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Julian Assange Deserves First Amendment Protection (harpers.org)
531 points by juliusmusseau 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 436 comments





It's unsurprising that political leaders would want to convince people that the true criminals are those who expose acts of high-level political corruption and criminality, rather than those who perpetrate them. Every political leader would love for that self-serving piety to take hold. But what's startling is how many citizens and, especially, "journalists" now vehemently believe that as well. In light of what WikiLeaks has revealed to the world about numerous governments, just fathom the authoritarian mindset that would lead a citizen -- and especially a "journalist" -- to react with anger that these things have been revealed; to insist that these facts should have been kept concealed and it'd be better if we didn't know; and, most of all, to demand that those who made us aware of it all be punished (the True Criminals) while those who did these things (The Good Authorities) be shielded

https://www.salon.com/2010/12/24/wikileaks_23/


At the same time, this convergence of equivocation on First Amendment protections provides the perfect opportunity for a simple yet effect filter.

1. Start with the set of all potentially serious journalists.

2. Filter out the ones who put forth arguments which downplay the dangers to the press of prosecuting Assange.

3. Filter out the ones who don't explicitly argue against prosecuting Assange on 1st Amendment grounds.

Follow the small group that survives #3 to get a variety of (probably) high-quality perspectives from serious journalists.

Use set from #2 as a casual guide for when to prick your ears up and listen to the news.


Most of the cries about 1st Amendment ignore the fact that the grand jury proceeded with the indictment because they have Jabber records of WikiLeaks discussing cracking the password of a Department of Defense database.

The next time I get caught trying to hack the government I'm going to try the "but it was for journalism" defense.

In fact, why can't I hack companies and claim I was just trying to get information to leak to the public?

"It's just journalism, you can't arrest me..."


How is discussing cracking a DOD database password relevant to the prosecution? We’re discussing the cracking of a password in this comment thread, does that make us criminals?

By nature, I don’t think discussing password cracks, without a ton more context than what has been shared, is not criminal. There are many forum posts with system and programming questions that are purely hypothetical (eg, “so I’m trying to determine if my security is appropriate, is it as easy to crack as this dod password, etc etc”).

I think criminal acts and conspiracy to commit criminal acts require quite a bit of information and would like to learn more how you would use this as a claim of journalism.

To my knowledge, Wikileaks has never actively participated in the hacking or cracking required to access restricted info. They serve as a Dropbox for others who do that.


Discussing something and conspiring to do it are legally two different things. Their communications had INTENT to do it. They were planning to do it. Conspiring.

> To my knowledge, Wikileaks has never actively participated in the hacking or cracking required to access restricted info.

But that's exactly what this is about. There are records of Jabber messages where they were conspiring (planning) to crack the password for Manning. I don't know how they determined that Assange was involved and not an unfortunate pawn of his, but whatever evidence they have was enough to convince a grand jury to indict him.

And, btw, an indictment isn't a verdict. He still has a chance to defend himself in trial even if he's extradicted. But this would mean that the US has a chance to prove his guilt.

But now we just wait and see if they have enough evidence to convince the UK to extradite him. And if that happens we'll wait and see how the trial and sentencing plays out.


> The next time I get caught trying to hack the government I'm going to try the "but it was for journalism" defense.

Shouldn't it if that access revealed information about war crimes? Or an artificial conflict that cost about 500.000 lives?

That should remain undisclosed because computer sabotage is bad? This is missing perspective left and right.


If we start with the premises that if people think that something is a crime, they can commit a crime to try and prove it, our legal system will quickly crumble.

Would it still be journalism, if they hacked the database and didn't find evidence.

Should the fact that the information released, put many lives in danger when it compromised many people aiding our government?

Morally his actions can be debated, but not from a legal one, so he should be arrested and it should be up to a jury to determine if is moral reasoning and actions out way his crimes.


Journalists history is full of people that break the law in order to investigate something and the result is almost in every case the same: they get a small fine which the news paper pays.

To take a direct example, a Swedish TV crew smuggled a person through several nations in order to report on experience a person went through during the migration crisis. The maximum punishment for human smuggling is 6 years in Sweden (and this is not counting all the other countries which this TV crew traveled through), and the verdict was of course a small fine (basically one month of pay) after going through two courts.

When you have a person with no priors, low risk for repeat offense of the specific crime they are accused of, for the intent of journalist reporting, and a single offense, what you get is a small fine.

The US do not do extraditions from other nations when the expected punishment is a small fine.


So how exactly would you have the people informing themselves? We just sit and wait for the benevolent government to tell us what it deems is good for us to know?

We don't need to make a whole new set of legal principles where people automatically get off for claiming journalism. In this case the people (here and around the world) were able to learn a lot of valuable information. Assanges actions are justified.


You have every right to your opinion about if you feel his actions were justified.

But that doesn't excuse him from the framework of our laws, if you break the law, even for a good reason, its a jury that decides.


This "holy" law is cleverly circumvented in the quest for war crimes. So any appeal only gets you so far. We are back to square one. Government will hide crimes, people will try to call them out. Law is as useful and error prone, as we want it to be.

The law isn't perfect, in any country, and that's never going to change. We need to vote for leaders who will reform it in the direction that we want.

But the fact that some people get away with crimes doesn't mean we should ignore all crimes and adopt a system of anarchy.


Why not?

Who said it would be worse?

Where you asked before adopting the current system? Or you were just expected to sit and accept it?

Any why would a system that takes into account actual benefit to the public or not, to absolve someone of something that is otherwise a crime, would be tantamount to "anarchy"?


> Any why would a system that takes into account actual benefit to the public or not, to absolve someone of something that is otherwise a crime, would be tantamount to "anarchy"?

Without a clear set of laws things get messy really quickly.

We do allow for subjective peer input in a trial, that's exactly why the jury exists.

But to say that someone shouldn't even be put in front of a jury just because you think they broke the law with good intentions is undermining the purpose of law. Who are you to decide what was a "benefit to the public"?

There were people who thought that Guantanamo was a "benefit to the public" so should they be allowed to torture people?

There were people in the NSA who thought that mass collection of metadata from phone companies was a "benefit to the public" so maybe we shouldn't investigate those things.

That's not how I want the law to work. We should investigate all of those things, regardless of what you think is beneficial, under a strict set of rules of law. And we use democracy and international order to shape that set of rules.

If you think this is crazy and oppressive you should look around at how non-western countries handle these things.


Sadly yes, this doesn't excuse him from the framework of our laws, just like it did not excuse Turing, leading to his death.

Maybe it's time to adopt a more aggressive stance against immoral laws, don't you think?


everyone breaks laws every day, if the government has a problem with you they will find one you broke. we see it all the time at scales big and small.

Are you proposing a double-standard?

Can cops be justified breaking into your house without a warrant, so long as they find evidence of a crime?


Since USA invaded a country because they blamed that country had weapons of mass destruction, does that mean I can "invade" anyone on false accusations?

There is a huge difference between the state and the poeple. And they should be trated respectively.

What Julian Assange did was for the best of all poeple, not for the state.

It also follows that the state are made of the poeple, for the poeple. So anything that is "good" for the poeple, the state should do.


I can't tell if you are trolling me, or just willfully being contrary. Nothing you are saying here holds up under even the most basic logical scrutiny.

If your justification is that regardless of his actions the net result was "good" for the people. You run into an undefended slippery slope.

If we murder everyone in the US, that has deadly communicable diseases, or hereditary genetic disorder and we wipe the diseases out, that's "good" for the people, and the harm when compared to the whole is trivial as long as you kill less than say 30 million people. We can never hold ourselves to this sort of standard and claim we have any form of justice.

On the other hand, the law is far to ridge without the human factor, and hence the jury, a jury can nullify a case if they so choose, and simply agree that this person violated the law, but did it for a reason that his peers felt they deserved no punishment.

I'm not saying that Assange, so go to jail, I'm simply suggesting that he has to have his day in court, if what the state is saying is to be show through evidence to be true, or false. And that if his group of peers feels that after hearing all the specific details of the case from both sides, determine if what he did is right or wrong.


Of course there must be a double standard. You need to hold your government accountable.

I mean, this is how case law is established.

We currently have the notion of exigent circumstances, that if the police have a lawful reason to enter your house without a warrant (such as believing that someone is in imminent danger) and they find in plain sight in the course of that entry evidence of a crime, it's fair game.

A case like this is how we determine if journalists are allowed to hack into government databases. This precedent will be instructive to future activists regardless of how it turns out.


> A case like this is how we determine if journalists are allowed to hack into government databases.

Which, considering the broad definition of "journalist" here, might mean that we're free to hack anything as long as we publish it.

Would I have the right to hack your web service and leak that data because "journalism"?

And if I get caught hacking something could I simply say that my intent was to publish it?


Actually if a cop finds evidence of a crime without a warrant when one is required,(or any illegal means) it won't be admissible, so I'm not sure where you are coming from.

Nor do I see how you are suggesting what I'm talking about is some sort of proposal for a double standard.

I'm not saying out legal framework is perfect, and certainly not saying that injustices don't happen because there are bad people, doing horrible shit to innocent people.

I'm saying that you can't abandon the rule of law, just because someone did something that you see as a net positive.

I'm also against this train of thought when the government attempts to use this logic with eminent domain cases for example.


"Actually if a cop finds evidence of a crime without a warrant when one is required,(or any illegal means) it won't be admissible, so I'm not sure where you are coming from."

"Exigent circumstances" are, from the perspective of the law, the equivalent of a warrant, thus making any proofs legal.


I think you should read up more on exigent circumstances, what a police officer does and what is legal for use in a case are miles apart.

If the defense challenges, and the state can not convince the judge that there was a probably threat that material evidence will be destroyed before a warrant could be obtained, then it will very likely be thrown out, and can not be used in the case at all.

And even if the judge allows it, and defense loses its an open door for an appeal.

There are literally volumes of text on this subject, there is not blanket a statement that makes incorrectly gather evidence moot, as any defense attorney, it's their first line of attack.

And one of the most common ways the defense can win a case.


Too late for that - have you seen what passes for standards of accountability and standards where ignorance of the law is not an excuse - unless you are the police. I think the legal system has already throughly crumbled by those standards.

So much FUD and dangerous hypotheticals to justify /their/ crimes. At this point accountability and transparency need to be held far higher because the alternative is so much worse and corrupted.

If you don't want whistleblowers there is an easy answer - not being so fucking corrupt and they will have nothing to whistleblow on!


>If we start with the premises that if people think that something is a crime, they can commit a crime to try and prove it, our legal system will quickly crumble.

How about starting with the solid facts, that what was unearthed is justified to be unearthed?

>Would it still be journalism, if they hacked the database and didn't find evidence.

We could just say no -- or, if they did find evidence, yes.

This keeps the risk of violating the law, but makes it OK if you indeed unearth something beneficial.

You know, as if we can make rational value judgements given the end result, and not give everyone a free pass, or condemn everyone from the start.


Our laws aren't written in away that says if you steal something, and the value to others out weights the crime of stealing, then its not stealing.

But as I've said, this is the human element, and is why we have a jury, if the jury feels that his actions though criminal were justified.

They can hold him free of punishment, this is why our judicial system is structured this way, because the letter of the law, doesn't understand the context of a situation, and a jury can.

Who in your opinion makes the choice of "what was unearthed is justified to be unearthed?" A judge, a police officer, a prosecutor, or a jury of his peers?

That value judgement you are talking about is literally the roll of the jury, but to get to that point, they have to be arrested, and prosecuted.


>Our laws aren't written in away that says if you steal something, and the value to others out weights the crime of stealing, then its not stealing.

Well, that's bad. And it has been known to be bad since the time of Les Miserables at least...

>Who in your opinion makes the choice of "what was unearthed is justified to be unearthed?" A judge, a police officer, a prosecutor, or a jury of his peers?

The jury of peers. But we're still on the court of public/pundit opinion, and many are making arguments as if the technical aspects of the law outweigh any benefits -- in fact as if breaking the law itself is morally condemnable whatever the circumstance. So I wanted to counter that.

Besides, are the people which will be jury really "peers" when the act might benefit humanity at large, but they are tied to a particular nation state (one he doesn't even belong to)?

"Peers" original intention was to be people "related to the community/society the accused lives in" with the same public interests (and moral ideas).


It's not bad, how do you suppose a law like this would make the value jugement? This again is why you a jury.

In principle, what you say makes sense.

My disconnect is because I think I already know the value judgement the law will end up making.


What system would you propose would be better, I frankly wish that we didn't have a whole profession based the process and procedures of the court. It makes defending yourself almost impossible.

But the court has the burden to prove that the person is guilty of a crime, to 12 different people. You are required by law to be given a lawyer to assist in your case if you can't afford one.

That is a better shake than probably 75% of the world right there. Hell its better than you get in the military in the US.


So basically you want the process to be judged by the outcome, not by... the process.

That's not how the legal system works and that's not how ANY legals system COULD work, because it would require the process to be finalized and the outcome known before any legal enforcing to happen).

Basically you're bringing an utterly irrational viewpoint to the discussion then you end up with " we can make rational value judgements".


>That's not how the legal system works and that's not how ANY legals system COULD work, because it would require the process to be finalized and the outcome known before any legal enforcing to happen).

Actually that's how many regional and "local customs" legal systems works all around the world.

And it's even part of standard roman-legacy law, to take into account the outcome (and also thinks as intentions, circumstances, and so on).


Police do it all the time.

Using that logic, we could argue that defective search warrants should be ignored if they uncover a horrible crime. This idea that breaking laws in the pursuit of a supposed greater good could lead to some dangerous places. This kind of thinking leads to things like torturing people to uncover a terrorist plot: the law against torture is broken using the rationale of uncovering a potentially greater crime. As soon we go down the road of moral relativism, suddenly we have anarchy: any law become optional if the ends are justified to the person making the decision to break the law in question. What if hacking a computer yields nothing? Does that crime get excused because it might have uncovered something? Who decides when a law can be broken?

"This idea that breaking laws in the pursuit of a supposed greater good could lead to some dangerous places."

That's because your formulation of the principle is too general. If everyone acts on their own subjective law then collective law would break down. But no one is arguing for that.

Wikileak's defenders would do better to point to the particular conditions that have led to mass whistle blowing: permanent wars in the Middle East and North Africa (the US is in seven wars right now); the creation of a massively powerful surveillance state; and the lack of legitimate channels for political and military transparency and accountability.

The case for whistleblowing hinges on that reality.


> The case for whistleblowing hinges on that reality.

It's not about whistleblowing it's about hacking a DoD account to access classified military intelligence.


> This idea that breaking laws in the pursuit of a supposed greater good could lead to some dangerous places. This kind of thinking leads to things like torturing people to uncover a terrorist plot

Given Gitmo and the practices disclosed from there the US government seems to follow that rationale


How should crimes enacted by a government be released then? Internal control?

Was the database already in their possession, or was it remote?

Remote is hacking. If it’s something that was handed to them from a source then that seems like legitimate journalism.

Also “wikileaks” and Assange are very distinct entities. Are there jabber records of (provably) Assange stating that he was trying to hack a remote server belonging to the DoD or was it some hanger-on doing the typing?


For the sake of not confusing things here, forget about the data they leaked, they already had access to it. They were trying to crack the password of DoD accounts to cover up where they got the data and possibly access more data.

But that's not important, from a legal perspective. Cracking those passwords with the intent to use them for unauthorized access seems like conspiracy, and that's what WikiLeaks was offering Manning in the Jabber records (to crack the passwords for her).

I don't know the details about how they know Assange was involved but it was compelling enough for a grand jury indictment. It's up to the UK now to decide whether a request for extradition is valid, so the US needs to make a case for this indictment. We'll see where that goes and what evidence is presented.

Edit:

And I'm pretty sure the charge of conspiring to hack defense systems is also a crime in the UK so the grounds for extradition aren't so shaky.

It's also really important to note that they can't just extradite for this hacking charge and then do a trial for the leaks or whatever the 1st Amendment concerns are. The extradition will have to be specific to whatever charge the US is bringing (which so far is only the conspiracy to hack). Also, if found guilty he can't be charged again for leaking or anything without ANOTHER extradition claim and that would be very unlikely. So whatever they decide to extradite him for in the next 60 days will be the kind of charges he faces.


>And I'm pretty sure the charge of conspiring to hack defense systems is also a crime in the UK so the grounds for extradition aren't so shaky.

The jurisdictional overreach of my government (US) in this case concerns me. Some questions we should consider:

Is it a crime in the UK for an Australian citizen residing in Sweden to offer help cracking a password over online chat to a US citizen residing in Afghanistan and then report that they were unsuccessful? In the US? Should we start extraditing Canadians for weed?


It's really up to the UK whether to extradite, but yeah extradition is a thing that several allied countries do to prevent people from being able to commit crimes in other countries without consequence.

I get the concerns, but the charge is of conspiracy and that's exactly how it works... If you get caught planning to hack the DoD but you don't accomplish it, those plans can be used against you in a conspiracy charge.

> Should we start extraditing Canadians for weed?

That's up to Canada, but on the face of it that's not even a crime (Americans can go to countries with legal marijuana, the crime is possession in the states). Now, if someone in Canada was conspiring to traffic a massive amount of weed into the US that could be different.


I'll admit that last question was poorly related to this situation. The idea that the US claims jurisdiction to enforce laws against vaugly defined actions like this conspiracy law on an Australian citizen for a violation that took place in Sweden with very little evidence by extraditing from the UK seems to indicate all citizens of any nation can be governed by US laws and will be labeled as conspirators if the US government is pissed enought.

Is it different if China extradites an Italian citizen from Thailand for conspiring against them by, while in South Africa, assisting a Chinese citizen, who's located in Australia, participate in circumventing Chinese censorship technology by helping root a device?


Well, think of it this way: imagine that you were trying to help someone else hack the Australian Department of Defense. Should you face an investigation and trial for it or are you immune because you're not Australian?

The US might extradite you if Australia could make that case. Especially if it could be proven that you would receive a fair trial and no cruel or unusual punishment. That's what's happening here. The UK can still refuse to give him up if they don't make a good enough case.

For context on the issue of "fair trial": look at cases of worse charges than conspiracy to hack, like Maria Butina, for instance. She still received a proper trial and chance to defend herself against the evidence. Our legal system is broken in many ways, but mostly when it comes to racial or income inequality and local law enforcement. On the larger stage the rules for these things are pretty clear.

If you want to see some contrast take a look around at other large nation's justice system.


If what I did is a crime under US law then yes, in the US. If what I did involved accessing servers in Austrailia, from the US, then again, only if what I did is a crime under US law then yes, in the US. If I claimed in an online chat that I attempted to derive a password from a hash and failed, while I was located in Mexico then no.

The idea of a government's authority being derived from a consent to be governed was expressed very early in the US of A's declaration of independence to Britian: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" and I think this is a reasonable stance.


It sounds like you don't believe in extradition at all, but there is precedence for this and most western countries are on board. It's not just the US, UK, and Australia.

And the conspiracy wasn't just cracking the password, it was explicit intent to crack it for unauthorized access to classified military intelligence.


In limited cases I support it but I believe some type of consent to be governed is required, I consider physically visiting a sovern nation as implicit concent to be governed by their laws. I'm opposed to the notion that any government be able to determine the authorization for information access and excerpt authority on foreign citizens.

And that decision is up to the country who has him in custody, which is the UK right now. They've refused extradition for hacking before in the case of Gary McKinnon [1] due to fears that he could end up in Guantanamo so we'll see, now that Guantanamo is effectively closed for entry.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_McKinnon#Extradition_proc...


It's interesting that you present Butina's case as having been a fair trial. Her "crime" was basically naive, opportunistic networking with influential people (all of which was done publicly and even documented publicly on social media, so hardly consistent with a conspiracy). Hordes of people do that on a daily basis without registering as a foreign agent. But she's Russian, and in the age of Trump/Russia hysteria, that means you get selective enforcement of vague laws. Add a few months of solitary confinement and you arrive at a guilty plea.

> Her "crime" was basically naive, opportunistic networking with influential people

Yeah, under the direction of Russian officials, as an unregistered agent on their behalf.


If we want to be pedantic about it, then it is enough that a person who lives in a area where weed is legal and they consider to visit a area where it is not legal and don't explicitly declare that they intend to leave the weed at home. You don't need to add the "massive amount" aspect, as it would be a crime if they made the trip, which then makes it a conspiracy.

But that is not how the law get enforced, and people don't get extradited for crimes like that. They don't even get extradited when you have evidence of committed crimes like speeding, which maximum punishment is longer than cracking a password.


US government extradited an Australian citizen from Australia to USA. A country he had never been to. After his release, he was arrested for being an illegal alien. Then deported and banned from USA.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hew_Raymond_Griffiths

If you're Australian, don't expect the government to give a shit unless you're rich. I expect the Australian government to offer as little as they can to Assange.


Canadians smoking weed isn’t a crime against the United States.

> In fact, why can't I hack companies and claim I was just trying to get information to leak to the public?

"Hacking companies" is not the same as a journalist at his own location using the material received from its source to guess the information from the material which could help the protection of the source.

That is what the journalists are supposed to regularly do.

And that is what is claimed that Assange did. And that was known for years, and previously legal experts concluded that it is not a correct basis to a charge.

But then the US president becomes somebody who deeply doesn't care for the freedom of the press. And the Democrats still don't want to admit that they lost the election because they actually did many wrong things, like not being democratic in their own party before the elections. So the pressure started:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/white-house/pence-pr...

The fact which was somehow inconvenient:

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/04/11/heres-interview...

The deleted part was exactly about that pressure.

Note also that Greenwald wrote: "The claim that Assange tried to help Manning circumvent a password to cover her tracks isn’t new. The Obama DOJ knew about it since 2011, but chose not to prosecute him. Story on this soon. Holder chose not to prosecute Assange based on the same info Trump DOJ cited."

and Assange's lawyer:

"While the indictment against Julian Assange disclosed today charges a conspiracy to commit computer crimes, the factual allegations against Mr. Assange 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."


I used to consider grand jury indictments to indicate that something was going on. Then someone close to me was indicted. That's when I learned that it takes almost nothing to get an indictment. In the case I know best it was less than nothing. When the case finally made it to a judge and was heard the judge realized how bad it was and through it out.

Those indictments come from a group of people who hear only one side, there is no one there to question the validity of what they are told, and they are basically being asked to let it go to court and so I don't think they see it as so bad if they are wrong, it can work out in trial.


This is a sentiment I've seen with the Assange threads. I see something significantly wrong with:

"Well if a grand jury wishes to bring charges, it must be a legitimate charge, or they'd not bring it to them."

It's akin to the idea that if someone has charges for a crime, that because they were charged they must have did it.


Remember grand jury is a very low standard - if the grand jury isn't compromised it is only enough evidence/ unopposed/ to start the process of prosecution. "We have footage of Tom Hanks brazenly robbing a bank" would be enough to get an indict. But as soon as his lawyers get involved the judge throws it out and censures the prosecutor because they lefy out key pieces of evidence - it was from Mission Impossible.

> That's when I learned that it takes almost nothing to get an indictment.

While that may be true, DAs don't like to lose in court, so why would they bring spurious charges? In this case, they would bring spurious charges because of the politics, but in general, they need a motive to take things to court that are obviously not even suspicious.


> The next time I get caught trying to hack the government I'm going to try the "but it was for journalism" defense.

Please define "hack the government" in a way compatible with what the indictment describes Assange having done.


The first line of parent's comment is accurate in terms of of the indictment, if that's what you're getting at?

http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2019/images/04/11/assange_indictment_...

> 7. On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers


Instructions to hack (which is what Assange did) should be protected by the first amendment.

Nevertheless, hacking-related laws are a disgrace to our freedom.


It wasn't instructions. Manning gave the hash to them so they could crack it and gain access. In that case WikiLeaks were the ones cracking a password to access classified DoD documents.

Grab your tinfoil hats people, it's a conspiracy theorist!

This isn't "most of the cries", it's a specific article, and not just by some rando.

> The Justice Department has been enamored of this conspiracy approach since the time of the Pentagon Papers. In that case, Richard Nixon’s DOJ attempted to enjoin the New York Times and, later, the Washington Post from publishing a forty-seven-volume Defense Department study of the history of US relations with Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, which had been classified top secret. I led the team of lawyers who defended the Times in that case.

[..]

> Should Trump’s Justice Department succeed in prosecuting Assange, the only safe course of action for a reporter would be to receive information from a leaker passively. As soon as a reporter actively sought the information or cooperated with the source, the reporter would be subject to prosecution. National security reporting, however, is not done by receiving information over the transom. It is naïve to think that reporters can sit around waiting for leaks to fall into their laps. In a recent interview, the longtime investigative reporter Seymour Hersh told me that he obtains classified information through a process of “seduction” in which he spends time trying to induce the source into giving up the information. If he isn’t allowed to do that, he says, “It’s the end of national security reporting.”

> It’s clear that the Justice Department believes such “seduction” creates a conspiracy between the leaker and the reporter. In its prosecution of the State Department employee Stephen Jin-Woo Kim for leaking classified information about North Korea to a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, the DOJ stated, in a sealed affidavit, that it considered Rosen a “co-­conspirator.” The DOJ filed the affidavit with the D.C. District Court in 2010 to gain access to Rosen’s email, which showed him persuading Kim, asking for the leak time and time again until Kim finally relented. The affidavit was unsealed three years later, to the shock of Rosen and many other journalists. When Fox News angrily protested that Rosen’s First Amendment rights prevented him from being a co-­conspirator, the Obama Justice Department assured Fox that it would not prosecute him. If this type of conspiracy theory were to be applied in a criminal trial, a court would end up examining every effort by a reporter to obtain information. It would criminalize the reporting process. Reporters and their publishers would argue that the First Amendment protected news-gathering efforts such as Rosen’s, but the result would be in doubt in every case.

> If reporters can be indicted for talking to their sources, it will mean that the government has created the equivalent of a UK Official Secrets Act—through judicial fiat, without any legislative action.


This is a wild take though, because seeking information (details, clarification) from something a source gives you is not the same as asking the source for the password hash of a DoD server so you can crack it and gain unauthorized access to classified military documents.

If they don't pursue this crime I can literally start hacking people/companies/governments and publishing my findings because it's just "journalism".


Exactly. They want special protections. I'm not advocating for the justice department not to take into consideration their motivation for transparency, but just because they may have had good intentions doesn't mean they can act with careless disregard in their actions. There are a lot of opportunities for improvement here on both sides.

Step 4 - live in a bubble where you are always correct forever.

Filtering out everyone who happens to disagree with your opinion is a good way to get stuck in an echo chamber.


> Step 4 - live in a bubble where you are always correct forever.

Since I'm forced to interpret your comment in the most generous way, I'll reply with yes. Step 4 is living in a bubble where obviously incorrect interpretations of the world don't waste much of my time and concentration.

But even if I were wrong on the facts of this particular case I wouldn't end up in an echo chamber. I simply end up reading a variety of op-eds and articles written by people who vociferously defend freedom of the press. AFAICT those writers cross ideological lines.


I don't get purchasing recommendations from paid ads in my instagram feed.

This goes some way toward explaining the RussiaRussiaRussia hysteria...
belltaco 10 days ago [flagged]

Also Pizzagate.

Spread by Mr. Assange himself for political purposes.

https://our.wikileaks.org/Pizzagate

Leading to https://rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/john-pod...


Yes I agree that random crazy people should be held to the same standard as the war media.

Bingo.

A lot of "journalists" are actually just parrots, depending on access to have "exclusive" things to say.


I am also applying a similar discrimination to HN forum participants. Too many of whom seem absurdly credulous of the govt claims...

some of us have a bit of cognitive dissonance with assange, where we maybe don’t think he should be prosecuted but holy cow are we enjoying seeing him get pwned by trumps administration after he helped trump get elected.

To me it sounds like people are enjoying seeing him go through this because he didn't help Hillary Clinton get elected, which is an important nuance there. Had it been any other candidate instead of Trump, Wikileaks would still have published the leaked emails. The DNC emails leaked were both authentic, and newsworthy, which made it their duty (as journalists) to publish them.
dosy 10 days ago [flagged]

they can't break there law and get away with it. what gives them the right to decide what's secret or not? the state is not wholly good, nor are people. but that's okay, a lot of good still gets done. attacking such a system is wrong. attacking it under delusion of moral righteousness, then continuing to live in the shadow of the freedom it provides, is morally bankrupt. it's also stupid. I totally have the authoritarian mindset you refer to, and it's a good thing.

now we just have to get Snowden and Kim dot com.

isn't supporting these idiots the same as supporting me to break into your house, install a monitoring product, go through how you act in your relationships with your spouse and kids, what you do in private, then decide which of that I personally am offended by or think is wrong or you would be embarrassed by, and publishing it?

it seems so obvious to me that idiots like this are driven by ego and arrogance, and the hunger for power they hope to achieve by holding the powerful hostage. it's also obvious to me that they will fail.

finally it seems highly likely to me that these useful idiots were used as pawns by factions within the intelligence community to be the mouthpiece for deliberate leaks. The funny thing is these people thought they were revealing secrets about casualties in wars, but in the end they are just casualties in a political turf warf that made fools of them.

they're not heroes they're idiots.


You sound like an agent of the system. The authoritarian mindset is the reason why the whole system is so violent and morally bankrupt.

would you rather be an agent with agency or a subject flopping around helplessly complaining? authority doesn't have to be bad. you're projecting

"agents with agency" are people like Snowden.

> or a subject flopping around helplessly complaining?

Good thing, people like Stallman, Assange, DJB, Washington, Jefferson, etc did not flop around helplessly complain, they actually acted.

Without DJB specifically it would still be unlawful for you to publish your dosycrypt library for example.


Snowden was definitely an agent. Agency? Jury's out.

There's a difference between being effective, GW, TJ, and stupidly ineffective, JA, RS. Or just plain stupid, ES.

Interesting about DJB, I did not know that story.


How was Snowden "plain stupid" exactly?

"stupidly ineffective" - well, one has to start from somewhere. Plus stallman's work was far from ineffective. As for assange's work, the publication of the war crimes might have saved thousands of civilian lives.


Snowden was a pawn, taken in by savior complex.

Stallman made zero impact.

Assange had no effect on war policy. He was also a pawn entrapped by savior complex.


[flagged]


haha. "war crimes"

why would I want to delete my awesome comment?

yes, I'm doing more than comparing, they're analogous. spying and publishing, mind.

if you're so huffy about war crimes, why do you pay your taxes? because doesn't that make you complicit?

oh no but you're morally righteous. let me get you a badge for that.

also, language.


>> if you're so huffy about war crimes, why do you pay your taxes? because doesn't that make you complicit?

No, because I do not have a choice. If I refuse, the system will use violence against me.


pretending you don't have a choice and you're not responsible for your actions is morally bankrupt and a fake justifier of violence and abuse

You make me laugh. You are either naive or a troll.

admirable trait to laugh when your idiocy is pointed out: "I had no choice but to support the war crimes I hate, because there was no way I could leave that country."

They believe that partisanship makes them moral people, but really it just makes their party morally bankrupt.

When the Democrats got to sit back and watch wars they secretly liked, under cover of Republican administrations, Julian Assange was a hero who would speak truth to big bad Republican power. Now that they think Julian Assange's public service helped Americans choose the current President, they view him as a villain.

A seeming majority of the mainstream press in the U.S. is staffed by Democrat partisans, so it's no wonder that they say whatever they can to defend it.


There may be some truth to that for some people, but let's not discount the amount of people (I think a majority) that distinguish between exposing government actions and meddling with an election and colluding with a foreign power in dosing so.

To be clear, whether they are guilty of that or not is irrelevant to the point that people beleive they are, and that can explain a lot of the difference in how they are perceived now.

Ignoring that in favor of narrative where all the Democrats are complete hypocrites is no different than what you were accusing others of in your comment.


Election meddling is not inherently bad. If your version of "election meddling" is just by sharing facts about a potential electee, than I would say that you have meddled in a positive manner by making americans more educated.

If he was engaged in manipulating vote counts, or if he was spreading false information, I would see the problem. But wikileaks for the most part just shared accurate government secrets. You're just using "election meddling" as a negatively connotated buzzword, without supporting how this was negative to the american people.

I also meddled with the election by sharing my opinion on the internet, or at least I attempted to. Does that mean I'm anti-american? What if a foreign person retweeted me, or vice versa? Have I now colluded with foreigners to meddle with the election?

The support of foreigners is not evidence of wrong-doing, and the sharing of information in an attempt to influence an election is not wrongdoing. Free speech includes speech about the elections, in fact that's where it is MOST important.


Selective leaking and delaying/timing leaks for maximum impact is election meddling.

> if he was spreading false information

https://our.wikileaks.org/Pizzagate

Leading to https://rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/john-pod...

Also implying that Seth Rich was the real leaker and that the DNC had him killed for it.

http://www.fox5dc.com/news/wikileaks-founder-addresses-death...


I know that it intends to meddle with the election. Like I said, that isn't inherently a bad thing. I also fully intend on "election meddling" by sharing my opinions on the internet. As should you. It's on you to prove why this is bad for the american people.

Here are quotes from the two conspiracy theories you were talking about. Did you even read the articles you linked? he specifically warned in both instances that he did not have damning evidence of either of these things.

> WARNING: This investigation is a Speculative investigation which lacks clear and provable evidence, yet could be interesting should additional evidence be presented.

> We're not saying that Seth Rich's death necessarily is connected to our publications – that's something that needs to be established

Assange is not responsible for the conspiracy theories that other people generate from his information.


> So what you're saying is that he hasn't named the real leaker and hasn't made any firm claims on who the real leaker is?

I believe the specific portion most people would find troubling in that article is:

“We're not saying that Seth Rich's death necessarily is connected to our publications – that's something that needs to be established,” said Assange. “But if there is any question about a source of WikiLeaks being threatened, then people can be assured that this organization will go after anyone who may have been involved in some kind of attempt to coerce or possibly, in this kill a potential source.”

> Assange is not responsible for the conspiracy theories that other people generate from his information.

Well, that depends. There are definitely ways I could purposefully word information that would give people a strong impression I was trying to communicate something without saying it.

Do I believe Assange made any factual statements here that the staffer was a wikileaks source and he was killed because of the leak? No.

Do I believe he was trying to insinuate himself and Wikileaks into a narrative where he knew they had nothing to do with it, possibly wasting resources that could have gone towards finding the actual killer, and lending credence to a narrative that we now know (to my knowledge) was untrue? Yes.

That's not illegal. It does affect how people perceive him and his endeavors though.


For the sake of anybody else reading this, I edited my previous comment before you responded, but at the time you saw my comment your first quote was accurate. My fault for that disjointed communication, I thought I edited it quickly enough.

In that quote he has specifically said "We're not saying that Seth Rich's death neccessarily is connected to our publications." I see nothing wrong with entertaining a conspiracy theory if you aren't lying about having evidence you may not have.

I'd like to hear how you know that Assange knew that they had nothing to do with it? Because your argument seems to hinge on that idea.


> I'd like to hear how you know that Assange knew that they had nothing to do with it? Because your argument seems to hinge on that idea.

I'm not sure who "they" are in this question. I assume Assange knows who his sources are, and as someone who claims to be a journalist and run a journalistic enterprise, he would not accuse people of something he had no evidence of.

At this point, there's plenty of investigations as to whether he was a source, many of which are shown on the relevant portion of his Wikipedia page.[1] Either all the evidence so far is incorrect, or Assange knew he wasn't a source, or Assange didn't know whether he was or was not a source, and in either case, anyone that claims to be a journalist or working towards exposing the truth should not be making statements such as he did, or at least that's the opinion of many people.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Seth_Rich#Debunking


You are 100% sure that Seth Rich wasn't murdered in a conspiracy because Wikipedia said so?

I'm not saying that he was murdered by the DNC because I haven't seen enough evidence that supports that theory. But to act like the theory has been conclusively disproven because of a wikipedia article that cites the Washington Post, Snopes, and Politifact is rather naive.


> You are 100% sure that Seth Rich wasn't murdered in a conspiracy because Wikipedia said so?

No. Why would anyone be 100% about this unless they were part of it? I definitely know what I think is most likely based on the evidence though.

> But to act like the theory has been conclusively disproven because of a wikipedia article that cites the Washington Post, Snopes, and Politifact is rather naive.

And "The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia" and "People who worked with Rich" and a "Rich family representative", all with citations. The very first sentence of that section does metion fact checking websites, such as Politifact.com, snopes.com and factcheck.org, but after it mentions (with two citations) "The conspiracy theories have been debunked by law enforcement".

I can only conclude you are seeing what you want to see, since you're leaving out very compelling evidence that was not only mentioned first in the initial explanatory sentence, but also first below where items were discussed in detail.

I think I've explained myself sufficiently, and I think your reply wasn't exactly formulated in a way conducive to productive discussion, so I think this will be my last comment on the topic here.


Wikipedia is particularly untrustworthy for political topics. Political parties and even nations are employing teams of people to work their way up the Wikipedia ranks in a fight for control.

Assange would know the source. Assange also made a promise to not reveal sources, making no exception for death. Giving suggestive hints would be one reasonable way to deal with the awkwardness of the situation.


So you're saying Assange is implying that Seth Rich is the leaker, and that he is indeed the leaker?

It seems to be so.

Assange and his mother both hinted at it. One interview Assange did is particularly notable; he practically said the leaker was Seth Rich and then backed off a bit. It was like he was struggling with his promise to not reveal sources.

Seth Rich had the means to leak, being an IT person just like Snowden was. Seth Rich had the motive to leak, being a very upset Bernie supporter. In one of John Podesta's emails, there were some very ominous words about making an example of leakers.


There is no evidence that Seth Rich was a Bernie supporter at all, forget about being an upset one. Him being an IT person means nothing because did not have access to all DNC emails. Snowden had high level access.

>Assange is not responsible for the conspiracy theories that other people generate from his information.

There's a full video somewhere of this.

https://i.redd.it/sbzfk3uw2or21.gif

Edit: The video, I think https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp7FkLBRpKg

He also announced a 20 or 25K dollar reward for information leading to Seth Rich's murder being solved, in order to further imply he was the leaker.

>I also fully intend on "election meddling" by sharing my opinions on the internet. As should you. It's on you to prove why this is bad for the american people.

The DNC and Podesta email leaks were probably worth a billion or so dollars in campaign money influence. That's not even counting the IRA trolls. You and me and probably all of HN readers combined couldn't come up to such a level of influence.

I believe it was done in bad faith by Russia and Assange in order to divide and destabilize the US, regardless of the outcome of the elections. The IRA tried to amplify both the extremes, and heavily pushed actual fake news including Pizzagate.


If the DNC and Podesta email leaks were probably worth a billion, how much money was the audio tape leaked worth by NBCUniversal? That news reached basically every corner of the world for weeks, which is very expensive thing to buy.

During the election campaign there was also several lawsuits filled, neither which lead to a case reaching a judge. How much election meddling did that cause, how much would such campaign influence be worth if it was possible to buy it?

Lets imagine a future election where media and candidates are bound to only talk political subjects and disagreement on those. No scandals, no leaks, no recent news, and no meddling by outside influences be that other nations, citizens, companies or news papers. Just politicians with different views on how the country will operate in the next few years. If someone have a tape, a email or a lawsuit to announce they can wait until the day after the election.


> I know that it intends to meddle with the election. Like I said, that isn't inherently a bad thing.

Whether it is bad depends on intent IMHO.

If it is simply to give information for a better informed public that's one thing. If it's to selectively target a particular candidate to fuck them over, it is another.

Would the "journalist" in question release similar, potentially damaging information on other candidates?


Well, after all, Watergate was just a voter persuasion project.

Running a website that publishes other people's leaks at times convenient for an election is not the same as orchestrating a surveillance program and than a cover-up (as a sitting president!).

This is an extremely dishonest comparison.


> Election meddling is not inherently bad.

Meddling has a negative connotation, so it's probably not useful to continue using that term if trying to discuss this particular issue as something that may not be negative. Tampering has worse connotations, but if you're "meddling" in something, it's implied you're getting involved where you don't belong.

That said, as I noted many people believe it was meddling in this case for numerous reasons (the timing, the specifics of the situation, how it could be perceived as supporting a particular side).

I'm not interested in litigating whether it actually was election tampering/meddling, and I worded my comment specifically to note that. I am interesting in shutting down another line of "Ah, another case of [other group] who are {evil,stupid,hypocrites,wrong} because of [belief] which is wrong because of [contrived example which discounts much of the real reasons people believe that]." It's not constructive to the discussion, does not lead to future useful discussions (and any it does lead to can be reached through far more constructive means), and since the same reasoning can be applied to any response, it's ultimately fruitless. It's pointless and nonconstructive in the same way saying "Trump supporters don't care what he does as long as he sticks it to the Democrats" is.

Edit: Clarified what I meant by my first sentence.


I'm using the term you used. I'm not concerned with the connotation, I'm concerned with making an argument based in fact.

You said that some people make the distinction between "election meddling" and "exposing government actions". What I'm saying is that those two aren't mutually exclusive and you'd be incorrect to make that distinction as a rule.

Anytime you expose government actions on a democratic government you're naturally going to have some amount of influence on the next election, so frankly it seems rather unintelligent to attempt to draw a distinction there. Either unintelligent or dishonest.


> I'm using the term you used.

My point is that it's an imprecise term, and one that carries baggage in the language. If you're going to make a case that it's not descriptive of what's going on because the negative connotation it carries may not be present in the situation, it's worth using a neutral re-wording to clarify the point.

> You said that some people make the distinction between "election meddling" and "exposing government actions".

What I said is people believe wikileaks meddled, and I meant that with all the negative connotations that implies because that's what I was trying to express. That's the point, because we're discussing how some people's opinions changed over time. Ignoring the negative connotation is ignoring the word choice I specifically chose on purpose.

As I noted in the prior comment, when discussing opinion and belief over time, facts are irrelevant. Can meddling (or, to clarify, being involved in disseminating information) in an election not be negative? Obviously. That's not what's being discussed here, and whether Wikileaks did or did not do it is irrelevant to whether people have a rational reason for their beliefs given the information they were exposed to.


The "meddling in elections" is neither quantifiable nor in any way an excuse for the issue at hand. You want to get someone behind bars because he leaked information about war crimes. Nothing else at hand matters to this case.

"meddling in elections".... pff....


I think you've missed the context within which I was speaking, which was in direct reply to someone. I was not speaking as to whether Assange is guilty or should be prosecuted. I was speaking to someone's assessment of how "the Democrats" opinion changed on Assange over time, and the reasons for which that happened. I think the perception that Wikilieaks and Assange in particular were not acting as the neutral third party they presented themselves as has a lot to do with that, and ignoring that in lieu of a simplistic narrative the denigrates others by reducing their thoughts and motives to base approximations and stereotypes is not useful.

I know how the opinion changed. There was relentless push by media and other organizations to create a narrative that there were some wizards that influenced the US elections. We still don't have any evidence on that by the way.

Using this as a justification to omit the governments responsibility in war crimes, people really shouldn't vote for anything associated with your politic platform. And maybe they just didn't. That would actually be an explanation that is far more probable.


What part of the first amendment exonerates knowingly attempting to crack NTLM keys of US military logins?

Or is the reasoning that the law should give him special treatment and exemptions not given to others?

Also, is the 1st amendment protection even applicable to foreigners on foreign soil?


Yes, First Amendment protections apply to non-Americans. However, as you say, Assange is being prosecuted for conspiracy to hack computers, not for his speech.

The First Amendment probably does not apply to non-Americans with respect to their conduct abroad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Verdugo-Urqui...

> The Court held that the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures did not apply where United States agents searched and seized property located in a foreign country owned by a nonresident alien in the United States. Chief Justice Rehnquist authored the opinion for the Court, joined by Justices White, Scalia, Kennedy and O'Connor, contending that "the people" intended to be protected by the Fourth Amendment were the people of the United States, and that the defendant's "legal but involuntary presence" on U.S. soil (a direct result of his arrest) failed to create a sufficient relationship with the U.S. to allow him to call upon the Constitution for protection.[1]


> The First Amendment probably does not apply to non-Americans with respect to their conduct abroad.

How does a Fourth Amendment case turning on the interpretation of specific language that is not present in the First Amendment lead to that conclusion?

(Also, since the alleged conspiracy was related to acts that would be committed within the US, by a US citizen, it's far from clear whether, even if the rationale of the case you cite did apply, the result would still be that there was insufficient relationship to the U.S. with regard to the act in question.)

Note that I don't think the First Amendment has any bearing on this case because of the actual conduct at issue, but if it did, I'm not seeing how the case you point to would make it inapplicable based on Assange’s citizenship and location.


>... that is not present in the First Amendment lead to that conclusion?

It's commonly understood that the conduct of foreigners abroad is not protected by American rights. That is the legal basis for most of the 'War on Terror' military actions and one of the key reasons why the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki was objectionable. The way our system understands the law means that American citizen Anway al-Awlaki (and his son) had rights that were violated when he was killed.


> It's commonly understood that the conduct of foreigners abroad is not protected by American rights.

So we're backing away from legal argument to conventional wisdom?

> That is the legal basis for most of the 'War on Terror' military actions

No, it's not. About the closest that comes to the truth is that a lot of the War on Terror actions are based on the legal principle that certain, mostly procedural,. Constitutional rights do not apply to actions taken by the US government overseas against non-citizens, but there is no principal under which the limitations imposed by the first amendment (“Congress shall make no law...”) don't apply to the application of a law underlying a criminal prosecution in regular US federal courts, regardless of the nationality of the defendant or the location of the crime.

> The way our system understands the law means that American citizen Anway al-Awlaki (and his son) had rights that were violated when he was killed.

That's debatable. It's fairly well established that being a US citizen does not exempt you from being targeted in war, and also that an authorization of military force requires no magic words to be a valid exercise of the power to declare war. There's a decent precedential bases that for someone not immediately engaged in active hostility, that is restrained within US territory when and where the civilian government and court system are not impaired, but there is no precedent that I am aware of creating a citizenship-based immunity to war conducted overseas.


>So we're backing away from legal argument to conventional wisdom?

I meant understood by legal professionals according to judicial rulings. As far as we can determine the law, foreigners abroad are not afforded the same rights as American citizens. And I don't think the law has so much nuance as to allow the US government to legally kill people but not abridge their freedom of speech.

>... targeted in war...

Anwar al-Awlaki was a non-combatant killed in Yemen, which was not a war zone at the time (same with his son). Those words have a lot of legal implications against the actions of the United States.


Well... the first amendment doesn't mention the people. It just says "Congress shall make no law..."

So I'm not sure the same logic applies.


American law can not apply to non-Americans abroad.

Maybe "should not". "Can not" has been disproved many times.

Either cases it is irrelevant if the parent country of that person supports that individual. Like how it happens with a lot of Chinese citizens that US routinely tries to entrap.

This should obviously be the case, with both pros and cons. The non-Americans like Assange might not need to follow American law, but they are also unprotected by it. If the CIA wants to take care of a matter overseas, they just do that.

He's being prosecuted for allegedly extracting a password from a hash value on behalf of Manning and encouraging him to leak more information (Obama's DOJ refused to make this charge because it's something all journalists do).

> He's being prosecuted for allegedly extracting a password from a hash value

They don't claim Assange extracted a password. They just claim that Assange said in the chat "no luck so far"! That is, that he wrote to Manning that he tried.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/press-release/file/1153481...

The indictment is "conspiracy" with Manning.

So there's certainly something to back up the claim from this title

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-april-11...

namely, that "Assange's arrest is 'a vendetta, not justice'"

For more context, at the moment this news from ca one month ago have even more sense:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/08/chelsea-mann...

"Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to testify to grand jury in WikiLeaks case"


> Manning did not have administrative-level privileges, and used special software, namely a Linux operating system, to access the computer file and obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange.

Fun to see them exonerate themselves for using broken security by calling a hash a, "portion of the password".


Because all journalists encourage sources to leak, or all journalists extract a password from a hash value?

Both. If a journalist gets a story on French, is it a crime if they publish it in English? Should it be a crime to decode information you possess?

that'd be "encouraging her", unless you're not referring to Manning here?

Good point, but some leniency is probably in order. We certainly want to honor Ms. Manning's wishes, but they weren't yet publicly known at that time.

They are known now, and has been known for a very long time.

When you change your gender does it apply retroactively? I assume it doesn't because that is needlessly complicated.

I remember this being settled on the Chelsea Manning talk page. In short, you refer to women as women even if they previously identified as men.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Chelsea_Manning

>This article should adhere to the identity guideline because it contains material about one or more trans women. Main biographical articles should give precedence to self-designation as reported in the most up-to-date reliable sources, even when it doesn't match what's most common in reliable sources. Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise. Other articles should use context to determine which name or names to provide on a case-by-case basis. If material violating this guideline is repeatedly inserted, or if there are other related issues, please report the issue to the LGBT noticeboard, or, in the case of living people, to the BLP noticeboard.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Iden...

>Give precedence to self-designation as reported in the most up-to-date reliable sources, even when it doesn't match what is most common in reliable sources. When a person's gender self-designation may come as a surprise to readers, explain it without overemphasis on first occurrence in an article. Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise. Avoid confusing constructions (Jane Doe fathered a child) by rewriting (e.g., Jane Doe became a parent). Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions (in some cases adjusting the portion used may reduce apparent contradictions, and "[sic]" may be used where necessary). MOS:MULTIPLENAMES calls for mentioning the former name of a transgender person if they were notable under that name. In other respects, the MoS does not specify when and how to mention former names, or whether to give the former or current name first.


[flagged]


Avoid confusing constructions (Jane Doe fathered a child) by rewriting (e.g., Jane Doe became a parent). Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions (in some cases adjusting the portion used may reduce apparent contradictions, and "[sic]" may be used where necessary). MOS:MULTIPLENAMES calls for mentioning the former name of a transgender person if they were notable under that name.

This is needlessly complicated. Editing all previous quotes and trying to rewrite past events is confusing.


But she didn’t father a child, since she isn’t a father. The expectation that one be accurate is not “complexity”: it’s how you avoid saying things that are wrong. It is often simpler to be wrong. “Pi is 3” simplifies infinite complexity, in fact. But that doesn’t make it acceptable.

At that time she was identifying herself as a father though. There is no need to whitewash history.

When people get married and change their last name they don't make people go into quotes from the past and change them, and that is far less of an identity change then we are talking about here.

Bruce Jenner won an olympic medal. They don't need to scrub Bruce Jenner from old episodes of the Kardashians.

Bruce Jenner then became Caitlyn Jenner. There is just no reason to try to change history.


When people change their last name, newly-created references to them do in fact use their new name, even if talking about old events. That said, it's not really an analogous situation, because when people change their last name it's generally in response to a life event, and so references to them that predate that life event weren't inaccurate, they're just old. Transgender people who change their name aren't doing so in response to a life event, they're doing so because their old name was never who they were. It was a name forced upon them by their parents and society. Chelsea was always a woman, it's just the world didn't know until she came out. The name she used to go by was never really her, and continuing to use it is supremely disrespectful to her.

Or to put it another way, if you have a friend that comes out of the closet and announces they're gay, do you ever talk about "when they used to be straight", or do you recognize that they were always gay and you simply didn't know?


This is clearly the crux of the case.

No, he's being prosecuted for allegedly agreeing to extract a password from a hash. Not for actually doing so, massive difference.

The definition of a criminal conspiracy requires intent and an agreement to act in furtherance of that intent, and only one of the conspirators to have committed overt acts.

Everyone with mens rea is guilty of conspiring, not just the person who committed the actus reus.


> Everyone with mens rea is guilty of conspiring, not just the person who committed the actus reus.

That's not strictly true; the agreement is the individual actus reus.


Non-Americans are certainly protected by the Constitution while in the US, but I thought there was still a legal debate about whether the US Constitution fully applies to foreign nationals while outside the US. Hasn't that long been the legal excuse used for things like international mass surveillance and what goes on in Guantanamo Bay?

The First Amendment doesn't apply to anyone while outside the US. A US citizen in Saudi Arabia doesn't have First Amendment protections there.

For the US to prosecute Assange, they have to prosecute him in the US, where he does enjoy First Amendment protections, as the First Amendment limits what Congress (and via the Fourteenth, state/local as well) can do.


I think you are misinterpreting the question. The US Constitution obviously has no legal impact on the laws of Saudi Arabia. The question is whether the US government needs to follow the US Constitution when dealing with a non-US citizen on non-US soil.

There seems to be a precedent that US citizens have different legal protections from the US government while abroad when compared with non-citizens. That is why US citizens involved with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, or similar hostile organizations will occasionally receive a domestic trial in the criminal justice system while non-citizens generally only face military trials if anything.


> There seems to be a precedent that US citizens have different legal protections from the US government while abroad when compared with non-citizens.

It's an interesting situation, as there's counter-examples; the Constitution doesn't, for example, appear to permit assassinations (certainly not of citizens without a trial), but they went ahead and droned Anwar al-Awlaki without any apparent legal consequences.


You seem to willingly confusing "assassinations" with "acts of war".

Anwar Al-Awlaki was unquestionably an enemy combatant due to his overt belonging to a non-state actor engaged in military combat with the United States.


Exactly.

If a person is on trial in the U.S. for breaking U.S. law, then U.S. constitutional protections apply— regardless of citizenship or where the alleged crime took place.


> The First Amendment doesn't apply to anyone while outside the US. A US citizen in Saudi Arabia doesn't have First Amendment protections there.

First Amendment deals with US federal government and states.

Neither the federal government nor the states can prosecute you for free speech you engage in as US citizen or resident while in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian government might choose to prosecute you, but the first amendment does prohibit the US government from prosecuting you for speech made overseas as well as on US soil.

An american journalist is living in Brazil and writes an article critical of the US government. The US government can not prosecute them simply because they wrote the article while out of the country.


It also limits what speech congress can make illegal, effectively controlling what the executive branch can do because of speech.

It would be a pretty fucked up logic if US laws applied outside US but the document that prevents US laws from becoming tyrannical would not.

That would simply be evil.


Guantanamo Bay is American soil similar to embassies in foreign cities.

Embassies aren't "foreign soil". There are restrictions based on international treaties, but they're nothing like foreign soil at all.

>Guantanamo Bay is American soil

That doesn't seem to be 100% settled law either. The US government has argued both sides in different court cases.


That’s true, but you don’t get clicks from outrage by just saying the boring truth. I’ve also been reading rants from people who think the US is going to throw a bunch of other charges at him when he gets here, which is just hilariously wrong. In general a state can’t request extradition on charge A then throw B-Z into the mix when the plane lands. The only way to expand on the original charges are with permission from the country which received the original request on the basis of new information.

But again, that doesn’t feed the conspiracy-minded mob or generate clicks.

Edit response to emiliobumachar:

If the US broke international law and their treaties with the UK it would be a really bad look at the very least. Conversely if that doesn’t happen what are you going to be convinced of?

(Sorry about responding this way, but after two months of getting no response from the mods about rate limiting me, I’m just adapting.)


> In general a state can’t request extradition on charge A then throw B-Z into the mix when the plane lands. The only way to expand on the original charges are with permission from the country which received the original request on the basis of new information.

Does anybody think UK would not give all the permissions when asked?


The charges have to be based on new information, and the UK judiciary isn’t overtly political. All told I think Assange will go down for the hacking, and then be off to Sweden. After that I suspect the world at large will be done with him. He isn’t anything like as important as he and his few supporters seem to think.

If charges B-Z are in fact thrown into the mix after the plane lands, would you then be convinced of a politically motivated conspiracy?

The US Constitution protects US Persons regardless of where they may be. This is a broader category than US Citizens. It includes, for example, green card holders. The US Constitution also protects, to a certain extent, non US Persons, but only in the US or on US territory.

The 1st amendment simply prohibits the united states government from abridging freedom of speech.

Putting thousands of people's lives in danger because you're not careful isn't freedom of speech [0]. If Assange cared about freedom of speech, he wouldn't have called the Panama leaks an attack on Putin fueled by Soros [1]. Is it a coincidence that almost all Wikileaks cables are about the US, and never anything about Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and so on?

I definitely don't think he should be prosecuted for journalism, but if it is shown that he was Putin's puppet and intentionally helped meddle in US election, then he does deserve whatever sentence he receives.

[0] https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/leak-at-wikileaks...

[1] https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/717458064324964352


> Is it a coincidence that almost all Wikileaks cables are about the US, and never anything about Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and so on?

Perhaps it makes Americans feel bad about themselves to hear this, but there are people in the world who feel that America and its 5-eyes allies are actually doing more harm to the world than Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and "so on" - by way of endless, illegal, heinous wars wherein crimes against humanity are constantly ignored by the only people who have the power to do something about it: The American People.

Alas, The American People are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the realisation that many outside of America's reality-distortion fields have already had: America is a net evil force in the world, and its illegal wars must be stopped at all costs.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen. 500,000+ dead victims of America's illegal wars. When Russia and/or China have invaded and destroyed as many sovereign states as the USA has, then the moral stance you propose would be relevant. But, since neither Russia or China have started and engaged in countless, endless illegal wars of aggression in the last decade, the equivalence you desire is inappropriate. America and its allies are committing war crimes daily and have been doing so for decades. Without doing something effective about that, The American People have no chance to do something, next, about Russia or China. It simply doesn't work.


> America is a net evil force in the world

I never claimed they weren't. But it would be naive to think that Russia is much better. But for some reason, WikiLeaks has nothing to say about them, even if it's clear that they are doing pretty dodgy stuff (IRA, poisoning, etc). That to me shows that Wikileaks is not about transparency, but rather has a very strong bias about exposing a very specific target.


Maybe America has more serious covered-up crimes to reveal than Russia? Maybe America is killing more innocent people, daily (one bomb dropped every twenty minutes for the last 20 years, mostly on innocent people)?

Maybe you simply haven't read what Wikileaks has published about Russia.


> When Russia and/or China have invaded and destroyed as many sovereign stats as the USA has

It's already happened.


"As many sovereign states as the USA has".

The #'s are not in Americas favour. Also: war crimes being covered up/suppressed.


" America is a net evil force in the world, and its illegal wars must be stopped at all costs."

How about you move to Russia or Venezuela and stop USA's illegal wars at any cost from there?


America's illegal wars can be stopped from anywhere. All it takes is for the truth to be revealed by those brave enough to stand up to the establishment, and reveal their crimes.

It can be done from anywhere on the globe, as we have learned from Wikileaks and others working to expose the crimes of US's criminal military-industrial complex.


I didn't mean to imply that freedom of speech necessarily applied to this case, just that if it did, the US government would hopefully (?) respect that.

Afaik that Wikileaks tweet about the Panama Papers was referring to the fact that the full papers were never released [0].

While at the same time most of the MSM coverage focused solely on the Russian/Putin angle, making the Panama Papers more about Putin than anything else.

[0] https://www.dw.com/en/wikileaks-slams-panama-papers-trickle-...


But what was the purpose of throwing Soros in there?

> 1st amendment protection even applicable to foreigners on foreign soil?

It seems to do so.

>The Constitution does distinguish in some respects between the rights of citizens and noncitizens: the right not to be discriminatorily denied the vote and the right to run for federal elective office are expressly restricted to citizens.12 All other rights, however, are written without such a limitation. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection guarantees extend to all "persons." The rights attaching to criminal trials, including the right to a public trial, a trial by jury, the assistance of a lawyer, and the right to confront adverse witnesses, all apply to "the accused." And both the First Amendment's protections of political and religious freedoms and the Fourth Amendment's protection of privacy and liberty apply to "the people."

https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?a...



That's decision on 4th amendment requirements for issuing warrants.

>What part of the first amendment exonerates knowingly attempting to crack NTLM keys of US military logins?

The whole First Amendment, which explicitly exists to defend the freedom of the press. What sort of person thinks that its legal, desirable, or consistent with a free society for the government to tell individuals at the point of a gun what they are allowed to do or say? What sort of sick society do we live in where a significant portion of the populace thinks that its acceptable that government claims of secrecy are sacrosanct and beyond question? The whole case against Assange is based on Wikileaks' exposure of US war crimes via the Bradley/Chelsea Manning leak almost a decade ago. None of the war criminals exposed by those leaks have been prosecuted - only those who exposed their crimes. Anyone who isn't absolutely outraged and disgusted by this is a blot on society and a moral failure in every way.


> What sort of person thinks that its legal, desirable, or consistent with a free society for the government to tell individuals at the point of a gun what they are allowed to do

Isn't this the basis of all law?


Isn’t that essentially the hacking equivalent of jaywalking? Why should it be prosecuted?

I can’t really imagine a less serious offense than (maybe) trying and failing to crack hash.


Someone asking for your help in hacking a DoD network doesn't seem like jay-walking.

But they didn’t hack into the DoD network. Manning had already leaked everything by the time this happened.

Assange didn’t succesfully crack the hash, it’s questionable if he even did anything with it.

At best his crime is agreeing to help hack into the DoD network, not actually doing anything in furtherance of that. That’s a ridiculous thing to prosecute someone for.


On the other hand, if the alleged facts are true, it does suggest mens rea: Assange wasn't a mere vehicle for reporting information (which would entitle him to free press defense), but he was actively soliciting the crime of leaking confidential information.

>Assange didn’t succesfully crack the hash, it’s questionable if he even did anything with it.

So if someone tried to break into your home and failed, that means they never committed a crime?

>At best his crime is agreeing to help hack into the DoD network, not actually doing anything in furtherance of that.

That's why the maximum sentence is only 5 years.


>So if someone tried to break into your home and failed, that means they never committed a crime?

If someone acquired the same lock as me, tried to pick it in the privacy of their own home and never actually broke into my home I would sure hope that they wouldn't face criminal charges.

>That's why the maximum sentence is only 5 years.

10 for what he's being charged with, no? I could very well be wrong here, but I thought that's what the 1030(a)(1) carries.


>If someone acquired the same lock as me, tried to pick it in the privacy of their own home and never actually broke into my home I would sure hope that they wouldn't face criminal charges.

Acquiring the same lock is bad phrasing, since the same model has different keys.

So what you're implying is that people who go around cloning locks to crack them at home, and generate keys, with the intent to break into homes or military installations, have committed no crime?


>So what you're implying is that people who go around cloning locks to crack them at home, and generate keys, with the intent to break into homes or military installations, have committed no crime?

Of course not (although it wouldn’t be a crime where I’m from until you actually try to break in somewhere).

I’m only implying that this shouldn’t be a crime, not until you actually try to do the deed.


Manning was definitely still leaking while talking to Assange.[1] and there is no public information about whether or not Assange cracked the hashes (only that he offered to).

[1] https://twitter.com/pwnallthethings/status/10634797776323747...


Okay, it seems like Manning was uploading the leak to WL when this happened. Did Manning provide any new data after this conversation?

Jaywalking isn't protected by the first amendment.

> Also, is the 1st amendment protection even applicable to foreigners on foreign soil?

If the US can prosecute foreigners doing foreign things on foreign soil, it should also strip them of all their rights. Is that your reasoning?


For someone who isn’t a citizen of the United States, it’s not illegal to fight against the military of the United States. It’s not possible for Assange to have committed a crime here.

Would you suggest indicting a drone operator of the US Air Force for violating Afghanistan’s law against murdering people?


Yes. Actually, it is. You have to be a lawful combatant to receive combatant immunity under international law.

The U.S. Air Force consists of lawful combatants. They are members of the armed forces and wear uniforms that readily distinguish themselves as combatants, which permits the opposing party to a conflict to abide by principles of distinction and proportionality. They are therefore disanalogous.

CIA operatives, however, engaged in spying or armed conflict, arguably do not enjoy combatant immunity. If the Taliban had captured a CIA drone operator, there is a strong argument that they could have tried, convicted, and sentenced the operator without violating international law.

What part of The Hague Convention of 1907, the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, or the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 did you rely on in forming the opinion you've just shared with us?


The United States itself does not respect international law and does not permit its soldiers to be prosecuted in the ICJ under any circumstances. Therefore there is no reason to afford it any similar consideration.

International law is largely a myth due to the extreme power differential between the United States and most other countries. The only hard and fast rule is that might makes right.


The ICJ handles dispute between states. It has no authority to prosecute the soldiers of any country.

You are, perhaps, referring to the ICC, established by the Rome Statute - to which the United States is not a party.

The issue of whether the United States respects international law is not likely to be conducive to productive conversation on HN. It is also beside the point of this specific topic.

ru999gol 10 days ago [flagged]

its not productive conversation with any american, as you are all brainwashed anyways by your corrupt government and media. As far as I'm concerned any american is complicit in war crimes.

Please don't post flamebait here or engage in nationalistic flamewars. Yes there are huge challenges to conversation across deep divides—but the site guidelines require that we make good-faith efforts to overcoming those challenges or—if you can't or don't want to do that—simply not to post.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Operatives aren't protected and they don't even need to give the spook a trial - summary execution is allowed for spies and saboteurs but most governments usually find capture and trade more productive.

One thing I have wondered about is why we haven't seen any organized crime trying to claim uniformed combatant protections - they already have several process steps in many cases.


Following your argument, isn't then drone operatators in some respects illegal combatants? Or really anyone not easily identifiable as enemy combatants?

Not that I think that arguing from the point of international law, and especially war time international law is of much relevancy in this case.

US has in recently shown little respect for many aspects of what was thought to be international law, but through US acts the water has been muddied. The relationship with the ICC, one of the foremost attempts at establishing a legitimate international court for war crimes comes to mind. It is however far from the only issue where US recently shown an amount of disrespect to international law usually only seen from totalitarian regimes.


Military drone operators will be found on military bases in military uniform. They will be easily identified as soldiers if captured.

Doesn’t this depend on the person’s combatant status? I do suspect that enemy combatants in uniform are afforded the protections you mention, but I don’t think Assange can reasonably be assigned to that class.

I do not believe Australia is at war with the United States.

> What part of the first amendment exonerates knowingly attempting to crack NTLM keys of US military logins?

Is doing math a form of expression? Breaking a password amounts to thinking for a very long time about all the ways you could rearrange some bits, and choosing one. I'd call it an expression of preference for certain possible results over others, by way of saving one and letting the rest go.

I know, I'm laughing at the thought of framing a cracked password because you're so proud of your expressive art. Still, I am deeply uncomfortable with a government having the authority to say, "You may not run that program."


>Is doing math a form of expression? Breaking a password amounts to thinking for a very long time about all the ways you could rearrange some bits, and choosing one. I'd call it an expression of preference for certain possible results over others, by way of saving one and letting the rest go.

Isn't shooting a gun at someone a matter of depressing a lever? It's about applying pressure on a lever with your finger.

>Still, I am deeply uncomfortable with a government having the authority to say, "You may not run that program."

Are you also deeply uncomfortable with a government having the authority to say "You may not press that lever".

Isn't the US firing nukes a matter of the US president entering numbers and pressing some buttons?

Isn't running into and maiming a pedestrian while driving a car at a traffic crossing a matter of actually doing nothing instead of braking?

Are you deeply uncomfortable with the thought of govt jailing you for literally doing nothing?


You are reducing the OP's point, which is rather important, to silly analogies about intent. The OP's point is also why, for eg., many govts' attempts to ban encryption are stupid because you cannot outlaw math. Which is why the legality of both having and breaking encryption needs to be detached from intent.

OP's point is that cracking passwords is a form of art, so Assange should be able to claim cracking a DoD Administrator password was a performance of art and thus legal. It's not an important point, it's a silly one.

>many govts' attempts to ban encryption are stupid because you cannot outlaw math

Huh? You can outlaw math. It'd be a stupid idea and quite hard to successfully enforce, but you can outlaw it.

>Which is why the legality of both having and breaking encryption needs to be detached from intent.

This does not make sense at all. Otherwise there would be no legal difference between using a battering ram to break into someone's house and then claiming it was research for materials testing. It also comes down to privacy and property rights.

Case law is well settled in the physical door locks space which also applies pretty well to the digital space with a good balance between research and not breaking into others property. It's perfectly legal to crack your own NTLM hashes, and those of which you have permission to. Imagine someone going around with a saw sawing up doors and then claiming it was their right because the doors weren't properly secured and made of 12 inches of reinforced steel.


My point is that analogies from the real world do not extend very well to digital things, and you can end up with some extremely broad laws that are misused. We already have problems like DMCA because of that. Ultimately, it's very difficult to have consistent laws around encryption.

Sure, and that's why intent is important. I fully understand encryption being fully legal, but I don't seen any benefit to legally being able to crack/decrypt other's information without their permission and knowledge, against their will.

This has zero implications on crypto-research because it's always legal to try your cracking on your own encrypted data, or on others' data with their permission, like public challenges. What good will it do to extend it to everyone encrypted data?

There are also privacy and property rights issues at hand. Should you be able to crack someone's private key and impersonate them without legal issues?

Reducing something to its basics and then claiming it should be legal by ignoring the real world consequences like the GP was doing is disingenuous.


> benefit to legally being able to crack/decrypt other's information without their permission and knowledge

>privacy and property rights

This is precisely the issue with DMCA. It is illegal in the US to decrypt a DVD/blu-ray etc (for reference, see why fedora cannot play dvds). So what should have been a reactive law against piracy is now a proactive prohibition codified in law. That's why, laws around encryption should decide on the actions after the fact. You can then use existing law on the actions and encryption is out of the picture. In this case, the actions would be protected by free speech and other protections afforded to journalists.


You can’t break and enter and then claim that it was legal because all you did was read documents you used to write a New York Times article.

Indeed, actual journalists have ethics departments that help ensure they don’t step over the line from accepting information gained illegally into encouraging people to commit illegal acts to get them information, and if they commit illegal acts to get information that is always a crime. It’s not even a grey area here.


"Breaking and entering" is a well defined thing in the real world. It does not extend well to digital stuff, and if you go down that road, you end up with the failure to decrypt DVDs. There is no digital property per se. It's just a proxy for other things. So decouple the two. There is no breaking and entering in the digital world. There are just actions you take after the fact, and you can rule on the actions.

If you use someone else's credentials to log in as them then you are breaking the law, even if you didn't have to crack the password. I feel like this is very clearly defined. It's just like if you steal someone's purse because they set it down without securing it. It doesn't matter how easy it was or if you consider your act "art", it's still clearly breaking the law and easy to understand why it's illegal.

> Are you deeply uncomfortable with the thought of govt jailing you for literally doing nothing?

Yes? I’d be concerned for anyone who isn’t. And to be clear... he didn’t crack it. I’ve run password hashes through rainbow tables for shits and giggles. Should I be dragged out of an embassy next?


Sorry if I was unclear, that quote is in continuance of the earlier line, full argument:

>Isn't running into and maiming a pedestrian while driving a car at a traffic crossing a matter of actually doing nothing instead of braking? Are you deeply uncomfortable with the thought of govt jailing you for literally doing nothing?

>And to be clear... he didn’t crack it.

Attempting to commit a crime is a crime even if you failed at it.

>I’ve run password hashes through rainbow tables for shits and giggles. Should I be dragged out of an embassy next?

People shoot at the range all the time but are not prosecuted. But gun murderers are. Dont you see the difference?

Were you cracking an Administrator password of the United States Military protecting classified war logs with an intent to distribute them to the public?


Just because we don’t usually get prosecuted for something doesn’t make it legal.

But that usually means there is a problem with the law in either enforcement(insufficient or only existing to be abused via selective enforcement) or basis(it shouldn't be illegal in the first place).

How did you get those hashes?

What did you (intend to) do with the resulting passwords.

Luckily, intent still counts for something legally.


You're welcome to crack the password and frame it on your wall. Using or intending to use it is the crime.

The state would have to argue your intent to log into their computers and you'd have the chance to respond. The jury would decide whether you meant to gain unauthorized access to a computer system or just geeked out over password cracking.

Practically, I could see things going poorly for the over-enthusiastic cracker, but theoretically they'd be within their rights.


IANAL, but math is explicitly exempted from copyright law, so “art” wouldn’t apply.

As for the more general “expression”, running a program is a function: it transforms one thing into another thing in a deterministic way. That is applying a tool: you would have to argue that the thing you were doing with it, in this case “breaking a password”, was expression, which, well, good luck with that one: you are back to trying to argue that an explicit crime is actually performance art.

All of this is just facts and tools: there is no creativity involved at any stage.


As a layman on the subject, I guess cryptographers are attempting to crack keys every day...

With house locks, it's a plain distinction between breaking into a lock and breaking into a house. With cryptography, I imagine that distinction is really problematic?

Though I'm aware in Assange's case they do have proof of intent, but I wonder if it sets bad precedent, or is a case where they just dug up either far-reaching, obscure, or some law which is practically never really enforced?

Edit: my original comment was written poorly


It's illegal if someone "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains... information from any department or agency of the United States; or... information from any protected computer". It doesn't matter that much how you try and do it, cracking a password would seem to naturally count. It doesn't matter if you guess the password because you knew the owner's dogs's name and date of birth, it's still intentional access (and it doesn't matter if you failed because the password was too tricky, attempted crimes are still crimes).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Fraud_and_Abuse_Act#C...


Attempting to crack a hash locally is distinctly different from trying to gain access to someone elses computer.

Intent is very important in the judicial system.

If Assange can show that he was cracking the password of a US military login as a hobby, he might get away with it.

But I don't think even his ardent supporters would buy that theory.


I would hope that the government would have to show actual acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to charge people, but that's not what happened here.

The only supposed criminal act here is agreeing to help, not actually providing help. This does nothing at all to further the conspiracy.


How is Assange attempting to crack a password locally not an act in furtherance of the conspiracy? Attempting to drive a getaway car that breaks down is still an act even if it failed.

That is what is being alleged and the chat logs seem to support it. It might come out at trial that he didn't actually do it, of course, but that's what the trial is for.


> I would hope that the government would have to show actual acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to charge people

It does, in fact, have to allege such an act in order to charge conspiracy (but the act in furtherance can be by any party to the conspiracy; that's how conspiracy works.)

Three such acts are charged in the indictment; two by Manning, one by Assange.


It's not aupposed.

The court's job is not to enforce ryanlol's idea about what the law should be. The court's job is to enforce the actual existing text of the actual existing laws.

The actual existing laws say that attempting to break into a computer to which you do not have access is a crime, even if your effort alone is not the lynchpin. And that conspiring to help someone else attempt is also a crime.


>The court's job is not to enforce ryanlol's idea about what the law should be.

Ah great. Did I ever suggest that?

>The actual existing laws say that attempting to break into a computer to which you do not have access is a crime, even if you do not succeed. And that conspiring to help someone else attempt is also a crime.

This is correct, but doesn't mean that it's right.


So if someone tried to poison you to death, but failed because he mistakenly bought sugar instead of poison, there was no crime committed? Is that how it works in your country? Is that right?

Similar to A Few Good Men, my brother's high school suspended him for selling oregano as weed.

"He's selling it as weed, not oregano, so we're punishing him as if he was selling weed".


> Did I ever suggest that

You called it a "supposed criminal act". Usually "supposed" used in that way means something similar to ostensible. That's why I started my post with "It's not supposed". In fact, that's the first definition Oxford gives for supposedly...


So you're saying he... conspired to do something illegal?

Yes, but where I'm from you need to actually do something in furtherance of the conspiracy to face prosecution.

I'm not trying to make a legal argument, this just feels fundamentally wrong to me.


https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1030#b

"(b) Whoever conspires to commit or attempts to commit an offense under subsection (a) of this section shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section."

Seems pretty straightforward.

Please don't post about how the law works from your gut feelings about the matter. This forum is awash in people just imagining what the law is every time it comes up. Go look at the law itself. There's no requirement as you've imagined there is.

This was a bit snarky before my edit - please excuse me.


Assange wrote in a chat "No luck so far" to Manning.

Where you are from, can you go around trying to pick locks on front doors and are only prosecuted if you succeed? And the same with cars?


This is a very poor analogy and I think you know it. Cracking the password isn't the same as using it to log in. There are still some extra steps required. In the case of picking locks there are no extra steps, you gain access immediately.

I'm only critizing the analogy, what he did, or tried is still illegal but it's barely a hack attempt and it's obvious they are desperate to charge him with anything, no matter how small the charge.


That's how conspiracies work. Each participant does only a part of the overall conspiracy. If I forge a document and give it to you so you can sneak into a secure area and commit a murder, I am not just guilty of forgery, I am guilty of conspiracy to murder.

They guy who drives the getaway car is guilty of murder as much as the people who walk into the building.

This is the entire point of conspiracy law. Driving a car is not a crime! But it is if you're conspiring with other people who are committing crimes. Otherwise, you would be able to take part in a murder and be let off, because all you did was act as lookout.

If you and a friend plan to poison someone, and you buy the poison and give it to your friend who then poisons the target, you are guilty of conspiracy to murder, even though buying the poison may not actually be a crime. Prosecutors may legitimately not have anything else on you because that's "all" you did!


I think you read over the part where I said it was illegal.

You don't need to invent scenarios, you can use the facts of this case.

Manning already had access and didn't need the password to be cracked. Wikileaks already received information from Manning. Someone in the chat log told Manning they would pass the hash to someone else. They then told Manning "no luck so far".

Keep in mind, they haven't provided any proof that the person Manning was talking to was Assange. They haven't provided any proof that Assange did in fact try to crack it He never wrote that he would try, only that he would pass it on. Or that he actually send the hash to someone else to crack it, and that this person did in fact tried to crack it.

And to top it all off, Manning did not need the password in the first place! People keep forgetting this. The case against Assange appears to be very weak and is probably only intended to get him on US soil to question him about things other than what he is charged with.


>Or that he actually send the hash to someone else to crack it,

Still a crime.

>And to top it all off, Manning did not need the password in the first place! People keep forgetting this.

Still a crime.


What are talking about? Is it because I said it was illegal instead of it being a crime?

The first sentence you quoted was also part of a larger piece about we still need to see the proof that he actually sent it to someone else. So replying "Still a crime" makes zero sense.

In any case, the point is that these are trumped up charge probably to get him to the US so they can question him about russiagate.


> Manning already had access

To Manning's account. She didn't have access to the account she was trying to crack. Getting access to accounts that aren't yours ("exceed[ing] authorized access")- or conspiracy to do so- is more or less exactly what the CFAA is meant to prohibit. Maybe that account had exactly the same permissions that her account did, but the fact remains that she was not authorized to log in to that account.

> proof that Assange did in fact try to crack it

Proof is for trial. A grand jury just has to find probable cause to bring the indictment. Probable cause is quite a low burden of proof. You may not like it! but this is extremely normal in the American system. You don't need proof to bring an indictment, just probable cause. Assange is not special here. A chat log of someone saying "brb gonna go do the crime" followed by "no luck so far" seems pretty probable-causey to me.


I suppose Assange's defense will be that he never actually even tried to crack the password- if he was lying or bloviating, he would not have actually done anything in furtherance of the conspiracy. If that turned out to be the case I'd be with you. But if you have chat logs saying "I will do the thing to try and help you commit a crime" then that sure seems like evidence that you did the thing, or at least tried to.

>intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access

In this case it was Chelsea Manning accessing the computer. Assange didn't touch it.

>It doesn't matter if you guess the password because you knew the owner's dogs's name and date of birth, it's still intentional access

...by Chelsea Manning, not Assange.


Conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime.

Cracking a password is one thing; cracking a password for someone else so they can commit a crime (and you knew this was what they were doing with it) is a crime.

If I know Joe's password, and I pass it on to Steve so Steve can log in and steal Joe's secrets and pass them back to me, I am in a conspiracy to commit a crime under the CFAA.

The guy driving the getaway car is on the hook for the bank theft!


In this case it was cracking a password to blow the lid on US war crimes in Iraq.

I'm not saying anything about whether it was morally here or there, but that it's not at all an unreasonable application of the CFAA.

The guy driving the getaway car from the FBI field-office break-in* (or whoever) is going to be on the hook for burglary, even if the burglary was done for laudable reasons. I think Obama 100% did the right thing commuting Manning's sentence, and was pleased to see her go free. I'm not at all sure prosecuting Assange for essentially the same crime is in the interest of the nation or justice or whatever.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens%27_Commission_to_Inve...


Exposing government corruption (and sketchiness) isn't really the best area to apply black-letter law though - it is usually going to be illegal; governments routinely try to stop people publishing embarrassing information.

If a whistleblower can't intend to get information of a government network, how are they meant to make an allegation with some substance behind it? Are they meant to have unsubstantiated word of mouth? We had that for years with ECHELON, the moderate middle just didn't take any of it seriously until the breaking-the-law levels of leaking happened (yes, the legal details are different with Snowden, but the strategy is very similar - leaker gets hit with incidental charges).

The argument here seems to be that while in theory whistleblowing would be OK; none of the ways to attempt a credible whistleblow in the real world are legal. There is a lot of disagreement in this article's comments about what the law says, so it isn't obvious how a whistleblower, who could be anyone here, is meant to follow the details of what they are and are not allowed to attempt.

Assange isn't even a US citizen, so he isn't expected to know US law. Functionally, all this rigmarole is to ensure that if the US government does something sketchy or even illegal then any foreigner who talks about it is legally subject to one of the US's famous black-bag-over-the-head abductions. The charges seem to be independent of what he leaked.


>Assange isn't even a US citizen, so he isn't expected to know US law.

Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense. Most Americans are not aware of the bulk of laws that apply to them.


Apparently there was a solid legal defense for the journalist murderers in the videos released by assange. They are not facing any kind of legal action.

What defense are you suggesting? I'm not defending the killing of those journalists and I agree that what Assange did is petty in comparison. But nobody looks good in this saga. There are no good guys and bad guys. Assange exposed instances of over-classification and the potential cover-up of war crimes by the United States but eventually became a propagandist for Russia and their war crimes in Syria. Assange shouldn't benefit because some of his actions were in line with a benevolent ideology. This shouldn't be seen as an ideological clash between proponents of free speech and war hawks because it's not that black and white.

Assange can't even get a hostile media to report what he said correctly. The idea that he is running a propaganda campaign is as fantastical as the idea that you are running your own personal propaganda campaign.

Assange cannot frame narratives, suppress journalism or push talking points through media outlets under his control. He didn't control anything except one twitter feed.

The only thing that people really pay attention to and the only reason he has a platform at all is because of what he leaks. Most people don't even have any idea what his opinions are - although the effect of the leaks is felt far and wide.

This absolutely SHOULD be seen as an ideological clash between proponents of journalism (it's not even about freedom of speech, it's about freedom of journalism) and war hawks. And taking the side of the journalist murderers? Not a good look.

It is that simple and you can tell it's that simple because Assange is getting prosecuted for exposing the murders and the murderers are going free and nobody even disputes (except in a very legalistic sense) that they were murderers.

The idea that he's a stooge for Russia? There's your propaganda - it's pretty much no different to the red scare of yesteryear.


Robbing or attempting to rob a bank to donate to the local food bank is still a crime.

That is irrelevant to the fact that he's being charged with conspiracy to, which doesn't require that he's the person who actually gains access.

Yes, but US seems to like to slap conspiracy charges on people who've done essentially nothing in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Maybe it's a crime in the US, but it's still a ludicrous crime.

> If I know Joe's password, and I pass it on to Steve so Steve can log in and steal Joe's secrets and pass them back to me, I am in a conspiracy to commit a crime under the CFAA.

This is of course not at all similar to what happened here, a very strange example.


The indictment alleges Assange induced Manning to do it, which makes it a conspiracy.

I do think that presents big press freedom issues; it'd be easy to see news organizations under fire in this fashion. Convincing a source to hand over stuff isn't much (or at all, really) different than the behavior described in the Assange/Manning case.


Yes, that concerns me too. Where does inducement start? There must be case law on it and maybe it really is a bright line, but it seems like a bit of a reach.

> I assume attempting to "crack keys" is something cryptographers do every day?

Sure, but context matters. I drive a car every day. If I drive off in someone else's car without permission, I've stolen it.


I believe in this case it is because that key belonged to a US military computer system and was being cracked to access the data it protected.

I guess with house locks, it's a plain distinction between breaking into a lock and breaking into a house. With cryptography, I imagine that distinction is really problematic?

Though I'm aware in Assange's case they do have proof of intent, but I wonder if it sets bad precedent, or is a case where they just dug up some law which is practically never really enforced?


He took specific steps (cracking a hash) with the clear intent of helping break into a government owned computer system.

I'm not sure what the gray area is supposed to be here.

If I teach you lock picking skills as a fun hobby, that's clearly okay.

If I teach you lock picking skills knowing you aspire to be a house robber, that is grayish legally and wrong ethically.

But if I break into a specific bank vault for you to help you steal stuff, and we talked about stealing the stuff before I helped you, then I'm clearly involved in a criminal conspiracy.

Assange committed a crime, and if he played the same role in helping to empty your bank account you'd want these laws to exist.

The ethical question here is about whether that crime was ethically jusified. I.e., it's about civil disobedience, not about whether blatant conspiracy should be legal.


>Assange committed a crime, and if he played the same role in helping to empty your bank account you'd want these laws to exist.

But for your bank account comparison to make sense Manning would've already have emptied your bank account before JA broke the law.


How do you know the Administrator account wouldn't have yielded more documents compared to a user account?

Regardless, imagine two independent people trying to murder someone. The first shoots a fatal bullet and the victim is about to imminently die, even if the best medical aid were to be immediately provided. Then the second murderer comes on the scene, does not realize that the victim is fatally wounded, and shoots another bullet, instantly killing him.

Both these people would be fully responsible for the murder, not just attempted murder. Arguments from them saying "no, the other killed him, I did not", do not fly in court.


He's charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Fraud_and_Abuse_Act


I would say a more accurate distinction is breaking into someone's home vs trying to break into a military base. In the first case you're likely to get arrested, in the second they'll probably shoot first and ask questions later

Picking your own door lock is legal.

Picking someone else's door lock is legal if they ask you to.

Picking someone else's lock, if it's not actually in a door and isn't protecting anything, is not illegal, even if they don't ask you to or give permission. You're just picking up a lock and fiddling with it, there's no trespass.

Picking someone else's door lock to burgle their home is illegal.

Handing someone a lockpick so that they can burgle a home for you is illegal.


> Handing someone a lockpick so that they can burgle a home for you is illegal.

Even more so, trying to create a key that you can hand to someone to get into that home....


It's like as if Manning copied the lock at the military base and Assange agreed to see if he can figure out how to pick the copy, but failed (or never even tried, we don't know).

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