DOJ Finally Realizing That It Has Absolutely No Case Against Julian Assange
from the that-took-years-too-long dept
For years the Justice Department has been working with a grand jury to try to find something… anything… to charge Julian Assange with a crime for releasing the State Department cables apparently received from Chelsea Manning. The whole case against Manning was more of an attempt to find something with which to go after Assange. Nearly three years ago we wrote about how investigators kept trying to link Assange to Manning, because to prove there was a crime, they needed to show that Assange did a lot more than just receive and publish the documents. Investigators and Wikileaks haters kept insisting that Assange must have been the mastermind who encourage Manning to do the leak, but the evidence turned up nothing. The DOJ even offered Manning a plea deal if he would effectively lie and implicate Assange, saying they “conspired.” Manning, despite being tortured refused to cooperate.
Three more years have passed since then and the DOJ seems to finally be coming to terms with the fact that Assange didn’t break the law and there’s nothing they can charge him with, even under their ridiculously broad interpretations of the Espionage Act. It seems that the DOJ has finally realized what many of us said from the very beginning: if you charge Assange, by default, you’re saying that journalists can be charged with reporting on leaked documents:
“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”
Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Still, somewhere in the range of four years has been totally wasted on this effort, which was defined by its singular mission to get Assange at all costs. I’m almost surprised that enough people within the DOJ have realized that “NY Times problem,” because we’ve seen more than a few defenders of the surveillance state twist themselves into all sorts of contortions to pretend that Wikileaks is different from the NY Times in a way that makes one operation journalistic and the other, not. So, while I’m disappointed that a ton of taxpayer money must have been spent on this years-long wild goose chase, I’m at least happy that they didn’t feel the need to bring charges just to “show something.”
Of course, nothing official has been stated — and the DOJ might never actually make any public statement on this. The folks associated with Wikileaks are (understandably) skeptical about whether or not the US is really dropping the issue, and say that they won’t trust the US government until an official statement is made (even then, I imagine they’d be fairly cautious). So, you can take some of this with whatever sized grain of salt you prefer. However, at least for now, it appears that the US will avoid trying to put on a show trial of Assange.