Hot and Cold Running Mike Pompeo and Other Ridiculous WikiLeaks Defense Claims

Today is the first day of Julian Assange’s fight to avoid extradition. In addition to legitimate First Amendment concerns about extraditing Assange on the charges as written, Assange is challenging the extradition with some very selective story-telling to pretend that he’s being prosecuted for political reasons.

For example, WikiLeaks is pointing to the Dana Rohrabacher pardon discussion in August 2017 to suggest that Trump was extorting Assange, demanding he provide certain details about the 2016 hack (details that are consistent with the lies that Assange told consistently about Russia’s role in the hack-and-leak) or else he would prosecute him. Unsurprisingly, WikiLeaks did not mention that discussions of a pardon started at least as early as December 2016 as payback for his role in the election, and continued in February 2017 as Assange tried to use the Vault 7 files to extort a pardon. If you can believe Roger Stone, pardon discussions continued even after DOJ first charged Assange in December 2017until early January 2018 (though that may have been an attempt to silence Randy Credico and thereby keep details of what really happened in 2016 secret).

WikiLeaks is also misrepresenting the timing of the increased surveillance by UC Global in December 2017 to suggest Assange was always being surveilled that heavily.

I will pass over the intervening period during which Julian Assange continued to have his conversations with his lawyers and family constantly monitored and recorded by a private agency acting on the instructions of US intelligence and for their benefit.

As slides from Andrew Müller-Maguhn make clear, the surveillance only began to really ratchet up in December 2017, after Assange had helped Joshua Schulte burn CIA to the ground (and at a time when WikiLeaks remained in communication with Schulte).

Assange’s team then mis-states when Trump’s war on journalists began, suggesting it preceded the April 2017 targeting of Assange, rather than came in August 2017.

That temporal slight is necessary because Assange’s team is claiming that Mike Pompeo decided to attack WikiLeaks in April 2017 out of the blue, out of some kind of retaliation.

That is why the prosecution of Mr. Assange, based on no new evidence, was now pursued and advocated by the Trump administration, led by spokesman such as Mike Pompeo of the CIA and Attorney General Sessions. They began by denouncing him in April 2017. I refer you to the following:

i. Firstly, the statements of Mr. Pompeo, as director of the CIA, on 13 April 2017, denouncing Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence agency“. [Feldstein, tab 18, p19 and K10] On the same occasion, Pompeo also stated that Julian Assange as a foreigner had no First Amendment rights (See Guardian article, bundle K)

ii. Then there was the political statement of Attorney General Sessions on 20 April 2017 that the arrest of Julian Assange was now a priority and that ‘if a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail‘ [Feldstein quoting Washington Post article of Ellen Nakashima, tab 18, at page 19]

That’s thoroughly absurd. Pompeo’s speech was entirely about CIA’s response to have been burned to the ground by WikiLeaks. This passage makes clear that, in his prepared speech at least, Pompeo’s comments about the First Amendment don’t pertain to him being a foreigner at all (I’m going to pull the video).

No, Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong.

[snip]

Third, we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.

Here’s what he said in questions:

DIRECTOR POMPEO: Yeah, First Amendment freedoms. What I was speaking to there was, as – was a little less constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment freedoms. He’s sitting in an embassy in London. He’s not a U.S. citizen. So I wasn’t speaking to our Constitution.

What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters don’t good work to try to keep you – the American government honest. These are people who are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life. That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity, as I understand them, and I think as most Americans understand them. So that’s what I was really getting to.

We’ve had administrations before that have been squeamish about going after these folks under some concept of this right-to-publish. No one has the right to actively engage in the threat of secrets from America with the intent to do harm to it.

Mike Pompeo is and always will be a problematic figure to make this argument.

But all the evidence shows that Assange’s surveillance and prosecution arose in response to the Vault 7 leaks, not Trump innate hatred for journalists.

Update: Here are the Prosecution’s Opening Statement and Skeleton Argument.

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35 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Complicating this hearing in Great Britain is the unwillingness of the US to extradite someone the UK desperately wants to see in court there. From the Guardian:

    The family of Harry Dunn has called for Julian Assange not to be extradited as long as the United States refuses to send the suspect in the teenager’s death back to Britain.

    The family has have accused the US government of “demonstrating an extraordinary amount of hypocrisy” in seeking the Wikileaks founder’s extradition but rejecting a request for Anne Sacoolas to return to Britain.

    Dunn, 19, died when his motorbike was involved in a collision with a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August 2019.
    Sacoolas, 42, the wife of an intelligence official based at the US military base, claimed diplomatic immunity and was able to return to her home country, sparking an international controversy.

    • bmaz says:

      Bullshit. Dunn is a completely different matter and the ultimate UK authority, has already said they will sign the extradition warrant the second the court issues it with finality. And Assange has already been through this ad nauseam with regard to the Swedish case, and were happy to extradite Assange.

      • Peterr says:

        The argument is political, not legal. For the US to demand Assange when they will not yield to the UKs demand for Sacoolas is *not* going over well in the UK. Will it affect the court hearing today? Probably not.

        But it will be a real mess for Pompeo and the State Department if Assange is extradited. Pompeo’s UK counterpart, Dominic Raab, has already condemned the US unwillingness to extradite Sacoolas, and there are calls to revise the diplomatic immunity agreement for the intelligence officers and their family members at RAF Croughton. The US interpreted the treaty one way when they spirited Sacoolas out of the UK immediately after the accident, and the UK interprets it a different way. There is huge pressure to sort this out for future cases, and the high profile Assange extradition case is only increasing the pressure on UK politicians and career government officials.

        I’m sure the the new acting DNI will be all ready to deal with that mess. /s

        To be clear: I am not saying the the UK court hearing the Assange case will take the Dunn case into account when making its ruling. What I am saying is that you can’t talk about the Assange extradition in the UK without the case of Harry Dunn coming up in conversation, and both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have roundly condemned the US for not returning Sacoolas to the UK to face trial. That is going to complicate all kinds of things, from post-Brexit trade negotiations to intelligence relationships and God knows what else.

        [ETA: I’m also sure that Mike Pompeo is “a problematic figure” to make the Sacoolas argument as well.]

            • bmaz says:

              No. Explain why in the world it would be. And you cannot. There is a uniform extradition agreement. If UK wants to apply under that for Dunn, fine. But it does not have jack shit to do with Assange.

          • Peterr says:

            Assange will be extradited and Dunn is dead.

            Extradition is as much of a diplomatic process as a legal one. You may be absolutely right on the legal end of things here, but diplomatically, the case of Sacoolas — a former spook herself, per media accounts — is as much a part of the political calculations.

            There are various cases where US attempts to extradite people from abroad are stymied because extradition would subject the person to a potential death penalty. In those cases, even if the US has every right under the applicable treaties to have such people handed over (i.e. they prove the crime took place, and show sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the person they are seeking is guilty), one of two things happens. Either the US agrees to waive the death penalty and the receives the person they want to try, or the US does not agree and does not get the person they want.

            It’s a legal process and a diplomatic negotiation. If you think the diplomatic is irrelevant, you are sadly mistaken.

            • bmaz says:

              I am completely aware that the person of interest in Dunn is Anne Sacoolas. It is her husband that was the putative CIA asset. And it was you that framed it as the Dunn matter versus Assange. And that matter has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Assange matter (not to mention that the US has already denied extradition of Sacoolas.

              Yes I know you worked with State for a bit. I have actually done serious extradition cases, granted they were from Mexico and not the UK. I am aware of the process just fine. And the diplomatic portion of the Stone case has already been determined as British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has already officially signed an extradition order to send Julian Assange to the United States pending any court decision on Assange’s challenge. That is done, so, no, it is truly simply a legal matter for the UK courts at this point.

              • emptywheel says:

                Actually a report in the UK reported that Sacoolas was also CIA, a NOC, and more senior than her spouse.

                • bmaz says:

                  That I was not aware of. Either way, she ain’t going back. And it is still irrelevant to Assange extradition matter. Lauri Love is the better case if one wants to raise a comparison to something, which of course you pointed out early on. Though I don’t think that play is going to work for Assange, but it is at least pertinent.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  I had seen that reporting, and that she was still in the business, which would better explain why the American and British governments hope this just goes away.

                  I wonder what she was so distracted about that she drove on the wrong side of the road long enough to hit someone.

            • bmaz says:

              I don’t have any problem, do you? I merely stated a fact that the Sacoolas/Dunn matter has no relevance whatsoever as to Assange, and that if any collateral matter might provide a basis for argument by Assange, it would be yours. Also a fact.

              I also think Assange is a dirtbag piece of shit that is a Russian tool and threat to the US, though am trepidatious about propriety of the charges currently pending on the extradition warrant. There are other matters it would be completely proper to prosecute him on, and they will likely be forthcoming.

              • Chetnolian says:

                Eh bmaz just catching up, are you really saying that there is no possibility both that Assange is a piece of shit and that this extradition attempt is political? Cos it can sure seem that way this side of the Pond.

                I agree the Sacoolas case is legally unconnected but certainly at first instance it might affect a judgement based on balance of probability. Here that case is seen as a slap in the face and Trump did get involved in it personally, which was a misjudgement but then it is Trump

                • bmaz says:

                  Well, I do not just think Assange has done criminal acts that are not only not “political”, but are clearly not “journalism”. They may be outside of “this” extradition warrant, but they are there. I will be absolutely stunned if the UK courts do not order the extradition the Home Office has already agreed to.

                  People there may think Socoolas was a slap in the face, but it was a staged dance with the UK government.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                My sense is that Assange is a dirt bag, occasionally a journalist, and that the UK has already made its decision to extradite Assange to the US.

                Johnson, though, is too insecure to let this play out in open court. Assange has a large global and UK following, and BoJo and Cummings fear it will react negatively to the inevitable, giving them a political problem.

                So the government is largely hiding the process, while making the outcome appear unremarkable. The magistrate is openly fire and brimstone. The hearing is not being held at the usual Westminster — extradition is a government-to-government process — but in a tiny satellite, known informally as the UK’s “anti-terrorist” court (the UK doesn’t really have one).

                That tiny court is virtually inside what is regarded as the UK’s highest-security prison. It has sixteen seats for the public, more for the press, all approached through long waits and a gauntlet of security.

                The government’s handling of its anticipated PR problems is making it appear that it has legal problems in managing this extradition process.

                • bmaz says:

                  Yes, the Home Office, which means 10 Downing too, has already signed off pending the court decision. Did not know about the courtroom, but not shocked I guess. They want isolation from the swarm of Assange cultists.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Roger Stone might think about how long his luck will hold out. Shortly after his conviction on two counts, Harvey Weinstein was in handcuffs and off to Rikers.

    Roger might think his chances on appeal are fantastic, but I don’t think ABJ would agree with him. That’s important to whether he reports to prison or stays out of it, pending the outcome of his appeal.

    Roger might also reconsider how good his “insurance policy” is, because the mercurial Donald Trump is not so great about keeping his promises.

  3. bmaz says:

    Yep. That said, it doesn’t sound like ABJ is inclined to grant a continuance of release conditions on appeal assuming she denies the new trial morion. So she will order him to report two weeks after her decision on the new trial morion. But that is plenty of time for Stone and his attys to petition the Court of Appeals. No clue what they will do. Remand on sentencing is pretty much the rule in state courts, especially for violent crimes with mandatory minimums, which one of Weinstein’s verdicts is.

  4. Nehoa says:

    October 10, 2016 in Wilkes-Barre, PA: “This just came out,” Trump said. “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”

  5. Eureka says:

    As an accompaniment to both the “purge the purgers” mood and Bertrand’s Politico piece tonight on Grenell in re the Assange matter (linked at this thread https://twitter.com/NatashaBertrand/status/1232074687141892096 ), Cheri Jacobus also has some interesting Arthur Schwartz DM screenshots (IIRC this link will get to all of them:
    https://twitter.com/CheriJacobus/status/1232100550482812930 ). [Schwartz’ role re Grenell/ Assange via intermediary whackjob propagandist is explained at Politico.]

    Per the screenshots, Schwartz hypothesizes, back in early June of 2016, that Trump’s tax problem may be that he filed in Florida. Schwartz also mentions “the call centers” which some may recall Jacobus has cited before in tweets about the attacks on her (linked through an old EW post as well) — so perhaps Schwartz was Jacobus’ source about the “call center” attackers of those who post negatively about Trump (Schwartz also states, in same screenshot, how [Trump] used to let Stone and Nunberg tweet for him).

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Morbid Morning Joe is consistently doom & gloom about Bernie Sanders – but he’s not picking on him. “The best politic athlete always wins….” Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, it’s not Bernie – or any progressive, whom it reflexively finds “scary.”

    The range of Joe’s talking heads runs the proverbial gamut from A-a. Why would Dems take campaign advice from career-long GOP advisers, former GOP congresscritters, and White House aides? The presentation misleads viewers and keeps the Overton Window firmly shut. Health care, epidemic disease “planning,” student and household debt, immigration, jobs, the courts, serial criminality in this White House? Nada.

    Bloomberg, for example, is not a Dem or a serious candidate. He’s another bored Donald Trump who has a billion in pocket change to spend on another vanity project. But the MSM just can’t abide a policy or anyone outside the clique of establishment Dems being the Dem candidate. It would rather lead the cheers for Donald Trump. Pathetic.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mornin’ Joe, however, has plenty of time for former conservative Dem and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s weekly workout schedule, and the selling of his book about the glory and presidential prospects of former mayors.

      If government is broken to the point it can’t meet its people’s needs – it is – Rahm worked hard to break it and to keep it working for the donor class.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Bloomberg is the most “transparent” stalking horse in the history of stalking horses.

      The poor NeverTrump schnooks have no political party of their own anymore, so they’re trying to mount a hostile takeover of the Democratic party, instead.

      If they really wanted to defeat Trump in 2020, then they’d be running Bloomberg in the Republican primaries against Trump.

      Given that they are not running Bloomberg against Trump in the Republican primaries, it follows that they are not really interested in defeating Trump in 2020.

      Were any of them ever truly NeverTrumpers to begin with??

      • P J Evans says:

        What they probably want is to preserve their own privileges, and if Bloomberg ran as GOP against Trmp, they’d be in the same position as if he didn’t run at all.

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Yes, but . . . [expletive deleted] . . .

          Why can’t they just go get a new political party of their own to . . . [expletive deleted] . . . over.

          • P J Evans says:

            Yeah. I got at least two fliers from Bloomberg in my mailbox this last weekend, among all the others I’ve gotten. (I mailed my ballot last week.)

            • Mitch Neher says:

              Maybe they’ve been poking us in our eyes with sharp sticks for so long that they just can’t stop now.

              Like their calendars are marked in advance at two years intervals: “Time to poke the Dems in their eyes again.”

              Pavlov’s Sadists.

            • P J Evans says:

              It will be interesting to do a count after the election, and see who sent out how many. A lot are local, though: we have city council and school board seats on the ballot.

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