US Looking To Use Computer Hacking Law Against Assange
from the stretchety-stretch-stretch dept
It appears that the US government is realizing the fact that an espionage charge against Julian Assange over Wikileaks is unlikely to succeed and would probably freak out the press (at least those in the press who remember the details of the First Amendment). So, instead, it’s moved on to trying to use the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), commonly known as our anti-hacking law.
Of course, as we noted a few months ago, this law has been twisted and abused regularly to bring charges against people by pretending it covers things it doesn’t. The most famous, of course, was the Lori Drew case, where prosecutors tried to charge Lori Drew with computer hacking, because she was part of a trio of people who used MySpace to bully a young girl, who later committed suicide. How was that “hacking”? Well, the prosecutors claimed that she didn’t obey MySpace’s terms of service, and thus “illegally accessed” MySpace. Luckily, the judge eventually tossed that out.
So what about Julian Assange? How could he have possibly violated a US anti-hacking while not being in the US at all? Well, the feds are apparently scanning through the chat logs between Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo to see if there’s any evidence at all that Assange could be charged with conspiracy under the CFAA in somehow aiding Manning in leaking the secrets. You can read the CFAA here if you want to see the full act. The argument, then, is that if they can drum up enough proof that Assange somehow aided Manning, it becomes a conspiracy and Assange can be charged under that act as well. So far, about the best they’ve apparently come up with is that Manning hinted that he had a “relationship” with Assange — but the details in the chat logs suggest they talked a few times and that’s about the extent of the “relationship.” Separately, Assange gave Manning (and potentially other sources) a more direct FTP account to upload materials. Once again, this seems like grasping at straws, and seems so trumped up that it will continue to do more to hurt America’s reputation than anything leaked by Wikileaks.
The problem is that it seems pretty clear that any association between Assange and Manning was a loose one. Suggesting that working with a source, and offering them an easy way to give you information is a conspiracy to commit computer hacking would create a massive chilling effect on anyone in the press who regularly reports on secret information. Bob Woodward, Seymour Hersh and a variety of other famous investigative reporters have clearly been much more closely connected to their sources, but it would be ridiculous to charge them with “conspiracy.” It’s really sad that our government is wasting tax dollars trying to find trumped up charges for Assange.