The Most Counterproductive Letter in Defense of Julian Assange

How seriously do you think the Joe Biden Administration is going to take a letter that,

  • Implicitly treats helping Edward Snowden flee Hong Kong to Russia (one of the overt acts Julian Assange is currently charged with) as a journalistic activity
  • Was written by an organization on the board of which Edward Snowden serves, without any disclosure of the relationship (or that another Freedom of the Press Foundation board member, Laura Poitras, decided in real time that such activities weren’t journalism, thereby eliminating the New York Times problem the letter claims still exists)
  • Treats the Julian Assange extradition request as a Trump Administration decision at a time when Biden is trying to emphasize that DOJ represents the country, not one president
  • Ties the Assange prosecution to Trump’s other politicization of DOJ when the evidence shows the opposite happened, that Trump abused power to attempt to protect Assange (in her ruling, Judge Baraitser also noted that Trump in no way treated WikiLeaks like he treated journalistic outlets)
  • Relies on dated 2013 reporting about the sum total of WikiLeaks’ actions targeting the US, ignoring much of the public record since, not to mention the grave damage incurred by a release — Vault 7 — that had almost no news value, which was allegedly leaked while Acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin (who will probably field this letter) was in charge of DOJ’s National Security Division
  • Exhibits zero familiarity with the 54-page report — citing testimony from Biden Administration members Avril Haines, Lisa Monaco, Susan Rice, Tony Blinken, Samantha Power, Denis McDonough, and John Kerry — that concluded one reason the Obama Administration didn’t respond in more timely fashion to Russia’s attack on the 2016 election was because of a delayed understanding of how WikiLeaks had been “coopted” by Russia:

Despite Moscow’s history of leaking politically damaging information, and the increasingly significant publication of illicitly obtained information by coopted third parties, such as WikiLeaks, which historically had published information harmful to the United States, previous use of weaponized information alone was not sufficient for the administration to take immediate action on the DNC breach. The administration was not fully engaged until some key intelligence insights were provided by the IC, which shifted how the administration viewed the issue.


The executive branch struggled to develop a complete understanding of WikiLeaks. Some officials viewed WikiLeaks as a legitimate news outlet, while others viewed WikiLeaks as a hostile organization acting intentionally and deliberately to undermine U.S. or allies’ interests.

The letter claims to want to protect a “robust” press. But this letter fails to meet journalistic standards of transparency or accuracy.

Nevertheless, the following organizations signed onto such a (in my opinion) counterproductive letter:

  • Access Now
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Amnesty International – USA
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Defending Rights and Dissent
  • Demand Progress
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Fight for the Future
  • First Amendment Coalition Free Press
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Index on Censorship
  • Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
  • National Coalition Against Censorship
  • Open The Government
  • Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
  • PEN America
  • Project on Government Oversight
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • Roots Action
  • The Press Freedom Defense Fund of First Look Institute
  • Whistleblower & Source ProtectionProgram (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts

I have a great deal of respect for these organizations, have worked for several of them, and have received funding in the past from Freedom of the Press Foundation. I agree with the sentiment of the letter that some of the current charges against Assange pose a risk to journalism. I believe these organizations could have written an effective letter to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson (or, more effectively and with better targeting, to Carlin).

Instead, they signed onto a letter that violates several of the principles of journalism they claim to want to defend.

20 replies
  1. Francois Labelle says:

    Everybody by now realize Assange has been a Russian disinformation troll for a long time!! Did you ever see a Wiki “Leak” from the government-sponsored murderous mafia, war criminal state of Russia??

  2. Jeff Landale says:

    I’m trying to find any public evidence that any of the orgs that signed the letter have actually read the second superseding indictment and have come up with nothing so far – everything points to analyses that predates the second superseding or else more recent analyses that simply ignore its existence.

    CPJ’s blog post from last month links to the initial 2018 indictment and the 2019 superseding indictment but not the actual indictment they’re now calling to be dismissed. Defending Rights and Dissent’s January piece cited the wrong indictment as well, and Freedom of the Press Foundation has not to my knowledge published an analysis of the current indictment, and they link back to an analysis that predates it.

    All of which is to say that among the many things the letter leaves out is any evidence that any of the signatories have actually read and analyzed the indictment they’re calling to be dismissed.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’ve got into Twitter fights with both Jameel and Trevor, so they both at least know of the superseding.

      They apparently just don’t care.

      • Jeff Landale says:

        I continue to offer a $50 reward to anyone who can offer proof that even a single signatory org has read the indictment at issue. A single blog post analyzing parts of the allegations that aren’t in preceding indictments. The bar is low!

        My kingdom for policy analysts who do their fucking job so that mine isn’t useless.

        • bmaz says:

          Go do your own research. I know several of these people and don’t give a damn about your crappy $50, or your “kingdom”, which appears to be fairly limited if all you are offering is $50. Give it a rest.

          • Jeff Landale says:

            You must be fun at parties! Sorry my jokey $50 to entice any of my colleagues at these orgs to send me a blog post irks you so much.

                • Jeff Landale says:

                  It’s only trolling if truly none of two dozen organizations has done any analysis of an issue they’re doing advocacy on. Otherwise it’s an easy $50! I’m guessing bmaz doesn’t care, but I’m happy to share any responses I get from people I’m asking about this.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Marcy says you are free to troll away, so be it.

                    But do not make any “guesses” about me, because you do not know me for squat.

                    And, by the way Jeff, yes I do care.

                    • Jeff Landale says:

                      Marcy how are your twitter replies less unnecessarily hostile than here? I think I’ll stick to them from now on!

                    • bmaz says:

                      Hi there Jeff. I do not know you from adam. Do you know me? No? Then why make statements about what I do, and do not, care about? And you appear to want to have a one way conversation. This is not twitter, and you came here openly and notoriously, offering minimum wage to do your research, not the other way around.

                  • timbo says:

                    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff… smh. Do let us know if you end up $50, or multiples thereof if lucky, poorer as a result of all this.

    • bmaz says:

      Lol, yeah, Marcy is right, they definitely know. Trust me, both are far too smart to not know. And ACLU too. And anybody who didn’t had no business signing that letter, but they all almost certainly did. Facts are stubborn things in a propaganda effort.

      • Jeff Landale says:

        Half the organizations that signed the letter don’t have staff focused on the Assange case and are undoubtedly relying on the analysis of the core groups organizing the letter (which is fine, duplication of analysis is wasteful and we’re all underresourced here), and I don’t think they’re aware that the emperor has no clothes.

        DRAD at least didn’t care when I showed this to them, but maybe some of the others will.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        “Facts are stubborn things in a propaganda effort.“

        Like Reichstag Fires, Decrees then, Nuremberg laws.

        Can’t touch that now can we..

        Due process evaporates then you die.

        Trump is Putin’s asset.

        Virus be Damned..

  3. jaango says:

    As I was reading this thread, my “fixation” on the Journalistic Industry, came to my forefront for my obvious reinforcement that this media Industry, is broken as in the context and content of greased palms.

    However, permit me to thank you for your inclusion of the 25 organizations that continue to remain as supplicants to the enormous propaganda that inserts itself, with an accomplished lack of stellar achievement.

    From my Chicano-oriented basis or standpoint, I mention two notable examples:

    Example One: The Solar Winds captured three Chicano-oriented social/political entities that have proven themselves to be in opposition to Russia and all that manifests itself in today’s wealth accumulation of the always-opened and greased palms.

    Example Two: The continuing behavior among our Chicano-oriented politics for the Boycott Twitter Campaign.

    Today, there is no mention in today’s media of these two notable examples, and which adequately demonstrates where Democrats, writ large, have no penchant to address the Chicanos’ Agenda of Unmet Needs, and of course, Assange and Wikileaks have no bearing on our future, nonetheless.

  4. Savage Librarian says:

    As ew states:

    “…they signed onto a letter that violates several of the principles of journalism they claim to want to defend.”

    Maybe it’s brand loyalty. They were sucked in to the con early on. And now they are creatures of habit.

Comments are closed.