Looks like Julian Assange had it right all along — at least when it came to the Department of Justice. After getting bounced out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he’d hidden out for seven years, the US has unveiled an indictment against the Wikileaks founder for computer hacking and conspiracy. It’s the undropped shoe from the Chelsea Manning case:
From the DOJ press release announcing charges against Assange: pic.twitter.com/YBq7e6dfN6
— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) April 11, 2019
In an indictment unsealed hours later, Assange was accused of conspiring in 2010 with Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning, and other conspirators to publish secret military and diplomatic documents that Manning had collected.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, said on Twitter before the unsealing that her client was “arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request.”
U.S. authorities have prepared an arrest warrant and extradition papers, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. …
The U.S. indictment unsealed Thursday accuses Assange of agreeing to help Manning break a password to the Defense Department’s computer network in 2010. That, prosecutors alleged, would have allowed Manning to log in with another username.
CNN reports that the indictment didn’t get handed down until last year. Perhaps that indictment supercedes an earlier indictment; if not, Assange spent a lot of time hiding out for nothing.
By the way, one surprising person is happy about Assange’s arrest:
Earlier Manning’s lawyer expressed hope that Assange’s arrest on Thursday in London could open the door to Manning’s release from incarceration.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen, an attorney for Chelsea Manning, said: “Were he to be extradited [to the US] we hope it would signal her release but that is not, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion.”
Manning’s cooling her heels in jail thanks to her refusal to testify in a grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors wanted the grand jury to investigate Wikileaks, and thanks to Manning’s earlier conviction and clemency action from Obama, she has no risk of self-incrimination, which means she has to testify if subpoenaed. Manning could end up sitting in jail for eighteen months if she doesn’t comply with the subpoena, but that could end quickly if Assange comes to the US and pleads out.
And that will almost certainly never happen. The extradition part likely will, although Ecuador put out a statement that they were assured Assange would not be extradited to a country with the death penalty. That wouldn’t apply in Assange’s case anyway, but we’ll see if the UK agreed not to extradite Assange to the US in exchange for ending their seven-year headache.
But anyone expecting Assange to plead out hasn’t paid enough attention … and that’s the point. Assange looooooves attention. His thirst for attention is part of the reason Ecuador threw him out of the embassy today. Assange ran Wikileaks out of their embassy despite repeated warnings about “intervening in the internal affairs of other states.” Assange may have dreaded getting extradited to the US, but once his trial starts, he’ll make it into a platform for his political agenda right up to the moment they close the doors at Florence.
Assange’s attorney is already preparing a defense under the First Amendment. Barry Pollack called the extradition request an “unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information.” The indictment isn’t for publishing the data, though — it’s for supplying a password cracker to get to classified government material. That isn’t a journalistic exercise; it’s espionage. Pollack had better find a jury that can’t tell the difference.
Newt Gingrich is pretty stoked about Assange’s arrest. So is James Clapper. When both of those men are happy about the same thing, should we be relieved … or worried?
Update: Assange’s first engagement with the British justice system after hiding from it for seven years went as well as you’d expect:
Judge calls Assange "narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest"
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) April 11, 2019
The judge found him guilty of breaching bail, which is the issue for which Assange will appear on May 2nd. His next court appearance on the extradition request — a separate issue — has been scheduled for June 12th, two months out. Assange could get out of the UK before the UK gets out of the EU.
Update: Actually, it might take a little longer than that. Reuters reported the June 12th date, but it turns out to be a deadline for the US, not a court date:
CORRECTION: Judge says United States must produce papers concerning extradition of Assange by June 12th (not that Assange to appear on extradition matter on June 12). Our incorrect tweet will be deleted https://t.co/0PwKDQ0Vs0
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 11, 2019
Update: No surprise, but worth noting:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 11, 2019