Amid Direct Fighting Between Syrian Arab Army and Turkish Troops, Erdogan Announces He Will Meet with Putin, Merkel, & Macron in Early March; Follow Kevin Gosztola & Joe Lauria Reporting on Assange Extradition Hearing from London

Turkish troops have been engaged in direct fighting with Syrian Arab Army soldiers as the Assad government – with the help of the Russian air force – has endeavored to retake control of Idlib province, the last stronghold of foreign-backed terrorist “rebels” in Syria. Below is a video of journalist Aaron Mate interviewing former weapons inspector Scott Ritter on the current situation in Idlib.

In the midst of escalating clashes, Erdogan announced this past weekend that he has agreed to meet with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Macron on March 5th regarding the situation in Syria. According to Politico:

Erdoğan did not say where the leaders would meet. Russia, Germany and France did not immediately confirm the meeting.

Merkel and Macron have expressed growing alarm about the situation in Idlib, where an escalation in fighting has displaced nearly 1 million people in recent weeks amid aerial bombing by Syrian regime forces and their Russian allies.

The two leaders also took time out from an extraordinary leaders’ summit on the EU budget this week to hold phone calls with Putin and Erdoğan about the situation in Syria.


The extradition hearing to determine whether Julian Assange will be handed over to the United States from the UK to face charges under the Espionage Act, began this past Monday. One of the best places to get updates from the hearing in London is from journalist Kevin Gosztola. His Twitter thread live from the Monday’s hearing can be found here:

This is a thread for Day 1 of Julian Assange’s one-week extradition hearing. Prosecutor (unsure of name at moment) has started opening argument and emphasizes there have been “misstatements of the charges against him.”

Prosecutor: First charge is “straightforward criminality and a conspiracy to steal and hack into Department of Defense computer system. This is an ordinary criminal charge and any person, journalist, or source, who tried to gain unauthorized access to computer system is guilty.”

Prosecutor: “Reporting our journalism is not an excuse for criminality.” “True in the United Kingdom as it is in the United States of America”

Prosecutor says they are not criminalizing the publication of classified materials but rather the publication of names of informants or dissidents who help the US and allies in military operations

James Lewis QC suggests identities revealed in documents were all individuals who passed information about countries, specifically Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran

James Lewis QC said Assange is raising abuses of process to “deflect from his criminal behavior” and those issues can be dealt with once he is “returned” to the United States

James Lewis QC states Assange knew publishing documents to the internet would be so damaging to security and intel services in United States and damaging to armed forces, as well as US interests.

James Lewis QC is essentially reciting summary of Chelsea Manning’s trial, which I’m not going to bother to share details from unless he says something we didn’t hear in 2013 during her trial. But all her conduct is being recited because US is prosecuting as conspiracy case

Much of this is recycled, and crucially, James Lewis QC shares details about the digital media found in Bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad which was a sensational piece of evidence in Manning’s trial to argue she aided the enemy. Manning was acquitted of that charge

You can follow his reporting at

Joe Lauria of Consortium News is also reporting directly from London. An excerpt from his report on the second day of the trial in which the defense responded to assertions made by the prosecution:

Assange attorney Mark Summers revealed that Assange’s supposed attempt to help Manning “hack” a government computer for secret documents was actually an attempt to help her crack a password to  download video games, movies and music videos, forbidden on military computers.

Summers says Manning had legal access to classified material and did not need a user name or a password to get into the database.   The Espionage Act indictment says Assange helped Manning sign in under an administrator’s password in order to help get secrets, not the latest video game.

The U.S. government’s case is based on “lies, lies and more lies,” Summers told the court.  Summers said that there’s no evidence Manning ever saw WikiLeak‘s wish list, and she provided material that wasn’t asked for. Manning gave WikiLeaks the U.S. Rules of Engagement in Iraq to show that the Collateral Murder video had violated those rules, not because Assange had asked for it, Summers said. 

It is difficult to understand how a journalist asking sources to provide the information, even classified information, can be construed as a crime. 

Summers also gave a detailed explanation about why the government’s assertion that Assange had endangered the lives of U.S. informants was false.   He explained that Assange had instituted a Harm Mitigation Program to redact the names of informants and other people that might be at risk, a program so stringent that David Leigh of The Guardian complained to Der Spiegel, two publications partnering with WikiLeaks, that too much time was being wasted. 

Spiegel journalist said it was the [most] extreme measures he had ever experienced. Summers also told the court that The Guardian was responsible for publishing the password for the encrypted, un-redacted State Department cables that WikiLeaks and its media partners were slowly and carefully running out. When The Guardian made the entire archive available, Assange called the State Department to warn them.    

Read more here.

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