DOJ Preparing Charges Against WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

 

CNN reports that US authorities are building a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and are seeking his arrest:

Last week in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went further than any US government official in describing a role by WikiLeaks that went beyond First Amendment activity.

He said WikiLeaks “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States.”

“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” Pompeo said.

US intelligence agencies have also determined that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish emails aimed at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader operation to meddle in the US 2016 presidential election. Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials in the Clinton campaign and used intermediaries to pass along the documents to WikiLeaks, according to a public assessment by US intelligence agencies.

Still, the move could be viewed as political, since Assange is untouchable as long as he remains in the Ecuadorian embassy, and Ecuador has not changed its stance on Assange’s extradition.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” he said. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.

Before publishing Democrat emails, WikiLeaks posted classified files stolen by US Army intelligence analyst Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning in 2010. The group also played an active role in helping NSA analyst Edward Snowden disclose many more classified documents.

What are your thoughts? Should Sessions indict Assange or leave him alone?

Published in Law, Military
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  1. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    He published information that hurt Democrats so he must be jailed. If he published information that hurt Republicans then the powers that be would be shouting his defense from the roof tops.

    He published stuff that embarrassed the out of control, unaccountable, and irresponsible deep state within the intelligence community.

    • #31
  2. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    He published information that hurt Democrats so he must be jailed. If he published information that hurt Republicans then the powers that be would be shouting his defense from the roof tops.

    He published stuff that embarrassed the out of control, unaccountable, and irresponsible deep state within the intelligence community.

    We get new players in international affairs all the time. Does this ‘deep state’ player have a status more official than Wikileaks? What we really need is some attention to this situation.

    • #32
  3. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Question about Julian Assange.  How is what he is doing different than what CNN or the other main stream media is doing?  It does seem that his information seems to be more accurate than the MSM information but other than Wikileaks having more facts as opposed to MSM making up stuff and misrepresenting it more how exactly is it different.  Is it because the Democrats control the MSM organizations and do not control WikiLeaks?  Is it because WikiLeaks tends to embarrass high government officials while the MSM tends to protect them?  What exactly is the difference that make what the MSM does a commendable while what WikiLeaks does as illegal?

    • #33
  4. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    What I think I am seeing in the overall broad picture is a willingness of America to allow the same approach to prevail in the treatment of criminal legal issues and handling of classified information as is prevalent in the political arena, namely that some things are politically correct and others are politically incorrect. Need I dig in and provide example after example of this, mainly from the Left but also some instances from the opposition or it it clear enough? To have this approach spreading ubiquitously across our government is dangerous to all. Honesty and integrity are very rare today.

    I really don’t see the comparison. Assange has allegedly broken the law, and whilst there is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion I hardly think the enforcement of whichever statute applies in this case could be said to be insidiously partisan. On the contrary, Obama’s release of Bradley Manning (taking effect next month) and his failure to even attempt to prosecute Assange was part of a broader Democratic failure to enforce laws (like immigration) — something which the new administration has explicitly rejected. And by the way, it’s not just the US under Trump that want to see Assange in prison, this is a problem that affects Britain and other Western nations too. The US would be doing the world a big favour by stopping Assange, though his imprisonment would perhaps not be the end of WikiLeaks. This is not about party politics.

    • #34
  5. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    @fakejohnjanegalt You have a good point, and I’d refer to Cablegate as an example where the MSM got away with publishing classified information (obtained from WikiLeaks). They can get away with it because Western nations generally respect the importance of investigative journalism, and thus it’s politically very difficult (even if desirable in some cases) to act against such organisations. As an example of this, WikiLeaks was protected by Obama largely because he broadly approved of their aims. However this goes both ways: journalists have to at least pretend to adhere to ethical standards and are generally very careful about what they publish, whereas (e.g.) WikiLeaks published names of US agents in Afghanistan. Assange has crossed that line between journalism and hostile intelligence gathering/dissemination many times, for instance by soliciting classified information.

    BTW I’m slightly baffled by the apparent support for Assange here. He’s not worthy of anything but contempt. Did you know he once tried to trademark his own name? Or that he is alleged to have stolen about a million dollars of WikiLeaks funds? You should read Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

    • #35
  6. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    The US would be doing the world a big favour by stopping Assange, though his imprisonment would perhaps not be the end of WikiLeaks. This is not about party politics.

    This may well be true. Why is Wikileaks successful in gathering state classified but accurate information? There has been much public opinion supportive of Snowden and Manning and their actions. Why? Is it true that nothing released to the public by Wikileaks has been deemed inaccurate? How is our MSM, say WaPo, NYT, CNN doing in that regard? Who are the ‘fake news’ experts?

    • #36
  7. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    @bobthompson I think Snowden and Manning have received support both from the left, who hate the US, and from the libertarian right who are very weak (IMO) when it comes to the importance of state secrets, which in my view should be seen as similar to individual privacy rights. The fact that in all the disclosures there has been no evidence of any lawbreaking by the NSA, CIA, etc., should mean that the left and the right have grounds to resile from some of their conspiracist views, but they haven’t — if anything it’s gotten a lot worse on the right.

    As for the veracity of WikiLeaks documents, this is tricky because even if some of it were inaccurate (and nobody has really claimed anything of that sort) the US government can’t come out and say so, because the implication would be that some is accurate. I’d say the reason WikiLeaks has done “better” than the MSM in the quality and quantity of information is because of their cachet in that area (they’ve been successfully branded as unbiased) and that people have tended to believe Assange’s claims that disclosures to WikiLeaks can’t be traced to the originator. Also they don’t just publish snippets interspersed with political commentary, they tend to just dump the stuff online, which is what leakers and whistleblowers really want — and they know the MSM will then report on it.

    • #37
  8. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    @fakejohnjanegalt You have a good point, and I’d refer to Cablegate as an example where the MSM got away with publishing classified information (obtained from WikiLeaks). They can get away with it because Western nations generally respect the importance of investigative journalism, and thus it’s politically very difficult (even if desirable in some cases) to act against such organisations. As an example of this, WikiLeaks was protected by Obama largely because he broadly approved of their aims. However this goes both ways: journalists have to at least pretend to adhere to ethical standards and are generally very careful about what they publish, whereas (e.g.) WikiLeaks published names of US agents in Afghanistan. Assange has crossed that line between journalism and hostile intelligence gathering/dissemination many times, for instance by soliciting classified information.

    BTW I’m slightly baffled by the apparent support for Assange here. He’s not worthy of anything but contempt. Did you know he once tried to trademark his own name? Or that he is alleged to have stolen about a million dollars of WikiLeaks funds? You should read Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

    Then you misunderstand me.  I hold Assange in contempt but I hold most media in contempt.  I find as a general rule that they are corrupt, incompetent muckrakers that trade in gossip and character assassination more than actual fact.  They mostly seem to be political operatives with press badges that have self appointed themselves to uphold civilizations virtue as they see it.  Sadly they also have a marginal usefulness, at least until a better method is found to get information to the people.

    I have yet to be in an event that was reported on that the media even gotten close to accurate as to the truth.  Given that I am not sure how much I can believe about anything they say as regarded to its truthfulness.  As for Assange, he seems to be marginally more useful then the MSM in that his WikiLeaks seems to present more facts and less opinion and spin than normal.  So if you want to line Assange up against a wall and shoot him I would have a hard time arguing against it but I have a long list of other journalist types that seem to me are more deserving of that honor while we are at it.

    • #38
  9. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    I hold most media in contempt. I find as a general rule that they are corrupt, incompetent muckrakers that trade in gossip and character assassination more than actual fact. They mostly seem to be political operatives with press badges that have self appointed themselves to uphold civilizations virtue as they see it.

    This is a fair description. The troubling part is that as political operatives with press credentials they get a pass on the very issue of which Assange is being accused, namely soliciting state secrets. Calling what they do in support of a political party intent on destroying the Constitutional foundation of the United States can hardly be differentiated from Assange’s actions. Fake news has the potential to be even more damaging. We should stop calling these people journalists and their product journalism.

    • #39
  10. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Assange is a tool that I happen to find useful. Manning and Snowden may have a case of treason against them for the information that they leaked. They were in full control of the information they handed over.

    • #40
  11. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Question about Julian Assange. How is what he is doing different than what CNN or the other main stream media is doing?

    The serious case for why Assange may be in legal jeopordy, as opposed to that fluff CNN article, and why his actions are different than other media is that there is evidence he actively colluded with, encouraged and assisted Bradley Manning in his espionage activities.

    As much as their other activities may enrage people Wikileaks are likely in the clear for those as they do not appear to have played an active role in gathering the stolen information, only disseminating it. With the Manning espionage though there is reason to believe a crime was committed, enough evidence to convict? That would be up to a jury.

    • #41
  12. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Before publishing Democrat emails, WikiLeaks posted classified files stolen by US Army intelligence analyst Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning in 2010. The group also played an active role in helping NSA analyst Edward Snowden disclose many more classified documents.

    Should the NYTimes publishers or WaPo publishers be indicted for having received and published classified information? I suspect that if the scenario involved an “established” journalist outlet, the vast majority here would have a different conclusion.

    • #42
  13. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Roberto (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Question about Julian Assange. How is what he is doing different than what CNN or the other main stream media is doing?

    The serious case for why Assange may be in legal jeopordy, as opposed to that fluff CNN article, and why his actions are different than other media is that there is evidence he actively colluded with, encouraged and assisted Bradley Manning in his espionage activities.

    As much as their other activities may enrage people Wikileaks are likely in the clear for those as they do not appear to have played an active role in gathering the stolen information, only disseminating it. With the Manning espionage though there is reason to believe a crime was committed, enough evidence to convict? That would be up to a jury.

    And you don’t think that reporters at CNN or NYTimes do not actively collude with people inside the intelligence community, particularly when a Republican is in the White House? Do you remember this story from way back when:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/22/washington/cia-fires-senior-officer-over-leaks.html

    • #43
  14. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    @fakejohnjanegalt I agree with what you say in general, and in particular I would agree that some journalists are very much deserving of censure for intentionally misleading the public, in which they become mere propagandists. Enough ink has been spilled on that topic that I don’t need to provide examples, which are many, serious and ongoing. But that is a matter for the free market and for public opinion to decide upon. However, Assange is in a different category: he is deliberately using unlawful means to wage a private war against the US, with Russian support; and he probably has blood on his hands to boot. I’m not saying he’s unique by any means, but one can’t just throw one’s hands up and say there’s nothing to be done just because there are other scumbags in the world too. Execution might be a bit strong (though actually I wouldn’t mind all that much), basically because I think of Assange as a weak-minded fool who suffered from a bad upbringing and was exposed to a lot of propaganda himself, although in the case of Snowden I have some sympathy for the opinion of one British Member of Parliament who suggested to me that he should be run over by a tank. In fact I would say he should probably be assassinated if at all possible. Now there’s a plot for an espionage thriller!

     

    • #44
  15. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    @bobthompson I think Snowden and Manning have received support both from the left, who hate the US, and from the libertarian right who are very weak (IMO) when it comes to the importance of state secrets, which in my view should be seen as similar to individual privacy rights. The fact that in all the disclosures there has been no evidence of any lawbreaking by the NSA, CIA, etc., should mean that the left and the right have grounds to resile from some of their conspiracist views, but they haven’t — if anything it’s gotten a lot worse on the right.

    Wait a minute, are you trying to equate the right of an individual to be secure in his person and property to the general government being able to hide things behind cries of “national security” and state secrecy? As to the disclosures not divulging any lawbreaking by NSA in particular, let me just say that the NSA is forbidden by the National Security Act of 1947 as amended and EO 12333 from collecting on American persons without first going through the FISA court. NSA’s bulk collection program is a direct illegal act because, despite protestations to the contrary by the Neo-Cons on this site, the law and the EO do not differentiate between content and metadata, it says collection, period. To use NSA assets to collect electronic emissions my USPERS you need a FISA warrant against an individual.

     

    • #45
  16. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    I dunno – he seems to be doing the lords work an aweful lot.

    I don’t know if this is sarcasm or not, but I totally agree with the language.

    • #46
  17. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    @robertmcreynolds Yes, I am asserting that states have personality in law and do need to keep secrets for legitimate diplomatic and national security reasons. Think of an alternate scenario: if the US just gave up all its secrets (including negotiating positions as well as intelligence sources and general background research) it would be totally unable to deal with threats like North Korea — and that would have serious consequences for the world.

    On your second point, and without going into the legal aspects which I don’t know offhand and which I don’t have time to research at present, I would suggest that one way of looking at metadata collection from the point of view of intelligence is to make a comparison to police officers walking their beat on the street, who simply gather the pulse of the neighbourhood and are there to spot if anything suspicious might be going on. This could be followed up with further action (inc. warrants, etc.) if something suspicious is actually happening. Now, you could say that they are “gathering intelligence” on US citizens without proper authorisation, but in fact what they are doing is merely observing things that a lot of other people could see without needing to have court authority. The same is true on the internet: there are a bunch of private companies including ISPs and Information Exchanges which route traffic and can observe behaviour, some of which might be criminal [cont.]

    • #47
  18. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    Just to clarify a few points raised here, Assange is subject to US law when he commits a crime on US soil by electronic means, as is being alleged.

    However, this is not what Assange has done. The two biggest examples–Manning and Snowden–were the ones who brought him the information. He just published. He did not do anything to extract the information electronically, he just received the work of others. So maybe the issue is can a person be subject to personal jurisdiction of the US courts for violation of the Espionage act without being the person who committed the act of espionage and not being a US citizen and not having any minimum contact in the US?

     

    • #48
  19. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    @robertmcreynolds Yes, I am asserting that states have personality in law and do need to keep secrets for legitimate diplomatic and national security reasons. Think of an alternate scenario: if the US just gave up all its secrets (including negotiating positions as well as intelligence sources and general background research) it would be totally unable to deal with threats like North Korea — and that would have serious consequences for the world.

    I am not necessarily saying that states should not keep secrets–I don’t really want to go down that rabbit whole. But I would not equate a state to an individual when it comes to privacy. At the end of the day, whose privacy is likely to be subjugated to the others privacy, the state’s or the individual’s? I think we all know the answer to that, and if one is truly a lover of liberty, the answer should give them pause.

     

    • #49
  20. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    On your second point, and without going into the legal aspects which I don’t know offhand and which I don’t have time to research at present, I would suggest that one way of looking at metadata collection from the point of view of intelligence is to make a comparison to police officers walking their beat on the street, who simply gather the pulse of the neighbourhood and are there to spot if anything suspicious might be going on. This could be followed up with further action (inc. warrants, etc.) if something suspicious is actually happening. Now, you could say that they are “gathering intelligence” on US citizens without proper authorisation, but in fact what they are doing is merely observing things that a lot of other people could see without needing to have court authority. The same is true on the internet: there are a bunch of private companies including ISPs and Information Exchanges which route traffic and can observe behaviour, some of which might be criminal [cont.]

    Law enforcement is a completely different animal than intelligence. For starters, the information gathered by cops on their beat is not held as state secrets for the sake of national security. Second, the law is plain. NSA cannot collect on USPERS, period. There is no caveat for metadata vs content. NSA, or any other surveillance conducted for the purposes of national security, must be act under a FISA warrant against a specified target for specified reasons.

    • #50
  21. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Roberto (View Comment):

    The serious case for why Assange may be in legal jeopordy, as opposed to that fluff CNN article, and why his actions are different than other media is that there is evidence he actively colluded with, encouraged and assisted Bradley Manning in his espionage activities.

    And you don’t think that reporters at CNN or NYTimes do not actively collude with people inside the intelligence community, particularly when a Republican is in the White House?

    Based on the chat logs it appears that Assange went a bit above and beyond what a sensible reporter would do in this situation.

    Capt. Ashden Fein said Assange did more than simply accept documents from Manning.

    In a March 8, 2010, chat, Manning asked Assange for help in cracking a password so he could log onto the classified computer anonymously, Fein said.

    Any good at IM-Hash cracking?” Manning asks.

    “Yes,” is the reply. “We have rainbow tables for IM,” the interlocutor says, citing a tool that can be used to decipher passwords.

    Manning sends a string of numbers.

    “Passed it on to our guys,” is the reply.

    The new evidence is not only bad news for Manning, who will find out early next year what charges he will face if his court martial proceeds, but for Assange as well.  In a separate federal investigation, the Justice Department is considering several offenses with which to charge Assange — including conspiracy and trafficking in stolen property.

    • #51
  22. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Question about Julian Assange. How is what he is doing different than what CNN or the other main stream media is doing?

    From the OP:

    He said WikiLeaks “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States.”

    Getting involved in stealing the info is where they would need to press charges. I don’t think they could go after him just for publishing data.

    I imagine other news media do cross the line in getting classified data. I’m not sure exactly where that line is or how difficult it is to prosecute.

    • #52
  23. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    See this is the danger when we try to equate intelligence gathering with law enforcement. The two are not the same and should not be viewed the same, and, further, should be kept as far apart from one another as possible.

    • #53
  24. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    … and many of those companies have only a very non-proximate or no relationship at all with the user. In effect, sending data over the internet is like walking down the street: your behaviour can be observed by many different parties in a perfectly lawful manner. To suggest that the only party unable to collect metadata on this traffic is the government, which after all regulates the internet (as it does the street) is wrong in many ways, principally from a technical but also from an ethical standpoint.

    Now, you may believe that government is a dangerous actor in this game, and that’s a legitimate viewpoint. Certainly there are countries around the world who abuse the powers they have to monitor the internet. However, I think there would be serious problems arising from a failure of government to gather at least some intelligence online, which would be worse in free societies than if we made a stand on arguable technical points of law and so crippled the ability of our respective governments to have at least as much power as, say, Verizon.

    [Wow, you managed to post a lot of comments before the second half of my first comment appeared!]

    • #54
  25. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Roberto (View Comment):

    Okay so let’s say I know a bank has a particular safe and I go to someone who knows how to break into that safe and ask them to teach me. Is that person guilty of robbing the bank?

    • #55
  26. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    (Had to snip.)

    Let’s take your hypothetical as fact–I don’t necessarily know legally if the way you portray the internet is accurate. When I arrive at a website, am I in a private place? For instance, email is accessed via password giving the appearance that it is like a home. Let’s say I email you and I would presume that you logged on to your email with a password. Is our conversation on “the street” of the internet or is it considered private as in a phone call on a land line? Sure, me visiting Drudgereport might fit your “public street” analogy but does email? Because email is the bulk of what is collected.

     

     

     

    • #56
  27. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    However, this is not what Assange has done. The two biggest examples–Manning and Snowden–were the ones who brought him the information. He just published. He did not do anything to extract the information electronically, he just received the work of others. So maybe the issue is can a person be subject to personal jurisdiction of the US courts for violation of the Espionage act without being the person who committed the act of espionage and not being a US citizen and not having any minimum contact in the US?

    Yes. He doesn’t have First Amendment rights, and it’s not even clear that First Amendment rights would necessarily protect him.

    • #57
  28. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Odysseus (View Comment):
    @robertmcreynolds Yes, I am asserting that states have personality in law and do need to keep secrets for legitimate diplomatic and national security reasons. Think of an alternate scenario: if the US just gave up all its secrets (including negotiating positions as well as intelligence sources and general background research) it would be totally unable to deal with threats like North Korea — and that would have serious consequences for the world.

    I am not necessarily saying that states should not keep secrets–I don’t really want to go down that rabbit whole. But I would not equate a state to an individual when it comes to privacy. At the end of the day, whose privacy is likely to be subjugated to the others privacy, the state’s or the individual’s? I think we all know the answer to that, and if one is truly a lover of liberty, the answer should give them pause.

    I’m aware of this issue and it’s very important to keep it in mind. States should only have the minimum power necessary. But the question is: what is necessary?

    • #58
  29. Odysseus Inactive
    Odysseus
    @Odysseus

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Law enforcement is a completely different animal than intelligence. For starters, the information gathered by cops on their beat is not held as state secrets for the sake of national security. Second, the law is plain. NSA cannot collect on USPERS, period. There is no caveat for metadata vs content. NSA, or any other surveillance conducted for the purposes of national security, must be act under a FISA warrant against a specified target for specified reasons.

    On the contrary, as far as I’m aware the police don’t have any duty to give the public information about operational matters (such as log books, etc.) They also have intelligence units which don’t give out information to the public for obvious reasons.

    As to your second point, I refer the right honourable gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.

    • #59
  30. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    Roberto (View Comment):

    Okay so let’s say I know a bank has a particular safe and I go to someone who knows how to break into that safe and ask them to teach me. Is that person guilty of robbing the bank?

    The analogy is missing the part where he pays you to rob the bank.

    Even without that part,  if he knows why you want to crack the safe(assume it’s not a locksmith class), then he has some liability.

    • #60
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