Moral Outrage
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US tries to build a case against Julian Assange

Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.

Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him. Wired magazine has published excerpts from logs of online chats between Mr. Lamo and Private Manning. But the sections in which Private Manning is said to detail contacts with Mr. Assange are not among them.

And while prosecutors have tried to use such laws as the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment’s strong protections of speech and press freedoms.

By bringing a case against Mr. Assange as a conspirator to Private Manning’s leak, the government would not have to confront awkward questions about why it is not also prosecuting traditional news organizations or investigative journalists who also disclose information the government says should be kept secret.

“I suspect there is a real desire on the part of the government to avoid pursuing the publication aspect if it can pursue the leak aspect,” said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It would be so much neater and raise fewer constitutional issues.”

[New York Times]

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6 Responses to “US tries to build a case against Julian Assange”

  1. […] Outrage: US tries to build a case against Julian Assange There are two movies coming out this weekend, neither of which I intend to […]

  2. Reportedly, a grand jury has been secretly empanelled in northern Virginia to consider indicting the WikiLeaks chief.

    US authorities have stepped up their efforts to prosecute Julian Assange by offering Bradley Manning, the American soldier allegedly responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of government documents, the possibility of a plea bargain if he names the Wiki-Leaks founder as a fellow conspirator.

    And poor Manning, who has been held in solitary for 7 months now, and whose health and mental health is deteriorating as a result, may not have the capacity to resist. (The brig’s medical personnel administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.)

    See https://moraloutrage.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/so-what-of-bradley-manning-accused-wikileaks-source/

  3. The United Nations is looking into the situation with Bradley Manning who is said to have been mistreated while held since May in US army custody pending trial.

    The office of Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture in Geneva, received a complaint from one of Manning’s supporters. The UN could ask the US to stop any violations it finds. If a complaint is verified as legitimate, the investigator sends an urgent letter or appeal to the government that it believes has committed the violation.

    While Manning is suspected of leaking troves of other material to the government secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, Manning has not commented publicly on whether he is the source of the leaks.

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assangd said the organisation’s “technology is set up so we don’t know” the sources of the material it gets. Assange said it would be “absolute nonsense” for the US to try to make Manning a witness in a conspiracy case against him. “I never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media,” he said.

  4. January 24 update:
    U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

    The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

  5. […] a secret grand jury, a malicious device long abandoned in England but not in the United States. If extradited to the US, he is likely to disappear into the Kafkaesque world that produced the Guantanamo Bay nightmare and […]


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