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Will the DOJ Press Charges Against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?

Will the DOJ Press Charges Against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?

Jeff Sessions has called the arrest of Assange a “priority.”

Sources have disclosed to the media that federal prosecutors have started to consider pressing changes against Julian Assange and other members of WikiLeaks. The case against the whistleblowing organization spans all the way back to 2010 when it published “diplomatic cables and military documents” to present day when it published the CIA’s hacking operations in March.

The other day, officials told CBS News that the FBI and CIA have started an investigation into those leaks in March.

Former President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice chose not to pursue action against WikiLeaks because they concluded “that doing so would be akin to prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information.” Plus, those officials decided they would face difficulties to bring about those charges since other organizations published the 2010 documents from U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley (Chelsea) Manning.

The prosecutors also found it difficult to determine “whether the First Amendment precluded the prosecution of Assange.”

Officials within the DOJ have started to draft “a memo that contemplates charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act.” However, those at the top of the DOJ will need to sign off on any charges against WikiLeaks like Attorney General Jeff Sessions. From CNN:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” he said. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.


Assange remains in the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid arrest on rape charges in Sweden. But his attorney Barry J. Pollack has said that no one within the DOJ has spoken to them about an investigation. The Washington Post reported:

He said there was “no legitimate basis for the Department of Justice to treat WikiLeaks differently than it treats other journalists.”

“The fact of the matter is — however frustrating it might be to whoever looks bad when information is published — WikiLeaks is a publisher, and they are publishing truthful information that is in the public’s interest,” Pollack said. “Democracy thrives because there are independent journalists reporting on what it is that the government is doing.”

Pollack noted that the Obama administration was “no shrinking violet when it came to pursuing reporters and journalists,” a reference to the Obama Justice Department’s repeated attempts to prosecute leakers. Pollack said he hoped “this administration will be more respectful, not less respectful, of the First Amendment than the prior administration was.”

Assange penned an op-ed in WaPo on April 11 and compared Wikileaks to the publication along with The New York Times:

The truths we publish are inconvenient for those who seek to avoid one of the magnificent hallmarks of American life — public debate. Governments assert that WikiLeaks’ reporting harms security. Some claim that publishing facts about military and national security malfeasance is a greater problem than the malfeasance itself. Yet, as Eisenhower emphasized, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Quite simply, our motive is identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post — to publish newsworthy content. Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents.


As I mentioned above, the FBI and CIA have started an investigation to find the person who handed over the CIA’s hacking operations to WikiLeaks. From CBS News:

Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider — either a CIA employee or contractor — who had physical access to the material. The agency has not said publicly when the material was taken or how it was stolen.

Much of the material was classified and stored in a highly secure section of the intelligence agency, but sources say hundreds of people would have had access to the material. Investigators are going through those names.


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There is a difference between a leaker and a publisher that is imbedded in our Constitution. The Obama administration correctly determined Assange is a publisher.

Further, according to Assange, the CIA lost control of the Vault 7 information before a copy was turned over to Wikileaks. That is, the leak to Wikileaks was protective against a prior, highly damaging release of tools that had strong potential to harm individuals and businesses, causing economic chaos. Release of knowledge of the tools that had been distributed to hackers worldwide might be considered an act of loyalty to US citizens. Again according to Wikileaks, the leaker scrubbed highly classified information from the Vault 7 materials turned over to Wikileaks, and then Wikileaks further refrained from publishing other confidential information that it received.

Please note that the quote accusing Sessions of naming Assange as a target is not accurate, according to many people who have actually listened to the original video. The reporter tried to put words in his mouth, which he refused to accept.

An unConstitution run against Wikileaks and Assange is not on the table, here. The internal leakers, however, are very much fair game.

The failure of our other members of the press to make this distinction is telling.

    mariner in reply to Valerie. | April 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Wasn’t it Pompeo who named Assange as a U.S. target?

    healthguyfsu in reply to Valerie. | April 21, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Wikileaks has done more than just publish.

    WikiLeaks is guilty of journalism. Assange, by practicing journalism, has become a threat to the official fascist propaganda organs commonly referred to as Mainstream Media.

    The government should be more selective about what information needs to be kept secret. You can’t have everything being a secret. And you can’t expect to have so many government employees under oath to defend and protect the US Constitution and then expect ALL of them to have no conscience and no patriotism.

    I just watched a series by Danny Schechter (once known as “The News Dissector”) called “America’s Surveillance State” that quoted a top NSA official (maybe 2nd in command) saying that you can expect one Edward Snowden, someone with a conscience and willing to fall on their sword, for every 2,000 employees you ask to violate the constitution. Probably more now that Snowden has shown the way.

    These leaks have only begun. The surveillance state cannot survive unless they take it to the next level, Stalinist terror campaign.

    Also, on March 29, 1999, Daniel Patrick Moynihan delivered a very prescient speech at MIT called “The Science of Secrecy”. If you can get a copy, it’s a must read. I can forward it to LI and make it available to anyone interested if LI will agree.

    We have become (not becoming) exactly what Moynihan and others warned about many years ago: a fascist surveillance state. What I fear most is that the Edward Snowdens will be one day replaced by robots who have no consciences nor loyalty to the US Constitution.

More mystery “sources said” Fake News.

great unknown | April 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

IIRC, Wikileaks had a dead-man’s switch prepared for just such an event. The full contents of their information, much of which has not yet been released, was distributed worldwide in encrypted form, with the keys to be released to the public in case of emergency.

If I was really cynical [perish the thought], I might suspect the Administration of trying to force the release of that content by threatening this legal action.

Well of course, when someone illegally exposes the Grubernments own lies or the Crimes of our Grubernment against it’s citizens they should be punished!

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

However, none of the quotes here support this CNN statement. Arrest of somebody having some connection to Wikileaks may be a priority, but nothing Sessions says here implies that anyone is after the publisher of the info, rather than the leaker who gave it to the publisher.

Which would all be reasonable and proper. No cause for panic yet on the civil liberties front.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to tom swift. | April 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks Tom.

    It’s Clinton News Network! So just more lies is my opinion.

    If Sessions said anything about Assange it was more likely about awarding him the “Medal of Freedom!”

    Only Clintons want to shut up Assange and Wikileaks……

buckeyeminuteman | April 21, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Assange is Australian in sovereign Ecuadorian territory. Can the US really arrest him?

Sad state of affairs when hackers have become journalists and journalists have become hacks…

This country would be FAR better off if DoJ would instead spend their effort arresting and pressing charges against the swill in CIA, NSA, and elsewhere in the “Intelligence” community who for years have been spitting on their very oaths of office to the Constitution. THAT is the true definition of treason. And that hangs around the necks of Brennan and Clapper and Comey and MANY others.

Rick the Curmudgeon | April 21, 2017 at 3:49 pm

I think he should be charged with Jaywalking, Mopery and Littering, then be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.