliefs when he saw the collateral murder video and saw a Reuters journalist shot down, and likewise Ed Snowden said publicly he acted on his beliefs, he thought that this massive surveillance system had to be exposed, the American people and others in the world, so it concerns everybody, had to debate that system.

So, the real point here is that the United States, despite all its power, looks like a bumbling bully and it is forced, because it is running this huge system, to hire young people who are computer savvy, and probably many of them don’t have the politics of the government they are working for and, therefore they’re young people have a democratic politics and will reveal things that bother their conscience.

Robles: What are the politics in your opinion realistically, if they are not democratic?

Ratner: The politics right now here? I mean I consider democracy is one, in which people know what their government is doing and can debate what it is doing. Right now we have a government, and unfortunately most of our media, in which they don’t want us to know what they are doing and the media wants to protect that government, are not acting like the media, and…

I can’t say it is a dictatorship or fascism because it is not that, but it is one in which it is not close to a real democracy. What it is, is hard to describe, except that it is very repressive on people who want to expose its systems. It’s certainly not a beacon of human rights, probably never was, it is probably a false picture, but the work I’ve been doing from Guantanamo to drones to torture, already disproved that.

The massive surveillance system it set up and is working on with, apparently the United Kingdom, it dispels any notion that the United States is a beacon of human rights, and in fact it discloses incredible, I mean, almost unbelievable hypocrisy.

What we read about it in the United States is about how China is having a cyber war with the United States intruding into all our computers. Now of course how does the United States stand up and say that at all, when now it appears, that the United States is deeply implicated in cyber-snooping-surveillance on the populations of the world?

Robles: I don’t know if you can freely say anything about what I want to ask you, but… Do you think the US government was taken over by some faction with their own agenda after the events of 9-11? I am talking about neoconservatives and whoever is behind the scenes running things.

Ratner: Certainly I think there’s been a militarization of the government since 9-11. I think to the extent the State Department had any independent authority before 9-11, I think it has very little now.

I think on every… Every decision that is made is certainly chimed in, but if not more, controlled or at least has a heavy weight in the balance. The military, the CIA, the military forces in the country, and that is what is making the decisions now.

Robles: What about corporations?

Ratner: I think that’s important, particularly when we… Let’s just look at an exact example without using a generality. Let’s look at the government spying at surveillance system. It is billions and billions and billions of dollars in money that is going to government spying. And it’s being done primarily by private corporations, they may have stockholders, but it’s being done by corporations, it’s not being done by the government.

So, now you have hand-in-glove. a system of a huge bloated military. A military which now sits in on probably every single meeting in our government, whether it is the head of Pentagon, of military or joint chiefs or CIA, and you have a complete tie-in with, corporate America, with major corporations who are actually doing the spying, like Booz Allen, and there is just money flowing everywhere for it and it was after 9/11.

So, if there’s been a takeover, you would have to say it’s been taken over by the military industrial complex, which is what our President Eisenhower warned us against.

If you look at the way, the response of the members of Congress, particularly Senator Feinstein, when the system of surveillance was disclosed, and her utter support for it, I mean, I don’t think she has an independent bone in her body. And if she did she probably couldn’t act.

We are talking about billions and billions of dollars in a hand-a-glove government corporate spying and military system that I think really runs the country right now.

Robles: I was always surprised how Facebook managed to make so much money, they had no advertisements, they had no paid services, yet it is a billion dollar corporation, for example, and Skype is the same way. What do you think about that?

Ratner: I don’t know the answer to that, I just know that they also were obviously deeply cooperating with the United States. I don’t know as much about Skype, I am trying to recall Skype eventually did go with the system but… Certainly Facebook and Google did. And so they are all part of it now.

In some ways we, just voluntarily just by joining those, gave up a lot of our privacy rights, but we didn’t know just how much we were giving up. Corporations use it for everything from marketing but they also use it to turn over to the government and vice versa. So, we have a huge system of surveillance now not just in the United States but in the whole world.

Robles: Yes, it is disconcerting now because it is absolutely and positively global. I wanted to get back to Snowden, if we could, a couple questions. Now this is unusual if you want to call it an espionage case, I mean I wouldn’t, he is a whistleblower, but to be tried under the espionage act, two questions: What are the real chances, do you think, that he would get the death penalty? That’s one. And what do you think they will do differently or how will this be prosecuted as espionage, since what he did was inform the world of illegality?

Ratner: The charges that are against him now don’t have a death penalty with them. But there are only 3 charges and those are under a criminal complaint, they are not yet the indictment. So I don’t know what the indictment is saying and whether it would have a charge.

There is a limited number of espionage type cases that have a death penalty. Bradley Manning had one because he was in the military and there is an aiding the enemy charge that does carry a death penalty. So, I don’t suspect the death penalty. On the other hand, I would expect a life-long prison sentence in the United States under conditions that would be intolerable and violate fundamental human rights. And he wouldn’t have communication with the outside world at all and his lawyers couldn’t even tell people what he is thinking.

Robles: He would just disappear.

Ratner: He would really be disappeared and visiting would be very difficult and I or whoever, his attorneys would be under severe restrictions on ever saying anything about him.

Robles: Two of the charges I believe, what I’ve read and researched was that the second two charges came under the espionage act, but those are not death penalty eligible?

Ratner: They are not death penalty but they are not really espionage either. It is called the Espionage Act. Espionage is normally when one government spies on another with various people. I mean you have got to ask yourself: Who is doing espionage here? Guess who! The United States is engaging in espionage against every country in the world, every citizen.

What Snowden is alleged to have done, is taken… He had access to classified information and taking that information and making it public, and the statute simply says: “Information that relates to the national defense and is harmful and could be harmful to the United States” it is not espionage by any stretch of the imagination and certainly not the classic. The classic espionage is when you spy on other countries or what their governments are doing. But who is doing that?

Robles: You tell an enemy government secrets that would damage the first government. A lot of people in Russia are kind of feeling good because Edward Snowden chose transit through Moscow. Why do you think he chose that? What does that say about the Russian government? Are you up-to-date on that latest statement from President Putin, etc.?

Ratner: I saw president Putin’s statement yesterday, which I think was quite courageous, despite the fact that it is a powerful country and he really doesn’t have to worry about being whipped around by the United States like smaller countries do.

It was quite a courageous statement because he said: “He is in transit, he is free to go where he is,” and first thing that was important, for, I think, the world to hear, is they don’t plan on rendering him to the United States which of course Russia could do. You don’t need an extradition treaty, just pick someone up, put them on a plane and send them to the United States. They could do it. There is no law either way but you just do it.

Robles: There are laws but the U.S. doesn’t pay attention to them.

Ratner: Right, exactly.

Robles: I just wanted to underline it really quick because I heard a statement by John Kerry. He said “we don’t have an extradition treaty”, I am paraphrasing, but that shouldn’t bother the Russians, they should just put him on the plane.

Ratner: He did say that and then he said that there is common law and that is just BS. There is no law that authorizes Russia to put him on the plane, I mean there isn’t, that they have to obey. They could in their sovereignty do that, but there is certainly no law that obligates them to do that. It is just not something that is regulated by law that tells Russia they have to do it.

Russia is a sovereign country and they can decide who comes in to their country and who doesn’t and who they expel, and that is what they can do. But certainly Kerry… He is begging, he is trying to find some basis for sounding publically that Russia has to do something, but it absolutely has to do, nothing!

That was the end of part one of this interview with Michael Ratner. Please visit our website in the near future for part 2. In part 2 Mr. Ratner tells John what his advice for Mr. Snowden is, stay tuned.

Michael Ratner (born 1943, Cleveland, Ohio) is an attorney, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin.

Ratner is known for his human rights activism.

Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Baydetainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court.

Part 2: US applying sledgehammer to whistleblowers 

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27 June, 16:42  

Edward Snowden should choose a big country to seek asylum in that can stand up to the U.S., such as Russia or China or a country that has followed an independent line, but those countries are very few. The biggest danger for Mr. Snowden is that a CIA team might find him, drug him, put him in a box and illegally take him back to the United States. World renown lawyer Michael Ranter spoke about these issues with the Voice of Russia.

Robles: A lot of people in Russia are kind of, the feel good because Edward Snowden chose transit through Moscow. Why do you think he chose that? What does that say about the Russian government? Are you up-to-date on that latest statements from President Putin, etc.? 

Ratner: I saw president Putin’s statement yesterday, which I think was quite courageous, despite the fact that it is a powerful country and he really doesn’t have to worry about being whipped around by the United States like smaller countries do. 

It was quite a courageous statement because he said: “He is in transit, he is free to go where he is”. And first thing that was important I think for the world to hear, is they don’t plan on rendering him to the United States which of course Russia could do. You don’t need an extradition treaty to just pick someone up, put them on a plane and send to the United States, you just do it. There is no law either way but you just do it. 

Robles: There are laws but the US doesn’t pay attention to them

Ratner: Right, exactly. 

Robles: I want to underline it really quick because I heard a statement by John Kerry. He said: “Well we don’t have an extradition treaty,” I am paraphrasing, “but that shouldn’t bother the Russians, they should just put him on the plane”. 

Ratner: He did say that and then he said that there is common law and that is just BS. There is no law that authorizes Russia to put him on a plane, I mean there isn’t that they have to obey. They could in their sovereignty do that, but there is certainly no law that obligates them to do that. It is just not something that is regulated by law that tells Russia they have to do it. 

Russia is a sovereign country and they can decide who comes into their country and who doesn’t and who they expel, and that is what they can do. But certainly Kerry… He is begging, he is trying to find some basis for sounding publically that Russia has to do something, but it absolutely has to do, nothing! 

The first thing that was really impressive about President Putin’s statement was that he said, “We are not going to send him to the United States!” and that’s a huge deal. That is number one. And number two, he used words to describe Snowden, and Julian Assange as well, as people engaged in human rights by revealing this kind of material. And that is also very remarkable that the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world is saying that. 

So, it is sort of saying to Senator Kerry, or… the State Department head now, to back off, and Kerry has backed off, as I’m sure you are aware of, and said: “We don’t want a confrontation with Russia.” 

But President Putin didn’t have to go that far to actually say – I think he is a human rights activist, essentially. 

Robles: Yes, I was glad to hear that myself, although, it is a strain on relations. And the only real Russian law that would cause him to be extradited would be some immigration violation if he decided to leave the airport without a visa or something, I mean he is in the transit zone. 

Ratner: President Putin referred to that. He said he hasn’t violated any Russian law. Of course, these are big issues with any country. But Russia made a certain kind of position which at this point seems to be a very strong decision. 

Robles: Have you heard any hints or anything about whether Mr Snowden has made a request or is planning making a request to the Russian authorities for asylum? 

Ratner: I haven’t heard anything. The only one that has come out is that he has made an application to Ecuador. And that came out through Minister Pitino, at his press conference in Vietnam. 

Robles: And the President of Venezuela I think made a statement today, he said he should be protected for all of mankind or something. 

Ratner: That was also interesting, I mean we don’t know… assuming he is able to leave that transit zone for somewhere, there are not many places in the world that can stand up to the US. Obviously big countries like Russia and China can. 

Robles: And that’s my next question. Why Ecuador? I mean Latin American countries, classically, South American countries, they’re prone to coup d'états and revolutions, and everything. If some right-winger takes the presidency of Ecuador next round, what would happen then? And why Ecuador? It is such a small country. 

Ratner: There obviously high risks with all of this. And you make an immediate decision based on where you can actually get to safely, and you can’t predict the future. And of course, yes, there could be a change in government in Ecuador, although it is four more years for Correa now. In Venezuela I guess it is the same number of years for Maduro. So, some stability. 

And where else can you go? I mean you have some real problems here. Latin America, to its credit, over the last decade has begun to be able to establish through its popular governments an independent line from the United States. And you obviously see that in Ecuador and Venezuela, in Argentina and Bolivia, in Uruguay as well, and perhaps some other places. And that’s quite important. 

But on the other hand, these are small countries with all kinds of leverages from the United States… I mean Ecuador, there is a huge article in our paper today on the trade preferences that they have for their cut roses and broccoli or something else. And it is a huge number of jobs, at least a lot of jobs in Ecuador. It is up for renewal in July and, who knows, I mean in the end, you can’t put the whole country’s economy at the behest of saving one person. 

I mean I think Ecuador would like to, and hopefully the US won’t take the preferences away, and maybe Ecuador will still stand up if they do. But the pressures of the United States particularly on small countries; economic, political and military are just gigantic. 

The big thing now is these trade preferences that expire in July. Ecuador has been making a huge effort to keep those trade preferences and even trying to get popular support for them. And we will have to see because this article in the Times today, and actually when Ecuador gave asylum to Julian Assange there were also calls in the Washington Post, no less in their editorial board, to take away the trade preferences of Ecuador. 

This is a hot issue and my guess is that right now, they don’t know. 

I think Venezuela is probably more able to withstand this. They are a richer and bigger country, 15% of our oil comes from Venezuela, but Ecuador has shown itself to be very strong, but the US of course has a very big stick and will we’ll have to see what happens, I just don’t know the answer. 

Robles: What are the chances… you are up on international law and everything, if you could answer this, about the transit. What are the chances that the plane could be forced down or something like that in international air space? 

Ratner: I think in the international air space it would be a complete outrage. That would be illegal and you can’t do that. I don’t even think there is an Interpol warrant for Ed Snowden, or whatever it’s called, a Red Notice or something, which the countries don’t have to obey anyway. But I don’t think there is a warrant even. 

Just look at it, the charges against him, two of the three charges are the espionage charges. It is not even recognized in most of the countries as a crime, it is considered a political offence and it is not extractable. So, the idea that you would force a plane down on and non-extraditable crime, especially one that is not doing anything, I mean the plane just has got a person. 

Robles: The US has done so many things that were beyond the pale, I mean with Viktor Bout and Yaroshenko arresting them in third countries and things like that. I wouldn’t put it past the CIA to even shoot the plane down or something. 

Ratner: I think rendering Ed Snowden is a real fear. In any country he goes to a team of CIA people finding him, picking him up and getting him out of the country illegally, and drugging him and putting him in a box or whatever and getting him to the United States – I think that’s a serious possibility. I think the idea of shooting down a plane would be… you know, I’ve been proven wrong before, but I don’t think that would be a possibility. 

Robles: Last question regarding any more information that you might have, any further leaks that you might know about through WikiLeaks. What do you think Mr. Snowden’s next move is as well? 

Ratner: Well, I don’t know. I think he has to find a place to go that’s going to give him safe entry and asylum, or at least consider his asylum application. 

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has been writing in the Guardian, has said he has more information and more material. And he said on a show I was on with him that he would be vetting that material and writing more about I guess the surveillance programs. So, I think we can expect more. 

Robles: What would you recommend for him, I mean if you were his lawyer, what would you tell him to do right now? 

Ratner: The main thing to do is to figure out a country to go to and get there. That’s what he has to do. 

Robles: What country would you recommend? 

Ratner: Well, as I said either big countries that can stand up to the US such as China, Russia or countries that have had an independent line from the United States and might be able to withstand the pressure of the United States. 

And there is very few: Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador. Bolivia hasn’t come up yet but I’ve seen, Nicaragua, which I think is unlikely, but there is a handful. And even then, I think it is guaranteed that the US starts going after a small country. Russia is one thing, they can’t do much or can’t do anything… 

Robles: Yes, even trade turnover with the United States is less than with Great Britain. It is something at the level of like 40 million or something and that’s it. So, they could do without completely. 

Ratner: Exactly, just not relevant. But places like Ecuador and Venezuela, the US traditionally believes they have the right to control them from an imperial point of view. And also they don’t have big armies like Russia and China. You know, those countries can be squashed like bugs if the US wants, although I think there is a popular support for Snowden that’s going to make that impossible. 

And the US already looks like a bumbling clumsy bully. Here you have, and we’ll end on this note, this massive surveillance system that they’ve set up to spy on all of us, they couldn’t even figure out that Ed Snowden might be someone who would reveal some of their surveillance system while he was working for them. Then, this whole system couldn’t even figure out where he was in Hong Kong. And then, they couldn’t figure out how he was getting on a plane to go to Russia. So, this whole system is completely ridiculous from that point of view. 

It is not, from the point of view of knowing what everyone of us does and being able to stop popular rebellions in places like Egypt and Tunisia, it’s not ridiculous from that point of view when they know who everybody is in the opposition. But just tracking down… I mean, think about it, they couldn’t track down Ed Snowden. And then, what are we talking about here? Ridiculous! 

Robles: That was my first thought. 

Ratner: We’ll end on that! 

Robles: Okay, thank you very much.


Michael Ratner (born 1943, Cleveland, Ohio) is an attorney, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin. 

Ratner is known for his human rights activism. 

Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Baydetainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court.

Part 1: The Very War Manning Was Reporting on Was illegal 

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5 June, 16:01

As the trial of Bradley Manning, one of the greatest whistleblowers in history, gets under way, the U.S. government continues to show that it has no concern for the war crimes and the illegality of the U.S. actions, that were exposed by Manning, instead it has been further revealed that Manning was tortured and continues to be unfairly persecuted for doing the morally correct and right thing. According to Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus for the Center for Constitutional Rights, the trial is an embarrassment for the U.S. and the U.S. mass media has already assumed that Manning is some sort of traitor for revealing murderous war crimes.

Robles: My first question: you've been in regular attendance at the Manning trial: what have been some of the key moves and decisions so far and can you tell us about gag orders or secrecy guidelines you were given?

Ratner: The trial itself started on Monday, June 3rd. But prior to then there had been a number of pre-trial hearings over the course of three or four months, but Bradley has been in jail for three years, sometimes under torturous conditions. There’s only two of those days that I want to really bring to attention and then we'll get to what happened on Monday.

Robles: Sure, sure.

Ratner: On those two days… on one of the days he spent the day on the witness stand, the first time he’d been on the witness stand really in the pretrial hearing, to describe his jail conditions, and those were horrendous! And the U.N Rapporteur on Torture called them "cruel, unusual and degrading treatment akin to torture", he was treated very badly but it was a very moving day on in the court room and hear Bradley Manning speak for the first time.

The other day that I attended was when he decided to plead guilty to charges that could get him up to 20 years in jail. Now that doesn't sound like a great thing to have done, but I think he hoped that after he pled guilty to some of these lesser charges, quote “lesser charges”, that he would possibly get a maximum of 20 years and the government (the U.S. government) would not go ahead and charge him or try him for both espionage charges and aiding the enemy, they would not go ahead with aiding the enemy charges or espionage charges.

Unfortunately, despite his plea and his taking responsibility for uploading some three quarters of a million documents or so to WikiLeaks, the government has decided to go ahead on both the espionage charges and aiding the enemy.

That’s the trial that began on June, 3rd and will take up to three or four months with a hundred and forty some witnesses for the government.

So what we had on Monday was the opening day of the trial, when the prosecutor did his opening and the defense counsel did his opening as well.

In terms of the access to that trial and to the secrecy issue, two of those issues have come up throughout the time. One, in particular, is whether or not both the public and the press can actually look at and have possession of or read, publicly filed documents, at least publicly files that have no secrecy in them and that the judge reads quickly in court or the lawyers file.

And for some reason, even though these are public documents, they don't give access to the press or to people sitting in the courtroom. So we brought a lawsuit to try and compel those documents to be given to us, in the military system we lost, we are now in federal court litigating it.

As a result of our lawsuit though, the military has started to pour out hundreds of documents, will be in the next few days, that are from the trial a few months ago, we're insisting on contemporaneous getting of the documents, which you have in any trial in the United States, in a normal trial.

So there's been that level of secrecy and then at the opening of the trial on June 3rd, there was an issue about who can get in the courtroom as well as what journalists could cover it.

There were two outrages, in my view: the courtroom is very small. It only normally holds 30 of us. This time it was limited to 16. So only 16 people got to actually watch what was going on in court. The others were put into a big room where there's a video feed. Of course it's not the same, it’s just like watching television, it's not a disaster but it’s not like being in the court..

Robles: Sure.

Ratner: It’s not like Bradley sees his support, etc. that’s the second problem.

And the third problem is that they only gave journalists 70 passes for 350 journalists that applied. The advantage of being a journalist is that you can bring a computer into a room, it’s not a courtroom, but it's a live-feed, that you can read that and you can use your computer, and you see this feed so that's an advantage, but only 70 places for that.

That's the press situation which is shocking, because it’s a trial about leaking secrets yet a lot of it is more secret than it should be.

Robles: I read somewhere that even the guidelines for the secrecy are being kept secret.

Ratner: That is true, we were not involved in that, they negotiated that in a private conference and they haven't made that public. What can be publicized, what can't be: it's really an embarrassing, if you can say the United States can be embarrassed by anything anymore, but it’s an embarrassing kind of trial that even the secret… the “rules for secrecy are kept secret”. It's difficult.

The opening began on June 3rd, the government outlined its case and then the Defense Counsel spoke. And the government's case is really a computer-based case, where they seized all of Bradley Manning's computers, they subpoenaed all of the Twitter accounts of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning and a number of others.

And they just put slides up on the board to show what they harvested, as they say, from each of these computers. You know: How many times Bradley Manning checked WikiLeaks, or searched for it on the internet? Where he got the Iraq War Logs from? Where they found them it his SD card?

So that was what their case was, but it was much worse than that. And three things, like I said I like to emphasize about it: one is what we are seeing there, of course, we're seeing the trial of Bradley Manning for leaking secrets, but really secrets that illustrate war crimes by the United States and the criminality of the U.S. government, but of course there's nobody even questioning having the U.S. held accountable for its war crimes, whether it's for the “Collateral Murder” video which killed 2 Reuters journalists, or the “Gharani” video which killed 150 people, or the torture centers run by the U.S. in Iraq.

We're not talking about that. When mainstream journalists talk to you they just want to know: “Is he a traitor or is he a patriot? What is he?” You know, with that kind of knowing that they think he’s a traitor, that he broke his oath.

But, in fact, no one is saying: the very war that he was reporting to was an illegal war brought by Bush and voted for by Congress, that's what killed all the people and not Bradley Manning.

So in some way focusing just on the trial, you know, it's very upsetting obviously for someone who cares about war and stopping war, and obeying the law.

So the first part of the government’s case is all about these computers, but then they went on to say that he “aided the enemy” and that's the most serious charge, it's a death penalty charge. They said they won't ask for the death penalty, but the judge could still give him the death penalty.

And that's a crazy charge! That says that a soldier who gives documents, whether they are secret or not, that gives documents to a journalist or a publication, whether it's the New York Times or WikiLeaks or the Washington Post, can be charged with aiding the enemy, if the enemy reads those documents in that paper.

It's crazy! Because that means if you're a whistleblower in the military and you see something really serious and you report it to the press, you can be charged with aiding the enemy, if the enemy reads it, and of course the quote "enemy" reads everything!

Part 2: U.S. illegality and Guantanamo are completely crazy 

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6 June, 18:17  

The ridiculous hyper secrecy of the Bradley Manning trial and the refusal of the U.S. to go after the war criminals exposed by Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, are a symptom of an empire grown irrational by its own power. Bradley Manning did the right thing yet it is he who is paying the price. The illegal wars and invasions of the “War: on Terror” and the illegal prison at Guantanamo are also criminal acts. Michael Ratner called the holding of innocent men at Guantanamo and the refusal by the U.S. to close the extra-judicial prison “crazy”!

You are listening to an interview in progress with Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is also a legal adviser to the WikiLeaks organization and the American lawyer for Julian Assange.

Robles: I have a couple of questions before we move on here: regarding the “aiding the enemy; what are of the chances, that you think, of that sticking; two you’ve mentioned documents and things that weren’t being released, can you give our listeners any clue as to maybe what they are related to?

Ratner: These are all public documents, it is not a matter of the content. They just have a habit in this particular court martial, and maybe in others, that they don’t give any of the papers to the people who are sitting in the court or there is no file that you can look at them. So, if a judge reads an opinion, and she read an opinion for example on whether or not he was tortured, we just don’t get to see a copy of it.

Robles: Even if there is a move to break for lunch or something, that could be like; “not released”?

Ratner: Right, nothing. You don’t get a piece of paper.

Robles: That’s crazy!

Ratner: So it’s crazy. It’s completely crazy. Or yesterday, or on Monday rather, when I watched the slide show which was quite interesting about what they found on the computers, I see them flash by but you can’t read them all because of the small print.

There is no copy, there is a copy of it, but I’m not going to get one, neither is the press. And they’re public documents, because there is nothing classified, we all looked at them and sat there in the courtroom.

A lawsuit is probably going to force it out eventually. I was shocked we lost so far, but in the Federal Court I think we’ll do pretty well.

Robles: American taxpayers, I mean that’s their money, probably millions and millions of dollars are going into this... Nobody is very upset about this?

Ratner: The press is finally beginning to get a little upset. We had trouble getting them for a while, they weren’t even covering the trial, I mean like the “big” press. Now, they are covering it or I think they’ll cover it more. They haven’t been very upset by it I will say, I mean we were forced to go into court on behalf of the center and a number of smaller publications.

Robles: Do you know of anyone at all, anyone, who has been prosecuted for any of the egregious crimes that were revealed by Manning and WikiLeaks?

Ratner: Big zero for that one John! I mean there were some low-level, so-called “bad apples” prosecuted years ago for Abu Ghraib. You know, they weren’t commanders or anything else like that.

Robles: Sure, sure…

Ratner: But that’s years ago, but there’s been obviously no accountability for torture at all, no accountability for any of these massacres that took place throughout all our wars, none at all.

Here you have a truth teller like Bradley Manning and the publisher, a truth teller like Julian Assange, they are the ones that are in the bull’s-eye for our Government to go after and not the people who actually do the crimes, and I think it’s really important to emphasize that, as press goes on and on, you know: “… a traitor!” You know, “why he broke his oath”.

He took a risk to try and get the American people to start looking at what they were doing to people all over the world, and then the American Government goes after him, a truth teller, rather than the people who are, in our own Government, who are killing people all over the world and actually making the world in the end, as even they acknowledge, less safe for Americans.

Robles: Is there any chance that the case may bring about some change or maybe crimes will actually be prosecuted?

Ratner: I’m not hopeful right now, that’s for sure. We’ve been at this for many years and never gotten accountability. Bradley Manning has growing support and more people supporting him but we still have a long way to go to even make what he did into something that people say is the right thing to have done rather than treasonous.

Robles: Well, it is so obviously the right thing to have done, I can’t understand it myself.

Ratner: I am in the same places as you are, I’ve got to tell you . I just don’t get it. And they are really hitting with a sledgehammer, I mean if you look at, this trial; he pled to 20 years and they are trying to put him in jail for the rest of his life. Sad situation!

Robles: Another question stemming from that: do you know of any damage, other than the exposing of crimes, that these revelations have inflicted on the U.S.?

Ratner: Exposing of crimes, hypocrisy and embarrassment, there’s been no damage. When we say damage; they accused Julian Assange and Bradley Manning of having blood on their hands, but they now admit that they were exaggerating, now they didn’t . There was nobody killed, no informants were wiped out from this, nothing like that. And they haven’t come out with any evidence of it and they acknowledged that essentially, I mean they keep trying to have it both ways, so.

Robles: Are you familiar with the Valerie Plame case? Because I believe like 268 people died because of that, because of that exposure in the New York Times but nobody… How would you compare that?

Ratner: Valerie Plame was the CIA person who was exposed by Novak I think.

Robles: Yeah right, right!

Ratner: By the Government originally.

Robles: Right, because her husband had some evidence about the yellowcake uranium, that that was a lie. How would you compare that to this or there is no comparison? It’s just that the press was involved, nothing happened to Novak, nobody went after him, I mean people actually died because of that.

Ratner: Right, nothing went after Novak, that was shocker nobody when after him. He revealed her name in the paper and nobody went after him.

Of course, the administration leaks whenever it wants. Why do we know about drones? I mean we know about it probably because people on the ground in Afghanistan are being killed by them, but we know about the drone policy in large part because in the run-up to the election Obama essentially let his people talk about how he used killing people with drones and he was making the decision, because he wanted to appear as a powerful-aggressive warrior to the electorate.

Of course, no one in the administration prosecutes their own, but they let out secrets whenever they want when it is helpful to them, even if it is going to be harmful to others.

Robles: You’re telling me Americans have no problem with extrajudicial executions? I mean, Obama is seen as a hero and some great “War President” or something because of that, rather than a heinous…?

Ratner: You know, there’s been growing opposition to the drones, that’s pretty clear. I mean we did lawsuits, there’s: groups like CODEPINK have been demonstrating against drones. There is growing opposition and growing concern, there were particularly growing concerns of course about using them in the United States to kill Americans. And I think that’s one of the reasons Obama was forced to give his speech a couple of weeks ago, claiming to cut back the use of drones, but in fact it was all “B.S.”. You know, Obama talks, always better than he acts, and none of us, I mean we couldn’t even sit through the speech, really it was just...

Robles: This was the same one where he was talking about closing Guantanamo or something?

Ratner: Right! Well I can’t hear that again! I mean he again said but he could have taken action right away, he could have let people out of Guantanamo immediately and transferred them to Yemen.

He’s lifted now the moratorium on Yemen, which should have never been imposed to begin with and… These people are innocent and we still haven’t seen one person go. I think we’re probably going to see a few people go to Yemen now because it should have happened a long time ago.

Robles: I was going to ask you about: there was a U.S. congressman who was going to introduce some bills barring any changes at Guantanamo, and a tag question to that: Why are American politicians so adamant in keeping an illegal prison open?

Ratner: It is completely crazy because it is completely illegal people have been cleared... Some people have been there for 11 years and they are not guilty of anything! They’ve never been tried for anything, our administration admits that they are not guilty, so it is completely illegal. Imagine this, people that have been there for 11-12 years, one of them said his wife was pregnant when he was picked up, his daughter is 12 years old, she’s never seen her father, she’s never hugged him, nothing. It is completely nuts!

I mean even if you are in a regular prison, at least you get to sometime see your family. This is crazy! And they are innocent! So it’s like… Yeah it’s completely illegal.

So, why? It’s become a “kickball” for Congress to look like they are still active on terrorism or something. I just don’t get it! I mean, of course, everybody was brainwashed by saying they were “the worst of the worst” but that doesn’t explain it anymore. Not at all. And there’s people there who have been innocent from day one! Absolutely innocent!

Robles: Unbelievable!

That was the end of part two of an interview with Mr. Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is also a legal adviser to WikiLeaks and the American lawyer for Julian Assange.

Part 3: U.S. weaving Assange persecution into Manning trial 

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7 June, 11:17  

The current hunger strike at Guantanamo has focused the world’s attention on the plight of the mostly innocent detainees and currently there is a window of opportunity to close the prison if enough pressure is put on Obama to make him fulfill his past promises to close the illegal prison. In the third part of a recent interview with Michael Ratner he spoke about this and much more.

You are listening to an interview in progress with Michael Ratner – the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is also a legal adviser to the WikiLeaks organization and the American lawyer for Julian Assange.

Ratner: I mean, of course, everybody was brainwashed by saying they were “the worst of the worst” but that doesn’t explain it anymore. Not at all. And there’s people there who have been innocent from day one! Absolutely innocent!

Robles: Unbelieveable! We talked before and you said that Congress has nothing to do with this. Obama, the day he wants to close it, he can just close it and send everybody home.

Ratner: My answer to that is yes, he can. He could close it on day one. And even if there were some problems with a few of the people, he hasn’t even started, I mean the majority can be done tomorrow, absolutely done tomorrow, they’re innocent people.

If he listens to Congress, then of course he has a few issues having to do with how we does it. But he is always, he’s the the one who didn’t even veto the Congressional bills that put these restrictions on him. They were part of a larger bill, but he could have vetoed the bill. Instead, he wrote a statement at the bottom called a signing statement that said: “I think that some of these provisions may be unconstitutional.”

So, if he wanted to close Guantanamo, he just closes it. Let them go to court to try and stop him, but by that time it’s over. You know, he could do it, of course he could do it. But most of the restrictions are ones that would not affect his closing. In other words he could actually get rid of the majority of people by tomorrow if he wanted to, and then we’d be left with a much smaller problem and be able to deal with it. There are 186 people there, 188, you could get two thirds of them out in less than a day.

Robles: I see. I wanted to get back to Manning in a minute, but back to Guantanamo, I wanted to ask you, a couple of weeks ago, about the current state of the hunger strike… What’s going on “there”?

Ratner: Well it’s a serious moment, I mean what’s happened really up till four months ago, which is about when the hunger strike began, I figured there was nothing we could do any more. It was off the front pages, Obama didn’t care, closed the office that was supposed to close Guantanamo. Daniel Fried who was in the State Department, gone!

It was dead, it was like a flat-line, I mean I just figured that’s it. We started these cases 11 years ago, I remember sitting at this same desk when we started to do it 12 years ago. It was November 2001 when we began to think about, when Bush started saying we are going to do this, January 11th 2000, well when he began it. And so, I thought it was done, so finally I said we have nothing left to do, the lawyers had not given up but the courts were not letting us do anything, we were still trying. But the clients took the situation into their own hands, the detainees, they went on a hunger strike which is the last resort of anybody to get control of their situation.

And obviously, it’s had a big effect, a big enough effect, so that Obama had to give a speech about it and say again he would close it and lift the moratorium on Yemen, sending people there.

So, now we are at a moment that I think is a small window and I think with lots of pressure, that we can actually get it closed. And that means everything from continuing the hunger strikes, to the families speaking out, demonstrations et cetera. But if the moment passes, you know, it could be another 10 years.

Robles: What are they going to do, indefinitely force feed people?

Ratner: Right. Well there’s one guy, we have a client at the center who has been force-fed for seven years.

Robles: Seven years?!

Ratner: Yeah.

Robles: Oh my god!

Ratner: There are a few long-term hunger strikers in there. Isn’t that terrible? It’s really a torturous way of being fed. Let’s finish up on Manning because I have to go soon.

Robles: How do you see the Manning case affecting the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange? What correlations do you see? What do you see coming out of that that’s going to affect Julian? And how are they going to try to go after Julian?

Ratner: I sat in court on Monday and I was shocked by how much of the presentation on slides and other wise was about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And so they are… I think, if they don’t have an indictment, they certainly want to get one! My guess is they have one because read throughout the presentation on Bradley Manning, was WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

When I say that, they began by saying that they think that, the government says that they think that Bradley Manning was taking direction from Julian Assange, or WikiLeaks.

The lawyer for Bradley Manning said absolutely not, he did everything on his own as Bradley Manning himself has said.

Robles: He admitted that at the beginning, he said it was all his doing, and everything.

Ratner: Right, the government’s position is different. The government did say on Monday that they think Julian Assange was directing him. Then they brought up the WikiLeaks wanted list, which is a list of documents that was posted in 2009 on WikiLeaks and they said these were the documents that Bradley Manning was getting.

That doesn’t show that Julian Assange directed him but they’re arguing that that list is a solicitation list and therefore it makes Julian Assange and WikiLeaks different than the New York Times.

The New York Times doesn’t put up that kind of list, although I’m sure their reporters, when they go to their sources they ask them for certain documents. So, not much of a distinction. But I’m just saying that the government is trying hard to circle around Julian Assange and things like that: direction, or that the most wanted list… then they came up with some stuff, you know it was hard to see it on the chart, that there was a continuous relationship with Bradley Manning, although they can’t prove I don’t think at the other end, assuming that’s true that it was Julian or anybody else in the WikiLeaks organization. And then they had some Twitter stuff and some other stuff that they claimed was from WikiLeaks that went to Bradley Manning.

An what I couldn’t get over, and we have a transcript now, which of course I have to read it carefully, is that how much they weaved Julian Assange and WikiLeaks into the opening testimony. This is a strong indicator to me that they certainly want to make people believe that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange were involved. Whether they can prove it… I don’t think they can prove what they say because I don’t think it’s accurate.

Robles: Are they like, trying to poison the jury pool? If it is possible to poison something that is already poisoned.

Ratner: There is no jury, it is a judge.

Robles: … or the judge, or public opinion?

Ratner: I don’t think it is the judge for Bradley Manning they want to poison though I mean they have got so much evidence on Bradley Manning.

Robles: No, I mean for Julian in the future.

Ratner: For Julian, that’s true. Their problem is that they have to say that Julian Assange is not the New York Times. Assuming they’ve indicted Julian, or they’re going to. Why isn’t he just like the New York Times that’s taking documents and publishing them? Secret documents from a source. And the only way they can do that, is if they try and prove that he had a relationship with his source, that crossed the line and made him into a co-conspirator with his source. Now… That’s what they are trying to do.

And what is interesting about that, is recently the FBI wrote an affidavit, to throw out another name, James Rosen who’s a Fox News reporter who had a source about Korea, I guess North Korea, somewhere in our government.

In applying for the subpoena, the demand to get records, from the phone company, the FBI wrote that they think that James Rosen is a co-conspirator, or aider and abettor of the source. He was no different than any other news reporter, but that’s what they wrote.

So, I think this administration looks at news reporters and journalists that get material from sources, looks at them as co-conspirators, and as aiders and abettors.

That was the theory about Julian at the beginning, what the government pushed out, the Rosen case is just adding to that, and what you see is… because people didn’t cry out and protest when it was done to Julian.

Robles: Right! Now it’s expanding.

Ratner: Fox News said he should be six feet underground. Now you see it happen to a Fox News reporter, now you begin to understand; you have to defend a free press, and you have to defend the victims of government repression, whether you agree with them or not.

Part 4: We are in the middle of a plague 

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19 June, 00:19  

The attacks and the persecution of whistleblowers and truth seekers in the United States is part of a plague that is only going to get worse before it gets better. Despite knowing that he is under surveillance Michael Ratner spoke candidly to the Voice of Russia about Julian Assange, Jeremy Hammond, Guantanamo and the hunger strike and the entire illegality of the U.S. hyper-security state.

You are listening to an interview in progress with Michael Ratner the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is also a legal advisor to the WikiLeaks organization and the American lawyer for Julian Assange.

Ratner: So, I think this administration looks at news reporters and journalists that get material from sources as co-conspirators, and as aiders and abettors.

That was the theory about Julian at the beginning which the government pushed, now the Rosen case has added to that, so what you see is… because people didn’t cry out and protest when it was done to Julian, Fox News said he should be six feet underground. Now you see it happen to a Fox News reporter, now you begin to understand that you have to defend a free press, and you have to defend the victims of government repression whether you agree with them or not.

Robles: Or else it’s going to come back to haunt you, which is exactly what it’s doing. And you see this expanding in the US, there is no way this is going to be… “fixed”?

Ratner: I would say John, that we are in the middle of the plague actually, that is going to get worse before we begin to wipe it out. It is really serious. And that brings us near the end of this where Julian is and then we’ll talk about Jeremy for a second.

Julian is still in the embassy in London. He is issuing lots of statements and reports, WikiLeaks is still very active.

There is a statement that he’s issued on… about Bradley Manning’s trial. He is doing lots of work. He has the one year anniversary at the embassy which is on June 19th . He shouldn’t be there that long, unfortunately. There may be some movement towards negotiation with Britain right now, I’ve been reading, by Ecuador. But I don’t know.

Certainly, Sweden hasn’t moved at all. Sweden could end the matter in a minute if they would just go and question Julian in the embassy or give him a safe conduct to Sweden and not send him to the United States.

Julian’s big fear, and it is my advice as well, is that the United States more likely than not has an indictment against him and they are going to put him away for life the way they trying to put Bradley Manning away for life. And that the last thing he wants to do is let the United States get its hands on him. A trip to Sweden is a one-way ticket to the United States. I’ve told Julian that and I believe that.

So, Julian is still in a great jeopardy, but of course he is at least safe for now in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Jeremy Hammond if we look at….

Robles: I’m sorry can I ask you one question about Julian? There is an upcoming meeting, I believe, on June the 17th between the Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and William Hague. Do you see anything coming out of that meeting?

Ratner: That’s the one I was referring to. All I can do is hope John, I don’t know. You know, Britain has been pretty stiff about this. But maybe they are getting tired of spending millions of dollars to put guards all around the Ecuadorian Embassy.

And they also have a legal obligation, in my view, to let Julian go to the place that has given him political asylum. The key element here, just remember, Ecuador has given him political asylum because of repression that he will face in the United States, and it seems to me that when a country has given political asylum to somebody, you can’t interfere with that. And by keeping him in the embassy and not allowing him to go to the country, I think they are interfering with the grant of political asylum.

So, Britain is in the wrong, hopefully they’ll begin to recognize that and after a year they’ll say; “We don’t want this to keep going, our relationships with Ecuador are too important etc., etc..

But all we can do is hope on that.

Robles: Aren’t they are very serious violations of international law and conventions going on here?

Ratner: There are arguments about it but I think it’s clear that when you’ve been given political asylum, the convention on refugees is clear that you can’t interfere with it. And it’s an interference with it, in my view, to keep someone in an embassy and not allow them to go to the country that has given them political asylum. So, I consider it to be outside of the law right now.

Robles: And Jeremy Hammond, you were going to tell us something about him. And he is someone I don’t think we should forget about because he is going through hell himself.

Ratner: Well, terrible. Jeremy Hammond, I was in the court today and he pled guilty. I went outside afterwards to talk to people about it. Jeremy Hammond was charged, again, with 32 years to life for various kinds of computer hacking into the e-mail accounts of a company called Stratfor, which is a strategic forecasting, that’s really a private CIA, a private intelligence company that gets paid by big corporations to spy on activists, whether they are the oneswho were opposing Dow Chemical for not settling the Bhopal massacre better, or groups like PETA our animal rights group who were maybe going to do a protest in Canada.

Robles: WikiLeaks.

Ratner: WikiLeaks. It also has information that there was a sealed indictment against Julian Assange. So, it is essentially the paid private corporate spying apparatus of the United States. And of course much more than every things are being farmed out, even by our own Government, and other governments to these private corporations, they were doing work for some entities in Israel, for some entities in the United States, etc.

So, that’s what Jeremy hacked into. Jeremy is a political activist. Hacking and whistleblowing is part of the way he expresses his political activism. He to admitted hacking into a number of other places and they were all, I would say, highly political places where their secrets need to be exposed: major arms manufacturers, the Arizona State Police Department, or Tucson that picks up immigrants, really important political entities of repression in the United States and around the world.

So, Jeremy is a highly political person, very smart and gifted at what he does. And after he pled guilty he made a beautiful political statement about what he did. But he is facing 10 years and his sentencing will take place on September 6.

The demand of his movement, and you can just go to the website of Jeremy Hammond or you can go to change.org, there is a petition that demanded that he gets time served, which will be approximately 18 months. That would be my hope but it is going to take a lot of pressure to do it. Right now I think this judge would want to give it…

Robles: My last question regarding yourself, now you are a very high-profile champion of justice and truth. Have you yourself experienced any blowback from the government or threats, or anything like that?

Ratner: No you know, I’ve been left alone this time, or in this period. Right now, I’m sure they monitor this call, I’m sure they monitor all my computers and everything I do overseas. I also represented Guantanamo detainees. I’m sure everybody we talked to was wiretapped. But they haven’t actually gone after me in a particular way that I’m aware of. I’m sure it is massive surveillance, that I would say is 100%. Not any doubt…

It was actually worse for people like us in the 50s probably, in the 60s when they associated us with; everybody on the left, with the “New Left”, with communists, and everything, etc.. So, there was more overt, what they call COINTELPRO, which is counterintelligence against us.

Today there may be that and we may just not be aware of it, but there certainly is massive surveillance.

Robles: Sir, it’s been a tremendous honour speaking with you.

Ratner: Great to speak with you John, I really appreciate your efforts.

Robles: And I really appreciate everything you are doing and your noble fight.

Parting

That was the end of an interview with Mr. Michael Ratner the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is also the legal advisor to WikiLeaks and the American lawyer for Julian Assange.

Part 1: Obama is holding people at Guantanamo for no reason and force feeding them illegally

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3 May, 08:20  

The men being held at the illegal Guantanamo terror prison have been in literal limbo for over 12 years. The fact that they are Muslim and kept offshore makes them an abstraction for the American people, who along with the media have forgotten about their plight. More than half of the illegally detained inmates have been deemed completely innocent, but U.S. President Obama, despite his endless “nice words” has refused to release them. The people at Guantanamo have reached such a level of hopelessness that almost all of them have decided to end their own lives by doing the only thing they can; stop eating. Obama has decided once again to break the law and force-feed them. Michael Ratner, the U.S. lawyer for Julian Assange and the lawyer for many of the inmates at Guantanamo, spoke to John Robles on the matter.

I’m speaking with Mr. Michael Ratner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the US lawyer for Julian Assange. The Center for Constitutional Rights also represents several of the inmates at the Guantanamo detention camp.

Greeting

Robles: Your center represents several of the inmates at Guantanamo. There are reports of a massive hunger strike going on. The U.S. is using this “hunger strike light” criteria, I think to keep the numbers down. Can you tell us the real situation there? What’s really going on?

Ratner: Our lawyers have visited recently, we get reports from many of our lawyers. There are 166 people at Guantanamo. We think there is well over a hundred on a hunger strike, perhaps, 120. At least 20 of them are being force fed and the US, of course, tries to minimize the number and tries to diminish the reasons for it, but it’s pretty clear to us.

We are now in the 12th year of many of those people having been at Guantanamo. The majority have been cleared for release, which means even the United States doesn’t think they ought to be there. Eighty-six have been cleared for release, over half, and Obama has made no indication at all, until the hunger strike, that he cared at all about them.

The Administration began on a theory or an idea that they were going to close it and then slowly, because of his actions in particular, they failed to close it, and so now there is really nothing left. I mean, we are the lawyers for them and we can’t win our cases anymore. There’re no cases left to get them out and I think it’s at a point when they realize, that unless they take actions themselves, unless they take their own lives into their own control, nothing is going to change, and I hesitate to say it, but I think they’ re right.

This is now, since the hunger strike, it has become front page news again. Yesterday, Obama had to make a speech about it, the UN Human Rights Commission and other rapporteurs have come out with a very strong statement about the hunger strike and it has become a big issue now on the radio, media etc.

My hopes are that that is now putting it back front and center in the United States and that people would be out urging that Guantanamo be closed.

I mean it’s shocking to believe that you would call the United States civilized with keeping Guantanamo opened. They themselves, as I’ve said, over half of people have been cleared for release, and Obama has not let any of them out.

Robles: That’s unbelievable, I mean, how are the American people dealing with that? I mean, how can that be logically acceptable to anybody?They’re basically holding these people for no reason?

Ratner: For no reason! Exactly, they’re holding people now in an offshore prison without any basis in law, outside the law. And how do the American people accept it? In part, they accept it because Obama’s leadership just fell, so now you had the Republicans who set up Guantanamo, they are not going to care. The Democrats whose president now doesn’t seem to care about it. The media didn’t seem to care about it, let go of it. They’re Muslim, that’s another thing, and they’re off in Guantanamo, so it was hard to get any traction in the last couple of years. And the courts didn’t care.

So the last couple of years have been very difficult for everybody concerned with Guantanamo and now that they have decided on the hunger strike, now it’s finally getting the news that it should have gotten a long time ago. Sadly it has taken a hunger strike to do it.

What’s also interesting about the hunger strike is Obama’s speech yesterday. Obama gives a speech in which he says it’s a stain on America! I have to close Guantanamo! it’s hurting our international standing! It lessens our cooperation with our allies, etc., etc.

Robles: He said all that before…

Reminder

Ratner: What did you just say?

Robles: I said he said all that before, during his election campaign.

Ratner: I’m very glad to hear you say that because I looked up the speech he gave on May 21, 2009, three months after he took the office. While it is not verbatim, it’s almost exactly what I’ve just said. It says: the prison in Guantanamo has weakened America’s national security etc, etc. So he said the same thing four and a half years ago that he said yesterday.

The New York Times ran his speech on the front page today, which is at least a sign, but again it’s all Obama’s nice words and the question is: what will his actions be?

And if you read that speech, he didn’t say any actions other than sending 40 nurses to Guantanamo to help with the hunger strike, to help force feed people.

Now one thing I should say about force-feeding is: under medical ethics it’s illegal to force feed people. If someone is making a decision, and it’s a conscious decision, and they’re sane when they make it; they are allowed to not eat and force themselves to die if that’s where it goes.

They don’t have a right medically, to force feed someone. It’s just like if you are in the hospital and you say-take me off the machines; you have that right to do it. But Obama has insisted on force-feeding people and it’s, as I said. The AMA, our biggest, most, really moderate, medical association. The American Medical Association, came out with a statement saying force-feeding is not authorized, is not ethical, under medical ethics and rules.

Robles: There is just another law that has been trampled on and broken at Guantanamo. This brings to mind the hunger strikers… I don’t know if you might remember back when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and I think it was like 9 Irish Republic Army members starved themselves to death: nobody did anything then.

Ratner: I know the cases well actually. The most famous of them was man named Bobby Sands, that’s actually where the law got established, really got established, that you can’t intervene if someone has made a decision not to eat.

I was just in London the other day, I talked to the lawyers for Bobby Sands. They said it was really important, sadly that he died but it actually changed the policy. Those were political prisoners, and it actually forced the discussion and changed the policy, and that’s what it took.

I don’t want that to happen here, I want the policy to change but I don’t want any of our clients to die at Guantanamo. But Obama is acting illegally in force-feeding people who’ve made a decision that they don’t want to eat.

Robles: I see. That has not been brought up anywhere that I’ve seen so far. It’s not really part of the debate and thank you for bringing that up, because I think that that’s very important.

Do you feel that there might be some nefarious reasons for keeping these people there? I’m thinking: you know, these people, these were young men they’ve spent most of their best years locked up. Could it that they are trying to create terrorists?

Ratner: I would hope not. That would be a bad idea. What we’ve noticed of the people that have been released… To be hones, they’re so shattered after their ten or twelve years there. The chances of them becoming terrorists are really low.

I met a lot of the people in London and other places, all they want to do is piece their lives together. Some of them haven’t seen their children for ten or twelve years, a couple of them had their wives pregnant when they were put in, they’ve never seen their children, they’ve never hugged them. These people don’t come out and do anything.

You know, I don’t get it! It just seems that they played to the sort of popular will. You know, it’s horrible in the United States! They painted Guantanamo as the “worst of the worst”, the Busies did. Obama then was weak-kneed about letting people out, he played into it, and the American population.

End of part one.

Part 2: Obama has prosecuted twice the number of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined 

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4 May, 14:20  

The United States is locking people up and destroying lives and entire families for no reason and holding people indefinitely for no reason without charge or trial is illegal, as is preventive detention, a concept which is non-existent in jurisprudence, these are some of the reasons the prison in Guantanamo has to be closed. Michael Ratner spoke with the Voice of Russia on these matters and more. Ratner is the U.S. lawyer for Julian Assange and also represents many of the inmates at Guantanamo. He also says that 86 Guantanamo prisoners were cleared for release but they continue to be held and 46 people are being indefinitely detained without any charges. Discussing Obama's persecution of whistleblowers, Ratner states that "There is obviously a war on information sharing and information revealing and revealing the crimes of the United States" and states that by doing so the U.S. is “killing democracy”. 

Robles: Do you feel that there might be some nefarious reason for keeping these people there? I’m thinking: you know, these people, these were young men… they’ve spent most of their ‘best years’ locked up... Could it be that they are trying to create terrorists?

Ratner: I would hope not. I mean that would be a bad idea. What we’ve noticed of the people that have been released… To be honest they’re so shattered after their 10 or 12 years there, the chances of them becoming terrorists are really low. I met a lot of the people in London and other places. All they want to do is try and piece their lives together.

Some of them haven’t seen their children for 10 or 12 years. A couple of them had their wives pregnant when they were put in, they’ve never seen their children, they’ve never hugged them. These people don’t come out and do anything.

You know, I don’t get it! It just seems that they played to the sort of popular will. You know, it’s horrible in the United States! They painted Guantanamo as the “worst of the worst”, the Bushies did. Obama then was weak-kneed about letting people out, he played into it, and then the American population, still if you took a vote they might say we want to close, but they wouldn’t say they want any of the people from Guantanamo, you know, anywhere. It’s like carrying a mark of Cain, to have been in Guantanamo.

Robles: If there was the slightest bit of possible evidence that any of these people; were a terrorist, or a terrorist threat, they would have been executed or prosecuted to the full extent of… well I can’t really say the law, because the law really doesn’t work in Guantanamo but... Isn’t that correct?

Ratner: Well it’s really outrageous here. You know you have 86 people who have been cleared for release so they: nothing. You have 46 people who are indefinitely detained without any charges, and if they had anything on them why don’t they charge them?

Robles: Right.

Ratner: Our position is there’s only two categories here, and it’s two categories that have been hundreds of years in the making; either people are freed and released, or they are charged and tried for a crime. There is no middle category of: hold people indefinitely forever, never charge them or hold people who have been cleared for release and never charge them. That’s all outside the law.

Robles: Even if this is a case of preventive detention? I mean: isn’t that illegal as well?

Ratner: Yes. I don’t care what label you put on it, you could call it preventive detention. You know, that’s a nice word for it but, exactly illegal, we don’t have that concept.

On the idea that I might commit a crime some day you can’t lock me up. That’s not the way our law works, you’d be locking up an awful lot of people.

Robles: If you do that you would have lock up the whole planet because I think everybody has some potential of breaking some law, some time.

Ratner: That’s, exactly right. Jumping a subway turnstile or something, or something else.

Robles: Sure. Running a red light on accident or… I was going to ask you: how will these men ever be able to adjust to normal society after being held for so long? Where are these poor men going to be sent? Do you have anything on that, or… ?

Ratner: Well, the adjustment is very difficult. We’ve adjusted a lot of people and some adjust worse than others. Some come back, the split up with their wives, some get back into their families, but no one is easy. There is also a stigma when they go for a job, because they… If they ask you to give your history, even if they’ve been cleared completely: “Oh, I’ve been in Guantanamo”… You know the last thing an employer wants to do is hire someone from Guantanamo, that’s true all over the world. So it’s a real problem of getting people back into society.

What this has done for those people who have been released, and obviously for the people still in, it’s destroyed entire families. It’s destroyed a whole sense of being human. I mean, I read stories of the women, wives who are left behind, children wanting their fathers, it’s just destroyed their lives. For nothing, for absolutely nothing!

Robles: “For nothing…” I know you’re short of time, I wanted to ask you about… this is also regarding Obama and what I think are also illegal moves but… He’s been prosecuting whistleblowers, under the Espionage Act.

Now in my mind, whistle-blowers are heroes and patriots, most of them. They usually do what they do out of conscience. What dangers do you see in that, if you could comment on it, and what’s the logic behind that?

Ratner: Right, Well Obama has already prosecuted twice the number of whistleblowers than all other presidents prosecuted combined. So that’s six or seven (six) and three were done before.

There is obviously a real war on information sharing and information revealing, revealing the crimes of the United States and on whistleblowers, and the effects are obviously not only on the whistleblowers who are prosecuted, who include Bradley Manning the, what I consider, heroic soldier who exposed US war crimes and gave the materials to WikiLeaks. Bradley Manning is being prosecuted for espionage and it wouldn’t surprise me at all, in fact it’s likely, if they can get their hands on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, they’ll face the same consequences.

The consequences are terrible. What I now know by talking to journalists is that the Obama Administration and Obama have terrified journalists and terrified sources whom might want to give information to journalists about criminality of our government.

An important function of journalism is to expose government corruption and criminality. And now because Obama is coming down so heavily on journalists and on their sources, that people are afraid and you’re seeing leaks dry up. You’re seeing journalists work much harder and essentially, you are killing off democracy, by killing off the information that people need to decide about who their leaders ought to be and their policies.

Robles: Very well put. Thank you.What’s the logic then? Basically, we are supposed to believe that someone who exposes illegality is somehow a traitor. Does that mean that the country is based on illegality? I mean, it seems absurd.

Ratner: Yes. I mean it’s crazy to me. These people are heroes, as you said. And ultimately they are seen as heroes. Someone like Daniel Elsberg, who exposed the Vietnam… the Pentagon Papers and the illegality of that war, is now seen as a hero. They made movies about him. But at the time they do it the government believes heavily in repression and trying to paint them as traitors. When in fact, to me: the traitors are the people who try to hide criminality. That’s my call I have got to go now.

Robles: Oh okay! I have to ask you about Julian Assange. How is he? Has there been any change in his situation since the ruling by the Icelandic Supreme Court and after the Swedish Supreme Court justice visited Australia? Has anything changed or… ?

Ratner: Julian is in good shape! As people know WikiLeaks is continuing to put hundreds of thousands of documents. There was the Kissinger Diplomatic File, and Julian is working away. I visited him recently at the embassy. I would say he is in good shape, planning whatever he is going to plan for his next… whatever he does next . He is still hoping that we can get an agreement from the Swedish that they won’t send him on to the United States. That is a critical thing here: is he is not worried about the allegations in Sweden, he’s worried about what is happening in my country, the United States, and he is right to be worried about it.

That was the end of this interview

Part 1: Assange trapped, U.S. in decline 

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9 February, 2013 22:03  

President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, the U.S. lawyer for Julian Assange talked to the Voice of Russia's John Robles regarding the current situation surrounding Julian Assange who remains trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. During part one of the interview he goes into the illegality of the U.S. usage of drones, he speaks about the extremely aggressive reaction against whistleblowers and "truth sayers" by the U.S. Government and characterizes the illegality and irrational actions of said, as a state in decline desperately clinging to power. Mr. Ratner also discusses Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, U.S. Government secrecy, mentions his clients in Guantanamo who have been tortured and the Yoko Ono-Lennon Award for Courage that he recently received in New York for Mr. Assange in absentia.

This is John Robles. You are listening to an interview with Michael Ratner, Julian Assange’s lawyer in the US and the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Robles: Hello Sir! How are you this evening?

Ratner: I’m good and I’m glad to talk to you John, thank you for having me.

Robles: Very glad to speak with you too, it’s a pleasure. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about how you are involved in the case and what is going on behind the scenes if you could, in the US and in general because news is not coming out?

Ratner: Yes, a lot is not coming out and it is very upsetting to me. I’m sure as a lot of your listeners know Julian Assange who is the editor and publisher of WikiLeaks has been in the Ecuador Embassy now for 234 days, two thirds of a year. He has been in detention or custody of some sort for 796 days and that’s all really primarily because the US wants to eventually get its hands on him and I think put him in jail for the rest of his life.

And so what Julian Assange was forced to do, was to take refuge in the embassy where fortunately the Ecuadorians have been very good to him and where he was given diplomatic asylum by the Ecuadorians so that he is safe while he is in there.

The problem for Julian Assange right now is of course that he can’t leave without being subjected to arrest by the British and then being sent to Sweden.

In Sweden there are allegations of some sexual misconduct but that is not what’s holding Julian Assange up. The problem is if he gets to Sweden, he’ll be in jail and then he’ll be sent I believe very quickly to the United States.

Robles: Can you tell us anything about those allegations very quickly, if you know anything about the alleged victim? Apparently she had connections with the Central Intelligence Agency. Can you tell us anything about that?

Ratner: You know, I don’t know very much about that. I do know that I did read a report that one of the people had gone to Cuba and was working with a group called the Women in White. The Women in White are dissidents in Cuba, if you want to call them that, but as far as I know they are funded by, if not the CIA, certainly by AID which is the US funding source.

So, there is that, I have seen words and the language about one of the people going to that. I don’t know more than that about what is going on in Sweden. I do know that it is allegations now, there are no charges.

And Julian I do know would be willing to go to Sweden and deal with those allegations and give a statement but he is very fearful and I have supported him on this very heavily, knowing my country, knowing the United States, knowing what it does to people like Julian, that if he gets himself to Sweden he is going to be in real trouble if the US gets its hands on him.

So, that’s a really serious issue for me at this point. Unless we can get guarantees, and this is if you are talking about behind the scenes, unless we can get guarantees from Sweden and the United Kingdom that he will not be sent onward from Sweden to the United States, and my recommendation is very strongly that he does not go to Sweden.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about what you are doing in the United States to stop his persecution? Is there any chance they would back off? Are they demanding anything in particular? Can you talk about that?

Ratner: The context in the United States is terrible. I’m sure people may remember as the cables started to come out first of course with Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Logs, the Collateral Murder Video and then ultimately the State Department Cables that were not only embarrassing to the US but showed their hypocrisy, as well as secret wars going on in places like Yemen that the United States became very-very angry at WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And there were people, politicians, pundits and others who actually said he should be essentially killed with the drone, I mean that’s what they said.

Robles: I heard that not too long ago again.

Reminder

Robles: I read a lot of the material that was put out myself, I didn’t see anything that was particularly that damaging. Why such a violent reaction?

Ratner: There’s material in there that has obviously been very useful both to people like me who are human rights attorneys. It shows for example that the US was trying to interfere with our efforts to bring the torturers to justice in Spain, it showed that there was a secret war going on Yemen.

But I agree with you, there is nothing in there that is equivalent of what the US would call espionage: troop movements or how to make an atomic bomb or anything on that level at all.

You know, we are in bad period in the United States right now. We are in a period of incredible aggressiveness in terms of: certainly under the Bush administration torture in Guantanamo, in the Obama administration now with the drone policy of murdering people with drones even if they are not an imminent threat to the United States. We’ve just had a hearing on that and the person in charge of that policy Jon Brennan, it looks like he is going to be our CIA person.

It is in a very aggressive posture the United States and also there is a huge amount of secrecy going on so that the amount of classified documents has gone from 8 million a year to 76 million a year.

I have clients, I represent some people at Guantanamo, they were tortured and we can’t even talk about that. People can’t talk about the fact that their own clients were tortured.

So, the Government has just a put a lid on everything. So, if you look at the work of WikiLeaks, other truth-tellers, other whistleblowers, those people are really doing a great service to the United States right now or to the people of the United States by showing all this hypocrisy and illegality.

And so I think the United States right now wants to just put a stop. The Government is saying: we want to keep running our Government in secret, the way we are and we are going to make sure that people get the message.

And look what they’ve done! They’ve got Julian Assange sitting in the embassy. They have Bradley Manning sitting in a brig in Fort Meade. He’s been in prison for 991 days, almost thousand days, almost three years.

Jeremy Hammond who was allegedly another source for WikiLeaks, he’s been imprisoned almost a year here in New York.

There is a secret Grand Jury investigating Julian Assange trying I believe to indict him for espionage. That Grand Jury has been going on for almost three years.

So, you are talking about a major onslaught by the United States against truth-tellers, against publishers of the truth and they want to put a stop to it because as I think as the United States weakens, it gets more aggressive on the international field and that stuff is secret.

Robles: You see this as a weakening and maybe a desperate cling for power?

Ratner: I think so. I think in the United States, if we look historically at both the United States power as well as when countries engage in things like torture and when they engage in assassinations all over the world; it seems to me it is a period of decline in which they are fearful about how they are going to be able to continue to dominate the world.

The US still, for 5% of the world, uses 25% of its resources. Has by far the biggest standing military in the world and it is not going to want let go of that easily. I think what you are seeing here is the recognition by the Government that it is weakening and it is striking out in ways that aren’t always rational but that are certainly inhuman.

Robles: I don’t know if you can even talk about this, but were hit with a “National Security Letter”, or something about Guantanamo?

Ratner: I’ve never gotten a National Security Letter. You are right, it’s a question of: “Can anybody talk about them?”, and it took years to even win the right to tell your attorney about them and go to court.

I’ve never gotten a National Security Letter. But you know, it is conceivable.

They wouldn’t necessarily give it to me, they would give it to places where I go, they would give it to my library, they’d give it to my Twitter account and they wouldn’t necessarily tell me about it. So, I wouldn’t necessarily know if I’ve gotten one.

I’ve personally never gotten one but they give it to your third party record holders your credit card company, your bank, your library, to get records of what kinds of books you check out, what your bank account says, who I’m telephoning. They would give it to your server, so they find out what websites you go to and all kinds of things like that. That happens massively in the United States right now, that happens all the time.

The surveillance state in the United States, is absolutely gigantic right now. And Julian Assange has talked about this. He talked about how they no longer have to target individuals, what they do is they have computers that take in all the information and then they decide how to look at that material. They don’t bother going for me or you, they take everything.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about Julian and about the award you received for him?

Ratner: I saw that you wrote a very good piece on the award.

Robles: Oh?! Thank you!

Ratner: “Assange Receives Yoko-Lennon Courage Award for the Arts” I thought that was really important.

I think: two things, I visited Julian about ten days ago in London. I spent a couple of days at the Ecuadorian Embassy and Julian is doing quite well in there.

He is going to sit it out till we can figure out how to get him out of there without putting him in jeopardy of going into some underground prison cell in the United States.

He’s working. WikiLeaks is continuing to function. There are websites still with WikiLeaks that continue to publish documents.

So, he is quite strong. And of course because he is a computer person, you know he is with his computer and he has friends and visitors, and he can speak, etc. So, he is doing well in my view.

How long he can do well for…? You know, I don’t want this to go on forever, we’ve got to get him out of there at some point.

And hopefully something like Yoko Ono who gave Julian the Courage Award this year will help on that because she recognized that Julian Assange despite all the quote “detractors” who are like “fair weather people”, you know, when he is popular: they go with him, and now that he is not so popular: they don’t, she stood up for him and it is really courageous.

She gave him the Yoko Ono-Lennon Courage Award at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 150 people came. And it is awarded by Yoko every year to people of extraordinary courage whose work has changed the world.

And she believes that WikiLeaks has played a crucial role in changing the world and doing specifically what she thinks ought to be done which is to say government is paid for and should be run by the people of the United States in the United States.

We have a right to that material and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks gave us access to that material. And she gave him the Courage Award and it was accepted on his behalf by myself but also even more importantly by Baltasar Garzon.

END of PART 1

Part 2: You might call the CIA: Murder Inc. 

 11 February, 2013 20:30  

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President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, the U.S. lawyer for Julian Assange talked to the Voice of Russia's John Robles regarding the current situation surrounding Julian Assange who remains trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. During part two of the interview he touches upon the people of Ecuador, President Correa, Julian’s Australian Senate bid, the recent U.S. White Paper authorizing droning of U.S. citizens and says a resolution to Assange’s situation may be possible after the Bradley Manning case is concluded.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about Julian and about the award you received for him?

Ratner: I saw that you wrote a very good piece on the award.

Robles : Oh?! Thank you!

Ratner: “Assange Receives Yoko-Lennon Courage Award for the Arts” I thought that was really important.

I think: two things, I visited Julian about ten days ago in London. I spent a couple of days at the Ecuadorian Embassy and Julian is doing quite well in there.

He is going to sit it out till we can figure out how to get him out of there without putting him in jeopardy of going into some underground prison cell in the United States.

He’s working. WikiLeaks is continuing to function. There are websites still with WikiLeaks that continue to publish documents.

So, he is quite strong. And of course because he is a computer person, you know he is with his computer and he has friends and visitors, and he can speak, etc. So, he is doing well in my view.

How long he can do well for…? You know, I don’t want this to go on forever, we’ve got to get him out of there at some point.

And hopefully something like Yoko Ono who gave Julian the Courage Award this year will help on that because she recognized that Julian Assange despite all the quote “detractors” who are like “fair weather people”, you know, when he is popular: they go with him, and now that he is not so popular: they don’t, she stood up for him and it is really courageous.

She gave him the Yoko Ono-Lennon Courage Award at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 150 people came. And it is awarded by Yoko every year to people of extraordinary courage whose work has changed the world.

And she believes that WikiLeaks has played a crucial role in changing the world and doing specifically what she thinks ought to be done which is to say government is paid for and should be run by the people of the United States in the United States.

We have a right to that material and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks gave us access to that material. And she gave him the Courage Award and it was accepted on his behalf by myself but also even more importantly by Baltasar Garzon.

BaltasarGarzon, who deserves his own Courage Award, was a Spanish Judge, who indicted Augusto Pinochet for torture, war crimes in Chili from his period in the 70s and the 80s, very heroic man! He eventually lost his job in Spain, merely for political reasons, because he wanted to open up and examine the 130,000 graves of the disappeared in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.

They were disappeared from the Republic side, (the good side), in Spain that was fighting against Franco and the fascists. And when he did that, the right wing,still is very powerful in the judiciary in Spain, and they got rid of Baltasar Garzon.

To his credit, he’s now one of Julian’s lawyers. In fact he’s the main coordinating lawyer for the world. I’m the lawyer in the United States. Baltasar Garzon is the lawyer really working on how we’re going to get Julian Assange out of that Embassy.

Robles : I see, there isn’t too much that we hear from Ecuador and the Ecuadorian people, and in Julian’s speech he thanked the Ecuadorian people for their support and the price they’re paying. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on the Ecuadorian side, if you know anything?

Ratner: Well, it’s very interesting. I mean, I think actually, I mean Julian is in Ecuador, because President Correa really supported what Julian did, even though some of the cables pointed a finger of corruption at some of the police in Ecuador, but President Correa, of Ecuador, still supported him.

I’m sure, you know, that on Russian TV, RT rather, Julian did a long interview with President Correa that was very important, it’s very funny and very interesting. And after that Julian decided that maybe Ecuador is a good place, and Ecuador did decide that Julian Assange is a hero, a truth teller and that he ought to get a political asylum, because he’s being prosecuted.

Now the night he got the award; the Yoko Ono-Lennon Courage Award, at the museum of modern art a few days ago, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador came in from Ecuador. They felt that it was that important, and he gave really the longest talk of the evening.

Baltasar Garzon and I read Julian’s little talk, which you quoted in your article, and then the longer talk was given by the Foreign Minister of Ecuador. And he was really talking about how Ecuador did what it felt was right in this case, that Julian was a truth teller.

And it’s really courageous of Ecuador, think about it. Ecuador is this small little 9-million-person country, all kinds of trade agreements with the United States, and yet it stood up to the United States! So there was a lot of courage there that night, I mean Julian, Bartasan Garzon, Yoko and obviously Ecuador.

My feeling is that Julian has a lot of support in Ecuador, there’re groups that go out in his support and hopefully we’ll one day get him to Ecuador where he can really live freely and safely.

Robles: I wrote about Julian’s… apparently, he’s going to run for Senate in Australia. Would that affect his asylum with Ecuador, or…? Can he run for office like that?

Ratner: He can definitely run for office and I think at this point he plans to. And there’s a very good chance of winning and, of course, it will put everybody in a very uncomfortable position: everybody being the British and maybe the Australians, who have not given the support they should.

Whether that would entitle him to walk out of that Embassy and go take his seat in the Australian Parliament is not 100% clear at all.

It does seem, though, that because it’s a British Commonwealth Country, Australia is, that there might be a certain recognition they have to give to their legislators and might have to let him out. That would be our argument, but the British have been pretty hard-nosed, but I think Julian Assange has a good chance of getting to be a Senator, from Australia.

Robles: There’re fears that if he goes to Australia, they’d ship him to the United States too.

Ratner: That’s not wrong. It’s a good question. We don’t have an answer to that yet. Hopefully, if he became a Senator from there, he’d have some kind of immunity from being extradited to the United States. But it’s true, the Australians are like the lapdogs for the United States. So they do what the United States tells, basically, I mean the British do as well.

It is a problem. Julian, he’s 41 years old, right now he has the United States after him and he will probably have them after him for a very long time. To be honest it’s extremely upsetting for all of us, because this is a man, who I consider, as do millions of millions of others, to be a world hero and a truth teller and a whistle blower, and that he should be subjected to this kind of treatment, when the people who engaged in torture and war crimes are still running my country, well it’spretty outrageous!

Robles: And they’re walking free and nothing is going to happen to them apparently.

Ratner: That’s correct. We saw that with John Brennan becoming the head of the CIA, who was very aware of the waterboarding and the torture that took place when he was third in command at the CIA. He is in charge of the drones, the drone policy that’s killing people all over the world. Yet, he’s going to be the head of our CIA! And he was given a real pas by this intelligence committee that examined him a few days ago.

Robles: Regarding extra-judicial assassinations and droning and everything, I’m sure you’ve read that White Paper from the Department of Justice? Are you familiar with that?

Ratner: Yeah, of course.

Robles: What’s your opinion on that? I read through it and it seems that they’re basically trying to justify, in any way they can, what amounts to, just murder, anywhere in the world.

Ratner: It’s basically a murder paper. It’s one thing to drone or bomb in an act of war, when you’re in a war-zone, when you’re fighting an actual war in Afghanistan, yeah, you can kill people from the other side. But here’s what they’re doing, they’re killing people all over the world; killing them in Yemen, killing them in Somalia, under their argument they made in the so-called White Paper: they could kill them in the United Kingdom, they could kill U.S. citizens here in the United States, by drone.

And the excuse, (there is a lot wrong with that paper),but the major point to me was: there is a doctrine that says it’s “Self-Defense” if someone is about to push a button, and launch an atomic bomb on your country, you have a right to get rid of that person, whether you try it by arrest first, but you get rid of them.

But what they did in this paper is that they went way beyond that. The concept is one called imminent. If it’s imminent, if a person is going to hit that button, and they said they were going to use broader definition of “imminence”, they no longer have to be actually planning an attack on the United States, they simply have to be a member of al-Qaeda or “associated forces”, whatever that means. And they have to have some bad activities in their past. Really it’s a worldwide murder scheme!

It’s no different from what Pinochet did in Chili in 70s when he would murder his opponents all over South America, in Operation Condor. It’s different only in the sense that the U.S. is more powerful and has a means now to murder hundreds, if not thousands of people, and we think that they’ve murdered over 3,000 or 4,000.

They said at a hearing on this, Brennan was testifying, that they only have hit civilians in single numbers, single digits. We know that’s wrong. They have probably killed a thousand civilians, killed 200 children. So right now you might call the United States CIA: “Murder Inc.”.

Robles: I see, about Julian, can you tell us anything that’s going to be coming up soon? What’s your prediction?

Ratner: I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of movement until we see what happens at the end of the Bradley Manning case. Bradley Manning is one of the alleged sources. And I suspect that when that case gets resolved, maybe we’ll be able to try and resolve Julian’s case in some way. So, I think he’s going to be in that embassy for certainly, the next foreseeable future, which is the next few months for sure.

 

Last Update: 07/16/2017 18:40 +0300

 

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