The Government Argues that Edward Snowden Is a Recruiting Tool

As I noted in my post on the superseding indictment against Julian Assange, the government stretched the timeline of the Conspiracy to Hack count to 2015 by describing how WikiLeaks helped Edward Snowden flee to Russia. DOJ seems to be conceiving of WikiLeaks’ role in helping Snowden as part of a continuing conspiracy designed to recruit more leakers.

Let me make clear from the onset: I am not endorsing this view, I am observing where I believe DOJ not only intends to head with this, but has already headed with it.

Using Snowden as a recruitment tool

After laying out how Chelsea Manning obtained and leaked files that were listed in the WikiLeaks Most Wanted list (the Iraq Rules of Engagement and Gitmo files, explicitly, and large databases more generally; here’s one version of the list as entered into evidence at Manning’s trial), then describing Assange’s links to LulzSec, the superseding Assange indictment lays out WikiLeaks’ overt post-leak ties and claimed ties to Edward Snowden.

83. In June 2013, media outlets reported that Edward J. Snowden had leaked numerous documents taken from the NSA and was located in Hong Kong. Later that month, an arrest warrant was issued in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, for the arrest of Snowden, on charges involving the theft of information from the United States government.

84. To encourage leakers and hackers to provide stolen materials to WikiLeaks in the future, ASSANGE and others at WikiLeaks openly displayed their attempts to assist Snowden in evading arrest.

85. In June 2013, a WikiLeaks association [Sarah Harrison, described as WLA-4 in the indictment] traveled with Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow.

86. On December 31, 2013, at the annual conference of the Chaos Computer Club (“CCC”) in Germany, ASSANGE, [Jacob Appelbaum] and [Harrison] gave a presentation titled “Sysadmins of the World, Unite! A Call to Resistance.” On its website, the CCC promoted the presentation by writing, “[t]here has never been a higher demand for a politically-engaged hackerdom” and that ASSANGE and [Appelbaum] would “discuss what needs to be done if we re going to win.” ASSANGE told the audience that “the famous leaks that WikiLeaks has done or the recent Edward Snowden revelations” showed that “it was possible now for even a single system administrator to … not merely wreck[] or disabl[e] [organizations] … but rather shift[] information from an information apartheid system … into the knowledge commons.” ASSANGE exhorted the audience to join the CIA in order to steal and provide information to WikiLeaks, stating, “I’m not saying doing join the CIA; no, go and join the CIA. Go in there, go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out.”

87. At the same presentation, in responding to the audience’s question as to what they could do, [Appelbaum] said “Edward Snowden did not save himself. … Specifically for source protection [Harrison] took actions to protect [Snowden] … [i]f we can succeed in saving Edward Snowden’s life and to keep him free, then the next Edward Snowden will have that to look forward to. And if look also to what has happened to Chelsea Manning, we see additionally that Snowden has clearly learned….”

The following section describes how, “ASSANGE and WikiLeaks Continue to Recruit,” including two more paragraphs about the Most Wanted Leaks:

89. On May 15, 2015, WikiLeaks tweeted a request for nominations for the 2015 “Most Wanted Leaks” list, and as an example, linked to one of the posts of a “Most Wanted Leaks” list from 2009 that remained on WikiLeaks’s website.


92. In June 2015, to continue to encourage individuals to hack into computers and/or illegaly obtain and disclose classified information to WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks maintained on its website a list of “The Most Wanted Leaks of 2009,” which stated that documents or materials nominated to the list must “[b]e likely to have political, diplomatic, ethical or historical impact on release … and be plausibly obtainable to a well-motivated insider or outsider,” and must be “described in enough detail so that … a visiting outsider not already familiar with the material or its subject matter may be able to quickly locate it, and will be motivated to do so.”

Effectively, Snowden is included in this indictment not because the government is alleging any ties between Snowden and WikiLeaks in advance of his leaks (Snowden’s own book lays out reasons to think there was more contact between him and Appelbaum than is publicly known, but the superseding Assange indictment makes no mention of any contacts before Snowden’s first publications), but because WikiLeaks used their success at helping Snowden to flee as a recruiting pitch.

Snowden admits Harrison got involved to optimize his fate

This is something that Snowden lays out in his book. First, he addresses insinuations that Assange only helped Snowden out of selfish reasons.

People have long ascribed selfish motives to Assange’s desire to give me aid, but I believe he was genuinely invested in one thing above all—helping me evade capture. That doing so involved tweaking the US government was just a bonus for him, an ancillary benefit, not the goal. It’s true that Assange can be self-interested and vain, moody, and even bullying—after a sharp disagreement just a month after our first, text-based conversation, I never communicated with him again—but he also sincerely conceives of himself as a fighter in a historic battle for the public’s right to know, a battle he will do anything to win. It’s for this reason that I regard it as too reductive to interpret his assistance as merely an instance of scheming or self-promotion. More important to him, I believe, was the opportunity to establish a counterexample to the case of the organization’s most famous source, US Army Private Chelsea Manning, whose thirty-five-year prison sentence was historically unprecedented and a monstrous deterrent to whistleblowers everywhere. Though I never was, and never would be, a source for Assange, my situation gave him a chance to right a wrong. There was nothing he could have done to save Manning, but he seemed, through Sarah, determined to do everything he could to save me.

This passage is written to suggest Snowden believed these things at the time, describing what “seemed” to be true at the time. But it’s impossible to separate it from Appelbaum’s explicit comparison of Manning and Snowden at CCC in December 2013.

Snowden then describes what he thinks Harrison’s motive was.

By her own account, she was motivated to support me out of loyalty to her conscience more than to the ideological demands of her employer. Certainly her politics seemed shaped less by Assange’s feral opposition to central power than by her own conviction that too much of what passed for contemporary journalism served government interests rather than challenged them.

Again, this is written to suggest Snowden believed it at the time, though it’s likely what he has come to believe since.

Then Snowden describes believing, at that time, that Harrison might ask for something in exchange for her help — some endorsement of WikiLeaks or something.

As we hurtled to the airport, as we checked in, as we cleared passport control for the first of what should have been three flights, I kept waiting for her to ask me for something—anything, even just for me to make a statement on Assange’s, or the organization’s, behalf. But she never did, although she did cheerfully share her opinion that I was a fool for trusting media conglomerates to fairly guard the gate between the public and the truth. For that instance of straight talk, and for many others, I’ll always admire Sarah’s honesty.

Finally, though, Snowden describes — once the plane entered into Chinese airspace and so narratively at a time when there was no escaping whatever fate WikiLeaks had helped him pursue — asking Harrison why she was helping. He describes that she provided a version of the story that WikiLeaks would offer that December in Germany: WikiLeaks needed to be able to provide a better outcome than the one that Manning suffered.

It was only once we’d entered Chinese airspace that I realized I wouldn’t be able to get any rest until I asked Sarah this question explicitly: “Why are you helping me?” She flattened out her voice, as if trying to tamp down her passions, and told me that she wanted me to have a better outcome. She never said better than what outcome or whose, and I could only take that answer as a sign of her discretion and respect.

Whatever has been filtered through time and (novelist-assisted) narrative, Snowden effectively says the same thing the superseding indictment does: Assange and Harrison went to great lengths to help Snowden get out of Hong Kong to make it easier to encourage others to leak or hack documents to share with WikiLeaks. I wouldn’t be surprised if these excerpts from Snowden’s book show up in any Assange trial, if it ever happens.

Snowden’s own attempt to optimize outcomes

Curiously, Snowden did not say anything in his book about his own efforts to optimize his outcome, which is probably the most interesting new information in Bart Gellman’s new book, Dark Mirror (the book is a useful summary of some of the most important Snowden disclosures and a chilling description of how aggressively he and Askhan Soltani were targeted by foreign governments as they were reporting the stories). WaPo included the incident in an excerpt, though the excerpt below is from the book.

Early on in the process, Snowden had asked Gellman to publish the first PRISM document with a key, without specifying what key it was. When WaPo’s editors asked why Gellman’s source wanted them to publish a key, Gellman finally asked.

After meeting with the Post editors, I remembered that I could do an elementary check of the signature on my own. The result was disappointing. I was slow to grasp what it implied.

gpg –verify PRISM.pptx.sig PRISM.pptx

gpg: Signature made Mon May 20 14:31:57 2013 EDT

using RSA key ID ⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛

gpg: Good signature from “Verax”

Now I knew that Snowden, using his Verax alter ego, had signed the PowerPoint file himself. If I published the signature, all it would prove to a tech-savvy few was that a pseudonymous source had vouched for his own leak. What good would that do anyone?

In the Saturday night email, Snowden spelled it out. He had chosen to risk his freedom, he wrote, but he was not resigned to life in prison or worse. He preferred to set an example for “an entire class of potential whistleblowers” who might follow his lead. Ordinary citizens would not take impossible risks. They had to have some hope for a happy ending.

To effect this, I intend to apply for asylum (preferably somewhere with strong Internet and press freedoms, e.g. Iceland, though the strength of the reaction will determine how choosy I can be). Given how tightly the U.S. surveils diplomatic outposts (I should know, I used to work in our U.N. spying shop), I cannot risk this until you have already gone to press, as it would immediately tip our hand. It would also be futile without proof of my claims—they’d have me committed—and I have no desire to provide raw source material to a foreign government. Post publication, the source document and cryptographic signature will allow me to immediately substantiate both the truth of my claim and the danger I am in without having to give anything up. . . . Give me the bottom line: when do you expect to go to print?

Alarm gave way to vertigo. I forced myself to reread the passage slowly. Snowden planned to seek the protection of a foreign government. He would canvass diplomatic posts on an island under Chinese sovereign control. He might not have very good choices. The signature’s purpose, its only purpose, was to help him through the gates.

How could I have missed this? Poitras and I did not need the signature to know who sent us the PRISM file. Snowden wanted to prove his role in the story to someone else. That thought had never occurred to me. Confidential sources, in my experience, did not implicate themselves—irrevocably, mathematically—in a classified leak. As soon as Snowden laid it out, the strategic logic was obvious. If we did as he asked, Snowden could demonstrate that our copy of the NSA document came from him. His plea for asylum would assert a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” for an act of political dissent. The U.S. government would maintain that Snowden’s actions were criminal, not political. Under international law each nation could make that judgment for itself. The fulcrum of Snowden’s entire plan was the signature file, a few hundred characters of cryptographic text, about the length of this paragraph. And I was the one he expected to place it online for his use.

Gellman, Poitras, and the Post recognized this would make them complicit in Snowden’s flight and go beyond any journalistic role.

After some advice from WaPo’s lawyers, Gellman made it clear to Snowden he could not publish the key (and would not have, in any case, because the slide deck included information on legitimate targets he and the WaPo had no intent of publishing).

We hated the replies we sent to Snowden on May 26. We had lawyered up and it showed. “You were clear with me and I want to be equally clear with you,” I wrote. “There are a number of unwarranted assumptions in your email. My intentions and objectives are purely journalistic, and I will not tie them or time them to any other goal.” I was working hard and intended to publish, but “I cannot give you the bottom line you want.”

This led Snowden to withdraw his offer of exclusivity which — as Gellman tells the story — is what led Snowden to renew his efforts to work with Glenn Greenwald. The aftermath of that decision led to a very interesting spat between Gellman and Greenwald — to read that, you should buy the book.

To be clear, I don’t blame Snowden for planning his first releases in such a way as to optimize the chances he wouldn’t spend the rest of his life in prison. But his silence on the topic in his own account, even while he adopted the WikiLeaks line about their goal of optimizing his outcome, raises questions about any link between Harrison’s plans and Snowden’s.

The government is using Snowden as inspiration in other cases

The superseding Assange indictment is the first place I know of where the government has specifically argued that WikiLeaks’ assistance to Snowden amounted to part of a criminal conspiracy (though it is totally unsurprising and I argued that it was clear the government was going there based on what they had argued in the Joshua Schulte case).

But it’s not the first place they have argued a tie between Snowden as inspiration and further leaks.

The indictment for Daniel Everette Hale, the guy accused of sharing documents on the drone program with Jeremy Scahill, makes it clear how Hale’s relationship with Scahill blossomed just as the Snowden leaks were coming out (and this detail makes it clear he’s the one referred to in Citizenfour as another source coming forward).

15. On or about June 9, 2013, the Reporter sent HALE an email with a link to an article about Edward Snowden in an online publication. That same day. Hale texted a friend that the previous night he had been hanging out with journalists who were focused on his story. Hale wrote that the evening’s events might provide him with “life long connections with people who publish work like this.”

Hale launched a fairly aggressive (and if it weren’t in EDVA, potentially an interesting) challenge to the Espionage Act charges against him. It included (but was not limited to) a Constitutional motion to dismiss as well as a motion to dismiss for selective prosecution. After his first motions, however, both the government’s response and Hale’s reply on selective prosecution were (and remain, nine months later) sealed.

But Hale’s reply on the Constitutional motion to dismiss was not sealed. In it, he makes reference to what remains sealed in the selective prosecution filings. That reference makes it clear that the government described searching for leakers who had been inspired “by a specific individual” who — given the mention of Snowden in Hale’s indictment — has to be Snowden.

Moreover, as argued in more detail in Defendant’s Reply in support of his Motion to Dismiss for Selective or Vindictive Prosecution (filed provisionally as classified), it appears that arbitrary enforcement – one of the risks of a vague criminal prohibition – is exactly what occurred here. Specifically, the FBI repeatedly characterized its investigation in this case as an attempt to identify leakers who had been “inspired” by a specific individual – one whose activity was designed to criticize the government by shedding light on perceived illegalities on the part of the Intelligence Community. In approximately the same timeframe, other leakers reportedly divulged classified information to make the government look good – by, for example, unlawfully divulging classified information about the search for Osama Bin Laden to the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty, resulting in two separate Inspector General investigations.3 Yet the investigation in this case was not described as a search for leakers generally, or as a search for leakers who tried to glorify the work of the Intelligence Community. Rather, it was described as a search for those who disclosed classified information because they had been “inspired” to divulge improprieties in the intelligence community.

Hale argued, then, that the only reason he got prosecuted after some delay was because the FBI had a theory about Snowden’s role in inspiring further leaks.

Judge Liam O’Grady denied both those motions (and most of Hale’s other motions), though without further reference to Snowden as an inspiration. But I’m fairly sure this is not the only case where they’re making this argument.

The Superseding Assange Indictment Tidies Up CFAA Charges

Yesterday, the government released a second superseding indictment against Julian Assange. The EDVA press release explains that no new counts were added, but the language describing the computer hacking conspiracy was expanded.

The new indictment does not add additional counts to the prior 18-count superseding indictment returned against Assange in May 2019. It does, however, broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged. According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks.

It is true the description of the hacking charge has been dramatically expanded, incorporating a bunch of hacks that WikiLeaks was associated with.

But there are a few details of the charges that changed as well. The CFAA charge has actually been reworked, focused on four different kinds of hacks:

  • Accessing a computer and exceeding access to obtain information classified Secret
  • Accessing a computer and exceeding access to obtain information from protected computers at a department or agency of the United States committed in furtherance of criminal acts
  • Knowingly transmitting code that can cause damage,
    • Greater than $5000
    • Used by an entity of the US in furtherance of the administration of justice, national defense, and national security
    • Affecting more than 10 or more protected computers in a given year
  • Intentionally accessing protecting computers without authorization to recklessly cause damage,
    • Greater than $5000
    • Used by an entity of the US in furtherance of the administration of justice, national defense, and national security
    • Affecting more than 10 or more protected computers in a given year

This is a grab bag of hacking charges, and it could easily cover (and I expect one day it will cover) actions not described in this indictment. While adding this grab bag of charges, the indictment takes out a specific reference to the Espionage Act, probably to ensure at least one charge against Assange can in no way be claimed to be a political crime. It also takes out 18 U.S.C. § 641, possibly because the thinking of its applicability to leaking classified information has gotten more controversial.

The indictment also changes the dates on several of the counts. The timeline on the three counts addressing leaking of informants’ identities (something that is criminalized in the UK in ways it is not here, but also the counts that most aggressively charge Assange for the publication of information) now extends to April 2019. The timeline on the hacking charges extends (for reasons I’ll explain below), to 2015. And the overall timeline of Assange’s behavior extends back to 2007, a date that post-dates the earliest WikiLeaks activity and so raises interesting questions about what actions it was chosen to include.

As to the 2015 date, the indictment gets there by discussing WikiLeaks’ role in helping Edward Snowden flee China and the ways WikiLeaks used Snowden’s case to encourage other leakers and hackers. It describes:

  • Sarah Harrison’s trip to Hong Kong in June 2013
  • The presentation Harrison, Jake Appelbaum, and Assange gave in December 2013 encouraging potential leakers to, “go and join the CIA. Go in there, go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out,” and claiming that, “Edward Snowden did not save himself … Harrison took actions to protect him”
  • A conference on May 6, 2014 when Harrison recruited others to obtain classified or stolen information to share with WikiLeaks
  • A May 15, 2015 Most Wanted Leaks pitch that linked back to the 2009 list that Chelsea Manning partly responded to
  • Comments Assange made on May 25, 2015 claiming to have created distractions to facilitate Snowden’s flight
  • Appelbaum and Harrison’s efforts to recruit more leakers at a June 18, 2015 event
  • The continued advertisement for Most Wanted Leaks until at least June 2015, still linking back to the 2009 file

I’ll explain in a follow-up where this is going. Obviously, though, the government could easily supersede this indictment to add later leakers, most notably but in no way limited to Joshua Schulte, who first started moving towards leaking all of CIA’s hacking tools to WikiLeaks in 2015.

I argued, in December, that the government appeared to be moving towards a continuing conspiracy charge, one that later hackers and leakers (as well as Appelbaum and Harrison) could easily be added to. Doing so as they’ve done here would in no way violate UK’s extradition rules. And fleshing out the CFAA charge makes this airtight from an extradition standpoint; some of the crimes alleged involving Anonymous have already been successfully prosecuted in the UK.

This doesn’t mitigate the harm of the strictly publishing counts. But it does allege Assange’s personal involvement in a number of hacks and leaks that others — both in the US and UK — have already been prosecuted for, making the basic extradition question much less risky for the US.

Update: I think this allegation in the new indictment is important:

In September 2010, ASSANGE directed [Siggi] to hack into the computer of an individual former associated with WikiLeaks and delete chat logs containing statements of ASSANGE. When Teenager asked how that could be done, ASSANGE wrote that the former WikiLeaks associate could “be fooled into downloading a trojan,” referring to malicious software, and then asked Teenager what operating system the former-WikiLeaks associate used.

I’ve heard allegations from the entire period of WikiLeaks’ prominence of Assange asking to spy on one or another partner or former partner, including protected entities. One relatively recent allegation I know of targeted a former WikiLeaks associate in 2016, after a break on election-related issues. I have no idea whether these allegations are credible (and I know of none who would involve law enforcement). But allegations that Assange considered — or did — spy on his allies undercuts his claim to being a journalist as much as anything else he does. It also raises questions about what WikiLeaks did with the unpublished Vault 7 files.

Update: Dell Cameron, who is the expert on the Stratfor hack, lays out some apparently big holes in the parts of the indictment that pertain to that.

Chelsea Manning’s Release May Not Be the End of Her Troubles

When I wrote this post noting that Judge Anthony Trenga had ordered Chelsea Manning be released, I admitted, I don’t know what it means. I was hoping that when her lawyers released a statement it would bring more clarity. But that statement — released hours after the release — offered no such clarity (though it does make it clear that right now her focus is on recovering from the suicide attempt and malign effects of incarceration, not any celebration of her freedom). It attributed her release to “the apparent conclusion” of the grand jury.

Judge Anthony Trenga today ordered Chelsea Manning’s release from confinement, after the apparent conclusion of the grand jury to which she had been subpoenaed, and before which she refused to testify. He further ordered that she pay $256,000 in fines which accrued each day she refused to cooperate with the grand jury.

Needless to say we are relieved and ask that you respect her privacy while she gets on her feet.

That tells us no more than Trenga’s opinion revealed and arguably shifts the emphasis from “the business of” the grand jury to the grand jury itself. There’s no reason to believe this grand jury expired (it was understood to be a newly seated one last May, which should mean it would have two more months). Rather, written two days after the grand jury appearance scheduled, Trenga’s opinion says the grand jury is done with whatever it was doing.

That’s one of the reasons I focused so closely on what prosecutors told Jeremy Hammond Tuesday, when he also refused to testify before the grand jury. They asserted that Julian Assange is a Russian spy.

“What could the United States government do that could get you to change your mind and obey the law here? Cause you know” — he basically says — “I know you think you’re doing the honorable thing here, you’re very smart, but Julian Assange, he’s not worth it for you, he’s not worth your sacrifice, you know he’s a Russian spy, you know.”


He implied that all options are on the table, they could press for — he didn’t say it directly, but he said they could press for criminal contempt. … Then he implies that you could still look like you disobeyed but we could keep it a secret — “nobody has to know I just want to know about Julian Assange … I don’t know why you’re defending this guy, he’s a Russian spy. He fucking helped Trump win the election.”

Amid suggestions that prosecutors were considering further legal means against Hammond, one of them used the example of Bartleby the Scrivener — whose example Hammond had followed in the grand jury in preferring not to answer questions — to remind that refusing to answer questions led Bartleby to die in prison.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying I agree with that observation, nor am I ceding that prosecutors definitely have proof that Assange is a Russian spy. But unless you believe that Hammond entirely made up these two exchanges, then everyone on all sides of the WikiLeaks divide would do well to take note of it. Julian Assange’s prosecutors are asserting to a witness that he is a Russian spy, which is far more than they’ve put into any indictment, yet.

Hammond suggested that when prosecutors “implied that all options are on the table,” he took that to mean he might be held in criminal contempt. Manning’s camp was expressing similar concerns before the grand jury appointment on Tuesday, that they believed the government might respond to her bid to be released by ratcheting up her legal exposure. But if prosecutors really do believe Assange is a Russian spy, it would give them tools far beyond criminal contempt.

It is a crime by itself in the US to refuse to tell authorities about espionage. As Ron Wyden’s bill to fix the Espionage Act makes clear, prosecutors can charge someone under the Espionage Act for conspiracy, aiding and abetting, accessory after the fact, or misprision of a felony. Misprision is effectively not telling a court or other authority about what you know as soon as possible.

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years

And under the Espionage Act statute Assange has already been charged under as well as 18 USC § 794 (sharing defense information with a foreign government like Russia), such conspiracy language exposes the person found conspiring not to just three years, but to the same punishments as the person himself. If Julian Assange shared with Russia some of the information Manning shared with him, for example, that may expose her for his acts.

This is why I focused so intently on the language that prosecutors in the Joshua Schulte case were using, treating WikiLeaks as a criminal organization. If the federal government currently conceives of WikiLeaks in these terms, it means Hammond and Manning’s silence may expose them far more than they or their current advisors seem to be envisioning. And that was based off language describing WikiLeaks like an organized crime entity, not someone led by (as prosecutors claimed the other day) a Russian spy.

Again, I am not defending this stance. I’m not saying I agree with it. I’m making an observation that people on all sides of the WikiLeaks divide — but especially those caught in the spell of the lies that Assange’s people are telling to combat extradition — would do well to note.

The government is using language that is far, far more serious than virtually anyone seems to be accounting for, including Manning and Hammond. Prosecutors may well have been blowing smoke to try to cow Hammond into cooperating. Or they may have been putting Hammond on notice of the stakes he was facing.

Chelsea Manning Released from Jail … with a Massive Fine

Judge Anthony Trenga just ordered Chelsea Manning released from jail, a day before her attempt to be released based off a claim that coercion would never get her to testify.

Trenga declared that motion moot, though. The reason he released her is because the work of the grand jury has finished.

By Order dated March 12, 2020, after finding that the business of Grand Jury 19-3 had concluded, the Court dismissed Grand Jury 19-3.

Upon consideration of the Court’s May 16, 2019 Order, the Motion, and the Court’s March 12, 2020 Order discharging Grand Jury 19-3, the Court finds that Ms. Manning’s appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose. The Court further finds that enforcement of the accrued, conditional fines would not be punitive but rather necessary to the coercive purpose of the Court’s civil contempt order.

Her total fine amounts to $256,000.

I have no idea, yet, what this means. But I’m glad she has been released.

Update: Jeremy Hammond has also been released back to federal prison.


Hours before She Attempted to Kill Herself, Prosecutors May Have Told Chelsea Manning that Julian Assange Is a Russian Spy

Back when the government first subpoenaed Chelsea Manning, I laid out why that was likely to be counterproductive.

[U]nless there’s a really good legal reason for the government to pursue its own of evolving theory of WikiLeaks’ activities, it doesn’t make sense to rush where former WikiLeaks supporters are headed on their own. In virtually all venues, activists’ reversed understanding of WikiLeaks is bound to have more credibility (and almost certainly more nuanced understanding) than anything the government can offer. Indeed, that would likely be especially true, internationally, in discussions of Assange’s asylum claim.

A charge against Assange in conjunction with Vault 7 or the 2016 election operation might accelerate that process, without foreclosing the government’s opportunity to present any evolved understanding of WikiLeaks’ role in the future (especially if tied to conspiracy charges including the 2016 and 2017 activities).

But getting into a subpoena fight with Chelsea Manning is likely to have the opposite effect.

That’s true, in part, because post-commutation a lot of people worry about the impact renewed pressure from the government against Manning will have, regardless of the legal soundness of it. The government wanted Aaron Swartz to become an informant when they ratcheted up the pressure on him between 2011 and 2013. They didn’t get that information. And his suicide has become a key symbol of the reasons to distrust law enforcement and its ham-handed legal tactics.

Yesterday, Manning tried to kill herself. While the statement released by her lawyers notes that she has a hearing tomorrow on whether she should be freed because no amount of coercion will make her cooperate with the grand jury, the statement is silent about the fact that she was brought before the grand jury yesterday, hours before the suicide attempt.

I know of no account of what happened in that grand jury appearance. But Jeremy Hammond was also brought before the grand jury in advance of a hearing, also on Friday, in a bid to be freed (in Hammond’s case, he’d be released back into federal prison to serve out his sentence for hacking Stratfor). He gave an account of the appearance in an interview yesterday (the part about the grand jury starts after 41:20). Hammond described how, before entering the grand jury, the prosecutor asked whether there was anything the government could do to get him to change his mind about not testifying.

“What could the United States government do that could get you to change your mind and obey the law here? Cause you know” — he basically says — “I know you think you’re doing the honorable thing here, you’re very smart, but Julian Assange, he’s not worth it for you, he’s not worth your sacrifice, you know he’s a Russian spy, you know.”

The questions he was asked in the grand jury were apparently no surprise: the prosecutor asked whether Assange asked Hammond to hack any websites. Hammond describes the questions as the same as were asked in his last appearance, in September. Because Hammond decided to answer in the same way Bartleby the Scrivener answered questions — by saying he preferred not to answer — the prosecutor afterwards tried to chat up Hammond about world literature. He even reminded that Bartleby died in prison. The prosecutor then repeated that Assange is a Russian spy.

He implied that all options are on the table, they could press for — he didn’t say it directly, but he said they could press for criminal contempt. … Then he implies that you could still look like you disobeyed but we could keep it a secret — “nobody has to know I just want to know about Julian Assange … I don’t know why you’re defending this guy, he’s a Russian spy. He fucking helped Trump win the election.”

Hammond asked why Assange wasn’t charged in the 2016 operation, and the prosecutor appears to have responded that the extradition would take a long time. One of the prosecutors reminded Hammond that one of his Anonymous co-defendants was now a professor in the UK. One asked whether Hammond would discuss Sabu, which surprised him. Hammond said that Sabu was the only one who asked him to hack into any websites. The FBI officer in the room pulled out a notebook and started taking notes.

There’s no indication that prosecutors said the same things to Manning as they did to Hammond, though this is the same grand jury and same prosecutors and both are obviously being asked about Assange.

Which means it is likely that hours before Manning attempted to kill herself, prosecutors tried to get her to answer questions about the man she sent entire databases of secrets to by claiming he is a Russian spy. They may well now have evidence of that — but if they used that tack, they were basically asking Manning to testify that the understanding she has of her own actions are entirely wrong and that the sacrifices she made were for a purpose other than the one she believed in.

Sadly, if Hammond is any indication, Manning is also getting a distorted view of the extradition fight over Assange. As I have noted, WikiLeaks supporters are telling at least three outright lies by:

  • Pretending that discussions of a pardon only started in August 2017, in exchange for testimony claiming that Russia didn’t hack the DNC, rather than started well before the FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign was public, as either an implicit or explicit payoff for election assistance
  • Claiming that Mike Pompeo’s designation of WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence agency was part of the larger attack on the press that formally started four months afterwards and presenting his claim that the First Amendment doesn’t protect someone stealing American secrets solely to destroy America out of context
  • Distorting the timing of UC Global’s increased surveillance of Assange to hide that it followed the Vault 7 publication

These are cynical, transparent lies being spread by a bunch of people claiming to support journalism. Probably, WikiLeaks supporters are also lying about how Assange repeatedly got tipped off to prosecutorial steps against him, presenting that as proof of Trump’s hostility against Assange.

Earlier in yesterday’s interview, Hammond adopted the distorted claim about Pompeo as “proof” that Assange’s prosecution is political and also that Trump has hostility to the guy who helped him get elected. I doubt whether having an accurate understanding of this would have changed Hammond’s decision not to testify, but he does, apparently, believe the lies.

And I doubt whatever prosecutors told Manning yesterday was the sole cause of yesterday’s attempt. Her attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to prevent yesterday’s testimony, which doesn’t make sense in the context of this week’s hearing unless they believed that even appearing before the grand jury would cause Manning a great deal of stress.

I have no idea what Assange’s relationship with Russia is — that’s presumably the entire point of the grand jury. There’s no doubt there were Russians in chat rooms where the Stratfor hack happened and that Assange was in discussions during the hacks. Obviously, Assange played a key role in the 2016 Russian operation as well as efforts after the fact to invent hoaxes to disclaim Russian involvement. And Joshua Schulte expressed (sometimes contradictory) willingness to seek Russian help after he allegedly sent CIA’s hacking tools to WikiLeaks.

But making such claims amid the stress of a grand jury appearance — if they, in fact, did so — isn’t going to help someone who has a history of self-harm.

When Julian Assange Testified before a Nation-State Investigation of a Suspected Spy…

Back on December 20, 2019, Julian Assange testified in a nation-state’s investigation of someone suspected of spying for another nation-state. He testified pursuant to international legal process that got challenged on jurisdictional grounds, but ultimately upheld. While El País provided a report of his testimony, the testimony itself was not open to the press.

As he testified, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond sat in jail in Alexandria, VA, being held in contempt for refusing to testify, under a grant of immunity, in their own nation-state’s investigation of someone suspected of working with the intelligence services of another nation-state. Related charges are being challenged on jurisdictional issues. Manning, at least, claims she won’t testify because any hearing — like the one Assange testified in — would not be public. Tomorrow, prosecutors in EDVA will bring Manning before the grand jury again, in a third attempt to get her to testify before a hearing on Friday over her motion to be released based on an assertion the coercion of contempt will never bring her to testify.

This is just one irony about the way WikiLeaks supporters are treating the investigation of David Morales, the owner of a security contractor that provided the security for Ecuador’s embassy until 2018. Morales is accused of spying for the CIA — that is, spying for a third country’s intelligence service.

There are some problems or obvious alternative explanations for the accusations against Morales, but even assuming the allegations are true, there is little that separates what Morales would have done from what Assange did on at least one occasion: work as a willing participant in a third country’s intelligence service operation compromising the privacy of private citizens. Indeed, there are allegations of Russian involvement in two other WikiLeaks-related publications: there were Russians active in Stratfor hack chat rooms, and Joshua Schulte allegedly expressed an interest in Russian help (though the allegations are contradictory and post-date the initial leak to WikiLeaks, which I’ll return to).

You might argue that Morales’ surveillance of Assange — on whoever’s authority — constituted a far more serious privacy violation than those WikiLeaks has committed by publishing the private emails of John Podesta and the private information of Turkish, Saudi, and third party citizens. That might be true in first instance, but since some of the people exposed by WikiLeaks’ publications live in authoritarian countries, the secondary effects of WikiLeaks’ publication of details about private individuals might not be.

(I have heard, directly and indirectly, multiple consistent allegations about WikiLeaks itself engaging in practices that constitute privacy violations of the sort implicated by the surveillance of Assange, but it would take a law enforcement investigation to substantiate such claims, most of the affected parties would never want to involve law enforcement, and some investigations would be barred by privilege protections.)

Ultimately, though, Spain’s investigation into UC Global is the same thing the US investigation into WikiLeaks is: a properly predicated nation-state investigation into someone suspected of engaging in espionage-related activities with a foreign intelligence service. There are legitimate reasons why those who respect privacy might support both investigations.

WikiLeaks supporters might argue that it’s different because it’s the United States. That’s a perfectly justifiable stance, but if it’s the basis of supporting one investigation and another, should be admitted explicitly. WikiLeaks supporters might argue it’s different because Assange is the alleged victim, but that doesn’t change that there are victims (and not just spy agencies) that the US is trying to protect with its investigation.

Manning and Hammond say they are refusing to testify because they object to American grand jury practices. That amounts to civil disobedience, which is certainly their prerogative. They are paying a steep price for that civil disobedience (as both already paid with their decisions not to cooperate after pleading guilty). But when WikiLeaks supporters complain about the treatment Manning is suffering for her stance, they might think about the fact that — when it came to testifying in an equivalent inquiry — Julian Assange had none of the objections to testifying.

The State of Play: Joshua Schulte and Julian Assange

Last year, it looked like the Joshua Schulte trial, rescheduled in the fall to start January 13, would be done before the extradition hearing for Julian Assange started. Two things changed since then: Schulte got a delay until February 3, and then last month, Assange convinced Judge Vanessa Baraitser to split his extradition hearing into two, the first part lasting a week starting Monday, and then resuming on May 18 for three more weeks.

As a result, both men are in court during the same week, intersecting in interesting ways.

Thus far, Assange’s argument is threefold:

  1. His prosecution is hopelessly political, merely retaliation by the hated President that Assange helped elect, Donald Trump
  2. The evidence in the case against Assange is so weak as to be abusive
  3. A person cannot be extradited for political crimes like the Espionage Act

The first argument is a load of horseshit covering up the fact that the timing of the treatment of WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service, the increased surveillance of Assange, and the initial December 21, 2017 charge all stem from WikiLeaks’ burning the CIA by publishing all its hacking tools. It’s horseshit, but it garners a lot of enthusiasm among WikiLeaks supporters who like to conveniently forget that, whatever Assange’s motivations were in 2010 (when he engaged in the acts he is charged with), he nevertheless helped Russia help Trump get elected. That said, even though the claims about what changed in 2017 are horseshit, it doesn’t change that the existing charges against Assange pose a real danger to journalism.

The second argument is far stronger. For each of the theories of prosecution under which Assange is charged — attempting to help Chelsea Manning crack a password, soliciting certain files via WikiLeaks’ wish list, and publishing a bunch of files in which the names of US and British sources were later revealed — Assange has at least a credible defense. Assange never succeeded, and could not have succeeded, in cracking that password. Manning didn’t leak the precise files that WikiLeaks had on its wish list (though did leak some of the same sets). WikiLeaks originally went to some effort to redact the names of sources, only to have a Guardian journalist release the password revealing them. Mind you, the extradition hearing is not the trial itself, so for these defenses to be relevant, WikiLeaks has to prove that the case against Assange is abusively weak.

The third argument, which is being argued today, is a more interesting legal question. Assange claims that the existing Anglo-US extradition treaty, passed in 2003, still prohibits extradition for political offenses like theEspionage Act. The US argues that Assange’s extradition is governed by the Extradition Act of 2003, which did not include such a bar (and also disagrees that these are political crimes). The lawyers are even arguing about the Magna Carta! Judge Vanessa Baraitser seems inclined to side with the US on this point, but the question will surely be appealed. Mind you, one of the charges against Assange, CFAA, is in no way a political offense, and the UK has not barred its own citizens, much less foreign citizens hanging out in foreign embassies, from being extradited on the charge (though several hackers, most recently Lauri Love, have challenged their extradition to the US for CFAA on other grounds).

Yesterday, Assange’s defense spent a good deal of time making the second argument. The US didn’t respond. Rather, it said it would deal with those issues in the May hearing.

Meanwhile, the Schulte trial is wrapping up, with Schulte doing little to mount a defense, but instead preparing an appeal. Yesterday, Schulte asked that an instruction on the defendant not testifying be added to the jury instructions (normally, these are included from the start, but Schulte has been claiming he would testify all this time). Today, Schulte told the court that Steve Bellovin won’t testify because he never got access to all the data Judge Paul Crotty ruled he couldn’t have access to (not mentioning, however, that the restrictions stemmed from Crotty’s own CIPA judgment).

I’m still unclear on the status of the witness, Michael. Schulte is trying to submit his CIA investigative report in lieu of finishing cross-examination (which is where things had left off). But it still seems possible that Crotty would require his testimony to be resumed, giving the government another opportunity to redirect his testimony. This is all likely happening today, but given that there’s so little coverage of the trial, we won’t know until Thursday.

Before all this happened, however, the jailhouse informant provided very damning testimony against Schulte, not only describing how Schulte obtained a phone (swapping an iPhone for a Samsung that he could load all the apps he wanted on it), but also claiming that Schulte said, “Russia had to help him with what he was doing,” launching an information war.” I had learned of similar allegations of ties or willingness to forge them with Russia via several sources in the past. And Schulte’s own jailroom notebooks include hints of the same, such as a bullet point describing how Russia could help the US “destroy itself.”

And his final plan — which the informant alerted his handlers to just before Schulte launched it — included some “Russia pieces.”

As part of the same plan to get fellow SysAdmins to leak all their secrets to WikiLeaks, then, Joshua Schulte was also hoping to encourage Russia to attack the US.

I’ve long said the Vault 7 case, if it were ever added to Julian Assange’s charges (including an extortion charge, which would also not be a political crime), would be far more damning and defensible than the ones currently charged. Filings from November suggested that the government had come to think of Schulte’s leaks to WikiLeaks as the last overt act in an ongoing conspiracy against the United States.

And by 2018, Schulte had come to see leaking to WikiLeaks as part of the same plan encouraging Russian attacks on the US, precisely the allegation WikiLeaks has spent years trying to deny, especially in the wake of Assange’s cooperation in Russia’s election year operation.

It’s not clear whether the US will add any evidence to the original 2010 charges against Assange before May (though Alexa O’Brien has pointed to where additional evidence might be), but the statement they’re waiting until then to rebut the solid defense that WikiLeaks is now offering suggests they might. That might reflect a hope that more coercion against Chelsea Manning will produce that additional evidence (she has renewed her bid to be released, arguing that such coercion has obviously failed). Or it might suggest they’ve got plans to lay out a broader conspiracy if and when Schulte is convicted.

Assange’s lawyers pushed for the delay to May in the first place. If the US government uses the extra time to add charges related to Vault 7, though, the delay may make a significant difference in the posture of the case.

Methinks Joshua Schulte Doth Protest Too Much over Anonymous

Accused Vault 7 leaker Joshua Schulte — whose trial starts Monday — and the government are having a fight over Paul Rosenzweig’s expert witness testimony again (see this post for the most comprehensive coverage of this dispute). Rosenzweig submitted the Powerpoint he plans to use at trial. Schulte raised objections to the Powerpoint as a whole and to specific slides on it. And the government responded, offering to make some modifications.

The general complaint from Schulte is that the government is using Rosenzweig to introduce otherwise inadmissible hearsay. In one case, the government has agreed to withdraw the claim (a quote from Fred Kaplan, who in my opinion is not particularly reliable with respect to WikiLeaks in any case). The government makes two responses of particular interest. First, that experts are allowed to draw on periodicals to make their conclusions.

Moreover, the defendant’s objection to the introduction of statements from respected news publications ignores that the Rules of Evidence expressly provide for the introduction of such material. Federal Rule of Evidence 803(18) expressly permits the recitation of “[a] statement contained in a . . . periodical . . . if . . . the statement is . . . relied on by the expert on direct examination; and . . . the publication is established as a reliable authority by the expert’s admission or testimony, by another expert’s testimony, or by judicial notice.”

After pulling the Kaplan quote, there’s not really much left in the slide deck that quotes journalistic sources, aside from direct quotes about the diplomatic backlash to the State cables. But what the government doesn’t say is that WikiLeaks presents itself as a respected news publication, which if they truly believe is true should allow introducing the WikiLeaks material as such.

But the government wants to prevent that from coming into evidence (even though Schulte warned that calling Rosenzweig would invite it). Indeed, rather than including material from the About page that Schulte would like to include that makes that point,

The excerpts from the WikiLeaks website are taken out of context. If the government is permitted to introduce two sentences from the lengthy “about” page on, the defense would be entitled to introduce other portions of that page, including that WikiLeaks is a “multi-national media organization and associated library,” that it has “contractual relationships” with more than 100 major media organizations, and that it has won numerous media awards. See

The government has offered to pull this slide:

Rather than conceding (or even mentioning) WikiLeaks’ claim to be a respected media outlet, the government says it can introduce the vast majority of the clips from WikiLeaks’ site because they are not assertions at all.

Indeed, other than WikiLeaks’ statements regarding the content of the Vault 7 leaks, the particular statements from WikiLeaks and Assange about which Mr. Rosenzweig will testify are not “statements” or “assertions” such that the rule against hearsay is even applicable.

That’s true. Some of what Rosenzweig plans to submit includes the pre-release hype WikiLeaks gave the Vault 7 release, including the release purporting to show the US had infiltrated French political parties (which it claimed provided justification for the Vault 7 release) and slides emphasizing the spookiness of the release, including this one invoking Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden in the same breath as Julian Assange.

Other slides capture the instructions WikiLeaks gives to leakers, including to contact WikiLeaks if you have very large submissions (as this was) and to format and dispose of hard drives.

The government will claim Schulte followed some — but not all — of these instructions, in part because he couldn’t dispose of his CIA workstation, and in part because he kept the hard drives and a thumb drive he used to exfiltrate the files.

Mind you, WikiLeaks didn’t warn leakers not to Google everything they were doing as they did it, which is the really damning evidence against Schulte.

In any case, I can’t help but imagine we’ll be seeing this very same slide deck in a trial in EDVA (if Assange is ever extradited), as it shows a continuation of the kinds of activities charged in the existing Assange indictment. Assange’s extradition hearing has been split into two, with the second starting in May, so the government would have plenty of time to add such charges after this trial (which may last a month).

In addition to Rosenzweig’s refusal to include WikiLeaks’ awards (which I would imagine Schulte will bring out on cross in any case, though I honestly wonder why they didn’t bring in their own expert to present such material), one Schulte claim that absolutely has merit is that Rosenzweig should not use the WikiLeaks logo on all these slides.

Each page of the power point has the WikiLeaks logo and name from the WikiLeaks website as if the power point document itself was created by WikiLeaks. This creates a misleading impression and should be removed.

Schulte doesn’t lay out what misleading impression the logo provides, but I would argue it suggests that WikiLeaks endorses some of the content in the slide deck, pertaining to damage or the characterization of certain leaks. The government says this misleading impression can be avoided with an instruction.

With respect to the inclusion of the WikiLeaks logo on the relevant pages of the Demonstrative, WikiLeaks is the subject of his testimony, and it is reasonable to include it as a header. To avoid any confusion, the Government will elicit from Mr. Rosenzweig that the Demonstrative as a whole was prepared as a demonstrative aid for his testimony and was not produced by WikiLeaks.

I vehemently disagree with this stance. Over half of people are visual learners (indeed, the government will rely on visual reenactments to show how they claim Schulte stole the files). The logo on this slide deck ascribes to WikiLeaks things that they would strongly dispute. Particularly given that Rosenzweig is claiming there are three official WikiLeaks channels — the site, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, and Assange’s Twitter account — it is imperative that he differentiate in his presentation between what is official and what is his own analysis.

All of which is to say that, as predicted, calling Rosenzweig will invite a dispute over what kind of organization WikiLeaks really is (which is probably the point).

All that said, I’m frankly stunned that, amidst all the other slides in this presentation — including the one showing convicted leaker Chelsea Manning (whose leaks, the government will show, Schulte viewed as damaging in real time) and admitted leaker Edward Snowden (whom the government will show Schulte was Googling at a key time in August as he was also Googling WikiLeaks for almost the first time) — Schulte objects, again, to the invocation of Anonymous in this slide.

Having not objected that the government will raise Chelsea Manning and not objected that the government will raise Edward Snowden, Schulte is objecting that they’re raising Jeremy Hammond — like Manning, a confessed WikiLeaks source — and a 2010 operation to punish Paypal and others for blacklisting WikiLeaks.

We renew our objections to references to Anonymous, which are irrelevant and prejudicial.

As I have laid out, the way in which Schulte himself adopted the identity of Anonymous as part of his effort to leak to the WaPo from jail links together the three main pieces of evidence of that — his Signal texts with Shane Harris, his ProtonMail account in the name of Anonymous, and his prison notebooks. Schulte’s the one who claimed to be Anonymous, whether or not it’s true (and given the ethics the group adopts about membership, by claiming to be a member he basically is one). Anonymous’ tie to WikiLeaks is clearly admissible evidence based on Schulte’s own actions.

Schulte deems the invocation of Anonymous to suggest “concerted activity” that is more disturbing than simply stealing CIA’s hacking tools and leaking them to WikiLeaks in an effort to burn CIA to the ground out of spite for being made to sit in what Schulte considered an “intern desk” rather than a “prestigious desk with a window,” which is the motive the government says it will present.

The evidence of claimed participation in a shadowy, underground group infamous for cyber-attacks and dumping on WikiLeaks is unduly prejudicial as it suggests concerted activity of a type even more disturbing than what is charged.

The evidence suggests that Schulte adopted at least three personalities to leak from jail, deliberately attempting to present the illusion of concerted activity. Given the concerted concern about Anonymous amid all the equally damning references, perhaps some of Schulte’s imaginary friends aren’t actually imaginary?

As I disclosed in 2018, I provided information to the FBI in 2017. The government recently stated publicly that matters on which I shared information are related to Schulte. Aside from two press inquiries, I have not spoken with the government about Schulte.

Joshua Schulte Wanted to Include Instructions to Contact WikiLeaks in a Pro Se Motion

The lawyers for accused Vault 7 leaker Joshua Schulte made a last ditch effort yesterday to limit how much information from his prison notebooks can be admitted as evidence in his trial starting next week. Perhaps inadvertently, the letter provides new details about why the government believes Schulte was trying to leak from jail, as well as some hints about why his lawyers claim they may be responsible for some of his exposure on those charges.

As I had noted, the government wants to include a passage from his notebooks instructing somebody to “ask WikiLeaks” if they need help to prove that Schulte had knowledge of what WikiLeaks had received.

“Ask WikiLeaks” (014099) (undated): In the middle of the page, the defendant writes, “If you need help ask WikiLeaks for my code.”3 The defendant’s direction to consult WikiLeaks about his “code” is admissible as Nonpublic Information Evidence, because it is a statement that WikiLeaks is in possession of source code for tools upon which the defendant worked and that are contained in the back-up file that was stolen, even though WikiLeaks has not publicly disclosed that it possesses any source code for all of the tools. Schulte’s knowledge of non-public aspects of the information that was given to WikiLeaks helps to demonstrate that he was the one who gave that information to WikiLeaks in the first place.

Schulte’s lawyers argue, unpersuasively, that this is not relevant, though they also argue that it is “privileged information or work product” because the passage is part of a pro se motion Schulte was trying to draft.

  • “If you need help ask WikiLeaks for my code.” Gov. Ltr. 8. The government says that this sentence means that “WikiLeaks is in possession of source code for tools upon which the defendant worked and that are continued in the backup file that was stolen, even though WikiLeaks has not publicly disclosed that it possesses any source code for all of the tools.”

Nothing in the unredacted portion of Page JAS_022627 (classified #014099) is relevant to the government’s case. On the contrary, the beginning of the page is clearly part of a legal motion that Mr. Schulte was drafting. The top of the page states: “You can create a forensic copy of the device & then have control over it. There has been no reason over this past year that we would not have had access to this critical evidence except that the prosecutors have lied to your honor & played games.” This is privileged information or work product and is therefore not admissible.

Obviously, Schulte’s lawyers are wrong that this is not relevant to the government’s case, either on the MCC charges or the charges in chief. They don’t deny that this reflects knowledge that WikiLeaks has source code that Schulte wrote; they simply remain silent about it.

They’re instead making a half-hearted attempt to argue that it pertains to Schulte’s defense. That is, they’re arguing that in a pro se motion addressed to Judge Crotty, Schulte included instructions about how to use the code he wrote for the CIA to do something, possibly obtain forensic evidence from the CIA that the government had not yet turned over.

While the privilege claim, half-hearted as it is, is an interesting one, Schulte’s argument in some ways makes this passage more damning. After all, he had already, by this point, included allegedly classified information in a pro se bail motion. Around this period he tried to release information publicly via a pro se motion again, though the government pulled it from PACER before most people could access it. Schulte eventually would submit a pro se lawsuit challenging his SAMs designation that happened to make many of the same claims he had made in his “Presumption of Innocence” blog and alluded to some of the same challenges he had tried to make to warrants by leaking protected or classified information (though the government has not claimed it included classified information). That is, the record suggests that Schulte was using his pro se motions to communicate publicly as much as to mount legal arguments (though his pro se motion raises some important points about our shitty criminal justice system amid a lot of dreck and lies).

That makes the second part of what Schulte’s lawyers claim was a planned pro se motion all the more interesting. The government wants to present a page that appears 37 Bates stamp numbers later in Schulte’s notebook which lists a bunch of potentially classified topics.

“What We Expect to Find in Emails” (014136) (undated): At the top of this page, the defendant writes “What we expect to find in emails.” On the remainder of the page, the defendant writes a list of items, many of which contained classified information. This portion of the Blue Notebook is admissible as Intent Evidence and MCC Classified Information Evidence, because it shows the defendant cataloguing classified information that, if publicly disclosed, would likely be harmful to the United States. Indeed, some of the categories of information identified by the defendant on this page—such as certain operations—is the same as the classified information contained in the Fake Authentication Tweet, which serves to show that the defendant’s intent was to collect these materials for dissemination, not for any legitimate purpose related to his defense.

As noted, Schulte claims that this passage was not part of Schulte’s planned “New Articles,” which appears 22 pages earlier in the notebook, but instead the pro se motion. His defense claims this was a Fifth Amendment one, which I’m not sure I understand; it seems more like a selective prosecution challenge, but then they’re not engaging with the substance here.

What We Expect to Find in Emails (014136) (undated). This page is clearly part of Mr. Schulte’s pro se motion to dismiss under the Fifth Amendment for prosecutorial misconduct. The Fifth Amendment is referenced at the top of the right-hand page. As such it is privileged work product. In addition, the government has not specified which part of this page contains classified information and because the handwriting is not always legible the defense cannot fairly guess the offending part. Again this seems more a statement of Mr. Schulte’s political viewpoint, now as a wrongfully charged and detained defendant, and even were it not privileged, it would be irrelevant and unduly prejudicial.

In any case, even Schulte’s own lawyers are saying that Schulte wanted to submit a pro se motion that, first, instructed someone to use a tool he wrote for the CIA that could be obtained by asking WikiLeaks, possibly to find a bunch of email that includes classified information about CIA operations.

I can see how, in the wake of being busted once trying to spread protected information via pro se motion, his attorneys might advise him to draft any pro se motions in his notebook (at the time he had a classified discovery computer, but it’s not clear what he could write and save on it), which they could then review to make sure he wasn’t getting himself in more legal trouble. But then, when it was discovered, the government used it to claim he intended to leak more classified information.

Yet Schulte’s letter — in conjunction with evidence the government has said they’d submit at trial if the attorney-client advice issue came up — makes it clear that he was unhappy with his lawyer, Sabrina Shroff’s advice.

Finally, the government’s more general assertion that the conflict surrounding the MCC notebooks has somehow “disappear[ed]” based on the court’s ruling over objection that Mr. Schulte may not raise an advice-of-counsel defense is also incorrect. Gov. Ltr. 1. Indeed, the specific pages the government seeks to introduce include work product in preparation for Mr. Schulte’s defense. Some the pages that the government seeks to introduce also specifically mention “Sabrina” and refer to his family reaching out to different defense lawyers, strongly implying that Mr. Schulte had concerns about his current defense team. These portions of the notebooks only highlight the inherent conflict that the current defense team faces in representing Mr. Schulte. Additionally, if Mr. Schulte is convicted, this issue will surely be taken up on appeal, and may well cause a reversal of a conviction. The issue will only begin to “disappear” if the notebooks are excluded from the trial.

The government could easily show — and will, when Schulte appeals based on this argument — that at the time Shroff was trying to get him to stop trying to go public, he was threatening to go around her.

For example, the Government has described to the defense how, if the defendant offered his counsel’s testimony, the Government would likely rely on recorded prison calls in which the defendant criticized defense counsel’s advice, including, for example, calls in which the defendant stated that he would “go around” Ms. Shroff to disclose information to the media, despite her objections to this strategy.

In other words, written at a time when Schulte was trying to bypass Shroff, submitting a pro se motion including instructions on how to get and use one of the hacking tools he wrote, possibly to obtain classified emails, it could be seen as an attempt to use the pro se motion to leak information (or instruct others how to get and leak it). There’s no chance that that address, “If you need help ask WikiLeaks for my code,” was intended for Judge Crotty (who, in his writings, Schulte describes in very unfavorable terms), after all. Nor is it clear how someone as smart as Schulte is would include information confirming his role in the leak in a pro se motion claiming that prosecutors had unfairly targeted him.

All of which makes it interesting, to me, that this last-ditch letter addressing Schulte’s notebooks mounts an effort to get all reference to Anonymous, specifically, excluded from trial.

The government also again makes repeated reference to the “Anonymous” group. Dkt 257, at 5, 12, 17. As explained in our response to the motions in limine, all reference to Anonymous should be excluded under Rule 404(b).


The defense continues to object to any mention of Autonomous [sic] as unduly prejudicial and because it may confuse the jury.

The government has said it will introduce evidence that Schulte, in real time in 2010, opined that Chelsea Manning’s leaks to WikiLeaks had done damage, which not only proves that he followed historical WikiLeaks releases but believed that the way WikiLeaks had released her leaks did some damage. That piece of evidence is utterly damning in support of a claim that Schulte intended to damage the US with his alleged leaks. And the defense is focusing, instead, on Schulte’s self-proclaimed reference to Anonymous?!?!?

While Schulte’s team doesn’t specifically reference which arguments it relies on here, weeks ago, the defense made this argument about why mentioning Anonymous would be prejudicial.

The government has provided no justification to introduce comments about Anonymous, which must be excluded under Rule 404(b). The government offers no support why it should be allowed to introduce “additional communications with the Reporter, including encrypted communications in which [Mr.] Schulte claims to have been [a] member of the group Anonymous, which is a group known for conducting cyber-attacks that has provided documents to WikiLeaks in the past.” Gov. Mot. 33. This “additional” evidence is clearly not part of the charged offenses nor is it inextricably intertwined with them. The jury will discern no gaps in the government’s case if it is not included in the proof. Instead, it is just classic “bad act” evidence that would be purely prejudicial. The evidence of claimed participation in a shadowy, underground group infamous for cyber-attacks and dumping on WikiLeaks is unduly prejudicial as it suggests concerted activity of a type even more disturbing than what is charged.


The government also states that Mr. Rosenzweig will testify that in 2012 “Anonymous and WikiLeaks worked together to release information.” Gov. Res. 13. This testimony will “aid the jury in understanding the hacking group’s relationship with WikiLeaks” and that Mr. Schulte had “contact with access to WikiLeaks. Gov. Res. 13. As explained above, supra Point II(C)(1), information about Anonymous should be excluded from the trial.

That is, when Schulte’s team wrote this weeks ago (when they were trying unsuccessfully to exclude Paul Rosenzweig’s testimony about what Anonymous is and its past relationship with WikiLeaks), they focused only on the prejudicial aspect. Now, they’re claiming that discussion of Anonymous will confuse the jury, except that’s precisely why the government wanted Rosenzweig to explain what Anonymous is.

But we now know how inadequate this argument is.

Remember: the letter Schulte sent yesterday is an attempt to get Schulte’s notebooks (or at least the most damning parts of them) excluded from trial. But their reference to the government’s plan to introduce references to Anonymous in the letter actually draws from four different kinds of evidence: his notebooks, the Samsung phone he used in jail, and Signal texts and ProtonMail he used to contact a reporter (who warrant affidavits and recent filings have confirmed is WaPo’s Shane Harris).

Partly, the references to Anonymous prove that Schulte used the Samsung phone and the Annon ProtonMail account (the passwords for the ProtonMail accounts were also in the notebook), and that therefore the Signal texts that remain on the phone were sent by him.

In his correspondence with the Reporter, the defendant, pretending to be the defendant’s family and friends, asked the Reporter to send him the versions of the defendant’s articles that the defendant and his family had previously provided to the Reporter. When the Reporter demurred and sought confirmation from the defendant’s family whether the Reporter could provide the defendant’s articles to the user of the Annon Account, the defendant, posing as a member of his family, used a secure messaging application, Signal, to authorize release of the articles. In these Signal communications (the “Signal Messages”), the defendant claimed that the user of the Annon Account was a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous, of which, according to the defendant, the defendant was once a member. Anonymous has collaborated in the past with WikiLeaks to disclose stolen sensitive information.


Signal and Twitter to Send Articles and Tweets (014327) (Sept. 2, 2018): In this portion of the Red Notebook, Schulte writes, among other things, “Well its September now. Locked in all day. Hopefully tonight I can setup Signal from my cell & msg [last name of the Reporter] to confirm anon’s permission and get my fucking articles. I also need to confirm my twitter.” This page contains Use Evidence. In particular, the defendant references setting up Signal “from my cell”—which supports that the defendant was using Signal on the Samsung Phone—to confirm “anon’s permission”—which shows that the defendant was using the Anon Account to “get [his] fucking articles.” The defendant also made clear that he had created a Twitter account when he wrote “I also need to confirm my twitter.”


The Samsung Phone: Although the Samsung Phone was not found in the defendant’s cell, the Government intends to show that it was one of the cellphones that the defendant used at the MCC through various pieces of evidence, including by comparing identifying information appearing on the Samsung Phone to one of the images taken by CW-1 of one of the cellphones the defendant used in prison. The Samsung Phone contains, among other things, evidence that Encrypted Email Accounts were accessed on the cellphone, but not the actual communications from those accounts. The Samsung Phone also contains the Signal Messages in which the defendant, among other things, pretended to be a third person and attempted to convince the Reporter that the user of one of the Encrypted Email Accounts with whom the Reporter was corresponding (but who was in fact the defendant) is a member of the online hacktivist group Anonymous who is trying to help the defendant.

The Encrypted Email Accounts: The Annon Account contains the defendant’s correspondence with the Reporter, including the September 2018 Emails that attached the classified Network Structure Document and the Protected Search Warrant. The other Encrypted Email Accounts also contain records related to the defendant’s use and control of the Social Media Accounts, such as, for example, email notifications when the defendant modified the Social Media Accounts.

If I understand all this correctly, not only did Schulte use a ProtonMail account claiming to be a member of Anonymous to send details of CIA’s network structure to Harris (one of the charged pieces of classified information), but also used it to try to get him to send Schulte the original copies of his blog posts. Schulte was pretending to be a member of Anonymous on ProtonMail and a member of his family on Signal. And Schulte documented that scheme in his notebook in some of the references that Schulte’s lawyers want to exclude (though which they don’t lay out in such a way to show how it glues everything Schulte was doing from jail together).

But there’s still one more reference of Anonymous, tying it directly to the content that Schulte wanted to release: the Malware of the Mind article that reportedly discussed what he did at CIA.

Identifying Malware of the Mind as Article 10 (014319): On this page, the defendant identifies the Malware Article as article 10: “I’m hoping to write /edit my 9 articles. I don’t know how I can them—oh I may text [the Reporter] from [my cousin’s] number. Omar claims that some service exists to do this – I’m dubious. [Redacted]. Although I feel this may not work either . . . IDK Basically on hold for my publication. Secondly, I want to rewrite article #10: Malware of the Mind!” After a line drawn on the page, the page also includes, among other things, the phrase “Anonymous,” and the phrase “classified information.” This entry includes Intent Evidence, in that it shows that the defendant plans to re-draft his articles, including the Malware Article. Furthermore, the defendant’s statement that he might text the Reporter from his cousin’s telephone number, thus continuing to conceal his identity during those communications, is Guilty Conscience Evidence. Finally, the defendant’s reference to “Anonymous” and “classified information” is consistent with the defendant’s claims in his Signal messages that Anonymous is seeking to help prove his innocence by providing information to the Reporter.

The defense claims all this is prejudicial because, “it suggests concerted activity of a type even more disturbing than what is charged.” Except, by claiming that Schulte planned to include instructions in a pro se motion that people other than Judge Crotty — people with access to WikiLeaks — might use go get the code he wrote from WikiLeaks, possibly to obtain emails of classified information suggests that may well be what Schulte was attempting.

The government and Schulte are also arguing over what measures the government can use to protect the identities of a slew of CIA witnesses who will testify. Schulte has good reason to complain. In past trials (Jeffrey Sterling’s trial is being cited as precedent), the government engaged in a great deal of theater to make CIA witnesses — including witnesses whose CIA tie had already been declassified, as some of the witnesses here have been — seem especially momentous. Some of that is undoubtedly going on here. But if the government believes (and this letter from his defense does nothing to rebut that belief) that Schulte is using every opportunity in his prosecution to leak more information, there’s actually a solid case for some of those measures.

As I disclosed in 2018, I provided information to the FBI in 2017. The government recently stated publicly that matters on which I shared information are related to Schulte. Aside from two press inquiries, I have not spoken with the government about Schulte.

Joshua Schulte Spoke Positively of Edward Snowden the Day Snowden Came Forward

Here I thought that Joshua Schulte’s lawyers had finally come up with a decent argument, that Paul Rosenzweig’s testimony would be pointless to prove that Schulte, in choosing to leak to WikiLeaks, intended to damage the US because the government would have to prove Schulte knew of WikiLeaks when he allegedly first stole the CIA documents in May 2016.

But after pointing out that Schulte’s lawyers already blew their chance to make that argument, in a response the government  then pointed out how bad this argument is: because Schulte’s lawyers have already admitted that, “of course, Mr. Schulte knew” about Chelsea Manning’s leaks.

As an initial matter, the defendant’s Reconsideration Motion directly contradicts the argument he made in his original motions in limine concerning Mr. Rosenzweig’s testimony. The defendant argues in the instant motion that Mr. Rosenzweig’s testimony should not be admitted because there is no evidence that the defendant knew of, for example, Chelsea Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks. In his original opposition to the Government’s motions in limine, however, the defendant argued the exact opposite:

Next, the government says that it intends to introduce evidence of Mr. Schulte’s “knowledge of [Ms.] Manning’s leak.” Gov. Res. 11. The release of documents by Ms. Manning was front page news in every major news publication for numerous days. Of course, Mr. Schulte knew about it; so did everyone else who picked up a newspaper. It is not clear what the expert would have to add to this information. (Dkt. 242 at 44).

Worse, the government lays out not just that Schulte wrote about both Manning’s leaks to WikiLeak and Edward Snowden’s leaks, but discloses that they intend to introduce those chats at trial.

Moreover, even setting aside the dubious assertion that a member of the U.S. intelligence community could have been completely unaware of WikiLeaks’ serial disclosures of classified and sensitive information and the resulting harm, the Government’s proof at trial will include evidence that the defendant himself was well aware of WikiLeaks’ actions and the harms it caused. For example, WikiLeaks began to disclose classified information Manning provided to the organization beginning in or about April 2010, including purported information about the United States’ activities in Afghanistan. In electronic chats stored on the defendant’s server, the defendant discussed these disclosures. For example, on August 10, 2010, the defendant wrote in a chat “you didn’t read the wikileaks documents did you?” and, after that “al qaeda still has a lot of control in Afghanistan.” In addition, on October 18, 2010, the defendant had another exchange in which he discussed Manning’s disclosures, including the fact that the information provided was classified, came from U.S. military holdings, and that (according to the defendant) it was easy for Manning to steal the classified information and provide it to WikiLeaks. Similarly, in a June 9, 2013 exchange, the defendant compared Manning to Edward Snowden, the contractor who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency, and stated, in substance and in part, that Snowden, unlike Manning, “didnt endanger in [sic] people.”

Effectively, the government is going to show that Schulte — who like Snowden worked at both CIA and NSA (though in reverse order) — had decided the day that Snowden revealed himself that he hadn’t endangered someone.

I suggested in this post that the government appears to be preparing to use Schulte as an exemplar of an ongoing conspiracy, complete with their reliance on organized crime precedents.

[T]he government is preparing to argue that Schulte intended to harm the United States when he leaked these files to WikiLeaks, a stronger level of mens rea than needed to prove guilt under the Espionage Act (normally the government aims to prove someone should have known it could cause harm, relying on their Non-Disclosure Agreements to establish that), and one the government has, in other places, described as the difference between being a leaker and a spy.

To make that argument, the government is preparing to situate Schulte’s leaks in the context of prior WikiLeaks releases, in a move that looks conspicuously like the kind of ongoing conspiracy indictment one might expect to come out of the WikiLeaks grand jury, one that builds off some aspects of the existing Assange indictment.

That is, the government appears to be using Schulte to lay out their theory — rolled out in the wake of the Vault 7 leaks — that WikiLeaks is a non-state hostile intelligence service.

To be sure, there’s nothing in the least bit incriminating about talking about Snowden in real time. But it will make it a lot easier to hold Schulte accountable for leaking stuff in a far more damaging way in 2016 than Snowden did in 2013.

As I disclosed in 2018, I provided information to the FBI in 2017.