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The Feds May Come to Regret Charging Assange with Espionage (politico.com)
37 points by matt4077 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments



Here are the main points of the indictment:

a. They assert that he is not a journalist, and therefore cannot be protected by the first amendment.

b. They limited the indictment to the publication of papers that contained unredacted names of people who were put in danger by the publication of their names (this is important to their argument against him being a journalist).

c. They include conspiracy charges for his direct aid to Manning in hacking DOD computers (providing a live CD, instructing on how to use the tools, tech support, etc).

d. They were too slow in bringing the charges, and are past the 5 year statute of limitations on federal crimes. Because of this, their only hope of success is to upgrade the charges to "acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries", which has an 8 year statute of limitations instead of the normal 5.

The hurdles they must pass in order to succeed in this prosecution are:

1. They must successfully argue that he is not a journalist, or was not acting as a journalist at the time.

2. They must argue that the federal crimes he's accused of also constitute an act of terrorism under section 2332b (which gives the test in subsection (g)(5): "is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct") in order for the indictment to be valid under an 8 year statute of limitations rather than 5.

3. They must also argue the statute of limitations clause in the UK in order to successfully extradite Assange (with a possible second chance via Sweden).

This could very well blow up in the DOJ's face if the courts side with Assange, because there's a good chance that it will further gut the espionage act, which is likely the main reason why the Obama administration didn't bother even when they had a stronger position of not needing to tack on terrorism charges.


> "is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct"

That sounds so broad. Doesn’t it include lobbyists? voters who threaten to vote out a party if they don’t do as they like? What if the government is trump 2.0 and is acting tyrannical? What are the limitations?


That clause can only be used to upgrade something that is already a federal crime on its own.


The terror stuff covers it from a negative perspective, from a more positive perspective the extensive legal documentation and case law for ethics might clear up a lot of definition questions, with a simple inversion applied.

For example, the DOE ethics of government conduct employee handbook lists 14 principles per Executive Order 12674 and principle number 11 of ethical good government conduct is:

"Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities."

So... if ethics executive order specifically defines good government conduct as disclosure of abuse and corruption, it seems legally realistic to argue that the logical inversion would be terrorism would be preventing disclosure of abuse and corruption.

So there is a very realistic legal argument that the government employees hounding Assange are clearly acting as terrorists, and he's the good guy, which is the whole point of the long form article, the deep state may regret essentially making fools of themselves. So is the deep state so strongly in power they don't have to care about making fools of themselves, or ...


Very weird, they must had a reason to do so (or so they thought). They could have charged him with a lot of other things and guarantee a set prison term. Prison is prison, no?


I agree that he is not a journalist and the charges are serious, but the legal case here feels weak to me. They should have just let Sweden have him.


American cockeyed courts usually side with the DOJ when it comes to foreigners. It might not nothing. If they can get him to the US he's screwed despite the shoddy case against him.


He’s not a U.S. citizen:

> As part of the Constitution, the First Amendment stands as the supreme law of the land.

First amendment doesn’t apply, because the U.S. doesn’t apply the bill of rights to non-citizens. The “crime” also wasn’t committed on U.S. soil.


> First amendment doesn’t apply, because the U.S. doesn’t apply the bill of rights to non-citizens.

That's absolutely not true. Precedent has been set multiple times granting constitutional protections to anyone on US soil, no matter how they got here.

So sure, he isn't protected now, because he's not here, but the moment he lands on US soil he's protected by the first amendment. There is no way they would charge him if they didn't think it could stand up under the first amendment.


I am not a lawyer, and I'd love to hear from somebody who's a con law lawyer, but I'm not certain that the First Amendment is retroactive to activities that did not happen on American soil--and, going forward, it's completely within the government's power to get a gag order as pertains to an ongoing case.


> Precedent has been set multiple times granting constitutional protections to anyone on US soil, no matter how they got here

I doubt illegal aliens have 2nd Amendment rights on US soil.


I actually googled this because I had the same thought. According to this source [0], the bill of rights says "People" not "Citizens" so he would have the same protections.

[0] - https://www.maniatislawoffice.com/blog/2018/08/do-non-citize...


Second Amendment says "the right of the people", not "the right of the citizens", but I doubt Assange would be able to buy a gun in the US, even before all this.


Bill of rights covers anyone in USA.


Note the word “in”. Assange wasn’t and isn’t in the U.S.


There was a ruling in a different case yesterday that 1A applies even when the person charged is not in the US - under specific circumstances.

https://www.eff.org/de/deeplinks/2019/05/reddit-commenters-f...


Bill of rights doesn't apply to US citizens outside of US as well.


The Bill of Rights covers the US Government.


He tried to help Chelsea Manning brute force hack passwords on government computers. He's also suspected of being and taking part as Gucifer 2.0. I don't think people can call a person a "journalist" who fronts as one but is really doing illegal activities to obtain documents and data. Receiving them from someone else and publishing is a different issue. Getting them yourself and breaking the law... very fine line.

My issue with this whole WikiLeaks thing is that they are clearly a Russian operation that posed as a "truth seeker" early on and then started to steer their operation 100% at damaging the US. If you're truly a journalist operation, you'd do more to publish and "seek truth" in other countries. You won't find a single story about Russia that's damaging.

Bottom line for me? I think the US believes he's a Putin sympathizer. Or worse, he's a Russian asset.


>My issue with this whole WikiLeaks thing is that they are clearly a Russian operation that posed as a "truth seeker" early on and then started to steer their operation 100% at damaging the US. If you're truly a journalist operation, you'd do more to publish and "seek truth" in other countries. You won't find a single story about Russia that's damaging.

Were you aware of Wikileaks prior to 2016? I can't help but think that you're unaware of their work prior to the 2016 US election cycle. Granted, you mention Chelsea Manning. But the idea that Wikileaks was a shell organisation for Russian intelligence all the way back from 2006 beggars belief, if only because of the diverse range of sources they have received material from.

Regarding Guccifer 2.0, I've seen the information linking that account to Russian intelligence, but I haven't seen any evidence that Assange himself is suspected of being Guccifer and essentially orchestrating the conversation(s) between Guccifer and Wikileaks. Could you share your information with the rest of us?


How does one know propaganda works? When everyone on the internet starts spewing the same line at the same time.


Are you addressing me? Or is that just for the benefit of other readers?


> My issue with this whole WikiLeaks thing is that they are clearly a Russian operation that posed as a "truth seeker" early on and then started to steer their operation 100% at damaging the US

The theory here seems to be that Russia is perfidiously undermining the US by exposing the truth to the cold light of day, by nefariously revealing primary sources with limited editing.

I'm not sure I'd rate that as the most successful strategy in their playbook, but maybe it'll work. If it were me, I'd go with more traditional propaganda. That is not a good theory.


Sure, "the truth to the cold light of day".

The point of it is being able to choose what truth to publish, with what context, and when.

The instructive case being the Podesta e-mails, being acquired by Russian intelligence (aka Fancy Bear) and released through WikiLeaks in the month before the 2016 election, controlling the news-cycle by staggering the releases.


That would be pretty solid evidence that the Russians are releasing information to the public, but the fact that they used Wikileaks doesn't support anything. There are a lot of ways to release information -particularly if the information happens to be true.

On a strictly irrelevant note, but because I don't like passively accepting premises I disagree with...

And the idea that the Russians extracted and released those emails is still fishy - if the Democrats win a batch of elections then Russia is going to start looking really stupid. It isn't impossible that the US intelligence services are wrong in their accusations, simply because as plots go it is a totally stupid one. It doesn't make any sense unless considered in context of only 1 election cycle.

If Russia had a magic button to decide elections, the DNC and RNC would have found it too by now. It is much more likely the actions of a rogue troublemaker, not acting on specific instructions to do what he did. Even if he was affiliated with the Russians.


> nefariously revealing primary sources

Russia deliberately targeted, hacked and stole the email of a US presidential campaign manager. What kind of crazy spin is this?

Whether Assange specifically should be culpable here is an open question. Whether the act was criminal is not.


Nobody disputed that the emails were genuine. What if Russians had just released them via RT - or indeed the New York Times?

It is still a story even if the source is shady. Even more impressive if the Russians are known to be involved.

Releasing the emails via Wikileaks isn't evidence of anything. Someone as well resourced as the Russian Intelligence service could have released them on The Pirate Bay and had a similar effect.

On my original point, Russia does not have a scary scheme to reveal the truth to unwitting Americans via Wikileaks. The idea is absurd.


> shady

There's no "shade" here. It's straight up criminal. He got phished, deliberately, via a targetted human engineering operation. Again I just don't understand the desire to hide the underlying crime here.

It's possible to be very uneasy with the direct prosecution of Assange for this stuff, to view Manning as having been unfairly targetted, but to also recognize that there's a really serious underlying crime here that we need to address.

But no, everyone wants to pick sides here and stand with... Putin. Seriously?


I suspect the difference here is between people old enough to remember the Cold War and those whose political awareness doesn't go beyond the election of Trump. I've been watching NATO expand to Russia borders and hearing US officials pine for the days of the Cold War for decades. I say fuck that. Putin is what he is, but that doesn't mean i want to go back to the days of nuclear brinksmanship and paranoia.


You don't think it's possible to recognize legitimate crimes without... pining for nuclear brinksmanship? The end of the cold war means we need to be OK with random foreign powers phishing our email?

Again, this binary nonsense is just crazy to me. It's possible to view the current geopolitical environment as safer than the 80's and see Putin as a dangerous despot and his actions in the 2016 election as crimes worthy of prosecution. Right?


Phishing our email is extremely low on the scale of “bad” things governments do.

Personally, I am much happier with intelligence agencies collecting information remotely than supplying weapons and overthrowing governments etc. In relative terms releasing accurate information is just not a major issue.

So, my concern is people take issue with this not because of what happened but because of the country that did it. And if that’s what’s going on, it’s the continuation of some very dark times. I have genuine concerns about what’s happening to the in Russia, but I think we need to judge their actions in absolute terms rather than let bias spiral.


Podesta used “Pa$$w0rd” and fell for a spear phish. Let’s not pretend this was some well financed nation state level hack. My mom successfully resists these every week.

Everything revealed about Clinton, Podesta and others was completely true. I’ve never seen a worse case of shoot the messenger than this.


Not only that but it was a phish not a spear phish. They sent the same phishing email to tens of thousands of people. It was just a generic common phishing operation. Only thing notable about Podesta was he asked his tech guy if the phishing email was legit and his tech guy said it was and he should click on it and sign in.


Assange a russian asset?

Why is he not in russia then? For plausability he let himself being locked in for years? Being the selfish narcisst that he is? Not likely.

Assange is a kind of internet-anarchist. He published some kind of manifest a while ago. Crypto-anarchism. Basically the idea (if memory serves right) that people need crypto etc. to balance the power with total governments.

So he really is not a supporter of the russian government, except maybe as a counter to the US. He hates the US as super power number one, so thats why he might accepted help from the enemies of his enemy, but Wikileaks also published documents about russia.


You’ve just made up loads of stuff with no evidence haven’t you? We should consider Collateral Murder much more damaging than the release of the video, the act itself has caused much more harm to your beloved American interests.


> We should consider Collateral Murder much more damaging

I think it was right to release the video. But to me, with no military experience and and non-native speaker, it seemed totally possible that the pilots took the reporters for combatants. I wouldn’t want to judge them. In comparison, I found the video of a cop shooting a fellow American crying in fear with an automatic rifle because he was reaching for his pants much more disturbing.

Or the autistic kid tazed to death in the shower.


Shooting a journalist because you think his camera is a gun means you did not exercise reasonable diligence in identifying the enemy target and are still liable for the death. If someone goes to a playground and shoots the children there and says they thought they were armed robbers, it isn't accepted as a defense.

The pilot came back for and shot a guy in a van who was taking his two kids to school. He had stopped to help the reporter.

Anyone watching the video can see the kids in the van. That the pilot didn't proves he was criminally negligent.


What about when they came back to shoot people who were helping the wounded? Also, "it was a war zone" is a shitty excuse given that the war was illegal and we had no business positioning helicopters over civilian marketplaces in Iraq, period.


What is collateral murder?


https://youtu.be/HfvFpT-iypw

A video some claim was leaked by Chelsea Manning (to Wikileaks) showing what I believe to be war crimes by US military.


Personally I also think that he is now a Russian asset or whatever its called. Maybe he needed their help and they were glad to welcome them into their arms, but that's besides the point. No love lost between him and 3 letter agencies BUT, as I said they could have charged him with a lot of other things that carry a long prison sentence.


What evidence is there he’s a Russian asset?


He released completely true but negative information about Hillary Clinton. That seems to be enough for some people.


He seems to have published no embarrassing or damaging information on Russia (at least in latter years?), and seemed willing to serve their purposes when it came to the 2016 election, by releasing hacked Democratic Party emails timed to do maximum damage to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Prior to that, I had considered Wikileaks a brave experiment in radical transparency. Since then, I've considered Wikileaks a somewhat biased source. The truth is the truth, yes, but every truth is partial, and context matters.

"Asset" is perhaps too strong a word, but "useful idiot" may apply, or "the enemy of my enemy".


Or maybe he was threatened.




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