New Indictment Tries To Tie Julian Assange To A Hacking He Had Nothing To Do With

from the several-versions-of-truth-and-this-one-is-the-DOJ's dept

The government is still trying to get Julian Assange out of the UK so it can ring him up on a variety of charges related to obtaining and publishing a large number of sensitive documents. Most of the charges are still related to the documents obtained from Chelsea Manning. The DOJ wants to use the oft-abused CFAA to put Assange behind bars because he supposedly helped Manning hack a CIA database.

Another indictment [PDF] has been issued by the DOJ, making this its third attempt to throw the book at Assange. If the DOJ can prove Assange contributed to hacking attempts, it may end up with a case worth pursuing. But much of what the indictments deal with is normal journalism behavior: the cultivation of sources and the encouragement of sources to locate/leak newsworthy documents. The blurry line the DOJ is walking on is the same line the previous administration seemed to feel wasn't worth crossing, no matter how much harm/embarrassment Assange had caused with the release of sensitive documents.

The latest indictment expands the government's espionage theories. The government's second superseding indictment deals with Assange's alleged "unlawful overt acts:" the hacking attempts supposedly made targeting Defense Department computers, possibly with the aid of Chelsea Manning and other Wikileaks associates.

Much of this expanded narrative seems to rely on the input of FBI informants, including Sigurdur Thordarson, who was convicted twice for sex with minors after he began working for the FBI in 2011. Sketchy contributors aside, there are some major omissions in the government's narrative.

First, as Dell Cameron points out for Gizmodo, the indictment casually ignores the government's contribution to cyber attacks on American businesses located overseas, as well as some foreign government targets. But there is a significant omission in the new indictment. And the purpose of this crucial admission appears to be an attempt to link Assange to a data breach he never participated in.

A section of the indictment titled “Sabu, Hammond, and ASSANGE” begins on the date December 25, 2011, and refers to an attack on servers belonging to a private firm identified only as “Intelligence Consulting Company.” This is obviously Stratfor, the Austin-based private intelligence company whose millions of pilfered emails comprise the WikiLeaks drop known as the Global Intelligence Files.

DOJ omits several crucial details about the Stratfor hack in its attempts to name Assange as a conspirator in a breach that happened without his knowledge. Most notably, prosecutors exclude that the actual breach of Stratfor’s security, in late 2011, occurred 83 days prior to the events they describe, unknownst by anyone DOJ identifies as part of the conspiracy, including Assange.

Assange and Wikileaks may have helped distribute the documents obtained in the breach and there does appear to be evidence Assange provided the hackers with some tools for searching the stash of five million emails, but there's nothing in the indictment that ties Assange to the underlying hacking. The only thing in the indictment is stuff the DOJ is generously calling "evidence."

At best, these are copies of exchanges taken from chat rooms in which a user claims to be Assange, which is not likely to hold up in court.

To be sure, indictments are often a pile of helpful omissions designed to speedily initiate prosecutions. But the more the government adds to its accusations, the more glaring its omissions become. This case was already problematic -- willing to walk right up to the First Amendment and dare it to do something about it. Now it's become more farcical, with the government accusing someone of doing something it appears clear they didn't do and bolstering it with half-truths about the FBI's own involvement in malicious hacking efforts.

Filed Under: cfaa, doj, extradition, hacking, indictment, julian assange, leaks
Companies: stratfor, wikileaks


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 4:29am

    If you have to lie to win...

    The fact that they've sunk to presenting bogus 'evidence' shows not only how desperate they are to pin something, anything on him but that they are dishonest enough to lie to do it, highlighting just how incredibly weak/non-existent their case against him is. If you have evidence you don't need to make some up, so if they're reduced to doing so all they have done is shown everyone paying attention that they've got nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 8:12am

      Re: If you have to lie to win...

      "The fact that they've sunk to presenting bogus 'evidence' shows not only how desperate they are to pin something, anything on him but that they are dishonest enough to lie to do it..."

      And, of course, that even if, jumping through every hoop there is to get him on to US soil and convict him of something the only thing they have to show for it is the solidified image of a nation so shady and thin-skinned they go apeshit at having their actual war criminals revealed by a whistleblower.

      To think that at some point that nation prided itself on being the representative of truth, justice, and democracy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MathFox, 8 Jul 2020 @ 4:50am

    Who bought the rights?

    For the Julian Assange and Wikipedia reality soap opera.

    This case has grown more and more absurd over the years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 5:55am

    Doing things the hard way

    The US government has long since lost all credibility in the espionage / national security arena (as well as all the other arenas), at least with anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention. And now to add an FBI "informant" and chronologically impossible "evidence" to the mix? Wow. Wouldn't it be easier to just tell Putin he badmouthed Russia?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 6:16am

    Justice is Blind

    Haven't you heard? Justice is Blind.

    Therefore it is incapable of, or simply doesn't want to see injustice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 6:21am

      Re: Justice is Blind

      Justice seems to be blind when it benefits the prosecution. Almost as if it is purposefully leaning on the scale to get the results it wants.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 7:39am

    Assange is gonna be locked away, sooner or later, for decades, regardless of whether he can be proved to have done anything wrong, regardless of whether he has done anything wrong, simply because the USA doesn't like it's laundry being aired to all insundry! how many times habe innocent people been locked up for years, having done nothing illegal, when it is known by the prosecutors and law enforcement that they have done nothing wrong, simply because the legal services cannot bear to fail, cannot bear to be proven wrong? deals are offered under threats of greater charges and greater imprisnment terms just to make out that the law is right, is seen to be right and cannot do any wrong. this, is such a case, in my opinion!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 7:44am

    How dare you shame us for doing the same things?

    How many of the behaviors that the DoJ is alleging Assange is supposedly guilty of are committed by 'US entities' in the name of 'National Security'? What is the difference between 'US entities' (a.k.a. three initialed 'intelligence' agencies) committing these acts and someone else? They will argue that those 'US entities' don't do these things domestically. The reality is that as part of the 5 Eyes conspiracy (erm coalition) they just get a partner to do it for them, that is when they can't find a way to do it themselves and cover up with 'National Security Letters'.

    There is one other major difference. When 'US entities' do it, they (at least try, often not very hard) to not let it leak out to the public. When others do it, they do it in order to leak it. So what those others are actually guilty of is letting the public know how incredibly two faced our government really is (in the name of 'National Security'), and aren't at all ashamed. But they should be. The government that is, not the others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Blackstone, 8 Jul 2020 @ 8:54am

      Define National Security (anyone).... [sound of crickets]

      This fellow has been confined for years related to sexual assault charges that even the alleged victim did not wish to pursue.

      The Mad Dog (foaming at the mouth) prosecutors have within their own ranks people involved in more serious activities (think Epstein et al).

      Think of war profiteering and wars without end in a so-called civilization where truth is treason. Where serious concern and questions are met with being suicided.

      What is wrong with picture?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 9:01am

        Re: Define National Security (anyone).... [sound of crickets]

        Near as I can tell, anything that might embarrass even the most lowly in the government. That our (supposed) enemies already know about it is inconsequential. Allowing Americans to talk about it is (to them) felonious. It would be better named 'Security of the Bureaucratic Ego', but that gives away too much.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 9:31am

        Re: Define National Security (anyone).... [sound of crickets]

        This fellow confined himself for years, breaking his bail agreement and losing the money lent to him by supporters. All to avoid being sent to Sweden where, in reality it is less likely that he would be extradited - at this point the US had not asked for extradition.

        So he hid in an embassy until he ran out of goodwill and then ended up in a UK prison (for the bail breach). The UK is much more likely to extradite than Sweden was! However, unlike the US where prosecutors can just pile crap on until a person plea bargains, the UK will require proper evidence - this BS won't wash with UK judges

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Jul 2020 @ 12:24am

          Re: Re: Define National Security (anyone).... [sound of crickets

          "All to avoid being sent to Sweden where, in reality it is less likely that he would be extradited - at this point the US had not asked for extradition."

          Nope. Sweden has a bit of a...spotty...record when it comes to extradition. Bluntly put we have examples where the "extradition" was just the US ambassador mentioning they wanted a few people put on a CIA plane headed for a nondisclosed address.

          Go google "sweden colludes in US terror flight" for the case of the bromma "extradition". If Assanges feet touch swedish soil there will be no judicial process - he'll be quietly carried on board a plane in handcuffs and blindfold and journalists will find out, long after the fact, that he'd been shipped to some abu ghraib-equivalent in the third world under US supervision.

          "The UK is much more likely to extradite than Sweden was!"

          Wrong. The UK at least demands a judicial hearing. Sweden has, so far, not bothered to even check the papers in the examples we've seen.

          I have serious reservations about Assanges character as a showboat diva but it can not be argued that his startup of wikileaks and publishing of US war crimes was the right thing to do. And I can fully understand that he did anything he possibly could to stay out of Sweden in particular.

          Hell, he'd be worse off here than he'd be on actual US soil where he'd at least get his day in court before they shipped him off to gitmo or abu ghraib v2.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ashigaru Spearman (profile), 8 Jul 2020 @ 9:31am

    He was part of the overall conspiracy

    He knew about the leak and was part of the overall conspiracy. That he didn't do each particular act as part of the conspiracy is irrelevant.

    From a post on Emptywheel:
    -A conspiracy needs not succeed

    -Co-conspirators don’t have to explicitly agree

    -Conspiracies can have more than one object

    -But all co-conspirators have to agree on one object of the conspiracy

    -Co-conspirators can use multiple means to carry out the conspiracy

    -Co-conspirators don’t have to know what all the other conspirators are doing

    -Once someone is found to have knowingly joined a conspiracy, he is responsible for all acts of other co-conspirators

    -Statements of any co-conspirator made to further the conspiracy may be introduced into evidence against any other co-conspirator

    -Overt acts taken in furtherance of a conspiracy need not be illegal

    The allegations are pretty clear. I don't think there is a clear understanding with how conspiracy prosecutions work. IANAL.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      teka, 8 Jul 2020 @ 10:14am

      Re: He was part of the overall conspiracy

      By your participation in posting, you are now a member of the Unofficial Techdirt Bank Robbery, Reply Posting and and Moon Theft conspiracy. It's okay, you don't have to Explicitly agree, wink wink, nudge nudge, we all know the part we will play and will stand by our sacred pledge to keep everything secret unless law enforcement asks. Thanks for being brave enough to take the fall, comrade.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 12:30pm

      Re: He was part of the overall conspiracy

      That's why I limit myself to "accessory after the fact". Yeah, I lose out on conspiracy bonuses, but I win on plea bargains.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2020 @ 2:52pm

      Re: He was part of the overall conspiracy

      Knowing about a leak after the fact, and publishing information, makes one a journalist. If you put a journalist in jail every time they get an unofficial quote...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 9 Jul 2020 @ 12:26am

        Re: Re: He was part of the overall conspiracy

        "If you put a journalist in jail every time they get an unofficial quote..."

        Then you have the old soviet scenario...or the new US one, looks like.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    melissacarroll (profile), 9 Jul 2020 @ 10:49pm

    Assange indictment

    This is Bs if THe FBI CANT FIGURE OUT WHO HACKED THEM AND NSA's and CIAs HACKER TOOLS WERE AUCTIONED OFF FOR BITCOINS THEN CAPTIAN OBVIOUS KNOWS WHO THE ANONYMOUS PURCHASER WAS NOW!

    HOW HOLD HIM TO ACCOUNT BCZ THEY GOT THEIR HACKING TOOLS STOLEN BY ANONYMOUS UNKNOWN SOURCES.

    THEYRE PRETTY DUMB BCZ THEY ALREADY MENTIONED WHO HACKED THEM BUT ITS STILL UNKNOWN I DINT KNOW IF THEIR THAT DUMB OR BCZ ITS STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION?

    HA HA

    ITS GEORGE SOROS AND HILLARY CLINTON WHO WANT ASSANGE SO BAD SOROS IS PAYING BIG TIME TO HAVE HIM MOVED INTO CLINTONS KILLING FIELDS

    IF ASSANGE IS EXTRADITED IT MIGHT START A CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA BCZ PPL ARE FED UP WITH SOROS THE ENEMY OF AMERICA AND CLINTONS BODY BAGS COUNT.

    JUST MORE SALT IN A OPEN WOUND THAT HILLARY GETS A GET OUT OF JAIL FREE PASS AND HER ENEMIES GET SUICIDED IN IMPOSSIBLE WAYS .

    BY WAY THE DOJ. DOESNT HAVE ANY DEPARTMENTS IT IS JUST THE DOJ WITH ATTORNEY GENERALS, INSPECTOR GENERALS, ASST AGS AND ASST IGS .

    ONLY STATE DEPT HAS DEPARTMENTAL OFFICES

    DOJ IS WIDE OPEN SO THEY BETTER BEVBACKGROUND CHECKING EETY AMERICANS CREDENTIALS.

    GOVT DOESNT SEND PRIVATE LAW FIRM ATTYS

    GOVT SENDS ASSISTANT OR DEPUTY ASSISTSNT ATTY GENERALS OR IGS

    NO PRIVATE LAW FIRMS CAN CONTRACT OUT FOR DOJ

    CHECKING CREDENTIALS PRBLY CLOSED THIS CASE LONG AGO

    ITS BS UMPERSONATING AMERICAN DOJ

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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