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Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange

Those with a stake in the hustling racket of empire have little time for the contrariness that comes with exposing classified information. Those who do are submitted to a strict liability regime of assessment and punishment: you had the information (lawfully obtained or otherwise) but you released it for public deliberation. Ignorance remains a desensitising shield, keeping the citizenry in permanent darkness.

Critics indifferent to the plight of Julian Assange have seen his concerns for prosecution at the hands of US authorities as the disturbed meditations of a sexualised fantasist. He should have surrendered to the British authorities and, in turn, to the Swedish authorities. It was either insignificant or irrelevant that a Grand Jury had been convened to sniff around the activities of WikiLeaks to identify what, exactly, could be used against the organisation and its founder.

Cruelty and truth are often matters of excruciating banality, and now it is clearer than ever that the United States will, given the invaluable chance, net the Australian publisher and WikiLeaks founder to make an example of him. This man, who dirtied the linen of state and exposed the ceremonial of diplomatic hypocrisy, was always an object of interest, notably in the United States. “He was,” confirmed Andrea Kendall-Taylor, former deputy national intelligence officer for Russia under the director of national intelligence, “a loathed figure inside the government.”

Whether it was the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Department of Justice, or the specific army of investigators assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller III to weasel out material on the Trump-Russia connection, Assange remains a substantial figure who needs to be captured, sealed and disappeared. Forget any such references to journalism and being a truth teller with obsessive tendencies; for these officials, Assange had become a calculating machine in the information market, a broker in state details and activities, trading and according value to subject matters of his choice.

A gnawing fascination for US authorities persists on whether Assange has a direct, cosy line to the Kremlin. Fashioned as such, it can be used as a weapon against President Donald J. Trump, and a cover for Democratic villainy and incompetence. In terms of scale and endeavour, WikiLeaks has been kitted out in the outfit of a guerrilla information organisation. This exceedingly flattering description may well have given Assange a flush of pride, but it assumes a measure of disproportionate influence. It also ignores the vital issue of how public discussion, which may well translate into voting patterns, can alter policy. (This, it should be added, remains the big hypothetical: does such information induce an altered approach, or simply reaffirm prejudice and predisposition? The flat-earth theorist is hardly going to be moved by anything that would conflict or challenge.)

Both the New York Times and Washington Post revealed last Friday that prosecutors had inadvertently let a rather sizeable cat out of the security bag. (That feline escapee was noted by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.) As with so much with matters of secrecy, errors made lead to information gained. In the filing of a case unrelated to Assange, Assistant US Attorney General Kellen S. Dwyer informed the relevant judge to keep the matter at stake sealed, claiming that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

Dwyer, whose remit also includes investigating WikiLeaks, had bungled. “The court filing,” claimed a meek Joshua Stueve of the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, “was made in error. This was not the intended name for this filing.”

What is not known is the nature of the charges and what events they might cover. Do they date back to the days of Cablegate or feature updates with the Vault 7 revelations showing the range of cyber tools deployed by the CIA to penetrate mobile devices and computers? Or do they feature the trove of hacked Democratic emails which constitute a feature of the Mueller investigation? Charges might well centre on using 18 USC §641, which makes it unlawful for a person to receive any record or thing of value of the United States with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing that it was stolen. But even there, the issue of press protections would apply.

Prosecutors have previously flirted with conspiracy, theft of government authority and purported violations of the Espionage Act, but the Obama administration, for all its enthusiasm in nabbing Assange kept coming up against that irritating bulwark of liberty, some would say impediment, known as the First Amendment. Prosecute Assange, and you would be effectively prosecuting the battlers of the Fourth Estate, however withered they might be.

The free speech amendment, however, does not trouble current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, as CIA director, claimed that, “We have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”

A niggling concern here lies in Justice Department regulations, as amended by Eric Holder in 2015, which cover the obtaining of information and records from, making arrests of, and bringing charges against members of the press. As Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, Matthew Kahn and Benjamin Wittes point out in Lawfare, one exception stands out with sore attention: “The protections of the policy do not extent to any individual or entity where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual entity is … [a] foreign power or an agent of a foreign power”, so defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The mania in packaging, ribbon and all, of Assange with those in the Kremlin becomes clear. To make him a foreign threat takes him outside the scope of press protection, at least when it comes to those desperately drafted regulations.

Since US voters cannot be trusted by the country’s corporate owners and the parties of business to act with any degree of maturity and intelligence, it has been assumed by the political classes that they must have been swayed and manipulated by a foreign power. Or fake news. Or news. That assessment obviates any issue as to whether the Clinton machinery within the Democratic Party did its fair share of manipulation and swaying – but then again, quibbles can’t be had, nor hairs split on this point. Keeping it local, and attacking the Great Bear fused with Satan that is Russia, frosted with new Cold War credentials, remains the low-grade, convenient alibi to justify why the backed horse did not make it to the finishing line. To Assange would be small though consoling compensation.

 

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23 comments

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  1. David Bruce

    Seems to be an ideal time for Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir to announce the Malaysian Embassy for Palestine will be moved to Jerusalem?

  2. Andreas

    And you had to be first in to offload your little piece of crap….?

  3. New England Cocky

    Excellent article!!

    Never let the truth get in the way of a good profit for foreign owned multinational corporations!

    Really, little has changed since Hal Geneen of IT&T “bought” President Nixon for a total of $1 MILLION of political donations to the Republican Party unelected political hacks back in the early 70s.

    This was not an unusual purchase. Geneen also made a $6 MILLION “donation” to the CIA for the campaign against the democratically Socialist Allende government in Chile that was replaced by a CIA funded and organised revolution resulting in the Pinochet dictatorship.

    IT&T received the Chilean Telephone Company and sold it on to Alan Bond for about $28 MILLION, a nice little earner as the figures show.

  4. randalstella

    The best that could be said for you is that you are a waste of any genuine activist’s good time.
    If your piece were less oblique it would be a plainer pack of lies.
    You were Assange’s Senate running mate.
    People are assessed by their chosen associates.
    Assange conspired with murderous dictator, sham election meister, Putin, to undermine the 2016 U.S. elections – for the sake of fascist gangster Trump. This involved aid to the criminal organisation called the Republican Party, an organisation of fascist corporatism, of racism, vast voter suppression and gerrymander.
    Assange is not Snowden. He is not Manning. He is cupboard boy.
    The sympathy should be for Ecuadorean Embassy staff.

  5. David Fitzpatrick

    Yep, a journalist wrote this. How do I know? I would run a mile from this twittering jerk if he were wandering all over the footpath like this with a bottle delicately clutched in one manicured hand and his little glinty, all-knowing gaze. Fortunately he is merely entertaining in print all the other wiseacres on the Oz Politics page.

  6. David Fitzpatrick

    But I agree, of course, that Assange is a target for an illegal and unconscionable prosecution and that the US has form in violating International Law and its own Constitution. Moreover the hysteria about Russia is ludicrous. It is outrageous to attack a ruthless jingoist like Trump on. of all grounds, that of being soft on Nastasha and Boris, the eternal Russkie barbarians.

  7. Karen Kyle

    David Fitzpatrick…..illegal and unconscionable prosecution…..how so? The case has certainly stood up in law so far. Just waiting for the guilty to be sentenced.

  8. David Fitzpatrick

    And of course it draws the usual dirty raincoat brigade away from the bleary gaze through the lion gates of St. Kilda road to write replies even more obfuscatory.

  9. David Fitzpatrick

    Well, you admit the “case” exists. It is a “case” shrouded in secrecy, a political not a criminal case. A case moreover brought by a government guilty of war crimes under International Law and under its own Constitution guilty of the arbitrary suspension of the rule of its own laws.

  10. paul walter

    I continue to vomit at the cowardly perversions of justice that occur with Assange, most of all from the USA, the country that commenced the smear campaign against Julian Assange to trick him into fascist custody.

    FISA courts, renditions. secret juries, hidden charges.. whatever happened to Habeas Corpus law?

    These perversions of natural justice signal the death knell for what we recognise to be “democracy” in the West and thus a death of civilisation as we know it, something painstakingly assembled slowly of many previous generations.

    Shame on those foolish enough to continue to be duped by CIA propaganda as regards whistleblower Assange.

  11. David Fitzpatrick

    Nixon and Agnew were responsible for four million deaths, the majority civilian. The carnage was so useless and in the end so ruinous that the entire country demanded they be removed on any pretext. However neither was impeached. Woodward and Bernstein who publicly support Assange, by the way, began the exposure of these men’s crimes. When Assange attempted to do the same with those responsible for the equally egregious crimes of the equally fraudulent War On Terror, he faced trumped up charges brought by notorious US satraps and now this horrible, arrogant attempt by the US rulers of the universe to prosecute a journalist non-citizen for doing a journalist non-citizen’s job. To prosecute an Australian for treason to the US must surely generate giggles if it were not such a serious attack on our sovereignity and the freedom of genuine writers to report the truth in time of peace about human rights and other violations of International and common law by the powerful.

  12. David Fiyzpatrick

    But if the investigation has not been concluded, how do you know it is right on the money. If you do not know the charges how can you be confident of anything they might involve. It almost seems like a case of “ put him on trial, find him guilty and hang him”. But there can no crime against the UK or Australia, no crime against the authentic democratic interests of these countries in exposing crimes against International Law and abuses of due process in the US. To bow to this rubbish is to prostrate reason, our sovereignity and our dignity as free citizens of this country, to War Criminals.

  13. Adrianne Haddow

    Another insightful article. Thank you, Binoy.
    It provoked some interesting comments.

    The US continues with the fiction that it is a democracy, and that it is the ‘leader of the free world’.
    And we, in Australia, continue with the fiction that we are a sovereign country.

    Under current conditions, I don’t hold much hope for a ‘free’, independent press, if we ever had one.

  14. David Fitzpatrick

    Karen Kyle. Assange has pleaded guilty to nothing because he is guilty of nothing. There is no charge that he could possibly be guilty of that The Guardian and NY Times are not guilty of. I have not the foggiest notion what the rest of the claptrap concerns nor any desire to.

  15. David Fitzpatrick

    Paul Walker. Well, this is par for the course, if you’re not doing a fair afternoon’s mooing in the ALP’s cow paddock you’re fair game for any foul-mouthed sleaze-bag! What could be more patriarchal than that, it’s almost literally beyond the pale!

  16. David Fitzpatrick

    I was talking about Assange. My apologies.

  17. David Fitzpatrick

    But since you did mention him among your other preoccupations and in doing so airily ask, like some juvenile detention turnkey, why I think he might be charged particularly with espionage, my reply has to be…well it would be better you charge him with that than disappear him into some black site. So why not simply let him leave the jolly embassy and return to Australia?

  18. Karen Kyle

    Listen…….I don’t care why you think he might be charged…..with espionage now…..it was treason a minute ago. We just await the outcome of the investigation eh?

  19. paul walter

    Yeah and the real reason he and Manning were persecuted was because of a war crime exposed committed in Baghdad against civilians.

  20. Karen Kyle

    Paul Walter……such a relief to know that you know the real reason. Don’t suppose you have evidence do you?

  21. Adrianne Haddow

    Karen, there is evidence.

    It was video footage released by Wikileaks prior to the US labelling Assange a traitor, and the following scrum in Sweden and the UK, trying to get him extradited to the US. This was the major reason he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

    Footage and commentary from the brave boys flying above journalists and opening fire on them. They continued to fire when a group of passersby, in a van stopped to try and save them.
    Sadly I did not save said footage but I’m sure someone with your research skills will be able to find it.
    Try Wikileaks.

  22. Adrianne Haddow

    Karen, I found the video. The link is below.

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