The Dangers of the Julian Assange Indictment

I was traveling yesterday when Julian Assange was arrested and pretty fried once I got back. Thanks to bmaz and Rayne for interesting pieces on his arrest. My initial thoughts on his indictment are influenced by CNN’s early report that DOJ expects to add charges and WaPo’s report on how this case moved forward in the last year, along with Orin Kerr’s opinion — which I share — that this is just a placeholder indictment. I’m going to do two or three posts laying out my thoughts on the indictment. This post will argue that the indictment, as written, is both dangerous and counterproductive to what I presume is a larger effort on DOJ’s behalf to go after Assange for actions that are far more removed from core journalistic ones.

Back in November, I laid out four possible theories of prosecution for Assange (I’ve since came to realize we may see more theories, but these are a good rubric for now) as a way to understand how dangerous such an indictment might be for journalism.

  1. Receiving and publishing stolen information is illegal
  2. Conspiring to release stolen information for maximal damage is illegal
  3. Soliciting the theft of protected information is illegal
  4. Using stolen weapons to extort the US government is illegal

In my opinion, this indictment, as written, is closest to the third theory, which I described this way.

Then there’s the scenario that Emma Best just hit on yesterday: that DOJ would prosecute Assange for soliciting hacks of specific targets. Best points to Assange’s close coordination with hackers going back to at least 2011 (ironically, but in a legally meaningless way, with FBI’s mole Sabu).

This is, in my opinion, a possible way DOJ would charge Assange that would be very dangerous.

At its core, Assange is accused of entering into a password cracking conspiracy with Chelsea Manning on March 8, 2010 to be able to access more files on SIPRNet using someone else’s username and password.

On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications, as designated according to Executive Order No. 13526 or its predecessor orders.


The portion of the password Manning gave to Assange to crack was stored as a “hash value” in a computer file that was accessible only by users with administrative-level privileges. Manning did not have administrative-level privileges, and used special software, namely a Linux operating system, to access the computer file and obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange.

Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log onto the computers under a username that did not belong to her. Such a measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to identify Manning as the source of disclosures of classified information.

Now, I say this is a dangerous indictment for the reasons I laid out in my earlier post. In cases where the sheer act of obtaining leaked files amounts to a crime — as it is in the case of BuzzFeed source Natalie Edwards leaking Suspicious Activity Reports — then a journalist encouraging his source’s leaks, as Jason Leopold allegedly did when he asked Edwards to look up Prevezon, may be criminalized by this indictment.

That said, actually cracking a password (or trying to do so) is something different than simply directing content requests. Making a journalistic request is not itself a criminal act. Attempting to crack a password with the intent to assume the identity of the person probably amounts to identity theft. So while this indictment, as charged, poses real dangers for Leopold, there is a difference of degree.

What is alleged here is perhaps better translated into the brick-and-mortar situation of a journalist going undercover. There are sometimes real ethical problems when doing so, but going undercover is also sometimes necessary to really get to important stories. Going undercover and committing crimes adds yet another ethical problem — but that, too, might be justified ethically if the law itself is designed to protect the powerful or systematic governmental crime (for example, in the case of some financial misconduct or abusive prison conditions). But going undercover using the real identity of someone else to get a story that amounts to committing a crime is something else entirely, because by doing so, you may end up framing the person whose identity you assume in the crime of obtaining that information.

That said, attempted identity theft is not charged here, and so the indictment, as laid out, is closer to the Jason Leopold situation and so poses real risks for important journalism.

DOJ made the risks worse by language describing the matter and means of the conspiracy to include operational security like using Jabber and deleting chat logs and — worst of all — “Assange encourag[ing] Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” I think all this language, which describes the techniques many journalists working in classified areas may use — could become important to DOJ’s larger project down the road. But I also think including it in this bare bones indictment unnecessarily exposes DOJ to claims that it is trying to criminalize core journalistic behaviors. It also exhibits DOJ’s long-standing suspicion of civilians, of any sort, who take reasonable measures using legal tools to preserve privacy. DOJ is effectively making a normative judgment about privacy tools when it is in the business of making legal judgments.

Moreover, including these descriptions of non-criminal conduct legitimately opened DOJ up for justifiable panic among journalists, who are focusing on this language rather than the password cracking language that is the overt act alleged in the conspiracy, that this indictment sets a dangerous precedent. This is not an indictment for publishing true information that a source broke the law to provide, as many responses to the indictment are claiming, but the press can be excused for describing it as such because of this extraneous language that does relate to core journalistic functions (this is basically the argument Margaret Sullivan makes in this great column).

Finally, one more thing contributed to the justifiable panic among the press. The indictment itself charges only conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (which Kerr, in his thread, suggested may be aggressive charges in and of themselves). But then in the body of the indictment, it states,

to intentionally access a computer, without authorization and exceeding authorized access, to obtain information from a department and agency of the United States in furtherance of a criminal act in violation of the laws of the United States, that is, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 641, 793(c), and 793(e).

While it otherwise doesn’t allege a violation of the Espionage Act, here it invokes it, effectively shifting the described crime from CFAA to Espionage. There are likely tactical reasons why DOJ did this, which I’ll address in the second posts of this series. But whatever reason they had for invoking the Espionage Act, it rightly heightened the panic among journalists.

Had DOJ done it differently, it might have gotten a different response to the Assange arrest, but now, because of its bone-headed suspicion of civilians using privacy measures and premature invocation of the Espionage Act, DOJ rightly lost the initial round of PR in what will likely be a long campaign and caused justifiable panic among the press.

But as I said above: this indictment is likely just the first installment of a larger set of descriptions of what Assange has done.

63 replies
  1. viget says:

    Excellent piece as always Marcy. Thank you for dissecting this.

    I wrote a lengthy comment yesterday on bmaz’s post regarding the indictment. As you rightly point out, there are some journalistic concerns, especially when the spector of the Espionage act is used as a predicate for using the 18 USC 1030 (computer fraud) charge.

    What I find interesting is that DOJ could have still written the indictment the way it is, and instead of invoking Espionage (18 USC 793), they could have just gone with theft of gov’t property or records (18 USC 641). That would still merit a charge under 18 USC 1030(a)(2)(B), which is the language specifying “intentionally access[ing] a computer without authorization or exceed[ing] authorized access, and thereby obtains … information from any department or agency of the United States.” They then invoke 18 USC 641 to obtain a higher penalty under 18 USC 1030 (c)(2)(B)(ii), because the unauthorized access was performed in furtherance of a crime, namely theft of gov’t property. That way, there is no mention of classified info, and it keeps Espionage Act out of play, but the theoretical maximum penalty is still the same.

    Now, IANAL, and I don’t know squat about the USSG, so I wonder if including the classified info information ups the calculation of sentence. But that may not even matter because as I heard on NPR this morning, Mario Renatti says the sentencing judge can simply take into account Assange’s other uncharged behaviors as aggravating factors to give him something closer to the max sentence.

    So I’m totally perplexed why DOJ needs to invoke the specter of classified info period. I think they could have totally left the Espionage act out of it and still have a similar indictment that wouldn’t be as chilling to journalists (after all, the core charge is conspiracy to commit computer fraud, not to disseminate classified info).

    I also think that you could argue that what Manning and Assange did here is somewhat different from Leopold and Natalie Edwards. First of all, Leopold made no overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy to obtain unauthorized access, which is what Assange did by offering to crack the password. He merely passed info to a source and told her to look certain things up. That is not a crime.

    Furthermore, the info that he received from Edwards was classified at the “Confidential” level… has there ever been a successful prosecution of Espionage for “confidential info” only? I would think that the judge and jury would probably balk a little bit at that. I realize that Edwards was not charged with Espionage, but under the Bank Secrecy act, but again as a defense atty I would argue that the info she had passed on was evidence of a potential crime and not “information about the national defense,” which is what classified info is supposed to be. Surely that’s got to count for something in the eyes of the judge and jury.

    Again, just my opinions. But I do see some material differences between the Assange/Manning situation and the Leopold/Manning one. I get the 1A implications, and maybe I’m just trusting DOJ too much here because I want to believe this whole Assange play is really to get him to flip on Stone, the Russians and other co-conspirators, and not so much to criminalize leaking, but who knows?

    • DaBrownOne says:

      I wonder if invoking the espionage act now is for the reason pointed out in a previous post, namely the extradition agreement says the person can’t be charged for anything not in the original indictment (my language isn’t precise, not a lawyer). Meaning DOJ may be trying to keep the door open to an espionage charge without violating the extradition agreement.

      • viget says:

        Maybe. But I think under the terms of the extradition treaty, the requesting country has 65 days from initial arrest to modify the indictment. After that, you’re locked in as bmaz has said before, unless you can get the requested country to waive the rule of specialty.

  2. orionATL says:

    no one should ever – and I mean no one, nadia, never, not ever, no how – trust the good intentions of the u.s. department of justice when it comes to rules, laws, or prosecutorial decisions involving the secretized* activities of government agencies and officials, even when they involve serious incompetence, illegality, or danger to the nation. hiding incompetence, illegality, and dangerous-to-the-nation official decisions behind document classification is standard operating procedure for government departments and agencies.

    if you want a primer in how this works go back thru the emptywheel files and look at two kinds of stories, those involving doj prosecutions of NSA and CIA whistleblowers, and those involving ew’s analysis of public statements and assurances of NSA (the national security agency, aka, evesdropinc) administrators and lawyers.

    *exploitation of government classification to hide questionable activity.

      • orionATL says:

        I’ve only your word for how nice she is, and that’s ambiguous in the context :)

        as you have guessed, the word i intended to type is not “nadia”, a proper name, but “nadie”, the Spanish word for “no one” :)

  3. ernesto1581 says:

    A small and peripheral side-issue:

    Charge claims Manning “… used special software, namely a Linux operating system.”
    What the heck is that supposed to mean? Tails (w/Tor), Qubes, Whonix, or any of another half-dozen distros? Were any or all of these fully functioning, ten-twelve years ago? I don’t remember.

    More interesting consideration: it is possible DOJ is referring to Selinux, which NSA discontinued distributing in 2012? (It was publicly available until then.) Elements of that OS were incorporated into various Linux distros (e.g. Fedora) subsequently, and may well have found there way into Linux kernel(s), on account of its robust security attributes.

    “DOJ is effectively making a normative judgment about privacy tools when it is in the business of making legal judgments.”
    There you go, that’s the nub of it. I wonder to how many, if any, mainstream fatheads that thought may occur…
    (thank you, mtw.)

    • phazed says:

      It doesn’t really matter.

      Whatever the target machine (probably XP), it had an unencrypted filesystem. The linux distro was simply a way to boot into a rescue mode, and bypass filesystem permissions on the host to retrieve the hash.

      • ernesto1581 says:

        agreed. isn’t that the damndest, though? all those those super-top-secrets floating around on machines made out of swiss cheese?

    • andy says:

      I was running linux back into the 90s. Or do you mean a particular distro? But what phazed said makes the most sense. Manning just needed some other OS to boot into in order to hex dump files from Windows (namely, the SAM).

  4. phazed says:


    This is more than soliciting the hack though. The interesting information is the last one (25):

    “Assange requested more information from Manning related to the password. Assange indicated that he had been trying to crack the password by stating that he had had ‘no luck so far’.

    He physically handled the hash and engaged in an attempt to reverse it. which is active participation, not solicitation. What I take from this is that he or third parties with compute resources started working on the crack, then at a later point, he requested more information from Manning to try and reduce the search space.

      • Frank Probst says:

        I have no idea if these things are actual crimes, but as a layperson this sounds like “conspiracy to commit identity theft” and “attempted identity theft”. To me, this differs from undercover journalism in that with most undercover journalism, the farthest a reporter will go is to create a new identity, not steal someone else’s. As you rightly note, you’re basically framing another person for what you’re doing. As someone who’s worked in healthcare, if someone else stole my username and password and used it to look up the medical records of a celebrity at a facility that I worked at, I’d probably get fired as soon as the unauthorized access was discovered. (Most hospitals are extremely strict about this sort of thing, so it would be hospital policy that got me, not necessarily privacy laws like HIPAA.) And an “It wasn’t me.” defense probably wouldn’t save me, because I’m responsible for ensuring the secrecy of my password. So I’m pretty unsympathetic if this is what they’re charging him with.

        • Njrun says:

          Yeah, investigative journalism does not involve actually stealing things or the identities of other people. If Assange is charged with those acts, I don’t see how that could affect the actions of legitimate journalists.

          Printing a stolen document obtained by a source is another issue, and if Assange is charged with that, it would be troubling. But at the same time, I don’t think that’s absolutely protected either. If you know your source is a hostile foreign power and know the documents are stolen, that’s kind of a gray area.

          Letting Assange get away with what he did because of journalistic principles would have the effect of encouraging Russia to do more interfering in the future.

          In my time as a journalist, I relied on gettting a lot of information from people who were breaking some sort of contractual agreement to tell me things (I.e.,u financial non-disclosure forms or SEC regulations). One time a securities analyst asked me if he was an unnamed source mentioned in a story I wrote. I told him he was (I referenced an investment bank analyst in my story without identifying a name or bank). He voluntarily told his employer he was the source and nearly got fired (never spoke to me again, which was a shame because he was a good guy). I resolved if the situation came up again I would tell the person who asks that no, he or she wasn’t the source.

          I’m not comparing what I did to a reporter working on national security issues, because the stakes are different.

    • A. Non says:

      False. The government has presented no evidence that Assange actually tried to crack the password, or that he had a credible chance of succeeding, only that he promised to but didn’t actually do it. Assange’s lawyer will say he never intended to crack the password or that he knew the password was uncrackable and he just wanted to look cool. And the DoJ won’t be able to prove otherwise. The initial indictment is so weak I would be shocked if GB would support an extradition on that basis alone. DoJ better put some meat in that weak sauce or they are going to look like bumbling fools.

        • A. Non says:

          No, the UK isn’t going to put Assange on trial. But they are going to EVALUATE the merits of the case. And the case as it currently stands is pathetically weak.

          • bmaz says:

            That is patent bullshit, you have no clue what you are talking about. Don’t mislead and make people here dumber with your commentary.

            Just so the actual facts are clear, the UK court will not assess the evidence against Assange to determine his guilt or innocence, or its relative e strength, but will scrutinize whether the offense he is accused of in the U.S. would be a crime in Britain. Here is a hint: Yes it would be a crime in the UK too. The fact of the matter though is there will very likely be a superseding indictment with additional charges, so overanalyzing the current charge may not yield much in the long run.

            • A. Non says:

              You claim “the UK court will not assess the evidence against Assange to determine his guild or innocence”. I never said the UK court would determine Assange’s guilt or innocence on the US charges. I said they would assess the evidence against Assange to determine whether to extradite. Are you claiming that the UK won’t evaluate the evidence at all in deciding whether to extradite? And if so, then why is the US required to provide such evidence?

              • bmaz says:

                I told you exactly what I was saying. And if you think they are going to weigh the evidence in the course of an extradition hearing, you are full of it. You still are, as you were to start with. That is not how it works.

      • Njrun says:

        You say there’s no evidence that he tried to crack the password that he tried to crack as part of an effort to look cool?

        That’s pretty hilarious as a bit of circular reasoning. As a legal matter, trying to avoid extradition by saying the defendant’s effort to break into the defense department computer were a joke is not likely to work.

        • A. Non says:

          I’m sorry for not filling in all the gaps. The only evidence that the DoJ has presented so far are that Assange (1) SAID he would help crack the password, (2) SAID he tried to crack the password; and (3) SAID he failed to crack the password. There’s no evidence presented yet that he actually did any of those things. There’s no evidence yet that he actually tried to crack the password. There’s no evidence yet that he wanted to help crack the password. Agreed?

          Saying you did something when you didn’t isn’t enough to convict, right? The DoJ needs to prove that he did something, not just said he did it. And even if the government presents evidence that he actually tried to crack the password (and failed), his attorney can defend by saying that Assange knew the password was uncrackable but made a lame attempt to crack it (knowing it would fail) in order to pretend to be helping Manning. Is pretending to help someone commit a crime and not actually helping them good enough to convict? Unless the DoJ has evidence that he actually cracked the password, I think Assange is in the clear on that charge.

          Where is the circularity?

          • bmaz says:

            Emptywheel readers and commenters: I am not going to take this comment down, though I arguably should. This commenter “A. Non” is flat our misrepresenting, if not flat out lying about, the nature of an extradition challenge.

            This is absolute bullshit. Stop “A. Non”.

            • A. Non says:

              Bmaz – while I am grateful that you do a great job protecting the site from trolls I hope you will consider the possibility at least in this case that I’m not one and that maybe there’s a way to understand my comments in the constructive way I intend them. Maybe the DoJ’s indictment isn’t as strong as many appear to believe? As a juror, would you convict Assange for breaking into a computer system solely because he said he wanted to help crack a password but wasn’t able to? It would be a shame if the cost of your aggressive policing of comments was that you lost the ability to consider information that didn’t conform to your world view. It’s a classic consequence of having prior beliefs that are too strong – see E.T. Jaynes, 1995, Probability Theory, Chapter 5, “Converging and Diverging Views”.

              • bmaz says:

                There is a large difference between an extradition determination and a jury trial. YOU keep pushing the argument that the quality of evidence to “convict” means something in the extradition proceeding.
                And you are still doing so. You are dead wrong.

  5. Rapier says:

    Since this post rhymes with Glen’s I can almost hear the gears crunching in heads and the silence here speaks volumes. If it makes it any easier the DOJ hauling out the Espionage Act here is the equivalent of going nuclear.

    Assange made himself a player from the very start. It should never have been about him. Leaks don’t actually mean a thing in the big picture. Collateral Murder is porn, watched with delight by millions and nobody gives a crap if Russia was hacking the 16 election as told by Reality Winner. As of yesterday Hannity was having it the Sander’s people hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign and she and Manning are sitting in jail. What has been gained by leaks?

    • orionATL says:

      rapier –

      what a dull point.

      to say that “collateral murder is porn” is an ignorant, cynical, and foolish argument. collateral murder shows directly what modern mechanical weaponry in the hands of soldiers who are only minimally restrained from using those machines can do to destroy lives and families.

      to say that that dod apache helicopter video with audio from the gunner has been “watched with delight by millions” is an insult to your fellow humans and the empathy they surely display, and it suggests to me you are a foolish and angry anti-war type who is disappointed that the rest of the world has not loudly applauded your remarkable sensitivity.

  6. bmaz says:

    I’d bet the odds DOJ comes for the Vault 7 actions are pretty high. They will absolutely have a superseding indictment, they will never bring him back on just this charge for the reasons outlined in my post.

    • emptywheel says:

      Q is whether they charge him in SDNY w/Schulte or whether they charge him separately in EDVA. Note the indictment says he’ll be brought first to EDVA, but clearly contemplates other districts.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That will vastly complicate and lengthen the extradition process. They know that, which suggests Assange is wanted not just for specific crimes, but as a pinata they can contend contains a cornucopia of crimes. His trial and appeals would make a for a nice pre-election road show that would focus on the many threats that only Donald Trump can save us from.

      If this were principally about specific crimes allegedly committed by Assange, would not the government settle on the most provable charge(s) that would not complicate extradition, bring him promptly to the US, try him, and bang him up. Instead or in addition, the government appears to be maneuvering to attack the meaning of Assange and, thereby, of Wikileaks, and to bang him up for life. Pour encourager les autres.

      Journalists are right to be worried. There’s a long history of animus toward journalism’s perceived threats to national security, in general, and about Assange and Wikileaks, in particular.

    • DMM says:

      That’s what I assumed the charge would be when I first heard of JA’s arrest. Why wouldn’t they lead with this? Could there have been concern that the UK wouldn’t extradite based on any publishing-related charges?

    • timbo says:

      Why not… if it protects Trump and/or his close advisors? This is a very complicated situation. I mean, I hope there are more charges here against Assange, particularly around 2016 stuff…but will there be? Interesting question… of interest to me is that the Congress could give Assange immunity for his testimony about 2016 if he is ever extradited to the US.

  7. jaango says:

    Dia De Los Gigantes In My America…

    Note: Please have Bmaz or Rayne on ‘stand-by” to rip this comment of mine off of Marcy’s website, if deemed necessary.

    When it comes to Assange, the Latino Perspective is absent and which is understandable, and ever since the Ronald Reagan years. And more so when viewed through the prism that “national security and civil liberties” were intentionally jettisoned. Take, for example, the overwhelming majority of Anglos supported the encampment for the Authority fo Use Force, while the overwhelming majority of Latinos were opposed. And as to this opposition, this Morality Play was premised on the Chicano Movement of the early 1950s and where Spanish-speaking military vets were unanimously opposed to any political violence of any sort. And if you have no inkling or knowledge of the Chicano Movement, you’ve been a free rider for all your poliltical life, given your attendant behavior.

    Thus, the implementation of the AUMF, led to the political creation of Julian Assange. And more so, was the creation of the FISA Act.

    As such, the FISA Act was intentionally a political shambles and which continues to this day, and further, led to the creation of a victimology for and of a Chelsea Manning.
    Furthermore, the FISA Act should have had a maximalist life force not to exceed 90 days,and where once the court-approved subpoena was activated, the “government” behavior would be required to lead to a ‘indictment’ and if not, the “government” would have to compile its data on the Target and subsequently, submit this data to the Target and for the Target’s appropriate usage where and when necessary. Thus, no surprises would occur. Consequently, the Government could not “hold” any potential political secrets on our fellow citizens.

    And yes, the Latino Perspective is quite familiar with the government’s “political secrets” since the Chicano Movement underwent its political tangent that consisted of COINTELPRO, and from this onset of racism, the government found for itself, that these military vets with considerable military training, would be no threat to the political muckety-mucks. And to this date, anytime and anywhere Latinos are protesting the political alignments, pollitical violence if not in the offing and nowhere to be found, even from hiding from around the next corner.

    And needless to say, but I will, Wikileaks, Julian Assange and those concentric persons aligned with Assange and others, has no posed any threat–political or otherwise, to the Latino Perspective, but does pose a threat to our own nation’s Anglo community, since control of this information flow is a perceived threat to the capitalist authoritarians and their well- employed grifters and grafters, either in government or out of government.
    Obviously, this ongoing effort to ‘extradite’ Assange and ‘punish’ Chelsea Manninng, demonstrates another fallacy that is ‘marker’ found in our national debt. The cost in “dollars” spent in the Middle East did not take into consideration the lives of the men and women wearing our nation’s uniform.

    In closing, our Latino Persective will be, from historians and the military vets among us, writing this history, and long after the historical marriage between ‘intentional ignorance and criminal stupidity” and which was perpetuated the ube Center-Right, starting with Reagan and Bush and followed by mindlessness of Clinton and Obama. Nonetheless, the Pentagon Papers are kicking the asses of our Anglo communities, once again.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For the GOP and this administration and their zeal to protect their breadwinner, Donald Trump, journalism is espionage. In their view, Investigating Donald Trump is a felony and prosecuting him is treason.

    I think that adds a lot of spice to the government’s longstanding paranoia about journalism – and the whistleblowers they hate because they feel dishonored and appalled at some of what their superiors do with their legal authority.

    J. Edgar Hoover and the top bureaucrats in post-WWII America were paranoid about what the Russians might know, and about the surge toward modernity that threatened to take hold after WWII.. The McCarthyite Red Scare was one outcome. Another was the vast expansion of the security clearance and its analogues, such as the illegal intrusion of political considerations into issuing passports.

    The vast lies exposed in the Pentagon Papers – obtained by whistleblowers, published by journalists, defended by a vastly differently Supreme Court – added to their paranoia. Nixon’s ignominious end, until Ford’s pardon, threatened further investigations. The Church committee and related mid-1970s hearings into the crimes of the intel community had their conclusions leaked by journalist Daniel Schorr after the government spiked their issuance. That compounded their fears as much as it furthered their resolve.

    The Iran-Contra hearings threatened to expose illegal behavior in the White House itself and the CIA. But over two administrations, they were successfully stonewalled and the investigation – by a Republican independent counsel – went bust.

    Scooter Libby’s lying and obstruction foreshortened a potentially similar investigation. That time, the government drafted journalists such as Judith Miller into its cause. A lone “gunman” was convicted, but his punishment was commuted to time served. No coincidence that the startlingly ignorant Trump sought him out for one of his theatrical pardons.

    Bill Barr was instrumental in helping the Bush administration stonewall Lawrence Walsh and in pardoning the most senior public servants to avoid prosecution for their probable crimes. In so doing, he helped George H.W. Bush avoid liability for his. Barr is back for Round Two and loaded for bear. The DoJ, DoD and intel communities are likely to be all in for another effort to criminalize journalism. Saving Private Trump is icing on the cake.

    • timbo says:

      Hmm. You’re ignoring the fact that the DP wasn’t too keen on the following the money laundering from CIA operations into the US elections during Iran-Contra. In fact, Inouye specifically excluded the joint committee members from asking public questions of witnesses about this. Only two or three people were indicted for doing that and the whole issue of how money from US covert operations might get moved back into US elections was basically ignored by the Congress for the most part.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    Well, it could just be that Assange outlived his usefulness, and Kaiser Quisling (under orders from Vlad) is doing this to silence him from spilling too many beans. It also has the favorable optics (for KQ) since Assange is widely viewed as a Palace reporter that the bothsiderism-infected MSM will fail to fully grasp the threat to themselves (looking at you Maggie H).

    My question: is Assange available for questioning by Schiff and the gang if he is in custody?

    Side note, Cohen’s proffered data dump has gone rather quiet in the news, did he get his deal or was this merely a way to leverage a pardon in a time honored blackmailing way? Couldn’t happen to nicer guys, really, however it turned out.

    • viget says:

      Hmm.. yes good point. Moreno seems to be tight with Putin too, so I am sure Putin could have encouraged him to kick out Assange.

      Maybe Assange is just too much of a wild card for anyone, and they want him locked up somewhere he can’t access a computer.

  10. Badger Robert says:

    Most people can see a distinction between Julian Assange and a journalist. Further, if the only thing he had done was help the man who became Chelsea Manning, everyone would have been willing to have him escape to Moscow. So it is a little condescending to think that the readers think the 1st Amendment is going to disappear because of this prosecution.
    The President blabbed about “enemy of the people” and R’s were not bothered by it. That is the real threat.

    • NJrun says:

      I agree with this. Turning journalism into an exercise in power rather than truth is a much greater threat to the institution than the prosecution of someone who published stolen secrets.

      In fact, I don’t see how journalism is going to recover from the Trump era. You have a huge percentage of the population now believing that you can only trust media that tells you what you want to hear. Real journalists can break all the great stories they want, but it will only have credibility with those inclined to listen. That’s a huge Fox-sized problem that isn’t going away.

      Combine that with the larger trend of declining professional journalism and I fear for the future.

      A former editor of mine recently told me that his financial news operation has a very hard time finding qualified reporters under age 40. Younger writers are focused on writing clickbait stuff, not the hard news and basic stories of yore such as the police beat and government meetings. They’re not learning how to write and research basic facts, and they are being judged on clicks not how informative they are.

  11. Savage Librarian says:

    In the tsunami of human relations, truth and memory swirl around so fiercely that it is overwhelming at times. I eagerly await some calm and normalcy.

    As Marcy so elegantly demonstrates, the way words and language are used have a strong impact on our feelings and actions. Whether intentional or not, we are easily led to abrupt conclusions, that, in turn, lead to other consequences.

    As you might guess, I love this quote, by Amadou Hampâté Bâ, “Whenever an elder dies, a library burns down.”

    Even this quote has a history of being interpreted in diverse ways. We just can’t help being subjective. But, to me, inherent in a democracy is the obligation to make an effort to try to understand. Life is all about learning and passing that along. I think that is what EW is all about.

    So, in that regard, I share this poem I wrote in March 2017:

    Ways and Means

    You don’t like the applesauce.
    I don’t like the beans.
    I say it’s a double-cross.
    You say ways and means.

    We pass by Pampers on the shelf.
    Today it’s “all Depends.”
    Present, past and future self
    Now greets its dividends.

    We’ve seen a host of wonders.
    Mystery still abounds.
    We’ve made a few big blunders,
    Yet we’d like a few more rounds.

    Telomeres will reach their end,
    Our cells won’t subdivide.
    The rosy days of “on the mend”
    Are on the downhill slide.

    They say the hardest thing in life
    Is letting go, but then
    Music from the piper’s fife
    Cajoles us home again.

    It’s alpha and omega:
    From beginning to the end
    Round hole, square peg with
    Memory our bookends.

    With memory our book ends.

    • rip says:

      I don’t know nothing about history or much of the opinions and facts shared on this wonderful site, but I do like your poem. Stealing for reuse, with attribution, natch!

    • Ollie says:

      I love Libraries and Librarians as much as I love birds, animals, the oceans, plants and the voices you hear off of the rivers in Montana. I’ll check out and read books until my cataracts get too bad or I can’t operate my walker anymore. That’s a great poem.

      Time in my library and all of it’s secret ‘cozy places’ to just be quiet and reflect is sought after daily. It’s safe in libraries. It’s gotten so hateful out there in society.

      • Tom says:

        Don’t forget audiobooks. Before I retired, I would deliberately take long, circuitous commutes to and from work just to make time to listen to books on CD from the local library. And I love to see children checking out books!

        • Ollie says:

          Yeah I know Tom. I’ve seen them. You sound like you get on your long drives what I get in my little library……..or the larger one in the city. I grew up w/books. They’re my best friends actually. I like holding a book. I like smelling a book. I know! Maybe when I have to go to audiobooks or readers………I’ll have created some incense that tickles the spiritual memories of my libraries. YOU have a great day. There’s a lot of anger out there. peace and love

    • r helder says:

      ” Life is all about learning and passing that along. I think that is what EW is all about.”

      amen! that’s why i love this site, it is a post-grad course in any number of topics, thanks to marcy and the community of contributors

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I think Jimmy Kimmel has the Assange indictment sorted out: “if convicted, he faces up to four years as Trump’s next secretary of homeland security”.


    • Molly Pitcher says:

      I’m looking forward to the Electoral College President and Assange being cellmates. That much bat shit in an enclosed space would bring me much schadenfreude.

      • rip says:

        Just make sure the cell cameras are installed in shit-proof enclosures and can be hosed down daily. It’s going to be a poo-flinging contest!

  13. orionATL says:

    does anyone know where gov’s very detailed info on Assange’s personal interactions with Bradley manning came from? was it from manning’s trial or a deposition?

  14. esjr says:

    Is it relevant from a legal point of view that with only a “portion of the password…to crack…as a “hash value” in a… file”, even with “…special software…” [as already mentioned, the Linux stuff is irrelevant FUD], “cracking the password would” be impossible ?

    • esjr says:

      To be clear I understand the dangers of the indictment, but does that part of the indictment make sense ?

      Keeping a “portion of the password…as a “hash value” in a file” makes no sense unless it is a salted password hash. []
      If that is the case the govt. knew “cracking” the password with only that password hash value and without the salt is only possible on paper — patient paper like an indictment.

      Translated into a brick-and-mortar situation :
      Alice sends Bob a lock of hair [1] so Bob can try and make a potion [2] that will enable Alice to walk thru walls and rob a bank [3].
      Can they be credibly accused of conspiring to rob a bank ?

      [1] “portion of the password as a “hash value” in a file”
      [2] “cracking the password”
      [3] “log onto the computers”

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Reports that Trump promised a pardon to then CBP commissioner McAleenan, were he to face liability for complying with Trump’s demand that he illegally block asylum seekers from entering the US would seem to make Trump as criminally liable as McAleenan.

    The offer would also have denied McAleenan of any argument that he was just following orders. As it was an illegal order on its face, it would have been illegal for McAleenan to obey it.

  16. Chetnolian says:

    One thing’s for sure. You are going to have a long time to talk about the issues raised here and in bmaz’s post. If Assange is anywhere but the UK for around twelve months I will be most surprised.

  17. Badger Robert says:

    I think the prosecutors and Mueller have gained what they needed from Assange. He is now stuck to Trump like velcro toilet paper and a shoe sole made of velcro fiber. Trump has had to repudiate Assange in public. He is going to have to look at that repudiation for 19 months.
    The message to Stone could not be clearer. Trump never pays his bills. Further, Stone is not going to allowed to die, in debt and alone. He will eventually be convicted and given a brief sentence, and then get the pardon/admission of guilt routine.
    The worst political result for Trump is that Assange ends up in Moscow during the 2020 primary season.

  18. Badger Robert says:

    Thus, the expulsion of Assange and his expected extradition, force Trump to publicly repudiate Assange, when he consistently endorsed him in 2016. All of Trump’s other repudiations are equally discredited. Trump is being cross examined in public. The week of positive Barr spin news is nullified by the arrest of Assange.

  19. Badger Robert says:

    Since there 19 months to go until the election, one has to suspect the prosecutors have other disclosures available, both within the SC report and in trial material yet to be presented.
    Trump won on leaks and disinformation and the prosecutors are going to use similar tactics against him. However their information will be verifiable.

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