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Guardian Escalates Its Vilification of Julian Assange
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It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to the Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.

Faced with the backlash, the Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.

The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.

The Guardian’s latest story provides a supposedly stronger foundation for an existing narrative: that Assange and Wikileaks knowingly published emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic party’s servers. In truth, there is no public evidence that the emails were hacked, or that Russia was involved. Central actors have suggested instead that the emails were leaked from within the Democratic party.

Nonetheless, this unverified allegation has been aggressively exploited by the Democratic leadership because it shifts attention away both from its failure to mount an effective electoral challenge to Trump and from the damaging contents of the emails. These show that party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.

Manafort has denied the Guardian’s claims, while Assange has threatened to sue the Guardian for libel.

‘Responsible for Trump’

The emotional impact of the Guardian story is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by the Guardian or the New York Times – but the head of an organisation engaged in espionage for a foreign power.

The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the Wikileaks organisation, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.

The Guardian story will prepare public opinion for the moment when Ecuador’s rightwing government under President Lenin Moreno forces Assange out of the embassy, having already withdrawn most of his rights to use digital media.

It will soften opposition when the UK moves to arrest Assange on self-serving bail violation charges and extradites him to the US. And it will pave the way for the US legal system to lock Assange up for a very long time.

For the best part of a decade, any claims by Assange’s supporters that avoiding this fate was the reason Assange originally sought asylum in the embassy was ridiculed by corporate journalists, not least at the Guardian.

Even when a United Nations panel of experts in international law ruled in 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily – and unlawfully – detained by the UK, Guardian writers led efforts to discredit the UN report. See here and here.

Now Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

Heavy surveillance

The problem for the Guardian, which should have been obvious to its editors from the outset, is that any visits by Manafort would be easily verifiable without relying on unnamed “sources”.

Glenn Greenwald is far from alone in noting that London is possibly the most surveilled city in the world, with CCTV cameras everywhere. The environs of the Ecuadorian embassy are monitored especially heavily, with continuous filming by the UK and Ecuadorian authorities and most likely by the US and other actors with an interest in Assange’s fate.

The idea that Manafort or “Russians” could have wandered into the embassy to meet Assange even once without their trail, entry and meeting being intimately scrutinised and recorded is simply preposterous.

According to Greenwald: “If Paul Manafort … visited Assange at the Embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that.”

Former British ambassador Craig Murray also points out the extensive security checks insisted on by the embassy to which any visitor to Assange must submit. Any visits by Manafort would have been logged.

In fact, the Guardian obtained the embassy’s logs in May, and has never made any mention of either Manafort or “Russians” being identified in them. It did not refer to the logs in its latest story.


“The problem with this latest fabrication is that [Ecuador’s President] Moreno had already released the visitor logs to the Mueller inquiry. Neither Manafort nor these ‘Russians’ are in the visitor logs … What possible motive would the Ecuadorean government have for facilitating secret unrecorded visits by Paul Manafort? Furthermore it is impossible that the intelligence agency – who were in charge of the security – would not know the identity of these alleged ‘Russians’.”

No fact-checking

It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like the Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – both because Assange’s personal fate rests on their veracity, and because, even more importantly, a fundamental right, the freedom of the press, is at stake.


Given this, one would have expected the Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.

I worked for the Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.

And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.

That at the very least hints that the Guardian thought they had “insurance” on this story. And the only people who could have promised that kind of insurance are the security and intelligence services – presumably of Britain, the United States and / or Ecuador.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them. That is profoundly irresponsible journalism – fake news – that should be of the gravest concern to readers.

A pattern, not an aberration

Despite all this, even analysts critical of the Guardian’s behaviour have shown a glaring failure to understand that its latest coverage represents not an aberration by the paper but decisively fits with a pattern.

Glenn Greenwald, who once had an influential column in the Guardian until an apparent, though unacknowledged, falling out with his employer over the Edward Snowden revelations, wrote a series of baffling observations about the Guardian’s latest story.

First, he suggested it was simply evidence of the Guardian’s long-standing (and well-documented) hostility towards Assange.

“The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper, has such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.”

It was also apparently evidence of the paper’s clickbait tendencies:

“They [Guardian editors] knew that publishing this story would cause partisan warriors to excitedly spread the story, and that cable news outlets would hyperventilate over it, and that they’d reap the rewards regardless of whether the story turned out to be true or false.”

And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of the Guardian’s reputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.

Deeper malaise

What this misses is that the Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for the Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in the Guardian and the wider corporate media.

Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, the Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritising the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, the Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See here, here and here.

Similarly, the Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.

The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist leftwing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive US hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for leftwing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the US, rather than the region’s rightwing authoritarians beloved of Washington.

The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where leftwing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.

The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.

Heroes of the neoliberal order

Equally, the Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.

Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretences, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.

That “humanitarian intervention” cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and created a vacuum that destabilised much of the Middle East, sucked in Islamic jihadists like al-Qaeda and ISIS, and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fuelled the resurgence of the far-right. None of that is discussed in the Guardian or considered grounds for disqualifying Blair as an arbiter of what is good for Britain and the world’s future.

The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by the Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”. Like Luke Harding, Higgins invariably seems ready to echo whatever the British and American security services need verifying “independently”.


Higgins and his well-staffed website Bellingcat have taken on for themselves the role of arbiters of truth on many foreign affairs issues, taking a prominent role in advocating for narratives that promote US and NATO hegemony while demonising Russia, especially in highly contested arenas such as Syria.

That clear partisanship should be no surprise, given that Higgins now enjoys an “academic” position at, and funding from, the Atlantic Council, a high-level, Washington-based think-tank founded to drum up support for NATO and justify its imperialist agenda.

Improbably, the Guardian has adopted Higgins as the poster-boy for a supposed citizen journalism it has sought to undermine as “fake news” whenever it occurs on social media without the endorsement of state-backed organisations.

The truth is that the Guardian has not erred in this latest story attacking Assange, or in its much longer-running campaign to vilify him. With this story, it has done what it regularly does when supposedly vital western foreign policy interests are at stake – it simply regurgitates an elite-serving, western narrative.

Its job is to shore up a consensus on the left for attacks on leading threats to the existing, neoliberal order: whether they are a platform like Wikileaks promoting whistle-blowing against a corrupt western elite; or a politician like Jeremy Corbyn seeking to break apart the status quo on the rapacious financial industries or Israel-Palestine; or a radical leader like Hugo Chavez who threatened to overturn a damaging and exploitative US dominance of “America’s backyard”; or social media dissidents who have started to chip away at the elite-friendly narratives of corporate media, including the Guardian.

The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Julian Assange, Russia 
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  1. JLK says:

    Wikileaks was probably a CIA/MI6 honey trap in the first place. If it wasn’t, web traffic in and out was so carefully monitored and controlled that it effectively became one. There’s no way that we were going to allow information like our deep cover agents in Russia and China to be outed. I fully support this, by the way.

    As far as the “Russian hacking” is concerned, who’s to say that the dearly departed Seth Rich wasn’t a Russian plant? It wouldn’t be the first time that the news was massaged to be substantially correct, but to avoid politically incorrect optics.

    Bernie Sanders made a lot of excellent points in my opinion, but there’s also no question that the Russians would prefer him over Trump or Clinton.

  2. This is just another milestone in the sad decline of The Fraudian. Assange, on the other hand, is a brave man and an inspiration. What’s really infuriating is this case is the Australian government’s abject refusal to stand up for one of its own citizens. Aussies like Caity Johnstone and John Pilger are up in arms over that … and rightly so.

    The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by the Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”.

    Higgins is a curious case. He began his career as an underwear expert and somehow managed to end up as a “weapons expert.” Most unusual!

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
    • Replies: @Tusk
    , @El Dato
  3. @JLK

    Is that you, Gordon Duff? These all sound like Veterans Today talking points.

  4. The Guardian is MI6, and WikiLeaks is Mossad. Yes it’s as simple as that. The Guardian publication has become un-readable. WikiLeaks disclosures must be read with care. Always think, who benefits.

  5. I just got done with Caitlin Johnstone’s piece on the above Fraudian article, and one of the commenters (‘John2020’) had me in stitches with this remark:

    ”Greenwald writes … the Guardian is “an otherwise solid and reliable paper,”. Hmm, can’t help wondering if Glenn meant to say the Guadrian is “an otherwise solid and reliable toilet paper”.

  6. Assange has been dubious to me since at least 2010. Why, in July 201o, did Wikileaks release the documents about the Afghan War ( 2004-09 ) to the Guardian ( Globalist, Russophobe ) Der Spiegel ( ditto ) and the New York Times ( CIA conduit ) ?
    Then in November 2010, the Confidential Cables were released to the same three plus Le Monde and El Pais.
    Throw in Assange’s defence by a Rothschild lawyer and his association with the not very crypto-Zionist Greenwald. Cui bono, indeed.

  7. Tusk says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    As an Australian I feel sick every day thinking about how disgraceful our government acts in regard to Assange. Meanwhile previous PM’s (Howard, Rudd and Abbott) all pushed for clemency deals for the Bali 9 drug smugglers who were caught in Indonesia. When two of them had the death penalty a prisoner swap was suggested as means to make sure they didn’t pay the price for the crimes they’ve committed.

    Meanwhile US, UK and AUS relations are fairly strong – compared to that of Indonesia – so Australian attempts to stand firm about Assange would have a better chance of being successful. Even if the UK or US didn’t cooperate at least Australia and Australian’s could stand proud that the government tried. Instead our gov is filled with Patsy’s bent over the barrel for the US zog’s to attempt global hegemony.

    Whatever happened to Australians valuing mateship?

    • Agree: Digital Samizdat
  8. El Dato says:

    Not an unconditional fan of Assange (he seems to be publicity hound and limelight hogger and not above engineering the message) but ….

    Remember former editor of the Guardian and investigative reporter David Leigh did much to nuke Assange in 2011 after he (Assange) couldn’t keep his dick in and got honeypotted by two floozies in Sweden. He (Leigh) published the secret passphrase to the diplomatic cable stash (which appeared on Bittorrent in encrypted from) in a book he co-wrote with Luke Harding, because why not. (More on this here: Articles WikiLeaks password leak FAQ). After getting heat, the Guardian then went on to misrepresent facts about what just happened, declaring itself not responsible and blaming Assange for the “cable leak”.

    The latest Guardian revulsions make things like these appear in special light:

    2011-03-01: Assange claims Jewish conspiracy against WikiLeaks: Not true says leaker’s Twitter

    2011-04-11: Assange™ says Guardian claims ‘completely fabricated’: Also fabricates a court case

    (That’s the UK’s The Register which, apart from being woke, is weirdly anti-Assange even if it pretends to have no particular editorial policy)

  9. El Dato says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    He began his career as an underwear expert and somehow managed to end up as a “weapons expert.”

    There is a joke about shitting one’s pants in there somewhere, but I can’t put my fingers on it.

    Being a “weapons expert” is better than “cave blogger” when one writes about incontinent BUKs in Ukraine.

  10. El Dato says:

    There’s no way that we were going to allow information like our deep cover agents in Russia and China to be outed. I fully support this, by the way.

    I have bad news. Cover got blown, and it had nothing to do with Wikileaks:

    2018-08-15: Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents. The number of informants executed in the debacle is higher than initially thought.

    Now, nearly eight years later [i.e. this happened around the time of Wikileaks Cable Leaks], it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.

    “The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable,” said one of the officials who, like the others, declined to be named discussing sensitive information. The former official described the attitude of those in the agency who worked on China at the time as “invincible.”

    • Replies: @JLK
  11. JLK says:
    @El Dato

    I read about that as well, but my point was that our intelligence agencies never would have taken the risk of letting Wikileaks operate in the manner that it represented to the public without some precautions in place.

  12. Politico now has a story by “Alex Finley” suggesting that Russia fed this false information to the Guardian in order to discredit it as a source of anti-Russian reporting. Read to the end of the article and you learn that “Alex Finley” is the pseudonym of an ex-CIA officer (who has a novel to sell).

    This is the shitty world that has resulted from handing immense power to state-sponsored permanent conspiracies, in the form of “intelligence services”: now their alumni are everywhere, lying to us and acting in the interest of unknown cliques from back in their days at the agency.

  13. The Guardian has certainly changed a lot over the last 15 years. It’s always been on board with “Invite the World” but it used to be against “Invade the World”. No more.

    I also remember it used to have a soft spot for Russia. But that was when it was a Marxist dictatorship

    By the way, those heroic White Helmets seem able to operate in “rebel” held areas of Syria, so I’m SURE they must have a big operation in Yemen, being the apolitical humanitarians we know them to be, and what with Yemen being a nightmare of death and destruction.

    Funny we don’t hear anything about it.

    • Replies: @anon
  14. “It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like the Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – ”
    Sorry, Jonathan, but at this point I could no longer keep reading. The Guardian a serious publication?? Hahaha.

  15. Anonymous[126] • Disclaimer says:

    …justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.

    It’s the other way around. This fight is really between globalism (slavery) and nationalism (self-preservation). At the centre is the ongoing White Genocide Project so people like me, who are against it, are nominally “Far-Right” and very much restricted.

    Meanwhile, pink-haired “Leftists” who want no borders, no sovereignty and no future are supported and cultivated like fragile Turd Blossoms.

  16. It’s a shame that none of the dates on any of Manafort’s passports match up with the Guardian’s fairy tale…

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  17. Cheesus K Reist, there is nothing real about these CIA-Mossad fakers Julian Assange and Edward Snowden … who are being used to identify, silence, even kill real dissidents duped into contacting them or their pumper media like the Rothschild employee and gay ex-pornographer Glenn Greenwald:

    “We will be okay, Assange is talking to us and nothing will be released that will hurt us.”
    – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, boasting of how Julian Assange is a Mossad asset

    The late Zbigniew Brzezinski also admitted Wikileaks is an ‘intel agency’ front, in a December 2 2010 interview on PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, in the United States

    At least two people who contacted Assange have turned up dead – Seth Rich & Peter W Smith. Assange pretends to be ‘concerned’ about the former, he denies receiving the latter’s files.

    It is laughingly understood amongst European officials, that Assange is not really ‘living’ at the Ecuador embassy in London – the UK police ‘watch’ the place so MI5-MI6 can move him in and out for his meetings and photo opportunities.

    Julian Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens is legal adviser to the Rothschild Waddesdon Trust … richest family in the world helping Assange, and he is real? With no one shutting down Assange’s fundraising etc.?

    And regarding ‘Snowden’, who first allegedly ‘leaked’ to Dick Cheney’s friend and biographer at the CIA’s Washington Post (ha!):

    Maybe the biggest proof that Assange are Snowden are fakes, is how neither says a word regarding the devastating files on USA Virginia federal judge bribery – the very same judges who would allegedly put Assange & Snowden on trial if they were real. Covering up for USA judge bribery & corruption, is a key CIA agenda item … Any real US dissident overseas, would be glad to speak about it.

    Those files Assange & Snowden won’t dare talk about, are already blocking a series of USA extradition requests for other people … yet Assange & Snowden say nothing. If Assange or Snowden were real and ‘concerned about being extradited to the USA’, this is the first thing they would be talking about, as it would make their extraditions impossible. That Virginia federal judge bribery was discussed in the recent DOJ filing on the corruption of Robert Mueller, who was involved in it:

  18. @Tellthetruth

    My passport has rarely been stamped when I have crossed borders in the past decade. Manafort’s passport is likely not reliable documentation of his travels, and the electronic records kept by various governments could be easily filled in to produce a desired evidentiary trail.

  19. anon[228] • Disclaimer says:

    Jonathan Freidland

  20. Tony M says:

    Great to find Jonathan Cook articles here on Unz Review!

    It is significant in the case of the diplomatic cables release that the Israel-US folder contained nothing more than two or three nonsensical “hi”; “hello” type messages, as if just testing the channel, and nothing more, nothing of substance at all, when other as insignificant locations/countries had lots of messages. Now it may be that another communications channel was used for this correspondence, but the suspicion justly arises that though Wikileaks output, is the ‘the truth’ and ‘nothing but the truth’, it is not the ‘whole truth’, and though they may claim that no-one has every successfully disputed the authenticity of their publications/dumps, it seems evident that material is withheld or sifted through and filleted and what we’re getting is not the complete unadulterated take. It may be the case that this selection and winnowing down process had occurred before the material came to Wikileaks, by the source or some intermediary, but this remains to be seen and until such an anomaly – that specific material is withheld in some cases, somewhere in the chain – is convincingly explained, I’m reserving judgement on the Wikileaks phenomenon. Though it is not unreasonable to ponder if the more and the most damaging material is being reserved for some dead-mans switch in the event Assange becomes indisposed, but we expect to see even that sometime nevertheless when his freedom and essential human rights are restored to him. It has to be said though that many of the Wikileaks releases have proved to be (to me at least) anti-climactic chicken-feed merely confirming much that could be guessed or surmised about the march of global technological totalitarianism.

    The dire floundering fatally-holed Guardian’s conduct is just so outrageous and over the top that I think they may protest too much on the subject of Assange and Wikileaks -though they have plunged to the depths of propagandist depravity across all their output, and on almost any topic and overall their reputation is precisely nil and cannot ever credibly recover. Some date the real rot to 2009 or thereabouts, or further back to the rise of Blair, but of course their love-in with the Atlanticist snake-oil SDP then SDP-Liberal-Alliance split the anti-Tory vote and allowed Thatcher to romp to tragic majorities in the 1980s, so their deep treachery is even longer-standing if you look for it and choose to interpret it as such. Was it ever just all it seemed, was there ever really a golden-age, or have we been duped all of our lives.

    Remember Hilaire Belloc’s 1918 warning in The Free Press

    Is not everything which the regime desires to be suppressed, suppressed? Is not everything which it desires suggested, suggested? And is there any public question which would weaken the regime, and the discussion of which is ever allowed to appear in the great Capitalist journals?
    There has not been such a case for at least twenty years [thus since 1898]. The current simulacrum of criticism apparently attacking some portion of the regime, never deals with matters vital to its prestige. On the contrary, it deliberately side-tracks any vital discussion that sincere conviction may have forced upon the public, and spoils the scent with false issues.

  21. Anastasia says:

    Russia has no stake in communism or even socialism. They are a Christian country and that is reason enough for the US to hate them as well as most of the rest of the world. Bernie Sanders was not Russis’sfavorite. No way. Russia has no favorite’s in US elections. Unlike the American people, they are experts on the US deep state. They know far better than we do that it does not matter who is inoffice. It’s always the same policy. If Americans knew as much, you would not see so many people voting.

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