Sunday, 22 July 2018

A resource for comparing Arctic sea ice concentration

Many thanks to Craig Jon who has provided this invaluable information to me.

This should provide a resource for comparison

Arctic sea ice concentration in the 2017 melt season

Here is today's data:
Here is data from last year - July to August

From Wikpedia 

Sea ice concentration

Sea ice concentration is a useful variable for climate scientists and nautical navigators. It is defined as the area of sea ice relative to the total at a given point in the ocean. This article will deal primarily with its determination from remote sensing measurements.


Sea ice concentration helps determine a number of other important climate variables. Since the albedo of ice is much higher than that of water, ice concentration will regulate insolation in the polar oceans. When combined with ice thickness, it determines several other important fluxes between the air and sea, such as salt and fresh-water fluxes between the polar oceans (see for instance bottom water) as well as heat transfer between the atmosphere. Maps of sea ice concentration can be used to determine ice area and ice extent, both of which are important markers of climate change.
Ice concentration charts are also used by navigators to determine potentially passable regions—see icebreaker.


In situ

Measurements from ships and aircraft are based on simply calculating the relative area of ice versus water visible within the scene. This can be done using photographs or by eye. In situ measurements are used to validate remote sensing measurements.

SAR and visible

Both synthetic aperture radar and visible sensors (such as Landsat) are normally high enough resolution that each pixel is simply classified as a distinct surface type, i.e. water versus ice. The concentration can then be determined by counting the number of ice pixels in a given area which is useful for validating concentration estimates from lower resolution instruments such as microwave radiometers. Since SAR images are normally monochrome and the backscatter of ice can vary quite considerably, classification is normally done based on texture using groups of pixels—see pattern recognition.
Visible sensors have the disadvantage of being quite weather sensitive—images are obscured by clouds—while SAR sensors, especially in the higher resolution modes, have a limited coverage and must be pointed. This is why the tool of choice for determining ice concentration is often a passive microwave sensor. [1] [2]

Microwave radiometry

Arctic sea ice coverage in 1980 (bottom) and 2012 (top), as observed by passive microwave sensors on NASA’s Nimbus-7 satellite and by the Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). Multi-year ice is shown in bright white, while average sea ice cover is shown in light blue to milky white. The data shows the ice cover for the period of 1 November through 31 January in their respective years.

All warm bodies emit electro-magnetic radiation: see thermal radiation. Since different objects will emit differently at different frequencies, we can often determine what type of object we are looking at based on its emitted radiation—see spectroscopy. This principle underlies all passive microwave sensors and most passive infrared sensors. Passive is used in the sense that the sensor only measures radiation that has been emitted by other objects but does not emit any of its own. (A SAR sensor, by contrast, is active.) SSMR and SSMI radiometers were flown on the Nimbus program and DMSP series of satellites.

Because clouds are translucent in the microwave regime, especially at lower frequencies, microwave radiometers are quite weather insensitive. Since most microwave radiometers operate along a polar orbit with a broad, sweeping scan, full ice maps of the polar regions where the swaths are largely overlapping can usually be obtained within one day. This frequency and reliability comes at the cost of a poor resolution: the angular field of view of an antenna is directly proportional to the wavelength and inversely proportional to the effective aperture area. Thus we need a large deflector dish to compensate for a low frequency .[1]

Most ice concentration algorithms based on microwave radiometry are predicated on the dual observation that: 1. different surface types have different, strongly clustered, microwave signatures and 2. the radiometric signature at the instrument head is a linear combination of that of the different surface types, with the weights taking on the values of the relative concentrations. If we form a vector space from each of the instrument channels in which all but one of the signatures of the different surface types are linearly independent, then it is straightforward to solve for the relative concentrations:
where T → b {\displaystyle {\vec {T}}_{b}} {\vec  T}_{b} is the radiometric signature at the instrument head (normally measured as a brightness temperature), T → b 0 {\displaystyle {\vec {T}}_{b0}} {\vec  T}_{{b0}} is the signature of the nominal background surface type (normally water), T → b i {\displaystyle {\vec {T}}_{bi}} {\vec  T}_{{bi}} is the signature of the ith surface type while Ci are the relative concentrations. [3] [4] [5]T → b = T → b 0 + ∑ i = 1 n ( T → b i − T → b 0 ) C i {\displaystyle {\vec {T}}_{b}={\vec {T}}_{b0}+\sum _{i=1}^{n}({\vec {T}}_{bi}-{\vec {T}}_{b0})C_{i}} {\vec  T}_{b}={\vec  T}_{{b0}}+\sum _{{i=1}}^{n}({\vec  T}_{{bi}}-{\vec  T}_{{b0}})C_{i}

Every operational ice concentration algorithm is predicated on this principle or a slight variation. The NASA team algorithm, for instance, works by taking the difference of two channels and dividing by their sum. This makes the retrieval slightly nonlinear, but with the advantage that the influence of temperature is mitigated. This is because brightness temperature varies roughly linearly with physical temperature when all other things are equal—see emissivity—and because the sea ice emissivity at different microwave channels is strongly correlated.[3] As the equation suggests, concentrations of multiple ice types can potentially be detected, with NASA team distinguishing between first-year and multi-year ice (see image above). [6] [7]

Accuracies of sea ice concentration derived from passive microwave sensors may be expected to be on the order of 5\% (absolute). [6] [8] [9] A number of factors act to reduce the accuracy of the retrievals, the most obvious being variations in the microwave signatures produced by a given surface type. For sea ice, the presence of snow, variations in salt and moisture content, the presence of melt ponds as well as variations in surface temperature will all produce strong variations in the microwave signature of a given ice type. New and thin ice in particular will often have a microwave signature closer to that of open water. This is normally because of its high salt content, not because of radiation being transmitted from the water through the ice—see sea ice emissivity modelling. The presence of waves and surface roughness will change the signature over open water. Adverse weather conditions, clouds and humidity in particular, will also tend to reduce the accuracy of retrievals.[4]

A look at Antarctica Glaciers, Ice Sheets, Sea Ice & Volcanoes

I have recently set up a Facebook page Climate Change in Antarctica to concentrate on abrupt climate change as it relates to that part of the world.

Looking at Antarctica Glaciers, Ice Sheets, Sea Ice & Volcanoes (July 21, 2018)

Although we normally focus on the Arctic ice melting, let's look down under and see what's going on. The magician will draw your attention away from what's really happening. Why do we not hear about the Antarctic? The ice is melting much faster than expected. Temperatures are much higher than normal and there is ongoing volcanic activity.

Time is short. Get your spiritual houses in order

God bless everyone!

Peace, Margo

Abrupt climate change and extreme weather update - 07/21/2018

Dozens dead in Japan from record-setting, long duration extreme heat event

19 July, 2018

With torrential rain and punishing heat, devastating weather has afflicted Japan for much of July.

Early in the month, more than 200 people died in its worst flood in decades, spurred by up to 70 inches of rain. Since then, dozens more have perished from an extended period of scorching heat, which has shattered records throughout the country.

Kyodo News reports the death toll from heat has risen above 30 since July 9. On Thursday alone, 10 people died and 2,605 people were hospitalized in the sweltering conditions, the Japan Times wrote.

Sayaka Mori, a meteorologist for the broadcasting service NHK World-Japan, tweeted that mercury climbed as high as 105.3 degrees (40.7 Celsius), the highest in five years and 0.5 degrees (0.3 Celsius) off the national record.

The city of Kyoto saw its temperature soar to 103.6 degrees (39.8 Celsius) Thursday, matching its highest temperature ever recorded (on August 8, 1994). To its south, Yamaguchi hit 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius), topping its previous highest temperature of  101.1 degrees (38.4 Celsius).

Friday’s conditions could be comparably hot, as temperatures may rise 20 degrees above average.

The heat is the result of a high-pressure area or heat dome parked over the region. It is forecast to remain more or less stationary for days and possibly strengthen in about a week.  On Thursday, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued an extended forecast calling for an elevated likelihood of very high temperatures through the end of the month.

European model simulation of high pressure area or heat dome parked over Japan Thursday. (
Local officials are warning people about dangers of heat stroke and advising precautions such as staying hydrated and adjusting room temperatures.
Japan joins many other locations in the Northern Hemisphere that have seen some of their hottest weather ever recorded. They include:

Temperature difference from normal forecast Friday afternoon over Japan from American model. (
Excessively hot weather has persisted in Japan for days. On Wednesday, French meteorologist Etienne Kapikian, who closely monitors global weather extremes, tweeted that five locations had posted their highest recorded temperatures for any month of the year. A number of other locations set all-time (for any month) or July heat records in the days prior.

On Sunday, 200 of 927 weather stations in the country witnessed temperatures of at least 95 degrees (35 Celsius).

BLISTERING temperatures are set to continue to plague the UK as forecasters warned thermometers will rocket next week, hitting 33C and putting summer 2018 in line to become one of the hottest on record.

BBC Weather - Blistering heat hitting UK next week

BBC Weather predicted the persistent heatwave will strengthen next week as a suffocating area of high pressure brings temperatures towards the mid-30s.

A ‘monster heatwave’ at the end of next month could tumble all records bringing to an end one of the hottest summers in decades.

BBC Weather meteorologist Stav Danaos said: "As we head in towards next week things are hotting up for England and Wales. To the north and the west though we’ll see a new weather front which will wax and wane here, fairly cloudy and cool conditions at times.

"But for England and Wales, it starts to import very warm and humid south-westerly winds and, don’t be surprised, one or two places in the south-east could reach 32C or 33C."

Abnormally hot temperatures continue to wreak devastation across northern and central parts of the continent

Farmers across northern and central Europe are facing crop failure and bankruptcy as one of the most intense regional droughts in recent memory strengthens its grip.

States of emergency have been declared in Latvia and Lithuania, while the sun continues to bake Swedish fields that have received only 12% of their normal rainfall.

The abnormally hot temperatures – which have topped 30C in the Arctic Circle – are in line with climate change trends, according to the World Meteorological Organization. And as about 50 wildfires rage across Sweden, no respite from the heatwave is yet in sight.

"The most robust study of the ice mass balance of Antarctica to date," scientists say, "now puts Antarctica in the frame as one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise."
bye, ice

Scientists are expressing alarm over "utterly terrifying" new findings from NASA and the European Space Agency that Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992, and in the past five years—as the atmospheric and ocean temperatures have continued to climb amid ongoing reliance on fossil fuels—ice losses have tripled.

This should be a wake-up call, said University of Leeds professor Andrew Shepherd, a lead author of the report. "These events and the sea-level rise they've triggered are an indicator of climate change and should be of concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities."

Published in the journal Nature, "This is the most robust study of the ice mass balance of Antarctica to date," said NASA's Erik Ivins, who co-led the research team. The report offers insight into the future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which the authors note "is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise."

The fire season now runs almost year-round, and 2018 is already worse than usual

Wildfires have almost become a year-round threat in some parts of the western United States. From Colorado to California, it feels like the blazes from last year never went out.

Flames ignited forests and chaparral virtually nonstop in 2017, and the year ended with record infernos in Southern California that burned well into 2018.

Officials don’t refer to “fire seasons anymore but rather to fire years,” Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, told me in an email.

The Department of Agriculture's fire danger warning remains at condition orange - high fire risk

Temperatures are due to hit 24C tomorrow

AN ORANGE fire alert remains in place across Ireland as many areas continue to experience severe drought after recent heatwaves.

The Department of Agriculture’s fire danger warning remains at condition orange – high fire risk.

The Department confirmed: “Arising from preceding drought conditions, a High Fire Risk remains in all areas where hazardous fuels exist.

Fire Risk condition is likely to be moderated on a localised basis by scattered light rain, cooler temperatures and higher ambient humidity levels in many areas.

However, an increase in fire risk values is very likely as the weekend progresses.

Highest ignition risks are likely to remain in public amenity areas in proximity to urban centres.

Map showing the deadly heat wave over Japan and Korean, 21 July 2018. Graphic: AccuWeather

Japan is in the midst of a deadly, record-breaking heat wave.

Thirty people have died with the high temperatures and thousands have been rushed to the hospital across the country.

Officials are advising people to be sure to drink water and find air conditioning in an effort to avoid heat stroke.

In central Japan, the temperature rose to 40.9 Celsius (105F).

The city of Kyoto registered 38 Celsius (100F) for seven days in a row.

The scorching temperatures have people wondering about the wisdom of holding the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Queen's Necklace is littered with filth that we've been chucking into the sea

The government has grand plans for Mumbai’s seafront: a marina for yachts on the eastern seaboard, floating restaurants off the southern tip, watersports off Marine Drive and much more. But one look at the putrid waters and you’ll want nothing to do with any of this. This weekend, the Arabian Sea sent its annual reminder of the state of affairs by dumping trash and sewage on Mumbai’s shores. The BMC collected nearly 2,15,000kg of garbage from the beaches of Mumbai on Sunday, with Marine Drive itself accounting for 9,000kg of those.

Extreme weather 2018 - Sweden's call for help (& global fires) - BBC News - 19th July 2018

  • Blue-green algae flourishes in sunlight and is spreading into British lakes
  • In large quantities, the algae can be very harmful to humans and fatal for animals
  • Toxic algal scum has been linked with brain damage, say Welsh health officials
  • One utility firm wants to use the infected waters to replenish their supply levels

A Global Heat Wave Has Set the Arctic Circle on Fire

From Japan to Sweden, and Oman to Texas, a global heat wave is setting records, igniting wildfires, and killing dozens all across the world this week.

The south-central region is home to the highest temperatures in the U.S. this week, with nearly 35 million people living under excessive heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to be in the triple digits across Texas this weekend, marking the most severe heat wave in the state since 2011.
The Texas heat has already led to record-breaking days for the Texas power grid twice this week. Things aren’t any better elsewhere in the region, with heat indexes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana reaching up to 110 degrees.

Alaska Glacier's Melt Could Trigger Record Flooding Near Juneau

  • Officials are closely monitoring lake levels downstream of a glacier near Juneau, Alaska.
  • Water releases are projected to drive the Mendenhall Lake to its highest level on record.
  • If that happens, numerous homes are in danger of flooding.
The vast Sahara Desert is getting even bigger
Rainfall is decreasing along its southern edge.

The Sahara Desert covers an area of northern Africa larger than the lower 48 United States. And it’s growing even bigger.

Over the past century, rainfall levels have decreased along the southern edge of the Sahara. So some areas that were once semi-arid grassland have become desert.

Nigam: “The desert has expanded southward during summer by about ten percent, so it’s a fairly significant increase in the desert expanse over this 93-year period that we analyzed.”

Iowa Nightmare As Tornadoes Ravage Towns; Officials Declare State Of Emergency

Parts of Iowa was left devastated as several tornadoes carved a path through the state. In Marshalltown, a city of 27,000 people around 50 miles northeast of Des Moines, roofs were peeled off buildings like tin cans, buildings were flattened, and the cupola of the historic courthouse was blown 175 feet to the ground as city officials declared a state of emergency with a 9pm curfew

Rivers dry and fields dust, Iranian farmers turn to protest

Every day, farmers hold their small protest outside Varzaneh. It's a sign of the anger that has been growing over water shortages caused by a years-long drought but worsened, experts say, by government mismanagement.

Protests have gotten larger, with bursts of violence, at a time when economic woes in the country from inflation to unemployment have fueled unrest repeatedly over the last year.

Summer heat in India could soon be unbearable. Literally.
Indian street vendors sleep on their carts early morning in Lucknow, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in May.
Extreme heat can kill, as it did by the dozens in Pakistan in May. But as many of South Asia’s already-scorching cities get even hotter, scientists and economists are warning of a quieter, more far-reaching danger: Extreme heat is devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions more.
If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current pace, they say, heat and humidity levels could become unbearable, especially for the poor.
It is already making them poorer and sicker. Like the Kolkata street vendor who squats on his haunches from fatigue and nausea. Like the woman who sells water to tourists in Delhi and passes out from heatstroke at least once each summer. 
Like the women and men with fever and headaches who fill emergency rooms. 
Like the outdoor workers who become so weak or so sick that they routinely miss days of work, and their daily wages.

Vietnam warns of floods, landslides after tropical storm Son Tinh hits
Vietnam has warned of floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains after tropical storm Son Tinh made landfall in northern coastal areas, although no casualties were reported on Thursday.
A long coastline makes Vietnam prone to destructive storms and flooding, with 389 people last year in natural disasters such as floods and landslides, the General Statistics Office said.

Son Tinh weakened to a tropical low pressure event by the time it reached Vietnam late on Wednesday, curbing fears of immediate and widespread damage, but raising concerns of flooding.

"Heavy rain is forecast to continue in northern and central provinces, and threatens to cause flash floods and landslides in Hoa Binh, Son La, Lai Chau and Lang Son provinces," the national weather forecaster said.

Heatwave Threatens Nordic Crops as Lapland Gets New Heat Record

The heatwave that’s gripping northern Europe is sending power prices skyrocketing, threatening Nordic grain crops and forcing Sweden to seek help from Italy and France to help combat wildfires.

As the chart below shows, there’s no let up until early August when the temperatures could start to fall back toward more normal summer levels. Even in Finnish Lapland, the home of Santa, a new heat record of 33.4 degrees Celsius (92 Fahrenheit) was reached on Wednesday

* Harvesting to start in coming days in north Germany, UK
* Northern Europe parched by dry, hot spells
* Top EU grower France set for smaller, good-quality crop

BLACK BEAR NEWS 7.20.18 Crop failure and bankruptcy threaten farmers as drought grips Europe

URGENT!! Glenn Greenwald: Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the UK

#Unity4J Emergency Public Meeting and Unveiling of Non-Violent Digital Action Plan

International media are reporting that WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief may imminently be handed by Ecuador to UK authorities. (Ref: over-of-julian-assange-to-the-uk-may-be-imminent/) If such an event occurs, it presents an immediate threat to Assange’s human rights, asylum rights, liberty and to press freedoms.

It would also be in direct contravention to the rulings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Court of human rights, both of which have found in his favour.

The #Unity4J movement in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is holding an emergency public meeting to unveil a plan for mass non-violent action to demand freedom for the journalist and publisher. High profile supporters of Julian Assange will be in attendance and unveil the new strategy. 

#Unity4J originated from an unplanned but timely response to injustice when Julian Assange’s internet access and visitation rights were abruptly taken away and swiftly grew into high-profile monthly online vigils endorsed by Chris Hedges, George Galloway, Ray McGovern, Bill Binney and Daniel Ellsberg among many other noteworthy figures. It is with that same sense of urgency and duty to take a public stand against oppression that we are organising this Saturday to resist the escalated violations of Julian's basic rights. 

Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love." -Julian Assange

Spread the word.

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the UK. What Comes Next?
Glenn Greenwald

21 July, 2018

ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities.

Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia.
Presidential decree signed on July 17 by Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, outlining his trip to London and Madrid

A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.

The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.

It is thus highly unlikely that Moreno – who has shown himself willing to submit to threats and coercion from the UK, Spain and the U.S. – will obtain a guarantee that the U.K. not extradite Assange to the U.S., where top Trump officials have vowed to prosecute Assange and destroy WikiLeaks.

The central oddity of Assange’s case – that he has been effectively imprisoned for eight years despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime – is virtually certain to be prolonged once Ecuador hands him over to the U.K. Even under the best-case scenario, it appears highly likely that Assange will continue to be imprisoned by British authorities.

The only known criminal proceeding Assange currently faces is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender” – basically a minor bail violation charge that arose when he obtained asylum from Ecuador rather than complying with bail conditions by returning to court for a hearing on his attempt to resist extradition to Sweden.

That charge carries a prison term of three months and a fine, though it is possible that the time Assange has already spent in prison in the UK could be counted against that sentence. In 2010, Assange was imprisoned in Wandsworth Prison, kept in isolation, for 10 days until he was released on bail; he was then under house arrest for 550 days at the home of a supporter.

Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, told the Intercept that he would argue that all of that prison time already served should count toward (and thus completely fulfill) any prison term imposed on the “failure to surrender” charge, though British prosecutors would almost certainly contest that claim. Assange would also argue that he had a reasonable, valid basis for seeking asylum rather than submitting to UK authorities: namely, well-grounded fear that he would be extradited to the U.S. for prosecution for the act of publishing documents.

Beyond that minor charge, British prosecutors could argue that Assange’s evading of legal process in the UK was so protracted, intentional and malicious that it rose beyond mere “failure to surrender” to “contempt of court,” which carries a prison term of up to two years. Just on those charges alone, then, Assange faces a high risk of detention for another year or even longer in a British prison.

Currently, that is the only known criminal proceeding Assange faces. In May, 2017, Swedish prosecutors announced they were closing their investigation into the sexual assault allegations due to the futility of proceeding in light of Assange’s asylum and the time that has elapsed.

THE FAR MORE IMPORTANT question that will determine Assange’s future is what the U.S. Government intends to do. The Obama administration was eager to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, but ultimately concluded that there was no way to do so without either also prosecuting newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian which published the same documents, or create precedents that would enable the criminal prosecution of media outlets in the future.

Indeed, it is technically a crime under U.S. law for anyone – including a media outlet – to publish certain types of classified information. Under U.S. law, for instance, it was a felony for the Washington Post’s David Ignatius to report on the contents of telephone calls, intercepted by the NSA, between then National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, even though such reporting was clearly in the public interest since it proved Flynn lied when he denied such contacts.

That the Washington Post and Ignatius – and not merely their sources – violated U.S. criminal law by revealing the contents of intercepted communications with a Russian official is made clear by the text of 18 § 798 of the U.S. Code, which provides (emphasis added):
Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates … or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes … any classified information … obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

But the U.S. Justice Department has never wanted to indict and prosecute anyone for the crime of publishing such material, contenting themselves instead to prosecuting the government sources who leak it. Their reluctance has been due to two reasons: first, media outlets would argue that any attempts to criminalize the mere publication of classified or stolen documents is barred by the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment, a proposition the DOJ has never wanted to test; second, no DOJ has wanted as part of its legacy the creation of a precedent that allows the U.S. Government to criminally prosecute journalists and media outlets for reporting classified documents.

But the Trump administration has made clear that they have no such concerns. Quite the contrary: last April, Trump’s then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, now his Secretary of State, delivered a deranged, rambling, highly threatening broadside against WikiLeaks. Without citing any evidence, Pompeo decreed that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” and thus declared: “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”

The long-time right-wing Congressman, now one of Trump’s most loyal and favored cabinet officials, also explicitly rejected any First Amendment concerns about prosecuting Assange, arguing that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice . . . they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”

Pompeo then issued this bold threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.”

Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has similarly vowed not only to continue and expand the Obama DOJ’s crackdown on sources, but also to consider the prosecution of media outlets that publish classified information. It would be incredibly shrewd for Sessions to lay the foundation for doing so by prosecuting Assange first, safe in the knowledge that journalists themselves – consumed with hatred for Assange due to personal reasons, professional jealousies, and anger over the role they believed he played in 2016 in helping Hillary Clinton lose – would unite behind the Trump DOJ and in support of its efforts to imprison Assange.

During the Obama years, it was a mainstream view among media outlets that prosecuting Assange would be a serious danger to press freedoms. Even the Washington Post Editorial Page, which vehemently condemned WikiLeaks, warned in 2010 that any such prosecution would “criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk” all media outlets. When Pompeo and Sessions last year issued their threats to prosecute Assange, former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller insisted that no such prosecution could ever succeed:

For years, the Obama DOJ searched for evidence that Assange actively assisted Chelsea Manning or other sources in the hacking or stealing of documents – in order to prosecute them for more than merely publishing documents – and found no such evidence. But even that theory – that a publisher of classified documents can be prosecuted for assisting a source – would be a severe threat to press freedom, since journalists frequently work in some form of collaboration with sources who remove or disclose classified information. And nobody has ever presented evidence that WikiLeaks conspired with whomever hacked the DNC and Podesta email inboxes to effectuate that hacking.

But there seems little question that, as Sessions surely knows, large numbers of U.S. journalists – along with many, perhaps most, Democrats – would actually support the Trump DOJ in prosecuting Assange for publishing documents. After all, the DNC sued WikiLeaks in April for publishing documents – a serious, obvious threat to press freedom – and few objected.

And it was Democratic Senators such as Dianne Feinstein who, during the Obama years, were urging the prosecution of WikiLeaks, with the support of numerous GOP Senators. There is no doubt that, after 2016, support among both journalists and Democrats for imprisoning Assange for publishing documents would be higher than ever.

IF THE U.S. DID INDICT Assange for alleged crimes relating to the publication of documents, or if they have already obtained a sealed indictment, and then uses that indictment to request that the U.K. extradite him to the U.S. to stand trial, that alone would ensure that Assange remains in prison in the U.K. for years to come.
Assange would, of course, resist any such extradition on the ground that publishing documents is not a cognizable crime and that the U.S is seeking his extradition for political charges that, by treaty, cannot serve as the basis for extradition. But it would take at least a year, and probably closer to three years, for U.K. courts to decide these extradition questions. And while all of that lingers, Assange would almost certainly be in prison, given that it is inconceivable that a British judge would release Assange on bail given what happened the last time he was released.

All of this means that it is highly likely that Assange – under his best-case scenario – faces at least another year in prison, and will end up having spent a decade in prison despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime. He has essentially been punished – imprisoned – by process.

And while it is often argued that Assange has only himself to blame, it is beyond doubt, given the Grand Jury convened by the Obama DOJ and now the threats of Pompeo and Sessions, that the fear that led Assange to seek asylum in the first place – being extradited to the U.S. and politically persecuted for political crimes – was well-grounded.

Assange, his lawyers and his supporters always said that he would immediately board a plane to Stockholm if he were guaranteed that doing so would not be used to extradite him to the U.S., and for years offered to be questioned by Swedish investigators inside the embassy in London, something Swedish prosecutors only did years later. Citing those facts, a United Nations panel ruled in 2016 that the actions of the U.K. government constituted “arbitrary detention” and a violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights.

But if, as seems quite likely, the Trump administration finally announces that it intends to prosecute Assange for publishing classified U.S. Government documents, we will be faced with the bizarre spectacle of U.S. journalists – who have spent the last two years melodramatically expressing grave concern over press freedom due to insulting tweets from Donald Trump about Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd or his mean treatment of Jim Acosta – possibly cheering for a precedent that would be the gravest press freedom threat in decades.

That precedent would be one that could easily be used to put them in a prison cell alongside Assange for the new “crime” of publishing any documents that the U.S. Government has decreed should not be published. When it comes to press freedom threats, such an indictment would not be in the same universe as name-calling tweets by Trump directed at various TV personalities.

When it came to denouncing due process denials and the use of torture at Guantanamo, it was not difficult for journalists to set aside their personal dislike for Al Qaeda sympathizers to denounce the dangers of those human rights and legal abuses. When it comes to free speech assaults, journalists are able to set aside their personal contempt for a person’s opinions to oppose the precedent that the government can punish people for expressing noxious ideas.

It should not be this difficult for journalists to set aside their personal emotions about Assange to recognize the profound dangers – not just to press freedoms but to themselves – if the U.S. Government succeeds in keeping Assange imprisoned for years to come, all due to its attempts to prosecute him for publishing classified or stolen documents. That seems the highly likely scenario once Ecuador hands over Assange to the U.K.

Greenwald: Ecuador President Will Handover Assange to British During London Visit

21 July, 2018

After 6 six years of arbitrary detention in the basement of the Ecuadorian Embassy in Belgravia, London, the world’s longest slow-motion chase may be reaching its climatic conclusion.

It appears that Ecuador has caved into US pressure on the issue. When they first gave asylum to Assange in 2012, his stock was high among the international liberal intelligensia, and so then President Rafael Correa was able to use this as a public relations brace against western pressure on the issue. Unfortunately, the 2016 US Election changed all that, as Assange and Wikileaks were blamed for hurting Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House. Instead Assange is now shunned by the Liberal Left and embraced by supporters of Trump and Russia – two reasons why the current Ecuadorian government appear ready to wash their hands of Assange’s cause.

Another sign that the US forces are pushing events is last week’s announcement that an Ecuadorian court ordered the arrest of Assange’s main ally former President  Correa – leaving Assange more isolated than ever.

According to reports, events could accelerate as soon as this Monday morning.
RT International reported today…
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is either about to strike or has already struck an agreement with British authorities on withdrawing the asylum protection of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald reports.

Moreno is visiting the UK as part of his European trip between July 22 and 28. His visit is not said to be an official one, so he is not expected to meet with any high-ranking UK officials and would instead participate in the Global Disability Summit on July 24, which is co-hosted by the UK government.

However, the Ecuadorian leader is also expected to use his trip to the British Isles to “finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange,” according to the Intercept’s co-editor, Glenn Greenwald, who is best known for a series of reports detailing the US surveillance programs based on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Greenwald also supported and defended Wikileaks, as well as the whistleblowers who provided materials for the website, for many years.

Moreno is “close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized,” the agreement, Greenwald writes, citing an unnamed “source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office.”Under this agreement, the WikiLeaks founder could be ejected from the Ecuadorian Embassy and handed over to the UK authorities “as early as this week,”Greenwald says.

Earlier, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, citing her own sources, that Ecuador is ready to hand Assange over to the UK in “coming weeks or even days.” According to Greenwald, such a development could lead to Assange being sent to jail for at least one more year “under his best-case scenario,” which would mean that he would have spent nearly a decade imprisoned “despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime.”

As Sweden dropped its sexual assault investigation against Assange back in May 2017, the only criminal proceeding he is now facing in the UK is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender.” It goes back to Assange obtaining asylum from Ecuador and finding refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy instead of complying with bail conditions in the UK.

Such an offense carries a prison term of three months, Greenwald says, warning, however, that the UK authorities could potentially elevate charges against Assange to “contempt of court,” which carries a prison term of up to two years. Besides, UK authorities are unlikely to provide a guarantee that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited to the US, which is apparently bent on imprisoning him for releasing classified documents.

Publication of classified materials is technically a crime for anyone in the US, but US Department of Justice officials have been reluctant to prosecute anyone on such charges so far, due to concerns that such a case could lead to them being accused of violating press freedom rights and, thus, the First Amendment.

Any journalist who cheers when the Sessions DOJ indicts WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing docs - as they have vowed to do - should just never again pretend to believe in press freedom. Same for those who supported the DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks for *publishing* documents.

However, the Trump administration has seemingly made clear that they have no such concerns. While he was still in charge of the CIA, Mike Pompeo once said that while WikiLeaks, “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice . . . they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”
21st Century Wire says…

And there you have it. While this long chapter finally closes, a whole new international legal drama is now set to unfold – and with so much at stake and so many players and factions involved – it may take a further 5 years to resolve.
The reality is that the US may face some serious legal challenges when attempting to extradite and ultimately prosecute Assange in the US. While Swedish charges have been dropped, the law is not on Washington’s side if they are hoping to bring the Wikileaks founder in under the heading “espionage”. While 

it makes for good political rhetoric in the US, Assange is technically a publisher and Wikileaks is a media outlet – and no amount of spin in Washington can change that. Eventually, a court will have to rule on this crucial distinction. With this in mind, a strong case can be made in the British legal system that his situation has become politicized, including numerous belligerent statements made already by leading US political figures, including a statement madeby current President Trump) and therefore he would in no way be given a fair trial in the United States. On this point, Assange could retain some of the best human rights barristers, and will have a substantial legal fund to fight his case, in which case he may ride out a short sentence on remand in the UK, but still be somewhat cornered by US efforts to either apprehend him or restrict his movement afterwards.

In addition to this, if eventually pushed into the hands of Washington’s legal system, Assange may still possess some serious leverage. Aside from knowledge of any potentially embarrassing undisclosed Snowden leaks, Julian Assange may also have intimate knowledge of the DNC Leaks (or DNC ‘hack’ at his detractors commonly refer to it). The viability of the US establishment’s entire Russiagate narrative hinges on on how the DNC narrative is perceived by the wider public, and the US establishment would like very much for any new information which might alter their current narrative of “Russian hacking” – to remain out of the public discourse. This piece of information alone, and whether or not it airs publicly – could potentially be enough for Assange to bargain his way to freedom if caught on the other side of the Atlantic.

Even if he’s turned over this week, this story is far from over.


Ray McGovern Interviewed by Suzie Dawson in #Unity4J-2.0 Vigil