Assange: Media failure to defend me and Manning led to AP, Rosen abuses

posted at 1:21 pm on June 4, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange feels vindicated at the moment that his source, Bradley Manning, goes on trial for handing over hundreds of thousands of pages of sensitive material.  The US government eschewed a plea bargain (and Manning’s guilty plea to lesser charges) in order to try Manning for “aiding the enemy.”  The prosecution made its opening argument yesterday:

In an hour-long opening statement for the prosecution on Monday, Captain Joe Morrow told the court martial that the US army private had been motivated by a craving for “notoriety” that had led him to disregard his extensive training and to the “aid of our adversaries”.

The prosecution statement made new allegations about the links between Manning and Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Morrow said that Manning had directly assisted in the editing of the Apache helicopter video of a US attack on civilians in Baghdad, and the court was shown extracts of a chat log between the soldier and Assange.

Prosecutors also alleged that Manning had been guided in his searches by the WikiLeaks “most wanted list”. …

Of the 21 counts faced by the army private on Monday, by far the most serious is that he knowingly gave intelligence information to al-Qaida by transmitting hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning is accused of “aiding the enemy”, in violation of Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The prosecution alleges that by indirectly unleashing a torrent of secrets onto the internet, Mannning in effect made it available to Osama bin Laden and his cohorts.

I suspect that the government will have to exert itself to sell that argument.  Broadly speaking, that could be said about any leak during wartime that has to do with national-security secrets.  We have existing laws that deal with these leaks in degrees for a reason, although all of them are serious crimes with hefty prison sentences.  Usually, “aiding the enemy” requires an intent and action to directly aid the enemy rather than just leaking classified material to a publisher. This at least hints at prosecutorial overreach, and it may end up leaving egg on the faces of the government if they can’t make that case.

Assange tells the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim that the US media’s failure to rally to Manning’s defense — and his — emboldened the Obama administration to abuse their power with the Associated Press and James Rosen:

The U.S. media made themselves vulnerable to attack by the Department of Justice by standing aside as WikiLeaks and Army Pfc. Bradley Manning were targeted several years ago, Julian Assange told The Huffington Post in an interview from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he is holed up fighting extradition to Sweden.

“All rights are fought for and maintained,” the WikiLeaks founder said. “As soon as organizations or people stop demanding that their rights be protected, then they are overrun and the current situation results.” …

“It is a disgrace to charge [Manning with] communicating with the enemy and to make it a capital offense — to threaten to either kill him or make him spend life in prison. The prosecution has refused to drop that charge. The reason that charge is there, and it should be a wake-up to all U.S. journalists and publishers, is to establish a precedent,” said Assange.

“The precedent works like this: If you communicate with a journalist, then you communicate with a publisher, then you communicate with the public, then you communicate with al Qaeda — so you communicate with enemies of the United States, and as a result your communications with a journalist must be punished by death or life imprisonment. If tolerated, that will lead to regimes where every U.S. government source, when speaking to a journalist, must be concerned that they will suffer either the death penalty or life imprisonment as a result. Now having established that, the U.S. government will have set the precedent that not only is the [source] indirectly communicating with al Qaeda by communicating with the public, but the publisher and the journalist is as well. And therefore the publisher and the journalist can be embroiled in espionage charges, some of which similarly carry the death penalty,” Assange said.

Assange might have a point in regard to Wikileaks, which was the publisher of the material, and filled the same role as the New York Times or Washington Post when those newspapers revealed classified data for their own scoops.  He’s correct that this seems to be the position the Department of Justice took with Rosen, at least in general, by representing to a federal court that Rosen was a potential co-conspirator in espionage.  I’d be surprised if Rosen turned out to be the only case in which Justice tried to use that mechanism to get around federal regulations in leak investigations, especially since they succeeded with Rosen.

However, Assange is most decidedly incorrect when it comes to Manning.  He may have a case for arguing prosecutorial overreach, as I noted above, but Manning is not analogous to Rosen, the AP, or even Wikileaks.  As I point out in my column for The Week, Manning is a source, not a reporter, and the distinction is important:

Those with clearances are briefed on how to raise issues on legality and ethics within the parameters of security, and none of those processes involve sending the data to a newspaper. If all else fails, one can contact a member of Congress to discuss whatever issue arises, especially those on committees with oversight of the activities involved. That’s doubly true for those within the military, where chain-of-command prevails in most cases. Manning made the whistleblower defense even more difficult with his indiscriminate release of material — hundreds of thousands of pages of classified cables and other data — that belies a compelling need to expose any specific wrongdoing.

All of the above applies to both the Rosen and AP cases, too. In both cases, the leaks involved were serious and could have compromised people on the ground in sensitive operations. The DOJ screwed up not in its pursuit of leakers, but in the way it pursued reporters. Congress enacted regulations in the wake of Watergate to ensure that the Department of Justice acted in a restrained fashion when dealing with the media in leak investigations, 28 CFR 50.10. In theAP case, Justice ignored its provisions. With Rosen, Attorney General Eric Holder signed a warrant request that accused a journalist of being a potential co-conspirator in espionage to get around those regulations. On top of that, Holder then misled the House Judiciary Committee on May 15 by stating that he’d never heard of any such effort, only to have his direct involvement in the warrant application exposed by NBC News eight days later.

To some, this may seem a distinction without a difference. If government goes after leakers, sources for reporters will dry up, Hedges claims, representing a de facto end to freedom of the press. That, however, also confuses the roles of source and reporter, and it flies against common experience over the last few decades, too.

People have an almost irrepressible desire to tell secrets, especially those that don’t belong to them, which is why government has to establish strong deterrents to leaks that could get people killed and damage our ability to defend ourselves. The real danger lies in making criminals out of reporters and espionage out of normal source-currying behaviors, establishing precedents that will allow those in power to deter journalists from pursuing legitimate stories about the way in which our government operates. That is both a distinction and a difference, and one that matters to both national security and freedom of the press.

 

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Deflection is all the leftists have.

Principles they don’t know.

Schadenfreude on June 4, 2013 at 1:23 PM

How can God love Assanges and Mannings?

Schadenfreude on June 4, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Also “one is not the other”

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting says he’ll show evidence at his trial that he opened fire because Islamic leadership was in imminent danger.

Schadenfreude on June 4, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Classic non sequitur

natasha333 on June 4, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Not once has a leftist troll on HA defended liberalism and progressivism. If you’ve done so, please link.

Schadenfreude on June 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Poor Julian Assange, forced to hide out in the Ecuadoran embassy so he doesn’t get extradited to Sweden to face rape charges.

Oh, the humanity!

myiq2xu on June 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM

I could cheerfully put a round through Assange.

M240H on June 4, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Usually, “aiding the enemy” requires an intent and action to directly aid the enemy rather than just leaking classified material to a publisher. This at least hints at prosecutorial overreach, and it may end up leaving egg on the faces of the government if they can’t make that case.

In this day and age of the intertubes, leaking to someone you know is going to making the raw information available to anyone with an internet connection is basically handing the intelligence to the enemy.

rbj on June 4, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Usually, “aiding the enemy” requires an intent and action to directly aid the enemy rather than just leaking classified material to a publisher. This at least hints at prosecutorial overreach, and it may end up leaving egg on the faces of the government if they can’t make that case.

Not that hard, just declare wikileaks our enemy.

nobar on June 4, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Didn’t I hear something about Assange being declared an enemy of the state? If so, wouldn’t aiding him be aiding the enemy?

myiq2xu on June 4, 2013 at 1:36 PM

I could cheerfully put a round through Assange.

If you did I’m certain you would feel some recoil.

myiq2xu on June 4, 2013 at 1:37 PM

I suspect that the government will have to exert itself to sell that argument. Broadly speaking, that could be said about any leak during wartime that has to do with national-security secrets.

700K instances of leaks. And supposedly the documentation from little Bradley’s treason on the computers at the compound where OBL was taken out. That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to make when it comes to aiding the enemy. Particularly in a military trial.

The only thing that angers me more about this situation is that Manning is the only one facing trial. His superior officers who allowed a PFC pilfer 700K classified documents un-noticed should be held to account for their dereliction of duty.

Happy Nomad on June 4, 2013 at 1:38 PM

..15 minutes of fame over; prepare for jail terms.

The War Planner on June 4, 2013 at 1:39 PM

This at least hints at prosecutorial overreach, and it may end up leaving egg on the faces of the government if they can’t make that case.

Not necessarily. The sheer volume of data leaked by Manning means they can get him on innumerable counts of violating his non-disclosure agreement. He’ll go to jail until his padded bras get saggy no matter what.

My understanding is that the specific documents/items that they are pursuing for the Article 104 violation are essentially the ones that cherry picked for maximum impact, pulled with specific intent (such as those on the most wanted list), or were altered by Manning prior to distribution.

Sgt Steve on June 4, 2013 at 1:40 PM

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting says he’ll show evidence at his trial that he opened fire because Islamic leadership was in imminent danger.

Schadenfreude on June 4, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Yeah, I saw that story. Much harder to make the case that it was a defensive action when he screamed Allahu Akbar, killed 13 and wounded 30 some people. Not one of the victims (except the security guards who took him down) were armed. I’d much rather be making the case that a gay PFC was guilty of aiding the enemy.

Happy Nomad on June 4, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Assange demanded that anyone who worked for wikileaks sign a confidentiality contract which also includes acknowledging all info is the property of wikileaks. LOL

Blake on June 4, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Poor Julian Assange, forced to hide out in the Ecuadoran embassy so he doesn’t get extradited to Sweden to face rape charges.

Oh, the humanity!

myiq2xu on June 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Looking at him, rape is the only way could get it. And, doesn’t he own a hair brush? Sheesh.

Ward Cleaver on June 4, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Yeah, I saw that story. Much harder to make the case that it was a defensive action when he screamed Allahu Akbar, killed 13 and wounded 30 some people. Not one of the victims (except the security guards who took him down) were armed. I’d much rather be making the case that a gay PFC was guilty of aiding the enemy.

Happy Nomad on June 4, 2013 at 1:42 PM

He’s trying to make the case that he was defending “other people”, like it was self defense. In his case, meaning all the muslims in the world. I think they should put a shock belt on him, so when he gets out of hand, they can send him a little reminder to behave himself.

Ward Cleaver on June 4, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Manning and Assange also did three indiscriminate document dumps, releasing information about both the Bush and Obama administrations and military operations during the period without caring a whit about their consequences. If the Justin Department is going to equate Rosen to the same standard to justify the warrant, they’ll have to so the same lack of concern for outcome in his reporting.

jon1979 on June 4, 2013 at 2:01 PM

I don’t mind. Keep talking. He gets publicity on what is happening with Rosen where it might not see the light of day. It isn’t going to help Manning, but any light shining on what happened with Rosen and AP is not a bad thing.

kim roy on June 4, 2013 at 2:02 PM

There’s also the difference in that Wikileaks encouraged the leak of information. If a reporter finds someone who has access to classified information and induces them to break the law, I don’t believe they are considered to have the protection that normally accrues to a ‘reporter’. It could be argued that Wikileaks went over that line, making it an accessory, instead of simply a recipient of leaked information.

Ed, I also think you might be forgetting that Manning faces a military jury when you mention the “aiding the enemy” component of the charge. These folks will probably take a broader view than a normal civilian jury would. Many of them have probably deployed in the last dozen years to our warzones. Oh yes, they will also – being military jurors – be incredibly scrupulous. But, they will give a little broader leeway to the prosecution over “aiding the enemy” I think.

GWB on June 4, 2013 at 2:02 PM

He’s trying to make the case that he was defending “other people”, like it was self defense. In his case, meaning all the muslims in the world.

Ward Cleaver on June 4, 2013 at 1:59 PM

A little OT but think about Hassan’s defense. He’s protecting Muslims from the Yankee Imperial Dogs or something. Yet our very own government refuses to call this anything but Hassan going postal in the workplace. All because our rat-eared coward refuses to admit that there has been a single act of domestic terrorism since 9/11/01 and, in fact, terrorism as we know it is at an end.

Happy Nomad on June 4, 2013 at 2:05 PM

I don’t mind. Keep talking. He gets publicity on what is happening with Rosen where it might not see the light of day. It isn’t going to help Manning, but any light shining on what happened with Rosen and AP is not a bad thing.

kim roy on June 4, 2013 at 2:02 PM

I totally agree.

If there’s anything good that can come out of this case, that would be it.

UltimateBob on June 4, 2013 at 2:06 PM

No no no…

There’s leaking of “secret” info that serves a contextual and necessary purpose to honest discussion in a free country. Much as I disliked it, leaking the yellow cake info falls into that distinction. Giving reporters summary information about current government military intentions towards another government (Rosen) is another.

Blatant indiscriminate transfer of whole teams of military data is NOT justified under any condition.

Skywise on June 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Too bad they can’t put Assange and Manning in the same cell. They could be bunk mates.

GarandFan on June 4, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I’ve often wondered does “ange” mean “hole” in Swedish?

scrub_oak on June 4, 2013 at 2:32 PM

I’ve often wondered does “ange” mean “hole” in Swedish?

IIRC it means “gasket”

myiq2xu on June 4, 2013 at 2:46 PM

I am not as against Wikileaks as some are on here. Assange is a idiot and loser, but Obama and his State Dept. are even worse. I mean heck Obama himself basically turned in the doctor who was helping us get Osama. Look what Hillary did in the Benghazi situation. Frankly this government deserves to be spied on for ineptitude and criminal behavior. The question is has Assange done anything worse than what Obama and Hillary have done (with the exception of possible rape, but then again with Hillary you know….never mind..you know)?

Manning is a different story obviously…he is a traitor.

William Eaton on June 4, 2013 at 2:58 PM

I’ve often wondered does “ange” mean “hole” in Swedish?scrub_oak on June 4, 2013 at 2:32 PM

IIRC it means “gasket”

myiq2xu on June 4, 2013 at 2:46 PM

…or is it “hat”?

slickwillie2001 on June 4, 2013 at 3:05 PM

…or is it “hat”?

slickwillie2001 on June 4, 2013 at 3:05 PM

My unofficial Swedish/English dictionary says that “ange” means “wipe.”

UltimateBob on June 4, 2013 at 4:11 PM