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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
    K`Tetch (profile), 13 Apr 2019 @ 10:22pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    " 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."

    yeah, about that....

    They never said he was free to go.
    In fact, in the first extradition hearing (11 feb 2011) his lawyer admitted that was a lie. he then tried to claim that sure, he arranged an interview with assange on SEptember 21, for the 28th (i think) and it was a total coincidence that shortly after his lawyer was told on the 27th, that assange left hte country, because, you see, he hadn't spoken to assange since the 20th, and couldn't get hold of him until the 29th...

    From the court ruling:

    Then he was then cross-examined about his attempts to contact his client. To have the full flavour it may be necessary to consider the transcript in full. In summary the lawyer was unable to tell me what attempts he made
    to contact his client, and whether he definitely left a message. It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client of the risk of detention. He did not appear to accept that the risk was substantial or the need to contact his client was urgent. He said “I don’t think I left a message warning him” (about the possibility of arrest). He referred to receiving a text from Ms Ny at 09.11 on 27th September, the day his client left Sweden. He had earlier said he had seen a baggage ticket that Mr Assange had taken a plane that day, but was unable to help me with the time of the flight.

    Mr Hurtig was asked why he told Brita Sundberg-Wietman that Ms Ny had made no effort to interview his client. He denied saying that and said he has never met her. He agrees that he gave information to Mr Alhem. He agrees that where he had said in his statement (paragraph 51) that “I found it astonishing that Ms Ny, having allowed five weeks to elapse before she sought out interview”, then that is wrong. He had forgotten the messages referred to above. They must have slipped his mind. There were then questions about DNA. It was suggested to him that a reason for the interrogation taking place in Sweden was that a DNA sample may be required. He seemed to me to at first agree and then prevaricate. He then accepted that in his submissions to the Swedish court he had said that the absence of DNA is a weakness in the prosecution case. He added “I can’t say if I told Ms Ny that Julian Assange had no intention of coming back to Sweden”. He agrees that at least at first he was giving the impression that Mr Assange was willing to come back. He was asked if Julian Assange went back to Sweden and replied: “Not as far as I am aware”.

    In re-examination he confirmed that he did not know Mr Assange was leaving Sweden on 27th September and first learned he was abroad on 29th. He agreed that the mistakes he had made in his proof were embarrassing and that shouldn’t have happened."

    yeah, his lawyer claims that Ny said he could leave, but forgets conversations, apparently forgets to tell Assange he can't leave, forgot he told Assange that the next day he'll be possibly be arrested, which is coincidentally when Assange left very suddenly (he had no events planned, and I believe he was supposed to stay in Sweden for his residency application)

    Also, his own defense expert (Sven-Erik Alhem), after the judge corrects the lies that this lawyer had told him about this stuff, changed from 'this was improper' to 'Why wasn't he in custody as is normal' and then says he would have applied for the EAW himself.

    See, the problem is, Wikileaks is great at getting their side out, telling the lies of 'he was free to go' and so on, when he wasn't. Much later, they point tot he stipulations for the later court cases, where all the irrelevant stuff is marked out to avoid litigating trivialities, and they've agreed 'he was ok to go', along with a bunch more stuff that earlier in cases they've pointed out were lies. It's not that they're saying it's true, it's saying it doesn't matter legally to the case, we'll not argue the point any more because we don't want to waste time. The judge, reading the case notes beforehand though, understands that it was a lie, and one they've avoided bringing in as irrelevant nonsense.

    Factually, he was never told he could leave.


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