$4.2 billion IMF loan, submission to the US, and vengeance appear to have been President Moreno's true motives for revoking Assange's asylum in Ecuador's London embassy, says Ecuador's former foreign minister Guillaume Long
$4.2 billion IMF loan, submission to the US, and vengeance appear to have been President Moreno's true motives for revoking Assange's asylum in Ecuador's London embassy, says Ecuador's former foreign minister Guillaume Long
Yesterday I began my campaign of proscription against those journalists whom I have deemed not actually to be journalists, declaring senatus consultum de re publica defendenda until the current emergency is satisfactorily concluded
Though @Reuters has cravenly responded by issuing a "corrected" version of the 2012 article on my arrest by the pigs, they have left in several demonstrable falsehoods, and it occurs to me that 2019 minus 2012 is 7 years of libel. I spit on their truce
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa- ... SKCN1RO2M7
Grizzly » Sat Apr 13, 2019 3:27 am wrote:Thx for your response Slad, guess that clear's that up. Back to the ol, TRUMPRUSSIARUSSIATRUMP, bullshit. Oh, and if that doesn't work sedsexsexsex! As if that's not the oldest trick in the spook book. Pro DNC talking points all the way. Right or wrong, eh, slad? True democrat!
Julian Assange Languishes in Prison as His Journalistic Collaborators Brandish Their Prizes
April 14 2019, 7:30 a.m.
While Julian Assange languishes in south London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison, a British court is weighing his fate. The 48-year-old Australian founder of Wikileaks is serving time for the minor crime of jumping bail by taking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. His fear at the time was that the Swedes, with a track record of assisting rendition of suspects sought by the U.S., would send him straight across the Atlantic. Now that he has lost his diplomatic refuge, 70 British members of Parliament have petitioned to dispatch Assange to Sweden if prosecutors there reopen the case they closed in 2017. The greater threat to his liberty is the United States Department of Justice’s extradition demand for him to stand trial in the U.S. for conspiring with Chelsea Manning to hack a government computer.
The U.S. insists Assange will not face the death penalty. If he did, Britain, in common with other European states, would not be able to send him there. The maximum sentence for the hacking offense is five years, but there is no guarantee that, once he arrives in the U.S., he will not face additional charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 that President Barack Obama used against nine individuals for allegedly leaking secret information to the public. The sentence for that offense could be death or life in prison. If Assange ends up in the U.S. federal judicial system, he may never been seen again.
His most likely destination is the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” otherwise known as the United States Penitentiary Administrative Facility (ADMAX) in Florence, Colorado. Among its 400 inmates are Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, FBI-agent-turned-Russian-spy Robert Hanssen and Oklahoma City co-bomber Terry Nichols. The prison’s regime is as ruthless as its prisoners: 23 hour daily confinement in a concrete box cell with one window four inches wide, six bed checks a day with a seventh at weekends, one hour of exercise in an outdoor cage, showers spraying water in one-minute spurts and “shakedowns” at the discretion of prison staff.
If Trump’s Justice Department ups the ante to charge Assange under the Espionage Act, a journalist-publisher who has not committed homicide may spend the rest of his life at ADMAX among killers, traitors, and drug pushers.
I have visited Assange often over the past eight years, first at the Norfolk farmhouse of Vaughan Smith, a former British Army officer and news cameraman, where he lived under house arrest for a year and a half. The next place I saw him was in the dreary recesses of an embassy that is a little more than a 630-square-foot converted apartment with no outside space. It was not ideal, but better than ADMAX. Lawyers, supporters, and friends dropped in to keep him company. John Pilger, a few other friends, and I took him more than one Christmas dinner. As each month passed, his skin grew paler from lack of sunlight and his health deteriorated. Dr. Sean Love, who is part of a medical team with Dr. Sondra Crosby of the Boston Medical Center and British psychologist Dr. Brock Chisholm that has conducted regular evaluations of Assange since 2017, said, “He had no ability to access medical care.” Dr. Love complained that the physicians were under constant electronic surveillance, a violation of the doctor-patient relationship, and the British government would not allow Assange safe passage to a hospital for urgent dental surgery. While the British tabloid press scorned Assange’s hygiene, it ignored what Dr. Love called “the deleterious effects of seven years of confinement, whose risks include neuro-psychological impairment, weakened bones, compromised immune function, increased risk of cardio-vascular disease and cancer.” Reacting to the stories about Assange not washing, Dr. Love insisted, “This is a complete smear. This is meant to degrade his humanity.” He believes the “cumulative effect of pain and suffering inflicted on him is most definitely in violation of the 1984 Convention on Torture, specifically Articles 1 and 16.”
At my last meeting this year with Assange, the energy that I recall at our first encounter in January 2011 was undiminished. He made coffee, glancing up at surveillance cameras in the tiny kitchen and every other room in the embassy that recorded his every movement. We talked for about an hour, when an embassy official ordered me to leave. In between, we discussed his health, his strategy to stay out of prison, his family, and the Democratic National Committee’s accusation that he colluded with President Donald Trump and Russia to hack its emails and publish them. The DNC was alleging that Assange revealed its “trade secrets,” a reference to the methods the DNC used to deprive Bernie Sanders of the presidential nomination. The DNC is using the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), meant to control organized crime, to pursue a journalist-publisher. If successful, it will set a precedent that should worry media everywhere.
President Trump’s personal lawyers insist that no crime was committed and therefore no criminal conspiracy took place. That won’t stop the DOJ under Trump’s attorney general from pursuing criminal charges against Assange, not only for working with Chelsea Manning to gain access to government secrets, but to examine how Assange obtained confidential Defense and State Department documents as well as the CIA’s hacking program that Wikileaks published in 2017 under the name Vault 7. London’s Guardian newspaper, which had once cooperated with Assange, had accused him of meeting Paul Manafort in the embassy. Assange said, “I have never met or spoken to Paul Manafort.” The embassy’s log book, signed by all visitors, had no record of Manafort.
Assange said that the restrictions and surveillance had become punitive, as there was now nowhere in the flat out of range of cameras and microphones. “It’s the Truman Show,” he joked. We knew the Ecuadorians were watching, but he believed they supplied the recordings to the U.S. Someone monitoring the cameras must have seen me taking notes, because an embassy official came into the room and ordered me to leave. “No journalists,” Assange explained. That was our last conversation. It was Friday evening. When I left, the embassy closed, the staff left, and Assange was wholly alone until Monday morning.
The road to Belmarsh began in 2006, when Wikileaks exposed a Somali rebel leader’s attempt to assassinate government officials. Next came details of the shocking procedures at America’s detention facility at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. That prompted the U.S. to shut down the Wikileaks site, which bounced back. Assange then exposed activities of the Scientology movement and, in 2010, the illegal misbehavior of the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq — through documents in which the parties indicted themselves.
Wikileaks’ collaborators were a consortium of the world’s leading newspapers, the New York Times, London’s Guardian, El Pais of Spain, and Paris’s Le Monde. If Assange violated the law, they were in it with him. While redacting thousands of Wikileaks documents to avoid identifying sensitive intelligence sources, the newspapers presented the Afghan and Iraq wars in ways that deviated from the official line. One of the best remembered disclosures was a military video of an American helicopter crew taking delight in shooting dead two Reuters journalists and ten other civilians on the streets of Iraq. When U.S. investigators discovered that the source of the leaks was an intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning, they arrested him in May 2010. Bradley, a transgender soldier who became Chelsea, received a 35-year sentence for espionage in August 2013. President Barak Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January 2017, leaving the Assange case open.
Among Assange’s subsequent disclosures were the emails of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, no friend of Washington. Assange was becoming a rock star of free speech. Like a rock star, he attracted groupies. So far, so normal. Then he went to Sweden, where two women denounced him to police for sexual misconduct.
Swedish police dropped the case and allowed him to leave the country, but Swedish prosecutors revisited the case and demanded that Assange return to Sweden for an interview. Sources in Swedish intelligence told me at the time that they believed the U.S. had encouraged Sweden to pursue the case. Assange offered to be interviewed in London, where he felt safer from U.S. extradition than in Sweden. The Swedes, while never officially charging Assange with a crime, demanded extradition. British police arrested him pending a court hearing.
Assange was placed first in jail, then under house arrest at Vaughan Smith’s farm. When the court at last determined to send him to Sweden, he requested and received asylum in Ecuador’s embassy. Conditions were not ideal, but the Ecuadorian president and ambassador gave him full support. Visitors, including myself, came and went. In the meantime, Sweden dropped its investigation into the women’s claims. This left Assange facing only a charge of evading bail in Britain, for which he would receive only a small fine. However, if he left the embassy to report to the court, he feared the U.S. would unseal its indictment against him and demand his extradition.
On May 24, 2017, Lenín Boltaire Moreno Garcés became president of Ecuador and Assange’s life changed. An ally of President Donald Trump in need of IMF loans, Moreno replaced the ambassador with a functionary hostile to Assange’s presence in the embassy. Although the previous regime had granted Assange citizenship, based on five-plus years on what is legally Ecuadorian soil, the new government cut his internet and telephone access and restricted the number of visitors. Embassy staff changed. The new functionaries became less cordial to visitors like myself and were visibly hostile to Assange. Then, last Thursday, Moreno cast aside the principle of political asylum and told the British police to come and get him. The U.S. presented the indictment that Assange had said all along was waiting for him. And so Assange waits to know whether he will ever be free again, while journalists who published his leaked documents continue working without fear of prosecution and, in some cases, brandish their journalism prizes while denouncing the man who made them possible.
https://theintercept.com/2019/04/14/jul ... ir-prizes/
I can say with certainty today after reviewing my own research and material that I have collected over the years (and I have a lot, much of which has never been published) that there's WikiLeaks related investigation material under seal in *Eastern District of New York.*
It also makes sense there would be because the Eastern District of New York is Long Island, where Brookhaven National Lab is located.
I mean this is how certain I am. It's in investigative files related to WikiLeaks/Manning.
I've reviewed investigative files related to WikiLeaks investigation that detail law enforcement summarizing emails & chat logs they obtained referring to accounts allegedly assoc. w/ WL and others (incl. a redacted user w/ a guardian dot co dot uk account) that date from 2008.
But enough about that--- this is the far more interesting thing since this has never been published before or seen
Here is an excerpt of one of those files concerning what investigators suggest is "WikiLeaks experimenting with auction-type mechanism" for classified material.Lemon Slayer
That would be in addition to the Assange investigation in the "Southern District of New York (SDNY)":
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/le ... 79892a1576 …Alexa O'Brien
Yes, I am the source for that information, since I first reported it in 2014. The great journalists at Washington Post, who I admire and respect, gave it more info and context.
Actually, have tremendous respect for those journalists, Tate, Nakashima, et al. I've just spoken to them, and that is one of the things I've told them and reported on. https://alexaobrien.com/archives/909
https://twitter.com/alexadobrien/status ... 9089932288
America Just Declared War on Iran and Nobody Blinked
stickdog99 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:28 pm wrote:Sorry, I have been reading this thread, and I don't get it.
Isn't the one common enemy for all of US (and world) citizens as well as root of all these bullshit jail sentences the US federal government's ever increasing criminalization of the dissemination of its own documentation of its own villainous activities?
Assange tried to use embassy as 'centre for spying', says Ecuador's Moreno
Exclusive: President says he has it in writing from UK that WikiLeaks cofounder’s rights will be respected
Patrick WintourLast modified on Mon 15 Apr 2019 02.35 EDT
Julian Assange repeatedly violated his asylum conditions and tried to use the Ecuadorian embassy in London as a “centre for spying”, Ecuador’s president has said in an interview with the Guardian.
Lenín Moreno also said he had been given written undertakings from Britain that Assange’s fundamental rights would be respected and that he would not be sent anywhere to face the death penalty.
Assange, 47, was taken from the embassy by British police last Thursday after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, ending a stay there of nearly seven years.
The WikiLeaks cofounder faces up to 12 months in prison after being found guilty of breaching his bail conditions when he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. He made the move after losing a battle against extradition to Sweden where he faced allegations including of rape, which he denies.
He is expected to fight extradition to the US over an allegation that he conspired with the former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break into a classified government computer. Sweden is weighing up whether to reopen an investigation into the rape and sexual assault allegations. When there are competing extradition requests in the UK, the home secretary decides which country should take priority.
Moreno’s move against Assange has proved controversial in Ecuador. The previous president, Rafael Correa, has accused his one-time political ally of “a crime humanity will never forget” and described Moreno as “the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history”.
In what may have been part of a campaign to weaken Moreno, WikiLeaks was linked to an anonymous website that claimed Moreno’s brother had created an offshore company, and it leaked material included private pictures of Moreno and his family.
In his first interview with English-speaking media since Assange was ejected from the embassy, Moreno denied he had acted as a reprisal for the way in which documents about his family had been leaked, and said he regretted that Assange had allegedly used the embassy to interfere in other country’s democracies.
“Any attempt to destabilise is a reprehensible act for Ecuador, because we are a sovereign nation and respectful of the politics of each country,” he said in the interview, which was conducted by email. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorian embassy in London to interfere in processes of other states.
“We can not allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a centre for spying,” Moreno said, in an apparent reference to the leaked pictures. “This activity violates asylum conditions. Our decision is not arbitrary but is based on international law”.
Lenín Moreno, the Ecuadorian president. His move against Assange has proved controversial domestically. Photograph: Juan Ruiz/AFP/Getty Images
He accused Assange of repeatedly interfering in the internal affairs of other states, referencing WikiLeaks’ publication of Vatican documents in January 2019 as a recent example. “It is unfortunate that there are individuals dedicated to violating the privacy of people,” Moreno said.
He insisted the decision to cooperate with the British and remove Assange from the embassy was a sovereign decision of his government and was not forced upon him by any external power.
“He was a guest who was offered a dignified treatment, but he did not have the basic principle of reciprocity for the country that knew how to welcome him, or the willingness to accept protocols [from] the country that welcomed him. The withdrawal of his asylum occurred in strict adherence to international law. It is a sovereign decision. We do not make decisions based on external pressures from any country,” Moreno said.
He also asserted he had been given guarantees about Assange’s possible extradition to the US. “For us the maximum right to protect is the right to life,” he said. “For this reason, we consulted the government of the United Kingdom on the possibility of Assange’s extradition to third countries where he could suffer torture, ill-treatment or the death penalty. The United Kingdom extended written guarantees that if extradition is eventually requested he will not be extradited to any country where it may suffer such treatment.”
Moreno lambasted Assange’s treatment of his diplomatic staff in London. “Assange’s attitude was absolutely reprehensible and outrageous after all the protection provided by the Ecuadorian state for almost seven years. He mistreated our officials in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, abused the patience of Ecuadorians. He developed an aggressive campaign against Ecuador and started to make legal threats even against who was helping him.”
Any form of coexistence with Assange in the embassy became a headache, Moreno added.
“He maintained constant improper hygienic behaviour throughout his stay, which affected his own health and affecting the internal climate of the diplomatic mission. In addition, Assange had health problems that should also be resolved.
“We never tried to expel Assange, as some political actors want everyone to believe. Given the constant violations of protocols and threats, political asylum became untenable.”
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson disputed allegations of poor behaviour on Assange’s part on Sunday.
“I think the first thing to say is Ecuador has been making some pretty outrageous allegations over the past few days to justify what was an unlawful and extraordinary act in allowing British police to come inside an embassy,” she told Sky. Pressed over the veracity of the allegations, Robinson said: “That’s not true.”
She said Assange’s fears of a US extradition threat were proved correct when the allegations were made that he conspired to hack into a classified Pentagon computer.
Her statement came after footage of Assange trying to skateboard inside the embassy was obtained by Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Assange’s father, John Shipton, who lives in Melbourne, urged the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, to help his son and suggested he could be brought back to his home country. Morrison “should in a nuanced way do something” to help, Shipton told the Herald Sun. “It can be resolved simply to the satisfaction of all.” Morrison has previously said Assange, an Australian citizen, would have consular assistance available to him but would not get special treatment.
Moreno said Assange could not use asylum to escape the law. “Under international law, Ecuador has safeguarded Assange’s basic rights but those rights cannot prevent him from appearing before the courts and responding to accusations against him. Political asylum cannot be used as a way to evade the consequences of committing crimes.”
Asked what he thought of Correa’s comments, Moreno replied: “If being a traitor means defending democracy, freedom of the press, as well as revealing the truth and corruption of the previous regime, then he can call me what whatever he wants. He is in within his rights to express himself freely.”
He dismissed Correa’s suggestion that he had thrown Assange out of the embassy as part of a deal under which the US would lobby to get his country’s debt lifted.
“It is a fallacy that there will be debt relief in exchange of Assange. This statement has been generated and disseminated by groups related to the previous regime that did not want to find a solution to the Assange case beyond having him locked up in our embassy.
“With the United States, we work on issues of cooperation, trade, culture and security. At no time has Assange’s status been negotiated with that country.”
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/ ... ors-moreno
fascinating @warkin article on how US case against Wikileaks evolved
In 2015, US intel obtained info WL had obtained a collection of docs on Saudi Arabia from Russian intel..year b4 WL pub’d Clinton re emails
Behind the Assange Saga: Radicalized by Frustration
Yesterday morning, with news of Julian Assange’s arrest, I wrote the below piece for The Guardian (US), trying to explain that the real reason that the U.S. government was moving on Assange NOW had nothing to do with the 10-year old case of Chelsea Manning nor WikiLeaks’ role in the 2016 election. The news people at The Guardian passed on the article, as did the Daily Beast. I didn’t really get a reason from The Guardian, but the editor at the Daily Beast wrote: “We don’t have the bandwidth tonight to sort through your sourcing, or to separate out the parts of this that immediately make sense from the ones that seem, at least here, offputting.” Some others offered to publish, and no disrespect to them, but I decided to just publish the piece here because I wanted to add a little explanation and analysis.
The core of my reporting – and my argument – is that WikiLeaks’ publishing of the so-called “Vault 7” trove of the CIA is what propelled the United States government to feel like it needed to take action against the organization. If you are not familiar with Vault 7, don’t feel bad. Most in the national security field aren’t either.
Up until the Vault 7 leaks, which were published by WikiLeaks in March 2017, the national security lawyers within the U.S. government had been hesitant to take on a journalistic entity, even one like WikiLeaks that looked so very different than The New York Times or NBC News. But then with WikiLeaks seeming cooperation (or at least servitude) to the Russian government in 2016, that very American mainstream media became more hostile to its now separated brethren, and the general view shifted within the intelligence community and the Justice Department that the organization was more vulnerable.
With Vault 7, WikiLeaks published almost 10,000 classified documents from the Center for Cyber Intelligence of the CIA, the covert hacking organization of the U.S. government. For a number of reasons – a new president in office, WikiLeaks’ prominence in the ongoing Trump collusion circus, and the obscureness of the very material WikiLeaks was publishing, Vault 7 received scant attention. But coming on the heels of massive leaks by Edward Snowden and a group called the Shadow Brokers just months earlier, and given the notoriety WikiLeaks had earned, Vault 7 was the straw that broke the governmental back. Not only was it an unprecedented penetration of the CIA, an organization that had evaded any breach of this type since the 1970’s, but it showed that all of the efforts of the U.S. government after Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden had failed to either deter or catch “millennial leakers.”
The thinking of government officials – current and former – that I’ve talked to is that shutting down WikiLeaks once and for all – or at least separating it from the mainstream media to make it less attractive as a recipient of U.S. government secrets, will at least be one step towards greater internal security. Sure there is the bigger question of Russia weaponizing its intercepts and hacking material to do damage to the United States and the West, but in terms of what the U.S. government can do to clean up its own house, or at least to bolt the doors better, was to shut up Assange and fracture WikiLeaks. Whatever WikiLeaks has done to itself, and whatever the United States (and its allies) have done covertly, that seems to be progressing apace.
Maybe the rejected article below isn’t worthy of publication, but my experience in closely watching the WikiLeaks story – in both its vilification and in its lionization – has made me think about this current era of homogenized news reporting. “Don’t have the bandwidth”, what the Daily Beast said, is code for both don’t have the editorial people and don’t have the headspace to entertain a contrarian thought, particularly in a big news day. By last night, both The Washington Post and The New York Times were both mentioning Vault 7 but no one has yet tied together all of these pieces of why the United States, the U.K., Ecuador, and even Sweden might have common cause in exerting more control, not just against WikiLeaks but also against those who would independently assault their systems.
The thread that ties everyone from Manning to the Vault 7 leaker to Julian Assange together is that they have all in some ways been radicalized by their frustration. Frustration with this very system, with its exclusiveness, with its lies, with its immunity to any accountability. For Manning, radicalization started as the WMD debacle in Iraq became clear and as the war dragged on, the young twenty-something (with a Top Secret clearance conferred by the system) alarmed by the carnage and the seeming inhumanity. Snowden equally conferred as one of them with an even higher “clearance” was similarly driven to take matters into his own hands, radicalized by his perception of post 9/11 abuses that he felt the NSA had taken, and hadn’t been held accountable for.
Put aside WikiLeaks and the Russians. The unsealed indictment yesterday is just the tip of a giant iceberg on the part of the U.S. government (and its allies) to fight back against these (and future) non-conforming crusaders. After Snowden they mounted a multi-pronged (and multi-billion dollar) effort – including more internal surveillance and many administrative and systemic changes to information systems – to thwart “insider threats” from again extracting secrets. But the number of secrets had grown so big, and the number of insiders needed to churn through them equally had become so massive that they were not even able to police themselves. Even here, the government failed to control its own secrets, but is anyone saying (ironically other than Assange and Snowden themselves) that the secret keepers aren’t to be trusted to do their jobs?
Assange is not a scapegoat, not only, but an activated and in some ways very frightened national security establishment, is mounting its first overt salvo against the world of anti-secrecy activists. Even while Donald Trump lauds WikiLeaks – if he actually does anymore or even understands what is happening – the professionals need to take matters into their own hands. And Assange, so intent on self-aggrandizement and driven crazy in his incarceration, is certainly the perfect villain for the system to rally round.
Is he guilty? I’ve been asked many times in the last 24 hours. My answer is yes, on these narrow charges, just like any protestor resorting to civil disobedience is guilty. But I say, more important than whether he is guilty and odious as an individual, he is also symbol of a bigger sickness, where we all consume today’s episodes and avoid the deeper issues of secrecy and perpetual warfare. In my mind, the mainstream news media, in not doing its job better, especially on national security, contributes to a lack of basic government accountability. That increases the power of the national security establishment – the bringers of this expulsion, arrest and indictment – a now so powerful and faceless officialdom that they have a greater vote in how, where and when we fight than does the chief executive or the Congress. Or the people.
There will be more Assange’s, more Snowden’s, more Manning’s, more assaults on the system by those radicalized by their frustrations with this state of affairs. The very people who serve as sources for my article are no different, and I applaud them. So I can’t also at the same time blithely condemn anti-secrecy activists and facilitators, not per se.
Is it possible that the news media itself is thus the key to greater security, not just in better reporting on national security but also in embracing these voices? I don’t think Julian Assange’s arrest is a direct assault on the First Amendment or the freedom of the press. But like the official system that has too many secrets and too much to do, so the news media has become overwhelmed and normalized, and neutered.
Untitled, on Julian Assange’s Arrest, written April 11, 2019
Julian Assange’s expulsion and arrest in London will set off a new set of dramas regarding the WikiLeaks’ founder, one that could eventually land him in an Alexandria, Virginia courthouse and a trial that could surprise even close observers of his now seven year drama.
This comes after the United States unsealed an indictment against Julian Assange on Thursday, alleging Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning.
In the new indictment, the U.S. alleges that in 2010 Assange assisted Manning in cracking a password to gain administrative access to secret networks and thus more documents, assistance that occurred after the Army Private stationed in Iraq had already supplied WikiLeaks with classified material relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States,” the indictment says.
According to legal and intelligence documents reviewed by the author and over a dozen interviews, including with three U.S. intelligence officials directly involved in WikiLeaks investigations and damage assessments, conspiracy is at the center of what the U.S. Justice Department is trying to prove. The official American government legal argument is that Assange and his colleagues are really running an intelligence operation, one that conspired with U.S. government employees by “suborning” them to break the law, and also clandestinely conspires with foreign governments – including Russia and China – in obtaining and trading classified government materials. This argument, officials say, skirts the difficult question of whether WikiLeaks is a journalistic organization, and is thereby entitled to the protection of press freedoms.
Though Assange is wanted in a British court for jumping bail in 2012, and has become infamous for his role in publishing stolen Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton-related emails in the run-up to the last presidential election, the almost ten-year old Manning case is also not at the center of the American legal effort.
The American case, which shifted completely in March 2017, is based up WikiLeaks’ publications of the so-called “Vault 7” documents, an extensive set of cyber espionage secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Vault 7 was little noticed in the emerging Russian collusion scandal of the new Trump administration, but the nearly 10,000 CIA documents that WikiLeaks started publishing that March constituted an unprecedented breach, far more potentially damaging than anything the anti-secrecy website had ever done, according to numerous U.S. officials.
“There have been serious compromises – Manning and Snowden included – but until 2017, no one had laid a glove on the Agency in decades,” says a senior intelligence official who has been directly involved in the damage assessments.
“Then came Vault 7, almost the entire archive of the CIA’s own hacking group,” the official says. “The CIA went ballistic at the breach.” The official is referring to a little known CIA organization called the Center for Cyber Intelligence, a then unknown counterpart to the National Security Agency, and one that conducts and oversees the covert hacking efforts of the U.S. government.
A month after WikiLeaks released the Vault 7 documents, then CIA director Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks in his first public speech.
“It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is… a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” Pompeo said.
Pompeo’s reference to Russia led everyone to assume that the CIA director was referring to claims of collusion between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks in publishing the Clinton-related material. But the fine print of his speech should have signaled that Pompeo’s ire had nothing to do with election meddling. That is, none of the Clinton materials were classified government secrets.
Pompeo also did not mention the obscure Vault 7 documents directly, nor any new grievance against WikiLeaks.
But he did indirectly refer to the March 2017 documents and the CIA breach.
“As a policy, we at CIA do not comment on the accuracy of purported intelligence documents posted online. In keeping with that policy, I will not specifically comment on the authenticity or provenance of recent disclosures,” he said.
Pompeo then went on to stress that the Agency did not break any American laws in its intelligence collection. According to the senior official, the Agency was still waiting for WikiLeaks to drop the other shoe, the actual “source code” behind hundreds of CIA cyber “exploits,” capabilities and actual penetrations of computer systems and the internet of things that allowed it to carry out its extensive covert spying on foreign governments but could also be used in domestic spying.
“Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom,” Pompeo went on to say. “They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong.”
Pompeo was alluding to the new criminal case and theory that the U.S. government wants to prove that WikiLeaks isn’t a journalistic entity. And, according to the senior official and numerous Justice Department documents reviewed by the author, the U.S. government has been aggressively building this specific case by trying to establish that WikiLeaks solicited classified information from numerous government employees, which prosecutors believe should disqualify the organization from being afforded any journalistic privileges and immunities.
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” former director Pompeo said. “It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information.”
Alexa O’Brien, the leading expert on the case, says that during Chelsea Manning’s Court Martial in 2013, prosecutors suggested indeed that Julian Assange had instructed the Army Private on how to crack the administrator password on her computer that connected to the SIPRNet, the secret-level internet protocol network of the U.S. government.
Manning was ultimately acquitted of espionage in the release of the Garani airstrike video, a May 4, 2009 airstrike in a village in Afghanistan that may have killed as many as 147 civilians. According to O’Brien’s meticulous reporting on the trial, that espionage charge was directly tied to U.S. Army prosecutors’ theory at trial that Manning was involved in a criminal conspiracy with WikiLeaks.
“Prosecutors in the Manning Court Martial made it clear that they were not prosecuting WikiLeaks,” O’Brien says. “But they also had chat logs between Manning and an anonymous WikiLeaks interlocutor that they said was Assange. In other words, they knew in 2010 all of what Assange was indicted for Thursday.”
According to a second senior official, now retired, but one who was also directly involved in damage assessments of Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks of highly classified material from the National Security Agency, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement have also been looking into whether the Hawaii-based contractor received coaching or assistance from a WikiLeaks employee in downloading his documents and in spiriting him to Hong Kong. WikiLeaks subsequently assisted Snowden in leaving China and flying to Moscow, dispatching one of its officers to accompany him. WikiLeaks, U.S. intelligence believes, negotiated with both the Chinese and Russian governments in moving Snowden, and some analysts believe that there was an exchange of information.
The senior intelligence official who was involved in the Vault 7 case says that prosecutors are also trying to establish whether Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA employee who has been indicted for transmitting the Vault 7 documents to WikiLeaks, negotiated or coordinated with the organization or received coaching on how to obtain and move the materials he purportedly stole. Schulte was arrested in August 2017 and is awaiting trial.
Writing in The Washington Post in response to the Pompeo speech, Assange characterized the Vault 7 disclosures as “evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings,” focusing on the CIA’s loss of control of the documents. WikiLeaks had previously taken the CIA to task for losing control of its secrets, which it said “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner.” Assange’s argument was that the documents could result in infection of “the public’s ubiquitous consumer products and automobiles with computer viruses.” Ignored was how WikiLeaks itself had obtained the material.
One aspect of the Vault 7 documents further obscured the scandal and muddied the waters in explaining the U.S. government’s accelerating case against WikiLeaks. After announcing “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency” and referring to “several hundred million lines of [computer] code”, WikiLeaks never posted the full documents or the damaging codes. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, that certainly lessened the damage that might have been caused, even if U.S. intelligence at the same time sees some evidence that the source code leaked out in other ways, causing some U.S. adversaries to change their practices.
According to two government officials who have been involved in the now almost decade-old WikiLeaks case, a multinational investigation into potential illegality on the part of the organization goes back to early 2010. A Grand Jury began its work and the FBI, supported by the intelligence community and the governments of Australia and the UK (and then by Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands) began intensive collection of evidence. In 2015, the investigation took a turn towards Conspiracy and WikiLeaks as a potential intelligence agency when U.S. intelligence obtained information that WikiLeaks had obtained a collection of documents on Saudi Arabia from Russian intelligence. That was a year before WikiLeaks published any Clinton-related emails.
On Thursday, the UK Home Office said in a statement that Assange “was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States.”
The ultimate fate of Julian Assange depends upon London’s agreement to extradite the Australian on Conspiracy charges. But looming behind the 2010 case is a far broader case, one that will ultimately touch upon the fate not just of Assange, but also that of Edward Snowden and the WikiLeaks organization itself.
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