This is your reminder that the President of the United States “loves Wikileaks”.
So, what happens next? The folks who reserve their harshest condemnations of the U.S. government for Democratic administrations — a crowd that when combined with Assange groupies forms a perfect circle in a Venn diagram — may get an object lesson in the difference between Democratic and Republican Party governance.
Assange, who is only 47, did not go willingly. And he looked like he was 70.
There is a fine line between being a whistleblower and a security threat. Assange, in my view, is a little of both, depending on the issue. But you can’t be a security threat, period.
We’re living in a dark period in which rights created to protect citizens from abuses of government power are routinely turned inside out and weaponized to help those in power attack their critics and enemies; brazen coverups are repackaged as privacy rights and fidelity to the law. It probably goes without saying that Assange is set to be charged with publishing US national security secrets the theft of which may have been wrong or misguided in some people’s eyes but almost certainly weren’t part of any conspiracy against the United States. Participating in an actual conspiracy on the part of a foreign party which played some role in installing the current President in power won’t be part of the story.
As a person, Assange is a loathsome, destructive, megalomaniacal figure. These tendencies, apparent from the start, have undoubtedly been accentuated by years in self-imposed captivity which started and for many years was an effort to escape a legitimate sexual assault investigation.
That said, Assange is being indicted for the least criminal of his crimes: the publication of documents stolen by Chelsea Manning. I’m not convinced that Manning’s action were something other than whistleblowing. He exposed the collateral damage that was being done to civilians and reporters in Afghanistan. I wrote about the leak at the time, and posted the leaked video where US military fires upon and kills several civilians and reporters. Among the injured are two children. There is no doubt that the pilots in question violated the 2007 U.S. Rules of Engagement for Iraq, which permit the use of “deadly force” only against individuals who “pose a threat to Coalition Forces by committing a hostile act or demonstrating hostile intent.”
His leaks also exposed other acts of civilian deaths, and friendly fire deaths — all of which would have gone unnoticed to the public.
The U.S. government indictment of Julian Assange is an aggressive and potentially chilling legal document for journalists in the U.S. and abroad.— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) April 11, 2019
That is a significant issue regardless of one's view of Assange as a person, or his work, or his politics.
Assange may be “a conscientious objector, engaging in a long, honorable tradition of civil disobedience. He may even have acted at times as only a publisher. If he became a hacker and broke the law, though, he was no longer a journalist or just a messenger. He was a criminal.”— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) April 11, 2019
Slate is right:
The Justice Department was clever in drawing up its single-count indictment against Assange. It charges him with “conspiring to commit computer intrusion,” a crime carrying a punishment of up to five years in prison.
Assange is not being indicted for publishing the material—a charge that any competent defense lawyer could swat by appealing to his First Amendment rights. Rather, the indictment states, 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.”
This goes well beyond the constitutionally protected practices of journalism.
Manning, then a U.S. Army intelligence analyst on a military base in Iraq, did not have high-enough clearance to decode the password. Had Assange not encouraged Manning to send him the file containing the password, he wouldn’t have opened himself up to the count in this indictment.