Last week, in a scene that looked a lot like British cops taking into custody the Lucky Charms leprechaun, Julian Assange, the public face of Wikileaks, was evicted from the Ecuadoran embassy in London as an indictment was unsealed against him in the United States.
Julian Assange Arrested, Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion https://t.co/eqVKypWJIU
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) April 11, 2019
There were a lot of rather predictable howls from the usual people over what this means for journalists (Narrator: But Julian Assange is not and never has been a journalist). For instance, this is Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept: THE U.S. GOVERNMENT’S INDICTMENT OF JULIAN ASSANGE POSES GRAVE THREATS TO PRESS FREEDOM.
The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.
In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity. As longtime Assange lawyer Barry Pollack put it: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”
That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted but required to take in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age.
But because the DOJ issued a press release with a headline that claimed that Assange was accused of “hacking” crimes, media outlets mindlessly repeated this claim even though the indictment contains no such allegation. It merely accuses Assange of trying to help Manning avoid detection. That’s not “hacking.” That’s called a core obligation of journalism.
This is partially correct though the extrapolation is bullsh** on stilts. Being a journalist does not give you a get out of jail free card for engaging in a criminal conspiracy. The indictment has nothing to say about Wikileaks obtaining stolen classified information from Bradley Manning and publishing it and possibly causing the death of HUMINT sources. Assange was indicted for encouraging Manning to violate federal law and steal information classified as SECRET. In fact, the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press did a legal analysis and were left scratching their heads:
It’s unclear why the government chose to include the language about concealing Manning’s identity, encouraging Manning to leak, setting up a system for transmitting the files or communicating with Manning over an instant messaging service. The basis of the charge is the specific allegation that Assange and Manning conspired to crack a SIPRNet password; the rest could be read as surplusage.
My first thought on seeing the indictment was that it was some thin sauce. For years, the FBI and intelligence community have portrayed Assange as Satan incarnate. Now he’s indicted for essentially jaywalking. As Wikileaks was involved in some of the email leaks that were widely used in the media and by CNN as evidence of “collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign, why wasn’t Assange indicted by Mueller rather than Russian intelligence officers who may or may not exist and at least one Russian company that did not exist? Mueller’s charter was certainly expansive enough to nail Paul Manafort for tax fraud, why didn’t he hammer Assange and Wikileaks. Indeed, the things that are missing from Mueller’s indictments, when those indictments are laid side by side with the frantic panting we saw in the media over the last two years, are rather staggering. That meeting at Trump Tower? Not even the godless Russians were indicted. Those meetings with the Russian ambassador? Not a whisper? And despite the brainless bleating about Trump encouraging Russia to hack Clinton’s emails (SPOILER ALERT: they have those emails along with the rest of the contents of her hillbilly server), there was never an indictment for that.
National Review’s Andy McCarthy has some thoughts on the events. Pay attention.
We know that Assange wanted Russia to provide materials to Wikileaks to help Bernie Sanders:
On June 22, 2016, the group sent a private message to Guccifer: “Send any new material here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”
Over the next several weeks, WikiLeaks requested any documents related to Clinton, saying they wanted to release them before the Democratic National Convention when they worried she would successfully recruit Sanders supporters.
We “think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting,” WikiLeaks wrote.
Using Guccifer, the Russian intelligence officers transferred the files to WikiLeaks, hoping for a big online splash.
This was much stronger evidence of potential collusion than anything ever revealed about Trump, and given Sanders’s background as an actual communist, why wasn’t this investigated?
The charges are minor and seem to be beyond the statute of limitations:
The most striking thing about the Assange indictment that the Justice Department did file is how thin it is, and how tenuous. Leaping years backwards, ignoring “collusion with Russia,” prosecutors allege a single cyber-theft count: a conspiracy between Assange and then–Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to steal U.S. defense secrets. This lone charge is punishable by as little as no jail time and a maximum sentence of just five years’ imprisonment (considerably less than the seven years Assange spent holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid prosecution).
As I pointed out on Thursday, the 2010 Assange-Manning cyber-theft conspiracy charged by prosecutors is outside the standard five-year statute of limitations for federal crimes: The limitations period was already exhausted when the indictment was filed in 2018. To breathe life into the case, the Justice Department will have to convince both British and American judges that this comparatively minor conspiracy charge is actually a “federal crime of terrorism,” triggering a three-year statute-of-limitations extension.
For some reason, the extension statute — Section 2332b(g)(5)(B) — makes the extra three years applicable to cyber-theft offenses under Section 1030 of the penal code, but not espionage-act offenses under Section 793. I am skeptical, though, that the Justice Department’s cyber-theft charge qualifies for the extension. Prosecutors haven’t charged a substantive cyber-theft violation under Section 1030; they have charged a conspiracy (under Section 371) to commit the Section 1030 offense. That is not the same thing. Typically, if Congress intends that its mention of a crime should be understood to include a conspiracy to commit that crime, it says so. It did not say so in the extension statute.
Figure that one out. We have a criminal mastermind in our clutches and all we charge him with is something that doesn’t carry jail time and may not be prosecutable.
McCarthy concludes that this indictment is basically playing to the cheap seats at The Bulwark. Assange gets indicted and maybe extradited but the real objective is protecting the Mueller investigation.
To sum up: If the Justice Department had indicted Assange for collusion, Mueller’s Russian-hacking indictment would no longer stand unchallenged. Assange would deny that Russia is behind the hacking, and prosecutors would have to try to prove it, using hard, admissible courtroom proof — not top-secret sources who cannot be called as witnesses without blowing their cover, or other information that might be reliable enough to support an intelligence finding but would be inadmissible under courtroom due-process standards. If the prosecutors were unable to establish Russia’s guilt to a jury’s satisfaction, it would be a tremendous propaganda victory for the Kremlin, even if — as I believe — Russia is actually guilty.
This is part of why it was a mistake to indict the Russian intelligence officers. An indictment is never an authoritative statement; it is just an allegation, it proves nothing. We didn’t need it to know what happened here. The indictment says nothing significant that we were not already told by the intelligence agencies’ assessment released to the public in January 2017.
In short, Mueller would have exactly the same problem that his overreach has created with the indictment of Concord Management where his legal eagles are getting the ass handed to them by a defendant who actually showed up, via counsel, to contest the charges.
That is certainly one interpretation. But what if a trial on the hacking of Hillary’s emails could reveal something that the architects of the collusion hoax know about but would rather the rest of us didn’t?
Over and over, this story has looked a lot like a John LeCarre novel acted out by the Keystone Cops. It is difficult to believe that after the time and energy Comey and Brennan spent on demonizing Assange that the decision to let him go was made innocently or even with the intention of helping the Muller indictments look more than the politically driven crap that they are.
Assange Indictment by on Scribd