There are growing calls for the Guardian‘s editor-in-chief to resign as the paper faces accusations of publishing a major “fake news” story about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 27 November. Citing anonymous sources, the Guardian article accused Assange of holding “secret talks” with Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. The allegation could strengthen efforts to extradite Assange to the US, where he may face the death penalty.
“Bet the Guardian a million dollars”
In response, WikiLeaks is preparing to sue the Guardian for running the story. The independent publisher has also offered the Guardian a million dollars to prove the article is true:
Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper's reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange. https://t.co/R2Qn6rLQjn
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018
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WikiLeaks launches legal fund to sue the Guardian for publishing entirely fabricated story "Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy" — which spread all over the world today. It is time the Guardian paid a price for fabricating news. https://t.co/VaoMESN5RO
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018
Although WikiLeaks denied the accusation publicly beforehand, the Guardian did not initially include it.
The "Guardian"'s Luke Harding wrote to former lawyer Melinda Taylor just hours before publication. WikiLeaks then tweeted Harding's email publicly, outing the "Guardian"'s fake news disaster prior to publication. The "Guardian" didn't include the denial and ran regardless.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 27, 2018
Hours later, the media outlet added in WikiLeaks’ denial along with a series of changes to the content and headline, introducing uncertainty to the allegation. Within the article, the Guardian isn’t notifying its readers of any of the updates.
No evidence, little detail
It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed.
This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly.
The Guardian offers no evidence that the meetings took place, nor any exact dates for when they allegedly happened. The media outlet alleges one meeting happened simply at some point in 2013, another some time in 2015, and one in March 2016.
In a little over four hours, the article – or “fake news” as WikiLeaks called it – had received over 87,000 shares.
The allegation comes soon after US court documents indicated that the US has prepared an indictment against Assange. That’s despite a UN body ruling that the UK government is arbitrarily detaining the WikiLeaks founder. The UN body has called for the Conservative-led government to stop persecuting Assange and give him compensation. Still, Australian-born Assange has remained ‘detained‘ in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for six years.
“Gaping holes and highly sketchy aspects”
On social media, prominent commentators denounced the Guardian’s behaviour:
In sum, the Guardian published an article today that it knew would explode into all sorts of viral benefits for the paper and its reporters even though there are gaping holes and highly sketchy aspects to the story. That's a media pattern we've seen over and over in this story. https://t.co/1s9E3trp5f
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 27, 2018
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) November 27, 2018
This article has received 101,000 hits already. If it's fake news, as it appears to be, it's an appallingly reckless and destructive example https://t.co/Lg0U68YgKC
— Media Lens (@medialens) November 27, 2018
The deeper significance
The Guardian‘s fresh accusation against Assange feeds into a narrative from the US security services. The US intelligence services and much of the political and media establishment claim that Trump, Assange and Russia worked together to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election.
In the new piece, the Guardian presents that widely disputed allegation as outright fact. Harding and Collyns claimed that “months” after the alleged meeting in March 2016:
WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.
But forensic evidence has previously pointed to a leak from inside the Democratic Party, not a Russian hack.
During the presidential campaign, WikiLeaks released a huge bank of emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server. In response to the damaging release, the US intelligence community – along with the corporate media – maintains that Russia hacked the DNC. Former FBI director James Comey, meanwhile, has claimed that Russia passed the emails to WikiLeaks through a proxy.
But Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group of former intelligence officials, produced independent forensic analysis. And this backs up WikiLeaks’ longstanding claim that the emails were leaked, not hacked. In short, the person behind the release “copied 1,976 megabytes of data in 87 seconds”, which is faster than possible with a hack. VIPS co-founder Ray McGovern, who analysed Russia at the CIA for decades, expands:
The evidence that we have now is forensic… You would wonder why the people composing that CIA, FBI, NSA document… didn’t do any forensics…
The document from the US intelligence community also contained no evidence. McGovern and William Binney, who was a high-ranking NSA official for 30 years, have insisted since 2016 that this was because the signs point to a leak, not a hack.
Can we trust the investigation into Trump, WikiLeaks and Russia?
In the new piece, the Guardian writes:
But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
What’s often ignored in the corporate media is that Mueller’s record on facts does not bode well. Enabling the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mueller made false testimonies before congress, on camera:
On 11 February 2003, Mueller testified before congress that:
as Director Tenet has pointed out, Secretary Powell presented evidence last week that Baghdad has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, willfully attempting to evade and deceive the international community. Our particular concern is that Saddam Hussein may supply terrorists with biological, chemical, or radiological material.
Trump may be a monster, but the Democratic establishment and the US intelligence services are hardly trustworthy either. Neither is the Guardian, seemingly publishing a major fake news story linking Assange to Trump. Contrary to accusations that Assange colludes with Trump and Russia, WikiLeaks has published stories damaging governments across the world, including Russian ally Iran, Kenya and China, as well as the UK far right.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are among the organisations backing Assange (now an Ecuadorian citizen) and calling for the UK government to protect him from extradition to the US.
The former WikiLeaks editor is facing war from a permanent political class angry at the uncomfortable truths Assange has revealed. We must resist the establishment’s attempt at trial-by-media of Assange, before it’s too late.
The Guardian had not responded to The Canary‘s request for comment at the time of publication.
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