It Is False and Defamatory to Accuse WikiLeaks of a Bunch of Things that Aren’t the Key Allegations against It

WikiLeaks decided it was a good idea to release a long list of claims about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks that it considers defamatory. Emma Best obtained and liberated the list. Given that the list clearly attempts (unsuccessfully in some places, and hilariously in other places where they deem matters of opinion defamatory) to be factually correct, I’m interested in the way WikiLeaks uses the list to try to deny a bunch of things that might end up in a US criminal indictment.

The US is only angry with Assange because Ecuador has lots of debt

Pretty far down the list, WikiLeaks denies being gagged for claims made about Sergey Skripal in such a way as to falsely suggest the only concerns the US had over Assange came to do with debt pressure.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Ecuador isolated and gagged Mr. Assange due to his comments on Sergei Skripal [in fact, he was isolated over his refusal to delete a factually accurate tweet about the arrest of the president of Catalonia by Spain in Germany, along with U.S. debt pressure on Ecuador. The president of Ecuador Lenin Moreno admitted that these two countries were the issue, see https://defend.wikileaks.org/about-julian/].

It’s nonsensical to claim that Assange was gagged just because of debt pressure, but it’s a good way to hide how the timing of his gag correlated with actions he took to piss of the US government, including by releasing a live CIA malware file.

The US charged Assange for actions it already decided not to charge him for, on which statutes of limitation have expired

The rest of the list is sprinkled with efforts to spin the US government’s legal interest in Assange. There’s an extended series of items that attempt to claim, as WikiLeaks has since DOJ accidentally revealed the existence of a recently filed complaint against Assange, that the charges instead relate to long-past publications (like Cablegate).

It is false and defamatory to deny that Julian Assange has been formally investigated since 2010 and charged by the U.S. federal government over his publishing work [it is defamatory because such a claim falsely imputes that Mr. Assange’s asylum is a sham and that he is a liar, see https://defend.wikileaks.org/].

It is false and defamatory to suggest that such U.S. charges have not been confirmed [in fact, they have, most recently by Associated Press (AP) and the Washington Post in November 2018].
– It is false and defamatory to suggest that the U.S. government denies the existence of such charges.
– It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is not wanted for extradition by the U.S. government [in fact, public records from the Department of Justice show that the U.S. government says it had been intentionally concealing its charges against Mr. Assange from the public specifically to decrease his ability to “avoid arrest and extradition”].
– It is false and defamatory to suggest that the U.S. government has not publicly confirmed that it has an active grand jury, or pending or prospective proceedings, against Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, each year since 2010.

These claims are all true. WikiLeaks has been under investigation since well before 2010. There are charges that the US would like to extradite Assange for.

But all the public evidence suggests those charges relate to WikiLeaks’ recent actions, almost certainly involving Vault 7 and probably involving Russia’s election year operation.

Julian Assange is not a hacker, which is different from being someone who solicits or assists in hacks

WikiLeaks makes repeated claims that might appear to deny that the organization has solicited or assisted in hacks. The list denies that the DNC (which doesn’t have all the evidence Mueller does) has accused Assange of soliciting hacks of the DNC or Podesta. (Everywhere, this list is silent about the DCCC and other election year targets).

It is false and defamatory to suggest that the Democratic National Committee has claimed that Julian Assange directed, conspired, or colluded to hack the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta [in fact, the DNC makes no such claim: https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/WikiLeaksDNC.pdf].

It denies that France has claimed that the MacronLeaks came from Russia (which again stops short of saying that the MacronLeaks came from Russia).

It is false and defamatory to suggest that the French government found that “MacronLeaks” were hacked by Russia [in fact, the head of the French cyber-security agency, ANSSI, said that they did not have evidence connecting the hack with Russia, see https://wikileaks.org/macron-emails/].

It denies that Assange has hacked the state of Ecuador (but not the Embassy of Ecuador or other states, including the US or Iceland).

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever hacked the state of Ecuador.

And it denies that Assange is, himself, a hacker.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange is a “hacker”.

All of these hacking denials stop well short of denying that WikiLeaks has solicited hacks before, including by publicizing a “most wanted” list that Russian hackers might respond to.

Mueller described WikiLeaks as an unindicted co-conspirator but that doesn’t mean Mueller has any interest in the organization

Close to the top of the list, WikiLeaks makes two claims to suggest the organization and Assange are not targets in the Mueller investigation.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever been contacted by the Mueller investigation.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that there is any evidence that the U.S. charges against Julian Assange relate to the Mueller investigation.

This is misdirection hiding a great deal of evidence that WikiLeaks is a target in the Mueller investigation. The list is silent, for example, on whether Congressional investigators have contacted Assange, whether Assange ultimately did accept SSCI’s renewed request last summer to meet with Assange, and whether Assange demanded immunity to travel to the US to respond to such inquiries.

Nor does WikiLeaks deny having been described — in a fashion usually reserved for unindicted co-conspirators — in a Mueller indictment.

WikiLeaks doesn’t deny that WikiLeaks denied Russians were its source for 2016 materials

WikiLeaks twice denies, in very similar language, that it suggested that Seth Rich was its source for the DNC emails.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange claimed that any person or entity was their source for WikiLeaks’ 2016 U.S. election publications [it is defamatory because Julian Assange’s professional reputation is substantially based on source protection].

[snip]

It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever stated or suggested that any particular person was their source for any publication, including Seth Rich.

A good lawyer would be able to sustain a claim that Assange had indeed “suggested” that Rich was his source, though it would make an interesting legal battle.

But when WikiLeaks denies feeding Seth Rich conspiracies, it does so only by denying the most extreme conspiracy, that the Democrats had Rich killed.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange has ever published, uttered or tried to promote alleged conspiracy theories claiming “John Podesta engaged in satanic rituals”, the “Democratic Party had Seth Rich Killed”, “Clinton wore earpieces to the 2016 US election debates”, on “Clinton’s health” or “Clinton kidnapping children”.

All of this, of course, dodges the way that WikiLeaks repeatedly tried to claim that Russia was not its ultimate source for the 2016 files.

Should we take the silence on this point as an admission?

Marcy Wheeler is false and defamatory

Finally, there are four claims relating to Vault 7, three of which pertain to my coverage of the way WikiLeaks attempted to leverage the Vault 7 releases in conversations with the Trump Administration. WikiLeaks denies that the two times Assange suggested to the President’s spawn that he should be made an ambassador to the US constituted an effort by WikiLeaks to get Trump to appoint Assange ambassador (note, this is also a denial that Assange tried to serve in another diplomatic role, which is different than being Ambassador).

It is false and defamatory to suggest that WikiLeaks tried to have the Trump administration appoint Julian Assange as an ambassador or to have any other person or state appoint him as an ambassador.

I find it notable that this claim departs from the form used in many of these denials, speaking for both Assange and WikiLeaks.

Then the list twice denies that Assange suggested he wouldn’t release the Vault 7 files if the Trump Administration provided him immunity.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever extorted the United States government.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever proposed that he not publish, censor or delay a publication in exchange for any thing.

Assange would and will claim that the discussions with Adam Waldman where just this arrangement was floated are protected by Attorney-Client privilege. But Waldman may have said enough to people at DOJ to refute this denial regardless.

Finally, WikiLeaks insisted it has never retracted any of the bullshit claims it made about its Vault 7 files.

It is false and defamatory to suggest that any of WikiLeaks’ claims about its 2017 CIA leak, Vault 7, “were later retracted”.

Given that one of the claims directly parroted the bullshit claims Shadow Brokers was making, a claim it made in a release that will probably be part of the charges against it, this non-retraction doesn’t necessarily help it much.

Note that one other thing WikiLeaks is silent about here are its public statements about Joshua Schulte, whose attempts to continue leaking from jail the FBI got on video. I find that interesting both for WikiLeaks’ attempt to corroborate Schulte’s thin excuse for using Tor after he was charged, and for its relative silence about whether he would be a whistleblower if he were its source for CIA’s hacking tools.

Update: WikiLeaks has released a revised version that takes out, among other things, the Ambassador claim, the Seth Rich claims, and also a denial that it is close to Russia.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

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42 replies
  1. Trip says:

    It read like a “Teen-zine Fan Listicle” (mobile talking points for the super-stans) to me. But again, I’m glad that the cat is okay. :)

  2. J. H. Frank says:

    Defamatory /where/, though?

    Both Assange and Wikileaks are public figures, so even floating the idea of defaming them is ??? outside of maybe the UK. Weird framing.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. It is complete horse manure. You all are probably lucky Marcy wrote this post instead of me. It is more thorough than just a legal knock down repudiation of the idiotic defamation threat, but also less profane!

      • AirportCat says:

        I don’t know. Your unwillingness to suffer fools – at all, never mind gladly – is for me a significant attraction on this blog. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the bmaz take on this subject.

      • Lee says:

        Actually, Bmaz, I’ve come to really enjoy your barbed repudiations.  I appreciate your honesty and willingness to say it like it is without holding back.  Although it did take a little getting used to, I must admit.  :)

        I’m reminded of my older brother, an emeritus philosophy professor, who kept two rubber stamps on his desk for use on student papers:  one with the word “bullshit” and one with the word “horseshit”, to allow for the subtle differences between the two.

            • Lee says:

              I think that Bmaz has laid out a fairly comprehensive taxonomy in “speaking indictments” on this site over the years.  Someone should read over the archives and gather them together.  :)

        • J R in WV says:

          Bull shit is quite loose and watery in consistency, which makes it very hard to handle around the farmstead. It also smells pretty bad both when fresh and in mass ponds or when being sprayed upon cropland. Extremely bad, actually.

          Horse shit is dryer and comes in small balls, which makes it much easier to handle. It doesn’t smell bad either fresh from the horse or in large piles for composting. It’s a great fertilizer for roses or gardens, with or without composting, although well composted horse shit tend to have fewer weed seeds in it.

          Having had both cattle and horses on the tiny farm,  horse shit is a delight compared to nearly liquid cattle shit, which can make hand milking quite unpleasant.

  3. Trip says:

    Marcy, the thread you posted on the edited list that Wikileaks published themselves is hilarious!
    Emma Best (U//FOUO)
    🏳️‍🌈
    ‏ @NatSecGeek
    2h2 hours ago

    OMFG #WikiLeaks retracted the line about it being defamatory to say #Assange stinks. It’s absent from the version they leaked in response to my copy, which they actually emailed out

    Can we assume now that Assange does stink?

  4. Ed Smiley says:

    On the eve of WWII, Roosevelt gave a speech demanding that Hitler renounce intent to invade a whole laundry list of countries.

    Hitler gave an empassioned speech, ridiculing Roosevelt, and explicitly denying them one by one.

    Few of his listeners realized—he’d left out Poland.

    No Goodwin’s Law violation intended. Just noticing a similar rhetorical device.

    • Desider says:

      Funny, though not true: http://comicism.tripod.com/390428.html
      (many of the countries listed aren’t mentioned outside of repeating the complete list;
      he talks about Poland at length, claiming his intentions are peaceful but harping
      on various grievances that need to be resolved that Poland refuses to negotiate)

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Regarding live coverage of Donald Trump, the first response should be why?  Mr. Trump is a renowned liar: he lies about everything all the time.  Covering Trump’s statements would only be useful after the fact, when reporters and commentators have had an opportunity to digest and refute the particular lies Trump has given up in any one speech.

    That’s especially important in that the first time you hear something creates the most powerful impression.  At best, we absorb some 60% of what we hear.  Allowing Trump’s lies to go unchallenged even for a few hours leverages those lies, giving them more power.  Allowing that is the antithesis of what news coverage is supposed to be about.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Declaring a so-called national emergency over a made-up problem should be another catalogued abuse of power in Donald Trump’s impeachment.  There is no emergency that implicates national security.

    One example of why that’s true is that the migrants that Trump recreates in his mind as violent criminals are the same people his agencies are releasing en mass in US border cities without processing or tracking, all because Trump himself has denied those agencies operating funds.

    The humanitarian crises at the US’s southern boarder, there are many and most involve children, are entirely of Donald Trump’s own making.  He can and should resolve them.  He does not need to declare an emergency to do it, as if he were a child who had murdered his parents and who begs the court for leniency because he’s an orphan.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Regarding the shut down, it is up to Congress to end it, even though Trump started it and publicly went out on a limb to take credit for doing so.

    In ending it, Congress needs to affirmatively make federal workers whole for lost wages, whether or not they worked during the shutdown.  No one, federal or state or private employee, can blithely pick up temporary full-time work and be responsibly available to take up their former work again whenever their employer decides to get its act together and pay them.

    By the same token, Congress should make whole federal contract workers.  Many of them are federal employees in all but name.  Their jobs exist because of commitments made by the federal government, which is no more immune from the outsourcing monkey than any private business.  The federal government operates as it does only because all those outsourced workers do their jobs.

    Congress can do this.  It should do this, unless it’s devoted to stopping and reversing its manic outsourcing.

    And in anticipation of the next shutdown – a tool this incompetent, predatory president will use again – the first people who should lose their income are Congresscritters, the President, and his Cabinet officials.  They’re the ones whose disagreements created the shutdown: they should be the first to suffer by it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Let’s remember: not paying workers their due is Donald J. Trump’s briar patch.  He has made a career doing it.

      He doesnt’t need a reason, any he chooses he quickly changes.  Trump just enjoys stiffing people.  It’s profitable, it makes him feel like a king.  Neither Congress nor federal workers will get help solving this from Donald Trump.

    • Trip says:

      Yamiche Alcindor‏Verified account @Yamiche

      NEW: Vice President Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen just wrapped an hour long briefing with reporters. The bottom line is that the president is NOT budging from his demand for $5.7 billion a wall and the WH is accusing Dems of refusing to negotiate

      Not budging, but claiming others aren’t negotiating=Absolute bullshit.

      That’s all you need to hear to justify not airing more of this nonsense.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump’s $5 billion, $5.6 billion, $5.7 billion or whatever number he pulls out of his ass is an invention.  It’s like Joe McCarthy’s 57, 81 or 10 communists in the State Department.  Or the fictional Senator Iselin’s 57 communists, a number he picked because he liked Heinz 57 sauce on his steak – and could remember the number speech after speech.

      Trump has no plan for using this money.  Not even a back of the envelope sketch.  This best American CEO ever wants his congressional board of directors to give him billions of dollars with no plan for how to spend it.  And this oh, so serious presidential three-year old is willing to shut down the federal government indefinitely until gets it.

      Moreover, Trump’s $5.7 billion would be a rounding error in any realistic budget to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, whether it’s a steel picket fence or a concrete monstrosity modeled on the ones Israel uses in occupied territories. 

      $100 billion would be a more realistic cost, but even that’s probably too low by half.  Like GW Bush’s Iraq War budget, if Trump asked for a realistic amount, he wouldn’t get it without a plan.  So he picks a lower number to argue over.

      A real wall would take longer to build than Trump is likely to remain in office.  It would wreak havoc and do immense environmental damage along the border, and deprive border property owners of valuable lands with presumably Trumpian low-ball figures for reimbursing the property Trump will nationalize by way of eminent domain.  Real plans would have to deal with those issues, one reason we’ll never see them.

      • P J Evans says:

        One thing that tends to be forgotten in all Himself’s blather about being a great businessman is that all his businesses were without boards of directors and shareholders: he has no f*cking clue how they work and he has no f*cking clue how the US government is organized and works. He’s clueless as well as incompetent in business – and he may also be approaching the point of being non compos mentis.

  8. P J Evans says:

    @earlofhuntingdon
    My only quibble is that this isn’t a shutdown; it’s a lockout. Congress sent him funding bills, and he refused to sign them, because they didn’t give him all the funding he wanted for his effing wall (that won’t get built for years). Last year he got that much money, and turned it down because DACA was part of the bill. He accepted far less money without DACA included, and as far as we know, very little of that funding as been used. So it’s all his own damned fault.
    I do think that when Congress fails to do its job, it shouldn’t be paid – but I suspect that’s going to require another amendment, and it wouldn’t help here unless it can be more narrowly targeted: the “Freedumb Caucus” Republicans in the House, and McConnell and a few others in the Senate, seem to be the problems.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Indeed. Congress sent him the funding bill he asked before Christmas.  He changed his mind– or Steve Miller and the Fed Soc changed it for him – and refused to sign it.

      Trump has demonstrated time and again he cannot be negotiated with.  He doesn’t understand the compromise necessary to reach agreement, other than as a sexually neutering weakness.  Any agreement he gets he reneges on: if he got it, he didn’t demand enough.

      Apart from illustrating Trump’s peculiar pathology, that process tells us Trump does not want a resolution, indeed any resolution.  He wants the fight.  He doesn’t want a functioning government – the “business” he’s now responsible for.  He wants, instead, the imaginary theater of tuffness he enjoyed at the Apprentice.

      So far, McConnell has pretended not to be in the room.  The Dems should make it harder for him to keep up that pretense.  McConnel holds the keys to this kingdom.  Any resolution of this impasse will come, in effect, through cobbling together a veto-proof majority on a funding bill.

      That requires McConnell to compromise.  He won’t do that until his caucus feels the pain that it is inflicting on millions of Americans.  The Dems should help that process along.  This is not a both sides are responsible problem – the meme the MSM is and usually takes.  This is Trump and the GOP.  Trump won’t help solve it.  It’s up to McConnell.  Let’s help him feel the pain his sitting on his hands is making his constituents feel.

      • Trip says:

        Why isn’t the MSM hammering McConnell? How has he achieved pass after pass after pass for his behavior?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A veto-proof majority is a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress. Generally, a minimum of 67 votes in the full Senate, 290 in the full House.

  9. Trip says:

    Trump will just announce an emergency for wall building and he’ll be fought in court.

    Any network or channel who covers this stupid spectacle live should be roundly mocked and boycotted.

    This is the drama queen’s way of flouncing off in a huff and creating future victimhood status.

    DON’T FALL FOR IT.

    • Jockobadger says:

      It’s more than that, Trip.  This is his out re: his promise to his base to build the wall.  He’ll use the court fight as a cya.  I’ve tried, I’ve tried, but I’ve been stymied by the crazed dems!!.  

      I can see the tweets now.

      • Trip says:

        Oh yeah, definitely.

        But he’s still a drama queen. Creating unnecessary drama day in and day out. Partly for diversion of other stories: like being shut down by Bolton in Syria, the Mueller probe, the probe on Kushner abusing advantages of development zones, etc. etc. But partly, or maybe mostly, because he is a mentally unbalanced human being who loves the attention that comes from being a drama queen.

      • Trip says:

        The Dems should begin their investigative committees pronto. Start sending a billion subpoenas. That’d keep him busy for a while. It would also take the predominate narrative out his hands.

        • Jockobadger says:

          Yes.  He’s a drama queen.  He also likes all the chaos/coverage over the wall, teevee time, etc., because it keeps Mueller coverage on the network back burner.  He doesn’t seem to realize that no matter how much chaos he creates, Bobby Three-Sticks is still coming.  The terrible effects of his “administration” on poor folks and people of color, particularly south of the border, will be felt for a very long time.  There’s no punishment to harsh for this clown.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ari Velsher is not doing his homework.  He claims that the disaffected in the world view America and the west as the enemy because of propaganda. He must have been raised on Texas textbooks and Johns Hopkins seminars.

    From the perspective of much of the world, American exceptional and brutal resource extraction have made them have nots, just as there is a first world because there’s a third.  Pinochet’s Chileans, Guatemalans without their Arbenz, Iranians with their CIA-imposed Shah, the Congolese forced to exchange a brutal monarch for the corporate west, with little to show for it beyond continued impoverishment and domestic corruption subsidized by those western corporations.

    If Mr. Velshi wants to try the red pill instead of the blue one – and instead of keeping his viewers on their blue pill – he might ask Naomi Klein for a reading list.

    • Trip says:

      So underwhelmed was Israel’s Channel 10 that it cut off its live television broadcast in the middle of the seven-minute speech. Its chief political correspondent, Barak Ravid, called the spectacle “chutzpah.”

  11. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Been visiting EW six weeks now. I got cracked by Bmaz twice early on. I also saw him preemptively crack two others for writing  something I was only thinking.

    Reading his profile, and seeing his squirt gun in action I took took to imagining  him like  the Federal AG character Wilfred Brimley  plays  in Absence of Malice.



    Though I have since been disabused  of the notion, I thought at first  Bmaz might be one of these guys who’s nice to dogs and mean to people. Mistake.  Looks like he sees his mission as keeping us and the dogs from trotting off on paths that go nowhere.

    It’s like Twain said. ” When you meet a mule for the first time give him a good whack across the nose. He may not love you for it, but he will follow all your movements thereafter with great interest.”

    I hope Bmax can take the comparison to  James J. Wells as a compliment.

    It’s meant that way.

    Thanks

    • Lee says:

      I’ve come to realize that this site is prime real estate for high quality legal analysis and reflection that ought not be littered over with questions visitors might have easily answered on their own with Google’s help, or comments they feel they just have to get off their chest.  Learning to sit and listen quietly to people who know a helluva lot more about legal issues than I do or would want to know is a useful discipline.

  12. Vinnie Gambone says:

    $100 million for “detention beds” for detainees ? Detainees have become a cottage industry for Trump’s friends. What about the American Refugees living under the highways in America’s big cities? Filth, pestilence, disease, despair, rampant and untreated. How about a bed, a shower, and a meal for these folks too?

    If we are going to divert military spending, let’s divert to the homeless. There’s over 500,000 homeless in this country. Why isn’t that an National Emergency?

    Donate now. The American Refugee Fund.

    More people care about  the opioid epidemic than they do about the Stupid Wall. The Dems should make that argument. Equal funding amounts for the American refugees.

  13. cd54 says:

    Curious about what any Intel people feel about Assange maneuvers vs. Intel industry capabilities. Is he clear and buffered or is he throwing stuff against the hype wall?

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