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Two Exceptions to Trump’s “Do Not Recall” Responses: A Limited Answer on an Assange Pardon and a Non-Answer on Sanctions Relief

With few exceptions, the questions Mueller posed to Trump were questions I expected: his awareness of the June 9 meeting,  the Russian hacking and Stone’s attempts to optimize the release of stolen emails, the Trump Tower Moscow deal,  Manafort’s sharing of polling data and the platform on sanctions relief, and Trump’s role in Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak.

One question I did not expect was about whether Trump attended the World Chess Championship on November 10, 2016; the report makes it clear there were allegations that Kirill Dmitriev made a last minute decision to attend it to meet with Trump, though Trump denies he attended. Notably, by answering, Trump reflected a willingness to answer a question about the transition period.

One question I did not expect, however, pertained to a pardon for Julian Assange.

Did you have any discussions prior to January 20, 2017, regarding a potential pardon or other action to benefit Julian Assange? If yes, describe who you had the discussion(s) with, when, and the content of the discussion(s).

As with most of the questions, Trump answered with a “do not recall” answer.

I do not recall having had any discussion during the campaign regarding a pardon or action to benefit Julian Assange.

Except that (as he did on some other questions that largely pertained solely to election period activities), he specifically limited his answer to the campaign period. He basically refused to answer regarding any discussion of a pardon during the transition. That’s particularly interesting for two reasons.

In the report’s discussion of Don Jr’s DMs with WikiLeaks, they don’t mention the one where Assange suggests his father should get him named Ambassador to the US.

Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well! In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC “That’s a really smart tough guy and the most famous australian you have! ” or something similar. They won’t do it, but it will send the right signals to Australia, UK + Sweden to start following the law and stop bending it to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons. 12/16/16 12:38PM

And, we know that after inauguration and into 2018, a series of Trump flunkies kept trying to broker a pardon for Assange.

Now, as reported, Trump refused to answer questions about about the transition (except for that chess championship one). So that may be his explanation for limiting his answer. But the effect seems to suggest he did discuss pardoning Assange.

His refusal to answer questions about the transition also explains why he didn’t answer a slew of other questions, generally about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak and Kushner and Steve Bannon’s attempts to establish a back channel with Russia.

Particularly given Bannon and Erik Prince’s deleted texts and the inclusion of the follow-up in the January 28 conference call with Putin, it’s pretty clear Trump knew about it (and so probably also knew about Flynn’s activities).

But there is one question about sanctions relief that Trump didn’t answer, offering no excuse. It appears as a sub-question to one about the Trump’s promise — at the same press conference he asked and Russia to further hacking Hillary — to lift sanctions on Russia.

g. On July 27, 2016, in response to a question about whether you would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions on Russia, you said: “We’ ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.” Did you intend to communicate by that statement or at any other time during the campaign a willingness to lift sanctions and/or recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected?

i. What consideration did you give to lifting sanctions and/or recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected? Describe who you spoke with about this topic, when, the substance of the discussion(s).

Trump responded to the Crimea question — by claiming his statement did not communicate any position.

But Trump did not answer the sub-question, whether he considered lifting sanctions and whom he spoke with about that. That question was in no way limited to the transition, and therefore should have been answered.

And it’s not like Trump simply missed the question: His lawyers replicated it in their own answers. And they read Mueller’s questions closely enough to add a “sic” where Mueller had included a double “about.”

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about why your presence was requested?

[snip]

Were you asked to attend the World Chess Championship gala on November 10, 2016? If yes, who asked you to attend, when were you asked, and what were you told about about [sic] why your presence was requested?

So they presumably saw the question, a question that on its face pertained to the election as well as the transition.

They just didn’t answer it.

So the two things that even given Trump’s contemptuous response to responding to basic answers about the Russian investigation he refused to answer pertain to a Julian Assange pardon (for the transition period) and sanctions relief.

EMPTYWHEEL’S MUELLER REPORT COVERAGE

Two Exceptions to Trump’s “Do Not Recall” Responses: A Limited Answer on an Assange Pardon and a Non-Answer on Sanctions Relief

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

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

Three Things: Big Day, Big Top

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

It’s going to be a big day under the big top. Attorney General Bill Barr has planned quite the circus, beginning right now with his so-called press conference. But first, three things, one of which includes hygiene for the day ahead.

~ 3 ~

Let’s face it: it’s Maundy Thursday, the weather in West Palm Beach is supposed to be partly sunny tomorrow and Saturday, and sunny on Easter Sunday. Which means Trump will likely be on Air Force One this afternoon, winging his way to Mar-a-Lago and the promise of golf at one of his courses because that’s about all he can focus on for more than the time it takes to send a tweet.

This is likely why he wants to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfer Tiger Woods after winning his latest green jacket at The Masters this past weekend. Trump said,

So shallow and self-centered, recognizing a fellow marital cheat and a golfing buddy, one who designed a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai.

And yet par for this pathetic hole.

~ 2 ~

I don’t write often about Trump-Russia because it’s Marcy’s beat — there’s little she hasn’t scrutinized and picked apart during the course of the Special Counsel’s investigation. But this one thing has stuck in my craw, especially after all the hubbub this past week about Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy and arrest by Metropolitan Police-UK.

It’s in this email exchange from October 2016, about WikiLeaks’ 10th anniversary when Assange was supposed to have made a big announcement and didn’t. The following

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
EMAIL:
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.

However —a load every week going forward.

Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

Why did former Trump campaign chief executive and former White House adviser Steve Bannon express surprise that Assange hadn’t cut a deal with the Clintons?

Was it a given that Assange would have attempted to extort money from one or both of the Clintons to halt the release of hacked emails?

Why would Bannon in particular have thought this? Was it common knowledge in certain circles that Assange would use blackmail? Or has blackmail been one of the other unaddressed methods by which targets have been compromised and evidence simply hasn’t been shared because it’s classified?

Did Special Counsel’s Office ask any member of the Clinton campaign or Bill Clinton or any Clinton family support staff whether they had been contacted about hacked materials in an attempt to extort money or performance from them?

It seemed like odd hyperbole at the time in early August 2016 that Assange would accuse Hillary Clinton of electoral extortion, claiming she tried to scare the electorate into voting for her. But was it really a form of projection to muddle possible leaks about other extortion attempts? (Yes, the source at that link above is a right-wing outlet, but that’s the point: they carried water for this effort.)

Ecuadoran official said they are investigating whether Assange attempted to blackmail President Moreno. It looks more like a pattern of behavior based on WikiLeaks’ handling of Vault 7 and if Bannon’s email assumed an earlier attempt on the Clintons

~ 1 ~

Okay, I’ll skip a third non-Barr report item because we’re all a little short on patience. If you need something to preoccupy your time you can focus on taking action.

See Celeste_pewter’s Twitter thread for calls you can make, or check her TinyLetter site; once again she’s done the heavy lifting and prepared scripts for you.

She’s also laid out the anticipated schedule today for AG Barr’s three-ring circus:

9:30 AM: Barr and Rosenstein will hold a press conference on Mueller report

(Mueller not in attendance)

10:30 AM (approx): Trump will issue a rebuttal

11:00 – 12:00 PM: DOJ will provide hard copies of the report to Congress

TBD: Trump MAY give a press conference at this point

2:00 PM (approximate): Report posted on special counsel website (https://www.justice.gov/sco)

I’m setting up a list in my Twitter account to follow folks for analysis and feedback on the Trump-Russia investigation including today’s Barr report.

(And yes, I’m calling it the ‘Barr report’ because the method of its reception will have been substantially shaped by Barr.)

~ 0 ~

Lastly, the matter of hygiene: this site will be busy. Trolling may be heavy depending on what’s visible in the report and what is pointed out by Marcy in particular. If the site bogs down, please be patient.

If necessary, reach one of us via Twitter though you may not get an immediate response because we’re going to be busy.

Moderation will be firm and aggressive. We don’t have time for temper tantrums, trolling, or for internecine squabbles.

Keep all off topic discussion to this thread; if it gets too deep, like more than 200 comments, I will open a new thread for off topic material. Posts Marcy opens related to the report should remain on topic.

This is going to be a long day. Pace yourselves. Drink water regularly. Take a break from social media when you’re getting worked up. Digest this pile of elephant one bite at a time.

We have plenty of time after the circus’s acts have finished to sweep up and dig through the animal poo they leave behind.

This is an open thread.

The Assange Complaint Was Filed the Day the UK Rejected Assange’s Diplomatic Status

EDVA has released the affidavit and original complaint charging Julian Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to crack a password. Two things support the likelihood that this extradition request arose in response to Ecuador’s attempt to get Assange diplomatic status that would allow it or Russia to exfiltrate him from London.

As I noted earlier, the extradition warrant itself dates to December 22. But the complaint and supporting affidavit date to December 21, 2017. That’s the day, according to multiple reports, that the British government denied Ecuador’s request to grant Assange “special designation” as a diplomat.

Ecuador last Dec. 19 approved a “special designation in favor of Mr. Julian Assange so that he can carry out functions at the Ecuadorean Embassy in Russia,” according to the letter written to opposition legislator Paola Vintimilla.

“Special designation” refers to the Ecuadorean president’s right to name political allies to a fixed number of diplomatic posts even if they are not career diplomats.

But Britain’s Foreign Office in a Dec. 21 note said it did not accept Assange as a diplomat and that it did not “consider that Mr. Assange enjoys any type of privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention,” reads the letter, citing a British diplomatic note.

The Guardian (which is less reliable when it pertains to stories about Assange) claims that this effort was meant to support an exfiltration attempt, possibly to Russia.

Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK, the Guardian has learned.

A tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London embassy in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to another country.

One ultimate destination, multiple sources have said, was Russia, where Assange would not be at risk of extradition to the US. The plan was abandoned after it was deemed too risky.

The operation to extract Assange was provisionally scheduled for Christmas Eve in 2017, one source claimed, and was linked to an unsuccessful attempt by Ecuador to give Assange formal diplomatic status.

The supporting affidavit is notable because it is even more troubling than the indictment itself is for its description of Assange’s work with Manning to publish classified documents.

But it’s also notable for the case it makes that Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy not to hide from the Swedish prosecution but from US prosecution.

Assange has made numerous comments reflecting that he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition and charges in the United States.

For example, in 2013, the WikiLeaks website posted an affidavit by Assange concerning alleged monitoring of his activities and the search and seizure of his property. In the affidavit, Assange acknowledged that he was “granted asylum after a formal assessment by the government of Ecuador in relation to the current and future risks of persecution and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the United States in response to my publishing activities and my political opinion. I remain under the protection of Ecuador in London for this reason.” See https://wikileaks.org/IMG/html/Affidavit_of_Julian_Assange.html.

On May 19, 2017, in response to Sweden’s decision to discontinue its investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange, Assange publicly stated, “While today was an important victory and an important vindication … the road is far from over The war, the proper war, is just commencing. The UK has said it will arrest me regardless. Now the United States, CIA Director Pompeo, and the U.S. Attorney General have said that I and other WikiLeaks staff have no rights … we have no first amendment rights.. .and my arrest and the arrest of our other staffis a priority…. The U.K. refuses to confirm or deny at this stage whether a U.S. extradition warrant is already in the U.K. territory. So, this is a dialogue that we want to happen. Similarly, with the United States, while there have been extremely threatening remarks made, I am always happy to engage in a dialogue with the Department of Justice about what has occurred.” https://www.bloomberg.eom/news/articles/2017-05-19/swedishprosecutors-to-drop-rape-investigation-against-assange.

It seems likely that the UK rejected Ecuador’s request, in part, because the US lodged an extradition request, possibly because they learned of the exfiltration plan.

If so, that may change the extradition calculus significantly, even if Sweden refiles its request. The UK may have already agreed that Assange was only ever fleeing US prosecution. Indeed, their decision back in December 2017 may have served precisely to enable the arrest that occurred last Thursday.

If that’s right, there’s little chance the UK will give precedence to Sweden — though Labour within the UK and a number of entities in the EU are fighting this extradition request.

As I’ve noted, this all took place against the background of the Vault 7 prosecution which implicated Assange in far more activities unrelated to journalism, ones that the United States’ Five Eyes partner would likely be very sympathetic to. And that may well be what this indictment was always a placeholder for. Yes, the government may fill in a larger conspiracy in-between 2010 and 2017. But this action seems to have as much to do with what Assange did in 2017 as he was doing in 2010.

Update: Corrected indictment dating to December 22; I meant the extradition warrant.

The Logistics of the Julian Assange Indictment

The extradition request and indictment have been pending while Vault 7 and Roger Stone have percolated

According to a BuzzFeed report from yesterday’s bail hearing in London, Julian Assange’s extradition warrant was dated December 22, 2017.

That means the extradition request came amid an effort by Ecuador to grant him diplomatic status after which he might be exfiltrated to Ecuador or Russia; the extradition request came the day after the UK denied him diplomatic status.

Ecuador last Dec. 19 approved a “special designation in favor of Mr. Julian Assange so that he can carry out functions at the Ecuadorean Embassy in Russia,” according to the letter written to opposition legislator Paola Vintimilla.

“Special designation” refers to the Ecuadorean president’s right to name political allies to a fixed number of diplomatic posts even if they are not career diplomats.

But Britain’s Foreign Office in a Dec. 21 note said it did not accept Assange as a diplomat and that it did not “consider that Mr. Assange enjoys any type of privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention,” reads the letter, citing a British diplomatic note.

Both events came in the wake of the revocation of Joshua Schulte’s bail after he got caught using Tor, in violation of his bail conditions. And the events came days before Donald Trump’s longtime political advisor Roger Stone told Randy Credico he was about to orchestrate a blanket pardon for Assange.

In early January, Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and adviser to Donald Trump, sent a text message to an associate stating that he was actively seeking a presidential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange—and felt optimistic about his chances. “I am working with others to get JA a blanket pardon,” Stone wrote, in a January 6 exchange of text messages obtained by Mother Jones. “It’s very real and very possible. Don’t fuck it up.” Thirty-five minutes later, Stone added, “Something very big about to go down.”

The indictment used to submit an extradition request yesterday was approved by an EDVA grand jury on March 6, 2018, 13 months ago and just a few months after the extradition request.

That means the indictment has been sitting there at EDVA since a few days before Mueller obtained warrants to obtain the contents of five AT&T cell phones, one of which I suspect belongs to Roger Stone (see this post for a timeline of the investigation into Stone). The indictment has been sitting there since a few weeks before Ecuador first limited visitors for Julian Assange last March. It has been sitting there for three months before the government finally indicted Joshua Schulte, in June 2018, for the leak of Vault 7 files they had been pursuing for over a year (see this post for a timeline of the investigation into Schulte). It was sitting there when, in July, Mueller rolled out an indictment referring to WikiLeaks as an unindicted co-conspirator with GRU on the 2016 election hacks, without charging the organization. It was also sitting there last July when David House testified about publicizing Chelsea Manning’s case to the grand jury under a grant of immunity. It was sitting there when Schulte got videotaped attempting to leak classified information from jail, making any prosecution far easier from a classified information standpoint; that happened right around the time Ecuador ratcheted up the restrictions on Assange. It had been sitting there for 10 months by the time Mueller indicted Roger Stone for lying about optimizing the WikiLeaks release of documents stolen by Russia, again while naming but not charging WikiLeaks. It had been sitting there for 11 months when Chelsea Manning first got a subpoena to testify before an EDVA grand jury, and a full year before she went public with her subpoena. It had been sitting there for over a year when Mueller announced he was finishing on March 22; likewise it has been sitting there ever since Bill Barr announced Trump’s team hadn’t coordinated with the Russian government but remained silent about coordination with WikiLeaks.

In short, the indictment has been sitting there for quite some time and the extradition warrant even longer, even as several different more recent investigations appear to be relentlessly moving closer to WikiLeaks. It has been sealed, assuming it’s the same as the complaint the existence of which was accidentally revealed late last year because, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

There’s a somewhat obvious reason why it got indicted when it did. As WaPo and others have pointed out, the eight year statute of limitations on the CFAA charges in the indictment would have run last year on March 7, 2018.

But that doesn’t explain why DOJ decided to charge Assange in this case, when Assange’s actions with Vault 7 appear far more egregious, or why the indictment is just being unsealed now. And it doesn’t explain why it got released — without any superseding allegations — now, even while WaPo and CNN report more charges against Assange are coming.

Here’s what I suspect DOJ is trying to do with this indictment.

The discussion of cracking the password takes place as Manning runs out of files to share

First, consider these details about the indictment. As I noted earlier, the overt act it charges as a conspiracy is an agreement to crack a password.

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

[snip]

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

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

More specifically, the overt act relates to some exchanges revealed in chat logs that have long been public, dating to March 2010 (see this post for a timeline of some related activities from this period, but not this chat; this post describes a chronology of Manning’s alleged leaks). This is a period when Manning had already leaked things to WikiLeaks, including the Collateral Murder video they’re in the process of editing during the conversation and the Iraq and Afghan war logs that were apparently a focus of the David House grand jury testimony.

In the logs, Manning asks whether WikiLeaks wants Gitmo detainee files (a file that, in my opinion, was one of the most valuable leaked by Manning). Assange isn’t actually all that excited because “gitmo is mostly over,” but suggests the files may be useful to defense attorneys (they were! to some of the same defense attorneys defending Assange now!) or if Afghanistan heats up.

Manning says she’s loading one more archive of interesting stuff.

This appears to be the Gitmo files.

Manning explicitly says that’s all she’s got, and then talks about taking some years off to let heat die down, even while gushing about the current rate of change.

Some hours later, amid a discussion about the status of the upload of the Gitmo files that are supposed to be the last file she’s got, Manning then asks Assange if he’s any good at cracking passwords.

He says he has, “passed it onto our lm guy.”

Two days later Assange asks for more information on the hash, stating (as the indictment notes) that he’s had no luck cracking it so far. Then there’s a six day break in the chat logs, at least as presented.

The next day Assange floats getting Manning a crypto phone but then thinks better of it.

These chat logs end the next day, March 18, 2010. As the indictment notes, however, it’s not until ten days later, on March 28, 2010, that Manning starts downloading the State cable files.

Following this, between March 28, 2010, and April 9, 2010, Manning used a United States Department of Defense computer to download the U.S. Department of State cables that WikiLeaks later released publicly.

It’s unclear whether Assange ever cracked the password — but the chat log suggests he involved another person in the conspiracy

Most people have assumed, given what the indictment lays out, that Assange never succeeded in cracking the password. I have no idea whether he did or not, but I’m seeing people base that conclusion on several faulty assumptions. (Update: HackerFantastic notes that Assange couldn’t have broken this password, but goes on to describe how using other code it might be possible; that’s interesting because Manning was alleged to have added additional software onto the network after the initial Linux device, on May 4, 2010.)

First, some people assume that if Assange had succeeded in cracking the password, the indictment would say so. I’m not so sure. The indictment only needs to allege that Assange and Manning entered into a conspiracy — which the indictment deems a password cracking conspiracy — and took an overt act, whether or not the conspiracy itself was successful. The government suggests that Assange’s comment that he’s had “no luck so far” shows that he has taken an overt act, trying to crack it. Nothing else is required for the purposes of the indictment.

Further, several things about the chat log, as received, suggests there may be more going on in the background. There’s the six day gap after that conversation. There’s the contemplation of getting Manning a crypto phone. And then the chat logs as the government has chosen to release them end, though as the government notes, ten days after they end, Manning starts downloading the State cables.

But the record at least suggests that this conspiracy involves at least one more person, the “lm guy.” Maybe Assange was just falsely claiming to have a guy who focused on cracking certain kinds of hashes. Or maybe the government knows who he is.

The reference to him, however, suggests that there’s at least one more person in this conspiracy. The indictment notes there are “other co-conspirators known and unknown to the Grand Jury,” which is the norm for conspiracy indictments. But there are no other details of who else might be included.

Yes, this particular conspiracy is incredibly narrowly conceived, focused on just that password decryption. But there’s also the “Manner and Means of the Conspiracy” language that has (rightly) alarmed journalists so much, describing the goal of acquiring and sharing classified information that WikiLeaks could disseminate, and describing the operational security (Jabber and deleted chat logs) and inducement to accomplish that goal.

In other words, this indictment seems to be both an incredibly narrow charge, focused on a few Jabber conversations between Assange and Manning, and a much larger conspiracy in which Assange and other unnamed co-conspirators help her acquire and transmit classified documents about the US.

The logistics of the conspiracy prosecution(s)

Which brings me back to how this indictment might fit in amidst several larger, parallel efforts to prosecute WikiLeaks in the last 16 months.

This indictment may be the formalization of a complaint used as the basis for what seems to be a hastily drawn extradition request in December 2017, at a time when Ecuador and Russia were attempting to spring Assange, possibly in the wake of the government’s move to detain Schulte.

The indictment does not allege the full Cablegate conspiracy. David House testified months ago. And the government currently has Manning in jail in an attempt to coerce her to cooperate. That coercive force, by the way, may be the point of referencing the Espionage Act in the indictment: to add teeth to the renewed legal jeopardy that Manning might face if she doesn’t cooperate.

But what the indictment does — and did do, yesterday — is serve as the basis to get Assange booted from the embassy and moved into British custody, kicking off formal extradition proceedings.

As a number of outlets have suggested, any extradition process may take a while. Although two things could dramatically abbreviate it. First, Sweden could file its own extradition on the single remaining rape charge against Assange, which might get priority over the US request. Ironically, that might be Assange’s best bet to stay out of US custody for the longest possible time. Alternately, Assange could simply not contest extradition to the US, which would leave him charged in this bare bones indictment that even Orin Kerr suggests is a fairly aggressive charging of CFAA.

Barring either of those things happening, however, the US government now has one suspect in any conspiracy it wants to charge in the custody of a friendly country. It has accomplished that with entirely unclassified allegations, which means any other suspects won’t know anything more than they knew on Wednesday. Anything else it wants to charge — or any other moving parts it needs to pursue — it can now do without worrying too much that Assange will be put in the “boot” of a Russian diplomatic vehicle to be exfiltrated to Russia.

It has between now and at least May 2 — when Assange has his next hearing — to add any additional charges against Assange, while still having them charged under the Rule of Specialty before any possible extradition. It has maybe a month left on the Mueller grand jury.

Meanwhile, several things have happened recently.

First, in recent weeks two things have happened in the Schulte case. His lawyers made yet another bid to get the warrants that justified the initial searches excluded from the protective order. Schulte and his lawyers have been complaining about these warrants from the start, and Schulte’s public comments or leaks about them are part of what got him charged with violating his protective order. From description, it sounds like FBI was parallel constructing other information tying him to the Vault 7 leaks, and fucked up royally in doing so, introducing errors in the process (though the Hal Martin case makes me wonder whether the errors aren’t still more egregious). The government objected to this request, arguing that the warrants would disclose how the CIA stored its hacking documents and asserting that the investigation is definitely ongoing.

The Search Warrant Materials discuss, among other things, the way that the U.S. Intelligence Agency maintained a classified computer system that was integral to the Agency’s intelligence-gathering mission. Broadly disseminating that information would permit a host of potentially hostile actors to glean valuable intelligence about the way the U.S. Intelligence Agency maintained its computer systems or its security protocols, which would harm national security.

[snip]

The defendant’s abbreviated argument for de-designating the Search Warrant Materials is speculative, conclusory, and misguided. First, the defendant claims that the “time for investigation is long gone.” (Def. Let. at 1). The defendant is neither in a position to judge nor the arbiter of when it is appropriate for the Government to end its investigation into one of the largest-ever illegal disclosures of classified information. Simply put, while details are not appropriate for discussion in a public letter, the Government confirms that its investigation is not done and can supply the Court with additional information on an ex parte basis if the Court wishes.

Meanwhile, the government suggested severing the most recent charges — in which it has video surveillance showing Schulte leaking classified or protected information — from the underlying child porn and Vault 7 leaks.

As the Court is aware, trial in this matter is currently set for April 8, 2019. (See Minute Entry for August 8, 2018 Conference). To afford the parties sufficient time to prepare the necessary pretrial motions, including suppression motions and motions pursuant to the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”), the parties respectfully request that the Court adjourn the trial until November 4, 2019. The parties are also discussing a potential agreement concerning severance, as well as the order of the potentially severed trials. The parties will update the Court on severance and a pretrial motion schedule at or before the conference scheduled for April 10, 2019.

The defense didn’t weigh in on this plan, which (it would seem) would go a long way to eliminating the government’s parallel construction problem. They were supposed to talk about the severance issue in a hearing Monday, but it sounds like the only thing that got discussed was CIA’s refusal to comply with discovery. My guess is that Schulte will try to get those initial warrants and any fruit of them thrown out, and if that doesn’t work then maybe plead down to prevent a life sentence.

Meanwhile, Ecuador has taken steps to roll up people it claims have ties to Assange.

Tuesday, it fired a staffer in the embassy who had been extremely close to Assange (which may be how he learned about the plans to arrest him last week). Then, yesterday, Ecuador detained Swedish coder Ola Bini, alleging he was involved in some of the hacking they’ve accused Assange of. They also claim to know of two Russian hackers involved.

I have no idea if these developments are just Ecuador trying to cover-up corruption or real ties to WikiLeaks or perhaps something in between. There are no trustworthy actors here.

But — as William Arkin also notes — there’s an effort to test whether WikiLeaks has been at the front end of many of these leaks. Aside from WikiLeaks’ reported source for its Saudi Leaks files from Russia, Arkin focuses less on the reasons there are real questions about WikiLeaks’ relationship with Russia. I think we honestly won’t know which of the untrustworthy sides is being more trustworthy until we see the evidence.

Whichever it is, it seems that DOJ is poised to start building out whatever it can on at least one conspiracy indictment against WikiLeaks. The indictment and its implementation yesterday seems primarily to have served as a way to lock down one part — the most volatile one — of the equation. What comes next may assuage concerns about the thinness of this indictment or it may reveal something far more systematic.

In the meantime, Assange is represented by some great lawyers, both in the UK and here. Which at least increases the chances any larger claims DOJ plans to roll out will be tested aggressively.

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

The Dangers of the Julian Assange Indictment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Plane to See: A Plane with Assange or Another One? [Updated]

[NB: Check the byline – this isn’t bmaz (who beat me to publishing a post about Assange. LOL) Update is at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

A couple weeks ago Politico’s Jake Sherman tweeted about the USDOJ’s plane:

The plane left from Manassas Regional Airport which observers note is where the DOJ stations their detail which handles extraditions.

As you can see it returned days later on Saturday, March 23. It was about this time frame that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange became jittery about possible extradition to the U.S.

It was hard to tell if Assange was right; every time WikiLeaks tweeted since the plane left UK’s London Luton Airport — where MI5 has a hangar — that extradition was imminent, nothing happened. Many folks had a chuckle watching the night-long tweet stream by journalists covering the Ecuadoran embassy in London, watching pro-Assange activists setting up camp but not seeing any resulting arrest and seizure.

Until this morning at roughly 10:00 a.m. local time London.

Assange was charged by the UK with breaching bail after he failed to report for Sweden’s extradition order; Assange plead Not Guilty. The Crown Court found him guilty; he may face 12 months in jail at a later date.

Read bmaz’s take on Assange’s extradition to the U.S. and the DOJ’s charges against him.

Now here’s where it gets interesting for me, given how upset many of us were with Attorney General Bill Barr’s appearance before Congress in which he hedged about the Special Counsel’s Report except to say it would be released next week:

Emphasis mine. Was the plane Barr mentioned a figurative one or a literal one?

This is an open thread.

UPDATE — 2:50 PM EDT —

AFP tweeted a graphic with a timeline of events preceding Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy:

It’s thin on entries, missing a date when the sexual assault charges were filed in Sweden for example. But it does give a feel for the manner in which events led up to Assange’s trip to Metropolitan Police station today.

Via Twitter, Marcy re-upped her post from last year related to prosecuting Assange:

Worth a re-read; in my opinion, Marcy’s November 2 post is also worth a re-read:

US Government Reveals It Has Video Evidence of Joshua Schulte Sharing Classified Information as Ecuador Restricts Assange’s Legal Visits

I don’t think Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion (18 USC 371, 1030(a)(1), 1030(a)(2), 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii)) is enough to warrant extradition alone.

Otherwise a Leicestershire 18-year-old would have been looking extradition for his attempted hacking of U.S. officials in October 2015, instead of eight charges of “performing a function with intent to secure unauthorised access,” and two of “unauthorised modification of computer material.”

The waiting game continues.

The Assange Indictment and The Rule of Specialty

Alright, as most of you have discovered, Julian Assange had his asylum status revoked by Ecuador, and officers of the Met (and presumably Scotland Yard too) were allowed into the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to effectuate arrest of Assange. Don’t be fooled by the breathless cable news coverage, the primary arrest warrant was the UK one from Assange’s 2012 jumping of bail conditions, not the extradition request by the US. In short, Assange would still be in custody right now irrespective of the US extradition request.

To flesh out the rest of Assange’s status, to the extent we currently know it, I will pilfer some of the reportage of the excellent Daniel Sandford of the BBC. Assange was presented immediately to Court One at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court where it was made clear that there were two warrants he was arrested on, not just the US request. Assange pled not guilty. He was NOT ordered to present evidence on his failure to surrender (which is appropriate if he declines). The judge presiding, Michael Snow nevertheless, and quite properly, found Assange guilty of the bail offense. Assange will appear in the higher level Southwark Crown Court for sentencing on the bail offense at a future date not yet specified. He will be back in the Westminster Magistrate’s Court, as of now by video link from his detention facility, on May 2nd regarding the extradition matter.

With that background out of the way, let’s look at the more significant US extradition case. First off, here is the EDVA indictment that was unsealed this morning. As you can see, it is for a single count of computer hacking conspiracy. I think most people expected all kinds of different counts, up to and including espionage crimes. Those were not included, nor were the issues from the Vault 7 case, that easily could have been indicted on outside of any real First Amendment issues.

So, while the indictment could have encompassed far many more charges and issues, it does not and is just this one count.

Why is that important?

Because legal commentators like Jeff Toobin on CNN are having a field day noting that there may be more charges forthcoming. And Shimon Prokupecz of CNN reports DOJ is indeed going to seek “additional charges” against Assange. And why is that important? Because of the Rule of Specialty.

I noted this from almost the first second on Twitter, but few other than Ken White (aka Popehat) seem to have caught on to how this doctrine will come into play in the case of Assange. It is a real issue, though we do not know how it will play out at this early stage of the extradition process.

The Doctrine of Specialty is a principle of International law that is included in most extradition treaties, whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial for certain criminal offenses may be tried only for those offenses and not for any other pre-extradition offenses. Long ago and far away I argued this successfully, but that was in relation to the treaty between the US and Mexico. The Assange case obviously involves a different treaty, the US/UK Extradition treaty of 2003.

So, what does the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Treaty of 2003 provide? Well, that is contained in Article 18, which reads as follows:

Rule of Specialty

1. A person extradited under this Treaty may not be detained, tried, or punished in the Requesting State except for:
(a) any offense for which extradition was granted, or a differently denominated offense based on the same facts as the offense on which extradition was granted, provided such offense is extraditable, or is a lesser included offense;
(b) any offense committed after the extradition of the person; or
(c) any offense for which the executive authority of the Requested State waives the rule of specialty and thereby consents to the person’s detention, trial, or punishment. For the purpose ofthis subparagraph:
(i) the executive authority of the Requested State may require the submission of the documentation called for in Article 8; and
(ii) the person extradited may be detained by the Requesting State for 90 days, or for such longer period of time as the Requested State may authorize, while the request for consent is being processed.

2. A person extradited under this Treaty may not be the subject of onward extradition or surrender for any offense committed prior to extradition to the Requesting State unless the Requested State consents.
3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article shall not prevent the detention, trial, or punishment of an extradited person, or the extradition of the person to a third State, if the person:
(a) leaves the territory ofthe Requesting State after extradition and voluntarily returns to it; or
(b) does not leave the territory ofthe Requesting State within 20 days of the day on which that person is free to leave.
4. I f the person sought waives extradition pursuant to Article 17, the specialty provisions in this Article shall not apply.

It is early, but Assange has specifically NOT waived extradition, and I do not expect that will change. In fact, he would be nuts to waive it. But look out for the US requesting the UK to waive the issue pursuant to Article 18(1)(c). I have no idea how the UK would treat such a request (nor whether it may have already been made). But give the UK credit, they take extradition conditions seriously and will not extradite where the death penalty is in play.

The death penalty could be an issue were Assange to be subsequently charged under 18 USC §794 (Espionage Act), which reads:

(a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.

Now, frankly, I think the US, through the DOJ, would have no problem whatsoever stipulating that the death penalty is off the table for Assange. It is almost a given.

The real question is what becomes of the Assange case in light of the Rule of Specialty. Suppose any superseding indictment does not go into charges outside of the “computer offenses” specified in the current indictment, but seeks to add additional computer offenses in an attempt to increase the sentencing range? Does that violate the spirit of the Rule of Specialty?

There is a lot we simply do not know yet. But this doctrine, and how the US proceeds in light of it, needs to be watched closely as the Assange extradition matter proceeds, both in the UK, and once he is remanded to US custody.

The Roger Stone Indictment Proves Barr’s Memo Understates Trump Flunkies’ Complicity

I’ve made this point implicitly a few times, but it bears making explicitly. We have proof that Bill Barr’s memo spins the known contents of the Mueller Report to minimize the complicity of Trump’s flunkies. That’s because we can compare what we know about Roger Stone’s efforts to optimize the release of the emails Russia stole with the language used in the memo.

As alleged in sworn statements and his indictment, Stone’s actions include at least the following:

  • Around July 19, 2016: Fresh off dining with some Brexiteers, Stone calls Trump and tells him, “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” to which Trump responds, “wouldn’t that be great.”
  • After July 22: A senior Trump campaign official “was directed” (the indictment doesn’t say by whom) to figure out from Stone what else would be coming
  • July 25: Stone emails Jerome Corsi and asks him to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails”
  • August 2: Corsi writes back and reflects knowledge that the emails would include Podesta ones and there would be two email drops, one shortly after he returned and one in October
  • October 4: After Assange has a press conference but doesn’t release any emails, Steve Bannon emails Stone and asks what happened, and Stone replies that WikiLeaks will release “a load every week going forward”
  • October 7: As the Podesta emails start to come out right after the Access Hollywood video — timing that Jerome Corsi has claimed Stone helped ensure — a Bannon associate texts Stone and says, “well done”

Now, none of that was itself charged as a crime. Stone was not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks. But then, short of making an argument that WikiLeaks is a known agent of Russia — which the US government has never done — optimizing the WikiLeaks release is not a crime. But assuming that Corsi is correct that Stone got WikiLeaks to hold the Podesta release to dampen the impact of the Access Hollywood video, it is absolutely coordination. And even according to Stone — who believed Trump needed to avoid alienating women to win — dampening the release of the video influenced the election.

Now consider how this behavior falls into Barr’s supposed exoneration of Trump campaign involvement in the hack-and-leak.

First, there’s Barr’s truncated citation of a Mueller Report sentence. [my emphasis throughout]

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Then a footnote defining what the word “coordinated” means in that sentence.

In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined “coordinated” as an “agreement–tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

Finally, there’s Barr’s own version.

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

The exoneration for coordination in Mueller’s language, at least, extends only to the Trump campaign, not to rat-fuckers working on the side (one of the things Mueller reportedly asked a lot of witnesses was precisely when and why Stone left the campaign). And at least according to this language, Mueller’s assessment of coordination extended only to coordination with the Russian government. So even if Mueller and the US government are getting close to labeling WikiLeaks a Russian entity, it still wouldn’t count for this assessment. Unsurprisingly, Barr relies on that language to give the Trump campaign a clean bill of health on the hack-and-leak side.

Most cynically, though, even after Barr acknowledges that the Russians used WikiLeaks to disseminate the stolen emails, the very next sentence doesn’t mention the charges Mueller brought against Stone for hiding his own (and through him, the campaign’s, including Donald Trump’s) coordination of the releases “for purposes of influencing the election.”

But we know Stone’s indictment has to be in the report. That’s because the report, by regulation, must list all Mueller’s prosecutorial decisions. So not only would Mueller describe that he indicted Stone, but he probably also explains why he didn’t include a conspiracy charge in Stone’s indictment (which probably relates primarily to First Amendment concerns, and not any illusions about WikiLeaks’ willing service for Russia on this operation). So it must be in the report. But Barr doesn’t mention that, indeed, the Trump campaign, through their associated rat-fucker, did actually coordinate on the hack-and-leak and did actually influence the election by doing so, they just didn’t coordinate directly with the Russian government.

On this matter, it’s crystal clear that Barr cynically limited his discussion of the report to obscure that Mueller had, indeed, found that the campaign “coordinated” on the hack-and-leak for purposes of influencing the election.

Barr has already demonstrated bad faith in his representation of Mueller’s findings. Which is why it is so alarming that — according to an uncharacteristically alarmed Peter Baker — DOJ plans to write a summary of Mueller’s report for Congress, not send over a redacted version of it.

Mueller’s full report has yet to be released, and it remained unclear if it ever would be. House Democrats have demanded that it be sent to them by next Tuesday, but the Justice Department outlined a longer schedule, saying that it will have its own summary ready to send to lawmakers within weeks, though not months.

Barr has already failed the test of whether he can summarize Mueller’s results in good faith.

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

In Subpoenaing Chelsea Manning, the Government Picks a Likely Needless Fight with the Transparency Community Again

I’m bumping this post from earlier in the week. After refusing to answer questions before the grand jury under a grant of immunity, the Judge in this matter, Claude Hilton, held Chelsea Manning in contempt. She has been booked into the Alexandria jail until she either answers the questions or the grand jury expires. 

Here’s an interview Manning did just before going in for her contempt hearing. 

As NYT first reported, a grand jury in EDVA has subpoenaed Chelsea Manning to testify. She has said she’ll fight the subpoena.

Ms. Manning, who provided a copy of the subpoena to The New York Times, said that her legal team would file a motion on Friday to quash it, arguing that it would violate her constitutional rights to force her to appear. She declined to say whether she would cooperate if that failed.

“Given what is going on, I am opposing this,” she said. “I want to be very forthright I have been subpoenaed. I don’t know the parameters of the subpoena apart from that I am expected to appear. I don’t know what I’m going to be asked.”

The WaPo adds details about a grand jury appearance last year by David House. Notably, he appears to have been asked about the Iraq and Afghan war logs, not the State department cables that have been more central to public reporting based off WikiLeaks releases.

Last July, computer expert David House, who befriended Manning in 2010 at a hacker space in Boston he founded, testified for 90 minutes before the grand jury. In an interview, House said he met the WikiLeaks founder in January 2011 while Assange was under house arrest at Ellingham Hall, a manor house 120 miles northeast of London. Assange was fighting an extradition request by Sweden, where he faced an inquiry into allegations of sexual assault.

Assange asked House to help run political operations for WikiLeaks in the United States. “Specifically, he wanted me to help achieve favorable press for Chelsea Manning,” he said.

House, who testified in exchange for immunity, said the grand jury was interested in his relationship with Assange. “They wanted full insight into WikiLeaks, what its goals were and why I was associated with it,” he said. “They wanted explanations of why certain things occurred and how they occurred. . . . It was all related to disclosures around the war logs.”

The WaPo also argues that Manning will have a tough time fighting this subpoena, which is probably right, though I’m not sure how her legal exposure works given the commutation. She may have a real basis to challenge the subpoena (or at least invoke the Fifth) based off a double jeopardy claim.

Setting aside the legal questions though, I think this subpoena raises real tactical ones. Unless the government believes they need to show a newly-understood pattern of behavior on the part of WikiLeaks dating to before the time Julian Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy as part of a bid to boot him, I think this move is likely to backfire, even from the most hawkish government perspective.

Subpoenaing people for stuff that happened nine years ago, when WikiLeaks’ actions are more immediately suspect in the context of the Vault 7 releases, only makes sense if prosecutors are pursuing some new theory of criminal activity. Contra what Steve Vladeck says to the WaPo (that Assange’s charges last year may be about a 10 year statute of limitations tied to the Espionage Act), prosecutors may be pursuing a conspiracy charge that has continued to more recent years, of which the 2009 actions were the first overt acts (which would also toll the statutes of limitation).

But it’s not just the US government that appears to have a new understanding of WikiLeaks’ actions. So do people who have been involved with the organization over the years, particularly in the wake of WikiLeaks’ 2016 efforts to help Russia elect Donald Trump. The public reversals on supporting Assange from Xeni Jardin, Barrett Brown, and Emma Best have been accompanied by a whole lot of reporting (some of it obviously based on leaks of communications from other former insiders) that lay out activities that go beyond the passive receipt of public interest documents and subsequent publication of them. More will surely be coming.

What journalists and activists are presenting about WikiLeaks doesn’t necessarily get the government beyond a First Amendment defense — certainly not one that might put a lot of respectable investigative reporting at risk. But it does undermine Assange’s claims to be a mere publisher.

And unless 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.

There’s even good reason to believe history will likely eventually show that FBI’s use of Sabu as an informant likely didn’t get them what they thought they got. And it’s not just Sabu. It is my strong suspicion that we’ll eventually learn that at key moments, the known instincts and habits of the FBI were exploited just as badly as the good faith efforts of transparency activists, even before the Bureau’s bumbling efforts played the perhaps decisive  role in the 2016 election.

We’re at a moment when, amid rising tribalism, both federal law enforcement and the transparency community are actually reassessing. That reassessment is key to being less susceptible to exploitation, on both sides.

But ratcheting up the stakes, as a subpoena of Manning at this moment amounts to, will reverse that trend.

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

Fun with Dr. Corsi’s “Forensics”!

By far the most ridiculous part of Jerome Corsi’s book is where he spends an entire chapter pretending that he figured out on his own that WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails rather than being told that by someone whose identity he’s trying to avoid sharing with Mueller’s team.

The chapter is one of three in the book that he presents as having been written in real time, effectively as diary entries. Corsi presents it as the fevered narrative he writes on November 18, 2018, at a time when Mueller’s team was cracking down on him for his continued lies but before he refused the plea deal, after a night of nightmares.

Last night, I was plagued by nightmares that caused me to sleep very poorly.

His change in voice is followed with an even more direct address to readers, which he returns to as an interjection in the middle of his crazed explanation.

I am going to write this chapter to explain to you, the reader, how I used my basic intuitive skills as a reporter to figure out in August 2016 that Assange had Podesta’s emails, that Assange planned to start making the Podesta file public in October 2016, and that Assange would release the emails in a serial, day-by-day fashion, right up to election day.

[snip]

Now, I know this is tedious and will tax many readers, so I’ve decided here to take a break. You have to understand what I am going through is a roller-coaster. Sometimes I feel like everything is normal and that the federal government will understand that I am a reporter and should be protected by the First Amendment. Then, I realize that the next ring of the doorbell could be the FBI seeking to handcuff me and arrest me in full view of my family.

Resuming after a much-needed break, we need only a few more dates to complete the analysis.

The chapter consists of three things, none of which even remotely presents a case for how he could have concluded WikiLeaks was sitting on John Podesta’s emails:

  • An argument that claims he simply reasoned it all out, without proof
  • A chronology that makes no sense given the July and August 2016 emails he’s trying to explain away
  • Other crap theories designed to undermine Mueller’s argument about Russian involvement, most of which post-date the date when Corsi claims to have figured out the Podesta emails were coming

Corsi’s “argument”

Corsi’s main argument is this:

Clearly, I reasoned there had to have been Podesta emails on that server that would have discussed the Clinton/DNC plot to deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016. Where were these Podesta emails, I wondered?

[snip]

I felt certain that if Assange had Podesta’s emails he would wait to drop them in October 2016, capturing the chance to stage the 2016 “October Surprise,” a term that had been in vogue in U.S. presidential politics since 1980 when Jimmy Carter lost re-election to Ronald Reagan, largely because the Reagan camp finessed Ayatollah Khomeini to postpone the release of the hostages from the American embassy in Tehran until after that year’s November election. I also figured that Assange would release the Podesta emails in drip-drip fashion, serially, over a number of days, stretching right up to the Election Day. In presidential politics, the news cycle speeds up, such that what might take a month or a week to play out in a normal news cycle might take only a day or two in the heightened intensity of a presidential news cycle—especially a presidential news cycle in October, right at Election Day is nearing.

In spite of his claims, elsewhere, to have done forensic analysis that told him John Podesta’s emails were coming, ultimately his argument boils down to this: he figured out that Podesta’s emails (which he purportedly hadn’t read) would be the most damning possible thing and therefore WikiLeaks must have and intend to release them in a serial release because it made sense.

Corsi’s chronology

From there, Corsi proceeds to spin out the following bullshit about how he came to that conclusion:

  • Starting in February 2016, a woman named LH whose ex-husband was a former top NSA figure told him [why?] incorrect things about how the Democrats organize their servers. This information seems to be inflected by the flap over VAN space the previous December, but Corsi doesn’t mention that. This information is wrong in many of the ways later skeptics of the Russian hack would be wrong, but Corsi claims he had that wrong understanding well in advance of the crowd.
  • When Assange announced on June 12 that he had upcoming Hillary leaks, Corsi was “alerted to the possibility Assange had obtained emails from the DNC email server,” which he took to mean VAN.
  • When the WaPo reported on the DNC hack on June 14, 2016, Corsi took Democrats’ (false) reassurances about financial data to be true, matched it to his incorrect claimed understanding of how the Democrats organized their data, and assumed VAN had been hacked (this is the day before Guccifer 2.0 would claim he got in through VAN, remember). Corsi also claims to have noted from the WaPo story that Perkins Coie and Crowdstrike were involved, the latter of which he tied to Google’s Eric Schmidt (who was helping Dems on tech), which together he used to suggest that in real time he believed the Democrats had “manufactured” evidence to pin the hack on the Russians. Again, Corsi is suggesting he got to the conspiracy theories it took the rest of Republicans a year to get to, but in real time.
  • Corsi incorrectly read the Crowdstrike white paper (on which the WaPo story was obviously based and which Ellen Nakashima had had for about a week, and which includes an update written in response to the appearance of Guccifer 2.0) as a response to Guccifer 2.0’s post on June 15 and — in spite of the WaPo report that Cozy Bear had been “monitoring DNC’s email and chat communications” — concluded that the hackers had not taken email.
  • After the DNC emails were released, Corsi had what he claims was his big insight: that these emails largely came from DNC’s Comms Director and their finance staffers, which meant Podesta’s (and DWS’, which he logically should but did not, pursue) had to be what was left. Mind you, the former point is something WikiLeaks made clear on its website:

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks began releasing over two days a total of 44,053 emails and17,761 email attachments from key figures in the DNC. What I noticed immediately was that the largest number of emails by far came from DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda (10,520 emails), who had approximately three-times the emails released for the next highest on the list, National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3,799 emails) and Finance Chief of Staff Scott Corner (3,095 emails). What I noticed immediately was that emails from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and John Podesta were missing. Yet, by analyzing the addresses in the emails, it was clear the “From,” “To,” and or “CC” listings indicate the email was sent by or to an addressee using the DNC email server, identified as @dnc.org.

  • In his narrative of how he “figured out” there must be Podesta emails, he relies not on the July 25 NBC story he cites earlier in his book, quoting Assange saying there was “no proof” the emails came from Russia (and suggesting his set were a different one than the ones analyzed by cybersecurity experts), but a CNN story he dates to July 26 but which got updated early morning July 27, citing Assange saying, “Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are;” Corsi also cites a July 27 NYMag story citing the CNN one. Corsi claims that as he was listening to this interview, he realized that Assange had Podesta emails “lifted from the DNC server,” which would be incorrect even if it were true, given that Podesta’s emails were from his Gmail account.

Listening to this interview on CNN, all the pieces fit in place for me. Assange had Podesta emails that were also lifted from the DNC server and these were the emails he was holding to drop later in the campaign.

  • Corsi describes “the last piece of the puzzle” to be Seth Rich’s death on July 10, 2016, but which occurred before Assange’s post DNC release interviews, in one of which Assange suggested his sources were still alive to “step forward,” then points to Assange’s offer of a reward for information leading to a conviction on August 9. This happened after he had already suggested to Stone that Podesta’s emails were coming.

None of this explains how Corsi would not have decided that Clinton Foundation emails were what was missing, which is what Stone believed when he instructed Corsi to reach out to Ted Malloch on July 25, the day before the Assange interviews Corsi says led him to conclude WikiLeaks instead had Podesta’s emails. And much of it assumes that a unified hack occurred (otherwise it would be impossible to decide what was coming from what had already been released), an assumption he claims not to believe in much of the rest of his crap.

Corsi’s crap

In addition to that chronology, though, Corsi throws in a bunch of crap meant to discredit the evidence laid out in the Mueller GRU indictment. Much of this evidence post-dates the moment he claims he figured out that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails, which makes it irrelevant to his theory, nevertheless Corsi throws it out there.

  • Corsi takes the Guccifer 2.0 leak of DCCC files to Aaron Nevins — which didn’t happen until over a month after he told Stone that WikiLeaks had Podesta emails — to be “proof” not just that Guccifer 2.0 only hacked DNC files, which he again asserts incorrectly came from VAN, but also that Guccifer 2.0 had not hacked emails.
  • Corsi claims that Guccifer 2.0 “never bragged that he hacked the DNC email server that contained the Podesta emails,” even though Guccifer 2.0 did brag that WikiLeaks had published documents he gave them after the DNC leak.
  • Corsi claims that Guccifer 2.0 published donor lists and voter analysis at DCLeaks, which is generally inaccurate (indeed, some Podesta files came out via DCLeaks!), but also admits a tie between Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks that would either rely on contemporary reporting that asserted a tie, the GRU indictment, or some personal knowledge not otherwise explained.
  • Corsi claims that, unlike Marcel Lazar, “Guccifer 2.0 has never been positively identified let alone arrested,” without explaining how he’s sure that the 12 GRU officers Mueller indicted don’t amount to positively identifying the people running Guccifer 2.0. Indeed, rather than addressing that indictment, Corsi instead tries to rebut the Intelligence Community Assessment’s “high confidence” attribution of Guccifer 2.0 to GRU, which he claims relies on ‘tradecraft’ that relies on circumstantial evidence at best, presuming a hacker leaves a signature.” In the ICA, that discussion appears in a section that also notes that “Some analytic judgments are based directly on collected information,” as the Mueller indictment makes clear the GRU one was.
  • Corsi claims the Vault 7 release suggesting the CIA has a tool to falsely attribute its own hacks “undermined” the IC’s attribution of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, without realizing that’s a different issue from whether the CIA, NSA, and FBI can correctly attribute the hack (though if the Russians obtained those files in the weeks after Joshua Schulte allegedly stole them in 2016, it would have made it harder for CIA to chase down the Russians).
  • Corsi initially argues, providing no evidence except that he’s sure the DNC emails come from the DNC email server and not NGP-VAN or Hillary’s private server, that, “While the DNC email server could have been hacked by an outside agent, what is equally plausible is that the emails could have been stolen by someone on the inside of the DNC, perhaps an employee with their own @dnc.org email address.” He then feeds the Seth Rich conspiracy.
  • Corsi uses what he claims to have learned about serialization in a college course covering Dickens (but details of which, regarding the history of Dickens’ serialization, he gets entirely wrong) to explain how he knew the Podesta emails would come out in a serialized release.
  • Corsi dismisses the possibility the Russians used a cut-out with this garble:

The attempt to distinguish is disingenuous, suggesting the Russians may have been responsible for the hack, turning the information to a third party, not the Russians or a state actor, who handed WikiLeaks the emails and thus became “the source.”

  • Corsi cites the Nation’s August 9, 2017 version of the Bill Binney theory purportedly proving that a set of files purporting to be from the DNC — which were never released by WikiLeaks — were copied inside the US and also noting that the Russian metadata in the first Guccifer 2.0 documents was placed there intentionally. As I noted at the time, the two theories actually don’t — at all — disprove the claim that Russia hacked the DNC. But they’re even worse for Corsi’s claims, because (even though the set of files were called NGP/VAN) they undermine his false claim about the Democrats’ servers and they acknowledge that the files he said disproved that Guccifer 2.0 had Podesta files actually were Podesta files.

These things are utterly irrelevant to the soundness of Corsi’s own claim to have been able to guess that the Podesta emails were coming and — as I note — a number of them sharply contradict what he claims to believe.

Corsi’s mistaken notion of his role in proving “collusion”

But the crap does serve Corsi’s larger point, which is to undermine what he imagines Mueller’s theory of “collusion” to be.

Mueller & Company had decided the Trump campaign somehow encouraged Russia to steal the DNC emails and give them to Assange, so WikiLeaks could publish them. Then to establish “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign, Mueller was out to connect his own dots. The Mueller prosecutors had been charged with the mission to grill me until

I would “give up” my source to Assange. I was their critical “missing link.” If Rhee, Zelinsky, and Goldstein only got me to confess, Mueller figured he could connect the dots from Roger Stone to me to Assange, and from Assange back again to me, and from me to Roger Stone, who would feed the information to Steve Bannon, then chairing the Trump campaign.

The final dots, the Mueller prosecutors assumed, would connect Bannon to Trump and the “Russian collusion” chain of communication would be complete. The only problem was that I did not have a source connecting me to Assange, so Mueller’s chain-link narrative does not connect.

While I actually think it possible that Corsi’s shenanigans may have harmed the neatness of Mueller’s case against Stone, perhaps even leading Mueller to charge Stone only with the obstruction charges rather than in a larger conspiracy, it doesn’t affect the understanding with which Mueller seems to be approaching the Don Jr side of any conspiracy, in which Trump’s son accepted a meeting offering dirt, thinking the family might make $300 million off it, and promised policy considerations that — even before he was sworn into office — his father took steps to pay off.

That conspiracy remains, even if Mueller can’t show that at the same time, Trump was maximizing the advantage of the WikiLeaks releases via his old political advisor Roger Stone.

But who knows? Perhaps Mueller may one day prove that, too?

One other thing that’s worth noting, however: As I laid out above, Corsi doesn’t just attempt to explain how he came to guess that WikiLeaks would release John Podesta’s emails. In the guise of doing that, he lays out what amounts to the Greatest Hits of the Denialist Conspiracies, throwing every possible claim mobilized to undermine the conclusion that Russia hacked the Democrats out there, even the ones that undermine Corsi’s own claimed beliefs.

And, as Corsi himself notes, Mueller has Corsi’s Google searches.

Truthfully, I was astounded because it seemed as if the FBI had studied me down to knowing the key strokes that I had used on my computer to do Google searches for articles. I realized my Google file would have much information about my locations and my Internet searches, but the way Zelinsky drilled down on how I wrote this article was shocking.

Repeatedly Zelinsky had warned me that I had no idea how truly extensive the Special Counselor’s investigation had been. Now, I imagined an army of FBI computer specialists at Quantico mapping out my every electronic communication in 2016, including my emails, my cellphone calls, and my use of the laptop and the Internet to conduct my research and write my various articles and memos.

They actually know whether he read this stuff (notably, the NBC, CNN, and NYMag articles he cites from late July 2016) in real time or only after the fact. They know when Corsi downloaded a bunch of other things (including the Guccifer 2.0 releases), and they know whether he read the GRU indictment. The FBI has also likely obtained what he was doing in November, 2018, as he was writing this stuff.

So it may be that when Corsi’s book comes out in hard cover on March 12, Mueller’s team will  already have put together the forensic evidence to prove that Corsi’s claims about how he came by his own forensic analysis — and the rest of these conspiracies — are absolute bullshit. It is, admittedly, frightening how much the government can obtain about our contemporaneous thinking.

But it would be an ironic and just outcome for Corsi if Mueller’s best demonstration about the power of FBI’s forensic analysis comes not in the GRU indictment Corsi so studiously avoided mentioning in the entire book attempting to discredit it, but in proving Corsi’s own claims about forensics to be utterly false.

Corsi’s Timeline

March 16, 2016: WikiLeaks indexes FOIAed Hillary emails

June 12, 2016: Assange announces he has more information on Hillary

In that interview, Assange disclosed that WikiLeaks has “upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton,” though Assange distinguished the Hillary Clinton emails WikiLeaks possessed pending publication came from a different source than the emails from Hillary’s private email server. This alerted me to the possibility Assange had obtained emails from the DNC email server.

June 14, 2016: WaPo announces the DNC hack

June 15, 2016: Crowdstrike publicly releases white paper on DNC hack and Guccifer 2.0 first posts

July 10, 2016: Seth Rich’s murder

July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks releases the DNC emails

July 25, 2016: Stone emails Corsi asking him to Get to Assange to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails;” Corsi forwards the email to Ted Malloch

July 26, 2016: Assange tells CNN a lot more material is coming and refuses to exclude Russia as a source because “to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are”

July 28, 2016: Corsi and his wife leave for Italy

July 31, 2016: Stone emails Corsi to “call me MON” instructing him to get Malloch to see Assange

August 2, 2016: Corsi emails Stone,

Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.

August 9, 2016: WikiLeaks offers $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction for murder of Seth Rich

August 12, 2016: Corsi returns from Italy

March 7, 2017: WikiLeaks starts to release Vault 7 documents, including an Umbrage file showing that CIA uses disinformation to hide which attacks it launches

May 25, 2017: WSJ reports on Aaron Nevins files that Guccifer 2.0 noted in real time; Corsi deems this (in a Murdoch paper) to be part of the anti-Stone narrative

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