The Similarities Between The US's Case Against Julian Assange And Brazil's Against Glenn Greenwald Are Uncanny

from the attacks-on-a-free-press dept

When Julian Assange was arrested in the UK and taken out of the Ecuadorian embassy, many of us raised concerns that the charges against him appeared to be things that every investigative reporter does in finding sources. The superseding indictment of Assange made it clear that the DOJ’s case against Assange was a direct attack on a free press. Indeed, even some federal prosecutors worried about the charges going way too far.

Yet, we got tremendous pushback on this, as people kept insisting that it was different, that Julian Assange had gone further than normal reporters, and that because there have been claims that he was associated with the Russians, that this somehow made the charges against him okay. Yet, with the recent news of Brazil charging Glenn Greenwald with crimes for reporting on leaked documents, we noted that the case seemed to parallel the US’s case against Assange. Mathew Ingram, over at the Columbia Journalism Review, has now written a more in-depth piece on how the two cases mirror each other:

This strategy?trying to paint a journalist as an active participant in a crime, as opposed to just the recipient of leaked material?is clearly a heinous attack on freedom of the press protections, something journalists and anyone in favor of free speech should be up in arms about. But it doesn?t exist in a vacuum. The case against Greenwald happens to be almost a carbon copy of the Justice Department?s argument in the affidavit it filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last year, which contains more than a dozen charges under the Espionage Act. Just like the Brazilian government, US prosecutors try to make the case that Assange didn?t just receive leaked diplomatic cables and other information from former Army staffer Chelsea Manning, but that he actively participated in the hack and leaks, and therefore doesn?t deserve the protection of the First Amendment.

Regardless of what we think of Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, this is an obvious attack on journalism, just as Brazil?s legal broadside against Glenn Greenwald is an obvious attack by Bolsonaro on someone who has become a journalistic thorn in his side. A man who helped win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on leaked documents involving mass surveillance by US intelligence, files that were leaked to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. And the charges come even after Brazil?s Supreme Court ruled last year that Greenwald could not be prosecuted for the hacking case because of press freedom laws. In a statement, Greenwald called the Brazil charges ?an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government,? and said he and the Intercept plan to continue publishing. And so they should.

What’s even more concerning about this: even if you think that Assange is a terrible human being and actively conspired with the Russians, even if you think he belongs in jail, recognize that the US DOJ has given a great playbook to every authoritarian country out there on how to arrest and jail journalists reporting on leaks, and to claim that they’re just doing the same thing as the supposed bastion of a free press, the United States.

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Comments on “The Similarities Between The US's Case Against Julian Assange And Brazil's Against Glenn Greenwald Are Uncanny”

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38 Comments
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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Monkey see money do

Uncanny, but not actually surprising. Given the way whistle blowers are treated, especially when they are exposing government atrocities (aka potential butthurt but no actual wrongdoing) there is no surprise that they are beginning to treat journalists the same way.

The suspicion is that Brazil is taking its lead from the US DoJ and trying to shame Glenn Greenwald, to cover over their own butthurt rather than wrongdoing. Further suspicion suggests that they will get about as far as the DoJ did with Eric Snowden. Hopefully Glenn will take appropriate precautions.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

As I made the case in a panel a few months ago with Mozilla’s Jarius Khan, journalism is reporting the news, it’s not getting involved in it. If you’re ’embedded’ with it, you still don’t actively participate.

If you’re giving tips on communicating between you and your source, that’s one thing.
if you’re telling them how to cover up the crime, then you’re not acting as a journalist there, thats not helping ‘report the facts’, that’s active involvement in the facts.
And as we both know, being a journalist is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. There’s no ‘end justifies the means’ where you can break the law in any way but it doesn’t matter if it gets you hte desired end result. You know who says that’s not acceptable for anyone? GG and JA. In fact, that’s been their core editorial philosophy in their work, until it’s them. Then, because they want shortcuts, or the scoop, they want to hold the position they decry in others.

Now, there are some similarities between JA and GG cases, and GG has carried a lot of water for JA (including some of the stupidest excuses I’ve ever seen, like claiming a Guardian report of a meeting with Manafort 2 years earlier that had just come to light must be fake, because London has lots of CCTV, and so why isn’t there CCTV of the meeting? I wish I were kidding, he did indeed make that argument) but the specifics are not. GG is accused of helping cover the tracks after, JA of assisting in the initial acts and trying to do the cover up as part of it.

And it also compares with Andy Coulson and others in the NOTW case, where they felt they could do whatever to get information for their stories. Anyone feel that the convictions of Coulson, goodman, Mulcaire, etc. were also ‘dangerous to the press’?

Without ethics in this business, we become Hannity/Carlson/Alex Jones and not Edward R Murrow’s.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

there’s a difference between ‘cover your arse’ and ‘and you’re taking precautions’; and ‘do this, and this and this to avoid detection and make investigations hard for you’.
What part of report the story, don’t become part of it aren’t you aware of?
If you start giving them instructions, you’re attempting to steer the story, not report it.

bobob says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Not necessarily. If a reporter is given some documents and the reporter tells the leaker that some additional documents are needed to tie everything together concretely enough to publish a story, the reporter isn’t steering the story. The reporter is just stating what is needed to fill in the blanks. If anything, the reporter is ensuring that the story will be accurate.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Trust me, “common sense” is nowhere near as common as the name implies. I’m pretty sure that “lacking common sense” is considered a boon by most government agencies if past history and current events are anything to go by. Plus, a source may be careless and make mistakes, especially if they are anxious, nervous, or panicky, which would be pretty common among whistleblowers, I’d think.

Also, this isn’t really the same thing at all, but your claim is really broad, so I’d just like to ask this: if a journalist is covering the aftermath of a natural disaster from the scene, and there’s a medical emergency (say a woman about to give birth), and the journalist has the ability to help and possibly save someone’s life or relieve their discomfort, would them trying to help be compromising to journalistic ethics?

Again, I know that there are many huge, material differences between that scenario and the scenarios we’ve been discussing, but your claim is extremely broad, so I’m trying to understand the full scope here. Depending on your answer, I may ask follow-up questions to further clarify your stance on the line to be drawn here. While I’m doing so, please remember that I am well aware of the distinctions to be drawn between a proposed scenario and the current scenario. I’m just trying to pinpoint the framework you’re arguing from so I can frame my argument appropriately.

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flyinginn (profile) says:

Re: K Tetch

"a Guardian report of a meeting with Manafort 2 years earlier that had just come to light must be fake, because London has lots of CCTV".

No, he didn’t say that. His legal team said there was no trace of a Manafort meeting at the Ecuadorian embassy despite mandatory embassy sign-in, ID checks and 24/7 video surveillance of Assange (as it happens, by a Spanish company which is being prosecuted in Spain for privacy violations).

Your agenda is showing.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Re: K Tetch

checks and sign-ins, run by embassy staff, eh? I didnt realise they were physically incapable of using a pseudonym, or just not writing stuff down, and it’s TOTALLY unheard of for a representative of a [potentially] a high level government official to have meetings on the down-low.
And that company isn’t being prosecuted, it’s being investigated.

YOUR agenda is the one showing.

mr. sim (profile) says:

they are nothing alike. Julian Assange was at minimum an asset of Russia using the cover of journalism to damage Russia’s competing nation and rival states stability & credibility. Glenn Greenwald was a journalist doing the job of exposing corruption and is now facing a drummed up criminal charge in fuel a falsified attempt to arrest, deport him and presumably murder him. to compare Glenn Greenwald to Julian Assange is an insult to Glenn. what we are watching is an attempt to repeat what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

they are nothing alike

They are very much alike.

Julian Assange was at minimum an asset of Russia using the cover of journalism to damage Russia’s competing nation and rival states stability & credibility.

Whether or not that is true, he was not charged for any of that. He was charged for giving advice to Chelsea Manning on how to access and leak files to him. The same thing that Glenn is charged with.

to compare Glenn Greenwald to Julian Assange is an insult to Glenn

You’re saying Glenn himself is insulting Glenn? Because he’s also comparing the two: "I’ve been particularly concerned given the Bolsonaro government’s subservience to and admiration for the Trump government that they’d look to the precedent the Trump government used to indict Julian Assange," https://www.thehour.com/news/article/Glenn-Greenwald-says-Brazil-charges-are-part-of-a-14994661.php

So, uh. Yeah, you’re wrong.

mr. sim (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

it’s easier to prove he broke the CFAA than it would be that he was committing espionage as a foreign agent of Russia. the laws of america are so far behind the digital times it should be a crime.

or course america’s obsolete and inadequate criminal code is all part of the plan for various domestic factions hurting America.

mr. sim (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

i was speaking on the case of assange. it’s easier to prove that assange broke the CFAA than to prove that he was working as a russian asset. the evidence assange was an asset is strong but circumstantial, the evidence assange broke the CFAA is close to irrefutable.

Glenn Greenwald case shows that brazil is attempting to punish a reporter criminally. the assange case shows that the united states is not ready for espionage in the new era of technology and computers.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I suppose it’s not impossible for a gay man to sexually assault a woman, but it’s incredibly unlikely for that to occur, and I’m not sure how you could twist the definitions of “gay man”, “sexually assault”, and/or “woman” that would change that without making the terms so broad as to be effectively meaningless.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Irrelevant. The charges against Assange (within the US, at least) do not include anything involving sexual assault, and even if there were some, they are not material to the comparisons and criticisms being made.

For the record, the answer is almost certainly “none”, if only because Glenn is gay. But again, that doesn’t actually matter to this comparison.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: 252 days and counting

This is not the Free Chelsea Manning campaign blog.

Yes, it’s bad that she’s locked up but that’s not what the story was about. If we’re going to take that route we might as well fit patriot Reality Winner, who exposed malfeasance, and patriot Ed Snowden, who told us all we were being spied on, in as well.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Regardless

How is that in any way cowardly? It’s just saying that their personal opinion of Assange or WikiLeaks isn’t relevant to why they have a problem with the US government’s current arrest of, prosecution of, and charges against Julian Assange. It’s completely immaterial and doesn’t color their opinion of the case one way or the other.

Besides, based on past stories, I don’t think that TD is necessarily strongly for or against Assange or WikiLeaks. They’ve had criticisms and praise for each at different times.

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