Skip to main content

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is likely off the hook in the US


WikiLeaks founder Juilan Assange is likely off the hook – at least as far as the U.S. government is concerned.

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is unlikely to bring changes against Assange for publishing classified government documents, according to U.S. officials. The reason, say the officials, is because the DoJ could not bring charges against Assange without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations that also published some of the more than 250,000 classified State Department diplomatic cables leaked by Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning.

Related Videos

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller in an interview with the Post. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

A formal decision to drop the case against Assange has not yet been reached, however; and a grand jury is still investigating any potential legal avenues against the WikiLeaks founder. But officials say that, unless he violated other U.S. laws, Assange will likely escape prosecution by the U.S. government.

Were the U.S. to charge Assange for publishing classified material, it would need to bring cases against The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Guardian, all of which partnered with WikiLeaks in publishing State Department documents leaked by Manning, who was convicted under the Espionage Act in July, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence for the unauthorized disclosure. Journalists for these publications would also have to be charged – something the DoJ is not willing to do.

Even if Assange escapes prosecution by the U.S., his legal troubles may be far from over. He has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since Ecuador’s government granted him political asylum in the summer of 2012, in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges.

Assange and his supporters have maintained that the sexual assault charges were a ruse to force Assange to go to Sweden, which would then extradite him to the U.S. Without the threat of U.S. prosecution, it is currently unclear whether Assange will remain at the embassy.

Editors' Recommendations

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange still in Ecuador’s embassy after 2 years, intends to leave ‘soon’
wikileaks assange internet blocked julian

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told reporters in London on Monday he plans to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy "soon."

The whistleblower sought refuge there two years ago when the UK Supreme Court dismissed his efforts to block extradition to Sweden where he's wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual assault involving two women.

Read more
Spies monitored WikiLeaks visitors in real time, Snowden docs show

Newly revealed documents leaked by former NSA analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that American and British spy agencies have targeted whistleblower publication WikiLeaks since 2008, not long after the controversial website was launched, reports The Intercept. As part of its surveillance efforts, the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) collected real-time data on visitors to WikiLeaks, which included country of origin, and search terms used to arrive at the website.
“By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google,” reports Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher.
The collection of IP addresses used to access WikiLeaks, which promised anonymity to whistleblowers, could have potentially been used to reveal their identities.
GCHQ used a system codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL to target WikiLeaks and its supporters, according to a 44-page PowerPoint presentation dated 2012 and labeled top-secret. The documents show that GCHQ used a “customized” version of Piwik, an open-source analytics program, to monitor WikiLeaks visitors.
A document dated 2010 shows that the NSA added WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to its so-called “Manhunting Timeline,” which lists individuals that the US government considers risks. Assange was added to the “Manhunting Timeline” after WikiLeaks began publishing 70,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan. The document cites a 2010 report from the Daily Beast, which stated that “the Obama administration is pressing Britain, Germany, Australia, and other allied Western governments to consider opening criminal investigations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and to severely limit his nomadic travels across international borders.”
The “Manhunt Timeline” also lists Iceland as one of the nations pressured to prosecute Assange, who remains secluded at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning under allegations of sexual misconduct.
In a statement, Assanged condemned the surveillance of WikiLeaks by the NSA and GCHQ and its supporters, calling it “criminal activity against the media.”
“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” said Assange. “No less concerning are revelations that the US government deployed ‘elements of state power’ to pressure European nations into abusing their own legal systems; and that the British spy agency GCHQ is engaged in extensive hostile monitoring of a popular publisher’s website and its readers.”
Another program used by GCHQ to “understand and shape the Human Terrain” of the Web, dubbed Squeaky Dolphin, collected real-time data that included “YouTube video views, URLs ‘liked’ on Facebook, and Blogspot/Blogger visits,” according to a page of the leaked documents.
Further documents show that the NSA used its resources to target file-sharing sites the Pirate Bay, which the agency cites as an example of a “malicious” website, as well as the hacktivist collective Anonymous.

Read more
WikiLeaks helping Edward Snowden in race to find ‘safe’ country, Ecuador likely destination
edward snowden has finally joined twitter pose

Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee wanted by US authorities on charges of espionage and theft of government property, is receiving assistance from the folks behind whistleblowing site WikiLeaks as he attempts to make it to a ‘safe’ country before the US intelligence agencies make it to him.
Snowden, the man at the center of what many consider to be the most significant intelligence leak in US history, arrived in Moscow on Sunday after flying from Hong Kong, the location of his media interviews that revealed details of the National Security Agency’s top secret PRISM program involving the systematic surveillance of telephone calls and Internet communications.
The 30-year-old whistleblower told the Guardian and Washington Post the NSA has “direct access” to the servers of Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, though these companies have said that any passing of information between them and the government is always done within the framework of existing laws, and that no such “back door” access is possible.
'Providing assistance'
On its Twitter feed Sunday, WikiLeaks said it was providing assistance to Snowden in his quest to find a ‘safe’ country.
“WikiLeaks has assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers and safe exit from Hong Kong,” the tweet said.
It’s believed Snowden will depart Russia Monday afternoon Moscow time on a flight bound for Cuba, with Ecuador likely to be his final destination – if the US fails to disrupt plans. A tweet on Sunday from Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, confirmed that his government had received an asylum request from Snowden, with WikiLeaks adding that the request would be dealt with upon his arrival in the country. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has already been granted asylum by the Latin American nation, though he’s currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London fearing deportation to Sweden – and possibly ultimately to the US – if he steps outside the building.
The US issued a provisional arrest warrant for the former Hawaii resident on Friday, and asked authorities in Hong Kong to detain him. However, Hong Kong said that after finding the US request to be incomplete there had been no legal basis to keep Snowden in the Chinese territory, and so allowed him to leave.
According to US Senator Charles Schumer, Snowden’s flight to Moscow was probably known about and approved of by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States - whether it’s Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden,” the New York Democrat told CNN. He also said he saw “the hand of Beijing” in Hong Kong’s decision to let the former CIA technician leave despite America’s request to detain him.
[Source: BBC, Reuters]

Read more