Thursday, December 16, 2010

Federal Prosecutors Prepare Case Against Julian Assange

At NYT, "U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks."

But Threat Level says the Times
gets the story wrong.

I'll have more on all of this later ...

Added: Here's David Dayen's headline at FDL: "Justice Department Looking for Pretense to Charge Julian Assange."

Right. Pretense.

WikiLeaks is a criminal enterprise and I'm sure prosecutors could get an indictment under the Espionage Act. The problem is whether the administration would be acting under a double standard by not indicting media outlets who published the leaks. This is holding back the prosecution, as noted at the Times' piece above. That's why Threat Level suggests the feds may seek to prosecute Assange under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which apparently affords greater leeway in charging those who encourage "a source to obtain documents in a manner known to be illegal is not protected."

Dayen links to progressive asshat Glenn Greenwald, although it's probably not worth your time to click through who is also at the video with communist Amy Goodman:

But check The Economist, "Extradition and WikiLeaks: Courting Trouble":
Some reports say that an American grand jury has already been secretly sworn in. Prosecutors seem to be focusing on Mr Assange’s involvement in enabling the leaking of secrets, rather than in their publication. That may seem a fine distinction. But it would avoid having to prosecute the New York Times.

Mr Assange may be vulnerable under the 1917 Espionage Act, which punishes leaks involving, and injuring, America’s “national defence”. The State Department warned him in writing on November 27th that the leaks would harm military operations. WikiLeaks is now trying hard to portray itself as a journalistic organisation, in order to benefit from the first amendment’s protection of the press and free speech. That was crucial in the 1971 “Pentagon Papers” case, when a Supreme Court decision upheld the New York Times’s right to publish secret material. However, Leonard Orland of the University of Connecticut notes that one of the judges’ opinions distinguished between illegal “prior restraint” and legitimate prosecution after publication. He says the more relevant precedent is United States v Morison, when the defendant was convicted for leaking photographs of Soviet naval construction to a British magazine.

So a charge against Mr Assange is possible. But extraditing anybody usually requires the deed concerned to be a crime in both countries. Convincing a judge in Sweden, which has one of the world’s most liberal press-freedom laws, of the virtues of America’s Espionage Act may be tricky. A 1961 treaty between the two countries forbids extradition for “political” crimes.

So does Britain’s extradition treaty with America. But it also sets a lower burden of proof. Simon Chesterman, a law professor at the National University of Singapore, notes that Britain’s tough Official Secrets Act would also outlaw WikiLeaks’ actions. For Mr Assange and his pals, Sweden may soon seem a haven, not a threat.
Well, maybe the U.S. can put a little pressure on Sweden to play hardball. Assange is dangerous to all parties involved.

More: At LAT, "WikiLeaks' Julian Assange is granted bail, will leave jail for country mansion":
After nine days in jail, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail Thursday in a politically charged case concerning alleged sex crimes in Sweden.

A high-court judge in London upheld an earlier decision to allow Assange to remain free while he fights extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question him over allegations of molestation, unlawful coercion and rape stemming from encounters he had with two women in August.

Assange, 39, can now swap what his lawyer calls the "Dickensian conditions" of a south London jail for the tony comforts of a country mansion owned by a friend, where the high-court judge agreed that he could stay while out on bail. But he must surrender his passport, submit to monitoring by electronic tag, abide by a curfew and report to the police daily.
It's hard out there for a pimp, I guess.

Also, at London's Daily Mail (with lots of pics), "Rape-charge WikiLeaks chief heading for Christmas in a country mansion after being granted bail at High Court."

Added (11:40am):


Maggie@MaggiesNotebook said...

It seems the DOJ could ignore media publishing WikiLeaks because the info was already out there. On the other hand, Holder could simply say we are prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act, and only Assange.

That's how this DOJ handles things - in your face and baldly prejudiced.

Donald, thank you so much for the link this week. I really appreciate it.

Ron T. said...

It is time for the feds to go after the criminal media in this country. The New York Times, Guardian, Spiegel, El Pais, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, etc. axis of terrorist evil should be immediately shut down, all their files confiscated, and all their employees put in solitary confinement just like their co-conspirator Manning. Assange is just the tip of the terrorist media ice-berg. You're nothing but a sympathizer if you don't support holding all parties responsible.