Assange Smear 5: “He’s being prosecuted for hacking crimes, not journalism.”
No, he’s being prosecuted for journalism. Assange is being prosecuted based on the exact same evidence that the Obama administration had access to when it was investigating him to see if he could be prosecuted for his role in the Manning leaks, but the Obama administration ruled it was impossible to prosecute him based on that evidence because it would endanger press freedoms. This is because, as explained by The Intercept’s Micah Lee and Glenn Greenwald, the things Assange is accused of doing are things journalists do all the time: attempting to help a source avoid detection, taking steps to try to hide their communications, and encouraging Manning to provide more material. This is all Assange is accused of; there is no “hacking” alleged in the indictment itself.
Joe Emersberger of Fair.org notes the following:
Now Assange could be punished even more brutally if the UK extradites him to the US, where he is charged with a “conspiracy” to help Manning crack a password that “would have” allowed her to cover her tracks more effectively. In other words, the alleged help with password-cracking didn’t work, and is not what resulted in the information being disclosed. It has also not been shown that it was Assange who offered the help, according to Kevin Gosztola (Shadowproof, 4/11/19). The government’s lack of proof of its charges might explain why Manning is in jail again.
The indictment goes even further, criminalizing the use of an electronic “drop box” and other tactics that investigative journalists routinely use in the computer age to work with a confidential source “for the purpose of publicly disclosing” information.
The only thing that changed between the Obama administration and the Trump administration is an increased willingness to attack journalism. Assange is being prosecuted for journalism.
Furthermore, there’s every reason to believe that this new charge which the Trump administration pulled out of thin air is only a ploy to get Assange onto US soil, where he can be smashed with far more serious charges including espionage. Pentagon Papers lawyer James Goodale writes the following:
Under the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty, one cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” This explains why the indictment does not contain any charges alleging that Assange conspired with the Russians to impact the 2016 presidential election. It may also explain why the indictment focuses on hacking government computers rather than on leaking stolen government information, in as much as leaking could be characterized as being done for political purposes.
When Assange arrives in the United States through extradition, as many expect he will, the government will then be able to indict him for his participation in that election. It is not out of the question that the government will come up with additional charges against Assange.
If that happens, Assange will not be spending the five years behind bars for computer offenses that his current charge allows, he’ll be spending decades.
“I don’t think Julian is looking at five years in prison, I think he’s probably looking at 50 years in prison,” said CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was the first person tried in the US for leaking classified materials to a journalist under Obama’s crackdown on whistleblowers.
“I think that there are many more charges to be considered for Julian,” Kiriakou added. “I would expect a superseding indictment, possibly to include espionage charges.”
There is no legitimate reason to feel confident that this won’t happen, and there are many reasons to believe that it will. All for publishing truthful documents about the powerful. Assange is being prosecuted for journalism.
It’s also worth noting here that President Executive Order 13526, section 1.7 explicitly forbids the classification of material in order to hide government malfeasance, meaning it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that Manning did not in fact break a legitimate law, and that those prosecuting her did.
“In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to: (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency,” the section reads, while Manning’s lawyer has argued the following:
“The information released by PFC Manning, while certainly greater in scope than most leaks, did not contain any Top Secret or compartmentalized information. The leaked information also did not discuss any current or ongoing military missions. Instead, the Significant Activity Reports (SIGACTs, Guantanamo detainee assessments, Apache Aircrew video, diplomatic cables, and other released documents dealt with events that were either publicly known or certainly no longer sensitive at the time of release.”
There was no legitimate reason for what Manning leaked to have been classified; it was only kept so to avoid US government embarrassment. Which was illegal. To quote Assange: “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”
This is an excerpt from the mega-article “Debunking All The Assange Smears”.