A couple of weeks ago we found out about a secret arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange through an “oops” moment in court. Or perhaps I should say, we may have found out because the government is still being quite cagey about the incident. In response to this news, some journalists have gone to court demanding that the Justice Department release the alleged warrant for public inspection. But at least for now, a judge is holding off on that request and the feds want to keep the cloak of secrecy over the affair. (Politico)
A federal judge has postponed a decision on whether to unseal criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that the government appears to have inadvertently revealed earlier this year.
After the error was publicized earlier this month, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press petitioned a federal court in Alexandria, Va., to make any charges against Assange public. The press freedom group argued that there was no valid reason to keep the official charges under seal in light of the government’s disclosure.
At a hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued no immediate ruling on the request, according to court records.
The prosecutors who are fighting this seem to be in a tough position. They’re being asked to produce something which, if it actually exists, might be considered fair game for the media to report on. If it doesn’t exist, the appropriate response would simply be to say they have no such documents. But what they’re actually saying is, “while the government has admitted that the aforementioned court filing was made in error, it has not confirmed or denied whether charges against Julian Assange exist, which is what the plaintiff seeks to learn through its application.”
The more I look at these arguments, the more I begin to think that this might actually be their best answer. It’s certainly not uncommon for the government to want to sit on an arrest warrant until the suspect is in custody. Revealing their intentions too soon could put the entire investigation at risk. But in this case, if the cat is already out of the bag, a judge might just order them to release the documents.
What they’re doing here is basically saying they may or may not have such a warrant. And since they haven’t confirmed the existence of the warrant, the press has no grounds to insist they confirm or deny it. But isn’t all of this water under the bridge at this point? Assange has been operating under the assumption that we’re planning on nabbing him as soon as he steps foot outside the embassy in London and has been telling that story to anyone willing to listen for the past five years or more. All these stories are doing is confirming his suspicions, at least in his mind.
This is seeming more and more like a pointless exercise in courtroom drama. If there’s a warrant out for Assange, the government should be able to keep it under wraps. If there isn’t, then the entire argument is pointless.