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Sep 29, 2020 84 tweets 12 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Day 16 of Julian Assange's extradition hearing thread. Today we'll have more testimony on prison conditions in the U.S. and what it would mean to send Assange there. #AssangeCase
Today we'll first have remote testimony from Maureen Baird, a former warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. Baird has testified in other extradition cases about the inhumane conditions of US prisons and the inability to keep prisoners safe.
In the Lauri Love case, the U.K.’s High Court overturned the lower court judge’s ruling because the judge relied too heavily on the assurances that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons could provide adequate mental health care. (See more from day 13…)
Baird has been sworn in, Ed Fitzgerald questioning for the defense. #AssangeCase
Baird worked in the Bureau of Prisons for more than 20 years. Has experience with prisoners under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) [which render inmates essentially incommunicado]
Baird thinks it likely Assange would be placed under SAMs before trial, for 'national security' reasons
Inmates she oversaw who were under SAMs spent 23-24 hours in their cells a day and were allowed no communication with other inmates at all.
All mail incoming or outgoing to anyone under SAMs is screened. Takes months to receive a piece of mail. 30 mins of phone call time a month, always monitored by an FBI agent, inmates have to request a call 2 weeks ahead of time
SAMs inmates were held in a special unit in the MCC. Designed after 9/11, intended for inmates to come from Guantanamo Bay, evolved into a SAMs unit, several alleged terrorists in that unit
Baird testifies that the SAMs regime applied to one prisoner is applied to all -- can't be changed by a warden, very black & white. If someone's in pre-trial for terrorism and someone's in for a different type of national security case, they're all held the same.
SAMs are imposed by the Attorney General, same regime of conditions from one prison to the next.

If anyone is a SAMs inmate in federal system, would likely go post-trial to ADX Florence in Colorado.
Prosecution's witness Mr Kromberg has said inmates under SAMs can challenge the conditions. Baird says a warden and the BOP can't assist, and inmate has to exhaust the Administrative Remedy process before suing in court. Baird has never seen an Administrative Remedy overturn SAMs
Authority for imposing and renewing SAMs lie with the Attorney General.
Baird: SAMs are more isolating than restrictive housing. No contact with anyone else. Causes severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, weight loss detrimental to their physical health, it's detrimental to their mental health.
Baird: if under SAMs post-trial, the only place for Assange to go would be ADX Florence in Colorado
Baird agrees with Joel Sickler's assessment that Assange could spend the rest of his life in the H unit at ADX Florence.
Baird agrees with former ADX Florence warden Robert Hood that the prison is "not built for humanity."
Baird challenges Kromberg's assertion that ADX has a step-down program for inmates to reduce restrictions. Also says any program ADX offered would still be in isolation. Not just physically - no type of communication with other inmates. No physical contact during family visits.
Baird discusses the Bureau of Prison's suicide prevention program -- relies on inmates self-reporting, so signs are often missed.
End of questioning, now Clair Dobbin cross-examines for the prosecution. First question: "are you independent?"
Dobbin notes Baird consults a law firm which advocates for defendants, always advocates for lower sentences. Baird explains she helps more in things like trying to get home confinement.
Dobbin establishes Baird's SAMs experience is limited to pre-trial defendants.

Were any other SAMs inmates imprisoned for espionage? No

Dobbin challenges Baird assumption that Assange would get SAMs
Baird: it appears to be very much on the table, Mr Kromberg references SAMs quite a bit in his statement, indicates to me it's likely.

Dobbin stresses that it's speculative, that Kromberg was only saying it's possible
Dobbin arguing there are good reasons for SAMs, an intelligence agency & US attorney office are involved in the decision to prevent the disclosure of national security information.

Dobbin: how can you say the risk of disclosure exists?

Baird: He's being charged with espionage
Dobbin also questioning Baird's claim that all SAMs are applied the same across the board, says they often vary and can be modified.

Baird: I'd say that's very rare, any modification wouldn't change the isolation
Dobbin at length trying to challenge Baird's claim that SAMs can't be challenged/appealed
Dobbin says Baird was in a position to change these conditions at the MCC, like getting correctional officers to talk to isolated inmates under SAMs. Baird says that isn't in their job description. "That's not something that's done in the prison"
Dobbin lengthily trying to establish Baird didn't complain about SAMs when a warden

Baird: if you've been to one of these facilities you'd know that isn't what's done

Dobbin: this all suggests these conditions didn't concern you at the time
Baird: I honestly didn't believe I had any control over it at all, it was at such a high level.
Baird was involved in placing inmates in specific facilities, including the ADX. Dobbin trying to argue there's a multi-layer review process, people are placed there for good reason / exceptional security concerns, that Baird's experience from the 90s isn't sufficiently relevant
Dobbin also trying to argue SAMs inmates can go to other facilities than the ADX. Baird saying some of these referenced could be pre-trial, one of the facilities mentioned is all-female. Also says even if at other facilities would be in special segregated housing.
Dobbin again suggesting SAMs can be amended to eventually allow inmates to associate with others. Baird says she sees it on paper but doesn't believe it happens in practice, if so extremely rare.
Baird on the idea that you could appeal to be able to speak with other inmates, says the isolation is the whole point of SAMs, if they can speak to other inmates why would they need to be on SAMs?
Dobbin has been trying to establish that inmates on the H unit at the ADX Florence in Colorado have the potential to get off of SAMs. (Spent far more time on this than on the argument that he might not go there.)
Dobbin moves to suicide risk in prison, suggesting the rate is very low. "One is too many," Baird says, though she agrees suicide prevention is usually effective.
Ed Fitzgerald re-questioning for the defense. Establishes that a judge has referred to conditions for inmates under SAMs as "solitary confinement"
Defense establishes that Assange's conditions could be indefinite. Also that suicide risk is higher in pre-trial detention and in solitary confinement
Baird confirms that CIA and the DOJ's office of enforcement operations would be involved in the decision to place Assange under SAMs, and that AG William Barr would have the final decision
End of Maureen Baird's testimony. #AssangeCase
Lunch break now, then we're scheduled to have testimony from US attorney Lindsey A Lewis, and then we'll have discussion of anonymous witnesses. Court back in an hour. #AssangeCase
U.S. attorney Lindsay A Lewis is testifying by remote video now. Lewis is on the board of directors for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Lewis worked on the case of Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, who was extradited to the US and is imprisoned at the ADX Florence.
Mostafa is also known as and is referred to here as Abu Hamza
Lewis testifies that in Hamza's case, the US told European courts that Hamza wouldn't be detained at ADX Florence -- that is where he has been detained for the last 5 years
UK and European high courts relied on US representations that Hamza wouldn't get placed in ADX Florence in deciding to extradite him
Hamza was held in solitary confinement before trial. Lewis testifies that "almost certainly" Assange would be subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) before and after trial
Lewis discusses the psychological effects of SAMs + solitary confinement -- references the CCR's report (
Lewis says that the Cunningham settlement is lauded because mentally ill patients were moved out of ADX but it hasn't resolved the problem of ADX still detaining severely depressed inmates and others with psychiatric issues requiring therapeutic services
Lewis says if you are in the H unit at ADX and are under SAMs, you get no benefit from the Cunningham settlement
Lewis says the restrictions SAMs imposes on lawyers too means she can only discuss Hamza's case because some of it is in public records
Lewis confirms SAMs conditions: extremely limited communication with the outside world, no interaction with other inmates, solitary confinement 'for sometimes years at a time'
Kromberg suggested SAMs could be lifted after a year. Lewis says this is Hamza's 8th year under SAMs. "Extremely difficult" to challenge SAMs, must go through long drawn-out Admin. Remedy process before getting to court. Doesn't know of any successful Admin Remedy attempts
Judge's in el-Hage case referred to the first 15 months of his detention as "solitary confinement", Lewis confirms this is the right term to use
End of questioning, now Clair Dobbin cross-examines for the prosecution #AssangeCase
Dobbin is recounting the details of Abu Hamza's terrorism convictions, asking Lewis to confirm each part [presumably to implicitly justify extraditing him and detaining him at ADX Florence]
Then Dobbin recounts his subsequent legal issues, requested new trial, filed appeal - asks, he was able to do all this while in ADX Florence?

Lewis says yes but w/ significant difficulty, says Dobbin is dismissive of these substantial difficulties working with lawyers under SAMs
Lewis says the US assured UK courts that if Hamza was sent to ADX he'd get full medical evaluation and if he couldn't manage daily activities he wouldn't be placed there.

UK courts thought at every stage it was highly unlikely, one said "impossible", that he'd be placed at ADX
Dobbin & Lewis disagreeing about whether the UK court was misled by the US over whether Hamza would be sent to ADX Florence
Long disagreement continued but wasn't resolved, Lewis maintains that the US did not stick to assurances it made to UK courts
Lewis says there is an "extreme shortage" of medical care at the ADX Florence
Dobbin reading Dr Leukenfield's description of therapy services offered at ADX, Lewis looks astonished, says if this is her position on mental health treatment at ADX it discounts the rest of her testimony because it's just not the reality, SAMs mean no services like this
Dobbin said 'yes but if a prisoner gets taken off of SAMs...', Lewis reiterates can't get off SAMs

Dobbin said did Hamza violate SAMs?

Lewis says yes and how that happened is a good example of the absurdity of SAMs
Hamza said on the phone to tell his 1-year-old grandchild 'happy birthday' and was written up for talking to a 3rd party, the 1-year-old wasn't an approved party. Lewis says this shows how SAMs tears families apart
Dobbin said the purpose of this SAMs restriction is to stop terrorists from communicating coded messages
End of cross-examination. Fitzgerald re-examines for the defense. #AssangeCase
Fitzgerald asked about the deference to the executive in the SAMs process, judge asks if he is challenging the impartiality of American courts, he says no but asking about constraints on courts. Lewis reads from case where court deferred to the executive
Fitzgerald says Assange's current UK conditions allow him to see other inmates and pre-COVID regular sessions with a psychologist. If under SAMs would he get the same?

Lewis: if under SAMs wouldn't get anywhere near what he gets in the UK
End of Lindsay Lewis' testimony. #AssangeCase
Now dealing with issue of defense requesting anonymity of 2 witnesses. Prosecution is neutral, says up to the judge but the defense must prove harm would be caused if names released. Defense says both parties would know the name.
Judge notes that these 2 witnesses have already been granted anonymity in a Spanish court, so we can deduce they are 2 former employees of UC Global and can testify about the surveillance company spying on Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy
Background: Three protected witnesses accuse Spanish ex-marine of spying on Julian Assange…
"Former employees of David Morales tell a judge in Spain that his company was making recordings of the cyberactivist and his lawyers for the CIA"
In Spanish case, US has stalled the proceedings: "American prosecutors want to know the judge’s sources before cooperating in an investigation into whether UC Global gave intelligence services sensitive material on the cyber-activist"…
Defense explains witnesses taking measures to stay safe, fearing retaliation from military-trained David Morales. Guns found at Morales' home with serial numbers missing.

Judge suggests the employment details in testimony already make it easy for Morales to know who they are
Defense lawyer Mark Summers discussing Morales' reference to his "American friends", plans to kidnap or poison Assange.
More US background: '"The American friends": New court files expose Sheldon Adelson’s security team in US spy operation against Julian Assange'…
Summers explaining that the aim of the Spanish proceedings is to determine chain of command, who Morales was taking direction from (who the 'American friends' are).
Summers: the duty of this court is to reduce the risk to witnesses such as these even if we can't remove it entirely. Morales may well know who they are but the fact that he alone may know could be what is currently protecting them. As it stands it is working.
Judge says no need to continue, "I am with you" on need to anonymize. Says the fact that Spanish court already granted anonymity means UK court will respect their decision
Now that judge has agreed to anonymity, the procedure is for defense to pass the statements privately to the prosecution and US confirms their identity and then they can be read. Hopes it won't take more than 24 hours.
Defense and prosecution have agreed on several witness statements, including those of Noam Chomsky, Stefania Mauritzi, Cockburn, several others. Leaves just Andy Worthington and Jameel Jaffer to potentially be called live, and 2 other witnesses still need to be agreed
Statements will be read in court tomorrow morning and Andy Worthington will be called live tomorrow afternoon. Jaffer was scheduled to testify Friday but may be able to be agreed to or may testify Thurs.
Prosecution can't receive instruction from the US government on the 2 anonymous witnesses because they don't yet know who they are, prosecution intends to argue their evidence is irrelevant
Adjourned for today, back tomorrow at 10:00am London time. #AssangeCase
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