Julian Assange Arrested On Behalf Of The US, For Trying To Help Manning Crack CIA Password

from the cfaa-and-conspiracy dept

Julian Assange has been arrested in the UK on behalf of the US, as Ecuador has finally tired of their overstaying asylumed house guest. We're about to see quite a major legal battle, first in the UK and then almost certainly in the US, about Assange. The current charges seem narrowly focused on a CFAA-based "conspiracy" between Assange and Manning to try to hack a CIA computer, but if they expand to other Wikileaks activities, there should be concerns over press freedom issues.

I am no fan of Julian Assange or Wikileaks. However, for years I've made it clear that prosecuting him for publishing leaked documents would be a huge mistake by the US. The DOJ spent years trying to come up with an excuse to charge Assange, but kept realizing they had no case, because while he may have had malicious intent, none of his public actions in releasing documents were any different -- legally speaking -- than what any investigative journalism outlet did in releasing obtained documents. The Supreme Court has made it clear that publishing classified documents is protected by the First Amendment. If he went beyond just releasing documents, as the indictment alleges, it becomes a lot trickier -- but there's a fine line here.

It's been clear in the last year or so, that despite years of not finding anything, the DOJ was finally moving ahead with plans to charge him. As we noted last year, everyone who believes in a free press should be concerned about what this might mean for press freedoms in the US as the case proceeds. And that's true, even if the specific charges right now are limited to actions that are unrelated to the publishing of the documents.

A few minutes ago, the DOJ released a fairly barebones 7-page indictment, alleging he was in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to hack into government computers to obtain documents. From the indictment, the charges are separate from releasing the documents that everyone knows Manning provided to Assange, and specifically revolve around Manning and Assange apparently working together to try to hack the CIA after Manning had finished handing over all of the documents we already know about. The indictment claims (and I kid you not) that Manning "used special software, namely a Linux operating system... to obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange." What was obtained apparently was a hashed password to a CIA computer system, that Assange was allegedly going to try to crack, in order to enable Manning to get more info out of the CIA.

If all of this is true, then it certainly could go beyond issues related to press freedoms. It's one thing to receive classified documents and publish them. It is a different issue altogether to work with a source and participate in trying to hack a government system. There is no evidence that Assange was ever actually successful in cracking the password, but he's facing CFAA and conspiracy charges here that may have more staying power. If the indictment is accurate and there's evidence to back it up, then Assange could potentially be in (and this is the legal term) deep shit.

But so much of what Assange did, even if we might disagree with his reasons for doing it, is little different than what many media organizations do. What will be necessary is watching closely how the case against Assange advances and changes (it is unlikely that these will be the only charges against Assange). If it is narrowly limited to the actions described in the current indictment, the dangers to press freedoms may be limited. However, if it strays beyond that into some of the other, more journalistic efforts of Assange, it could still represent a huge attack on a free press. Given our current President's near daily attacks on the free press, with repeated announcements that he'd like to change the laws to harm them, going after Assange legally (which may seem a bit ironic, given all the accusations that Assange's leaks in 2016 were designed to help Trump get elected), might be the best way to actually achieve that goal.

Filed Under: cfaa, chelsea manning, cia, conspiracy, doj, hacking, julian assange, passwords

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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 12 Apr 2019 @ 6:12am

    Re: Re:

    "As such because the case was stalemated, she administratively halted the prosecution, making it no longer an active case..."

    There have been multiple swedish law sites having a field day with the Assange indictment and investigation. Even leaving out the issue of guilty or not (and for the record as i understand from the public records of the case, "guilty" is the only usable term under swedish law), it's pretty clear that the case was handled with abysmal ineptitude from all levels of law enforcement. Telling Assange "You're free to go" only to issue an arrest warrant after he left the country is only the start of that shit-show. A lot of the conspiracy theory starts here, where Hanlon's Razor starts creaking under the burden.

    Of course, we also have to say that Assange was royally dumb. If I knew my actions would, albeit legal and necessary, be akin to pissing right on the carpet in the oval office, then I'd take very good care to live my life like a highly law-abiding ascetic monk, just in case.

    Now...No means No, even if the involved parties had consensual sex an hour earlier. Assange is, at the very least, a sleazebag of an all too common kind.
    Unfortunately it's been heavily used, by all the vested interests, in an attempt to marginalize his creation of wikileaks and the fact that he revealed what should have been prosecuted as war crimes taking place in US military operations.

    So all the good he did is now diluted by the image the common person knows - that of the rapist hiding in an embassy for seven years.

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